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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2009 Archive

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"Loyalist Trails" 2009-35: August 30, 2009


Cynthia Dwight and the Loyalist Fugitives of Natchez -- © Stephen Davidson

In April of 1776, Dr. Sereno Dwight, his wife Cynthia, and their young son set sail from Middleton, Connecticut with a party of settlers that was bound for New Orleans. Once in Louisiana, they planned to establish homesteads with 77 other families on a grant of land between the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers. By 1781, Spanish forces threatened to destroy the loyalist settlement which the Dwight family had help to create at Natchez, Louisiana. Surrounded by rebel sympathizers and hostile First Nations tribes, the Dwights and their neighbours decided to abandon their settlement and make an arduous overland trek to the safety of British-held Savannah, Georgia.

It would not be an easy journey. In addition to having to care for John and Martha, the two Dwight children, Cynthia was pregnant. There were no tents for shelter at night and the family would be forced to sleep on the ground. Nevertheless, in May of 1781, the Dwights and a hundred other loyalists left Natchez and began a desperate journey eastward for Georgia.

That spring had been a particularly dry one. After travelling for 36 hours, the loyalist fugitives had not been able to find any source of fresh water. The caravan came to a halt, and while the women set up camp, the men began to search for water. A day passed and still nothing had been found. All seemed lost.

On the morning of the second day, Cynthia Dwight took matters into her own hands. With a spade-carrying party, she sought out ground at the foot of nearby hills and discovered a spongy area. " Here," said she, " We must find water or die, and to find it we must do our best at digging." Moist earth gave way to water droplets, and finally a gushing spring. It was not the first time that Cynthia Dwight would be an inspiration during the loyalists' easterly exodus.

When the joyful news got back to camp, Cynthia's husband Sereno took it upon himself to station men around the spring so that no one --man, woman or horse-- would drink too much. The next day the loyalist fugitives packed up and headed northwestward, taking a circuitous route to avoid any Natives who might be allies of the Spanish.

After walking hundreds of wearisome miles, the loyalists' path was blocked by the Coosa River. Exhausted, the loyalists felt overwhelmed by the situation. All they could do was sit numbly at the river's edge. In their darkest hour, Cynthia Dwight once again took matters into her own hands.

If even one man would be bold enough to go with her, she said, she would try to cross the river. Sereno Dwight and one other fugitive volunteered to ride their horses alongside Cynthia's and ford the river. (Remember, this is a pregnant woman!) The three riders found themselves on a flat rock river bed, and were just about to shout back the good news to their friends when the rocky ledge came to an abrupt end.

Sereno and his companion's horses suddenly disappeared from view beneath the rushing water. When they bobbed to the surface, Cynthia held tightly to the neck of her horse and let it swim after the others. The three finally made it to the opposite shore. After the two men found a Native canoe, Cynthia watched the horses as the men returned to their companions. By ferrying members of the caravan across the Coosa River three at a time, all of the loyalist fugitives managed to make it safely to the far shore. It was a crossing that might never have been made had it not been for Cynthia Dwight.

By August of 1781, the loyalist fugitives finally found sanctuary in Georgia. After the Dwight family's arrival, Cynthia and her two children contracted smallpox. Unaffected by the disease, Sereno helped to deliver his third child. The baby did not live long. Cynthia's husband then joined Colonel Fanning's Regiment as a surgeon's mate, but the British and loyalist soldiers did not see much action. In August of 1782, all of the regiment and their families were evacuated to Long Island, New York.

Dr. Dwight wanted to move his family to Nova Scotia. Given all that his wife and children had already endured, he left them with Cynthia's relatives in Northampton, Massachusetts while he went north to prepare for their resettlement in Shelburne. In Sereno Dwight's absence, their fourth child died in September of 1783. It was just the beginning of Cynthia's misfortunes.

