“Loyalist Trails” 2012-31: August 5, 2012

In this issue:
Three who Did Not Survive – by Stephen Davidson
Stephen Davidson’s Book, Letters for Elly, Receives More Press
John Davis Beardsley (1771 – 1852) by George McNeillie
Hamilton Branch to Mark A Loyalist Cemetery
Fundraising Dinner at the Museum of Civilization: Hosted by Bytown DAR
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Correction to Previous Issue
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
A Note from the Editor


Three who Did Not Survive – by Stephen Davidson

University graduations are celebrations of individual achievement — events filled with anticipation as to how graduates will fulfil their potential. If those graduating are divinity students, there is the added excitement as to how the young men will fulfil to the call to do great things for God.

Such was the case for three students who graduated from Yale in the first half of the 18th century. Their lives were, indeed, full of promise. But within in a matter of decades, their continued loyalty to the crown would place them in jeopardy. The American Revolution was not the time to be found saying prayers for the safety of the king. By the end of 1777, all three of men would be dead. They were loyalist clergymen who did not survive the revolution and who would never know its outcome.

Ebenezer Kneeland became a school teacher in Flushing, New York after his 1761 graduation. While teaching in Huntington, Long Island the following year, he felt moved to become a minister and sailed to England for ordination. Kneeland was then appointed the chaplain to a British regiment stationed in Connecticut. In 1768, he became an assistant minister to the Rev. Dr. Johnson of Christ Church in Stratford, Connecticut. In the following year, he married Charity Johnson, the Anglican priest’s 19 year old granddaughter.

Johnson had long hoped to make Stratford a “resort for young students in divinity to prepare them for Holy Orders” and he saw in Kneeland the man who could help make that dream a reality. Following Dr. Johnson’s death in 1772, Kneeland assumed the rectorship of Christ Church. But the dreams of a Stratford divinity school–like so many dreams of the 1770s–were shattered by the American Revolution.

Because Kneeland was “an earnest loyalist” the local rebels confined him to the limits of his parish and –as happened throughout Connecticut– forced him to suspend public services. He could not even visit a parishioner without special permission from Stratford’s town council. On April 17, 1777, Kneeland died while “practically a prisoner in his own house” for “suspicion of being a Tory”. He left his childless widow to mourn his loss.

But Kneeland was not forgotten by the community that despised him. On October 20, 2010, Stratford’s Christ Church invited the community to a guided tour of their historic burial ground. Costumed re-enactors representing early church notables were stationed near various tombstones to greet visitors. Among the graveyard guides was a re-enactor playing the role of Stratford’s loyalist rector, Ebenezer Kneeland.

Ephraim Avery’s father was a Congregational minister, but upon his graduation from Yale, he became a teacher in a Church of England school. Over the next four years, Avery would marry, receive ordination in England, and be appointed as the Anglican missionary to Rye, a New York town bordering Connecticut. Given his small congregation, Avery turned his home into a boarding school as a way to support his growing family.

A history of Yale reports that the Anglican minister “threw his influence strongly on the unpatriotic side” in the opening days of the American Revolution. Known to correspond with the commander of the British fleet stationed in New York, Avery was “so obnoxious to the Whigs” that he became a target of patriot violence. Rebels plundered his property, taking his horses and cattle.

Personal tragedy compounded the stresses of political turmoil. In the spring of 1776, Avery suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right hand and affected his mind. Within weeks of his stroke, Avery’s wife Hannah died at the age of 39, leaving five children in her husband’s care.

On the morning of November 5, 1776, neighbours found Avery’s dead body outside of his home. His throat had been slashed. While many thought his personal tragedies had driven him to suicide, there were those in Rye who believed that the Anglican minister had been killed by “political opponents or by a personal enemy”.

Following his graduation from Yale, Luke Babcock was a shopkeeper until his appointment as the postmaster of New Haven, Connecticut. This career change probably had something to do with his father’s friendship with the postmaster-general of the Thirteen Colonies, a man named Benjamin Franklin.

