“Loyalist Trails” 2018-44: November 4, 2018

In this issue:
Four Suntanned Loyalists in Halifax: Part One, by Stephen Davidson
Book: For Want of His Silver Plate: Sir John Johnson’s Raid of May 1780, by Gavin K. Watt
More on Zumri Armstrong
The Loyalists in Nova Scotia and You, by Brian McConnell
Ben Franklin’s World: Considering John Marshall
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
Editor’s Note
      + Rev. War Hessians or Descendants Who Served in War of 1812


Four Suntanned Loyalists in Halifax: Part One

© Stephen Davidson, UE

If we could have visited one of Halifax’s better taverns in the last weeks of July 1786, we might have been able to strike up a conversation with four Loyalist refugees who were far from home – 2,505 km to be exact. This quartet had not been among the 40,000 refugees who had sought asylum in Nova Scotia following the American Revolution. Alexander Kidd, Major Henry Williams, Richard Pearis and Martin Weatherford had chosen another part of the British Empire to begin their lives as displaced persons: the Bahamas.

Although the exact number of Loyalist refugees (and their slaves) who sought sanctuary in the Bahamas is uncertain, it has generally been understood to be within the range of 5,000 to 7,000 souls. In 1782, the islands had a population of almost 4,000 equally divided between whites and blacks. Following the tsunami of Loyalist migration, there were about 9,300 people in the Bahamas with blacks making up two-thirds of the population.

Most of the loyal refugees who settled the Bahamian islands were from the southern colonies, although more than a thousand of their number arrived in ships that sailed out of New York City in the latter half of 1783. Many had first sought refuge in the British colony of East Florida, but when the latter was ceded to Spain, the nearby Bahamas became the destination of choice for thousands of American refugees. As with the evacuations of Loyalists to Nova Scotia (and the future New Brunswick), southern Loyalists were provided with free transportation to their new home and given grants of land.

However, unlike the northern colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada, British commissioners in charge of compensating loyal Americans for their wartime losses never visited the Bahamas. The only hope the Loyalist settlers of the islands had to receive compensation was to make a 5,000 km round trip to Nova Scotia. Little wonder, then, that only four such refugees appeared before the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists when it convened in Halifax.

Major Henry Williams appeared before the compensation board on behalf of his father, Samuel Williams. But as his father was rumoured to have died in England the year before, Henry’s testimony ultimately become the basis for the British government awarding I compensation. As the eldest in his family, Henry stood to inherit the bulk of his father’s estate. Jane (Mrs. Nathaniel Ashley) and Susan Williams (Mrs. Drury Fort) were still alive as were their Loyalist husbands. Abner and Wilson Williams had taken up arms for the crown during the revolution, and – like their older brother Henry – had settled in the Bahamas.

The wartime story of the Williams’ family began with the revolution’s outbreak in Anson County, North Carolina. Up until that time, they owned and operated both a sawmill and a gristmill. When fighting began, Samuel Williams raised sixty horses in support of the crown, and willingly sent four of his enslaved Africans to Augusta, Georgia to help strengthen the British garrison at Fort Cornwallis. He received a captain’s commission for his efforts.

On February 27, 1776, Abner and Wilson fought next to their father as part of a loyalist force of 1,600 men at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. The three-minute engagement was a victory for the Patriot forces and resulted in 50 Loyalist deaths. The three Williams men fled to Henry Williams’ home; all four then sought refuge in East Florida.

Henry’s father became a captain in the King’s Rangers, serving at both Fort Augusta and Fort Cornwallis. When rebels captured the latter, Henry, his father and his two brothers were made prisoners of war. Following a prisoner exchange, the Williams men served the crown until the end of the war. At the peace, Samuel Williams sailed for England (perhaps in hopes of receiving compensation from the crown); Henry joined the refugee migration to the Bahamas. Abner and Wilson were able to remain in the new republic, making their homes in St. Mary’s, Georgia.

