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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2015 Archive

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“Loyalist Trails” 2015-41: October 11, 2015


Daniel Strang, Forgotten Loyalist Hero, by Stephen Davidson

© Stephen Davidson, UE

On June 6, 1912, a group of children gathered on a hill in Peekskill, New York. They were members of the local chapter of the Junior Sons and Daughters of the Revolution. Their mission on that Thursday was to place a memorial tablet on the trunk of a massive oak tree. Although a loyalist had been executed on that spot in 1776, the children were not there to mourn his death. They were there to commemorate the tree upon which he was hanged. Their plaque read: "In honor of this tree upon which was hanged Jan 27, 1777? an American who was employed as a spy by the British".

Fifty-six years later the oak, which by then had a 12-foot diameter, was starting to lean precariously due to a weakening root system. Cables allowed it to stand for almost forty more years. Finally, on June 1, 2006, a lightening bolt dealt the oak tree its deathblow. Now deemed to be hazardous, the tree was removed from where it had stood for over 200 years. Although the plaque that the children had placed upon the tree was taken away, the story of the executed loyalist still lingers on Oak Hill. Meet Daniel Strang, "the American who was employed as a spy".

The senior Daniel Strang and his wife Elizabeth Galpin welcomed young Daniel into their family sometime between 1743 and 1746. Their other children included Joseph, Gabriel, Solomon, Gerard, Mary, Elizabeth and Hester. By the end of the American Revolution, both Gabriel Strang and his sister Elizabeth (Mrs. John Ward) had found refuge in Saint John, New Brunswick. They, like their older brother Daniel, were loyalists.

Besides his family members and his political stance, little is known of Daniel Strang. Rebels captured him when he was in his early thirties. A patriot named Thatcher wrote, "One Daniel Strang was found lurking about our army at Peekskill, and on examination enlisting orders were found sewed in his clothes." In a report written to General George Washington, Strang's warrant to enlist men in the British army was said to be "secreted inside of his breeches". Strang was immediately brought to trial on charges of "being a spy and attempting to enlist men for the British Army".

The transcript for Strang's trial on January 4, 1777 has survived, giving us some of the loyalist's last words. He willingly admitted to being a spy, but denied that he was raising recruits. After hearing the testimony of two patriot soldiers, the judge asked Strang if he had any evidence to present in his favour or anything to say in his defence. He didn't.

Somehow the patriot officers discovered that Strang was working under orders from Col. Robert Rogers of the Queens American Rangers. The examiner's next question to Strang elicited this response "I was asked by Col. Rogers whether the troops were marching down and whether the militia were to be raised. I told him there were, but was obliged to give the information... I knew very little, but told all I knew."

When asked if he intended to return to "the enemy" and "give information" of the patriot situation, Strang coolly replied, "I should have been obliged to."

The court reconvened on the following morning. The enlisting papers that were found on Strang were entered as evidence and then the court adjourned to deliberate on the loyalist's fate. The transcript reads "The Court are of the opinion the prisoner Daniel Strang be hanged by the neck until he be dead, dead, dead."

Twenty-two days later, the one thousand patriot troops upon whom Strang had been spying marched to an oak tree that was high on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. There, Daniel Strang was hanged for being a spy. No family or clergymen were on hand to conduct a funeral; the soldiers simply buried the loyalist in a shallow grave at the foot of the oak tree.

From this point on, legends surrounding Strang's execution began to flourish. One source claimed that the branch on which the loyalist was hanged was cut off and used to make walking sticks. Sixty years following the execution, when an academy was built on Oak Hill, Strang's bones were apparently unearthed and reburied at an undisclosed spot far from the new campus. At the same time, a New York newspaper claimed that Sprang was hanged on a pear tree!

Those who would have had the best knowledge of the events of Daniel Strang's life were his two loyalist siblings, Gabriel and Elizabeth. Gabriel Strang followed in his brother's footsteps, serving the crown as an officer in a loyalist corps during the revolution. He settled in Saint John where he operated a cooper's shop, dying at seventy-one in 1826.

