“our family found itself irreconcilably torn apart”

We often need to be reminded that the American Revolution was in great part a civil war. In that context it is useful to consider what went on in New Jersey. In 1776 George Washington and what remained of his army made the retreat and escape from the defeat in New York City into New Jersey and further south, engaging now and then with the British, achieving some morale-boosting encounters such as the Christmas Day attack on Hessian troops and success in the battle of Trenton. Armies and militias on both sides moved back and forth across the state, the British and Loyalists seeking forage and supplies (horses as well as soldiers had to eat) to maintain their garrisons and the Patriots attempting to prevent the looting and pillaging and carrying out raids on British positions.

In New Jersey, particularly in what was then Bergen County, in the northeastern corner abutting Rockland County in New York to the north and the Hudson River to the east, the War clearly divided families, friends and neighbors. Governor William Livingston declared “that the most northern County in the State is almost totally disaffected.” One of the clearest examples of the bitter divisions within families is that of the Demarests in Hackensack Township, not only with regard to the emotional costs engendered by broken relationships but also for the economic hardship resulting from the confiscation by the State of property owned by Loyalists. Here is Jane Demarest’s story, related in the first person from materials by her—the petition arguing against confiscation—and about her. While not strictly in her exact words this passage is true to the life and experience of this New Jersey woman.

I was born in 1743 and christened Jannetje Zabriskie by my parents, Albert and Tjelltje Akkerman Zaborisky of Bergen County. On March 13, 1761 I married David G. Demarest at Schrallenberg, Bergen County. When the Revolution broke out David’s family provided soldiers to both sides in the conflict. At least thirty five men are known to have served, two dozen on the Patriot side and another eleven fighting for the Crown. David and I disagreed on which side to support in the conflict. I was a staunch Patriot and was horrified when David enlisted on November 23, 1776 in Captain William Van Allen’s Company of the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, a Loyalist battalion. He was soon after taken prisoner on December 6, possibly during a raid with his unit on Tappan. Somehow he was able to get back home, but on May 16, 1779 he left home and re-joined his Loyalist battalion, part of a body of about 1,000 British troops that entered Bergen County and drove away the picket at New Bridge that day. When David rejoined the Loyalists, I certainly did not follow him, but I still suffered the consequences for his actions. The State began the process to confiscate his estate, which unfortunately for me and my family, was in his name. In an effort to stave off confiscation, I quickly petitioned Governor Livingston and the legislature hoping to transfer the property title to our Patriot family members. I wrote that I had “incurred the reproaches and hatred” of my husband and many family members because of my “attachment to the interests of America” and my “zeal in instilling those principles” in my children. My eldest son, seventeen year old Guilliam, in spite of his father’s commands to the contrary, joined the Patriot Bergen County militia under the command of Colonel Theunis Dey, and served when called to defend the frontiers of the State. I desperately continued trying to preserve our property that the State was confiscating even though my son was fighting for the Patriot cause. David left the New Jersey Volunteers by 1780 and became one of the initial members of Thomas Ward’s Loyal Refugee Volunteers, raised to supply the British army with firewood. Little did David know that this choice would bring him into direct conflict with our son. The Loyal Refugee Volunteers supplemented their wages by conducting raids into Bergen County, making off with cattle and other plunder. David was one of the 110 defenders of the Bull’s Ferry Blockhouse attacked by General Anthony Wayne’s troops that following July, and was still listed on their rolls in 1782, as David Demerea, a name also used by the family. His actions brought an indictment for high treason in Bergen County that was published in The New Jersey Gazette on November 22, 1780. When the major fighting of the war moved south in 1781, the petit guerre taking place in Bergen County still directly [affected] our lives on a daily basis. For David it meant cutting wood on Bergen Neck and raiding up into Bergen County. For Gilliam, it meant defending against Loyalist raids by forces that might include his father. The Royal Gazette, the New York Loyalist paper, on August 1, 1781 carried news that a party of Loyal Refugees who penetrated as far as the New Bridge, near Hackensack, captured three notorious rebels, drove off their stock, and returned without firing a shot. The three “notorious Rebels” were Gilliam, John and Philip Demarest, and they had been taken prisoner by David G. Demarest’s battalion. Two of the three captured Demarests, John and Philip, were imprisoned for less than six months before being paroled home and soon after exchanged. But my son Gilliam remained a captive in the notorious Sugar House prison in New York City. David took advantage of this and tried to convince him to join the Refugees. Gilliam, though, resisted his father’s repeated requests (more like demands) and remained committed to the Patriot cause. He survived the prison, was exchanged and went back into the Patriot military service. Soon after he was wounded in the hand during an engagement, again with his father’s Loyalist troops. At the end of the war our family found itself irreconcilably torn apart. I never again returned to David and spent the rest of my life in the new United States, as did Gilliam. However, we lost the comfort of our three room stone home, confiscated by the State in retaliation for David’s Loyalist actions. And as for David? He left Bergen County for good in October 1782 and sailed with his corps to Nova Scotia, eventually settling in Upper Canada (modern Ontario) on free grants of land provided by the British. The American Revolution left our family either exiled or homeless, despite fighting for both the winners and losers.

