“Loyalist Trails” 2016-35: August 28, 2016
In this issue:
– Carleton’s Book of Negroes: A Ledger’s Legacy (Part 2), by Stephen Davidson
– JAR: Stern Measures – Thomas Jefferson Confronts the “Hair Buyer”
– JAR: Daniel McGirth, Banditti on the Southern Frontier
– Tarleton’s Legion
– Teaching the African Diaspora with a Trip to Canada
– Where in the World?
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
– Last Post: James Arthur (Art) Keller, UE
– Memorial Service For Lois Dickinson, UE
Carleton’s Book of Negroes: A Ledger’s Legacy (Part 2)
© Stephen Davidson, UE
More than just a ledger that recorded the names of Black Loyalists and enslaved Africans, the Book of Negroes also contains a wealth of stories.
In Carleton’s ledger, one can find 20-year-old Deborah and 43-year-old Henry, two slaves who had escaped from their master, George Washington. Forty-seven children found in the ledger ran away from the horrors of slavery before they were thirteen. The name of one Black Loyalist who boarded the Clinton is later found among men petitioning the New Brunswick government for land. However, by that point in time he was also using his original African name, Corankapone. Freedom as a loyalist meant freedom to be known by his own name.
By cross-referencing the letters that Sir Guy Carleton received in New York City with the Book of Negroes, one can discover a number of stories with happy endings. Judith Jackson alerted the British commander-in-chief that a slave hunter from Virginia planned to take her back to the plantation she had escaped seven years earlier. She had married a Black Loyalist named James who had served the crown as a river pilot. The couple had an eight year-old son. What became of Judith? The list of Black Loyalists that boarded the ship Ann for Port Roseway tells the tale. All three members of Judith Jackson’s family escaped to freedom.
Another letter that Carleton received contained a very poignant request. James Peters, a loyalist bound for the St. John River, had a slave named Cairo. She was married to a free Black Loyalist named Pompey Rumney. Rumney was Carleton’s servant. Would the British commander-in-chief allow his employee to accompany his enslaved wife in the loyalist evacuation? The Book of Negroes records that among the passengers aboard the Alexander were James Peters, his slave Cairo and Pompey “on his own bottom. Born free.” But the story does not end there. Thirty-seven years later the probate records of New Brunswick note that James Peters ordered that Cairo (still a slave) “be kindly treated and provided with every necessity,” while her husband Pompey should also be “kindly treated and provided for if required.” Despite slavery, love had endured.
For the white loyalist descendant brave enough to confront the possibility that his/her ancestors might have been slave owners, the Book of Negroes can provide many missing pieces in the family genealogy. In fact, Carleton’s ledger provides more information on individual Black Loyalists than can usually be found for white loyalists. Details such as height, scars, physical handicaps, speech impediments, deafness and blindness – as well as the colony of origin – are scattered throughout the ledger.
If a white ancestor’s name is in the Book of Negroes, that loyalist either owned African slaves or accompanied Black Loyalists on their journey. (These sponsors or escorts are found in a column of the ledger that was titled “the persons in whose possessions they now are”.) Next to that ancestor’s name will be the name of the ship, its captain and when it sailed.
For example, the descendants of Captain Nathan Frink might only know that the New York loyalist settled in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. By referring to the Book of Negroes, those descendants will discover that the Frinks left New York City on the Elizabeth under the command of Captain Watson on September 18, 1783, sailing for the mouth of the St. John River. Frink’s descendants will also discover that his wife had been a Cuyler. The bad news? The ledger notes that Mrs Frink’s mother had given her a 16 year-old slave. In addition, this loyalist family bought a seven year-old girl before leaving Staten Island. A case of too much information?
The Book of Negroes can be the starting point for a family’s story. The entry for Gabriel Johnson records that he was a slave in New Jersey. When he died almost 20 years later, the probate records of New Brunswick note that he left his wife enough of an estate that she was able to bequeath a house, land and belongings to other Black Loyalist women. Jack Patterson was an indentured servant when he arrived in New Brunswick. After completing his indenture, he became a farmer, capturing the colony’s most wanted criminal who had been hiding in his shed. This achievement is recorded in the first international best-selling book to be written by a loyalist, Walter Bates’ The Mysterious Stranger.
