Connect with us online:

Ontario Loyalist Licence Plates
Make a donation and help preserve Loyalist history
Make a donation and help
preserve Loyalist history

Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2009 Archive

Previous Issue   |   Index   |   Next Issue

"Loyalist Trails" 2009-12: March 22, 2009


The Loyalist Refugee Heritage -- © Stephen Davidson

Since the fall of 2006, I have had the privilege of writing vignettes for Loyalist Trails. Researching loyalist history in archives, on websites, and in old records is my passion. Thanks to this e-newsletter, I can share my discoveries with a wider audience.

After researching the lives of hundreds of loyalists, I have pondered not only what their Revolutionary War experiences meant to them, but also what they mean to a Canadian with a loyalist heritage. In this, my 100th article for Loyalist Trails, I would like to share my thoughts on the legacy of a loyalist refugee heritage. (The following thoughts are purely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Loyalist Trails.)

As so often happens in discussing any aspect of loyalist history, one must begin by explaining what one is not going to say. A loyalist heritage does not give one the right to be an elitist.

Well-meaning loyalist descendants have sometimes given the impression that to be of "loyalist stock" meant that they occupied a loftier place in Canadian society. (After all—these folks have been known to argue—loyalist descendants were given a hereditary title by the British government.) But, in truth, a loyalist heritage is no more (or no less) prestigious or valuable than a French, Irish, or Ukrainian heritage. It is simply one of the many cultural backgrounds that makes up one's own family tree and that contributes to the genealogy of an entire nation. The fact that an air of elitism sometimes—rightly or wrongly—clings to the word "loyalist" has often turned away those who could otherwise be happy to identify themselves as loyal American descendants.

History is full of a host of groups who remained loyal to a cause. (Just do a Google search for "loyalist" and see how true this is!) The phrase "United Empire Loyalist" was used to distinguish the refugees of the American Revolution from history’s other loyalists. "UEL" does not refer to the loyalists who remained in the United States. Although they were true to the crown throughout the Revolution, those loyalists accepted that they were on the war’s losing side and became citizens of the new republic. "UEL", rather, identifies a body of people who—because they continued to be loyal—became refugees. In the documents of the 18th century, the loyalists often described themselves (and were referred to by others) as either refugees or "loyal refugees". A loyalist heritage is based upon the fact that one has ancestors who were refugees, not just loyal colonists. This is the distinguishing feature.

And not just any refugees. With numbers that have been estimated as high as 100,000, the loyalists are the largest group of displaced persons in North American history—five to ten times that of the tragic dispersion of Acadians in 1755. The fact that the loyal Americans became refugees is the essential consideration when contemplating the significance of a loyalist heritage. We are not simply the offspring of colonists who were loyal; we are the descendants of North America's largest refugee population.

This understanding takes us beyond loyalist descendant stereotypes. We are not necessarily monarchists, although our forebears were. We do not always place "UE" after our names; this practice was not all that common among our ancestors either. Transcending these stereotypes, our heritage is one that is incredibly relevant to the 21st century.

Recognizing that our ancestors faced persecution in their former country and had to seek sanctuary outside of the United States should create a legacy of compassion for any people who find themselves in similar circumstances today. A loyalist descendant should urge his/her government to welcome the oppressed. Rather than putting up barriers, Canada should give the displaced persons of the world the opportunity to begin a new life in a safe country.

Because our ancestors often spent years in refugee settlements, we should be among the first to solicit aid for those presently living in refugee camps in the countries of the developing world. Canadian societies of loyalist descendants should regularly sponsor settlement of deserving refugees in their own communities. In so doing, we honour our refugee ancestors.

The fact the loyalists upset the established social order and distribution of land as they settled in the Canadas and the Maritimes should guide our attitudes as immigrants from around the world come to our shores. Where the loyalists were sometimes greeted with fear and resentment, we should greet newcomers with compassion and empathy. Yes, there will be some change to the status quo – but in the end, it will lead to a richer national life. The newcomer can be accommodated for it happened to our ancestors.

