“Loyalist Trails” 2012-33: August 19, 2012
In the fall of 1786, 44 loyalist settlers from Nova Scotia’s Cumberland County had set off in great hopes of receiving compensation for their wartime losses. After seven of their number appeared before the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists (RCLSAL), only a handful had been given money by the British government. Discouraging as this was, three more decided to make their claims. Perhaps Wednesday, November 1st would be their lucky day.
Like the Cumberland County settlers who had testified before him, James Eccles was a loyalist from New York and like his neighbours, he had served under Col. Delancey. A native of Dutchess County, Eccles had had his Morrisania farm plundered and burned by rebels. Adding insult to injury, the rebel Colonel Lundington took the loyalist’s horse after putting him in prison. Eccles spent over two years in more than three different patriot prisons.
Samuel Embree had also lived in Morrisania, New York and had served under Col. Delancey. Two years after he had purchased 120 acres of land, Embree joined a loyalist militia created by his friend, Col. Delancey. Patriots seized his property after a rebel colonel accused Embree of cutting timber to make oars for the British. While the loyalist was away from home fighting for the crown, patriots attacked his farm “at different times”, stealing eight horses, cattle and furniture before finally burning down Embree’s house.
Embree was the first of the Cumberland County loyalists to be described as a settler in the Cobblegate Mountains. No such range exists in Nova Scotia nor did any carry that name in 1786. Were these 44 friends living in some sort of loyalist Brigadoon? The answer to this mystery is found, not in a map, but in the fact that the man who recorded the RCLSAL’s transcripts was unfamiliar with the place names of the Maritimes. While he thought he heard them say “Cobblegate”, the loyalists at the hearings had actually said “Cobequid”, a word from the Mi’ kmaq language. Embree and his friends lived near the Cobequid Mountains.
By the end of his hearing, Abraham Smith learned that he was “not to be allowed anything strictly”. Despite the fact that another refugee testified how Smith had harboured loyalist fugitives in his home and was consequently plundered numerous times by rebels, he was not considered worthy of compensation. Besides household furniture, patriots also took 10 tons of hay, oats, a horse, three cows and cash. Perhaps Smith’s lack of military service and property deeds thwarted his chances for having his claim allowed.
While only three “Cobblegate” loyalists testified on Wednesday, eleven appeared before the RCLSAL on Thursday. This was the largest number of claimants to ever stand before the compensation board in one day.
John Gleeson of North Castle, New York, had Jeremiah Merrit and Stephen Seaman testify on his behalf. Before he began to serve under Major Baremore in 1779, Gleeson had owned a farm with orchards, wheat fields, sheep and horses. When he moved his family to Nova Scotia, they lost all their furniture and clothes in a shipwreck. Gleeson was awarded compensation for his losses.
Seaman also made a claim for himself. His witness, Moses Simmons, remembered seeing Seaman’s livestock and furniture sold by the rebels of Dutchess County after the loyalist joined the British. Mrs. Seaman had been allowed to keep one cow, but even that was taken from her (along with some cash) after she crossed within the British lines. Seaman’s claim was allowed.
Jabez Rundle only sought compensation for the loss of his horse. John Hunter had served with Delancey’s Refugees for two years as a private. He lost corn and a horse from his mother’s estate. He, too, was granted compensation. Titus Knapp served alongside Hunter as a sergeant. Rebels had imprisoned him, and taken two horses and four cattle. He also lost “a watch and wearing apparel”. Claim allowed!
James Merrit, who impressed the commissioner as a “fair man”, had three friends testify on his behalf. He claimed the loss of an African slave, oxen, cattle, horses and a “very good wagon”. Like Knapp, he also received compensation. Henry Trenchard, however, was only granted “a trifle for things left at his house when he went away”. The loyalist from Morrisania lost 7 horses during his 6 years of service to the crown in addition to clothing, a “shop and smith’s tools”, furniture, and cattle.
John Wilson was also a loyalist farmer from Morrisania. His horses, cattle and two yoke of oxen were stolen by “a party that came against the Tories”. Wilson was a private with Delancey’s Refugees for three years. His claim was allowed.
In addition to the words of a witness, John Pugsley stood before the RCLSAL with written testimonials as to his “zeal and loyalty”. The board transcripts note that he seemed “a very good man — has strong certificates — may have compensation for his lands.” While Pugsley’s had his livestock, slave and 100-acre farm seized during the Revolution, his greatest loss was the death of his father at the hands of rebels.
John Teed/Tweed‘s testimony was brief. While he served the British, rebels known as the Guides took all the livestock and slaves from his Courtland Manor farm. The enemy then “sent his wife after him”.
Hessian soldiers took articles from the family farm of Gabriel Purdy. Both Purdy’s brother Henry (who served as his witness) and his grandfather were loyalists. Gabriel left Philip’s Manor to serve the crown until 1783. His father, however, remained in Philip’s Manor and seems to have been a patriot– which may account for the plundering by German mercenaries. In the end, the RCLSAL commissioner awarded Gabriel Purdy compensation for the improvements he had made on the family farm. Purdy’s loyalty and wartime service had tilted the scales in his favour.
(This series on the loyalists of the Cobblegate Mountains concludes next week.)
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
- War of 1812 cemetery (Americans and British) set for replica fence, gates
- Bicentennial of a Forgotten War – a guest post “When the War of 1812 Came to New York Harbor”, by David Taylor
- Annual Fort Erie “Siege Weekend” draws record number of re-enactors with photo gallery
- Professional [sand] sculptors commemorate War of 1812
- Isaac Brock bust given to Guernsey by Canadian artist
- Black Creek Brewery in Toronto has created Rifleman’s Ration, a limited edition beer, to commemorate the War of 1812. This is the first in a series of limited edition Historic Beers of Canada. The beer is a brown ale, which would typically be served at room temperature fresh from the barrel. The modern version is available at the LCBO in 500 ml bottles with a picture of a British Red Coat on the label. Read more. – Jim Bruce
- Fort Dearborn Bicentennial: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago
- Who Really Won the War of 1812? Dinner Debate with Roy MacGregor and David Frum, Fort Erie Sept 15
- Canada to finally award battle honours to War of 1812 soldiers
As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates, all from Maralynn Wilkinson, are as follows:
– Bradshaw, Ashahel (Asal)
– Bradshaw, James Sr
– Pickle, John Sr.
– Pickle, John Jr.
– Wager, Thomas
This posting comes from a location not that far from the previous issue, same boat, same room (the library, as Wifi does not seem to quite reach our cabin) but now in the harbour of Odessa. Having just arrived from Sebastopol (Valley of Death, the Charge of the Light Brigade) and the palaces of Yalta (Livadia where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met in 1945) to Odessa where we have toured the catacombs or tunnels where the Resistance fighting the Germans were hiding, it seems that war has been everywhere. The commemorations of the War of 1812 just seem to fit right in somehow.