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Happy New Year. Wish you health and happiness in 2023. …doug

Born in Boston; Buried in London: A Loyalist Named Coffin. Part One of Two
copyright Stephen Davidson UE
As we do not know the contents of Thomas Aston Coffin’s actual obituary, it is interesting to speculate as to what his friends would have written to sum up the life of the Massachusetts Loyalist. At the age of four, Coffin was the subject of a portrait by the famous Loyalist painter, John Singleton Copley. Fourteen years later, he graduated from Harvard College with an arts degree. At the age of 29, Coffin was the private secretary to Sir Guy Carleton, the commander in chief of British forces in North America.
Later, he would follow Carleton to Lower Canada as his civil secretary and comptroller of accounts. Four illegitimate children would result from Coffin’s liaisons with three different women. After becoming the commissary-general for England, Coffin died at age 56 and was buried in the prestigious St. Margaret’s Church next to the British Parliament Buildings.
However, this all too brief overview of the Coffin’s life fails to give a sense of the man and his contributions to the British war effort during the American Revolution. He was also a great friend to fellow Loyalists who needed his help in England. Like many others who remained faithful to the crown, Coffin suffered great material loss, but unlike the majority of his contemporaries, he ended life as a wealthy man. It’s time to take a closer look at Thomas Aston Coffin, a man born in Boston who was buried with English lords in London.
Thomas was born on March 31, 1754 to William and Mary (Aston) Coffin of Boston. Eight siblings followed him. His three sisters would ultimately marry Patriots. His five brothers all retained their loyalty to the crown. Nathaniel Coffin became a collector of customs in Boston and died on the Royal Oak, a ship belonging to the family, in 1780. Both John and William Coffin were among the loyal refugees who settled in what is now Ontario and Quebec.
At the age of 21, Thomas Coffin was a member of the Second Company of the Loyal American Association. Three years later, the Patriots of Massachusetts banished him from the state. For the next five years, Coffin’s movements go unrecorded. Like other Loyalist men of ability, he may have sought refuge in New York City, the headquarters for the British forces.
On April 5, 1783, Thomas Aston Coffin’s name begins to appear in the official correspondence of Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander-in-chief. From these documents, we discover that the young Bostonian had become Carleton’s private secretary and the paymaster for the British troops stationed in New York.
Prestigious though it may sound, it was a position that demanded patience and communication skills as much as a good grasp of accounting methods. The British were in the midst of evacuating 30,000 troops and 27,000 Loyalists to safer shores and disposing of property within New York, as well as settling accounts with farmers and businessmen. Everyone wanted money from the British, and they wanted it immediately. There were countless pleas for special consideration for past service to the crown. A review of references to Coffin in the correspondence sheds light on the trials and tribulations of a paymaster.
Coffin’s account books reveal the variety of jobs required to maintain the British military headquarters and its operations in the area around Manhattan Island. Not unexpectedly, he was often busy paying out sums to seconded officers of the provincial forces, port officers, and inspectors. At other times, Coffin was looking after the bills for such mundane items as the stationery and candles used at British headquarters.
In May, he paid the assistants, clerks, and labourers in the fuel and forage department whose services would no longer be needed to sustain the British presence in New York. Later in the month, Coffin gave out the last wages due to the assistants, clerks in office, artificers, as well as the boat and bateaux men employed in the King’s Yard. Those in the “Canadian establishment” – in this case referring to Sir John Johnson’s Corps, as well as Butler’s and Brant’s Rangers – were paid to “furnish necessities to go to Canada”.
In addition to settling accounts with those who had been employed by the crown during the revolution, Coffin also was in charge of distributing funds to sustain the refugees who had flooded into New York City desperate for transportation to safer parts of the Empire.
A Jewish Loyalists named Barrak Hays had purchased a small vessel to go to Quebec, not knowing what he would do for a living once he got there. He had not received pay for being a guide in five months’ time. Thomas Coffin saw to it that he received enough money to allow him to take his family to Quebec.
Another Loyalist wrote British headquarters saying that he “has suffered every abuse, being almost three years a prisoner, and loss of property to a larger amount than any two loyalists from the same colony [Connecticut]. Seeing he goes penniless, {and} far advanced in life to struggle with the difficulties attending new settlements, he is much distressed at the prospect and prays some advance money, one quarter or half a year’s pay to help him.
In September, a Loyalist from New Jersey discovered that he was no longer on the list of those refugees being supported by the crown. He wrote to alert Carleton’s office that he had “signed to go to Port Roseway with his wife and five children”, and could not “command as much money as would purchase either of them a pair of shoes.”
And as so often is the case, when money is flowing in large sums and to many people, there is always someone ready to take advantage of the situation. One New Hampshire Loyalist asked for a three-month allowance that he had never received. The reason? An imposter who claimed to be the Loyalist had gone to Coffin’s office and convinced the paymaster that he was the man from New Hampshire.
Another correspondent was upset that the reward he was due had not yet been issued. He had been responsible for capturing deserters from provincial (Loyalist) forces. John Egenhead, a Loyalist who was charged with deserting, had his pay returned to the military chest. He protested, saying that he had been put aboard the Ceres by a press gang and not of his own free will. In August of 1783, Coffin paid out a quarterly allowance to “sundry widows of provincial officers”.
A September letter reveals that Thomas Coffin was to go to Halifax after the British troops and Loyalists had left New York City. Edward Winslow, another Massachusetts Loyalist, was to act as deputy paymaster general in Nova Scotia until Coffin’s arrival. As it turns out, the two men were old friends. Winslow later named one of his sons Thomas in Coffin’s honour.
Right up to the very end of the British occupation of New York City, Coffin continued to settle accounts. Alexander Cameron, a printer in the city, received pay for the work he had done for the British. In October, Coffin’s accounts showed that the British issued money to seconded officers, distressed Loyalists, members of the wagon department, armed boatmen and those in the engineer department. A month later, Coffin issued his last list of warrants that he had granted in his capacity as paymaster. What had been described as the “great and complicated business” was finally over.
According to historian Charles E.G. Pease, Thomas Aston Coffin was sitting next to his patron, Sir Guy Carleton on the last boat that left Manhattan for Staten Island on November 25, 1783. It was the closing of one chapter in the life of the 29 year-old Loyalist. Banished from Boston, he would live the remaining years of his life in Lower Canada and England.
The rest of the story of Thomas Coffin’s life will be told in next week’s Loyalist Trails.
To secure permission to reprint this article contact the author at

