“Loyalist Trails” 2018-38: September 23, 2018
In this issue:
– Certified Free by General Musgrave (Part 4 of 4), by Stephen Davidson
– More about the Marquis de Lafayette
– Advanced Loyalist Studies: Theatres and Actors
– Comment: Books About Esther Wheelwright
– Borealia: Is History too Important to be Left to Historians?
– JAR: The Most Extraordinary Murder
– The Junto: Luxurious Tipping Points in Early Massachusetts
– Ben Franklin’s World: The Burr Conspiracy
– Where in the World?
– Region and Branch Bits
– From the Twittersphere and Beyond
+ Oath to … Christianity?
© Stephen Davidson, UE
One cannot help but being moved by a reading of the Book of Negroes as it lists the names and circumstances of those who received a General Musgrave Certificate (GMC) that ended their slavery to patriot masters. In almost every entry in the ledger compiled by the British army based in New York City, one reads the words “formerly the property of” next to the name of a Black Loyalist.
The exceptions are few and they are usually children. Ranging in age from one month to six years in age, 18 youngsters were listed as being “born free within the British lines”. Were it not for their Musgrave certificates, these children and their parents could have been captured by slave hunters and returned to white masters. One Black Loyalist named Boston King recalled how he “saw our old masters … seizing upon their slaves in the streets of New York, or even dragging them out of their beds.”
Some GMC holders had never been slaves, but needed to have Thomas Musgrave’s signature to verify that status. Thirty-five Black Loyalists ranging in age from 16 to 40 described themselves as being “born free”.
The entries for some Black Loyalists hint at much larger stories. James Rea, a 24-year-old, set sail for freedom on the Elijah, bound for Port Mouton, on October 31, 1783. Once considered the property of George Wilk of Williamsburg, Virginia, Rea had joined the British forces in 1779. His all-too-brief description says that he was an “ordinary fellow without legs”. Whether he was injured during his enslavement or during his four years of service to the crown is not clarified. How did this young man manage to survive his first winter in Nova Scotia?
Hannah Lining was Rea’s fellow passenger and another GMC holder. “Formerly a slave” to Dr. John Lining of Charleston, South Carolina until she ran away in 1789, Hannah was “blind of an eye”.
Another of the passengers aboard the Elijah had once been an officer within the wagon master general department (WMGD). Listed as Lieutenant Colonel Bridges, this 43-year-old is the only Black Loyalist on the ship’s manifest to have achieved a rank within the WMGD. Bridges’ potential to continue to serve as a leader in Nova Scotia would be limited by the fact that he came to the province crippled by some accident of the Revolution.
Ben and Eleanor Field (respectively 38 and 27 years old) shared an unusual story as they applied for their Musgrave certificate. Rather than running away from slavery, their master, Jeremy Field of Piscataway, New Jersey, got up and abandoned both of them. Perhaps he fled advancing British troops and in his haste did not bother to take his slaves with him. It’s a story waiting to be told.
Two former slaves from Virginia seemed to be the only family young Isaac Cooper (14) and his sister Nancy (4) had left in the world. Described as “worn out”, 63 year-old Anthony Cooper of the Royal Artillery Department and his wife Sarah (60 and “worn out”) made sure that their two grandchildren received GMCs before boarding the Danger, one of the two last evacuation ships to leave New York City. Again, the historical records are all too silent on how this family fared in Nova Scotia.
Thomas James was a strong 18 year-old who served in the wagon master general department right up until the end of hostilities. He would either have been a driver of a wagon or one of those who helped to load the wagons. Given all of the equipment, furniture, and personal effects that thousands of British troops would have had to have moved to the docks of New York City, it is easy to understand why the Black Loyalists who served as teamsters would be among the last to leave the city.
Young Thomas’ story is interesting because he was rescued from slavery rather than running away from his master. His entry in the Book of Negroes says that he was “brought off by the captain of the Alcide”, presumably a British warship. Thanks to that officer and his GMC, Thomas James could look forward to a life of freedom in Port Mouton, Nova Scotia.
