“Loyalist Trails” 2019-52: December 29, 2019

In this issue:
Samuel Whitney and Samuel Miles: Two Loyalists Acquainted with Generational Grief, by Stephen Davidson
Loyalist Township Acquires Three Historic Properties in Bath
Research Continues: Skeletons Found Near Ridgefield Battle Site
The House on the [Niagara] Hill: The Keefer Family Story: American Revolution and War of 1812
JAR: St. Paul’s Church, New York: A Revolutionary War Site
Ben Franklin’s World: Slavery & Freedom in Early Maryland
Book: ‘They Were Good Soldiers’
Author’s Post About Book Entangled Lives
Family Name Ribbon with Bar Available from UELAC Catalogue
Where in the World?
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Editor’s Note: Happy New Year


Samuel Whitney and Samuel Miles: Two Loyalists Acquainted with Generational Grief

© Stephen Davidson, UE

At the age of 59, Samuel Whitney might have thought that he would never know happiness again, having lost two wives and seven children over the past four decades. But the surprises of life had not ended for Whitney. On June 20, 1811 – seven months after the funeral of his teenage daughter – Whitney married a 46 year-old widow named Margaret Ambrose. She, too, had had her share of sorrows.

Margaret’s first husband was Michael Ambrose, an Irishman who, after immigrating to the New World, served in the Provincial Corps and then the Prince of Wales’ American Volunteers during the American Revolution. With Ambrose’s half-pay as a source of income, the couple settled in the parish of St. Martins to the east of Saint John. When Michael died in 1810, he left an estate worth £374 (approximately $86, 250.00 in current Canadian dollars). Given that the two bondsmen in his will were merchants in Saint John, Ambrose’s connection to the city’s businessmen may give a clue as to how his wife Margaret came to know Samuel Whitney.

Two years after his second wedding, Whitney drew up his will. At 61 years of age, he could have been bitter over the cards that life had dealt him. Was he inclined to follow the advice of Job’s wife who admonished her most unfortunate husband to “curse God and die”? The text of Whitney’s will tells another story.

The old Loyalist instructed both his wife and the two guardians he had appointed for his four remaining children to have Samuel, Charles, James and Charlotte “virtuously brought up to the English Church and sensibly educated accordingly out of my estate until they are of age”. Despite all of the loss of his first wife and his seven oldest children, Whitney had not abandoned his faith. He wanted his children to be brought up as “virtuous” Anglicans and charged three adults to make sure that they were. A good education for his remaining children was as important as all of the wealth that he could bequeath to them.

Six months after settling his affairs, Samuel Whitney died at the age of 61 on January 5, 1815. One of those who would probably have been at the Loyalist merchant’s funeral was Samuel Miles. Despite the fact that he was twelve years older than his former business partner, Samuel Miles survived Whitney, dying at the age of 82 on November 18, 1824. Margaret, Whitney’s second wife, died at 72 on August 28, 1837.

All of the members of the “Loyalist generation” within the Miles and Whitney families were dead by 1837. The rest of the story of Samuel Whitney’s family is revealed in sparse detail in a series of notices in New Brunswick’s newspapers in the forty years that followed the publication of the Loyalist’s own death notice.

In the story of the biblical patriarch, Job’s family members also experienced death and tragedy. Samuel Whitney’s children and grandchildren – it turned out – would endure many of the same hardships as their Loyalist ancestor.

Charlotte Whitney, the only surviving daughter of Samuel and Ann Whitney, married a widower merchant from Fredericton named Thomas L. Langen on January 26, 1828 when she was forty. (Langen’s first wife, Sarah Bailey had died five years earlier). Langen died in New York just five years after his second wedding. A widow once again, Charlotte married Charles R. Gibbons, a widower of New York, on October 19, 1836 in Norwalk, Connecticut. Charlotte died at the age of 64 in October of 1851.

A year after his father’s death, 28 year-old Charles Whitney married Sarah Harding, the widowed daughter of Benjamin Stanton on September 2, 1816. The couple had seven children over the next 13 years. Their firstborn died at 14 months of age; their second son died in his third year. The Whitneys’ youngest daughter only lived for 13 months. Their youngest son James drowned at 13 in 1837 while swimming with two school friends.

