THE SUBSCRIBERS OF 1792
A SERIES OF BIOGRAPHICAL VIGNETTES OF THE TWENTY-TWO SUBSCRIBERS WHO ARE SOMETIMES REFERRED TO AS “THE FOUNDERS” OF THE HAY BAY CHURCH
No.11 Stophel (Christopher) German,U.E. (1767-1840)
Between 17 November 1785 and May 1788, the two Commissioners had slowly worked their way from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the westward limits of Loyalist settlement. Colonel Thomas Dundas of Carron Hall, south of Stirling, Scotland, and Jeremy Pemberton, Esq., a barrister from Lincoln’s Inn, London, had been sent to the colonies by the British Government, “to Enquire into the Losses and Services of all such persons who have suffered in their Rights, Properties, and Professions, during the late unhappy dissentions in America, in consequence of their Loyalty to his Majesty and Attachment to the British Government,” as the authorizing Act read.
The Loyalist claims Commission in London had already dealt with 2,063 claims sent to them by 25 March 1784, but thousands had been unable to meet the deadline. Thus the provisions of the Act were extended to a later, more realistic date, and the mission of Dundas and Pemberton was initiated.
In Halifax they heard evidence from 344 claimants; in St. John, New Brunswick, 385; 42 in Quebec city; 526 in Montreal. They each kept a separate accouns of their interviews. From Montreal each man took a separate trip westward to Niagara with a few brief stops in between, including (for Pemberton alone) Kingston, then called Cataraqui.
Wednesday, 26 September 1787 was the opening day of Jeremy Pemberton’s five-day stay in Kingston. He must have been startled at the line-up at the door of his office that day. Working harder than any previous day, he interviewed fifteen applicants—and still the line grew. Thursday, by working overtime, he managed to hear twenty-seven; Friday, there were twenty-four; Saturday, twenty-one, and still some waited! In order to accommodate them and still catch his boat back to Montreal, Pemberton broke his otherwise strict observance of the Sabbath, to interview eleven more on Sunday. These were the busiest days that either Commissioner had experienced in the whole three years: 98 claims in five days!
The first to be heard was the patriarchal Richard Cartwright, of Kingston, whom Pemberton noted was “aged 70; infirm.” A former Deputy Postmaster for the city and county of Albany, N.Y., Cartwright brought seven certificates (including one from Sir John Johnson), attesting to his loyalty and aid given to Loyalists during the War.
Peter Asselstine of Ernestown, who had served Burgoyne at Saratoga, and later in Jessup’s corps, was next. Two witnesses, George Finkle and Conrad Van Dusen affirmed his claims. Jacob Hover of Adolphustown then appeared on behalf of his late father Casper Hover (died 12 July 1786), his mother, and his older brother Henry. The father and both sons had served in Butler’s Rangers, as was attested also by Edward Hicks.
German’s Loyalist Claim
The fourth applicant that Wednesday the 26th, was JOHN GERMAN of Adolphustown, the father of our subject, Christopher, and of his brothers John Jr., and Jacob. From the brief notes scribbled by Pemberton, this picture emerges. The father was born in Germany, but came to America when he was a young lad. By the time the Rebellion broke out (1775), he was married with three boys aged six to eleven, and living on a leased 100-acre farm near Fort Edward, on the upper reaches of the Hudson River, some 45 miles north of Albany.
In the months following the Declaration of Independance, German, along with hundreds of other men, left his family and wended his way northward to Lake Champlain to join the British forces. That Fall he volunteered for one of the new Loyalist companies under the command of Major Edward Jessup, called The Loyal Rangers.
His wife and children remained on the farm until the following year, when, with the approach of British troops down the Champlain Valley under General Burgoyne, they sought refuge “within the British lines.” Burgoyne reached Fort Edward in August, 1777, but with his defeat and surrender at Saratoga on 19 September, the campaign came to an end. In the aftermath, many of the Loyalist soldiers and civilians escaped to Canada.
In response to Pemberton’s questions, John German listed his losses. He had cleared fifteen acres on his farm and built a good log house, he reported, and lost 3 working horses, 4 cows, three 2-year-olds, 2 yearlings, 4 calves, 16 hogs, corn, 60 bushels of oats, furniture, a new wagon, and 8 tons of hay. “The Rebels took all the cattle and things they could carry away,” he said, and then produced an affidavit to this effect signed by Patrick Smythe.
John Low, a former neighbour at Fort Edward, now living in Sophiasburg, came forward as a witness for German. Pemberton’s notes recorded Low’s statement thus:
“Knew Claimant-he joined the British very early. Left his Stock on his Farm. His wife left the place the year following & left the Stock. Witness saw the Rebels take them off: horses, Cows, 6 Heiffers, Plough, Harrow, Wagon & Sleighs. Saw the Wagon taken by the Rebels.”
