Historic Adolphustown

MAUDE BENSON July 1 1909

Historic Adolphustown

MAUDE BENSON July 1 1909

Historic Adolphustown


ADOLPHUSTOWN What thoughts come flood-like at the sound of the name of this old Ontario village! Dense forest and struggle and effort! Clumsy batteaux laden with weary exiles, whose eyes search the wooded shores for the place of their allotment! Farther back the mind wanders to the terrible winter at Sorel; to the sailing away from New York into the unknown wilderness and

yet back the mind goes to the breaking of the terms of the peace treaty between England and the States—the direct cause of the exodus of all those who had fought for and desired the “Unity of the Empire.”

The smiling lands of Adolphustown give to-day no hint to the casual passer-by of the struggle that wrested every inch of its soil from the stubborn forest; of the sacrifice and energy—the tragedy, it might be said—of the lives of the noble

band of men and women who first set-

tied here; or of the patriotism that led them, our “nation-founders,” to this beautiful spot on the shores of the Bay of Quinte in Lennox County, Ontario.

Like so many jewelled fingers, extend the points and headlands of Adolphustown into the rippling waters of the bay. On a slight elevation of ground, a short distance from the water’s edge is situated the U.E. Loyalists burying ground, the most historic “God’s Acre,” in Ontario, and the large marble shaft erected here during the centennial celebration in 1884 stands out prominently from its background of trees. The village itself extends some distance along old “Dundas Street,” and corresponds in detail with the ordinary country village. Wandering along its shady roads one finds it difficult to realize that at one time this quiet, little place was the “Centre of Canada”—the centre of influence—and that from its high-ways and by-ways have gone some of Canada’s most noted men—men who exerted a strong power in the shaping of our country’s destiny. Loyalist’s coming, landing and upbuild-

Like a romance is the storv of the ing of this place. The world’s history has no parallel to offer. From homes of wealth and affluence they come to logcabins and a life of necessity. Stripped of their worldly possessions, with no chance of redress, and literally “ordered out,” the little band under Major Van Alstine, embarked in seven small ships and accompanied by the British man-ofwar, “Hope,” sailed from the port of New York, Sept. 8. 1783. They followed the coast around to the mouth of the St. Lawrence and so on to Quebec, as the

lands considered fit for settlement in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had been exhausted. Reaching Sorel after many tedious months, they were confronted by all the rigors of a Canadian winter, and were obliged to pitch their tents and pass the weary months as best they could, provisioned bv the British Government. Cold, privation, and scurvy beset them, still, there were bright days, days when William Ruttan cheeredthem with his spirited violin music, and days when hope led them to look forward to their final settlement; for word reached them here that they were to receive their land grants on the Bay of Quinte.

With the opening of navigation in the spring, they prepared to resume their journey, and on the 21st of May they started up the river in batteaux and reached Adolphustown June 16, 1782. As Major Holland had not as yet completed his survey, they pitched their tents near the spot where the U.E.L. burying-grounds is now situated, and awaited the allotment of their lands. For some weeks they were kept in suspense, and in the meantime a little girl died and was buried near the encampment. A few weeks later, Carper Hoover, who had but barely taken possession of his land, was killed by a falling limb as he was chopping down a tree, and he, too, was buried near the camp-ground—thus was commenced the U.E.L. buryingground. What sad funerals those must have been ! Every soul was needed, and yet although the forest they had come to conquer had scarcely felt the power of their strong right arms they must needs look into the open graves of some of their number, and as Mother Earth received her poor travel-worn children to her bosom, Quinte’s rippling flood sang to them, as it does to Adolphustown’s dwellers to-day, its sad requiem. No priest was there to perform the last sad rites, no coffin shielded the lifeless bodies, unless green slabs were procured, but whate\er else was lacking, we may be sure the sympathy that makes us all akin, abounded, for one large family were they.

With the drawing of lots the people

went to work, building their log homes and clearing away the forest. “With axe and fire and mutual help made war against the wilderness and smote it down,” has been written of them. “Not drooping like poor fugitives, they come in exodus to our Canadian wilds, but full of hope, with heads erect, victorious in defeat.”

Major Van Alstine continued at the head of the band, and the stores of provisions were placed in his charge. It is said of him that lie knew by name every

man, woman and child in the settlement.

In addition to the 200 acres granted to each of the company there was a town site of 300 acres laid out in lets of one acre each, and one of these was also granted to each member of the party. And now was commenced a town which threatened at one time to rival Kingston toward cityhood.

Logging bees soon grew in popularity,, and the young people flocked to them eagerly, for a dance ended the day’s work and this was their only recreation. Baby voices soon enlivened the cabin homes, and in the township records of March, 1794, a “Return of the Inhabitants,”

totals up to 402. The first “Town Meeting” was held on March 6, 1793, and the minutes of this meeting are still in existence.

In time Adolphuston came to be the centre of the Midland District, and court was held alternately here and at Kingston. The first court in the township was held in Paul Huff’s barn, on the shore of Hay Bay. The next court, coming as it did in the winter, was held in the Methodist Chapel—Canada’s First Methodist Church—which same is still standing on the shore of Hay Bay—and then a movement was made toward the erection of a court house, from the building of which dates the real growth of the village.

