Monday, 6 January 2014

Family Stories, Fact or Fiction
Part Two

In our family there is story of our 3rd grand-mother, Sarah Hawley, travelling by oxcart from New York to Canada with her family. Apparently they lived in a log cabin on Sarnia Bay. Our 4th great-grandmother, Sarah Raymond, daubed red paint on the cheeks of her children in the hopes that the local Indians would be fooled into thinking the children were infected with contagious smallpox. But is this story true? Before trying to answer this question, we need to start with what historical facts we have found to date.

Early Years in Westchester County

Daniel Hawley, our 4th great grand-father, was the second of our lineal ancestor's to be a permanent  resident of  what is now Canada, arriving in 1812 with his wife and 10 children.  According to the Hawley Record, Daniel, was born on 3 May 1774 in South Salem, Westchester County, New York, the 6th child of John Hawley and Abigail Sanford, and a 2nd great grandson of  both Joseph Hawley and Thomas Sanford, and their wives.

Joseph Hawley came to North America in 1629 or 1630 from Parwich, Derbyshire, England about nine miles northwest of Old Derby, and four miles from Ashbourne, England. The family settled first at Scituate, Massachusetts, and afterwards moved to Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut (1) . Thomas Sanford, arrived in 1630 or 1631, settling first in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and in 1639 relocating to Milford, New Haven (2)(3).    

By the early 18th century, many descendants of Joseph and Thomas were participating in the westward expansion of America, They were prominent citizens in a number of towns in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. Realignment of the boundary between New York and Connecticut resulted in ceding the "Oblong" to New York. The Oblong was a small section of land on the border between Connecticut and New York that  had been disputed ever since the Treaty of Hartford in 1650. As a result, our  Hawley's "moved" to New York without ever having had to leave home

There is little evidence of what Daniel's early life shortly before the outbreak of the American revolutionary war was like, however the following passage from The Westchester County History describes life in Westchester County quite well and sets the tone for what follows.

The Revolution in Westchester County

"By 1775 Westchester was the richest and most populous county in the colony of New York. It was still almost entirely farmland, dotted with small villages at crossroads and on the waterways. Westchester farmers did not riot over taxes as their neighbors in the New England colonies did; British markets and protected prices for agricultural products were of more importance to them.

Once the revolution began, however, Westchester saw more fighting and suffering than any other area in the country. From 1776, when Washington and his troops retreated through Westchester after their defeat on Long Island, until 1783, when the British were finally expelled, the county was a battleground. For Westchester, the Revolution was truly a civil war, as families were often divided between patriot and loyalist sympathies.

After the Battles of Pelham and White Plains in October 1776, the main American headquarters was at Continental Village, just north of Peekskill. The British headquarters was in New York City. Westchester became the war, "Neutral Ground" between the two camps. During the entire course of the farmers and townspeople throughout Westchester were subjected to raiding, pillaging, and destruction by both British and American irregulars.

The capture of Major John Andre`, the British spy, by three Westchester men, was an important factor in America's ultimate victory, for it saved West Point, the fortress protecting the Hudson River, from seizure by the British. Westchester also saw the French troops, commanded by Rochambeau, pass along its roads as they came from Rhode Island to help Washington's army defeat the British at Yorktown in 1781.

In 1783, after seven years of suffering, Westchester's countryside was devastated and its population depleted. Recovery from the war would take time and hard work." (4)

In addition to traditional military battles, the war in Westchester County was fought economically as well. The so called "Neutral Ground" created attractive mercantile opportunities to entrepreneurially inclined residents. One of the more famous residents was James DeLancey, the Sherriff of Westchester County. James, the nephew of Oliver DeLancey organized the Westchester Chasseurs, a troop of 60 horsemen, also known as DeLancey's Refugees or DeLancey's Cowboys who were active in securing cattle, hogs, flour and other supplies to provision both the British soldiers, but also the residents of  New York City, both of whom were cut off from food supplies by Washington's Continental Army.

John Hawley; Loyalist or Patriot?

Daniel's father, John Hawley is thought to have supported the British during the Revolution, although no hard evidence to confirm any formal military service, or possible activities as a "cowboy",  have been found. Here is what we know, and what we do not know, about John Hawley.

Shortly before the Revolutionary War, a mission of the Church of England was organized in Salem. A church was built on land near the roadside leading from South Salem to Ridgefield. The congregation was apparently unable to pay the contractor, who converted it into a tavern, The church was subsequently dismantled in 1796. According to records of the South Salem Presbyterian Church, only the first five of John and Abigail's eight children were christened in the Presbyterian Church, begging the question;  did John and Abigail join the Church of England? This is considered significant as Church of England congregations tended to support the loyalist cause, while Congregationalists and Presbyterians tended to support the patriot cause. (5) I have not been yet been able to identify where Daniel and his two younger sisters were christened.

Trudy Hawley, genealogist of the Hawley Society, comments on John Hawley as follows in a 2009 e-mail to a distant cousin:

"Most of the Connecticut Hawley family genealogy was compiled in The Hawley Record, published in 1890. Unfortunately, some branches of this large group were omitted from publication, due to lack of contact with descendants who had earlier migrated away from New England. [John Hawley] was evidently a Loyalist who went to Canada during or after the Revolution, and later generations crossed back into Ohio at some point. If they didn't go to Canada, they probably moved as far west as possible (Ohio) to evade a government with which they had differences. In this particular circumstance, John Hawley (the direct ancestor) had died, his property confiscated, and his widow Abigail Sanford appealed to the British government in Canada for a pension, as her family had been dispersed, she know not where." (6)

John Hawley's first public problem occurs early in 1776 when he was listed as a "Suspected Person" by the Westchester County Committee of Conspiracies. This list included both "British Prisoners of War" and those alleged to be disaffected. As some suspects were proven innocent and allowed to remain in Westchester, appearance on this list was not always a badge of dishonor, as viewed from the American perspective. Very few names on this list were thought to be actually members of an organized British Army regiment (7).

Next we find John Hawley's name on a accounting of "British Prisoners of War" dated 13 August 1777 that had been removed from New York to New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania in October of 1776 (8).  This is the last official fact we have for John Hawley. No further details on his activities have been found. The Provincial Congress also passed a law that required the wives of those who had fled, and their children aged 12 or under, to depart New York or go to the British lines in New York City and Long Island (9).

After John Hawley's estate was confiscated by the Commissioners of Sequestration, most likely between 3 March 1780 and 10 July 1781, his wife, Abigail Sanford, and their eight children were forced to leave Westchester County and take refuge behind the British lines in Brook Haven, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. Much of Suffolk County, including Brook Haven, was the home to many Loyalists during the Revolution. Lloyd's Neck, about 10 miles from Brookhaven, was the departure point for many of the Loyalists who left America after the war ended in 1783.

The next fact we have is the passenger list of the HMS Eagle which sailed from Huntington, Long Island on 15 September 1783 for New York City and onward to St. John, New Brunswick . The Eagle is believed to have been Sir Henry Clinton's flagship during the Revolutionary War. The manifest lists the widow Abigail Hawleys (sic) of Long Island, and five unnamed children as well as her oldest three sons Henry, John Jr. and Samuel, all listed as farmers from Westchester County, New York. I assume Patriots were not allowed to board the HMS Eagle,  but as of yet there is insufficient evidence to confirm John Hawley Sr.'s allegiance. (10)

I have not been able to find any further mention of John Hawley's time in prison, his release and when he was reunited with his family in Suffolk County. John does not appear in the Eagle's passenger list as he died on 15 September 1783 at the age of 44. His death occurs on the very same day as his family boards the HMS Eagle  to leave New York for Nova Scotia.  I have yet to confirm the cause of John's death; was it a war wound, disease, or was he simply murdered by a disaffected Patriot? All are possible given the date, the circumstances of his move from Westchester to Long Island, his unproven allegiance during the revolution, his wartime experience in prison, as well as the general state  of lawlessness that may have occurred in Suffolk County during the revolution. Suffolk County was the mirror image of Westchester County; deeply divided between support for Britain and the revolution. The major difference was that it was the Patriots who were exiled, while their farms were occupied by Loyalists. Many Patriots returned from Connecticut, only to find their farms in shambles, with their livestock, fences and woodlots gone, having been carried off the New York City to feed and keep warm the thousands of Loyalist refugees that jammed the city. It is not difficult to imagine that significant tensions developed between the returning Patriots and the departing Loyalists. Did John just make one too many enemies in the last days of the war?

The upcoming AMC miniseries, Turn, based on the book, Washington's Spies by historian Alexander Rose, may provide an interesting insight into life in Suffolk County during the revolution.

Notwithstanding the circumstantial nature of the evidence, and given that there were numerous Hawley and Sanford Loyalists who relocated to Nova Scotia and Upper Canada, it seems reasonable to assume that both John and Abigail were both Loyalists as well.  Most of John and Abigail's brothers are recorded as Patriots in both the Daughters of the American Revolution databases.  John's older brother, Ezekiel, was not only a Lieutenant in the Westchester Militia, but he was also Chairman of the Westchester County Committee of Safety. As such, he would have not only been directly involved in the forfeiture of his brother John's farm, but also that of his own son, Ezekiel Hawley Jr.(11). Truely a divided family.

Most of Abigail's children are best described as "flip flop" or boomerang Loyalists. Scattered as paupers after the death of their father, there is a 5-10 year gap in their records between their departure to New Brunswick in 1783 and when before most of them show up back in Westchester County, New York in the 1790's. Three of John's sons subsequently returned to Upper Canada with their families in 1810 to 1812, settling in the banks of the Fairchild Creek near  Brantford. His oldest son John Jr. traveled by oxcart to Pittsburgh where he and family purchased a boat which they used to float down the Ohio River to Cincinati. Abigail, who was 41 years old when she left Long Island, appears to have remained in Kingston, New Brunswick more or less permanently as she disappears entirely from the US records, with the exception of a reference to her administering John's will in 1784. She may have remarried as some records, most notably The Hawley Record, append Lyon to her name (i.e. Abigail Sanford Lyon). The source of this notation remains a mystery.

Next: Daniel Hawley's Return to New York and his second emigration to Canada

1.       Title: Smith Hawley and his Descendants
Author: Marilyn Hawley Symonds
Publication: privately printed, Lansing, Michigan, 1961
Page: pages 18 & 19
2.       Title: Thomas Sanford the Emigrant to New England
Author: Carlton E Sanford
Publication: The Tuttle Company, Printers, Rutland, Vermont, (n.d.)
Page: page 116
3.       Title: The Hawley Record
Author: Elias Sill Hawley
Publication: Press of E H Hutchinson & Co, Buffalo, New York, 1890
Page: HR #2, page 2
4.       The Westchester County History - Westchester County New York, website, prepared by Susan Cochran Swanson and Elizabeth Green Fuller in 1982,
5.       Records of the Church of Christ in Salem, Westchester Co., N.Y
7.       Title: New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, Volume II. Albany, New York, J.B. Lyon company, 1904 p. 231-232
8.       ibid, p. 238-239
9.       ibid, p. 229
10.     Manifest of the Loyalist Transport Vessel Eagle, New York to Saint John, New Brunswick, September, 1783.
11.     History of The County of Westchester Vol. I. 60, P. 474