Even the dark side of our loyalist heritage should leave its legacy. Loyalists, like their patriot neighbours, were blind to the institution of slavery. The largest group of slaves ever brought into Canada came with the loyalists. A loyalist descendant, then, should be wary of accepting institutions and the "status quo" just because "everyone else is doing it". We should be vigilant to see that human rights are respected both within our country and across the globe. We should resolve not to fail our fellow man as our ancestors did.

Refugees though they were, the loyalists valued education; within a generation of their arrival, they had created colleges and universities wherever they settled. A crucial part of being a loyalist descendant is promoting fair access—and funding—for the higher education of our youth. It is what our ancestors wanted for their own children.

What I have outlined may not be the typical understanding of what it means to have a loyalist heritage. However, I think if one reviews the thoughts and actions of those who made up North America's greatest wave of refugees, one will see that we have been left a legacy of compassion, acceptance, vigilance, and education.

It is—most certainly—a very challenging and inspiring heritage.

To secure permission to reprint this article, contact the author at {stephendavids AT gmail DOT com} how do I email him?

Loyalists Buried in Victoria BC!? - Hugh Bowlsby Willson Aikman

At a recent Victoria Branch UELAC meeting, a request was made for anyone to provide the name of a Loyalist buried in a local cemetery, in order that a member of the Old Cemeteries Society could produce a talk at a future meeting.

This seemed to be an impossibility. Victoria, British Columbia, for being considered a little piece of England, is about as far away from Loyalist territory as you can get and still be in Canada – baring a trip to the Arctic. But, a few days later while doing some genealogical research, I was again amazed at how interconnected Loyalist families and their descendants are, how far they have spread throughout Canada, and how significant their contributions have been.

This writer worked in the Land Registry Office of Victoria, B.C., for 32 years. During that tenure, I had often run into the name of the second Registrar General of the Land Registry Office of British Columbia – Mr. Hugh Bowlsby Willson Aikman. Because his third name was Willson (with the double ‘l’) and the Aikman name was a well recognized Loyalist family name, I always suspected there might be a Loyalist connection and that he might be buried in Victoria, somewhere, and additionally, that we might be related through the Willson line.

Fort Victoria was built in 1843 in anticipation of the loss of Fort Vancouver in the Washington Territories. The HBCo. moved its Columbia Division headquarters here after the Treaty of Oregon in 1846; began colonizing in 1849, and ceased that effort in 1859. Although there is a pioneer cemetery in Victoria, it has only a few headstones left. Ross Bay Cemetery was opened in 1872 and is the oldest cemetery which does have thousands of headstones. So, if there were any Loyalists to be found in a cemetery, that was the only place to look and they would likely be descendants not an original Loyalist.

I had been unable to make the connection between the Willsons and the Aikmans until very recently, when I stumbled upon the name Hugh Bowlsby in a family tree for the Aikmans. Although it lacked the third name, the connection was too obvious to ignore. Further research revealed that Hugh Bowlsby Aikman’s mother was Ann or Anna Willson, daughter of John Willson who had been born in 1776 in New Jersey and fled to Canada in 1790 with his mother and siblings (Hugh, James, Samuel & Margaret). Eventually, John Willson ended up as a member of parliament for the West Riding of York.

According to the family bible, Hugh Bowlsby Willson Aikman was born 15th of November, 1836, in Barton Township, Ontario, he was also the first law student called to the Bar in 1873 in Victoria, which at that time, had only just become the capital of the Province of British Columbia; which itself, had only just entered Confederation in 1871. The question then remained: Was Hugh Bowlsby Aikman the same individual as Hugh Bowlsby Willson Aikman or was he the father?

Hugh Bowlsby, succeeded E. Graham Alston as the Registrar General of the Land Registry Office of British Columbia, when Alston became the provincial Attorney General. Aikman’s full name appears in the notice of his appointment in the B.C. Gazette notice published the 9th of December, 1871.