See the information about Jane Demarest HERE and in Braisted, Todd. Bergen County Voices from the American Revolution: Soldiers and Residents in Their own Words (Charlestown, S.C.: The History Press, 2012), which can be viewed HERE, in Chapter 5.

“I was stolen from my parents when I was seven years old”

At the end of Black History month it seems appropriate to draw attention to the plight of fugitive slaves who had escaped to Canada or were taken there as slaves. In 1856 The Refugee, or, The narratives of fugitive slaves in Canada was published. Compiled by Benjamin Drew, whose trip was sponsored by the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada and by John P. Jewett, the publisher of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, it included material Drew had gathered from former slaves. It is estimated that in 1852 there were some 30,000 refugees from slavery in the United States living in Upper Canada. Here is the account of one Sophia Pooley who was a slave in Canada but eventually gained her freedom.

I was born in Fishkill, New York State, twelve miles from North River. My father’s name was Oliver Burthen, my mother’s Dinah.  I am now more than ninety years old. I was stolen from my parents when I was seven years old, and brought to Canada; that was long before the American Revolution. There were hardly any white people in Canada then—nothing here but Indians and wild beasts. . . . I was a woman grown when the first governor of Canada came from England: that was Governor Simcoe.

My parents were slaves in New York State. My master’s sons-in-law, Daniel Outwaters and Simon Knox, came into the garden where my sister and I were playing among the currant bushes, tied their handkerchiefs over our mouths, carried us to a vessel, put us in the hold, and sailed up the river. I know not how far nor how long—it was dark there all the time. Then we came by land. I remember when we came to Genesee—there were Indian settlements there—Onondagas, Senecas, and Oneidas. . . . The white men sold us at Niagara to old Indian Brant, the king [Thayendanegea or Joseph Brant, a leader within the Iroquois Confederacy and an ally of the British during the Revolutionary War]. I lived with old Brant about twelve or thirteen years as nigh as I can tell. . . . While I lived with old Brant we caught the deer. . . . We would let the hounds loose, and when we heard them bark we would run for the canoe—Peggy, and Mary, and Katy, Brant’s daughters and I. Brant’s sons, Joseph and Jacob, would wait on the shore to kill the deer when we fetched him in. I had a tomahawk, and would hit the deer on the head—then the squaws would take it by the horns and paddle ashore. The boys would bleed and skin the deer and take the meat to the house. . . .

Brant’s third wife, my mistress, was a barbarous creature. She could talk English, but she would not. She would tell me in Indian to do things, and then hit me with anything that came to hand, because I did not understand her. I have a scar on my head from a wound she gave me with a hatchet; and this long scar over my eye, is where she cut me with a knife. . . . .