By comparing the passenger lists in the Book of Negroes with the names of those who sailed for Sierra Leone in 1792, one can see which Black Loyalists sought better lives outside of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Unfairly treated by colonial officials, almost 1200 Black Loyalists – many of them evacuees from New York City in 1783 – became the first settlers of West Africa’s Sierra Leone. Corankapone and Harry Washington, mentioned earlier in this article, were among the founding fathers of the free black colony.
The Book of Negroes is “just” a ledger that lists the names and brief descriptions of former slaves, and yet within its frail pages there is the tip of a fascinating historical iceberg. A single name can be the first step in compiling an epic story. For the genealogist and historian willing to commit time to sift through the Book of Negroes, there are grains of gold to be found: stories of brave escapes, family reunions, romance, and faithful service to a distant crown. It was created by a wily general as a means to rescue loyal subjects, but has become one of the primary documents of the loyalist era. This is the legacy of Carleton’s ledger, the Book of Negroes.
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
JAR: Stern Measures – Thomas Jefferson Confronts the “Hair Buyer”
(By Joshua Shepherd August 22, 2016) For a high ranking British official about to be captured by Rebel forces, it was an ominous portent of future treatment. Surrounded at the frontier outpost of Fort Sackville on the Wabash River, Detroit Lt. Gov. Henry Hamilton received a less than cordial demand for surrender on the morning of February 24, 1779. In an icy message penned by American commander Lt. Col. George Rogers Clark, the outnumbered and outmatched Hamilton was bluntly warned that if he dared destroy any supplies or papers prior to capitulation “you may expect no mercy, for by Heavens you shall be treated as a Murtherer.”
Although captured officers could generally expect decent treatment during the Revolution, Hamilton, arguably the most reviled Briton in the trans-Appalachian west, would experience far less than the norm, and the controversy which erupted over his imprisonment was due in no small part to the very brutal nature of the war on the frontier. In June of 1777, Hamilton received orders from Lord George Germain to actively court the assistance of the region’s Indians in harassing the American backcountry, or, as Germain loftily put it, to employ every means “that Providence has put into His Majesty’s Hands, for crushing the Rebellion.” Hamilton, who claimed to be apprehensive of unleashing the horrors of an Indian war against America’s civilian populace, nonetheless complied with the directive.
JAR: Daniel McGirth, Banditti on the Southern Frontier
(By Wayne Lynch August 23, 2016) The story repeated itself time and again across the southern districts of Georgia. Alarms raised loudly across a broad area with tales of imminent Indian raids and McGirth’s banditti coming from every direction against every plantation. The men would arm themselves and hunker down to protect home and family from these raiders. However, while the Georgians protected each plantation individually, the militia officers gathered no support, and Daniel McGirth calmly plundered a few choice properties. Over a two year period, McGirth and his men utilized such tactics to steal thousands of cattle and everything else of value from most of the plantations in southern Georgia. Even where the population was large enough that militia forces might be raised, “from experience, it has been found that by reason of those false alarms, impracticable to assemble the militia till too late.”
In his many raids, McGirth displayed little concern for the politics of his victims. While commissioned a Colonel and sanctioned by the British to operate out of East Florida, McGirth still plundered the homes of Loyalists as well as Patriots. Indeed, by war’s end, he would be wanted by both sides as a plundering rogue. But all of that skips the story of just how Daniel McGirth came by such a bad reputation.
I enjoyed the article in last week’s Loyalist Trails about Tarleton’s Legion (“JAR: Top 10 Banastre Tarleton Myths”). My Loyalist ancestor James Cosman served in Tarleton’s Legion (aka the British Legion). In the course of my research about him I came a cross a fascinating article about Tarleton’s Legion by Dr. Thomas Radall, noted N.S. Historian, from 1947. It also deals with where land was granted to members of Tarleton’s Legion in Nova Scotia. My James Cosman was not serving at the time the unit was disbanded.
…John Noble UE
Teaching the African Diaspora with a Trip to Canada
As a scholar of African American history, I teach students about the experience of Africans in the Americas. The course objective is to understand the African Diaspora by comprehending the interplay between social factors like gender, race, capitalism, and white supremacy and the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow segregation and how it has affected Black peoples and their lived experiences.
One of the first discussion questions I ask is about the term “African Diaspora.” The African Diaspora generally refers to the geographical locations from where the transatlantic slave trade forcibly displaced African peoples.
But as I lecture on the institution of slavery, the slave trade, and the diasporic life Africans created, many of my students still do not see their country or even their continent as really part of the African Diaspora.
