During the American Revolution, conservative estimates claim that 10-15% of settlers in the thirteen colonies (or about a quarter of a million people), remained loyal to Great Britain (other historians quote figures upwards of 30%). Since the winning side writes the history books, Loyalists are typically portrayed as traitors. In reality, the Loyalists were simply loyal to their government.
Loyalists came from every class and walk of life, with varying reasons for loyalty to the Crown. Some had business interests in England and believed the connection guaranteed them a secure life with wealth and property; others chose sides based on specific events happening in their own communities; some had emotional ties to their mother country; and others were simply fearful of the British Army as there was a high probability that the British would prevail and later persecute the rebels. Some choose the British side because their military was large and strong, thus offering protection against indians, pirates and other insurgents.
A common theme was the apprehension of replacing a stable and seemingly successful government with democracy, which they believe to be a form of mob rule, and thus a breakdown of law and order which would likely result in chaos. Although the King was said to be a tyrant, Reverend Mather Byles said it best: “Which is better – to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?”
In 1783, upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which recognized the independence of the United States, exiled Loyalists returned to England or settled in another British colony. About 35,600, primarily English-speaking, Loyalist refugees fled, with few possessions, to the then isolated and untamed areas of Nova Scotia. At the time, Nova Scotia’s population was about 53,000, thus one can imagine the impact on demographics.
To each family, Nova Scotia authorities granted adequate food and clothing for two years, 200 to 1,200 acres of land and farm implements. The Loyalists initially resided in tents while they cleared the land, erected a house and barn and worked to produce crops to sustain themselves and their livestock while enduring harsh winters. They had access to the river only in the few months it wasn’t frozen. The wife of one soldier recalled:
We pitched our tents in the shelter of the woods and tried to cover them with spruce boughs. We used stones for fireplaces. Our tents had no floors but the ground… how we lived through that winter, I barely know…
There are many tales of the hardships faced by New Brunswick Loyalists. After that first hard winter of 1783, however, most New Brunswick Loyalists probably took the attitude expressed by Edward Winslow, just being pleased not to be ” in danger of starving, freezing, or being blown into the Bay of Fundy”
The Loyalists wished to separate from Nova Scotia; they felt that the government represented the Yankee population who had been sympathetic to the now Americans. The British administrators felt that the capital, Halifax, was too far away from the developing territory to allow proper governance. Thus, on 16 August 1784, the colony of New Brunswick was created, with Sir Thomas Carleton as its first governor.
Among this group, was the family of my 5th g-grandfather, William Boone.
William Boone was likely born to Mary Wightman and Samuel Boone, a Loyalist who was captured at Manor St George on Long Island by Major Bemjamin Tallmadge and taken as a prisoner to Camp Security in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Peter Force Papers, Series IX, Reel 105, p. 334), where he likely died, perhaps during the fever outbreak that hit the camp in 1782/3 killing many (history here) .
In the book Graveyards of North Kingstown, Rhode Island by Althea H. McAleer, is a transcription of Mary (Wightman) Boone’s tombstone, from work done by Harris, who visited on 28 Feb 1880, and referred to the cemetery as the “Old Boone Yard.”
“ Here lies interred Mary Boone consort of Samuel Boone Esq. He lies interred at Lemchester [likely Lancaster]. She died Sept. 12, 1782 in the 68th year of her age.”
William married Ruth Hill, 21 May 1761, in Rhode Island, and by 1774, according to census data, the couple resided on a farm in Exeter with eight children. His parents and several siblings resided nearby in North Kingston.
A genealogist (year of writings unknown) documented much of their history. Below are some extracts posted to an ancestry message board. The writings are unsourced, but it seems that the writer had access to the family bible. We do not have access to the original, nor do we know who made entries in the bible and how long they were made after actual events. The names do match up to those listed in Boone’s will. The list includes two children who died at a young age, perhaps indicating that the writer had first hand knowledge.
