Revolutionary War Claims for Losses

of
The Long Point Settlers
and The Niagara Settlers
 
Transcribed by R. Robert Mutrie
 
 

 

Introduction

 

 

In the first year of the American Revolution, from 1775 to 1776, many supporters of the British cause in the American colonies were outspoken in their loyalty, expecting that the King’s troops would march through early on and crush the opposition. The defeat of British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga in upstate New York on October 17, 1777 and the subsequent British failure to penetrate beyond the coastal areas of America left these vocal Loyalists in the rural areas exposed and vulnerable to the local Rebels. Lacking the British military presence to defend the loyal adherents, they were persecuted, fined and imprisoned then forced to flee their colonial homes, leaving land, livestock and possessions behind.

 

Most of the future Niagara Settlers joined Butler’s Rangers or the Indian Department stationed in Fort Niagara, located near present Youngstown, New York where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. Permanently severed from their former homes by attainting, confiscations and sales by the American States, the former soldiers and their families started new lives on land grants west of the Niagara River.

 

Also included in this volume, the Long Point Settlement to the west started development a decade after the Niagara Settlement and attracted first and second generation Loyalist pioneers not just from Niagara, but also from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Those in the latter two former locations joined the British forces in their strongholds on Long Island and Staten Islands and in Manhattan, New York. They likewise had lost their colonial homes to confiscation.

 

Many a tear might have been shed during the war years. Wives left behind by Loyalist husbands watched as their possessions were seized and sold at public auction. One affluent woman in Orange County, New York was left only “one Bed and one Cow.” She had to buy back two more of her own cows and one horse. Another claimant reported “a Party acting under the orders of the American Government came and violently forced his wife & Children out of his House put them upon a wagon and sent them under Flag of Truce to the British Lines at Amboy.”

 

Many of these dispossessed wives with their young children made a perilous journey to the British lines at Fort Niagara and New York City, hiding their loyalist status from those they met on the road. Some traveled through woods and waded through streams to reach their husbands.

 

In the spring of 1783 the British began the evacuation of the loyal population in their last remaining location in New York City to the Canadian wilderness in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, with a view to granting lands for settlement in those locations. Those at Fort Niagara crossed to the west side of the Niagara River to start small farms, some as early as 1780. At this time the province of Quebec encompassed all of southern Ontario including the west side of the Niagara River and Long Point.

 

 

The Loyalist Claims Commission

 

The British Parliament, aware of the services and sacrifices of the Loyalists passed an Act appointing a Commission to hear Loyalist claims and investigate their real and personal property losses during the war. The Act received Royal Assent on July 15, 1783. This event preceded the formal signing of the Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolution on September 3, 1783 and the last evacuation of the Loyalists to Nova Scotia in the Fall Fleet of November 1783.

 

Under the Act the period allowed for filing claims was from July 15, 1783 to March 25, 1784. This period was adequate for Loyalists that had sought refuge in Great Britain but was totally inadequate for Loyalists in Canada. Word only reached the colony of Quebec for publication on October 23, 1783 and the last boat of the season sailed from Quebec City to England on November 16. Many in backwoods areas of the Canadian colonies never did hear of the opportunity to claim, or heard too late.

 

A second Act in 1785 renewed the powers of the Commissioners of Claims and specifically appointed Jeremy Pemberton Esquire and Colonel Thomas Dundas to receive claims and hear evidence in British North America. These two Commissioners stayed in Canada for an extended time, hearing claims in Halifax and Shelburne, Nova Scotia, St. John, New Brunswick and in Quebec City and Montreal in the colony of Quebec. From late August to early September 1787 Pemberton and Dundas made visits to Niagara and examined the claims for losses by settlers in that area.

 

 

The Claims for Losses

 

The claims filed with the Commissioners contained extensive details about the Loyalists’ colonial estates and services during the American Revolution. They include inventories of valued land, crops, livestock, farm and trades equipment, and household furniture, giving an intimate view of the claimants’ colonial past. The descriptions of services during the American Revolution include mentions of militias, battles, scouting parties, fines, imprisonment, confiscations and wounds.

 

The Commissioners held sessions to receive the claimants’ petitions and hear their evidences during which they compiled hand written records of the claimants’ memorials, petitions, and testimonies by witnesses. They kept records with summaries of decisions on the claims and a ledger of monetary compensation to be given to each.

 

In transcribing the Claims, I worked with films of the Commissioners’ official books from the Library and Archives of Canada, the collection denoted by Audit Office (AO) 12. The original books are in the National Archives in London, England. The AO 12 evidence books are organized in volumes first by colony of origin and then by the date the claimant appeared to give evidence.

