“Loyalist Trails” 2012-16: April 22, 2012

In this issue:
The Prison Ships of Esopus: Part 2 of 4 — by Stephen Davidson
Samuel Carman (1782 – 1864) by George McNeillie
“Vignettes of Winnipeg: Past and Present”: Dalnavert Museum – Part 1
Biggest Loyalist Families: Frederick Keller (24 children), by Arnold Weirmeir
Four New Biographies added to Loyal Americans Hall of Honour
1812: Wounds of War
Last Post: Marland Murray


The Prison Ships of Esopus: Part 2 of 4 — by Stephen Davidson

Among the forgotten characters in loyalist history are those who were incarcerated in the holds of prison ships for staying true to the crown. One such “fleet prison” was comprised of a handful of ships that were anchored in the Rondout River near Kingston (or Esopus), New York.

Originally, New York’s rebel provincial congress voted to establish two fleets of prison ships, one in Albany and one in Kingston. However, no floating jails were ever created in Albany. It was Kingston, New York’s first state capital, which became the colony’s only site for rebel prison ships. On July 10th, 1777, the remaining 80 loyalist prisoners in Albany’s jail were herded onto a pair of sloops. Within two days, they joined the other loyalists who had been incarcerated in Kingston since May.

The fleet prison was originally proposed because of Albany’s overcrowded county jail. The arrest of loyalist neighbours by enthusiastic rebels required the creation of new holding cells. As many as four or five ships made up the fleet prison. Some were built to serve as penitentiaries, while other vessels were seized from loyalists.

It didn’t take a great deal of evidence to put a New York loyalist below the decks of the prison ships. Jotham Bemus and John Ashton petitioned the rebel governor on behalf of “others confined in the fleet”, maintaining their innocence. It was all because of the “report of a spiteful person” that the men were taken out of their homes in Stillwater “without any cause” and put in Albany’s guard house”. After serving time in Albany, these loyalists were taken to Kingston.

Roelif Elting was arrested for being a British sympathizer because he would not take Continental paper currency at his store. In May of 1777, he was ordered to spend time in a prison ship “moored in Esopus Creek near Kingston”. This was just the first in a series of prisons where Roelif would lay his head during the Revolution. He would not be reunited with us family until 1784.

John L. Van Allen and John S. Van Alstyne of Kinderhook were put in the prison ships simply because they would not give evidence against suspected loyalists in their town. Other loyalists were sent to the fleet prison for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to a free and independent state of New York. Later historians admitted that many New York loyalists were “subject to the unjust accusations of the envious and malicious … among whom were many of their own kindred and most valued friends.” Walter Carpenter, described as a great enemy to the country and as great a villain as any it, was noted in rebel correspondence as a man “long confined in the Fleet Prison”.

The dread of imprisonment on the ships made “rebels” out of many New York loyalists. Christopher Dutcher was arrested and ordered to be confined on a Kingston prison ship, but when he voluntarily took the oath of allegiance to the state, he was set free. James Gorsline was a “noted Tory”. When rebels arrested the 39 year-old loyalist, he was sent to “Esopus” and put on a prison ship. After he appeared before a rebel board, he also took the oath of allegiance and was discharged.

Sometimes loyalist prisoners managed to escape.

In August of 1777, after two months of incarceration on a prison ship, Arthur Smith escaped to Hackensack. Within a year, he was once again captured by rebels and held on Long Island for two years. After making his escape, he worked in New York from 1780 to 1783. Following the Revolution, Smith and his family settled in Wilmot, Nova Scotia.

On September 22, 1777, loyalists made another successful escape from the Esopus fleet prison. Andries Ten Eyck disarmed the guard, allowing fourteen prisoners to flee to freedom. Ten Eyck, however, did not get away and was put in irons. Six weeks later he wrote the rebel congress to have his irons taken off so that he could clean himself. The congress allowed this, saying the loyalist’s chains could be taken off as necessary, but that they must be immediately put on again.

Obadiah Griffin and Henry Vanderburgh were among those on a list of loyalists who “were ready to take up arms” whenever the British entered Dutchess County. When this list made its way into the hands of the local rebel committee, both men were “confined on board the fleet prison”.

Jonathan, Nathaniel, Stephen and Robert Thorn — as well as some other loyalists of Dutchess County– “notoriously disaffected and inimical to the measures for … the defense of the United States” were sentenced to the holds of the prison ships in May of 1777. Stephen Thorn took the oath of allegiance after enduring a month of confinement. Jonathan died after being taken from a Kingston prison ship to Hartford, Connecticut later that fall. He was buried there as a prisoner of war.

Robert Burdick of Beekman had been banished to New Hampshire for seven months for his loyalty. When he returned to New York, rebels arrested him within a month of being reunited with his family and had him put on a prison ship. He stayed there for three months, being granted parole on October 4, 1777.

When the British raided Peekskill, New York, a number of local loyalists had expected to join them, but instead were arrested by local patriots and “placed in the Fleet Prison”. Sometimes there are references to the “fleet prison” on the payrolls of rebel militias. Captain David Van Ness’ Company in Rhinebeck were paid for “guarding Tories from Claverack to the fleet prison at Esopus”. Captain Jacob Hasbrouck was paid for “guarding and conveying prisoners… to the ships ordered by the convention of this state for the reception of prisoners in Hudson River.”

