“Loyalist Trails” 2016-29: July 17, 2016
In this issue:
– A Sombre Chapter, by Stephen Davidson
– Loyalist Quarterly, by Paul Bunnell: June 2016 Issue Now Available
– Book Review: Something of a Peasant Paradise?
– Podcast: John Johnson’s Escape from Johnstown, 1776
– JAR: Most shocking or unexpected moment of the Revolution?
– First World War Comes to Life
– Where in the World?
– Region and Branch Bits
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
– Last Post: Eileen Foster Semph, UE
© Stephen Davidson, UE
Canadians prefer to think of their history as being as pure as our all too plentiful, wind-blown snow. However, as our residential schools for aboriginal children and our wartime barring of Jewish refugees demonstrate, there are things we wish our ancestors had not done. On March 18,1898, T. Watson Smith presented a paper to the Nova Scotia Historical Society “in an attempt to suppy a missing chapter in Canadian history”. He lectured on slavery within Canada, “a sombre and unattractive chapter … but necessary nevertheless in the completeness of our records.”
Since the loyalists were responsible for bringing the largest number of slaves into what is now Canada in our nation’s history, it is no surprise that Smith’s talk contained a lot of “forgotten” aspects of the loyalist story. Because it was not widely available in 1898, the Book of Negroes was not one of Smith’s references. Had he known about it, he could have mentioned that one in ten of the refugees who found sanctuary in the Maritime Provinces were of African descent. Many of those 4,000 were free Black Loyalists, but others were enslaved to loyalist masters.
By December 1783 – the month ending a year that witnessed almost 60,000 people fleeing the United States – the registry of deeds office in Halifax recorded the sale of an African woman named Nancy. Captain Alexander Campbell of the South Carolina Loyalists sold the woman to Captain Thomas Green of the Royal Nova Scotia Regiment of foot for £40. Nancy, who “freely acknowledged herself a slave”, was sold to Abraham Forst two years later. This “gentleman of Halifax” then sold Nancy and her child Tom to Gregory Townsend, an assistant naval storekeeper in 1786.
In the records of Rev. Dr. Breynton, the minister at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, one can find an entry pertaining to the wholesale baptism of slaves that belonged to John Wentworth, a New Hampshire loyalist and the future governor of Nova Scotia. Wentworth sent 19 “valuable slaves” to a relative in Dutch Guiana later that month.
In his February 1784 letter, Wentworth said “Upon the whole they are a most useful lot of Negroes, and have behaved so entirely well and to my approbation that I earnestly recommend them to your particular care, and if practicable that they be employed together and that Isaac should be their overseer. I am much interested for them, insomuch that I have had them christened, and would rather have liberated them than sent them to any estate that I am not sure of their being treated with care and humanity, which I shall consider as the only favour that can be done to me on this occasion.”
T. Watson Smith’s lecture continued to cite examples of slave trading that he found in newspapers serving Saint John, New Brunswick as well as in Pictou, Shelburne, the Annapolis Valley, Truro, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Slavery was widespread in the era of loyalist settlement. While the quotation from John Wentworth leaves one hoping that loyalists’ slaves were treated kindly, one needs to keep in mind that they were regarded as “things”, and considered as such in wills. Thomas Robinson’s will demonstrates the point when he bequeathed to his son “four hundred pounds in cash … my pinchback watch, chain and gold seal. Also my Negro Boy named Manuel, also the bed and furniture I sleep on, with my silver spectacles.”
There was just a small handful who favoured slavery’s abolition in the loyalist era. Quakers were the only ones among the refugee population who opposed human enslavement. Typically, the loudest voices against the inhumane practice were not loyalists. The British clergyman, the Rev. James McGregor, who served a church in Pictou, Nova Scotia, is a prime example.
In 1788, the young pastor wrote a lengthy letter to the Rev. Daniel Cock, a fellow Presbyterian minister who lived in Truro, Nova Scotia to express his outrage that the latter owned two African women. McGregor threatened to refuse communion with the Truro presbytery, and later published his views against slavery. Indignant that someone would criticize one of their own, the Presbyterian ministers in the Truro area rallied to support the slave-owning Rev. Cock. The latter ignored McGregor’s arguments against slavery, keeping his slaves until his death in 1805.
McGregor’s efforts to liberate loyalist slaves were more successful within his own community. In 1786, he was able to influence a Pictou slave owner to free a girl named Dinah Rhyno, a man named Martin and an unnamed African woman. Dinah later married George Mingo, a Black Loyalist who had served the crown during the revolution; the couple became respected members of McGregor’s congregation.
