“Loyalist Trails” 2016-52: December 25, 2016

In this issue:
A Note Of Thanks To Stephen Davidson
Unshaken Loyalty: The Revolution along the St. John River: Part 1 of 2, by Stephen Davidson
Atlantic Loyalist Connections: “A Visit from St. Nicholas”: The New Brunswick Odells and the Authorship Controversy
Borealia: Legal Pluralism and the Search for Sovereignty in Post-Conquest Quebec
JAR: Manufacturing Independence: Industrial Innovation in the American Revolution
Canada’s First Christmas Tree, 1781
The SAR Glances at Loyalists
Honours and Recognition
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Last Post: Captain David Judson Gray, UE


A Note Of Thanks To Stephen Davidson

Stephen’s first contribution to Loyalist Trails was in fact a reprint of an article published only days before in the The NB Reader – it was published here on September 24, 2006 and can be read in the archived issues My Calamitous Situation: The Life of Polly Jarvis Dibblee.

Although initially items from Stephen were published periodically, it was not long before he became a regular weekly contributor. What is truly amazing is that his piece below is number 500.

For me at least, and I suspect many of you would agree, learning more about our Loyalist history has been an easy, enjoyable experience with Stephen as tour leader and teacher. I know that many people have asked and been given permission to reprint articles in other publications; the lessons reach well beyond the readers of Loyalist Trails.

On behalf of everyone, I thank you Stephen for your countless hours of research and writing. I also wish you happy moments over this holiday season and the best for 2017.


Unshaken Loyalty: The Revolution along the St. John River: Part 1 of 2

© Stephen Davidson, UE

“Instead of being stripped of our rights to make amends for the losses of the Loyalists who {were} plundered in New York or elsewhere, we have at least as weighty reasons as they possibly can offer to claim restitution from government for the value of all the property taken from us, our distresses by imprisonment, etc. They had a numerous British army to protect them; we had to combat the sons of darkness alone. In a word, we had much less than they to hope for by unshaken loyalty and incomparably more to fear.”
– James Simonds (a resident of the St. John River Valley), 1784

The battles of American Revolution were not only fought within the rebelling thirteen colonies; there were also armed conflicts within the colonies that became eastern Canada. Most history students are aware of the American rebels’ capture of Montreal and their attack on Quebec City in 1775. A few might recall the patriots’ failed attempt to seize Fort Cumberland near today’s Amherst, Nova Scotia. However, only a handful are aware that the New England Planters who had settled along the St. John River (in today’s New Brunswick) also felt the brunt of this civil war. Like the loyalists in the thirteen colonies, the Planters endured losses in battle, the destruction of forts, raids on frontier settlements, and the division of communities into patriot and loyalist camps.

It is important to clarify colonial geography at this point in the story. During the days of the American Revolution, the St. John River ran through Sunbury County in the western frontier of Nova Scotia. It would not be until 1784 – when the British government redrew colonial borders – that the river would be situated in the colony of New Brunswick. Portland Point (renamed Parrtown by the loyalist refugees in 1783) was the Planter settlement at the mouth of the St. John River.

The story of the loyal Yankees who lived along the St. John River during the revolution has been forgotten – strangely enough – because so many loyalist refugees settled near them. The voices of the Planters – a far smaller group who had been in the region since the 1760s – were drowned out by those of their contemporaries in the rebelling colonies as they flooded into the colony in 1783. Following the revolution, New Brunswick’s history was written from the perspective of its loyal refugee newcomers, not its loyal resident settlers.

Here, then, is a quick overview of the American Revolution as it was experienced by those who remained loyal to the crown within their colony – the story of the Planter settlers of the St. John River Valley.