These two points – the historical sites and the contextualized narrative – have to come together for a full understanding of the African Diaspora. And a trip to Canada – learning and seeing the African Diaspora in Canadian history – became an opportunity to do just this.
Read a deeper explanation, and about the trip to Canada.
Where are Peter and Carol Davy (Kingston Branch) with Albert Schepers (Bicentennial 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 your submission to the editor at email@example.com.
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
- Check Steph Walters — UELAC scholarship winner — on Twitter for several short video clips as she visited Loyalist sites in Virginia this weekend.
- “Step back in time” to the summer of 1765. From 1pm-5pm, the Newport Historical Society will host a large scale living history event with dozens of costumed interpreters who will recreate a naval press gang incident during Naval Impressment: A 1765 Reenactment in Colonial Newport. In June 1765, members of the Royal Navy from HMS Maidstone impressed sailors into service from the area that is today Washington Square. In reaction to this incident, citizens stole Maidstone’s longboat which they set on fire. This negative treatment is one incident that prompted many men to participate in the Stamp Act riots in August 1765. Read more.
- Infograph of some stats around Measuring Loyalism in America – be really careful about what each data element really means.
- A 260-Year Old Recipe for Apple Turnovers! (Video) Today’s recipe is for “Apple Pasties,” the ancestral version of modern apple turnovers, taken straight from the pages of Eliza Smith’s 1758 cookbook, “The Compleat Housewife.” The fresh ingredients of this simple recipe let the flavor of the apples shine through…and we bring it to you just in time for apple-harvest season! You’ve got to try this one!
- A photo of George Washington’s distillery at Mount Vernon. At the time of his death, the distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons (per year?) making it the largest whiskey distillery in America.
- Gravestone of Loyalist Rev. John Wiswall at Old Holy Trinity Church in Middleton, Nova Scotia.
- Brian McConnell placed a Loyalist flag near grave of Lieut. – Col. Samuel Vetch Bayard at Wilmot, NS.
- From the monarchy, late in Queen Victoria’s reign, a Canada Plate. Before you peek, how many provinces in 1899? Photo.
Art Keller (1924-2016) passed away in Chilliwack BC August 23, 2016 at 91 years.
He was a founding member and signer of the Charter that created Chilliwack Branch in 1990. Art was a member and loyal supporter of the branch for 26 years. He was the first Vice President of the branch and served on many committees over the years.
We were very proud to have him cut the cake at the branch anniversary celebrations last year. He enjoyed the celebrations and especially getting his picture in the paper.
Art’s Loyalist connections were: Frederick Keller received in January of 1987; Thomas Wagar in March of 1992 and Johan Everhadt in March of 1998. He descends from about 10 loyalists.
He was proud of his heritage and encouraged his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to apply for recognition. He was pleased to be at the presentation ceremonies and see 2 grandsons and a great grandson receive their Loyalist certificates in 2014.
Born in Camrose, Alta he moved to BC in 1936 with his parents Ross and Hazel Keller where his father established Keller’s Garage in Rosedale, BC. With the coming of WW2, he was active in the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers from 1943-1945. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve in 1942 training in both Winnipeg, MB and Saint Hyacinthe, PQ. He served as a wireless radio operator in Halifax until the end of the war returning to BC to work in the family garage. He married his high school sweetheart in 1947 and operated the family business until 1982. Art and Bette raised 3 children: Norm (April), Maralynn (Gordon Wilkinson) and Glenda (Terry Fisher); and welcomed 6 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren to the family.
Art enjoyed the outdoors hunting and fishing and gardening paying special attention to his roses. An all-round handyman, he kept busy with small wood working projects.
A memorial Service is scheduled for 2 pm Thursday, September 1st, 2016 at the Rosedale United Church, 51351 Yale Rd., Chilliwack, BC. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada or an organization of your choice.
Our condolences go out to the family.
…Marlene Dance, Chilliwack Branch
Memorial Service For Lois Dickinson, UE
As reported in Loyalist Trails 2015-#49 (December 6, 2015), Lois Dickinson, UE was a founding member and the first President of the Chilliwack Branch. The family has organized a Remembrance Celebration in Chilliwack on Sept. 10th, 2016 at the Chilliwack Cemetery, 10010 Hillcrest Dr., Chilliwack, BC. Graveside Service @ 1:00 pm will be followed by a Reception Tea at Cooke’s Presbyterian Church, 45825 Wellington Avenue, Chilliwack, BC @ 2:00 pm.