“Loyalist Trails” 2017-40: Oct. 1, 2017

In this issue:
Three Loyalist Blacksmiths Who Served Burgoyne, by Stephen Davidson
Scholars Wanted!
Scholarship: Where are they Now?
New Graduate Dissertation Added to the Loyalist Collection at Brock University
Borealia: Book Review – Loyalist Slavery in the Maritimes
JAR: The Widow’s Apron: Life, Death, and a Forgotten Skirmish Along the Old Blackstock Road
JAR Book Review: The Dog Head Sword of Succasunna: Forgotten Family Patriots and Loyalists in the Revolutionary War
The Junto: Patriotism, Partisanship, and “The Star-Spangled Banner”: A View from the Early Republic
Ben Franklin’s World: Origins of the American Revolution
Georgian Papers Programme: The “Hit-and-Miss” of Research at the Royal Archives
BC Heritage Award Recipients Make Presentations to Vancouver Branch
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Editor’s Note


Three Loyalist Blacksmiths Who Served Burgoyne

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Given its proximity to the borders of the rebellious colony of New York, it is not surprising that the British colony of Canada would receive thousands of loyal American refugees. While most were farmers from the northern counties, a number of these loyalists made their livelihood by shaping iron into horsehouses, nails, and tools. Three of those blacksmiths had been among the loyalists who joined General John Burgoyne’s forces as they trekked south to New York City. These are their stories.

Before settling in St. Ours (near today’s Sorel-Tracy, Quebec) in 1783, John W. Claw operated a blacksmith shop in Kinderhook, New York. Although he had been compelled to train with the local rebel militia (and had been given the rank of lieutenant), he did not participate in any actions against the crown. After joining the British army in 1776, Claw recruited other loyalists for military service. Imprisoned by partriot leaders for his actions, the blacksmith was able to eventually join Burgoyne’s army as it marched through New York.

Following the ignominous British defeat, Claw fled to Canada, returning to New York by making a circuitous ship’s journey down the St. Lawrence River and south along the Atlantic coast. Once again, the blacksmith joined the British fighting forces, serving as a battalion’s lieutenant and recruiting more loyalists. His wife joined him in 1780 after being given permission to leave Kinderhook by two justices of the peace. Claw and his wife sought sanctuary in Canada “at the peace”. Whether he resumed his trade as a blacksmith in St. Ours is not known.

In the years before the revolution, Joseph Jebare (Jebereau or Joubert) worked on a small farm in Saratoga, New York. He had managed to clear a dozen acres, built a hourse and acquired two horses and three cows. Despite this, the notes in the transcript of his appearance before the compensation board note that the loyalist was a “poor man”.

In 1777, he joined the British army at Fort Edward, located north of Albany on the Hudson River. Although he had a farming background, Jebare worked in the army’s blacksmith shop. Perhaps he only served as an apprentice or assistant. Following the defeat of General Burgoyne in October of 1777, Jebare fled north to Quebec City where he was still living ten years later.

In contrast to Jebare’s poverty, Michael Hoffnail had once been a very successful blacksmith in Kingsbury, New York. In 1771, he purchased 274 acres just north of Fort Edward, building a house, a barn, a blacksmith’s forge and two mills on the site. Like the rich man in Christ’s parable, it seemed that this blacksmith was all primed to sit back and enjoy his prosperity. And then “the Troubles” began.

Despite the urgings of his rebel neighbours, Hoffnail refused to serve in the local militia or act as an member of the assembly. When General Burgoyne’s forces had advanced as far as Fort Ann (located northeast of the blacksmith’s home), Hoffnail did his best to provide them with forage and provisions. Later, he served the crown as a member of Major Jessup and Captain Fraser’s secret service.

Suspected of being an obnoxious Tory by his neighbours, the loyalist blacksmith sought sanctuary in Chambly, Canada. By 1783, his old friend, Major Jessup, had the difficult task of telling Hoffnail that the victorious republican administration considered him an outlaw and had seized his estate. Within a year, Hoffnail journeyed back to Albany, New York and worked out a bargain whereby he exchanged some houses “that had been secured to him” for 600 acres within the new republic near a place the records refer to as Killingland Creek.

