“Loyalist Trails” 2015-44: November 1, 2015

In this issue:
The Loyalist Fire Series (Part Two): Weapons of Flaming Destruction, by Stephen Davidson
Alexander Forbes: Highlander (Conclusion), by Richard Nickerson
Faking It: British Counterfeiting During the American Revolution
The Sovereign of Canada and Her Prime Ministers
Where in the World?
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Last Post
      + Allan Edsal Kennedy, UE, RCN
      + Jeffery Bruce Curtis, UE
      + Loyalists and Fire


The Loyalist Fire Series (Part Two): Weapons of Flaming Destruction

© Stephen Davidson, UE

If you were to ask descendants of either patriot or loyal Americans what weapons were used during the War of Independence, they would probably list muskets, cannon, and swords. They would be correct, but they would have forgotten an inexpensive and utterly devastating weapon – the flaming torch.

A very cursory examination of the claims submitted to the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists demonstrates how time and again rebels used fire to fight their loyalist neighbours.

Johnathan Jones had been the proud owner of mills near Albany, New York. “They were burnt by the Rebels because he was a Loyalist.” A witness for Brigadier General Oliver DeLancey testified that “He believes his house was burnt out of enmity”. Patriots called the home of Joseph Hooper “Tory Hall”. “After this, he was constantly attacked and insulted and frequently put in danger of his life. Then attempts were made to burn his house in the night. He killed one man in the attempt.” Ann Orser, a loyalist widow who settled in Upper Canada, recalled the events of May 1782. “Their House was burnt by the Rebels, because three Sons were in the British Army.”

Adam Young, who later settled in Canada, testified that “the rebels came and burnt his house and all his buildings and took away or destroyed all his effects. The reason of this was because he had given provisions to loyalists who were coming to Canada.” Alexander Campbell recounted how a “mob burnt his store at Schenetady with goods and merchandise … eight loads of hay {were} burnt at the same time”. Samuel Ketchum remembered that “Gen. Arnold, who then commanded the Rebels, ordered that he and a few more Torys should be shut up in a house and burnt.” Nathaniel Adams who later settled in Maugerville, New Brunswick had patriots burn down his home in White Plains, New York. “It was burnt in order to prevent its affording shelter to British Troops. 13 or 14 houses in that neighbourhood were burnt on the same Reason.”

Loss at the hands of an enemy is an unfortunate consequence of war; loss due to one’s allies is much harder to bear. Loyalist property was often “collateral damage” in the fight between the warring factions. Robert McAuley who settled in Cataraqui, Canada had his “house burnt by the British artillery by accident”. Adam Crysler, who eventually settled near Niagara, had his mill “burnt down by the Indians. It was done by mistake. The Indians understanding it to belong to a Rebel.”

James Gibson had the misfortune to be caught in the crossfire of war in Virginia. “Mr. Gibson’s Property was destroyed on account of Naval Stores which were in the Town of Suffolk, and it was necessary they should be burnt. The {British}Army went to Suffolk to destroy the Magazines for the supply of the American Army.”

John Sayre had all of his property destroyed “by the fire at Danbury {Connecticut} when the town was burnt by order of General Tryon”. The British forces also sacked and burned Danbury in 1777, putting the torch to nineteen homes, twenty-two stores and barns and the meeting house.

Tryon seemed to delight in torching rebel towns. Stephen Hoyt was a loyalist resident of Norwalk, Connecticut, a town burned down by British troops. His “store was burnt by General Tryon in 1779, when the whole town was burnt”. Silas Raymond, another Norwalk loyalist, is said to have set fire to his own house so that the “miserable rebels should not enjoy his property.”

One of the revolution’s enduring images for two loyalist children was the sight of their home town going up in flames, something they witnessed as they escaped by sea to Long Island. Eight year-old Grace Raymond and her five year-old brother Samuel eventually settled in Kingston, New Brunswick where they later told their children and grandchildren what was – quite literally – burned into their memories.

