“Loyalist Trails” 2012-52: December 30, 2012
In this issue:
– The Settlers of Raisin River (3 of 3) – by Stephen Davidson
– Where in the World is June Klassen?
– Loyalists and the War of 1812: The Kentners
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
– Editor’s Note
The transcripts of the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of the American Loyalists (RCLSAL) give us a snapshot of the experiences of 42 men and women who settled along the Raisin River in Ontario’s Glengarry County. They had endured immigration from Scotland, persecution in New York, and military service for their distant king. Most of these Roman Catholic Highlanders were farmers, but not all.
The Raisin River loyalists must have sought out Thomas Ross now and then for his special skills; he was a tailor as well as a farmer. At least one settler was skilled in travelling waterways, a valuable talent to have considering that the closest city to the Raisin River settlements was 50 miles down river in Montreal.
Donald McMullin had served as a “bateau man” in Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger’s 1777 expedition to liberate loyalists in the Mohawk Valley and to capture Fort Stanwix. McMullin was one of those who piloted the flotilla of 48 bateaux up the St. Lawrence, south across Lake Ontario, and along the rivers of western New York. Bateaux were long tapering boats with flat bottoms used to carry troops, munitions, and supplies along the rivers and lakes of the colonies.
After an unsuccessful siege at the patriot-held Fort Stanwix, Leger and his men returned to Montreal. McMullin, who would later settle along the Raisin River, joined the engineers department, staying with it until 1783.
By the spring of 1784, the British were constructing bateaux at Lachine, a community west of Montreal. These boats were to take loyalist settlers to their new townships on the upper St. Lawrence River. Military warehouses in Sorel sent tents, food, clothing, cooking utensils, and tents to load onto these bateaux. It would be interesting to know if Donald McMullin was recruited as a bateau man to navigate one of these boats to the mouth of the Raisin River.
Loyalist widows and orphans were also a component of the Raisin River settlements. Four widows and one orphan were among the 42 who petitioned for compensation when the RCLSAL convened in Montreal.
Alexander Ferguson, the oldest son and namesake of his father, appealed to the RCLSAL on January 25, 1788. The older Ferguson was a typical Raisin River loyalist – a Scot who had come to America in 1773 to settle on Johnson’s land and who had served in the First Battalion the entire war.
It wasn’t until 1782 that the entire Ferguson family left Tryon County for the safety of Canada, coming “as soon as they could get away”. Young Alexander was only 13 at the time. His father died sometime after his discharge in 1783, leaving a widow, two married daughters, two sons, and two unmarried daughters. Five years later, Mrs Ferguson was one of a number of widows who had established a new homestead on the Raisin River.
The very first Raisin River settler to appear before the compensation board in Montreal was a widow. Janet Calder made her appeal on November 1, 1787. William, her Scottish born husband, died in 1782 after serving the crown for three years. Left to care for their three young children, Janet found accommodations in St. Martin, today’s Chomedey neighbourhood in the city of Laval, Quebec. In 1784, she joined her former neighbours in Lachine to begin their trek to the Raisin River. In addition to her husband, Janet had lost their 150-acre Albany County farm that included their house, barn, stable and cart.
The second Raisin River widow did not appear before the RCLSAL until January 19, 1788. Christian Cameron had been the wife of Donald Ross until his death in 1777. He had been among those who had fought against New York rebels at Fort Stanwix. Ross became ill after the failed siege. Three years later he died. Christian was Ross’ second wife; he had had six children in a prior marriage. Alexander Ross, one of Donald’s sons, also died in the war, but another son, Finley, stayed with his stepmother and stepsisters, Anne and Mary. At the end of the war, the blended family left Tryon County “on account of their persecutions”. Sometime before 1788, Christian married an older loyalist (and a veteran of the Seven Years War) named William Cameron.
Eventually the Cameron and Ross families settled along the Raisin River. Ann Ross lived with her stepbrother Finley (perhaps as a housekeeper?), while Mary Ross lived with her mother and stepfather.
Another Raisin River settler was Ann, the widow of John Cameron. Sometime after John sent a compensation claim by mail to Halifax (it had the first North American sitting of the RCLSAL in December of 1785), he died. By 1788, his widow was “an infirm old woman unable to travel”. Alexander Grant, a fellow Raisin River settler, spoke on Ann’s behalf in Montreal in January of 1788.
Nine other loyalists from Raisin River made a claim on the same day that the RCLSAL considered Ann Cameron’s petition. Catherine McGruer’s story was a very familiar one. Her husband Donald was a Johnson’s Bush settler who had come from Scotland in 1773. He died while “in the service” in Sorel (between Montreal and Quebec City). Although we do not know when the family left Tryon County, Catherine testified that she and her two daughters (12 and 6 years of age) lived in the refugee camp at Yamachiche for a year. Unlike other young widows, Catherine had not married a new husband in the four years that she had lived in Raisin River. The story of how this single mother coped in the wilderness remains to be told.
The settlers of the Raisin River Valley were a remarkably homogeneous group. Loyalists from such diverse colonies as South Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts who settled together in cities like Halifax or Shelburne could not make assumptions about the types of government, religion, or social customs that had been part of their fellow settlers’ experiences. But on the Raisin River, loyalists knew that their neighbours were Scots who had: arrived in the New World in the early 1770s, settled along the Mohawk Valley, found refuge in modern day Quebec, served in military corps, and worshipped in a Roman Catholic Church each Sunday. It was the beginning of a strong foundation for communities of loyalists all along the meandering Raisin River.
Guess where June Klassen is!
To participate, submit a photo of yourself in UELAC promotional gear at a place of some note and tell us where it is. If you are a member of a branch, please indicate that as well – send to Jennifer Childs.
The Kentners – George, John, Frederick and Conrad – have been added to the list of Loyalists and the War of 1812.
A number of Loyalists who had participated in the American Revolution also took up arms again in the War of 1812. A greater number of sons, daughters and family members of Loyalists also joined the war effort.
If you have Loyalist ancestry, or know of other, that meets the criteria above, please contribute to this collection. Submissions of about 500 words would be great, but size within reason is not a big concern.
Thanks in advance for your help; submit articles to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Bonnie Schepers’ 1st cousin may be known to all as Santa Claus but his 4th great grandfather is Loyalist Abraham Pastorius
- Christmas Eve in Montreal 1783 – A Bleak Mid-Winter (from the June 1986 Loyalist Gazette)
- Revolutionary War Tory Descendants in Nova Scotia Part 1
- The Queen’s Christmas message
It is the day before New Year’s Eve, and the winter sun is shining brightly through my office window; Nancy and I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year’s celebration, and health and happiness in 2013.
I also want to extend a special thank-you to everyone who contributed something to Loyalist Trails, no matter how large or small, in 2012. Without you there would be no newsletter.