Elizabeth Strang – Gabriel's sister and the wife of John Ward – died at seventy-nine in the same city five years later. Her husband had been a lieutenant in the British army during the revolution. After settling in Saint John, Ward became a merchant, a senior justice of the peace, a member of the provincial assembly, and warden of Trinity Anglican Church. Ward lived to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the loyalists' arrival in New Brunswick in 1843, being honoured as a Father of the City. The loyalist founder died three years later at ninety-four years of age.

In 1777, John Ward and his wife Elizabeth would have both been 25 years old while Gabriel Strang would have been 22 years old. As young adults, all three loyalists would have had their own sad memories of the events of January 7, 1777 – the day that their brother Daniel Strang was executed for being a spy.

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

Alexander Forbes: Highlander (Part 5), by Richard Nickerson

Surveyor Benjamin Marston, perceived (probably unjustly) of not alloting land in a fair and impartial manner, fled Shelburne in fear for his personal safety.

We do not know whether or not Alexander Forbes went with others of the 38th to Clements Township in the unsatisfactory land-hunting excursion, or whether or not he was in Shelburne at the time of the riots.

Alexander's name next appears on a plan of that autumn, dated 8 Sep 1784, of the 100-acre farm lots "laid out for Capt. Gaven Lyle and Company" on the Cape Negro River, about 20 km west of Shelburne. This plan shows Alexander Forbes on Lot 39. The Grant corresponding to this plan is undated, but was approved by S.S. Blowers, Nova Scotia Attorney General, 17 Mar 1785. This grant alloted 11,600 acres (116 lots) on the "Cape Negro River alias Clide" to a total of 84 grantees (Nova Scotia Provincial Crown Lands Record Centre, Shelburne County Portfolio, No. 40; NSARM, R.G. 20, Series A; William Thompson and Others).

Unfortunately, this granted land does not appear to have been worth the wait; it was not prime farm land either. Modern topographical maps classify most of the land on which Alexander Forbes' own Lot No.39 was located as "marsh or swamp".

Did Alexander ever actually live or work on the Cape Negro River? Possibly he did during the winter of 1784-85; maybe not. But the next year, 28 Sept 1785, finds "Alexander Forbes of the Town of Shelburne ... Yeoman" selling to "Robert McCoy of the Town ... aforesaid, Hatter ... in his actual possession now being a certain Plantation or Tract of Land situate lying and being on Cape Negro River (alias Clyde) containing One Hundred Acres, be the same more or less, which said Lot Plantation or Tract of Land is known and distinguished by being marked or Numbered No.39 Liles. Location, country Lands." The purchase price was £10 (Shelburne Co. Deeds, Book 2, pp.324-325). So much for Alexander and Clyde River.

Neil McCommiskey, one of Alexander Forbes' fellow grantees on the Cape Negro River (and later a fellow settler in Woods Harbour also), had sold his Lot No.55 two months earlier, on 12 July 1785, also for the apparently then- going- rate for swampland of £10-the-hundred-acres. In McCommiskey's case, the buyer John Thompson is also noted in the deed as being in actual possession of the land, by virtue of a deal made "one whole year" earlier (Shelburne Co. Deeds, Book 2, pp.225-226). McCommiskey, it would seem, took just the one quick look at his lot when it was first laid out the previous summer – and that was enough for him.

The conditions of the Cape Negro River grant were typical for this period. For every 50 acres received, the grantee was obligated, depending on the quality of the land, within 3 years, to either: clear and work 3 acres of plantable land; clear and drain 3 acres of swamp; or place 3 cattle on barren land. The land was permanently seated with the grantee upon the clearing of the 3 acres plantable land; if no such land existed on the grant, then the erection of a dwelling house of at least 20 by 16 feet was sufficient, together with the keeping of the 3 cattle. If the land was too poor even for cattle, then 3 man-years were to be spent excavating any "stone quarry" on the granted land. The grantee was also to pay to the Crown, on a yearly basis, two shillings per hundred acres. (NSARM, R.G.20, Series A; William Thompson and Others.)

