Fifth Great-Grandfather David Scranton: Patriot or Loyalist?

I’ve seen a few old inquiries on the internet, asking if David Scranton was a Loyalist during the American Revolution. It’s a fair enough question, since he moved to Nova Scotia shortly after the war and transported a number of Loyalists with him. Also, he is not listed on the Daughters of the American Revolution Ancestor Search database. Because he moved to the British territory of Nova Scotia, David probably never could have applied for a Revolutionary War pension, so I would not find him in those types of records. However, all this is not enough to draw a conclusion. The following is what I’ve found.

In the book “Record of service of Connecticut men in the War of the Revolution” (page 614), David Scranton of Durham is listed as one of the ensigns in Colonel Ely’s State Regiment during June 1777. Other officers included Lieutenant Colonel James Arnold and Major Elias Buell. I found further evidence in Asa Burdick’s Revolutionary War pension application affidavit. Asa was part of a company in New London, Connecticut, commanded in June 1777 by “Captain Collins, Lieutenant Taylor and Ensign David Scranton, in a regiment commanded by Col. Ely and Lieutenant Col. Arnold.” The company was involved in building the original Fort Trumbull at New London.

In another Revolutionary War pension application affidavit by Abiel Baldwin, Abiel was part of team in 1781 that transported beef from Durham to Fishkill for the troops there, under David Scranton’s direction.

In William Chauncey Fowler’s book “History of Durham Connecticut,” David was among those chosen on February 27, 1782 from Durham as part of a committee to put together a regiment to defend Horse Neck & the western frontier. (Today, Horse Neck is now known as Field Point in a very exclusive area of Greenwich, Connecticut along the coast.) Now although the British formally surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781, there were still British troops in New York City (a relatively short distance from Greenwich) until November 25, 1783, so I presume the local militia stayed on alert until that time.

To answer the question “was David Scranton a Patriot or Loyalist?”, my verdict is that he was definitely a Patriot! (As a side note, his brother Abraham’s service in the American Revolution has been well-documented.)

So how did David and his family fare during the War of 1812, where there was a lot of hostility along the US/Canada border and at sea? I couldn’t find any mention of him in any kind of service in the war. Even though he was over sixty, he would at least have opportunity to donate supplies or support the cause of the British if he had chosen to do so. Much of New England, including David’s home state of Connecticut, did not support the US government’s decision to go to war with Great Britain. In spite of this, the British did attack Essex, Connecticut (only a few towns away from Durham) in 1814. On a more personal note, David’s nephew Hamlet Scranton who in Rochester, NY had to get his family to safety after a British raid at nearby Fort Niagara in late 1813. Certainly the strained trade relations hit the shipping industry hard, so it was a good thing that David had the farm to fall back on. In any case, David and his family remained in Nova Scotia regardless of where his sympathies may have laid.

Fifth Great-Grandfather David Scranton: Civilian Life

David Scranton was born on October 27, 1751 in Durham, New Haven County (currently Middlesex County), Connecticut, the second son and second child of Abraham Scranton and Beulah Seward. He was baptized on November 3, 1751 at Christ Church in Durham, a congregation that still exists as United Churches of Durham.

United Churches of Durham today, which houses the congregation of which David Scranton was a part.  Author's collection.

United Churches of Durham today, which houses the congregation of which David Scranton was a part. Author’s collection.

I will be skipping over his life during the Revolutionary War during this post, to be explored in my next post. So stay tuned!

On April 9, 1781, David took the oath of a freeman in Durham. My guess is that he married Phebe Curtis sometime in mid-1781, definitely before 1782. He and his wife were admitted as members of Christ Church in Durham in early 1782. As I stated in my previous post, their daughter Phebe was born on May 11, 1782 and his wife died on May 30, 1782. I suppose that her death was related to childbirth; perhaps an infection? In any case, she was laid to rest at what is now Old Durham Cemetery and her gravestone is still legible on Find-a-Grave.

David married a second time to Loraine Strong, daughter of Thomas Strong and Phebe Seward, most likely before late 1785, although it could have been sooner, since I am sure David needed help in raising little Phebe. David and Loraine’s first child Sarah was born in Durham on August 11, 1786.

In mid-1787 the family moved to Nova Scotia, as detailed in my post about his daughter Sarah. He was deeded 150 acres farmland and a lot in Boylston, Nova Scotia (which later became Manchester) on August 1, 1787. David’s occupations in Nova Scotia were primarily a mariner (as captain of his own ship) and secondarily a farmer. I suppose the farm helped sustain his family and his work on the ship brought in cash they may have needed.

