“Loyalist Trails” 2015-36: September 6, 2015

In this issue:
The Book of Negroes: More Pieces for the Jigsaw Puzzle, by Stephen Davidson
Anthony and Andrew Westbrook (Part 15), by Doug Massey
Domestic Disputes: Public Announcements of Private Affairs
Resources: Tips for Post-Graduate Theses About Loyalists
Where in the World are Peter Van Iderstine and Debbie Lowes?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
Last Post: Mahlon Russell Cook, UE


The Book of Negroes: More Pieces for the Jigsaw Puzzle, by Stephen Davidson

© Stephen Davidson UE

Compiled by British officials, the Book of Negroes is a ledger of the names and circumstances of more than 2,000 blacks who left New York City during 1783. Its 156 pages resemble a telephone directory rather than a diary, listing ages, former masters, and years of service to the British crown. However, it is more than just an elaborate list of names of Black Loyalists and enslaved Africans. To the careful reader, the Book of Negroes can contain missing pieces to the jigsaw puzzle of Black Loyalist history.

For example, the newspapers published during the American Revolution, contained hundreds of advertisements for the capture of runaway slaves. One such South Carolina ad offered eight dollars for the arrest of a “mulatto wench” named Dianna. The twenty-something woman had escaped with a ten-month old child who was described as being “very black and had her foreteeth out”. Dianna, it was noted, “talks remarkable good English”. Usually, it is impossible to discover whether fugitive slaves such as Dianna eventually found freedom or were taken back into slavery.

However, by scouring the Book of Negroes, we learn that this particular runaway ad had a happy ending — for Dianna rather than the American who enslaved her. Among the entries for black passengers travelling on the William, a transport bound for the island of Abaco, is one for a woman who received her General Birch Certificate. (The British authorities issued this certificate to indicate that a rebel slave had served the crown for at least one year and was now a free person.) Clutching that certificate was Dianna and her ten month-old child. The entry goes on to say that the Black Loyalist had been the property of Mrs. Cross of Charlestown, South Carolina and had left her in 1779. Thanks to the Book of Negroes, we know that Diana escaped the United States and lived as a free woman in the Bahamas.

A patriot named Patrick Wall posted an ad that offered a two guinea reward for the return of Hannah. She was known to have married a man who worked in the British army’s wagon-master general’s department. In the fall of 1783, the men who worked as wagoneers for the crown were transported to Port Mattoon, Nova Scotia. Their names and the names of their dependents were duly recorded in the Book of Negroes. On board the Nisbet were two women named Hannah, both of whom were married to men in the wagon master general department. The ad that sought Hannah’s capture was either referring to a 22 year-old who had escaped her master in Norfolk, Virginia seven years earlier or to a 40 year-old woman who had been enslaved for 31 years in Maryland.

The patriot governor of Virginia, Benjamin Harrison, sought to reclaim four slaves who had been taken from his James River Plantation: Bob Harrison, Phillister the mute, William Cheese and his wife Anney. Again, the Book of Negroes reveals how their stories ended.

On the list of passengers who boarded the L’Abondance for Port Roseway (Shelburne), Nova Scotia is 30 year-old Anna Cheese and 45 year-old William Cheese. Both had escaped from Virginia three years earlier, and both had General Birch Certificates. On the LeHigh, a ship sailing for Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Royal, were two members of the Black Pioneers, the largest African military unit established during the American Revolution. The Pioneers served as raiders, scouts and military engineers, digging fortifications, and building accommodations. The two men were 20 year-old Phillister, noted as being “born dumb”, and 21 year-old Bob Harrison. Both men escaped their master in 1779 and eventually settled in Nova Scotia.

