“Loyalist Trails” 2016-40: October 2, 2016

In this issue:
Unpacking a Family Bible’s Inscription: Part One, by Stephen Davidson
UE Loyalist Certificates Issued in August
The Loyalist Collection: Loyalists in the Classroom
Borealia: Skills for Historians of the Future – Palaeography
JAR: Why was the Revolutionary War in the south lost by the British?
New Brunswick Loyalist Resource
War Office Records Can Help Your Research
New York Public Library: Dispossessing Loyalists
Pacific Loyalist Library Collection
Digital Gazette: Fall 2015 Publicly Available; Order Fall 2016 Now
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Last Post: Myrna Marlene Fox, UE


Unpacking a Family Bible’s Inscription: Part One

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Imagine if one of the descendants of the American Revolution’s refugees came to you with a family Bible. There on its fragile pages in squat, cursive writing – the ink brown with age— you could make out descriptions of a loyalist family’s new home in the “whiles of Noviscotia”. “A cold and barren uncomfortable country” it reads, and then: “thousands of poor, distressed families has been tumbled into this poor, impoverished country”.

Wouldn’t you be curious to find out more about the author of such lines? What could be found by “unpacking” such an inscription? And, thus, off goes the researcher in pursuit of the story of Captain Peter Berton and his wife Ann, two Long Island loyalists who settled at Oak Point, New Brunswick.

The best place to begin the story of any loyalist is with his or her own words. Thankfully, Peter Berton had the opportunity to give an account of what he experienced during the American Revolution in his claim to the loyalist compensation board when it convened in Saint John, New Brunswick in February 1787. Embedded in its transcript are the clues needed to piece together Berton’s biography.

According to Berton, he was a ship’s captain from 1756 to 1770. Five years later, he was also a merchant in New York City. The loyalist’s claim also states that he was a joint owner of two sloops, the Dolphin and the Commerce. Rebels seized the Commerce in 1775 after it was hired by the British to deliver the body of Col. Edward Fenwick to Charleston, South Carolina from New York. A British naval vessel then captured the Commerce, scuttling and sinking it off Sandy Hook. The Dolphin fared no better. After returning from a whaling voyage off of Brazil, it was taken by His Majesty’s ship Argo. Given that seven-eighths of the owners of the vessel were rebels, the ship was regarded as a legitimate prize of war; Berton lost 250 barrels of valuable spermaceti.

Despite these losses, Berton declared himself “in favour of the British government” in 1775, and when he refused to take a commission in a rebel militia, New York City’s patriots persecuted him. In November, the harried loyalist placed a notice in Rivington’s Gazette to report the theft of ten silver spoons. Was this simply a burglary or the beginning of rebel attacks upon the family?

Fearing for their safety, Berton relocated his family to Newton, Long Island in February 1776. Following the British army’s victory in the Battle of Long Island that September, Berton reclaimed his property in New York City, but remained on his Newtown farm (in today’s borough of Queens). In time, he became a captain of a loyalist militia.

Within occupied New York City, life proceeded with a degree of normality. In October of 1777, Berton placed a notice in Rivington’s Gazette regarding a meeting of the Marine Society at the home of Widow Doran. Three years later in the same month, the newspaper told its readers that the Marine Society would meet at Strachan’s Tavern on Brownejohn’s Wharf. Berton was its secretary.

Did Berton ever convene the society’s meeting at his own tavern? In a history of Long Island’s Queens County, reference is made to the fact that a favourite drinking spot for British soldiers was the Queen’s Head Tavern in Maspeth, a village near Newtown. Peter Berton was its proprietor throughout the revolution. After the loyalist sold it in 1783, the tavern remained in private hands, ending its days as an Amoco Gas station in the 1930s.

Berton’s name would appear in Rivington’s Gazette once again in June of 1783. In a notice that warned loyalist refugees that it “was absolutely necessary” for them to be aboard their evacuation ship “by tomorrow evening”, Peter Berton’s name is listed as one of the company captains.

His title in this case had nothing to do with Berton’s being a sea captain or an officer in a loyalist militia. To better organize the thousands of evacuating refugees, the British formed them into “companies” of thirty households. Each company elected its own captain. This captain provided leadership during the evacuation and would be the spokesman for the company upon its arrival at the mouth of the St. John River.

Thanks to lists found in the British archives, we know that Peter Berton was in charge of Company #21. Those under his leadership were scheduled to sail on a ship that coincidentally bore the same name as his seized vessel, the Commerce.