General Musgrave might have been especially pleased to sign the emancipation certificate for twenty-two year old Daniel Payne before he boarded the Concord bound for Nova Scotia’s Port Mouton. Payne had escaped from his master in Virginia when he was eighteen. You might have heard of his enslaver: George Washington.
Lucy, a 26 year-old woman from Long Island, had both a GBC and a GMC when she boarded a ship to freedom There were also two Black Loyalist couples who between them had both a General Birch Certificate and a General Musgrave Certificate. Thomas Peters had a GMC while his wife Sally had a GBC — as did a man named Samuel Willis. The latter’s wife, Rachel, received a GMC. Lucy left New York on the Kingston on October 7th; the Willises sailed together on the Nisbet on November 8th; the Peters sailed together on the Joseph on the following day. Given that Samuel Birch left New York at the end of August, these double certificate situations seem odd indeed.
But if one remembers how confusing it was in the final days of the British occupation, the solution becomes apparent. Sally Peters, Samuel Willis, and Lucy must have been interviewed by Birch prior to his stepping down as commandant of New York City. Having received their GBC, they waited for their spouses to get similar documentation from Musgrave, the new commandant. Once the certificates were in hand, the couples then had to wait for an available evacuation ship.
Given that the two husbands had jobs with the British that required them to be in New York until the bitter end, the Peters and Willises had to wait three long months to finally board a ship to Nova Scotia. In Lucy’s case (unless her double certification is a transcription error in the Book of Negroes), it would seem that she insured her emancipation by getting a certificate from both Birch and Musgrave.
The GMC holders who sailed for Port Roseway would, by and large, settle in Birchtown just outside the white loyalist settlement. Those who disembarked at Annapolis Royal would settle in nearby Digby, go up the Annapolis River to other refugee communities, or make homes for themselves in Brindley Town, the second largest settlement of free blacks in Nova Scotia.
Those who settled near Port Mouton watched a disastrous fire devour their homes within six months of founding Guysborough. Both Black and white loyalists then established a new community on Chebucto Bay further up Nova Scotia’s coast. They brought the name Guysborough with them, and it eventually became the name for the entire county. There, the Black Loyalists founded Tracadie, one of the oldest continuous black communities in Canada.
At least seven of the Black Loyalists who received their General Musgrave Certificates would leave Nova Scotia in 1792 to become the founders of Sierra Leone, a colony on the west coast of Africa comprised of free blacks. Within ten years of their departure from New York City, Black Loyalists who received emancipation documents from General Thomas Musgrave were scattered on either side of the Atlantic, having made homes in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, England, the Bahamas, Belgium, Germany, and Sierra Leone.
Thomas Musgrave, the seventh baronet of Hayton Castle, may be a forgotten British hero of the American Revolution, but his time in a “troublesome office” gave him the opportunity to serve as the emancipator of over 250 Black Loyalists. Although it was just a legal formula on a piece of paper, nevertheless the words “certified by General Musgrave” –and an inky signature– would forever change the lives of former slaves and the generations of descendants who would follow them.
To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.
Charlie Humber UE followed up on the item A Silk Vest Honoring the Marquis de Lafayette, c1824 in the last issue of Loyalist Trails with a note which reads:
“In my forthcoming book I have written an 800-word vignette about Lafayette. My forthcoming book is called CIGAR BOX LITHOGRAPHS. This production, some 200 pages in length, illustrates over 160 vintage cigar boxes from the 1880-1920 period, a supreme era that produced stunning images that are unsurpassed in the new world of digital reproduction. I have included a page from my book that honours Lafayette not only with an illustration of the famous Frenchman but the vignette that I wrote to reinforce this striking image.”
Here is the beginning:
One of the most celebrated heroes of the American Revolution was a Frenchman named Gilbert du Motier, better known as Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834). His background can be traced to ancestors who served in the Crusades and alongside Joan of Arc. Illustrated above is a 120-year old cigar box, manufactured by J.M. Fortier of Montreal. It reveals a debonair Lafayette.