Three days after Charles Whitney died at 67 on October 1, 1855, friends and family gathered at his home on Morris Street to attend his funeral. Sarah, his widow, died at 83 on February 3, 1878 in Bloomfield, a community outside of Saint John.

At 25, Samuel Whitney’s youngest son James Whitney married Henrietta Williams in Annapolis, Nova Scotia on February 9, 1826.

James went on to become the owner of a shipping and steamboat company that had routes along the St. John River and the Bay of Fundy as well as to Boston. During his lifetime, two of his steamships were lost at sea. Fortunately, only one of the 75 aboard the North America drowned when the steamship encountered rough seas en route to Boston and was forced to run ashore on Long Island. All but three of the Ferry Queen’s passengers died when the ship sank while crossing the Bay of Fundy seven years later.

Tragedy stalked James Whitney’s personal life as well as in his business affairs. James and Henrietta had only been married for two years when their first child, James Thomas Williams Whitney, died at six months of age on September 10, 1828. Their second son, James Smith Whitney died at the age of one in 1842. Their third son, Fenwick, died at 16 on September 8, 1846. James and Henrietta’s last surviving son, Thomas, died at age 23 in California in December of 1854. The Whitneys’ only other child, Charlotte, married Dr. Watkin Owen Pell Smith of New York on April 24, 1858, and died at 20 two years later on January 22, 1860.

James Whitney, the last surviving son of the Loyalist Samuel Whitney died on July 10, 1858 at the age of 59. His wife Henrietta died on July 26, 1873 in Sussex, New Brunswick.

Before 1775, two Connecticut merchants thought that their lives were laid out before them – raising families and enjoying prosperity in their New England towns. Instead, the events of the American Revolution made Samuel Miles and Samuel Whitney the enemies of their neighbours, forced them to seek sanctuary on Long Island, and eventually washed them up on the shores of the Bay of Fundy where they pursued new lives in the city of Saint John, New Brunswick.

Financially, they did better than most of the colony’s Loyalist founders, but they were “acquainted with grief” over several generations. The accounts of Whitney and Miles’ experiences provide the 21st century historian and genealogist with a glimpse of how difficult life was in the era of Loyalist settlement. They leave us with a sobering question: Could we have endured so many hardships?


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

Loyalist Township Acquires Three Historic Properties in Bath

The Kingstonist, 27 December 2019

The Bath Town Museum, Layer Cake Hall, and Fairfield-Gutzeit House have recently been acquired by Loyalist Township. All photos by Lucas Mulder.

Loyalist Township will now take the charge of preserving three historic properties in Bath, Ontario, as well as the historic contents of these buildings, after the Township legally acquired the properties this month.

According to a press release from the Township, those properties are Layer Cake Hall, the Bath Town Museum, and the Fairfield-Gutzeit House, along with its historic collection regarding the Loyalist settlement of Bath.

Construction of the Bath Town Museum building was completed in 1861. Originally called the Old Town Hall, it was built because “a Division Court Judge objected to the noise of the school children when holding court sessions in the Bath Academy and he refused to return until a permanent court house was built,” according to Loyalist Township

Layer Cake Hall was constructed in 1859 and is the only example of Gothic Revival architecture in the Village of Bath. It was originally commissioned by the Bath Chapter of the Mechanic’s Institute, but the branch ran out of money before it was completed. It then served as the headquarters for the Masonic Order and the Presbyterian congregation, the latter of which occupied the building for many years.

Fairfield House was built in 1793 by Loyalist William Fairfield. It remained in the Fairfield family for six generations until it became the property of the Province of Ontario in 1958, when it was entrusted to the St. Lawrence Park Commission. In 2000, Fairfield House was named by the Canada Royal Architectural Institute to be one of the 250 best examples of Canadian architecture over the last 1,000, chosen mainly for its historical value as this colonial style home was among the first permanent structures built in Ontario by migrating Loyalist settlers. Fairfield House officially opened to the public in September 1984 with a visit by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and now operates as a heritage house museum, with guided tours from Canada Day until Labour Day annually.

Read more.

