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First Christmas Tree in Canada
The first Christmas tree appeared in Canada during the American Revolution. It happened on Christmas Eve in 1781 in Sorel, Quebec where there was an encampment of Loyalists. A party was hosted for British and German officers by Baroness Redesel. Her husband, Baron Frederick Adolphus Riedesel, commanded a group of German soldiers. The sensation of the evening was said to be a fir tree in the corner decorated with fruits and candles. … Brian McConnell UE
See “Tidings of peace and joy from the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada” for another early Christmas tree.

JAR: Christmas Day: A Soldier’s Holiday?
by John Rees 23 December 2021
Soldiers’ celebrations depended on circumstances, personal beliefs, and family or community traditions. David DeSimone notes in his article “Another Look at Christmas in the Eighteenth Century”:

[From the seventeenth century the] celebration of Christmas was outlawed in most of New England. Calvinist Puritans and Protestants abhorred the entire celebration and likened it to pagan rituals and Popish observances….These statutes remained in force until they were repealed early in the nineteenth century.

It seems that in civil society by the late eighteenth century those laws were “More honour’d in the breach than the observance.” The wartime soldiers’ world was one in which such bans were also often only honored in the breach, or, at the very least, subject to human or military needs.
Members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) ignored Christmas.
For Virginia Anglicans the season was seen as a time for solemn reflection, self-examination, and anticipation of Christ’s second coming. New Jerseyian Phillip Vickers Fithian saw another aspect in December 1773: “Nothing is now to be heard of in conversation, but the Balls, the Fox-hunts, the fine entertainments, and the good fellowship, which are to be exhibited at the approaching Christmas.”
As for the armies of the Revolution, any holiday, religious or secular, meant a lot to soldiers no matter their duties. An important aspect of any celebration was the possibility of a special meal to fill their bellies and the opportunity for feeling some small connection with homes left behind. The soldiers’ holidays were a curious admixture of hunger and bounty, pain and cheer, nostalgia and comradeship, with a healthy dose of humor thrown in for good measure.
Read more… with excepts from diaries of soldiers from the Continental, British, German, and French forces.