The Book of Negroes can help flesh out names on documents created after 1783. For example, a 1785 petition for a tract of land in New Brunswick contains a list that includes the names of five men who were recorded in the Book of Negroes. Without the information contained in the ledger of 1783, we would not know the circumstances of the black petitioners. Ismael Conley was 23 years old when he boarded the Grand Dutchess for Saint John. He had been enslaved to Ebenezer Colley in Fairfield, Connecticut until he escaped in 1777. 27 year-old Thomas Hide, the first Black Loyalist to arrive in New Brunswick, had escaped from the same town and also had a Birch Certificate when he sailed on the Union. When John Potter, another man on the land petition, came to New Brunswick on the Montague he did not travel alone. The Book of Negroes reveals that the 25 year-old Rhode Island man escaped his master in 1778 and married 24 year-old Lucy, a woman once enslaved in White Plains, New York.

John Wilkins, another petitioner, arrived in New Brunswick on the Bridgewater. He had run away from the New York home of John Thomas in 1776. Somewhere in his life he he came to have a scar on his chin. (Such are the details that can be found in the Book of Negroes.)

In the years that followed their flight from New York City, many Black Loyalists were upset by the racist attitudes of their colonial governments. When they were given the opportunity to immigrate to Sierra Leone to found a new colony, 1,196 loyal blacks once again boarded evacuation ships and sailed for western Africa in 1792. Many of these men and women would be faceless names on ships’ manifests if it were not possible to find them in the Book of Negroes.

Robert Stafford originally arrived in New Brunswick when he was 20 years old. The Royal Navy had liberated him from slavery in Virginia in 1779. In the subsequent nine years as a loyalist settler, Robert gained a wife and family. The same was true for three other bachelors listed in the Book of Negroes who later sailed for Sierra Leone. New York’s Jarvis Frost initially settled on the New Brunswick border with Nova Scotia and Virginia’s Daniel Carry arrived at the mouth of the St. John River in 1783. Timothy Withers, enslaved in South Carolina, had made Annapolis Royal his home.

Ralph Henry was a married man when he arrived in Nova Scotia in 1783. The Book of Negroes notes that he was 23 when he escaped from his master in Gloucester, Virginia. His wife Miney, five years his junior, had escaped slavery in Philadelphia. The couple met while serving the British army and were married before 1779, the year that their daughter Molly was born “free within the British lines”. Molly would have been at least 12 years old when her family left Nova Scotia for Sierra Leone. While the 1792 list of passengers bound for West Africa only describes them as “Ralph Henry, wife and family”, the Book of Negroes gives us a much richer understanding of the Henry family.

As these examples have demonstrated, while it is difficult to piece together the jigsaw puzzle of Canada’s Black Loyalist history, the careful comparison of various colonial documents with the Book of Negroes can help enrich our understanding of these pioneers and appreciate their struggles to live as free people.

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

Anthony and Andrew Westbrook (Part 15), by Doug Massey

© Doug Massey, UE

It is very difficult to disagree with Taylor when considering the history of two men — Anthony and Andrew Westbrook. Both father, in New York State in the 1770s and 1780s, and son, 1790s to 1815, inhabited regions, and were part of a family that were split by political, religious and moral divisions caused by an ongoing civil war. The first phase of that consuming, discontinuous conflict ended with one side prevailing and forging a unity myth that over time created a national identity by disappearing the vanquished others. The civil war aspect of the American Revolution is to be found in those campaigns of extermination fuelled by hatred and revenge perpetrated by both Loyalist and Republican Americans, along with their respective indigenous allies, against each other. When the fighting was brought to an end in 1783, the hatred and need for revenge continued on both sides, ensuring that another generation would take up the complaints in 1812 when it would be empire versus republic, round two. Even while that second phase was in progress, and certainly in the years afterward, another unity myth was crafted that denied that any significant part of Upper Canada had ever stood against empire. Both unification myths sought to end chaos and put in its place the certainty required for nation building. But at the same time, something had to go — a fascinating narrative of disunity. In this climate of myth building, both Anthony and Andrew Westbrook were labelled “a traitor to his country”, Anthony in the United States and Andrew in Canada, and their real story largely forgotten.

