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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2013 Archive

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"Loyalist Trails" 2013-45: November 10, 2013


A Violent and Active Tory: The Loyalists of Deerfield, by Stephen Davidson

Born and raised in Deerfield, Massachusetts, Nathaniel Dickinson lived the last years of his life in Westfield, New Brunswick. Who was Dickinson? To the last loyalist governor of New Hampshire, he was "a man of truth". To his patriot neighbours, he was a "violent and active Tory". The government of Massachusetts included him among the 300 names on its Banishment Act, threatening execution if he returned.

In 1774, Nathaniel Dickinson was a prosperous forty year-old with a "very considerable estate in Massachusetts" that encompassed land in Deerfield, Conway, Shelburne and Barnardston. In addition to an African slave, he owned 11 horses, 13 oxen, 50 sheep, and 17 cattle. Within four years' time, everything had been "confiscated to the use of the State of Massachusetts". Dickinson's only crime had been that he "ver declared openly his sentiments in favour of Great Britain". Or as Deerfield's patriots phrased it, Dickinson had "joined our unnatural enemies for the purpose of aiding and assisting them in subjugating these American Colonies."

The historian George Sheldon described Dickinson as "earnest, out-spoken" loyalist who "took no pains to conceal his sentiments, and became obnoxious to the Whigs." Having a friend such as Colonel Israel Williams, a notorious "High Tory", only further sullied Dickinson's reputation. The colonel was secretly in correspondence with General Thomas Gage, the appointed royal governor of Massachusetts. In a town that was almost evenly divided between loyalists and rebels, such contact with a crown official was bound to anger the local patriots.

Recalling the events of December 1774, Dickinson said that he "was severely treated by mobs . . . {and} was tied up to be hanged." Since he "could not remain longer in the Country", he decided to find refuge in Boston. Had he simply fled, the loyalist might have been able to return to Deerfield when tempers cooled. But as he headed for the Massachusetts capital in January of 1775, Dickinson carried letters from Col. Williams to Governor Gage. Somehow the local rebels discovered what was stashed in his saddlebags. Four times on his trip eastward, patriot mobs attacked Dickinson, but he managed to elude them.

Deerfield's rebels might have forgiven Dickinson for being a messenger for the town's most obnoxious loyalist, but they could not turn a blind eye to the fact that he had fought with the British at the Battle of Bunker Hill. After the costly battle, General William Howe commended the Deerfield loyalist "for killing a rebel". Dickinson remained in Boston for the next year, helping the crown obtain oxen and sheep to feed its troops. In March of 1776, he was among the 1,100 Massachusetts loyalists who evacuated Boston to find sanctuary in Halifax. Later that summer, he sailed to New York with the Royal Navy.

For the remainder of the revolution, Dickinson was a member of the commissary-general's staff in New York City, rising to the rank of lieutenant. On occasions he was also a conductor of artillery. Sometime during the war, Dickinson was reunited with his wife Hannah and daughter Amelia. By April of 1783, Dickinson recognized that they could not return to Deerfield or remain anywhere in the new republic. He asked Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander in chief, for provisions, having made the decision "to remove with his family to Nova Scotia" with other loyalist refugees.

Although he sought provisions from the British for his journey north, Dickinson had enough money to buy three African slaves: 38 year-old Jack, 20 year-old Betty and 4 year-old Sukey. They accompanied the Dickinson family on board the Bridgewater, part of the first fleet of evacuation vessels to arrive at the mouth of the St. John River in May of 1783.

Within two years' time, Nathaniel and his family were established in the newly incorporated city of Saint John in the loyalist colony of New Brunswick. Nathaniel went to Halifax in the spring of 1786 to appear before the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists. Despite his witnesses and various deeds, the RCLSAL required further proof of Dickinson's losses.

By December, the commission opened its hearings in Saint John, and Dickinson offered further evidence for all that he lost in the revolution. In the intervening months, the Deerfield loyalist had returned to his Massachusetts home, staying there for more than 10 weeks. When he had originally abandoned Deerfield, Nathaniel had left all of his lands with his loyalist brother Samuel. When the latter died, Dickenson's property was passed on to his widowed sister, Hannah Williams. Hannah offered to share the land with Nathaniel, but to do so he would have to live in Deerfield. This was impossible as the townspeople "considered him an outlaw."

