Saturday, October 31, 2009

7th Decade Girls often do volunteer work and I’m no exception. We are still in the ‘gotta get up and go to work’ mind set and most of us are relatively free of aches and pains. (8th Decade Girls appear to be in the ‘gotta get up and take a bus tour’ mind set. But that is conjecture. I’ll let you know about that when I get there.)

On Thursday mornings I volunteer at the Mayholme Foundation Genealogy and Historical Research Centre on Ontario St. in St. Catharines. I’m typing the names of the men who appear on the militia muster list of the 2nd Lincoln Regiment, Niagara. I hope I phrased that right. Although I spent many mornings last summer in Brock University’s Special Collections room reading about the Loyalists, (wonderful place, wonderful staff), and I’ve done quite a bit of research on my family, (I’m the great, great, great, great granddaughter of Francis Weaver who fought with Butler’s Ranger’s during the American War of Independence and later died of wounds sustained during the War of 1812), nothing opened up the past quite like this list.

I’m working from type written pages and the man who assembled the list long ago, attached an anecdotal record to most of the names. Sometimes it is only the name of the soldier’s immediate commander, but occasionally quite a bit of information is included. Some of it has rocked my world and I lie awake at night worrying about people who have been gone two hundred years.

Private Orval Ensign. “What a handle!” was my first thought, but as he was one of the men who warranted a longer entry I read on. I learned that Pte Ensign was 50 years old in 1813 and was being trained as a Commissariat; (I looked it up. It is someone who provides food and supplies to soldiers in an army), when he suddenly sickened and died in November. But that wasn’t all. It went on to say that he left 7 children in Stamford.

I imagined the family’s grief at the news. It must have arrived at the onset of winter. By that time the Peninsula was occupied by the Americans and the Canadian traitor Willcocks was in the area burning the homes of known Loyalists. A widow and 7 children would have been easy pickings. In December the Americans burned Newark, (later Niagara-on-the-Lake) as they retreated and according to Bob Foley’s informative book, The War of 1812, many women and children were found dead in the snow.

Sadly, according to the phone book, here are no Ensign families in the area today and I wonder if any of them survived that terrible winter.

Yesterday I read Geezeronline’s blog that included a blurb about what it means to be a Canadian. “Have an average day,” was how it ended. What is it that causes us to be suspicious of successful, pushy, extravagant, colourful characters that occasionally arise in our midst? Maybe the answer lies in the past. 1 in 6 Canadians is descended from a Loyalist after all.

I’ll be writing more about the list as I work my way through it. Next I think I’ll write about 1937 Niagara, (unless there is an election call and the Greens shift into high gear).
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