“Loyalist Trails” 2015-45: November 8, 2015

In this issue:
New Branch UELAC: Assiniboine Branch
Loyalists Lighthouses and Lobsters: UELAC Conference 2016
The Loyalist Fire Series (Part Three): Don’t Keep the Home Fires Burning, by Stephen Davidson
Loyal Hill & Captain John Grant UEL, by Brian McConnell, UE
The American Vicars of Bray; Cases of Changing Loyalties More Common
Region and Branch Bits – Nova Scotia Branch Patron
Fall 2015 Issue of the Loyalist Gazette
Loyalist Gazette: Past Issues Available
Loyalist Certificates Issued
Food for thought from 2009
Where in the World is Albert Schepers?
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Last Post: Wendell Isherwood Johnston, UE
      + Loyalists and Fire


New Branch UELAC: Assiniboine Branch

At the Dominion Board meeting October 24 the UELAC granted a Charter to The Assiniboine Branch as it’s 28th branch. The new branch will cover Southwestern Manitoba with the main city in it’s area being Brandon, Manitoba. They are still in the organizational process and as soon as permanent officers are in place, they will be announced.

…Gerry Adair, UE, Regional Vice President, Prairie Region

Loyalists Lighthouses and Lobsters: UELAC Conference 2016

Loyalists Lighthouses and Lobsters — does anything sound more common to the three Atlantic District provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island than these? So perhaps Scallops or Haddock would compete if you live in NS, or Loyalist Days in NB. Well, if you live in PE, one might add the Loyalist Room at the Museum, Green Gables Cottage and red sand –“cradled in the waves”. They are on the agenda for the Conference fun time. Our Conference in Summerside, PEI July 7-10, 2016 is looming on the horizon and still there is much to do.

Being an Island, if you are driving there you will either cross a ferry or have the fabulous experience of crossing Confederation Bridge, the longest bridge over ice-covered water in the world. The bridge, eight (8) miles long, connects PEI and NB, and the ferry connects PE and NS. You pay the toll only when leaving the Island, either by bridge or ferry (costs a little more). The Bridge cost for a car is $45.50 and a motorbike is half that. I found out you can buy bridge toll gift cards online, a great idea for a Christmas gift for someone driving to the Conference!

ROOMS: Rooms in the Loyalist Country Inn are available for booking. The rate is $139 plus taxes per night ($163.21 Taxes in) for all rooms. You must call direct and not book online as the whole hotel is blocked for the Conference . If that fills up, extra rooms have been reserved for convention guests at the Quality Inn and Suites, Garden of the Gulf, 618 Water Street, Summerside, PE. This is just 3 minutes by car from the Loyalist Country Inn and the Conference. They have given us a comparable rate of $147/$157 including breakfast from July 7 to July 11, 2016 and may be booked online by quoting “United Empire Loyalists’ Association.”

AIRLINES: A group discount has been arranged with Air Canada, and they are the official carrier for the Conference. Air Canada 10% – except Tango: Promo Code AGJ6A991; Valid June 30 – July 17, 2016. There are numerous flights into Charlottetown in the afternoon.

We also have a discount with Westjet 10% flying between July 6 and July 17. Use Promo code YYG02 and Coupon code KRENYGW at online booking. There is no public shuttle service at the airport, but there is taxi and limousine available. Transportation options are being investigated.

The Conference Registration form will be coming out soon.

Daytime dress is casual; evening is Loyalist costume or business attire, so bring your Loyalist finery to wear to evening and church events. The Reception will be outside beside the Loyalist monument weather permitting (see writeup in the Gazette coming out soon). It promises to be a colourful time. We are looking forward to a great gathering in Summerside, PE – not only to continue to accomplish all the ambitious plans of the executive, but to meet and greet the new and old friends who will be attending another annual UELAC Conference and AGM.

NOTE: You can no longer be first to check in at the Loyalist Country Inn – see photo of Brian McConnell, UE at the check-in desk. In full regalia, he is ready to get the conference underway.

Carol Harding, UE, Committee Member

The Loyalist Fire Series (Part Three): Don’t Keep the Home Fires Burning

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Life in the 18th century was energized by the burning of wood. Fire provided heat, rapidly cleared land, and was a weapon in warring upon ones’ enemies. But it was a two-edged sword. The fire that cooked the family meals, the flame that illuminated the home, and the fireplace that warmed a house could suddenly spread to wooden floors or flammable fabrics to destroy an entire building or community. Along with the cold of a Canadian winter and the perennial shortage of food, fire completed an unholy trinity that threatened the lives of loyalists refugees as they settled in British North America.

