“Loyalist Trails” 2015-38: September 20, 2015
In this issue:
– The Trek to Upper Canada, by Stephen Davidson
– Loyalist Family Splits Between New Brunswick and Upper Canada
– Alexander Forbes: Highlander (Part 2), By Richard Nickerson
– The Forbes Family: Getting Away From It
– Thomas Gage Reconsidered: When Law Interferes with War
– Loyalist Quarterly by Paul Bunnell: September Issue Now Available
– Where in the World?
– Region and Branch Bits
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
+ Loyalists, Allegiance and Free Land
© Stephen Davidson, UE
At the turn of the 19th century, many of the loyalist settlers of New Brunswick caught what later generations would call “Niagary Fever”. Tired of eking out an existence after decades of pioneer life, they moved to Upper Canada for a fresh start. A number of these former New Brunswickers established homesteads along the shores of Lake Erie and the Niagara River — thus giving this particular itch-to-relocate the name “Niagary Fever”.
Thanks to an autobiography written by the Rev. John Carroll, we have a detailed description of one New Brunswick loyalist family’s trek to Upper Canada. Their story has two starting points: Nova Scotia and Pennsylvania.
Molly Rideout was born in the early 1770s, the sixth child of a Quaker couple who lived in Maugerville along the St. John River on the western frontier of Nova Scotia. The New England settlers who had lived along the river for two decades had their lives turned upside down with the arrival of 14,000 loyalist refugees. Within a year’s time, this flood of refugees had created the first loyalist colony, New Brunswick.
Among those refugees was a loyalist veteran of the American Revolution named Joseph Carroll. He had emigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania just in time for colonial “troubles” to boil over into open rebellion. Carroll joined the Maryland Loyalists, a corps that had tasted defeat in West Florida and had ended the war doing garrison duty on Long Island. In September of 1783, Carroll was among the 181 passengers who boarded the Martha, an evacuation ship bound for the mouth of the St. John River. The ship was torn apart on hidden shoals off of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. A fishing vessel rescued Carroll after he had spent 48 hours clinging to a raft made from the ship’s wreckage. Once he was reunited with the other loyalists in his evacuation fleet, Carroll sailed up the St. John River.
Whether due to the horrors of his wartime experiences or the trauma of being shipwrecked, Carroll would wrestle with alcoholism for the rest of his life. But his addiction wasn’t evident when one first met the loyalist veteran. His son described Carroll as “being considerably above the medium stature — about five feet, eleven … He was big-boned and muscular, not less than one hundred and eighty pounds in weight. Had great weight of arm and hand; and had he never ill-used himself, he would have been for many more years than is usual, a very hale and powerful man.”
Carroll also had a gift for Irish blarney that charmed the young ladies of the St. John River. His son described his parents’ courtship as one of opposites attracting one another. “My mother was … the young and lovely daughter —for she was a most comely woman— … of a singularly amiable disposition, only eighteen when she was induced, clandestinely … to marry a man of forty (claiming of course to be much younger). Oh! what poverty, privations, shifts and turns, neglect and abuse, that poor woman suffered by being “lured” by the songs, blandishments, and persuasive tongue of a man, vastly her inferior, from her native home, a home of full and plenty.”
Molly and Joseph married and had their first child in 1790. Carroll tried to make a living by hunting, fishing, lumbering and farming. He worked hard, but squandered what he earned on liquor. Forced to live in “dilapidated houses” and clothe her growing brood in hand-woven fabric or hand-me-downs, Molly finally persuaded Carroll to set up a saddler shop in Fredericton.
The former loyalist soldier excelled in making “neck draft collars”, and became known for making them in a circular form. Such skill was highly prized in the young colony and should have provided Carroll’s family with the means to live well.
