“Loyalist Trails” 2019-37: September 15, 2019

In this issue:
Return to Loyalist Times in the Mohawk Valley, Sept. 29 – Oct. 4
Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone: 18 Black Loyalists’ Stories (Part 3), by Stephen Davidson
Lethbridge Alberta: New Plaque Honours Loyalists
Henry Gesner UEL and Grandson Abraham Pineo Gesner, Inventor of Kerosene
Once More Into the Breeches: How to Make Period Pants, by Kelly Arlene Grant
JAR: A French “King of America”?
JAR: Fire-Hunting by Night in South Carolina: A Pursuit of British Officers
Washington’s Quill: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Militias in Republican Ideology
The Junto: The Business of Transnational History: An Editor’s Perspective
Ben Franklin’s World: Birthright Citizens
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
      + Kingston Branch – Saturday, Sept. 28
      + Gov. Simcoe Branch – Wednesday, Oct. 2
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
Last Post: G. Murray Johnson, UE
Editor’s Note


Return to Loyalist Times in the Mohawk Valley, Sept. 29 – Oct. 4

Want to ‘experience’ history? Enjoy a whole week – or a day or two – of unique, custom-designed experiences that will allow you to immerse yourself in the rich history of the Mohawk Valley and surrounding area. The American Revolution swept people of the region up in the chaos of war, forcing people who had lived, worked, and fought together, to choose sides. Visit, explore, taste, learn at:

• Johnson Hall

• Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park

• Ayres House

• Fort Frey

• Colonial Cemetery

• Colonial Johnstown

• Battle of Johnstown Walking Tour

• St. Patrick’s Masonic Lodge

• Fort Klock

• Nellis Tavern

• Stone Arabia

Hands-On History Starts Here! Book the full week, selected days or a single day.

See the full Schedule of Events for day by day fees. Follow the “Sign up now” button, or email ExploreHistoryMV2019@gmail.com for the booking link. Book 3+ days and you will receive a FREE SWAG bag!

Spaces are limited – book today!

Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone: 18 Black Loyalists’ Stories (Part 3)

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Boston and Violet King developed close ties with Moses Wilkinson, the popular Methodist minister, after they settled in Birchtown. Among the hundreds of Black Loyalists evacuees on L’Abondance, the 23 year-old husband and his 35 year-old wife had both found sanctuary in New York City before migrating to Nova Scotia. Boston was 19 when he had escaped from Richard Waring in Charleston, South Carolina and Violet had been 32 when she ran away from Col. Young of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Both Boston and Violet joined Wilkinson’s Methodist Church after arriving in Nova Scotia. King became an itinerant preacher, travelling as far as Halifax to share the gospel message. Forced to find work that would support his family, King became a carpenter, building chests and dories for the fishing industry. Relief came when the leader of Nova Scotia’s Methodists made King the pastor for the Black Loyalists who had settled in Preston near Halifax. Boston and Violet ministered to this community until 1791. King became a recruiter for the Sierra Leone colony, and succeeded in persuading almost all of Preston’s Black Loyalists to emigrate.

Violet King did not live long enough to make her mark in Sierra Leone’s history; she died of a tropical fever shortly after the Black Loyalists came ashore at Freetown. However, Boston gained literary significance due to the fact that he is one of only three Black Loyalists to leave an account of his experiences during the American Revolution and the settlement of Nova Scotia. “Memoirs of the Life of Boston King” was published in a British magazine six years after the Black Loyalist settled in Sierra Leone. He continued to be a leader of the Methodist church in Freetown, but also enjoyed income from his position as the schoolmaster in one of the colony’s eight schools.

A fellow passenger on L’Abondance in July of 1783 was Robert Keeling, a 26 year-old who had been considered the property of Captain Keeling of Nansemond, Virginia. He had escaped to serve the British for four years before settling in Nova Scotia.

