“Loyalist Trails” 2012-21: May 27, 2012

In this issue:
Brook Watson: The Friend of Loyalists – by Stephen Davidson
Samuel Carman (1782 – 1864) by George McNeillie
“Vignettes of Winnipeg, Past and Present”: The Grand Theatres of Winnipeg, Part 1
St. Alban Loyalist Service, June 17
Canadian and USA Churches Join in Commemoration of War of 1812
Ontario Graphic Licence Plate Project
War of 1812 Battle of Longwoods Reenactment 2012
Military Muster in Commemoration of the War of 1812
Research Resource: 1825 Census of Lower Canada
Gravestones of Glengarry Series: New Volumes
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
      + James Curgenven
Last Post
      + Maj. George Duff Mitchell, MC, CD, UE
      + Russell Harford Sills, UE


Brook Watson: The Friend of Loyalists – by Stephen Davidson

In the spring of 1783, Sir Guy Carleton, the commander in chief of British forces in North America, was given a seemingly impossible mission. He had to oversee the orderly evacuation of all British military forces – and loyalist refugees – from the United States in just eight months. Like many who find themselves in times of trouble, Carleton turned to his friends for help. Chief among them was a loyalist named Brook Watson.

An English orphan, Watson had lost his leg to a shark attack in Cuba while a teenager. He was later adopted by a Bostonian who settled in Nova Scotia. There, Watson learned the skills of a commissary, overseeing the acquisition and distribution of food and supplies for Fort Lawrence. Those skills were precisely what Carleton needed for an efficient and humane evacuation of troops and refugees.

If the loyalist evacuation of 1783 had happened today, cell phones would ring incessantly and e-mails would pour in by the thousands on a daily basis. But in the 18th century, Carleton’s office was inundated by handwritten letters and desperate loyalists appearing at the door. That correspondence (and the records of those personal requests) shed a valuable light on the role of Carleton’s loyalist commissary general, Brook Watson.

Sometimes refugee letters were addressed to Watson personally instead of Carleton in hopes of a quicker response. A commissary department officer appealed to his superior for humanitarian aid. It described the family of the late Daniel McKenzie as “real objects of charity” and their need for Watson’s immediate help.

Carleton’s commissary general did his best to see that loyalists had all of the provisions they needed. Watson placed orders for 10,000 yards of linen, 5,000 yards of “woolen”, 1,000 iron spades and 1,000 “felling axes” for the loyalist evacuees. One letter happily noted that all of ” the linen, woolen, spades and felling axes found in the King’s stores have been issued to the army or given … to the loyalists gone to Nova Scotia”.

A letter written in July of 1783 to the commissary general describes the purchase of flour for delivery to loyalists at Port Roseway (modern day Shelburne) and the St. John River. Watson planned to follow that up with deliveries of beef, pork, and butter for the refugee communities.

There were also “liquidation sales” as the loyalists departed the former Thirteen Colonies. In a July letter, Watson lists all of the items from the British commissary that were sold at a public auction: saddles, bridles, stable “requisites”, 348 pairs of boots, 169 dozen surcingles, almost 64,000 pairs of shoes, shirt buttons, 68,000 hose, 21,000 needles, and breeches.

By mid-August, Watson was growing concerned about the ever-increasing number of loyalist refugees and the worrisome shortage of sailing vessels to be had in New York City. He wrote that “great numbers of respectable loyal families driven from their homes for the part they have taken during the late war, and now claiming the assistance of Government to move them to their intended asylum in Nova Scotia, are in want of vessels to carry them.”

Watson needed to be given the authority to hire local ships on the “usual terms and conditions to be discharged in this country”. American ships would be less expensive than the cost of using the ships of the Royal Navy to transport the refugees. Time was also a factor; if Watson could not hire local ships, he might not be able to evacuate the loyalists by the end of November.

It may have been this desperation for ships that led to the hiring of the Martha. The 30 year old vessel was commissioned to transport soldiers and families of the Maryland Loyalist Regiment and the Third Regiment of Delancey’s Brigade – 181 people in all. In September of 1783, the Martha broke up on shoals off of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. 113 lives were lost.

As the British made a final check of their warehouses in New York, someone discovered that a horse mill for grinding corn was still in the King’s store. Instead of selling it, Watson suggested that it be given to “the body of people of the Civil Department going to Nova Scotia”.

Two days later, Watson learned that the crown’s warehouses had surplus food supplies. So many troops had already left New York that the provisions reserved for their feeding could be diverted elsewhere. The wooden-legged commissary suggested that the loyalists who had settled on the St. John River would need something to carry them over the coming winter. He asked that the supplies be sent to them immediately on the Prudent victualler. No doubt loyalist refugees appreciated the unexpected gift of 2,000 barrels of flour and 250 barrels of pork.