However, following a meeting at the Masonic Lodge, Carroll and his fellow members dallied at a tavern before returning to their respective homes. It wasn’t long before Carroll had overindulged, and in the process agreed to cover a bad loan made by one of his fellow masons. When the man fell into trouble with his creditors, they came after Carroll for his promised financial assistance. But he was not at home. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Carroll suddenly departed for Upper Canada, supposedly to seek compensation from the British government for his services during the war.
In Carroll’s absence, creditors confronted Molly, demanding the promised money. In time, the family lost their house, and one son went blind; Molly had to fend for her children for two and a half years. Joseph returned to Fredericton in 1798 with the news that he had been given a grant for 1,000 acres in Upper Canada. But it would be eleven years before the Carroll family finally left New Brunswick. With ten children in tow, the Carrolls left Fredericton to settle in Upper Canada.
But cash was always in short supply, and the Carrolls had to wait for the four oldest boys, Joseph, James, William and Thomas, to earn enough money in the Bay of Fundy fishery to pay for the family’s trip. As the couple and their children waited, Molly gave birth to her last sons, a set of twins, on Saltkill Island in the Bay of Fundy. Three weeks after the arrival of the twins, the family sailed to Campobello Island where they boarded a ship carrying plaster of Paris to New York City. There, the Carrolls took a sloop up the Hudson River to Albany. Joseph acquired a wagon, loaded it with his family and their worldly goods and headed through the Mohawk Valley, Schenectady, Auburn, Cayuga, Canendagua, Onendaga, Batavia, and the Tondawanda Swamp for Upper Canada.
The journey became a central part of the Carroll family lore. John, one of the twins born on the trip to Niagara, included an account of it in his autobiography.
It was a terrible journey to a person in my mother’s circumstances. The narrow box of the wagon was crowded with some effects, which mother had brought from her father’s affluent home, when she left it first, and had not parted with, but which she clung to with tenacity to the end.
The twins and the next two youngest boys rode in the wagon. Tom, always a good nurse, must have often ridden, to relieve his mother of the infants. Ever faithful and sympathising Joseph walked on one side of the wagon and William on the other. James, always a favourite of the old gentleman’s, accompanied his father, who walked on ahead, under pretence of pioneering and preparing the way which largely consisted in testing the liquors at all the dram shops on the road.
It is but just, however, to say, that his story-telling and song-singing capabilities constituted the key which unlocked some hearts toward us. So also his knowledge of Low German which he spoke fluently, having learned it when a youth in Pennsylvania, stood us in good stead. Once the wagon had stopped for the night at a Dutch tavern in the Mohawk Valley; the babies were very cross and the people looked very glum; and mother, who had ridden all day in a springless wagon over logs and stones innumerable, was ready to faint with fatigue.
A gloomy night seemed in store for her. But when father came in and accosted the people in Dutch, all was changed; the old Dutch landlady wore a pleasant smile; one stout Dutch girl took one baby, and another girl took the other; and mother was ensconsed in the rocking chair, received a good supper, got early into a soft bed, and had one good night’s rest.
…The Americans are proverbially inquisitive, and in their then ruder state they were especially so. With patriotic zeal to secure settlers, they were anxious for us to stop in the country, and wished to know “Where we were going?” Through all the earlier stages of the journey, father answered, “The Holland Purchase.” This was true, for we were going there — though much farther. His answer served its purpose until we passed beyond the “Purchase,” when something else had to be tried; what it was I never learned. At length, our almost interminable journey drew towards its close, and our American Cousins learned we were going to Canada to augment the number of King George’s subjects.
After six weeks of travelling, the Carroll family crossed the Niagara River from New York to Upper Canada. It was the fall of 1809. The loyalist family spent their first winter in Queenstown. They later moved to Ten Mile Creek, living both at the “Lower Ten” and then at the “Upper Ten”. Joseph was in his sixties; Molly in her forties. They had gambled that leaving New Brunswick would change their fortunes. The next two decades would prove whether succumbing to “Niagary Fever” had been worth all of the pain and sacrifice of a trek to Upper Canada.
