United Empire Loyalists in America

(Captain John Saunders and Wife: pictures courtesy of the Provincial Museum at Fredericton, N.B.)

manuscript by Hugh Bibbs

The Eighteenth Century

John Saunders was born in 1754 in Princess Anne County, today called Virginia Beach. His father died eleven years later, and his mother, four years after that. Jacob Ellegood, his older brother-in-law, became guardian of the family, and John was sent away to Philadelphia to study. Three years later, at the age of eighteen, he returned home to read law. At the age of twenty one, he inherited full control of the family estate. The estate was a twelve hundred acre tobacco plantation in Virginia colony.

His ancestry traces back to the founding members of the colony. Throughgood, Bennett, Snayle: these were families which broke ground in the 1600's, members of the first viable english colony in the world.
Captain Adam Throughgood started life in Virginia as a servant boy. As a man, he managed so well as an independant planter, that he was able to bring himself a wife back from England in 1628, along with 38 servants of his own. By 1635, he had accumulated 5350 acres.
The investors backing the colonial enterprise were strictly interested in tobacco as a cash crop, and the profits were huge. They named the colony, like any good developers, with an optimistic and romantic handle: the virgin land, "Virginia".
John Saunders' great great great grandfather, Jaspar, was born in England, and worked in London. Jaspar began life in the latter Elizabethan age, during the time of Robert and Thomas Cecil.
He sent his son, Jonathan, to be educated at Magdalen College of Oxford. After finishing his schooling, Jonathan entered the ministry. As Reverend Saunders, he served as rector of Peldon from 1667-1674, and then as rector of Sendon. He passed away in 1685.
His second son, and namesake, born in 1671, also entered the ministry. The junior Reverend Jonathan Saunders graduated Wadham College in 1691 with an ABA degree (Alumnus Oxonienses, P. 1315, and Oxford College). It was he who took the plunge and emigrated to the New World.
At the age of twenty one, Jonathan booked passage to the Virginia colony in the New World, across the Western Ocean.
There, he met Mary Bennett, daughter of the pioneering english colonials, Thomas Bennett and his wife, Ann Snayle. Jonathan and Mary settled in Princess Anne County, where he was the pastor of the parish at Lynnhaven (now called Old Dominion). Mary bore him a son, whom they named John.
This boy, John, grew up with less of an inclination for holy orders than his forefathers.
He turned his mind to the art of sailing, and worked his way up to become a licensed ship's captain. In Virginia, masters of ships collected head-rights, a grant of fifty acres of land for each person brought across, and, for their sailors on every voyage. They accumulated considerable land holdings this way.
Captain John Saunders had a son born to him in 1726, and he was named John. John senior died seven years later, in 1733.
The son grew up to emulate his father, and became a sea captain in turn. He married a member of the Throughgood clan, Elizabeth*. By this time, the young couple were very well established at the Virginia Beach plantation. There, they attended his grandfather's church, at Old Dominion.
The young captain John Saunders and his wife, Elizabeth, had a son born to them on June 1, 1754. This son, they called John. He is the same as whom we began this list with.

By the time John Saunders had assumed ownership if the family plantation, the explosive anger in the english colonies over issues of self determination had reached critical mass, especially since the Royal Proclamation of 1763.
During the colonial period, the Colonial Office of the Imperial Government reserved for itself the right to create treaties with the aborigines which would extinguish Aboriginal Title to land which was to be colonized. The Imperial Government could not have colonists making land purchases directly from the Indians, since such sales were difficult to ratify, awkward to survey, and may have conflicted with Imperial plans for development.
Besides, the aborigines were in no way loathe to sell the same land again to other would be settlers, since they did not share the European concept of private property, and did not understand the exclusiveness of a land title transfer. Therefore, Indian occupied lands which were not under treaty could not be bought, sold, or settled, without the threat of expropriation at a later date.
The principal of extinguishing Aboriginal Title prior to colonization was generally recognized by the Colonial Office before 1763, but due to the abuses prevalent in the colonies, the Crown issued a Royal Proclamation in 1763 ordering the immediate eviction of settlers from Indian lands in British North America. Indian lands were:

"...All the Lands and Territories lying to the Westward of the Sources of the Rivers which fall into the Sea (the Atlantic Ocean) from the West and North West as aforesaid; And We do hereby strictly forbid, on Pain of our Displeasure, all our loving Subjects from making any Purchases or Settlements whatever, or taking Possession of any of the Lands above reserved... and require all persons whatever who have...seated themselves upon any Lands... above described...forthwith to remove themselves from such Settlements."