Watson and his wife Helen had no children of their own. However, the personnel of the commissary general’s department in New York became known as “Mr. Watson’s family”. When his staff prepared to join the loyalist evacuees in Nova Scotia, Watson made sure that his “family” would be sheltered from the northern climate. When the Nancy delivered the commissary staff to Port Mouton, there were actual frames of houses on board the ship. Considering that most loyalists spent their first Nova Scotia winter in old army tents, sod huts or log cabins, this provision for “pre-fab” housing was quite a luxury.

Watson’s generosity was not forgotten after the evacuation of 1783. The loyalists who created the colony of New Brunswick gratefully named a Saint John street after him. New Brunswick also made the wooden-legged commissary its agent in London, a position he held for eight years. Being the eyes and ears of the loyalist colony in the capital of the empire was a good fit for Watson, given his ability to make connections and form alliances. Such skills would propel him into the next phase of his life – the world of London’s politics. That will be the final chapter in the Loyalist Trails’ story of Brook Watson.

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

Samuel Carman (1782 – 1864) © George McNeillie

My mother, Mary Elizabeth Carman, I have heard my father say, was her mother’s favourite child, and so fond was she of her mother that she would not at first encourage my father’s advances. In this situation he found consolation in Grandmother Carman, who advised him not to despair for she believed that Lizzie would “change her mind.” She told him, moreover, that he was the first admirer of her daughter that she had desired for a son-in-law. Thus encouraged, he persevered in his attentions until they were happily crowned with success. They were very devoted and very happy in their wedded life.

Mother was in many ways an unusual woman. We always found her a wise counselor. She was a good mother and a good neighbour. She had to work hard all her life, and she was not physically very strong, and she had her trials with servants, who then, as now, were good, bad and indifferent. But her good temper, one might say, was unfailing. Her religion was with her a very real thing, although there was in it nothing puritanical. She was the soul of hospitality and kindness. On one occasion I remember she took into her house an unfortunate child to undergo an operation for a hare-lip and facial deformity. The parents lived near us and were very poor. The child in some way contracted Diphtheria about the time of the operation and died, leaving the disease to the family and mother then had to nurse her own children.

She was a very devoted mother and followed her boys when absent from home in her thoughts and in her prayers. Her last illness was long and painful, but she was very patient and uncomplaining. “Her children rise up and call her blessed.”

Fanny Louisa, the youngest child of Grandfather Carman, lived much with us when we were children. We all liked to have her. She was of a happy disposition, singing about the house. Mother used to call her “Birdie”, when she was young. When the Carmans came to Woodstock, she went to live at “Fern Hill”. She was a great loss to Uncle Sam and Aunt Sarah when she died in 1892.

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”: The Grand Theatres of Winnipeg, Part 1

Only three of Winnipeg’s many grand early twentieth century theatres have survived. Some succumbed to fire. Others met with the wrecking-ball. Many were converted to movie houses, only to face demolition decades later. Of the three survivors, two were devoted to live performances, classical, musical, operatic, or vaudeville. One was built as an opulent movie palace and remained that until its closure.

The Walker Theatre / Burton Cummings Theatre (364 Smith St.)

The Walker Theatre was built to replace the Winnipeg Theatre, which had been operated by Corliss Powers Walker and his wife Harriet Walker.

It was built to the strictest safety standards and was advertized as “Absolutely Fireproof” in an era of disastrous theatre fires. The interior was stunning in its opulence: Italian marble, velvet carpets, crystal chandeliers, intricate plaster work, beautiful tapestries, and gilt trimmings. In addition, its vaulted design produced excellent acoustics and its lack of pillars, excellent sight-lines. So superb is the design that even the second balcony, the “gods”, has a clear view of the stage without severe raking.

The total cost of the theatre was $ 250,000, and its official opening in February, 1907 was a gala event attended by the Lieutenant-Governor, the premier, and the mayor. The audience was treated to performances of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly”, then only three years old.

Over the years the stage of The Walker was graced by some of the greatest and most popular actors and singers of the day: Sir Harry Lauder, Ed Wynn, William S. Hart, Feodor Chaliapin, and Nelly Melba.

In 1909 it hosted a six day run of the epic “Ben Hur” with three teams of chariots with live horses running on tread-mills in front of a revolving diorama of the spectators in the coliseum. It was a spectacular hit.

