“Loyalist Trails” 2014-17: April 27, 2014

In this issue:
The American Revolution in Nova Scotia, 1776-1781, by Stephen Davidson
John William Ritchie: Loyalist, Loyalist-related or Loyalist-connected?
UELAC Atlantic Region Branches to Welcome President Bonnie Schepers
Centennial Projects of the Manitoba Branch, UELAC
Special Recognition of Long-Serving Member of St. Lawrence Branch
Where in the World can Bonnie Schepers be?
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
      + Joseph Van Etten and Family


The American Revolution in Nova Scotia, 1776-1781, by Stephen Davidson

By the spring of 1776, Nova Scotia had loyalist regiments on duty at all of its major fortifications. British naval vessels guarded exposed fishing villages along the coast. The colony of New England settlers, Yorkshiremen and Scots had hunkered down, waiting for the “troubles” in the lower thirteen colonies to subside.

However, not all threats originated outside of the colony. By May, officials in Halifax learned that the settlers of Maugerville on the St. John River had passed a number of “highly disloyal resolutions” at a public meeting. Seth Noble, a local clergyman, had written to George Washington and as many as 125 heads of families had signed the rebel committee’s resolutions.

When the Nova Scotia house of assembly convened, Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot, the new lieutenant-governor, hoped that the colony could attract new settlers “because it was not only the most loyal, but . . . would be found the happiest for good men to set down in.” The admiral anticipated that the revolution would quickly be put down. And what better place to begin than right at home?

On June 30th, the 120 soldiers aboard three British warships attacked 40 rebels who were occupying the mouth of the St. John River in Nova Scotia’s western Sunbury County. As a later historian put it, “The American invaders were soon put to flight and retired with great precipitation.” Nova Scotia had successfully fended off a force of disloyal colonists, liberating captured territory.

Both rebel and British forces began their search for allies in earnest in 1776. Congress had authorized Washington to call upon Nova Scotia’s Natives to take up the hatchet against the English. Although they only numbered around five thousand, First Nations tribes would make valuable partners for whichever side could gain their friendship. They knew Nova Scotia’s terrain and rivers, and were not hampered by winter storms. Rumours that the rebels had up to 600 Native allies had started to circulate throughout the colony. Meanwhile, European re-enforcements in the form of mercenary German soldiers had arrived in Halifax in July of 1776.

The most active battlefield in Nova Scotia during the American Revolution was the Atlantic coast. According to Arbuthnot, rebel privateers had “done mischief” in every defenceless harbour from Cape Sable to just outside of Halifax. In September, John Paul Jones, the Father of the United States Navy, attacked Canso, destroying 15 fishing vessels and then sailed to Isle de Madame where he burned ships and fisheries. In November, rebels attacked Nova Scotia’s Partridge Island (present day Parrsboro).

Less than a week later, a rebel force comprised of 180 Nova Scotian rebels, American patriots, and Natives attacked Fort Cumberland that guarded the area now comprising the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border. They were repulsed three times before British Royal Marines and the Royal Fencible Americans relieved the fort. The rebel leader, Jonathan Eddy, and his men scattered, never to attempt an attack again. It was the only battle of the revolution to be fought on land within the borders of present-day Nova Scotia.

By November 28th, Col. Joseph Gorham, the commander of the Royal Fencible Americans, offered pardon to all the rebels in the Cumberland area who would lay down their arms. One hundred Nova Scotians took him at his word.

The rebel raids of 1776 continued along Nova Scotia’s coast communities for the entire duration of the war, despite the fact that 1,300 soldiers manned the colony’s forts. When one hundred rebels tried to recapture the settlement at the mouth of the St. John River in July of 1777, their 12 whaleboats were routed by the loyalist Royal Highland Emigrant regiment. By November of that year, British forces had built Fort Howe, securing the St. John River for the rest of the revolution. The colony seemed more than ready to weather the remaining years of combat.

War, however, was not necessarily in the forefront of every Nova Scotian’s thoughts. Riding through the colonies’ settlements on horseback was a young man on a mission for God. Henry Alline preached about the kingdom of God and the special role Nova Scotians had to play in the Divine Plan. Later known as the New Light Revival, Alline’s call to repentence found a ready audience among a people unsettled by the events of the American Revolution. “New Light” churches popped up all through the colony. While some historians credit Alline’s revival as the reason Nova Scotians did not join the rebel cause, at the very least, it had created a common religious bond in the years following the revolution.