American colonists were used to a good roaring fire. In 1776, Samuel Curwen shared his disappointment with British fireplaces. The loyalist refugee said,”The fires here not to be compared to our large American ones of oak and walnut, nor near so comfortable; would that I was away!” Perhaps the easy access to firewood made colonists wasteful and less efficient when it came time to pile logs upon their fires. Whatever the source of large fires, they had an unfortunate habit of wrecking havoc on loyalist settlements.

The first conflagration to consume a refugee community was in May of 1784. The last members of the British service to leave the United States in November of 1783 were the commissary staff and teamsters who supported the king’s army during its occupation of New York City. These black and white loyalists settled in Port Mouton, Nova Scotia, a community they quickly renamed Guysborough in honour of Sir Guy Carleton, their commander in New York City. Guysborough had, at first, a larger population than Halifax, the colony’s capital. However, there were no resources at hand to build a thriving community. To add insult to injury, a fire ripped through the settlement just six months after its founding, destroying homes, furniture, livestock, and clothing.

Driven to the shoreline by the flames, the loyalists would have died of exposure had a ship from Halifax not miraculously sailed into Guysborough’s harbour. This fire’s legacy was the scattering of its loyalists to other settlements in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. No one had any interest in trying to rebuild Guysborough.

Just a month after the conflagration along Nova Scotia’s south shore, another large loyalist settlement, Parrtown, faced extinction. Known today as Saint John New Brunswick, its founders had to battle destructive fires in June of 1784. Polly Dibblee, whose loyalist husband committed suicide in April, watched her house burn to the ground with all of the”goods and effects” that the family had brought with them from Connecticut.

Widow Dibblee moved her children up the St. John River to the loyalist settlement of Kingston where they lived in a log cabin. Before the year was over, a Native servant girl accidently set the new Dibblee home on fire, reducing it to ashes. Three years later, a visiting brother noted that Polly and the children were in another log cabin, but one that had a fire in the centre of the room instead of a fireplace with a chimney. The 1784 fire had not only destroyed what little had been salvaged from their losses in Saint John, it also wiped out all of the legal papers that would have backed Polly’s claims for compensation from the British government for wartime losses. No doubt many other loyalists endured the same consequences from destructive fires that plagued their settlements.

Saint John was almost wiped out in a second fire in November of 1784. It all started with a burning heap of brush that had been cleared from a lot of land granted to a loyalist settler. At noon, the wind started to scatter the flames, and within six hours they had”destroyed in their course almost every vestige of inflammable material.” Of course, there was no fire department and no means of carrying water to douse the flames. The house shared by John Ford and Stephen Kent on Elliot Row was being the only dwelling to escape the November thanks to the fact that the men had the presence of mind to dig a deep trench around it. While some survivors made plans to rebuild their homes, others moved up the St. John River to settle in the Fredericton area.

Did word of the fiery destruction of loyalist communities find its way across the ocean? For many years the largest loyalist refugee settlement in North America was Shelburne, Nova Scotia. Sometime between 1785 and 1787 the town acquired a”fire engine” that was built in England. It may have been purchased by the chamber of commerce or, as some stories have it, was a gift from King George III. Looking like a wooden bathtub on wheels, the fire pumper carried water to the scene of a fire. There, the men could pump water from the tank and shoot it onto the flames with a hose. Awkward though it may have been, the fire engine/pumper was a vast improvement over the bucket brigades that were desperately employed in battling a raging fire.

In 1798, Stephen Jarvis, a Connecticut loyalist, nearly came to his end in Fredericton, New Brunswick.”Mrs. Jarvis and self retired to rest last night with a candle burning by our bedside. We scarcely fell asleep when a sudden gust of wind, forcing through a broken pane of glass, blew the window curtain to the candle which instantly took fire… When I awoke I found the window curtain all in flames.”

The Jarvis couple slept in a bed surrounded by curtains which were just moments away from catching fire from the window curtains.”However, I had just time to snatch the flaming curtain from the window … and extinguish the flames.” The couple escaped with minor burns. Their story illustrates how loyalist settlers would go to bed with candles still burning. It is a wonder that more houses did not go up in flames.

It is interesting to note that Munson Jarvis was the brother of Polly Dibblee and the cousin of Stephen Jarvis, two people sorely tried by fiery disaster. Munson, a loyalist of Saint John, established North America’s first fire insurance company in 1801.

Twenty-five years after her cousin founded his insurance firm, Polly Dibblee was moved with empathy for the people of Fredericton, Oromocto, and Miramichi who had lost so much during”destructive fires” that raged through New Brunswick in October of that year. Along with donors in Upper and Lower Canada, Bermuda, and Great Britain, the loyalist widow gave money to aid the fire’s victims. Her donation was £6, demonstrating that those who have suffered much are often the most generous in times of need.