The children of David and Loraine (all but Sarah born in Manchester):

  • Sarah, born August 11, 1786 in Durham, Connecticut; married John McMasters September 20, 1808; died March 23, 1865 in Manchester
  • Nancy, born February 26, 1788; married Allen Livingston April 28, 1812; died after 1855
  • Thomas Strong, born June 17, 1789; died January 1801 of smallpox
  • Beulah, born March 7, 1790; died March 18, 1804 of scarlet fever
  • Henry, born November 10, 1793; died January 1801 of smallpox
  • Lois Experience, born July 12, 1795; married George McMasters before 1814; died December 15, 1849 of dropsy
  • David, born October 10, 1797; married Lydia Ann Simpson April 23, 1824; died after 1865
  • twins Henry and Thomas, born February 26, 1802
    • Henry died November 1, 1802
    • Thomas, upon his baptism, took on the name Thomas Henry; married Sophia Ann Porper December 18, 1827; died January 8, 1873 of dropsy

David was an active member of the Congregational Church in Manchester since 1808, “having experienced religion (hopefully) in a great revival there”. I would be interested to know more about his role in this church.

David died of old age (I assume) on March 5, 1836 in Manchester as he was dressing himself in the morning. He was laid to rest in Manchester Cemetery, where his gravestone indicates “Captain David Scranton”. Loraine died two years later on November 8, 1838.

Fourth Great-Grandmother Sarah (Scranton) McMasters: Born in the USA

Just three years after the end of the Revolutionary War, Sarah Scranton was born on August 11, 1786 in Durham, Middlesex County, Connecticut to David Scranton and his second wife Loraine Strong. Sarah was Loraine’s first child, but David’s second. His first was Phebe, who was born on May 11, 1782, to David’s first wife Phebe Curtis. The elder Phebe died less than three weeks after her daughter’s birth on May 30, 1782.

David was a mariner of his own sloop called Nancy that dealt in trading. His hometown of Durham was a landlocked rural town, at least twenty miles from the Connecticut shore and about ten miles west of the Connecticut River. Every time he was to make a trip on the Nancy, he would probably need extra days just to travel to and from wherever she was docked. (I have to admit that as I drove to Durham last summer, I was surprised just how far it was from the shore. “No wonder David didn’t stay here!” I said to myself.)

Durham, Middlesex County, CT. The southern border of Connecticut is its shoreline. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Durham, Middlesex County, CT. The southern border of Connecticut is its shoreline. Courtesy Wikipedia.

On one of David’s trips to Quebec, he had stopped in Chadebucto Bay in Nova Scotia, which runs along today’s Guysborough County’s southern shoreline. Apparently he was quite impressed with the area, for when the Hallowell Grant in Nova Scotia opened up for settlement, he took the opportunity to find a new home that was more convenient to his occupation. (A great description of the Hallowell Grant can be found here on the “From Maine to Kentucky” blog.)

In mid-1787, Sarah was only one year old when she made the voyage with her parents and fourteen-year-old cousin Henry Scranton (who was recovering from a “fever-sore in one limb”) to Nova Scotia; she likely never saw the country of her birth again. Other settlers came with them on the Nancy, some of whom had been Loyalists during the war. The Scranton family settled on a farm in the newly formed town of Boylston* on east side of Milford-Haven River, a tidal river that empties into the Chedabucto Bay. This seemed to be a perfect location for David, who could easily split his time between his travels and the family farm.

Left behind in Durham was Sarah’s five-year-old sister Phebe, who was being raised by Phebe’s maternal aunt (whose name I do not know). I have to wonder if this aunt may have stepped in to help raise the newborn Phebe after her mother’s untimely death. Perhaps the two formed a mother-daughter-like bond that David could not break up. In any case, I am sure Phebe and her father kept in touch; one of her children was named after him, after all.

Cousin Henry’s illness did not get any better with time. On December 21, 1787 (just a few months after his arrival), Henry passed away. I have to wonder if his was one of the first deaths in Boylston. So Sarah became the “oldest child” of the family, having nine younger siblings that were between one and a half and sixteen years younger than herself, all born in Manchester. (I will detail them in a later post.) As such, Sarah probably helped her mother run the household and take care of the children; perhaps she even helped out on the farm.

