“Loyalist Trails” 2013-33: August 18, 2013

In this issue:
Resisting Loyalist Racism in New Brunswick, by Stephen Davidson
Granting of Lands to Loyalists: Seventh Document, by Ed Kipp
Where in the World?
Loyalist Collection at Brock University
Loyalists and War of 1812: Simon Earhart (Airhart) and son William
UELAC at Unveiling of Commemorative Coins
Book: The Silent Canoe
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Last Post: John Stanley ‘Jack’ Warner, UE
Last Post: G. Gordon Strader, UE


Resisting Loyalist Racism in New Brunswick, by Stephen Davidson

The American Revolution was an era of great hope for any Africans enslaved by rebels. Slaves of patriots were promised their freedom if they joined the British war effort for a minimum of a year. These emancipated slaves became the Black Loyalists. They would eventually make up ten per cent of the loyalist population that settled in the Maritimes.

As they boarded ships bound for Nova Scotia, the Black Loyalists anticipated receiving land of their own, having the freedom to live their lives as they chose, and enjoying the same treatment afforded the white loyalists. Instead, they were given minimal amounts of inferior land, forced to work for rations that white loyalists received freely, and denied the rights enjoyed by other refugees. These former slaves had fled the racism and bigotry of rebel society and were left to fend for themselves in a loyalist society that continued to discriminate against them, treating them as inferior beings. It was a tragic example of “out of the frying pan and into the fire”.

Black loyalists not only had to contend with smaller land grants, they also were subjected to limited opportunities. When Saint John, New Brunswick was incorporated in 1785, its royal charter blatantly institutionalized discrimination against free blacks. The charter read, in part, “people of colour or black people. . .are. . .excluded the privilege of being or becoming free citizens”. Unless the city’s mayor wrote out a special license for “the said people of colour to reside in the said city and to carry on any business or occupation which he shall think fit”, a Black Loyalist’s opportunities were nonexistant.

Despite the fact that fellow Africans were still enslaved, despite their limited prospects, and despite the efforts to make the black population a source of cheap labour, some Black Loyalists were able to overcome the restrictions of a racist society.

The most telling evidence that Black Loyalists could overcome their era’s bigotry is found in Saint John’s early probate records. These records reveal that between 1796 and 1835, twelve African-Americans had not only lived and worked within the Loyalist City, they also had achieved enough prosperity to bequeath land and possessions to others. While these blacks were never on an equal footing with their fellow refugees, it is important to recognize the first steps they took in the fight against loyalists’ discrimination.

Caesar Closs fled slavery in New Jersey, served the British for two years, and then sailed for New Brunswick on the Duchess of Gordon in 1783. At his death fourteen years later, Closs was living in Saint John as a labourer, having done well enough to leave an estate for division among “kindred and creditors”. Obviously his work was considered important enough that he was licensed — as Saint John’s charter phrased it — to “reside in the said city”.

In 1804, the death of another black labourer, William Holmes, was noted in both the city’s newspaper and probate records. Not only was he described as a Saint John resident, so were his executor and two bondsmen — and all were of African descent.

Gabriel Johnston escaped slavery in New Jersey, served the crown, and then sailed to freedom on the Sovereign. For the next 20 years, this Black Loyalist was a mariner, enjoying enough prosperity to buy a house on St. James Street. Johnston’s passing was noted in the city newspaper. His executor was Robert Johnston, a fellow African (and Saint John resident) who had come to the colony with loyalists on the Clinton.

When Sylvia Johnston died, she willed the residue of her estate to a black carpenter named Robert Jenkins. Mrs. Johnston saw to it that Jenkins’ wife Hannah was granted her furniture and clothing and that her god-daughter Sylvia Bryant, “a black woman of City of Saint John”, received the St. James Street house. This probate record reveals that Black Loyalists were living and working within the city –and beginning to form supportive communities.

Henry Richards, another black mariner, died in 1820. He, too, lived in Saint John, left his estate to his widow, and had two “men of colour” as his bondsmen.

His probate record is interesting in that one of his friends was listed as “Johmall” Cole. The court official was obviously trying to spell “Jamal”, a Muslim name that would have been found in parts of West Africa. Since the time of his capture by slave traders, Cole had been able to retain the name that his African parents had given him. Most Black Loyalists had been compelled to adopt European or Christian names. The fact that he was able to keep his own name despite decades of enslavement demonstrates Cole’s strength of character in the midst of a racist society.

