THE LOYALIST EMIGRATION OF 1788
New York City, Long Island and Staten Island, the Great Loyalist Stronghold.
The Thorne Family in New York, Nova Scotia and St John.
(The following interesting letter from Rev. A. W. H. Eaton, No. 2 Bible House, New York City, was received by Mayor Thorne a few days ago, with a request that it be published in St. John).
Some historical researches I have lately been making in New York have brought me face to-face with that most interesting and, to Nova Scotia, most important historical event, the loyalist emigration in 1783 and with some of the people who figured therein. It is interesting to note the differences in political sentiment in the various states, north and south, during the revolution, and I have been especially interested in tracing the well known characteristics and conditions of the people of the various states, aristocratic, chivalrous, or else humbly born, or fiercely intolerant, as they gave tone and color to the revolutionary feelings in the various parts of the country.
"New York," Sabine says, "was undeniably the loyalists' stronghold, and contained more of them than any colony in all America. Massachusetts furnished 67,907 whig soldiers between the years 1775-1783, while New York supplied but 17,781. In adjusting the war balance, after the peace, Massachusetts, as was ascertained, had overpaid her share in the sum of $1,248,801; but New York was deficient in the large amount of $2,074,840." New York was essentially an aristocratic community; the English settlers on Long Island were known as "planters," kept slaves, were strongly attached to the English church, and the land was owned by comparatively few families. Sabine puts this very strongly. He says: "New York had no charter (like Massachusetts), but was governed by royal instructions, orders in council and similar authority, communicated to the governors by the ministers 'at home.'" "To say that the political institutions of New York formed a feudal aristocracy is to define them with tolerable accuracy. The soil was held by a few. The masses were mere retainers or tenants, as in the monarchies of Europe. Such a state of things was calculated to give the king many adherents."
It was, therefore, natural that the principal emigration of disaffected persons, at the close of the war, should have been, as it was, from New York, no less than 12,000 persons, it is recorded, embarking at New York city, Long Island and Staten Island for Nova Scotia and the bahamas immediately after the declaration of peace.
This was not, however, from mere patriotic sentiment, as one may see by reading the statutes declared in every state against those who remained loyal to the crown. In Massachusetts, for example, where the fierce puritanical temper of the people had made the war in a measure a religious war, the measures against loyalists were terribly severe, John Adams, a ruling spirit in that colony, strenuously recommending "to fine, imprison and hang all inimical to the cause, without favor or affection."
"In New York the county committees were authorized to apprehend and decide upon the guilt” of suspected persons, and to punish them by imprisonment or confiscation. Lawyers with sentiments of loyalty were prohibited from practising in the courts, and the condition of affairs was felt to be unbearable. So there seemed little left for the loyalists but exile, and it is pathetic to read that some of them, leaving their sunny New York homes, in taking leave of their friends, said ironically, "We are going to a lovely country, where there are nine months winter, and three months cold weather every year." Later, some compensation was made them and the objectionable statutes removed, but few of them ever returned. An event that brought loss and privation to the loyalists themselves, the rending of family ties, and much physical distress and suffering, and that took from the state of New York some of the very best blood England had given it, was of enormous gain to the little province of Nova Scotia, and any one at all familiar with the history of the province, knows how the refinement and high breeding of the New York exiles for many years gave courtliness to the social life of many of the towns and villages from Windsor to Annapolis, as well as Shelburne and other places on the southern shore, and invested with certain dignity and state the legal and political affairs of the whole province. for a long time after my own New England life began I could not understand why the social tone in New England towns seemed so inferior to that of places of corresponding size in Nova Scotia, but growing acquaintance with the descendants of Puritans, of which almost exclusively New' England is made up, has shown me even more clearly how much Nova Scotia owes and has always owed to the New York loyalists. Among the many families represented in this emigration were the families of Bliss, Botsford, Byles, Chaloner, Chandler, Chipman, Robinson, Wiggins and many others who went to New Brunswick; the families of Creighton, Blowers, Boggs, Brenton, Brown and many others who went to Halifax; the families of Barclay, Barlow, White, Robertson, Rapalye, Sneden, Hunt, Moore, Smart, and others, who went to Shelburne; the Bonnets, Ruggles, VanBuskirks, Thornes, and others who have always formed an influential portion of the populations of Annapolis and Kings.
The fortunes of one of these Long Island loyalist families, the Thornes, I have lately to some extent traced. There are today in New York and Brooklyn, as well as in different parts of Long Island, many representatives of this family, which has always from its origin in this country in 1638 been known as one of the prominent New York families, many of its members being large property owners, rich merchants, or else distinguished professional men, occupying the very highest social positions. In 1782 Stephen Thorne, with his second wife, four sons and one daughter, went to Nova Scotia, settling in Annapolis county, thus originating the Nova Scotia branch of the Long Island Thornes. He was the eldest son of Joseph Thorne, Esq., a planter, whose estate was at Cow Neck, Long Island, who died in 1752. He lived at Cow Neck, and was engaged in the East, and later, West Indian trade for some years before his emigration, and I have seen the record of his father’s will, in which he is left the chief part of the estate at Cow Neck.