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
Thank you Stephen for your article about Loyalists moving from New Brunswick to Upper Canada. Your comment is certainly confirmed by the lives of a number of the members of the “Quaker Company” of Beaver Harbour/Pennfield who moved from New Brunswick to Upper Canada.
I am most familiar with the peregrinations of my 6x Great Uncle Captain Gideon Vernon, U.E. and his family. They were members of the “Quaker Company” although they were not passengers aboard H.M.A.T. Camel.
Following the two devastating forest fires that swept through Bellevu – Bellveue/Beaver Harbour he, his wife and his five younger children returned to Chester County, Pennsylvania by the Spring of 1799. However by the Spring of 1809 Gideon his wife Phoebe and three of their children: William, Joshua and Peyton had decided to remove to the vicinity of Newmarket, Upper Canada, where he died circa 1829. A number of his descendants lived nearby in Whitchurch Township, Ontario. His older children meanwhile had remained in New Brunswick where his daughter Jane married into the Knight family – fellow members of the Quaker Company, and has descendants in Charlotte County to this day, while his eldest son Moses, who became a successful, New Brunswick lumber baron has descendants across Canada.
Being familiar with Chester and Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania as well as Pennfield, Charlotte County, New Brunswick and the York Regional Municipality (of which Newmarket and the former Whitchurch Township are part) I can easily understand why someone with farming experience in Southeastern Pennsylvania (which in the eighteenth century all but city dwellers would have had) would find the York Region far more like “home” than Coastal Charlotte County.
Alexander – Recruit
At this time (as it would long remain thereafter), Scotland was fertile recruiting territory for the British Army. After the 1745 Jacobite Rising, which culminated in defeat at Culloden in 1746, William Pitt’s formation in 1757 of Highland Regiments in the King’s service created a safety valve to redirect and co-opt the restive energies of young, economically distressed Scots: “Clans took the Oath of Allegiance to fight for King George …. and with a Highlander an oath is a sacred thing, and binding.” (LSH 1-3)
Britain’s standing army was nevertheless a bare-bones operation between the end of the Seven Year’s War in 1763, and the commencement of alarums in their American colonies in the 1770s. A re-expansion of the army took place between 1775 and 1781, as Britain became engaged in the struggle against the rebels, alias the Patriots, in the American Revolution.
The earliest contemporary document through which Alexander Forbes has been traced finds him already in America. The muster roll of His Majesty’s 38th Regiment of Foot, for the period 25 Jun 1777 to 24 Dec 1777, dated New York, 26 Dec 1777, lists Alexander Forbes in Capt. Charles Norman’s Company. He is noted as having “Join’d 17th Sept 1777”, no indication from where (Public Record Office, Kew: WO12/5171).
Alexander – Soldier
Before its move to North America, the 38th Regiment had been established on police duty in Cork, Ireland, and its Depot remained there during the war (VSSR19,24). “While the 38th were serving in North America, drafts and recruits were sent from Ireland to make up deficiencies and complete the establishment, Major Bruce, of the 38th, being appointed to superintend their embarkation and despatch from Cork .” (JSSR 13-14)
It is likely, but not proven, that Alexander Forbes followed this usual route as a reinforcement of the 38th. Two other soldiers are noted in the muster as having joined Capt. Norman’s Company on the same date as Alexander Forbes.