Falmouth (now Portland, Maine) was home to both patriots and loyalists. Nevertheless, no one was spared during the 1775 British attack from the sea. Robert Pagan remembered that “when the town of Falmouth was burnt by Capt. Mowat, the house in which he lived was burnt, and he lost furniture to the amount of £50 Strg.” Jeremiah Pote, another Falmouth loyalist, recalled that “At the time of the Fire at Falmouth … had also a Pew in the Church which was burnt, worth £15.”

Even if one was lucky enough to have been spared during Mowat’s attack, there were others who made sure that the local loyalists suffered. “When the Town of Falmouth was burnt by Capt. Mowat,” William Tyng “had a store with English{goods}which was plundered & destroyed by the rebels, because Capt. Mowat had shown favour to claimant and had saved his house.”

A loyalist soldier named Henry Nase kept a record of fires in his wartime diary. He noted when his regiment burned Fairfield, Connecticut in July of 1779 as well as when it torched New Jersey in June of 1780. However, in 1782, his regiment “distinguished themselves with their steadfastness and activity” in fighting the fires that threatened to destroy Savannah, Georgia.

Another weaponization of fire employed by French and British navies was “port fire”. The napalm of the 18th century, this highly flammable material was fired at enemy vessels or at coastal fortresses. The French were prepared to use it in their 1781 attack on Fort Franklin, a British garrsion on Long Island. The intervention of loyalist soldiers saved the day.

If one could make a generalization about the use of fire as a weapon of war, the British army tended to use it to attack whole communities while the patriot forces were inclined to use it to destroy the property of individual loyalists. There was certainly more than enough wanton destruction to shame both sides. We do well to remember the point that Judge Thomas Jones made in his history of the American Revolution.

Jones wrote about the patriot General Sullivan who, on his 1779 expedition to the New York frontier,

“burnt forty towns, some of which contained 130 houses, destroyed 160,000 bushels of corn, took away all their poultry, and cut down all their orchards… Though the American complained heavily of the burning and plundering of Fairfield and Norwalk, in the State of Connecticut, in the summer of the same year, as an act of inhumanity in the British… yet, in their annual Thanksgiving at the latter end of the year, their Ministers did not forget to return thanks to Almighty God for the success which had attended Sullivan’s burning, plundering, cruel, maraduing, distressing expedition against these Indians, the allies of Britain. So that, what the New England rebels termed barbarity in the British, was deemed a righteous, godly, and Christian-like act when perpetrated by themselves.”

The loyalist refugees who sought sanctuary in British North America hoped that their lives would no longer be endangered by fire. Although it would not be used by their enemies, fire would continue to destroy both loyalist settlements and homes in the years that followed the revolution. Those stories will be told in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

Alexander Forbes: Highlander (Part 8), by Richard Nickerson

Alexander would live to the age of 93. He was blessed, as far as we know, and in contrast to many of that era, to never have experienced the death of any of his children. Phoebe, who lived to the age of 85, that of only one. Their son Murray Alexander, called Alexander, died in 1855 at the age of 54 from a “short but severe illness of two weeks” (The Christian Messenger, Halifax, N.S., 12 Dec 1855).

Their son Thomas Forbes lived just down the road from his parents. A farmer and a mariner, Thomas was lost on the fishing banks in the gale of 22 Sep 1866 at the age of 62, with two of his sons, Charles (aged 25) and Alexander (15). Several vessels and a total of 38 men from an approximate ten km stretch of nearby coast were lost at that disastrous time (TLM 2 27).

Of the daughters, Nancy Forbes married John Lyons, and they settled on the western shore of Forbes Point, about one km from her parents’ homestead. Her sister Mercy Forbes seems to have also lived with Nancy and John, as John provided for Mercy in his will (Barrington Original Estate Papers, Estate A68 John Lyons).

Daughter Mary was the third Forbes daughter who moved out. By the age of 18, she had become a domestic servant in the house of Louis Amirault in Lower East Pubnico, about eight km from her parents’ house. She remained with the Amirault family, first Louis and then his son Leon, for the rest of her life. She was designated a godmother of three children in that French Catholic community, and was remembered by Louis Amirault in his will, equally with his own daughters (Yarmouth County Wills, Book 2, pp. 424-426).

