“Loyalist Trails” 2014-48: November 30, 2014

In this issue:
The Story of Gabriel West; If He Ever Existed, by Stephen Davidson
Digby’s Loyalist Park now part of Monuments and Commemoratives Folder
Not Happy Thanksgiving, but Happy Evacuation Day
St. Paul’s Church of the Loyalists in Halifax, ny Brian McConnell, UE
Peggy Left the Party, and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next
Christmas Comes Early to Sir Guy Carleton Branch UELAC
Long Point Settlement: Loyalists and Their Sons and Daughters
Book on McAlpin’s Corps of American Volunteers
DNA: Reconnecting Lost Family Tree Branches
Where in the World?
Politician, Athlete Inducted into Loyal Americans Hall of Honour
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Missing email message to the editor
Additions to the Loyalist Directory


The Story of Gabriel West; If He Ever Existed

© Stephen Davidson

When she was only 23 years old, Margaret Gill Currie published her first book of poetry in 1866. The poem in the title was based on stories that her loyalist grandfather had told her when she was a child. Gabriel West, and Other Poems is a narrative poem much like Henry Wordsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline. Had it received a wider readership it might have been the basis for a wider common knowledge of loyalist history, just as Longfellow’s poem ignited interest in the story of Nova Scotia’s Acadians and their expulsion.

Currie’s purpose in writing the poem is stated in the opening pages of her book. “It has often been observed that something should be done to preserve the memory of the Loyalists from oblivion. I have felt the force of the remark, and determined to contribute my mite for that purpose: hence the subject of the longest poem, which is founded upon facts.”

Gabriel West tells the story of a loyalist who survived the shipwreck of the Martha. This vessel carried 181 passengers from New York City in September of 1783. Their destination was the mouth of the St. John River, Tragically only 57 soldiers of the Maryland Loyalist and New York Regiments — as well as 11 women and children–were rescued after the Martha ran aground on a shallow reef off of Nova Scotia’s Seal Island.

Margaret Gill Currie accurately retold the story of the loyalist shipwreck, but since her grandfather had been among its survivors, she could draw upon his memories to tell her story accurately. What both the historian and the literary scholar are left wondering is if her title character, Gabriel West, was an actual castaway or a fictional character put into a historical event. His name does not occur in any of New Brunswick’s land grants, probate records, or obituaries. While other survivors’ names can be determined by referring to either a castaway’s letter, a note to Governor Parr, the correspondence of Sir Guy Carleton or Sabine’s collection of biographical sketches, West is only found in Margaret Gill Currie’s poem. Here is Currie’s story of a loyalist — a man who may or may not have existed.

The poet begins her tale by letting her readers know this will not be a happy story. “The tale was sad, and yet I loved it best, that of his honored comrade Gabriel West.” Our hero “grew to manhood” by the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania where he worked as a stonemason. Since Philadelphia is situated on both sides of this river, Currie may have been using this geographical reference to identify West’s home city. It was there that he met and fell in love with Margaret Clay. He had already begun to build a house for his intended when the revolution erupted. Knowing him to be a loyalist, West’s neighbours tried to dissuade Margaret from marrying the mason, but her affections did not change. “He deemed the deadly conflict soon must cease, The land erelong be hushed again to peace; And when was calmed the rage, and roar, and strife, Then would he claim her for his wedded wife.”

For the next two years, Gabriel fought for his king and served at the Battle of Brandywine under General Howe. (Seeing as this battle occurred in Pennsylvania in September of 1777, Gabriel must have gone to war in 1775.) The young stonemason was wounded during the battle, was taken home, and there nursed back to health by his Margaret.

The two were married, but it wasn’t long before Gabriel went to war once more. “But soon the trump of war was heard again, Calling its followers to the gory plain.” This time his regiment was made up of men “tried and valiant men, From Maryland, and woody land of Penn.”

At the end of the war, these men and their families went to New York City to be evacuated to the land around the St. John River. Gabriel travelled with Margaret and their year old son, boarding a ship that was “a vessel known to be worn out, and long unworthy of the sea.” (It is interesting to note at this point that Currie did not identify the ship Martha by name. It is hard to imagine that that significant detail was not revealed as her grandfather told his stories. Was she afraid of being too factual?)

