“Loyalist Trails” 2014-49: December 7, 2014
In this issue:
– A Loyalist Baptist Remembers “Christmas Past”; by Stephen Davidson
– Margaret Gill Currie’s Book, Gabriel West and Other Poems
– Mr. Gage is Unequal to the Task that is Set Him and is at a Loss for Measures
– 2015 Conference Loyalists Come West: Church Service
– 2015 Conference Loyalists Come West: Registration Now Open
– UELAC Update: “Where Do We Go From Here?”
– 2014 Dorchester Award recipient: Fred Hayward, UE
– The Loyalist Flag: Correct Dimensions
– Where in the World is the Pacific Gang of Nine (plus one)?
– War of 1812: The Canadian Voltigeurs
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
– Additions to the Loyalist Directory
– Last Post: Gordon Stockwell, UE
A Loyalist Baptist Remembers “Christmas Past”; by Stephen Davidson
Although he was born into slavery in South Carolina, David George would go on to have a remarkable life. He established the first black Baptist church in Nova Scotia, went on to become one the founders of the Black Loyalist colony of Sierra Leone, and later met John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace” in England. While in Birmingham, Rev. George told the story of his life to John Rippon and Samuel Pearce, two prominent English Baptist preachers. It was during those sessions that George shared his memories of four Christmases past.
Christmas was hardly an occasion for gifts, decorations, and goodwill if one were enslaved in the colonies before the American Revolution. Depending upon the man who “owned” them, Africans might not even know that there was a holiday being celebrated. However, some masters might treat their slaves more kindly around December 25th, and in such cases, the celebration of Christmas would be a way that an enslaved person could determine when key events happened in his or her life.
The first Christmas that David George could recall was in the 1770s. By this time, he had successfully escaped a cruel and violent master. However, within two years’ time, George was once again considered another man’s property. His new owner was Chief Blue Salt of the Creek First Nation. Twenty years later, George remembered, “I was his prize and lived with him from the Christmas month till April, when he went into his town … in the Creek nation. I made fences, dug the ground, planted corn, and worked hard, but the people were kind to me.”
After being enslaved by various people over the next three years, George became the property of a Mr Gaulphin of Silver Bluff, Georgia. In four years’ time, George married a woman named Phillis. When he became a father, George grew dissatisfied with his unsavoury lifestyle. He eventually became a Christian under the preaching of George Liele, a black Baptist minister, experiencing forgiveness and a new purpose for his life.
It wasn’t long before George had become one of the preachers in his local congregation. “I proceeded in this way till the American war was coming on”, George recounted. The newly minted Baptist pastor used the revolution’s time span to learn how to read and write. “I continued preaching at Silver Bluff till the Church … increased to thirty or more and till the British came to the city of Savannah and took it. My master was an anti-loyalist, and being afraid, he now retired from home and left the slaves behind. My wife and I was thrown into prison and laid there about a month, when Colonel Brown belonging to the British took me out.”
By 1782, George and his family were with the British forces in Charlestown, South Carolina. For the second time in his life, Christmas would be an important turning point for the Black Loyalist.
His friends within the British army – who were preparing to evacuate from the southern colony – advised George to go the Halifax, Nova Scotia. The fact that his evacuation trip would be free was a complete surprise to the Baptist preacher. After a journey of twenty-two days, George arrived in the northern naval port just before Christmas. Liking what he saw in a land where he would be forever free, George arranged for Phillis and his children to follow him to Nova Scotia.
The Baptist minister’s third significant Christmas was celebrated in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. He had moved there from Halifax in June expressly for the purpose of preaching to those of his “own colour”. When the colony’s governor, John Parr, came to visit the loyalist settlement in the following month, he brought Phillis and the George children with him. George also received six months’ provision for his family and a quarter acre of land that had “plenty of water”. He promptly built a hut and started preaching each evening.
In time, his congregation of Black Loyalists erected a small meeting house. “I received four of my own colour, brother Samson, brother John, sister Effie, and sister Dinah … The first time I baptized here was a little before Christmas in the creek which ran through my lot. I preached to a great number of people on the occasion, who behaved very well. I now formed the church with us six, and administered the Lord’s supper before it was finished. They went on with the building, and appointed a time every other week to hear experiences.”
Thus, David George’s memory of a third significant Christmas was the formation of the first Baptist Church in western Nova Scotia. While the pastor’s first three Christmas recollections had to do with new beginnings, his fourth was as unpleasant as Ebenezer Scrooge’s vision of Christmases yet to come.
Throughout 1784, the loyalist Baptist preached in nearby Birchtown, the largest community of free Africans in all of North America. “Those who desired to hear the word of God, invited me from house to house, and so I preached. A little before Christmas, as my own color persecuted me there, I set off with my family to return to Shelburne and coming to town the river boat was frozen, but we took whipsaws and cut away the ice till we came to Shelburne.
In my absence the meeting house was occupied by a Dartmouth tavern-keeper, who said, “The old Negro wanted to make a heaven of this place, but I’ll make a hell of it.” Then I preached in it as before, and as my house was pulled down, lived in it also.”
