“Loyalist Trails” 2020-15: April 12, 2020

In this issue:
Prisoner of War, Refugee, and Returnee: The Story of Major John Kissam (Part 2), by Stephen Davidson
The Coronovirus Pandemic
      + Toronto Epidemics: The Beginning
      + W.O. Raymond – Smallpox Outbreak 1901-02
      + The Crown vs. The Coronavirus
      + The Symbolic and Historical Significance of the Queen’s Turquoise Brooch
Borealia: Liberal-Whig History
JAR: What They Saw and Did at Yorktown’s Redoubts 9 and 10
JAR: Scouting the American Revolution: The French Intelligence Community
Colonial Williamsburg: Buckle Up!
Resource: Ontario’s History Is Now Available Online
Nicholas Peterson “II”, His Sons and a Grandson
Where in the World?
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
      + Military Unit in Which Ithiel Towner Served
      + Copy of “Rum ‘n Ribbons” by George Leard in Loyalist Gazette (v.21, no.1)


Prisoner of War, Refugee, and Returnee: The Story of Major John Kissam (Part 2)

© Stephen Davidson, UE

John Kissam, the son of a prominent New York Loyalist and a major in the local Long Island militia, was a prisoner of war in Wethersfield, Connectictut.

If a prisoner exchange could not be worked out, John thought it likely that he would be in Connecticut for the winter, and so he asked his father to send him some warm clothing. Prices were high in Connecticut, prompting the Loyalist prisoner of war to ask his family to send him some cash. Most of all, the 33 year-old bachelor missed having friends nearby. He hoped that under a flag of truce some friend might be able to deliver the much needed money. John also wanted to receive letters from family and friends. Among the things he asked his father to send him were two inkstands — presumably to write to both his friends and Abraham Skinner, the rebel Commissary of Prisoners.

In an undated letter, to Patriot authorities, John Kissam acknowledged that he was a prisoner of war on parole and asked for a pass that would allow him to return to British headquarters in New York City. He said that pledged “my faith and sacred honour that I will not say, do, or cause to be said or done, anything that can be in any shape construed to injure the welfare of the said United States”. If during that time he could not be exchanged for a Patriot prisoner of war, John agreed to “render myself a prisoner” to the Commissary of Prisoners once again.

In the end, Major John Kissam was exchanged for Major George Wright of the Pennsylvania Militia at New York City on October 20, 1781. Kissam’s four months as a prisoner of war were at an end.

John’s time in Connecticut may have given him time to seriously re-evaluate his life. Or perhaps absence from a particular young woman may have made his “heart grow fonder”. Whatever the prompt may have been, Major John Kissam married Phebe Allen on Monday, March 18, 1782 — just five months after being a prisoner of Connecticut rebels. The bride, a member of a Loyalist family, was 27; the groom was 34.

The entire Kissam family would gather once again in August as they met to mourn the death of John’s father. Daniel Kissam had died at 55 years of age in a fall from his horse while riding around his estate. Although Flower Hill, the Kissam’s 330-acre property, was on land under British control throughout the revolution, the rebel colonial congress had included it in its 1779 Act of Attainder. In other words, should the Patriot side win the revolution, all of the Kissam estate would be forfeited to the new state of New York.

By the summer of 1782, preliminary peace talks between the United Kingdom and the United States of America were well underway. The conditions laid out in the early versions of the Treaty of Paris were very generous for the victors with very few safeguards for the war’s American losers. The American Revolution — and the normal course of its Loyalists’ lives— was about to come to an end.

The New York Act of Attainder would soon come into effect, seizing the estate on which John Kissam and his siblings had grown up. The act attained (took) the estates of 59 Long Island Loyalists. Adding insult to injury it also included these words:

“That the said several persons herein before particularly named, shall be and hereby are declared to be for ever banished from this State; and each and every of them, who shall at any time hereafter be found in any part of this State, shall be, and are hereby adjudged and declared guilty of felony, and shall suffer death as in cases of felony.”

The entire Kissam family, including John and his wife Phebe, were no longer welcome in New York. They had become refugees in need of a place of sanctuary.

Having been engaged in active service to the crown, John and his brother Benjamin were definitely seen as enemies of the new republic. From what little can be found in the historical records, it seems that their 55 year-old mother, Peggy Kissam also accompanied the brothers into exile. No ships’ manifests have been found that contain the names of the Kissam family or the evacuation ship upon which they sailed, but we know these Loyalist refugees ended up finding sanctuary near Digby, Nova Scotia.

