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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2007 Archive

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"Loyalist Trails" 2007-14: April 8, 2007


James Flewelling, Gang Member with Claudius Smith: Loyalist Cowboy of the Ramapos

I am grateful to Stephen Davidson for this interesting item. My Loyalist ancestors of Newburgh were involved with Claudius Smith and his gang.

James4 Flewelling (John3 Thomas2,1) was born in the area of Fishkill in the Rumbout Precinct, now Duchess County, New York, in about the year 1744, the seventh child of John Flewelling and Elizabeth “Blue” Smith. James married sometime after 1764, probably in Newburgh, New York, Ann _____ of unknown surname. It is probable that James and Ann had children in the years prior to the Revolution, (James was 35 when he died), but if so, they were not in the care of James' Loyalist brothers.

James would have been about 32 years old at the opening of the War of Independence in 1776, and was engaged in farming in the Balmville area of Newburgh, in the same vicinity as his brothers John, Morris, and Abel, all Loyalists. (Another brother, Thomas, was a Loyalist of North Castle, Westchester.) He obviously had a political opinion as to the course of events, an opinion similar to that of his father, brothers, and cousins: support of the British monarch and the established authority. The following is from the Flewelling research of Mr. Thomas Murray UE.

James Flewelling was a Loyalist who joined Raider Claudius Smith and his sons Richard and James Smith of the Cove, in Orange County, New York. The Smiths were probably related to the Flewellings as James Flewelling's mother was Elizabeth Smith and his aunt Phebe married Wait Smith of Hempstead, New York. They operated in conjunction with Lt. James Moody, a colourful Loyalist from New Jersey, and Butler's Rangers, a band of Loyalists and Indians who ravaged the Mohawk Valley.

The Claudius Smith gang was one of several independent groups of marauders who operated in guerilla-like fashion in the Hudson River Highlands area of New York, using caves for bases and for refuge. They too were Loyalists; some had been with the British in New York and had taken part in the attack on Fort Montgomery above Peekskill, the 6th of October 1777. Their principal enterprise was robbery – taking horses, cattle, silverware, and other valuables from rebel families near the Clove, a ravine in the Ramapo Mountains. Some of the loot they turned over to the British, some they kept for themselves. They were also reputed on occasion to have acted in the tradition of Robin Hood, extracting money from a victim and giving it to the poor. Although Claudius Smith was tried and hanged on robbery charges, his pack of ruffians did not draw the line at larceny; they were also guilty of brutish treatment of their victims, of incendiarism, and even of murder.

When Governor Clinton proclaimed Claudius Smith an outlaw and put a price of 500 NY$ on his capture, he fled to a safer sanctuary on Long Island. The reward, however, was enough to induce an alert rebel, venturing a visit to Smithtown, to uncover Smith's hideout, organize a posse from Connecticut, and slip over by whaleboat to seize him. He was carried back to Fishkill and then taken to Goshen, south of Newburgh, for trial.

Following Smith's execution January 22nd, 1779, his skull was used as a brick over the Goshen Court House Door. His band, including his sons, sought revenge by murdering an innocent Whig, John Clark, whom they dragged from his home and shot. On the victim's coat they pinned a warning to the rebels not to hang or mistreat any more friends of the government. William Cole, one of Smith's associates who had been apprehended, made a confession, revealing both the names of his companions and the location of secret caves in the rocky Highlands used for their refuge and rendezvous.

James Flewelling was arrested in February 1779 for his part in the murder of John Clark in revenge for the killing of Claudius Smith. He was hanged at Goshen, New York, on the 8th of June 1779, along with James Smith, son of Claudius Smith, James M'Cormick, and Daniel Keith, one of General Burgoyne's soldiers.

From New York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury, July 12, 1779

[contributed by Eric Langley]

May 19, 1780 -- Do You Know Where Your Ancestors Were?

If your loyalist ancestors lived anywhere in New England or coastal New York, the answer to the title's question is: They were in the dark. May 19th stands out in meteorological history as a day that plunged the eastern seaboard into a darkness that lasted for up to fifteen hours in some locations. Many thought it was the Day of Judgment, the end of the world.

