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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2009 Archive

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"Loyalist Trails" 2009-21: May 24, 2009


The Passengers of L'Abondance -- © Stephen Davidson

The passenger lists of loyalist vessels are snapshots of key moments in the story of English Canada's refugee founders. They allow us to see not only the passengers' names, but also their occupations and home colonies. Complete ship manifests are rare, and one of the rarest of these contains the names of black loyalists who sailed for Shelburne, Nova Scotia in August 1783. While freed and enslaved Africans were aboard almost every ship that took loyalists away from the United States of America, L'Abondance is one of a handful of vessels known to have sailed with an all-black passenger list.

In its first voyage to Nova Scotia earlier in August, L'Abondance carried 132 black loyalists and an unspecified number of white loyalists. On its second voyage, all of its 274 passengers were men, women and children who had escaped slavery to join the British in their fight against the patriots in the American Revolution. The majority had fled masters in Virginia, but there were passengers from New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island as well as Bermuda, Jamaica and the West Indies.

Like their white counterparts, the black loyalists of L'Abondance came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. 27 year old David Edwards, born into freedom, had been the coachman for the prominent Boston loyalist, Sir William Pepperell. Pompey and Flora Rutledge were once considered the property of John Rutledge, the rebel governor of South Carolina. Tom Cain had the unique (and unfortunate) experience of having been a slave to a free black man, John Thomas of Charleston. Moses Wilkinson was a blind and lame Methodist minister. He would one day lead his congregation to settle in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Susannah and James Smith had five children with them on L'Abondance who ranged in age from 4 to 22. Hannah Whitten, just 30 years old, also had five children, but she was a single mother. During the two-week journey to Nova Scotia, she must have been kept very busy watching over offspring who were between one to eight years of age. Nathaniel Snowball travelled alone because he had put his family on an earlier ship to Nova Scotia. Perhaps the fact that his wife had a year-old baby prompted Snowball to secure his family's safety before his own.

Some of the older people on the manifest were the only family that their grandchildren had. 70 year-old Jane Thompson walked aboard L'Abondance with her 4 year-old grandchild. 65 year old Margaret travelled with Thomas Pool, her 15 year-old grandson. 60 year-old Betsey, who had been enslaved in the West Indies, had her 7 year-old grandson with her.

The fascinating passengers of L'Abondance did not have their names recorded by a deputy agent in a standard ship's manifest. The names and circumstances of the 274 free blacks are preserved in The Book of Negroes, a list of all Africans who sailed in the loyalist evacuations of New York. Although details are often sparse, this hanwritten ledger can sometimes reveal tiny personal glimpses of its passengers. For example, a 30 year-old Virginian named John Martin was noted as having a stutter.

The three members of the Thomas family had another story. John had liberated his wife Elizabeth from slavery by buying her from a Mr. John Aston before they left New York.

Hector Peters was one of the 20 year-olds aboard L'Abondance. By 1791, he had become the minister of the Baptist church in Preston, just outside of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He eventually travelled to Sierra Leone with his congregation. When Rev. David George died in 1802, Peters became the leader of his denomination in the west African colony.

Perhaps the most noteworthy black loyalist who sailed on L'Abondance was a man who had been a slave of George Washington. At 36 years of age, Henry Washington escaped from his master's Mount Vernon plantation in 1776. He became a corporal in the Black Pioneers and saw action fighting against patriots at the siege of Charleston in 1780. Eleven years later, he and his family joined other black loyalists to help found Sierra Leone.

The stories of the 274 black loyalists are fascinating, but even the statistics bear considering. 38% of the passengers were men, 28% were women, and one third of those on L'Abondance were children (34 youngsters were between 11 and 20; 58 were ten or younger). 21 children sailed without any parents or grandparents. 25 passengers (9% of the total) were fifty or older. There were 19 married couples, 85 single men, 29 single women, and 30 single mothers. Sixty year-old Henry Walker was the only single father. Four years after making his own escape to the British lines, Wallker was reunited with his 13 year old son Tobias. The youngest passenger aboard L'Abondance was just 3 weeks old; the oldest was 70 years of age.