Polly’s brother-in-law was Frederick Dibblee, an Anglican minister in the loyalist settlement of Woodstock, New Brunswick. It was the custom of the day to burn over fields in May to promote crop growth.”Log heaps” which had accumulated during the fall and winter were also burned in the spring. When the Rev. Dibblee put fire to one of his clearings in 1804, the flames”ran surprisingly” and burned up some of the fencing around his field. The loyalists had to be ever vigilant when it came to open flames.

Lower Canada also had its share of disastrous fires. Those stories will be told in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

Loyal Hill & Captain John Grant UEL (Part One),

By Brian McConnell, UE

Overlooking the Avon River and Minas Basin in Hants County at Summerville, Nova Scotia is ne of the most interesting locations where United Empire Loyalists settled after the American Revolution. It is called Loyal Hill and is the lands settled by Captain John Grant who served in he 42nd Regiment of Foot (Black Watch) and later commanded British soldiers when they recaptured New York in April 1776. For his military service as a Loyalist he received a grant of 3,000 acres, the largest grant to an individual in Hants County.(1)

At the Loyal Hill Cemetery is a monument placed there in remembrance of Captain John Grant by his descendants. The area where Loyal Hill is located was also in the past known as the ‘Man of War Lands’. It was part of a land grant first made by King George III on April 9, 1761 to Royal Navy Captains who participated in the sieges of Louisbourg and Quebec. (2) In 1783, as the original grantees did not live up to their obligations, it was escheated and taken back by the Crown. It was then granted to United Empire Loyalists, most notably Captain John Grant.

John Grant was born in Strathspey, Scotland, in Grant-town in 1729, son of Alexander Grant. His mother’s name and the names of brothers or sisters he may have had are unknown. According to a history of his life written by a descendant he was accepted into the army, the Black Watch, at an unusually young age, shortly before his 13th birthday.(3) The Black Watch that acted as a keeping the peace or police force in the highlands of Scotland was formed into the 43rd Regiment of the British Army in May 1740 and was composed of men from several highland clans, including the Grants. In 1749, as a result of the end of service of the 42nd, or Ogleghorpe’s Regiment, which had been raised for colonial service in North America, the number of the Highland Regiment was altered from 43rd to the 42nd. (4) The uniform consisted of the belted Black Watch tartan with a scarlet jacket and waistcoat. A blue bonnet was worn with a border of red, white and green squares, and a tuft of feathers or a small piece of black bearskin. The kit also included musket, bayonet, and broadsword.

The Black Watch sailed from England to Flanders in 1743 with John Grant as a Lieutenant and his regiment took a prominent part at the Battle of Fontenay (5) A French author of a pamphlet published in Paris immediately after the Battle, referring to the soldiers of the Black Watch as ‘Highland furies’, wrote as follows:

“The British behaved well, and could be exceeded in ardour by none but our officers,
who animated the troops by their example, when the Highland furies rushed in upon us
with more ardour and violence than ever did a sea driven by tempest…” (6)

The Duke of Cumberland, commander of the British army at Fontenay, indicated to the Black Watch that he would grant them any favour in his power, in testimony of the high opinion he had formed of their conduct during the Battle. The men asked for pardon for a soldier of the regiment who had been tried by court-martial for allowing a prisoner to escape and who was under sentence of heavy corporal punishment, which if inflicted would bring disgrace to the regiment, as well as his family. The favour was granted.

When the regiment returned in 1748 from France it was sent to Ireland for eight years. From there it sailed to America arriving at New York in June, 1756. Grant saw service during the Seven Years’ War and was in the 1758 Battle of Fort Ticonderoga against the French where he was wounded. The regiment suffered terrible losses in the Battle. Eight of its officers, nine sergeants, and 297 men were killed and 17 officers, 10 sergeants, and 306 men were wounded. At a total strength of 647 officers and men it had been reduced almost to a skeleton.

It is recorded that by early in 1759 John Grant had recovered from his wounds at Ticonderoga and served with his Regiment at the Battle of Quebec under General James Wolfe.(6) Later in the year he was back in New York and on August 30, 1759 married Sarah Bergen. She was the daughter of Meighail (Michael) and Catylyntie Bergen and descended from a Norwegian shipbuilder who had settled at Brooklyn, Long Island. John Grant was now 30 years of age and retired from the Black Watch while Sarah was just 16 and had been given by her father a farm of 150 acres near Jamaica, Queen’s County, Long Island. The couple lived there until April 1762 when John resumed his military career as a Captain in the 2nd New York Regiment of Foot. On April 19, 1762 the colonial government issued a warrant in favour of Captain John Grant, for 957 pounds, bounty and enlisting money for 87 volunteers, of the counties of Kings and Queens.(7)

To be concluded in next week’s issue of Loyalist Trails.


