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Loyalist Directory: Robert (Sr.) Land

(For a short explanation of each row, click on the row title ex. "surname")

Surname : Land
Given name : Robert (Sr.)
Rank : Courier, recruiter, scout, spy.
Where Resettled : Home District. First, at Niagara then at Hamilton (Head-of-the-Lake), Barton Twp., Wentworth Co., U.C. on Lot 11, Concession 2, Barton Township.
Status as Loyalist : Proven
Proof of Loyalty : UE List (and Old UE List)
Notes (Expunged, Suspended, Reinstated) :  
Regiment : Was detailed as a despatch rider in the personal service of General Clinton and then it is said, may have joined Joseph Brant's Volunteers. Robert became a carpenter in the King's Shipyard at New York. Colonel Beverly Robinson also used Robert to courier messages to Long Island outposts and into the interior. Robert remained in New York for about one year until March 1779.
Enlistment Date : Possibly Brant's Volunteers after 1777.
Date & Place of Birth : Hamilton UELAC records 1736, New York, but often Tiverton, Devonshire, England about 1736 is quoted, although there are no verifiable records of the birth in England.
Settled before war : The Upper Delaware Valley area called Cushatonk, later Cochecton, and now known as Milanville, Wayne Co., PA.
Date & Place of Death : July 1818, Hamilton, Barton Township, Wentrworth Co., U.C.
Place of Burial : Hamilton Municipal (City) Cemetery. Inscription: Land, Robert, b. 1736, d. Jul 1818, age 82ys, h/o Phebe, (first white settler in Hamilton) buried in Col. Land Family Vault. 777 York Blvd., Hamilton, Ontario.
Wife Name : Phebe Scott (sometimes later spelled Phoebe) m. 1755/56 New York City.
Children : Abigail,
John,
Abel,
Phoebe,
Rebecca,
William,
Robert, Jr.,
Ephraim.
Biography : Sentenced to die for spying by a military court, he was transferred by order of General George Washington to a court where he would be tried as a civilian. See documents related to this incident (PDF).

Read a short story of the Robert Land and Clement Lucas families by Pat Blackburn (PDF).
Proven Descendants : Toronto 1982.06.01; Toronto 1986.01.15; St. Catharines 1989.03.27; Chilliwack 1991.07.30; Vancouver 1993.08.13; Kawartha 1994.05.03; Vancouver 1995.12.19; Vancouver 1998.05.11; London & W. Ontario 2001.11.03; London & W. Ontario 2001.06.30; London & W. Ontario 2002.03.18; Hamilton 2003.05.05; Sir Guy Carleton 2006.02.13; Sir Guy Carleton 2006.03.20; Kawartha 2012.06.11; Hamilton 2015.08.08 (Loretta Ann Arsenault); Bicentennial 2016.09.12 (Nancy Joan Ross);
Military Info : Served in the French and Indian War 1757-1763 in the 79th Gordon Highlanders. Was with General Wolfe at the Plains of Abraham in 1759.
Loyalist Genealogy : Robert Land, the progenitor of the family, was born in 1736 at New York City. He settled near Calkins Creek at what is now Milansville, in the Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania. There he built a log cabin. He was short, stout and fair, and was naturally attracted to a girl who was tall and dark, in the person of Phebe Scott (of Virginia), three years older than himself, whom he married about 1757.

As a settler and farmer (and also wood turner by trade – making furniture and spinning wheels for his neighbours), he succeeded, and by 1776, when the American Revolution broke out, he was well established, at the age of 40, as a (Magistrate and) Justice of the Peace, with a house and family of seven girls and boys, ranging from a baby of a few months to John, aged 19. About this time, his loyalty caused him to take service with the British Forces. Because of his knowledge of the country he was selected to carry dispatches. Meanwhile his family and others like them suffered abuse for their fidelity, and when the father was away a raid on his household was made by hostile neighbours and Indians. One of the sons, Abel, was taken away by the latter. His brother John found where the Indians had gone and persuaded them to release Abel, but not until the captive had been made to run the gauntlet of their blows, an ordeal that was lessened by his fleetness. Persecution continued, and soon after this John himself was put in prison by the rebel authorities, and the mother and the rest were left to carry on the work of the farm short-handed.

One night in the autumn of 1778, when the family had retired, a daughter Rebecca, or perhaps Kate, was roused from her sleep by the hand and voice of a friendly Indian, who urged her to go at once to the Kanes, their Loyalist neighbour across the river. Without disturbing the others she dressed, crossed the water alone in a canoe, and entered their darkened house. Here she stumbled over the bodies of the Kanes, who had all been foully murdered. As the courageous girl returned home, the same Indian's voice warned her that her house would soon be burned and that the others should be got out at once. Hastily but quietly the girl awakened her mother and the rest. They all escaped to the fields, and just in time, for presently on looking back they beheld their house and barn in flames. For some days the family hid in the woods, then under much physical hardship they made their way to New York and came under the protection of the British authorities. They stayed there until the army evacuated the city, and with many other Loyalists in similar plight they were taken to what is now New Brunswick, where they remained for seven years.

Meanwhile, Robert Land had been performing the dangerous duties of a dispatch bearer under the British General, Sir Henry Clinton. On one occasion, he records, he suffered confinement and condemnation, from which he made his escape. Some time after the departure of his family from their farm house he chanced to be in the vicinity and unobtrusively paid it a visit - to find, alas, only the ashes of his home and no trace of his dear ones. The few Loyalist neighbours to whom he dared reveal himself told of the murder of the Kane family, and quite believed that Mrs. Land and the children had also perished. The despairing man then decided to leave the country where he had lost so much and endured such injustice. The war was nearly over. He would go to the newer British territory to the north - Canada.