In the end, Dickinson received a partial compensation for all that he had lost in Deerfield, and within two years' time, he owned land in five different loyalist settlements along the St. John River. It seemed as if the Dickinson family was finally able to enjoy some peace and prosperity after more than a dozen years of upheaval.

In May of 1788, Nathaniel Dickinson was 54 years old and living in Westfield, Kings County. Something -- perhaps a serious illness or injury -- prompted him to draw up his last will and testament; five days later he was dead. His wife received all of his Deerfield land, all the compensation owed him by the British government, their three slaves, his horses and all their household goods. To his daughter Amelia, he bequeathed some land along in Kings County and a sum of money to be "applied to her education and maintenance until she attains age 18". Dickinson's executor and friend, Benjamin Muirson Woolsey, completed the inventory of the loyalist's worldly goods by September.

Within a year, Woolsey married Dickinson's widow; the newlyweds returned to New England, settling in Bridgeport, Connecticut. There the couple had three children; but nothing more is said of Nathaniel's daughter. If Amelia died after her mother's remarriage, then Nathaniel Dickinson left no descendants to remember his loyal service to the crown.

After the end of the American Revolution, the loyalists of Deerfield, Massachusetts continued to live amongst their patriot neighbours. But because of his espionage work, his presence at Bunker Hill, and his wartime service to the British forces, Nathaniel Dickinson was the only Deerfield loyalist who was compelled to become a refugee. The last reference to him in local history says that he "was last heard of in New Brunswick where he reportedly continued to be a faithful servant of the King."

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

UELAC Conference: A Centennial Celebration, 1914 - 2014

Thursday June 5-Sunday June 8th, 2014

Come and be part of a weekend of Celebration as we mark the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of The United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada.

Our venue, the Eaton Chelsea Hotel is located in the heart of downtown Toronto, at the centre of the city's shopping, theatre, galleries, entertainment and heritage sites. It's easy access by train or air!

Make yourself at home in one of the well-appointed rooms. Take advantage of recreational opportunities offered, including a health club, indoor pool and spa tub. The hotel's restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dining is also available at a coffee shop and 24 hour room service is provided.

A block of 40 rooms has been reserved for your convenience. The cost is $139.00 per night plus tax. IMPORTANT Note; When booking, please quote ''UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS' OF CANADA CONFERENCE''

Reserve by May 6, 2014!

Eaton Chelsea Hotel, 33 Gerrard St. W, Toronto, ON, M5G 1Z4, Tel: 416-595-1975

Reservations: 1-800-243-5732 or use the customized online reservation link for the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada

The Grand Union Flag

The mention of the Grand Union flag [in last week's Loyalist Trails:What is the Union Flag Doing on a Field of Red and White Stripes?] was interesting and I would like to comment further. When I gave up artillery reenactment, I developed a flag display The British Roots of the American Flag. The following comments are from my earlier notes which came from two Smithsonian Institution publications which I list at the end.

At the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775, the Continental Congress maintained that the United Colonies were displeased with the king's ministers but were still loyal to the king.

Also at this time every ship in the British merchant marine had to have a Red Ensign, the flag of the Royal Navy. And the ship chandlers in the American ports had them in stock.

An unknown person suggested that six white stripes could be painted, or sewn, on the red field of the Red Ensign, thereby expressing both the unity of the colonies and their loyalty to the king. This modified Red Ensign became generally known as the Grand Union flag though some historians term it the Continental Union flag.

The Grand Union flag was raised on the Continental warship, Alfred, at Philadelphia, PA, on 3 December 1775. General George Washington raised the Grand Union flag at his headquarters outside of Boston on 1 January 1776.

Passage of the Declaration of Independence in July 1776 rendered this flag inappropriate but the Continental Congress was too busy with conduct of the war to deal with this until June 1777 when it passed The Flag Act.

Contrary to popular legend Betsy Ross had nothing to do with the redesign of the flag and Francis Hopkinson's claims are dubious. Redesign was a "no-brainer"; the stripes had to remain and the British ensign in the canton had to be removed. Thirteen white stars on a blue field in the canton was a very obvious and conventional vexillogical decision.

The flag resolution did not specify the arrangement of the stars or the number of points. Linear arrangements were most common, frequently, 3-2-3-2-3. Six- and eight-pointed stars have been found on period specimens.

The first use of a circle (actually an oval) arrangement of the stars appeared on the diploma of the Society of the Cincinnati which was adopted by the Society on 10 June 1783.