In 1775, at a chance meeting with the Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of British King George III, a young Lafayette became sympathetic to the seeds of revolution percolating in the British colonies across the Atlantic Ocean. He understood innately the frustration the thirteen colonies were experiencing in their ongoing attempts to secure “home rule,” an escalating matter dear to the young Frenchman who could see in the near future an insurgence in his own country where freedom was demanded from the French aristocracy controlling a disenfranchised public. Lafayette left for America in 1777 as the rebellion in the colonies was escalating. Made a Major General, he participated in battles alongside General George Washington whose Army was confronting British troops and their alliances on such battlefields at Brandywine, Monmouth and Valley Forge. His role at the Battle of Yorktown endeared him more than ever to George Washington. At one time, at Brandywine, when Lafayette was shot in the leg, George Washington commanded the doctor treating Lafayette to care for him “…as if he were my son.”
During the time of the American Revolution, the theatre was present in most of the major cities that the British soldiers held, most particularly New York. Many of the actors who performed in the theatre were officers in the army, including some Loyalists. They performed many works of Shakespeare as well as more modern comedies and tragedies.
These performances were very well attended by a civilian population wearied by war, as well as by officers of the army seeking a break from the daily military routine. Read three notices from the newspapers of contemporary theatre productions.
The article Borealia: The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright in last week’s Loyalist Trails elicited this comment from Shelley Banks:
I just read Ann M Little’s book on Esther Wheelwright, and then followed that with Julie Wheelwright’s book, Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright: Puritan Child, Native Daughter, Mother Superior, (HarperCollins, 2012).V
These books are very similar, but it looks like Julie Wheelwright’s came first. It is a gem — highly researched, accessible, and well written.
Here’s the Globe and Mail‘s 2011 review.
Canada’s Odyssey: A Country Based on Incomplete Conquests, by Peter H. Russell. Reviewed by Nicole C. O’Byrne, 21 September 2018
In the introduction, Russell boldly asserts his purpose: “[t]he book is an argument about Canadian history and its bearing on Canada today” and that he is “a political scientist who believes strongly that an understanding of today’s politics requires an appreciation of formative events of the past.” He then clearly states that his work uses historical research to illustrate the idea that modern Canada is the product of the relationship of three pillars: First Nations, French Canadians and an English-speaking majority. He argues that it is the intersections between the people who constitute these three pillars that have shaped the unique constitutional experiment that is the Canadian state. Throughout the book, Russell marshals historical evidence to support his thought-provoking thesis that Canada has been successful as a pluralistic nation because the English-speaking pillar never successfully dominated the French Canada or Indigenous peoples. Keenly sensitive to historical context, Russell carefully outlines that the imperial ambitions of the English-speaking pillar were often tempered by political expedience, lack of resources, or withdrawn due to active resistance. The ambition and scope of the work reflects Russell’s decades of working and thinking about the constitution and political dimensions of the Canadian state. Some may question his instrumentalist use of historical material to inform a reconceptionalization and challenge some of his conclusions; however, his ideas are supported by a prodigious amount of research and careful analysis. The book is a monumental achievement — one that will undoubtedly influence the debate over the nature of Canada itself. Peter Russell may not be a ‘licensed historian’; however, his ideas about the nature, history and purpose of Canada will undoubtedly be as influential as those presented by such ground-breaking historians as Donald Creighton, Harold Innis, Sylvia Van Kirk, or H.V. Nelles.
by Chaim M. Rosenberg 20 September 2018
On July 2, 1778, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts hanged Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner and Continental soldier Ezra Ross, together with British soldiers Sgt. James Buchanan and Pvt. William Brooks. They had been convicted of the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Joshua Spooner, in “the most extraordinary crime ever perpetrated in New England.” The trial was the first capital case of the new nation. Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner, favorite daughter of the Loyalist Timothy Ruggles, was the first woman to be hanged in the United States of America following the declaration of independence. The execution of the five-months pregnant woman reflected strong anti-Loyalist sentiment, and “personal vengeance on the part of a high-ranking official was also a motive in that infamous hanging.”