Neither Robert McCoy nor John Thompson lived happily-ever-after on their 1785 purchases from Forbes and McCommiskey. These two lots were formally escheated in 1819, the Crown repossessing the land due to the conditions of the grant not being fulfilled. In fact, 63 of the 84 original 1785 grantees on the Clyde River are named in the 1819 escheatment, representing 8,500 of the 11,600 acres that had been granted 34 years earlier (GLLS 115-118). By 1819, the Cape Negro River would have been but a wisp of a memory for most of the defaulters. The majority had voted with its feet.

What Alexander's own feet were doing in the next five years, from 1785 to 1790, is thinly attested-to; he was likely an itinerant labourer. Nona Abbott (great-granddaughter of Alexander Forbes), in her History of Forbes Point, relates that "he continued along the shore, stopping for a time in the vicinity of Barrington, and working for one winter with 'Squire Smith' of Cape Sable Island." (Alexander would later name one of his sons "John Davis" Forbes, perhaps in honour of Barrington Township grantee John Davis, who died 26 Jan 1787 (Barrington Township Records, p.vii) from a fall on the ice; John Davis had First Division Lot No.78 on Cape Sable Island, near N.E. Point (CBT 471). This, unless the matching name is a coincidence, may be taken to suggest the presence of Alexander Forbes on Cape Sable Island by 1787).

Alexander & Phoebe – Marriage

At some point prior to 1790, Alexander met his future wife, Phoebe Dennis. One account given in Doane's Notes states that he met her in Shelburne; the other, that he met her in Barrington. Nona Abbott relates that he met her in Doctor's Cove.

From Doane's Notes:

"Phebe Dennis of Virginia was Dutch Her father was an Englishman – He wouldn't take up arms against the English. He was killed on board an English man of war. His wife died in a boat of exposure Their children were taken care of in the army with the women. Phebe Dennis was 8 years old when she went in the boat (had to go) with her mother who died there. They came to Barrington with a family by the name of Murray to whom she was bound when a girl, and it was there that Forbes met her." (DN E #66)

Crowell (CBT 481) refers to Phebe as "of Virginia, a soldier's orphan, who was living at Doctor's Cove with a Murray family."

Nona Abbott says of Phoebe:

"She had been one of a group of United Empire Loyalists, who had sailed, perhaps from Connecticut, to find a new home in Nova Scotia. Her mother died during the voyage but she continued under the guardianship of the doctor (Dr. Murray?) from whom the Cove took its name."

The reader is invited to cobble together a coherent story out of the foregoing accounts of Phoebe. Doane's Notes are cryptic; I leave it as an open question as to exactly when or where Phoebe's father and mother died, and when or where she was taken under guardianship or bondage. If Phoebe was indeed eight at the time of her mother's death, this would put the date as c.1781 (based on Phoebe's age as declared on her gravestone).


CBT: Edwin Crowell, A History of Barrington Township and Vicinity, 1923.

DN: Arnold Doane, "Notes" (later used by Edwin Crowell for A History of Barrington Township), collected c.1870s through 1911. Cape Sable Historical Society.

The Upper Canadian Election of 1836 and the Canadian Federal Election of 2015

“This week at Borealia: The Upper Canadian Election of 1836 and the Canadian Federal Election of 2015,” by Denis McKim

Disappointing economic growth, especially in comparison to the United States; controversy surrounding immigration from a strife-plagued land; and a communications strategy designed to benefit conservative forces while discrediting their progressive rivals. Sound familiar? Needless to say, all of these issues have featured in the (seemingly interminable) federal campaign of 2015. Yet they were also at play during the Upper Canadian election of 1836. This struggle pitted tories – including members of the notorious Family Compact – against reformers – including moderates like Robert Baldwin and radicals like William Lyon Mackenzie – in one of the more heated political contests in pre-Confederation history. Aggravating tensions between these groups were issues (notably economics, migration, and partisan "messaging") that occupy prominent positions in contemporary Canadian political culture, and may well play a role in determining the outcome of this October's election. Read more of the post at Borealia.

Digital Gazette: Fall 2014 Publicly Available; Order Fall 2015 Now

The digital version of the Fall 2014 issue of the Loyalist Gazette until now has been available only to members and Gazette subscribers. It is now available publicly - a lot of colour. Have a look.

