“Loyalist Trails” 2017-23: June 4, 2017

In this issue:
2017 UELAC Conference: Discover Your Roots
Unpacking a History Book’s Paragraph: The Loyalists of Jamaica, Long Island (Part 1), by Stephen Davidson
NEHS: Six Loyalist Houses in New England
Bicentennial Branch Supports Belle Vue House Restoration
Junto: What Do PhD History Grads Do Next? (Part 2)
Borealia: The American Gaze: Adam Gopnik’s Canada
JAR: For God and Country: The Intelligence Role of the Rev. John Vardill
Ben Franklin’s World: Material Culture and the Making of America
Branches and Loyalist Day, Canada 150, Canada Day Events
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
Last Post: Frank Cooper, UE


2017 UELAC Conference: Discover Your Roots

June 22 – 25, 2017; London, Ontario

Hosted by: London & Western Ontario Branch and Grand River Branch

Registration and details.

Unpacking a History Book’s Paragraph: The Loyalists of Jamaica, Long Island (Part 1)

© Stephen Davidson, UE

In 1882, W.W. Munsell and Company published The History of Queens County with Illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals, a book about communities on New York’s Long Island. Among the chapters is one on “Revolutionary Incidents in Jamaica”. Its final paragraph reads: “Some of the loyalists of Jamaica at the approach of peace went into voluntary exile in Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Most of them returned to their former homes after the angry passions of the Whigs had subsided. A few, however, breathed their last in a land of strangers.”

Who were the loyal Americans of Jamaica? Who among them “breathed their last in a land of strangers” and who were able to remain on Long Island? Here is what a little “unpacking” revealed about both the obscure and the noteworthy loyalists of Jamaica, New York.

It is pointless to look for Jamaica on a modern map of Long Island; it no longer exists — but if it had not been absorbed by the larger community of Queens, you would find it just to the east of Brooklyn, north of the John F. Kennedy International Airport and to the southeast of the site of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Although it shares its name with a Caribbean island, Long Island’s “Jamaica” is probably derived from an indigenous word for “beaver”; it was originally spelled as “Jameco”, “Jemeco” and “Yemacah”.

Most of those who lived on Long Island during the American Revolution retained their loyalty to the crown. Over a year before the Declaration of Independence was signed, 135 inhabitants of Jamaica signed their names to a declaration of loyalty to King George III. When the royal army successfully occupied Staten Island, Manhatten Island and Long Island in August of 1776, the village of Jamaica fell within the British lines. For the next seven years, it was a favourite place to billet soldiers, forage for wood and food, and stay to enjoy the Long Island’s scenery.

British soldiers were kept busy fighting rebels from the spring to the fall, but during the winter they needed somewhere other than tents to live. New York City didn’t have enough room and so hundreds of troops were billeted on Long Island. Among the more famous officers who stayed in Jamaica were Lord Cornwallis, General Tryon, Lord Rawdon, Sir William Erskine and General Oliver DeLancey. In patriot history books, these men are remembered as those who expected “the utmost reverence” from the local colonists. If a farmer were to meet an officer in the street and not take off his hat, he could expect to be given a caning.

British soldiers “were billeted in almost every house in Jamaica”. Rooms were commandeered by an officer arriving at a family’s door saying “We have come to take a billet on your house”. The number of soldiers to be accommodated was then marked on the door with chalk. (The ticket or “billet” that soldiers later presented to the home owner authorized them to stay with his family.)

Despite this imposition, the Queens County historian noted that if the soldiers behaved themselves, did not steal too much, and treated their hosts civilly, they might receive a “parting address”. What these little speeches or letters contained can only be imagined as none have survived to the present.

One of the local loyalists put in charge of supplying the British guard house and hospital with firewood and “necessary items” was John/Johannes Polhemus. A tavern-keeper, Polhemus had once been convicted of high treason by a rebel court in Monmouth, New Jersey and sentenced to be executed. He escaped death and later became a leader of a company of loyal refugees bound for Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. In addition to his family, Polhemus brought a slave named Mary and Dinah, her six-month old daughter, aboard the Hope in September of 1783. His 200 acre farm was confiscated by rebels and sold for £1,650.

