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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2012 Archive

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"Loyalist Trails" 2012-49: December 9, 2012


A Circle of Friends from Boston – by Stephen Davidson

St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1776. An unimaginable sight.

One hundred and twenty ships carrying 11,000 people sail out of Boston's harbour.

One tenth of them are loyalists, the remainder are British soldiers and their families.

For the past week, confusion has reigned in the Massachusetts capital as those loyal to the crown prepare to leave a city surrounded by General Washington's army.

Among the 1,100 loyalists who crowded into evacuation ships bound for Halifax are a small circle of friends: Thomas Brown, Benjamin Holmes, Edward Foster, and Rachel Bernard. They have no way of knowing that Nova Scotia will be their home for the next ten years. These are their stories.

Edward Foster had been a prosperous blacksmith. He worked for the British forces as soon as they arrived in Boston in the early 1770s. This made him "obnoxious to the rebels" and he had been "much insulted and threatened". The British especially appreciated Foster's role in repairing the damage done to the Boston lighthouse by rebel forces. The blacksmith had it working again in just two days.

Thomas Brown later said of Foster that repairing the lighthouse "was a matter of danger, and if the people could have seized him, they would have pulled him to pieces". It was obvious that the blacksmith could not stay in the city when it was about to be captured by patriots in 1776. When he fled Boson, Foster left his home and his brick workhouse in the care of his brother. Both his property and his furniture were later seized by the patriots and sold.

Benjamin M. Holmes had been one of Boston's distillers, but he also dabbled in trade with a number of his own vessels. It had not been easy. Holmes and Elisha Thatcher, a patriot, jointly owned a schooner named the Peggy. In early 1775, a British cruiser seized the schooner as it returned from its first trip to Maryland, and sold it as a prize of war in Halifax. Holmes' other ships were "taken by Americans or carried off by the masters and crews". The distiller had been involved in the protection of Boston in more peaceful times, having been a "commissioner of a fire ward". His wartime experiences were hard on Holmes; a doctor treated him for a nervous disorder in 1783.

Thomas Brown had owned a small grocery and dry goods store in Boston. Among the products that he sold were coffee, glass, and stoneware. At any one time, his stock would have been worth about £100 Sterling.

He and his wife had a well-furnished home. Mrs Brown took great pride in her nine chairs, mahogany tables, a grandfather clock, and a "floor cloth" (rug). In addition to these assets, Brown also had 500 acres on the Penobscot River (in present day Maine), and believed that his uncle would will him an estate in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Brown was quite civic-minded. He was both a coroner and a "fire master", someone in "charge of a fire engine".

Although many loyalists kept their opinions to themselves for fear of patriot recrimination, Brown boldly served as a first lieutenant in a militia band under the command of the British General Gage. This "known character drew upon him the dislike of the leaders of the rebellion and made him obnoxious to the people."

When the Browns fled Boston with other loyalists, they packed a "cask" with kitchen furniture and linen, and somehow managed to bring two beds. A careful man, Brown wrapped his most valuable possessions into 45 labelled packages before taking them on board his evacuation ship. Unable to take everything with them, the Browns turned to an old friend, Mrs Francis Shaw, and entrusted her with all of their furniture, valued at £145 Sterling.

The next ten years were difficult for Brown. The Boston merchant opened a store, selling coffee, snuff, and "piece goods", but the new business failed. By 1779, Brown tried his hand at operating a school in Halifax. Two years later, Rev. Jacob Bailey wrote that "this poor gentleman is still detained under complaint of his unmerciful creditors." News came from Boston that the city's patriots had seized Brown's furniture from Mrs Shaw.

Brown's only hope for economic recovery was to receive compensation for all that he lost in Boston during the revolution. Many loyalists had journeyed to England to receive money from the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists (RCLSAL). Given his indebtedness, Brown could not afford to undertake such a journey. Fortunately for him, the RCLSAL came to Nova Scotia in late 1785 to hear loyalist claims. Calling upon his Boston friends to serve as his witnesses, Thomas Brown appeared before the commission on December 10th. Foster and Holmes both provided testimony -- as did an old friend who had settled in New Brunswick.

George Deblois had been a shopkeeper in Newburyport, Massachusetts and had known Brown since 1772. Within five years, he took an oath of allegiance to the king and joined the Massachusetts Company of Volunteers. Later, Deblois put all of his furniture on a sloop bound for Philadelphia, hoping to find safety within the British lines. Rebels attacked and plundered the sloop; Deblois lost everything.

In 1782, he was one of the first loyalists to seek sanctuary on the St. John River in what was then north-western Nova Scotia. Three years later, Deblois journeyed to Halifax to seek compensation for his losses, a fortunate coincidence for Thomas Brown. Deblois had known Brown for thirteen years and so he was an invaluable character witness for the former Boston shopkeeper.

The last to testify on Thomas Brown's behalf was Rachel Bernard, his sister-in-law. She had fled Boston with the Browns and remembered the careful packing of their worldly goods. Thanks to Rachel's testimony, the RCLSAL commissioner learned a great deal more about Brown's store and his home -- details that the male witnesses had failed to describe.

Ten days after his hearing, Thomas Brown was given the RCLSAL's verdict regarding his losses and services to the crown. The commission declared that he was, indeed, a loyalist. It awarded the Boston shopkeeper a total of £50 in compensation for his lost land in Maine and for his furniture seized in Boston. It was not all that he had hoped for, but thanks to his old Massachusetts circle of friends, he had something that would allow him to begin a new future in Nova Scotia.