The presence of 21 orphans aboard L'Abondance is remarkable. These teenagers were not on the loyalist vessel because a British official sympathized with their situations. Every black who left the port of New York on an evacuation ship in 1783 had to prove that he or she had served the crown for at least a year. Although they were only children, the orphans of L'Abondance must have found ways to assist the British army -- perhaps as kitchen help, messengers, fifers, or drummers.

The occupations in which the black loyalists served the British are not given for even the adult passengers, but the years of dedication are. 178 of the 274 black loyalists (65% of the passengers) had been in the employ of the British army for more than four years. Forty of those had been in active service throughout the entire seven years of the revolution. Considering that only 15% of white loyalists fought for the crown at some point during the war, the passengers of L'Abondance had made a demonstration of loyalty that was second to none.

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

The Bugles Have Sounded!! Get Ready!! Get Dressed!!

The “Once More Into The Breeches” costume workshop is a chance to learn about the clothing worn by Niagara townsfolk in the early nineteenth century. The 1812 Bicentennial Committee has organized this event, to be held on Saturday May 30 at Navy Hall in Niagara-on-the-Lake, as part of the preparation plans for the celebration of 200 years of peace between Canada and the United States.

David Webb who works with Parks Canada has invited two experts on costume of this period: Sheridan Alder will describe women’s clothing, how they were made and where they were worn, while Peter Twist will cover men’s clothing.

They will describe what a redingote is and why it was popular in Canada and in England. They will also talk about the difference between a redingcote and a pelisse. They will explain why men’s trousers had straps that went under the instep of the shoes.

Clothing is one of man’s basic needs along with housing and food. What people wore is a clue to the social and political history of the times. Clothing was scarce in Upper Canada during the early part of the nineteenth century. Britain expected her colonies to supply raw materials for the mother country and discouraged any industry that would compete with the cloth mills of Manchester and Birmingham.

Ironically Canada’s biggest export, the beaver pelt, was sent across the Atlantic to be turned into the latest fashion which was tall beaver hats. (A gentleman in Niagara however had to import his beaver hat from London even though he might be living beside a beaver pond.) This fur industry made Canada worth defending. And worth invading. When the beaver hat became unpopular, Canada’s value as a colony sank.

If you are in the Niagara area, come to Navy Hall on Saturday, May 30. The presentations will begin a 9 am and will end at noon. In the expectation that many residents will wish to take part in the celebrations, information will also be given on pattern sources and available seamstresses and tailors for the craft minded and the craft challenged. A fashion show of costumes will help in choosing a suitable outfit.

Refreshments will be offered by the Friends of Fort George. Everybody is welcome. Free.

Admission. Please register with Leah Wallace at 905 - 468- 3266 and don’t forget to visit the 1812 Bicentennial’s website.

UE Loyalists and the Citizenship Test

On Saturday, 17 May 2009 the Vancouver Branch UELAC participated in the New Westminster "Multicultural Festival" for the 7th consecutive Year. Branch members don their Loyalist Period Clothing; set-up their displays and host the public to our heritage and history. This Outreach & Education gives us an opportunity to sign up new members for the branch.

On returning home I read the latest issue of “Loyalist Trails” and the article "Loyalists on CBC radio". I followed the link and listened to the replay - what a coincidence. Just earlier that day, at the New Westminster event, a couple who emigrated from South America, and who also happened to be my former neighbours, saw our UELAC signage and then saw me in my Prince of Wales (American) Regiment uniform. We could tell the man seemed very excited - he could hardly contain his enthusiasm exclaiming that he knew who LOYALISTS were.

He explained that he was taking his Canadian Citizenship exam the next week to obtain his Canadian Citizenship on Canada Day in Vancouver. One segment they had to study was about the Loyalists. He was so thrilled to be able to tell us, and his wife, about his new found knowledge. We were impressed to say the least.

Thanks to our UELAC office Administrator, Mette for bringing this to our attention. Coincidences come from the most interesting places.

...Carl Stymiest UE, Senior Vice President UELAC

Vancouver Branch Presents International Youth Award

At their Spring Fleet Celebrations 03 May 2009, Vancouver presented a volunteer award to Yong (Avril) Wang for her contribution to the Branch over the last two years. The branch helps promote and provide education about the Loyalist period of Canadian history through various Outreach and Education activities. Avril met the Branch in September 2007, and within a month, she helped set up our Vancouver Branch information booth and displays and handed out information brochures all day, dressed in a 1780’s appropriate outfit at the annual Tri-Stakes seminar in Surrey.