The Hanging of Hare and Newbury: Part Three: Soon With His God
copyright Stephen Davidson UE
William Newbury was a sergeant in Butler’s Rangers, a Loyalist regiment based in what is now Niagara, Ontario. In the summer of 1779, he returned to his home near Glen, New York. All would have been well if Newbury had not sprained his ankle, delaying his departure from a neighbourhood full of hostile Patriots.
Having heard rumours that he was visiting his family, local rebels under the command of Lieutenant John Newkirk went to his home on the night of June 19th and arrested him. What happened following Newbury’s arrest became part of local lore, an oral tradition that blended truth and fiction. The fact that he was remembered as being “obnoxious” due to his “inhuman cruelties at the massacre of Cherry Valley” in 1778, made a death sentence — almost inevitable.
However, thanks to the preservation of the transcript of his court martial trial, the separation of fact from fiction is a much easier task. The story of this Loyalist features a strange assortment of details — a daughter held captive by Indigenous people, a tame deer, a sexual assault, and the murder of a young girl.
William Newbury (sometimes Newberry), his wife Margaret and their four small children lived in Glen, a community not too far from Fort Hunter in New York’s Tryon County. Accounts differ as to whether he had two sons or just one. Elizabeth, Margaret, and William are the known names of the Newbury children.
In 1777, William Newbury took an oath “to be true to the state of New York”. But by the next August, he left his home with 56 other Loyalists, and joined the British Army as it was besieging Fort Stanwix. He and a number of his former neighbours eventually joined Butler’s Rangers in December of 1777. Newbury attained the rank of sergeant.
After his participation in the Battle of Oriskany at Fort Stanwix, Newbury was part of the attack on New York’s Cherry Valley in the fall of 1778. Remembered as a massacre by the region’s Patriots, this raid was noteworthy for the violence attributed to the Loyalist regiment’s Indigenous allies. However, survivors of the attack claimed to have seen Newbury murdering a young girl. Just 10 or 12 years of age, this daughter of Hugh Mitchell was “much wounded and much mangled”, and –according to Lorenzo Sabine’s research – was killed by a blow of Newbury’s tomahawk.
Despite being known as an arms-bearing Loyalist, Newbury managed to make at least one visit to his family before his arrest in 1779. Upon arriving in Tryon County, he presented himself to two members of the local Patriot committee of safety and received their permission to go to his home. It wasn’t long before he learned that “an officer and nine men as a guard” were heading for his home to take him to Esopus (today’s Kingston, New York), the site of a flotilla of prison ships used to incarcerate Loyalists. Afraid that he would eventually be hanged if taken way, Newbury fled his home, returning to Canada.
Sometime during their stay in Tryon County, the Newbury family had their oldest daughter kidnapped by Indigenous People. If all of the details that have survived are correct, Elizabeth Newbury was six years old at the time of her capture – which would have been the same year that her father had first sought sanctuary in Canada.
Elizabeth’s captors let her visit her family “from time to time, but would never let her stay”. If the timeline that her descendants remembered is correct, then at sometime after her father’s death, Elizabeth eventually became the designated bride for one of the tribe’s warriors. Given her impending nuptials, Elizabeth’s family was able to persuade the Natives to allow her to stay with the Newburys overnight.
Her family hid her in their hayloft and then told her captors that she had run away in the night. An enduring memory for Elizabeth was feeling the searchers “tramping and prodding through the hay under which she was hidden”. The men eventually gave up and returned to their homes without Elizabeth. She would eventually marry a Loyalist settler in the Niagara region.
William Newbury returned to his family for the last time in June of 1779. With him were his former neighbour Henry Hare and 19 Indigenous warriors. The two Loyalists left their companions, making their way to their homes, laying in the woods in the day and travelling at night. Newbury stayed with his family for four days, but he also collected intelligence on local Patriot troop movements. He and Hare heard Continental Army drums beating, and were aware of boats coming from Schenectady. Loyalists named Wilham Rombauch and Thomas Plato – as well as Henry Hare’s wife– gathered information for Newbury to take back to the British.
On June 19th, Newbury and Hare set out for Canada, but they hadn’t gone far when Newbury sprained his ankle. It is interesting that so many accounts of these Loyalists claim that Hare had the twisted ankle. However, in the transcript of his trial, Newbury stated “I was getting lame about six or seven miles on our way. Henry Hare returned again to see his family and intended to wait until I would be able to march with him“.
Despite his sprained ankle, Newbury might have escaped capture by his Patriot neighbours. As it turned out, a Loyalist neighbor inadvertently was instrumental in Newbury’s capture. Thinking that Newbury had already left the area, the Loyalist neighbor told a Patriot officer that Newbury had been seen in the area. After a rebel party captured Henry Hare, they set out that same night to arrest Newbury.
And here, Newbury’s story takes another odd twist. He might still have escaped capture despite a talkative neighbor and a sprained ankle. What eventually brought about his arrest was the fact that the Newbury family had raised a deer as a pet. As the men intent on capturing Newbury neared his home, someone recognized the tame deer. Frightened by the men, the deer bolted to its home, leading the party to the Newbury’s house.
Henry Snook was a member of the militia company that arrested Newbury. He would later testify that his party “found Newbury and Rombo {Wilham Rombauch} in the woods on the east side of the Schoharie Creek … and took them prisoners.”
The final chapter in the story of two Loyalists who were hanged in
Canajoharie in June of 1779 will conclude in next week’s Loyalist Trails.
To secure permission to reprint this article contact the author at

Book: The United Empire Loyalists & You
By Brian McConnell UE
This new book discusses the topics

  • Why do the |Loyalists matter?
  • What does the United Empire Loyalists’ Association do?
  • How do you obtain a Loyalist Descent ‘UE’ Certificate?

It includes information about 125 Loyalist Certificates that have been presented to United Empire Loyalists in the Atlantic provinces. The book is indexed.
The book is available without cost on Kindle if you have Kindle unlimited. If you do not subscribe to Kindle unlimited it can be downloaded for less than $5. The app can be downloaded for free.
The book is also available in paperback format for those who prefer that.
All proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada.
More details about the book at Amazon.

Mount Vernon. 10 Facts About Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware River
General George Washington and the Continental Army famously crossed the Delaware River on December 25-26, 1776.
One: Washington crossed the Delaware River so that his army could attack an isolated garrison of Hessian troops located at Trenton, New Jersey.
So why were Washington and his bedraggled Continetal Army trying to cross an ice-chiked Delaware River on a cold winter’s night. It wasn’ty just to get to the other side. Washington’s aim was to conduct a surprise attack upon a Hessian garrison of roughly 1,400 soldiers located in and around Trenton, New Jersey. Washington hoped that a quick victory at Trenton would bolster sagging morale in his army and encourage more ment to join the ranks of thee Continentals come the new year. After several councils of war, General George Washington set the date for the river crossing for Christmas night 1776. Read more facts…

