“Loyalist Trails” 2018-14: April 8, 2018

In this issue:
More Claimants of February 1788 (Part 3 of 4), by Stephen Davidson
Loyalist Abraham Gesner: Tappan (NY) to Annapolis Valley (NS), by Brian McConnell
At Risk of Closing: St. Alban’s the Martyr UEL Church in Adolphustown, Ontario
Washington’s Quill: West Point and British Strategy
JAR: Revolutionary Rookies
Ben Franklin’s World: Alexander Hamilton and the Making of American Law
Raid of Nassau, Bahamas
Book: Underaged Warriors
Loyalist Gazette: Digital Version
Where in the World?
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
      + Canada-US Loyalist Partnerships Between Historic Sites?
      + What does “Disposition” Mean?


More Claimants of February 1788 (Part 3 of 4)

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Tuesday, February 26, 1788 was an especially busy day for a loyalist from Vermont named Jephtha Hawley. Did this American refugee know that his Hebrew name meant “he will open”? He certainly lived up to it. Jephtha opened up opportunities for compensation for six other loyalists as well as himself when he stood before the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists (RCLSAL) on a cold winter’s day in Montreal.

Born in New Milford, Connecticut in 1740, Hawley established a homestead in Arlington, Vermont before the outbreak of the revolution. His father – “in consideration of love and affection” – had given him 200 acres of “wild land” when he was about 29 years old. Over the next seven years, he cleared 70 acres, acquired “a good stock of cattle and horses”, and built a barn and wooden framed house. The latter was well furnished; a good home for his wife Esther and their ever-growing family.v

Hawley testified that he had at “no time joined the rebels” of Vermont. His witness (and brother-in-law) Isaac Briscoe confirmed that Hawley “was always a loyal man”. In 1776, Jephtha left Arlington, heading north to join the British Army at Crown Point, New York on the western shore of Lake Champlain. He commanded 50 men as part of General Burgoyne’s ill-fated expedition.

His loyalty proved costly. Local rebels confiscated his farm in 1777. In an unexplained arrangement, a loyalist named Joseph Benedict lived on Hawley’s lands after the latter fled to Canada. Eleven years later, Benedict testified on Hawley’s behalf at the compensation hearings in Montreal.

After finding refuge in Canada, Hawley went on to join Jessup’s Rangers in the King’s Loyal Americans Regiment and eventually became the lieutenant of bateaux. By 1783, the Vermont loyalist and his family were living at Yamachiche, the refugee camp (near modern day Trois Rivieres). Jephtha sent a claim for compensation to Sir John Johnson in the following year, but nothing came of it.

With other loyalists, the Hawley family travelled up the St. Lawrence and settled in Ernestown in what would become Upper Canada’s Lennox and Addington County. Now, in his 48th year, Hawley hoped to be compensated by the British government he had so ably served. But the day was far from over.

Both Jephtha Hawley and his brother-in-law Isaac Briscoe testified on behalf of a Joseph Benedict, a loyalist who had grown up in the same Connecticut town as Hawley. Briscoe had once lived with Benedict’s father, so all three men knew each other well. Before the war, Joseph Benedict had own 60 acres of land in New Milford, Connecticut. In 1777, Benedict enlisted in the British army when General Burgoyne’s forces were at Fort Miller on the Hudson River.

Following the British defeat at Saratoga and the release of the prisoners of war, Benedict found refuge in Canada where he joined Sir John Johnson’s Regiment and served until the end of the revolution. In addition to the testimony of his old friends, Benedict also presented the RCLSAL with a certificate of his loyalty and integrity from Capt. John Munro. The commissioner was sufficiently impressed by Benedict to include a note on his transcript saying, “seems a good man”.