Two years later, Babcock’s life took him down a path that would place him in opposition to his benefactor. After his ordination, the Yale graduate was appointed as a missionary to Philipsburgh Manor (now Yonkers, New York). He married Grace Isaacs by whom he would have two sons and a daughter. “His pleasant ministry … was interrupted by the outbreak of the Revolution, when he espoused the cause of the British government.” Babcock was one of the more noteworthy men to sign the April 1775 protest against the Continental Congress. Keeping his church open on a fast day designated by the Congress won him no friends.

Rebel animosity boiled over in October of 1776. Patriots pulled Babcock from his manse and took him up the Hudson River to Fishkill to face the Provincial Congress. Because he refused to recant his oath of allegiance to the crown, rebels imprisoned Babcock for four months in Hartford, Connecticut. Confinement ruined Babcock’s health. By the time he had completed the long wintry journey home, he was in “a raging fever…for about a week, for the most part of the time delirious”. The loyalist minister died on February 18, 1777 at the age of 39. Grace Babcock and her two children “were left in needy circumstances”.

Three years after Babcock’s death, disguised rebels with blackened faces broke into the manse and robbed the minister’s widow of her valuables. Grace Babcock remembered one home-invader making a low bow as he departed.

“Fare you well, and fare you better,” he taunted, “And when I die, I’ll send you a letter.” Despite such rough treatment, Babcock’s family did not join the loyalists who left the United States in 1783. No doubt descendants of Luke Babcock live in New York to this day, unaware of their loyalist ancestor’s service and sacrifice.

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

Stephen Davidson’s Book, Letters for Elly, Receives More Press

The regular genealogy columnist for the Telegraph-Journal (the newspaper for Saint John, New Brunswick) did a feature article on this young adult novel, Letters for Elly. It retells the true life adventures of seven loyalist siblings who fled Connecticut to live in New Brunswick. Read the comments here.

John Davis Beardsley (1771 – 1852) © George McNeillie

Our nearest neighbour, Charles A. Beardsley, named his youngest son, John Davis Beardsley. I chanced to meet this son, now a man of mature age, in the railway station in St. John, N.B. a year ago, and he told me that he had now an infant son named “John Davis”, the fifth generation of that name in New Brunswick, and the ninth of the succession of John Beardsleys in America. He did not tell me however that the infant, John Davis Beardsley, was the son of his third wife – in which respect he seems to be following old Parson Beardsley’s example.

There was quite a contrast between Charles A. Beardsley and his sisters. The son Charles was a large and very powerful man. He could easily carry one end of a stick of heavy timber requiring two men at the other end. His tastes, however, were largely those of the “saw-mill”, and he was in marked contrast to his refined and clever sisters. These ladies, having a large family communion and a still larger circle of friends, were able to make the Grove a social centre. They were very companionable, clever, well-read, and fond of entertaining. Their father, “Uncle John”, cared comparatively little for the gay company. He shunned the animated throng, the conversation, and the laughter, but he liked quiet conversation and had a store of reminiscences, and was to me a very entertaining companion. Much might be written of his seven daughters – Ritchie, Ellen, Matilda, Jennie, Charlotte, Sarah and Mary. They were clever, intellectual, capable women, and excellent company, but strange to say only Sarah and Mary – the youngest – ever married.

Next to our cousins at the Grove, we knew best of the Beardsleys the family of “Uncle Ralph” at “Bleak House”, near Richmond on the road to Houlton. A story has already been related of the strength and courage of the father of this family; here is another of a different kind:-

When the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, visited Fredericton in August, 1860, the people of the surrounding country flocked to the capital to do honour to the heir to the throne. The River road from Woodstock to Fredericton was filled with carriages bearing loyal citizens to the capital city to welcome the Prince. The desire to see him was intense. Uncle Ralph was amongst those who drove to Fredericton and on his return had many stories to relate, and told them well. One that I recall was that on the day when the Prince opened a Park, near the old Government House in Fredericton, the people assembled in such crowds that comparatively few could see him. A disconsolate young lady, of rather diminutive size, found herself unable either to penetrate the crowd or to see over their heads. She attracted Uncle Ralph’s notice and he inquired if he could help her. She informed him that she had travelled far to see the Prince and that as he was going away “tomorrow” she would be much mortified to return home without even seeing him.