In 1775, the rocky shores at the mouth of the St. John River were the site of a small trading post operated by James White, James Simonds, and William Hazen. They traded with the river valley’s Aboriginal people as well as the New England Planters who lived in five small settlements on the lower part of the river. The Portland Point trading post was protected by Fort Frederick, the British garrison on the opposite of the harbour. After most of its troops were reassigned to Boston to deal with Massachusetts’ growing dissent, only a half a dozen (!) men were left to guard the mouth of a river that extended 418 miles into British territory.

The three New Englanders who operated the trading post were all from Massachusetts and carried on a steady commerce with their old home. It seemed only logical to their New England trading partners that the settlers of the St. John River Valley would join in the rebellion against the crown, and so for a time, the region was neglected by the patriots. This all changed in 1775.

While the traders at the mouth of the St. John River were confirmed loyalists, many of the Planters who had settled its valley had already formed committees in support of the patriots. Francis Legge, Nova Scotia’s governor, felt that “little or no dependence can be placed on the militia there to make any resistance against them {the people of New England}”. Consequently, he asked for 1000 men composed of “Germans, Neutrals and Irish” to be put under his command “for the preservation of this province from being subverted by the rebels”.

In August of 1775, just two months after the Battle of Bunker Hill, rebels launched their first attack on Portland Point. Sailing into the harbour in an armed sloop, they set fire to Fort Frederick and its barracks, plundered its supplies, and carried off four soldiers. The patriots then seized a ship loaded down with pigs, sheep, poultry, and oxen that were intended for the British forces in Boston. Although this fiery attack on loyal colonists occurred months before rebels lay siege to Montreal and Quebec City, it does not even merit footnote status. And yet it was the first battle in the American Revolution that was fought on what is now Canadian soil.

Following James Simonds’ appeal to the government in Halifax for protection, two sloops of war started patrolling the Bay of Fundy. Nevertheless, two rebel privateers were able to make their way up the St. John River in May of 1776. While they did not plunder or torch the valley’s Planter settlements, they were able to convince a number of its New Englanders to join the rebel cause.

The privateers sailed as far as Maugerville, threatening the settlers with imminent invasion. They could expect “all manner of commerce” to stop – and a confiscation of their land – unless they sided with the other rebelling colonies. The rebels also warned of attack by a “whole tribe” of Native warriors who “threatened to kill the white inhabitants unless they would join the Boston men”. As in the thirteen colonies, the threat of violence – not political principle – was a key factor in persuading Americans to fight against the crown.

By mid-May, 125 men had signed the resolutions circulated by Maugerville’s rebel committee. However, at least 30 families outside of the settlement maintained their loyalty. The St. John River Valley wrestled with the same divisions and turmoil that were shaking the other colonies to their foundations.

July came – and with it the Declaration of Independence. August and September followed with the British capture of New York City and Long Island. For which side would the scales of victory finally tip? Rebel or Loyalist?

Shortly after General William Howe’s army left Nova Scotia to attack New York, a rebel Nova Scotian named Jonathan Eddy made his move. His force of 180 New England militiamen, Planters (recruited from the St. John River) and Native allies marched on Fort Cumberland. They attempted to storm the fort on November 13, 1776, but failed. They launched two more abortive attacks on the 22nd and 23 November. Then, five days later, the HMS Vulture arrived at the head of the Bay of Fundy with British Royal Marines who relieved the defenders of Fort Cumberland. Eddy and his rebels scattered, eventually regrouping near the St. John River.

In May of 1777, the Nova Scotia government sent the Sunbury County rebels a letter, saying that it knew of their treason, but offered them clemency. The Planter patriots replied, confessing that they were “ready to attend to any conditions of lenity”.

It was a good time for these Planters to come to their senses. Within a matter of weeks, New England patriots attacked, overran and occupied Portland Point. John Allan and his men had not only seized a strategic port, they had also made prisoners of William Hazen and James White, two Planter loyalists.

More serious than the 1776 burning of Fort Frederick, this assault on Portland Point required a swift and decisive response from the British forces stationed in the colony. Under the command of Major Gilfred Studholme, three Royal Navy ships made their way to the mouth of the St. John River to route the rebel forces.