Lewis Kirby was a 29 year-old bachelor who arrived in Annapolis Royal aboard the Clinton. Kirby had escaped from his enslaver, John Kirby of Little York, Virginia, in 1780. What happened to this Black Loyalist during the eight years that he lived near Annapolis Royal is not known.

However, in June of 1794, Lewis Kirby joined with others in Freetown, Sierra Leone to protest the unfair dismissal of Robert Keeling. The former Nova Scotian had threatened a slave trader who had insulted him and other Black Loyalists. After Keeling’s firing by the directors of the Sierra Leone Company, Kirby was part of the mob that demanded an explanation for the dismissal. When a Black Loyalist who had once lived in New Brunswick tried to stop the crowd, Kirby threatened to lynch the man.

The last Black Loyalist to arrive in Nova Scotia who is known to have later settled in Sierra Leone was Jack Ellis. His evacuation ship, the Danger, left New York City for Port Mouton on November 30, 1783. A slave to Will Ellis of South Carolina’s Ashely River until his escape in 1778, Jack served in the Royal Artillery Department until the end of the American Revolution. He was 28 when he arrived in Nova Scotia and would be 36 when he left for Sierra Leone. He died at the age of 90 in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

During his time in Nova Scotia, Ellis had become a member of the Lady Huntingdon’s Connexion, a branch of Methodism with a Calvinist theology. He eventually became the leader of this denomination in Sierra Leone, leaving 1,000 members of these Methodists in Freetown to mourn his death.

While the details provided by entries in the Book of Negroes, primary documents in Nova Scotia, and the history books of Sierra Leone provide the merest outlines of Black Loyalist lives, there is one outstanding exception. Because of his role as a leader of Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia and the opportunity to share his story with a British audience, David George has one of the best documented biographies in Black Loyalist history.*

George’s life deserves a quick overview. Born to enslaved Africans in Virginia, George ran away from his master at the age of 19, living among Indigenous people. After becoming a Christian believer, he learned to read with the help of white children so that he could study the Bible. In time, he became a Baptist minister. When British troops and Loyalists evacuated Charleston, South Carolina in December of 1782, George, his wife, and their children were among those who found refuge in Nova Scotia.

When he heard of the large number of Black Loyalists who had settled in Shelburne in the following summer, George moved there and established a church. Despite being attacked by a white mob in 1784, he continued to preach to believers in the Shelburne area, and eventually travelled to Saint John and Fredericton in New Brunswick as well as to Preston near Halifax to share the gospel.

After hearing about the opportunity to found a colony in Sierra Leone, George served as a recruiter and community liason for John Clarkson when he spoke to Birchtown’s Black Loyalists in the fall of 1791. He was later appointed as the captain of a company of settlers who sailed aboard the ship Lucretia.

When George established his church in Freetown, it was the largest of the Black Loyalist denominations. Following his arrival in Sierra Leone, George travelled to England with his friend John Clarkson where he was lionized by Baptists for almost a year and had the opportunity to record his memoirs.

Being a Baptist pastor could not provide a full time living and so to provide for his family, he operated a tavern for his fellow settlers. Despite the failure of the Sierra Leone Company to grant Black Loyalists their full rights as British subjects, David George did not join in any of the unsuccessful uprisings against their authority. This may account for the fact that within 16 years of their arrival in Sierra Leone, George’s Baptists became the smallest of Freetown’s denominations.

Whether they remained neutral or stood up to injustice, the Black Loyalist settlers of Sierra Leone who had once called Nova Scotia their home left their mark on history. Like the Israelites of old, these former slaves became the founders of nation that is with us to this day.

* See J.W.StG. Walker’s account in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography at or borrow Grant Gordon’s From Slavery to Freedom.

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

Lethbridge Alberta: New Plaque Honours Loyalists

A unique plaque dedication ceremony was held at the Mountain View Cemetery on Sunday afternoon to recognize and remember the descendants of the United Empire Loyalists that are buried in Lethbridge.

