Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Loyalist Ancestors: Arriving in New Brunswick From New York

In the last post, I wrote about my 4th great Uncle Murphy Giberson, who lived in New Brunswick, was descended from Loyalists, and is related to me through my mother's mother.

My mother's father's side of the family was also descended from a Loyalist--my paternal great great great great grandfather, John Crabb, who was born in 1741 in Duchess County, New York. This is how we are related:

John Crabb (1741 - 1792)
My 4th great-grandfather

John Crabb Jr. (1770 - 1853)
son of John Crabb

William Henry Crabb Sr. (1802 - 1868)
son of John Crabb Jr.

William Henry Crabb Jr. (1837 - 1890)
son of William Henry Crabb Sr.

David Jewett Crabtree Sr. (1875 - 1954)
son of William Henry Crabb Jr. (my grandfather)

Elva Myrtle Crabtree (1914 - 1998)
daughter of David Jewett Crabtree Sr. (my mother)

Clair Marie Harris Zarges
This is me, the daughter of Elva Myrtle Crabtree


During the American Revolutionary War John Crabb, Sr. remained loyal to the King of England, serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in the King's military.(1)

When the war was over the
 Loyalists fled to New York, the last British bastion in the 13 Colonies, from where they were transported to safety and a new settlement. Those who had ample time retreated with dignity, carrying the family's prized possessions with them. Most fled with little more than the clothes on their backs. On arrival in the new land they were herded into camps where they survived on government rations and dreams of a new life in a new land.(2)

Last British soldiers leave New York, 1783 (2)

John, age 42, and his wife, Elizabeth Bassett, age 34, and their five children (Stephen, 17; John, Jr., 13; Elizabeth, 12; Polly, 10; and Charity, almost 4) , boarded the ship Cyrus in New York City on Aug. 21, 1783. They didn't set sail until Sept. 6, 1783, and they were on the St. John River [in what is now New Brunswick, Canada] by Sept. 14, 1783.(3)


It was a terrible time of year to arrive in a cold climate, with a brutal winter to come, and little preparation made.  To describe the conditions the Loyalists experienced, I am quoting the following article by W.O. Raymond in its entirety.

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The Loyalists and Their First New Brunswick Winter

The first winter in New Brunswick was long remembered by the loyalists. Those who came early in the season were able to build log houses which, though rude structures in comparison with former dwellings, enabled them to pass the cold weather with comfort. But the later arrivals were not so fortunate. When they arrived they found that scarcely any preparations had been made for their reception. 

At Parrtown, Portland and Carleton every habitation was crowded, and up the river St. John the houses of the old inhabitants at Gagetown, Sheffield and Maugerville were in many cases filled to overflowing with as many of the loyalists as could find accommodation.

During the month of October many of the disbanded soldiers pushed their way up the Saint John transporting their few possessions in boats provided by government. But the season was cold and wet and the hardships and exposure very great.

Mrs. Mary Bradley, in her curious old autobiography, describes the effect produced in her mind by the arrival of the loyalists. She was living at the time in the lower part of the township of Maugerville, now known as Sheffield. "My heart," she says, "was filled with pity and affection when I saw them in a strange land without house or home, and many of them were sick and helpless. I often looked at them when they passed by in boats in rainy weather and wished for them to call and refresh themselves and was glad when they did so." She adds that during the winter one of the loyalist families occupied a part of her father's house.

Colonel Richard Hewlett, seeing the impossibility of disbanding the loyalist corps at their several locations as originally intended by Sir Guy Carleton, was compelled to disband them at St. John, urging them at the same time to make the best provision they could for the approaching winter. 

The more adventurous spirits pressed on up the river, some finding shelter in the houses of the old settlers, while others took possession of the abandoned French settlements at Grimross and St. Anne's Point, where they set about building huts and repairing the ruined dwellings of the Acadians, but before they had made much progress the snow was on the ground and the winter frost in the air. They then endured the greatest hardships, their situation being at times rendered well nigh desperate in consequence of the non arrival of supplies expected up the river before the close of navigation. 