As the two men turned to leave, they were unaware that Pemberton added his personal assessment of John German in a marginal note: “A fair man. to be allowed.” German waited nearby to be a witness for the next claimant, Margaret Huffnail (or Hoffnagle) of Adolphustown, whose husband Jobst had died intestate 2 years previously, having also served with Jessup’s Loyal Rangers. The Commissioner assessed the late Mr. Huffnail as “A good man.”
Not all the claimants fared as well. Pemberton sized up a few others less favourably: “Evidence feeble,” “Claimt a damned rascal,” “A fair man, tho’ he claimed too high at first,” “Claimt a drunken dog,” and “Claimt a drunken Irishman, very little to be allowed.”
The Three Sons
Young as they were, Christopher, John and Jacob had also enlisted with Jessup’s regiment. Under-age sons were allowed to do so if their father was in the same unit. A Muster Roll of nine companies of the Loyal Rangers (557 men), taken on 1 January 1783, near the end of the War, lists all four German males, though with a few innaccuracies in their ages-or did the boys lie about their ages, as many would?
John German [Sr.], Corporal in Capt. John Jones’ Company; age 33 [probably more like 40!], height 5′ 9″; served 6 years, 1 month.
Christopher German, private in the same company; age 15 [he would turn 16 on 7 January]; height 5′ 2 1/2″; served 2 years, 4 months. The “Old U.E. List” describes him as: “a boy … junr son of John … Senr brother of John.”
John German [Jr.], private in the same company; age 18 [probably 13]; height 5′ 10″; served 2 years, 4 months.
Jacob German signed up last of all and is listed as a private in Capt. Thomas Fraser’s Company; age 13 [he was younger]; height 5′; served 6 months. The “Old U.E. List” says: “Drummer, Loyal Rangers-a boy.”
When Jessup’s corps was disbanded at the end of the war John German and his three sons and their mother linked up witl the Associated Loyalists led by Major Peter Vanalstine. On 11 June 1784, the armada of batteaux that had brought them up the St. Lawrence, arrived at Adolphustown. The John German Sr drew a fine lot, No. 22, in the fourth concession, on the nortl shore of Hay Bay. Five years later, he turned the land over tc Christopher (then 22 years of age), and apparently moved tc Thurlow township.
A word about the name. The family historian (see Sources. below) wrote that “German” as a surname is not common ii Germany. He believed that the father was probably called Johann Johannes, or Hans, and that the surname was Deutscher, Deutsch or Deutch, which became anglicized in America to the simplei John Dutch, or John German. Stophel or Stoffel, is derived from Christoph as it would be spelled in Germany, the equivalent o~ the English name Christopher.
A Provision List of Loyalists at Lachine, Quebec, dated 2. January 1778, gives the names of three females as well as thE three boys in John German’s family. His wife, Grace (maiden name unknown), a daughter Rebeckah, over 10 years and a daughter Mary, under 10.
DEFINING A LOYALIST
When the Commission on the Losses and Services of Loyalists first met in London in October 1783, a clear definition was necessary in order to qualify or disqualify the many claimants. These were the classifications with which they began their work:
1. Those who had rendered services to Great Britain.
2. Those who had borne arms against the revolution.
3. Uniformed Loyalists.
4. Loyalists resident in Great Britain.
5. Those who took oaths of allegiance to the American States, but afterward joined the British.
6. Those who armed with the Americans and later joined the British army or navy.
Christopher was a newly-wed young man, having taker Catherine Vanord (or Van Order) “to wife,” when Rev. Willian Losee, a Methodist missionary, came to the community in thc winter of 1790. Fifty years later, Rev. Cyrus Allison described the impact on Christopher (his obit. Christian Guardian 23 Dec 1840):
In 1783, Mr. German removed with his family to Canada, where young Christopher remained a stranger to God for seven years. In the great revival of `91, he was fully awakened to a sense of his lost condition as a sinner; and as a penitent, set up an altar of prayer in his family. But although the Christian duty was commenced in May, his sense of pardon was not obtained until the following December. His conversion was sound and scriptural; and such were his views of the fullness of redeeming love, that he exhorted all with whom he met to look for the same blessing by believing in the atoning blood. He soon received license as an exhorter, in which capacity he laboured very extensively; and there are many living witnesses of the tears he shed, and the entreaties he made for perishing sinners to return to God. In 1834, his brethren saw fit to license him as a local preacher, which situation he sustained at the time of his death.