So, we have a 35 year old man appointed as Registrar General, who is a law student and doesn’t receive his ‘sheep skin’ until 1873, two years after his appointment! Unusual, but feasible in the heady days of that colonial era! If Hugh Bowlsby and Hugh Bowlsby Willson were not the same man, the latter would have been a teenager when appointed as Registrar General – very unlikely! Hugh Bowlsby Willson Aikman occupied a mansion called “The Gables” on scenic Gorge Road, overlooking an inland waterway called Portage Inlet and he administered the Land Registry system of the province for several decades.

His Loyalist ancestry began when Alexander Aikman, father of John Aikman, U.E., moved his family westward from New Jersey into Pennsylvania to the Susquehanna River area where he hoped to remain neutral when the rebellion began. Raids there, by both Indians and John Butler, however, forced him to move back to New Jersey in 1779. John Aikman, his son, being of a different mind, was about 12 when he “disappeared into the woods” and ended up serving in Butler’s Rangers as a wheelwright, and who, in 1787 at Fort Niagara, married Hannah Showers (daughter of Michael Showers, also of the Rangers).

Hugh Bowlsby, was the sixth child of John Aikman’s son, Michael James Aikman, (husband of Ann(a) Willson). He died at Victoria on the 25th of July,1904, and was buried in Ross Bay Cemetery in Block C, plot 26E27, not too far from the monuments to Governor Sir James Douglas and other provincial and colonial notables. The Aikman grave unfortunately has no marker although there may have been a tree or something else there at one time, as the ground appears to have been recently disturbed, possibly after the cleanup following the near-hurricane windstorm of 2007, which uprooted trees and damaged markers.

The Aikman paternal family tree is as follows:

- John Aikman (Came to New Jersey c. 1740 from Cairnie in Arbroath, Scotland)

- Alexander Aikman

- Captain John Aikman, U.E. b. 1764, Morris Co., New Jersey, d. Barton Twp., Ontario

- Michael James Aikman b. 1797, Ancaster Twp.

- Hugh Bowlsby Willson Aikman b. 1836, Barton Twp.,d. 25 July, 1904, Victoria, B.C.

Although it is not recorded in the particular family tree that I had found, Hugh Bowlsby married Marie Ameline David who was born about 1846 or 1849 in New Orleans or Pointe Coupee, Louisiana, and who died in Victoria, in 1903.

So there it is. A long way from Ontario, a Loyalist descendant emerges from history, plays a significant roll in the making of British Columbia and ends up in a Victoria cemetery. Maybe you can’t find an original Loyalist in the cemeteries here but there are certainly notable Loyalist descendants!

(Resources consulted: ‘Loyalist Ancestors of the Hamilton Area’ by the Hamilton Branch of the UELAC, the Aikman family bible transcript, Ross Bay Cemetery records, and Annals of the Forty.)

...David Clark

"The Loyalists, Pioneers and Settlers of the West" Now Online

The uploading of The Loyalists, Pioneers and Settlers of the West, A Teacher's Resource, has taken a long time to complete. When the teacher’s resource was first published back in 2006, the first printing was distributed largely among the eight branches in the Prairie and Pacific Regions. Needless to say, the numbers received did not match the number of potential schools in each region, especially those located at a great distance from where the Branch operates. While the Victoria Branch was able to secure a UELAC Minor Grant to complete the outreach opportunity in its region, most of the other branches did the best with what they received.

To change the format of the book to an on-line resource, the individual articles had to be separated and converted to pdf documents before uploading. At the same time, coloured photographs replaced the earlier black and white images where possible. The table of contents will enable the reader to move from one section to another with a simple stroke of the mouse. As the core of this resource was constructed from previous material placed in the other three parts of the series, the on-line material will be of use to educators in each region.