Frequently the stout hearted fathers and sons of the little colony at St. Anne's had to journey from fifty to a hundred miles with toboggans through wild woods or on the ice to procure a precarious supply of food for their famishing families. Women, delicately reared, cared for their children beneath canvas tents rendered habitable only by the banks of snow which lay six feet deep in the open spaces of the forest, and as one said who had as a child passed through the terrible experience of that first winter: "There were times when strong proud men wept like children and lay down in their snow bound tents to die."

A few of the pioneer settlers doubtless found shelter among the French Acadians of whom there were then several families living near Springhill, others may have passed the winter at Prince William where the disbanded men of the King's American Dragoons had been sent sufficiently early to finish their log cabins and provisions for passing the winter in comfort. 

It has commonly been supposed that a party of de Lancey's men under the leadership of Lieut.
Benjamin P. Griffith arrived at Woodstock before the close of the year 1783, but in the absence of any positive evidence on the point this appears improbable. True, it is barely possible that by prompt and decisive action a party of men might have gathered the necessary supplies and pushed up the river nearly 150 miles before the close of navigation, and then have contrived in some way to exist through the winter, but the undertaking seems such a rash and even perilous one, that the writer is disposed to think it was not until the spring of 1784 that the actual settlement of Woodstock began.

Very many men from all the loyal American regiments spent their first winter at St. John. Some of them drew town lots there and became permanent residents, others removed to their lands up the river the following year. For lack of other accommodation many were forced to live in bark camps and even under canvas tents pitched upon what is now known as the barrack square. These tents were trenched around and covered with spruce brought in the ship's boats from Partridge Island but even then they were a pitiful protection against the biting cold of a New Brunswick winter. 

Still it was wonderful what the brave hearted founders of this province endured. The late Hon. John Ward, who died at St. John, Jan. 2nd, 1875, at the advanced age of 92 years, was born in a canvas tent on the barrack square Dec. 18th 1783.

In his little work on New Brunswick history, published in the year 1825, Mr. Peter Fisher (father of ex-Mayor Fisher of Woodstock) speaks of the tribulations endured by the pioneer settlers in the words following, "The privations and sufferings of these people almost exceed belief. The want of food and clothing in a wild, cold country, was not easily dispensed with or soon remedied. Frequently in the piercing cold of winter a part of the family had to remain up during the night to keep fire in their huts to prevent the other part from freezing. Some very destitute families made use of boards to supply the want of bedding; the father or some of the elder children remaining up by turns, and warming two suitable pieces of boards, which they applied alternately to the smaller children to keep warm; with many similar expedients. . . . I have received the above facts with many other expedients, which were at that time adopted by the settlers, from persons of undoubted veracity, and who had been eye witness of what they related." 

Quite a number of officers and men of De Lancey's first and second battalions drew lots in Parrtown, and amongst them were Major Joseph Green, Captain Jacob Smith, Captain Thomas French, Surgeon Nathan Smith, Quarter Master George Everett, Lieut. Benjamin Lester, Ensigns Nicholas E. Old, Ralph Smith, Geo. Brewerton and Henry Ferguson; Sergeants David Newman, Daniel McSherfry, Patrick McNamara, Thomas Fowler and Edward Neil; Corporals Richard Rogers, Thomas Stanley, Jonas Highby; Privates James Craig, Daniel Cummings, Lawrence McDonald. Most of their lots were side by side extending along the south side of Britain street from Wentworth street eastward to Canterbury Bay and also including adjoining lots on Broad street where the "Old Ladies Home" now stands.

Early in the year 1784 pioneer settlers of Woodstock proceeded to the place allotted them for settlement. The leader of the party was Lieut. Benjamin P. Griffith -- afterwards Colonel Griffith of the York County militia. He was born in the then province of New York, July 4th, 1754, and the fact that he received a commission as lieutenant in Lt. Col. Stephen de Lancey's company of de Lancey's brigade, when about twenty-three years of age, shows him to have been a young man of spirit and decision. One of the first engagements in which his company saw active service was in repelling an attack made by the Americans on King's Bridge at the head of Manhattan Island, August 22, 1777, where the 2nd de Lancey battalion was then stationed. The "rebels" were beaten off, but the youthful rashness of Lieutenant Griffith led to his being captured by the enemy. He soon after effected his escape or was exchanged and served gallantly through the war including the southern campaign, to which reference has already been made. At the peace in 1783 he came with his company to St. John. Lt. Col. de Lancey who commanded the company did not come to the province, having received the appointment of chief justice of the Bahamas, and governor of Tobago. Lieut. Griffith's influence with his men is seen in the fact that a larger number of his company were grantees at Woodstock than any other company in the brigade, and more of them became actual settlers.