By 1787, the loyalist blacksmith who had served his king so faithfully during the revolution was settled in in the brand new United States of America. Having met all of the qualifications for recognition as a loyalist, Michael Hoffnail decided that home was where his heart lay and returned to the New York that he loved.

Andrew Liddel, another prosperous loyalist blacksmith, decided to remain in Canada following the war, becoming one of the founders of Noyan, Quebec. Liddel had immigrated from Ireland when he was young and had set up his forge in Schenectady, New York. His business was able to support two apprentices and generated enough income to allow Liddel to live in a well furnished house.

When he joined General Burgoyne’s invading force as it made its way south to New York City, it seemed as if Liddel had sided with the inevitable victor in the American Revolution. Unfortunately, by October of 1777, the British army had surrendered to the patriots, and the victors took the loyalist blacksmith prisoner. After seven months in the Albany jail, Liddel made his escape and fled north to Canada. Somewhere along the way, a Lt. Fairchild and his men stopped and robbed the blacksmith. Back home in Schenectady, rebels seized Liddel’s furniture and £100 worth of blacksmithing tools.

After the peace in 1783, Liddel moved several times, trying to determine where he would settle. After investigating Quebec, Montreal and Chambly, the blacksmith joined other loyalists at Caldwell’s Manor. Some of his new neighbours were veterans like himself, having travelled down the St. Lawrence aboard the warship Maria. Whether Liddel used his blacksmithing skills in one of Quebec’s earliest loyalist settlements is, like his ultimate fate, unknown.

The vast majority of loyal refugees settled in the Maritime provinces following the American Revolution. Learn the stories of Nova Scotia’s blacksmiths in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

Scholars Wanted!

Following the recent successful fundraising campaign for the Scholarship Endowment Fund, the scholarship committee is looking ahead with enthusiasm to 2018. The call is out for applications as we look forward to welcoming new scholars to the UELAC Scholarship program. The deadline for applications is February 28. Please pass this along to anyone or any institution you think may be interested or for whom it may be relevant.

…Bonnie Schepers, Scholarship Committee

Scholarship: Where are they Now?

Our scholars are on the move! This week we feature news from Sophie Jones, UELAC Scholarship recipient (2016) and PhD candidate at the University of Liverpool. In the interest of keeping this short we have not included all the impressive projects Sophie is actively pursuing. A more complete review is available by contacting scholarship@uelac.org.

Sophie writes — After an incredibly busy 2016 filled with short-term research fellowships and conference presentations, 2017 has mainly taken a scholarly focus.

February 2017 – I was very grateful to be awarded a travel grant by the Royal Historical Society to support my attendance at the annual meeting of the American Society of Eighteenth Century Studies (ASECS) in Minnesota. The grant covered the cost of my single-trip airfare from Minneapolis to Albany. While in residence at the American Antiquarian Society during September 2016, I was invited to submit a paper for the AAS-sponsored panel on loyalism. My experience of ASECS was extremely positive: ASECS is an informative, supportive and welcoming community, where I was able to discuss ideas with a range of supportive peers from fellow graduate students to senior faculty members. I received feedback from scholars working within my field and was able to discuss my research with fellow members of the panel independently from the conference. I look forward to attending ASECS in 2018.

April 2017 – I spent two weeks in residence at the New York State Archives in Albany. The collections held at the NYSA are incredibly rich and varied: I collected a wealth of information including records and minutes of the colonial administration, wills and probate records from colonial Albany and the records of revolutionary committees of sequestration and forfeitures (including lists of individual residents charged with loyalism). On a personal note, it was wonderful to visit Albany and explore the city after writing about it for so many years.

I continue to teach as a Writing Tutor with the University’s ‘Writing@Liverpool’ programme, supporting undergraduates with improving their academic writing skills. This year, this has included the design and delivery of targeted workshops and individual coaching sessions. As part of this programme, I was asked to design and deliver an online webinar to University of Liverpool Students based in Singapore in April 2017. I was thankful to be asked to participate in what was a new experience for all involved and am proud to report that student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

October 2017 – marks the beginning of the 4th year of my PhD — or, the ‘writing up’ year. My main focus will be completing and submitting my thesis.