Dwight's ship made its return voyage to the United States in October, the peak season for hurricanes along the Atlantic coast. The vessel sank and all its passengers drowned. One relative would later recall that Dwight was "the handsomest man in all that handsome family" while another remembered Sereno having a "remarkably strong, rich musical voice".

Cynthia Dwight, having suffered through so much already, was now a loyalist widow. She made a claim for compensation to the British government and carefully outlined the details of the trek, her husband's war service, and his death. "By all it must be evident that we lost all," she wrote, "because we were friends to the British Government".

The success of Cynthia Dwight's claim is not known; she decided to stay in Massachusetts. On June 4, 1789, she married John Lyman, a 39 year-old deaf-mute who had a farm in her hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts. Cynthia died in her 35th year, just five days after giving birth to a daughter. Grieving a wife he had for less than a year, John Lyman had his newborn child christened Cynthia Dwight Lyman.

Visitors to the graveyard in Northampton, Massachusetts can view Cynthia's tombstone. Topped by a simple engraving of a face surrounded by wings, its epitaph bordered by curlicues, the memorial reads "In memory of Mrs. Cynthia, wife of Mr. John Lyman Junior who died May 28, 1790". Her adventures as an inspiration to the loyalist fugitives of Natchez and all that she endured during the Revolution go unmentioned.

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

"Thanksgiving: The Fish": A Native Loyalist's View

"The Fish.

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one."

How many of our Loyalist ancestors migrated to maritime locations which would become primarily focused on fishing? How many of us enjoy the salmon of the Pacific, the trout of a mountain stream, the whitefish of a prairie lake, the perch of a Great Lake or the ocean's bounty of the Maritimes? The history of Canada and fish are inextricably tied, with a deep appreciation across the country.

...David Kanowakeron Hill Morrison UE

[Editor's Note: Read the full Thanksgiving Address For details, visit Four Directions Youth Project - donations are needed, and appreciated.]

...Update of FDYP Fund Raising Campaign

[OLD OLD -Two significant donations have helped to get this fund raising project for FDYP underway. They total $685., which puts us over 13% of the way to our objective. As much as larger donations have a quick impact, $25 or even smaller donations are most welcome and appreciated.]

...Carl Stymiest UE

Silas Raymond (1748 - 1824) - Fifth Generation in America: Part III - © 2009 George McNeillie

Some further account of the destruction of Norwalk is to be found in the Annual Register for 1779, which I here quote: -

"At Norwalk the American militia were more numerous than at New Haven or Fairfield, and the resistance being greater than in the former places, both the town of Norwalk and the small one of Greenfield were totally destroyed.

"The loss sustained by the Americans in this last act of the expedition was very great. Besides that of their homes and effects, a considerable number of ships either finished or on the stocks, were destroyed, as were also a great number of whale-boats and small craft. The loss sustained by the Royal Forces was very trifling, considering the opposition they met with; the whole number of slain, wounded and missing during the expedition being less than one hundred and fifty. The fires and destruction which marked this expedition were attributed to different causes: partly to the resentment excited by the rebels firing from the tops and windows of their houses; partly to the zeal of the Loyal American Refugees, who were implacable in the resentment which they bore their countrymen on the opposite side, and who from that spirit along with their intimate knowledge of the country were particularly necessary in these enterprises; and, as it was said, the burning houses served to mask the retreat of the troops."

There is a pretty full account of the burning of Norwalk in Hall's Norwalk, and further reference in Rev. Dr. Beardsley's History of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. The venerable rector of Norwalk, Rev. Dr. Learning, wrote at New York, on July 29, 1779:

"On the 11th inst. by the unavoidable event of the operations of His Majesty's troops under the command of General Tryon, my church and a great part of my parish was laid in ashes, by which I have lost everything I had there - my furniture, books and all my papers, even all my apparel except what was on my back. My loss on that fatal day was not less than twelve or thirteen hundred pounds sterling. Although in great danger, my life has been preserved and I hope I shall never forget the kind providence of God in that trying hour."

