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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2012 Archive

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"Loyalist Trails" 2012-45: November 11, 2012


The Pine Barrens: The Cedar Bridge Affair (part 3 of 4) – by Stephen Davidson

What many scholars describe as the last skirmish in the American Revolution was a battle fought between a “pine robber” band and a patriot militia. “Pine robbers” was the term used to describe loyalists who were forced to seek refuge in the forbidding 2,000 square miles of south-eastern New Jersey known as the Pine Barrens. Their assistance to the British cause ranged from foraging for food in the cedar swamps to conducting raids on patriot towns and ships.

The last skirmish of the American Revolution involved one such man, Captain John Bacon. His name was second only to that of the New Jersey devil for producing nightmares among the inhabitants of the pine barrens. His “banditti” of loyalist fugitives were infamous for terrorizing colonists who did not remain loyal to the crown.

Bacon is described in patriot history books as a vicious outlaw, a notorious bandit, and a pirate. He was a threat on both land and sea. In addition to conducting raids along the edges of the pine barrens, he also commanded a number of whale boats; Hero’s Revenge and the Black Joke are the only two for which we have names. When at sea, Bacon’s men were known as the Barnegut Pirates. With a crew of six, Bacon’s whale boat attacked patriot vessels that sailed out of the Delaware River and along the Atlantic coast.

The final straw for patriots was when Bacon led what New Jersey history books remember as the Barnegat Light Massacre. It all began on October 25, 1782 when a cutter ran aground on Long Island Beach near the community of Barneget Light. Local patriots claimed the vessel’s cargo as salvage. While they spent the next day removing the cutter’s barrels of tea and assorted boxes, a man named William Wilson alerted Bacon to the booty that rebels were unloading near the Barnegat lighthouse. Tired from their efforts, and a little drunk, the patriots stayed on Long Island beach for the night. In the early light of morning, Bacon and his men stole ashore in two whale-boats. They snuck up on the sleepers, stabbing twenty-seven of them where they lay. Word of the massacre soon spread among New Jersey’s rebels.

On Christmas Day, Captain Richard Shreve ordered the men of the Burlington patriot militia to mount their horses. They left their community south of the Delaware River, crossed the New Jersey peninsula and headed for the Atlantic coast. As they rode through the pine barrens, their objective was to find and capture the loyalist pirate, John Bacon. Although “official hostilities” had come to an end, loyalist mauraders based in the pine barrens continued to make raids on patriot towns. And Captain Bacon’s band was the most notorious of them all. The best patriot intelligence said that the loyalist “robbers” had their hideout near Manahawkin, New Jersey, not far from the Atlantic coast.

Two days of searching had failed to locate Bacon and his men. A commemorative plaque on Ocean County’s Route 72 tells the rest of the story.

“After searching several days for the notorious Capt. John Bacon, Capt. Richard Shreve of the Burlington County Light Horse and Capt. Edward Thomas of the Mansfield Militia stopped with their men to refresh themselves near here at the Cedar Bridge Tavern. Bacon and his band of loyalists surprised the militia and blocked their escape. As the militia gained the advantage, they were fired upon unexpectedly by a party of locals who came to Bacon's aid and provided a diversion that allowed Bacon to escape. Among the patriots, one was killed and four were wounded. Four loyalists were also wounded, including Captain Bacon.”

Bacon slipped away into the dark recesses of the Pine Barrens. As the patriots surveyed the ruined Cedar Bridge tavern, they discovered that a private in their militia named William Cooke had been killed. The militia was quick to blame Bacon for the death. Upon hearing about the “affair" at Cedar Bridge, the state of New Jersey offered a reward of “50 sterling” for Bacon’s capture – dead or alive.

On the night of April 2, 1783, Captain John Stewart and five heavily armed patriots (including the dead Cooke’s brother) found Bacon. The loyalist captain surrendered and gave up his arms. However Cooke was out for revenge, and he stabbed the unarmed Bacon with the blade of his bayonet. Bacon tried to escape, but was shot dead by Stewart. The patriots put the loyalist’s unpreserved corpse in a cart and carried it for several days over a fifty-mile trek, its head leaning out over the end of the wagon. Bacon’s widow pleaded for her husband to be buried in a proper graveyard rather than by the roadside.

In an interesting sidebar, Bacon’s skirmish at Cedar Bridge has been re-enacted in Manahawkin on the Labour Day weekend for over a decade. One of the purposes of staging the confrontation is to “illustrate to the general public the civil war nature of the War of American Independence”. It allows the people of New Jersey to appreciate that families, friends, and towns were deeply divided between independence and loyalty. Not a bad goal at all!

This series on the loyalists of New Jersey’s pine barrens concludes in next week’s Loyalist Trails. It features the story of a “bold and sagacious” Tory marauder, and the lore surrounding a legendary monster born during the American Revolution.

To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.