Doubtless the pioneer party found it a difficult task to propel their heavily laden boat against the strong current of the upper St. John, the navigation of which was then more difficult than now. The Meductic rapids were a much more serious hindrance to navigation than now owing to the occurrence of dangerous rocks in the channel. During the ensuing summer the grant for the de Lancey battalions was surveyed and the lots for the officers and men were drawn in the usual manner, after which the grant was recorded at Halifax.

W. O. Raymond (4)



1, 3. Smith, Louise Elizabeth: Grandma and Me; Family Stories, Information and Photos of the Crabtree and Higginson Families of Amanda Myrtie Crabtree Briggs. Cave Creek, AZ: Austin-Smith Books, 2007.

2. Historical Narratives of Early Canada: Two Nations.

4. The article by W.O. Raymond was found on, where genealogists share their family history: It was accessed 28 May 2017.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Great Great Great Great Uncle Murphy

Relationship between Murphy Giberson of Murphy Lake, Bath, New Brunswick, Canada; and me, Clair Marie Harris Zarges of New Mexico, USA:

Murphy Giberson (1795 - 1868) is my 4th great-uncle

John Giberson (1762 - 1842) was the father of Murphy Giberson

James Giberson (1791 - 1869) was the son of John Giberson

Samuel Giberson (1826 - 1917) was the son of James Giberson

William Giberson (1856 - ? ) was the son of Samuel Giberson, and my great-grandfather

Edith Rae Giberson (1880 - 1946) was the daughter of William Giberson and my grandmother

Elva Myrtle Crabtree (1914 - 1998) was the daughter of Edith Rae Giberson and my mother

Clair Marie Harris Zarges: That's me, daughter of Elva Myrtle Crabtree


My great great great great Uncle Murphy was a descendant of Lubbert Gysbertszen, who was born in 1601 in the Netherlands. Lubbert came to America in 1634 "on a three-year contract as a wheelwright with the famous patron, Killaen van Renssalaer." (1)

Murphy's father, John (grandson of Lubbert), is known in our family as John Giberson, The Loyalist. The Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the King of England, and so fought on the losing side in the American Revolutionary War. Our John the Loyalist was a private in the King's American Dragoons in New Jersey. 

After the war, many Loyalists had their lands and moneys confiscated, and thousands left America for other parts of the world. Around 30,000 or so went to Canada, settling in parts of Nova Scotia and in the newly-formed (1784) province of New Brunswick.(2)

Loyalists landing in Canada (10)

John the Loyalist settled on the east side of the St. John River, just below present-day Bath, New Brunswick. He married Elizabeth Brown, who was of Pennsylvania Dutch descent.

Loyalist family starting over (10)

John's son, Murphy, came from a big family; all my New Brunswick relatives seem to do so. Murphy was one of eleven children; and together with his wife, Lydia Stickney (1805-1883), he created a good-sized family of thirteen: Benjamin (1824-1828), Samuel, Joseph, Hannah, Mary, David, Hamilton, Harriet, a second sadly short-lived Benjamin (1841-1845), Hepsibah, Charles, Emily, and Amos. 

Fifty-eight of their grandchildren grew to maturity.(3)

Murphy hadn't married Lydia until he was 28. When he was 21, and his brother Simon was 16, they petitioned for the ownership transfer of 300 acres of land, bought for a hundred pounds by their father.  
Land Petition, Murphy and Simon Giberson, 19 Mar 1816: Murphy Giberson, aged 21 yrs, and Simon Giberson, aged 16 yrs; single of Wakefield, born in New Brunswick. Their father purchased in May, last part from Gabriel Davenport, an allotment of 300 acres between Monquart Creek on the east side of St. John River for 100 pounds.(4)
As I've been researching Murphy, I've found that many of the things I have learned to do were a part of Murphy and Lydia's daily farm life. Here is a quote from Wiley Waugh:
Murphy Giberson... had a grist mill; rye was the grain, as there was no wheat. Maple sugar was made, and sheep raised for wool, which was spun, woven and made into clothes, all by hand. They also raised flax, which was spun and woven into sheets, pillow cases, and table[cloths]. Lydia Stickney had the first iron cookstove, and the first buggy to be seen on the St. John River. (5)
Although I can't claim to have driven a buggy, I have raised and sheared sheep, and have tried my hand at spinning, weaving, and dyeing. I even raised a bit of flax once. Of course, none of this counts as the kind of hard work Murphy and Lydia were doing, but I certainly feel some kinship with them.