To Adolphustown came Lossee, the pioneer of Methodism. Owing to an unfortunate love affair, he gave way to his co-worker, Darius Dunham, who had stolen the affections of his lady-love. “Father” Henry Ryan more than once “made his voice roar like thunder,” in old Adolphustown. Rev. William Case was another pioneer of Methodism to vdsit this place, and Rev. Robert McDowall, the Presbyterian missionary, and Rev. John Langhorn, the Anglican, also visited the settlement to perform the rites of marriage as the Methodist preachers were not allowed this privilege for many years. A Quaker settlement found refuge here, and built the old church which still stands, also on the south shore of Hay Bay.

In an old log school, that used to stand on an elm-shaded eminence, Sir John McDonald received the rudiments of his education, and right loyally is the memory of “little bare-footed Jack” treasured among the older inhabitants of the village.

Few of the old buildings remain, and a visit to the U.E.L. burying-ground is most depressing. A part of a pasture field it is and the cattle have trampled over, and broken down the head-stones, so that trace of graves and their markings have been almost obliterated. True, the large monument still stands and the inscription on it reads :

In memory of the U.E. Loyalists who Through loyalty to British Institutions

Left the U.S. and landed on these Shores on the 16th day of June, A.D., 1784.

A disgrace to Ontario is this neglected but sacred spot. Where are the Daughters of the Empire, the members of the Ontario Historical Society, the descendants of the Loyalists themselves, that they do not make some move toward fencing from desecration, this resting place of our honored dead? No photo would do justice to the miserable surroundings, and yet some of Canada’s most prominent and influential men of the past sleep here in unknown graves. Here lies buried Major Peter Van Alstine, the leader of the Loyalists. He was the representative in the first and second Parliaments of Upper Canada for Adolphustown and Prince Edward. Still another is Nicholas Hagerman, on whose farm this burying-ground was located. He was the first regularly authorized practicing lawyer in Upper Canada. He had three sons who were likewise lawyers in their day. Two of these sons were members cf the old Upper Canada Parliament and one of them a prominent member of the old “Family Compact Government.” Later this son became a chief justice. He was the father-in-law of the late Hon. John Beverly Robinson, Lieut.-Governor of Ontario. The Casey plot is enclosed by an iron railing and the head-stones are all standing, in consequence. Willet Casey was a member of the fourth Parliament. He was considered a very wealthy man in his day. His son, Capt. Samuel Casey, is also buried here. He was likewise a member of Fie early parliaments. A number of the Allison, Rohlin and Hoover families slept here. In fact, there are few of the old families who settled in the Bay district but have a representative in this sacred and historic spot.

Gladly one turns to the handsome, memorial church of St. Albans. The corner stone of this church was laid during celebration week by Lieut.-Governor Robinson. A panel at the end of the

church bears the following: “One hundred years after the landing of a band of United Empire Loyalists on these shores this church of St. Alban the Martyr is built in pious memory of those patriots who became the founders of the Province of Ontario, in honor of their loyalty and in the fear of God, 1884.” This church was opened for service in 1890 and is a fitting monument to those whose memory it was designed to perpetuate. Old St. Paul’s Church is now used as a church hall in connection with St. Alban’s. It is a roughcast building in a fair state of preservation. It was built in 1823 during the incumbency of Rev. Job Deacon, the first Rector of Adolphustown. A Methodist memorial church also graces the village. The corner stone was laid by Mrs. Joseph Allison in 1884, as she was at that time the oldest surviving member of the Methodist U.E.L. families.

Of course no one would spend a day in Adolphustown without visiting the old Methodist Chapel—the first Methodist church built in Canada. This cradle of Canadian Methodism is still in a fairly good state of preservation, and why some movement towards its permanent preservation is not being made by the great body of Methodist people is beyond com-

prehension. The farmer, on whose land the church stands, uses it as a place in which

to store grain and hay; at the present stage of use and abuse, this building.

rich in historic association, will soon go the way of the others.

The first itinerant Methodist preacher to visit Adolphustown was Rev. William Lossee, who came to Canada from the States in the year 1790. Playter says of him : “Lossee was a Loyalist and knew some of the settlers in Adolphustown be fore they left the United States. He desired to see them and preach to them.-' It was well for Lossee that he was a Loyalist, coming, as he did, from the States, among British subjects who had forfeited all save honor in the cause of the Mother Country, for their feelings against all citizens of the new republic were very bitter.

Prior to the coming of Lossee, a young man named Lyons engaged to teach school in Adolphustown in 1788. He was an exhorter in the Methodist Church and frequently conducted religious services on the Sabbath. In the same year came James McCarty, an Irishman, who also took up the work. His preaching, however, roused the ire of certain staunch Loyalists, who maintained that he was not loyal as he did not adhere to the Church of England, and to oppose the church was to oppose the King. A law had been enacted by the Governor-in-

Council, that persons wandering about the country might be banished as vagabonds, and accordingly McCarty was arrested and finally banished. To the settlement in 1790 came Lossee, a Methodist, but a Loyalist, and some of his old friends welcomed him gladly. After preaching a few sermons he returned to the States and in February, 1791, he again came, as an appointed minister from the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States.

