“Loyalist Trails” 2012-25: June 24, 2012

In this issue:
The Martha‘s Loyalist Castaways: Part 1 of 3 – by Stephen Davidson
John Davis Beardsley (1771 – 1852) by George McNeillie
Back to Basics: What is a Loyalist? by Christopher Minty
Biggest Loyalist Families: Benjamin Eastman by Maggie Barron
Review and Notes from Annual Conference June 7-10 in Winnipeg
Update on Sir John Johnson Branch Project From AGM
Celebrating the First Loyalist Day in BC on July 22
Service to Others Stressed In UELAC Conference Church Service
Saskatchewan Loyalist Day and War of 1812 Commemorations
OHS Launches Online War of 1812 Bicentennial Website
From the Twittersphere and Beyond


The Martha‘s Loyalist Castaways: Part 1 of 3 – by Stephen Davidson

[Editor’s note: In September of 2008, Stephen wrote a three-part series on the shipwreck of the Martha for Loyalist Trails. Recent discoveries in his research have shed more light on this loyalist tragedy at sea.]

If your loyalist ancestors first settled in New Brunswick in the fall of 1783, they might have been survivors of a tragic shipwreck. When the Martha broke up on an underwater shoal, 113 of its passengers drowned in the cold Atlantic. Ten slaves, fifteen women, and thirteen children were among those who died. While 68 of the loyalist passengers survived the ordeal, identifying them has remained a challenge for historians and genealogists alike.

In terms of numbers, we know that the survivors included two captains, two lieutenants, one ensign, one surgeon, nine sergeants, two drummers, seven corporals, thirty-three privates, six women and five children. No slaves belonging to the passengers were saved. However, almost all of the names of these castaways have been forgotten.

The passengers on the Martha‘s last voyage were soldiers who were members of the Maryland Loyalist Regiment and Ludlow’s New York Regiment (also known as the Third Battalion of Delancey’s Brigade). On September 15, 1783, they left New York City with their families as part of a fleet of twelve ships which was heading for the mouth of the St. John River. They planned to settle near the site of modern-day Fredericton before the winter’s snow began to fall.

Overseeing the regiments’ settlement was Lt. Col. Richard Hewlett. He was a native of Hempstead, New York and a veteran of the Seven Years War, having helped the British capture Fort Frontenac. Hewlett, his wife and their ten children had all of their worldly goods stowed in the Martha‘s cargo holds. Fortunately, the lieutenant-colonel and his family chose to sail up the coast on another ship.

More than two centuries after the tragic wreck of the Martha, we can only be sure of the names of a handful of its survivors. Captain Patrick Kennedy, who later wrote the most detailed account of the shipwreck, gave the name of only one fellow officer involved in the tragedy — not even mentioning the treacherous captain and crew who deserted the Martha‘s passengers.

Thanks to family lore, we know that Samuel Woodworth, his wife Elizabeth and their infant were rescued after two days at sea. The list of known survivors would stop with these four names if it were not for several widely scattered sources: a castaway’s letter, biographical sketches collected by an American historian, a letter to Governor Parr, and the correspondence of Sir Guy Carleton.

The Martha broke up on the shoals off Cape Sable, Nova Scotia on Tuesday, September 23, 1783. Among the 68 loyalists who survived was Lieutenant Michael Laffan. When he and the other castaways were reunited with their regiments at the mouth of the St. John River, he immediately penned a letter to his brother. The date was Saturday, October 11th.

“Yesterday evening I had the good fortune to arrive at this place. On the 25th {sic} of September, about 4 o’clock in the morning, the Martha struck against a rock off the Tusket River and was in the course of a few hours wrecked in a thousand pieces, I had the good fortune to get upon a piece of the wreck with three more officers …. all of the Maryland Loyalists and floated on it two days and two nights up to near our waists in water, during which time Lieut. Sterling and one of the soldiers died.”

“On the third day we drifted to an island where we lived without fire, water, victuals or clothing, except the remnants of what we had on, about one quart of water per man (which we sipped from the cavities in the rocks) and a few raspberries and snails.”

“On the seventh day we were espied and taken up by a Frenchman that was out a fowling, who took us to his house and treated us with every kindness. We stayed with him six days and then proceeded to a place called Cape Pursue, where we met with Captain Kennedy and about fifty of both regiments, who were saved at sea by some fishing boats, about 36 hours from the time the vessel was wrecked. Capt. {Benjamin} Doughty, Lieut. {William} McFarlane, Mrs. McFarlane and Ensign {William} Montgomery perished.”