Timothy Ruggles, Bathsheba’s father, was the fifth generation of the Ruggles family in the New World. Born in 1711, he graduated Harvard College in 1732 and established a law practice. In 1753 he moved his family to a 400-acre farm in the new town of Hardwick, west of Worcester, Massachusetts. Ruggles played a major role in the French and Indian War and was awarded the rank of brigadier general. In 1762 he was appointed chief justice of the court of common pleas in Worcester. Ruggles served in 1762 and 1763 as speaker of the Massachusetts General Court. The young John Adams, who trained in the law while living in Worcester, admired the haughty judge Ruggles’ quickness of mind, the strength of his thoughts and expressions, and the boldness of his opinions. “His honor is strict … People approached him with dread and terror,” wrote Adams in 1759. At the height of his career, Timothy Ruggles was appointed president of the Stamp Tax conference held in New York City in October 1765, but he refused to add his signature to a petition critical of the king’s government for imposing taxes without the knowledge and approval of his subjects. Ruggles saw in the document the seeds of rebellion and bloodshed, and opposed it out of a sense of duty. For this act the General Court of Massachusetts censored him; his once-sterling reputation plummeted. “His behavior was very dishonorable. [Ruggles] is held in utter contempt and derision by the whole continent,” wrote John Adams in 1775. Timothy Ruggles was once “one of the most distinguished citizens of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.” But after he declared his allegiance to the king he was regarded “as the worst of traitors and his name held in the utmost abhorrence … No man in Massachusetts was regarded as so inimical to the cause of rebellion as general [Timothy] Ruggles.” Many of his erstwhile friends and family opposed him, including his brother Benjamin who came to regard him as “an enemy of his country.” Five of his nephews, including his namesake Lt. Timothy Ruggles, joined general Washington’s army. In 1774 his Hardwick home was attacked and his cattle poisoned. Ruggles accused the rebels of using the pretense of “being friends of liberty [to commit] enormous outrages upon persons property … of his Majesty’s peaceful subjects.” Threatened in central Massachusetts, Ruggles rode the one hundred miles to Dartmouth “but patriots would not tolerate his presence anywhere,” forcing him to seek shelter in British-occupied Boston. Ruggles established the Loyal American Associators to protect Loyalists from abuse and to openly display allegiance to the crown. He gathered together only 200 followers, mainly wealthy Boston merchants. In March 1776 he departed Boston with the British fleet and followed the army and navy to Staten Island to further aid the British cause. In September 1778, the Massachusetts Banishment Act listed 300 people accused of joining the enemy. After former governors Thomas Hutchinson and Francis Bernard, and former lieutenant governor Thomas Oliver, the name of Timothy Ruggles is the fourth on the list of traitors. Massachusetts confiscated all Timothy Ruggles’s properties.
by Sara Georgini 20 September 2018
You can find the strangest things in toilets. When Katherine Wheelwright Nanny Naylor (1630-1716) and her remaining two children filled in a brick-lined privy at the back of their yard in Ann Street, perhaps downsizing in the 1690s after having once run her own business from a fine waterfront lot on the north side of Boston Harbour, they inadvertently left a message preserved in the marine clay. When the site was excavated in the 1990s (at the point of being built over by the city’s Central Artery), it flushed up over a hundred fragments of different textiles. This is tipping point three.
Tipping point two belongs to Samuel Sewall (1651-1730) — the judge and businessman often treated as a sort of moral barometer for puritanism, thanks to his famous remorse about the Salem witch trials and his published critique of slaver.
Our first tipping point took place in the County Court at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1676. There, sixteen-year-old Hannah Lyman (1660-1736) was presented before the magistrates, as dozens of her female peers had been in recent years, and expected to behave in an appropriately contrite and submissive way. They had all faced chastisement and been prescribed fines for indulging in “overdress” — particularly for their unchecked wearing of silk hoods, in spite of their age or status. As a consequence of her misdemeanour, Lyman was fined ten shillings in January 1677.
James Lewis Jr., a Professor of History at Kalamazoo College and author of The Burr Conspiracy: Uncovering the Story of an Early American Crisis, guides us through what we know and don’t know about about Aaron Burr’s supposed plot to divide the American union.
