“Canada is a nation of immigrants.” – Canadian Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen
Did you know that Highlanders were the earliest European immigrants and settlers in Prince Edward County — and 200+ years later their family names are still well known in The County?
They were members of the British 84th Highland Regiment that defended present day Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada during the American Revolutionary War. Although known as a Highland Regiment, about 25 percent were Scottish and the rest were other nationalities from the English Colonies. The 84th was the only Highland regiment to wear its traditional highland uniform; plaids and swords, for the duration of the American Revolutionary War. During that time the wearing of kilts was against the law except for those in the army, continuing the tradition established by the Black Watch regiment.
Despite this law, the 84th members were fiercely loyal to the British crown. Many of them had served in the Seven Years’ War before being recruited to the 84th Regiment to defend against the constant land and sea attacks by American revolutionaries. In fact, the 84th Regiment with its experienced officers was a key element of the British Army.
When the 84th was disbanded in 1784 at the end of the American Revolution, many of the retired soldiers settled in Nova Scotia and Eastern Ontario on land given them by the king. Their hardiness and conditioning would help them endure the challenges that lay ahead in pioneering a new nation.
One such group of retired Highlanders arrived by flat-bottomed boats (batteaus) in Prince Edward County in the fall of 1784. Led by Lieutenant Archibald MacDonnell, they settled at MacDonnell’s Cove, a sheltered harbour at the eastern tip of Pleasant Point. The “5th township”, now North Marysburgh, was the first to be surveyed in the County. The area was wild territory in those days, densely covered in forest with no road systems. Transportation was by water or on foot.
During the first winter the men suffered great hardships without adequate clothing, shelter, tools and food. A letter written by MacDonnell to Sir John Johnson, dated the 20th of September 1784 reads in part “…The British disbanded Troops … will in cold be reduced to the greatest distress, for want of clothing; some of them have not even a blanket to cover them from heavy rains & pinching frost, or to hold out the damp of the ground they lie upon. Another object of great consequence to them, is the want of a blacksmith to make & repair their axes, hoes & agricultural implements. They are a great distance from any immediate relief, some of them at thirty miles distance by land, exclusive of three miles of water.”
“To survive the Canadian winter, one needs a body of brass, eyes of glass, and blood made of brandy.” ―
MacDonnell’s men broke the way for settlement — land was cleared for farming, logs were used to build fences and cabins, and roads were carved out of the wilderness. MacDonnell received more than 2,000 acres of land, mostly in Marysburgh, where he hired ship’s carpenters to build a log house that stood for over 100 years.
MacDonnell became a magistrate, militia officer, and lieutenant of the newly settled County. Upon his passing, the log house was left to his niece Elizabeth MacDonnell who married John Prinyer, for whom the cove is named. Throughout the 1800’s, Prinyer’s Cove was used by commercial schooners as a safe haven. There were several docks for loading supplies, lumber and later barley and for a small colony of fishermen.
The early settlement in Marysburgh was followed by the arrival of about 500 Loyalist refugees who had evacuated from the United States after the American Revolution. Altogether, more than 40,000 people loyal to the British Empire, called “Loyalists,” fled to the British colonial settlements after the war ended in 1783. Most of the refugees came from New York, which had been under royal control. Loyalists, later called United Empire Loyalists (U.E.L.s), had often been subjected to mob violence or put in prison. Loyalist property was vandalized and confiscated. They had sacrificed a great deal in their support of the British Crown, and were starting all over again in this undeveloped nation.
Also finding refuge in Canada were disbanded British and German allied troops, black slaves, and Iroquois and other pro-British Native Americans including the Mohawks who settled on the shores of the Bay of Quinte.
“North of the 49th parallel we value equality; south of it, they treasure freedom.”
The communities continued to develop up the shores of Picton Bay, then called Grand Bay, across the old portage to East and West Lakes and to Wellington. The settler homes reflected the influence of agriculture and nature: they were easily accessible by water, and had good soil.
Among the original regiments that landed in Marysburgh was Lieut. Colonel Henry Young. During the French and Revolutionary wars, Young fought in seventeen battles. When he was away at war, his wife Maria was left behind at Husack, New York to run the farm and raise seven children. In 1780, the U.S. passed a law requiring families whose husbands had joined the British army, to leave the state within 20 days. Women were warned to leave with only what they could carry and children under twelve. With great difficulty, eventually most of Young’s family was able to join him. Upon his retirement from the army, he was granted 3,000 acres of land stretching from Sandbanks Provincial Park to the East end of East Lake. It is said that Fort Henry at Kingston was named after Henry Young.
The Loyalist influx gave the region its first substantial population and led to the creation of a separate province, Upper Canada, in 1791. Loyalists established governmental, social, educational, and religious institutions. Prince Edward County was given its official name in 1792, after Edward Duke of Kent. Edward visited Upper Canada in 1792, and made a call at Smith’s Bay where he met Lieut. Henry Young and the other leading men of the settlement. Three of the townships were named after King George III’s daughters — Amelia(sburg), Mary(sburgh), and Sophia(sburgh.)
