“Loyalist Trails” 2015-37: September 13, 2015

In this issue:
That Peculiar New Brunswick Malady, by Stephen Davidson
Alexander Forbes: Highlander (Part 1), by Richard Nickerson
Domestic Disputes: Public Announcements of Private Affairs
Resources: The Canadian Genealogist
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond

Last Post
      + Thomas Alan Clifford, UE
      + Barbaranne Vivian Wright, UE


That Peculiar New Brunswick Malady, by Stephen Davidson

© Stephen Davidson, UE

In an 1894 article about a local family, a reporter for the Kings County Record noted that one hundred years earlier a number of loyalist settlers in New Brunswick had come down with a strange malady. When this epidemic had passed, village populations throughout the Maritimes had declined, while – curiously enough – towns in Upper Canada had grown in size. The locals called the malady “Niagary Fever.”

Niagary Fever was the quaint name given to the strong desire of New Brunswick’s early loyalist settlers to find new homes and better opportunities in Upper Canada. Harsh winters, poor soil, and the perception of limited opportunities made some of New Brunswick’s refugee founders look for a second fresh start.

After Upper Canada was created out of western Quebec in 1791, its first lieutenant governor, John Graves Simcoe, established the new colonial capital in Newark (today’s Niagara-on-the-Lake) at the mouth of the Niagara River. Just across the river was the state of New York, one of the rebellious thirteen colonies and a source of potential invaders. Simcoe immediately began a concerted effort to fill Upper Canada with loyal subjects.

Having fought shoulder to shoulder with loyalists when he was a colonel in the Queen’s Rangers, Simcoe knew the very people he wanted to populate Upper Canada. Advertising widely throughout the United States and British North America, Simcoe let it be known that anyone who was willing to swear an oath of allegiance to the crown and was prepared to develop a farm would be given two hundred acres of land. Veteran loyalist soldiers would receive an additional hundred acres; a regimental colonel could be granted as much as five thousand acres.

Many of the men who had served with Simcoe in the Queen’s Rangers had settled along the St. John and Kennebecasis Rivers in New Brunswick. Tired of their decade of stuggles, they caught “Niagary Fever” and headed westward. It was the beginning of the drain on the Maritimes population that persists to this day.

In the 1894 article, the Kings County Record‘s reporter noted that the Philip Force and his son William, loyalists from Pennsylvania, had sold their New Brunswick farms, saying they would “never lay their bones in this damned cold country”. Other families from Kings County joined them as they headed west, including Force’s son-in-law, James Matthews. They settled in Norfolk County along with New Brunswickers such as Israel and Jacob Wood, Samuel Ryerse, Joseph Ryerson, Frederick and Levinah Mabee, and Albert Berdan.

John Parker, who had joined the 18th Regiment while still a teenager, took Niagary Fever to heart. In his 1795 petition, he sought land near Niagara, reminding the crown that rebels had taken him prisoner near German Town and “cruelly treated him”.

Those with Niagary Fever also appeared in the diary of Elizabeth Simcoe, the lieutenant governor’s wife. In 1792, Elizabeth met an officer who had, fifteen years earlier, fought Washington’s army under her husband in the Queen’s Rangers. Captain Aeneus Shaw and four others had just arrived in Quebec City after a snowshoe journey from Fredericton, New Brunswick – a distance of 240 miles completed in 19 days.

Her diary records “They steered by the sun, a river, and a pocket compass. Captain Shaw is a very sensible, pleasant Scotchman, a Highlander. His family are to come from New Brunswick to Upper Canada next summer.” Shaw, then in his 52nd year, delighted Elizabeth with his description of the “moose deer”, an animal “frequently met with in New Brunswick”.

The next loyalists who were recorded in Elizabeth’s diary were “pleasant women” with whom she “drank tea” – Catherine McGill and her sister, Miss Rachel Crookshank. John McGill, Catherine’s husband, had been Simcoe’s adjutant when rebels captured the two men during the revolution. McGill settled in New Brunswick initially, but Simcoe later made him the military commissary of Upper Canada. McGill’s brother-in-law, George Crookshank also left New Brunswick to seek better prospects in Upper Canada.

Samuel Sinclair and his brother David were part of a group of sixty New Brunswick loyalists who left for Upper Canada in 1783. Others included Willsons, Lawerences, Cobgons, Kendricks, Whitneys, Fitzes, Osborns, Longs, and Lakemans.

Ruth Nichols was among the passengers on the first ship to bring loyalists to New Brunswick. She became a widow in 1775 when her husband was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Within seven years of arriving in New Brunswick, she married Freeman Burdick, a widower with two sons who had fought with the Loyal New Englanders. He had come to New Brunswick on the Hope, another ship in the spring fleet. As Mrs. Burdick, Ruth had two daughters, Ruth and Abigail.

