Records of Old Revolutionary Soldiers and Their Widows
Ruby M. Cusack
Gramp arrived early Saturday morning to help Dad fix the big barn door before the winds of Fall blew it off its hinges. They were about half way through the task when the heavens opened and the rain came pouring down. As they stood inside the barn watching the big drops bounce off the hood of the car, Gramp mused, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good.”
I thought of his comment as I was reading the applications of the distressed soldiers or their widows for a pension of ten pounds per annum during the 1840s as the information they gave certainly has provided the genealogical researcher with some very interesting and informative facts.
With the defeat of the British at Yorktown in 1781 and by the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the British ceded independence to the Thirteen Colonies. Consequently, in 1783, large numbers of British soldiers (both Regular and Militia) began to move to British North America along with thousands of other subjects loyal to King George.
By the 1830s, however, many of these soldiers and/or their widows were in what was termed at the time "distressed" conditions - they were destitute. Some (either the soldier or his widow) were affected by war wounds, some had failed in farming or business, some had debilitating health problems and, because of their age, often did not have sufficient income to support themselves. The numbers of such distressed soldiers and/or their widows were such that the situation came to the attention of the House of Assembly which, in 1839, passed an Act granting financial assistance. The legislation was entitled 'An Act for the Relief of Old Soldiers of the Revolutionary War and their Widows'. The Act allowed for the distressed soldiers or their widows to apply for a pension of ten pounds per annum.
In 1838, Enoch Groom requested he be granted such means as to support him in his infirm days. His children are grown up and settled from him and he is left with his wife and an infant grandchild. He is in his 87th year and place of birth was Norfolk, England. He had enlisted in the 54th Regiment, commanded by Col. Bruce in 1776. The regiment landed in New York and thence proceeded to Rhode Island. After his death in 1843 in Hampton Parish, his widow Dorothy stated in her petitions, she married Enoch Groom in Prince Edward Island in 1789 and was aged 74 in 1845. Her last petition listed was 1853.
John Underwood, Westmorland County was born in North Kingston, Rhode Island in 1760. In 1838, advises he is a very poor man.
The statement by John Giberson revealed he had not received any land from the government for his services. He had settled on the Tobique Indian Reserve thirteen years prior to 1838.
Flora McGraw of Blackville Parish, Northumberland County was the widow of Alexander McGraw. In 1849, she was in her one hundredth year and had been unable to support herself for many years.
Three thousand digitized documents concerning “Old Soldiers - Records of Old Revolutionary Soldiers and Their Widows” are available on the website of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick at http://archives.gnb.ca/Archives/EN/default.aspx with approximately 350 named soldiers and 250 named widows.
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Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John. Send your queries to her at: 47 Jean St., Saint John, N.B., Canada, E2J 1J8. Or E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name and mailing address for the benefit of those who do not have access to E-mail. Please put Family Surname followed by the word 'Query' in the subject line. That is "Smith & Jones" - Query.
Ruby has a "Family History" column in the Telegraph-Journal on Tuesdays