In 2008, Avril assembled children’s activity packages, and served lunch at the Pacific Region Mini-Conference where we taught her to shoot black powder with an authentic Loyalist musket. She carried the provincial flag at the St Patrick’s Day parade, drew the winning tickets for our computer laptop draw and helped research and locate a ‘missing’ Bronze statue of Sir Alexander Mackenzie during her stay in Victoria.

She has far surpassed her community involvement volunteer hours, has shown great spirit for someone who has come into a new culture and has been keen to join in all our activities. She is a first-class ambassador for her country, China, and a pleasure for ours.

Over a two-year period, Avril has endeared herself to all the members of the Vancouver Branch. We are proud to see her graduate from Point Grey Secondary School and thank her for her support. We will continue to support her in any way we can.

...Mary Anne Bethune UE & Carl Stymiest UE, Outreach & Education Co-chairs, Vancouver Branch

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are:?

- Buchner, Henry Sr. - from Debra Honor

- Dell, Adoram - from Harry Dell

- Dickinson, Amos - from R. Wallace Hale

- McIlroy, John - from R. Wallace Hale

- Moore, John - from Eleanor Watson, submitted by Dave Clark

- Sills, Conrad and sons George, John and Lawrence - from William H. Sills III

- Smith, Lieut. Michael - from R. Wallace Hale

- Zimmerman, Friedrich Wilhelm and son Henry - from Chuck Timmerman

Response re Eamer Family

Although this does not seem to offer sourcesand proofs, a family tree for the Philip Eamer Family can be found here - see Chapter 6, pages 77 through 86.

...Michael Eamer, St. Lawrence Branch

Loyalist Frederick Arnold(i) Family

I am descended from Loyalist Fredrick Arnold(i) and appreciate the help recieved so far as a result of the query in Loyalist Trails. That said, I would like to uncover more about Frederick's history before the revolutionary war.

For example, there are conflicting stories about his first wife dying, or not, onboard ship while enroute from Europe to America. I'm hoping to find out where in Germany he came from as well as the name of his first wife. Once he arrived in America, he spent time it appears in both Maryland and Pa. I would like to add to the little I know about his times spent there.

If anyone has information which will fill in some of the gaps, or could point me at various potential sources, I would be most appreciative.

...Lillian Buhl {elbyent AT yahoo DOT com}

Seeking Battle Map Folder

The N.Y. State Governor's office printed a historical brochure of great interest a couple of years ago. It has a map of the battlegrounds (red stars) and historic sites of the Revolutionary War and a painting relating to Benedict Arnold's spying career. It unfolds into a poster. I picked up a copy a year ago at a state highway rest stop but lost it. Since the events described range through all the then-13 colonies, it is an excellent summary of the conflict. I am unable to locate it on Google but if a "Trails" reader has one, perhaps could they tell me the publisher or where one might find another copy.

...Mary McCutcheon {marymccut AT primus DOT ca}

Edward "Old Ned" Dolson of Zorra Oxford County

I am trying to find the birthplace and parents of Edward "Old Ned" Dolson of Zorra Oxford County. He married Roxy Williams in 1815. We know he was friends with Roxy's father Silas Williams when growing up. We can't find a link for Silas or Edward with any of the local Williams or Dolson families.

Silas Williams

Silas Williams, born c1790, place unknown. m Annah Thornton in Oxford? circa 1809 - Annah Thornton's mother was Rachel Burdick, dau. of James Burdick UE. Silas served in the Oxford during and following the War of 1812. He would be at the Battle of Detroit Aug 12, 1812. Silas purchased land, 50 acres of Lot 21 Concession 1 North Oxford Twp in Oxford in 1809. His future father-in-law Abel Thornton had lot 22.

Silas Williams died 29 July 1845. His Will lists wife Anna and children

- Elijah b c1812, d m. 2 Feb 1832 Anne Ennest

- John b c1813

- Roxeylana b 3 Aug 1815 m 16 Feb 1836 Edward J.? Dolson both of Zorra

- Abel b c1818 m 2 December 1841 Jane Lewis both of Zorra

...Neal Shaw UE {nshaw AT cogeco DOT ca}

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