Grand River Branch

United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada

 

 

 

 


Selected Reprints from the

Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches



"Loyalist Lineage of Asahel Ward"

Irene MacCrimmon, June 1989, Vol.1 No.2, Pages 10-11

 

Asahel Ward

by Irene MacCrimmon

  In Bergen Wood, near their stockaded blockhouse on the western shore of the Hudson River, at Bull's Ferry almost opposite New York City, some 70 Loyalists from the city were cutting wood; the commander of the group was Captain Thomas Ward, brother of Asahel Ward.

  " On the morning of 19 July 1780 a select detachment from Mr. Washington's army, amounting to nearly 2,000 men, under Brig. General Wayne, suddenly appeared before the post and opened against it a tremendous fire of musketry and cannon.  But this gallant band defended themselves with activity and spirit; and after sustaining the enemy's fire for some hours, (by which one face of their little blockhouse was perforated by at least 50 cannon shot and 21 of their number were killed or wounded), and repulsing an attack on their works, they sallied out and pursued their assailants to some distance picking up stragglers and rescuing from them part of the cattle they were driving off. "1

  Dr. H.C. Burleigh of Bath, Ontario, wrote about the above foray and listed some of the brave defenders who had settled in the Bay of Quinte area.2  There were some, however, who had come up to Canada via Niagara.  In their memorials, Asahel Ward, brother of the commander and Captain Walter Anderson, one of the U.E.L. ancestors of Hugh R. MacCrimmon, stated that they were also defending that same blockhouse in the Bergen Wood.

  Asahel Ward served in the Engineer Division of His Majesty's forces under Captain Elias Smith, until the end of the Revolutionary War.  In 1775, he came to Canada with his wife and two daughters, Mary and Clarissa.  They settled near Markham where Asahel built a log cabin and worked as a carpenter for his neighbours.  After the family was comfortably settles, a fire burnt down their home, destroying all their belongings and documents.  Asahel moved with his family to booming York; there his two daughters were married and his wife died.

  Asahel Ward then took steps to replace his documents.  On March 14, 1811, he took the Oath of Allegiance -- although his family had lived under British rule in Connecticut, Vermont and New York, since emigrating from Essex, England in 1648.

  From six friends and army officers he obtained six vouchers attesting to his good character and name, in order that he could have his name placed on the U.E.L. list; this was done on April 12, 1812.  Since he had not yet received a land grant, he applied for it on that very same day.

  He moved to Saltfleet Township, in the District of Gore, where he plied his trade as carpenter.  He met there Abigail Adair, daughter of Phoebe and John Adair, who had served in Colonel Barton's Regiment, 5th Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers.  John's parents, Abigail and David Adair, had come to Beamsville with three sons.  Both David and his son John served long terms as Clerk of Clinton Township Council, 1783-1812.

  Finally in 1823, Asahel was granted Crown Land in Garafraxa Township.  Since he already had his home and business in Grimsby, he sold the land in Garafraxa and used the funds to raise the six daughters that were born to him and Abigail Adair.

  One of these daughters, Lydia -- a petite woman with a lovely singing voice -- was married to the millwright John Springstead, of Tapleytown in Saltfleet Township.  The Springsteen (-sted, -stead) family had come from Germany to Holland to escape persecution by their Catholic overlords.  There they intermarried with the Dutch people, and in 1652 emigrated to New Amsterdam (New York) where the Dutch King granted land to the brothers Joost, Johannes, and Melchior Springsteen.3  This land was near Newtown, renamed Middlesburg by its settlers, on the edge of Forest Hills -- formerly called Whitespot because the land was bought from the Indians for three white clay pots.  The Springsteen descendants gradually disposed of the land, the last four acres (now in Queensborough) being sold in 1929 for a million dollars.

  The Dutch Church maintained excellent records which assist genealogists and historians in their research.  Many Springsteen family members moved westwards from New York to the Mohawk River valley before the Seven Years Was, 1756-63.  It was a harsh and fearful life, for no one knew when marauders would come down from Québec, setting fires, killing livestock and family.

  During the Revolutionary War, as with many other families, the loyalties of the Springsteens were divided; some fought for King George, others for the rebels.  After peace was signed, some of them came via Niagara to settle in Saltfleet and Gainsborough Townships; others came around 1800 to buy good farmland in the Niagara Peninsula.  They were a religious group, with their own preachers who kept the Dutch families together.  many of the first generations emigrated to Wisconsin.  But family ties remained strong; for many years, Springstead family picnics were held.  This writer has invitations to them from 1909 to 1933.  They were held at Stoney Creek, Battlefield Park; Westdale Park, Hamilton; Cobleskill, N.Y.; David N. Springstead's Park, Vintonton, Schoharie County, N.Y. and Brodhead, Wisconsin, where Springstead's Orchestra played for the Old Time Dances.

1 William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion, Sir Henry Clinton's Narratives of his Campaigns, 1775-1782 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1954).

2 Dr. H.C. Burleigh. The Blockhouse of Bergen Wood (Bloomfield, Ont.: Bayside Publishing Co., 1977).

3 Andrew Provost. Early Settlers of Bushwick, Long Island, New York (Darien, Conn.: Darien Press, 1949).