Up until eight o'clock on that Friday morning, all was sunny and clear. Although there were no clouds, the air became thick and had a smoky appearance. The sun's colour changed from a pale yellow to a coppery tone. The brassy light that fell on plants and commonplace objects imbued everything with an unnatural eeriness. Within hours, the sun was no longer visible. By noon it was so dark that a person standing outdoors could not read the words in a book.

The Dark Day confused both domestic and wild animals. Chickens returned to their hen houses while birds went to their nests. Frogs began their nocturnal peeping and bats flew after their prey as cattle came in from the fields.

Worried mothers lit candles and fires to fend off the gathering darkness. Some reported a smell in the air like that of a coal kiln; others said something that looked like ashes had coated puddles.

Shopkeepers left their stores, schools were dismissed, and travelers sought shelter at the nearest farmhouse. Many New Englanders flocked to their churches to seek comfort and protection.

The Connecticut legislature darkened to such a degree that many felt they should adjourn. Abraham Davenport guaranteed himself a place in the history books by boldly arguing with those who felt an angry God was exacting judgment: "I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face, No faithless servant frightened from my task, But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls; And therefore, with all reverence, I would say, Let God do His work, we will see to ours. Bring in the candles!"

When the unseen sun set on May 19th, the rising moon was visible for only a brief moment, but in that instant it had the appearance of blood. No stars shone until midnight.

One witness of the Dark Day said: "Various have been the sentiments of people concerning the designs of Providence in spreading the unusual darkness over us. Some suppose it portentous of the last scene. I wish it may have some good effect on the minds of the wicked, and that they may be excited to prepare for that solemn day."

The Dark Day was not an eclipse, and it was not merely a very overcast sky. The best explanation seems to be that the smoke from a massive forest fire in the west combined with moist air along the coast to create an impenetrable blanket of soot.

Whatever caused the Dark Day, one can't help but note it occurred almost three years after the Declaration of Independence was made in 1776. Did His Majesty's loyal colonists regard May 19th as an omen of judgment upon those who rebelled against King George III? The answer to that question is shrouded in as much mystery as the Dark Day itself.

...Stephen Davidson (who remembers the Day of Darkness that covered the Maritimes in June of 1991)

Branch Projects: Grand River Continued Marking Loyalist Cemeteries

Many of the Branches of UELAC undertake projects in their local community. Grand River for two or three years has undertaken to mark cemeteries in their area in which Loyalists were buried. In 2006 Grand River Branch posted markers at several of these cemeteries. Click here for a description and some photos.

...Sue Hines UE, President, Grand River Branch

In The Spotlight: Eleanor Moult

Congratulations to Eleanor Moult UE (Bay of Quinte UELAC), whose photo was in the April 5th edition of "The Belleville Intelligencer". The occasion was a visit to Christ Church, the Royal Chapel in Deseronto, ON. Part of the Communion Set given by Queen Anne to the Mohawks in 1711 is located there, and besides a chance to view the pieces, the guests were treated to a presentation by Chief R. Donald Maracle.

...Peter W. Johnson, President, UELAC

Heritage Branch, Montreal, Celebrates St Patrick's Day

Despite cold winds and a massive snowstorm the day before that dumped some 30 or more centimeters of snow on the Greater Montreal area, Heritage Branch braved the elements once again to participate in the annual St. Patrick's Parade in Montreal on Sunday, March 18, 2007. This year was the 183rd in an row that the Parade has greeted spring in our city, and Heritage Branch has been involved in the celebration every year since 2000.

Branch President Robert Wilkins and wife Maura McKeon, sporting their Loyalist costumes, again climbed into the "box" of Branch member Adrian Willison's pick-up truck, magically transformed into the U.E. "float" for the occasion, and took the now-familiar ride down Ste-Catherine Street, waving to the crowds lining the sidewalks.

This year, they were joined by the well-known Montreal magician Nemo Turner, tastefully dressed in his official 18th century town crier's outfit, complete with tricorn, ornate waistcoat, long coat, white trousers and riding boots. True to the town crier's calling, Nemo rang a bell as the Loyalist "float" proceeded along its route, attracting much attention from the spectators.