Learn what happened at Portland Point in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

Atlantic Loyalist Connections: “A Visit from St. Nicholas”: The New Brunswick Odells and the Authorship Controversy

By Leah Grandy

The poem now commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas” was originally published anonymously in 1823 by the Troy Sentinel (New York). It has been integral in the formation of the modern North American vision of Christmas; in particular, the appearance and role of St. Nick or Santa Claus. A unique hand-written copy of this poem is included in the Odell Family Papers which are part of The Loyalist Collection.

“A Visit from St. Nicholas” is usually attributed to classical scholar and writer Clement Clark Moore of New York City, but there has been much debate as to whether Henry Livingston Junior was indeed the true author. The initial publication was apparently done without the author’s knowledge, and a series of events occurred which made Moore’s family and the public believe that he had authored the poem. Moore did officially claim authorship of the poem in 1837 and published it (at the urging of his children) in an 1844 collection entitled Poems.

Read more.

Borealia: Legal Pluralism and the Search for Sovereignty in Post-Conquest Quebec

By Aaron Willis

The sovereignty of British political institutions and English laws in governing Quebec eroded for a variety of reasons. One source of this erosion was the ability to work outside the strictures of the Common Law granted to officials by the use of European Natural law theory. A second critical cause is the rise of a strategy of continuity of, and collaboration with, existing hierarchies. One critical example of this is the growing importance of protecting French Catholic “customs and usages.” A focus on property eventually expanded to include broader aspects of elite cultural power. The facts on the ground made shared authority between conquered and conqueror a necessity. The strategies and ideas developed in Quebec offered critical precedents for integrating non-Britons and securing British authority in India and beyond. In the end, Quebec was not simply a colonial outpost shaped by outside influences; strategies developed in North America would influence British policy across the globe.

After 1763, stability in Quebec increasingly depended on the maintenance of an idealized French Catholic social order. While many of the assumptions underlying British views of Canadien society were ultimately imagined, as it would be in places like India and Africa, it served both officials and the seigneurial class to create policies which enshrined this illusory hierarchy.

Read more.

JAR: Manufacturing Independence: Industrial Innovation in the American Revolution

A book review by Eric Sterner

In his 1961 Farewell Address, President Eisenhower famously warned his fellow citizens to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex.” While his warning endured, he also repeated a myth about the American war economy. When once “the United States had no armaments industry,” and “American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well,” modern circumstances compelled Americans “to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.” In truth, arming Americans for war was never as simple as beating plowshares into swords, or turning civilian manufacturing activities towards warmaking. Nowhere is this more apparent, and less studied, than the American Revolution. In Manufacturing Independence: Industrial Innovation in the American Revolution, Robert Smith set outs to address this shortfall and correct the myth, succeeding admirably.

When the colonies and Great Britain went to war in 1775, the colonial economy was largely based on agriculture. Small craftsman and artisans dominated manufacturing. The colonies had always relied on imports from Great Britain for war materiel. Small arms, artillery, accoutrements, and ammunition in any meaningful amounts were made overseas, and often stored under the auspices of the British Army or colonial governments loyal to the crown. Thus, as events spiraled in 1774 and 1775, patriots and colonial governments raced to secure arsenals, cannon from pre-war forts, and gunpowder, producing events like Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore’s raid on the arsenal at Williamsburg, Governor Gage’s march into Concord, and even Ethan Allen’s triumph at Fort Ticonderoga. Nevertheless, control of pre-war stocks would not be enough to fight a revolution. Smith explains that the colonies quickly turned to three different approaches to meet their war needs: confiscation, foreign importation, and domestic purchase. Each had its limitations.

Read more.

Canada’s First Christmas Tree, 1781

The Christbaum, or “Christ tree,” became a popular tradition in Germany in the 1700s. In North America, the early Puritan settlers had forbidden Christmas entirely – anyone caught celebrating Christmas was fined 15 cents. But German immigrants soon adopted the practice of their homeland. The Moravian community of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, erected North America’s first Christmas tree in 1747, covering a wooden pyramid with boughs of fir, and decorating it with candles and apples.

