“Loyalist Trails” 2017-39: September 24, 2017
In this issue:
– Four Loyalist Blacksmiths Who settled in Upper Canada, by Stephen Davidson
– The Oldest Building (Cont’d)
– Where in the World?
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
– Last Post: Evelyn Nellie (Powell) Denton, UE
– Editor’s Note: Away From Home
© Stephen Davidson, UE
As we saw last week, quite a few loyalist blacksmiths found refuge in New Johnstown (present day Cornwall, Ontario) in the wake of the American Revolution. While there were no doubt scores of blacksmiths who eventually settled in what became known as Upper Canada, the records of the era only identify a handful. Here is what is known of four tradesmen who settled in the western portion of the old colony of Canada.
When the “Troubles” began, Barnabas Hough was the blacksmith for the relatively new village of Pawlet (located in present day Vermont and due east of Queensbury, New York). American born, the blacksmith nevertheless sided with General Burgoynes forces in 1777. Rather than being taken as a prisoner of war, he was “left sick” when the British surrendered, somehow making his way back to Pawlet. Now a known loyalist to his neighbours, Hough fled to Canada in July of the following year and joined Edward Jessup’s Loyal Rangers. He served with them throughout the revolution and remained for a time in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The Vermont blacksmith joined his fellow Loyalist Rangers when they moved to Second Town near Kingston (Ontario). By the time Hough had petitioned for his wartime losses, his settlement had been named Ernestown in honour of Prince Ernest Augustus, King George III’s fifth son.
Nicholas Frymire (Freemyer, Freymeyer) was born in Schoharie, New York in 1745. At age 31, he joined the British army at Oswego, a settlement on the shores of Lake Ontario that was north of Syracuse, New York. Once his neighbours learned about his enlistment, they took Frymire’s four horses, two cows, furniture, farming utensils, clothes, grain, a quantity of iron and steel and his blacksmith tools. Following his discharge n 1783, the New York blacksmith joined other refugees in founding the 4th Township on the St. Lawrence River – today’s Adolphustown. Frymire died in 1821 in Dundas County’s Williamsburgh.
Peter Van Alstine was another New York blacksmith who settled in Adolphustown. He was born in Kinderhook, a town 20 km south of Albany, New York. A townsman remembered that Van Alstine “was a Blacksmith by trade and made money by his Trade.”
Fellow loyalists in his town appointed him as a member of the “Committee of Albany”, a group that was decidedly rebellious in their politics. The patriot committee members imprisoned Van Alstine and 16 other local loyalists for seventeen days because they were confirmed “friends of the king”. Now considered a “marked friend to Great Britain”, the loyalist blacksmith left his home early in 1777, joining up with General Burgoyne’s advancing army later in the fall. In the wake of the British defeat at the Battle of Saratoga, Van Alstine sought refuge in Canada where he persuaded 30 other loyalists to join the king’s army. In 1778, he bravely returned to New York and served as a captain of a fleet of bateaux.
The latter were flat-bottomed boats that could, depending on the size of the craft, carry anywhere from two to ten tons of cargo. Usually propelled by oars, some bateaux could have sails mounted. Some could be used as instruments of war when they were equipped with mounted cannon or swivel guns. By stringing together bateaux, advancing armies could create pontoon bridges. They were often the fastest way to transport items, using the rivers of New York rather than its dirt roads to move essential military cargoes. Typical British bateaux used during the American Revolution could be 9 meters long, 2 meters wide and have a depth of just under a meter.
Following his stint on the rivers of New York, Van Alstine served as a major in the Associated Loyalists and was part of the occupying force that held Smithtown, Long Island. The records of the era do not reveal if Peter Van Alstine ever returned to his blacksmithing career after he and his family settled in Adolphustown.
The loyalist blacksmith who settled the furthest west from his original home was John Chisholm. A Scot who had immigrated to Courtright’s Patent in Tryon County in 1774, Chisholm had only been an active blacksmith for three years before having to flee patriot persecution. His departure from Tryon County had been so quick that he had to leave his cattle, furniture and blacksmith tools behind. Joining the Niagara-based Indian Department, Chisholm fought alongside loyal indigenous warriors for the duration of the war. The famous Native commander Joseph Brant later certified that the loyalist blacksmith had served the crown without pay. Having lived in the area for the better part of seven years, John Chisholm settled in the Niagara region with the cessation of fighting.
Chisholm’s story is just one of many accounts of loyalist blacksmiths. See next week’s Loyalist Trails for the stories of the refugee ironworkers who settled in Lower Canada.
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
When I was working for Northern Affairs, out of Halifax in the 1960’s, I was sent around Nova Scotia to look at a number of old houses, some of which were reputed to be ‘Acadian’, and I wish I had found one! The Amberman house in Granville ferry was reputed to date to c.1710. I now know that it was built by a Loyalist from Long Island, probably about 1790 and as originally constructed was a faithful representation of the type of house he had known on Long Island. His brother-in-law’s house- Douwe Ditmars, at Clementsport also shows its Long Island derivation with Dutch details- like the type of hinges used.
In Annapolis Royal, at Fort Anne, the powder magazine was constructed by the French and has the date 1708 carved into the sill of a small window above the doorway. This number looks original to me. I recall hearing that the vault of the magazine was constructed of Caen limestone?
And in Halifax, you have St. Paul’s church which was ‘pre-fabbed’ in New England and erected in 1749. While altered in the mid-19th century, it still retains much of its original detailing. The ‘Little Dutch Church’ on Brunswick Street dates to 1756, and was built as a house. In the late 1960’s the City of Halifax demolished the Burge house on Barrington Street, near the bridge which dated to the same period as the Little Dutch Church and had strong Germanic constructional details. I was fortunate in being able to make record drawings of this building.
Also near Halifax is the Sambro Island lighthouse, construction of which was completed in 1759. It is reputed as being the oldest lighthouse in North America.
Hope these notes are of interest.
Where is Gov. Simcoe Branch member Nancy Conn, UE??
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.
- St. Mary’s Church at Auburn, NS founded by many United Empire Loyalists & consecrated in 1790 by Loyalist Bishop Charles Inglis. Watch video with Brian McConnell UE
- While on a day trip to Halifax, I stopped to visit the United Empire Loyalist Cairn at Middleton, Nova Scotia, by Brian McConnell UE. The cairn recognizes United Empire Loyalists Brig. Gen. Timothy Ruggles, Major Samuel Vetch Bayard, & Major Thomas Barclay. For a history of the plaque, inscription and more, see Middleton Park Cairn.
- Townsends: Did You Even Know You Loved History? Jon talks about the importance of rediscovering history.
Noted in the April 9, 2017 issue of Loyalist Trails – Last Post: Evelyn (Powell) Denton, UE.
Evelyn is remembered in the Sept 20 issue of the Globe and Mail, Lives Lived section. Resilient Haligonian Evelyn Denton took her first selfie at 106. (Read more.)
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We are travelling until Thanksgiving. From Leipzig, Germany, we flew via Doha to Kathmandu, Nepal, and joined a tour group there. Since then we have toured portions of the city, and spent two days in a national park.
I have had some computer challenges which, combined with the tour schedule, have resulted in less content for this issue. Who knows what next week will bring.