November 2017 – Liverpool will be hosting the North West Early Modern Seminar (a collaborative research group organised between the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool, Keele, Lancaster, Leeds, Chester, MMU and Huddersfield). This time, I have been invited to present my research. My paper is entitled “Drinking the King’s Health”: Taverns, Sociability and Loyalism in Revolutionary New York.”

In closing … Thank you!

2017 has been another busy but exciting year. I would like to thank UELAC and its members for their ongoing support and encouragement of my academic pursuits. The financial assistance that I have received from UELAC over the past two years has enabled me to fully dedicate myself to my PhD research and to say ‘yes’ to many opportunities that I would not have otherwise been able to take part in (and did not anticipate taking part in when I began my PhD). Through these experiences I have been introduced to a world of interesting and enthusiastic individuals, who have not only enhanced and shaped the direction my research but have encouraged my development as an academic researcher. I cannot thank UELAC and its members enough for providing this opportunity.

…Bonnie Schepers, Scholarship Committee

New Graduate Dissertation Added to the Loyalist Collection at Brock University

Networking works! The scholarship committee was recently approached by Friends of the Loyalist Collection about a graduate dissertation titled “Butlers of the Mohawk Valley: Family Traditions and the Establishment of British Empire in Colonial New York.” This paper is the work of Judd Olshan who received his PhD in history at Syracuse University (2015).

Although not a recipient of the UELAC Scholarship, Judd’s work is of interest to members of our Association, and especially to Butler descendants. In reaching out to Dr. Olshan, the scholarship committee received permission to print copies of his research for both UELAC and the Loyalist Collection at Brock University. Our conversation also brought to light Judd’s appreciation of the contribution of Lieutenant Colonel William A. Smy who provided digital copies of the Butler Papers for research purposes. Thank you to Edmonton Branch UELAC who started the dialogue by contacting FOLCABU.

We are pleased to share a little more about Dr. Olshan and look forward to future communication. Dr. Judd Olshan has been a lifelong explorer, collector, and sharer of stories and experiences. He started his career with a degree in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic located in Bar Harbor, Maine. Experiencing the world through a variety of disciplines instead of through the lens of a single field has informed much of Dr. Olshan’s academic work. Dr. Olshan holds degrees in Human Ecology, History, Masters of Science and Arts in Resource Management and History respectively, and a PhD of Philosophy in History. Dr. Olshan has worked as a tour guide, experiential educator, and as a professor of History at university. He can be reached at Olshan Historical Consulting.

…Bonnie Schepers, Scholarship Committee

Borealia: Book Review – Loyalist Slavery in the Maritimes

Harvey Amani Whitfield, North to Bondage: Loyalist Slavery in the Maritimes (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2016). Review by Christopher C. Jones

The lone Canadian student enrolled in my course on “Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa and the Atlantic World” this semester expressed some surprise last week when I mentioned that the class would cover the history of slavery in not only the United States, but also throughout Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada. As she later explained, she could not recall a single mention of slavery in Canadian schools during her childhood. According to Harvey Amani Whitefield in the introduction to North to Bondage: Loyalist Slavery in the Maritimes, this is because “slavery has not become part of the Canadian national narrative,” a fact attributable in part to “the historiography of Canadian slavery still lack[ing] … basic overviews” of the subject. The tide seems to be changing, however, and the last decade has seen a flurry of historical scholarship on (Indigenous and African), British Montreal, Upper Canada, and the Maritimes. To this growing body of research, we can now add Whitfield’s own book.

North to Bondage offers an in-depth look at the rise and fall of slavery in Loyalist Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island in the four decades following the American Revolution. It is, without question, the most detailed and comprehensive study of slavery in the Maritimes to date (indeed, it is the first book-length treatment of the subject).

Read more.

JAR: The Widow’s Apron: Life, Death, and a Forgotten Skirmish Along the Old Blackstock Road

By Conner Runyan on September 27, 2017.

This is the story, such as it can be told, of one long-forgotten woman in the midst of the revolutionary war, a weaver of homespun cloth who, burdened with crushing grief and guilt, showed a spark of decency, if only for one brief moment, following a deadly skirmish on a hot July day in South Carolina, alongside a most important frontier road.