Although the Revolutionary War was over, the settlers still had to be on guard against American invasion. During the War of 1812, American soldiers often ventured into British territory to capture enemy officers, who could then be exchanged for American prisoners of war.
When 13 armed American soldiers landed close to Prinyer’s Cove, Captain John Prinyer was tasked with their capture. With only four men, Prinyer was greatly outnumbered so he devised a plan to overcome the Americans using wit instead of might. The Americans were accustomed to a more “civilized” environment and had limited experience in rough country. They were also fearful of “natives”. Captain Prinyer used this to his advantage by posting his men throughout the woods and instructing them to mimic a war cry of the First Nations. Prinyer approached the American camp and convinced them he had come to save them from a brutal scalping. He persuaded the Americans to put down their weapons and surrender to escape the ambushing natives. All thirteen soldiers surrendered and were marched to Kingston as prisoners of war.
After the American Revolution ended, the “old 84th” unit was completely disbanded but the Canadian Army considers it to be continued in the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders. Today many of the 84th regiment descendants are still living in Prince Edward County. Can you spot any familiar surnames on this list below of Loyalist soldiers that settled in Prince Edward County?
Author’s note: Family roots do indeed run deep in our island County. Three of my ancestors were among the earliest European settlers that landed in Marysburgh.
I am a direct descendant of Konrad/Conrad) Bangert/Bongard (1751-1840), who was granted 500 acres in Marysburgh. Conrad was a Hessian soldier from Germany, hired by the British Government. Thousands of young German men were conscripted to serve in the Brunswick (Hessian) troops to fight in the American Revolutionary war. During the war, his troop was captured and he was POW in Virginia for 2 years. After the war, he had enough of the military and chose to stay in Canada with the UEL settlers. Conrad’s son, also named Conrad, served in the War of 1812 as a Captain. One of the first Conrad descendants, David L. Bongard, became County treasurer and license inspector. The Bongard crossroad in Waupoos is named for this family.
On my paternal side, my grandmother was a Hineman. Her gg. grandfather was Heinrich (Henry) Heinemann (1758-1835), also a Hessian soldier. He was granted 200 acres at South Bay.
The 40 +/- Hessians who came to Prince Edward County were one of the earliest German-speaking groups to settle in Ontario. The Rose burying ground at Smith’s Bay contains the remains of most of these first settlers. Hessians were initially granted the status of U.E.L. but this was revoked in 1802 by order of the Lieutenant governor of His Majesty’s Province of Upper Canada.
On my maternal side, I am also a descendant through marriage to Henry Young (1736/37-1823). My gg. grandmother was Henry’s niece. The Young family married into several other U.E. families and began a rich pattern of settlement in their chosen place.
A list of officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the 84th Regiment, the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, the Loyal Rangers (Major Jessup’s corps), Butler’s Rangers, etc., who settled in Prince Edward County.
R. R. N. Y.- King’s Royal Regiment of New York (Sir John Johnson’s Corps.)
L. R.- Loyal Rangers (Jessup’s Corps.)
K. R.- King’s Rangers.
O. R.- Orange Rangers.
E.R. Butler’s Rangers.
|Corbman, Jacob||Sophias & Ameliasb’g||R. R. N. Y., Sergeant|
|Cryderman or Cruderman, Michael||Marysburgh||R. R. N. Y.|
|Downley or Downey,Conretius||Marysburgh||84th|
|Dulmadge, David||Marysburgh||L. R.|
|Farrington, Robert||Marysburgh||R. R. N. Y., Corporal|
|Fox, Frederick||Sophiasburgh||R. R. N. Y., Corporal|
|Frederick, Lodwick||Marysburgh||R. R. N. Y., Corporal|
|Grant, James||Marysburgh||84th, Sergeant|
|Hicks, Benjamin||Marysburgh||B. R.|
|Howell, John||Sophiasburgh||R. R. N. Y., Sergt. Major|
|Lodwick, Frederick||Marysburgh||R. R. N. Y.|
|MacDonnell, Archibald||Marysburgh||84th Lieutenant|
|Mugel, Gadless||Sopias & Ameliasb’rg||R. R. N. Y.|
|Ogden, John||Marys & Sophiasb’g||R. R. N. Y|
|Peters, John||Marys & Sophiasb’g||L. R. Ensign|
|Porter, Timothy||Marys & Sophiasb’g||L. R.|
|Price, Thomas||Marysburgh||K. R.|
|Richards, Owen||Marys & Sophiasb’g||R. R. N. Y. Sergeant|
|Roberts, Thomas||Marysburgh||R. R. N. Y.|
|Ross, Walter||Marysburgh||84th, Sergeant|
|Saunders, Henry||Marysburgh||K. R.|
|Sutherland, John||Marysburgh||R. R. N. Y.|
|Young, Daniel||Marys & Sophiasburg||R. R. N. Y.|
|Young, Henry||Marys & Sophiasburg||R. R. N. Y. Lieutenant|
|Zufelt, Henry||Hallowell||L. R.|