But David George had experienced a reversal of fortunes in the past, and kept a positive outlook. “The people began to attend again, and in the summer there was a considerable revival of religion.”
The George family spent their last Christmas in Nova Scotia where their northern adventures had begun: Halifax. They were among the 1,200 Black Loyalists awaiting transport to Sierra Leone where they would establish a colony of free Christian blacks. While George himself did not record any memories of the Christmas of 1791, his English abolitionist friend, John Clarkson, did. Put in charge of the expedition to Sierra Leone, Clarkson spent his Christmas day in Halifax attending a worship service and visiting those in his care who had become sick. He wrote that “he was happy to find them somewhat better, particularly my friend David George.”
Had the Rev. David George written about that last Christmas in North America, he might have recounted how all of the Black Loyalists waiting in Halifax were treated to fresh beef for their Christmas dinner. Twenty-one days later, George and his fellow Black Loyalists received a much delayed Christmas present. Their fleet of fifteen vessels finally left Halifax, setting sail for Freetown, Sierra Leone and the promise of living as free people in Africa. As George’s friend, John Clarkson, wrote, “all in good spirits, properly equipped and I hope destined to be happy.”
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
Margaret Gill Currie’s Book, Gabriel West and Other Poems
In reference to last week’s Loyalist Trails (specifically, Stephen Davidson’s article, “The Story of Gabriel West; If He Ever Existed”) and for those interested in reading Margaret Gill Currie’s whole story, free e-copies of her book in a number of formats are available at https://archive.org/details/cihm_36943.
Mr. Gage is Unequal to the Task that is Set Him and is at a Loss for Measures
The Boston Committee of Donations gratefully and eloquently acknowledged money and goods donated for the relief of Bostonians, whose commerce was stifled by the Boston Port Bill. In August of 1774, a letter from Dr. Joseph Warren in Boston acknowledges a donation of food – 291 sheep – from the Town of Norwich. It also expresses the determination of those wanting change, and the lengths they would go to to get that change. Read the letter and a short commentary.
2015 Conference Loyalists Come West: Church Service
Read the details for Loyalists Come West – the 2015 UELAC Conference in Victoria BC May 28-30, 2015.
Traditionally, the last major event at Conference is on Sunday. Our Church service will take place in the James Bay United Church. It is a level route, just short of 1 kilometer, from the Conference site hotel. Due to the close proximity, the Planning Committee saw an opportunity to provide everyone with a post-breakfast stroll. If this is not to your taste, so to speak, we are going to suggest either hiring a taxi or a horse drawn carriage to “get you to the church on time”. However, For those with mobility issues, members of Victoria Branch will be available to transport participants to and from the church.
For more about the church, the service and and conference closing details, read Conference Church Service (PDF).
…2015 Conference Planning Committee, Victoria BC
2015 Conference Loyalists Come West: Registration Now Open
Loyalist Come West 2015: The Pacific Regional branches of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada invite its members and guests to register; download the conference registration form (PDF) from the Victoria Branch’s website.
We look forward to seeing you May 28-31, 2015, in Victoria, BC.
…2015 Conference Planning Committee, Victoria BC
UELAC Update: “Where Do We Go From Here?”
A few months have passed since my article – “Where Do We Go From Here?” – appeared in Loyalist Trails. More recently, an essentially identical article appeared in the Loyalist Gazette. Both versions of the article invited readers to comment on my diagnosis of problems facing our Association and also on the solutions that I proposed.
A copy of the Loyalist Trails version of the article can be found here.
A lot of people actually took the time to respond. Indeed, many of the responses were quite detailed and, in some cases, offered counter proposals.
For those who are interested, a compendium of the responses is located here. Most of the responders were happy to have their responses and names published but a few requested anonymity. To avoid any possible repercussions I have removed the names of everybody who wrote to me. In many cases I have also hidden the names of branches to reduce the chance that somebody might guess the identity of the responder.
Since then many members have asked whether anything has happened as a result of the article and it seems timely to report on progress.
Some of you may know that the members of Dominion Council gathered in Toronto in October for a strategic planning session. In fact, my article was intended to stake out my position on a few things and to provoke some discussions at the planning session. I’m pleased to report that the session went very well. The participants were enthusiastic and engaged and the results were really very good.
Our Dominion President, Bonnie Schepers, took detailed notes of the planning session and then prepared a summary for the participants. That summary is now available here, with Bonnie’s permission.
It will take months for the various initiatives to produce concrete results. We are, after all, a volunteer organisation and everybody has to fit their UELAC activities into their normal lives. However, actions have been planned, committees have been formed and people have made promises. Results will surely follow.
2014 Dorchester Award recipient: Fred Hayward, UE
The UELAC Dorchester Award established October 2007 by Dominion Council exemplifies Volunteer Excellence and Participation, by conferring recognition on recipient(s), for their lengthy contribution to the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada. Exclusive to the UELAC membership, this Award salutes the “best in volunteerism” amongst our members within the Association.