The experience of Dr. Learning was the experience of most of his parishioners, including the Raymonds. They were fortunate in receiving warning of the impending danger. According to the account given by Samuel Raymond, the oldest son of Silas, to his daughter, Mrs. Elijah Perkins of Kingston, his father, ventured to return to Norwalk on the eve of the invasion to look after the safety of his family. The three oldest children of the family had a distinct recollection of many incidents of the Revolution, and Cousin Isaac Raymond of Norton (father of Robert W. Raymond) told me in August, 1891, that in his younger days he had enjoyed frequent conversations with his Aunt and her brothers respecting their early recollections of the stirring events of their childhood in Norwalk and on Long Island. The following circumstances related to me by Cousin Isaac are of interest.

On the eve of Tryon's attack on Norwalk the Loyalists received a hint to take refuge in their cellars if cannon shots were fired by the British. Silas Raymond, it seems, came over from Eaton's Neck with his brother-in-law Jesse Hoyt in the sloop owned by the latter, with the intention of removing his family and other relatives within British lines. It was now nearly three years since he had himself left Norwalk, in November, 1776. His infant son Jesse was less than two years old at that time, and had lost all recollection of his father during his absence. In the family council of war it was soon agreed that they would be safer henceforth within the British Lines than they would be in Connecticut.

A rebel sentinel refused to allow them to carry anything from their dwelling, and tradition says that Silas on finding that the enemy would not permit the removal of their effects, piled some combustibles against a wooden partition of the house and before abandoning it, applied the torch saying, as he locked the door, "that the miserable rebels should not enjoy his property". The house was undoubtedly consumed in the general conflagration and Silas lost all his papers and effects.[1] He was obliged to return surreptitiously to the sloop, and he advised the family, who were to follow him, to avoid the highway and to go through the fields so as not to be molested. Early on the fatal day - the 11th July, 1779 - the family set forth. The old grandmother Mary, then 82 years of age, carried the little boy Jesse in her arms. She declined her son's advice to go through the fields and avoid the road, but proudly raised her head saying, "It is the King's Highway, and I will walk in it!" She tied two linen sheets - homemade and valuable - beneath her skirts and , and carried the chief family valuables tied up in a pillow-case, and put the silver spoons in her pocket. On the way she was stopped by American officers, who rudely accosted her and, it is said, picked off her bonnet with their swords, cut the ribbons and trampled upon it.

At a certain point they found a man who was evidently awaiting them. He assisted them over a fence and guided them to Captain Hoyt's vessel. The man had been sent by Silas for the purpose. When they reached the sloop the old grandmother transferred the child Jesse to the care of his father, but the child regarded him as a stranger. To use his own language in after years, "I was as much afraid of him as if he had been a bear."

Before the little vessel hoisted her anchor Norwalk was in possession of the British troops and the flames burst forth. The sloop crossed the Sound to Eaton's Neck.

[1] One item that may have survived is an old walnut mirror - now in the possession of Silas' fourth great-grandson George McNeillie in Toronto. It is charred along one side and family lore has it that it was rescued from the fire - perhaps because mirrors were a rare and precious commodity in the colonies.

Excerpt from Book of Family History written by The Ven. William Odber Raymond, LL.D, FRSC. © 2009 George McNeillie - all rights reserved [published here with permission; see footnote]

...George McNeillie {ggm3rd AT sympatico DOT ca} how do I email him?

The Sad Case of Nathaniel Shelp

There is another Shelp family member that I know nothing about but this short vignette. To me it is rather sad. My reading of this is that Nathaniel Shelp may have suffered from battle related post traumatic stress manifested as alcoholism. He suffered humiliation to get a few drinks. The "old soldiers" viciousness was unconscionable, made things worse and finally induced him to leave the Milford, New York area. (Milford is about 45 miles south west of the Glen, NY homestead.) The author, Ezra Stevens does not date this incident. The entire text is available via internet.

