“Loyalist Trails” 2015-31: August 2, 2015

In this issue:
Observations from a Loyalist Era Diary, by Stephen Davidson
Anthony and Andrew Westbrook (Part 10), by Doug Massey
How the British Won the American Revolutionary War
War of 1812 Cemetery Plaques in Fort Erie
Book: If I Can – the story of David Cowan, UE, R.N.
Where in the World are David Ellsworth and Gloria Howard?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory


Observations from a Loyalist Era Diary, by Stephen Davidson

When Elizabeth Simcoe arrived in Canada with her husband and children in 1791, she began to record her experiences and observations in a journal. An artist as well as a member of the British upper class, Elizabeth was quick to note (and appreciate) the little things that distinguished life in the wilderness of Canada from what she knew in England. Two hundred years later, it is interesting to see what caught her attention, what she considered novel, and what was a part of every day life in the era of loyalist settlement.

For example, on their ocean journey to Quebec City, the Simcoe’s ship had to go near the coast of Nova Scotia. Both the crew and the passengers were more than a little concerned about a small island that later generations would dub the Graveyard of the Atlantic. “It is hoped we shall keep clear of Sable Island, 30 leagues east of Nova Scotia, which is frequently enveloped in fog, and, therefore, very dangerous. No trees grow on it, but there is plenty of wood from the frequent wrecks that are driven on its shores. It abounds with rats, snipe, and so forth.” It is interesting that the sailors who told Elizabeth about Sable Island did not mention its wild horses.

When she arrived in Quebec City, Elizabeth wrote about aspects of its cultural life. King George III’s son, Prince Edward, was in command of the 7th Fusiliers that were stationed in the colonial capital. The regiment had a band whose “music was thought excellent”. She noted that the regimental band cost “the Prince eight hundred a year”. Prince Edward “always {went} to church” with the city’s Protestants in a building that the French allowed the English to use “between the hours of their service”. The Fusilier band playing during the service (not typical musical accompaniment, but one which Elizabeth did not seem to mind.)

Although it could be very cold outside, when the Simcoes dined at the home of a Colonel Caldwell, Elizabeth nearly fainted from the heat. She was told “the Fahrenheit thermometer in this drawing-room had one evening been at 100. I eat part of a metiffe, a bird between a wild goose…and a tame one. It was much better than the tame goose. I found it so cold coming home after supper in a covered carriole that I wore one of the fencing masks lined with fur which Capt. Stevenson gave me.”

It is both amusing and sad to note that potholes have been a Canadian tradition for over 200 years. Elizabeth’s entry for December 5, 1791 records that “the roads full of cahots a word used in Quebec for the holes and pits made on the snow roads makes driving very jolty; but it did not deter Prince Edward and a party from driving 8 miles to the village of Lorette. It is the custom here to make parties to dine in the country at a distance of ten miles. They often carry a cold dinner, and return to a dance in the evening, and this in the severe weather, which seems as much relished by the English as the Canadians. Their partners must be very agreeable, or they could never have liked these parties.”

Sometimes Mrs. Simcoe’s diary reveals a childlike delight in the strange new world of British North America. On a day when it was minus 23 degrees Fahrenheit, “I rub silk gowns with flannel to see the beautiful streams of fire which are emitted with a crackling noise during the cold weather.”

The British had a love for theatre that prompted them to stage dramas in almost any army outpost. The same was true for Quebec City. In February of 1792, Elizabeth wrote about the local theatre.

“One of the casmettes (or bombproof chambers) near Fort Louis Gate has been fitted up for a theatre. Some Canadian gentlemen represented the French play of “Le Medecin malgre lui” (Moliere) and “La Comtesse D’Escarbagnas” (Moliere). I was surprised those people, unused to see theatrical representations, could perform as well as they did, and I was much amused. The Fusiliers are going to act plays, and as Col. Simcoe {Elizabeth’s husband} does not like to see officers so employed he does not intend to go to the theatre again.”

