“Loyalist Trails” 2019-39: September 29, 2019

In this issue:
2019 UELAC Conference
Ship Harbour, Nova Scotia: Part 1: Its German Loyalists, by Stephen Davidson
The “Sussex” Declaration of Independence
What is Work? By Kelly Arlene Grant
Loyalist Quarterly Newsletter – Sept. 2019 , by Paul J. Bunnell, UE
Atlantic Loyalist Connections: Natural disasters, Unnatural Rebellion
Borealia: The Business of Transnational History: An Editor’s Perspective
JAR: Massachusetts Privateers During the Siege of Boston
Washington’s Quill: Polite Prohibition?: Bushrod Washington, Mount Vernon, and the Steamboat
The Junto: Students Writing Letters, Students Reading Letters
Ben Franklin’s World: Elizabeth Seton: An Early American Life
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
      + Toronto Branch: “History and Evolution of Heraldry in Canada” – Oct. 6
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory


Ship Harbour, Nova Scotia: Part 1: Its German Loyalists

© Stephen Davidson, UE

When the citizens of Saint John, New Brunswick opened the Christmas Eve edition of The Weekly Observer in December of 1833, they must have been more than a little astonished. Among the newspaper’s death notices was the obituary of a fellow Loyalist refugee. Earlier that month, Michael Eisan (misspelled as Hyson) had died in Ship Harbour, Nova Scotia at the age of 103.

Eighteen years later, Saint Johners would read of another Loyalist’s passing in Ship Harbour – Daniel Weeks, the father of 21 children, had died at the age of 117.

In 1860, John George Webber of Ship Harbour died at the age of 99. Survived by 12 children, 54 grandchildren and 43 great-grandchildren, this Loyalist had emigrated with his family from Germany to South Carolina fourteen years before the outbreak of the American Revolution. Webber came to Nova Scotia when he was 22 years old and settled alongside other Palatine Loyalists in the newly established community of Ship Harbour.

That three men should have survived the trauma of the American Revolution to live to such remarkable ages is noteworthy in itself – for them to have settled and thrived in the very same community is even more incredible. Who were the Loyalist settlers of Ship Harbour? What made their community unique in the annals of Nova Scotia’s history?

There is nothing about Ship Harbour’s geographical location that would make it an 18th century stand-in for Shangri-La or Brigadoon. Just 72 km east of Halifax, the coastal inlet was once known as Tedumunaboogwek, the Mi’kmaw word for “water-worn rock”. European settlers gave it a new name based on the fact that there was a rock shaped like a ship at the harbour’s entrance.

Disbanded Loyalist soldiers founded Ship Harbour in the spring of 1783. Individual grants of 40 to 182 hectares were awarded to a captain, two sergeants, five corporals and 22 privates. By 1827, the Loyalist settlement had grown to include 177 people. The 27 heads-of-households were either farmers or fishermen.

Among the veterans granted land in Ship Harbour were a contingent of German Loyalists that included Michael Eisan and John George Webber. For those familiar with the settlement patterns of Loyalist refugees, it is no surprise that German Palatine immigrants were among the American colonists who remained loyal to King George III. Those who had once considered the western German states their homeland are generally thought to have settled exclusively in Upper and Lower Canada. It is true that most Palatines who ventured north as war refugees had first settled in Middle Colonies (principally New York and Pennsylvania) before the outbreak of the American Revolution. Given its close proximity, Canada was an obvious sanctuary.

However, there were also a number of German settlers who had made their homes further down the Atlantic coast in South Carolina. Travelling overland to Canada was not an option for this colony’s loyal Palatines. Instead, these German settlers left their adopted colony through the port of Charleston and sailed for refuge in Nova Scotia.

Michael Eisan’s obituary noted that he was from Pennsylvania and traveled to Nova Scotia “during the time of the American Revolution”. Additional sources indicate that this Loyalist had three children with his first wife, Elizabeth Ann. Eisan’s family was among the evacuees from Charleston, South Carolina who sailed for Halifax in December of 1782. Elizabeth died sometime after the family’s arrival in Nova Scotia, and Eisan subsequently married a woman named Nancy. They had their first child in 1785 and then four more in the years that followed. Eisan outlived his second wife, and in 1831 – at the age of 101 – married yet again.

