“Loyalist Trails” 2014-05: February 2, 2014
In this issue:
– The Most Exotic Loyalists, by Stephen Davidson
– Capt. George Bennison, Loyalist of St. John (Conclusion)
– Honours, Pickles and Profiles
– Location of Mystery Branch – M. S. Holland – Revealed
– Correction: Cyrenius Parke Article email Address
– Where in the World is Carl Stymiest?
– Loyalists and The War of 1812
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
– Additions to the Loyalist Directory
– Last Post: Ruth J. Davis, UE, 1920-2014
+ Source documents for Elizabeth (Mammy) Hopkins
+ Old Loyalist List, Supplementary “B”
American rebels persecuted their Loyalist neighbours for a variety of reasons. They accused a Scottish immigrant named David Douglass of threatening “American values and commerce”. To “encourage frugality, economy and industry, and promote agriculture, art and the manufactures of this country” the Continental Congress banned his further activity. Rebels perceived what Douglass and his company created as “a British manufactured product, expressly suited to royalist tastes”.
Douglass’ company did not produce weapons of war, political pamphlets or even fervent monarchist societies. Douglass was a professional actor, the founder of the American Company. His theatrical troupe entertained audiences from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina in the years leading up to the American Revolution. The loyalist’s “crime” against American values was performing plays. Here is his story.
David Douglass, described as “a scholar, and a man of talents and integrity”, immigrated to Jamaica when he was about 30 years old. Given his “dramatic instincts”, Douglass was put in charge of an acting company that “endeavoured to cultivate in the people of the new world an interest in and taste for the drama.”
He wasn’t the only dedicated thespian in Jamaican society. Lewis Hallam and his wife had been touring the colony with their theatrical company previous to Douglass’ arrival. Rather than compete, the two acting companies merged. Within two years of Hallam’s death, Douglass married the actor’s widow and moved the company to New York in 1758.
An actor’s life was not an easy one in colonial America. As tensions rose between Great Britain and her colonies, Douglass realized that it would be prudent to rename his London Company of Players if he wanted to continue to attract any audiences. As quickly as it took to raise a curtain, Douglass’ troupe became the American Company of Comedians. Other problems took longer to solve.
Douglass’ greatest challenge was to secure permission to stage his plays. The Puritan heritage of the American colonies regarded the theatre as a tool of the devil, no matter what name the acting troupe bore. When local magistrates made “an absolute and positive denial” of his request to stage a play in New York, Douglass advertised that his troupe would start a “histrionic academy” in which recitations would be given (“in costume perchance”). This failed to ruffle the feathers of the local authorities, and the American Company of Comedians gave their first performance on December 28, 1758. The play was The Tragedy of Jane Shore, a historical drama that told the story of one of King Edward VI’s mistresses. No doubt it was advertised as being a cautionary tale.
Douglass’ second hurdle was to find a permanent home for his acting company. None of the thirteen colonies’ major cities had theatres. After performing plays in temporary facilities in New York, the American Company’s John Street Theatre opened its doors on December 7, 1767. It was New York’s first permanent playhouse and the city’s only theatre for the next 31 years.
While hardly a rival to the theatres of today’s Broadway, the John Street Theatre could hold an audience of 750 people. It was a red, “unsightly” wooden structure that was 60 feet from the street. Theatre-goers walked under a covered walkway to the doors that led them into an interior with “two tiers of boxes, a pit and a gallery”. Here, New Yorkers enjoyed their first performances of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
Despite this uphill battle, Douglass’ company set a number of precedents for theatre in North America. When his company performed in Providence, Rhode Island in 1762, its presentation marked the first instance of the public performance of a play in the New England colonies. In 1766, Douglass built Philadelphia’s Southwark Theatre, the first permanent theatre in what is now the United States. To avoid the opposition of conservative Quakers, Douglass had the theatre built just across the street from Philadelphia’s southernmost boundary. It was outside the city limits and therefore not obligated to honour the city’s ban on theatrical productions. A year later – and on the stage of the Southwark Theatre– the American Company set another precedent. It was the first professional troupe to ever perform a play written by an American author – The Prince of Parthia by Thomas Godfrey Jr. It was only one of two colonist-written plays performed before the start of the American Revolution.
Some “firsts” weren’t so funny, even for a troupe called the American Company of Comedians. In May of 1762, Douglass ran an angry note in a New York newspaper. He offered a reward of gold coins to whoever could identify “the person who was so very rude as to throw eggs from the gallery upon the stage… by which the clothes of some ladies and gentlemen were spoiled, and the performance in some measure interrupted.” This was the American stage’s first known egging.
