“Loyalist Trails” 2011-48: December 4, 2011
In this issue:
– Christmas Memories of the Revolution: Part One — by Stephen Davidson
– Oldest Loyalist – More Entries Please
– Loyalist Concert Well Received in Shelburne NS
– Hamilton Branch Loyalist Christmas Tree “Extends a Bough” Until Dec 24
– Vice-Regal Launch of Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy
– Booklet: Billy Green and Balderdash — A Presentation of the Facts
– War of 1812 Bicentennial Query: Help with Brock’s Route
Forget Christmas trees, boisterous carollers or Santa Claus. December 25th was anything but merry during the days of the American Revolution. Loyalist memories of Christmas had more to do with life-altering events than with warm, nostalgic recollections.
The loyalist memories associated with Christmas were diverse as the people who survived the American Revolution. Loyalists from the New England colonies did not observe the holiday at all; children did not eagerly anticipate it. Take the Christmas Eve entry in the diary of a loyalist’s young daughter in Boston. It reveals a Puritan disdain for a holiday which she described as one that “the pope and his associates have ordained.”
The Quakers of Pennsylvania felt that all days were equally holy and that there was no need to make Christmas a special occasion. Virginian Anglicans and the Dutch Protestants of New York would observe Christmas with church services and a special meal. The only loyalists who would consider decorating a Christmas tree would be the German immigrants who had come to the Thirteen Colonies prior to the Revolution. Roman Catholics would have been the most enthusiastic of Christmas observers, but they were a very small minority of the loyalist community.
Despite the varying degrees to which it was observed, Christmas was, nevertheless, a date around which loyalists attached memories of their struggles during the American Revolution.
For Walter Scott, the Christmas of 1776 was when rebels released him from jail. The Irishman had immigrated to Stillwater, New York nine years earlier. After the revolution broke out, local rebels imprisoned Scott for being a “Tory” in June, 1776. He spent the next six months in a variety of jails. Scott was released on Christmas Day on the condition that he stay on his farm. When General Burgoyne’s forces marched through New York, the loyalist and his two sons joined the British army. After Burgoyne’s capture, the Scotts left New York and settled at Isle Aux Noix on Quebec’s Richelieu River.
John and Jane Waite had a similar Christmas experience. The couple had emigrated from England in 1775, just as the “Troubles” were about to begin. With their seven children, the Waites settled on 150 acres in New York’s Tryon County. When rebels took up arms against the king, three of the Waites’ sons and two of their sons-in-law joined the king’s forces. After the young men left, rebels began their persecution of John and Jane Waite.
In May of 1776, local patriots burned down the Waites’ farm and destroyed their livestock. John and Jane were imprisoned for the entire summer and fall. Finally, at Christmas, the rebels set the couple free. (Perhaps the holiday was a day of mercy, given that patriots released Walter Scott on the same date.) Fearing further persecution, the Waites fled north to Canada with their youngest children. Their sons and sons-in-law joined them when the revolution ended. Two years later John Waite died, leaving Jane and their eldest son George to seek compensation as loyalists in 1787.
During the fall of 1776, James Cable of Glastonbury, Connecticut used his sailing vessels to transport loyalists to safety across the Sound to Long Island and to carry provisions for the British. Cable’s life changed forever near Christmas of that year when he arranged a meeting with his friend James Callahan. The men made plans to sail away with Cable’s two ships before they could be seized by rebels.
However, the “mob” became suspicious, confiscated the ships’ sails, and carried the two men off to a rebel committee meeting. Although they were cleared of treason, Cable and Callahan remained under surveillance. In January, Cable’s brother alerted him to the fact that patriots were about to seize his ships. Callahan and Cable quickly weighed anchor and –despite the dangerous sailing conditions– headed out into Long Island Sound.
Having a loyalist husband placed Ann Cable in danger of persecution. She and her children finally fled Glastonbury, leaving everything behind. Four years after John’s death, Ann and her seven children sailed to the mouth of the St. John River. Christmas would always be a reminder of the time when Ann’s husband publicly sided with the British forces, a decision that forever changed the lives of the Cable family.
Fearing rebel violence, Samuel Curwen had fled Massachusetts in the fall of 1775. This loyalist spent a total of nine Christmases in London, England. On his first Christmas abroad, Curwen attended a worship service at the King’s Chapel in the palace of St. James. He heard the Bishop of London preach and saw King George III and Queen Charlotte in the congregation. Despite the royal pomp and the fact that it was Christmas day, the largest part of Curwen’s entry for December 25th dealt with the arrival of an old friend on Christmas Eve.
Richard Clarke, a Boston tea merchant, provided Curwen with the latest news on the escalating situation in Massachusetts: “The provincials have seized a ship with five hundred casks gunpowder, cannon, mortars, and stores de guerre et de bouche; their activity and success is astonishing.”
Curwen only mentioned Christmas in his diary on one other occasion. In 1777, he attended the worship service at London’s cathedral. He then observed that “No shops opened entirely, nor business publicly or generally carried on: though the day is otherwise negligently enough observed, nor indeed can more be expected, considering the low ebb of religion here.”
Again, the Revolution overshadowed any holiday festivities. Word had just reached Britain of General Burgoyne’s surrender. At first no one believed the reports, but if they were confirmed, Curwen wrote that there were proposals to raise 2,000 men in each parish in Britain to go fight in the colonies.
Within a week, news of how leniently the American army treated Burgoyne’s men caused many Brits to think better of the rebels. This worried Curwen. Only the prospect of his eventual return to Massachusetts had “hitherto supported my drooping courage”. The news that came during the Christmas of 1777 made him confide in his diary that “I fear our perpetual banishment from America is written in the book of fate.”
