“Loyalist Trails” 2014-30: July 27, 2014

In this issue:
No Shaving on Sunday, by Stephen Davidson
Benjamin Becraft UEL (Part 2), by Doug Massey, UE
The Buzz: Riding the Wave
Ketcheson Reunion at Adolphustown, July 26th
Where in the World?
Loyalists and The War of 1812: Jacob Karns and Sons Jacob & Christian
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Last Post
      + Vesta Catherine (Cathy) Lund
      + Thelma Belle Alexander, UE


No Shaving on Sunday, by Stephen Davidson

The stereotype of the Puritans, the founders of the New England colonies, is one of being self-righteous kill-joys. In trying to create a better society than the one they had fled in England, the “Sober Dissenters” fell into the trap of legalism. Do you what you may, you cannot create good people by enacting endless laws. Excommunication, confiscation, fines, banishment, whippings, cutting off the ears, burning the tongue, and death will not compel people to behave as good Christians, but that did not deter the Puritans from formulating what are now known as the Blue Laws.

Since the Puritans were the founders of colonies in which loyal Americans were born, it behooves the historian and the loyalist descendant to understand the traditions and mindset of the revolutionary era. According to the Rev. Samuel Peters, although most of the Blue Laws were no longer in effect at the beginning of the revolution, some of them still were. They would have been part of the “cultural wallpaper” that surrounded the loyalists’ parents and grandparents, shaping the world in which they lived.

When some of the Blue Laws were listed in Peters’ 1781 book, A General History of Connecticut, it so angered the people of his home colony that they burned the book and banned its further publication. What was all the fuss about? Judge for yourself.

No one shall travel, cook victuals, make beds, sweep house, cut hair, or shave, on the Sabbath-day.
No one shall read Common Prayer, keep Christmas or Saints days, make minced pies, dance, play cards, or play on any instrument of music, except the drum, trumpet, and jews-harp
No one shall run on the Sabbath-day, or walk in his garden or elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting.
No woman shall kiss her child on the Sabbath or fasting-day.
The Sabbath shall begin at sunset on Saturday.
To pick an ear of corn growing in a neighbour’s garden, shall be deemed theft.
No one is to cross a river, but with an authorized ferry-man.
A person accused of trespass in the night shall be judged guilty, unless he clear himself by his oath.
No one shall buy or sell lands without permission of the selectmen {the town councillors}.
No Minister shall keep a school.
Men-stealers shall suffer death.
Whoever wears clothes trimmed with gold, silver, or bone lace, above two shillings by the yard, shall be presented by the grand jurors, and the selectmen shall tax the offender.
Whoever brings cards or dice into this Dominion shall pay a fine.
Every male shall have his hair cut round according to a cap.

Laws around marriage were plentiful.

No man shall court a maid in person, or by letter, without first obtaining consent of her parents; 6£ penalty for the first offence; 10£, for the second ; and, for the third, imprisonment during the pleasure of the Court.
No Gospel Minister shall join people in marriage; the Magistrates only shall join in marriage, as they may do it with less scandal to Christ’s Church.
When parents refuse their children convenient marriages, the Magistrates shall determine the point.
Fornication shall be punished by compelling marriage, or as the Court may think proper. Adultery shall be punished with death.
A man that strikes his wife shall pay a fine of 10£; a woman that strikes her husband shall be punished as the Court directs.
A wife shall be deemed good evidence against her husband.
Married persons must live together, or be imprisoned.

Bestiality was punished by hanging; the offending criminal was then buried in a common grave with the slaughtered animals that had been assaulted. In the case where a woman falsely accused her elderly husband of this crime, the judge saw to it that he was executed. However, the court records noted that he was convicted of the crime of (wait for it) “showing hospitality to strangers who came to his house at night, among whom were Quakers, Anabaptists and Adamites.”

While we wrestle with the merits of legalizing marijuana in the 21st century, the Puritans had their own battles with another substance – tobacco. Connecticut forbid anyone under 20 (or who was not already smoking) to use tobacco unless he had first received a certificate from an approved physician. One could not smoke in front of others or at work. Smoking more than once a day resulted in a six-pence fine.