Although no compensation claim for Eisan has been discovered, from statements that he made as a witness at other Loyalists’ hearings, it seems that he once lived in South Carolina’s 96 District and then fled to Charleston with the British troops and other Loyalists in 1780. As had been the experience of his companions, it seems that Eisan was a member of a Loyalist militia and then a soldier in the British Army before he and his family left the southern colony for Nova Scotia.

John George Webber – who would one day reach the age of 99 – arrived in Halifax in late 1782 aboard the Royal Naval troopship Argo. After his father George Webber and his brothers received land in Ship Harbour, John met and married Anna Catherine, the daughter of another German Loyalist couple – Henry and Barbara Siteman. (Sophia, another of the Sitemans’ daughters would eventually marry John Eisan, one of Michael Eisan’s sons.)

The German settlers of Ship Harbour were not only bound by marriage and a common ethnic background – they were also united by the common experiences of upheaval and resettlement that were consequences of their loyalty to the crown. George Webber, the father of John George Webber, testified at the 1786 compensation hearings for three of his fellow Loyalists: Joshua Garret, Christian Zong/Sing, and George Shelnut/Schildnecht. These three men had not submitted claims for restitution by the deadline established by the British government and would consequently be ineligible to receive anything. However, Webber’s testimony verified the fact that the waters of Ship Harbour had been frozen solid every winter since its settlement, making it impossible for its Loyalists to submit claims by the set deadline.

When George Webber (usually written as Weaver in the compensation hearing’s transcripts) submitted his own claims, two Ship Harbour settlers of German descent stood as his character witnesses. They verified that Webber had immigrated from Germany in 1764, owned 350 acres in South Carolina, and had joined the British Army with two of his brothers. By the war’s end, the Palatine Loyalist had served in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina before finding refuge in Nova Scotia. In 1783, Webber and his second wife Elizabeth settled in Ship Harbour, the community that he would call home until his death in the early 1820s.

One of the men who testified on George Webber’s behalf was Nicholas Crane (or Crum). He, too, was born in Germany, had settled in the 96 District, and then served in the British Army until it evacuated South Carolina. Three years after he settled in Ship Harbour, Crane served as a witness for both Lawrence Marks and the widow of Peter Mehl before the compensation board. Both of these men had been German settlers in South Carolina. While Crane recalled that Mehl was “a very loyal man and died at the siege of Savannah”, he felt that Marks was “not so good a Loyalist as those who joined the British with Captain Dawkins. He was behaved well ever since…”

Despite this lukewarm endorsement of his loyalty, Lawrence Marks, his adult son, and their families were listed as living in Ship Harbour forty-one years later. While Peter Mehl’s widow and her five children were noted as being “alive and in Ship Harbour” in 1786, only two members of the family ultimately remained in the Loyalist village. Mary Mehl married George Shelnut, and Hannah Mehl became the second wife of Daniel Weeks, the man destined to celebrate 117 birthdays.

Other Germans Loyalists who settled in Ship Harbour were the Meyers, Shelnuts, Sitemans, and Zongs. Learn their stories in next week’s edition of Loyalist Trails.

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

The “Sussex” Declaration of Independence

You may already be aware of the alleged discovery, in Chichester, England, of a manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, issued by the rebellious colonial usurpers and traitors to the Crown, promoting the sedition and violence that caused so much grief to our Loyalist ancestors. Allegedly, this presentation deals with this subject and attempts to answer the question of how this copy of the said Declaration ended up in the U.K. The speaker, Ruth Allan Rigby, is a retired health professional who regularly delivers talks to the McGill Community of Lifelong Learning in Montreal, to which I belong.

Watch the presentation here (skip to the eleven-minute mark, when the presentation commences).

…Maura McKeon, Heritage Branch, Montreal

Editor’s Note: Further reference information can be found at the US National Archives – Historians Discuss Their Discovery of “Sussex Declaration” (July 2017).

What is Work? By Kelly Arlene Grant

By Kelly Arlene Grant, 23 Sept 2019

The focus on most of my research is what many today would call ‘women’s work’. The domestic arts. Even though, for centuries, men were tailors, a lot of the sewing work was done by women. Women were paid less for the same amount of time, and many women were as good or better at stitching that their male counterparts. The majority of my work is on stitching techniques, but also cut (the masculine side of my trade). I am a fit and detail person. I am not a decorative person. In the period, I may have been able to find a husband who would run the business, and I would do the work.

Read more.