By 1797, the loyalist couple and some of their children moved to Oxford County, Upper Canada where Freeman’s brother James Burdick had a mill. During the War of 1812, an American raider fired his rifle through the Burdicks’ cabin door, hitting Freeman in the back. This time, however, Ruth did not lose her husband as she had in 1775. In 1827, Ruth Nichols Burdick made up her will, granting her second son the family farm in New Brunswick. She died of old age in the home of her daughter.

Esther Sayre had arrived in New Brunwick with her father, the Reverend John Sayre. A loyalist Anglican minister from Connecticut, Sayre died with a year of his arrival. Many of his family returned to the United States. Esther, however, had married the loyalist, Christopher Robinson. Within a decade, her husband was appointed the Deputy Surveyor of Crown Lands in Upper Canada.

Newspaper obituaries in the early 19th century show that New Brunswick did not forget its wayward sons and daughters. John Tisdale’s 1841 death notice said he was a “native of {the} British colonies” and had come to New Brunswick with his parents. In 1803, he moved to Upper Canada and had “ever since resided at Windham”. Nine years later, his widow’s death was noted in New Brunswick’s newspapers. Sarah Brittain Tisdale was a native of New Brunswick “but had been 42 years a resident” of Windham. The death notice for Samuel Tisdale, described him as a native of Saint John who moved to Canada in 1808 “where he resided principally at Ancaster”. He served “throughout the War with the United States 1812 to 1815.” William Tisdale, formerly of Saint John, was among the first settlers of Trafalgar, arriving there forty years earlier when he was just twenty-five. He died in 1846.

As these brief stories illustrate, Niagary Fever shifted the balance of the population in British North America. In 1783, only 6,000 loyalists had found refuge in Canada while 14,000 had made new homes in New Brunswick. Joined by settlers from Europe, the USA, and Lower Canada, New Brunswickers helped to swell Upper Canada’s population to 100,000 colonists by the end of the 1790s.

Follow one family as they travelled to “Niagary” from New Brunswick in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

Alexander Forbes: Highlander (Part 1), by Richard Nickerson

Alexander Forbes was my Great-Great Grandfather on Dad’s side of the family and my Great-Great-Great Grandfather on Mum’s side of the family. As a child I often heard people in conversation talking of “Old Alexander” and it was always interesting to me but I had no idea who he was.

I believe I was ten years old when Dad took me with him to pick blackberries. We went to a place that was unknown to me where we were surrounded by bushes and scrub trees. Finally our basket was full and Dad said we would go to see the “Old Cemetery”. That puzzled me — but not for long.

It was just a few minutes until we stepped out into a clearing with tombstones. This cemetery was quite different than the one up the road where I went with Dad when he mowed the grass and we pulled weeds.

Dad led me to a tall tombstone and told me that this was where his Great- Grandfather Alexander was buried. He read the inscription to me and told me that Alexander came from Scotland. He then went on to tell me more about this man that I had never known. Hearing that his mother had died, and that he had run away from home as a teenager and joined the Army because he was no longer happy in his family, brought tears to my eyes. I turned away so Dad would not see.

In a few minutes I looked around at Dad and found that his chin was quivering so I looked away and waited until he broke the silence by saying, ‘I guess we better get on home now or we’ll be late for supper’.”

Alexander – Leaving Home

This childhood recollection of my mother’s, one tiny link in the ages-old ritual of the passing-down of family history and family self-definition from generation to generation, took place about 1938, on a small hummock of land near the western shore of Woods Harbour, a small fishing community situated on the southwestern shore of Nova Scotia.

The inscription on the gravestone still reads:

In memory of
Alexander Forbes,
A native of Scotland.
who died 3d. June 1848;
Aged 93 Years.”

The poignant image of a bereft teenaged Highlander running away to enlist in the British Army, never again to see the home where he grew up, is the kernel of Alexander Forbes’ memory as it has been treasured-up by his descendants ever since. And it still has the power to touch those of us with hearts and imaginations attuned to its simple and universal theme — for, while the world has changed much since that day of departure some 230 years ago, human nature has not. Families still grieve separations. Armies still fight wars. Boys still strike out, be it with excitement or trepidation, to make their own independent life out in the wide world of the unknown.

So much for the universal theme. What further of our young Alex in particular?

Those parts of the tale of Alexander Forbes which have come down to us via tradition vary on a number of the specifics, depending on the storyteller. Such is the nature of oral history. Beginning first with Alexander Forbes’ geographic origin within Scotland, there are various accounts preserved by his descendants. He has been said to have been from “the Highlands”; born “in Ross and Cromarty County”; born “at Culloden, near Aberdeen.”