The “World Changing” Motion in the House of Commons
by Bob Ruppert 27 December 2022 Journal of the American Revolution
Two motions had already been brought forth in the House of Commons to end the war with England’s American colonies. The first occurred on December 12 and was defeated by a vote of 220 to 179. The second motion occurred on February 22, 1782 and was also defeated but this time by a vote of 194 to 193. Immediately following the vote, Charles James Fox made it known
that as the question had been decided against his side of the House by the majority of a single vote only, he thought it necessary in that full House to give notice, that the same question would be brought forward again. He did not doubt it would then be carried. It was highly necessary that the voice of the people should be effectually heard.
That day was February 27, five days later. There were 399 members of the House of Commons present for the first vote; there were 387 members present for the second vote. In this the third vote—449 members would be present. Read more…

How the (First) West Was Won: Federalist Treaties that Reshaped the Frontier
by Brady J. Crytzer 29 Dec 2022 Journal of the American Revolution
From November 1794 to October 1795, President George Washington’s administration brokered three separate treaties with Britain, Spain, and the Confederated Tribes of the Ohio Country. Besides establishing America’s place on the global stage, these treaties served to fundamentally alter the fortunes of the nation’s western frontier. Since the era of the Seven Years War, the primary obstacles to western expansion and the region’s overall economic health centered around the lack of access to the Mississippi River, foreign soldiers operating in disputed territory, and hostile relations with Native nations throughout the western backcountry. In that single, eleven-month period, President Washington’s diplomats addressed and resolved each of these problematic situations. As a result, the American West experienced an age of unprecedented growth and expansion that set the stage for future dreams of its own “Manifest Destiny.” Read more…