The other two unmarried daughters, Phoebe Forbes and Jenny Forbes, remained in the “Old Homestead” for the remainder of their lives, first with their parents and siblings, then with their unmarried brother John D. (When Alexander and Phoebe moved to West Woods Harbour, they lived close to the shore, in what I assume would have previously been John Lonsdale’s house. They then built a second house further away from the water. This second house was the so-called “old house”. Its empty stone basement was still visible in the 1970s; it has since been filled in.)

The five Forbes daughters lived to the ages of 80 (Nancy); 79 (Phoebe); 90 (Jenny); 75 (Mary); and 78 (Mercy).

Of the four youngest sons, John D. lived to the age of 79, and farmed on the old homestead. He bought it from his siblings for £220 in 1860, after the death of their mother Phoebe in September 1858 (Shelburne Co. Deeds, Barrington District, Book C, p.119).

The youngest child, Hugh Forbes, was unmarried. He was spoken of as a little slow but a very good worker. He was employed for a while up the coast in Bridgewater, but then returned home to Forbes Point. He died at the age of 57.

The other two brothers, George Forbes and William Forbes, were shipwrights. “At Forbes Point, in 1853, the brig Advalorum was launched and the schooner Willing Maid was put off soon afterwards” (CBT 349-350).

George was a fisherman and carpenter. Surviving ships’ papers show he was a principal in sailing the schooners “Willing Maid” and “Bee” in the coastal trade during the period 1846-1855. Ownership and interest in these two vessels seem to have been shared among several of the Forbeses. Representative recorded activities include carrying potatoes and apples from Cornwallis to Halifax, and carrying wood from La Have to Boston. George and his family lived on the end of Forbes Point. He drowned at sea in 1881, aged 69.

William Forbes “was a skillful master builder and was employed also at the Crowell yard near Sherose Island” in Barrington (CBT 350). William and his family moved away from Forbes Point in the 1850s to be near his work. The Thomas Crowell shipyard built several square-riggers designed for the West Indies trade during this period (CBSS 73). William died in 1894, aged 79.

After around 20 years of shuffling-about by the early settlers at Woods Harbour, the official land grant was issued in 1812; 4000 acres to 21 individuals. It officially confirmed the Crown’s recognition of the already existing facts on the ground (Nova Scotia Provincial Crown Lands Record Centre, Grant Book C, p.48).

A stretch of about three kilometres of the granted lands, running north from the southern tip of Forbes Point, approximately 1000 acres in total, was gradually entirely acquired by members of the Forbes family:

  • Lot 31 (100 acres) at the end of the Point was purchased by George Forbes from Obediah Wilson in 1842.
  • Lot 30 (64 acres) was purchased by Thomas Forbes from Watson Nickerson in 1837.
  • Lot 28-29 (100 acres) was purchased by Alexander Forbes from Phineas Nickerson in two portions, half in 1813 and half in 1821.
  • Lot 27 (100 acres) was granted to Alexander Forbes in 1812. This was the homestead property.
  • Lot 26 (100 acres): Alexander Forbes Jr. bought the northern portion from John Garron in 1831. John Lyons (husband of Nancy Forbes) bought the southern portion from Thomas Garron, also in 1831.
  • Lot 25 (100 acres) was granted to David Bowman in 1812. I have not found registered deeds of the conveyance, but at least the northern portion of this lot had passed into the possession of Alexander Forbes Jr by 1842, and the southern portion of the lot seems to have been part of the estate of Alexander Forbes Sr in 1859.
  • Lot 24 (36 acres) was purchased by John Lyons Jr (son of John and Nancy (Forbes) Lyons) from Watson Nickerson in 1842.
  • Lot 23 (100 acres) was granted to Alexander Forbes in 1812.
  • Lot 22 (100 acres) was granted to Phineas Nickerson in 1812. This was bought by Obediah Wilson in 1836, and seems to be part of the land included in John Lyons’ estate, 1874.
  • Lot 32 (200 acres) on the west side of the Point where it abruptly widens (and contiguous to the back line of Lots 20 through 24), was granted to John Lyons in 1812.