Earlier in 1783, a group of Loyalists had gone to Nova Scotia to scout out the best possible site for new homes. Their best hope was the land surrounding the Annapolis Basin in the western part of the colony. The Digby area (then known as Conway) was described as having “very good soil and favourable to the fishery”. Given that John Kissam later received letters from friends in Granville, it seems likely that this is where the Long Island family decided to settle. Today, Granville is situated on the Annapolis River midway between Bridgetown and Annapolis Royal.

While the Kissams began to settle in Nova Scotia, New York’s Commissioners of Confiscation sold their Long Island estate at some point in 1784 despite the fact that John had applied to the state’s general assembly to have the estate restored to his family “agreeably to the terms of the provisional articles of the treaty of peace”.

Although article six of the 1783 Treaty of Paris advised Congress to “provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to British subjects {i.e. Loyalists}”, New York would not consider John’s request to return their Hempstead home. The fact that the Kissams’ Flower Hill estate was only one of two confiscated by the new Patriot government implies that the family was being singled out as an example to other Long Island Loyalists. In light of the government’s actions, it seemed that Nova Scotia was the Kissams’ best hope for the future.

However, the settlements around the Annapolis Basin were a disappointment to many of its refugees. A letter written in the fall of 1784 said “Many of the Loyalists in this part of the Province are unsettled, because of the negligent and dilatory conduct of those appointed to lay out lands for them. This has been a great disadvantage to the settlement of the Country; as many individual persons have thereby been prevented from doing anything this summer.”

In nearby Digby, the “best residents” were induced to “remove elsewhere”. Over one third of the grantees “failed to occupy their lands”. Adding to these discouragements was the fact that the English ship carrying provisions and implements for the colony was “detained by adverse winds and rough weather”. A famine seemed imminent. There was an “outbreak” of violence “among the less intelligent and dutiful citizens”, but cooler heads (and the timely arrival of the supply ship) saw that “comparative quiet was restored”. Nevertheless, many of the Loyalists left the settlements, “taking wealth, enterprise and extensive influence” with them. While some refugees moved up the Annapolis River to Granville or across the Bay of Fundy to Saint John, some decided to return to America.

See the next edition of Loyalist Trails to learn whether the Kissam family remained in Nova Scotia or sought better opportunities elsewhere.

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

The Coronovirus Pandemic

From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.

Toronto Epidemics: The Beginning

National Trust for Canada

In 1832 the Town of York experienced an epidemic of cholera. In 1834, the year York was renamed Toronto, cholera returned. In 1847 more than 38,000 Irish famine refugees poured into Toronto, their number almost twice that of the population of the young city. They brought with them typhus — ship fever. The sick were treated with as much skill as the medical knowledge of the time allowed and with more compassion than might have been expected — at terrible cost to those who gave it.

Toronto’s first epidemics would be far from its last but they set a standard of learning from experience for legislation in public health that made the city safer and readier than it would otherwise have been for the many epidemics that would come in future, each one as shocking, as confounding and as demanding on humanity and ingenuity as an alien invasion. Almost 200 years later, in the year of COVID-19, that process of learning through experience continues. In the past it has made the world safer and wiser than it was before — at least temporarily. Let us hope it will again — this time permanently.

This is the introduction of a story by Richard Longley published in NOW magazine. Read more here and here.

W.O. Raymond – Smallpox Outbreak 1901-02

My paternal great-grandfather, the Ven. William O. Raymond (whose ‘Book of Family Ancestry’ was serialized in Loyalist Trails in 2009), was an Anglican clergyman during a deadly outbreak of smallpox that hit the port city of Saint John, New Brunswick in 1901-02. It left that city’s meagre health resources severely strained. The clergy — Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish — were hard-pressed to meet the needs of their respective congregations as so many fell ill and died. So, they decided to pool their resources in a most ingenious way: they set about to learn each others’ respective prayers for the sick and dying, so that they could cover each other off.

The outbreak required them to wear black outfits with hoods (called ‘plague clothes’) that covered them from head to foot and muffled their voices so they were not recognizable (the children called them ‘the black Santa Clauses’). The clothes did little to protect them from the deadly illness and they put themselves at great risk with selfless disregard for their own personal safety. There is something quite wonderful about the idea of my great-grandfather, or his Christian colleagues, saying the ‘Mourners Kaddish’ (the Jewish prayer for the dead), while a Rabbi may have had to administer the last rites of the Church.