Laffan identified the two men who clung to the wreckage of the Martha as Lt. James Henley and Dr. William Stafford. Henley was a native of Maryland and an officer in the Maryland Loyalist Regiment. Following his narrow escape from a premature death, the lieutenant was granted land in Parrtown (Saint John). He later settled in York County (which includes modern day Fredericton) and died in 1810. Stafford was the regiment’s surgeon. At one point in the break-up of the Martha, he had shared a raft with Captain Kennedy, but was then washed away by a wave. The men did not see each other again until they arrived in Parrtown.

Ten days after Laffan wrote his brother, Dr. Stafford wrote Sir Guy Carleton in New York City, saying that he had lost everything in the shipwreck, was ill, and hoped to receive some financial aid. What became of him after his arrival in Parrtown is unknown. His descendants may be among us, completely unaware of the fact that their loyalist ancestor narrowly escaped death more than 225 years ago.

The remaining stories of the known survivors and victims of the Martha‘s shipwreck will be told in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

John Davis Beardsley (1771 – 1852) © George McNeillie

The old John D. Beardsley house was standing within my recollection, and was then occupied by a family named Leaman. One of my earliest recollections is that of being wakened by our maid “Maggie” in the night as a small child, and carried to the front door to see “the fire”. The house was burned that night, and I can even yet vividly recall the flames, the smoke, the noise of axes, and the hoarse cries of the men, who were working hard in their efforts to save the adjacent buildings.

My mother had a great admiration for the elder John Davis Beardsley, “Grandpa Beardsley” as my father used to call him. She said that he was such a perfect gentleman and quite courtly in his deference to the ladies. One day when she was holding him up as a model, I remember my father was a little provoked, and said that Grandpa was of uncertain temper and could be a veritable shrew in his family. He had, however, a vein of humour in his make up, and it is said that he once intimated that he had suffered from too much mothering.

Six mothers! His own mother Sylvia, three step-mothers, and two mothers-in-law! The only one of the first John D. Beardsley’s generation, however, that I ever saw was his second wife Mary Ann Gill, who survived him for twenty years and died in 1873 in her 90th year. The old lady once mortified me horribly, when I was about ten years of age by declaring, in my hearing, to her step grand-daughter Mary, that “William was such a pretty boy,” to which the reply of the sensibly Mary was, “I think he is a nice boy, but I wouldn’t call him pretty.”

My great-grandfather John D. Beardsley’s children were eleven in number, six sons and five daughters and their names are recorded in the baptismal register of the Rev. Frederick Dibblee at Woodstock. They were all the children of the first wife, Sally Munday Dibblee, and their births appear in the parish register with monotonous regularity every second year.

John Davis Beardsley soon became a prominent member of the Woodstock community. The Journals of the York County Sessions of the Peace inform us that he was Commissioner of Roads and Overseer of the Poor for Northampton in the years 1794, 1795, although his descendants claimed that he always lived in Woodstock. He taught school under the supervision of John Bedell, George Bull and Joseph Cunliffe, the “Visiting Committee”, and his stipend from the province was only 5 pounds sterling per annum. But in 1812 the S.P.G. took him on their list of school masters and this added the sum of 15 pounds sterling per annum to his income.

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

Back to Basics: What is a Loyalist? by Christopher Minty

Throughout the ever-increasing body of scholarship on the American Revolution the Loyalists are seldom given much attention. At best, Loyalists obtain three or four pages in total that can only be found by hunting through the index, most likely under “Tories”. More often than not, Loyalists remain the forgotten colonists of the Revolutionary Period. Even the most notable historians of Revolutionary history fail to appreciate the immediate and lasting significance of the “losers”. For example, T. H. Breen has recently documented how the average colonist marched down the road to become a Patriot or, as he terms, an insurgent. Where do the Loyalists fit in this story? Well, they don’t really.

To isolate Breen, however, would be unfair, as his work on the “consumer revolution” (Marketplace of Revolution) and the above-mentioned text (American Insurgents, American Patriots) are both meticulously well researched and help explain previously unexplored territory. What is lacking, as is the case with most texts on the Revolution, is how the average colonist became a Loyalist. How does one become a Loyalist? Also, what is a Loyalist? It is a truism to state that a Loyalist was a colonist who retained allegiance to King George III and the British government but it is, in fact, far more complex.

I think the question “what is a Loyalist?” warrants further clarification before any real analysis can be attempted, if a coherent piece of work on Loyalists can begin. Edward Larkin has recently offered a definition that is useful, but doesn’t fully historicise Loyalists within the struggle. Moreover, as recently as this year, scholars have described them by using the axiom that allegiance equals Loyalist. Loyalism was, however, a multi-layered, multifaceted phenomenon with a number of different categories within.