Research Continues: Skeletons Found Near Ridgefield Battle Site

Following notes in the last two week’s issues (Dec. 15 and Dec. 22) – and an additional article with more background, Skeletons found near Ridgefield battle site fascinates history lovers – comes an update from Ken McCallum: “I wasn’t able to attend the press conference last week, but a friend who has written and lectured on the battle did and said I quite exciting. The CT State archeologist has enlisted academics from Yale and two other CT universities to study the remains, including DNA.”

Read more: Revolutionary War soldiers? State archaeologist believes Ridgefield skeletons fit the bill.

The House on the [Niagara] Hill: The Keefer Family Story: American Revolution and War of 1812

By Shannon Gosse, student at Brock University, 22 Dec 2019 in Thorold News

The sound of a distant gunshot, cannons firing one after the other, the screams of soldiers and the crying of children, and the smell of smoke from burning homes. These are only some of the terrifying sounds and experiences members of the Keefer family would have to endure throughout the War of 1812.

The story begins with George Keefer, a United Empire Loyalist living in the area known today as Thorold, Ontario. George travelled to Canada in 1790, in hopes of escaping the violence and chaos in the newly independent America. The life he produces for himself and his family exhibits the common characteristics of Loyalist settlements in the Niagara region during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. His emotional, brave and traumatic story displays the tragedies of war experienced by Upper Canadian families in and around the battlefields of the War of 1812. This paper will explore George Keefer’s life and how this war not only affected those fighting but also the families on the Homefront. Research on the War of 1812 is largely focused on the details of warfare and its significance politically and geographically, ignoring the social aspects and stories of common individuals. This paper will address the significance of war in the way it drastically changes the daily life of families living in Upper Canada through the examination of George Keefer’s family and artifacts of those involved in the War of 1812.

In the year 1776, the Revolutionary War began in America, dividing the people of the colonies. The war turned neighbour against neighbour and produced violent rivalries between Loyalists and American patriots. George Keefer’s father, living in New Jersey at the start of the war, expressed no sympathy for those who turned against the King. George Sr. joined the Queens Rangers to fight for the British and a unified colony. Near the end of the American Revolution, George’s father died of army fever in 1783, leaving his family to the winning hands of the Revolutionary war. The American government confiscated the Keefer’s land but allowed George’s mother to live on the property until George and his brother Jacob turned eighteen. Over the next seven years, George spent his childhood deciding whether he should follow in his father’s footsteps and continue to support the King or become an American citizen. Both options risked his future and the life of his family. Siding with the British and becoming a Loyalist would force George and his family to leave America. But remaining in America would force George to pledge allegiance to American ideals, and possibly risking his future under his fathers Loyalist past. After the Revolutionary war, the American government punished those who fought for the British by not allowing them to return to the colony, as well as, allowing Loyalists and their families to face harassment by American patriots.

In Canada, the first wave of Loyalists have already arrived and settled during the American Revolution and are given land grants and promises of a new prosperous life by the British government.

Read more.

JAR: St. Paul’s Church, New York: A Revolutionary War Site

By Edna Gabler 24 December 2019

Nestled amid factories, automotive shops and diners in an industrial section of southern New York, just a short walk from the Bronx boundary, sits a little-known gem of the American Revolution, St. Paul’s Church. Partially completed at the time of the Revolution, the church served as a hospital first for American soldiers and, after the American loss at Pell’s Point, for British and Hessian troops. Today the site is in the city of Mount Vernon, but this historic structure appears to the passerby much as it did over 240 years ago when Mount Vernon was part of Eastchester, New York.

St. Paul’s Church, originally called the Church at Eastchester, was a central focus of eighteenth-century life in Eastchester. Countywide elections, such as the 1733 contest between Lewis Morris, the favorite of the people, and the royal governor’s preferred candidate William Forster for a seat in the New York provincial assembly, were held on the church’s village green. The Morris-Forster contest drew one of the largest crowds for a political event in colonial America, the particulars of which were famously published in John Peter Zenger’s inaugural New-York Weekly Journal. The 1733 election had long-term significance for the development of religious freedom in early America.