Besides prompting a raised eyebrow or producing a giggle, reviewing the Blue Laws should also help us appreciate that they created a sense of “we” and “they” in the British colonies of North America. The “we” that started out as the righteous founders of Connecticut became, over time, the patriots of the revolution who claimed that they were working toward a country of liberty and justice for all. The “they” which was originally comprised of lawbreakers and religious minorities became the decadent souls who lived in Great Britain or their adherents, the loyalists. Such a mindset made it easier to justify a revolution and to turn on those who opposed it.

Joshua Chandler, a loyalist from New Haven, Connecticut, was a product of this Puritan heritage. When he sailed to Great Britain to seek compensation for his wartime losses, he described the country as “this Great Sink of Pollution, Corruption and Venality.” And just to underscore his point, he went on to tell a Connecticut friend “….This Kingdom, without a miracle in its favor, must soon be Lost; you can have no idea of their Corruption, of their Debauchery and Luxury; their Pride; their Riches; their Luxury has Ruined them… I like not the Country, either their manners or even their Soil.”

The Blue Laws of Connecticut shaped generations of colonists, and exacerbated the political divisions caused by the American Revolution. But just in case one is tempted to mimic a Puritan “holier-than-thou” attitude, its good to remember the follies of our own Canadian ancestors. When a religious community settled on McNutt’s Island in the harbour of Port Roseway, Nova Scotia, they banned cats from the settlement. Why this 18th century feline phobia? Cats, the settlers pointed out, are not mentioned in the Bible.

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

Benjamin Becraft UEL (Part 2), by Doug Massey, UE

Benjamin’s war was that of “la petite guerre”, guerrilla warfare. French Canadians in the Seventeenth Century were the first to adopt the war craft of the indigenous people of North America. The British, in time, took up the same approach. In this “skulking war” as practiced by loyalists and indigenous warriors during the American Revolution, there was no idea of a fair fight, only ambush, raids, surprise and terror. It was savage. It was cruel. It was fought by small groups of irregular soldiers with the aim of killing as many of the enemy as quickly as possible. But most of all this shadow war aimed to destroy the enemy’s ability to feed himself. Entire settlements were left in ashes. Swaths of farms along the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys were destroyed again and again. Farm animals were driven off or killed, and whole harvests of wheat and corn were burned.

Small, irregular forces composed of loyalists, including Benjamin Becraft, along with indigenous warriors were the “smartest, liveliest, and most useful troops in the British service”(3). They came to be feared and hated by patriots who were never able to effectively defeat them. To American “patriots” living near him along the Schoharie Creek, Benjamin was “the tory Beacroft”, or “the notorious Beacroft”. A monster. To Benjamin, these same republican neighbours were “d—-d rebels”, equally monstrous, whom he wished to see burning in hell! This was a civil war, one that pitted adversaries in a continuous round of atrocities and revenge seeking where no quarter was given. In this fight, patriot and loyalist settlers alike hated and struggled with an enemy they could name, perhaps had gone to school with, or who were even family.

Ben’s half brothers, Francis and William Jr. fought as patriots. Francis and William are listed in a1782 Muster roll of the Schoharie militia.(4) And Francis, in his petition to the American pension board in 1832, provided affidavits to prove that during the Revolution he had served as a soldier and scout at Fort Weidman in 1778, 1779, 1780, 1781, and at the new fort at Beaver Dam that same year.(5) Francis attests that he never saw action, had just manned the fort. Luckily, he and Benjamin never met in battle. But they would never see each other again.