Stephen’s first wife was Sybil, daughter of Edward Sands, from another of the old Long Island families, descended from an aristocratic English stock. She died in 1758, and he married in, perhaps, 1765, Janettie (Lefferts) Rapalye, grand-daughter of one of the old Dutch planters, originator of the well known New York Lefferts family, whose first husband was Jeronimus Rapalye, of French Huguenot and Dutch stock combined. Stephen Thorne’s children by his first marriage were Edward, Stephen, Joseph, Philip, Richard. By his second, James and Jane. Edward (who married his step-sister Janettie Rapalye, in 1773.) Philip, Richard, James and Jane went to Nova Scotia; Stephen and Joseph remaining behind. Stephen, jr., married (I believe) in 1773 Sarah Platt, and in 1779, Sarah Kippin. He died in John st. New York, 23rd Oct., 1814, and is buried in Trinity churchard. His children were Stephen, William K. and Sally. Stephen (3rd) son of Edward, came back from Nova Scotia to New York, was a successful merchant and died in 1830, unmarried, leaving considerable property to his Nova Scotia relations. His sister Jane was the wife of Timothy Ruggles, Esq. Joseph is said to have been a physician and to have died young. The ancestor of all the Thornes of New York, Nova Scotia and some in New Brunswick, was William Thorne, who came from England (perhaps from Essex county) to Lynn, Massachussets in 1638, whence after four or five years he removed to Long Island and became one of the original grantees of the town of Flushing, 19th Oct., 1645. His children were William Jr., John, Joseph, Samuel and Susannah. His wife’s first name, I believe, was Sarah. A son of Joseph, son of William, was Joseph Thorne, Esq., of Cow Neck (now Manhasset), father of Stephen, who in 1783 went to Nova Scotia. His wife was Catherine Smith, a widow, and his children were Margaret, Stephen, Thomas, Catherine and Richard. William Thorne and his family were early connected with the interesting Quaker movement in Long Island, with which likewise stand connected the names of the illustrious Lady Deborah Moody and her son, Sir Henry Moody. Indeed almost all the people in this part of Long Island at this time became "Friends." But love of the mother Church of England was too strong for some of them to remain long connected with a movement so narrow, even though picturesque aud profoundly sincere, and in a few years we find many of William Thorne’s descendants again staunch supporters of the Church of England. The family of William Thorne, Jr., for many successive generations established at Great Neck, L. I., a distinguished representative of which was Major Richard Thorne, an officer in the American army in the Revolution, have always been Episcopalians. (The lineal representative of this family is now Richard Eugene Thorne, Esq., of Great Neck,) Joseph Thorne, Esq., of Cow Neck, adjoining Great Neck, was one of the founders of historic old St Georges church, Hampstead, to which Queen Anne gave a silver communion service, bible, and prayer book. Joseph's son Stephen, the Nova Scotia loyalist, was one of the earliest persons baptized in the parish, in 1725. From John Thorne, son of the original William, are descended Leonard Mortimer Thome, of 23 West 16th street, a retired merchant, the possessor of a large collection of valuable oil paintings which he has spent many years in collecting, a genial gentleman whom it is a pleasure to know; and his brother, the late William Knapp Thorne, who married for his second wife Emily Vanderbilt, a daughter of old Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. Of the same family are Frances, wife of the present Lord Vernon, of Sudbury Park, Devonshire, Eng., and Florence Garner, her niece, soon to become Lady Chesterfield.
Relations, in the same line, of the Nova Scotia Thornes, are the family of the late Jonathan Thorne, Esq., very rich and well known, of whom Miss Phebe Anna Thorne, of Madison Avenue, is still a Friend, and although very rich, wears the Quaker dress and uses the plain language. Mrs. James and Mrs. Philip Harper, wives of two of the well known Harper Brothers, publishers, daughters of Samuel Thorne, are likewise of the family of Joseph Thorne, son of the original William. Among the original grantees of Parr Town (St. John, N. B.) were Joseph, William, and Melancthon Thorne, the first receiving 630, the second 631, and the third 1186 acres. They too were loyalists, and I presume, descendants of John Thorne, but whether their descendants are in New Brunswick or not I do not know. James Thorne son of Stephen, of Annapolis, Nova Scotia, married 22nd March, 1782, Anna Sneden, related to two other well
known New York families, the Pells and the Townsends. One of their sons is a well known citizen of St. John, N. B., Richard Ward Thorne, and another, Edward, was the father of W. H., chairman of the board of trade, and Arthur Thorne, hardware merchant of St. John. Another son, Stephen, was the father of the late James Hall Thorne, barrister at Halifax, for many years at the head of the Money Order department, whose daughter Augusta was married a year ago to my brother, Leslie Seymour Eaton, of Kentville, Nova Scotia.
The respected mayor of St. John, Henry John Thorne, Esq., is the son of Henry John Thorne, a native of Plymouth, England, who came to St. John when very young. A brother of Mayor Thorne, Robert Chestnut, married a daughter of Richard Ward Thorne, Esq., of the other family. Whether this Plymouth family is closely related to the New York family I have as yet no reason of knowing. Last summer I met in London a Richard Thorne who bore the arms of the well known Thornes of Dveon, which are; Argent, a fess gules, between three lions rampant sable, Crest, a lion
rampant sable. Motto, Principus Obsta. I obtained for my sister-in-law a copy of these arms, and have since had them copied in New York. I think it likely they are the arms of the New York and Nova Scotia family.
ARTHUR WENTWORTH HAMILTON EATON.
NEW YORK, May 28, 1888.
[The above paper, in part, was lately printed in the Halifax Chronicle, but owing to imperfect information I had there inserted some errors which I have since been able to correct. A. W. H. E.]