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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2015 Archive

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“Loyalist Trails” 2015-01: January 4, 2015

Articles

Nine African Coopers, by Stephen Davidson

Thomas Bosworth had been a cooper in New York City during the American Revolution. When he sought compensation for the losses that he sustained because of his loyalist convictions, Bosworth carefully outlined his services to the crown. As so often happened in such petitions, the cooper failed to name his wife and children. He also completely ignored the contributions of a man who had made barrels, casks, buckets and tubs in his cooperage on Manhatten Island for sixteen years.

No doubt it was because the man was an African, a slave by the name of London. Bosworth's assistant is one of only nine men of African descent among the loyalist diaspora known to have been a skilled cooper. Some were Black Loyalists, freed from slavery by the British, while others were the slaves of loyalist refugees. These are their stories.

The cooper Thomas Bosworth emigrated from England to New York in 1763. Barrels and other wooden casks were vital to the life and commerce of the colonies in the 1770s. There were no corrugated cardboard boxes to move large goods, no plastic containers for shipping liquids such as wine or molasses or any airtight metal containers to prevent moisture from spoiling tobacco, flour, or gunpowder. The merchant and the consumer both depended upon the sturdy staved casks made by skilled coopers to preserve their valuables.

Much more than simply assembling a wooden container, the art of copperage required a dedication to detail, problem-solving skills, patience, and intelligence. A cooper needed to have a thorough knowledge of what type of wood was best suited for a particular storage task.

Thomas Bosworth must have been a skilful cooper, for within four years, he was prosperous enough to buy a 52 year-old African named London to assist him in his cooperage. No records exist to indicate where he learned to be a cooper. However, given the demand for this type of craftsman, it was not uncommon for plantation owners to see that some of their slaves were taught the ancient craft. It not only furthered the prosperity of his plantation, but it gave the master a slave who could command a high price at slave markets.

Like the destiny of Bosworth's family, London's fortune was inextricably tied to the political convictions of the master of the house. Bosworth "supported {the} British government to {the} best of his power", a position that eventually forced him to flee the city in 1776 for fear of rebel reprisals. It seems natural that both London and Bosworth's family would have accompanied him "up the country" until the cooper returned to New York City in 1778.

During the rest of the war, Bosworth and London used their craft to serve the crown, working on board the Devonshire man-of-war. Boswroth also was a courier of messages between the mainland and several British vessels. Important figures stepped forward to give testimonials regarding Thomas Bosworth's credentials, veryifying that Bosworth was a "man of good character and loyal principles."

The only written testimony of the service that Bosworth's enslaved African, London, provided during the revolution is summed up in two words. The civil servant who recorded the Africans leaving New York City simply wrote that London was "worn out". The Book of Negroes also notes that London was 68 years old when he accompanied his master on the Little Dale on June 16, 1783, bound for the mouth of the St. John River. Coopering was demanding work, even more so if one were a slave and not in control of the hours he put into shaping barrels and casks in wartime conditions. No wonder poor London was "worn out."

Two other coopers of African descent were among the loyalist refugees who found sanctuary at the mouth of the St. John River. Twenty-three year-old Sam had once been a slave to John Dobbins of Black River, South Carolina. He escaped to freedom within the British lines in 1779. Joseph had been enslaved to a Colonel DeVois in Savannah, Georgia. Only twenty years-old, he was described as being healthy and skilled as both a sawyer and a cooper. Since he was also in the possession of the Ariel's captain, he may have only switched masters during the revolution rather than achieving freedom.

Four coopers bound for Port Roseway, Nova Scotia could all claim to be free Black Loyalists. John Prior, a 26 year-old from Jamaica served as a cooper aboard the Lyon frigate during the war. His discharge papers proved that he was a free man. Prior and his wife Nancy settled in Birchtown, the largest community of free blacks in all of North America.

Francis Bruff, though only eighteen, was also listed as a cooper. Born free in the West Indies, he had served under General Benedict Arnold. The entry for William Ernst notes that he had been a cooper on Broad Street in New York City under the tutelage of Charles Philips. Both his employer and the police department certified that the 31 year-old was a freeman when he boarded the Kingston for Nova Scotia.

Joe Ramsey, a thirty-one year old cooper, proudly carried a General Birch certificate when he boarded the Blacket for Port Roseway. This piece of paper certified that Ramsey had served the crown for at least a year and had thus earned his freedom. Ramsey had run away from his master in South Carolina in 1778. The cooper, his wife Peggy, and their two children also settled in Birchtown.

Ramsey is one of two African coopers who became a founding father of Sierra Leone. In 1783, Thomas London arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard the Friends. He and his wife Mary eventually settled in Birchtown, and then --in 1792-- joined 1,200 others who sailed to West Africa to found a free Christian colony of blacks. No doubt his skills as a cooper were invaluable to the early settlers of Freetown.