At the conclusion of his compensation hearing, the board’s commissioners instructed Henry Williams to ascertain his father’s death and to determine if he had drawn up a will. A year and a half later, Henry sent the commissioners papers to confirm his father’s death and the losses that he had sustained during the revolution. At least one Loyalist who found asylum in the Bahamas would be repaid for his losses.

Martin Weatherford, a friend of the Williams family, owned a plantation in Augusta, Georgia at the outbreak of the revolution. He “remained quiet” (did not advertise his loyalist convictions) until 1779, avoiding Patriot persecution by paying fines instead of serving in the rebel militia. He took an oath of allegiance to the new republic to avoid having Patriots seize his property.

Unable to avoid hiding his political convictions any longer, Weatherford joined a local Loyalist militia. Part of his service included gathering intelligence for the crown. Georgia’s Patriots tried him for taking up arms against America, but he was acquitted. Finally, when Sir Henry Clinton advanced into the colony, Weatherford made his way to Savannah and served the crown until the evacuation of the city in 1783.

Rebels promptly confiscated Weatherford’s property that included fields of indigo, tobacco and corn, 10 horses, 36 head of cattle, 100 hogs, furniture, ten enslaved Africans, and a house worth £500. Patriots also burned 1,250 bushels of Weatherford’s corn “lest it fall into the hands of the British”.

After a short stay in East Florida, Weatherford joined 1,500 other Loyalists who settled in Abaco. Just 290 km southeast of Florida, Abaco is the largest island in the Bahamas, and – not surprisingly – received the largest number of Loyalist refugees.

Having lost all of his deeds and legal papers, Weatherford had to rely on witnesses and character references to verify that he was “a very loyal man and was very active”.

When Weatherford returned to Abaco from Nova Scotia, cotton had become the main export of the island. In 1786 and 1787, the crop was valued at £59,000 – an encouraging start to what promised to be an ongoing source of prosperity. However, hungry caterpillars and the “red bug” damaged the crops in 1788, and an economy based on cotton began to evaporate. In the end, Abaco’s poor soil could not sustain large annual cotton crops.

~ The story of the four loyalists who settled in the Bahamas continues in next week’s Loyalist Trails.

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

Book: For Want of His Silver Plate: Sir John Johnson’s Raid of May 1780, by Gavin K. Watt

Published by Global Heritage Press, Ottawa, 2018

It is unknown when Sir John Johnson first contemplated a major raid into his homeland of Tryon County’s Mohawk District. After evading capture in May 1776, he had anticipated a very short exile in Quebec and a triumphant return to the family seat of Johnson Hall, but that was not to be.

For Want of His Silver Plate relates the history of Sir John Johnson’s raid of 1780, providing much detail about individual events and people. Beyond the value of the narrative, the lists included in the Appendices will be of great value to military historians and genealogists alike.

About the choice of title of the book: For the title of this book, the author paraphrased a fatuously derisive claim made by the famous American historian Franklin Hough, one of Sir John Johnson’s major detractors. To wit – the primary goal of his May 1780 expedition was to rescue his family’s collection of silver plate. That the raid was sanctioned and supported by the very demanding Governor of Canada, General Frederick Haldimand, was ignored by Hough. Further, that it:

• relieved a large body of loyalists from persecution;

• recruited sufficient men to complete Johnson’s first battalion, and to give birth to his second battalion;

• destroyed substantial supplies of crops and livestock that would have supported the Continental armies;

• resulted in the capture or death of several local supporters of the rebellion, and thoroughly alarmed the rebels’ administration including General Washington himself.

Hough obviously viewed these results as insignificant. Readers may judge for themselves. See more details and order.

About the author: Gavin Watt has studied Canada’s role in the American Revolution for forty years and has eleven books published on the subject. He pursues a life-long interest in military history and has re-enacted in four historical eras. Gavin is a honorary Vice-President of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association and often speaks at historical societies’ meetings.

More on Zumri Armstrong

In last week’s Loyalist Trails was an article, Atlantic Loyalist Connections: The Loyalist’s Disloyalty: The Case of Zimri Armstrong.