By 1825, nine Black Loyalists had appeared in the probate records of New Brunswick. Two years later, the death of Lawrence Broughton was noted in both the press and the probate records. This black city resident was neither a labourer nor a sailor. Broughton had been the “confidential servant” of William Pagan, a prominent Massachusetts loyalist who eventually became a member of the House of Assembly. Broughton had come to New Brunswick in his twenties, married Susannah, and bought a house on St. James Street. (Note the address; it seems a Black Loyalist neighbourhood was slowly developing within the city despite its charter that banned residents “of colour”.)

Another Black Loyalist of St. James Street had his will proved on January 9, 1835. Edward Burr came to Saint John in 1784 with his wife Amy and their three children. His will saw to it that his surviving daughters, Rosanna and Margaret, would share a third of his estate, while Amy was granted two-thirds of his furniture and personal property. Burr lived in the city since the time of the loyalists’ arrival because –as his obituary revealed– he was “the principal grave digger for {the} last forty years”.

Robert Campbell was the last of the 12 people of African descent to have their property dispersed through the probate courts prior to 1836. The child of a Black Loyalist, Campbell had his death note in the City Gazette. The latter described him as “well known for these ten years past as a trusty office keeper to several gentlemen in this city”. His probate record called him a hand cartman. He left two lots of city land to his wife Mary and to his “friend John Lewis, {a}coloured man”.

Despite the efforts of the loyalist founding fathers to keep people of African descent from living and working within Saint John, the skills and persistence of the Black Loyalists saw many of their number win small battles against loyalists’ racism in the early years of the 19th century. While many battles have been won, the “war” is still not over.

Footnote: In 2010, descendants of New Brunswick’s Black Loyalists wrote to Queen Elizabeth II, seeking a royal apology for the discrimination embedded in Saint John’s 225 year-old royal charter. Buckingham Palace forwarded the request to Governor General David Johnston. Despite the fact that Governor General Adrienne Clarkson issued a royal proclamation in 2003 recognizing the harm of the Acadian deportation, Rideau Hall said that it could not meet the request for an apology for Saint John’s charter.

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

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

During my research, I have come across a number of files and documents relating to the granting of lands to Loyalists in the Province of Quebec (includes present day Quebec and Ontario).

The sixth one is titled: “Letter from Henry Motz to Land Boards concerning Indian purchases and cessions”.

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. 3 LAC mf C-14026. PP. 288-290 Land Board Minutes and Records.

Read Letter from Henry Motz to Land Boards concerning Indian purchases and cessions, dated at Quebec 21st January 1790.

…Ed Kipp

Where in the World?

Where are the three UELAC presidents and seven branch presidents?

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.

Loyalist Collection at Brock University

Eleven years ago Ed Scott, a member of the Colonel John Butler Branch, proposed a team to undertake the task of collecting donations to purchase microfilm reels relating to Loyalist history and to donate them to the Special Collections Department in the Gibson Library at Brock University. The objective was to assist researchers in the Niagara region to access to Loyalist materials in their endeavours without having to drive great distances and incur significant costs.

A team consisting of Ed Scott, Rod and Bev Craig, Noreen Stapley (then President of the Colonel John Butler Branch) and Bill Smy met on 13 November 2001. Ed Scott was elected Chairman. Its members immediately identified themselves as the “Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock University”. It was granted charitable status on 28 May 2002.

The team launched its program in September 2002. The Butler Bicentenary conference profits were donated as seed money for the Loyalist Collection. Donations were received from Dominion Headquarters, the Colonel John Butler Branch, other Branches of the Association and private individuals. In addition to receiving donations, the team recognized a need to be able to offer something unique, It secured the rights to produce and sell the “Annotated Nominal Roll of Butler’s Rangers , 1777-1784, with Documentary Sources”. The “Friends” now also market “United Empire Loyalists in the Niagara Peninsula: Proceedings. Sixth Annual Niagara History Conference, Brock University, April 1984.”

The sale of the two books and the collection of donations has been tremendously successful. While not entirely the result of $37,725 worth of microfilm donated by the “Friends” to Brock, a website of the University Loyalist Collection shows the tremendous breadth of its current collection.

The work continues. Rod and Bev Craig, two members of the original team, are central to the collection of donation and sale of the “Annotated Nominal Roll” and “Proceedings.”

