Two Loyalist Heroes

A Review of the Lives of Two Noted Persons

 

Major Vanalstine the Leader of Expatriated Loyalists Who Came to Canada

Capt. Allen After Man Who Despoiled His Estate

Memorials in the Adolphustown Anglican Church

 

   Major Vanalstine, whose christian name was Peter, belonged to the neighborhood of Albany and was of Dutch extraction. What occupation he followed before the revolution is not known, but he was probably engaged in business. When the rebellion broke out he remained loyal and joining Capt. Colyer's company of volunteers, took an active part against the insurgents. Subsequently his business abilities led to his being given a position of trust in the pay, or commissariat department of Gen. Burgoyne's ill-fated army. That Vanalstine was well known to his superiors as a trusty and able officer and business manager, is proved by his being appointed at the close of the war leader of a detachment of expatriated loyalists into Canada, with the rank of major. All the government stores and provisions for those intending settlers were placed in his charge. The following memorandum of a reply to one of Vanalstine's memorials to Gen. Haldimand, then governor of Canada, shows that the major used his influence to procure for his company the most ample provisions for their need and comfort; "In reply to Major Vanalstine's  memorial, his excellency directs that a town lot be granted to each of the party, with a proportion of land in a township, as directed by his majesty's instructions. He knows nothing of Carlton's promise of clothing, arms and ammunition, nor has he instructions to that effect. From his feeling he has been led into expenses for them not authorized, but he is not justified in going to the amazing lengths expected. Every protection and indulgence will be afforded to the loyalist settlers, but means of defence are totally unnecessary and would only divert the settler from his more necessary business. In short, the loyalists have everything to expect from his excellency which the best inclinations and his abilities can afford."  This reply is dated April 8th 1784, at which time the loyalists were still in their winter quarters at Sorel, and their locations had not been determined. It appears that Vanalstine desired to settle his company at Cataraqui rather than proceed further up the bay into the wilderness. But Captain Grass had fixed upon that district for the band of exiles of which he had charge, and considered his claim superior. Hence a sharp contention arose between these two leaders which was not allayed until Governor Haldimand had sent a commissioner to settle the dispute, and remove the dissatisfaction which feelings of jealousy about the choice of settlement had occasioned among the loyalists. On the 19th of April the ice of the St. Lawrence was reported as breaking up, and on the 29th it was open to Montreal. It was not, however, until May 24th that the loyalists were ready for departure from Sorel. On this date the families, in charge of Vanalstine and Grass proceeded together to Montreal and then to Cataraqui, where Grass' company remained while VanAlstine's made their way onward to the shores of "Fourth Town" , a town on paper, but a wilderness in fact. --

 

          "The stern old wilderness,

            Add dark and rude,

            And unsubdued."

But then -

          "Twas British wilderness

            Where they might sing

            God Save the King."

 

   Here as brothers in adversity the brave loyalists began their life anew, clearing the bush with government implements, sowing the soil with government see, eating government rations, and in many cases wearing clothes from the government stores, for they had suffered the loss of all their worldly possessions on account of their fidelity to their sovereign. In the allocation of lots which followed the arrival of the settlers, Vanalstine received extensive tracts in Adolphustown and Marysburgh. In the latter township, at Stone Mills, now Glenora, he set up a grist mill, which was a great boon to the settlers near and far. When the government appointed magistrates Vanalstine's name was not forgotten, and he was the first to receive the commission. He was, moreover, granted a pension for distinguished services.  Dr. Canniff, in his works on the loyalists, has an interesting paragraph relating to his personal characteristics, with which this sketch may fitly conclude: "He was a stout robust man, with a dark complexion. Naturally kind hearted, he for many years afforded to the new comers much comfort and material aid. His house was ever open to the passing stranger, to the old soldier, and to poor refugees. He was known to everybody in the old settlement of the bay. No matter who came, he would order up from this cellar kitchen - the old Dutch style - his negro servants, slaves he had brought with him, and set before the traveller the necessary refreshments. The son of one, who knew him well, says he was hospitable to a fault. The death of this U.E.L. here occurred in 1811. He was interred in the old U.E.L. Burying ground, with military honors." No headstone now marks the place where his ashes lie, but in  the U.E.L. memorial church his grand niece, Mrs. Corkindale, of Picton, has placed a purple encaustic tablet, bearing the following inscription:

In Memory of

MAJOR VANALSTINE,

Commandant of the 4th Town U.E.Ls,

Died 1811, aged 64 years.

