Saturday, September 22, 2012

Travels in Upper Canada

Elizabeth Simcoe was born 250 years ago today (or thereabouts!). She spent most of her life in Devon, but for five years lived in British colonial Canada, where her husband, James Simcoe, had been appointed the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, then a frontier land. While there, she kept a detailed diary, with many sketches, which is now considered an historically valuable record of the time.

The date and place of the birth of Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim are both matters of some dispute. Her father had died many months earlier, and her mother then also died giving birth to Elizabeth. A biographical note published in 1911 (part of the introduction to her diary - see below) says she was born in 1766 at Whitchurch, Herefordshire. But other sources available online agree she was born in 1762. And, although many of those sources state this happened in Aldwincle on 22 September, others suggest this was the date of her baptism. Mary Beacock Fryer, in her 1989 biography (Elizabeth Postuma Simcoe, 1762-1850, partly available online at Googlebooks), draws on recent research, and doubts not that she was born in Aldwincle; however, she declines to give any exact date, other than to say her mother was buried on 23 September.

Elizabeth was brought up by her mother’s younger sister, Margaret, who later married Admiral Samuel Graves. While living with them near Honiton, Devon, Elizabeth met the admiral’s godson, John Graves Simcoe, a soldier, in the spring of 1782, and they were married the same year. The newly-weds lived in Exeter, where they had three children, before moving to a large estate at Wolford near Honiton bought with Elizabeth’s inheritance. They had 11 children altogether, although only eight survived into adulthood.

In 1791, Simcoe was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, a new province established that year by the British Empire to govern the central third of the lands in British North America (in present-day southern Ontario), partly to accommodate loyalist refugees from the US after the American Revolution. The couple left several of their children in England, and crossed the Atlantic to Quebec. The following spring they undertook the arduous journey into the interior, to Newark, where they were based initially. Later, they moved to York, Toronto, a new town established by Simcoe, and to Quebec. In 1796, the family returned to the UK.

In 1806, Simcoe was named commander-in-chief in India, but, unexpectedly, he died before taking up the post. Subsequently, Elizabeth remained at Wolford, becoming an enthusiastic evangelical within the Church of England, focusing on her large estates, and enjoying society in places like Bath and Cheltenham. She died in 1850. Further biographical information is available from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography or Wikipedia.

One of Elizabeth’s daughters, Eliza, preserved her mother’s diaries and drawings and letters, and they were then passed down through the family. It is thanks to the diaries in particular that Elizabeth is remembered today, more in Canada than in the UK, for they concern her travels in the Canadian interior, and are full of delightful sketches. They were first published by William Biggs in Toronto in 1911 as The Diary of Mrs John Graves Simcoe (edited by John Ross Robertson). This version is available online at Internet Archive.

Mary Lu MacDonald’s biographical entry about Elizabeth for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in required) says her diaries are attractive because of their ‘infectious enthusiasm’: ‘Where other women in the colony complained of hardship, Elizabeth saw only adventure. Despite her involvement in her husband’s activities she rarely mentioned politics. The people who appear in her diaries tended to be social contacts of her own class: the governor’s military colleagues, visiting dignitaries, and women who maintained rounds of visits as if still in England. Her enjoyment of her role as the governor’s wife no doubt added to her delight in all that she saw and did. In addition to the diaries Elizabeth, a talented artist, made many sketches, later turned into watercolours, which are frequently reproduced today as the most accurate records of a time and place. On their return to England, a set of thirty-two watercolours was presented to George III.’

According to Robertson, Elizabeth began keeping a diary on 17 September 1791, a few days before the family’s departure from Weymouth to Quebec, and the last entries are on 16 October 1796 when they arrived back in London. As a general rule, he says, she wrote day by day, and mailed her diary entries once a week to Mrs Hunt who was looking after four of her daughters at Wolford. According to Fryer, there are at least three versions of the diary: the short notes on which she based the other two; the versions she mailed to Mrs Hunt; and a third version, embellished with detail on flora and fauna, mailed to a friend. And, she says, the edition of the diaries published by Robertson was a combination of the latter two versions.