The loyalists who settled on Prince Edward Island also had slaves. Thomas Haszard of Charlottetown, for example, sold a three year-old boy named Simon in 1802; in the same year he gave his granddaughters Catherine, a five year-old girl of African descent. Another Islander wrote the following:
“I was under the necessity of telling my servants, Jack and Amelia … I would give them their liberty; that is to say, only for themselves two, not liberty for any children they now have or may hereafter have. But I also told them that if they or either of them misbehaved, they forfeit all expectations thereto … As long as either of us wanted them, they were not to look for or expect their liberty, but to remain slaves as long as we, or either of us, thought proper; and I also assured them, if they behaved themselves well, they should never be sold with my consent.”
No wonder T. Watson Smith referred to slavery in the loyalist era as an “unattractive chapter”! He concluded this portion of his lecture by pointing out that the last known advertisement of a public slave sale in Nova Scotia appeared in the Royal Gazette and Nova Scotia Advertiser of September 7, 1790, when ship bread, mess pork, Indian and Rye meal, some household furniture, a stout, likely Negro man, and sundry other articles were to be auctioned off. The last advertisement of the sale of a slave found in any newspaper in the Maritimes appeared in New Brunswick, a province founded by loyalists. The Royal Gazette of October 16, 1809, announced that Daniel Brown was selling Nancy, a Negro woman, to any purchaser of whom he guaranteed a “good title.”
It is probable that the latest offer of a reward for the apprehension of a runaway slave is the one that appeared in the same newspaper on July 10, 1816. This was forty years after American rebels made their Declaration of Independence and 33 years after loyalist refugees flooded into Nova Scotia. Rather than coming to an abrupt end, slavery in the loyalist colonies took decades to wither and die out – the conclusion of a somber chapter.
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
The latest issue of the only U.S. journal devoted to Loyalist studies contains, among others, these topics:
- First Nations’ Sons and Daughters in the Book of Negroes
- Benedict Arnold: Natural Born Military Genius, Part 2
- Hostages to Fortune, by Peter C Newman
- Hereditary Order of the Descendants of Loyalists and Patriots of the American Revolution
- Listing of Loyalist Families
- Loyalist Genealogy Resources
- Loyalist Petition in Tryon County New York 1771
- Tryon County New York Petition
- Famous People Related to Loyalist
- Exploring the Lives of Black Loyalists
More information including subscription details ($21 U.S. & $24 Can./yr – Paul Bunnell, 32 Hoit Mill Rd. #202, Weare, NH 03281 USA) at Paul J. Bunnell’s website.
Reviewed by Katie Cottreau-Robins.
I enjoyed this book and I will refer to it often. In simplest terms it is a fascinating and fresh contribution to the expansive collection of Acadian histories and colonial narratives. On a more complex level, the breakdown of Acadian society, including “its particular natural and political conditions, and especially the manner in which the colonists lived, worked and organized themselves”(5) is especially valuable, and from the archaeologist’s perspective, addresses questions and historical themes that really count. Given the breadth of scholarship on Acadie to date, it is time for a comprehensive study of the initial years of everyday life. Kennedy makes energetic strides here particularly in Chapter 3, “The Rural Economy,” where he describes what the Acadian family farm looked like, subsistence and commercial goals, as well as the level of time and effort invested to establish and expand agricultural holdings and community and trade networks.
Gregory M.W. Kennedy, Something of a Peasant Paradise?: Comparing Rural Societies in Acadie and the Loudunais, 1604-1755. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2014. 288 pp. ISBN987-0-7735-4343-0.
Katie Cottreau-Robins is a 2008 Loyalist Scholarship recipient.
Read the review and if you are interested in early Canadian history and the Acadian era, you may well want to read the book.
(By Bob Cudmore; July 1, 2016) On “The Historians” podcast Johnson Hall site manager Wade Wells describes loyalist Sir John Johnson’s escape from his family estate in Johnstown, N.Y., in 1776 as rebel soldiers were on their way there to arrest him. Listen to the podcast.
What would you consider to be such a moment? The failure of the Americans in Quebec in late 1775? Bourgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga? Maybe an incident more closely related to your ancestor’s participation? Read what the various contributors and editors to JAR feel was such a defining moment.