 

Captain Joseph Allen

 

   This U.E.L. here was the fifth son of John Allen, a descendant of an English family of the better class, who, about the year 1638, settled in Rhode Island, New England, on the Naragamett Bay. After the visit of George Fox and his companions to America, the Allens connected themselves with the Society of Friends. At the time of Joseph Allen's birth in 1742, the family resided in the township of Dover and county of Monmouth, New Jersey. Here prosperity smiled on all their efforts, and our hero at the beginning of the revolution was the owner of extensive mill property in the Meteteconk river, as well as a shareholder in the several merchant vessels. It was his fortune when the hostilities commenced, to have the contract for furnishing provisions to the British troops in New York, which he was fulfilling without any intention of taking part in the struggle, which his Quaker principles forbade. But the rebels did not discriminate, and for this act marked him out for vengeance. One day during his absence from home, they raided his mills and with his own wagons and horses carried off his ample stores. When Mr. Allen returned, great was his indignation at the wanton outrage. He set out immediately for New York where he applied for and obtained a captain's commission in his majesty's forces on guaranteeing to raise a troop of cavalry in his neighborhood, which he did without much difficulty. The Quaker habit now exchanged for the officer's uniform, Capt. Allen proved himself to be no "carpet knight." Not waiting to perfect themselves in drill, the gallant company started forth to seek the rebels who had made so free with their Captain's property. They came upon them at a small town called Thom's River, unexpectedly, but they took shelter in the houses and in an unfinished block house which was being erected for the protection of the town. In dislodging the enemy, which Allen's troops accomplished in spite of the fusillade from behind walls, fire was set to several of the houses, which spread until the whole village was reduced to ashes, except a single stone home, which Capt. Allen took particular pain to save, as it belonged to a widow lady, an old schoolmate of his, and wife of a royalist lieutenant, who only a short time previous had fallen a victim to the violence of the times. As for the block house, it was not captured until a gallant assault had been made through an opening in the roof, which was incomplete. Firing down upon them from above they drove the rebels forth. Their leader was struck down by one of Capt. Allen's slaves, as he was going through the door. During this affair, when the fire had seized upon the largest residence in the place, the mistress of the house, an arch-rebel, was seen coming out with her case of silver plate and jewel casket in her arms, which she deliberately cast into the flames while she shook her fist at Capt. Allen and shrieked defiance. This exploit was followed by another even more daring. Lying in the river farther down was a vessel containing a cargo of saltpetre for the manufacture of rebel gun-powder. With a few picked men of his troop, under cover of night, Allen boarded the vessel and, overpowering the guard and crew, set fire to it. Throughout the war the captain was actively engaged and showed himself on all occasions to be an energetic and fearless officer. At peace he returned home, but everything he possessed was confiscated and he himself was prescribed. His escape from the vengeance of his enemies was a hairbreadth one. Concealed in the cellar under an empty barrel he remained undiscovered, nor would a faithful old negro servant divulge his hiding place though he was repeatedly strung up by the neck to a tree and almost choked to death each time. This faithful slave and two others accompanied their master to Canada. From the government, Capt. Allen received large grants of land in Adolphustown and Marysburgh. There is on record an offer from him to the government to take charge of the saw mill at Cataraqui, dated Sept. 24, 1784: "I, Joseph Allen, engage to carry on the above mentioned mill and to keep the same in repair and work it at the rate of seven shillings per thousand feet, and to have artificer's rations for four men." But this offer for some reason or other fell through, and so he set himself with characteristic energy and determination to clear the bush and build a home. He lived to see the fruits of his labors, smiling fields where had stood primeval forests. His descendants have inherited his spirit of industry. They have taken a pride in their patrimony, and improved it until it stands at this day one of the finest and most productive estates in Adolphustown. Capt. Allen died on the 21st day of October, 1815, in the 74th year of his age. His name, like Major Vanalstine's, is inscribed on a memorial tablet in the walls of the U.E.L. Church among the loyalist heroes. Parker Allen, J.P., and John Joseph Watson, J.P., M.P., are descendants and are as staunch and loyal as their grandfather was.  -  R.S.F.

 

 

HOME 1