All goes well for the evacuated soldiers and their families until one night “A trembling shock, a grating, creaking sound, wakened that morning’s quietude profound.” In the morning light, the Martha‘s crew abandoned both the ship and its passengers, leaving them to cling to the broken pieces of the vessel’s hull and decks.

Although Gabriel wrapped his coat around Margaret and his baby son, it did little to protect them from the elements. Noon and evening passed with no sign of rescue. By midnight, the West baby had died; Margaret was dead by dawn. Suffering from exposure and hunger, Gabriel drifted in and out of consciousness, remembering his former life in Pennsylvania.

Suddenly, he hears his name being called. Other castaways that had been rescued by passing ships pulled him off the wreckage. “And with the simple cordials she contained, Revived and fostered what of life remained.”

Gabriel and the other survivors eventually reached the St. John River and became the founders of the first loyalist refugee colony, New Brunswick. He lived for sixty more years, but always “stern and silent, in his life long grief” remained a lonely man. Now, Currie concludes, “He slumbers where the sound of river waves Is heard from ‘mid the verdant, nameless graves; Where, in the fresh clear morn, the shadows fall Of the old willow trees and grey church wall. And the gold gleams of the bright, western sky, Upon the lowly mounds delight to lie; There winter’s snows lie deep, as if to save From the keen, biting frost, the loyal soldier’s grave.”

Were it not for the fact that all of Currie’s details of the shipwrecked passengers were accurate, it would be easy to dismiss her story of Gabriel West as Victorian sentimentality. But the wreck of the Martha is an historical event and one that was remembered with painful clarity by its survivors. One question remains. Was there a Pennsylvanian soldier named Gabriel West upon that doomed vessel? It’s a mystery of loyalist history that has yet to be solved.

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

Digby’s Loyalist Park now part of Monuments and Commemoratives Folder

In 2006 when we started to gather information about monuments to the United Empire Loyalists, we had no idea that eight years later we would still be documenting images, locations and related dedication ceremonies. After the Halifax-Dartmouth Branch became reborn as the Nova Scotia Branch, Brian McConnell has been building a photographic record of the many memorials to United Empire Loyalist heritage in his province. Fortunately he has shared such a wealth of information that it will take some time to upload everything to our Monuments and Commemoratives folder.

This week the focus is on Digby NS with the Loyalist Park along Montague Street and the Admiral Digby Well on the corner of Maiden Lane and Prince William Street.

If you can’t find the heading in the menu when you want a repeat visit to this resource, use the Site Map at the left bottom to locate the Monuments and Commemoratives folder as well as the Education folder.

…Fred H. Hayward, Education & Outreach

Not Happy Thanksgiving, but Happy Evacuation Day

In the U.S. late November has long been defined by the Thanksgiving holiday and its message of gratitude. But in New York for the first half of our history the defining holiday of November commemorated not this 1621 Pilgrim harvest feast, but an arguably more seminal moment in the country’s establishment: the long-overdue evacuation of the British from New York City in 1783, more than two years after the Revolutionary War’s last major engagement at Yorktown. It wasn’t just soldiers who evacuated on that day, though. 1,500 Loyalist civilians, the last of a months-long exodus that may have numbered 40,000, departed as well. We know how the story continues for the Patriots who built our country. But what of the evacuees, who risked everything simply for their desire to live under the same form of government that had been in place for generations?

… Read this story about New York and the Loyalists in the war.

There is so much in this history that complicates the straightforward narrative we Americans are typically taught about the founding of our nation. Like Evacuation Day, Thanksgiving certainly comes with its own troubling questions — the harmony between Pilgrims and Native Americans did not last much beyond that one meal, as is well known — but regardless of which holiday we observe this week, nothing is more American than thinking critically about our history to make a better world. Let’s be grateful we live in a country where we can do so!

