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Loyalist Trails UELAC Newsletter, 2016 Archive

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“Loyalist Trails” 2016-51: December 18, 2016


Unpacking Entries in a Ledger: Part Two

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Dinah Brown was just twenty-three years old when she carried her baby on board the Ann & Elizabeth, an evacuation ship bound for Port Roseway, Nova Scotia. By her side was her husband, a man who had escaped from slavery in New Jersey. Dinah had been born free in the colony of New York. Of her parents, her entry in the Book of Negroes only notes that Dinah's mother was a Native woman. It would be difficult to piece together any more details of this Black Loyalist woman's life were it not for the fact that she once worked for a family that had been the centre of a notorious incident during the American Revolution.

In an entry that reveals the racism and sexism of its writer, Dinah is described in less than complimentary terms as being a "lusty, squat wench." But as the British officer put her name in the ledger, he could not resist adding a line that revealed Dinah's connection to an infamous wartime incident. When she was seventeen, the young woman had worked for "Edmund Palmer who lived and was hanged at Fishkill for being a Tory."

Edmund Palmer was a native of Cortlandt Manor in New York's Westchester County. A loyalist, he was a lieutenant in a provincial corps under General Howe's command. As was so often the case, loyal American soldiers were given more menial jobs than their British counterparts. In the summer of 1777, Palmer was foraging for the king's army as well as "breaking up and robbing houses."

That June, Palmer and his brother broke into the home of a patriot officer. In a letter written by the rebel Major General Israel Putnam, Palmer is said to have taken rings from the officer's wife as she lay in bed, and then attacked an old man, leaving him for dead. Palmer remained in the area, recruiting loyalists and spying on the rebel camp. Patriots finally captured the loyalist officer along with an escaped prisoner.

Putnam wrote to General Washington, maintaining that since Palmer was a native of New York, he should be considered a traitor and consequently executed as a spy. "I think, the Speedy Execution of Spies is agreeable to the laws of Nature & nations & {is} absolutely necessary to the preservation of the Army."

Sir Henry Clinton, learning of the rebels' intention to hang Palmer, wrote an angry letter of protest. Since the loyalist was an officer in the British army, he should be spared and used in a future exchange of military prisoners.

Palmer was well known in his community as "a young man of athletic form, and possessed elegant attainments; had a wife and children then residing in Yorktown, the place of his nativity; and was connected with some of the most respectable families of West Chester County." According to the historian Lorenzo Sabine, Palmer's wife tried to change Putnam's resolve to execute her husband. On the morning before Palmer's hanging, his wife carried their youngest child with her to appeal to the rebel officer. "She implored, by every tie of affection that bound two young hearts together – for the sake of the infant she pressed to her bosom." Putnam would not change his mind. Mrs. Palmer "became insensible, was borne from the tent, and conveyed to her friends."

Sabine recounts that at Palmer's hanging on August 7, 1777, "the trees and fences were filled with men, women, and children, who had come far and near to witness the awful scene." Palmer "met his fate with the fortitude of a man." The loyalist was hanged on gallows that the rebels had erected on the east bank of the Hudson River. Palmer's swaying body could be seen from the ship that carried the British officers who had failed to save him.

Given that Dinah was a servant in the Palmer household at the time, it seems logical to assume that she was also a witness to these events – and may have even cared for the Palmers' infant during the crisis. Born free, she had the opportunity to support either the loyalists or the rebels. No doubt the treatment of her employer at the hands of the patriots was instrumental in Dinah's decision to remain with those who "adhered to the royal cause".

The next six years in Dinah's life go unrecorded. Sometime during the course of the revolution, she made her way to New York City, the headquarters for the British military command. Perhaps she travelled there with the Palmer family; perhaps she ventured off on her own. By 1782, she met and married a Black Loyalist named Bill. Emancipated Africans were a valuable labour force for the British in New York City. Women could serve the crown as laundresses, cooks, and maids. Having worked in the Palmer household when a teenager, Dinah would have had a number of marketable skills. Bill, her husband, was familiar with the operations of a tavern, caring for horses, and working in an iron mill.

By the time Bill and Dinah boarded their ship bound for Nova Scotia on April 28, 1783, they had a small child. While the infant's name was not recorded in her entry in Book of Negroes, Dinah's connection to the execution of a famous loyalist was – shedding light on biographical details that might otherwise have been lost forever.

At some point in their time in New York, the Black Loyalist couple met Nicholas and Hannah Brown and their seven children. Given that they adopted the Massachusetts loyalist's surname, Bill and Dinah may have become Brown's employees in the final years of British occupation. Their Book of Negroes entry reveals that Nicholas Brown accompanied Bill and Dinah on board the Ann & Elizabeth, and another record indicates that Nicholas had two servants with him when he arrived in Port Roseway.

