“Loyalist Trails” 2015-22: May 31, 2015

In this issue:
The Esther‘s Evacuees, Part Three: Survive and Thrive, by Stephen Davidson
Anthony and Andrew Westbrook: A Fascinating Narrative of Disunity (Part 1), by Doug Massey
More About The Ship Camel
War of 1812 Veterans Isaac Ferriss & William Hutchins Plaqued
Where in the World is Barb Law?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
      + Response re Obadiah Griffin Sr. and Jr.


The Esther‘s Evacuees, Part Three: Survive and Thrive, by Stephen Davidson

The 127 men of the 3rd Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers and their dependents had endured hardship and persecution during the American Revolution. Sailing together on the Esther, they had narrowly escaped death at sea. Now, in the early days of October 1783, they faced their greatest challenge – surviving the northern winter.

The nearly three hundred souls who had been passengers on the Esther had been given land grants at Ste. Anne’s Point. This had once been an Acadian settlement and would become, by 1785, Fredericton, the capital city of the new colony of New Brunswick. After a nine-day journey from the mouth of the St. John River, the disbanded soldiers and their families finally arrived, “much discouraged at the gloomy prospect” before them.

Other loyalists who had arrived in the summer had “made better preparations for the winter” by building log cabins. The passengers of the Esther would have to live in old army tents. Mary Fisher remembered, “We pitched our tents in the shelter of the woods and tried to cover them with spruce boughs. We used stones for fireplaces. Our tent had no floor but the ground. The winter was very cold, with deep snow … which lay six feet around us, helped greatly in keeping out the cold.”

Hannah Ingraham, an eleven year-old in 1783, later recalled, “We lived in a tent at St. Ann’s till father got a log house raised … We all had rations given us by the Government, flour and butter and pork; and tools were given to the men, too…”

No doubt the Ingrahams’s experience was similar to that of the other evacuees who had sailed on the Esther. Hannah also remembered:

“There was no floor laid, no window, no chimney, no door, but we had a roof at last. A good fire was blazing on the hearth, and mother had a big loaf of bread with us, and she boiled a kettle of water and put a good piece of butter in a pewter bowl, and we toasted the bread and all sat round the bowl to eat our breakfast that morning … It was not long before father got a good floor down of split cedar, and a floor overhead to make a bedroom, and a chimney built.”

Mary Fisher, a mother of four children, and a friend to the other female passengers, had especially sad memories of the first winter at Ste. Anne’s Point.

“Many woman and children, and some of the men, died from cold and exposure. Graves were dug with axes and shovels near the spot where our party had landed, and there in stormy winter weather our loved ones were buried. We had no minister, so we had to bury them without any religious service, besides our own prayers.”

Desperate as the times were, the Fisher family – along with most of the other passengers from the Esther – survived their first winter in what was to become New Brunswick. Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that some of the implements they used during that first year are still in the possession of Fisher descendants: a chair, a copper kettle, a musket, Lewis Fisher’s powder horn, and a single pewter plate.

With the coming of the spring, some of the Esther‘s passengers moved further up the St. John River, while others occupied land down river in the old Planter community of Maugerville. Despite being so widely separated, the veterans and their families would always be bound together by their common experiences of war, persecution, and their flight to sanctuary.

At this point, the story of the survival of the Esther‘s evacuees ends, and the individual stories of the 3rd Battalion’s veterans and their families begin. Although almost all of the 127 men who boarded the Esther have left descendants, data from this period makes references to only about 60 of these veterans. Examining every one of these documentary fragments is beyond the scope of this series, but a few will demonstrate the experiences of these refugees and show how significant it was that the Esther did not “go down with all hands” in the fall of 1783.

Besides being a loyalist soldier, Cornelius Ackerman was also a Mason. From 1793 to 1800, the Hiram York Lodge #23 met at his Fredericton home on the second Thursday of every month. Stephen Jarvis, who would later establish his family in Toronto, was one of Ackerman’s fellow lodge members. Ackerman’s first wife, Elizabeth Blauvelt died during the war, and he married a widow named Frances Vanderbilt. By the time of his death in 1846, he had had seven children by his wives.

New Jersey’s John Coffman acquired land along the Nashwaak River near Fredericton. His surname was originally spelled Kauffman, a German name meaning “merchant”. Beginning in 1805, John began to sign himself as “DeMerchant”. Today there are about 14,000 descendants of this loyalist – none of whom would be alive had the Esther been shipwrecked.

