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Evans, Carol: Peter Van Alstine was an Associated Loyalist

Peter Van Alstine was an Associated Loyalist 

presented by Carol Evans

What is an Associated Loyalist?
Associated Loyalists were members of temporary companies formed under military supervision to facilitate the evacuation of the City of New York at the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783. (Turner Pg 122) Peter had however been more involved in the seven year conflict than this implies.

Let’s start at the beginning.........

Peter was a knickerbocker, from a moneyed  Tory family and married to a woman whose family was Whig.  He was a magistrate when Patriots/Rebels were  causing trouble in the area of Kinderhook.  In 1775 he was presented with the suggestion that debtors should not be asked to pay their debts especially since they “were fighting the  King”. (Turner Pg 19 ) By  mid June of 1776 he and a group of others were jailed for 17 days for no written reason.  When released he went into hiding and managed to make things more difficult for the rebels through various timely incidents.  (Turner Pg 21)  A reward of 100 pounds was offered for his capture dead or alive. (Turner pg 22)

Peter gathered a group of men that sought out Burgoyne, the British Army officer in charge in the area.  This band of men were accepted as batteaux men by Burgoyne and began the arduous and dangerous job of providing a food supply line to the army. Always in the  water they were excellent targets for the Rebels on shore and men were certainly lost.  When Burgoyne was forced to surrender at Saratoga, Van Alstine was sent to Canada as were all of the sailors, batteauxmen and drivers attached to the Canadian supply line. (Turner Pg 26)

While Peter was away, his farm and home were confiscated leaving his wife and children at the mercy of friends and family for support.

In 1777 Peter was listed as a Captain in a “Return of Conventioner in Quebec City”.  The following summer he returned with most of his batteauxmen to New York where the group re-formed under Abraham Cyler’s Corp on Long Island.  Peter was a Major in Cyler’s Corps at Smithtown.  His wife and children were able to join him there where they worked a small holding.  The Rebels again stripped them of all of their goods - another great personal loss.

The largest group of Loyalists settled in the Eastern provinces of Canada.  A small group of Associated Loyalists headed for Kingston in July of 1783.  Major Peter’s group of 72 men, 45 women, 62 children and 15 servants for a total of 194 people, departed on 6 Sep 1783.   The Major would have left sooner but had “recurring  difficulty of trying to obtain financial compensation for his activities under General Burgoyne”. (Turner Pg 59)

Major Peter’s group along with the group headed to Kingston spent the winter in barracks in Sorel with little in the way of blankets, clothing or food  from  General  (Sir) Frederick Haldimand.

On 24 May 1784, all were mustered and sent to Montreal.  From there all were set into batteaux.  The necessary supplies were to follow.  Major Peter’s group headed for Adolphustown.  Peter requested to stay behind with his ailing wife Alida  and their children until she were well enough to travel.  His request was denied by Haldimand  and the Major was to accompany the  group to Adolphustown. At Montreal he turned back on June 7th and found his children stricken with measles. Alida died by the date of 3rd August of that year. He had 5 children, 3 of whom had survived and he never remarried.

He proceeded to Adolphustown, where he settled on lots 26 and 27 of Concession 1, with 370 acres adjoining the town plot.  

Photo of Peter Van Alstine's mill at the Glenora Ferry. Copyright Harold Stiver and used with permission.
Peter Van Alstine's mill at the Glenora Ferry. Photo by Harold Stiver for his book Ontario's Old Mills, used with permission.

Peter, built the early mills at Lake on the Mountain ( according to Goddard these were grist and carding mills built in 1796) and the stone mills at the Marysburg ferry landing and was the earliest ferry owner at Glenora.   (Wm. C. Canniff, The settlement of Upper Canada, op. cit.; E.A. Cruikshank, The Settlement of United Empire Loyalists, Toronto, 1934, pages 100-101; A.F. Hunter, 'Probated Wills', Ontario Historical Society Papers and Records, (OHSPR), Vol. 23, 1926, pp. 336-7; R.V. Rogers, 'The First Commission of the Peace for the District of Mecklenburg', OHSPR Vol. B, 1907, pp. 62-64) For photo of Van Alstine's stone mill buildings see http://carlykb.com/blog/?tag=adolphustown

Peter became a magistrate again travelling between Adolphustown and Kingston to serve on the Court of Quarter Sessions for each town.  He was also on the Land Board for Lennox & Addington, Hastings and PEC for the brief time of its existence.  He was part of the first elected assembly in 1792. (Turner)

Five years after settling in what was then Quebec, Peter stood before the British commissioners to request compensation. He had suffered enormous losses. He testified that the patriots had confiscated 600 acres of land in Kinderhook, a brick house worth £400, three enslaved Africans, 20 sheep, 20 cattle, 6 horses, 10 hogs, sacks of grain and a sled. Although Van Alstine had three deeds and his father's will with him, the compensation board still required that a witness verify his claim” (Davidson).

It is widely written that Peter Van Alstine died in 1811. Documents found by Randy Saylor indicate he died between 10 May 1800 and 15 November 1800.  His will is dated 10 May 1800 when he is still alive and a power of attorney dated 15 November 1800 states that he “is since dead”.  

Image of Old Burying Ground of U.E. Loyalists, Adophustown Old Burying Ground of U.E. Loyalists, Adolphustown
“It has been written and presumed true that he was laid to rest at the Loyalist burying ground near the spot of their first arrival in Adolphustown.” (Turner Pg 100)       

According to W.S. Herrington in 1913 “Adolphustown was recognized as the most important centre of Civilization in Upper Canada at the time and the representatives of this district were men of high standing whose counsels carried great weight.  Kingston had grown to be a town of 100 or more houses and was a military and naval centre but Adolphustown took the lead in all matters appertaining to the administration of civil affairs of the province”.  

There is no surviving painting or picture of Peter Van Alstine, my fifth great grandfather but he has been described as a stout, robust man with a dark complexion, not of military bearing.  He was of Dutch extraction.


Sources:


S. Davidson, 18 Sep 2011, Loyalist Trails UELAC Newlsletter article “Three Loyalists from Albany County”, editor Doug Grant

J.B. Goddard, 1980, “Hans Waltimeyer”, published privately


L. Turner, 1984. “Voyage of a Different Kind, The Associated Loyalists of Kingston and Adolphustown” Mika Publishing  Belleville, Ontario

H.H. Van Wart, 'The Loyalist Settlement of Adolphustown. A Short History of Peter Van Alstine and His Company , The Loyalist Gazette, Vol. 2, No. 2, August 1932.

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