“Loyalist Trails” 2014-23: June 8, 2014
In this issue:
– Focus 230: New Brunswick’s Forgotten Loyalists, by Stephen Davidson
– J.R. Roaf – Closing the Gap of Missing Information
– On the Field; In the Camp: Royal Yorkers at Black Creek
– And in the Cabin – Scadding’s That Is
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Loyalist descendants often forget that their ancestors were just one type of loyal American. They are looking back to a forebear who was a loyalist refugee — someone who was forced to leave the United States because of an allegiance to the British government. Their descendants sometimes fail to recognize that in colonies such as Canada and Nova Scotia there were settlers who joined loyal militias, defended their homes from patriot attacks, and went south to fight for the king in the rebelling colonies. These colonists were never compelled to abandon their homes and become refugees; they were resident loyalists. This week, we’ll consider the resident loyalists who lived along the St. John River. Their homes were in a territory that would one day become New Brunswick, the first loyalist colony in the world.
Following the expulsion of the Acadians in Nova Scotia in the 1750s, there were abundant river valleys and rich coastal fisheries just waiting to be exploited by anyone who would swear allegiance to the British crown. New Englanders, now known as Planters, answered the call and established homes in the valleys of the Annapolis, Cornwallis, Peticodiac, and St. John Rivers. For the next twenty years, the Planters eked out a living from the northern wilderness, all the while maintaining contact with their families back in New England. By 1775, they had the same choices as their cousins. Would life be better in an independent America or in a united empire?
The Planters who had settled along the St. John River fell into the same three camps as their relatives in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Some chose to side with the patriots; others remained loyal to the crown, while the remainder tried to be neutral. Even in the backwoods of what was then Nova Scotia, the choices were not easy ones. Had the rebel side prevailed in Nova Scotia, the stories of its loyal residents would have been lost to history. Fortunately, in the spring of 1783, Major Guildford Studholm, a colonial administrator, made a survey of those who were living in five St. John River settlements. In the document known as the Studholm Report, we have the brief stories of 39 resident loyalist families.
Stephen Dow, Francis Grant and Samuel Hersey –all with wives and children– were plundered and driven from their land by rebel privateers during the revolution. Tamerlane Campbell and Robert Lasky were anything but passive loyalists. Campbell fought under Sir Guy Carleton at Quebec City; Lasky and his son were part of a group that helped to capture a rebel privateer. Duncan Camble (Campbell) had the distinction of becoming a prisoner of war following the defeat of General Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga. Peter Carr, John Crabtree, Stephen Williams, Christopher Cross, Henry West, John Larley, Benjamin Atherton and Zebulon Estey were all noted as being “good subjects”, while John Duggin was remembered as having served the crown in the Seven Years War. Major Studholm, who kept an eye on the Planters during the course of the revolution, made special notes on Lewis Mitchell and John Knox, “Mitchell has been in a particular manner serviceable and active on every occasion during the war, and Knox is a very deserving man, and will, I believe, merit any encouragement which may be given him.”
Both Elisha Parker and Isaac Robins, who still lived in log cabins in 1783, had been active defenders of Nova Scotia during the war. Robins was part of the garrison at Fort Howe that guarded the mouth of the St. John River while Parker had served as a minuteman across the Bay of Fundy in Cornwallis. Elihu Conwell was both a minuteman and a member of a loyal privateer crew.
Some resident loyalists of the St. John River knew what it was like to be displaced persons. Thomas Jenkins, his wife and four children had originally settled at the mouth of the St. John River until repeated raiding parties from New England made it too dangerous. They pulled up stakes, moved inland, and built a log cabin on 12 acres of marsh and upland. Jeremiah Frost and John Hendrick had first settled in Passamaquoddy, a region in present day Maine. Benjamin Bailey had once lived on the Miramichi River near the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After rebels plundered his home, he “took arms and fought against a privateer’s crew” before settling in Newtown on the St. John River. Among the loyal residents had once lived in Cornwallis near the Minas Basin were: William Woodworth, George Smith, William Smith, and Samuel Bill. The latter had served in the Seven Years War and was a sergeant under Colonel Franklin during the revolution.