The most shocking moment unfolded slowly, not quickly. It was the shock the British got in late August and September 1781 when they realized that Washington had cleverly redistributed his forces to confront the British army in Virginia rather than attacking New York City. Washington’s deception worked so well that the British in New York were unable to arrange support or relief of Yorktown until it was much too late. The American and French move to Yorktown, all the while maintaining the impression of threatening New York, was a brilliant strategic coup that effectively ended the war. Boy, were the British surprised. – Don N. Hagist
Read what the others perceive as an event which meets such heights.
This project is a fully-animated exhibit that explores the lesser known wartime contributions of the Canadian men and women who served beyond the trenches, both at home and overseas. From home front relief efforts and wartime production to frontline communications and medical aid, the exhibit offers a series of dynamic displays and activities for visitors to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a world behind the front lines.
The “event” is travelling across Canada through 2018. Check the website – click on the black bar at the top for the calendar and mouse-over the “gray” dates for location. Only a few are noted currently:
• July 16-17 The Citadel, Halifax
• July 30-31 Canadian War Museum, Ottawa
• Aug 13-14 Fort York, Toronto
• Aug 27-28 Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake
• Sept 3-4 Musee Stewart, Montreal
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 your submission to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.
- Loyalist Day was celebrated in Ontario on June 19. See the photo gallery for the celebration by Col. John Butler Branch in the Niagara area. From Dale Flagler (editor’s note: I had received this earlier but in the bustle of Conference last week, I missed it – apologies)
- The grand re-opening of Loyalist House in Saint John on Wednesday 13 July at 7 p.m. Photo. The Re-Opening of Loyalist House was a complete success! Thank you all for coming! Photo
- What did a Boston newspaper look like between the Seven Years War and the American Revolution? Peruse the four pages altogether – of the Boston Gazette and Country Journal, Monday July 7, 1766. In the printer friendly version, on page 1, right column, third ad up from the bottom from page one, note Richard Clarke, sugar merchant. J.L. Bell (JAR) notes that Richard became more famous as principal tea importer during crisis of 1773.
- Addressing Both Understanding and Passions – From the One he Forced Conviction from the Other He Stole Assent. An Oration delivered at the King’s Chapel in Boston, April 8, 1776, on the reinterment of the remains of the late Most Worshipful Grand Master Joseph Warren, Esquire; President of the late Congress of this Colony and Major General of the Massachusetts Foreces; who was slain in the battle of Bunker’s-Hill, etc. Boston: J. Gill, 1776. Read more…
- The Revolutionary War Patriot Who Carried This Gunpowder Horn Was Fighting for Freedom—Just Not His Own. Simbo, an African-American patriot, fought for his country’s liberty and freedom even as a large population remained enslaved. Photo and story.
- Original Tea leaves, steeped in Boston Harbour. Dumped overboard during Boston Tea Party 16 Dec. 1773. See photo.
- Corset Covers, Chemisettes and Under-Bodices. Recently, one of my Bustle Day Dress Class students asked me what the difference was between chemisettes and corset covers. Both being items worn under the dress proper (and considering they both start with C), I can see how their purpose and function could be mixed up. Read more…
- A small silk wallet fashioned from a dress fragment, c. 3rd quarter 18th century. Photo.
Eileen of Vernon, BC, passed away on Tuesday 31 May 2016 in Kelowna. She was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1934 to Annie (Milroy) Remmer and Eric Shaw of Middlesex, England. At 15 months of age Eileen was adopted by Alberta and Murray Denton in Port Dalhousie, Ontario. Eileen was predeceased by her biological parents and her beloved mother and father. Her memory will be cherished by her son James Albert Randall Semph UE and granddaughter Sarah Anne Semph UE.
Eileen was one of the petitioners to create the Thompson-Okanagan branch in 1995. On charter day she received one of the first U.E. Certificates for Thompson-Okanagan for her ancestor (Ancestor: Aaron Bradt) Ontario.
Her second certificate was for Francis Weaver was many years later, after a lot of research.
Eileen also leaves to mourn, her brother Frank Remmer (Grace), and sister Jean Remmer (Harley), both of Scarborough, Ontario. As well as her sister in law Linda McMillan of Victoria, and best friend Gayle Myers of Cold Lake, Alberta.
Nieces, nephews, friends in BC, Alberta, Ontario and the United Kingdom will cherish Eileen’s memory, including Jenny Bannatyne and family of Nanaimo, BC.
…M. Marie Ablett UE