Following the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, Loyalists left the land they called home – now claimed for the American Colonies – and resettled in the maritime provinces and Quebec and Ontario. They and their offspring reaffirmed their dedication to the crown in 1812 when President Madison declared war on Canada. Even today, descendants of the original Loyalists are throughout Canada, still supporting and continuing to expound their virtues until their passing. This plaque is the first one dedicated to Loyalists descendants in western Canada.

“The plaque is a growing trend to the west, we don’t have loyalists here because they embedded in Ontario, but we are commemorating their decedents as they moved west and are buried in the west, their ancestors and their history,” says Pat Brown, descendant of Loyalists.

Read more.

Henry Gesner UEL and Grandson Abraham Pineo Gesner, Inventor of Kerosene

Before Hurricane Dorian hit Nova Scotia I visited the recently completed Monument to Abraham Pineo Gesner, the Inventor of Kerosene, and nearby grave of his father United Empire Loyalist Henry Gesner. Both are in Kings County, Nova Scotia, just north of Kentville. The Monument is at Chipman Corner and the grave in St. John’s Anglican Church Cemetery less than 10 km away at Port Williams.

The Gesner family were of German origin and came from the Netherlands to settle in the Hudson Valley near Tappan, New York during the middle of the 18th century. When the American Revolution began, Nicholas Gesner, the grandfather of Abraham Pineo Gesner remained loyal and lost his farm to the rebels. His two twin sons Henry and Abraham joined the King’s Orange Rangers and served with the British forces throughout the conflict. Afterwards they both came to Nova Scotia where they farmed.

While visiting the monument and cemetery I took several photographs, which I have included in a short video.

…Brian McConnell, UE

Once More Into the Breeches: How to Make Period Pants, by Kelly Arlene Grant

Kelly Arlene Grant, 10 September 2019

This week, I have started working on a black broadcloth suit for a vicar in the local regency era group. I love making breeches, honestly. But, there are many of you out there who hate the process. I have come to realize that a lot of that hate is from trying to make breeches by machine. Asking the machine to do things regency and eighteenth-century breeches had never dreamed of doing.

In short, there are different processes to sewing in the machine era and the pre-machine era.

Ok, So how do I start making breeches?

I start by stitching the centre front seams on both the fashion layer and the lining. This you can do by machine. Then I press the seam allowances open.

Read more.

JAR: A French “King of America”?

By Richard J. Werther, Sept. 12, 2019

In the chaos of war, there are, and have always been, schemers who will try to take advantage of disorder to enrich themselves, either with power, financial gain, or both. In the turbulence of the outset of the American Revolution, especially the period in which the colonies were trying to form an alliance with France, one such opportunity arose that was quite audacious in its scope.

American affairs in France were rife with double-dealing, deception, and spying, and that was just within the American delegation! Early in the rebels’ involvement with the French, a plan emerged that, if implemented, would have shaken the highest levels of the nascent American government and military to the core. Realistically, it had little chance of succeeding, but it’s an interesting story and an illustration of how the “fog of war” and ambition can impact peoples’ judgment, people who frankly should have known better.

The seed from which this plan sprouted was the French defeat in the Seven Years’ War (known to most modern Americans as the French and Indian War) and the settlement of that conflict, which stripped France of nearly all of her North American presence and generated intense hatred for the British among many of the Frenchmen who fought in the war. One of these was a man named Charles-François de Broglie, a French nobleman. Another was Johann de Kalb, who as Baron de Kalb would one day perform admirably for America in its Revolution. But at this stage, his motives were initially like those of Comte de Broglie – to leverage the American Revolution to exact revenge on Great Britain. And there was Silas Deane, who was on-site in France. He was the first of what was to become the American delegation, later to include Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee. Deane’s reasons for supporting the scheme are more difficult to ascertain than those of de Broglie or de Kalb.

Read more.