The Walker was also the scene of political drama: the 1912 debate between Premier Rodmond Roblin and Nelly McClung, and the satirical “ The Women’s Parliament” in 1914, in which McClung, as premier, presided over a legislative debate on the merits of granting the vote to men. During the General Strike of 1919 the socially progressive Walkers opened the theatre to pro-strike rallies and Harriet Walker helped organize a free meal service for women strikers in the nearby Oxford Hotel.

As movies became more popular live theater lost its cachet. The Walker was closed in 1933 and acquired by the city for taxes in 1936. The city sold it and it became a movie theatre, “The Odeon”. It closed in 1990. In 1991 it re-opened as a venue for live performances.

In its third incarnation, the theatre, now called “The Burton Cummings”, hosts mostly musical concerts, with an occasional theatrical performance. While some restoration has taken place, much remains to be done. It nevertheless exudes a shabby glamour.

Performers have commented on an occasional phenomenon: the sound of clapping from an empty house during rehearsals. Perhaps this spectral applause is connected to one of the sadder stories of The Walker.

In May of 1914 Lawrence Irving, son of the famed Victorian actor, Sir Henry Irving, and his wife, Mabel Hackney, had concluded a highly successful world tour. They embarked for home on The Empress of Ireland. As the Empress made its way down the St. Lawrence, the weather was hot and humid. On the evening of May 29th portholes were open and many passengers were on deck, when the Empress was struck by a Norwegian collier. The Empress listed violently, water pored through the portholes and the ship sank within fifteen minutes with the loss of more than 2000 lives. Lawrence Irving and Mabel Hackney were among them.

A plaque in the theatre marks their passing. Perhaps in spirit one of them returns to the scene of their last triumph to applaud the artistry of a later generation.

The age of vaudeville may be long over, but Winnipeg remains a vibrant centre of theatre. It is home to the oldest theatre company in Canada, the French language Le Cercle Moliere, founded in 1925, and the largest regional theatre, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre founded in 1958 by Tom Hendry and John Hirsh. The RMTC operates two stages, and hosts a Master Playwright Festival in January and The Fringe festival in July.

In addition, there is Prairie Theatre Exchange, devoted to Canadian Plays, The Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, The Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and a multitude of small theatre companies.




“Plaque recalls couples poignant passing”; Martin Zeilig, Winnipeg Free Press.

[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 UE, Secretary, Manitoba Branch

St. Alban Loyalist Service, June 17

You are cordially invited to attend the annual UNITED EMPIRE LOYALIST

Commemorative Service at St Alban The Martyr Anglican Church, Adolphustown

June 17th 2012 at 2 PM. The guest speaker is Bishop Michael Oulton, Bishop of the Diocese of Ontario.

A Loyalist Tea will follow the service

View your formal invitation with map here

Diane Berlet

Canadian and USA Churches Join in Commemoration of War of 1812

The United Church of Canada’s Seaway Valley Presbytery, in Ontario between Prescott and the Quebec border, and the United Church of Christ’s Black River-St. Lawrence Association in New York State have established a joint ecumenical project to commemorate the War of 1812 Bicentennial. The two denominations share common roots in Congregational churches, which in Canada joined with Presbyterians and Methodists in 1925 to form the United Church of Canada and in the US joined with the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1957 to become the United Church of Christ.

I have written a prayer, attached (in PDF format), for the 200th anniversary of the declaration of war, which will be used in congregations on both sides of the border on June 17, 2012. We are planning future joint liturgies around significant bicentennial events, e.g. the Battles of Crysler’s Farm and Plattsburgh, both to remember the past and to witness to the peace that now prevails on what had been a bloody river border between Canada and the United States.

…Rev. Daniel Hayward, UE, Trinity Ingleside and Newington United Churches, South Stormont, Ontario

Ontario Graphic Licence Plate Project

Requests continue to come in for UELAC badge graphic licence plates. We’ve now reached 70 requests, and continue to move toward our threshold of 200. It seems responses have been coming in from everywhere: Ontario branch members, Ontario residents who are members of branches outside of Ontario, prospective members coming to the Dominion website as part of their research, along with a few collectors.

Please keep promoting this project to everyone in your Loyalist circles. It would be great to have even larger numbers to report before the Conference in June. As ever, visit the projects page on the Dominion website for details, or contact me at plates@uelac.org or 905-486-9777.

Ben Thornton, Toronto Branch

War of 1812 Battle of Longwoods Reenactment 2012

Bob Rennie UE of Grand River Branch portrayed Sir Isaac Brock at the early May reenactment of the Battle of Longwoods (see photo). Bob’s uniform was provided by his employer Manulife in support of his involvement. Bob has a loyalist ancestral connection to the War of 1812 in the person of Lt. Col Henry Bostwick, son of Loyalist Gideon.