From the foregoing, we may see that Alexander and Phoebe’s chosen home had truly become “Forbes Point”, in ownership as well as in familial connection, well before 1885, when the post office stamped it so.


Today my cousin Alexander (“Sandy”) Forbes, great-great-great-great-great grandson and namesake of “Old Alexander”, still operates his fishing boat from the wharf at Forbes Point.

There are still descendants of Alexander Forbes and Phoebe Dennis living on “The Point”, as well as descendants scattered throughout Canada and the United States. As far and as wide as the choices and leave-takings of each of their own histories have flung them, however, the passing-on of the old family stories through the generations binds them together. Two centuries later, the truths of the “Canadian Boat Song” endure:

“Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland”.


CBSS: Michael Christie, Barrington Seafarers and Shipbuilders, 2004.

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

Faking It: British Counterfeiting During the American Revolution

By Stuart Hatfield, published by the Journal of the American Revolution on October 7, 2015.

The American Revolution was very much a case of David versus Goliath. A relatively small group of colonists decided that they wanted to break free of the home government, which in this case just happened to be one of the most powerful nations on the globe. Almost overnight the thirteen separate colonies had to form a central government to unify the people, a military to defend the people and a central economy to pay for it all. It was a daunting task that had to be accomplished while undergoing an invasion by the British army.

To this end a campaign was devised to undermine the nascent American economy in an attempt to achieve a twofer. If the economy was in shambles the Americans would not be able to purchase the men and material needed to continue the war. At the same, by undermining the economy they would also be undermining the American Congress.

While these activities were effective to a point, the most effective strategy that was tried, and one that very nearly succeeded, was the massive undertaking of counterfeiting Congressional paper currency to the point of making it almost worthless, thus crashing the American economy.

Read the full article.

The Sovereign of Canada and Her Prime Ministers

Simple changes in the Canadian government leadership can alter the simplest of UELAC projects. At the time of the 2010 visit to Canada of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, friends on the social media repeatedly shared a slide show of American presidents with Queen Elizabeth. It is still circulating but finding a similar album with our prime ministers is next to impossible.

Why bother? From 2002 to 2015 UELAC’s Mission Statement included “To preserve, promote and celebrate the history and traditions of the Loyalist epoch in Canadian history by: 6) Defending and promoting the values and institutions fundamental to Canada’s United Empire Loyalist heritage and, in particular, the Constitutional Monarchy, the Commonwealth, Parliamentary Government, the Rule of Law, Human Rights and Unity. ” During that period, Dundurn Press published Nathan Tidridge’s Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy, complete with a cover design by Charles Pachter. Both this rich resource and A Crown of Maples: Constitutional Monarchy in Canada greatly clarified the relationship between Her Majesty and the Canadian government without including images of Queen Elizabeth with her prime minister at the time of a visit to Canada.

Building such an album was an ongoing challenge. The Prime Minister’s Office did not have such a collection and neither did the Library and Archives of Canada. Windsor Castle did not include any similar pictures in its archives. However Marvin Millis of the Vancouver Branch responded to the request with a few images he found. Further heavy-duty research through the internet eventually provided some images but not all; three of the prime ministers evidently did not have a photo op recorded. An album of the available photographs of Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Ministers of Canada was eventually posted to the Education page of the Dominion website in October.

Weeks later it is obvious this unique photographic record will be an ongoing project for the UELAC Education/Outreach Committee as it awaits an image of Her Majesty and the new prime minister. Simple changes.


Where in the World?

Where is Nova Scotia Branch member Brian McConnell, UE?