[Blog posted by Eric Robinson, at Treelines

St. Paul’s Church of the Loyalists in Halifax, ny Brian McConnell, UE

St. Paul’s was founded by Proclamation of King George II in 1749 and church for the people and British garrison of Halifax until 1844 when a separate military chapel was constructed. It was ministered to by the first Bishop of Nova Scotia, Loyalist Charles Inglis. (1) In its early years it was the Church of the Loyalists of Halifax.

The building of St. Paul’s was erected in the summer of 1750. Wooden timbers were cut in Boston and shipped to Halifax with most of the rest of the materials, including bricks to line the walls. It first opened its doors on September 2, 1750. The original wooden structure remains to this day.

Read the history with photos. (PDF)

Brian McConnell, UE

Peggy Left the Party, and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

It probably started out as a good party, but as sometimes happens when merriment is mixed with a little too much alcohol, it ended badly. The one redeeming factor was that key events went on record, leaving us with valuable insights into the lives of soldiers and their wives during the American Revolution.

By November of 1780 the war had begun to calm down for the British garrison in New York City. It had been an eventful year: Charleston, South Carolina had fallen to the British and the subsequent victory at Camden made it look like the southern colonies were firmly in British hands. A British attempt to strike Washington’s army at Morristown in June had failed. In September, the treason of Benedict Arnold had very nearly led to a major British coup on the Hudson River. But now winter was setting in, and although various skirmishes occurred in Westchester County, New York and Bergen County, New Jersey, for most troops in the garrison things were reasonably calm.

The party in the barracks of the 57th Regiment of Foot may have started out calmly on the evening of 30 November 1780. But . . . read the rest.

…Journal of the American Revolution

Christmas Comes Early to Sir Guy Carleton Branch UELAC

In 2014, it has been my privilege to participate in special 100 year anniversary events hosted by UELAC branches across the country. At the invitation of the Sir Guy Carleton Branch, it was fitting to end a year of celebration in the city of Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Following is a summary of our time together [great photos too] and a thank you to everyone at Sir Guy Carleton Branch for the warm welcome on a November afternoon that showered us with our first icy taste of winter.

…Bonnie Schepers, UE, President UELAC

Long Point Settlement: Loyalists and Their Sons and Daughters

Who by Orders in Council or grants of land Settled in the Long Point Settlement.

CENTENNIAL PROJECT 2014 — Grand River Branch. Compiled by Doris Ann Lemon, UE

In recognition of the contribution of the Loyalists in the founding of Old Norfolk, this is a gathering of the names of Loyalists, who moved from Niagara or came from the Maritimes in response to the request of Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe to create a loyal population along Lake Erie. This work-in-progress, which may be added to at any time, records names of the Loyalists and their Sons and Daughters. Two hundred and twenty names with Lot number locations are in the index with daughters’ names cross referenced under spouse and father.

This quick reference for future researchers provides resources – with page number – in which these Loyalists appear: Tasker, Owen, Wright, Loyalist Families, Loyalist Lineages, Long Point Settlers, Reid and Other. Other includes: UCLP, The Old U.E. List, Toronto and Hamilton Branch books, Col. Smy’s Butler’s Rangers, Family histories and Cruickshank’s History of the Campaigns on the Niagara Frontier in the War of 1812-14. Researchers are cautioned that Owen and Wright are not solid proof of Loyalist documentation, but provide direction in a search.

Individual detail includes: Origin; Son/of; Origin; Regiment; Settled (includes Lot and Township and grant details); Spouse; Buried (which sometimes leads to an ancestor’s location) and Issue. And War of 1812-14 involvement as found in the nine volumes of Cruickshank’s History of the Campaigns on the Niagara Frontier in the War of 1812-13.

Presented in a three-ring binder with alphabetized tabs researchers are invited to add information in the copy at Loyalist Library in Norfolk Historical Society’s collection in Eva Brook Donly Museum, 109 Norfolk Street S., Simcoe, or in the copy with the Grand River Branch UELAC.

The master copy in my possession may be added to at any time.

Inquiries may be sent to Doris Ann Lemon UE, 525-139 Father David Bauer Drive, Waterloo, N2L 6L1 or dalemon1783@gmail.com.