Henry Bostwick and his brother John were sons of Reverend Gideon Bostwick who was put out of his church during the American Revolution for praying for King George III.

Henry eventually settled in Norfolk County and married Ann Nancy, daughter of Loyalist Jonathan Williams. Hentry practiced law with his brother-in-law John Ten Broeck who married Williams’ daughter Mary.

In August, 1812, Brock sailed from Dover in an odd assortment of boats which could not accommodate all the regulars and militia. Bostwick was one of two officers who marched with 100 men from Port Dover to Detroit to fight – and win – the battle of Detroit. In May, 1814, his home, barn, carriage and all moveable property were burned in Campbell’s raid on Dover Mills.

In November, 1814, he defended against McArthur’s army estimated at 800 -1500 experienced Kentucky and Ohio mounted riflemen. Bostwick’s militia force of 400 was defeated with a loss of 17 men at the battle of Malcolm’s Mills when the mills were burned at present-day Oakland. At the main intersection in Oakland there is a plaque but the mill stood in the valley below on the west side of Old Highway #24.

Henry Bostwick died in 1816, it was felt due to the effects of the war. He left his wife Ann Nancy with four small children: Henry [Susan Marr]; Elizabeth [Eli Merrick]; Clarissa Ann [Anson Strong]’ Cornelia [1. William Hazen and 2. William Burlingham]; and with child, Caroline [Daniel McQueen].

…Doris Ann Lemon, UE

Military Muster in Commemoration of the War of 1812

On Tuesday May 22, The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall joined the Prime Minister and hundreds of others in the Fort York Armoury for the Military Muster in Commemoration of the War of 1812. Evidently, a “muster” is a general term for collecting soldiers or sailors together, but what was witnessed was hardly general. The armoury itself is located several hundred metres west of the present Fort York which was visited by participants of the 2006 UELAC Conference and attacked by the American forces on April 27, 1813.

Other than the location, a key part of the ceremony was the passing of the commemorative War of 1812 banner to the Heir to the Throne, a symbolic gesture that directly associated the Crown with the banner, and all that it represented. The programme for the guests provided details regarding the Muster, War of 1812, Commemorative medal, Commemorative banner, the five snare drums and lists the First Nations and Metis communities with a heritage linked to the War of 1812, the Current Canadian Army Units to Perpetuate War of 1812 Militia Formations and the Regiments linked to War of 1812 Fencible Units recruited in North America. For further information, including the programme and pictures of the event, click here (PDF).


Research Resource: 1825 Census of Lower Canada

FamilySearch has indexed the 1825 census of Lower Canada. The index gives the name of the head of household, number of people in the household and the residence location. The population of Lower Canada was 479,288 in 1825. The LDS records are free of charge. Click here.

…Nancy Conn, UE

Gravestones of Glengarry Series: New Volumes

The following books by Alex Fraser are now available:

Gravestones of Glengarry Vol 8 Glen Nevis – Dalhousie
cerlox comb bound 8.5 X 11, soft cover
ISBN13: 9780921307532.
– St Margaret of Scotland, Glen Nevis — 228 markers
– Dalhousie “Round Church” Cemetery, Dalhousie Mills — 201 markers
– Old Presbyterian Cemetery 9th Conc — 30 markers
– MacMillan pioneer cemetery, 7th Concession Lancaster Township — 19 markers
An A-Z combined index of about 1650 names
CD Rom Version ISBN13 978-0921307655

Gravestones of Glengarry Vol 7 Glen Robertson – Lochiel – Dalkieth
ISBN13: 9780921307518
– St Martin of Tours RC Cemetery, Glen Robertson — 282 markers
– St Alexander RC Cemetery, Lochiel — 189 markers
– St Paul’s RC Cemetery, Dalkeith — 67 markers
combined name index of 1783 entries
CD Rom Version ISBN13 978-0921307594

Gravestones of Glengarry Vol 6 Breadalbane
ISBN13: 9780921307617
– Breadalbane cemetery Inscriptions 1970 122 markers
– Brodie Family Cemetery 1 marker
– Peter Stewart Diary 1857 – 1910
– Marriages & Bonds 1853-1896
combined name index of 2597 entries
CD Rom Version ISBN13 978-0921307570

More details can be found on the website

…Lynne Cook UE

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
– Bailey, Rev. Jacob – from Kristina Harrison


James Curgenven

When researching my family history, I discovered a loyalist connection. James Curgenven was born in Uny-Lelant Cornwall in 1745, he died in Merther Cornwall in 1824. He arrived in Boston aboard the ship Thames on 5 November 1767. He sailed with Henry Hulton, Commissioner of Customs and Commissioners Charles Paxton and William Burch, all members of the Board of Customs Commissioners.