The Loyalists, Pioneers and Settlers of the West, A Teacher’s Resource has been posted to the Education Folder of our Dominion website.


Heritage Week, a Proud Canadian Activity

Canadian heritage is celebrated generally in the third week of February giving the different UELAC branches a chance to join the other heritage societies in community outreach activities. Last month, branch presidents were asked to send descriptions of their involvement to their respective regional vice-presidents to give our Association a better idea of what is done across Canada. Here is just a sampling of those reports.

Michael Eamer sent in a link to Click on "Heritage Fair 2009" to see Michael on duty at the St. Lawrence Branch in the Cornwall Square on 21 February 2009. Joining the other groups for this annual activity is just one of their many outreach projects.

Eugene Oatley reported that the Col. John Butler (Niagara) Branch once again participated at Niagara Square’s Heritage Days from Friday to Sunday during Heritage Week. The greatest benefit was the number of people who visited the booth to go through the genealogy books. They kept Gail Woodruff, Jerry Fisher and Bev and Rod Craig busy. The big maps of the area as well as Gail's Parkway Binder and maps and Gord's Cemetery Plaque binder were popular. They also had a laptop showing a video of the Loyalist Burial Sites that they have plaqued. Vice-president Jerry Fisher also had his CD of the Steel Cemetery.

February 14 was a busy day for Ruth Nicholson, President of the Hamilton Branch. At noon in the Southgate Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, her presence supported Reid Dunham and Gloria Howard who were honoured for their work in local history, through Hamilton Branch UELAC with a certificate from the Hamilton Wentworth Heritage Association. From there, she drove to the Burlington Central Public Library to join fellow members at the Hamilton Branch display in the Burlington Heritage Celebration. Another highlight for Ruth was attendance at Rascals and Numskulls, a play about Loyalists Robert & Phoebe Land being staged that week in Hamilton, a bonus for that city’s Heritage week observances.

Shirley Dargatz advised me that Chilliwack Branch Heritage Week Celebration had “a most wonderful day” on Saturday, February 21. Carolyn Abramson, originally from Nova Scotia, and "The Pentones" from Abbotsford. totally mesmerised the audience with her presentation about the "Underground Railway". Interspersed with her talk, the "Pentones" sang the spirituals which about the search for a safe haven in Canada. In addition, she displayed a quilt which showed how directions were given to those finding their way North.

Details of other activities no doubt will appear in branch newsletters or subsequent reports. In a later Loyalist Trails article, we will look at how two branches at opposite ends of the country transform St. Patrick’s Day into a celebration of Loyalist Heritage.


Linking to Lychgate: Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Riverside Heights

Long time member and treasurer of the Colonel Edward Jessup Branch UELAC, Lorna Johnston UE, was the recipient of the Lieutenant-Governor's Heritage Award at a ceremony at Queen's Park in late February. One of only 22 awards presented for the province, Lorna was nominated by the Municipality of Elizabethtown/Kitley for her work with that townships Heritage group.

Lorna is also the Tweedsmuir curator for the Tincap Women's Institute and a charter member of the Leeds & Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. With the latter group she has assisted in recording a great many of their over 100 cemetery books and produced 5 books of items from the Brockville "Recorder and Times" and the Athens "Reporter".

Among Lorna's UE ancestors are Timothy and Bemsley Buell, Thomas Sherwood, Benjamin Ruggles Munsell and Cornelius Smith.

...Myrtle Johnson UE, Col. Edward Jessup Branch

Ontario Recognizes Lorna Johnston, UE

Some times it is a challenge to see how one news item links to another. Just prior to the meeting of the Dominion Council, I was alerted to some legislation recently introduced in the Ontario Legislature. Bill 149 – “An Act to Protect Inactive Cemeteries” was introduced by Jim Brownell, Stormont – Dundas South Glengarry, received first reading on February 19th and second reading was scheduled for March 12th. Copies of a petition encouraging passage of this bill were taken to the meeting where the Ontario Branch presidents were asked to circulate and forward the petition especially to the local MPP. A related article "Help Preserve Ontario Cemeteries” by Nancy Conn UE of the Gov. Simcoe Branch appeared in the March 8 issue of Loyalist Trails with additional links and guidance. This was followed on the fifteenth by an email from Lynne Cook, genealogist for the St. Lawrence Branch to advise that while Jim Brownell's legislation had passed the second reading , the contact with local MPP's was still needed.

