“Loyalist Trails” 2013-22: June 2, 2013

In this issue:
A Dozen Widows’ Tales, by Stephen Davidson
United Empire Loyalist Commemorative Service at Adolphustown, June 16
Granting of Lands to Loyalists: Third Document, by Ed Kipp
Sword Surrender Site of the British Army on 17 Oct 1777
Presidential Peregrinations: Bay of Quinte Branch
Loyalists and War of 1812: Benjamin Fralick and son John
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
Last Post: Florence Gertrude English


A Dozen Widows’ Tales, by Stephen Davidson

One saw her husband and five sons go off to fight for the king; another’s son was killed by rebels in battle. A third watched her husband slowly lose his senses after being arrested by patriots. One had her furniture and utensils plundered by both rebels and the British army; another was driven from her home by hostile patriots. All of these women ended their days in the “king’s dominion” that today comprises Ontario and Quebec. They were all the widows of loyal Americans. Except for what might survive in family lore, their stories would be completely lost if it were not for the transcripts of the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists (RCLSAL). Here are the stories of five of these loyalist widows.

Before the outbreak of the revolution, Mary VanEvery, her husband McGregor, and their seven children lived on a farm in Schoharie, New York. From “the first of the war”, five of the VanEvery brothers fought “in the King’s service”. However, when McGregor tried to join, patriots seized him and imprisoned him for six months. “On account of their loyalty”, the VanEvery family suffered the loss of their horses, cattle, farm utensils and furniture at the hands of rebel neighbours. By 1781, McGregor was able to join Butler’s Rangers.

After the war, the VanEveries settled in the Niagara region. By the fall of 1786, Mary was a widow left to care for seven children. David, the oldest of her sons, represented Mary at the RCLSAL during the week in 1788 that it heard petitons at Niagara.

Another Niagara settler whose husband had died after the revolution was Jean Sutherland. She and her husband had once leased a 100-acre farm in New York’s Cherry Valley. Their landlord, however, was a rebel named Campbell. Hector Sutherland’s loyalty put him at odds with his neighbours. Rebels seized the family’s horse, dairy cows and sheep as well as their house, barn and furniture. They put Hector in prison.

Following his release in 1777, the loyal Scot went west to Niagara and joined Butler’s Rangers. He died in 1778. Jean found refuge for her family in Montreal in 1783. Five years later, 13 year-old William had returned to New York, but 10-year old Catherine stayed with her mother. After her claim was substantiated by Donald McDonell at the RCLSAL, Jean Sutherland disappeared from the historical record.

Elizabeth Schermerhorn was also a widow of a soldier who had served in Butler’s Rangers. William Schermerhorn had left his family in Albany County early in the war to join General Burgoyne’s forces. The loyalist was valued for his skills as a courier. After the British general’s defeat, Schermerhorn was imprisoned for a year, leaving Elizabeth to manage the family’s three farms on Rensalaer Manor. Testifying at the RCLSAL hearing, one witness testified that Elizabeth had remained on the family land until near the end of the war. In her own testimony, Elizabeth recounted how she “was driven from her place and all these things were destroyed or plundered by the Rebels”.

Following Schermerhorn’s release from jail, he fled north to Canada, bringing with him men willing to serve the crown. William was a good recruiter; in March 1777, 100 men took the oath of allegiance and agreed to serve under Captain Schermerhorn. Three years later, sixty New Yorkers were listed as being “engaged” by Schermerhorn in July of that year.

When Elizabeth and her five children crossed the British lines in October of 1783, William came to meet her at St. John’s. He was, Elizabeth remembered, “almost out of his mind from his Distresses”. William died in Quebec four years later. The only Schermerhorn child for whom we have a name is the oldest son, John. He was just 12 years old when William died –a boy who grew up without a father through the years of the revolution. Clearly, any financial help the RCLSAL could provide Elizabeth and her children in the August of 1787 would be well used.