Lieutenant Richard Cooper’s friends within the battalion always remembered when, while they were in South Carolina, his light company stood guard over a broken wagon as it was being repaired. When two hundred rebels suddenly surrounded the wagon, demanding that Cooper’s men put down their guns, the loyalist replied, “Light Infantry never surrender!”

After dashing behind some nearby trees, the company fended off the enemy that outnumbered them ten to one until help arrived. Cooper became the toast of the town and his bravery was noted in the General Orders. However, when this Esther passenger died in 1799, the newspaper only noted that his widow, Althea, was administering his estate.

Not many of Cooper’s fellow New Jersey Volunteers were able to sail down to Saint John in 1787 to appear before the loyalist compensation board. Not only did most of the men fail to be compensated for their wartime losses, but posterity has been robbed of testimony that would reveal more of their wartime stories.

Lieutenant Justus Earle and Captain Edward Earle submitted a joint claim for compensation. Formerly of New Jersey, these brothers had settled on Grand Lake in Queen’s County. Justus had once been a prisoner of war in Philadelphia; Edward had joined the British in 1776 as soon as they had come into New Jersey. Two of the Earle brothers’ sisters had died during the war, and a third, Hannah, had married William Sorrel. The latter had been the 3rd Battalion’s quartermaster. Although they had been on the Esther with the brothers, the Sorrels eventually settled in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. The 200-acre farm that the Earle brothers had shared in Hackensack (including its 20 cattle, 29 sheep and 5 horses) was “chiefly pillaged and taken for the use of the {rebel} army.”

Next week: The final article in this series looks at more of those who were Esther evacuees, including those who eventually settled in Upper Canada.

Anthony and Andrew Westbrook: A Fascinating Narrative of Disunity (Part 1), by Doug Massey

With special thanks to Gavin K. Watt, John Mahler, Patte Frato and The Minisink Valley Historical Society

Two Fires

“I am going to set this house on fire”, the tall man said as the firewood he was carrying crashed down on the floorboards.[1] “Boys, you have just fifteen minutes to plunder my premises; after that I give them to the flames”.[2] What sounds like one instance of arson, is, in fact, two very separate occurrences: The first happened in the Minisink area of Orange County New York, and the second in Upper Canada, hundreds of kilometres away and some thirty-six years later. It gets stranger. Both arsonists were destroying their own property. And both were members of the Westbrook family. Father and son! On April 20, 1779, Anthony Westbrook set fire to the fortified house of Major Johannes Decker Jr., which housed his confiscated property. Branded a “traitor to his country” by both neighbours and kin in the area, Anthony now returned for revenge with the much-feared Joseph Brant. If Anthony Westbrook could not enjoy his furniture, then the hated rebels would certainly not either. On January 31/Feb. 1, 1814, son Andrew, equally a traitor in British eyes because he had taken up the American cause in the War of 1812, razed his own house, mill, barns and storage buildings in Delaware Township, Middlesex County. His chattels also would bring no comfort to the enemy. Vindictive? Impetuous? Yes! Both father and son could be that way. But there was much more to both Anthony and Andrew than this.

The civil war that divided and decimated families, like the Westbrooks, started in earnest with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and did not come to an end until at least the Treaty of Ghent in 1815. Anthony’s decision to fight for the King during the American Revolution horrified his family in the Minisink region of New York. Similarly, son Andrew’s early support for the United States and republicanism in the War of 1812 shocked his relations in South-Western Upper Canada. Surprisingly, the decisions of both father and son, so diametrically opposed, shared some significant similarities. Both were made by Americans – strong, independent products of the frontier. Both decisions, once made, were never unmade. Both were equally fateful. And both were linked: Anthony’s stand in 1777 set the stage for that of his son in 1812.

To understand this connection we must consider the interplay of personality and external events for both father and son. To fathom why Anthony’s bones ended up buried in Upper Canada and Andrew’s in Michigan, one must understand that while Anthony’s early, formative years were spent in abundance in Minisink, those same years for Andrew were surrounded by want in Upper Canada. Both father and son grew up to be “who they were when”. That needs some explaining.