…Bill Smy

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 Simon Earhart (Airhart) and son William thanks to Richard Clark.

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.

UELAC at Unveiling of Commemorative Coins

On Thursday August 8th, Governor General David Johnston unveiled 5 collector coins to commemorate the birth of Prince George of Cambridge during a ceremony outdoors under a tent at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. There were around 70 invitees in attendance, including Sir Guy Carleton Branch President Lynne Webb, representing UELAC President Bonnie Schepers UE. Other UELAC members attending were Lynne’s husband Gary Bagley, and Nancy and Ron Richards. After speeches by Governor General Johnston, Heritage minister Shelly Glover and Mint president Ian E. Bennett, the coins presented were: a 5$ silver coin costing $75 from the Mint, a 25 cent coin costing $25 and a $20 silver three coin set for $250. Refreshments followed the ceremony, during which contact was renewed with representatives of other heritage organisations. Pictures from the event are online here (PDF).

…Lynne Webb

Book: The Silent Canoe

Janis Fedorowick well knows the challenges for writers of historical fiction. Professionally a landscape architect/urban planner, Janis was also a history buff drawn to telling the story of people who came to Upper Canada at the time of John Graves Simcoe. Her novel The Silent Canoe was published in June 2012 in time for merchandising along with War of 1812 commemoration activities. Like other authors, Janis then found that it was necessary to go on a speaking tour of local historical groups to promote interest in the subject. When she was lucky, reviews like that of Susan Gamble of the Brantford Expositor (2nd book noted) would draw attention to the masterful work of historical fiction. This past week, followers of UELAC’s Twitter feed discovered that Janis (under her pen name J. Philip) was not only interviewed by Steve Paikin of TVO’s “The Agenda”, but two half-hour segments had been posted. (The website does indicate a time limit for availability of the two videos.) If you are interested in “life in Upper Canada during the early formative years, including the founding of the province, debate on slavery, and the life of Isaac Devins, the main character in The Silent Canoe, as well as the motivations behind the War of 1812”, then check out the links in this article.


From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Chatham-Kent area slate of activities planned for bicentennial event through the Fall of 2013

Last Post: John Stanley ‘Jack’ Warner, UE

It is with great sadness that the family announces the passing of John Stanley ‘Jack’ Warner on Tuesday August 13, 2013. Beloved husband of Christie. Father of Denise Dubuc (Chuck), Neil I Chich, Lori Prevost (Randy) and T.J. Warner (Dan) and predeceased by his son Robbie. Step-father of Sarah Watts (Peter Hook) and John Watts. Also survived by 9 grandchildren and brother Maurice (Bing). Predeceased by his parents Milton and Verna Warner and by his siblings Sterling, Hilton, Merritt, Leara, Florence, Clare, Marion, Ivan, Norman and Eleanor.

A member of the St. Lawrence Branch, he received his Certificate of Loyalist Descent from Benjamin Baker in 1982. Jack served as branch president from May 2008 to May 2010 and as past president 2010-13.

A private family service will be held at a later date. As expressions of sympathy, memorial donations to the Shriner’s Hospital would be appreciated by the family. Online condolences may be made at www.brownleefuneralhomes.com.

Last Post: G. Gordon Strader, UE

At the Winchester District Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, August 6, 2013. Gord Strader in his 93rd year. Son of the late Leroy E. Strader and the late Edith Beach. Husband of Dorothy F.M. Lillico. Father of M. Douglas (Susan) Strader, Susan B. (Dean) Loucks, Paul R. (Mona) Strader and Margaret P. (Michael) Rodney; also predeceased by Gerald R. (Mavis) and Arthur A. Strader. Survived by 17 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. Predeceased by his brother Reginald L. (Ada) Strader and 2 grandchildren.

Resting at the Byers Funeral Home, South Mountain. Funeral Service was in the Chapel Saturday, August 10, 2013. Eastern Star service at 8 p.m. on Friday followed by a Masonic Service at 8:30 p.m. Interment Maple Ridge Cemetery. In lieu of flowers a donation to a charity of choice would be appreciated. (The Ottawa Citizen, 8 Aug 2013)

Gordon was a WWII Veteran, serving in the Air Force. He had been a member of the St. Lawrence Branch since 10 July 1980. He researched the Strader and Durant families, and received his certificate for ancestor, John Simon Strader.

…Lynne Cook, St. Lawrence Branch