A month later another widowed mother of five made an appeal to the RCLSAL in Montreal. Lydia Van Alstine had her new husband petition the board for the loss of James Van Alstine’s 10-acre farm in the Susquehana Valley of New York. Isaac Crouther spoke on Lydia’s behalf, and Isaac Van Alstine served as his witness.

Lydia’s husband James had served “all the war” in Sir John Johnson’s first battalion and was killed during the revolution. Lydia’s oldest son, Lambert, had gone to war with his father and was a fifer with the first battalion. At the end of the war, with five underage children, Lydia sent a claim for compensation to England with Captain Leake, but received nothing. By the time the compensation board convened in Montreal four years later, Lydia had remarried. Nevertheless, she resolutely sought to reclaim something of the value of her dead husband’s property and livestock – which, as in almost all loyalist widow stories—had been seized by rebels.

Rather than waiting for the RCLSAL to come to her, Margaret Waldroff lodged her claim for compensation in England. Up until 1775, Margaret and her husband Martin had lived in Johnstown, New York where they raised 8 children on a 110-acre farm. At the outbreak of the war, Martin enlisted with Col. Claus and “served the war”. Rebels plundered the Waldroff farm, stealing seven horses, a cow, and their furniture. Hoping for a British victory, Margaret took the seven youngest children away to safety and left her 14 year-old son behind. Somehow, he was allowed to buy the farm and retain ownership for his parents.

After the peace treaty was signed in 1783, the Waldroff’s son sold the farm at a £40 profit. At this point in time, Martin Waldroff was still alive and had been reunited with his family. In the years between their settlement in present day Cornwall, Ontario and Margaret’s appeal to the RCLSAL in London, Martin died. As with the other four widows mentioned in this article, there is no record of whether Margaret actually received compensation or not.

(More stories of the widows who settled in present day Ontario and Quebec will be featured in next week’s Loyalist Trails.)

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

United Empire Loyalist Commemorative Service at Adolphustown, June 16

The United Empire Loyalist Commemorative Service at St Alban The Martyr Anglican Church in Adolphustown will be held this year on Sunday June 16 at 2:00 pm. You are cordially invited to attend.

This Sung Evensong service will commemorate the 229th anniversary of the landing of the Loyalists at Adolphustown in June 1784. Rev. Dr. John Walmsley will preside; Guest Speaker will be Venerable Bradley D Smith, Archdeacon of Ontario and Chaplain of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal of the Mohawk.

A Loyalist Tea Follows the service.

Inquiries and additional information please contact Mrs. Diane Berlet, Chairperson, St. Alban’s history committee, by Telephone (613-373-8865) or email (Dianeberlet4@aol.com).

Granting of Lands to Loyalists: Third Document, by Ed Kipp

During my research, I have come across a number of files relating to the granting of lands to Loyalists in the Province of Quebec (includes present day Quebec and Ontario). I am in the process of transcribing these and posting to my blog. Readers of Loyalist Trails may be interested in these.

The third one is titled: “Upper Canada: Land Board Minutes and Records, 1765-1804 – October 22, 1788”

Documents relating to the granting of lands to Loyalists in the Province of Quebec (includes present day Quebec and Ontario).

Transcriber: Edward Kipp, January 2011

Source: Library and Archives Canada

RG1 L4 Vol. 2. Upper Canada: Land Board Minutes and Records, 1765-1804. LAC mf C-14026. PP. 203-206.

Wednesday 22nd October 1788

This document outlines how land was to be granted to members of the 84th Regiment. It also summarizes the petitions of Sir John Johnson and Lt. Col. John Butler indicating their loyalty and requesting that members of their regiments and corps receive the same grants of land. The request was approved by Council.

Read Upper Canada: Land Board Minutes and Records, 1765-1804 – October 22, 1788.