Douglass would eventually learn that there was worse persecution than the tossing of a few eggs. In 1774, the Continental Congress outlawed the performance of any stage plays, claiming that they were “extravagance and dissipation” and posed a threat to American values. Rather than his political principles, “the play’s the thing” that made Douglass a persona non grata in the rebelling colonies. He was a loyalist; little wonder, then, that the congress felt his plays were “expressly suited to royalist tastes.”
Reading the handwriting on the wall, Douglass and his company left New York City and headed for Jamaica where, in the words of one historian, they became “the most exotic group of loyalists” to seek refuge in the West Indies. The show must go on, and in 1775, the American Company opened their Jamaican season with Romeo and Juliet.
Three years later, David Douglass had left the stage and become the king’s printer in Jamaica. It was the beginning of an upward career path for the loyalist thespian. He eventually became the island colony’s assistant judge of the court of common pleas. Nearing his seventieth birthday, David Douglass died in Spanish Town, Jamaica on August 8, 1789.
A most exotic loyalist indeed.
Things got progressively worse for Capt. George and Mary Bennison’s daughter Mary after her mother’s death, particularly after her own husband’s death October 19, 1843. She wrote again to her mother’s brother.
Letter to Mr. James Strong Senior to the care of Mr. James Strong Junior, Towhay House, Exeter, Devonshire, England. St. John November 20, 1846:
My Dear Uncles, for I write to you both in one, I was very happy to hear from you by the return of Mr. Foster and happy to think you had not forgot there was such a person as me on earth. You wrote me word of the death of your wife for which I am very sorry for your sake and the lonesome life you lead.
But my Dear Uncle, what is your state to mine? You have plenty in this world and I am destitute of the common comforts and half my time when I eat one meal I know not where to get another. But what is worse than all, no husband, no child, no father, no mother, no brother, no sister to speak to. All that is now left of a relation here is two of Edward’s sons, Robert and Edward. Young Edward has married last week. Robert has been married 8 or 11 years. His wife has 3 children, 2 sons and one daughter. She was confined with [gave birth to] the daughter this very week. The names of the sons are Charles and George. The girl has no name. He keeps a school. You know he has but one aim. He lives very genteel and makes a comfortable living.
He was on this last summer to see Aunt Strong. He was named for Uncle Robert. Aunt has it in her power and is a great friend to him on account of his name. She sent by him to me when he came a new gown and 3 dollars in cash and my Dear Uncle it was a great help to me, for it takes me a long while to earn 3 dollars with my needle, for my sight is bad and after night I cannot see to work on anything dark.
Uncle I will be much obliged to you if you would send me a pair of spectacles. I think them at [?] 60 years that magnify large would suit me. I can get them here but they come too high for me to purchase. I have the scarf that my dear Aunt Dent sent me by my brother Edward and the present your wife sent me in all my poverty. I never parted with them.
Dear Uncle if you would send me your likeness nothing would give me more pleasure. I have Aunt Betsy’s and every person that comes in takes it to be myself and Edward told me that aunt’s portrait and me when I was young look just alike.
Please tell Dear Uncle William I would like to have a line from him. You did not say whether Uncle Dent was alive or not. I was greatly surprised to hear of the death of aunt Dent, being the youngest of my Dear Mother’s Sisters, but dear Uncle we have all got to die and short by at the longest and it behooves us all to be prepared for that we know will shortly come.
Robert is a going tonight to cousin James. I write these letters by Mr. William Tomson a merchant of this city. He married a daughter of the man that my brother Edward served his time with. He is a going to London and will deliver the letters to Mr. Ableton.
I now conclude wishing you every happiness. Robert will look out for an opportunity for me to write to Mrs. Worthy and the first I will embrace. M. Lester.
That is most of what is known of Capt. George Bennison. Some claims made about George Bennison by other authors or researchers have proven untrue. Esther Clark Wright listed him as being from South Carolina. This is probably because there was both a George Bennison and a George Benison (one ‘n’) in South Carolina during the American Revolution. Documents exist, however, that prove both as having fought as soldiers for the rebel cause. In fact, our George Bennison even appears in the work Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolution, because of his being in the above-mentioned prisoners list held in the Massachusetts Archives. But as I’ve shown above, it is clear now that the list he appears in is a list of British sailors, not American sailors. Capt. George Bennison was never an American. He was a loyal British subject who became entangled in the American Revolution and ended up a Loyalist in St. John. Fate drives us all, not always to the place we thought.