While her husband may have turned his nose up at the theatre, he had no problem attending a ball that Elizabeth hosted.

“The Prince was present. We have left the house we had in St. John Street, and taken one of the back rooms which look into the Ursuline gardens. By removing a wooden partition upstairs we have made a room, 45 feet long, with a tearoom and a card room adjoining, which makes a good apartment for a dance, with a supper room below. The Fusiliers are the best dancers, well dressed, and the best-looking figures in a ballroom that I ever saw. They are all musical and like dancing, and bestow as much money, as other regiments usually spend in wine, in giving balls and concerts, which makes them very popular in this place, where dancing is so favourite an amusement that no age seems to exclude people from partaking of it; and, indeed, I find giving dances much the easiest mode of entertaining company, as well as the most pleasant to them.”

Of course, being in far off Canada meant that Elizabeth had to work hard to keep up with the latest London fashions. When newly appointed government officials arrived in Upper Canada, they brought Elizabeth a doll from her friend Miss Rolle. The doll was dressed in a miniature version of a court dress worn by the Duchess of York. With the help of what was literally a “fashion doll”, Elizabeth made herself a turban like the doll’s.

Local peculiarities found their way into the journal of the governor’s wife. Elizabeth found it interesting that the common remedy for cuts was the turpentine that came from the cones of the “balm of Gilead fir tree”. A girl who was described as being from “the western states” amused the family with her accent and manner of speech. When she was scolded for being slow, the American replied “Must I not put the sugar in the children’s breakfast?” in what Elizabeth called “the true American tone”.

We’ll return to Elizabeth Simcoe’s observations and adventures in future Loyalist Trails articles.

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

Anthony and Andrew Westbrook (Part 10)

© Doug Massey, UE

In Delaware, Andrew Westbrook took note of this. There is no evidence that he was one of the plotters. But based on his later allegiances, and his close ties with Ebenezer Allen, it is reasonable to suggest that Andrew was sympathetic. By 1800, he had made a clean break from his more conservative relatives living around Brant Town: He named his first son Andrew Hull Westbrook and not Anthony after his father, as Westbrook tradition would have dictated. [60] Another son, Oliver, could very likely have been named after Dr. Oliver Tiffany, brother of Silvester and Gideon Tiffany, Allen’s associates in land dealings and political intrigue. [61] Equally revealing is the fact that Andrew’s third son was named Ebenezer. Since there is no evidence of anyone by that name in the Westbrook family it is a good bet that the child was named after Ebenezer Allen, whose land was just a mile from Andrew’s spread at Delaware. Apparently “Eben”, as he called himself, had made a large positive impression on Andrew as he had on Mary Jemison down in New York right after the American Revolution. Jemison, was a white woman who had been captured by First Nation warriors during the French and Indian Wars and who had elected to live with the Seneca. She protected Allen from his white enemies when they were seeking to put him in jail. [62] Andrew Westbrook would try to do the same.

Westbrook’s circle included Allen, Gideon and Silvester Tiffany along with Simon Zelotus Watson, another land speculator and lodge brother. They were all enterprising men and sharp dealers in land, surveys, mills, and whiskey stills. They were also quite willing to get ahead in an Upper Canada republic. [63] In 1805 Westbrook purchased a flourmill from James Burdick at Centreville in Oxford to add to his comfortable house, distillery, barn, storehouses, sawmill and gristmill in Delaware Township. [64] Well spoken, precise and gifted with a “quick and intelligent eye” [65] Andrew Westbrook was arguably a better businessman than Ebenezer Allen: Where Allen’s success as a land speculator and entrepreneur on both sides of Lake Erie was dubious, where he was ever hard pressed for capital to satisfy his creditors, and where he eventually had to sell off his land in Delaware in 1801, Andrew amassed and held on to over four thousand acres of land, mills, barns and houses in Middlesex and Oxford Counties by 1812. [66] Moreover, Westbrook’s standing in his community was on the rise, at least since 1805 when he was appointed township constable. Andrew Westbrook’s world now included both increasing wealth and status. Things were looking up.