…Ed Kipp

Sword Surrender Site of the British Army on 17 Oct 1777

On Saturday, 1 June 2013, the Saratoga National Historical Park assumed control of an historical hill, marking the sword surrender site of the British army on 17 Oct 1777. The hill located along Route 4, one mile south of Schuylerville (Old Saratoga) is the site where British General John Burgoyne relinquished his sword to American General Horatio Gates.

Days earlier, American troops led by General Benedict Arnold defeated the British over two battles in Stillwater, located about seven miles away. Burgoyne’s surrender culminated two years of campaign (1775-1776) to control the Champlain Valley corridor, split rebellious New England from other colonies and end the war. Historians say the victory marked a major turning point in the American Revolution because it encouraged Americans, dampened British resolve and perhaps most importantly, led France to join on the side of the Americans.

The sword surrender site became immortalized in an iconic painting by artist John Trumbull. Park rangers and volunteers inaugurated the site with a ceremony by unveiling a 4 foot by 6 foot bronze sculpture depicting Trumbull’s painting and a development plan for the property.

In 2006 the Open Space Institute purchased the land with funds appropriated by former state Senator Roy McDonald. The Institute is donating the 19-acres to the National Park Service, which will develop it in collaboration with the Hudson-Hoosic Partnership. The Partnership is an organization founded by McDonald and State Assemblyman Steve Englebright.

The Hudson-Hoosic Partnership is set up by guidance from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership (CVNHP) management plan. The management plan covers approximately eleven counties on both sides of Lake Champlain to the southern borders of Saratoga and Washington Counties in New York, and Bennington County in Vermont. In the plan funds are specifically designated for projects such as the sword surrender site. Funds in CVHNP are backed by the National Park Service and managed by the Lake Champlain Basin Program located in South Hero, Vermont.

…William Glidden, Deputy Town of Plattsburgh Historian

Presidential Peregrinations: Bay of Quinte Branch

The annual general meeting of the Bay of Qinte Branch was held on May 11. It was a pleasure to help Genealogist Angela Johnson present certificates to people newly proved, and to perform the swearing-in ceremony for the new executive. After ten and one half years of service as President, Brian Tackaberry has turned over the reins to Peter Johnson. Brian took the opportunity to thank UELAC for a grant towards the restoration of the Loyalist monument.

Read more details with photos (PDF) of this visit with branch.

…Bob McBride (now Past-President as of June 1st)

Loyalists and the War of 1812

Thanks to those who have contributed to the slowly growing index of Loyalists and the War of 1812.

We have added a new entry for Benjamin Fralick and son John thanks to John C. Haynes, UE, of Col. Butler Branch.

If you have a family ancestry which qualifies (see the heading of the page with entries), please submit to loyalist.trails@uelac.org. Our rich history continues to emerge through these family histories.

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:
– Fritch (Fritz), George (son of John) – from Denise Moss-Fritch
– Fritch (Fritz), John – from Denise Moss-Fritch

Please help us build the directory by contributing more information for it. Contact loyalist.trails@uelac.org for instructions and guidance.

Last Post: Florence Gertrude English

(December 28, 1915 – May 29, 2013)

Peacefully at the Winchester & District Memorial Hospital, on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Florence English (nee Whittle) of Iroquois at the age of 97 years. Wife of the late Orean English. Sister of Luella Charbot of Iroquois, Bernice (David) Cotie of Brockville and Kathleen Runions of Kitchener. Predeceased by seven brothers and 4 sisters. Sadly missed by many nieces and nephews.

Funeral service took place at the Marsden and McLaughlin Funeral Home on Friday, May 31, 2013. Donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Interment will take place at Iroquois Point Cemetery. Online condolences may be made at marsdenmclaughlin.com.

Florence joined the St. Lawrence Branch 12 June 1979 as a descendant of ancestor John Serviss. She was secretary of the Branch, and attended all meetings until ill health kept her away. Even then, she kept up with the Branch news, and continued to work on the Serviss Family History. Florence was a retired teacher.

…Lynne Cook