On June 5 1775, James Curgenven wrote to Governor Trumbull informing him of his appointment as Collector of Customs for the port of New-Haven. However soon after this, he departed New-Haven and made his way to Boston where he enlisted in the Second Company of the Loyal American Association. James Curgenven is not listed in the Boston evacuation list of 1776.

In New-Haven September 17 1776, in a petition to the Governor of Connecticut, James Curgenven and five other people were declared ‘enemies of American liberty’. They were to be brought before the General Assembly, and if found guilty detained inland. Apparently he avoided this outcome, and in 1777 he received a Captain’s commission in Hierlihy’s Corps. In 1778, Sir Henry Clinton ordered the Independent Companies to depart New York for service on the Island of St. John.

Captain Curgenven’s name appears in two Nova Scotia Volunteers Land Grants documents for the years 1783 and 1784.

My question is, would anyone have any additional information, or suggestions to aid me in my research concerning James Curgenven?

However, I do have a specific question. Recently, I located a document dated 6 October 1780. When stationed on the Island of St. John, he requested six months leave in order to return to England to settle accounts as Collector of Customs and Receiver for Greenwich Hospital. My first thought was that he was the Receiver for Greenwich Hospital in England. But he arrived in Boston at the age of twenty two, and he clearly states that he had been in America for thirteen years. My next thought was, was there a Greenwich Hospital in America, possibly Greenwich Connecticut? Any assistance offered would be greatly appreciated.


I have found five documents at On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studiesv

1. Independent Companies (Hierlihy’s), Letter from James Curgenven

2. Post War Settlement, Nova Scotia Volunteers Land Grants

3. Loyal American Association, Second Company.

4. War Settlement, Nova Scotia Land Grants

5. Index to Independent Companies (Hierlihy’s) History.

Also at American Archives Documents of the American Revolution, 1774-1776. dig.lib.niu.edu/amarch/-United States:

1. Letter from James Curgenven to Governor Trunbull informing him of his appointment of Collector of Customs for the Port of New-Haven.

2. Oath of Office he had taken before the Board of Customs, and requesting to be informed if he will administer to him the usual Oath taken by Officers of the Crown.

3. Petition from New-Haven to the Governor,etc.,of Connecticut: Praying that certain persons, enemies to America, may be removed to some interior part of the country.

Peter Newman, Australia

Last Post

Maj. George Duff Mitchell, MC, CD, UE

It is with sadness that the Sir Guy Carleton Branch reports the passing of George Mitchell UE (Duff) in his 94th year. Duff wrote many articles promoting the Loyalist Rose and spoke at the dedication ceremony when the branch donated a Loyalist rose to the Ottawa Experimental Farm. He attended many of the heritage days and Gene-o-rama events representing the branch in his loyalist attire. Being descended from three proven Loyalist ancestors in the Glengarry region, he tried for many years to have a plaque on his ancestral land acknowledging his ancestor as the first pioneer in that area. He has been a strong supporter of the branch attending most of our functions until the last year. He passed away on Wednesday, May 23rd, and his funeral will be Thursday, May 31st, at Hulse & Playfair, McLeod St. near the Museum of Nature, at 11 am.

Read the obituary at Legacy.

Russell Harford Sills, UE

Russell Harford Sills, UE, of Stirling, Ontario, after an accident at home on May 15th, 2012, at the age of 87. Russell was born on Feb. 13, 1925, son of the late Chester Sills and Edith Lindsay. He was husband of Mary Ellen (Chambers) for 61 years and father of Bob Sills and wife Cindy, Margaret Tennant and husband Robbie, Fred Sills and wife Chris, and Ronnie Sills and wife Jennifer. He was proud grandfather to many. Predeceased by his brother Lindsay. Russell was a long time farmer in the Stirling area and actively involved in the Masonic Lodge Stirling #69, the Orange Lodge, and St. Paul’s United Church for many years. He served as Reeve for Huntingdon Township in 1971 and was active in the Stirling Agricultural Society.

Russell was also very active member of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada, and served as President of the Bay of Quinte Branch UEL from 1988 to 1991. He was on the branch executive for 25 years, receiving an Ontario Volunteers Award for this last year. Only a few days before his death, Russell inducted our branch executive for 2012-2013 at our Annual General Meeting. He was a descendant of John Conrad Sills UE and his son John Sills UE. Our condolences are extended to his family.

…Brian Tackaberry UE, President, Bay of Quinte Branch