Nicholas Brown eventually operated a bakery on St. John's Street in the loyalist settlement that was renamed Shelburne, a fact that was noted in the census of 1787. Bill Brown, the Black Loyalist, is last mentioned in public records in the 1784 muster of Birchtown and Shelburne. Sadly, although wives and children were listed in the muster, the names of Dinah Brown and her infant are not recorded. It would seem that she died during the loyalists' first year of settlement in Shelburne.

Unpacked from an entry in the Book of Negroes, the biography of Dinah Brown is all too brief. Nevertheless, it provides us with unique glimpses of the choices made by a freeborn woman in the midst of a revolution that gave thousands of African descendants the opportunity to determine their own destinies.

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

JAR: The Revolutionary War in the South: Re-evaluations of Actors and Events

By Ian Saberton December 6, 2016

This article provides a wide-ranging set of re-evaluations compartmentalised under the headings "Re-evaluations of certain revolutionary actors" and"Re-evaluations of certain events". These are placed in the context of the historiography relating to them. Based preponderantly on The Cornwallis Papers, the article crystallises the author's reassessment of the actors and events addressed.

In most instances, the author posits a different, although not necessarily opposing, perspective on the actions of the people and events, perspectives which have generally prevailed over the years but which are suspect given the information gleaned from the Cornwallis papers.

Read more.

Six Colonial Uprisings Before the Revolution

The Boston Tea Party was just one of several colonial uprisings before the shot was heard 'round the world on April 19, 1775. Anger toward the British had been growing throughout New England -- and not just about tea.

The Tea Party itself wasn't a protest against taxes. It was a protest against a corporate tax break -- to the East India Company. The giant corporation was near financial collapse, though it had an abundance of unsold tea. Parliament agreed to bail out the company. The Tea Act of May 10, 1773 exempted the East India Company from the tea tax, making it easier to sell in the colonies. The Act also allowed the company to sell directly through agents, bypassing the colonial middlemen.

The East India Company was in effect granted a monopoly that allowed it to sell cheaper tea, threatening independent colonial merchants. The Tea Act also set a precedent of Parliament taxing the colonies without the colonies having a say in the matter.

Read more and explore:

• Colonial Uprisings in Vermont

• New Hampshire Pine Tree Riot

• Gaspee Affair

• 2nd Boston Tea Party

• York Tea Party

• New London Cannon Theft

The Boston Massacre: History of Massachusetts

The Boston Massacre, originally referred to by Paul Revere as the Bloody Massacre in King Street, was an event that occurred in Massachusetts during the American Revolution. It was a riot that began when a group of 50 citizens gathered outside of the State house to protest the large presence of British soldiers in the city. Five colonists were killed during the riot.

The soldiers had been sent to Boston to protect customs commissioners as they enforced the recent, and highly unpopular, Townshend acts, which placed an import tax on goods such as tea, glass, paper and other products from England.

The Boston Massacre occurred on the night of March 5, 1770. It began when the group started to hassle the lone sentry, Private White, standing on guard outside of the State house. When a citizen named Edward Garrick insulted the soldier's commanding officer, White left his sentry box and hit Garrick in the face with his rifle, enraging the crowd even further.

Read more.

Christmas Eve

How many little heart beat high to-night
      With joyful hope of what what dawn will bring
How many pair of curious little eyes,
      Heavy with watching, at the stocking stare!

In every Christian land what happy throngs
      Speak of the joys to awaken with the morn
Which ushers in the children's feast day, kept
      For love of one dear Babe, so lowly born.

So lowly born, who might have come a prince
      Announced by heralds, in the palace hall;
So lowly laid, no costly fabrics wrapped
      The Babe whose only shelter was a stall.

No heralds, but the angels, took the theme
      And set to the music of the spheres:
" Glory to God, peace and good-will to men,"
      Fell, soft and sweet, on Bethlehem shepherds ears.

And then the war god closed his temple gates,
      The curse of nations from his throne was hurled,
And at the coming of the Prince of Peace,
      Peace with white wings enwrapped the wondering world.

And still old enmities are laid aside,
      Friends long divided now together stand,
The miser holds his purse-strings loose for once,
      And Love is lord for one day o'er the land.

Thank God for Christmas! for the happy hearts
      Of children, for kind feeling stirred anew:
If Christianity did not but this,
      It were enough to stamp and sign it True.

Charlotte Beaumont Jarvis wife of Edgar John Jarvis and daughter of Dr. William Rawlins Beaumont M.D, FRCS published privately for her husband in 1905 a book of her poems "Leaves of Rosedale".