For questions or more information, please contact the author Victor Bennison at email@example.com.
There are many ways to recognize an individual’s contribution to an organization. It can be a certificate, a medal, a trophy or even an honorary position. While such tokens or acts of recognition are frequently “for the moment”, they become simply ephemeral unless sufficient documentation is made and accessible records kept. With the Honours and Recognition folder, UELAC attempts to go beyond the name and the award and provide a brief profile of the person so honoured. As the 2014 Commemoration Book develops, it is increasingly more evident that not every UELAC award is documented. What do you know about the ten UELAC Bicentennial Awards of 1983 or the ten of 1984? If you have access to early issues of the Loyalist Gazette, you also discover that among the many honorary positions, there are numerous names you do not recognize. Who were they? What did they contribute to UELAC?
This week in Vol. III No.3 of the Loyalist Gazette (November 1933), I found a very interesting Honorary Vice-President; The Right Honourable, The Countess of Ashburnham. When the 2010 August 21 Telegraph Journal article started off with “It was her silky voice and musical laugh that first caught the attention of a lonely British aristocrat, but it was her delicious pickles that immortalized Lady Ashburnham in the hearts of many New Brunswickers,” I was caught. How could anyone resist learning more! The Fredericton Heritage Trust provided a picture of her home, again with the mention of “pickles”. Wikipedia avoided the topic of preserves but noted that while Maria and Thomas lived at 163/165 Brunswick Street, “they were leaders of the town’s social life and generous patrons of charitable causes.”
There are many more individuals who deserve to be documented in UELAC’s records as we celebrate our past history. If you like to do research on-line and are willing to help build our profiles of honoured individuals, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
As reported in Loyalist Trails issue 2014-02, the charter for the Major Samuel Holland Branch was rescinded effective 20 September 1975. As information about the Branch had never been posted to the Branches of the UELAC folder on the Dominion website, little was known about its location and activities. However, as Bob McBride had listed the early 1970s formation of new branches in his essay on the “Last Fifty Years” for the 2014 Commemorative Book, a quick glance through the Autumn 1973 issue of the Loyalist Gazette revealed that “the Samuel Holland U.E.L. Branch, NB was granted its charter on September 29 by Dominion Council on a motion by Mr. E. J. Chard and Mrs. E. Blair.” Applicants were directed to Mrs. B. Wood Holt, President. Activities of the Branch still remain a mystery.
The email version of the article in the previous issue of Loyalist Trails “1814 Book Owned By Cyrenius Parke Discovered At Auction” carried an incorrect email address. It should have been Margret Paudyn, email@example.com.
Where is Carl Stymiest?
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.
Thanks to those who have contributed to the slowly growing index of Loyalists and the War of 1812.
If you have a family ancestry which qualifies (see the heading of the page with entries), please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our rich history continues to emerge through these family histories.
- February is Black History Month. A 1990 issue of the Loyalist Gazette published by UELAC featured the Black Loyalists in Canada.
- The Canadian connection to “12 Years a Slave“. The Carpenter from Prescott helped liberate a black man from the grasp of a cruel slave-owner. Sam Bass, the carpenter, was a grandson of Adonijah Bass and Lydia Draper, United Empire Loyalists
- Over the River and Through the Woods: The Role of Wilderness in the Invasion of Canada, 1775
- George Washington approved an operation to kidnap King George III’s son, Prince William Henry, and Admiral Robert Digby. Article recounts other kidnappings briefly.
- King George III, monarch of Great Britain during the War of 1812 and Rev War, died on this day (Jan 29) in 1820
- How the Battle at Quebec in 1775 and Montgomery were compared and used in the War of 1812 by those in the USA for and against the War “The Memory of Revolution and the War of 1812” (Journal of the American Revolution)
- At the UELAC conference in Winnipeg in June 2012, a featured speaker spoke about the Selkirk settlers and the Loyalists. More about the Scottish settlers in The lore of the Highland lords
- Check out “Heritage Minute, Sir John A. Macdonald” on Vimeo
- The Government of Canada website on Museums references Bay of Quinte’s United Empire Loyalist Heritage Centre
- A new almanac Celebrating 1864 from PEI’s Public Archives and Records Office gives a month by month accounting of important events that occurred on the Island in 1864. Hardcopy purchase or free digital download.