Perhaps because of Nemo and his bell-ringing, the Parade watchers seemingly paid more attention than in the past to the posters Adrian had installed on each side of the vehicle. These posters depicted two well-known characters from the Loyalist period, Lord Dorchester and Lord Francis Rawdon, both born in Northern Ireland, as well as St. Patrick. There were also the usual stick-on shamrocks and signs, including an image of the Loyalist rose, identifying the Branch and the Association. The flags of Canada and Quebec snapped vigorously in the breeze from atop the float, together with the Queen Anne flag and an "Erin Go Bragh" banner. The warm response to the float provided a welcome relief from the chilly temperatures.

Following the Parade, Maura provided the "floaters" and other friends of the Branch with another fabulous treat of home-made Irish stew and sundry goodies, washed down with the best Irish coffee served anywhere in town that day. The evening ended with Irish and Scottish songs, lustily sung around the piano in the Wilkins' living-room. As they would say in the Emerald Isle, "twas a grand affair! " Sincere thanks to Adrian, our float decorator and driver, to Nemo, our bell-ringing town crier, and to Maura, our ever-incomparable hostess. Until next year!

...Bob Wilkins UE, President, Heritage Branch.

Changing our mind about the 2006 census data; You can make a change

- 2006 Canadian Census. Not too late.

- The 2006 mini-census had a question about "informed consent". Unless people specifically indicated that the data could be released to the public in another 92 years, their information would never come into the public domain. Not answering the question was considered to mean "no". Recent data from Statistics Canada shows that only 56% of Canadians gave the required permission for their data to become part of the historical record.

- If you or someone you know neglected to answer "yes" to the question about release in 92 years, it is not too late to make a change. Visit the Statistics Canada web site to get a form to grant permission.

- For background reading see Gordon Watts' article of March 26, 2007 on the Global Gazette

- A Toronto Star editorial on March 26 also urged Canadians to leave a "snapshot of who we were".

- Click here for the form to change your response

[submitted by Nancy Conn]

Miles Macdonnell of Osnabruck

In 1804, after Lord Selkirk had established a colony on Prince Edward Island, he traveled through Upper Canada, and met Miles Macdonell in Osnabruck Township. Macdonell was born in 1767 in Scotland of a distinguished Catholic family of Stuart supporters with a military tradition. In 1773, at the invitation of Sir William Johnson, his family, and about 600 members of the Macdonell clan of Glengarry immigrated to North America and settled in the Mohawk valley of New York. At the outbreak of the American revolution the Macdonells rallied to the crown. Miles's father, "Spanish" John, fought with Butler's Rangers and so Miles, though very young, also assisted in some limited way. Miles in 1782 was appointed ensign in the King's Royal Regiment of New York, serving with it until its reduction in 1784. He returned to Scotland, got married, and in 1791 started farming in Osnabruck Township, Upper Canada. Three years later he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Volunteer Regiment. When his wife died a year later, Miles became despondent and a relative stated that he hoped the lieutenancy would "in some measure divert [Miles's] melancholy thoughts." Miles was promoted captain in 1796. Two years later he remarried and his second wife, also, died. Miles sought election to the Ontario Legislative Assembly for Glengarry but, his father said, he was thwarted by the "Presbyterian faction." From 1800 to 1802 Macdonell was stationed at Fort George (Niagara-on-the-Lake). When his regiment was disbanded in 1802, he returned to his farm and once more began to think of marriage. Through his third wife Miles was further linked to prominent Scots families in Upper Canada. Although he appears to have worked hard improving his land, neglected by a tenant, Macdonell coveted a military career. "Mere farming," he wrote in 1804, "will hardly support my family in the manner I would wish." Miles was appointed registrar of the Court of Probate and named sheriff of the Home District. Though facing an invasion, Lt.-Gov. Francis Gore refused Miles's offer to raise a corps of Glengarry fencibles, in which Miles would have had a permanent paid position. Lord Selkirk was impressed by Miles whom he found to be "very much a gentleman in manners & sentiments" and "so popular [among his neighbours] that he could get work done when nobody else could." Selkirk was blind to his arrogance and vanity. In June, 1811, 44-years-old Miles, was named the first governor of Assiniboia, Selkirk's huge grant bought from the HBC for a pittance for his patriotism to found Red River, later called Winnipeg, MB.