Subsequent musters for Alexander Forbes:
- 25 Jun 1778 to 24 Dec 1778:
- at Jamaica — Long Island, NY still in Captain Norman’s
- 25 Dec 1778 to 24 Jun 1779:
- in Captain Norman’s company
- 25 Jun 1779 to 24 Dec 1779:
- in Captain William Davis’s company Jamaica, Long Island, NY
- 25 Dec 1779 to 24 Jun1780:
- in Captain Norman’s company, the latter dying of his wounds
26th Jun 1780 Camp Valentine
- 25 Jun 1780 to 24 Dec 1780:
- in Captain Magnine’s company, Harlem Heights, NY
- The company comprised Captain Lieutenant, Ensign, 3 Sergeants,
- 2 Drummers, 32 Effective privates (a typical company)
- 25 Dec 1780 to 24 Jun 1781:
- in Captain Davis’s company Harlem Heights, NY
- 25 Jun 1781 to 24 Dec 1781:
- in same company, Flushing
- 25 Dec 1781 to 24 Jun 1782:
- Bedford Camp, Long Island, NY
- Major General Robert Pigot in charge
- The strength of this outfit about double that of the normal
- 25 Jun 1782 to 24 Dec 1782:
- as previously, Fort Knyphausen, NY
- 25 Dec 1782 to 24 Jun 1783:
- back with Captain Davis Flushing, Long Island, NY
- having been transferred from Major General Pigot 23rd Apr
- 25 Jun 1783 to 24 Dec 1783:
- in Captain Davis’s company — Stafford,
- Alexander Forbes discharged 24th Oct 1783
(PRO, Kew. WO12/5171 Muster Rolls — 38th Regiment of Foot)
In all of this time there is no evidence of Alexander Forbes being sick, absent or unusual in any way.
The character of the 38th Regiment, with whom Alexander served, is indicated by the following. After the 38th arrived home in England after the war, “very much under strength”, having lost those who chose to settle in Nova Scotia (at least 85 men, per the muster in Shelburne, 1784), “they were inspected at Stafford on the 5th June, 1784. The Regiment numbered 238 men, of whom 151 were English, 18 Scotch, 57 Irish, and 12 Foreigners; 112 of them had served for upwards of 10 years.” (JSSR 14)
By 1778, shortly after Alex first appeared on the 38th’s muster, the situation of the Revolutionary War had reached a sort of strategic balance, with the British army holding New York, loosely penned-in by the surrounding Americans. The British also held Newport, R.I. as a naval station. Neither side was actively pushing any major operations. “There was constant bickering and exchanging of posts around New York; in fact, there were some nastly little surprises, with British or American outposts and garrisons stormed and overrun, and often put to the bayonet, but nothing much was going to come of all that …” (SHAR 196)
JSSR: James P. Jones, A History of the South Staffordshire Regiment, 1923.
LSH: G. Murray Logan, Scottish Highlanders and the American Revolution, 1976
PRO, Kew. WO12/5171 Muster Rolls — 38th Regiment of Foot; research report on army record of Alexander Forbes by Leonard F. Gebbett, Jan 1988.
SHAR: James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of the American Revolution,1991.
VSSR: Col. W.L. Vale, History of the South Staffordshire Regiment, 1969.
Very interesting article about the descendant of Alexander Forbes. I’m a Forbes, and I emigrated to Canada nearly 50 years ago to escape my possessive and domineering mother (poor woman!).
My Uncle George Forbes escaped into a Benedictine Monastery to get away from his domineering father, Colonel Ian Forbes, of Rothiemay, Banffshire, who treated his sons as if they were junior subalterns.
Uncle George’s younger brother, Charlie, despite the fact that World War II was about to break out and he was of an age to enlist, fled into the same monastery for the same reason.
So it seems that some members of the Forbes clan have a thing about personal freedom, or perhaps the Forbeses have a tendency to produce difficult parents. I wonder whether there are any clan members who would like to comment?
…James Forbes, Heritage Branch
For over two hundred years, Revolutionary War historiography has repeatedly excoriated Gen. Thomas Gage, seeking to assign him virtually sole responsibility for the early reverses suffered by British policy in 1774-1775 intended to quell colonial discord.
Assuming the opprobrium heaped upon him by contemporaries, one calling him “a lukewarm coward” and his own soldiers describing him as “Tommy, the old woman,” modern day historians unsympathetically pass a similar judgement. For the discriminating John Shy, Gage was “a weak link,” “surprisingly feeble” in understanding the challenges he faced, warranting blame for advocating a misplaced legal resolution to the conflict when, rather, the “practical” military option should have been employed.