* This article was prepared by Brian McConnell UE on October 9, 2015. To contact him please email brianm564@gmail.com.

(1)”Loyalists and Land Settlement in Nova Scotia”, compiled by Marion Gilroy under direction of D. C. Harvey, Archivist of Public Archives of Nova Scotia (originally published by Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 1937), Global Heritage Press, Milton, ON, 2006, pp 60 – 62.

(2) See”Newport, Nova Scotia, A Rhode Island Township”, by John V. Duncanson, Mika Publishing, Belleville, ON, 1985.

(3) See”Land of a Loyalist”, by Edith Mosher, Lancelot Press, Hantsport, NS, 1988.

(4) See”The History of the Black Watch”, by Archibald Forbes, Leonaur, Oakpast Ltd, 2010.

(5) See Article entitled”Loyalist History – John Grant”, by T. Watson Smith, in Acadiensis, Vol. 1, 1901.

(6)”The History of the Black Watch”, by Archibald Forbes, Leonaur, Oakpast Ltd, 2010, p. 27.

(7)”The Bergen Family”, by Teunis G. Bergen, Albany, N.Y., 1876, p 259.

(8)”Loyalist History – John Grant” by T. Watson Smith, in Acadiensis, Vol. 1, 1901, p. 18.

The American Vicars of Bray; Cases of Changing Loyalties More Common

By Todd W. Braisted HVP UELAC, November 3, 2015 in the Journal of the American Revolution

Loyalists, those Americans who openly supported the British Government during the American Revolution, have been largely assumed to have had unchanging allegiance during the conflict; once a Loyalist, always a Loyalist. Similarly, those supporters of Congress and the new United States are assumed to have been constant in their beliefs throughout the war, with one famous general as the notable exception.

The reality was more complex than that. It is becoming clear that thousands of soldiers changed sides at one time or another, some more than once. This is not a fundamentally new revelation; recent research, however, shows that the numbers are greater than has been previously appreciated. The Philadelphia Campaign of 1777-1778 provides superb examples. Surviving records for a large portion of both the Continental Army and the Provincial (Loyalist) Corps during this period are much more complete than for most earlier or later periods, making it possible to quantify the phenomenon of switching sides during one stage of the war.

Read the article.

Region and Branch Bits

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

  • It is with Loyalist pride that I announce that His Honour, Brigadier-General The Honourable J.J. Grant, CMM, ONS, CD (Ret’d) Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia has agreed to be the Patron of the Nova Scotia Branch of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada. – Brian McConnell, UE, President, Nova Scotia Branch

Fall 2015 Issue of the Loyalist Gazette

As noted previously, we expect the Fall 2015 issue of the Loyalist Gazette to be mailed around mid-November to those who are paid-up 2015 members and to subscribers to the Gazette. We believe that the paper copies are between the printing house and the mailing house – more details next week.

Still wondering about how the digital colour version compares to the black and white paper copy? Check out this one page comparison – what a difference.

…The Publications Committee

Loyalist Gazette: Past Issues Available

Gayle Pittman, from Georgetown, Texas, has 18 old issues of the Loyalist Gazette dating from Fall, 2005 to Spring, 2015. She is cleaning house, but would hate to just throw them away. If any members who might like to have them, send a note.

Contact loyalist.trails@uelac.org if you are interested.

Loyalist Certificates Issued

The list of Loyalist Certificates Issued has been updated to include August 2015. We hope to add Sept and Oct within the next couple of weeks.

Food for thought from 2009

Back on March 22, 2009, Loyalist Trails ran my 100th article. These five paragraphs were part of that article:

With numbers that have been estimated as high as 60,000, the loyalists are the largest group of displaced persons in North American history — five to ten times that of the tragic dispersion of Acadians in 1755. The fact that the loyal Americans became refugees is the essential consideration when contemplating the significance of a loyalist heritage. We are not simply the offspring of colonists who were loyal; we are the descendants of North America’s largest refugee population…

Recognizing that our ancestors faced persecution in their former country and had to seek sanctuary outside of the United States should create a legacy of compassion for any people who find themselves in similar circumstances today. A loyalist descendant should urge his/her government to welcome the oppressed. Rather than putting up barriers, Canada should give the displaced persons of the world the opportunity to begin a new life in a safe country.