Cooper, Grace Rogers. Thirteen-Star Flags: Keys To Identification. 62. Smithsonian Studies In History and Technology, Number 21. Smithsonian Institution Press, D.C. 1973. GPO Stock # 4700-0232. hardcover. (73/4 "w. x101/2".) (I paid $5.00; Amazon, $24.00 to $75.00). Mrs. Cooper was Curator of Textiles at the Smithsonian.

Furlong, William R. & Byron McCandless; with the editorial assistance of Harold D. Langley. So Proudly We Hail: The History of the United States Flag. 260. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981. D.C. ISBN 0-87474-449-0 (pbk.). p/b (8 /2"w. x 11") (n.b., McCandless died in 1967 before the work was finished. Furlong died in 1976, age 95. Associate Curator, Div. of Naval History Harold D. Langley, carried the project to completion, including use and citation of recently published works on the subject.)

...William E. Davidson, Potsdam, NY, USA

Where in the World?

Where is Gov. Simcoe Branch member Jo Ann Tuskin?

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

More submissions for Loyalists and the War of 1812 will be welcomed and will be published as they become available.

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.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Test your knowledge of the details of the times of the American Revolution
  • NJ350: A year-long celebration of New Jersey's history starts in January. British monarch Charles II gave a grant of land to his brother James, the Duke of York, who in turn granted the land to Sir George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley, who were loyal to the royal family during the English Civil War in the mid-17th century. They named the colony New Jersey, after the Channel Island of Jersey, where Charles lived in exile after his father's execution.
  • And the walk ended, appropriately, in a peaceful Loyalist cemetery on Six Mile Road, Cumberland County in Nova Scotia. Photo.
  • Remembrance Day at the Canadian War Museum - go to this page at 10:45 on Monday Nov 11 to watch, at exactly 11 a.m EST, sunlight shine through a single window in Memorial Hall to frame the headstone representing Canada's Unknown Soldier.
  • The Friends of Laura Secord have commissioned the digital scanning of the Laura Secord bust and 3D printing to produce scale replicas of the sculpture that are accurate down to the finest detail. These limited edition copies are available for purchase. Read about the project, the process and more details of the offering here.
  • A Genealogy 'Prime Directive': Avoid the 'Rose-Colored Glasses Effect' at All Costs! Focus on the real leads you trip across. A blog post by Scott Phillips
  • Pic of the day: An unbelievably lavish, fairytale picture of a young Princess Margaret, by Cecil Beaton.
  • Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and the province of Ontario (Upper Canada)

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:
- Willson, Benjamin – from William Mullins, with certificate application

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

First Post: Alianna Jade Cowan

Prairie Regional VP Gerry Adair and his wife Pat are pleased to announce the arrival of their first Great-grandchild. Alianna Jade Cowan was born Oct 26 2013 in Flin Flon, Manitoba. She is the daughter of Justin Cowan and Haley Blatz, Granddaughter of Brian and Tina Cowan.

Editor's Comment

On another vacation trip, we are now in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly, and to the locals, still Saigon) at the moment. Visits to a Viet Cong tunnel complex and the War Remnants Museum have brought home more vividly the horrors of War. I am sure the wars of Vietnam have some parallels to the American Revolution which some of our ancestors experienced.

On a different note, and once again, it is interesting the degree to which he internet connects us from almost everywhere.



Alex McLean and Family

My wife is descended from Alexander McLean, who settled in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, in the late 18th century. We think that he is the Alex McLean listed on pages 32 and 33 of the early Muster Rolls of the 84th Regiment and that the ensign Hector McLean on pages 38 and 39 his Alex's brother.

Alex might have immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1773 on the ship Hector. He settled in a community on the East Branch of the East River in Pictou County, sometimes referred to as Irishtown or Churchville. This area was also included for several years in the censuses for the Town of New Glasgow.

Alex received a land grant for 500 Acres in 1793 or 1797.

Our main interest is to definitively show that he is the Alex who fought in the 84th in the American Revolution.

Also, and just as important we would like to connect my wife's ggggrandfather Hector to Alex. We are missing Hector's father or perhaps Alex is his father.

We know that all of the above are connected because of written records and the fact that they all lived on the same land from the original grant til the early 20th century.

We would be interested in any information which would confirm or refute any of the above. Might there be original enlistment records from 1776, for example? Later ones for other wars often provide a lot of family and address information. Any information or direction would be appreciated. It's probably impossible, but we would really like to see a family tree for Alex.

Many thanks in advance for any help or direction.

...George Bruce

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