People who are paid-up members and Gazette subscribers can now register for the digital copy of the Fall 2015 issue (and get access to the Spring 2015 issue in the same place). Each request is processed at Dominion Office (to check that the requirements are met) before the access details are returned (the office is open Tues, Wed, Thurs).

Those who received access in the Spring need NOT reapply; a message will be sent to you to confirm your choice.

Register today if you are into digital at all (you can still get the mailed copy)

We hope you will enjoy this year's issues of the Loyalist Gazette – in digital full colour.

NOTE: The Fall issue of the Loyalist Gazette is currently in the design stage, a bit behind schedule. The printed copy will most likely be mailed about mid-November.

...The Publications Committee

Book: Black Patriots and Loyalists

We commonly think of the American Revolution as simply the war for independence from British colonial rule. But, of course, that independence actually applied to only a portion of the American population – African Americans would still be bound in slavery for nearly another century. Alan Gilbert asks us to rethink what we know about the Revolutionary War, to realize that while white Americans were fighting for their freedom, many black Americans were joining the British imperial forces to gain theirs. Further, a movement led by sailors – both black and white – pushed strongly for emancipation on the American side. There were actually two wars being waged at once: a political revolution for independence from Britain and a social revolution for emancipation and equality.

Gilbert presents persuasive evidence that slavery could have been abolished during the Revolution itself if either side had fully pursued the military advantage of freeing slaves and pressing them into combat, and his extensive research also reveals that free blacks on both sides played a crucial and underappreciated role in the actual fighting. Black Patriots and Loyalists contends that the struggle for emancipation was not only basic to the Revolution itself, but was a rousing force that would inspire freedom movements like the abolition societies of the North and the black loyalist pilgrimages for freedom in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone.

392 pages, 6x9, © 2012 University of Chicago Press Books.

NOTE: There appears to be a promotion to get the e-book version free. Follow the link above to see if the offer is still valid.

Where in the World?

Where are Diane Faris and Donna Little of Vancouver Branch?

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.

  • The Sir Guy Carleton Branch UELAC announces its 2015 November Social on Sat. 14 November 2015, after 11:00 AM for 12:15 PM. The speaker: Paul Marsden "For King, Country and Posterity: Records of Military Service 1812-2015". Paul is the Senior Military Archivist at Library and Archives Canada. In the Banquet Room, Best Western Hotel (Carling at Merivale). Entree is roast beef, poached salmon or chicken breast. $30.00. Penny Minter for details

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Brian McConnell UE visits the grave of Capt. John Grant, UEL, Loyalist settler at Summerville, NS. Plaque.
  • Happy Thanksgiving! Here's a short royal history of Canadian Thanksgiving. Despite the apparent similarities between the two holidays, Canadian Thanksgiving evolved very differently from its counterpart in the United States. From 1872 until 1902, Thanksgiving was often an opportunity for Canadians to celebrate the monarchy, resulting in a holiday more similar to Canada's Victoria Day than American Thanksgiving during the decades following confederation. by Carolyn Harris.
  • Hamilton Branch member, Jean Rae Baxter: Educator, Historian & Award-winning Writer is featured in the Faculty of Education on the Queen's University website. A grad (B.Ed. 71), Jean will be speaking in Kingston on October 21, about "The Education of a Leader: Joseph Brant and the School that became Dartmouth College" for the Kingston Historical Society.

Last Post: Betty Marie Harley, UE (nee Terreberry)

Passed away peacefully at the Welland Hospital on Monday, October 5, 2015 in her 87th year. Cherished mother of John Lester Harley (Brenda) and Susan Marie Harley-Kidd (Bryan). Proud and loving grandmother of Treena Harley, Shouna Harley (Marci) and great-grandmother of Cody, Ryan and Nicole Samuelson and Connor Harley. Dear sister-in-law of Dorothy Terreberry. Sadly missed by numerous nieces and nephews. Predeceased by her parents Aylmer and Lily May Terreberry, brothers Gordon (Vera), Chester and Ronald (Mildred).