JAR: The Management of Sequestered Estates in South Carolina, 1780–1782
by Ian Saberton 20 December 2021
On September 16, 1780, while at the Waxhaws on the northern border of South Carolina, Lt. Gen. Earl Cornwallis, the British General Officer commanding in the South, issued a proclamation appointing John Cruden to be the province’s Commissioner for Sequestered Estates….
A son of the Reverend William Cruden of London, he had been a merchant in Wilmington, North Carolina. In March 1775 he at first refused to sign the association subversive of the royal government but was later “persuaded” to do so. Declining to take the test oath two years later, he was banished and saw his property confiscated by the revolutionary authorities. Repairing to the Bahamas by way of East Florida, he for a time resided in Nassau before going on to South Carolina shortly before or after the Capitulation of Charlestown.
Cruden embarked with alacrity on the execution of his trust. Almost one hundred estates and above five thousand enslaved people were seized, deputies of proven loyalty were appointed, each for a prescribed district, and experienced overseers were employed. All in all, as he began work, he optimistically considered the prospects of success to be promising with great reason to expect a permanent and increasing revenue of fifty to sixty thousand pounds per year, notwithstanding that by then the whole of the region to the east of the Wateree and Santee was in open revolt and no longer under British control. Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: Ste Genevieve National Historical Park
About 620 miles north of New Orleans and 62 miles south of St. Louis, sits the town of Ste. Geneviéve, Missouri.
Established in 1750 by the French, Ste. Geneviéve reveals much about what it was like to establish a colony in the heartland of North America and what it was like for colonists to live so far removed from seats of imperial power.
Claire Casey, a National Park Service interpretative ranger at the Ste. Geneviéve National Historical Park, joins us to explore the early American history of Ste. Geneviéve, Missouri.
During our exploration, Claire reveals information about the Ste. Geneviéve National Historical Park and how Ste. Geneviéve became a National Park Service site. Details about early American life in Ste. Geneviéve and why the French established this frontier settlement. And, how and why Ste. Geneviéve changed imperial hands three times between France, Spain, and the United States. Listen in…

Query: Information about Samuel A Robinson
I am Joseph Marvin Erwin, born in northern California in 1941. I have been tracing my family history for the past few years, and all the lines I have been able to follow, both on my mother’s and my father’s sides, have led back beyond the Revolutionary War within the area that is now the USA–that is, all but one. My mom and her mom were born in Oregon. My great-grand-mother in that line was Adelaide Robinson, the daughter of Gustavus Hines Robinson. They were both born in Michigan. The parents of my great-great-grandfather Robinson were Samuel A. Robinson and Malissa Hines. They met and married in upstate NY and moved to Michigan, where they lived until they died. Most or all of Malissa’s brothers went west as Methodist missionaries. All the ancestry of the Hines family is well documented way back, but not much is known, as far as I can tell, about Samuel A. Robinson. Most information on him just says he was born in Canada in 1811.
There are some scraps of information of uncertain credibility that indicate that his family moved from Ontario to NY around 1815, but this is far from certain. Some notes indicate that he was from “Upper Canada” or “Canada West.” I have guessed that he might have been born around Kingston, but I don’t really know that. There were many Robinson loyalists who moved from New England, Virginia, and elsewhere. Some of them brought with them slaves with African ancestry, and those people usually used the surnames of their owners. Some became free and some did not. Some of the African women had children fathered by their masters of European ancestry. Samuel might have been one of those, although I do not yet have any evidence of that. That would be pretty interesting.
Well, I’m kind of stuck on this, but if anyone can shed any light on the origin of Samuel A Robinson, I will be grateful.
Wishing you well,
Joseph Erwin <>

COVID Pales to the Spread of Love by QY Rangers
By Joe Warmington 19 Dec. 2021, Toronto Sun
After almost 250 years of fighting in battles, it will take a tougher opponent than Omicron to get the better of Toronto’s own Queen’s York Rangers.
The Rangers’ motto is to “overcome adversity” and that is exactly what the legendary United Empire Loyalist 1st American Regiment did when new COVID-19 capacity restrictions stopped their annual Christmas dinner Saturday for the second straight year.
“It’s a tradition for soldiers to share a meal at the year-end known as Ranger Stew,” said Capt. Brian Patterson. Read more…

William Ryan: Former soldier in Rebellion of 1837 had Chatham’s Ryan Block built
John Rhodes, 21 Dec 2021, Stratford Beacon Herald
William Ryan accomplished so many wonderful things in his life.
His father, James Ryan, was born at Orange County, New York, in 1763.
The Ryans became United Empire Loyalists, which caused the family to resettle in the Niagara district of Ontario where William was born on Oct. 19, 1819.
William remained in school until the age of 14, which was, considering the era, an extended sum of education.
He later began to study pharmacy under the tutorship of his brother-in-law who was a doctor.
William, however, was interested in mechanical things and this caused him to go to Detroit where he entered the employ of a firm who taught him the principles of steam power. At that point, he was just in his mid-teens….
When the Rebellion of 1837 broke out, William returned to Canada to serve in the Loyalist forces. after which he returned to the lakes until 1848 when failing health caused him to retire.
He chose Chatham. Read more…