This week, the need for action to protect and secure the heritage of our cemeteries is also very evident in an article in the Morrisburg Leader written by B. McNairn. While the copy "Historical Anglican Church Lychgate Roof Laid to Rest" submitted by Lynne Cook has been posted here (the PDF is quite large, so it is suggested you right-click and download the file before viewing it), a few further links need to be stated to encourage you to read the full article beyond the discovery as to what is a "Lychgate Roof."

The "Historical Anglican Church" in this article is the Holy Trinity Anglican Church which had been moved by Ontario Hydro to its present site in Riverside Heights during the Seaway project. The original Holy Trinity was constructed in 1902 by philanthropist, Edwin Canfield Whitney and his wife, Sarah Crysler, to replace the previous wood church that was badly in need of repair. “The couple welcomed the opportunity to donate a church in memory of their parents and United Empire Loyalist forbears.” In the cemetery Ontario Premier James Pliny Whitney, a brother of Edwin), the sixth Premier of Ontario, 1905-1914, was buried in the family memorial plot in the cemetery. “ It was under the Whitney government in 1906, that legislation was passed to create the permanent Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario that would later, during the St. Lawrence Seaway/Power Project, expropriate that land where Sir Whitney was buried.”

There are many other cemeteries that lack that connection to prominent historical figures and face an uncertain future. Completing that connection suggested previously in Loyalist Trails (March 8) is just one way you can help. As for the “Lychgate Roof”, details for the possible restoration will be posted later in this fiftieth anniversary year of the official opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.


Book: Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte

At a book store in Ann Arbor, MI, I saw this book with intro by Wm. F.E. Morley, 1983, a Canadiana reprint for $45.

The original was published in 1904 and it went back as far as the loyalist time period. Mostly it was lists of families with very small profiles of some family names. I saw it at:

West Side Book Shop, 113 West Liberty, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, 734-995-1891, Jay Platt, Proprietor should anyone wish to pursue it. [editor: There are eight copies listed in - for $71 US to $600 US (for a leatherbound 1904 original - part of the description reads: "This copy belonged to Al Purdy and the inscription, on the second free endpaper, reads " This little volume is a gift to Al Purdy. The idea was Barbara's but the pleasure of the giving is all mine because you brought back poetry to me. From Angus Mowat With some mild affection Dominion Day 1973 ". Angus Mowat, Farley Mowat's father has also written notes in pencil and in ink on pages 951, 952 & 953 , notes adding to the information about the Mowat family already there. A really lovely copy. The book is 3 inches thick & heavy!!. Inscribed By Angus Mowat.")]

...Susan Henry

Last Post: Harold Detlor, UE

Colonel John Butler Branch Member Harold Detlor U.E. passed away on Thursday March 12th, 2009 at the age of 82. Born in Niagara Falls, he was a life long resident of that city.

He is survived by his wife Mary Helen ( Sorley), son Thomas, daughter Linda-Detlor Cross (Robert), sister Marion Holman (Jim) and brother Lorne Detlor (Julie). Predeceased by brothers James and Hugh.

Harold served two years in the Royal Canadian Navy during WW II. He was a devoted leader for 60 years in the Scouting Movement at 1st Niagara Scout Group where he received the bar for Silver Acorn of Scouting in 2008, the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 and the City of Niagara Falls Volunteer Award in 2007.

Harold's Loyalist Ancestor was Valentine Detlor.

...Noreen Stapley UE

Back to Top   |   Loyalist Trails index   |   Subscribe Now