Next week’s Loyalist Trails will feature the stories of four former inmates of the rebel prison ships. These loyalists survived their imprisonment and eventually found refuge in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec.

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

Samuel Carman (1782 – 1864) © George McNeillie

In the meantime, we had kept in touch with our cousins through these years, and among my most pleasant boyish recollections are those of annual visits paid to them and of their return visits to us. Our visits were made in quite a variety of ways. My mother and I once came down the river from Woodstock in a “tow-boat”, and I got a ducking on the way.

Another time we travelled in the old four-in-hand stage-coach, or “tally-ho”. Among the incidents at the “half-way house,” where we had our dinner, we were amused at the table when a canny mother whispered to her boy – “Eat all you like, it’s paid for.” Needless to say this was not my mother. Once we drove down to Fredericton in winter in a sleigh in company with Mrs. Augustus Bedell and a Mr. Belyea, the father of Wellington B. Belyea, — the latter chanced to join us and kept company with us all the way. I remember that his horse was a splendid traveller. After we left the half-way house we took to the ice on the River and travelled on it to Fredericton. John Turner, the stage driver the “prince of whips”, kept pace with us all the way to Fredericton. He would have to take to the land occasionally to leave a mail bag or to change horses and we would then gain the lead, but he always came after us with his fresh horses at full-gallop and so we got to Fredericton (at an early hour) about together. I shall never forget the excitement of that glorious drive. When we got to Fredericton the whole river, which is here nearly a mile wide, was covered with skaters, many of them British Regulars in Scarlet uniform. The experience for a boy of my age was quite thrilling.

At another time I accompanied my father to Fredericton on a load of oats. This trip was not so magnificent as the other.

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

“Vignettes of Winnipeg: Past and Present”: Dalnavert Museum – Part 1

Dalnavert was built in 1895 by Hugh John Macdonald, the only surviving son of John A. Macdonald. Hugh John first came to Manitoba as a 20 year old ensign with the Wolseley Expedition in 1870. He regarded it as a great adventure. Hugh John returned to Toronto, was called to the Bar, married at a young age, and in 1882 was left a widower with a young daughter, Isabella Mary. That same year he decided to relocate to Winnipeg. Real estate speculation was booming and a young lawyer would have little trouble attracting clientele.

In 1883 Hugh John re-married, to Gertrude Agnes Vankoughnet of a socially prominent, loyalist descended Toronto family. In 1885 the birth of their son, John Alexander Macdonald, completed their family.

In the years that followed Hugh John Macdonald became a part of the Winnipeg establishment: lawyer, Member of Parliament, president of the Manitoba Club, Premier of Manitoba, and eventually Police Court Magistrate, a job in which he found his true métier and niche.

In 1895 Hugh John purchased a double lot on Carlton Street and hired prominent architect Charles Wheeler to design a house. Wheeler designed a modified Queen Anne Revival house, fusing elements of High Victorian with Art Nouveau. The exterior was of red brick on a foundation of stone, with a wrap-around veranda and two French doors.

The house contained spacious and elegant living quarters for the family and unusually comfortable servants quarters. It featured closets, bathrooms, dressing rooms, and, unusual for the time, electricity, central heat, water and sewer, telephone, and a buzz-board and talking tube to summon servants. (See the parlour and the stained glass window). The architect described Dalnavert as “the perfect family house”.

The Macdonalds named Dalnavert after a home in Scotland associated with Hugh John’s paternal grandmother, Helen Shaw. The Macdonalds lived in Dalnavert until Hugh John’s death in 1929. Lady Macdonald sold the house to Royal Trust, and for the next decade the grand house was a rooming house, with, at some point, the parlour being a dance hall. For some years the house was vacant.

In 1940 61 Carlton was sold to Eugene and Olivine Rouillard. They and extended family ran a rooming house until 1958, when ownership passed to daughter Marie Berthe Noella Boucher. She sold it to Thomas Randall, who continued to operate the house as family home and a rooming house. In 1968 61 Carlton was sold to Lakeview Development, which intended to demolish it, so that a high rise apartment block could be erected on the site. The house appeared to be about to meet the same fate as dozens of grand old houses in the area.

Dalnavert Spared from the Wreckers

The Manitoba Historical Society, with great effort, raised $ 160,000 to purchase the house, and another $ 545,000 to restore it to the splendour of 1895.The name Dalnavert was revived when it opened as a museum in 1974. It was declared a Provincial Historic Site in 1988 and a National Historic Site in 1995.

In 2004 the Manitoba Historical Society decided to construct a visitors’ centre at the rear of Dalnavert to enhance the Museum’s programming. This addition, designed by heritage architect Wins Bridgeman, contains a spacious exhibition hall, a gift shop, offices, and storage areas. It is equipped with a geothermal system. A gala re-opening was held in May, 2005, with an open-house the following day. More than a thousand visitors were in attendance.