It is said that Andrew Westbrook stood 6 foot 2, had broad shoulders, and a crop of “brilliant red hair” that matched his temperament. That Andrew had a short fuse is clear from his ongoing feud with Daniel Springer. When all Andrew Westbrook’s land went up for sale in 1823, it was Springer who bought it. No doubt Springer thought he had taken his revenge, got the last laugh. But then, perhaps before he died in 1826, he got word via the Masonic Lodge network of Andrew’s new start in Michigan. Perhaps he knew that Andrew, having lost one wife, married another and then another. Perhaps he knew that Andrew and his extensive family became influential, wealthy settlers in China Township, St Clair County, Michigan where in 1822, Westbrook was listed as “the wealthiest man in the county” and “possessed of the largest amount of household furniture – $130”. [93] Perhaps Springer would agree with the statement that his old adversary was noted for his “individuality”, and believe the story that when “Indians” one day captured his children, Westbrook went out after them, pointed his revolver at the chief, demanded that the children be delivered to him, and got them back. [94] Perhaps. And perhaps word that Springer now was in possession of all his goods back in Delaware, and of Springer’s extensive wealth in Upper Canada disturbed the sleep of Andrew, Baron von Steuben ensconced in his big house on the St. Clair River.

We know more of Andrew Westbrook than we do of his father. No doubt Anthony was equally tall and strong. As for Anthony’s disposition, we have no first hand accounts of that and can only try to piece together an understanding of his motivation from the scant records that remain to us. The resulting portrait is far from complete. Indeed that of Andrew is just a little clearer. As for Sara Dekker, wife and mother, we know nothing really at all. Perhaps Andrew inherited his colouring and temper from her. Perhaps Anthony was a quiet even-tempered man. But ultimately we will never know. This, though is true: the remains of both father and son now rest far from where they were born, Anthony in Ancaster Ontario, and Andrew in Michigan. Two lives both so very similar, yet also so very divergent.


[93] History of St. Clair County (U.S. Data Repository).

[94] History Of St. Clair County, Michigan, A.T. Andreas and Company, Western Historical Co., 1888, p.728.

Doug Massey

Thanks so much to Doug for this well documented/sourced research into and history of Anthony and Andrew. A copy of the full article has now been posted to the Loyalist Directory as part of Anthony Westbrook’s record there. You can access it here (PDF).

Domestic Disputes: Public Announcements of Private Affairs, by Don N. Hagist

A browse through the eighteenth century newspapers turns up more than just political news, op-eds and want ads. Sometimes there’s marital mud-slinging of the sort that we’ve come to expect only from television and the internet. Although we’re tempted to think of our forebears as more refined and moralistic than today, there was no shortage of public assertions of domestic non-tranquility. Marriages that were anything but blissful spurred declarations of indebtedness, abandonment, infidelity and other ill behaviors. The fundamental motivation was legalistic: one partner didn’t want to bear responsibility for the actions of another.

Read more details.

Published by the Journal of the American Revolution, 3 August 2015.

Resources: Tips for Post-Graduate Theses About Loyalists

Last week we noted access to post graduate theses by a collaboration between Library and Archives Canada and Canadian universities. Dorothy Meyerhof, UE, of Sir Guy Carleton Branch in Ottawa, sends these hints from LAC staff for searching the database:

– Do not use “Subject keyword” for your search. Instead choose “Any keyword”.

– The Amicus database on which the Theses Canada Portal is based uses “?” as the wild card not the more common “*”.

The term “Loyalist” brings up 93 theses, of which 66 relate to United Empire Loyalists. Fifteen of these are available for download in PDF format.

Where in the World?

Where are Abegweit Branch members Peter Van Iderstine and Debbie Lowes?

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.