In the New England Colonies, wearing homespun clothes became a voluntary expression of outcry against British nonimportation policy. The “spinning bee,” or sewing circle, became the rage of New England, a form of social protest against the British government. It was fashionable to express one’s sentiments by wearing clothes made from homemade cloth rather than imported fabrics. Along the Indian boundary line of South Carolina, near Spartanburg, however, a choice between homespun and imported cloth seldom existed. Settlers wore cloth manufactured by the women of their family. By 1780, when the British had seized the South Carolina old frontier forts, roads, settlements and water crossings, trade between settlers was strangled. Cloth was scarce as salt and, often, almost as precious as rum.

The Widow Bishop lived beside the Old Blackstock Road, in sight of where the waters of Lawson Fork Creek crossed, creating a modest, unremarkable ford. Today this is one of the few spots, near the historic post-revolutionary Shiloh Methodist Church in Inman, a neighborhood of Spartanburg, South Carolina, that comes close to looking a bit like it must have in revolutionary times. Locals[3] contend the few hundred yards of grassy road passing the church is all that remains of the old road. No one has yet proven, or disproven for that matter, this claim.

Read more.

JAR Book Review: The Dog Head Sword of Succasunna: Forgotten Family Patriots and Loyalists in the Revolutionary War

by John Lawrence Brasher (Shelby Printing, 2016). Review by by Don N. Hagist on September 22, 2017.

Artifacts hold a special place in our appreciation for history. When we see, or better still, touch, an object that came from another era, we feel connected to that era and to the people who lived then. Someone from another time touched the same object, perhaps in exactly the same way, and it’s as if some part of them truly rubs off on us.

The majority of artifacts are anonymous in that we don’t know who made them, saw them, used them, appreciated them. Even deeply personal objects, clearly distinctive and owned by a sole individual, perhaps bespoken, are more often than not disconnected from their original owners. This leaves our imaginations free to feel whatever connection we wish, but it is also frustrating because we know that there was a person connected to the object, a person with stories that we want to know, stories that may exist if only we could find the sources to consult.

When the artifact has a clue that could identify the original owner, the urge to solve the mystery can be irrepressible. This is what led John Lawrence Brasher on a long quest and eventually to write a book on his experiences and findings. A sword had been in his family for generations, an elegant silver-mounted sword with many distinctive features. And it was engraved with a set of initials.

Read more.

The Junto: Patriotism, Partisanship, and “The Star-Spangled Banner”: A View from the Early Republic

By Michael D. Hattem on Sept. 28.

As I type, President Donald Trump is tweeting: “#StandForOurAnthem.” The presidential hashtag was created in response to more than two hundred NFL players who this weekend chose to protest racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling, sitting, raising fists, or linking arms in solidarity during the national anthem.

The central role of the national anthem in these protests has sparked a remarkable public debate–one that, if anything, has served to remind Americans that patriotic music is not necessarily the ideologically neutral vessel we sometimes think it is, or wish it to be. Last year, when Kaepernick initially explained that he wasn’t standing up for the anthem because, as he put it, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” the response was emotional.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is no stranger to debates over patriotism and protest. But few realize that the politicization of patriotism lay at the heart of the song’s creation.

Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: Origins of the American Revolution

Listen to the podcast.

Georgian Papers Programme: The “Hit-and-Miss” of Research at the Royal Archives

By Tom Murray, King’s Undergraduate Research Fellow, King’s College London Sept 27, 2017.

My first archival experience was in fact to be at the Royal Archives, as part of the Georgian Papers Programme (GPP), over the course of six days in July 2017. Security was one of the prices to be paid for access to documents from the Royal Collection, and inside a working royal residence at that. The process of requesting documents itself was smooth and efficient, while the intimate reading room lent itself to a proper sense of consequence, given the owner — ‘The Queen’! — and contents of the documents in the Archive.

The first collection was ‘Secret Service accounts, 1779-1782’ (GEO/MAIN/17355-17367), detailing the quarterly expenses of the secret service during the latter half of the American Revolutionary War. Somewhat dauntingly, I was informed that I was the first person ever to examine these documents for research purposes.

Read more.