Today Dalnavert is host to many activities: guided tours, art installations, readings, theatrical performances, and school programs. Many of the programs depend on volunteers. The exhibition room can be rented for showers, weddings, luncheons, and business meetings.

The extensive Victorian flower gardens are lovingly tended by a volunteer Garden Committee. And sometimes the Committee plants Hugh John’s favourite flower: red geraniums!


Dalnavert Museum: Tour Guide Manual

Street of Dreams: The Story of Broadway, by Marjorie Gillies

“Summer of 1886: Sir John A. Visits Winnipeg” – Lillian Gibbons, the Winnipeg Tribune, July 12th, 1967

[Manitoba Branch is hosting Conference at the Confluence 2012, the UELAC annual gathering and annual meeting from June 7 to 10 in Winnipeg. These vignettes will provide some of the local history and whet your appetite for more. Now is a good time to plan your trip to the conference, and join us there.]

…Mary F. Steinhoff, Secretary, Manitoba Branch, UEL, and volunteer tour guide, Dalnavert Museum

Biggest Loyalist Families: Frederick Keller (24 children), by Arnold Weirmeir

Frederick Keller, with 24 children, has been added to the List of the largest Loyalist families – submitted by Arnold Weirmeir, UE. Read about more of the Loyalists’ biggest families and note the submission guidelines if you have a large family you would like to contribute.

Four New Biographies added to Loyal Americans Hall of Honour

What do Gwen Lazier Braidwood, Dr. H. C. Burleigh, Anson McKim, and Eleanor Moult have in common? One characteristic they share is the induction into the Loyal Americans Hall of Honour established by the Bay of Quinte Branch UELAC in 2003. Nine years ago, the Bay of Quinte Branch UELAC created Loyal Americans Hall of Honour to both identify and celebrate those descendants of the United Empire Loyalists who made significant achievements, either locally, nationally or internationally. The new biographies have been added to the Loyal Americans Hall of Honour posted to the UELAC Honours and Recognition folder.

Brian Tackaberry, President of the Bay of Quinte Branch, is currently working on the remaining six biographies.


1812: Wounds of War

Understanding the circumstances of a hundred-year-old battle is no easy task. Anthropology Prof. Megan Brickley has built replica “legs” and employed reproduction weapons in order to gain insight into how the War of 1812 was waged.

“A number of accounts suggest (the Battle of Stoney Creek) was fought in quite close quarters and was fairly brutal,” Prof. Brickley said. She studies the bone fragments that are buried on the battle site. One in particular is a lower leg bone that bears a distinct cut mark on its side.

Prof. Brickley wanted to determine what happened to that individual’s leg – was the wound from a “major swipe with a sword” or a deep bayonet blow? With graduate student Laura Lockau, she planned an experiment under the most authentic conditions she could find. Examining the bone collection at the Archaeology Lab, the pair determined that they could combine deer and lamb leg bones to make human-like limbs.

“We used foam earplugs to get the spacing right between the two bones, and tied them with string,” she said. “We initially tried tightly-wound elastic bands but this allowed too much movement between the bones. We considered using bacon to replicate the thin soft tissue on the lower leg, but in the end left it off.”

For weapons – and muscle power – they enlisted staff at Fort George, the reconstructed historic headquarters of the British army at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Staffers there attacked the “legs” with swords and a bayonet to test the two scenarios. One sword blow appears to have made a mark very like the one in the original bone fragment and Prof. Brickley will now compare the two under a digital microscope.

“We will be able to provide very specific examples and really clear information,” she said. “This helps us build up a picture of what it was like on that battlefield.

From Social Science Links, the spring 2012 newsletter of McMaster University Social Sciences.


Last Post: Marland Murray

At the Cornwall Community Hospital – McConnell Site on Friday, April 20, 2012 at the age of 96 years. Beloved husband of Pearl Murray, and by a previous marriage the late Janet (Jean) Campbell. Loved father of Campbell (Alison), Carolyn McRae (Ronald), Gwyneth Johnson (James), Janice MacEwen (Allan); and step-father of Charity Derrah (Allison), Cheryl Kelly (Brian), and Monica Paridaen (Ewald). Sadly missed by 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. Predeceased by his parents Herbert and Hattie (Brown) Murray, and one sister Mildred Wilson (late Cameron). Marland was active and involved in the life of his community and shared many passions. Notably he was a music lover and member of his church choir for 70 years, Past President of Holstein Canada, and also very involved with the history of the area.

Resting at the WILSON FUNERAL HOME, 822 Pitt Street, Cornwall where visitation will be held on Tuesday, April 24th from 2-4 & 7-9 PM, and then at the church on Wednesday from 12 noon until the time of service. A funeral service in celebration of his life will be held in St. Andrews United Church, Martintown on Wed April 25, 2012 at 1:00 PM. The Reverend Lois Gaudet officiating. Interment to follow in North Branch Cemetery, Martintown. If so desired contributions in his memory to the Rodney Craig Family Trust, Box 103, Bainsville, ON K0C 1E0 would be appreciated by the family.

Marland was formerly a member of the St. Lawrence Branch.

…Lynne Cook, UE