“Come with me,” said Uncle Ralph, and he led the way to a tree not far from where the Prince was standing. “Can you climb?” he said. She said, “I can try.” Taking her foot in his hand and steadying her with the other hand, (in the old-time fashion, in which ladies were lifted into the saddle by their cavaliers) up to the lowest branch of the tree – “Now climb,” he said. She soon made herself a comfortable seat, and said, excitedly, “Oh! I can see him splendidly here; he is only a little way from me.” “Take plenty of time,” he said, “I will stand guard.” In due course he assisted her down, received her heartfelt thanks and she went on her way rejoicing.

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

Hamilton Branch to Mark A Loyalist Cemetery

On Saturday August 25th, Hamilton Branch will be hosting a special unveiling of a Loyalist Burial Site plaque at First Place Hamilton, 350 King Street East, Suite 300, Hamilton, Ontario. This is the burial site of Loyalist Richard Springer, UE.

To honour their enormous labours and contributions, Hamilton Branch is erecting specially designed signs that mark specific cemeteries as the final resting places of these Loyalists.

More details and the invitation to attend can be read here.

Fundraising Dinner at the Museum of Civilization: Hosted by Bytown DAR

On Saturday, September 8, 2012, 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of Civilization, the Bytown Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) will host a dinner.

The event speaker will be Mr. Victor Suthren, former Director General of the Canadian War Museum, who will speak on “Ottawa and the War of 1812

‘A Peaceful Place: The Wartime Origins of an Unwarlike Capital'”

The price is $100.00 per ticket and proceeds to go to the DAR Bytown Chapter History Award at Carleton University, given annually to a History student who has demonstrated a keen interest in American History and/or Canadian/American Relations.

To register: send cheque payable to Bytown Chapter, DAR to Barbara McConnell, 37 Bluemeadow Way, Kanata, ON K2M 1L7. Please state how many tickets required and include your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address. Deadline for registration: August 27, 2012 or until all tickets are sold.

For further information, call Dorothy Meyerhof, 613-822-2946.

…Helen Hatton

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

Correction to Previous Issue

The twittersphere entry last week which read “Last War of 1812 battle on Canadian Soil – Battle of Cook’s Mills remembered” contains an error. As pointed out by Bob Rennie, who has himself portrayed Brock, Cook’s Mills was Oct 1814 while the Battle of Malcolm’s Mill’s was Nov 1814. So The Battle of Malcolm’s Mills was in fact the “last War of 1812 battle”, making Cook’s Mills probably the second last battle. not only that, but Bob is a descendant of the commander – Lt Col Henry Bostwick – of that last battle on Canadian soil against the Americans.

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
– Balmain, William – from Fran Rose
– Fullton, James – from John McLeod
– Hawley, Ichabod, Jehiel and Jeptha – all updated by David Clark
– Howe, Caleb – from Ken McKinley, with certificate application
– Van Every, Benjamin, David, McGregor, Peter, Samuel and William – each updated or new from David Clark
– Vollick, Isaac – from Dian McIntee, with certificate application

Deanna Rudiak, a university student, is helping to add information to the Loyalist Directory as one of several summer jobs. Thanks Deanna for your assistance.

A Note from the Editor

We are about to take another break – yes the trip west in July reinforced the travel bug and we are off in the opposite direction for a little longer period. With a focus on vacation, the next few issues of Loyalist Trails may turn out to be somewhat skimpy, or worst case, may not appear at all (will see how adequate the internet access is) or nothing much may change from the usual pattern. In any case, enjoy the rest of summer.