At twelve years old, I was sold by Brant to an Englishman in Ancaster, for one hundred dollars—his name was Samuel Hatt, and I lived with him seven years: then the white people said I was free, and put me up to running away. He did not stop me—he said he could not take the law into his own hands. Then I lived in what is now Waterloo. I married Robert Pooley, a black man. He ran away with a white woman: he is dead. . . .

I am now unable to work, and am entirely dependent on others for subsistance: but I find plenty of people in the bush to help me a good deal.

Other narratives from Drew’s book can be read HERE. The image of Brant is by Ezra Ames.

posted February 27th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Canada, Pooley, Sophia, Slaves/slavery

I, Eliza Hamilton

Two Nerdy History Girls is a blog I subscribe to. The bloggers are two women, Loretta Chase and Susan Holloway Scott; the former writes historical romances and the latter historical novels and, under the pen name Isabella Bradford, historical romances. They both pride themselves on doing extensive background research for their books. Their blog posts often feature information they have come by as a result and are always fun to read. A bonus: every Sunday they present a roundup of other blog posts they find interesting.

Susan has a new book coming out in September, a historical novel called I, Eliza Hamilton. I suspect she got her inspiration from the highly successful Broadway play Hamilton. Eliza Schuyler was the wife of Alexander Hamilton. I look forward to seeing what Susan does with her story.

For my posts on Eliza, her sister-in-law-Angelica Schuyler Church, and Hamilton’s mistress Maria Reynolds see here, here, here, and here.

Ona Judge “Never Caught . . . . “

I am looking forward to reading the first full-length nonfiction account of the escape of Ona Judge known as Oney, a dower slave belonging to Martha Washington, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (New York: Atria Books, Simon & Schuster, 2017). Ona was the daughter of Betty, a seamstress, and Andrew Judge, a white indentured tailor at Mount Vernon. See previous posts here, here, and here. Oney became a skilled seamstress and was taken by Martha to Philadelphia, the capital of the United States during Washington’s presidency, to be her personal maid. Oney escaped, fled to New Hampshire, and married a seaman Jack Staines. Washington went to great lengths to try to recover her. Without success.

Eric Foner, a historian whom I admire, has called the book “a fascinating and moving account of a courageous and resourceful woman. Beautifully written and utilizing previously untapped sources it sheds new light both on the father of our country and on the intersections of slavery and freedom in the flawed republic he helped to found.”

Historic sites in recent years have introduced exhibitions and tours on the theme of slavery; Mount Vernon’s “Lives Bound Together” runs through September 2018.

The Adamses: “quite out of their element”

MARY HILL LAMAR wrote again from London to her brother Henry Hill in Philadelphia this time including a couple of catty remarks about John and Abigail Adams as well as Ann Willing Bingham and her husband, said to be the wealthiest man in America.

London, March 18, 1786. . . . Please make my affectionate compliments to my sister Mrs. Hill, with my thanks for the nice cranberries. Before this gets to hand you will probably see Mr. and Mrs. Bingham, whom I have not seen since their return from France, although I called twice after I heard of their being in London. I am told the extreme of the French fashion, or her own taste, has made great alteration, while on the continent, in her manners, &c. When I mentioned her own taste, it was because she appeared at the opera in a hat unlike anything that ever made its appearance there before or since; fond as they are here of the French fashions. She has been introduced to their majesties, by Mr. and Mrs. Adams, our American plenipo [plenipotentiary], who, by the by, the girls have been to wait on several times, with myself. We have had them to a party of cards and tea, and she has been asked a second time, but as they have not returned the compliment, I think it unnecessary to pay them any farther attention.

They seem sensible people, one and all, but quite out of their element. Mrs. Adams has been very handsome, but an indifferent figure, being very short and fat. Miss [the Adams’s daughter Nabby], by some, reckoned handsome. . . .

Excuse haste, and believe me, my dear brother,
Your sincerely affectionate sister,
MARY LAMAR

John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881 (Philadelphia: 1854), 260-61. Anne Willing Bingham (above) was the model for an early coin design. More than 23 million non-gold coins of Bingham were introduced into circulation from 1795 to 1808.


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