BC Heritage Award Recipients Make Presentations to Vancouver Branch

UELAC Vancouver Branch members were treated at their regular meeting Tuesday evening, September 19th to presentations by five winners of the Vancouver Branch BC Heritage Award at the BC Heritage Fair last Spring. Vancouver Branch Heritage Fair Coordinator, Carl Stymiest UE introduced the winning students and their parents to the membership.

  • British Home Children (by Arianna Ha)
  • Genocide?(Residential Schools) (by Kai Yang)
  • Laura Secord (by Alicia Clare)
  • The Underground Railway (by Andrea Lui)
  • Mary Shadd (by Mara Anglehart)

UELAC Vancouver Branch President, Diane Faris UE and Vice President, Christine Manzer UE presented each student with a 2017 Vancouver Branch Certificate of Achievement, a Royal Cypher pin and ribbon, the Loyalist book (Coming to Canada Series: The United Empire Loyalists) and a copy of the Loyalist Gazette.

Following the heritage presentations, a reception and social was held to honour our guests.

…Carl Stymiest UE, Vancouver Branch

Where in the World?

Where is Bicentennial Branch member Susan McCloskey Hutchins, 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 loyalist.trails@uelac.org.

Region and Branch Bits

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

  • Friends of Laura Secord: Join us for the historic opening of the First Nations Peace Monument on October 7 at 1:00. Decew House Heritage Park. Read details about the event and about the memorial.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Today in History: Lars D.H. Hedbor @LarsDHHedbor (see his page for associated photos):
    • 30 Sep 1777 Congress convenes for one day in York, Pennsylvania for one day, then adjourns.
    • 29 Sep 1780 British spymaster Major John André sentenced to hang.
    • 28 Sep 1778 In the Baylor Massacre in River Vale NJ, American regiment slaughtered & captured by Col. Maitland.
    • 27 Sep 1779 John Jay appointed ambassador to Spain; secures $170K loan, but no formal recognition of independence.
    • 26 Sep 1777 British occupy Philadelphia, forcing Congress to flee to Lancaster and then York, Pennsylvania.
    • 25 Sep 1779 Benedict Arnold’s treasonous plan to give West Point fort to British discovered.
    • 24 Sep 1775 British Cabinet states they intend to “carry on the war against America with the utmost vigour.”
    • 23 Sep 1779 Captain John Paul Jones audaciously captures HMS Serapis off the coast of Yorkshire, England.
    • 22 Sep 1776 Nathan Hale caught & hung as a spy. “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
    • 21 Sep 1776 Great Fire of New York burns up to 1000 structures; arson by retreating Americans forces suspected.
    • 20 Sep 1777 British conduct bayonet attack at Paoli Massacre, no flints in muskets to ensure surprise.
    • 19 Sep 1776 Col. Williamson’s patriots attacked in NC in a gorge known as the Black Hole, eventually fight clear.
    • 18 Sep 1776 Washington sends news to Congress of rare victory at Battle of Harlem Heights.
    • 17 Sep 1775 Fort Saint Jean sur Richelieu in Quebec besieged in American attempt to liberate Canada from British.
  • Loyalist homes along historic Lower Saint George Street, Annapolis Royal, NS
  • Sign for Ruggles Road, Wilmot, Nova Scotia in tribute to United Empire Loyalist Timothy Ruggles
  • Townsends: These Plants Could Have Saved You! In this episode Jon goes back in time to 1836 and Prairie Town to ask about medicinal herbs used on the early American frontier. Special thanks to all the folks at Conner Prairie for hosting this episode!
  • Ephemeral Elegance: Metallic woven silk robe a l’Anglaise, circa 1770s.
  • Silk Robe à la Française, 1750–75
  • A delicious Robe a la polonaise, brocaded silk w/self fabric ruched trim & lovely pattern matching, c1780 Paris

Editor’s Note

Our travels until Thanksgiving continue. From Germany to Nepal, our trip has taken us to Bhutan. Lush vegetation, big forests, steep terraced rice paddies, twisting narrow roads, big mountainous road construction, fascinating architecture, interesting food (lots of spices, chilies), wonderful people (English is a second language in all schools), temples, Buddhas, festivals. A lot of culture, scenery and history in a short time.

My computer has been behaving and within reasonable limits, there is WiFi internet access in most places.