The doors of the log cabin homes

were open to him, and through the woods came the people to hear him—many coming out of pure curiosity. Immediately Lossee set himself to work to form classes and on the Sabbath of February 20, 1792, in the 3rd concession of Adolphustown, at Paul Huff’s house, he established the first regular class-meeting in Canada.

Lossee is described as being a plain and powerful speaker, and the log cabins soon became too small for his increased congregations. Accordingly a subscrip-

tiun was taken up to build a church ; the list bears date, February 3, 1792, and is still in existence, as is also the deed of land from Paul Huff and Mary, his wife for the site on which the building was erected. The subscribers agreed to erect a building thirty-six feet by thirty, two stories high, with a gallery in the upper storey and thus it stands to-day.

The twenty-two subscribers gave one hundred and eight pounds. They were : Paul Huff, Peter Frederick, Elizabeth Roblin, William Casey, Daniel Steel, Joseph Allison, William Green, William Ruttan, Solomon Fluff, Stophel German John Green, Peter Ruttan, Joseph Clapp, John Bininger, Conrad VanDusen, Arra Ferguson, Henry Hover, Andrew Embry Daniel Dafoe, Henry Davis, Casper VanDusen and William Ketcheson.

Peter Frederick was a blacksmith ami helped in many ways about the building, Conrad VanDusen gave the largest amount, fifteen pounds. He had been keeping a tavern on the Bay of Quinte shore and was one of the first to open his doors to Lossee. When converted he took an axe and cut down his sign. The second largest contributor was Elizabeth Roblin, who gave twelve pounds. She was the widow of Philip Roblin who was one of the first of the Loyalists to die after reaching Adolphustown. Mrs. Roblin was a brave and grand woman. She is the ancestress of Premier Roblin, of Manitoba, and grandmother of the late John P. Roblin, of Prince Edward, who was for so many years a prominent member of the old Reform party in the Upper Canada Legislature. The two Ruttan brothers were liberal subscribers to the church building fund. Peter gave four and William ten pounds.

William Ruttan lived some six miles from the church and many a dark night he used to take a blazing pine knot in his hand and together with his wife, Margaret Steel, would set out through the woods following a trail, and joined along the way by his neighbors, who, seeing the torch of their class-leader, would fall in behind with their torches lighted and singing as they went, passed through the dense forest to prayer-meeting. If the set-

tlers were unbending in their loyalty, they were equally so in their religion, and it was a stern theology that was taught them, with much more of God’s wrath than God’s love in it. But they lived in hard and trying times and perhaps hard things appealed to them more than an} others. As an instance of this the story might be told as illustration, of how William Ruttan, who was an expert violinist, was made to believe it was his duty tc destroy the one solace of his life, prior to Mr. Lossee’s coming. Mr. Ruttan possessed an exquisite old violin, richly decked with silver, and on more than one occasion had enlivened life for his neighbors, both at Adolphustown and during that dreadful winter spent by the exiles at Sorel. Mr. Lossee, like all Methodists at that time, considered music a snare of the devil, and after much argument he succeeded in getting Mr. Ruttan to take the rich old instrument, and tuck it under the blazing fore-sticks in the great old fire-place where all its beauty of curve and color melted into ashes. In the spring of 1792, work was commenced on the church, and from that time on, the Hay Bay district was a haven of rest for the circuit-riders, and the church, crowded bv men and women who had traveled many miles through the woods, often carrving their children in their aims, 01 on their backs, in order that they, too, might listen to the “word of life.

They were earnest Christians and so also were their children after them. They are all gone now, only their memory and the old church remain. Gone, too, are the circuit-riders—the men who braved the terrors of forest and swollen rivers, who poorly paid, and poorly clothed, often, with all their earthly possessions in the saddle-bags behind them, traveled from settlement to settlement, and from lonely log cabin to log cabin, because they were “called of God.

“Not here? Oh, yes, our hearts their presence feel.

Viewless, not voiceless, from the deepest shells

On memory’s shore harmonious echoes steal.

And names which in the days gone by were spells

Are blent with that soft music. If there dwells

The spirit here our country’s fame to spread,

While every breast with joy and triumph swells,

And ear.th reverberates to our measured tread,

Banner and wreath will own our reverence for the dead.”

With reluctance one leaves Adolphustown, the village that has cradled so

many of Canada’s “Empire Founders,” the village that has cradled so many of Ontario’s best families !

True patriotism is the lesson this place teaches, a patriotism that puts selfinterests in the background ; while of the men who budded and whose brains planned we cannot but exclaim with Henry Giles : “Great patriots, therefore, must be men of great excellence; and d is this alone that can secure to them lasting admiration. It is by this alone that they become noble to our memories, ami that we feel proud in the privilege of do ing reverence to their nobleness.”