Jephtha Hawley also testified on behalf of his brother-in-law, Isaac Briscoe, a man who on February 27th was – though present at the hearings – “impaired by sickness”. Briscoe had been the town clerk for Arlington, Vermont and had “a very great landed property” that was the largest in the town. In addition to his house and barn, Briscoe also operated a gristmill and saw mill, and raised horses, cattle and sheep. Like Hawley, Briscoe had joined General Burgoyne’s expedition, sharing in its defeat. After being released by the rebels, he served with the King’s Rangers with Hawley. All of his possessions in Vermont were confiscated and sold by March of 1787. And like his brother-in-law, he lived in the Yamachiche refugee camp before settling above Cataraqui.

Not every loyalist who hoped for financial compensation was able to personally appear before the RCLSAL. Everhart Wegar (or Eberhardt Wagar) was an American refugee who had settled to the east of Jephtha Hawley in Fredericksburgh (now a part of Ontario’s Greater Napanee). “Unable to procure money to bring him down” the St. Lawrence to Montreal, Wegar had Hawley speak on his behalf.

Apparently the two loyalists had met at the Yamachiche refugee camp where Wegar was quartered as an invalid. Before the revolution, the poor, indisposed loyalist had leased 200 acres in Fittstown, in New York’s Albany County. There he had oxen, cattle, hogs, horses, and sheep. A loom, furniture and farming utensils made up the other items that Wegar lost during the revolution.

Stephen Farrington was another loyalist who had Hawley act as his power of attorney. He, too, had once found sanctuary at Yamachiche and “lost the use of his limbs from sickness”. Rebels had confiscated his belongings which included house, barn, cows, horses, hogs, sheep, farming utensils, furniture, cooper’s tools and – oddly enough – 150 yards of linen. Farrington’s American home and service to the crown are not indicated in his RCLSAL transcript; however, his new home of Marysburgh – in what is now Ontario’s Prince Edward County – is given thanks to a certificate from the local commissioner of the peace, Daniel Wright.

John Green was an Ernestown neighbour of Jephtha Hawley’s. A five-year veteran of Major Jessup’s Corps, Green had once lived at Fort Edward in New York. Among his losses were hogs, cattle, farming utensils and furniture. Like the others Hawley represented that Tuesday, Green was “on account of bodily infirmity… incapable of performing the journey from his present residence to Montreal”.

Jephtha Hawley was so generous with his time that he even represented a loyalist that he did not know – William Shewman. Hawley simply knew that Shewman was “a settler in the Upper County”. The latter was “above sixty years, infirm and unable to travel” that February. Once a resident of Tryon County, New York, Shewman was “in distress and unable to pay the expenses of a journey”. Hawley presented two affidavits to verify that Shewman once owned “a good house, 100 acres cleared, a cow, a mare, two or three colts – and that he bore the character of an honest man”.

It seems that the RCLSAL did not make a ruling on Shewman’s claim that February, but was able to acquire further evidence from the loyalist when it convened on Carleton Island on May 22, 1788. At this spring hearing, the loyalist spoke on his own behalf. A native of Germany, Shewman had been in America for 42 years, having lived near Johnstown for 18 years. In addition to his farm, he owned a stocking loom and operated a tavern.

As well as serving in Sir John Johnson’s Second Battalion, Shewman was busy throughout the revolution “getting recruits for the British or in assisting scouts. He was tried {for} giving aid to the British and condemned.” Given that the RCLSAL commissioners wrote, “seems a good man” in the notes of Shewman’s transcript, it would appear that he received some form of compensation.

As for Jephtha Hawley, the unsung hero of the day, he returned to his home in Ernestown. Departing this life in his 73rd year on April 3, 1813, Hawley’s legacy for his sixteen children was his example as the Loyalist Good Samaritan.

This series concludes in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

Loyalist Abraham Gesner: Tappan (NY) to Annapolis Valley (NS), by Brian McConnell

With the sun shining I visited Belleisle. Abraham Gesner from Tappan, New York, now Rockleigh New Jersey, joined the Kings Orange Rangers as a young man and after the American Revolution settled on farmland in Belleisle, Nova Scotia. He was a J.P. and elected to the Provincial Legislature in 1824.