All of his dealings, however, were not squeaky clean. According to T.L. Kenney, as Westbrook saw it, ” The means [were] mere materials to be judged of by his conceptions of Right; and these are generally made to obey the impulses of the moment….” [67] Support for this judgement may be found in Andrew’s alleged attempt, along with Ebenezer Allen, to dispossess the local “Indians”. At the Moravian mission to the Delawares at Fairfield Village, forty miles down the Thames River, a missionary reported that Allen and Westbrook were plotting “to destroy this village and our congregation”. [68] The Delawares did have a grant of 51 000 acres of land from the government, and were protected by British rule. So Allen and Westbrook may have seen them and their land as legitimate targets. The two men were not enamoured of the British system in general since it bedevilled their endeavours through its land policies and restrictive immigration regulations. This was exacerbated by the depression that arrived in 1810, bringing a severe fall in prices, and an obstruction to settlement. If Allen and Westbrook et al. needed a reminder of whom to blame for all of this they had only to look to the local elite. This included Daniel Springer, Sykes Tousley, and Mahlon Burwell. And no one epitomized that hated, select few better than Thomas Talbot.

Talbot was an eccentric, 18th Century aristocrat, who wielded immense power locally because of his impeccable pedigree and network of close friends in high places, a network that included the Duke of York, the Duke of Wellington and Francis Gore, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. Gore was Talbot’s close friend and through him Talbot received a sweetheart deal to build roads in 1811. These two roads, Talbot Road North linking Port Talbot on Lake Erie to the Westminster Township settlement on the upper Thames River, and Talbot Road West to Amherstburg on the Detroit River would open up a huge area for settlement. It was a land speculator’s dream. Simon Zelotus Watson, a deputy provincial land surveyor mapping out the northern concessions of Westminster Township, was to be one of Talbot’s associates making that dream into a reality. However, when Watson proposed to include American settlers in the deal, problems arose and a bitter argument developed between him and Talbot. Watson was a land speculator after all and so his plans for settlement did pose a small threat to Talbot’s empire. But it was something else that resonated. When Watson challenged Talbot to a duel, Talbot contemptuously declined. The message was clear: Watson was part of the great republican unwashed and lower, while Baron Talbot was of a much higher class and therefore not obliged to defend his honour. Talbot’s rebuff of Watson had about it the sneers of inherited or official privilege. It angered Westbrook and his friends, ambitious men of modest origins who sought security in property, but also craved attention, applause, and above all, position to prove their worth in the community.

Again it was Thomas Talbot, the “Lake Erie Baron”, who locally best represented the pinnacle of place. Toward the end of his life, Andrew Westbrook would play the role of Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, or “Baron von Steuben”, with “certain amiable eccentricities”. [69] There was, however, more to this than odd behaviour: While hating Talbot for using his autocratic power to exclude him, Westbrook may very well have liked the idea of principality and coveted it for himself. For after the War of 1812, he would labour to replicate Talbot’s Lake Erie Baronetcy in China County, Michigan. Indeed he had already started to do so in Delaware Township and Oxford County before 1812, only to be hindered by his antagonist’s roadblocks.

In addition to his vast property, Talbot acquired control of an array of public offices – legislative councillor, county lieutenant, district magistrate, township constable, school trustee and road commissioner. He chose, however, to exercise indirect control by giving these positions to friends and allies, men like Daniel Springer who, because of Talbot’s largesse, held magisterial powers from Chatham to Hamilton. What if Talbot had chosen to include Andrew Westbrook among those holding important office? Would that have kept him onside in the coming war? What if he had offered Westbrook the much-prized status that went with the rank of Major in the Middlesex Militia instead of giving that plum to Sykes Tousley? But then including Westbrook was impossible. Talbot was the local purveyor of British prejudice against all that was American. That meant that the insufficiently deferential Andrew Westbrook had to be watched, not courted. The captaincy offered him was an insult instead of the prize he sought. Talbot’s treatment of Westbrook would come back to haunt the British cause as we will see.