See a photo of W.O. Raymond.

…George McNeillie

The Crown vs. The Coronavirus

How the Queen’s short speech made the COVID-19 crisis feel more real. This is part of what made the Queen’s speech so powerful. The 93-year-old Monarch seemed to be addressing history as well as her people. My folks were Canadian, but my father’s parents hailed from Scotland and England (truly a match made in heaven), while my mom descended from the United Empire Loyalists who came to British North America after the American Revolution. The Queen concluded with another reminder of past difficulties overcome: “We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again.”

Read more.

The Symbolic and Historical Significance of the Queen’s Turquoise Brooch

It’s fairly unusual for Queen Elizabeth to wear turquoise jewelry, so when she sat for a national address Sunday evening—only her fourth during her 68-year reign—her diamond and turquoise brooch was yet more evidence that she is living through an unusual time. The gem’s blue tone stood out against her emerald green crepe dress, its diamond-encrusted filigrees gently catching the light in the queen’s Windsor Castle sitting room. The brooch itself is one she’s only seldom worn since inheriting it in 1953; she didn’t wear it at all in public until 2014, when she wore it on a visit to Derbyshire. It came into her possession along with much more jewelry that her paternal grandmother, Queen Mary, passed on to her when she died at the age of 85.

Borealia: Liberal-Whig History

By Robert W. Passfield 6 Paril 2020

What has been termed ‘Whig History’ is a Liberal historiography that views history teleologically in terms of the progress of humanity towards enlightenment, rationalism, scientism, secularism, and the freedom of the individual. As attested by Herbert Butterfield (The Whig Interpretation of History, 1931) Whig history is characterized by presentism, a distinct historical methodology, and a strong historical bias.

Whig histories are present-oriented in studying the past from the concerns of the present, in viewing the march of history as demonstrating the principles of ‘progress’ in the growth of freedom of the individual and the establishment of constitutional government based on the concept of popular sovereignty. For Whig historians, history serves as an arbitrator for the making of ‘moral judgements’ on past events and personages. However, the ‘moral judgements’ are based on liberal political principles, rather than on God’s moral law. In Whig histories, there is no concept of studying history for its own sake; there is little historical understanding; and there is a complete lack of ‘an imaginative sympathy for the past’.

Read more.

JAR: What They Saw and Did at Yorktown’s Redoubts 9 and 10

by Kim Burdick 7 April 2020

Receiving orders from Sir Henry Clinton, British commander in chief in North America, Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis led his troops to a position between Virginia’s York and James Rivers. On August 1, 1781 his army started building earthworks with both ends anchored on the York River. American Maj. Gen. Marquis de Lafayette, possibly alerted by James Armistead,[wrote to Chevalier de La Luzerne, French minister to the United States, suggesting that “If the French army could all of a sudden arrive in Virginia and be supported by a squadron, we would do some very good things.” When French and American forces did arrive, the British had made additional defenses, including Redoubts 9 and 10, four hundred yards in advance of the British inner defense line.

Ebenezer Denny, lieutenant in the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment, a “blue-eyed, red-headed boy,” was in Yorktown on September 14, 1781 when “General Washington Arrived. Our brigade was paraded to receive him. Officers all pay their respects. He stands in the door, takes every man by the hand. The officers all pass in, receiving his salute, and shake hands. This is the first time I have seen the General.”

Cornwallis wrote to Clinton, grumpily predicting, “By examining the transports with care and turning out useless mouths my provisions will last at least six weeks from this day if we can preserve them from accidents. This place is in no state of defence. If you cannot relieve me very soon you must be prepared to hear the worst.”

Read more.

JAR: Scouting the American Revolution: The French Intelligence Community

by Richard J. Werther 9 April 2020

We often hear about intelligence activities which take place during times of war. Having good intelligence is indeed critical to military and diplomatic success. But there is also intelligence work that goes into the decision to enter a war in the first place, either as a primary combatant or as a participant in an alliance.

When France considered an alliance with the American colonies against Great Britain, it wanted to be sure it was making as informed a decision as possible. While the better-known reports are the ones that gave the final push to make that leap, those reports were built upon the lesser-known spade work, by earlier emissaries sent to gather information necessary to make a decision of such military, political and economic gravity.