In June of 1780, rebel privateers from Machias, Maine attacked Partridge Island in the Minas Basin. Local loyalists killed three of the enemy, capturing the remainder and their vessel. Apparently unaware of how well the locals could defend themselves, rebels once again attacked the same settlement. Soldiers killed three, and captured five others. The rebel ship, however, escaped.

1781 was noteworthy for the number of sea battles fought off Nova Scotia’s shores. If the rebel side had not been victorious in the American Revolution, the Battle of Blomidon might have become the stuff of loyalist lore. In May, a patriot privateer captured a schooner off the mouth of the Cornwallis River that was loaded with supplies for British posts along the St. John River. Lt. Col. Crane and 30 militiamen from Partridge Island boarded a schooner and pursued the rebel vessel.

However, after running out of gunpowder, and having its sails shot out, the schooner becomes an easy prize for the rebels. Lt. Benjamin Belcher from nearby Horton Landing, came to the schooner’s rescue, overpowering the rebels in a “spirited battle off Cape Split” in his sloop, the Success, The privateers escaped in their whaleboats, but Belcher managed to capture five of them the following day. Lt. Col. Crane freed his men and reclaimed his schooner.

Two months later, as the Charlestown, the Vulture, and the Little Jack escorted two transport ships to Spanish River (Sydney, Cape Breton), they discovered two French frigates near the port. When the enemy ships refused to surrender, the three British vessels attacked, cannons blazing. The French ships, though larger and having more men, flee the battle. The three British vessels returned to Halifax to bury Captain Evans who had been killed by cannon fire.

In the following August, two large privateer ships attacked Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia’s former capital. After locking up the men, the rebels looted “every house, store and shop”, not even sparing the church windows. Retreating with two hostages upon hearing of a militia assembling on the edge of town, the rebels weighed anchor and fled.

By late October, news arrived in Nova Scotia that General Cornwallis had surrendered to Washington’s army at Yorktown, Virginia. Unbeknownst to the loyal colony, it would be the last major battle of the revolution. Between 1781 and 1783 a tsunami wave of loyalist refugees numbering in the tens of thousands began to gather – and Nova Scotia would never be the same.

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

John William Ritchie: Loyalist, Loyalist-related or Loyalist-connected?

This is further to Ed Garrett’s comment – No UE Descent, but a UE Connection – on Great-Grandfathers of Confederation, Part Two April 3, 2104 by Stephen Davidson. I’d like to point out that Stephen’s writing about John William Ritchie is indeed correct. The Honourable John William Ritchie, the Father of Confederation who attended the London Conference, was a blood relation of the proven Loyalist Andrew Stirling Ritchie, who married Margaret McNeish.

Andrew Stirling Ritchie is a direct ancestor of mine, and based on my research as well as that of other well-sourced researchers, this is how the line goes.

John Ritchie married Mary Stirling. They had two known sons: (1) Thomas Ritchie, and (2) Andrew Stirling Ritchie.

The first son, Thomas Ritchie, married Margaret Corbett, and it was their son John William Ritchie Esq. who was the grandfather of our Father of Confederation, the Honourable John William Ritchie.

The other son, Andrew Stirling Ritchie, was a mercantile businessman. He married Margaret McNeish, and they left Scotland for Boston where Andrew set up an import-export business.

John William Ritchie Esq. (i.e., the grandfather) joined his uncle Andrew Stirling Ritchie as the branch of the business in Nova Scotia. True, the Honourable J.W. Ritchie’s grandfather was neither Planter nor Loyalist, but he really was the blood nephew of the Loyalist Andrew Stirling Ritchie of Boston. Andrew, his son John, and their ship were captured by American privateers during the American Revolution and imprisoned in Massachusetts, and Andrew finally left for NS in 1783 with his wife Margaret and several children. In fact, a couple of Andrew Stirling Ritchie’s sons were also Loyalists, so the blood connection is solid.

