“Loyalist Trails” 2011-38: September 25, 2011

In this issue:
The Great and Complicated Business: The Job No One Wanted — by Stephen Davidson
Fifth Anniversary for Stephen Davidson
Dr. Azor Betts and the Betts Family — Part 1 of 2 — by George McNeillie
War of 1812: Where is the Burritt Cannonball?
Pre-1812 Cannon Emerging at Last From the Depths
Loyalist Gazette
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
Last Post: Anita Irene Blake (nee Hopkins), UE
Last Post: John W. Kelly


The Great and Complicated Business: The Job No One Wanted — by Stephen Davidson

At the end of any war, armies must be evacuated from enemy territory, debts to local businesses must be settled, and reports must be finalized for superiors. Imagine then, all that had to be done when the war-weary British left New York City after it had served as their military headquarters for seven years of the American Revolution.

Sir Guy Carleton, the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America had been given permission to return to England in the spring; he was very relieved that the evacuation would be another officer’s responsibility. And then on June first, Carleton received a letter from Lord North, the new Secretary of State for the United Kingdom pleading with him to remain in New York.

It read in part: I will not conceal from you that His Majesty has that confidence in your attachment to his service, and your zeal for the public, that he hopes to hear that you consent to remain at New York till the principal arrangements are settled, which are necessary for the speedy and orderly execution of the great and complicated business which you have now in hand. The removal and destination of the troops under your command, the security and disposal of the public property, the proper regulations for the liquidation and adjustment of the accounts, the care, support and assistance to be afforded to the Loyalists, are but a few of the points which will come under your consideration . . . I perfectly feel and acknowledge the justice of your reasons for demanding your recall, and I would not press you to stay, if for the execution of this important work I could find any man so much trusted on your side of the Atlantic and on ours.”

Carleton had no real choice in the matter and did as his government decreed. Within five short months, he had to evacuate all British troops stationed in New York, Florida and Penobscot (in present day Maine). While this was an expected part of any military action, Carleton’s work was compounded by the fact that 35,000-some loyal Americans (those who had not yet gone overland to Canada) also needed to find refuge outside of the former Thirteen Colonies. Where would he ever find a sufficient number of ships to accomplish such a Herculean task?

By sifting through the correspondence found in Britain’s Royal Institution, we can gain an appreciation of all that Carleton accomplished during the summer and fall of 1783. 21st century Canadians who pride themselves on being able to “multi-task” will be more than impressed by all that Sir Guy Carleton accomplished.

While he was working to arrange for the release of Burgoyne’s imprisoned troops –as well as the British soldiers captured in Virginia– the commander-in-chief was also trying to reassemble all of German troops sent to fight in the Revolution. Many of the latter had been compelled (though American officials said they had chosen) to indenture themselves to become American citizens. As he dealt with these matters, Carleton was hoping to persuade the British soldiers stationed in Bermuda to settle in Nova Scotia (they were afraid of the cold climate) while at the same time prevent German soldiers from joining the loyalists bound for Nova Scotia. In the end, all but six German regiments returned to their duchies, leaving New York in June and July of 1783.

Carleton’s job description did not end with arranging the safe and thorough departure of King George III’s fighting forces. He also established boards to settle matters of debt, to monitor the embarkation of blacks, to oversee the release of prisoners, and to look after the care of orphans. Militia units’ supplies and the army’s civil servants needed to be transferred to garrisons in Nova Scotia. Someone also had to see to the collection and proper storage of seven year’s worth of public records. Above all of these tasks, was insuring a safe evacuation for the loyalists.

Feeling abandoned and betrayed by the British government, the loyalists looked to Carleton as their saviour and deliverer. In one letter he said that it was “utterly impossible to leave exposed to the rage and violence of these people {the patriots} men of character whose only offence has been their attachment to the King’s service”. In another letter, the commander in chief described how the leaders in the new American states were “elated and intoxicated” by the peace, and that they had “cast off all desire to be reconciled to the loyalists.”

Consequently, all through the summer of 1783, patriots assaulted, robbed, and persecuted loyalists as they tried to gather up their belongings and sell their property. In addition to making arrangements for three fleets of evacuation vessels, Carleton tried his best to be of assistance to his majesty’s loyal colonists while they waited for departure to safer shores. Some loyalists wrote Carleton asking for letters of recommendation for job placements in Nova Scotia and England; others simply needed food to keep body and soul together until their evacuation.

While loyalists were being denied the right to their legal property by rebel neighbours, Carleton was actively seeking justice for a special category of loyalist. Africans enslaved by patriots had been promised their emancipation if they served the British during the Revolution for a minimum of a year. Now that the war was over, these Black Loyalists flocked to New York City to seek sanctuary from former owners who sought to put them in chains once more. It would have been very easy for Carleton –were he a lesser man– to relieve himself of what many would have considered an irritating responsibility and simply hand the Black Loyalists over to their former owners. However, Carleton felt that Britain was honour-bound to keep its promise to the former slaves, and saw to their safe evacuation as well.