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

At the Head of Lake Ontario: Loyalist Monument and Hamilton Cemetery

On the lawn of Prince's Square in downtown Hamilton stands one of the city's most famous and beautiful landmarks: the Loyalist Monument donated by Mr. and Mrs Stanley Mills UE in 1929. It is larger than life, as was the spirit of those whom it commemorates, men and women who "with faith and fortitude and under great pioneering difficulties, largely laid the foundation of the Canadian nation . . . "

You will visit this famous monument on June 2, the final day of the 2013 UELAC Annual Conference, "Meet us at the Head of Lake Ontario."

There will be three different tours available on Friday May 31. Those who choose the "Whole Day Tour – Hamilton Area" will visit Dundurn Castle, the Stoney Creek Battlefield, and the Hamilton Cemetery. Robin McKee, who is well known for his tours of this fascinating and historic cemetery, will be the guide.

Perhaps you will find the grave of Isabella Whyte (d. 1865), who may have been the half-sister of Queen Victoria -- or maybe not. You will certainly see the graves of two Robert Lands. Robert Land Sr. (1736-1818) was the first white man to settle at the place that would become Hamilton. A well-known Loyalist hero, his life is the subject of James Elliott's fascinating book, If Ponies Rode Men. His son, Robert Land Jr. (1772-1867) was a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Rebellion of 1837. He served under General Sir Isaac Brock at the Battle of Queenston Heights, and also served at Detroit, Stoney Creek, Lundy's Lane and Frenchman's Creek.

Please watch for another "Meet us at the Head of the Lake" vignette next month.

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

Presidential Peregrinations: Edmonton Branch

A cold Edmonton welcomed us warmly at the beginning of December to our hotel adjacent to the First Presbyterian Church, the centre of the activities whilst there. Several branch members hosted us, a visit which included the Royal Albert Museum and the branch event where I met yet another cousin. The installation of Trevor Angell UE as new Branch President, the presentation of Loyalist Certificates, and a series of entertainments rounded out a great evening and branch visit. Read the report (PDF) with lots of photos.

...Robert McBride UE, President UELAC

Library of Sir Guy Carleton Branch

The Library collection of 800 books plus periodicals of the Sir Guy Carleton Branch, UELAC, has now been catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal system. The Branch is currently embarking on filling in gaps in the Loyalist holdings, and would like to acquire as complete a collection as possible of Loyalist publications produced by the Branches of the UELAC. We are looking for local histories, indexes to Loyalist cemeteries; basically anything Branches have published that relates to Loyalist history. The only thing we are not collecting are Branch Newsletters. It would be greatly appreciated if Branches would contact me, Dorothy Meyerhof, at the e-mail address below to let me know what material is available and the cost.

Thank you all in advance for considering this request.

For those who would like to browse our collection, it is located at the City of Ottawa Archives, 100 Tallwood Avenue, Nepean, just off Woodroffe Avenue. Hours are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Tuesday to Friday and Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed on Statutory Holidays. If you contact a member of the Executive in advance someone would be pleased to meet you and assist with research.

...Dorothy Meyerhof, Librarian, Sir Guy Carleton Branch

Loyalists and the War of 1812

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

A few submissions have been received. 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.

Thanks in advance for your help; submit articles to

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

Last Post: Frederick Samuel Smith, UE

On Nov. 27th, Frederick Samuel Smith, father of Sylvia Powers of Sir Guy Carleton Branch, passed away in his 96th year. Some of the highlights of his long life were as follows:

He played a clarinet in the Mountain Grove Band when it performed for King George and his wife in 1939 at Kingston. Red jackets and white pants were worn.

From 1958 to 1974 he was reeve of Olden Township and instrumental in getting the province to pay for the Long Lake Road to be paved. During his final year he was warden of the county of Frontenac.

During his tenure Fairmount Home became a reality for seniors needing long term care. He and his wife were volunteers on the board of the home for thirty more years.

He had been a farmer, then an electrician and plumber, being available in any emergency.

Frederick was presented with his Loyalist certificate by Col. John Matheson at the Kingston Branch. He is descended from Conrad and John Sills, Charles Barnhardt, William Bell, Thomas Wagar, George Parliament, and Joseph Barton UELs. His wife Joyce Smith is descended from Amos Annsley, James Dawson, Col. Samuel Smith, Jethro Jackson, Jacob Huffman, Thomas and William Wagar, and David Embury, all Loyalists. His obituary can be found at

...Sylvia Powers UE, Sir Guy Carleton Branch

Last Post: Constance Lorraine (King) Smith, UE

Peacefully with family by her side at University Hospital on Sunday, December 2nd, 2012, Constance Lorraine Smith, of Lucan, in her 92nd year. Wife of James William (Bill) Smith. Loving and mother of Bryan Douglas (Beth), of Lucan, and Maureen Elaine, of Toronto. Cherished and loved grandmother. Predeceased by parents P.O. and Lillian King, and brother Alan King. Survived by sister-in-law Grace King. Cremation has taken place. A memorial service was conducted on Friday, December 7th, 2012. Online condolences may be made at

[submitted by Lynne Cook, UE

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