For­mer slaves started new lives here

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Scott Carmichael

With Fe­bru­ary be­ing Black His­tory Month across the Canada and the U.S., this is an ap­pro­pri­ate time to look back at a group that was among Glen­garry’s ear­li­est set­tlers – a re­flec­tion first done by Bainsville res­i­dent Mal­colm “Mackie” Robert­son in the 1994 vol­ume of

Glen­garry Life.

“The set­tle­ment of the south­ern part of Glen­garry County bor­der­ing the St. Lawrence River was part of the great move­ment of thou­sands of Amer­i­can colonists who stayed loyal to Bri­tain,” the United Em­pire Loy­al­ists, dur­ing and af­ter the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion (1775 to 1783), Mr. Robert­son stated in his ar­ti­cle, Black Loy­al­ists of Glen­garry.

“Not just from one sin­gle eth­nic unit this group of peo­ple was com­posed of English, Scots, Ir­ish, Ger­man, Dutch, Swiss, and... black freed slaves.”

Al­though Mr. Robert­son con­ceded that “very lit­tle is known” about a group of seven for­mer slaves iden­ti­fied in the ar­ti­cle, his re­search did pro­vide some in­sight into the back­ground and life in Glen­garry of three of th­ese men.

All are be­lieved to have been part of the so­called Herkimer’s Bateau Com­pany, a unit of about 65 men, most of whom were freed Loy­al­ist ex-slaves from the Mo­hawk Val­ley in cen­tral New York State as­signed to the Bri­tish for­ti­fi­ca­tions at Coteau-du-Lac.

For their loy­alty to the Bri­tish crown dur­ing the up­ris­ing in the Thir­teen Colonies, the septet was granted lots on the 2nd Con­ces­sion of the for­mer Lan­caster town­ship, of­ten called ‘ The Lake’ or the ‘ Sunken Town­ship’ due to the fact that its first (French) set­tlers con­sid­ered it too swampy for habi­ta­tion or farm­ing.

Cato Prime was granted Lot 10, or part of Lot 10, in 1784, and farmed that par­cel, along with sev­eral other pieces of land, un­til 1820, when he sold his hold­ings to Murdock MacPher­son.

De­scribed as “a staunch Pres­by­te­rian” who wor­shipped with Rev. John Bethune of Wil­liamstown at the home of Ja­cob Snider – the Sniders later do­nated land in Bainsville on which St. An­drew’s United Church now stands – Mr. Prime and his wife, Cather­ine Bodet, pledged money to help re­cruit a re­place­ment min­is­ter from Scot­land fol­low­ing Rev. Bethune’s death in 1815.

Cato Prime died in Jan­uary 1836 at the age of 79.

Amego Lon­don­derry, a for­mer mem­ber of But­ler’s Rangers – a Bri­tish pro­vin­cial reg­i­ment dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion com­posed of Loy­al­ists based out of the Mo­hawk Val­ley – was as­signed Lot 27 around 1786 but later sold the prop­erty.

He “mar­ried a girl from the Fraser brothers’ farm Fraser­field, in Dun­das County,” and the cou­ple had a daugh­ter, Rachel, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Robert­son.

Thomas Fonda, who as a slave was the prop­erty of the well-known “pa­triot” Fonda fam­ily – from which the late ac­tor Henry Fonda is re­ported to have been de­scended – re­ceived Lot 14 and even­tu­ally amassed nearly 500 acres in Lan­caster town­ship.

Mr. Fonda, like Mr. Prime, pledged money to­wards the pro­cure­ment of Rev. Bethune’s re­place­ment as well.

Sam Denike, also known by the now po­lit­i­cally-in­cor­rect so­bri­quet “Sambo,” was granted or as­signed Lot 30 in 1786.

A for­mer pri­vate in But­ler’s Rangers, he was also granted the south half of Lot 30, in Con­ces­sion 3 of Lan­caster town­ship, circa 1819, ac­cord­ing to Royce MacGil­livray’s

Dic­tio­nary of Glen­garry Bi­og­ra­phy.

Mr. MacGil­livray, along with Mr. Robert­son, point out that a sim­ple grave­stone rock, bear­ing only the name “Sambo,” likely marks the fi­nal rest­ing place for Mr. Denike in the ceme­tery of the Angli­can church in the 1st Con­ces­sion of Lan­caster town­ship.

As for the re­main­der of the black Loy­al­ists men­tioned by Mr. Robert­son – Jack Pow­ell, Joseph Goff and Wil­liam Thomas – noth­ing else is known, other than the fact that they, along with their afore­men­tioned com­pa­tri­ots, are part of Glen­garry’s rich his­tor­i­cal fab­ric.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.