In addition to the military personnel in Jamaica, loyal refugees from New Jersey, Connecticut and other parts of New York also made the community their home. These displaced loyalists, finding no other employment, often joined the British army or a provincial regiment. Between 1777 and 1779, Col. Fanning, Captain Kinlock and Abraham Cuyler all raised troops at recruitment centres (usually taverns) in Jamaica.

Long Island was also expected to provide horses for the British army. Colonists brought them to Jamaica where they were handed over to the commissary general, inspected, and purchased.

Given that patriots and loyalists could not be distinguished by dress or language, the streets of Jamaica were patrolled each evening. If one did not have a pass, he could be arrested along with stragglers, deserters, and runaway Africans.

Despite the strict security, Jamaica became a hub for leisure activities for both the civilian and military populations of New York City. Thomas Rochford, a local loyalist, operated the Queen’s Head Inn, promising those who “make an excursion from New York … a tea garden with arbors, bowers, alcoves, grottos, statues of naids, dryads, hamadryads, &c., &c. He has a stock of good liquors, and can at any time furnish genteel dinners.”

Although this innkeeper was noteworthy enough to be included in Lorenzo Sabine’s biographical dictionary of loyalists, his fate following the revolution is unknown. By the spring of 1783, Rochford had clearly moved on. Edward Bardin, a patriot, made it known that the Queen’s Head Inn now had new management and a new name. In addition to the best kind of liquors, the Vauxhall would serve “tea and coffee and entertainments great and small.”

Charles Loosely and Thomas Elms were two other loyalists who did business in Jamaica, operating a “caravan” between the town and Brooklyn. By 1783 these innkeepers were on an evacuation vessel bound for the mouth of the St. John River. Loosely later moved to Shelburne, Nova Scotia where he operated a hotel. Jack Patterson, Loosely’s fifteen year old black indentured servant, became a farmer near Fredericton, New Brunswick. Loosely’s partner, Thomas Elms, settled along the Kingston Peninsula. There his wife Freelove and their only child Charles died in a boating accident in 1787.

The stories of the Loyalists of Jamaica, Long Island will continue in next week’s edition of Loyalist Trails.

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

NEHS: Six Loyalist Houses in New England

A Loyalist House was likely to be seized and sold when the American Revolution broke out. Many colonies passed laws that let them confiscate the property of known Loyalists, criminalizing dissent against the war and raising revenue for the war effort.

Many Loyalists fled to Canada or England. The British government compensated some for their loss, but tried to pressure the United States into giving restitution. Under the Jay Treaty of 1794, the U.S. agreed to ‘advise’ the states to return Loyalist property. Some families are still trying to get their property back.

Connecticut was more lenient than the other New England states in confiscating Loyalist houses. It waited until four other states had passed confiscation laws, and local officials dragged their feet in identifying Loyalist properties.

Vermont, on the other hand, was eager to seize Loyalist property in order to pay for the Green Mountain Boys.

Here, then, are stories of six Loyalist houses and their fate during the American Revolution.

Read more.

Bicentennial Branch Supports Belle Vue House Restoration

Belle Vue Conservancy Receives Boost From The United Empire Loyalist Association. The Bicentennial Branch Essex-Kent of The United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada will present Belle Vue House a $5,000 donation for restoration.

The donation will go towards an ongoing fundraising campaign by the Belle Vue Conservancy to restore the 200-year-old home.

Robert Reynolds the owner and builder of the house in 1814, was the son of a loyalist. His father Thomas Reynolds lost his land in Detroit and was forced to move to Amherstburg.

Read more.

Junto: What Do PhD History Grads Do Next? (Part 2)

Q&A with Kenneth Minkema of the Jonathan Edwards Center

For this week’s “Where Historians Work: The View from Early America,” The Junto features a Q&A with Dr. Kenneth P. Minkema, the Executive Editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, and the Executive Director of The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. Dr. Minkema is also a member of the Research Faculty at the Yale Divinity School.