As a matter of interest, when John William Ritchie Esq. (i.e., the grandfather) left Scotland, he departed with his first wife Janet (Jennett) Corbett. Janet died after childbirth (son: John Corbett Ritchie), and John remarried in Nova Scotia to Alicia LeCain, who was born in Nova Scotia from what I can gather.

So, John William Ritchie, Father of Confederation, was indeed a blood relation of a Loyalist.

Joy McCallister

UELAC Atlantic Region Branches to Welcome President Bonnie Schepers

The Abegweit Branch in P E I, the Nova Scotia Branch and the New Brunswick Branch are looking forward to the visit of our Dominion President to all our branches over three days in May. President Bonnie Schepers will fly into Prince Edward Island on Friday May 16th. She will be met by the Abegweit President, Peter Van Iderstine, Jim McKenzie V/P Atlantic Region and David Laskey, President of the New Brunswick Branch and Councillor for the Atlantic Region. All out of town executives will be staying at the Loyalist Country Inn in Summerside. This is where the 2016 Dominion Conference will be held. In the evening of May 16th the Abegweit Branch will meet at the Bedeque Historical Society Museum, which is in the process of installing a Loyalist section. Ms Schepers will unveil two oil paintings that represent the Loyalist era in P E I. These paintings were completed by a local artist. These will be hung in the Loyalist section of the Museum and all those attending the Dominion Conference in 2016 will see them.

Early the next morning the four executives will embark on a four-hour trip to Wolfville, Nova Scotia where the Nova Scotia Branch will be holding their Spring Meeting.

The meeting is An Afternoon Workshop on the Planter and Loyalist Settlers of Nova Scotia. Dr. Barry Moody, a recently retired history Professor of Acadia University, will speak on The Beginnings of English Nova Scotia. Author, retired school teacher and regular Loyalist Trails contributor Stephen Davidson will speak on The Refugee Tsunami. UELAC President Bonnie will speak at the Branch meeting. Nominations will be put forward for a new Nova Scotia Branch President and Vice President. A networking session will also take place. Following the meeting Ms Schepers, Jim McKenzie, Dave Laskey and Peter Van Iderstine will set off for Saint John – about a five hour trip.

On May 18th, Loyalist Day in New Brunswick will be celebrated with the Premier, Mayor of Saint John, our UELAC President and other dignitaries in front of City Hall. St Mary’s Band – a community-based band – will play at the event. A 21 Gun Salute will be fired by the 3rd Field Regiment (The Loyal Company) in recognition of Loyalist Days and the anniversary of the founding of the City of Saint John. In the evening a Loyalist Day Banquet will be held at the Union Club where President Bonnie Schepers will be the featured speaker. The banquet is the final formal event of our President’s whirlwind tour of the Atlantic Region. We look forward to it and if you are in the area of any of the events, please join us.

…Jim McKenzie, UE, Vice President, Atlantic Region

Centennial Projects of the Manitoba Branch, UELAC

1. The Centennial Cemetery Project – The purpose of this project is to identify and mark with a plaque Manitoba cemeteries where loyalist descendants are buried. The identification process involves two methods: the submission of forms indicating burial sites of loyalist forebears by Branch members and the researching of the lives of prominent Manitobans of loyalist descent. Biographies of the latter have been appearing in the Branch newsletter, Loyalist Lines.

To date 18 cemeteries have been identified. It is the Branch’s intent to install plaques at two urban (Winnipeg and Brandon) and two rural cemeteries per year. The project will be ongoing as funds permit.

2. Loyalist Migration to Manitoba – This publication will contain Branch members’ accounts of their loyalist forebears’ migration to Manitoba. Members have been encouraged to submit these accounts to the Centennial Projects Committee.

…Mary Steinhoff, Manitoba Branch

(Editor’s Note: Many branches have undertaken special projects leading up to and during 2014, the UELAC centenary. Descriptions of these projects, their progress and the celebration at completion are welcomed.)

