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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2013 Archive

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"Loyalist Trails" 2013-36: September 12, 2013


Samuel Peters: Part Three, by Stephen Davidson

By the early 1790s, the loyal American refugees living in England had slowly come to terms with the fact that their beloved homeland was now an independent republic. It was time to decide where they should spend the rest of their lives. For some, it meant trying to carve out a place for themselves in British society. For others – such as the family of the Rev. Samuel Peters – life in the growing colonies of British North America seemed to offer the most promising futures.

In 1792, Hannah and William Jarvis, Peters' daughter and son-in-law, left for the new loyalist colony of Upper Canada where William had been appointed the provincial secretary. Twenty year-old William Peters, the Anglican minister's only son, paid a visit to his half-sister in Niagara two years later. However, he returned to Connecticut and married one of Jarvis' nieces.

Alone in England, the Rev. Samuel Peters had a number of opportunities to consider. At some point during his stay, an unidentified Scottish university granted him a Doctor of Laws degree in recognition of his scholarship. Others also saw in the Anglican minister gifts that they felt would be beneficial in the frontiers of North America. As early as 1781, Peters could have become the Anglican bishop of Nova Scotia. In 1794, the Anglicans of Vermont elected him as their state bishop, but Peters was unable to receive consecration from either the American or English bishops. Governor John Graves Simcoe had hoped that Peters would become the first bishop of Upper Canada. But none of these prospects prompted the loyalist minister to leave England.

When he was sixty-nine years old, Peters had his name struck from the government's list of pensioners due to a quarrel with Prime Minister William Pitt. (The nature of the quarrel remains a mystery, leaving one to wonder what a colonial vicar could do to anger the leading political figure of the day.) Peters decided to leave England, but rather than joining his children in Upper Canada or New York, the loyalist minister accepted the financial assistance of Dr. Lettsom, an old London friend, and returned to Connecticut.

In June of 1806, Peters paid a visit to his birthplace – and the site of his first congregation – Hebron. Although all but ten of his peers were dead, the adult children of his old parishioners greeted him "with acclamations of great joy". After a six-week visit, the loyalist minister went to Connecticut's capital, Hartford, where he "was kindly and joyfully received by the inhabitants with whom he spent some time with great pleasure". Time had eventually healed the enmity between patriot and loyalist.

It was during this visit to Hebron that Peters met John S. Peters, the son of his loyalist brother Bemslie, for the very first time. Bemslie and his wife Annis (Shipman) had taken refuge in England during the revolution. In 1794, Bemslie removed his family to York (Toronto) in Upper Canada where he had been given a grant of land. He died five years later, and his son John returned to Connecticut.

Following his visit to Hebron and Hartford, the Rev. Samuel Peters spent a number of years in Washington, D.C. trying to secure land in Wisconsin that Natives had originally granted to a loyalist named Jonathan Carver. In 1817, at almost 82 years of age, Peters travelled to Prairie du Chien to see his land and spent the winter there. Given that this would have involved canoe trips, horseback treks and overland portages, it is amazing that the octogenarian loyalist survived the journey.

The mission was not successful; Peters returned to the East and made his home in New York City. There he lived "in poverty and obscurity", occasionally receiving money from friends and his daughter, Hannah. His nephew John S. Peters visited the 90 year-old minister, but he could not persuade his uncle to live with him in Hebron. Perhaps the old clergyman did not want his former parishioners to see him in reduced circumstances. However, Peters' nephew was able to persuade him that upon his death his remains ought to return to Hebron to be buried next to his three wives in the town's graveyard.

On April 19, 1826, the Rev. Samuel Peters died in New York City. Samuel Jarvis Peters, the old loyalist's grandson by his son William, paid for a monument to mark his final resting place in Hebron's graveyard. That monument bears these words: "His life was full of adventures, adversities and trials which he bore with fortitude, patience and serenity."

The records do not indicate if Peters' daughter Hannah Jarvis attended the funeral. His son William had died of yellow fever four years earlier in Mobile, Alabama. Few people at the graveside would have actually known Samuel Peters, a man separated from his old neighbours by time, distance and politics. Had he lived five more years, Peters would have seen his nephew, John S. Peters, become Connecticut's 26th governor.