First, there were “Voluntary Loyalists”. By this I mean the colonists who publicly displayed their allegiance, either by signing a subscription list, a petition or the Declarations of Dependence in New York. Second, there were “militant Loyalists”. This group refers to those men who voluntarily signed up for a Loyalist Regiment or took part in some sort of military action. A large number of Loyalist Regiments were formed throughout the conflict and some went on to obtain considerable prestige, most notably Simcoe’s Queen’s Rangers and Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York. I would go so far to suggest that by enlisting, to describe them as a Loyalist is no longer appropriate—they were counter-revolutionaries. By actively putting their lives on the line and fighting against ideas and ideals preached in Philadelphia, these men demonstrated the most ardent form of Loyalism, and it was not a decision to be taken lightly. The chances of coming home were not convincing, but their Loyalism carried them to the front line, across the colonies and, for some, further across the British Atlantic world. To put their lives at risk for the Crown is the something that merits the attention of more historians and it is about time that these counter-revolutionaries were given their true place in eighteenth-century history. Loyalists should no longer be relegated to the indexes and, perhaps, we should even suggest that some should be labelled under the term counter-revolutionaries.

If you would like to know more about me or my research, please contact me by email (below) and I will get back to you as quickly as possible. Also, I would like to thank those who contacted me since the last issue and if I have not replied I will shortly. I have had some trouble with the AT&T users, where my replies have been continually rejected.

Christopher F. Minty, University of Stirling

Biggest Loyalist Families: Benjamin Eastman, by Maggie Barron

Benjamin Eastman, with 23 children, has been added to the List of the largest Loyalist families – submitted by Maggie Barron. Read about more of the Loyalists’ biggest families and note the submission guidelines if you have a large family you would like to contribute.

Review and Notes from Annual Conference June 7-10 in Winnipeg

The Conference at the Confluence exceeded the expectations of everyone with whom I have had an opportunity to discuss its highlights. Conferences like this one start with a strong team. Here are some comments (and pictures) about the conference, about organizing conferences and an opportunity for the conference in 2015.

Part of the conference is set aside for the UELAC Annual General meeting and a short Council meeting. Read the highlights.

…Robert McBride UE, President UELAC

Update on Sir John Johnson Branch Project From AGM

Kindly hosted by Adelaide Lanktree and Louise Hall, Grietje and I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Sir John Johnson Branch. A very enjoyable visit included an update about the branch project to restore the burial vault of Sir John Johnson. Read more (PDF).

…Robert McBride UE, President UELAC

Celebrating the First Loyalist Day in BC on July 22

The proclamation of Loyalist Day, July 22, in BC was made by members of the Pacific Region at the UELAC Conference in Winnipeg. Carl Stymiest RVP Pacific Region has written “By Order in Council #903 from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II it is hereby Declared that BC has Proclaimed that 22 JULY be known as “LOYALIST DAY” and will be celebrated annually by all branches of the Pacific Region. We are especially grateful to Past President, Robert Ferguson UE of Victoria Branch for pursuing this for the Pacific Region. We are now the fourth Province to have a ‘Loyalist Day” along with New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan.”

To celebrate this first such special day, Vancouver Branch has organized a picnic at Queen’s Park in New Westminster from 11:30 – 3:30. RSVP requested. More details (PDF). If you are travelling there for business or pleasure, join in this special occasion.

Service to Others Stressed In UELAC Conference Church Service

Prior to his visit to Canada in May, HRH the Prince of Wales indicated that “service to others is the central theme of the Diamond Jubilee and it is this that guides The Queen and ‘my’ family in all that we try to do…” For the congregation at Westminster United Church on June 10, 2018, the realization of Her Majesty’s dedication was vital to both the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee and worship with the participants of the UELAC conference.

The front and back cover of the church bulletin (PDF) provided many images of HRH Queen Elizabeth II from the balcony scene following her coronation to the recent celebration at St. Paul’s. In addition, an explanation of United Empire Loyalists and their contribution to Canada was included in the Life at Westminster section.

“Ultimately, the Loyalists helped forge a new country,” Canada, which “carries forward the laws, institutions and monarchy, and continues to give its citizens freedom and rights unsurpassed in the new and old world.”

To the tune of “The Maple Leaf Forever”, Piper Keith Burr lead the four standard bearers, Barbara J Andrew, Rod Nerbas, Ken Swanston from the Manitoba Branch and David Ellsworth, Dominion Standard Bearer, to the front of the church, followed by a procession of conference participants in 18th or 21st century clothing. Early in the service, representatives of UELAC read four relevant Scripture Sentences: Robert C McBride UE, Dominion President, UELAC; Lorraine Cook UE, Co-Chair, Conference at the Confluence; Peter Rogers UE, President, Manitoba Branch; Geraldine Lane UE, Co-Chair, Conference at the Confluence. The Diamond Jubilee Prayer (PDF) was given by Fred Hayward UE, Dominion Past President.