JAR: Fire-Hunting by Night in South Carolina: A Pursuit of British Officers

By Ian Saberton, 11 September 2019

While George Hanger was for a time in limbo, waiting in mid May 1780 for a decision on his part in the British arrangements for administering South Carolina, he took time out to go fire-hunting for deer by night. “I was,” he tells us, “an eyewitness to this amusement when I first went about 30 miles up the country just after the siege of Charlestown with my old, intimate and worthy friend, Colonel Simcoe, then commanding the Queen’s Rangers and undoubtedly one of the very best officers in our service.”

Two backwoodsmen went with him, all three of them on horseback lest, creeping along the edge of swamps, they might tread on a rattlesnake, of which there were plenty nearby. It is a fact, he notes, that “the rattlesnake, when he hears the stamp of a horse’s foot, flies away, for divine nature has so ordained it that this deadly animal avoids you as much as you wish to avoid it, and no person is bitten by a rattlesnake excepting he come on it when it lies coiled up asleep and basking in the sun.”

One of the backwoodsmen brought with him a large frying pan with a very long iron handle and put in it about half a dozen middling-sized knots of pine, which were full of turpentine. When he lit them, they gave off a great and very strong light.

Read more.

Washington’s Quill: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Militias in Republican Ideology

By Jeffrey L. Zvengrowski, 13 September 2019

Due to the British invasions of Virginia in 1781, only one of the five letters that Gen. George Washington wrote Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson during the period comprising volume 28 of the Papers of George Washington’s Revolutionary War Series (late August to late October 1780) has been found. Nevertheless, that letter and some of the drafts of the four missing letters reveal tension between pragmatists and purists among Patriot supporters of republican ideology, tension which became increasingly bitter and partisan after the American Revolution.

Almost all Patriots espoused republican ideology and consequently claimed to distrust “standing armies.” They opposed instituting these armies within republics because “regular” (professional) soldiers were supposedly mercenary and parasitical by nature: fighting for pay rather than patriotism, loyal to ambitious generals rather than to the public, and constantly draining resources from the citizenry. Some Patriots contended that republics should defend themselves not with temporary professional forces (let alone with permanent standing armies) but rather with armed citizens who would be productive civilians in peacetime and form militias during emergencies. In theory, the zeal of republican militia members fighting to protect their homes, independence, and liberty could never be equaled by regulars, who would be destined for defeat when invading a proper republic.

Read more.

The Junto: The Business of Transnational History: An Editor’s Perspective

By Michael J. McGandy, 9 September 2019

Like a lot of editors at university presses, I came to my work in a round-about fashion and after a good stretch in the academy. Also, like a lot of editors, I have some key people to thank for making an introduction and offering a recommendation well before I had the actual talent to warrant any confidence in my ability! I think, in particular, of the late George P. Brockway, long-time President of W. W. Norton, who kindly brought me to the attention of current Norton Chairman, Drake McFeely, in the early 2000s. I had little experience to recommend my application for any position, but Drake made a point to talk to me in 2000. The job on offer at the time did not work out for me, but, when a new position came open in 2002, I was able to renew the connection and land a job at what I consider (with all due respect to Cornell UP and other presses!) the best publishing house in the United States. My chance to work at Norton for four great years under the best boss in the world, Deborah Malmud, was a gift from Brockway to me, and is a constant reminder of the courtesy and help we all owe to others just starting out in this satisfying and crazy profession.

I see more people doing work in biography (of various sorts). Lots more work on Native American polities as polities (more from the inside-out and less emphasis on “contact”) is happening. And, following on new trends in Native American history, I see more people bringing categories of analysis typically found among diplomatic historians (most of whom focus on the 20th century) to their work in the 19th and 18th centuries. Finally, transnational approaches, of all sorts, are hot. In that vein but with some important differences, I see more people taking their cue from Alan Taylor’s War of 1812 and recasting North American history, and particularly that of the present U.S.-Canadian frontier, as a century-long process of slow revolution, state formation, diplomacy, and warfare. In that work, the transnational often looks a lot like the history of political development – the state or states are not given things but processes in constant development.