The ninth Black Loyalist known to have been a cooper spent the rest of his days in Abaco, an island in the Bahamas. Joseph Cox had been a slave for 38 years before escaping from his master, John Bybank in Totowa, New Jersey. After serving the British for two years, Cox received his General Birch Certificate. Twenty-one other Black Loyalists bound for Abaco aboard the Nautlius also were certified as free men and women. Cox, however, was the only one who was a cooper, a trade that promised him a degree of prosperity that other Black Loyalists would be unable to achieve.

And so, by 1792 the nine African coopers listed in the Book of Negroes were scattered from New Brunswick to Abaco and from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone. In addition to their craft, these men shared the common experience of being African men who survived the American Revolution as supporters of the crown. For some, that common factor was the means to freedom, for others it only changed the geographical location of their enslavement.

Resource: Loyalist Ancestors of Nova Scotia Branch Members 1983

I have scanned a booklet prepared for the Loyalist Bicentennial in 1983, entitled Our Loyalist Ancestors - Biographical Sketches of Loyalist Ancestors by the Membership. The document is now available by everyone.

The book is a veritable treasure trove of information; it includes sketches of the following Loyalists and their families: Samuel Andrews, Robert Bayard, John and Letitia Bell, Chambers Blakely, David Bleakney, David Burlock, Colin Campbell, Edward Crawford, Peter Earle, Joseph Embree, Jacob Fenton, Stephen Humbert, Elisha Jones, Oliver Lyman, Donald MacAlpine, Samuel Perry, Gabriel Purdy, John Rushton, John George Webber, and Edward Winslow.

The publication can be reached from the Nova Scotia Branch homepage; or click here (PDF) for a direct link.

...Brian McConnell, UE, Secretary, Nova Scotia Branch

Attention Ontario Residents

There is still time to share your pride in United Empire Loyalist heritage. You may remember the special centenary Ontario Licence Plate project that kicked off the 2014 celebrations . With fifty-three plates beginning with 02UE, you still have a chance to get a plate that you will remember when the parking lot attendant or parking metre asks for identification of your car.

Save: For the month of January 2015, you can save ten dollars when you send place your order. That means we will ship your request FREE!

Take these two steps now:

  • Send your cheque and form to the George Brown House office
  • Email public.relations@uelac.org with your preferred number chosen from the following: 16-19, 23,24, 26-34, 36-38, 40, 42, 47-49, 52-55, 57-59, 61, 65, 67, 69, 71-75, 79, 81, 86, 87, 88, 90-95, 97-99.

Support your association; recognize your Loyalist heritage; don't delay, get your number while it is available.

...Fred H. Hayward, PR

Tarring and Feathering: The Reality

The notion that hot tar caused severe, sometimes fatal burns is based on the assumption that “tar” meant the asphalt we use on roads, which is typically stored in liquid state at about 300F (150C). But in the eighteenth century “tar” meant pine tar, used for several purposes in building and maintaining ships. As any baseball fan knows, pine tar doesn't have to be very hot to be sticky. Shipyards did warm that tar to make it flow more easily, but pine tar starts to melt at about 140F (60C). That's well above the ideal for bathwater, but far from the temperature of hot asphalt.

J. L. Bell maintains the Boston1775.net website, dedicated to history, analysis, and unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution in New England. In this article published in December by the Journal of The American Revolution, he examines five myths and proceeds to “bust” each one:

  • Tarring and feathering could be fatal;
  • Rebellious Bostonians invented the tars-and-feathers treatment;
  • Pre-war mobs attacked high-class royal officials with tar and feathers;
  • Towns displayed tar barrels and bags of feathers on Liberty Poles;
  • Tarring and feathering ended with the Revolution.

Read the article.

Scurrilous Abuse upon the Characters of Ten Principal Patriots

The atmosphere in Boston in March of 1775 was "explosive" it seems. The public statements and actions would seem by today's standards scandalous. This article, from a letter by John Andrews, seems to be about the actions of numerous British Officers and others loyal.

I find the reading difficult, perhaps as much because I don't have good context, but I always enjoy the commentary following which provides perspective.

In any case, Boston in the years leading up to the beginning of the war appears to have been a much different place than I had imagined.

...Editor

Where in the World?

Where is Hamilton Branch member Fred Hayward?

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.

Region and Branch Bits

From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.

  • In the Dec. 14 issue, it was noted that Edmonton Branch had completed their Branch 2014 Centennial Book Project. Earle Fladager now notes that they are now available for sale. The Book is titled Loyalist Descendents To Alberta and is being sold for $18.00. Shipping costs are not included in the price. They have printed 40 copies of which 22 have already been sold. For more information, email Earle.