Loyalist Quarterly Newsletter – Sept. 2019 , by Paul J. Bunnell, UE

Published since 2004, the September 2019 issue is now available. At twenty-six pages, it features:

• Editor’s Comments

• Loyalists and Canada’s First Residential School, Part Two: The Meductic Model

• Loyalist History on the Ground in Kings County, NB, Part 1

• Loyalist History on the Ground in Kings County, NB, Part 2

• Very Sad News – Passing of G.B. Okill Stuart

• With Zeal and With Bayonets Only

• Fourth of July – America’s Old Divisions

• “Who Will [Independence] Please but Ambitious Men?”: Rebels, Loyalists, and the Language of Liberty in the American Revolution

Vol. 16 Part 3 2019 Quarterly Issue “In Publication since 2004”

Editor: Paul J. Bunnell, UE, Author, Koasek Abenaki Chief

BunnellLoyalist@aol.com; 978-337-9085, 32 Hoit Mill Rd. #202, Weare, NH 03281

The Only U.S. Newsletter Devoted to The study of The American Loyalists

Subscription Rate: $21 U.S. $24 Can. $5 each copy (March, June, September, December issues)

Atlantic Loyalist Connections: Natural disasters, Unnatural Rebellion – stressful times for Jamaican planter William Vassall

By Christine Jack, 25 Sept 2019

Jamaica was the most famous and wealthy sugar island in the British Empire, but with this wealth came big risks that shaped the experience of plantership. The climate, though, that gave also took away – routine threats of devastation were very real from the impact of powerful hurricanes, as reflected today in the images of hurricane Dorian. Disruptions for American loyalists during and after the American Revolution were common, and for one, William Vassall, also an absentee Jamaican sugar planter, life became even more complicated as the 1780s continued to unfold.

The recent hurricane events in the Caribbean coincided with work in a new title in The Loyalist Collection, the British secretary of state’s Original Correspondence with Jamaica, to spark this post. Luckily another title, William Vassall’s Letter Books, was also available to provide vivid personal accounts demonstrating the losses and issues planters faced who found themselves engaged in, what must have seemed, a never-ending struggle against nature.

As a perceived American loyalist or tory, in 1780, William Vassall, now in England, was already dealing emotionally with the results of what he called “cruel and unmerited treatment” in Rhode Island, and the financial fall out from his property having been confiscated in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, when he finally received word, 5 anxious months after the fact, of “a most melancholy account of the extreme damage done” at his Green Island Estate (also written as Green River) in Hanover Parish by “the most dreadful Hurricane ever known in the memory of man” on the 3rd of October.

Read more.

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

Q. (Borealia): As an acquisitions editor that publishes widely in the field, what is your perspective on what’s being done in early North American history? What themes or approaches are crossing your desk (or not so much anymore), and what are you hoping to see?

A. (Michael J. McGandy): 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.

JAR: Massachusetts Privateers During the Siege of Boston

By Alexander Cain, 24 Sept 2019

Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts Grand Army surrounded Boston and began to lay siege to it. The Massachusetts Committee of Safety quickly recognized that in order to drive the British army from the town, it had to starve them out.

The British military had a longstanding practice of acquiring fresh provisions from local farmers. At first, Gen. Thomas Gage contemplated purchasing supplies from American farmers who lived on the islands in Boston Harbor. Unfortunately, many yeomen were reluctant to cooperate. As a result, the general decided he would initiate military operations to forcefully seize necessary resources. Of course, the harbor islands only provided a limited amount of supplies. As a result, Gage was forced to rely heavily upon the long and tenuous communication lines to British possessions in Nova Scotia and the West Indies, and ultimately, back to England.

The Massachusetts Committee of Safety saw this logistical nightmare as an opportunity to loosen Gage’s hold on Boston. Massachusetts had a long history of privateering during the previous French wars and almost immediately turned to the practice as a method to drive His Majesty’s troops out of the town. Privateering, or “lawful piracy,” was the act of seizing enemy supply or military vessels by civilian-owned warships. Privateers operated under the authority of “Letters of Marque” issued from governmental authorities and were often, if not solely, motivated by the opportunity for profit. Massachusetts authorities actively encouraged just about any person with a seaworthy vessel to partake in privateer operations and placed no limits on the number of ships receiving Letters of Marque.

Read more.

Washington’s Quill: Polite Prohibition?: Bushrod Washington, Mount Vernon, and the Steamboat

By Alicia K. Anderson, 27 Sept 2019

An advertisement on Mount Vernon’s website states that “No method of transportation to Mount Vernon was more popular during the 19th century than riverboat cruises.” Even today, Spirit of Mount Vernon excursion vessels transport thousands of visitors to George Washington’s home each year.