I also find that a lot of scholars are engaged in the general matter of where to draw the line between an Atlantic perspective and a transnational perspective. This question is, of course, not the subject of their books but is an analytic matter that is shaping their subjects and their arguments. Where to draw the temporal boundary? 1848? Where does the age of empire end (and so the usefulness of the Atlantic frame) and the age of nations properly begin? The trendiness of the transnational is, no surprise, leading people to push that term back further and further into history – and with some risk to the integrity of their arguments.

Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: Birthright Citizens

How did early Americans think about citizenship and how did they define who could or couldn’t belong to the United States? Martha S. Jones, a Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, a former public interest litigator, and the author of Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America, joins us to investigate answers to these questions.

As we explore early American ideas about citizenship, Martha reveals the concept of birthright citizenship and how it entered early American thinking about citizenship; What the United States Constitution has to say about citizenship; And details about how early Americans thought about national belonging and the ways in which early African Americans pressed their case that free blacks should have full citizenship rights.

Listen to the podcast.

Where in the World?

Where are Robert and Victoria Heath, of Gov. Simcoe 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.

Kingston Branch – Saturday, Sept. 28

At St. Paul’s Anglican Church Hall, 137 Queen Street. Past President Dean Taylor will talk on “Heading North, Moving West” – how families of Castine Loyalists who settled St. Andrews, NB ended up in southwestern Ontario.

If you want to catch up with your Loyalist friends and chat about your summer visit to your ancestral home or graveyard, do join us for a “Sandwich ‘n Square” lunch beforehand – 11:30 am for 12:00 noon seating.