Sarah Smith is the only widow listed among the loyal residents of the St. John River. She lived in Conway where her husband Peter had been “much harassed by the rebels”. He died, leaving Sarah to care for their two children. Thomas Jones, who had married a widow with seven children, was noted as being a loyalist, having been wounded and taken prison by the rebels.
Hugh Quinton had once been a rebel, fighting at Nova Scotia’s Fort Cumberland. But since that failed attack, he had “taken the Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty and behaved in a loyal manner, turned out sundry times and fought the rebel parties”. Daniel Lovet was another former patriot who saw the error of his ways and took the oath of allegiance to the crown. Ever since he “hath behaved well”.
It is interesting to note the willingness to forgive and forget on the part of the British administration. Patriots in the rebelling colonies failed to follow that example, forcing tens of thousands of loyal Americans to seek refuge in the northern wilderness of Nova Scotia. And when they arrived, those refugees settled along the St. John River — only to discover that their neighbours had also faced rebel attacks, fought in loyal militias, and had their prized treasures plundered by privateers.
In the years that followed the influx of displaced Americans along the St. John River, the loyalist refugees and the loyal residents intermarried. Thus, many New Brunswickers can trace their ancestry back to those who arrived in the colony in 1783 — and also to those who first established their homesteads twenty years earlier.
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
One thing learned from the preparation of Loyally Yours — 100 Years of The UELAC is that there is still lots to discover buried in the history of The United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada. When you look closely at the list of presidents on the Dominion website, you notice a four year gap in the names in the thirties. In Loyalist Trails (July 23, 2013) the article “Proxy Votes Disrupt UELAC AGM — 1935” referred to a newspaper clipping which stated that the AGM was adjourned without the election. Further research led to a 1937 clipping entitled “U.E.L. Group Re-United” which indicated provisional officers included Stanley Mills of Hamilton as President. Who served as president during those four years?
On May 18, 1937 charters were signed for Hamilton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Gov. Simcoe Branches by a Jas. R. Roaf, President and E. Christie, Secretary. In the latter clipping, J.R. Roaf is referred to as the legal advisor. Thanks to the Craig Genealogy Team we discovered there was a J. Roaf, Barrister in the 1851 Canada Directory. That same year a James Richardson Roaf was born. (Date of death recorded as October 9, 1947 in Toronto.) On March 1, 1879 the birth of a James Richardson Roaf was registered in York. By 1900 J. R. Roaf is listed in the Governor General’s Body Guard of Canada. His WWI enlistment papers refer to him as Major, living in Victoria BC and working as a mining engineer. He died in Los Angeles in 1961. Which J.R. Roaf served the UELAC as president? What did he look like?
Martha Hemphill found a picture dated July 16, 1938 in the Toronto Branch archives of a J.R. Roaf K.C. UE sitting in the rose garden of the C.N.E. Is this the man who signed the charters or was it his son?
Until additional information is discovered, J.R. Roaf has been credited with the position of President of The UELAC for 1935-1937, until further notice.
The King’s Royal Yorkers annual weekend at Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto will take place on Saturday June 14 and Sunday June 15 (Fathers’ Day) this year.
Camps will be set up for the various Yorker companies and visiting regiments (Loyalist and Rebel). Various activities and vignettes will take place throughout the village. There will be a battle each afternoon.
King George’s birthday festival at Scadding Cabin, June 15, 11 am – 2pm, Exhibition Place, Toronto
Celebrate Father’s Day by toasting the birthday of King George III with free cider! Hannah Shira Naiman will sing period songs at 11:15. There will also be a demonstration of spinning and a demonstration of skill by members of the Incorporate Militia at 12 and at 1.
Scadding Cabin is located west of the bandshell, near the wind turbine. Exhibition Place. Metered parking available. www.yorkpioneers.org