The award was presented at the Annual UELAC Conference, which this year was hosted by Toronto Branch in Toronto to Fred. As readers of Loyalist Trails know, he finds time in addition to all his other activities to contribute items to this newsletter. He is enjoying the sites of Rome – and a family visit – at the moment.
Read the tribute to Fred (PDF).
The Loyalist Flag: Correct Dimensions
The UELAC uses the Grand Union Flag of 1606 as the Loyalist Flag, as it was the one which flew at the time of the American Revolution. Quite often the design of the manufactured flags is incorrect. The white cross of St Andrew should be the same width as the red cross of St George. The specifications of the crosses for the Loyalist Flag are the same as for the current British Flag. (See diagrams.)
As I looked through the latest issue (Fall 2014) of the Loyalist Gazette, I found correct versions on the Armorial Bearings on page 7, and on page 4, but other pictures of flags which had been manufactured with incorrect measurements.
Hopefully we can influence those who make flags to use the correct measurements in future.
…William Smy, UE
Where are Carl, Diane, Bonnie, Mary Anne, Linda, Judith, and Shirley (plus three)?
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.
War of 1812: The Canadian Voltigeurs
Defenders of Lower Canada: The Canadian Voltigeurs, by Horst Dressler, was reviewed by John R. Grodzinski in the War of 1812 Magazine, January 2014.
The Provincial Corps of Light Infantry or Voltigeurs Canadiens was a provincial regiment raised in Lower Canada in 1812, and was arguably the best effective Canadian unit to serve alongside British regulars in the War of 1812. They saw numerous actions in Quebec, Ontario and New York State.
Horst Dresler, a living history enthusiast produced this history of the raising, campaign history and disbandment of the Voltigeurs Canadiens. Of particular interest are the nearly 50 pages of appendices that include copies of muster rolls and the text from correspondence and descriptions of several actions. Many maps and colour images appear throughout the book.
This book is a commendable introduction to the history of fine regiment, more of which can be learned from the author’s bibliography.
Read the full review.
Woodstock: Anything Printed, 2013. 162 pages, illustrations, maps, select bibliography, notes, index. $34.95 (Canadian) paper. $29.95 (Canada/U.S.) paper.
A Google search notes that the book may be available from the Missisquoi Museum (an entry close to the bottom of the table of titles in the Book Corner section)
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
- Dis you know that many Haudenosaunee are Loyalists? This plaque is in the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford ON. The plaque is the UELAC Armorial Bearings. See a colour version on the right side of www.uelac.org – click on that graphic for a written description. Notice the arm with arm band of the warrior at the top, holding from the right the pole flying the Loyalist Flag.
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Research at the David Library of the American Revolution which supports and promotes the study of the American revolutionary era ca. 1750-1800.
- It was recently written here about Evacuation Day in New York in November. In Boston, however, Evacuation Day is a holiday marking the day the British withdrew from the city in 1776, seven years earlier. There are parades and other celebrations – because the date just happens to coincide with another holiday sacred to a later arriving rather than departing population. When those later immigrants arrived, they discovered that in Puritan Boston their special day was already set aside – March 17! Such is the luck of the Irish! Noted by Chris Raible.
- Online Resources for Your Loyalist Research Project. Check out this list from Family Tree Knots; perhaps some new ones to you.
- From a loyalist cellar hole! 5 coins – 1790,1791,1798,1807,1808 – all together, but only 4 shown in this photo.
- @RelicMedic: In love with loyalist history! Only been at it for a year. Here’s my youtube channel – check the videos tab.
- Resource Book: A Call to Colours: Tracing Your Canadian Military Ancestors by Kenneth G. Cox
- Santa’s Reindeer go social
- Libraries when I was young were places that were sternly quiet. A couple of decades earlier – 1930 – the rules posted in one library make you wonder what had been going on.
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
- Barnhart, Charles – from Allan Meny with certificate application
- Collins (Collings), Benjamin – from Floretta Wade Steeves
- McDougall, John – from Edmund Lester with certificate application
- Ruttan, William – (volunteer Sandra McNamara)
- Stewart, James Sr. – from Jim Stewart (volunteer Linda McClelland)
- Towner, Ithiel – (volunteer Sandra McNamara)
Please help us build the directory by contributing more information for it. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions and guidance.
Last Post: Gordon Stockwell, UE
A longtime member of the Bicentennial Branch, Gordon died on November 29, 2014. He was in his 99th year. He is survived by 2 sons, 3 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. Gordon was a life-long resident of the Kingsville-Leamington area and he worked at the Union Water System for 22 years. His loyalist ancestor was John Stockwell. Gordon delighted in telling the story of how John went on horseback with a group of natives to Point Pelee where they killed some Americans. John had a price put on his head after that, not for killing the Americans, but for stealing the horses to make the trip. Gordon had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Essex County and the families who lived there. He will be missed.
…Margie Luffman UE, Bicentennial Branch