Like so many other staunch loyalists, Benjamin Becraft stood by his promise to “honour the king.” But with the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, Ben’s allegiance to George III became high treason. Next came the increasingly more repressive “test” laws of 1776-77, which forced allegiance to the patriotic cause, a repudiation of the King, and a promise not to aid or abet the enemy. Society was increasingly polarized. Moderates were looked upon with suspicion, watched and hounded. The great losses suffered by the Tryon Militia at the battle of Oriskany, Aug 6, 1777 infuriated patriots and created widespread fear. Mobs in Albany put pressure on their elected officials to come down hard on loyalists in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys. Those refusing to take an oath of allegiance to the State of New York faced imprisonment, increased taxation (without representation), confiscation of property, or even death. Loyalists were plundered and sometimes horsewhipped. A loyalist was a traitor, and an outlaw with virtually no rights in a court of law, and no legal redress with respect to creditors. Moreover, in New York it was illegal for “Tories” to leave the state. If you attempted to flee and were caught you could be incarcerated, or even hanged. And if you did manage to escape, your estates were seized and sold. From a loyalist point of view, this revolution, which professed to safeguard freedom, did so by denying the central liberty of dissent. You could not say no! The republic was shaping up to be what the loyalists feared most, mob rule and tyranny.

In the relative safety of distant Blenheim, Benjamin, like other loyalists in the valley, kept a low profile. “Tory baiters” and members of the local Committee of Safety watched him. In 1777, and not too far away, two of these patriots, Martines Vrooman and Lawrence Mattice, arrested Baltus Crysler, brother of Adam Crysler. Eventually the committee bundled Baltus off to Albany where he was ultimately hanged. The Vrooman family, numerous, wealthy and politically influential, were strong in their support of the new republic. Peter Vrooman was the secretary of the local Committee, Col. of The Schoharie Militia, and commander of the Schoharie forts. Samuel and Adam Vrooman were also Committee of Safety members. The Vroomans in the Schoharie Valley early came to blows with Palatine settlers. Adam Crysler and his family were Palatine Germans. Was there bad blood stemming from land disputes before the revolution? Was this earlier confrontation heightened by the revolution? It is not clear. But what is certain is that in 1777 and afterwards, there would be no love lost between loyalists and the Vroomans. This would be particularly so in Benjamin Becraft’s case as we will soon see.


3. Hazel C Matthews, The Mark Of Honour, pg. 60, quoting Patrick Campbell, Travels in the Interior Parts of North America In The Years 1791-1792, (Edinburgh, 1793), pg. 274.

4. William E Roscoe, History of Schoharie County, Mason and Co., Syracuse N.Y. 1882, Chapter III. They were part of company 3. In company 5 is a Jacob I. Becraft.

5. See here for a biography of Francis and also electronic copies of his handwritten petitions. In these petitions he mentions the capture of his commanding officer, Captain William Dietz, and the massacre and scalping of Dietz’s father, mother, wife and children by the Indians. There were three forts in the Schoharie area at the time. For sketches of these, click here. Fort Weidman was 10 –12 miles from the fort at the town of Schoharie.

Doug Massey, UE, Hamilton Branch

The Buzz: Riding the Wave

. . . featuring news and views of the UELAC President exploring, engaging and at times even embracing UELAC branch members across the country!

Dominion President Bonnie Schepers has found a way to keep the 2014 celebration going by attending Loyalist Day events in the Atlantic, Central West, and Pacific Regions. For highlights and photos read more.

We all thank you Bonnie

Ketcheson Reunion at Adolphustown, July 26th

Bay of Quinte Branch’s UEL Park played host to the annual Ketcheson Reunion and Picnic. Those assembled were descendants of William Ketcheson Sr. UE and Mary Rull.

This year’s event had a few ‘firsts.’ It was the first time the event had been held at Adolphustown, (where William Ketcheson UE lived for a few years). There was also a push to get descendants to acquire UE certificates and about thirty were processed. Several were mailed to distant members, but over twenty were presented at the Park.

Guests of honour were Dominion President Bonnie Schepers UE and her husband Albert Bonnie was kept busy handing out certificates!

Another family Bible surfaced and the Ketchesons are noted for having a remarkable number of surviving Bibles. Also ‘new’ was a stirrup/spur said to have belonged to William Ketcheson Jr., and perhaps dated as early as the War of 1812.