[60] First-born sons had been alternately Anthony or Johannes for four generations back to 1681.

[61] No Westbrooks at all were previously called Oliver. But scores of children delivered by Dr. Oliver around the Head-Of-The-Lake were named after him. A very intelligent and wealthy man, Oliver Tiffany eventually bought Ebenezer Allen’s land and through Gideon planned Delaware Village. But the good doctor was certainly not part of the republican plot connected with his two brothers.

[62] John Mahler, “Delaware, Ontario“.

[63] Alan Taylor, op cit., p. 159.

[64] Burdick was a charter member of the King Hiram Lodge in Burford Township, the first Masonic lodge to receive a warrant from the schismatic Grand Lodge of Niagara. Sykes Tousley was also a key member there.

[65] “D.R. Beasley, Westbrook, Andrew,” The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 6 (University of Toronto, 1987), quoting L. T. Kenney.

[66] Allen owed John Butler but never repaid the loan. His other creditors were John Askin and Isaac Todd.

[67] D.R. Beasley, op cit.

[68] Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels and Indian Allies (Toronto, Vintage Books, 2011), p. 160.

[69] D.R. Beasley, op cit. Von Steuben was a Prussian-born American military officer and one of the fathers of the Continental Army. He was also appointed as a temporary Inspector General by George Washington. Andrew Westbrook obviously admired the man.

Doug Massey

How the British Won the American Revolutionary War

By Gene Procknow, an independent researcher with a focus on the northern frontier during the American Revolution.

No, I have not lost my mind. Of course, the Americans won their freedom from British rule. However, what started in 1775, as an American rebellion against British rule in the thirteen colonies evolved into a far-reaching global war among world’s most powerful nations. Fighting between Britain and American allies including France, Spain and The Dutch Republic spread to the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Britain fared well in many of the conflicts waged outside the thirteen colonies, especially those fought after 1781. Consequently, there were significant favourable outcomes of the American Revolution for Britain, especially when viewed in context of the late 18th century state of affairs.

Read the full article; published by the Journal of the American Revolution on 27 July 2015.

War of 1812 Cemetery Plaques in Fort Erie

In the Fall, a very beautiful black granite plaque was presented to descendants of Loyalists to be placed at the veteran’s gravestones. My daughter Marian Miller UE and I, flanked by the Honour Guard of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 71, were honoured to be chosen to place plaques on the graves of our Loyalist ancestors, Andrew Miller and Peter Miller at St. John’s Anglican Church Cemetery, Ridgemount Road, and William Bowen at McAffee Cemetery, Thompson Road. These plaques are very special since the pictures on them are the same as those that appeared on the Upper Canada Preserved Medal, cast in 1813, and were intended to be awarded to the veterans.

Among the 42 plaque dedications in Fort Erie, the following Loyalists and sons of Loyalists were also honoured: Peter James Plato and Christian Plato, at the Plato Cemetery; Philip Wintemute, at the McAffee Cemetery; Jacob Huffman Sr, Jacob Huffman Jr, son of a Loyalist, and Augustus House, at the Little Cemetery Around the Corner. Cornelius Bowen also deserves the honour but his burial site has never been located. It could have been on his crown grant land or he was returned to Graphis Kill (now Schenectady) New York where his earlier family’s plot is located.

Preceded by a prayer by the Minister, the emotional ceremonies were attended by an Honour Guard of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 71, as well as Air Cadets, Bagpipers, several dignitaries who marched in led by a Piper, and many friends and families of veterans. The ceremonies were concluded by the firing of a cannon by John Sek and his son Andrew. A reception was held in St. John’s Anglican Church.

Andrew Miller and his wife Elizabeth Everett UE were the first burials in St. John’s Anglican Church Cemetery.

Also of note, Andrew Miller’s home was used to billet the men of the 3rd Lincoln Regiment and as a hospital to provide care for the wounded.