One of Rosedale's early developers, Edgar John Jarvis was introduced to this area by his uncle William Botsford Jarvis of 'Rosedale Villa'. Edgar and Charlotte moved into their new home, Glen Hurst, in 1866. A plaque stands at the original stone gateposts to Branksome Hall. To attract affluent buyers he built two bridges across the south Rosedale ravine, built two mansions and laid out the streets on which he planted Elm and Maple trees on their namesake streets. In 1906 he built his third house " Evenholm"designed by his son, Beaumont Jarvis at 157 South Drive. Edgar died one year later. Charlotte, a poet and music teacher, was hailed a "Rosedale pioneer".

Note: Rosedale is a neighbourhood in Toronto. Edgar Jarvis is a descendant of Loyalist Stephen Jarvis.

...Bob Jarvis, UE — great-grandson of Edgar and Charlotte

Region and Branch Bits

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

  • Okill Stuart UE, long-time member of the Heritage Branch in Montreal and a veteran of WWII D-Day in Normandy, drove to the St. Lambert International High School to tell a class of students that the Second World War was more than a page in this history books, it was more than words. Read more... Okill was President of UELAC for the two-year term 1194-1996.
  • OGS Conference 2017. Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) will host the Society's annual Conference from June 16th to 19th 2017, at Algonquin College, Ottawa, Ontario. This event brings together the thirty-four Branches and Special Interest Groups of OGS plus the members of genealogical and historical societies across North America. Normal attendance is between 400 and 700. In the course of the event, we provide a variety of speakers and workshops where genealogists and historians have the opportunity to discover new ways of researching and networking. Monday, 19 June, will see the first Ancestry Day in Canada, using the Conference venue. The program and other seminar details can be seen at

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • British Occupation of Newport. This week in Newport's history marks the 240th anniversary of the beginning of the British occupation of Newport, which lasted from 1776 until 1779. It was on December 8th of 1776 that the British warships arrived in Newport's harbor, releasing its soldiers into the city. The threat of invasion had been building for some time and there were many who fled before the British even landed. In some reports by British soldiers, there was hardly anyone remaining in the city to fight them and they gained control of Newport with relative ease. During the Revolution, half of Newport's population left the city and never returned, even after the British were gone. Read more... From the The Redwood Library and Athenĉum is the oldest lending library in America, and the oldest library building in continuous use in the country. Founded in 1747 by forty-six proprietors upon the principle of "having nothing in view but the good of mankind," its mission continues over 250 years later.
  • From History Myths Debunked: Huzzah! The mispronunciation of a cheer
  • Research from the Kitchen: Emma Schreiber's "Apple Jelly for a Corner Dish". "Boil 12 good juicy apples or more if not of a large size in a pint of spring water," Emma Schreiber's Apple Jelly for a Corner Dish, a recipe for a molded apple jelly served with custard, begins with a curious mix of specificity and ambiguity. Interesting read.
  • Breakfast In The 18th Century! A simple, delicious recipe from The Art Of Cookery by Hannah Glasse!
  • Loyalist Day mug ( Saint John, New Brunswick 1973 )

Last Post: A. Gordon Zurbrigg, CStJ, UE, Legion of Honour

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Albert Gordon Zurbrigg, 104, at Greenwood Court, Stratford on Tuesday December, 13, 2016. Born in St. Marys in 1912, to the late Harry and Mabel (Hutchison) Zurbrigg. Beloved husband of Eva (Copeland) Zurbrigg who predeceased him on February 17, 1995. Surviving are his son Stephen Zurbrigg (Doreen), and daughter Evanne Ketchabaw (Robert); grandson Charles Ketchabaw (Lisa DiLiberto) and great-grandsons Zevon Albert and Carmel Louis; and granddaughter Lizz Ketchabaw (Derek Anderson). Fondly remembered by his many nieces and nephews and some wonderful friends. He was predeceased by sisters Gertrude Purcell (Aubrey) and Mabel Wyatt (Samuel) and brothers Lloyd, Frank (Helen), Leroy (Dorothy) Zurbrigg.

On September 24th, 1939 he enlisted with the First Hussars and was discharged on November 1st, 1945. He remained with them throughout the War in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. He was extremely proud of their accomplishments.

Cremation has taken place. A Legion service will take place at 12:45 prior to his memorial service on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 at Greenwood Court Chapel, 90 Greenwood Drive, Stratford at 1:00 p.m. Interment at Avondale Cemetery. Many thanks to Dr. Eric Thomas and Greenwood Court for their kindness and compassionate care for dad. As expressions of sympathy, memorial donations may be made to a charity of one's choice through the JAMES A. RUTHERFORD FUNERAL HOME by calling 519-271-5062. A Book of Memories is available online at

Gordon was a member of the London and Western Ontario Branch UELAC. He was descended from Loyalist Matthew Benson Of Kings Orange Rangers.

...Carol Childs, UE

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