Special Recognition of Long-Serving Member of St. Lawrence Branch

How do you surprise a branch member who has volunteered for over thirty seven years? First she started as a pro tem president while organizing the chartering of the branch to serve the “Three United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.” Since 1977 not only has she served as the genealogist, she added the responsibilities of newsletter editor, vice-president, president and presently sits as a director. This past week Lynne Cook has been described as both a “staple” and a “pillar of the St. Lawrence Branch.” When such a volunteer is described with such accolades, you know a certificate just isn’t appropriate. She needs to be recognized with something more lasting like a set of Ontario licence plates bearing the UELAC Member’s Badge. Thanks to her cousin Jim Becksted, we now have a picture of Lynne proudly holding her new plates with the suggestion of UELAC’s centenary – 02UE14. Now that is special!

If you would like to honour a fellow member of your Ontario branch or simply show your personal pride in your Loyalist heritage, there are still a few plates left in the 02 series. For information on how to order your set of Ontario licence plates, follow the instructions in the Dominion Projects folder. UELAC will also appreciate your support of this promotion.

Where in the World?

Where is UELAC President Bonnie Schepers?

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.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • We have all heard and often join in or use ourselves the cheer “Huzzah!” Our ancestors might be puzzled and could comment “What is this “huzzah ?” they might say. “When we cheered, it was Huzzay.” Have we got it wrong? Read the case for Huzzay.
  • Did Paul Revere’s Ride Really Matter? The biggest myth might be that Paul Revere’s ride was crucial to how the Battle of Lexington and Concord of 19 April 1775 turned out.
  • As president pro tem of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and chair of its Committee of Safety, Joseph Warren penned and distributed this memorable call to arms the day after the Battles at Lexington, Concord and Battle Road.
  • Where Did Jonathan Harrington, Jr., Die? From “Boston 1775″History, analysis, and unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution in Massachusetts. An example of how bits and pieces create different variations to history.
  • Revolutionary War Siege Tunnel dug in 1781 by Americans in South Carolina explored.
  • A Toronto farm, 1799-1800, grew turnips & spuds at Sherbourne & Queen. Over the last six months or so, I’ve been digging into the papers of the Honourable David William Smith, Upper Canada’s first Surveyor General. Smith would have been involved with the grants of land to Loyalists and their sons and daughters.
  • Bicentennial Celebration to honour the War of 1812 Battle of Prairie du Chien, the only battle of the 32-month War of 1812 to be fought on Wisconsin soil. The British won the battle.
  • 1812: The War No One Wants to Commemorate (An American perspective, but certainly has been stated in Canada too). It was a war we won (Another American perspective), despite the burning of Washington D.C. by British soldiers in 1814. So why does no one seem to want to celebrate its bicentennial?
  • Archaeologists unearthing butcher’s shop they say served as military headquarters for the War of 1812 militia cap in Patterson Park in Baltimore
  • The royal visit by Prince Charles and Camilla to Canada May 18-21, 2014 begins by marking the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, which paved the way for Canada’s Confederation in 1867. More trip details.

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
– DeForest, Abraham – from Paul Caverly
– Frost, William (and wife Sarah) – from Harry Currie

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


Joseph Van Etten and Family

Joseph was born on Oct 17, 1761 at Port Jervis (Deerpark), Orange, New York to Dirck/Richard Van Etten and Rusje or Rosina/Jerustha Westfall. He died after September 1837, perhaps in Zorra, Oxford, Ontario or else in Michigan Territory, USA.

He was a farmer who lived in Florida Territory as well as Michigan Territory after the Revolutionary War was over. We have no knowledge about his wife who he married in February 1783, aside from her given name, Hannah.

They together had eleven children: Mary/Polly, Jerustha (Jacob Keefer U.E.L), John, Richard (Jane Doan), H.B.(Henry Benjamin?)(Celia ?Greffard), Elizabeth, Sarah (– Silverthorn, then John Malcolm), Charles, Hannah, William, and Hannah.

Joseph enlisted in the First New York Regiment (Commanded by Col. Goose Van Schaick) as a fourteen-year-old private/?bugler and then served during the American Revolutionary War for seven years. He married Hannah in February 1783, and then emigrated to somewhere in Canada in 1798. It is their eldest child, Mary/Polly Van Etten, who married in 1803 in Stamford, Welland, Ontario Mr. Richard Howey, himself son of Jonah Howey and Winnifred Silverthorne, she being the daughter of the Thomas and Joanna Silverthorne.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Dana Raphaelson & Robert Swenson