- The first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, launched in 1958 from Cape Canaveral. Although not a person and could not be a UE Loyalist, it did take us into space. Check the photo.
As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
– Culver, Jabez – from Sandra McNamara
– Culver Sr, Timothy – from Sandra McNamara
– Kemp Sr, John – from Barry Baker with certificate application
– Plato, Johann Christian – from Sandy McNamara
– Playter, George – from Robert Rogers
Please help us build the directory by contributing more information for it. Contact email@example.com for instructions and guidance.
Ruth passed away peacefully on January 26, 2014 at Vigi Queen Elizabeth. Predeceased by her parents C. Bruce Davis and Fannie Hamilton Davis and her brothers John and Bruce Davis. She will be greatly missed by her sister Marianne Davis. She will be lovingly remembered by nieces, nephews, great- nieces and nephews, and great-great-nieces and nephews. Aunt Ruth was an important part of all of our lives. Ruth was a graduate of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a member of the Eastern Star and was a United Empire Loyalist. The visitation will take place at Collins Clarke on Friday, January 31st, 2014 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. followed by a funeral service in our chapel. The burial will take place in the spring. See more.
Ruth was formerly the Branch Genealogist of Heritage Branch; sister Marianne is the Branch’s Vice-President.
…Robert Wilkins, President, Heritage Branch
Elizabeth Beard Jasper Woodward Hopkins received a pension of 100 a year for her service to the Crown during the American Revolutionary War. Her Memorial to the Secretary of War has been quoted in numerous books, magazines and newspapers over the years. I have been unable to find the “source” document for this memorial. Briefly Mammy was married three times, had 23 children (18 sons). She fought along side her first 2 husbands in the Revolutionary War. Her 3rd husband and 6 of her sons were in the 104th NB Regiment that marched from Fredericton to Kingston in March 1813 during the War of 1812. She followed the next spring. I can not find any “source” information on her, but can find information on her husbands including Muster Rolls, Land Grants, etc.
What I really would like to find is the “source” document of her Memorial, when and where she died and where she is buried. The 104th officially got their land grants in 1824 in the area of Beechwood in Carleton County NB although I suspect they were living there before that.
Elizabeth is my 5th Great Grandmother.
…Laurie Tompkins, Fredericton, NB
Could you please explain what the Old Loyalist List, Supplementary “B” was? Why was this prepared? Who decided not to include those listed therein as UELs?
I have an ancestor in the Directory under this status and would like to know why.
This response is brief, may not be entirely accurate and may not be complete. Further information is requested – please help.
After the Rev War, lands were granted to Loyalists (settled in the thirteen colonies by 1775, joined the Royal Standard, came to Canada at the end of the Rev War; or joined a Loyalist Regiment and disbanded in Canada, or were First Nations) and to those who had professional military experience in that war (British Regulars and Officers, Hessians etc.) and even a few who showed up for land.
Following the UE decree in 1789, records were brought together and the Old UE List extended. As it was discovered that this list contained Loyalists, professional soldiers and others, a new list The UE Executive List was begun in the early 1790’s. It attempted to list only those who qualified as UE Loyalists. Other land grants were available – military grants for those who served in the military but did not qualify as Loyalists, free land for those coming north. In the Loyalist Directory you will see in the column “Source” the term “UEL List” which is the UE Executive List. The entire list was transcribed and placed in this directory. As with most records, more information can come to light later; hence some were found subsequently by the government to not qualify and were “expunged” or “suspended”, but some of those who appealed were “reinstated.”
The UE Executive List is the record of the Government of the day but is essentially for Upper Canada, now Ontario. However, given the state of record keeping and of communications of the times, there are probably a goodly number of people who settled in Ontario who qualified as UE Loyalists and are not recorded. They may never have applied for land for any number of reasons, or were expunged or suspended but never appealed.
For the 1884 Centennial of the arrival of the Loyalists in Ontario in 1784, the Celebrations Committee organized many things. The book “The Old United Empire Loyalists List” describes the celebrations, includes the old UE List and a Supplement. The Supplement may well be a list of people whose names were submitted by descendants as people who arrived in Canada and took up land at the time of the loyalists. Scattered through it are notes of people clearly not entitled to UE status, notes such as British Soldier, German Soldier, Treasury Loyalist, settler and so on.
As noted above, there undoubtedly are many UE Loyalists not yet recorded in the directory. Generally being listed on the UE Executive List is sufficient proof. For others not so listed, some other proof that an ancestor actually qualifies ie required.