Betty was employed as a secretary at Atlas Steels Ltd., Canada Forge, Traders Finance, Welland Hydro and with the Ministry of Correctional Services, Probation and Parole in Welland. Following her retirement in 1989 she volunteered as a secretary with the Senior Centre in Welland and then took an active role as a volunteer in politics. She was a secretary and an active member of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada, Colonel John Butler Niagara Branch and a member of the Ontario Genealogical Society and the Quarter Century Club, Ontario Public Service. She was a lifetime member of Cook's Mills United Church and initiated the archives collection for this church.

Betty was most proud of her family. Her exceptional gift and true passion was her unrelenting pursuit for researching family history and genealogy, having entered over 10,000 names and publishing two books. Our family is so proud of her. The service was held at H.L. CUDNEY FUNERAL HOME Chapel, Welland, Ontario on Friday, October 9th. Interment followed at Fonthill Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to the Fibromyalgia Association of Ontario or the Canadian Cancer Society. Online condolences available at

In 1995 Betty and her cousins Marilyn Speck UE and Stan Gould UE and families, descendants of Loyalist John Carl, began the restoration of the Carl-Misener-Bald Cemetery in Port Robinson, Ontario. In 1998 a replica of the original sign that stood over the entrance was erected and a Memorial Monument with the history of the 'yard' was placed near the entrance. On June 12, 1999, a ceremony for the unveiling of the monument was held. Family members from as far away as British Columbia; Butler's Rangers Re-enactors and members of the Colonel John Butler Branch attended.

The culmination of all this hard work came in June 2007 when the City of Thorold , Heritage Thorold LACAC erected a plaque designating the burial ground under Ontario's Heritage Act as a property of "cultural heritage value". Betty and Marilyn Speck UE received a Heritage Designation Certificate for the Carl-Misener-Bald Cemetery from their Member of Parliament John Maloney. The Colonel John Butler Branch also erected a plaque designating the cemetery a "Loyalist Burial Site".

...Bev Craig UE, Col. John. Butler Br.

Last Post: William (Bill) Jinks, UE

It is with sadness along with great joy the family of William (Bill) Jinks announces his passing to his heavenly home, in his 87th year. Loving husband of Leah, father of Brad (Dianne), Brenda (Grant) and Bernie (Christine). Much loved grandfather and great grandfather. Lovingly remembered by his sisters, Betty (late Al), Viola (Frank), Lillian (George) and their families, brother-in-law Lloyd (June) and sister-in-law Helen. Predeceased by his parents Ivan and Mary Jinks, brothers, Gordon, Donald and Earl.

Bill was very active in his church and community. The Welland Agricultural Society and Wainfleet Fair, a revered member of St. John Ambulance bestowed the honour of being a Serving Brother, awarded by the Governor General of Canada. A long time employee of Robin Hood Multifoods and President of Ontario Miniature Harness Racing. He was also an avid fisherman and carving enthusiast. As a long time member of the Winger Church of Christ (Disciples) he served as Youth leader, choir member, Sunday School teacher, deacon and Elder, as well as serving on various committees locally and provincially. A memorial service and luncheon was held on Saturday, October 10, 2015, at 10 a.m. at Winger Church of Christ (Disciples), Wainfleet, ON. Donations to the Winger Church of Christ Building Fund. Online condolences available at

Bill was a long time, faithful member of Col. John Butler (Niagara) Branch UELAC. He was very proud of his Loyalist ancestors Barrett and William Dyer and Henry Young. He and Leah made many trips to Adolphustown to walk in his ancestors footsteps and support Bay of Quinte Branch events.

...Bev Craig UE, Col. John. Butler Br.


An Email Conversation: Zer Leonard to Ashbel Stiles

First: I wonder if it is possible to get information on the documentation used to support a UEL membership application (the member's ancestry) from 100 years ago? The attached partial page from the 1914-16 UEL Annual Transactions shows "Mrs Percy Bath" and two of her sons as non-resident (presumably non-Toronto) members. These are my wife's ancestors. We are not sure who this could be referring to; possibly Zer Leonard, but that seems like a stretch, and he is not in your online directory. Is this membership information still available in your records?