The following extracts are taken from Robertson’s 1911 version of Elizabeth Simcoe’s diary.

11 July 1792
‘The Indians came to dance before the Governor, highly painted and in their war costume, with little clothing. They were near enough to the house for me to hear their singing, which sounded like a repetition in different dismal tones of he, he, he, and at intervals a savage whoop. They had a skin stretched on sticks imitating a drum, which they beat with sticks. Having drank more than usual, they continued singing the greatest part of the night. They never quarrel with white people unless insulted by them, but are very quarrelsome amongst themselves. Therefore, when the women see them drunk they take away their knives, and hide them until they become sober.

This evening I walked through a pretty part of the wood and gathered capillaire and a very pretty, small flower, five white petals of an exceeding firm texture, the purple short chives which support the anther of the flower proceeding from a purple rim that surrounds a very prominent green seed-vessel, on long foot stalks; from the top of the stalk the leaves spear shaped, sawed, polished, of the darkest green, and almost as firm as holly; numerous. It grows in very shady places, an evergreen. I was driven home by the bite of a mosquito through a leather glove. My arm inflamed so much that after supper I fainted with the pain while playing at chess with Capt. Littlehales.’

14 July 1792
‘Mr Scadding caught a beautiful green grass snake, which was harmless. After keeping it a day or two he let it go. The way of clearing land in this country is cutting down all the small wood, pile it and set it on fire. The heavier timber is cut through the bark five feet above the ground. This kills the tree, which in time the wind blows down. The stumps decay in the ground in the course of years, but appear very ugly for a long time, though the very large, leafless white trees have a singular and sometimes a picturesque effect among the living trees. The settler first builds a log hut covered with bark, and after two or three years raises a neat house by the side of it. This progress of industry is pleasant to observe.’

19 July 1792
‘The Governor went to-day to see Carleton Island, nearly opposite the shore from Kingston, where there were extensive fortifications, now dismantled. The island was afterwards discovered to be within American territory. Returned at six with wild raspberries, which were exceedingly fine. Carleton Island abounds with them and strawberries and plums, while the air is esteemed so healthy that the people go there to get rid of the ague, a complaint which is very prevalent in this province. The flowering raspberry grows wild here, and bears a very insipid, flat fruit. Mr Fisher, of the Engineers, is here on his way to Quebec from Niagara. He showed us some beautiful sketches he has taken of the Falls of Niagara.’

21 July 1792
‘There are no rides about Kingston, or any pleasant walks that we have met with. Sailing is, therefore, our only amusement. To-day we were prevented by rain from going to the mills on the Cataraqui. It is in the interest of the people here to have this place considered as the seat of Government. Therefore they all dissuade the Governor from going to Niagara, and represent the want of provisions, houses, etc., at that place, as well as the certainty of having the ague. However, he has determined to sail for Niagara to-morrow.’

26 July 1792
‘At nine this morning we anchored at Navy Hall, opposite the garrison of Niagara, which commands the mouth of the river. Navy Hall is a house built by the Naval Commanders on this lake for their reception when here. It is now undergoing a thorough repair for our occupation, but is still so unfinished that the Governor has ordered three marquees to be pitched for us on the hill above the house, which is very dry ground and rises beautifully, in parts covered with oak bushes.

A fine turf leads on to woods, through which runs a very good road leading to the Falls. The side of our hill is terminated by a very steep bank covered with wood, a hundred feet in height in some places, at the bottom of which runs the Niagara River. Our marquees command a beautiful view of the river and the garrison on the opposite side, which, from its being situated on the point, has a fine effect, and the poorness of the building is not remarked at this distance, from whence a fine picture might be made.

The Queen’s Rangers are encamped within half a mile behind us. In clear weather the north shore of Lake Ontario may be discerned. The trees which abound here are oak, chestnut, ash, maple, hickory, black walnut.’

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Moravians in North Carolina

Died 220 years ago did August Gottlieb Spangenberg, one of the stalwarts of the Moravian Church in the 18th century, and a key figure in the church’s expansion into North America. Although there do not appear to be any published editions of his diaries, at least in English, some extracts are available on websites hosted by the University of North Carolina.

Spangenberg was born in 1704 in Klettenberg, now a part of Hohenstein, Thuringia, where his father, Georg Spangenberg, was the pastor and ecclesiastical inspector. Left an orphan at thirteen, Spangenberg attended local school before studying law at the University of Jena. In 1722, he was converted to Pietism, a religious movement emphasising biblical study, morality and Christian living. Thereafter, he switched to studying theology, and took his degree in 1726. From 1728, he was drawn into the circle of Nicolaus Zinzendorf, a bishop of the Moravian Church and an influential social reformer. This led Spangenberg into an acrimonious split with the Pietists, and to a lifelong allegiance to the Moravian creed.

The Moravian Church, or what would become the Moravian Church, had been started by Jan Hus in the late 14th century. He had objected to some Roman Catholic ways and wished to return the church in Bohemia and Moravia to more common practices such as those embraced earlier in time by the Eastern Orthodox church. In particular, Moravians had rejected the idea of indulgences, preferring a doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone; and, in doing so, they had become the first or one of the first forerunners of the Protestant church.

With Zinzendorf, Spangenberg went to America, first to Georgia and then Pennsylvania, to supervise Moravian missionary work. Intending to make Philadelphia the centre of Moravian activity, he founded the North American branch of the church there in 1740, and at Bethlehem, he established a community in which work was done and goods were held communally. He also organised another branch in England, worked again in Germany, and, having been ordained a bishop, returned to North America in 1744. After a further sojourn in Europe, he extended Moravian missionary work to North Carolina.

Following Zinzendorf’s death in 1760, Spangenberg returned to Germany in 1762 to become a member of its governing body. There he stayed, and he devoted the rest of his life to the church. In addition to missionary work, he also drafted what became the accepted statement of Moravian beliefs; he moderated various internal differences; and he maintained friendly relations with the Lutheran Church. He wrote many hymns, as well as a biography of Zinzendorf. He died on 18 September 1792. A little further information is available from Wikipedia and a William Carey University web page.

Some of Spangenberg’s diaries are held by the Archives of the Moravian Church at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but its website provides little information on any holdings. More of his diaries may be in the Moravian archives at Hernhut, Germany. A published text of his diary can be found in Records of the Moravians in North Carolina edited by Adelaide L. Fries (volume one, 1752-1771) and in The Colonial Records of North Carolina as collected and edited by William L. Saunders (volume five, 1752-1759). Furthermore, a few extracts (including those below) - relating to Spangenberg’s activities in North America - have been translated into English and published on Documenting the American South website (hosted by the University of North Carolina).

12 September 1752
‘Land matters in North Carolina are also in unbelievable confusion, and I do not see how endless law-suits are to be avoided. A man settles on a piece of land and does a good deal of work on it (from the Carolina standpoint), then another comes and drives him out, and who is to definitely settle the matter? There surely should have been a general surveyor from the beginning of the Colony, who should have had a map of the whole territory, and as from time to time land was surveyed, and the special surveyor made his returns, it should have been entered on the map, which would then have shown what land was vacant and what had been taken up. Unfortunately we can neither find nor hear of such a map.

The Patents from the Lords Proprietors should also from the beginning have been registered before passing into other hands, but either that was not done or the records have been lost. This much is sure, My Lord’s Agent cannot now give a Patent without fearing that when the tract is settled another man will come and say “That is my land.” The General Assembly has made an effort to remedy this confusion, and in 1748 passed an Act requiring property owners to bring in their Patents for registration, under £5 penalty for neglect to do this. It was further provided that whoever did not register his Patent within one year from the date of the Act should lose his rights founded upon it. A man who had lost his Patent, through fire or other accident, was permitted to prove undisputed possession for twenty years. Orphans were permitted to register their Patents within one year after attaining their majority; and owners dwelling beyond the sea were allowed five years from the date of the Act to file their claims. When I asked Mr Francis Corbin about a map he told me that he had been doing his best to have one made, and had given orders to the surveyor in each County to make a chart showing the land that had been taken up in his County. The line between Virginia and North Carolina has been run to the Blue Mountains; and the line between the Crown lands and the Granville District in North Carolina is now in hand, and will be run as soon as necessary information is received, though only by the one party, as the Crown commissioners are not assisting. When that is done there will probably be a map of the Granville District, from which one can see where the vacant land lies. Meanwhile there is neither a general surveyor’s map of the Granville District nor of the individual Counties. Therefore we do not know what land is vacant, and can only take for granted the word of the surveyor who says that such and such a piece has already been taken up. Mr Francis Corbin himself does not know, and is still “in the dark.”

His suggestion is that we go to the “Back of the Colony,” that is west to the Blue Mountains, taking a surveyor, and that perhaps there we can find a suitable tract of land that has not hitherto been surveyed. We will see.’

13 September 1752
‘If, as I hope, we settle in North Carolina, it will be very important that from the beginning we have some one who will pay particular attention to the laws of the land, for from the law book I see that there are many rules and laws of which our Brethren would not think. For example: If any one living within three miles of a public ferry takes a man, horse, or cow across the stream, receiving payment therefor, he must pay £5 for each man or animal so set across.

A man must have his marriage, or the birth of a child, or the burial of a member of his family registered by the Recorder, if there is no Clerk of the Church in the County; and he is fined one shilling, to be paid to the Recorder, for each month that he delays registration.

A man is fined £10 if he gives permission to a non-resident of Carolina to pasture cattle, horses or hogs on his land.

Any man who buys land from the Indians, without special permission from the Governor and Council, loses the land, and is fined £20.

Every third year a land-owner must have a certain person follow the bounds of his property, renew the marks, and register the same.

There is a penalty of £5 for killing deer between Feb. 15th and July 15th.

All marriages must be performed by a minister of the Church of England, or by a Justice of the Peace. If there is a minister of the Church of England in the Parish a Justice of the Peace cannot marry a couple without paying a fine of £5. To marry without a License, or without the Publication of the Bans three times, entails a penalty of £50.

A man wishing to marry must go to the Clerk of the County in which the woman lives and give a bond of £50 that there is nothing to prevent the marriage; then he takes the Clerk’s certificate to a Justice of the Peace, and he issues the License. The fees are 20sh. for the Governor, 5sh. for the Clerk, 5sh. for the Justice, and 10sh. for the Minister. If the Bans are published there is no charge for a License. If the marriage is not performed by the minister in the Parish where the woman lives he must still be offered the fee.

A man marrying a negress, indian, mulatto, or any one of mixed blood, is fined £50; the minister or justice performing the ceremony must also pay £50.

When the County Court appoints a man as Constable he must qualify within 10 days or pay a fine of 50 shillings.

If a man finds strange cattle in his cow-pen he must advertise their marks on the Church door or at the Court House of the County in which his cow-pen lies, or pay a fine of 20sh.

A man using weights and measures in business must have them marked and sealed according to the standard of the Court. Failure to do this entails a fine of £10, even though they are correct.

The man using a steelyard in trade must have it tested every year, and get a certificate, or pay a fine of 20s.

No Christian, brought into this land, can be a bond-servant, even though he has made a written agreement to that effect with some one.

Who buys from or sells to a slave, without permission of the slave’s master, shall lose three times the value of the article bought or sold, and pay a fine of £6.

Whoever gives assistance to a slave who is trying to run away shall serve the slave’s master five years as penalty.

A man who owns no land but hunts in the woods and shoots a deer shall forfeit his gun and pay £5, unless he can show a certificate from two Justices that the preceding year he had planted and cultivated at least 5,000 hills of corn in the County where he is hunting.

Each house-holder, overseer, etc., whether summoned or not, must appear before a Justice each year before the 1st of May and give in an accurate list of the names and ages of all persons subject to tax, white or black, free or slave. Failure to do this entails a fine of 40s. with 20s. additional for each month’s delay.

There are other similar laws, not unreasonable, but if they are not known they might easily be broken. Here, as in all English countries, there are good laws that are not kept, but the Brethren can not act in that way.’