The warning in Rivington’s Gazette proved to be a false alarm, and the Commerce did not leave New York for a number of weeks. On June 25, the newspaper carried the last ad placed by Peter Berton. The loyalist captain was selling the Long Island farm that had been home to his family since 1776. Interested buyers could talk to Berton “on the premises” or see his agent, Charles Keeling. Selling off the last of his property, the loyalist turned his back on New York City, never to return.

According to the Book of Negroes, the Commerce finally left New York on July 8th, while other records suggest a date in late June. Archival documents provide a list of those who initially signed on for the Commerce, but in the end some of them may have sailed for the St. John River in other vessels. The historian Brian Mckillop maintains that the Bertons sailed away on the Free Briton, a vessel owned by Peter.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note those who had intended to join Peter, his wife Ann and their eight children on the Commerce. Thirty-seven men, 25 women, 40 children over ten and 30 under ten as well as 37 servants were originally part of Company #21. Most of the men were farmers, but there were also three merchants, a schoolmaster, a painter, a surgeon, a blacksmith, a carpenter, a hatter and a mariner (Peter Berton).

Berton gave his “former place of settlement” as Long Island. Family lore says that he was originally from Oyster Bay (near Huntington). Most refugees on the Commerce were natives of the colony of New York, but they also hailed from Boston, Connecticut, Georgia and “New England”. Simon Flaglor of Dutchess County, New York would eventually become a neighbour of the Berton family, sharing a grave plot at Oak Point on the St. John River.

Thirty-seven of those on the Commerce were servants, but according to the Book of Negroes, only four were enslaved Africans. Five of them were emancipated slaves or “free born”. Therefore, 28 of the listed servants (including the two who accompanied the Berton family) must have been white servants employed by (or indentured to) the refugee passengers.

We will finish “unpacking” the story hidden in the inscription of the Berton family Bible in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

UE Loyalist Certificates Issued in August

A list of UE Certificates issued since late in 2012 – showing the Loyalist ancestor, name of descendant (when permission is granted), branch and date – has been updated with the certificates issued in August of this year. The same updates have been applied to the Loyalist Directory.

The Loyalist Collection: Loyalists in the Classroom

(By Bonnie Huskins) Many people have asked me over the years: “why offer a course on the Loyalists of the American Revolution?”

I approach this course as an example of the rewards of “doing” microhistory. By studying this group, students are able to practice their critical skills by assessing primary sources. This opportunity is enriched by the proximity of The Loyalist Collection at UNB Libraries which is one of the richest collections of British and North American colonial records on the continent. Thus, it is imperative to get students into the collection, although it is large and intimidating. The staff in charge of The Loyalist Collection are doing a wonderful job at making the collection more accessible.

Read more.

Borealia: Skills for Historians of the Future – Palaeography

(By Leah Grandy) Future historians are facing a crisis in a skill set that has not been a significant issue in the past. As the teaching of cursive writing has been eliminated or greatly diminished from North American elementary school curriculums, we are seeing the arrival of university students to arts programmes unable to read written primary documents. Current undergrad students (yes, they are here now!) possess little of the experience with cursive writing needed for interpreting many historical manuscripts; they also are facing struggles in the classroom reading professor’s notes and completing written exams in a timely fashion.

Read more.

JAR: Why was the Revolutionary War in the south lost by the British?

(by Ian Saberton, September 28, 2016) A re-evaluation from a British perspective in the light of The Cornwallis Papers

As published, The Cornwallis Papers has two purposes: first, to provide a comprehensive and fully edited transcript of the papers; and second, in view of the numberless inaccuracies littering the historical record, to provide a commentary, whether in the introductory chapters or various footnotes, aimed at presenting the papers in an accurate, balanced and dispassionate way. “Yet,” as stated in the preface to volume I, “it is so very difficult to be accurate, balanced and dispassionate about a conflict in which political passions were so polarised and views so warped by them. Inevitably, it is the perspective from which the papers are viewed which will to a degree determine whether the editor is seen to have squared the circle.”

So what in the southern campaigns were the critical mistakes that led Britain to disaster?

The cardinal sins were initially to underestimate to a gross extent the number of troops needed for prosecuting the campaigns, to misjudge the continued pacification of conquered territory, to omit taking into account the likely nature of the war should pacification not succeed, and to fail to improvise tactics accordingly – all contrary to Clausewitz’s first rule of war: “The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish … the kind of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.”

Read more.

New Brunswick Loyalist Resource

The New Brunswick Genealogical Society has recently launched the George Hayward Collection on its web-site. It contains most of George’s extensive work on Loyalist families in New Brunswick and his “Pioneer Families of Carleton County”. For anyone with New Brunswick roots well worth checking out.