In next week’s Loyalist Trails we will look at the stories of loyalists which have been long hidden in Carleton’s correspondence of 1783.

To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.

Fifth Anniversary for Stephen Davidson

Congratulations to Stephen Davidson on his fifth anniversary as a contributor to Loyalist Trails. His first article “My Calamitous Situation: The Life of Polly Jarvis Dibblee” was in the September 24, 2006-38 issue.

For me personally, it is more a note of appreciation to Stephen, in no small part because his articles are a key component of the newsletter, but as much because he has introduced me to so many aspects of the Loyalist era that I would never have touched otherwise. Thanks Stephen.


Dr. Azor Betts and the Betts Family — Part 1 of 2 — by George McNeillie

Dr. Azor Betts, the first Physician at Kingston, was distantly related to the Raymond family. The first of the name in America was Thomas Betts, who was born in England in 1618, and came to America in 1639. He had a daughter Mary, born in Guilford, Connecticut, in 1646, who married, about 1664, John Raymond of Norwalk, the second son of [Richard Raymond] our Raymond line of ancestry in America. It is interesting to find that our descent from Thomas Betts through his daughter Mary, the wife of John Raymond, comprises the same number of generations, and covers practically the same period of time, 1639 to 1920, as we have in the Raymond line.

Azor Betts, M.D. was a very active Loyalist. Before the Revolution he was a physician in New York. He was haled before the “Committee of Safety” on 1776, for denouncing the American Congress and the Provincial Assembly of New York as “a set of d. . .d rascals, acting only to feather their nests and not to serve the country.” After three months confinement the Committee of Safety released him.

In his evidence before Jeremy Pemberton, the Commissioner on Loyalist Claims in St. John, given on Feb’y 16th, 1787, Dr. Betts says that he had an income from his practice in New York of 500 pounds sterling yearly. About the time of his first confinement the Rebel Barrack Master broke open his house, and all his books, medicines and furniture were seized and confiscated. He and a Capt. Purdie were jointly in possession of a house in New York. They began to build it in 1779 and finished it the next year. Dr. Betts valued his share at 300 pounds sterling.

Evidence was given in support of this claim by Hon. George Leonard who testifies to the bravery and good conduct of Azor Betts both as an officer and as a Loyalist. Another witness, a Mrs. Whitman, testifies to the bravery and good conduct of Dr. Betts. He distinguished himself early by his loyalty, was continuously harassed, and among the first persecuted.

Excerpt from Book of Family History, by The Ven. William Odber Raymond, LL.D, FRSC. © 2009 George McNeillie – all rights reserved [published here with permission; see footnote].

George McNeillie

War of 1812: Where is the Burritt Cannonball?

Daniel H. Burritt Jr. commanded the battery at Fort Wellington, while his brother held a senior position as Colonel Stephen Burritt. The cannonball disrupted the officer’s breakfast, and Daniel Burritt Jr. ordered the cannon fired back across the St. Lawrence River. In return it was sent back to the Fort in Canada.

After this unusual exchange, the cannonball was set aside for Burritt. It remained in the Burritt family in Ottawa, but more recently was donated to the Canadian War Mueum. In 2007 it was on display; I took these pictures. On a recent visit however, it was no longer visible, and seems to be nowhere to be found at the Museum? Queries are continuing, but if anyone has any suggestions, they would be welcomed.

Decades before, during the American Revolution, Stephen Burritt was a spy for the British. He teamed up with the sly and cunning, Henry Ruiter, who did not stop for anything. Two men with the same mental calibre. The Burritt and the Ruiter families were known for quick thinking, and ability to make decision on the front lines. In fact, Henry Ruiter used his home in Hoosic New York, as a halfway house to shield himself and Stephen Burritt during their trips back and forth south of the border.

Travels took them from St. John’s Quebec, over to Vermont, and into the state of New York. The Burritts stayed hiding in Colonel Henry Ruiter’s house, while the women tended to wounded soldiers.

Together, trekking through dense forests and crossing rivers, gathering information about the Rebels on the American side, they travelled near enemy lines to secretly return documents to St. John’s. Later on, the Burritt men crossed the border and headed north with their families and settled on their lands.

Both these men, Burritt and Ruiter, earned rewards for their loyalty to the British. Their fast thinking and endourance gained them the reputation of combative fighters, stopping at nothing. This perseverance earned them the title of United Empire Loyalist, and they were given land grants by King George for their loyalty to the crown.

Both families with their wives, along with other Loyalists, started small businesses on their land. They were very innovative in their ideas and talents and over time built grist mills and sawmills, farmed and helped make roads in a new country.

…Charles Ruiter Hunter, UE, and Edwina Mullen

Pre-1812 Cannon Emerging at Last From the Depths

From Detroit Free Press, Sept 7:

Today, divers plan to recover another obscure find: a cannon measuring more than 6 feet long, expected to weigh 1,200 pounds and believed to be more than 200 years old. It was found covered in zebra mussels in the Detroit River during training in July and will be the fifth cannon recovered from the area near Cobo Center in the last three decades.