Watch the short video.

It is part of a very fascinating story that I am researching further. Abraham was one of 4 brothers, all from New Jersey, who were Loyalists and went to New York where they enlisted in the Kings Orange Rangers. After the Revolutionary War ended they came to Nova Scotia but one drowned on the way and one returned several years later to New York with family. The two who remained, Henry and Abraham, became successful apple farmers in the Annapolis Valley. Abraham was also elected to the Legislative Assembly representing Annapolis in 1824. His nephew Abraham Pineo Gesner was a successful physician and geologist who was the Canadian inventor of Kerosene.

…Brian McConnell UE

At Risk of Closing: St. Alban’s the Martyr UEL Church in Adolphustown, Ontario

A meeting is to be held at St. Alban’s the Martyr UEL Church in Adolphustown, Ontario on Thursday April 12th at 1:00 pm to discuss the future of this important UEL Church.

The more people that show up the better. Please attend to help ensure this valuable Loyalist Church remains open and that the Loyalist history in Adolphustown continues to be told.

The Church is now closed and Sunday Service has been cancelled. The Church will be open for this important meeting. Read some information about the church.

NOTE: UELAC has noted the history of this church with a mini website with a history, Loyalist Service, and information about the noteworthy Memorial Tiles – see St. Alban the Martyr UEL Memorial Church.

Washington’s Quill: West Point and British Strategy

By Jeffrey L. Zvengrowski, 6 April 2018

Benedict Arnold infamously schemed with Maj. John André, the British adjutant general, to help Britain take West Point in 1780. Yet, how did Arnold actually plan to betray the 11 Continental and militia regiments under his command at or near West Point’s fortifications? The British, moreover, had grander goals in mind than capturing West Point on a kind of large-scale raid. Indeed, when George Washington came to West Point on Sept. 25 after discussing strategy with Lieutenant General Rochambeau at Hartford, he not only foiled Arnold’s design but a British gambit to win the war.

André met Arnold near Haverstraw, N.Y., on Sept. 21, only to be captured two days later. In the apprehended André’s possession was a document that Arnold had written and Washington would call “the disposition of the Artillery Corps in case of an Alarm.” After learning of André’s arrest, Arnold fled to the British on the morning of Sept. 25 from his headquarters at Beverly Robinson’s house on the other side of the Hudson River from West Point. “He knew of my approach,” Washington explained a day later, “and that I was visiting with the Marquiss [Lafayette] the North & Middle [South] Redoubts.”

Read more.

JAR: Revolutionary Rookies

by Gene Procknow, 3 April 2018

Performing as a general atop an independent command is the most difficult military assignment and for which prior experience critically fosters improved strategic and tactical decision-making. Many people think that the Revolutionary War British generals were highly experienced while the Rebel generals, although possessing battle proficiency as junior officers, principally gained their military strategy and army command experience through on-the-job training. In reality, at the start of the American War of Independence, both sides’ top generals were equally unproven general officers lacking experience in developing campaign strategies and in commanding multi-regiment forces during complex battles.

Selected for command by King George III and his government, Major Generals William Howe, Henry Clinton, and John Burgoyne sailed into Boston harbor on HMS Cerberus in May 1775 shortly after the opening shots on Lexington Green. Maj. Gen. Charles Cornwallis joined the leadership trio early in 1776. Starting with the massive amphibious invasion of New York City during the summer of 1776, these four generals would command the largest foreign military force ever deployed in North America. King George III and his government placed their military might and confidence on the shoulders of these four generals to put down the American armed rebellion and return the colonists’ allegiance to the crown.

Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: Alexander Hamilton and the Making of American Law

Kate Elizabeth Brown, an Assistant Professor of History and Political Science at Huntington University in Indiana and author of Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law, joins us to explore how Alexander Hamilton helped develop American law with his legal ideas.