There was a time, however, when visiting Mount Vernon by water was not so welcome.

The story begins in the mid-1780s when James Rumsey harnessed the power of steam to propel ships up the Potomac River – a project originally endorsed by George Washington. By 1813, regular steamboat service began on the Potomac, making mass-transit tours to the Founding Father’s estate inevitable. Mount Vernon was then occupied by Bushrod Washington, George’s nephew and an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Often away from home while presiding over cases, Bushrod may have found it trying to leave his sickly wife, Julia Ann Blackburn, home alone while crowds of visitors thronged the grounds – crowds who often failed to observe, in his opinion, the level of decorum and respect owed his deceased uncle.

Read more.

The Junto: Students Writing Letters, Students Reading Letters

By Rachel Herrmann, 26 Sept 2019

Today I want to make an argument for doing something without knowing and without being able to ever know its full pedagogical value. Let me explain.

In the last content-focused seminar of the semester, before we begin exam prep, I ask my students to write letters to future students taking that class. I tell them to offer advice; to write about what they wish they had known at the start of the year. They write—often for a long time—then they fold up their letters, and I place them into a sealed envelope, unread. At the start of each new academic year, in the first or second content-focused seminar of the semester, after we do introductions and icebreakers, I crack open the seal holding the envelope of the letters I haven’t read, and I distribute them to new students.

I will never know what these letters say; I promise students I will not read them.

Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: Elizabeth Seton: An Early American Life

Catherine O’Donnell, an Associate Professor of History at Arizona State University and author of Elizabeth Seton: American Saint, takes us through the life of the United States’ first saint: Elizabeth Ann Seton.

During our conversation, Catherine reveals details about Elizabeth Seton’s life and accomplishments; Information about Seton’s search for faith and her decision to convert to Catholicism; And, what Elizabeth Seton’s life can show us about what it was like to live as a Catholic and a life of faith in the early United States.

Listen to the podcast.

Where in the World?

Where is ?

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.

Toronto Branch: “History and Evolution of Heraldry in Canada” – Oct. 6

Toronto Branch: Sunday, October 6, 2:00PM

History and Evolution of Heraldry in Canada ie the history of heraldry, its evolution in Canada, myths surrounding heraldry and how citizens can get their own Grant of Armorial Bearings (coat of arms). Jason Burgoin, President of the Toronto Branch Royal Heraldry Society of Canada and National First Vice-President of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada.