 

From this resource, I transcribed all found claims relating to the Niagara Settlers and the Long Point Settlers filed in Niagara, in Quebec and Montreal, and in the eastern colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as well as in England throughout the time of the Claims process. In addition I transcribed claims heard during the weeks from late August 21 to September 17, 1787 while the Commissioners were in Niagara. For this particular period I transcribed all of the claims recorded by them in their evidence books.

 

In the course of the Claims Commissions, millions of pounds sterling were paid out to the Loyalists. . Overall more than 4,000 claims were filed in England and Canada. The sum was so large that the British Government issued a type of bond or order payable over an eight-year period payable at the rate of one-eighth per year.

 

The amount awarded by the Commission totalled less than claimed by the applicants. Certain categories of claims were disallowed. These include estates bought during the war, rents, incomes of offices received during the rebellion, anticipated professional profits, losses in trade, labour, property damage, losses through depreciated paper money, captures at sea and debts. This considerably reduced the payout, although the total was still an astronomical sum for the times.

 

 

Audit Office Series 13

 

In addition to the Audit Office 12 mentioned above, there is a group of records designated as Audit Office 13 at the National Archives in London, England. The latter includes the original memorials of the claimants and the supporting evidence. Some claims not found in AO 12 were found in AO 13 and transcribed for this publication.

 

 

Library of Congress MSS 18,662

 

Another archival copy of the evidences heard in Canada is deposited in the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. and is word for word the same as that in AO 12, and includes marginal notes made by the Commissioners during the hearings. In 1904, the Bureau of Archives of Ontario (now the Archives of Ontario) published a transcript of nearly all of these claims. This work is arranged somewhat chronologically with an index at the end.

 

Ancestry.ca

 

A commercial website, Ancestry.ca has digitized the Claims for Losses in AO 12 and AO 13 and made them available to the public to view along with many other record collections for a general membership fee. The specific web address for the Claims for Losses is: http://search.ancestry.ca/search/db.aspx?dbid=3712&enc=1


 

The Transcript


In preparing this transcript, I preserved the errors of spelling and grammar, transcribing the claims exactly as recorded by the Commissioners, occasionally using “[sic]”.

 

Some archaic terms appeared in the claims, particularly in the measures stated. A bushel is a dry measure containing eight gallons or four pecks. A skipple was an anglicized form of the Dutch schepel and was equal to three pecks, or 27.8 litres. Dairy cattle were described as “milch” cows.

 

Units of currency were stated in pounds (£), shillings (/) and pence (d) of the colony in which they resided, for instance £150.5.6 New York Currency. The Commissioners of Claims converted those colonial currencies to British pounds sterling before making their determination. These exchanges to pounds sterling varied according to colony and seem to have ranged in the area of 58% to 62% of the colonial currency.

 

The claims in this transcript are followed by each Loyalist’s proven monetary loss recorded by the Commissioners in one of the ledgers of AO 12, namely Volume 109. Some claims, wholly disallowed by the Commissioners, were not included in this ledger.


 

Published Works

 

 

Several published works served as guideposts to finding the claims. These are:

1. “United Empire Loyalists: Enquiry into the Losses and Services in Consequence of their Loyalty, Evidence in the Canadian Claims” in The Second Report of The Bureau of Archives for the Province of Ontario, 1904 mentioned above.

3. William Bruce Antliff, An Inventory of Audit Office 12. Antliff Publishers (Kingston ON and Kamloops BC: 2011)

In this, Antliff gives helpful descriptions of the Board of Claims, the Loyalist Claims Commission, background to Audit Office Series 12, and an inventory of the material in the Series.

4. W. Bruce Antliff, Loyalist Settlements 1783-1789: New Evidence of Canadian Loyalist Claims. Ministry of Citizenship and Culture. The Queen’s Printer (1985).

This work reconstructs eleven volumes missing from The Second Report above using AO 12 and MSS 18,662.

2. Peter Wilson Coldham,American Loyalist Claims, National Genealogical Society (Washington, DC: 1980)

This book, arranged alphabetically, gives a short summary of claims in Audit Office Series 13 Bundles 1-35 and 37.

5. Peter Wilson Coldham, American Migrations 1765-1799. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. (Baltimore, MD: 2000)

This summarizes claims found in AO 12 and AO 13 giving brief information for both.


 

Acknowledgements

 

 

Appreciation is given to Ken Atkinson for digitizing the records of Audit Office 12 and making them available. For the background to the Commission of Claims and the claims process, I am indebted to William Bruce Antliff who provided invaluable assistance to its understanding, and provided copies of claims in AO 13. The Special Collections area of the James A. Gibson Library at Brock University has collected the published works mentioned above, and appreciation is given to them for their outstanding Loyalist Library.