…John Noble, UE

War Office Records Can Help Your Research

Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock University Directors, Rod and Bev Craig manned a table for Colonel John Butler (Niagara) Branch at the 40th Anniversary of Norfolklore Family History Fair in Simcoe, Ontario on September 17th. They included copies of the Friends’ major fund raiser “An Annotated Roll of Butler’s Rangers 1777 — 1784 with documented sources” by Wm. A Smy, as part of the display.

John Davis, visited the table looking for help solving his Butler research problem. Specifically, the account of Thomas Butler in the book gives several maiden names for Thomas’ wife Ann. One of the names included is Hampton and John wanted to find the source for that name. The source reference in the Thomas Butler account is “B(1)B ” and when we checked that source reference in the back of the book, we found that it referred WO 42, Vol 59 (referring to War Office 42 Volume 59).

John discovered that War Office 42 Volume 59 includes War Office: Officers Birth Certificates, Wills and Personal Papers housed in the Public Record Office (now the UK National Archives).

Now for the really exciting news: John accessed the UK National Archives website and discovered that WO 42 Vol 59 is digitized and freely available to researchers! Needless to say he accessed and located the record for the relevant file. It proves that Ann Hampton was indeed the maiden name of Thomas Butler’s wife Ann.

If you would like to access these records:

• visit discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C1902632

• Scroll down to “This record is available to view with our image viewer – click on “show images”.

• After the images load use the drop down box near the bottom of the page to go to image 728 of 1166. That is the first of the documents relating to Ann Butler’s pension claim.

• Image 741 is Ralph Clench’s certificate proving the marriage of Thomas Butler and Ann Hampton. The date is not given but it must have been prior to Rev. Addison’s arrival in Niagara.

These images are free, many of the images on the site are not.

We researched the contents of the website further and were amazed at the content. We found that WO 42/74 contains the index for War Office 42, Volumes 1 -51 & WO/75 contains the index for War Office 42, Volumes 52-65.

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah! to Bill Smy for his excellent work and significant contributions to Loyalist research and to John Davis for sharing this valuable digital resource.

Happy searching everyone!

…Bev Craig, UE

New York Public Library: Dispossessing Loyalists

“Dispossessing Loyalists and Redistributing Property in Revolutionary New York,” by Mark Boonshoft

The American Revolution was a civil war. It may have given rise to a republic in which the foundation for government legitimacy is a democratic citizenry offering its voluntary consent to law. But that was the hard-won outcome of a violent conflict during which loyalty to the Revolutionary cause was often coerced at bayonet point. Revolutionary governments likewise met non-allegiance with punitive measures. The lingering effects of coercive state policies enacted in the 1770s and early 1780s muddled the transition to consensual government. Nothing makes this clearer than the widespread seizure of property owned by known loyalists. Read more.

Pacific Loyalist Library Collection

UELAC Vancouver Branch Strikes Joint-Agreement with the BCGS (British Columbia Genealogical Society) to house the first ever Pacific Loyalist Library Collection.

Last evening (16 September 2016) the UELAC Vancouver Branch attended the Dedication Ceremonies at the BCGS-Walter Draycott Library in Surrey, British Columbia. The Vancouver Branch has been seeking a permanent home for its extensive library collection. After 13 months of discussions, contract signing and the transfer of many boxes, the Vancouver Branch Loyalist Library Collection has its new home.

Read more and see photos from the dedication ceremony.

…Carl Stymiest

Digital Gazette: Fall 2015 Publicly Available; Order Fall 2016 Now

The digital version of the Fall 2015 issue of the Loyalist Gazette until now has been available only to members and Gazette subscribers. It is now available publicly – a lot of colour.

People who are paid-up members and Gazette subscribers can now register for the digital copy of the Fall 2016 issue (and get access to the Spring 2016 issue in the same place). Each request is processed at Dominion Office (to check that the requirements are met) before the access details are returned (the office is open Tues, Wed, Thurs).

Those who received access in the Spring need NOT reapply; a message was sent to you to confirm your choice.

We hope you will enjoy this year’s issues of the Loyalist Gazette – in digital full colour.

Note: The Fall issue of the Loyalist Gazette is currently in the design stage.

…Publications Committee

Where in the World?

Where are Ruth and David Nicholson of Hamilton 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 loyalist.trails@uelac.org.