Thus ended the life of a loyalist Anglican minister once described as a dangerous enemy of America, a mischief-maker, and a man of indomitable perseverance. Today his descendants can be found in Ontario, Louisiana and across the continent.

In summing up his life, his nephew John S. Peters wrote "In his private intercourse he was animated, even loquacious; and the great amount of anecdote which he had at command, rendered him a most entertaining companion. He had an uncommonly active mind, and had acquired a large store of varied information. He had an iron will as well as an iron frame; and whatever he undertook he pursued with a spirit of indomitable perseverance...He loved kings, admired the British Government, and revered the hierarchy. ... In his domestic and private relations he was everything that could be desired."

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

Where in the World?

Where is Vancouver Branch member Donna Barraclough-Little?

To participate, submit a photo of yourself in UELAC promotional gear at a place of some note and tell us where it is. If you are a member of a branch, please indicate that as well – send to Jennifer Childs.

Loyalists and the War of 1812

Thanks to those who have contributed to the slowly growing index of Loyalists and the War of 1812.

We have added new entries for Tunis Cronk & son William thanks to Linda McClelland, UE; and for Eberhardt Waeger & Grandson Thomas Wager thanks to Gerald Brown, UE.

If you have a family ancestry which qualifies (see the heading of the page with entries), please submit to Our rich history continues to emerge through these family histories.

OGS Competition: Design a New Heritage Certificate

As an addition to our current heritage clubs and societies, the Ontario Genealogical Society is developing the First World War Society for genealogists who can prove they have one or more ancestors who were involved with World War I. The exact criteria for qualification for this Society are still to be determined.

We need a striking certificate for members of the First World War Society to proudly display, particularly as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War next year.

You do NOT need to be an OGS member to submit an entry, so please spread the word far and wide about this competition.

The prize is $500 and entries must be received by Dec. 31, 2013.

Submission details are available on the OGS Blog.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Revolutionary War ship built by Benedict Arnold found in Lake Champlain.
  • Bob Rennie informs me that the TV production – in which he participated as Brock – called The Desert Between Us and Them will be shown TVO October 5th at 9:00. See facebook entry (submitted by Doris Lemon)

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
- Purdy, Gilbert – from Ron Makin

Please help us build the directory by contributing more information for it. Contact for instructions and guidance.

Last Post: Joyce Hazel (McCumber) Smith, UE

Joyce Smith (McCumber) passed away on August 24, 2013, at the age of 93 years of age. She received her Loyalist certificate through the Sir Guy Carleton Branch. She is descended from the following Loyalists: Amos Ansley, James Dawson, Thomas and William Wagar, Jethro Jackson, David Embury, Jacob Huffman, and Col. Samuel Smith. She was predeceased by her husband Fred Smith UEL and her son Ken Smith. She is survived by two sisters Shirley Noonan and Frances Prosser and daughters Marilyn Meeks, Sylvia Powers, and Judi Fox.

Joyce was very active in the community of Olden Township, serving in executive positions on the Women's Institute, United Church Women, and various seniors groups. Wanda Harrison who writes for Arden in the Frontenac News summed up the feeling of the community in her tribute on Sept. 5. "With the passing last week of Joyce Smith, who was predeceased by her husband Fred, an era in the Arden and Mountain Grove area was brought to an end. Visiting the couple either over dinner or having an avid game of euchre always brought much reminiscing of times gone by . Conversations were sometimes animated, but always enthusiastic. I'm sure everyone has at least one piece of woodwork crafted by Fred. I have a large Deacon's bench, one side a little longer that the other; this anomaly made it a piece that was one of a kind and designed especially for you. Joyce made great donuts (sic) but also was a wonderful quilter. A few years ago I was blessed to be the recipient of one of her last handmade pieces. It sits on a rack in my living room, to be admired by everyone. These two icons will be missed by everyone."

As reeve of the township for 16 years, Dad oversaw the creation of a paved road through the township, a modern public school in the area, and the formation of a nursing home for county use. Mom supported him throughout this often taking care of the farm while he was away on township business. Both were well-loved by the community and were an inspiration in their enduring love for each other.

...Sylvia Powers, UE, Sir Guy Carleton Branch

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