A Quaker friend named Ralph Morden undertook to guide him to the Niagara border, but word of Land's presence had spread around and they were pursued by a group of watchfil rebels. Land started off and urged his companion to hasten, but Morden, who in accordance with the peaceful ways of his sect had never taken up arms nor done any ill, was confident that he could convince their pursuers of his innocence. Such an argument, however, counted for nothing with the inflamed mob. Morden was seized, and was subsequently condemned, and hanged. As Land out distanced those who followed him, they fired after him and had the satisfaction of seeing him fall among the underbrush. The heavy musket ball struck Robert's knapsack with force enough to knock him down. As he fell his hand was gashed on a sharp stone, and bled profusely. This marked a trail which his enemies followed and at last gave up, for darkness was falling. They concluded that he was as good as dead. Travelling chiefly by night, Land reached Fort Niagara and found safety with the British there. This was in 1779, at the age of 43, and after some two years on his dangerous work.

When the war ended, Land received a Loyalist grant of 200 acres, now covered by the town of Niagara Falls, Ontario. There he lived alone for three years, morose and brooding over his unkindly fate, within earshot of the Falls, whose noise disturbed the peace of mind that he sought. When he could bear it no longer, something prompted him to move fifty miles away to the neighbourhood of what we now call Burlington Bay. From the escarpment he followed a deer trail leading down to the water. Well back from the marshy and indented shoreline, on a slight rise of ground, now the south side of Barton Street, between Leeming Street and Smith Avenue, he made himself a dugout, according to family story, in which he lived until he had built a shanty or log cabin. He set about clearing some land, and supported himself after the manner of woodsmen by hunting, fishing and trapping; still in solitude, for white neighbours were far and few, he sought forgetfulness and peace in unremitting toil amid primitive surroundings.

When the War of Independence was over, the eldest son, John Land, was released from confinement. As he had not taken up arms he was allowed to own and occupy family property in the Delaware Valley. Later he built the Red House, which still stands there. He married Lillian Skinner and was the father of 11 children and progenitor of the American branch of the family. Though some of his descendants live on the farm and in its vicinity, the family name of Land has died out. .

Robert, the youngest son, whom we shall now have to designate as Robert II, appears to have grown dissatisfied with the conditions in New Brunswick, where ill-fortune continued to dog the family. While he was but 17, he urged and finally persuaded his mother to migrate with some if not all of them to Upper Canada, now known as Ontario, where settlers of the right class, and particularly Loyalists, were being encouraged. So they took ship to New York on the first part of the long journey to Niagara and visited John at his farm-stead on the way. From him they heard the tale of Morden's untimely end, and popular report sustained the reputed death of their father. John was quite satisfied with his own prospects and was not disposed to leave his setting; so with affection and regret the family separated and the emigrants slowly made their way to Niagara, where the boys supported the group by hunting and trapping and occasionally working for neighbouring settlers. .

After they had been there a year or so they chanced to hear through an itinerant trader that a settler named Land was living alone at the Head-of-the-Lake, as the western end of Lake Ontario was then called. Despite the unlikelihood that this could ever be a kinsman of theirs, unless he came from the Old Country, Robert II decided to go and find out, for Mrs. Land was not thoroughly convinced that her husband had been killed. She became hopefully anxious about the matter, and it was agreed that some of them should make the fifty mile journey. Eventually, she and two sons, Robert and Ephraim, came to the trail that led to journey's end, a clearing with a solitary cabin, outside of which the long-lost father was sitting smoking. The joyful family reunion after eleven years of separation was as a dream come true. Later they were joined by two other sons and three daughters.

With thankful hearts the united family set to work once more as diligent farmers, and in a few years were all beyond the reach of want. Other settlers began to come in, but many were deterred by the name the place had for its marshiness, for wolves and rattlesnakes, and the Indian grass that was so difficult to eradicate.

Robert Land, the father, commemorated his years of sorrow and happy outcome by planting a weeping willow near the cabin. In time the humble dwelling was replaced by a substantial house. In 1794 he applied for a grant of land and by a deed dated 1802 was allowed 312 acres, stretching from the Mountain to the Bay and from Emerald to Wentworth Street.

See: Wentworth Bygones THE PAPERS AND RECORDS OF THE HEAD-OF-THE-LAKE HISTORICAL SOCIETY HAMILTON, ONTARIO, VOL. 1 -- 1958. Read before the society by George Laidlaw in 1947.

Also go here for further documentation and treatment of story, and

The Treason of Ralph Morden and Robert Land by JM Coleman -- The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1955.
Family History :  
Family Genealogy : See: Descendants of Robert Land, 1736-1818 and Phebe Scott, 1733-1826 by Isabel Land Alton. Pp 69. Published by J. F. Alton, Apt. 9, 1169 North Shore Blvd. East, Burlington, Ont (1970) – out-of-print.

See also: Loyalist Ancestors – Hamilton Area, by the Hamilton Branch UELAC. pp 144-152. Includes photos of his house and the Col. Robert Land Burial Vault. Three generation family tree on page 151.

See also Loyalist Lineages Vol. 1, page 367 and Loyalist Lineages Vol. 2, Part I, pp 630 - 632.

Do not rely on James Elliott's "If Ponies Rode Men" which is a fictional account of Robert Land's life woven into a few instances of actual fact.
Sources : Charles Lindbergh, the aviator, was a direct descendant of Robert Land, Sr.

Robert Land's descendants played their roles in the War of 1812 and the Rebellion of 1837. Robert Land, Jr., became a colonel.

Information contributed by Dave Clark and by Pat Blackburn.
Reserved :