Because our ancestors often spent years in refugee settlements, we should be among the first to solicit aid for those presently living in refugee camps in the countries of the developing world. Canadian societies of loyalist descendants should regularly sponsor settlement of deserving refugees in their own communities. In so doing, we honour our refugee ancestors.

The fact the loyalists upset the established social order and distribution of land as they settled in the Canadas and the Maritimes should guide our attitudes as immigrants from around the world come to our shores. Where the loyalists were sometimes greeted with fear and resentment, we should greet newcomers with compassion and empathy. Yes, there will be some change to the status quo — but in the end, it will lead to a richer national life. The newcomer can be accommodated for it happened to our ancestors.

…Stephen Davidson, UE

Where in the World?

Where is Bicentennial Branch member Albert Schepers?

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

  • French Colonial Detroit / Aboriginal Presence: A Conference Retrospective by Joseph Gagné. By the end of the French regime in North America in 1763, New France stretched along the waterways leading from the Canadian Maritimes down the Saint-Lawrence River, and to the Great Lakes down the Mississippi valley to New Orleans. Covering such a large part of North America, it is not surprising then that after the Seven Years’ War, France’s claims were divided between states, provinces, and countries. Yet, the Detroit-Windsor region is an excellent example of two border communities still bearing a semblance of unity, bound by their common origin under the French fleur-de-lys since Antoine Laumet, dit de Lamothe Cadillac, first founded the French settlement along both sides of the river. This past October, a few days away from Halloween, Cadillac’s spirit hovered over the Detroit-Windsor region a little more gleefully knowing that his memory was very much alive. Indeed, this year’s meeting of the Center for French Colonial Studies was being held on his old stomping grounds. Read the blog post, published 5 Nov in Borealia, a Grfoup Blog on Early Canadian History.
  • Today (Nov 7) in 1775: Governor John Murray, Earl of Dunmore and the governor of Virginia, declares martial law and emancipates all slaves and indentured servants willing to fight for the British.
  • Loyalists in Early America: A podcast (Juntocast). In this episode 16, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Christopher Minty discuss issues relating to loyalists before, during, and after the American Revolution, including how to define a loyalist and/or loyalism. Listen here.
  • Brian McConnell UE visiting monument to United Empire Loyalists in Summerside, PEI – photo
  • Canadian wartime casualties commemorated in Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey. More photos at Globe & Mail.
  • The Nova Scotia Archives has refreshed its website. What’s New. Visit
  • More information about the Colonial North American Project (17th and 18th centuries) at Harvard University: the multi-year digitization project, current exhibition, and related events.
  • The Loyalist College of Applied Arts and Technology takes its name from the European settlers of Belleville, Ont.—a group of United Empire Loyalists. Loyalist students belong to a tight-knit campus community in the beautiful Bay of Quinte region, near beaches and provincial parks.
  • Globe and Mail home of the week: In a town of notable heritage homes, the 1 1/2-storey frame house at 168 King St. in Port Hope ON has been declared to be the oldest. It’s named for Elias Smith, a United Empire Loyalist who fled New York after the American Revolution. Records show Mr. Smith went to Nova Scotia and Montreal before he brought nearly 40 families to settle on the shore of Lake Ontario, where this circa 1800 clapboard dwelling still stands.
  • Many of us think of stump, rail or split rail fences built by our Loyalist ancestors. Some undoubtedly who landed up in stony areas – with the right kind of stone – built some stone fences. The only direct Loyalist connection is the shot of the”Quinte Loyalist” ferry at the beginning, so herewith”Rick learns the ancient art of building stone walls with no mortar at the Irish-Canadian Dry Stone Festival at Amherst Island, ON.” a segment from the most recent Rick Mercer Report. Mark Gallop (Heritage Branch)

Last Post: Wendell Isherwood Johnston, UE

The Saskatchewan Branch recently learned of the passing of one of it’s Charter Members of the 1984 Regina Branch. Wendell Isherwood Johnston was a continuous member since that time and was a Past President of the Branch. The son of Wilson Johnston and Alta (nee Isherwood), Wendell passed away July 11, 2015 one day before his 86th birthday.

Wendell was a farmer, owned a house-moving business, obtained his real estate license and was projectionist at the Rosetown Unique Theatre.

Mourning his loss are his wife of 63 years Joan and four children Wendy, Ward, Kathryn and Donna. Wendell and his brother Wilson (Denny) traced their UE ancestry to Adam Johnston and to John Milroy.

…Pat Adair, Saskatchewan Branch


Loyalists and Fire

Does your Loyalist family story tell anything about fire, during the revolution or subsequent settlement did your ancestors have? Submit to the editor for future issues of Loyalist Trails.