Spinning on my wheel, just like Lydia Giberson

Murphy was involved in his community:
Murphy Giberson was the first magistrate in Kent (New Brunswick) and first postmaster of Kent and in April 1853 Murphy was appointed as a way officer in Kent.(6)
In an obituary for Deacon Nathan Milbury, one of the Giberson's neighbors, we read that Murphy was also an active member in the neighborhood's Free Baptist Church.
Shortly after [Deacon Milbury's] settlement here, he was brought under the power of the Gospel to embrace religion and was baptized, by whom is not known; he united with the Free Baptist Church and was chosen one of its Deacons and as the country was new and Ministers scarce. Brother Milbury and late Brother Murphy GIBERSON and Brother Holland Estey united in holding up the worship of God in the neighborhood.(7)

Having led a productive and hardworking pioneer life, Murphy died when he was 73. He was buried in the Lower Wicklow Cemetery, Wicklow Parish, New Brunswick. Although the exact location of his grave in the cemetery is unknown, a memorial has been created for him next to the grave of his wife. (8)
d. 13th ult., at his residence, Kent, Murphy GIBERSON, Esq., age 73, left wife, eleven children. Funeral took place on Monday 15th. Sermon preached by Rev. G.W. Orser. (9)

1, 3-6: John Giberson, Loyalist, by Wiley Waugh, Sr. Bristol, New Brunswick: Books of Waugh, 1999. Rev. ed.

2. Wikipedia: Loyalist (American Revolution).

7. Carleton Sentinel, Woodstock, Carleton County. 3 Mar 1883.

8. Murphy Giberson, in Find a Grave:

9. Carleton Sentinel, Woodstock, Carleton County, New Brunswick, Canada. 1 Aug. 1868.

10. Historical Narratives of Early Canada: Two Nations.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A New Family

February 18, 1985

My mother, Elva Crabtree Harris Rodriguez, was widowed at the age of 57 in 1972 when my father, Daniel Lawrence Harris, died of complications following a heart attack and stroke. They had been married for almost 32 years. 

Although she still traveled to all the places they had planned to see together, she was lonely. She once told me she never expected to be alone for so very long. But then she met Ernie (Ernest Raymond Rodriguez) and they married when she was 70, on February 18, 1985. Their life together was truly wonderful and she greatly enjoyed her expanded family.

I'm so glad that someone thought to take this photo of the combined family--the newly married couple; Elva's two daughters, Clair (that's me) and Jean; Ernie's three daughters, Linda, Diana, and Patt; plus our children. Many thanks to Linda Griswold for helping me with all the names I wasn't sure of.

In the front row, left to right:
Benjamin Daniel VandenBoom (Clair's son)
Breca Rodriguez Griswold (now Mariscal--Linda's daughter)
Ernie Lopez (Patt's son)
Colin Rodriguez Griswold (Linda's son)

Middle row:
Clair Harris Zarges (Elva's daughter)
Jocelyn Elise Goldsmith (Now de Sena--Jean's daughter)
Diana Rodriguez Muñoz (Ernie's daughter)
Linda Rodriguez Griswold (Ernie's daughter)
Patt Rodriguez Lopez (Ernie's daughter)

Back row:
Bill Zarges (Clair's husband)
Jean Harris (Elva's daughter)
Elva Crabtree Harris Rodriguez (the bride)
Andy Muñoz (Diana's son)
Ernie Rodriguez (the groom, holding his grandson, Andy)
We think the man who is partly out of sight on the right is Jerry Griswold (Linda's husband)

Monday, May 8, 2017

My Parents as Children

Elva Crabtree Harris Rodriguez

Daniel Lawrence Harris