The names of Alexander Forbes’ parents are nowhere recorded on this side of the Atlantic, it seems – although names of his siblings are. Genealogical research to date has proven inconclusive in the attempt to identify Alexander’s parentage in Scotland; we his descendants therefore remain, in a certain sense, spiritual orphans.

Oral history about Alexander, which was written down, probably in the 1880’s, by the amateur historian Arnold Doane, contain two accounts collected from Alexander’s early descendants in Nova Scotia. One version states that Alexander’s “mother was dead — He was about 17 years old when he left.” The other version collected by Doane states: “When he ran away from home he left his father & mother, a sister Isabel, and two brothers Robert & George. This was when he was 16” (DN E #66). Edwin Crowell, author of A History of Barrington Township, states “he ran away from home at 18” (CBT 481). Another thread of family tradition relates that Alexander was aged 21 when he left home. If we may trust Alexander’s gravestone inscription, and the date of his first appearance in the army muster rolls, an age of 21 would seem about right.

Upon Alexander’s enlistment in the army, we feel one more tug at our heartstrings: “His father went to Edinburg & tried to buy him out, but could not” (DN E #66).


CBT: Edwin Crowell, A History of Barrington Township and Vicinity, 1923.

DN: Arnold Doane, “Notes” (later used by Edwin Crowell for A History of Barrington Township), collected c.1870s through 1911. Cape Sable Historical Society.

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: The Canadian Genealogist

The Canadian Genealogist published 38 quarterly issues, from 1979 to 1988. The Ontario Genealogical Society now provides all 38 issues of the publication in easily accessible pdf format. You may download any of this information for your personal use, but please remember that copyright of the material resides with the editors of the magazine, and with the authors of the submissions. The quarterly was edited by George and former Dominion Genealogist Elizabeth Hancocks, UE. See this link www.ogs.on.ca/cdn_genealogist.php.

Where in the World?

Where are Carl Stymiest (Vancouver Branch), Bonnie & Albert Schepers (Bicentennial Branch), and Barb Andrew (Manitoba 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.

  • 1780 Naval Battle painting seen in museum at Halifax Citadel. “The American privateer Revenge does battle with two British vessels in Chesapeake Bay, 1780″.
  • The Bicentennial Branch hosted its yearly Luncheon / Meeting at the Anglican Church of the Epiphany in Kingsville, Ontario. Special Guests invited were the Detroit Metropolitan Chapter of the Michigan Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Gene Tomlinson, the 2nd Vice President, Trustee, and Historian of the S.A.R. Chapter. and his wife Sandy were in attendance. This meeting renews an old friendship between this S.A.R. Chapter and Bicentennial Branch, going back to the year 2001. Bicentennial Member Debra Honor was a special speaker, giving insight into Simon Girty, U.E.L. A wonderful time was had by all. Gene has indicated a desire for the U.E.’s of Bicentennial Branch and the S.A.R.’s of Detroit Metropolitan Chapter to continue this long lasting friendship. Stephen Botsford U.E., Bicentennial Branch

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • An ongoing project at the Lake George Battlefield Park site has uncovered sections of a stone wall that project lead archaeologist David Starbuck believes belong to a British fort dated to 1759.
  • An American Loyalist private of Delancey’s 1st Battalion in the winter of 1777-78. Picture and short description.
  • The First Annual Conference on the American Revolution in the Mohawk was met with great success. Over 160 people attended the conference during the weekend of May 1st through 3rd, 2015. Conference attendees were treated to a Meet & Greet Reception included a presentation on Revolutionary War Fort Plain, six Author/Historian presentations, and a guided bus tour of Mohawk Country. Overall, 167 individuals attended the conference/bus tour from 13 states and 2 provinces of Canada. Read the conference recap. The Second Annual Conference will take place on June 10th through 12th, 2016; further details will be released in the coming months.
  • Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park Summer 2015 Newsletter. 2015 Fall Lecture Series. This year’s edition of our annual Fall Lecture Series consists of four presenters on various topics of the 18th century and the American Revolution. Check out the newsletter as the lecturers are often also authors; well worth a peek to see what is available.
  • Malcolm Newman, one of our Loyalist descendants who lives in England, sends a follow-up note to last week’s item about the Queen and the new railroad in Scotland. The “Borders Railway”, where she will make her speech, re-opened 6 Sept. This route was closed over 45 years ago and linked Carlisle with Edinburgh via the borders countryside. (Other routes still exist). 30 miles of the route, from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, has been rebuilt over the past 2 years. I will be travelling over that route in December as part of a special excursion train from London. Look at the number of excursion trains available to people there, and a bit more about this railway.
  • Queen Elizabeth II Becomes Britain’s Longest-Reigning Monarch. NY Times. Queen Victoria’s diary tells of her own record-breaking day; also wanted no ‘fuss’. Long live the Crown in Canada: John Fraser in Inside Policy | Macdonald-Laurier Institute
  • Barack Hussien Obama, President of the United States of America, is the 1st cousin 8x removed of Loyalist Daniel Dunham. (from Bill Smy)
  • The history of tea is captivating and offers great insight into the history of our world. Photo; Article.