The New Loyalist Index Vol 5; Southern Loyalists, Including Irish & Scottish, & Bahamas Loyalists & Other Territories

The North American Colonies were settled and influenced by six groups: (a.) The Spanish, in the St. Augustine and Florida region; (b.) Great Britain including the Irish and Scottish settlers in the Virginia and southern region; (c.) The Dutch and German’s in the New York to Pennsylvania region; (d.) Great Britain in the Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay region; (e.) France in the Acadie/Quebec Region; (f.) and finally the Native First Nation Tribes of all regions. The sub-groups in these areas were: The Catholic; Protestant; Puritan; and Quaker influence. The melting pot of the America’s began when each group went to war or dominated the other, mixing the cultural soup that made North America what it is today.

This American Loyalist listing will concentrate on the “Southern Group” with a focus on the Irish and Scottish Loyalists’ too. The areas covered will be Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia and Western Frontier where possible. Published by Paul J. Bunnell, UE, 45 Crosby St., Milford, NH 03055, 2007, 160 pages. $19 plus $4 S/H and $1.50 for each addition item.

...{BunnellLoyalist AT aol DOT com}

UELAC Website Updates: Loyalist Directory

Loyalist Directory: information about these Loyalists has been added to the directory this week:
- Miles Macdonell from Charles Thompson
- Daniel Edy/Eady from Pat Kelderman
- Philip Skene of Skenesborough from Bill Glidden
- Daniel Secord from Pat Kelderman

Genealogy of the Loyalist Cowboy Claudius Smith?

Can anyone provide more information on the genealogy of the Loyalist Cowboy Claudius Smith? Can you suggest possible sources?

...Maj. David MH Smith, Commander, Bishops Brigade, CO, {davidhs AT flex DOT com} how do I email him?

Response re Genealogy of Loyalist Cowboy Claudius Smith

I only chanced across data on Claudius Smith as I was gathering information for a Loyalist Trails article on loyalist cowboys. I was intrigued by the fact that his son Richard (aka Black Dick) survived the Revolution and made it to Nova Scotia (whether that meant present day Nova Scotia or present day New Brunswick, I was unsure).

I went to and entered Claudius Smith's name in the hope of finding out more about his family. A few descendants of Smith have posted information about his family, but of course, it was his line through his rebel son Samuel.

Only one researcher had tried to trace Richard Smith, the loyalist son, and although there was a likely candidate in New Brunswick, there were too many Richard Smiths in the loyalist colony to be sure that the one he found was the son of Claudius Smith.

If you want to find out more about the ancestors of Claudius Smith, I would encourage you to check <> and see what they have posted on his forebearers.

...Stephen Davidson

Plans for an Open Horse-Drawn Buggy or Wagon for Shelburne NS

I am looking for pictures or building plans for an open horse-drawn buggy or wagon that sits 5-6 people and that would have been typically used in the 1780s. A local man would like to build one, as authentic as possible, to use for horse-drawn guided tours of Shelburne during our July 2008 celebrations. I've exhausted all local, museum and google possibilities ... Any assistance anyone can provide will be greatly appreciated!

...Suzanne Mahaney, Secretary, Loyalist Landing 2008 Society, {loyalistlanding2008 AT ns DOT sympatico DOT ca} how do I email her?

Information about relatives of Philip Roblin

I am just joining the UELAC. I am descended from Philip Roblin. I understand several people have proved their descent from him. I would be interested in meeting, even by email, any relatives of Philip. As I would like to prove my own descent, I would welcome any guidance on proofs etc. I am willing to share any information I uncover in my research.

...Tim Ryeland {tim AT ryeland DOT com} how do I email him?

To protect the people who send in queries from unwanted spam email, the online edition of Loyalist Trails no longer uses direct hyperlinks for their email addresses. Simply rewrite "name AT website DOT net" as and sent your email to that address. For example, "doug DOT grant AT insurance-canada DOT ca" is Contact Doug with questions, or to be put in touch with someone whose email address is not listed.