Many agents, some famous and some not, some French and some not, were involved in initial information gathering efforts in the period between the end of the Seven Years’ War and France’s formal entry into the American Revolution in 1778. Three of the earliest agents were François de Sarrebourse de Pontleroy de Beaulieu (hereafter “Pontleroy”), Johann Kalb, also known as Baron de Kalb, and a man who, until the 2010s, had no name in the historical record, and was simply referred to by the name of his diary: “A French Traveller.”

Read more.

Colonial Williamsburg: Buckle Up!

By John Welch 7 April 2020

One of the questions most frequently asked of us in the shoemaker’s shop is how our shoes are held closed. They have no laces and, of course, Velcro is out of the question. All that can be seen are two straps crossing over the top of the shoe, and therein is part of the answer. These are known as ‘buckle straps.’

Attaching the buckles was the responsibility of the customer and in the period it was easily done. As we are often asked to assist in the attachment of buckles by visitors who have purchased a pair of costume shoes from one of our retail shops, we thought we would demonstrate the process for you here using an original silver shoe buckle with London hallmarks from the 1760s.

But first, a brief history of shoe buckles.

Read more.

Resource: Ontario’s History Is Now Available Online

The Ontario Historical Society (OHS) announces that the entire run of over 120 years of the Society’s Ontario History journal is now available online. The OHS has digitized the full text of over 2,000 articles and book reviews, making the archive the largest single collection of stories about Ontario’s history.

Everything from 1899 to 1915 (13 issues) and 2005 Autumn to 2018 (27 issues) is open access and free to read, the latter through our partnership with not-for-profit digital publisher and scholarly disseminator érudit.

Ontario History from 1916 to 2005 Spring (236 issues) is available to OHS Individual and Lifetime members on the OHS website as a new member benefit. Visit our website to become an OHS member and get year-round access to this unrivaled resource on the rich history of our province.

Visit the Ontario History digital archive at ontariohistoricalsociety.ca/back-issues/.

Nicholas Peterson “II”, His Sons and a Grandson

By Roger Peterson

Of 14 Peterson names currently in the Loyalist Directory, ten are those of Nicholas Peterson “II” and his sons and a grandson. Four of the names are duplicates: there were three Nicholas Petersons UEL, not seven. (C. John, Conrad, John, and Thomas Peterson of the Directory are not related to the Nicholas II.)

Nicklaes/Nicholas Pieterszen/Peterson “II” – Nicholas, son of Nicklaes (Claas) Pieterszen and Catalyntie Jongbloed, was baptized in 1717 at Tappan, New York. He was born in the Hackensack Valley probably on the New Jersey side of what became the state line. He married Catharina Meyer around 1736 and they had four children, of whom only Abraham survived infancy. Nicklaes married Annatje Demarest in Tappan in 1748 and they farmed near Schraalenburgh, New Jersey. They had six children. In the 1770s they suffered from marauding Continentals and by 1778 moved to British-held New York City. There Nicklaes and three sons became Associated Loyalists under Major Thomas Ward. They took part in raids west of the Hudson and fought in the Battle of the Blockhouse. In 1783 they were in Major VanAlstine’s contingent transported to Lower Canada and in 1784 to Upper Canada. Nicholas and Catalyntie settled on Hay Bay, 200 acres in Adolphustown Concession 3 Lot 19. Deducing from census numbers, Nicholas died in 1793-94 and Catalyntie in 1796-97.

Abraham, Eldest Son of Nicholas II – Eldest son Abraham was born in 1741 near Tappan and was brought up near Schraalenburgh, New Jersey, where he leased a farm in 1775. In 1764 he married Mary Magdalena Van Ordin; they had at least five children. In 1776 he joined the British in New York City, becoming an Associated Loyalist. They were transported to Adolphustown, Upper Canada, in 1784, but did not long remain, moving across the narrow Bay of Quinte to become founders of the Hallowell Bay community. He became prosperous and at his death in 1823 willed hundreds of pounds and 1600 acres (but only £3 to second wife Mary Wright, who contested the will but lost).

Nicholas, Son of Abraham – Abraham’s son Nicholas was born near Schraalenburgh about 1768, just in time to be counted a United Empire Loyalist on the family’s move to Upper Canada in 1883. And he was counted as a founder of Hallowell Bay; he lived there and in Sophiasburgh and Ameliasburgh in Prince Edward County. He may have had a first family of whom we know nothing. In 1809 he married Margaret Van Tassell and they had at least eight children. He died probably in 1845.