Transcribed from "Early History of the Town of Milford and other parts of Otsego County from 1773 to 1903" by Ezra Stevens, 1903. Electronic text by Joyce Riedinger, Completed October 31, 1998.

Ms. Riedinger's caveat: Corrections attached at end of typed copy of original manuscript were incorporated throughout the text. These had been made by Mrs. Vera Chase, Historian of the Town of Milford, Otsego County, New York who compared the copy with the original manuscript. Also, I made corrections to many of the misspellings in the typewritten copy of this unpublished manuscript. Many original errors do remain, and poor grammar has not been touched. The typewritten copy was presented to the New York State Library at Albany, New York by the Oneonta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution of New York State in 1973-1974 Volume 408. Original manuscript is in the Upper Susquehanna Historical Association Museum. As I state on the web-sites that I coordinate, "please keep in mind the difference between primary and secondary sources and the importance of building a preponderance of evidence. Accept nothing without further checking." There will be errors in any history written, this one is no exception.

Nathaniel Shelp Family

Nathaniel Shelp from the Mohawk River settled on a farm adjacent to Caleb Wells and remained on same some time. He sold to Elisha Lyons.

Shelp was an old Tory of the Revolution, and the old soldiers did not like him very well. Shelp liked liquor, and the old soldiers would get out to Edsons, get him drunk and get him to sing and put tar in his hair and shoes and cut all kinds of capers with him, because he was a Tory. They made a little poetry about him which ran thus:

"I wonder why old Shelp don't sing
And make old Jake Edson's Bar-room ring
And turn his old hat outside in
And wipe the tobacco juice from his chin?"

The old fellow sold to Mr. Lyons and was glad to get away alive.

[DCS note: One wonders if Elisha Lyons paid him a fair price for his farm under these circumstances.]

...Dan Stone {kohelethdumc AT juno DOT com} how do I email him?

Last Post: Frances Louisa RYSDALE (nee Shriner), UE

Quietly on Tuesday August 18th, 2009 in her 85th year with her family by her side. She was the daughter of Percy Hodgson Shriner and Grace Lundy Biggar and is survived by eight children - Freda (Jennings), Wendy (Kuhn), Ron, Don (Brenda), Roxsane, Alan (Cathy), Jayne (John Grace) and Tricia (Sica), 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild. Survived by her sisters Harriet Worden and Ethel Waters. Frances had an elite friend in Pauline Pastachak for 80 years. Predeceased by 3 sisters, Winifred, Margaret, Ann and 1 brother Charles, a Flight Captain Pilot in the RCAF who at 21 years of age was shot down and reported missing in action over the Bay of Biscay in the Dieppe Battle during WW II. Frances was one of the first woman realtors in the city. She implemented and coordinated the Peach Festival; volunteered as a FACS clerical worker, driver and visitor; served on the 1st board for Nova House while serving as a counsellor and received a volunteer recognition award for 30 years of service at their Annual Book Riot. As a young mother she was active in the Greendale Home & School Association. Frances researched her Shriner family genealogy and organized Reunions in 2003 and 2004 that brought together relatives from Winnipeg, New Brunswick and the United States. Proficient in pottery, knitting, weaving and stained glass she left her children an extensive legacy of her crafts. An avid euchre player she attended weekly tournaments. Frances is a proud descendant of a number of United Empire Loyalists: Charles Green, Butler's Ranger, U.E.L., and his daughter Rebecca Green Biggar who was the first white child born in the Niagara area; Thomas Silverthorn Sr. U.E.L. whose daughter was Nancy Silverthorn, the wife of William Lundy of Lundy's Lane; Lieut. Daniel Shannon of the British Army U.E.L. whose daughter Catharine - married to Thomas Lundy - supplied water and milk to more than a thousand men at the Battle of Lundy's Lane, nursed the wounded at a makeshift hospital at the Lundy home and housed the officers' headquarters. Lieut Jacob Ball Sr., Butler's Rangers, U.E.L., whose donated land is known as Ball's Falls; Robert Wilkerson, U.E.L.. The Shriners, descendants of Jacob Ball, originally settled in Thorold during the 1770's and their property was the battleground for one of the bloodiest battles in the War of 1812 - the Battle of Beaverdams where Laura Secord warned Col. Fitzgibbons. The creek that ran through their property was named after the family - Shriner's Creek - which is now a valued watershed. On-line condolences can be made at