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 Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Capt John Robert Grant UEL (1729-1790) was born in Scotland, served in the 42nd Regiment of Foot (Black Watch) and settled in Hants County, Nova Scotia. See bio and details at Find A Grave Memorial (Brian McConnell)
  • Isaac Jones was a known loyalist until early into the Revolutionary War. Why did he change his loyalty and begin to haul goods for the Patriot cause? We have one provocative piece of circumstantial evidence that might shed light on this. A piece of cardboard was found pressed onto the back of a primitive portrait of Isaac’s son, William Pitt Jones. Read about the bond and the conjecture.
  • From Borealia: Trafalgar Days in Nova Scotia, by Keith Mercer. The Royal Canadian Navy recently named October 21 “Niobe Day,” in honour of HMCS Niobe, one of Canada’s first two warships. It was bought from the British in 1910, shortly after the Naval Service of Canada was established that spring, and served in the First World War before being seriously damaged in the Halifax Explosion in 1917. But for an older generation of Nova Scotians — and Canadians, growing up in a more British-centred school system and society — October 21 was once called “Trafalgar Day.” As children, they learned that on this day in 1805 a British fleet commanded by Lord Nelson in HMS Victory won the Battle of Trafalgar against the combined armadas of France and Spain. Read the article.
  • If you are attending the UELAC Conference in PEI, brought to you by the Atlantic Region Branches led by Abegweit Branch in PEI, you might try a truly outstanding culinary experience during, before or afterwards with chef Michael Smith and his staff at The Inn at Bay Fortune.
  • Harvard Library archival and manuscript collections include hundreds of thousands of items dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, representing a major source of largely untapped primary sources for scholars of British and North American history. You may be able to request a webinar connection? Spotlight on Collections: Colonial North American Project Thursday, November 5, 2015, 3:30 — 5:30pm – see details
  • and for clothing: [things have been strange in the past, too!] Before giraffe fashion there was zebra fashion: George IV, when Prince of Wales, sporting a zebra suit. Fores, 1787

Last Post

Allan Edsal Kennedy, UE, RCN

January 10, 1924 – July 30, 2015. It is with sad and heavy hearts that we say goodbye to a much-loved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who passed away on July 30, 2015. He fought bravely but lost his fight to Alzheimer’s. Allan leaves behind his wife of 69 years, two sons Brian (Lynne) and Paul, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Allan was a veteran of the Second World War (Royal Canadian Navy) and a long-time member of the Legion Branch #263. He was also a United Empire Loyalist (Urquhart) and a member of the Metis Association of Canada. He was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medial for services to Veterans. No service by request. With us always. A Celebration of Allan’s Life will be held at a later date. (Published in the Vancouver Sun and/or the Province, Aug. 29, 2015)

Allan was a longtime member of the Chilliwack Branch.

…Marlene Dance, UE, Chilliwack Branch

Jeffery Bruce Curtis, UE

August 13, 1956 – October 4, 2015. It is with profound sadness and broken hearts that we announce the sudden passing of our husband and father, Jeffrey Bruce Curtis. He will be forever missed by his wife Cheryl and his son Ryan. Jeff was predeceased by his parents John and Marjorie Curtis of Quebec. Jeff will be missed by his family; Peter (Joanne) of Gabriola Island, B.C., David (Krow) of Norwood, Ontario, James (Traci) of Harrison Lake, B.C. Alma (the late James) of Abbotsford, B.C., Garry (Heather) of West Vancouver, B.C., and Debra of Abbotsford, B.C.

Jeff worked at the BC Ambulance Service for over thirty two years and continued to work as a paramedic after retirement. Jeff as the family historian was committed to maintaining the Curtis family history; His Loyalist ancestor was Sir John Johnson, and he was proud to attend the re-dedication ceremony of the burial vault in September of 2014.

Jeff was passionate about his many dreams, schemes, visions and projects. He loved to sit in his favourite chair overlooking his yard in the quiet peacefulness of an early morning. Jeff had a mischievous side that will be missed at all family gatherings.

No service by request. Donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC and Yukon would be appreciated. Online condolences to the family may be made at www.woodlawnfh-abbotsford.com (Published in the Vancouver Sun and/or the Province on October 16, 2015)

…Marlene Dance, UE, Chilliwack Branch


Loyalists and Fire

Family history – family lore – often carries interesting stories of the life and times of family members.

What encounters with fire during the revolution or subsequent settlement did your ancestors have? Submit to the editor for future issues of Loyalist Trails.