A Story of Shipwrecks and Genealogy
By Ray Howard Blakeney, UE, CIP, Nova Scotia Branch
I have been interested in family history since I was 14 – many years ago and at the encouragement of my Aunt Emma Mitchell I started research on the family on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. I knew the family had Loyalist roots and I found an ally in a distant cousin Ron Blakeney.
We visited archives in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and in South Carolina. We found the location of our ancestor and his siblings’ land that was granted to them in the late 1760s in Carolina. Original payroll records of the Loyal Militia revealed their connection to the King and their neighbours.
We attended conferences and researched in Ireland. We visited battle sites where we know they had been, including Kings Mountain and Ninety Six and Savannah. I found it hard to believe the suffering they and their wives and families endured.
Several years ago I became interested in shipwrecks and their history. I attended the FUN show in Orlando every January and met many friends there. One fellow in particular – Bill Pearson – was an “Atocha” expert and coin dealer and I learned he had roots in South Carolina.
Over the years I was aware that the Colonel of my ancestor Chambers Blakely (Blakeney)’s regiment was Thomas Pearson. Further research revealed Thomas had a brother who was a Patriot (Rebel) in South Carolina and my friend Bill Pearson was his direct ancestor.
Bill didn’t know he had a distant Pearson uncle who was a Loyalist and who had, in fact, settled in Nova Scotia and was buried in Truro. Col. Pearson became a leading politician in Nova Scotia and I found obituaries of his descendants. Lo and behold, some reminded me exactly of my friend Bill Pearson!
Life has some different twists and turns doesn’t it. As I write this Bill is having some medical issues but we are still the best of friends and he has led a most interesting life himself.

How King George III’s kitchens gave Britain a taste for international cuisine
by Dr Adam Crymble, Dr Lisa Smith and Dr Rachel Rich, 11 Jun 2020 The British Academy
Mutton again? Must be a Wednesday. Every day from 1760-1820, King George III’s cooks prepared food for more than a dozen tables, including their own. Eight of those tables were for servants, each receiving drink, probably bread and a few vegetables and a generous slab of roast meat to help them keep up with the physical demands of their work. The animal sacrificed for their bellies was pre-determined by a calendar on a weekly rotation, broken up only by the addition of plum pudding on Sundays. Read more…

Upcoming Events

Jan 10 Environmental Legacies: How the War of Independence Affected the Natural World in Predictable and Surprising Ways
January 10, 2023 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm The American Revolution Institute
The American Revolution, however, also had a major impact on the natural world in the eighteenth century. David C. Hsiung is professor of history at Juniata College in Pennsylvania. A hybrid meeting. More details and registration…

Jan 11@7:30 ET Gov Simcoe Branch. Fort Frontenac by Jean Rae Baxter
“Fort Frontenac: The Rise and Fall of New France’s Key to the West”
It all began with the beaver. It was competition for the fur trade that led to the construction of Fort Frontenac. The famous explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier de LaSalle chose the site where Fort Frontenac would be built. This presentation follows the fortunes of Fort Frontenac over the centuries. How it was knocked down, rebuilt, abandoned, rebuilt, blown up, rebuilt again, destroyed by the British in the last days of New France, and finally became the site for the Loyalist settlement at Cataraqui following the American Revolution.
Jean Rae Baxter UE is the descendant of settlers who arrived in New France in the 17th century, Loyalists who came here in the 1780s, and immigrants from Germany in the 19th century. There were many family stories to awaken her interest in Canada’s history. Baxter’s historical fiction has won wide recognition. More information and to register… (This is a zoom meeting)

UELAC Loyalist Directory: New Contributions
Entries which have been added, or revised, this week, with thanks:

  • Information about Donald Cameron has been added to the Loyalist Directory. Thanks to Mark Lemon who contributed information. Born in Scotland, before the war Donald Lived on the farm of his father Angus Cameron a tenant on Sir John Johnson’s land in the Mohawk Valley NY. Donald served in KRRNY and Highland Emigrants. Married to Margaret Fraser, married in 1781 by Rev. John Bethune, he settled in Cornwall Township, now in eastern Ontario. A family history and genealogy by Mark (22 page PDF), written in 1977, has a great deal of information about Donald, his father, his children and grandchildren. It is carefully documented including sources.Mark Lemon is quite willing to help others research this family. –

If you are willing to submit some information, send a note to
All help is appreciated. …doug

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

Last Post: BAGLEY, Gary Alan of Sir Guy Carleton Branch
Passed away peacefully at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital on Saturday December 24, 2022, at the age of 79. Beloved husband of the late Lynn Webb. Dear brother of Shirley Johnson, the late Donald Bagley and brother-in-law of Belva.
Cremation has taken place. As an expression of sympathy, memorial donations may be made to the Ontario SPCA – Orillia through the Simcoe Funeral Home, 38 James Street E. Orillia (705) 327-0221. Messages of condolence are welcomed
Gary was our long time Membership Chair, Genealogist and had a deep knowledge of our members and Branch history. He was unable to be part of our Board for the past few years and we missed his input.
Rosemarie Pleasant, President, Sir Guy Carleton Branch

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