The people of Eastchester began building St. Paul’s in 1763 to replace a small wooden structure residents had used for worship since 1700. The original building, which stood about sixty to eighty yards from the current church, had been built by dissenters who opposed the Church of England. By 1702, however, Eastchester residents were forced by the British Crown to accept the Anglican religion. This new church was inspired by those built in London in the mid-seventeenth century – the principal architect at the time being Christopher Wren – and depended on sketches and diagrams of English churches.

Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: Slavery & Freedom in Early Maryland

Jessica Millward, an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine and author of Finding Charity’s Folk, leads us on an investigation of slavery and freedom in Maryland during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

During our investigation, Jessica reveals: How slavery started in Maryland and how early Marylanders practiced slavery; The story of Charity Folks, an enslaved woman who gained her freedom; And, what Charity Folks’ story reveals about how some slaves experienced a transition from slavery to freedom.

Listen to the podcast.

Book: ‘They Were Good Soldiers’

‘They Were Good Soldiers’: African Americans Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783, by John U. Rees (Solihull, England: Helion & Company, 2019).

Review by Patrick H. Hannum in JAR on 23 December 2019.

John U. Rees addresses an interesting yet difficult subject in his recent work, ‘They Were Good Soldiers’: African-Americans Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783. Rees and others interested in the lives and experiences of the common soldier find that many primary source records containing the details needed to accurately tell their stories failed to survive the test of time. This is understandable, given the Continental Army grew from a collection of state militias during wartime into a national army. Locating records for African American soldiers can be particularly challenging for many reasons. Rees found many African American Continentals often used multiple names, in part attributable to their social and economic status during and after the revolution. Post war racial prejudices compounded the challenges of daily life for African American veterans. Even with these challenges, Rees identified numerous soldiers and produced a well-researched, creditable and interesting analysis of African American service in the Continental Army. His work is helpful in placing the contributions of African American soldiers in the greater context of the revolutionary experience.

Filled with human stories, readers will find this text useful in understanding the overall contributions of African American soldiers to the Continental Army and will gain insight into the experiences they faced along the way. Any reader with an interest in learning more about the common soldier serving in the Continental Army would benefit from reading this text.

Read more.

Author’s Post About Book Entangled Lives<

Comments by Marla Miller about her new book, Entangled Lives: Labor, Livelihood, and Landscapes of Change in Rural Massachusetts.

Among the most powerful artifacts I know of early American women’s work isn’t an artifact at all. It is the darkened wood around some eighteenth-century flooring, shown to me many years ago now by an architectural conservator at work in the Porter-Phelps-Huntington House (Forty Acres) in Hadley, Massachusetts. I had spent a lot of time in and around that site in the course of my research, working to recover insight into the lives of the women whose labors had made the household run, and I had seen plenty of tools – spinning wheels, churns, and so forth – associated with their work. But this was different. The discolored wood, now hidden away in a storage space, was a remnant of hundreds of scrubbings. The chapped hands that created this evidence may well have never held a pen, but they nonetheless left me this testimony of their labor.

Read more.

Family Name Ribbon with Bar Available from UELAC Catalogue

Recognize your Loyalist ancestor with his or her name on the bar.

Multiple ancestors? No problem. Each ribbon will hold up to five bars; some people wear multiple ribbons.

As this is not an earned medal or medal of recognition, this ribbon should be worn on the right chest.

The ribbon and bar come separately so the bar can be placed as desired.

Have your engraving done by your local jeweller, or order the bar with engraving at $.60 each letter.

Details at Family Name Ribbon.

Find more items in the UELAC promotional catalogue; if you have questions, or to order something, see ordering information.

Where in the World?