Rev. Robert Campbell entitled his sermon “Born to Serve(PDF). With reference to “…whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be the slave of all” as found in Mark 10:43-44, he explored the ways the Queen has continually relied on her faith to sustain her as she fulfills her Christian duty and service.

Moreover, service recognizes love as the power to transcend and transform all as the cornerstone of our hope for the future of humankind. It calls us to look to that future, with all the challenges and changes it will bring, not with fear and faint heart, but with openness and expectation. This is what Her Majesty has done and teaches us to do. And I truly believe that is why at the age of 86, after six extraordinarily challenging decades as our Queen, she has an evident joy in her countenance and a spring in her step.

In his closing, Rev. Campbell reiterated the thoughts of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and challenged the congregation to reflect on what is at the heart of real dedication.

Following the singing of two verses of The Royal Anthem, Piper Keith Burr played “Highland Cathedral” as he lead the Retirement of Flags and the Recession of Loyalists.

The service at Westminster United Church provided a fitting conclusion to the Conference at the Confluence.


Saskatchewan Loyalist Day and War of 1812 Commemorations

Saskatchewan Branch UELAC reached out to the community June 17th and 18th in Saskatoon when the Dakota Whitecap First Nations held a commemorative celebration of the War of 1812. Events had been planned for a huge outdoor venue at River Landing, but when rain started, everything moved inside the Nutana School gym. Many dignitaries were on hand for the grand opening on Sunday at noon. Flag bearer Ken Mackenzie UE brought in the Loyalist Flag, followed by greetings from Saskatchewan Branch President Ken Fader UE supported by 9 other members of the Branch. We were then treated to an afternoon of entertainment by Metis, Ukrainian, German and First Nation dancers plus musicians. At 4 PM the formal program started again with greetings from Ken followed by more dancers and music. Many vendors and displays were moved into the school also.

In the evening we were entertained by Donny Parenteau (watch for him on Canada Day from Ottawa) with the evening culminating with the sounds of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra – the final piece of music was Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with improvised cannon fire (brown paper bags filled with air and popped by the audience). We then went outside to see the fireworks that were to have been orchestrated to the 1812 music.

Monday more rain; approximately 900 students were ushered into the gym. The first order of business was the announcement of the Provincial Government providing funding to the Office of the Treaty Commissioner in partnership with the Whitecap Dakota/Sioux , Standing Buffalo Dakota and Saskatoon Public Schools to create a curriculum for the Grade 6 and 9 Saskatchewan schools. The War of 1812 Education Kit will keep history alive as well as focus on the contributions the Dakota made to Canada. Our United Empire Loyalist group were the education unit of this gathering. Ken Fader UE and Pat Adair spoke to students about who the Loyalists’ were, drawing of lots, settlement, clothing, games, and last but most importantly the June 19th UEL Day in Saskatchewan and the significance of the day. We were then the colour party for the arrival of her Honour Vaughn Solomon Schofield, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan. A program of First Nation dances finished the afternoon before students were loaded on buses for departure. 1000 pamphlets about the Saskatchewan Branch and UELAC were distributed to students and public.

Photo of several branch members and story; several more photos.

Loyalist Day. Tuesday, June 19th , 27 members and guests attended the 12th annual UEL Day and salute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee celebrations in Regina. Rain madeg celebrations at the Cairn unadvisable. A quick call to the Premier’s office however afforded us the opportunity to hold our program in the Library of the Saskatchewan Legislative Buildings, a first in it’s history. Members and guests also enjoyed the artifacts that are displayed there after the program.

…Gerry Adair UE, Saskatchewan Branch

OHS Launches Online War of 1812 Bicentennial Website

The Ontario Historical Society (OHS) is excited to announce—on this, the 200th Anniversary of the American Declaration of War that launched the War of 1812—an expansion to its current online resources that celebrate the conflict’s bicentennial. Available at www.ontariohistoricalsociety.ca/1812, the new service includes a number of engaging features.

This new online expansion is launched in conjunction with the Society’s other bicentennial-related programmes and activities. Earlier this year, the OHS published a special double issue of Ontario History focusing on the War of 1812, featuring six newly researched articles and four reprinted articles written between 1907 and 1959. In 2011, the Society also launched its popular Ontario Heritage Directory Online in an effort to keep Ontario’s heritage community connected and to highlight Ontario’s War of 1812-related historic sites, museums and heritage organizations.

The new section contains a War of 1812 Bicentennial News and Events Portal, an education resources section (an extensive bibliography on the time period and short book reviews on many recently-published titles related to the war) and an enhanced members’ section.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond