The legacy of a loyal clockmaker

August 26 1961

The legacy of a loyal clockmaker

August 26 1961

Long live the Queen! Long live the Loyalists!

The family free of the original 60,000 United Empire Loyalists has sprouted several million descendants. Eight hundred of them are dues-paying members of an association that stands ready, as always, to: rally round the Queen, defy upstarts out to obliterate historic landmarks, and turn out without fail for the annual picnic


EARLY THIS YEAR a thirty-eight-year-old west coast contractor called Norman Baker announced that ho intended to run for ihe federal parliament as a United Empire Loyalist.

“It s absolutely necessary for Canada to rejoin the British Commonwealth and put all Yankee influence out of the country,” Baker told reporters, explaining his unusual political affiliation. He added that he considered Canada's part in such co-operative venu res with the U. S. as the North American defense alliance and the St. Lawrence and Columbia River power projects, as well as a Canadian tariff against British woolens. “Quisling acts” of the present Conservative regime.

Baker later withdrew his nomination, pos-

sibly because the electorate seemed to receive his platform too calmly, hut his declaration has reminded a good many Canadians that United Empire Loyalist descendants, and the principles they stand for, are still very much around. Somehow the Loyalists have managed to survive generations of somewhat dull references to themselves in schoolbooks, while many more flamboyant coteries have perished.

Today genealogists estimate that as many as four million Canadians may have Loyalist blood in their veins, although few of them realize it. Only about eight hundred are active, fee-paying members of the United Empire Loyalists' Association. Yet ardent Loyalists are certain their outlook on their country's position is shared by most of their countrymen.

“After all, history shows the true Canadian

was a Loyalist,” maintains V. Maclean Howard, a 68-year-old Toronto lawyer whose grandfather helped organize the UEL Association. “We believe that basically Canadians still feel the same loyalty and respect for British traditions as did their ancestors. But they don't protest enough when they see upstart groups trying to throw away all our British connections. If we let these people have their way we’ll soon lose all trace of our heritage. Then it will be too late to get it back.”

Such a situation, in the Loyalist view, would be tragic.

"Canada has the purest democracy in the world,” says Howard. “It would be a shame to have it take on some of the less admirable characteristics of the American or some other government.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 38



continued ronz page 12

The horrified committee found a farmer’s chicken coop lined with gravestones of Ontario Loyalists

“There is no distinctiveness in being a Canadian unless we preserve the essence of what our ancestors gave us," contends Major Frederick Branscombe. a Maritime member who recently transferred his allegiance to Upper Canada.

Loyalists aren’t always clear on just how such traditions can be preserved. But when they do decide to take a stand, nothing short of an earthquake will budge them.

Take the case of the Toronto transport authorities and Fort York. For fifty-five years transport officials have been trying to route tramlines and roadways through the site of the old fort and the War of 1812 burial grounds on Toronto’s western lake shore. Whenever they have announced their intention, the Loyalists, sometimes in company with other historical groups, have raised such a fuss that the officials have eventually retreated, properly squelched. Streetcars and roads continue to go around Toronto’s historic mile.

During the fight two years ago over plans to drive the Gardiner Expressway through the Fort York grounds, Frederick Gardiner, chairman of the Metropolitan Toronto administration, became so annoyed with his adversaries that he dubbed them the Hysterical Societies. But this didn’t daunt them in the slightest. Headed by Loyalist Gordon Clarry, a Toronto insurance man who feels strongly about historic sites, members of a committee to save the fort mailed pamphlets to every historical group and federal and provincial parliamentarian in the country. Digging back into the original deed they found the land had been sold to Toronto by the Crown with the stipulation that it be preserved as a park and historic landmark,

"Once we convinced the Ontario Municipal Board that the proposed route was a violation of the original deed, Metro backed down." Clarry reports proudly. “After a 16-month siege, we won the Second Battle of Fort York."

.... Since named honorary president of the [Toronto Loyalist Association in récognition of his victory, Clarry is preparing for Vhul promises to be another major campaign— the fight to preserve the Stoney Creek monument, which marks the scene of a notable battle near Hamilton during the War of 1812. The enemy here is the federal government, which is unwilling to pay $75,000 for an adjoining seventeenacre property whose owner has been offered $85.000 for it by a private builder.

"People in charge of things these days put no value on tradition." complains Clarry. “If Loyalists don’t make an effort to preserve what’s left of our history, no \one else will."

The association tries to whet interest by

Siving small scholarships to Toronto high :hool students who have shone in history, nd awarding a yearly prize, through the Iniversity of British Columbia, for an essay on a topic “primarily of Loyalist tenor." New Canadian citizens are frequently entertained by the Loyalists, and given a dose of Canadiana at the same time. ("What else is there for a new citizen to be loyal to?” asks Clarry.)

Backed by their fellow Loyalists, the Mohawk Indians of the Six Nations Reserve. the association last year asked the federal government to bring out a stamp o honor the centenary of the birth of the indian poet Pauline Johnson, a Mohawk and a Loyalist. The government agreed, and the stamp was issued this year.