During our exploration, Kate reveals how Hamilton developed and implemented practices that allowed the national and state governments to exercise strong powers together; How Hamilton encouraged the different branches of the national government to work together; And the ways Hamilton advocated for both civil liberties and state powers.

Listen to the podcast.

Raid of Nassau, Bahamas

The Raid of Nassau (March 3-4, 1776) was a naval operation and amphibious assault by Colonial forces against the British port of Nassau, Bahamas, during the American Revolutionary War. The battle is considered one of the first engagements of the newly established Continental Navy and the Continental Marines, the respective progenitors of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The action was also the marines’ first amphibious landing. It is sometimes known as the “Battle of Nassau”.

Departing from Cape Henlopen, Delaware on February 17, 1776, the fleet arrived in the Bahamas on March 1, with the objective of seizing gunpowder and munitions known to be stored there. Two days later the marines came ashore seizing Fort Montagu at the eastern end of the Nassau harbor, but did not advance to the town where the gunpowder was stored. That night Nassau’s governor had most of the gunpowder loaded aboard ships sailing for St. Augustine. On March 4, the Continental Marines advanced and took control of the poorly defended town.

The Continental forces remained at Nassau for two weeks and took away all the remaining gunpowder and munitions found. The fleet returned to New London, Connecticut in early April after capturing a few British supply ships, but failed to capture HMS Glasgow in an action on April 6.

Read more.

Book: Underaged Warriors

Over 600 Stories about the Courage and Hardship of Children Ages 7 to 14 Who Fought in the American Revolution, by Jack Darrell Crowder.

Nowadays most people are repulsed by the thought of children going to war. However, in the American colonies in 1775, the concept of youth was entirely different. Boys as young as seven served in the military during the American Revolutionary War. Many were drummers, played the fife, served as waiters to officers, or did chores around camp; others served in the midst of battle as soldiers, spies and scouts. Too often forgotten in the early history of our country, these young boys have an important story to tell. The sacrifice and hardships endured by these boys needs to be preserved and recognized.

This book is about the underage soldiers who served in the American Revolution. Much of the information is in the veteran’s own words as reported to others and recorded in their pension applications. Most of the underage boys who served in the American Revolution applied for pensions in the early 1800s and their pension applications contain fascinating descriptions of battles, military life and famous participants in the war. The vast majority of these applications have been well preserved. The statements are recorded as originally written, in the first person, with no changes to grammar or spelling. A bibliography and a full-name index add to the value of this book. 2018, 6×9, paper, index, 844 pp. ISBN: 094090716X 101-C0016 $57.00.

Loyalist Gazette: Digital Version

Work progresses on the Spring Loyalist Gazette, one of the benefits of membership but available also to non-members who purchase a subscription.

Many members have requested the digital copy, and a good portion of those are now receiving the journal only in digital format, although some prefer to also receive the paper copy.

The digital version offers colour throughout and an earlier delivery. We appreciate those who receive only the electronic version as that reduces both printing and mailing costs.

If you are a member or Gazette subscriber, and haven’t yet but would like to try out the e-zine version of the Spring 2018 Gazette, complete the request form.

…Robert McBride, UE, Publications Committee

Where in the World?

Where are Kingston Branch members Nancy Cutway, UE, and husband Steve?