Book on McAlpin’s Corps of American Volunteers

It is commonly stated history is written by the victor. The American Revolution is no exception. As a result of the American triumph in the War for Independence, loyalists historically have been placed in a negative light. In countless works and popular culture, loyalists have been portrayed as corrupt, inept, greedy people whose blind faith to the British crown led to their downfall. However, such a blind and erroneous stereotype only undermines and trivializes the struggles of the American loyalist.

By the conclusion of the American Revolution, between 80,000 and 100,000 loyalists had fled the American colonies. Almost half of them escaped to Canada. Of those, 45,000 refugees settled in the Canadian Maritime region. An additional 9,500 refugees fled to the Quebec province. From Quebec, 7,500 loyalists ultimately settled in Upper Canada. These men, women and children that fled the American colonies left behind more than their homes. They left behind their experiences, personal belongings, communities, friends and relatives

Regardless of their economic or social background, native born whites, immigrants, slaves, freemen and Native Americans banded together in support of King George and the British government. Regardless of the lack of supplies, political support or financial backing, the campaign to defend the British crown was enthusiastically and admirably waged by loyalists from the print of local newspapers to the Saratoga Campaign. Granted, their defense of British policy often fell on deaf ears and their military endeavors were often insufficient to turn the tide of war, their willingness to undertake such endeavors is noteworthy.

I See Nothing but the Horrors of a Civil War is the story of the men, women and children from New York and the Hampshire Grants who chose to remain faithful to the Crown and fought as part of McAlpin’s Corps of American Volunteers.

The book is available in paperback or e-publishing and Kindle. Those interested may purchase the book from Amazon.

…Alexander Cain

DNA: Reconnecting Lost Family Tree Branches

Have you been watching ‘Finding My Roots’ on PBS, or do you receive the “Genetic Genealogist” e-letters from CeCe Moore? In the recent one there is a link to this article, about how the different types of DNA – Y, autosomal and mitochondrial – helped break through a ‘brick wall’ for one of the guests on Finding my Roots. Read Reconnecting Lost Family Tree Branches with DNA.

Whether it would help prove a loyalist lineage is another question. But you could perhaps include a link to this article?

…Elizabeth Crouch

Where in the World?

Where is Nova Scotia Branch member Brian McConnell?

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.

Politician, Athlete Inducted into Loyal Americans Hall of Honour

Descendants of United Empire Loyalists achieve greatness in almost every professional field. In September 2014, two Canadians whose achievements in politics and the world of sports were inducted into the Loyal American Hall of Honour. While W.C. Mikel served as Mayor of Belleville, the city’s monument to the United Empire Loyalists was erected to mark the 125 anniversary of their arrival. In the beginning of the last century, Tom Longboat of the Onondaga Nation achieved international honours. In 2003, the Bay of Quinte Branch UELAC created Loyal Americans Hall of Honour to both identify and celebrate those descendants of the United Empire Loyalists who made significant achievements, either locally, nationally or internationally. The biographies of these most recent inductees can be found in the UELAC Honours and Recognition folder.

…Brian Tackaberry, Past President, Bay of Quinte Branch UELAC

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

Missing email message to the editor

Someone sent me a note earlier this week, and I glanced at it once or twice before finally getting time this weekend to read seriously and respond. But it has gone missing. It caught my attention partly because as I recall it began, “I read Loyalist Trails every week…” (which does great things for my ego!). If you recognize, could you send again, and sorry I did not respond earlier.


Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:

  • Brouse, John – from Verna Reid, volunteer Linda McClelland
  • Cairnes (Carnes), John – from Floretta Wade Steeves
  • Day, Peter Sr. – from James Day
  • Holmes, John – from Verna Reid, volunteer Linda McClelland
  • Pabst (Papst), John Adam – from Richard Poaps
  • Pabst (Papst), Rudolph – from Richard Poaps
  • Rombough, William A. with certificate application – from Allan Meny
  • Schmidt, Jacob Sr. – from Ernie A. Hudson
  • Silliker, Jacob – from Floretta Wade Steeves

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