JAR: A Video Tour of Mount Vernon
by Bridget Barbara 21 December 2021
Mount Vernon was George Washington’s lifetime project, from his inheritance of the property in the mid-1700s until his death in 1799. It was his prized home and final resting place. Today it’s one of the most visited historic sites in the country. This was my first time at Mount Vernon, and I was eager to learn not just about Washington as a man, but also about his daily life and routines. When not busy leading the army or the country as a whole, what was Washington’s life like? Read and watch more… (7 minutes)

JYF Museums: Syllabub under the Cow
Another favourite in both centuries is the Syllabub. Elizabeth Raffald’s 1767 recipe is excellent if you have a cow. “To Make a Syllabub under the Cow: Put a bottle of strong beer and a pint of cider into a punch bowl, grate in a small nutmeg and sweeten it to your taste. Then milk as much milk from the cow as will make a strong froth and the ale look clear. Let it stand an hour, then strew over it a few currants well washed, picked, and plumped before the fire. Then send it to the table.” See Photo (finished product – not the cow – follows the jam tarts and bowl of pears)

List of Loyalist Certificates Updated with those issued in June Through December
The list of UE Certificates issued since late in 2012 — showing the Loyalist ancestor, name of descendant (when permission is granted), branch and date — has been updated with the certificates issued since late June through to the end of 2021.
The list is now on the new UELAC website
With the Loyalist Directory locked down, these updates have not been applied to it.

Upcoming Events:

Gov. Simcoe Branch: “Eureka Moments”, Wed 5 Jan @7:30pm ET

We will share “eureka” moments from our family history. An item which overcame a roadblock, a discovery which opened a new path of research, a news clipping which shed new light, or …. What was your “Eureka” moment. Register now
Here are two of mine. I will share one or the other, maybe both if time permits.

  • Discovering my Loyalist ancestry: Nancy, my spouse and Peggy, my mother.
  • Did two ancestors meet some 240 years ago?

Will you share a “Eureka” moment? Details from Doug Grant at by January 1st.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Awesome image received from UK National Archives of “Plan of Township of Digby with allotments of Land laid out & granted Loyal Emigrants & disbanded Corps under orders & directions of His Excellency Governor Parr by Charles Morris, Surveyor General, 1786. Brian McConnell, UE
  • “Sacred to the memory of David Davis, Master Shoemaker of the 81 Reg’t. who died 21 June 1821, Aged 57 years; This stone erected by his wife” — “Farewell my tender wife and darling child / This world I bid adieu / Dear wife now my life is past / My love for you so long did last / Now for me no sorrow take / But love my child for my sake”
  • Happy Christmas to friends near and far. Our Christmas Tree with two of my favourite ornaments, handmade ones of King George III and Queen Charlotte, received as a gift from a United Empire Loyalist descendant in New Brunswick. Brian McConnell, UE @brianm564
  • This week in History
    • 19 Dec 1770: “Mr. C. E. S. Estey presented his Petition to the Selectmen praying that he may be permitted to teach the French language in this Town—said Estey is a Prussian by Birth, and came last from New Haven—not allowed.”
    • 24 Dec 1774 Dr. Joseph Warren’s medical accounts reveal, he visited John Adams in Braintree and two other local Patriot organizers, Joseph Palmer and Richard Cranch. Dr. Warren saw eleven patients in Boston the next day.
    • 18 Dec 1775 A company of American foot rangers raids Sullivan’s Island, SC to retake fugitive slaves from British.
    • 22 Dec 1775 Esek Hopkins, onetime failure as slave ship captain, appointed commander in chief of Continental Navy
    • 23 Dec 1775 London King George III issued a royal proclamation closing the colonies to all foreign commerce & trade effective March 1776.
    • 19 Dec 1776 “These are the times that try men’s souls,” Paine urges militia to re-enlist.
    • 24 Dec 1776 Washington’s army issued three days’ provisions in preparation for march to banks of the Delaware.
    • 18 Dec 1777 The United States observe their first national day of Thanksgiving, celebrating victory at Saratoga.
    • 24 Dec 1778, Col. John Laurens and Maj. Gen. Charles Lee face off in their infamous duel. Laurens would end up injuring Lee in their ritual of honor. Fellow aide Alexander Hamilton served as Laurens’ Second, while Maj. Evan Edwards served as Lee’s.
    • 21 Dec 1781 Great Britain declares war on the Netherlands.
    • 20 Dec 1782 Three British frigates catch sight of and give chase to three American ships off Cape May, NJ.
    • 21 Dec 1782 British attack & capture three American vessels at Battle of the Delaware Capes.
    • 23 Dec 1783 “Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of action.” – G. Washington
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