Region and Branch Bits

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

  • On Sunday Sept 25. the family of Ruth and Norman MacDonald celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary. Ruth is a Past-President and long time member of the Abegweit Branch in PEI. The actual wedding anniversary was September 22, 2016. They were married at the Bedeque United Church – Bedeque is the home of the Loyalist Museum. I guess you could call it the heart of Loyalist Country. Holly MacDonald
  • Smith family reunites in Waterville NB to honour 3 Loyalist brothers. Mark Smith says he wouldn’t mind if 100 or more of his relatives show up Sunday for a visit. That’s because Smith families from all over will gather at Sunbury-Oromocto Park grounds in Waterville, N.B., at 2 p.m.
  • NS Branch United Empire Loyalists inside Old St. Edward’s Loyalist Church, Clementsport, NS (photo). Brian McConnell describes on YouTube (3.5 min)

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • In 1916, Mabel Gregory Walker wrote her graduate thesis as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master Arts in History at the University of Illinois on Sir John Johnson – Loyalist (140 pages). This was digitized by the Internet Archive in 2014 and is available for you to read here.
  • Mildred and Loral Wannamaker’s research introduced us to Kelly’s fifth great uncle, Asa. Born to Zebulon Wallbridge and Sarah Fobes of Preston, Connecticut (1747), Asa Wallbridge served a British Regiment during America’s Revolution. As a loyalist in Canada he “had a saw mill on the Jemseq River in New Brunswick and came to Singleton’s creek, later Myer’s Creek circa 1797.” Read more.
  • War on the Middleline — The Founding of a Community in the Kayaderosssras Patent in the Midst of the American Revolution. In the Fort Plain Museum Fall Lecture Series, on Thursday, October 13, 2016 the museum presents “War on the Middleline — The Founding of a Community in the Kayaderossras Patent in the Midst of the American Revolution” by James Richmond. James will focus on the Revolutionary War in Saratoga County and the surrounding area beyond the 1777 Battles at Saratoga. The talk will feature the impact of the war on the average citizen as told “in their own words” in original documents such as the records of the Committees of Correspondence, private journals, and pension application files. Attendees will have the opportunity to read from these personal accounts on a voluntary basis. The talk will culminate with the story of the British raid on Middleline Road in Ballston in October 1780, and the experiences of the men captured and imprisoned in Canada. Books will be available for purchase. fortplainmuseum@yahoo.com
  • Yorktown Now or Never Lesson Plans. George Washington’s Mount Vernon created this 20 minute video to illustrate the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.
  • Brian McConnell UE at grave of Loyalist John Fowler, buried 1796, in Old Burying Ground, Wolfville, Nova Scotia (photo).
  • And Beside Memorial to United Empire Loyalist Rev. Ranna (Rene) Cossit in historic Church Hill Cemetery at Yarmouth, NS (photo)
  • The Haskell Library is only library in the world to straddle two countries it highlights our great relationship with our USA friends. The pride of Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House was constructed deliberately astride the boundary line separating Canada from the United States. The Haskell has been classified a historic site by the governments of Canada, the United States, and the Province of Quebec. More information – scroll down for a photo showing the international boundary marked on the floor of the reading room.
  • Sewing a mug out of leather in Jamestown Settlement’s re-created colonial fort. (photo)
  • A Victorian Halloween at The Loyalist House on Oct. 15! Tickets available at the door! (Did they recognize Halloween in Loyalist times?)
  • We dipped into the archives today to revisit an oldie but goodie: a simple and delicious boiled apple pudding — Just in time for the apple harvest! (4 minute video). Jas. Townsend and Son
  • The Royal Family in Victoria BC {in 1939] (go to next for more photos}

Last Post: Myrna Marlene Fox, UE

(September 2, 1937 – September 23, 2016) Beloved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, Myrna Marlene Fox U.E. passed away in her 80th year at Sunnybrook Hospital with her family and Rev. Summers at her side. She will be greatly missed by her husband Don, children and (spouses) Cynthia (Steven), Catherine (Daniel), Steven (Suzanne) and Stewart (Joyce) grandchildren Kaitlin, Paul, Kelly, Curtis, Matthew, Sarah, Brandon, Madeline and sister Betty.

Her love for her family and church was foremost.

Myrna was a member of the Toronto Branch of UELAC. At the Dominion Association level, she served on many committees, held several executive roles and was President from 2002 to 2004.

Myrna was a faithful and beloved member of Trinity Presbyterian Church.

The family would like to thank the staff of Sunnybrook for their compassionate care.

The family will receive guests at R.S. Kane Funeral Home 6150 Yonge St., (at Goulding, south of Steeles) Toronto, on Wednesday, September 28th, 2-4 pm & 7-9 pm. A service of remembrance will be held at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 2737 Bayview Ave. Toronto, on Thursday, September 29th, 12:30 pm followed by a luncheon reception.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Sunnybrook Hospital Foundation or Heart and Stroke Foundation.