This outraged the land hungry American english, whose entire future was seen to ride on the exploitation of the primeval continent of which they had taken possession, ipso facto.
Added to this complaint was the fact that they could not persuade the British parliament to arrange for representation by members from the colonies. This demand for representation within the parliament of the English was so heartfelt, that it became the raison d'etre of the revolutionary new constitution of the united colonies in defiance of the Imperial government.
After a few protests over new taxes, a bloody little police incident in Boston triggered the fuse, and the general revolt began in earnest.

There was a minor assault, late in 1775, by the provisional Virginia militia, which was easily crushed by the Governor's troops. However, the successes of the rebels elsewhere throughout the colonies meant that the enthusiasm for the revolution continued to take root and flourish.
In 1776, the congress of the united american colonies of Great Britain unilaterally declared political and military independance.
Although this political position was more of a bargaining tactic than an act of legislation, there was an amateur soldier who showed up there from Virginia, dressed in full parade ground regalia, who could not wait for the chance to take control of the rebel army, such as it was. He persuaded the congress to appoint him commander-in-chief of the new forces.
His name was George Washington, and no British professional soldier would have taken him seriously. But, then again, military intelligence has always been a dicey sort of science. Most often, the outcome of a conflict seems to turn, not upon who wins the contest, but, upon who loses it.

John Saunders was still a youth. He had devoted himself to the study of the Law. He was now a landowner of importance in the prosperous Virginia colony. He said that he had been taught from infancy "to fear God and honor the King". He was ready to take his place as a member of the colonial aristocracy, a responsible and respected subject of the British Crown.
All this was now threatened by the incendiary behavior of a handful of his neighbours, and the rural rabble who had organized themselves into a secretive cabal of outlaws, ready to wage all out rebellion against the lawful government in order to further their own private ambitions. John Saunders was outraged.
In the face of growing popular support for the rebellion in Virginia, John joined up with the loyalist force known as the Queen's Loyal Virginia Regiment, commanded by Ellegood. When the loyalist forces were forced to abandon the colony late in August, 1776, their estates in Virginia were confiscated by the rebels.
Saunders & Co. regrouped in New York, where his regiment was incorporated into the Queen's American Rangers, with himself in the rank of captain of infantry.
The Rangers were sent with the British Army under General William Howe on the Philadelphia Campaign and fought at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown.
On September 11, at the battle of Brandywine, Saunders was severely injured. He was unable to rejoin his unit for five months. When he was fit for duty once more, he returned to his regiment.
On 15 October 1777, command of the regiment was given to Major John Graves Simcoe, and on 25 May 1778 Simcoe was promoted to the Provincial rank of Lieutenant Colonel. The regiment was involved in raids into New Jersey, covered the British withdrawal from Philadelphia to New York, and participated in the Battle of Monmouth Court House on 28 June 1778. The Queen's Rangers was taken on the American Establishment as the 1st American Regiment on 2 May 1779. Captain John Saunders and his troop of dragoons were sent to Virginia, and then to Charleston, South Carolina, where he was garrison commander at Georgetown from February until June of 1781. With him was coronet Thomas Merritt. The Regiment was at Yorkton with Cornwallis when he surrendered the British Army on 19 October 1781.

Captain John Saunders, Queens Rangers: circa 1790

Saunders sailed for England in November, 1782.
The claim he had filed with the loyalist claims commission was granted, and he was compensated 4,850 pounds sterling, and an annual pension of forty pounds.
Secured in his means, he entered the Inns of Court to study at the Middle Temple.
The Ellegood's had resettled themselves in New Brunswick, and had they not done so, Saunders might well have joined John Simcoe in Upper Canada, but on a visit to his sister's new home in 1788, John Saunders made his first land purchase in New Brunswick.
The next year, as the mobs raged out of control in Paris, the french revolutionaries having been inspired by the success of the american ones, John was admitted to the bar, in London. He also began his courtship of Arianna Chalmers, a daughter of the Lt. Colonel of the Maryland loyalist regiment, James Chalmers, and his wife, Arianna (Jekyll).

Arianna (Jekyll) Chalmers Senior: circa 1775

John and Arianna were married the next year. With a dowry exceeding the total of John's own wealth, Arianna had no reason to feel beholden.

Arianna Chalmers Junior: circa 1790

The month after their wedding, John was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of New Brunswick. His old commander, Simcoe, was made the Lt. Governor of Upper Canada the same year.
The Saunders returned to British North America, this time to stay. Their eldest son was named after John Simcoe.


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