Last Post

Thomas Alan Clifford, UE

Passed away peacefully in his 86th year on August 29, 2015 surrounded by his loving family. Survived by his beloved wife, Louise, of 61 years, his daughters Carol Cox (Errol Wilson), Joanne Cappelletti (Rick), Judy Bowman (Phil), Lise Walton (late John) and his son Steven. Loving grandfather of Meagan, Jeremy, Michael (Laura), Emily, Laura, Melissa, Jason and Gregg and great grandfather of Allie and Erika. He will be fondly remembered by his sister Helen Beswick and brother Fred (Joanne) and many nieces and nephews.

Alan was a proud member of the United Empire Loyalist Association, Colonel John Butler (Niagara) Branch. He taught with the Lincoln County Board of Education for 30 years.

The family received friends at MORGAN FUNERAL HOME, Niagara-on-the-Lake on Thursday, September 3rd 2015. A memorial service was celebrated on Friday, September 4th 2015 at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, Queenston. A private family interment will take place at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations to St. Saviour’s Anglican Church or to The Canadian Cancer Society would be appreciated by the family. Memories, photos and condolences may be shared at www.morganfuneral.com.

Col. John Butler (Niagara) Branch members extend their deepest sympathy to his wife Louise, his daughter Carol Cox, Vice President of Col. John Butler (Niagara) Branch and all his family. Alan was very proud of his Loyalist ancestor George Cockle. He was a very knowledgeable local historian who was always willing to present interesting, informative programs at Branch meetings, often with very short notice. Members would comment “I didn’t know that and I’ve lived here all my life”.

He will be truly missed.

Barbaranne Vivian Wright, UE

It is with deep sadness that we announce Barbaranne’s passing on Sunday July 26th, 2015. Barb served as Branch Genealogist for Col. John Butler (Niagara) Branch UELAC for several years and at that time she worked closely with Angela and Peter Johnson on a UELAC Genealogical Committee. Loyalist descendants are very grateful to Barb for compiling and publishing “Loyalist Children of Upper Canada”; “UE Loyalists & Military Claimants of Upper Canada” and “Loyalist* Military * Settlers of Upper Canada”, very useful sources for members searching for their second and third generation Loyalist descendant. Barb was very proud of her loyalist ancestors: John Honsinger/Huntsinger; William Foster; Peter Alcombrack; Benoni Crumb; Isaac Vollick and Francis Weaver.

She will be forever remembered and deeply missed by the love of her life, married to for 38 years, Harry James Wright, Marine Chief Engineer; their daughters, Leasa Dawn Wright-Cumming (Hugh Cumming and his children Zoe & Ethan) and Kirby-Lynn Wright. Born to Dorothy May Honsinger and the late Steven Phillip Dominic. Survived by her brother, Richard Steven Dominic.

Barb started out her career working for Misener on the Great Lakes where she met her wonderful husband before taking on her role as a loving mother. After raising her family she continued her education and graduated in 2011 from University of Toronto with a BA in Genealogy – her passion for Genealogy covered many decades and helped her discover her roots as a descendant of the United Empire Loyalist Association, as well as her lineage to the Metis Nation of Ontario. Through the process she proudly published a number of books on the subject and operated her own business as a Genealogist for many years.

Barb was a proud member of the Metis Nation of Ontario and actively volunteered for many years. Some of her roles with the association included the first Charter President of the Niagara Region, followed up as the Woman’s Regional Representative of Ontario. For her volunteerism she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. Some of her other accomplishments include a Certificate of recognition from the Ontario Genealogy Society in Cemetery & Census Transcription, her Lifetime Membership to the Friends of Fort George, her membership to the L’Ordre de Bon Temps (Nova Scotia), declared Donor to the St. Catharines Historical Museum, Certificate of Appreciation pertaining to the preservation of Ontario’s history recognized by the Ontario Land Registry Office, as well as appreciation for participation in the inventory work conducted by heritage and other various land registry offices around the province.

Throughout the years her passions included, her Family, History, Genealogy, Gardening with a green thumb, Award winning Needle point, Beading, Volunteering for the Metis Nation, and her love for animals. The funeral service in Celebration of Barbaranne’s life was held in the Patrick J Darte Funeral Chapel, 39 Court Street St., St. Catharines. She will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved her.

…Bev Craig, UE, Col. John Butler Branch