Many Loyalists admit they join the association mainly for the social life, and the headquarters building is one of the busiest

houses on Toronto’s Prince Arthur Avenue. But what a true Loyalist really likes is dredging up the past. Arguments are endless on whether the original Loyalists were largely illiterate (as some historians claim, since the Loyalists left few records) or the cream of colonial society. Most descendants, not surprisingly, hold to the latter view.

Could Loyalist regiments, given better leadership, have won the war for the colonies? A Loyalist ex-soldier will give you a detailed rundown on any one of a dozen theories of manoeuvre that might have accomplished it. Members still wear the Loyalist badge bearing the monogram of George 111 and enjoy putting the initials UE, standing for Unity of the Empire, after their names. (UE1. is considered de trop in good Loyalist circles. ) There are even rumors that some Loyalists refuse to accept mail that doesn’t include UF^ after the name, but this is officially disclaimed.

"We generally put UE only on organization mail and letters to each other,” one Loyalist explained. “To outsiders, we feel it would be rather putting on the dog.”

Six years ago the association learned that an old Loyalist graveyard at Adolphustown, in Ontario’s Bay of Quinte area, had fallen into neglect. Members quickly raised $16,000 — about half was donated by the late Mrs. R. S. McLaughlin of Oshawa, a staunch Loyalist—and hired a landscape architect to redesign the plot. Horrified when they discovered a neighboring farmer had made a floor for his

50,000 to 60,000 Loyalists crossed to Canada

chicken coop with some of the original headstones, the Loyalist committee tore up the floor and set the stones in a memorial wall with a plaque at one end of the cemetery. The activity revived interest among Loyalist descendants in the district. They formed a new branch which, at last report, was looking around for other old graveyards to put in order.

Many Loyalists, however, will tell you the organization isn’t what it once was. During its heyday in the early years of the century membership rolls read like a Canadian Who's Who. The King was petitioned regularly, whenever Loyalists felt Canadian rights were being abrogated, and the Ontario government made a yearly grant to help the association publish its transactions.

The original Loyalist organization was formed in Boston at the outbreak of the American Revolution; it called itself the Loyalist Associators Desiring the Unity of the Empire. Their descendants formally reorganized 108 years later — first in New Brunswick, then in Quebec. Toronto and Nova Scotia. The movement quickly spread through Ontario and the west, to a total of fourteen active branches. Today there are seven — five in Ontario, the others in Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Loyalists wish they had more young members. (“People don't usually become interested until they are about fifty" they explain.) The association, however, seems in no imminent danger of dying out. About fifty people join the Toronto branch each

year, and membership elsewhere is firm. Last Christmas members mailed about 3,500 special Loyalist Christmas cards, including, as always, one to the Queen.

Today's active Loyalist, at least five generations removed from his original ancestor, is likely to be middle-aged, talkative. conservative, keen on history, Protestant (although Catholic members are not unknown), earning his living in a small business or a profession, and utterly convinced that he and his associates are the backbone of the country.

He may be an old soldier. Loyalists have run in the military ever since the revolution. They are proud of their long honor rolls from both world wars, and of the achievements of such Loyalist descendants as Vice-Admiral Percy Nelles. Canada’s chief of naval staff during World War 11, and Lieut.-Col. C. C. I. Merritt, first Canadian to win the VC in that war.

At least one lieutenant-governor — Saskatchewan’s Frank L. Bastedo — is a Loyalist. Premier Duff Roblin of Manitoba is an association member. So is Roland Michener, Speaker of the House of Commons. Immigration Minister Ellen Fairclough was once dominion secretary of the association.

For individual ruggedness, it would be hard to beat Mrs. Cawthra Elliott, one of the few Loyalists still living on her original land grant. Now in her nineties, she can still outtalk anyone on family history, the Loyalists in general, or most other subjects you’d care to bring up. The late. Macaulay Pope, an active member for nearly sixty years, amassed a valuable library of Loyalist literature before his death last year. Major J. B. Farley, of Belleville, followed the example of many other Loyalists and kept his membership for years though he hadn’t a hope of attending a meeting since he lived in Kenya.

Any Loyalist will give you a verbal run for your money on why the Union Jack should be kept in the Canadian flag, and God Save the Queen sung as the national anthem. They take strong exception to such organizations as the Native Sons of Canada, who say the Red Ensign is a symbol of colonial status.

"This is nonsense," says H. S. Honsberger, QC. Loyalist spokesman where legal matters are concerned. "The Union Jack and the ensign are part of our heritage. Flying them has nothing to do with political status. We can be as independent as we like, yet still pay tribute to our British origins.”

(The Loyalists are inclined to sniff slightly at the Native Sons anyway, since one need only be a first-generation Canadian to join.)

The Loyalists’ association wouldn’t think of starting a meeting without bearing in the Union Jack and singing God Save the Queen. ( Between meetings, the flag has been kept under lock and key at Loyalist headquarters ever since some pranksters stole the association’s last Union Jack.)

Although their origins were strongly Tory. Loyalists today claim they have no political ties. "We’re inclined to support the old-line parties, but we haven’t any special influence with the present government at Ottawa." says Honsberger. “After all. lots of good Liberals are Loyalists too.” But to make sure the association doesn't turn into a political debating club, politics is banned as a discussion topic at meetings.