The first Christmas tree in Canada was lit at Sorel, Québec, in 1781, by Baroness Frederika von Riedesel, wife of the commander of the Brunswick and Hessian mercenary troops who fought with the British in the Revolutionary War.

Read more.

The SAR Glances at Loyalists

The SAR (Sons of the American Revolution) is rather like a Rebel version of our Loyalist Association. The companion organization is the DAR. The SAR publishes a magazine several times a year, and as one would expect the Rebels (or Patriots as they call them), are glorified and the Loyalists are rarely mentioned and such references are usually not complementary.

The SAR Magazine Vol.111 No. 2 (Fall 2016) is now out and it came as a surprise to see a brief review of Maya Jasanoff’s, Liberty’s Exiles: American Exiles In The Revolutionary World, a book which many may have already read. I half expected some derisive editorial comment about those “Tories” but there was none. Jasanoff is quoted including a reference to persecution of the Loyalists. Small steps equal progress.

There’s also an article on “Fourteen Free Patriots of Color” which is unintentionally ironic, but that’s another story.

…Peter W. Johnson, UE

Honours and Recognition

Each year people associated with UELAC are recognized by UELAC or one of the branches. Here are two who have been recognized this year:

Region and Branch Bits

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

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Reading lists from the Age of Revolutions: list of about one hundred compiled by the editors; top five by each of Benjamin L. Carp and Michael McDonnell — two experts on the American Revolution
  • Fried Beets“: a surprising recipe from Richard Bradley’s 1727 cookbook “The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director.
  • 18th century Sailor’s food — Ships Provisions listed for two different British ships. Some comments below add to the content. From Savoring The Past.
  • Contemporary approach to medieval knights – in textiles and prints. Love people with such artistic capabilities. Wonder if she will do a rev war themed piece one day?
  • In case you missed it, the Queen’s Christmas message on CBC.
  • Are you sending – receiving – fewer Christmas cards each year? Here are a few from years past.
  • A red silk velvet suit c.1770s for dapper dashing gentleman in textured velvet; trimmed w/ silver embroidery & spangles. British silk brocade shoes, 1760s (?) Yellow, w/bright red creating an exotic “Chinoissere” effect. Dashing & dapper! Coat & waistcoat, c1775 from Musee McCord: Green silk embroidered w/floral motifs in silk thread; waistcoat: cream silk satin. All from Kimberly Alexander ?@SilkDamask

Last Post: Captain David Judson Gray, UE

Capt. David Judson Gray, UE of Arlington, Massachusetts, USA passed away on December 19, 2016 at age 72.

He was the beloved husband of the late Laura Gray (Stonberg) and son of the late Clifton Daggett Gray Jr. and Alice Carolyn Neily. Brother of Clifton and his wife Marcia of Plainfield, Illinois, and Edward of Jefferson City, Missouri, Uncle of Sarah Gray of Columbia, Missouri and Troy D. Gray and his wife Nikki of Plainfield, Illinois. David served in the US Naval Reserve for over 30 years as an officer and retired as Captain.

David was a member of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association in Nova Scotia since 1990 when he proved his Loyalist ancestor Jacob Cornwell. He was very proud of his Loyalist roots and his connection to Digby and the Annapolis Valley. The family kept a summer home in Digby which had belonged to their grandparents.

After high school David attended Boston University. He became Vice President EMEA at Openpages Inc.

Visitation at DeVito Funeral Home 1145 Mass. Ave., Arlington, Massachusetts on December 21 and funeral service on December 22 in First Baptist Church, Arlington with burial in Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett, Massachusetts. To send a condolence visit, devitofuneralhomes.com.

[Submitted by Brian McConnell, UE, President, NS Branch]