See meeting details.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • I stopped by St. Peter’s Cemetery in Weymouth North to pay respects to Don Ruggles at his gravestone. He was strong proponent for recognition of contributions by United Empire Loyalists & descendant of UE Loyalist Timothy Ruggles – Brian McConnell
  • Cape Breton’s colonial cad – David Mathews – conspired against DesBarres, clashed with Cossit and plotted to assassinate Washington. Mathews was buried somewhere on his estate in Amelia Point, which is now part of Petersfield Provincial Park in Westmount, after Rev. Ranna Cossit refused to allow him to be interred in the St. George’s Church graveyard. Read on to understand why. Before he fled to Nova Scotia with other Loyalists at the end of the American Revolutionary War, Matthews was the last British-appointed mayor of New York City. Read more about this not so honourable Loyalist.
  • This Week in History
    • 26 Sept 1770, Boston selectmen mediated a dispute between butchers & tanners. Tanners complained that butchers who leased stalls in the Faneuil Hall market were “withholding the Hides of their Cattle.” After a summons, the butchers promised not to.
    • 21 Sept 1775, Gen. Washington wrote, “I am now to inform the Honbl. Congress, that encouraged by the repeated Declarations of the Canadians & Indians,…I have detached Col. Arnold with 1000 Men to penetrate into Canada by Way of Kennebeck River…”
    • 22 Sept 1775, Pvt. Daniel McCurtin of Maryland wrote in his journal: “This day the Regulars had fine sport firing powder, it being the King’s Damnation day, or Coronation day, as they call it.” A sign of public opinion turning against George III.
    • 24 Sept 1775, British Cabinet states they intend to “carry on the war against America with the utmost vigour.”
    • 27 Sept 1775, Col. Benedict Arnold sent a man from his expedition, James McCormick of North Yarmouth, back to the army in Cambridge because he had shot & killed another soldier in an argument. “The criminal appears to be very simple and ignorant.”
    • 28 Sept 1775, Newport baker Godfrey Wenwood showed Gen. Nathanael Greene a ciphered letter that his ex-wife Mary had asked him to help send to a British army officer inside Boston. Gen. George Washington ordered the woman brought to headquarters.
    • 22 Sept 1776, Nathan Hale caught & hung as a spy. “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
    • 26 Sept 1777, British occupy Philadelphia, forcing Congress to flee to Lancaster and then York, Pennsylvania.
    • 23 Sept 1779, Captain John Paul Jones audaciously captures HMS Serapis off the coast of Yorkshire, England.
    • 23 Sept 1779, “This candlestick was saved from the Ward Room of the Bon Homme Richard, just before she sunk, After the Engagement with the Serapis &  by Henry Lunt, 2nd Lieut. under Como. John Paul Jones. A relic of the Famous Naval Victory…”
    • 27 Sept 1779, John Jay appointed ambassador to Spain; secures $170K loan, but no formal recognition of independence.
    • 25 Sept 1780, Benedict Arnold’s treasonous plan to give West Point fort to British discovered.
    • 25 Sept 1780, In a heavy evening rain, John Andre is escorted to Robinson House (Benedict Arnold’s West Point HQ, which he just fled from the day before.); accomplice Joshua Hett Smith was arrested late last night in Fishkill, NY for his role in the plot.
  • Townsends:
  • Clothing and Related:
    • 1770 robe à la française. This example has been made from a rare Chinese export silk, an ivory damask (created by reversing the weave structure so that both the warp-float and weft-float faces of the satin are on the same surface).
    • A 1725-40 Italian dress. The embroidery is the true star of this garment. It is unusual because instead of using silk thread, it is wool. The pattern uses chinoiserie (imitation Chinese motifs) with figures that represent the four continents.
    • A 1760-65 robe a la francaise. It is a most gorgeous blue and interestingly enough it was altered many times in the late 19th or early 20th  century, most likely for a fancy dress party.
    • 18th Century silver embroidered blue damask court mantua,1730-40. Probably worn by Lady Rachel Morgan (of Tredegar House) for presentation at court
    • 18th Century women’s dress, 1770’s & men’s waistcoat & coat, 1790’s. In China yellow was associated with the Emperor, as chinoiserie gained popularity in Europe so did the colour
    • 18th Century dress, an American dress made from British 1730’s fabric, worn by Mary Waters, Salem, MA at her marriage to Anthony Sigourney of Boston in 1740. Dress was restyled in 1763 when their daughter wore it at her own wedding
    • 18th Century men’s waistcoat, brown silk embroidered with light pink florals, c.1800
    • 18th Century waistcoat, made of silk woven by a well-knwn 18th Century London weaving company, Maze & Steer. Their pattern book of “Fancy Vestings & Handkerchief Goods” is also held in collection & features this design woven in 1788 in 3 colourways
    • 18th Century men’s French Ballooning Waistcoat, c.1784. The balloons are not Montgolfiers, but the first hydrogen balloon, which took off in Paris, Aug 1783. Ben Franklin witnessed the event – ‘Le Globe’ was easily recognizable as the balloonists waved flags.
    • From a set of twelve beautiful buttons, blue Jasperware with a white relief, mounted in cut steel, made by Josiah Wedgwood & Sons in Etruria, Staffordshire, the steel probably from Birmingham, 1785-1800
  • Miscellaneous:
    • All Things Georgian: Female dentists of the 18th century. I came across ‘City Women in the 18th Century’ which showed a trade card for a female dentist, Catherine Madden, who was working as a dentist between 1790 and 1799, whose cures were so efficacious that she guaranteed ‘no recurrence of the trouble’. Women were working as some form of dentist dating back for centuries.  Read more…
    • A table, dated c. 1787, designed by French cabinetmaker É tienne Levasseur. Decorated with gilt-bronze mounts of the utmost delicacy, these fine details provide the perfect foil to its red porphyry stone top.
    • 23 Sept 1676  An armed rebellion of Virginia colonists led by Nathaniel Bacon against the rule of Governor William Berkeley resulted in the burning of Jamestown. At Jamestown Settlement, “Bacon’s Rebellion” comes to life in new 4D experiential theater featuring special effects.

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

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

  • Lewis, Silas – from Linda Mazrimas

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

Editor’s Note

Home again. It was great to visit Saint Anthony and L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. At long last, I can say I have visited all ten provinces!