Gov. Simcoe Branch – Wednesday, Oct. 2

A Spectacular Raid into the Mohawk Valley” by Gavin Watt

At St. David’s Towers Community Room, 51 Donlands Ave. Tornto, 7:30pm

Sir John Johnson requested permission to mount an expedition to bring off all who would be willing to come north. This was granted and Johnson assembled ninety British Regulars, a twenty-man detachment of German riflemen, and some 180 of his King’s Royal Regiment of New York. Added to these were the Fort Hunter Mohawks, perhaps 60-strong, and 170 Canada Indians for a grand total of over 500 participants. This raid was entirely successful. Gavin Watt will likely never retire from his avocation, military history.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • This grungy commercial building witnessed the Revolution in Boston. For many years it housed a mattress shop, hence its name the Old Feather Store. It survived into the age of photography. It came down for commercial and safety reasons, an eyesore but a historic eyesore. The Old Feather Store, Faneuil Hall marketplace, Boston, Mass. More.
  • This Week in History
    • 8 Sept 1769 A devastating Hurricane strikes the east coast from North Carolina to New England. High winds and storm surge kill many people and destroy buildings and whole towns along the coast.
    • 14 Sept 1769 Thomas Jefferson publishes an ad in the Virginia Gazette seeking to recover a runaway slave named Sandy.
    • 13 Sept 1770 “That if God in his Providence should permit the breaking out of fire in Salem, we will endeavour to be helpful to one another in extinguishing the same…” – start of the charter of the Union Fire Club, organized September 13, 1770.
    • 14 Sept 1770 In summer 1770, a comet appeared in the sky over New England. Harvard professor John Winthrop noted it on June 26. At first it showed no tail, but Sept 14, the Rev. Ezra Stiles recorded he’d “observed the Comet’s Tail ninety degrees in length.”
    • 12 Sept 1774 Margaret (Kemble) Gage, wife of the royal governor, arrived in Boston from New York. Seven years before, John Singleton Copley had painted her portrait
    • 10 Sept 1775 Gen. George Washington put down a mutiny by Pennsylvania riflemen trying to rescue one of their own from arrest, and also learned the men on the Continental schooner “Hannah” were refusing to sail without prize money.
    • 7 Sept 1776 American submersible the Turtle attempts first submarine attack in history; fails for lack of practice for the substitute operator.
    • 9 Sept 1776 Congress formally adopts “United States of America,” replacing “United Colonies.”
    • 11 Sept 1776 British Adm. Howe meets John Adams, Ben Franklin, & Edward Rutledge for fruitless peace talks.
    • 13 Sept 1777 British General Burgoyne crosses the Hudson River near Saratoga, but will find his intended path toward Albany blocked by American forces.
    • 10 Sept 1779 USS Morris surprises and captures HMS West Florida in Battle of Lake Ponchartrain.
    • 12 Sept 1780 Skirmish between Loyalist and Patriots at Cane Creek, NC is a prelude to Battle of King’s Mountain.
    • 8 Sept 1781 Last major battle of Revolution in Carolinas at Eutaw Springs, SC; British Pyrrhic victory.
    • A Linsey-Woolsey Jacket that Mary Emmons Could Have Worn, c1775. The 18thc is a time of truly beautiful clothing for women, of fine damasks and hand-painted silks and elegantly printed cottons, and I’ve enjoyed sharing many of the garments that my past heroines might have worn. But Mary Emmons (my heroine in The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr) is a different kind of heroine, with different clothing. As an enslaved woman, she had no choice in her dress. She wore what was provided for her. By Susan Holloway Scott
  • Townsends
  • Clothing and Related:
  • Miscellaneous:
    • I adore these dressed portrait miniatures by Mary Way (1769–1833). Way painted the heads and hair in watercolours, then dressed the figures in fabric garments. These glorious gentlemen are from @WinterthurMuse  There’s another “dressed portrait” by Mary Way currently on display Winterthur Museum – young Theodosia Burr (daughter of Aaron Burr), with red slippers & a bird
    • The oldest door in Britain. Hidden away in Westminster Abbey. Made from timber from the original Anglo-Saxon abbey, it is just under a thousand years old. Made from mature oak, that means the trees that produced these planks could have been saplings when the Romans evacuated Britain.
    • Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. made an unexpected $36.6 billion bid for London Stock Exchange Group Plc. Here’s something historically ironic – the HongKong Stock Exchange bidding for its  UK rival. When the LSE began in 1772, the East India Company was its most active stock & the EIC’s profits mostly came from its China tea trade

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:

  • Savage, John Edward (Son of Edward) – from Linda Mazrimas

Please help us build the directory by contributing information. Contact loyalist.trails@uelac.org for guidance.

Last Post: G. Murray Johnson, UE

JOHNSON, U.E., G. Murray Peacefully, on September 7, 2019, at Scarborough General Hospital, at the age of 86. Survived by his wife of 63 years, Barbara; his children Lesley (Grant), Heather and Ken; his grandchildren, Braden, Claire, Emerson and Logan; and his sister Velma. Murray was a longtime member of The United Empire Loyalists (Governor Simcoe Branch) and St. John’s United Church, Scarborough. Visitation Saturday, September 14, 2019, 1:30-3:00 p.m., at Ogden Funeral Home, 4164 Sheppard Avenue East, Agincourt. Memorial Service to follow at 3 p.m. If desired, memorial donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, would be appreciated.

Messages of condolences etc. can be posted at the funeral home.

Editor’s Note

Little did I think that Hurricane Dorian would have any impact on me at all. Wednesday overnight we flew to Bergen in Norway to catch a repositioning cruise. After a day in Bergen (Friday) we were to spend a day in the Shetland and then Faroe Islands before heading for Iceland. Dorian decided that was not to be. We instead left Bergen a day in advance and headed directly for Iceland where we will spend a day in each of two ports – Akureyri and Isafjordur – not on the original itinerary. If all goes well, we should have just returned from a whale watching expedition at the first of those when this newsletter is being distributed.