In today’s Q&A, Katy and Ken chat about many topics, including the role that mentors and advisors can play in shaping career choices in graduate school and beyond, and how finding the right “fit” or “vocation” can be a true source of professional inspiration and purpose.

Read more.

Borealia: The American Gaze: Adam Gopnik’s Canada

By Jerry Bannister, May 29

Adam Gopnik’s recent article, “We could all have been Canadians,” published in the May 15th issue of the New Yorker, has attracted considerable attention on social media among Canadian historians. I’ve already chimed in with a short comment on Christopher Moore’s blog. With the sun shining hopefully on my back deck this morning, I wanted to give Gopnik’s article a closer read. I am not interested in offering a critique — testing magazine articles for their historical accuracy is like shooting fish in a barrel — and the comments on Twitter about Gopnik’s lack of appreciation for the violence and oppression in Canada’s past are, in fact, right. Gopnik does overlook, downplay, and misrepresent the violence of settler colonialism.

I would like to explore the ways in which Gopnik portrays Canada. I am interested in the stereotypes, myths, and tropes on which Gopnik relies. If American liberals have a selective memory and a skewed view of Canada, I am interested in what gets selected, what gets seen through their eyes. I am interested in this because, far too often, when we criticize something for relying on myths, we just leave it at that. We shoot our fish, pat ourselves on the back, and walk away. My worry is that, in doing so, we end up simplifying a simplification. If the American gaze relies on uncritical generalizations, our view of that gaze itself trades in generalizations. They see us as less violent, more polite, less greedy, and more rational. We are, in terms of national myths, the peaceable kingdom.

Read more.

JAR: For God and Country: The Intelligence Role of the Rev. John Vardill

By Ken Daigler, June 1, 2017

On September 26, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed an official Commission to France. It was composed of Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee. The Paris Commission, America’s first diplomatic mission abroad, opened in late December of 1776. Franklin was its de facto head of mission, and it was located in the Hotel de Valentinois, in the Paris suburb of Passy.

Obviously, its personnel, and its mission of seeking French assistance and eventual formal alliance, were of significant interest to the British Government and its intelligence organizations. In France, British intelligence collection was directed by Lord Stormont, its Ambassador to the French Government, and its capabilities were extensive. For most of the war Britain had the Commission thoroughly penetrated with reporting agents, including the Commission’s private secretary Dr. Edward Bancroft.

Where the Reverent John Vardill comes into the picture is not in France but rather in London, where his job was to recruit American seamen whom he could then direct to the Paris Commission for employment in arranging shipments of military supplies, funds and Commission communications back to the Continental Congress and army.

Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: Material Culture and the Making of America

Jennifer Van Horn, authour of The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America, leads us on an exploration of the 18th-century British material world and how objects from that world can help us think about and explore the lives of 18th-century British Americans.

During our investigation, Jennifer reveals why objects make great things to think through early American history; How objects and material goods helped colonial Americans feel more refined and more British; And, what material objects and goods can tell us about the early American past If we examine them closely.

Read more & listen to the podcast.

Branches and Loyalist Day, Canada 150, Canada Day Events

  • Ottawa, Friday, June 16, 2017: The Loyalist Flag will be raised at Ottawa City Hall to honour the arrival of the first Refugee Loyalist Settlers to Adolphustown in 1784 under the leadership of Peter Van Alstine.  The event will take place at 11 a.m. in the presence of His Worship Mayor Jim Watson.  Period dress is encouraged.  Please notify the branch of your intention to attend carletonUEL@hotmail.com.
  • Adolphustwon, Sunday June 18: You are cordially invited to attend the annual UNITED EMPIRE LOYALIST Commemorative Service at St Alban The Martyr Anglican Church, Adolphustown, ON; June 18th 2017 at 3:00 PM; Guest Speaker: Bishop Michael Oulton, Bishop of the Diocese of Ontario
  • Hamilton, Monday June 19:Celebrating Canada150: Hamilton Branch Banquet. Good food and an evening of celebration.
  • Toronto, June 19: Toronto Branch with Gov. Simcoe Branch at Queen’s Park in Toronto at 2:00 for a ceremony and Loyalist flag-raising.
  • Friday June 30th:  Celebrate Bay of Quinte Branch UEL Heritage Fundraising Dinner in South Fredericksburg in support of Allison House; speakers Gavin Watt and Todd Braisted. Loyalist Parkway Canada Day celebrations)