This doesn't mean that Loyalists forget the almost unspeakable hardships faced by their ancestors because of their politics. The original Loyalists lost not only the

revolutionary war but, once the dust of battle had cleared, most of their rights as citizens in America as well.

Their property was confiscated. 1 hey were denied hearings in court, and forbidden to buy or transfer land, practise law. or hold responsible positions. Nor did they escape being tarred and feathered, dragged through horse ponds, or carried about town with the word Tory, the most derogatory term in rebel vocabulary, stamped across their chests.

As they fled north to Canada, political hardships were replaced by physical ones. Many died of malnutrition or exposure during the first few winters. One estimate puts the number of those who died at between fifty and seventy-five percent of the adult population at the Adolphustown settlement during the first winter. (The historian adds that most ot the others "lived to a great age." implying that anyone who could survive a Canadian winter could survive almost anything.)

In the twenty-three years following the outbreak of revolution in the American

colonies an estimated 50.000 to 60,000 l oyalists settled in Canada. They upset the preponderance of French-speaking settlei s and brought the population into something like equal balance between Fnglish and French, Protestant and Catholic. This led the British to replacverning Que-

bec Act, which had guaranteed French Catholic rights, with the Constitutional Act ot 1791. It divided the territory west of the Maritimes into l ower and Upper ( añada, each with its own lieutenant-governor and council and. for the first time, an elected assembly.

During the first twelve years of l oyalist settlement the British authorities gave out more than 3,000.000 acres in ftec land, and $9.000,000 in tools, materials and food rations, and paid an estimated $19,000,000 in claims to compensate for lost American property. Loyalists feel the government was amply repaid. By the time the War of 1812 broke out. Loyalist families made up nearly half the population of Upper Canada. 1 hey leapt to the defense of Britain, and have taken credit ever since — probably rightly — for saving Canada for the Crown.

Genealogists figure that today each original Loyalist has from a hundred to five hundred descendants. As the number grow's, ancestry becomes increasingly hard to prove.

"This isn't surprising,” explains Mrs.

Ross Glassford, the Toronto branch genealogist. “The original Loyalist lists are incomplete, and as time goes on what records we have arc apt to become lost, and descendants who might be able to supply family information scatter and can't be located. Unless a person can give me his family history for at least three generations, I can’t hope to trace him back to a Loyalist.”

But the association insists on this tracking before giving out a membership. Being married to a Loyalist isn’t good enough. Spouses don’t get beyond associate membership unless they are Loyalists in their own right. “After all,” says Mrs. D. M. Christie, a long-time Loyalist adherent, “we’re not like the IODE, where just anybody can join."

During the last ten years Mrs. Glassford estimates she has written 3,000 letters and spent about 8,000 hours processing applications of about 300 would-be Loyal-

ists. This involves delving into old Loyalist lists in the provincial archives, searching deeds to land believed originally held by Loyalists, ferreting out parish baptismal records of 100 to 150 years ago, and even checking Tory “black lists” still kept in the records offices of many U. S. cities. When all this turns up no proof (or, worse, shows that an applicant’s ancestors arrived after the main wave of Loyalists), the hopeful applicant is bitterly disappointed.

“I still flinch from having to tell people they can’t join.” says Mrs. Glassford. “But we must have some standards. We set 1798 as the latest possible Loyalist arrival date. Any who came later came for reasons other than loyalty to the Crown.”

Other Loyalist groups are even more strict about whom they will consider as members. The Governor Simcoe branch in Toronto claims that any settler who crossed the Canadian border after 1790 was merely cashing in on benefits won by

the real Loyalists earlier, and refuses membership to all whose ancestors came north later. The Simcoe and Toronto branch executives haven’t spoken to each other for years.

But being a Loyalist these days usually brings more pleasure than pain. Branches faithfully mark anniversaries of such events as the first Loyalist landing in Canada (May 18), and the Battle of Queenston Heights (October 13), with dinners, luncheons, church parades and receptions. No Loyalist in good standing would dream of missing the annual June picnic, held in honor of the founding of the first Loyalist settlement in Upper Canada. Some cynics, however, claim a good many Loyalists go to the picnic without knowing what they’re commemorating.

Speakers are invited to branch meetings to talk on everything from colonial architecture in Canada to the political situation in West Africa. “We like to keep a broad

viewpoint,” a branch president explained.

Although a good many Loyalists may agree basically w'ith the stand taken by aspiring politician Baker, there are signs of a dent in their formerly impenetrable armor against most things American. When the redoubtable Daughters of the American Revolution (a mere upstart organization in the Loyalist view) held a national convention in Boston four years ago, they declared a Loyalist Week and invited Canadian Loyalists.

“Several of our members went down and say they had a fine time,” reports Loyalist house secretary Ethel Ross.

Will the Loyalists respond with a Revolutionary Week in Canada?

Miss Ross tartly replies, “I very much doubt it.”

The Loyalists may not go so far as to vote for candidates like Norman Baker (as it turned out, he withdrew) but they have their pride. ★