Meanwhile, in 1790, a Scotsman named John McMasters arrived in Manchester and was deeded 172 acres of land. The two books that mention him say that his parents were John McMasters and Ann Cummings. I assume that John must have been close to twenty years older than Sarah. John and Sarah were married on November 20, 1808 in Manchester. They had nine children, all born in Manchester:

  • George Henry, born October 10, 1810; died August 1812 of rheumatism
  • Lauraine, born November 16, 1811; died September 11, 1838
  • Ann Charlotte, born October 26, 1814; married Thomas McKeough December 19, 1848; died sometime after 1891
  • John, born December 9, 1816; married Catherine J. Cummings before 1855; died 1906
  • Catherine, born November 8, 1818; married A. Henry Partridge before 1843
  • David, born April 19, 1820; married Margery E. Fox 1855; died 1903
  • Samuel, born February 25, 1823; married Margaret Pyle October 2, 1873; died 1903
  • Christina, born May 26, 1826; married Robert Bruce Lipsett January 8, 1859; died June 15, 1891
  • Margaret, born June 23, 1829

John died somewhere between 1838 (where he appeared as a farmer on the census) and 1861 (where Sarah seemed to be living as a widow with her son David). Sarah died of old age on March 23, 1865 in Manchester. (Her son David was the informant of her death.) I assume both are buried in Manchester, but I don’t have any records of that yet.

* Harriet Cunningham Hart’s “History of the County of Guysborough” indicates that “Boylston did not thrive as a town” and became a part of Manchester township. Therefore, the Scrantons did not move, but their residence became known as Manchester. The town of Boylston was later re-established in 1874.

Behind the Brick Wall: Third Great-Grandmother Christina (McMaster) Lipsett

When I was fifteen, I was on my first quest to trace my family tree (just like Alex Haley!) and I was in name-collecting mode! My paternal grandmother Eugenie Beryl (Atwell) Pleau was a wealth of ancestral information. She had given me dozens of names and relationships of not only her family, but my grandfather’s as well. My recent forays into family research have (so far) proven all her memories correct.

When telling me about her mother’s people, my grandmother named Lipsetts, O’Briens and Bruces. She was able to get me back to Robert Bruce Lipsett and his wife, Christina McMaster. Later I was easily able to find more information on Robert, thanks to online records and yes, some online trees.

I did find a little information on Christina: born in 1826 (I later found out it was on May 26); married Robert Bruce Lipsett on January 8, 1859 in Manchester; died June 15, 1891 and was buried in Manchester Cemetery. Some alternate spellings of her name were: Christiana and Christeana. On the 1891 Census, her father’s place of birth was listed as Scotland and her mother as the United States. Being an unlikely (in my mind) match, I was sure the census taker did not make a mistake. But who were her parents? And if her mother was from the USA, where was she from and what could her maiden name possibly be? Even online trees had no clues for me. I could find other McMasters in Guysborough County who must have been related to Christina somehow, but I couldn’t make the connection.

In May of 2013, I turned my annual trip to my favorite genealogy society, the Essex County Society of Genealogists, into a genealogy pilgrimage. Arriving the night before, I visited Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn, MA and stayed overnight in the affordable and historic Hawthorne Hotel in Salem. I took advantage of being in the area by visiting the genealogy room in the Lynnfield Public Library, which ESOG maintains. I was hoping to find all kinds of information on my New England ancestors! Little did I know that I would find a golden nugget for my Nova Scotian ancestors…

The genealogy room not only has a lot of information on Essex County, MA, but information on other New England States and some on Canada as well. One tiny little booklet caught my eye: “1838 Census of Nova Scotia Consolidated Index of Heads of Guysborough County Families” (Prepared by Mary Elizabeth Koen, Swampscott, Massachusetts, 1985). I took pictures of the pages with my surnames on them, and there on page 21 was “John McMasters, Farmer”. He was the only McMaster/McMasters in the book!

Snippet from Mary Elizabeth Koen's census compilation.

Snippet from Mary Elizabeth Koen’s census compilation.

At that point, I knew enough not to merely accept at face value that John was Christina’s father. Now that I knew a first name, I scanned online trees to see if they could lead me to further clues. Out of all the sites I knew to search, I only found one tree on myHeritage that connected John to Christina, and named a mother: Sarah Scranton (a new name!). I emailed the tree’s owner to find out where she got her information, but she never got back to me. So I hit Google with the search terms “John McMasters” AND “Sarah Scranton”.

Google Books came back with a hit: “A Genealogical Register of the Descendants of John Scranton of Guilford, Conn., Who Died in the Year 1671.” Yes, John McMasters was in there. He was a Scottish immigrant who was an early settler of Manchester. And Sarah Scranton was there, daughter of David Scranton and Loraine Strong of the United States. (So far, it’s lining up with that census information!) The book also listed their children, which included Christina, listed as Christiana.

But the awesomeness does not stop there. Although I could find nothing further on John McMasters, Sarah Scranton was quite a different story. Her roots go deep back into colonial Connecticut and beyond. There will be many more stories from her lines in the future!

So what is the moral of this story? Not everything is online, and although not everything online is true, it can help you get to the truth. The truth can put a crack in the brick wall, which can lead to an avalanche of information!