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.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • The George III Indian Peace Medal of the period between the Revolution and the War of 1812 was presented to Indian chiefs allied with the British forces between New York and what became known as the Northwest Territory which covered all of the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the northeastern part of Minnesota. The area covered more than 260,000 square miles. Read more…
  • Today in History: Lars D.H. Hedbor @LarsDHHedbor (see his page for associated photos):
    • 7 Apr 1776 First US Navy capture of British ship, Lexington under Captain Barry takes Edward.
    • Apr 6 1776 Battle of Block Island RI. American ships returning from assault on Nassau spot & give chase to HMS Glasgow, which fired & disabled American flagship Alfred & then escaped. 
    • 6 Apr 1776 In defiance of Parliament’s American Prohibitory Act, Congress declares ports open to non-British trade.
    • 5 Apr 1776 General Charles Lee arrives in Williamsburg, VA, & writes Washington he fears the British will attack.
    • 4 Apr 1776 The body of Dr Joseph Warren, patriot leader killed at Breed’s hill, is discovered by his two brothers Ebenezer & John warren along with Paul Revere. The body was first identified by the golden wire attaching two false teeth which Revere had made.
    • 4 Apr 1776 Washington’s army leaves successful siege of Boston for the defense of New York.
    • 3 Apr 1776 Continental Congress authorizes privateers to attack British shipping.
    • 2 Apr 1792 Congress creates U.S. Mint, establishing $10, $5, $2.50, $1, 50c, 25c, 10c, 5c, 1c, and 1/2c coins.
    • 1 Apr 1776 Congress establishes Treasury as permanent office.
    • 31 Mar 1776 Abigail Adams urges her husband John to “Remember the Ladies” in making laws for the new nation.
  •  It’s 4 April 1768 at Harvard, more than 100 undergrads are striking, enraged over new rules for class prep, which junior Stephen Peabody calls “really sickish” in his journal. The largest student strike at any colonial college, it continues into the summer.
  • Townsends
  • 18th Century gown, pink-lavender lustring polonaise 1770-1785. Via Colonial Williamsburg 
  • 18th Century dress, robe a l’anglaise ca. 1785-93 via the Philadelphia Museum
  • In 1765, Philadelphia shoemaker, Alexander Rutherford, alerted his women customers “as are resolved to distinguish themselves by their patriotism and encouragement of American manufactures, that he makes and sells…shoes… as neat and cheap as any imported from England.”
  • Detail, embroidered fichu, 1770s. “Cream silk gauze, the borders worked in metal thread and silks with carnations, dog roses, borage, with silver tendrils and foliage.
  • Can a hairstyle be TOO big?Betty the cook maids head drest.” An enormous heart-shaped pyramid of hair. Dated 1760, this shows a kitchen fireplace w/joint of meat roasting, a monkey, tools, and a large wedge of cheese w/three mice.
  • Men’s 18th Century striped silk frock coat and embroidered waistcoat, 1790’s
  • 18th Century woman’s Dress and Petticoat (Robe à la française), c.1775 (detail)
  • Did you know that On October 21, 2010, the Minister of Canadian Heritage officially declared April 6 as Tartan Day. It is celebrated on April 6 because it is the anniversary of the signing of Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, the Scottish declaration of independence. See the Nova Scotia tartan.
  • Here are some portraits of Ordinary Folk. Because, as sparkly as they are, history is not all about Rich People. See watercress seller (1780), kitchen servant at Oxford (c1680s), [believed to be] Washington’s enslaved cook (c1795),Hogarth’s servants (1750s)
  • …and you thought you had a tough time raising a few kids! SIX children. In ONE YEAR. And her husband is BLIND (1769)


Canada-US Loyalist Partnerships Between Historic Sites?

I am working on a paper that explores how loyalists are remembered on both sides of the border, and I was wondering if Loyalist Trails readers knew of, or had experience with, any partnerships or cooperative projects between American and Canadian historic sites, museums, genealogy groups etc. that connect the shared loyalist history.

I am working on a paper that compares and contrasts the ways loyalists are presented at historic sites, when it occurred to me that I don’t know if say, Johnson Hall in New York ever does anything with Johnson House in Williamstown, for example.

Suggestion, thoughts, examples to tcompeau@gmail.com.

Editor’s Note: Tim was the recipient of a UELAC Scholarship.

What does “Disposition” Mean?

I have forwarded an 1835 petition as part of an application for a Mayflower Certificate, and a return note states that “The petition needs to include its disposition by the authorities of the day”.

Is there a disposition that accompanies each petition? Where would I find it?

…Arthur Pegg