...Lynne Cook and Bev Craig

Last Post: Charles Ford Stuart TIDY, UE

July 16th, 1918 - August 23rd, 2009 - Died peacefully at home, in the care of his family. Predeceased by his wife Diana, 1994, and his daughter, Pamela, 2006 (Arne Corsen). Loving father of Christopher and Elizabeth (David Evelyn). Son of the late Philip and Mary Tidy, brother of Elizabeth Walker, Robert (1976), Michael, and Susan Cowan. Dord (DKSF) was a gentle man of the first order and will be missed by all who had the good fortune to know him. A service of Remembrance was held on Friday August 28th at St. John's Anglican Church, Port Hope. Donation to The Heart and Stroke Foundation and/or a charity of your choosing and can be received at (NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY)

...Lynne Cook


Shelp (Shellop) Family

The "First American Civil War" split in half the family of Johann Heinrich Shelp, Sr. and his wife, Maria Elizabeth Biermann, of Glen, Tryon Co., NY . The Shelps (spelled an number of creative ways) were probably "Poor Palatines" who emigrated to the Mohawk Valley, Province of New York in the mid 1750's. They settled there, rented farm land near Fonda, NY and joined the Dutch Reformed church in Fonda.

I know of six children of this family, four boys and two girls:

What I currently believe is that his two older sons anglicized their German names to Henry Shellop and Christian Shellop and joined the KRRNY. Their younger brothers (I believe - but have not conclusively established - that they were twins as both were listed as born in 1758.) John Frederick Shelp and Joseph Shelp clearly joined separate rebel (Patriot) militia units. John was a member of the Third Regiment of New York Militia, raised in Tryon County, New York. Its commanding officer was Col. Fredrick Fisher. Joseph served as a private in the Fourth Regiment of the New York Line, Col. J. Holmes, commanding. Nothing further is known of Joseph - no discharge, no marriage, no death or will is recorded as far as I know. Perhaps he was a war casualty.

I was initially confused. Rebel John Frederick Shelp survived the war and at age 32, married Rosanna Harrington on 20 Aug 1790 in the Baptist church, Shodack Twp., Rennselaer Co., New York. They had about eleven children; three or more were born in New York and the balance in Canada. Curiously, it was he and not his Loyalist brothers who chose to make Canada home. He apparently responded to Gov. Simcoe's offer of free land in Canada to Americans unhappy with their new government and willing to emigrate - John was apparently disgusted with his family's treatment by the new government of New York. By 1794 he was living in Osnabruck, Stormont Co., Ontario, and several children were born there. In 1804 he received a 200 acre land grant in Leeds County along the border or near the border of Stormont County. In 1841 he was an 83 year old living in Russell Township, Ontario.

I would like to confirm that the individual who enlisted on 07 Aug 1781 as a private in the 2nd Bn, KRRNY under the name "Christian Shellop" is the same man as my 3rd great grandfather - Johann Christian Shelp. I would further like to confirm that the individual who enlisted 07 Aug 1780 (exactly a year earlier) as a private in Munro's Co., 1st Bn, KRRNY under the name "Henry Shellop", and who was promoted to Cpl., 2nd Bn., KRRNY in Dec. 1781 was his brother and my 3rd great uncle - whom I know as Jurgen Heinrich Shelp. In 1784 this individual received a war benefit land grant in Cataraqui Twp. No. 3, Kingston, Ontario. Both of my relatives eventually returned to the states to defend their property rights in Glen, NY from confiscation by the state.

...Dan Stone {kohelethdumc AT juno DOT com} how do I email him?

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