Where is Fred Hayward of Hamilton 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.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • I’m Canadian, my kids are American, so teaching the American Revolution is tricky. This year, our daughter, our youngest child, entered fourth grade in New York State. The event provoked a certain amount of dread in my husband, Raj, and me. This is not because we expected her to misbehave or because the school is substandard, but because this is the year she will learn about the American Revolution. To illustrate why two Canadian parents might have reason to grimace at this portion of an American-born child’s education, I have only to look back on our family trip to Boston this summer. Read more… (Globe & Mail, 27 Dec, 2019)
  • Very pleased to receive as gift this unique handmade ornament of King George III for Christmas Tree, Brian McConnell UE (be sure to click on the photo)
  • This Week in History
    • 27 Dec 1766, Dedham held a town meeting on the controversial issue of “making up Losses to Lieut. Governor.” Should the provincial government compensate Thomas Hutchinson for the damage to his property during the Stamp Act riots of August 1765?
    • 22 Dec 1774 The Greenwich Tea Burning. A cargo of tea bound for Phila was stored in a basement in Greenwich NJ  (40 miles to the south). Angry rebels discovered the tea, dressed as Indians, raided the basement, took the tea to an adjoining field, and set it on fire.
    • 22 Dec 1774, the Topsfield town meeting voted to send tax revenues to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress instead of the royal treasurer, as the law required. Topsfield thus chose to support the unofficial elected government.
    • 22 Dec 1775 Esek Hopkins,  onetime failure as slave ship captain, appointed commander in chief of Continental Navy
    • 23 Dec 1775 Gen. George Washington to the New England colony governments: “Notwithstanding the great pains taken by the Quarter Master General, to procure Blankets for the Army, he finds it impossible to procure a number sufficient…Our Soldiers are in great distress and I know of no way to remedy the evil, than applying to you, cannot some be got from the different Towns; most houses could spare one…”
    • 28 Dec 1775 the Comte de Bonvouloir, a French agent, reported to his foreign minister on secret meetings with the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Earlier in the year, he had visited Boston and London.
    • 23 Dec 1776 The most famed words of the American Revolution, written by  Thomas Paine, hit the streets of Philadelphia and beyond. “These are the times that try men’s souls…”
    • 24 Dec 1776 Washington’s army issued three days’ provisions in preparation for march to banks of the Delaware.
    • 25 Dec 1776 Washington crosses into New-Jersey from Pennsylvania under cover of darkness and heavy snowfall.
    • 26 Dec 1776 Patriot forces rout Hessians at Trenton, giving the rebels a crucial victory over the British.
    • 27 Dec 1776 News of Washington’s victory at Trenton reaches Philadelphia, raising spirits.
    • 21 Dec 1781 Great Britain declares war on the Netherlands.
    • 23 Dec 1783 “Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of action.” -G. Washington
  • Townsend’s
  • Clothing and Related:
    • 18th Century young girl’s dress, a back-fastening gown of ivory silk hand embroidered with floral motifs, birds and butterflies in coloured silks, woven and embroidered in China, sewn in England, c.1760
    • 18th Century women’s stomacher, a decorative piece that sat over the torso which fastened the overcoat of the gown by being pinned into place. This example shows painted pastoral scenes nestled into elaborate silk & metallic embroidery, French
    • 18th Century dress, front detail of Robe a l’Anglaise bodice, embroidered with pretty florals, c.1770’s
    • 18th Century men’s court suit and waistcoat, silk, c.1775, probably British
    • Detail of 18th Century men’s waistcoat, French, c.1770-1790’s
    • 18th Century men’s Court Coat, pocket detail showcasing paste stones, foil, sequins, and metallic-thread embroidered appliqué, soft pinks on a bright yellow, 1780-1785
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Article “The Black Cemetery at Conway & Brinley Town” has been published in recently released issue of the Nova Scotia Genealogist by the Genealogical Association of NS.  It begins on page 107 and with photos and notes goes to page 117
    • Glass apothecary bottle (c.17th century?), found by fellow mudlark Klay just before Christmas. I wonder what quackery it once contained, a cure all or maybe a remedy for plague. In 1665-6 those that could afford it moved onto ships anchored on the Thames to avoid infection.
    • The Lord of Misrule and his scurvy rabble have arrived! Come join in the festivities at 11:00 and 2:30 December 26-31

Editor’s Note: Happy New Year

I hope you have enjoyed and celebrated the Christmas Day. As the sun sets on the last days of 2019, may I wish you a Happy New Year celebration, and health and happiness for the new year as we enter a new decade.

I look back with some sense of amazement at the changes we have experienced in this last ten-year period, and look ahead with wonder at what might transpire over the next ten. Might we have another “roaring twenties”?