  • There are many celebrations across the country this week to mark the Queen’s reign about to surpass that of Queen Victoria. Check you local Royal Societies. Here is just one of many: The Executive Committee of the New Brunswick Branch of the Monarchist League of Canada Cordially invites you to a Gala Dinner In Honour of Her Majesty The Queen of Canada becoming our longest-reigning sovereign, 12 September 2015, The Union Club, Saint John, NB. Reception: 6:00pm; Dinner: 6:30pm. Dress Code is Business. Tickets: $60/members or $70/non-members or $30 for students. Call 454-9589 by August 28th to reserve. Tickets must be paid in advance
  • The Nova Scotia Branch UELAC will meet 19 September 2015 at noon in the old Courthouse, which is upstairs over the Museum and Gift Shop at the Argyle Township Court House Museum, 8162 Nova Scotia Trunk 3, Tusket, NS. Light Lunch: $ 6.00 – sandwiches by The Hickory Hut and homemade sweets, tea and coffee. ALL WELCOME. Please register for lunch by Sept 15 to cmharding@bellaliant.net Tusket’s beginnings date back to 1785 with the arrival of the Loyalists. Municipal Historian and Archivist, Peter Crowell, CG will speak, taking us back to the beginning of Tusket Village and area with its’ fascinating Loyalist history. We expect to have a special guest arrive as well, someone whose history intertwines with the Loyalists in Yarmouth County.
  • “A SILVER CELEBRATION”. The Chilliwack Branch, UELAC is celebrating their 25th Anniversary. You are invited to attend this milestone event at the Chilliwack Museum 45820 Spadina Avenue on Saturday, 24 Oct, 2015 beginning at 2:00 pm. The Program will be followed by a Celebration Cake and light refreshments Period dress is encouraged. Please RSVP to Shirley Dargatz UE by October 3rd, 2015 Phone No. 604-858-6748 E-mail: ksdargatz@shaw.ca We hope to have a good turnout and are very grateful that we are able to use the Museum space. This is the place where the original charter was granted in 1990. See invitation.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Details of the First Stamp Act Protest. The anonymous account of Boston’s 14 Aug 1765 Stamp Act protest I quoted yesterday (Another Account of the Stamp Act Protests) also includes a passage that’s prompted a lot of questions about who was behind the event: …thus Hung the Image thro all the Day tho Three Guineas [£3.3s.] was offerd to any one that should take it down and no one dared to make the Tryall. The Paper on which A. O in Capitals was wrote blew off and at mid Day a person came with an Hanchif over his Face went up with a Ladder and fastnid it on in the Sight of Numbers who dard not obstruct him. It was observd that in making a Slip his Trousers slide up and discovered a silke Stockinge and Breeches answerable in Goodness—from whence you may infer that some of them undress’d were not of the lowest Class. Read more details.
  • We see wars unfold on live video alongside satellite maps, but our eighteenth-century counterparts had to wait. Maps had to be drawn, engraved, and printed before they were sold to those who could afford them. The American Antiquarian Society houses the first battle map of the Revolutionary War, which gives us a glimpse into the way people learned about the war from afar. I. De Costa’s A Plan of the Town and Harbour of Boston depicts the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. De Costa’s map is the only one to feature the marches of the British forces and battle sites. It was published in Britain. (interesting article – good read)
  • An English block printed gown, c. 1780 from the Victoria and Albert Collections. A woman’s gown of white linen, block-printed with floral sprigs in pink, purple, with painted blue.
  • Brian McConnell visited grave of Loyalist John Howe, father of former NS Premier Joseph Howe, at Old Burying Grounds, Halifax
  • The Queen ‘to make rare public speech’ on day she overtakes Victoria as longest-reigning monarch. The Queen is expected to address the people of Britain and the Commonwealth in a short speech at a Scottish railway station when she sets her record on September 9.
  • There is a Facebook page for non-members of the Guild of One-Name Studies. To date, only twenty followers but awareness is the goal here. Like the page and share with your friends.

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

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

  • Forbes, Alexander – from Richard Nickerson & Carol Harding
  • Stevens, Abel Sr. – from Eunice Matresky, with certificate application
  • Van Every, David – from Wayne Winterburn
  • Westbrook, Anthony – from Doug Massey

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

Last Post: Mahlon Russell Cook, UE

The passing of Mahlon Cook was noted in the 16 August issue of Loyalist Trails. A more comprehensive obituary was published in the August 19th edition of the Morrisburg Leader. Read it here.

…Lynne Cook, UE, St. Lawrence Branch