THE HISTORY OF THE FLEWELLING FAMILY, OR, MY ANCESTORS
GEORGE HAVELOCK FLEWELLING, and others
THE BOONE FAMILY
William Boone Sr.1743-1829
William Boone and his wife, whose maiden name was Ruth Hayward [Ruth’s maiden name was actually Hill], natives of Suffolk County, England, came to America and settled about the year 1765 [unlikely – he was probably born in Rhode Island, where record of his parents marriage is found]. They were people of considerable means and importance, their lands comprising most of the site of the present city of Providence, Rhode Island. The title deeds of which remained in the Boone family, and were finally in care of Mrs. Robert Allen (a direct descendant); but were destroyed when their home on the Hanwell Road [in Fredericton] was burned a few years ago.
William Boone and family were compelled to abandon their home and property in common with others who remained loyal to the Old Flag at the close of the war, and came to New Brunswick in 1783 [other records state that the property was taken from him]. Arriving at St. John, where they remained for a time, we find him applying for lands first at Swan Creek in 1786; and the next year, on the Oromocto River, where he remained for a few years.
Part of his family, who by that time were mostly grown up, settled there; but he not being entirely suited with the location, removed later with some of the family to the Keswick [River], receiving a grant of some 868 acres of land, at what is now Burtt’s Corner. His first house being built on the farm now owned by Thomas Fowler, and standing just back of Charles Inch’s residence.
He and his wife spent the remainder of their days there and are both buried in the Baptist Cemetery at Burtt’s Corner. Suitable monuments mark both graves. They had a large family, and below is the record as copied from the Family Bible.
Name Born Married Died William Boone Aug. 22, 1743 none listed April 28, 1829 Ruth Feb. 25, 1744 none listed May 12, 1833 Children John July 12, 1762 none listed none listed Samuel March 9, 1764 March 21, 1785 Nov. 4, 1848 William Jr June 22, 1766 March 17, 1788 Nov. 17, 1849 Hannah Feb. 26, 1768 Dec. 8, 1788 June 17, 1860 Mary April 26, 1770 none listed March 9, 1840 Lucy Aug. 5, 1772 Jan., 1805 Aug. 13, 1842 Henry July 4, 1774 June 8, 1798 June 14, 1846 Wightman Feb. 26, 1776 none listed Dec. 12, 1778 Howe Dec. 12, 1777 none listed Dec. 12, 1777 James (Rev.) May 8, 1780 Oct. 7, 1806 Oct. 23, 1865 Elizabeth Nov. 3, 1783 none listed July 6, 1800 George Sr. June 6, 1785 Oct. 18, 1809 Jan. 13, 1861 Anna March 17, 1787 Oct. 14, 1842 Feb. 23, 1881
Travel to Canada
Other records confirm that Boone’s property at Rhode Island was confiscated; and further state he was imprisoned for twenty months after serving in the Hazard’s Corps (Refugees-irregulars who served without pay or uniforms and provided firewood, food, etc., to British establishments, to earn money).
“William Boon”, a Rhode Island farmer, his wife and six of their children (two under the age of ten) are recorded as passengers on the ship “Union”. A Samuel Boon is also recorded, probably William’s brother, who’s wife and child remained behind in Rhode Island:
The Union was part of the “Spring Fleet” and departed from Huntington Bay on April 16th with the “Kingston Loyalists” and proceeded to New York, where forty-three of the passengers disembarked on April 23rd. The Union sailed for New Brunswick on April 24th with the remaining one hundred and sixty-four passengers. (this list indicates 209 passengers) The Union arrived at Partridge Island, NB on May 10th, and was moored at St. John on May 11th. The passengers did not land immediately, but “remained comfortable on board ship” until June 4th 1783 (passenger list here).
They shortly disembarked onto a small sloop and set sail up the St. John River to Belleisle Bay. Despite their caution in looking for a good place to settle, when they first arrived, they found “nothing but wilderness,” and the “women and children did not refrain from tears” Nevertheless, it was not long before an area at the head of Belleisle Creek was laid out by a surveyor who reserved land for a church and a school, as well as setting out lots. The Loyalists named their new village Kingston. By the time winter set in, according to Walter Bates’ account, “every man in the district found himself and family covered under his own roof… enjoying in unity the blessings which God had provided… in the country into whose coves and wild woods we were driven through persecution.”
Read more of their experiences here
Almost all land in New Brunswick, then called Nova Scotia, was Crown owned. Settlers wanting land, petitioned the Governor of Nova Scotia, usually noting the location they wanted. The request was made in a document, called a “Memorial”. The document might be written by the petitioner, but usually was prepared by a notary or Justice of the Peace (typically the requester had limited reading/writing skills).