As we explore this early American intrigue, James reveals details about Aaron Burr and his political career; What the Burr Conspiracy entailed and why it captivated the attention of Americans during the 19th century; And, how Americans followed and grappled with the Burr Conspiracy as it unfolded and during and after Burr’s trial for treason.
Where in this world is this week’s photo?
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.
From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.
- A note from President Sandra Farynuk of the Thompson-Okanagan Branch UELAC announces a new website at uelac-thompsonokanagan.com.
- The Annual Kawartha Branch UELAC Banquet, Saturday, 13 October 2018, at the Holiday Inn, Peterborough Waterfront, 150 George Street, social hour at 12:00 noon, luncheon at 1:15 p.m., in the Garden Court Room. Sue Hines, President UELAC is guest speaker. Cost $25. Contact Bob McBride at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Queen Charlotte’s Diamonds. George presented Charlotte with a beautiful diamond ring to be worn alongside her wedding ring and inscribed within the band was Septr 8th 1761. Read more…
- Today in History: Lars D.H. Hedbor @LarsDHHedbor (see his page for associated photos):
- 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 Bernardo de Gálvez, Spanish Governor of Louisiana, captures British fort at Baton Rouge, West-Florida; surrender includes all British emplacements on the Mississippi.
- 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.
- 17 Sep 1778, Mohawk chief & British Loyalist leader Joseph Brant leads a force of 150 Iroquois & 300 British Loyalists in a surprise attack on the area of German Flats, NY. German Flats (Herkimer) was left virtually undefended by Patriot troops prior to the raid.
- 16 Sep 1779 Savannah GA besieged by Americans & French; ends in failure.
- At least four generations of the Adams family line – John, John Quincy, Charles Francis and Henry – were all into family history and genealogy.
- Priscilla Mullins Alden and the Search for a Dress in Pieces. From much exposure, the men and women of the Mayflower have come to be somewhat flat and lifeless characters. Even the smallest and seemingly insignificant fragment of material culture can add dimensions that revisit the past as a place of hopes and dreams, struggle and disappointment. Over the last few years, I have had the good fortune to work with a collection of such items, pulled together from museums and historic houses hundreds of miles apart, yet connected by memory and meaning. Read more…
- 18th Century dress, 1775-85 – altered 100 years later
- Robe a l’anglaise, fabric 1730s, construction 1750s
- Robe à la française, c.1735; brocaded silk, France or Italy. Deep box pleats, large floral pattern.
- A box of stomachers was one of the 1st things I saw as a volunteer in a dress collection. I was in awe not only of construction but also very human signs of use. Frayed edges & pinholes in tabs a direct link to the wearer & a life lived long ago
- 18th Century men’s silk suit and waistcoat, c.1790
- The impressive wedding frock coat of King Gustave III of Sweden, 1766.
- Detail of exquisite late 18th Century men’s court suit, French, c.1790
- Four silk & brocaded silk shoes dating from 17th-18th centuries (click on one of the shoes to get a larger picture of all four)
- Who’s joining me for chocolate in the morning? Meissen Marcolini Period chocolate pot, circa 1780. This would look so good on the breakfast table.
- All Things Georgian: recipes for cheesecakes, custards, tarts and syllabubs. You don’t need cheese to make these cheesecakes… they were more akin to a Yorkshire curd tart.
- Love this little chap – male doll dressed in blue satin waistcoat & breeches, red wool coat, linen shirt and cravat, silk stockings with leather shoes. English, 1730-40
- If There’s a Man Among Ye: The Tale of Pirate Queens Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Renowned for their ruthlessness, these two female pirates challenged the sailors’ adage that a woman’s presence on shipboard invites bad luck
Following a dinner conversation, a friend sent me the following note:
We have been looking for a descendant of Moses Jacob who was Jewish. He moved to the US in 1775 from Falmouth England. During the revolutionary war he sided with the British. He moved to Canada but wasn’t given’t land as he refused to sign a pledge to Christianity.
Has anyone heard of “an oath to a religion” being a prerequisite for a land grant? Would anyone know where I might find more information? Thanks in advance.
…Jo Ann Munro Tuskin, UE