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • December 31: On this day in history, American forces lost the battle of Quebec (video clip by the Freedom Trail Foundation of Massachusetts) - Gee, it would read so much better with something like "British and French Canadian forces defeat American attacking army; set the stage for the preservation of the northern colonies which would eventually join together and form a new country – Canada) Now all we need is a video commentator and a script writer!
  • Don N. Hagist, author of "British Soldiers, American War: Voices from the American Revolution" in this podcast leads us on exploration of the soldiers in the British Army who fought in the American War for Independence. Don will reveal how many men served in the British Army, how they became one of the best fighting forces in the late eighteenth-century world, and whether some of the myths that we have heard about the British Army hold true, such as whether the men who served in it represented the dregs of British society. Listen at Ben Franklin's World, Episode 10 (runs 40+ minutes - use the orange bar under "Listen Now")
  • January 1: On this day in 1855, Bytown was incorporated as a city and renamed Ottawa.
  • In five months Canada will welcome a copy of the Magna Carta to our shores, in celebration of its 800th anniversary. It will be here from June 11 until December 29, with stops in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Toronto and Edmonton. The copy, not one of the four original remaining copies, is normally housed at Durham Cathedral, famous as the shrine of St. Cuthbert. For more high level details check out Magna Carta 2015 Canada
  • Do you enjoy museums? Check out what's available, especially virtual exhibits at Virtual Museums of Canada - search on different terms.
  • The next generation (well, OK, for some of us, maybe 2nd or even 3rd next generation) of history buffs. (At Fort York in Toronto, by the Blockhouse, on Canada day would be a guess)

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions and updates are as follows:

  • Cline (Clyne), Elizabeth - from Christopher Plante with certificate application
  • Huffman, Jacob - from Judy Sanders (one of five “Johnsen girls”)
  • Jones, Elisha - by Brian McConnell
  • Land, Robert (Sr.) - from Pat Blackburn
  • Lucas, Clement Jr. - from Pat Blackburn
  • Manning, Jacob - from Gail Lane with certificate application
  • Stockwell, John - from Adam Gaines

Please help us build the directory by contributing more information for it. Contact loyalist.trails@uelac.org for instructions and guidance.

Editor's Greetings

Christmas Day with family; New Year's day with community friends; it was a good holiday and year-end season. My resolution is that for the next holiday season, there is less to do and more time to do it - that is the extent of my resolutions.

Your challenge, and mine, is now to fulfill our resolutions. I wish all of us success.

...Doug

Queries

Information about James Scriver (Jacobus Schryver)

James Scriver joined the King's American Regiment.

He had a son John Scriver (Johannes Schryver) who had a son Cornelius Scriver who had a daughter Dorthillia Ann Scriver who married my great grandfather John Weslely Groves. John Wesley Groves had a daughter Annie May Groves who married my grandfather Arthur Boyd Johnson. Thus the Scrivers/Schryers joined the Johnson family.

I should like to be in contact with any of your members who are related to James Scriver (Jacobus Schryver), or have researched the family, so I can fill in gaps leading eventually to membership and my Loyalist Certificate.

Thanks very much for any assistance. I look forward to meeting more relatives and interested others.

...Fredrick Boyd Johnson CD MA Major (retired)

Challenges Facing Loyalists

From time to time during the school year, the Education/Outreach Committee receives general questions from students. The one below is the most recent; it is followed by my response. If you have any other suggestions, please send your idea to education@uelac.org.


Dear UELAC,

I am a middle school student learning about the Loyalists. I would like to know if you have any information that you could tell me, specifically about the challenges they faced (e.g. their properties taken). I would appreciate any response.

Thank you!


Response:

Thank you for your challenging request.

Perhaps because Canadians tend to focus on the positive and push the negative far far away, there is little in non-fiction that collectively documents the trials faced by the United Empire Loyalists in their original communities or the struggles they had in building a new life in British North America after the American Revolution. Perhaps you can find a copy of Robert Livesey's The Loyal Refugees (Discovering Canada Series). Toronto: Stoddard Kids. 1999. IBSN 0-77376043-1 in your school or local library for a start. Writers of historical fiction such as "Rachel", "The Way Lies North" or "The Hungry Year" as mentioned in Books for the Young at Heart create far more interesting accounts that reflect the challenges facing people your own age. Those writers had to do considerable research to add the believability to their accounts.

While you may appreciate the Short History of the United Empire Loyalists in either English or French , you may also find a translation into Mandarin of a similar article on the website of the Vancouver Branch.

Relocation from the American colonies to different geographic locations is hard to generalize. To move from a port say in New Jersey or Connecticut to the coast of Nova Scotia or PEI and leaving everything that your family had build up over the years from home, friends and life style would be different from those who had to resettle in the dense wilderness of "Upper Canada" after living as refugees in Quebec. To give you a better idea, check out "Overcoming Hardships" in The Loyalists, Pioneers and Settlers of the West, A Teacher's Resource.

For my records, I would appreciate knowing in which school system you are doing this study.

...Fred Hayward, UELAC Education & Outreach

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