Second: my own research indicates that the person in question (Zer Leonard) was really a "late loyalist," arriving in St. Armand around 1793. Although his family seems to have had some loyalist sympathies (were members of the Church of England and intermarried with loyalists), and I understand there was a working spy network in Vermont during the war, without more information Zer Leonard could not be a loyalist by definition of the UEL criteria. Also, he and his siblings also appear on the Vermont revolutionary soldier rolls, doing at least minimal service for the patriot side, at least one of them as late as 1783.

I suspect the loyalist claim might have come from Zer Leonard and his siblings names appearing on Levi Allen's "loyalist" land petitions. Their names appear on the January 1787 petition. From what I can gather, Levi was a businessman first, and he did business with the British during the war, after first serving on the patriot side with Ethen Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. Given Levi's shaky credibility, and although the family may have claimed to be loyalists upon arrival, I would put the Leonard's into the category of people looking for free land.

I have, however, uncovered another line with an interesting character who is listed on your web site as a loyalist: Ashbel Stiles. This is an uncommon name, and I have only been able to locate a single person named Ashbel Stiles during the Rev War period -- my wife's ancestor. According to your site, he was on the Parr Town (St. John) list. However, he served the American side between 1781 and March 1782. He also settled in Vermont after the war and died in Connecticut, so I never would have expected to find him on a loyalist list. He was, however, the son of a prominent reverend for the Church of England in New Haven, CT, who died in 1760. Ashbel continued to serve in that church as a vestryman under the new reverend. That (new) reverend was a known loyalist who escaped to the maritimes during the war. So, that is interesting. Do you have any additional sources of information on the Parr Town list?

Response: From "The Loyalists of New Brunswick" by Esther Clark Wight is an entry for Ashbeil Stiles. She has only a couple of items for each entry. For his she notes he was from Connecticut, had been in the King's American Regiment, she notes first grant as P702 and then subsequent place of residence as USA - a goodly number of "loyalists" moved back to USA even in the year or two after the end of the war.

Third: Thanks much for that info on Ashbel. The King's Regiment is confirmed by another source. Although it's not much, it's enough to make me think it was the same person. For that to happen, he would have had to have joined the loyalist side sometime after March 1782 (because he was on the rev soldier rolls until then), which is late in the war. Or maybe he was an informant of some kind.

I also find it interesting that Zer Leonard's grandson seemed to associate himself with the loyalists.

The Canadian Illustrated News of Montreal, 7 Jul 1883, says: "Another of Montreal's worthies, the esteemed and widely-beloved gentlemen, Nathaniel S. Whitney, has at last gone over to the majority at the comparatively early age of 62 years.

Mr. Whitney was born at Frelighsburg, on the 2nd December, 1820, and came to Montreal at an early age. Later on he entered into the wholesale dry goods business, and subsequently into the leather business, in which he continued until his death. Mr. Whitney was always identified with measures of progress. In his office was held the first meeting of the Montreal Telegraph company at its organization. He was always foremost in promoting or taking part in the promotion of works of utility, benevolence, and religion. He was largely instrumental in forming the horticultural society of which he was latterly president; was a life governor of the hospital not in name only, but in deeds and activity, as the annual reports have testified; was a trustee of the Mount Royal cemetery; a devoted adherent of the Church of England. He was for many years a lay delegate to the synod, a member of the executive committee, and governor of the Diocesan college. Mr. Whitney came of the good old United Empire loyalist stock, and showed himself a worthy descendant by serving in both winters of the rebellion, although not of the age required by law.

This despite the fact that Nathaniel's grandfather (Oliver Whitney) and great-grandfather (Silas Whitney) served the patriot side. In fact, Silas Whitney was part of a well-documented Vermont case. He took over part of an evicted loyalist's property (Daniel Marsh), who later returned in 1782 and tried to get the property back. But Silas son Oliver moved to Frelighsburg just a few years later and is buried there, which illustrates the power of land grants. His son, John Whitney, then went on to serve as an Ensign for the British side of the War of 1812 -- thus completing the circle.

Any further information about any of those named would be welcomed.

...Randy Chafy

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