Once out of the water, historians will begin piecing together clues to try to determine the story behind it. Metal testing, measuring the barrel and other dimensions, and physical markings on the cannon may help explain where it came from and how old it is, Detroit Historical Society Curator Joel Stone said. The location in the water and the way the cannon faced are details that have been recorded and also will help answer questions.

“This is all kind of a detective thing,” Stone said. “You get one piece of the puzzle, and then you get another piece of the puzzle.”

Of the four other cannons believed to be British and French, one was found in 1984, two in 1987 and one in 1994, Stone said. Two are on display at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit and the other two are at the Historic Ft. Wayne in Detroit.

Whether there are more and how the cannons got in the Detroit River remain unclear. One theory is that the British were moving some of the cannons down the Detroit River to Ft. Malden in Amherstburg, Ontario, and they went overboard or the boat sunk in 1796, Stone said. They appear to have been made before 1760, but could have gone down anytime up to the War of 1812, he said. The British cannon recovered in 1984 may have sunk with a barge based on some debris found near it, Stone said.

The newly discovered cannon could answer questions about the others or might bring more mysteries. “Sometimes these things create more questions than they actually answer,” Stone said. “But that’s kind of the fun.”

From Detroit News, Sept 8:

Think of the muzzle loaders used by Capt. Jack Sparrow on the Black Pearl, only not as big. “It’s most likely a six-pounder, which is the size of the cannonball it fired,” said Joel Stone, curator of the Michigan Historical Society.

“We won’t know for sure until we bring it up, but it’s probably one of five that were lost by British forces in 1796 when they pulled out of Detroit. . . They were probably transferring the cannons so they wouldn’t fall into American hands.”

Of the other four cannons, one is British, one is French and officials are unsure of the remaining two. “But they definitely went down sometime between 1796 and up to the War of 1812,” Stone said.

From Detroit Free Press, Sept 22:

Officers used a boat to move the cannon to a location that will make it easier to find again when it’s pulled from the water by a tow truck on Oct. 5.

…Joyce Stevens

Loyalist Gazette

The UELAC publishes the Loyalist Gazette in Spring and Fall each year. Information about the Gazette is on the UELAC website under publications, or more directly here. The Gazette is distributed as part of the UELAC membership, and for others is available by subscription.

One part of the description is an index, or more properly, a Table of Contents of past issues. This was recently updated to the most recent May 2011 issue.

The Fall Gazette is currently in the design and layout stage. The standard target is to have it in the mail around the first of November, although we do incur the occasional delay.

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
– Street, Lockwood (son of Timothy Sr.) – from Joyce Hodges
– Koughnet, William (also VanKoughnet) – from Brock Smith, with certificate application

Last Post: Anita Irene Blake (nee Hopkins), UE

Passed away peacefully in Vineland on Monday, September 12, 2011, aged 61 years of melanoma. Beautiful, bold and boundless of love her captivating smile and zest for life will live in our hearts forever. Beloved wife of Chuck Blake and loving mother to Lanson Blake. Cherished daughter of Irene and John (deceased) Hopkins and daughter in law of Frank (deceased) and Peggy (Pat) (deceased) Blake. Loved sister of Bella (Jim) Roddy, Jennifer Hopkins (John) and Deborah Hopkins (Allan). Sister in law of Jeff Blake (deceased) (Georgina), Rick Blake (Linda), and Cathy Blake (Matao). Also survived by many relatives including cousins, nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. No visitation. Funeral Service at the Vineland United Church, 4402 Victoria Avenue, Vineland at 11 am on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011. Interment to follow at Vineland Cemetery. Donations to the Salvation Army would be appreciated by the family. Online condolences at tallmanfuneralhomes.ca. (The St. Catharines Standard)

…Lynne Cook

Last Post: John W. Kelly

John at age 76 passed away peacefully on Thursday, September 16, 2010 at Aspirus Hospital in Wausau, WI after a valiant battle with cancer. He was born in Denison, Iowa on June 17, 1934, the son of Ralph and Honour (McCune) Kelly.

John engaged in a successful teaching career that lasted 51 years; 46 of which were at UW-Marathon County. On May 28, 1956, he married Julia Alice Phillips in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Shortly thereafter, they packed their few worldly possessions into a 1952 Dodge sedan and with only $200.00 in their pockets, headed for the Black Hills of South Dakota to begin a marriage and career that would span more than five decades.

In his later years, he spent hundreds of hours researching his family’s Irish roots going back many generations and making contact with distant relatives. This culminated in a series of books created for his family about his life and the history of the Kelly family; they will be cherished family heirlooms for generations to come.

He is survived by his bride of over 54 years, Julia; his son: John W. (Martha) Kelly II and several grand and great grand children.

A member of the Col. Edward Jessup Branch, John received his Loyalist Certificates to Richard Dingman, Sylvanus Evarts, Roswell Everts and Martin Kelly, all in 2008.

…Wes Kelly