Nicholas III, Son of Nicholas II – Nicholas II’s son Nicholas III was born near Schraalenburgh in 1760. Dutch was the family’s language although mother Annatje Demarest was of the French Huguenot family that dominated Hackensack Valley. Nicholas became a British messenger in 1776 and was seriously injured in the head by the sword of a Continental officer. He swore loyalty to King George in 1777 and moved with the family to New York City in 1778. There he married (Mary) Elizabeth Hazlett. Like his father and three brothers Nicholas was an Associated Loyalist under Major Ward, taking part in guerilla warfare in the Hackensack Valley and in the Battle of the Blockhouse. With Elizabeth and baby son Nicholas accompanied his father and brothers to Canada in 1783. In 1784 he settled by Hay Bay, Adolphustown Concession 3 Lot 19, and by 1806 moved along the shore to Lot 14, later adding adjacent land. His son William said that Nicholas put in Adolphustown’s first crop and harvested a large yield in 1784. Nicholas and Elizabeth had 15 children of whom 13 were living in 1846, when Nicholas died.

Paul, Son of Nicholas II – Nicholas II’s son Paul was born near Schraalenburgh in 1757. The family moved behind British lines in 1778. Like his father and three brothers Paul was an Associated Loyalist under Major Ward, taking part in guerilla warfare in the Hackensack Valley and in the Battle of the Blockhouse. He married Helena Williams in New York in 1781. They accompanied his father and brothers to Canada in 1783 and settled in Adolphustown and thereafter alternated between adjacent Fredericsburgh and Adolphustown. They had at least four children. He was living in 1834.

Christiaen, Son of Nicholas II – Nicholas II’s son Christiaen, later Christopher, was born in 1764 in northern Bergen County, New Jersey. With parents and siblings he moved to British-held New York City in 1778. He married Maria Ouke (also interpreted as “Duke” and “Oakes”). He fought as an Associated Loyalist under Major Ward, including in the Battle of the Blockhouse. They were evacuated to Lower Canada where he first settled in Adolphustown but soon moved to adjacent Fredericksburgh. Marie died in the early 1790s and Christopher married Sarah McNutt; they had at least ten children, 1798-1813. He died in 1827.

I am a Loyalist descendant. My Ontario great-grandfather moved to Minnesota in 1865. I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’m at https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Peterson-2111.

I’ve written relevant “lives” for Nicklaes (Nicholas) “Claes” Peterson II and for Nicholas Peterson III (1760 – 1846).

Roger Peterson

Where in the World?

Where are Linda Young and Jo Ann Tuskin?

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

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

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

  • Detlor, Valentine – contributed by Roger Peterson
  • Shorey, David – contributed by Roger Peterson

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


Military Unit in Which Ithiel Towner Served

Greetings from Newport RI. Amidst the coronavirus scare, stuck at home, I have been doing some family genealogical research on a loyalist family member, Ithiel Towner, who is listed in your directory as a PROVEN loyalist as submitted by someone to your respective chapters. I know from copies of documents that Ithiel made a post war claim. He indicates he served in Burgoyne’s Army, and “joined Col Powell with the prisoners” to Canada (St Johns, Quebec) in 1777. I am trying to ascertain to what loyalist unit he belonged. In whatever submission that was made to UELAC is there any indication of his unit or might you have a suggestion where I might look or narrow my search?

Many thanks for any help you might provide.

…Matthew Towner

Copy of “Rum ‘n Ribbons” by George Leard in Loyalist Gazette (v.21, no.1)

I am looking for an article in the Loyalist Gazette, v.21, no.1, Spring 1983. It seems that the UELAC does not own that particular issue. I found the reference as an endnote in Dorothy Duncan’s book “Canadians at Table…” . The article is by George Leard, “Rum ‘n Ribbons”. I wonder if it is possible to find someone who owns this issue and could scan the article and send it to me (for a price!). Otherwise I would go to the P.E.I. Genealogical Society (I have corresponded with the Vice-President there). Someone in P.E.I. would have saved that article, given that it is about an account book for an 18th century store in Charlottetown.

This is all to do with the 1830 cookbook I have been editing for a new edition with McGill-Queen’s UP. The author of the cookbook was born, raised and married in P.E.I. and her mother, Ann Coffin was from a Boston Loyalist family.

I haven’t yet tried to find where the account book resides, but I do know that the P.E.I. Archives has been closed for several months due to a move to another building.

Thanks in advance for any assistance.

…Mary Williamson, UE