Robert Dibblee (1587–1666) © George McNeillie

I may here pause to remark that a considerable diversity of usage now exists as regards the pronunciation of the name. There can be little or no doubt that in early times in America the name was pronounced DibŽ-bel, but in the course of time this proved distasteful to many of the name, and they have substituted Dib-blee? and DibŽ-leeŽ, so that there is now a very considerable diversity of usage. In my young days I remember none in Woodstock. There, Judge Dibblee, Colonel Dibblee, and Sheriff Dibblee, used the older pronunciation as did all their neighbours. [In the olden days also the Bedells pronounced their name as if spelled BeŽadle, whereas today the pronunciation almost universally accepted is Be-deŽll]. There are other names in which a similar diversity of pronunciation exists. I recollect a Woodstock lady who went to England as Lucy CarŽ-vel and returned as Miss Car-veŽll.

Another name, which frequently is mentioned in our Beardsley ancestry, is Cranel, which is still pronounced in Poughkeepsie to rhyme with Flannel, but is frequently spelled today Crannell with a tendency to place the accent on the last syllable.

To return to the Dibblee genealogy it may be mentioned that the Reverend Frederick Dibble wrote his name with only one final e.

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

...George McNeillie

“Head of the Lake” Highlights: Dundurn Castle

The story of Dundurn Castle began with the Loyalists. Richard Beasley settled on the site in the late 1700's and eventually built a brick cottage which would later become the foundation for the magnificent castle built by Sir Allan Napier MacNab in the 1830's.

As a lad of 14, Sir Allan had served in the war of 1812. It was at the site of the future castle that earthworks formed part of the Burlington Heights defences against the American invaders. From here, on June 5 2013, Colonel John Harvey launched his night attack on the American forces at Stoney Creek, which was a turning point of the war.

Dundurn is not a castle in the traditional sense, but with 72 rooms, twin turrets, on a magnificent location overlooking the water, it certainly has the right feel. In architectural terms, it is an Italianate villa—the first to be built on the North American continent. At the time, it was the largest home anywhere in Upper Canada.

At Sir Allan's castle you will see the latest in mid-19th Century technology: an ablutions room with running water, gas lighting, a dumb waiter, and 17 fireplaces.

Besides the Beasley connection, there is another link with Loyalist history. Sir Allan's second wife, Mary Stuart, was the granddaughter of the Rev'd John Stuart, who served as Missionary to the Mohawks at Fort Hunter in the Mohawk Valley. The founder of St. George's Church in Kingston, Stuart is venerated as the Father of the Church in Upper Canada.

By now it is well known that Sir Allan MacNab is an ancestor of the HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, who with Prince Charles visited Dundurn Castle in 2010.

You, too, can visit this famous historical site when you Meet us at the Head of the Lake, May 30 –June 2, 2013.

...Jean Rae Baxter UE, Conference Committee, Hamilton Branch

Loyalists and the War of 1812: Help Build A New UELAC List

A new list is underway and your help is needed to help populate it. A number of Loyalists who had participated in the American Revolution also took up arms again in the War of 1812. A greater number of sons, daughters and family members of Loyalists also joined the war effort.

This new collection of such participation in two wars will extend our Loyalist heritage and commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 over these years.

See the beginning of the collection at Loyalists and the War of 1812.

If you have Loyalist ancestry, or know of other, that meets the criteria above, please contribute to this collection. Submissions of about 500 words would be great, but size within reason is not a big concern. The article which follows is one of those which is larger, but it represents a large group of individuals and more than one Loyalist family.

Thanks in advance for your help; submit articles to

War of 1812: Baptist Church Archives

Alongside more recent conflicts, we also recall the anniversary of the War of 1812 this Remembrance Day, a war that directly impacted Canadian Baptist Ontario & Quebec (CBOQ) churches. The Canadian Baptist Archives, held at McMaster Divinity School, contain poignant first hand accounts of the effects of this war on civil and church life at the time. For example, handwritten minutes from Haldimand Baptist Church in Ontario describe how the church effectively shut down during the conflict:

"For six years during the war...most all of the men [of the church] were enlisted in ranks or engaged in moving goods, men and supplies. They drew cannon[s] to Toronto with oxen teams. My grandfather and three of his sons were away from home. There was very little to record of the doings of the church."

Further research in the Canadian Baptist Archives would reveal how Baptists have supported (or not) other conflicts, as well as been impacted by wars in far-off places such as Europe and Asia.

During this time of remembrance, let us not forget the sufferings and service of citizens, soldiers, and chaplains who have gone before us. Listen to their voices, and also linger with those who exemplified the way of the peacemaking kingdom. Pause to express your gratitude for the time of peace we have known in Canada, and pray for those elsewhere who live amidst the chaos of war.

...Doris Lemon UE

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
- Merritt, Thomas Jr. - from Suzanne Davidson
- Merritt, Thomas Sr. - from Suzanne Davidson

Remembrance Day

All of us as Loyalists have some military connection. I am sure almost all of us have a connection, or many, much more recent than the American Revolution. Along with your moments of remembrance, we wept silent tears and gave thanks at Church service this morning. A military unit was in attendance. As I write this, a different military unit, with band and a mounted group, is marching down the street close by. We all owe a debt to those who served.


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