Worldwide, the years in the early part of the 18th Century were relatively kind to farmers. Rains came pretty much when needed, the climate was milder, and the sun shone on cue. Harvests were plentiful in the fertile Minisink region of Orange County New York, and the people were well fed and prosperous. Born in 1738, Anthony grew up in the midst of all this. Johannes, Anthony’s great-grandfather had been one of the thirteen “ancient owners” or first settlers of Minisink. And the Westbrooks, intermarrying with the other influential, pioneering families, had for years played a prominent role in the running of the settlement. Witnessing Anthony’s baptism in the Mackhackemack Dutch Reformed Church on October 31, 1738, were his grandmother Altje Van Oetten, and his grandfather, “Anthonie”, an elder of the church and a justice of the peace.[3] His father, Johannes had been a major in the militia and his brother Johannes, a captain. Anthony grew up in that church of his forebears, as did his wife Sara Dekker, the daughter of another large, prominent, local family. Three of their children would be baptized at Mackhackemeck. But one of those three, Johannes, would die as a child. Further puncturing their bliss would be the French Indian Wars of 1755 — 1760 and the Pontiac Conspiracy. But let us concentrate on yet a more profound element. This was a decades long, bitter, religious feud within the larger Dutch Reformed Church that morphed into a political crisis called the American Revolution. Taken together, this interconnected warring severely tested Dutch Americans such as Anthony Westbrook and his family.


[1] Solomon J Westbrook, interviewed by Solomon Van Etten, 1889.

[2] “Andrew Westbrook,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. V, Genealogical Society.

[3] R.W. Vosburgh, ed., Minisink Valley Reformed Dutch Church Records, Vol. V, New York Genealogical Society (New York: 1913), p.99.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, Doug Massey. Contact dmassey8@sympatico.ca.

More About The Ship Camel

Based upon the Log Book and Muster Book for His Majesty’s Armed Transport Camel for Late August through October 1783 some corrections need to be made.

First it appears that there may have been more than one ship named Camel. According to Simon Fowler the researcher who looked at ADM 52/2199 the Master’s Log and ADM 36/9430 the Muster Book: for April to November 1783: H.M.A.T. Camel sailed from Spithead to New York (secondary sources state on May 24) and then sailed in late August to Saint John and Passamaquoddy and then in November to Annapolis, Nova Scotia. I read both documents only from late August to early November 1783.

As an aside even an Armed Transport like the Camel, had a Sailing Master, who kept ADM 52/2199, however, his name is very difficult to make out. The commander of the ship was Lieutenant George Burlton, RN, who later was knighted, and became a Rear-Admiral of the White and Commander-in-Chief on the East Indies Station where he died in 1815.

On her voyage to Saint John and Passamaquoddy, the Camel carried 261 “Loyalists and Refugees:” 104 men, 51 women, 29 servants, 30 children age ten and older and 47 children under the age of ten. This is a sizable proportion of the 365 persons named on the “Roll of Loyalists Settled at Belle Vue in Beaver Harbor dated 10 July 1784 (1) Still, not all of the original signers of the Quaker Company’s agreement (2) to settle together on the River Saint John in Novascotia (sic) who actually came to Beaver Harbor came aboard the Camel.

The Camel started loading her Supernumeraries on August 23, 1783, according to the Muster Book but did not officially receive orders recorded in the Log from Rear Admiral Robert Digby, RN until the 25th and did not sail until Thursday August 28, however she only proceeded as far down the harbour as Staten Island where she anchored and sent the Launch to water the ship. The weather seems to have been typical for late August in the New York metro area “light airs and hazy.” It was not until Monday September 1 that H.M.A.T. Camel actually sailed for the Bay of Fundy.

She arrived at the mouth of the Saint John late on Sunday evening September 14 and there disembarked two men and a mother and her three children (Stricken from the Muster Book on September 18). The Camel sailed for Beaver Harbor (described in her log as Passamaquoddy) at 0800 on Saturday September 20 and arrived at Beaver Harbor about 1800. Over the next few days she discharged her remaining “Loyalists and Refugees,” they being stricken from the Muster Book on September 29. She sailed for New York on Wednesday October 1 and was back at anchor in the East River the following Wednesday October 8.

(1) Master General’s Office Musters 1776-1785 Ward Chipman Papers National Archives of Canada.

(2) From The Book of Proceedings of the Society of Friends or Quakers who Settled at Pennfield, Charlotte County in 1783, Ganong Papers, Archives of the New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, New Brunswick.

Ed Garrett

War of 1812 Veterans Isaac Ferriss & William Hutchins Plaqued

(Read this articles with photos here.)

On Saturday May 23 2015, Ruth Hutchins Nicholson UE and Susan McCloskey Hutchins UE hosted a very successful event to recognize their ancestors Isaac Ferriss UE and William Hutchins in Harrow and Colchester this past Saturday. Approximately 70 people attended and came from as far away as Lindsay and Michigan. All were interested in the actual plaque and its history as well as the stories associated with the two veterans.