These veterans have received a well-deserved and long overdue recognition from a grateful country.

…Marguerite (Brown, Miller) Hanratty, UE

Book: If I Can – the story of David Cowan, UE, R.N.

If I Can: The Story of David Cowan, His Adventure from Scotland to the Colonies Into Upper Canada, By William Cowan.

This book covers his adventure from Scotland to the Colonies into Upper Canada. It is donated by descendant Fred Blayney UE, member of Grand River Branch UELAC, to Norfolk Historical Society.

David Cowan 1742-1808, a qualified gardener, was employed by George Washington at Mount Vernon. Because he was educated, he was called upon to witness documents. When he declined Washington’s request to join his forces, Washington issued him a safe passage to Quebec. He then signed on with the Royal Navy and commanded an armed ship throughout the war.. For his loyal service he was granted 2,000 acres.

He became a Commodore of naval vessels on Lake Erie, navigating the north shore back and forth to Patterson Creek, Turkey Point and Sandwich. His often transports of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe and Lady Simcoe are recorded in her papers. He was also an elected member of parliament.

Many excerpts from Washington and Simcoe records provide an interesting view of David Cowan who served both men and is of interest to Loyalist studies and Norfolk County history as he owned 200 acres at Vittoria and sailed into local harbours.

He is buried in St. Mark’s Anglican Cemetery, Niagara-On-The-Lake.

…Doris Ann Lemon

Where in the World?

Where are David Ellsworth of Col. John Butler Branch and Gloria Howard of Hamilton 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.

Region and Branch Bits

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

  • Kawartha Branch of the OGS is hosting a conference on Military Settlers SAT Oct. 3, 2015 in Peterborough. See details.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • New Jamestown Discovery Reveals the Identities of Four Prominent Settlers. The findings by Smithsonian scientists dig up the dynamics of daily life in the first permanent British settlement in the colonies
  • 1759 French Indian War Medal for Niagara, Quebec, Crown Point, Sir William Johnson.
  • USA Teachers’ Resource from The Smithsonian’s History Explore. Banished: Louisa Susannah Wells, Loyalist Woman.
    • Grade Range: 6-12
    • Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Lessons & Activities, Primary Source, Worksheets
    • Duration: 10 Minutes
    • Date Posted: 4/2/2012
    • Louisa Susannah Wells was a female colonist who was loyal to King George III, who was banished from America and returned to England after the War of Independence.  Listen to a dramatic reading of her narrative, and then study the supporting primary sources to answer the discussion questions. This resource is part of a series called “Life at Sea: 1680 to 1806,” which includes five perspectives on maritime life in the colonial period and early America.
    • This resource includes a teacher guide, student worksheet, downloadable audio, images of supporting primary sources, and discussion questions.
  • On July 30 in 1733, 18 men gathered at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern on King Street in Boston and organized the first Masonic Lodge in North America. The fraternal society was based loosely on medieval stonemasons’ guilds. Members pledged to be true to each other, to God, and to their king. However, a number of Masons — including George Washington, John Hancock, and Paul Revere — played major roles in the Revolution. Long associated with secret rituals and symbols, Freemasons are now more open about their mission of self-improvement and service to the community.
  • Exploring the Lives of Loyalist Women.  As many as 100,000 Loyalists left the United States as a result of the American Revolutionary War. At least 35,000 went to Nova Scotia, the nearest British-held territory. Many of the Loyalists were women. Refugees of a bitterly-fought war, they, along with their fathers, husbands, and children, shared the hardships of pioneer life and helped to lay the foundations for a second nation in North America. More
  • This Woman’s Round Gown – a striped cotton plain weave – was made in West Chester, Pennsylvania c. 1775-80s. This gown is a rare surviving example of the type worn by servants and the lower classes, or by middle class women for informal wear. More details (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

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

  • (Gen.) John Coffin and John Coffin Sr.
  • Nathaniel Coffin, John Coffin Jr., Thomas Coffin and James Coffin
  • Schryver, George – from Paul Lozo

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