Wreaths were laid at the recently refurbished UEL Monument, and they were placed by Trevor Ketcheson UE representing the family, Peter Johnson UE representing Bay of Quinte Branch and Bonnie Schepers UE representing the UELAC.

The Ketcheson family was so pleased with their stay at the UEL Park that they plan to have next year’s gathering there again.

The photo shows descendants holding their UE certificates and they represent those who received them today as well as ones who had received them at earlier dates. Dominion President Bonnie Schepers UE is on the right.

…Peter W. Johnson, UE

Where in the World?

Where is Hamilton Branch member John Hammill with the Montreal Connection (Robert and Maura Wilkins, Heritage Branch)?

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.

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 Jacob Karns (Carns) and Sons Jacob and Christian thanks to Arthur Pegg, UE.

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

    • In Victoria BC members of the United Empire Loyalist association of Canada gathered in Beacon Hill Park for a special event.  Short video clip, description.
    • From last week “While King George III, in Britain, was being portrayed – more like an old gentleman than a king – like this, some portrayed George Washington like this.” Edwin Garrett notes: Interestingly the portrait of King George III by Johan Zoffany, circa 1771 and the 1772 portrait of then Colonel George Washington of the Virginia Regiment by Charles Willson Peale are both pre-Revolutionary and were painted within roughly a year or two of each other. Even more interesting is that George Washington was seven years older than the King at the time these portraits were painted.
    • Did you or your kids do lego? Here is Washington Crossing the Delaware by Brandon. Love the ice floes.

    Last Post

    Vesta Catherine (Cathy) Lund

    Passed away peacefully at Spring Valley Care on July 11, 2014, at the age of 85 – born 28 Dec 1928 – with all of her family around her. Cathy is survived by her daughter, Lorna; granddaughters, Jamie and Tracy; great grandchildren, Zoe Anne, Xander Noah and Kai and her two puppies, Max and Cleo.

    Cathy was born on Dec. 28, 1928 in Kinley, SK to Albert and Katherina [Ashdown] Brown. She grew up in Vancouver area, BC. She married Donald Lund in 1963 and lived in Vernon for over 40 years. She always wondered about her UEL ancestors and was so happy to get her certificate in 2003. Her ancestor was George Adam Docksteader Sr. She was only a member for 10 years, but was so pleased to be part of the UEL family!

    At her request, no formal services will be held. Instead, a private Celebration of Life will be held on August 9, 2014. In lieu of flowers, donations to the S.P.C.A., 3785 Casorso Rd, Kelowna, BC V1W 4M7. Arrangements in care of Everden Rust Funeral Services, (250) 860-6440

    …Pat Kelderman, Thompson-Okanagan Branch

    Thelma Belle Alexander, UE

    Long time owner and operator of Pioneer Farms and Cottages. Passed away peacefully at the Belleville General Hospital on Friday, July 4, 2014. Thelma Alexander of Carrying Place in her 100th year. Daughter of the late John and Mary Schriver. Beloved wife of the late J. Harold Alexander. Loving mother of Larry Alexander and his wife Mary. Dear Grandmother of David, Mark (Joanne) and Larry (Erin) and Big Gramma to Madisyn, Travis, Brayden, Matthew, Kevin and Leah Belle. Predeceased by her siblings Amos Schriver (Dora), Cora Donaldson (Archie), Russell Schriver, and brother in law Keith Alexander (Maude). Loved by many nieces and nephews.

    Life time member of the Mt. Carmel United Church and U.C.W. The family received friends at the Weaver Family Funeral Home – West Chapel, 170 Dundas Street, Trenton, on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 from 2 – 4 pm & 7 – 9 pm. Funeral Ceremony was held in the Chapel on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 1pm. Interment at Old Carrying Place Cemetery. If desired, memorial donations to the Heart and Stroke Association, Canadian Diabetes or Adam’s Hope Foundation (Helping children with autism) would be appreciated by the family. Online guest book and condolences at www.weaverfuneralhomes.com – The Trenton Trentonian

    …Lynne Cook, UE