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
In last week’s Loyalist Trails, I noted the List of Oldest Loyalists, defined as those Loyalists (and in some cases family members) who reached the greatest age before they left this mortal life. Only a few submissions from outside New Brunswick had been received. Several of you responded, with some fascinating entries, including:
– William Ketcheson, UE, and Capt. Abraham Maybee, UE, both submitted by Peter Johnson
– Robert Vanduser, submitted by Taylor Roberts
– William Foster and Frederich Schram, submitted by John Haynes
– Hector Dickie, submitted by both Ruth Flewelling Lesbirel and Alex Lawrence
– Anna Eve (Merkley) Empey, UE, submitted by Bob Crawford
– Geronimous Crysler, submitted by Earle & Betty Fladager
…Browse the list and keep sending in your entries – we still have only one from Nova Scotia and none yet from PEI or Quebec.
Regular readers of Loyalist Trails may remember that in the October 17, 2010 edition, Linda Jeffrey of Shelburne, Nova Scotia requested help in finding loyalist era songs. Both Linda and her daughter Andrea are professional sopranos, voice teachers, and loyalist descendants. Earlier in 2010, they were approached by the organizers of Shelburne’s 2011 “Loyalist Days” with a request to present a program of period music.
This initial idea blossomed into a concert that the mother and daughter presented at the Osprey Arts Centre. Linda and Andrea wore period costumes, singing songs that had a narrative to link them together. The concert’s “story” was based on a series of fictional letters exchanged between a loyalist mother in New York and a loyalist daughter in Port Roseway (modern day Shelburne). The letters represented five months of research and writing for Linda.
With help from Kim Walker at the Shelburne County Archives and Genealogical Association and her own research, Linda found references to books of English folk songs that were actually sold in Shelburne in 1784. After weaving the songs –both folk and classical– and the letters into a program, Linda only needed to find suitable clothing for herself and her daughter. Happily, the two sopranos were able to borrow period costumes from the Nova Scotia International Tattoo, where Andrea had been the featured soloist for the week long 2011 production a few weeks earlier.
Those who made up the July audience for The “Loyalist Letters” enjoyed the concert immensely. Linda was surprised to find that long after the concert was over, people continued to ask her about the loyalist letters . They thought that the correspondence was actually written in the 1780s – a testament to the compelling stories of the loyalist era — and to Linda’s skills as an author.
When Linda was asked if there might be an encore concert, she said “Perhaps we will do a program of ” More Loyalist Letters” sometime, as we stopped the narrative in 1785.” Linda found it gratifying that “people liked the intimacy of the correspondence and the details of daily life from a woman’s point of view. It was great fun and a learning experience for me as well.”
New, creative opportunities avail themselves in varied formats as we reach out to our communities to tell our Loyalist stories. Who would think that tree decorating would be one of these new ways?
An opportunity extended; a challenge accepted. Read how Hamilton Branch is reaching out to the community to reinforce the Loyalist Story through participation in a Christmas Tree competition (article has a picture of the tree).
The story is compelling. The opportunity to see the tree lasts until Dec 24 at the Fieldcote Museum in Ancaster.
…Pat Blackburn, UE
Not every Canadian author gets a vice-regal launch of a new book. The Honourable David C. Onley UE officially launched Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy by Nathan Tidridge on November 28 in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite, located in the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park Toronto. In attendance were representatives of the Hamilton Branch UELAC, Hamilton and Toronto Branches of the Monarchist League, Dundurn Press and Mr. Tidridge’s students from Waterdown District High School. For photographs, as well as the speaking notes of the Lieutenant Governor and the address by Nathan Tidridge, click here.
The Stoney Creek Historical Society published this 30 page booklet on the role of William (Billy the Scout) Green in the Battle of Stoney Creek which took place on the 6th of June, 1813. This battle is regarded as a turning point in the War of 1812 and Billy Green’s role in that British victory has been examined in meticulous detail by the authors. There is no doubt that his name “Scout-Green”, is rightly inscribed on the Battlefield Monument at Stoney Creek.
This book was announced in the May 29 issue of Loyalist Trails.
A revised copy was prepared by the authors in November 2011 for UELAC with several amendments for clarity and two corrections (“Hannah Corman” was in fact Hannah Green and the reference “H.A. Corman 1909” is now accurately cited as 1916). The detail that Billy told Dr. Brown his story before August 1856 was introduced.
With the kind permission of The Stoney Creek Historical Society, the book is now available on the UELAC website as a PDF.
…David B. Clark, UE; Douglas A. Green, UE
Doris Lemon writes: Currently I serve on the Western Corridor area of Bicentennial Committee to Celebrate the War of 1812. I seek an illusive piece of Brock’s route in August, 1812, from York to Amherstburg and ask for members’ assistance.
Brock sailed from York, August 5, 1812, to Burlington Heights. He spent the night at Captain Durands, Lot 14 Con 3 Barton Township (Today between James and John Streets in Hamilton at base of the Escarpment). Next day he went to talk with the Six Nations at Brantford and enlisted warriors to accompany him. The question is – which route did he take to Brantford? The Military route from Burlington Heights west – OR???
Where he scaled the escarpment is important to the map which is being designed. It will provide a hiking, bicycling or motoring trail for participants to recreate Brock’s tour. I located lot and concessions of Culver’s Tavern in Simcoe where he made a stirring speech and men joined the militia to accompany him to the Battle of Detroit, which they won, and Robert Nichol’s residence where he also spent a night.
Information re Brock’s route Durand’s to Brantford will be appreciated.