All family members participated in the two unveilings that included presenting information on Loyalist John Cornwall, whose original lot 97 in the New Settlement is the land where the Hutchins Pioneer Cemetery is located. Heroic stories were shared about Isaac Ferriss, who as a 17 year old, swam across the Detroit River to spy on the Americans on Bois Blanc Island. He reported back to Major General Isaac Brock prior to the successful taking of Fort Detroit. William Hutchins, at age 65, was an experienced ship carpenter and sailor. Both he and Isaac were on the same pay list, from the Essex 1st Militia. We aren’t clear on William’s actions but knew of Isaac’s through an article written in The Amherstburg Echo on September 2, 1934.

A reception followed at Paglioni’s Estate Winery where everyone could meet and talk while they enjoyed the essence of the grape harvest in Essex County. It was a beautiful day and we feel we have inspired others to plaque their ancestors’ graves in a similar fashion.

…Ruth Nicholson, UE

Where in the World?

Where is Col. Edward Jessup Branch member Barb Law?

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.

Region and Branch Bits

From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.

  • Saturday June 20, 2015 starting at about 11:00 a.m. the Annual Picnic of the London Branch of the United Empire Loyalist Association will be held at the Pioneer Village at Fanshawe Lake. Free PARK admission for those attending the U E L event. Period dress (1700-1800) is encouraged but not required. Everyone is welcome, bring a lawn chair. For information visit web site www.uelac.org/londonuel/ (under events) … Marvin Recker mrecker@mnsi.net
  • The Loyalist Rose Garden is officially open! Look for it in the Inner Harbour, Victoria BC. Photo op
  • St. Alban the Martyr Memorial Church, Adolphustown was built in 1884 as a memorial to United Empire Loyalists. The interior of the church is encircled by 64 tiles bearing inscriptions commemorating early loyalists. The Memorial Tiles are valued as a revival of a medieval art form. The Loyalist Tiles of St. Alban’s. The book about them can be purchased by email to Dianeberlet4@aol.com. Also a reminder of the Annual UEL Church Service coming on Sunday, June 14, 2015, at 2 p.m. (Bob Jarvis, Toronto Branch)

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • From the Re-dedication of the UEL Monument at Adolphustown last weekend, “We hope it is not just the culmination of a restoration project but the start of a new interest in the Loyalist heritage in the province” quotation and video clip of Peter Johnson UE
  • The Woodruff Family Collection consisting of 14 boxes of records that chronicle the family from 1783 to 1984 has been donated to Brock University. The family first came to Niagara after the American Revolution and became a prominent political, social and economic force in the area and Upper Canada.
  • Hundreds of years ago — even thousands of years ago — Ontario’s First Peoples lived here, played here, hunted and fished here. Like today, the King’s Point Site in Niagara-on-the-Lake was a great place to spend a weekend or an entire season. Some archaeological comments.
  • New England’s Dark Day‘: That Time In 1780 When It Was Night Before Noon. May 19, 1780, dawned like a promise. It had been a particularly brutal winter in New England, but spring had finally arrived. In fact, it had been unusually warm for days. And after the event, the religious and scientific debate began.
  • Book: Desperate Sons: Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, and the Secret Bands of Radicals Who Led the Colonies to War. by Les Standiford. This excerpt describes America’s increasing number of grievances with its mother country and Britain’s indifference to the colonists’ complaints.
  • Fun Fact: The Hermione Brings Lafayette Back to America. In 1780, The Hermione set sail from France on its way to America with the Marquis on board. It wasn’t his first voyage, but it would be one for which he was known. Some photos and details.

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

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

  • Balmain(e), William – from Fran Rose
  • Best, Jacob Jr. – from Albert Smith
  • Griffin, Obadiah – from Ruth Smith
  • McLean, Archibald – from Suzanne Davidson
  • Shibley, John – (volunteer Sandra McNamara)
  • Slipp (Schloepp), Leonard – from Fran Rose

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


Response re Obadiah Griffin Sr. and Jr.

Nova Scotia Land grants are located in the NS Department of Natural Resources, Crown Lands Department in Halifax. Here is a link to their web-site.

I have done research there and been highly successful.

If you are not able to go to Halifax yourself, I suggest you contact the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia.

They may be able to put you in touch with a professional genealogist who can do research for you.

…Dorothy Meyerhof, UE