Where in the World?

Where are Gov. Simcoe Branch members Doug Grant and Nancy Conn?

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.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Tim Compeau, former UELAC Scholarship recipient: Great day exploring the National Archives UK and seeing the original Loyalist Claims.
  • On Saturday at Old Fort Niagara in New York, a Revolutionary era Queen’s Ranger was spotted.
  • RevWarTalk: some arms:
  • Today in History: Lars D.H. Hedbor @LarsDHHedbor (see his page for associated photos):
    • 3 Jun 1775 3 men from Williamsburg, VA are surprised & injured by gunfire while taking arms from public magazine.
    • 2 Jun 1774 Parliament punishes Colonies for Tea Party by completing “Coercive Acts,” spurring widening revolt.
    • 31 May 1777 Gen Washington wrote from HQ at Middle Brook NJ arguing against Monsieur Philippe du Courdray as commander of Continental Arty.
    • 31 May 1776 Mecklenburg County, NC issues “Mecklenburg Resolves,” suspending British authority in North-Carolina.
    • 30 May 1778 British forces from Philadelphia fail in plan to entrap Marquis de Lafayette at Battle of Barren Hill.
    • 29 May 1780 British Col. Tarleton has surrendering rebels shot at Waxhaws, SC, cementing a reputation for brutality.
    • 28 May 1754 Col. George Washington accidentally starts French & Indian War, as captive dies during interrogation.
  • So much Loyalist history in NS. Brian McConnell UE visits at Clermont, home of Loyalist Charles Inglis, first Anglican Bishop of Nova Scotia.
  • Townsend: We’re back at George Washington’s Mount Vernon! Once again, we’re joined by Deb Colburn who shows us a wonderful Catfish Stew recipe. Enjoy!
  • Gauzy muslin
    caraco and petticoat
    c1795. Amazing such a delicate piece survived near perfect condition.

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:

  • Brisbin, William – from Marilyn Sapienza with biography

Last Post: Frank Cooper, UE

On May 25, 2017 Albert Franklyn Cooper passed away peacefully in hospital with family at his side at the great age of 90. Predeceased by his wife Evelyn and younger brother Ted. Loving father to Kevin, Scott, Maureen (Franco Bernabo) and Heather (David Kelly). Proud grandfather of Ashley (Josh Seale) of Florida, Michael, Alexa, and Lindsay. Great-grandfather to Riley and Mackenzie of Florida. Fondly remembered by sisters/brothers in-law Lois (Kyle Graham), Jean (Gordon Burke) and Betty Cooper as well as cousins, nieces and nephews. The family wishes to thank Billings Lodge and in the last couple of years Alta Vista Manor who provided a supportive and comfortable environment during Frank’s retirement years. The family is also In gratitude to the staff of the Ottawa Hospital — General campus (4th & 5th floor) for their professionalism and patience during Frank’s extended stay. Visitation from 3-4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at McEvoy-Shields Funeral Home (Hunt Club at Albion Rd) followed by a Service of Remembrance at 4:00 p.m. in the Chapel. All are invited to join the family for refreshments following the service.

As President of UELAC 1988 – 90, Frank would have been front and centre when HRH Prince Philip in 1989 participated in the UELAC Conference (May 18-22) organized by Heritage and Sir John Johnson Centennial Branches and held at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec.

[Updated from last week.]