While constituting a convenient, shorthand dismissal of Gage’s actions, these myopic assessments wholly fail to acknowledge the very real, and persistently looming, constraints imposed on him by the titanic changes then taking place within the complex British Empire’s constitutional system. When those important legal considerations, ones designed for peace over war, are factored into the military context of the times, an entirely different perspective emerges that seriously calls into question those condemnations of purported ineptitude.
Read the article by Gary Shattuck, published in the Journal of the American Revolution, August 26, 2015.
The latest issue of the only U.S. journal devoted to Loyalist studies contains, among others, these topics:
- UE Loyalist Conference in 2016 in PEI
- A Short History of the United Empire Loyalists
- Loyalist Gravestones & Monuments
- A Canadian Peninsular and Waterloo Man: The Story of Captain Alexander Macnab, 2/30th Foot
- Wannamaker Loyalist Family
- Loyalist Regiment Muster Rolls 1777-1783
- Settlement Areas of Loyalists Map (Upper.Lower Ontario areas)
- Loyalist Images
- Book: After Yorktown
More information including subscription details ($21 U.S. & $23 Can./yr) at Paul J. Bunnell’s website.
Where is Kawartha Branch member Bob McBride?
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.
From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.
- At the Canadian War Museum on Thursday 24 Sept at 7 p.m. see the World Premier of “Kandahar Journals”. Co-directed by Devin Gallagher and Louie Palu, this 76-minute documentary follows the story of a photojournalist who reflects on the events behind his psychological transformation after covering frontline combat in Kandahar, Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010. A presentation by Louie Palu will follow. Space is limited. Click for the movie trailer.
- Toronto over the last hundred years. A time lapse video from different locations. http://vimeo.com/9733014
- Old St. Edwards Church built by United Empire Loyalists, 1794 at Clementsport, NS. Consecrated by Bishop Inglis in 1797.
- Love this old emblem, logo, badge or whatever you call it for UELAC from many years ago – see picture
- Plaque on United Empire Loyalist cairn in Middleton, NS: Photo 1; Photo 2; Description and history in the Monuments section.
- Loyalist plaque mounted in Inner Harbour, Victoria BC. (if you enlarge the photo, you can read the text)
- Book to be published on Nov 6. After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence by Donald Glickstein, Seattle. His new book tries to bring a fairer perspective to the Revolution. The war didn’t end at Yorktown, and fighting continued around the world for almost two more years—as far away as South America, the Arctic, and India. After Yorktown is about this period. He focuses on the people, and have been amazed that these icons were funny, sarcastic, scared, exhausted, passionate, hopeful, and hopeless. Don writes about Samuel Hearne who surrendered Fort Prince of Wales (now Churchill, Manitoba) to a French explorer. Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), the Mohawk Nation war chief who was more educated than most of his enemies and whose sister was one of the most powerful women on the continent. Simon Girty, the so-called “white renegade” who became a propaganda tool of the rebels, but who was honored by the British. James Colbert, the Mississippi loyalist who became enemy #1 for the Spanish. And many others. For places to pre-order and more details visit www.donglickstein.com/buy/
I’m curious if there are any compiled lists or indexes of those who signed those oaths of allegiance to the crown after the formation of Upper Canada in 1791.
…Bob Phillips, Mesa, Arizona
Simcoe fought shoulder to shoulder with loyalists when he a colonel. 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 200 acres of land. Well, my 4th gr grandfather Russell Olmstead swore allegiance to the crown, was awarded 200 acres, and also got an additional 100 for his service in the war of 1812.
So, my question is if he got the 200 acres, swore allegiance, does this make him a loyalist according to the statement that Simcoe made? Just curious.
[Send responses to email@example.com to be forwarded and posted in a future issue.]