For more information about Zimri, two articles from Stephen Davidson were published in 2010 in Loyalist Trails: A Breach of Faith, Part One and Part Two.

The Loyalists in Nova Scotia and You, by Brian McConnell

On Saturday, October 27th 2018 I was very pleased to make a presentation which I entitled “The United Empire Loyalists & You” for the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia in Dartmouth to an attentive audience.

View a short video snippet of part of my presentation.

In addition, an informational outline, which was distributed to persons attending the presentation, is available in PDF format on our website.

You can view or download a PDF version of the presentation with photos and information.

…Brian McConnell UE, President, NS Branch, UELAC

Ben Franklin’s World: Considering John Marshall

Joel Richard Paul, a professor of law at the University of California, Hastings Law School and author of Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times, joins us to explore the life of John Marshall and how he wrote his biography.

During our conversation, Joel reveals: Why he chose to research and write a biography about John Marshall; Details about Marshall’s early life and how he came to serve as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court; And, how Marshall was able to transform the Supreme Court and the judicial branch of government into a co-equal branch of government with the executive and legislative branches.

Listen to the podcast.

Where in the World?

Where are Robert J. Rogers, UE; his wife, Dorothy; and his brother, David, and wife, Cathy, of Edmonton Branch?

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.

  • On Thursday, November 8, 2018, the Fort Plain Museum is proud to present, Beyond the Battles of Saratoga — “The Fate of General Burgoyne’s Army” by Larry Arnold. The event starts at 7:00 PM and will be held at the museum located at 389 Canal Street, Fort Plain, NY 13339.
    • On October 17, 1777 a world changing event took place in Upstate New York. For the first time in Great Britain’s long history, a full British Army surrendered in mass. Not on a great European battlefield but deep within the interior of the North American Continent. But now an often-asked question, “What happened to all those British and German officers and soldiers, the men, women and families who were forced to surrender to the Americans?” Find out what happened, as their fate was in the hands of the American Continental Congress and the officers of the American Army.
    • Larry Arnold has spent the last 16 years working at the Saratoga National Historical Park as a volunteer, Seasonal Park Ranger and only one of two Licensed Battlefield Guides. He is past President of the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield and is currently the fundraising chair of the Saratoga Surrender Site project. More at http://www.fortplainmuseum.com/events
  • On Tuesday, November 13, 2018, the American Revolution Round Table: Hudson/Mohawk Valleys and Siena College’s McCormick Center for the Study of the American Revolution are proud to present, “Benedict Arnold at Saratoga: How a Newly Discovered Letter Changed History” by Eric Schnitzer. The event starts at 6:30 PM
    • How Nathaniel Bacheller Changed History – Discover how a seemingly innocuous letter sold at auction two years ago changed history is a very dramatic way! Park Ranger / Historian Eric Schnitzer of Saratoga National Historical Park tells the story of the letter’s discovery, its importance, and how it fits into the historiography of the past. This new, exciting document serves as the keystone to completely reshaping our understanding of Benedict Arnold, Horatio Gates, and the Second Battle of Saratoga (October 7, 1777). Eric will also answer the salient question of how it is that we have all been lied to about these men and their roles in the battle for the last 200 years. More at http://www.fortplainmuseum.com/events

Editor’s Note

We are now (Sunday) travelling from Isfahan to Kashan, Iran, having spent several days earlier in the week in Shiraz – yes, Persepolis was wonderful. Monday to Tehran and home on Tuesday.

A later note: As I was unable to connect to the email distribution system from our Iran locations, this email is now being sent from Vienna airport during our 4 hour layover.

As there is no access to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other sites, my sources are quite curtailed; hence another short issue.


Rev. War Hessians or Descendants Who Served in War of 1812

A number of Hessians or others of Germanic descent settled in Canada after the American Revolution

I am interested in any of them or descendants of them who served / fought in the War of 1812 in the Canadian and/or any of the Northern US engagements.

My interest is for a screenplay. I would like to know if they were conscripted, volunteered, where they settled, were they treated as other loyalists, were they marginalized, just additions, and did they received land for service.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.

…Michael Jarvis