He wholeheartedly espoused the new cause. Playter (p.33) states, “The first exhorters or public speakers in the first circuit were John Roblin, Stophel German, Daniel Steel and Matthew Steel.” In 1792, Christopher subscribed £2 towards the erection of the meetinghouse on Hay Bay.
In time, ten children were born, listed here with spouses named in brackets: William (Catherine Outwater), Matthew (Margaret Smith), Peter (Sarah Outwater), Elizabeth (Edward Huyck), John, Jane, George (Sarah N. Lewis), Catherine (William Valleau), Maria (Harvey Miller), and Gordon Drummond (1-Miss Earle, 2-Lucinda Jenkins). John and Jane never married for they were among the ten victims of the tragic drowning in Hay Bay on 29 August 1819. Mrs. German, who had watched the event from shore in great agony. She had been known as a beautiful singer, but she never sang again. Seven months later, their oldest son, William, died. Christopher was deeply afflicted by these losses. He also grieved over divisions in the church, particularly the 1834 split. His son Matthew left his father’s Wesleyan Methodist Church for the “continuing” Methodist Episcopal Church, in which he became a local preacher. “An enemy hath done this,” Christopher would say of all distressing segmentation of the Christian Church. He himself remained ever loyal to the church which gave and sustained his spiritual life.
The name of Christopher German appears frequently in the minutes of Adolphustown Town Meetings. He was given many responsibilities with quaint titles including Pound-master, Path¬master, Fence-viewer, Overseer of the Highway, Assessor, Town¬warden, and chairman of the Municipal Council. In 1824 he was appointed a Magistrate, a position he filled for the rest of his active life.
The Christian Guardian (4 March 1835) captured a poignant moment of “Father” German, still active at age 68. As part of a series of missionary meetings across the province, a meeting was held on Monday, 16 February, in Adolphustown led by the Rev. William Lord, President of the Canada Conference, Rev. John Ryerson, Chairman of the Bay of Quinte District, and others. The report said, in part, that
the meeting was numerous and respectable, and much sympathy was waked up in behalf of the perishing heathen. The Chairman, Christopher German, Esq., after Mr. Lord’s remarks, rose to put the resolution and with streaming eyes confessed that he had been too indifferent in the cause, but by the grace of God, he would do more for the time to come; and pressed the matter most forcibly upon the attention of his neighbours and friends. After which a handsome sum was contributed and subscribed.
A prosperous farmer, he was generous in his gifts. In the spring of 1838 he had a paralytic stroke from which he never fully recovered. Christopher German died in peace on 11 September 1840 in his 74th year, and was buried near his home, in the Gosport cemetery.
Besides two of his sons who had become local preachers, Christopher’s family gave the Methodist Church two ministers:
Rev. John Wesley German (1827-1910), a grandson, served 41 years in Bay of Quinte and Hamilton Conferences. His first assignment in 1850, was as junior preacher on the Bath circuit, which included the old Hay Bay Church.
Rev. Orrin German (died 1905) who spent most of his ministry in the west. He became fluent in Cree, translating a Methodist Hymn book into that language which was published in 1885. He died in Battle River, Saskatchewan.
Another grandson of Christopher, Christopher Smith German (1814-1896), moved to the U.S.A. in 1850, working as a photographer. In 1858 he lived in Springfield, Illinois, where it is said, he photographed Abraham Lincoln.
The Other Christopher
One of the mysteries in the family tree, is that there was another Christopher German, referred to as “the shoemaker,” to distinguish him from our Christopher “the magistrate.” To add to the confusion, they both shared a lot in Adolphustown township for a few years, but there is no current evidence of a blood relationship. The shoemaker came from New York City with Van Alstine’s Associated Loyalists. Little is known of him, save that he settled briefly in Prince Edward County, returned to the U.S.A., and that he had two sons, Lewis and George. However, his line continued in Canada. In 1804, Lewis married Nancy McKee in Hallowell. Their son, Rev. Peter German (1817-1905) served the Methodist church for 23 years, mostly in western Ontario. Rev. John Ferguson German, M.A., D.D. (1842-1919), son of Rev. Peter German and his wife Martha Neff, served the church 55 years in Ontario, with four years in Winnipeg. He was President of Toronto Conference in 1886.
In 1984, about 200 descendants of the German family held a reunion at Adolphustown Park. On the Sunday, they conducted a worship service in the old Hay Bay Church, celebrating the bicentennial of the arrival of their German forebears, and especially Christopher, one of the founders of the church.
Sources: The “John C.M. German Family Papers” are located in the Ontario Archives (MU1141; see Finding Aid 297). The result of years of intensive research and a lawyer’s thoroughness and logical argument, Judge J.C.M. German, K.C., has left a remarkable record of the family, with honesty about the data that clashes or doesn’t seem to fit.