Once approved, the Surveyor-General of Lands was directed to survey a certain tract or number of acres in a specified location and issue a certificate permitting the grant. The Provincial Secretary’s Office, drafted the grant which was signed by the Attorney-General and the Governor. A transcript of the final grant was also entered by hand into large bound record volumes kept in the Crown Lands Office.
The official grant was a large document on heavy paper with the Great Seal of the Province (a large embossed red wax disc) attached to it with a ribbon. This often was a prized possession, and many documents exist today with descendants.
Claims and Memorials
Memorial of William Boone of Rhode Island
To the Honble Col. Thos. DUNDAS and J. PEMBERTON Esqrs. two of the Commissioners appointed by Act of Parliament to enquire into the losses of his Majestys Loyal Subjects in America. The Memorial of Wm. BOONE of Rhode Island now of the County of Sunbury in New Brunswick.
Most humbly Sheweth
That Your Memorialist was possessed of considerable property in Kings County in Rhode Island untill the commencement of the late dissentions in America, at which time he was called on to aid and assist his Majestys enemies in America and on his refusal was insulted, abused and imprisoned, his effects and property taken and sold to the ruin of himself and family and he obliged to flee to his Majestys Troops for protection and during his continuance with them did his endeavour to annoy and distress those who attempted to subvert the British Government in America and in consequence thereof he was taken a prisoner and continued as such for near twenty months.
That Your Memorialist not having an Opportunity at this present [time], of procuring Deeds and other necessary pieces of writing to support his pretensions, but expecting hourly to receive the same, together with the evidences of Capt. Wm. CLERK, Mr. George SWEET and Joseph RATHBONE, all of this Province and others who will prove his Loyalty and Losses most humbly prays that your honours will take his distressed circumstances into consideration, as he having a large family to support in a wilderness Country, could not make a personal application in England, and from the same cause is prevented from an attendance on the honourable Commissioners at Halifax, but humbly hopes that his Claim will be admitted and that he may be allowed to prove the facts before the Commissioners when they arrive in New Brunswick.
And he is as in duty bound will ever pray
Great Britain, Public Record Office, Audit Office, Class 13, Volume 80, folios 42–43.
Notes continue saying that Boone under oath says he is of Rhode Island, now of Sunbury County, New Brunswick and from 15 July 1783 to 25 March 1784 he resided in the County of Sunbury and Nova Scotia and explained why his claim was late as per the above.
CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE A LARGER VERSION
(GRANT BOOK DATABASE)
Volume: A, page 198, Grant number 98
Original province of registration: Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia registration date: 1784/06/14
New Brunswick registration date: 1785/01/20
Accompanying plan: No
Acreage: 200 acres
Place and County: GAGE TOWNSHIP OF, Sunbury County
A number of land transactions are recorded in Sunbury County, the site where they initially settled, before removing to Burtt’s Corner in York County.
William and Ruth are buried in the Burtts Corner Community Cemetery in the Baptist Cemetery section.
Extract from Boone’s will:
Parish of Douglas, York Co., Yeoman. Will dated 22 April 1826. Proved 8
He asks first for a decent Christian burial.
He leaves his dearly beloved wife, Ruth, fifteen pounds annually until her death, in lieu of her thirds; bed, bedding, furniture, half a dozen silver tea spoons and “a small room in my house and to be found with fire wood cut suitable length for the fire place Winter and Summer”.
He leaves to his beloved son, Henry, a lot of land bought from Jacob Knai. To his beloved son, George “my homestead of this my farm” and land, which he describes. Both sons are named executors.
He leaves five shillings each to to his well beloved Samuel [he does not call Samuel “son”; this may be a transcription error], beloved sons William and James Boone; and three pounds each to his well beloved daughters Mary Jones, Lucy Estey, Elizabeth Lawrence, Ann Haines and Hannah Coggeshall.
It is further understood that all household goods which have not been given to Ruth, my well beloved wife, I bequeath to my beloved son George Boone, each and every one of those my children freely to be possessed and enjoyed.
Witnesses: Joshua Stone, Samuel Boone, Thomas White