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.

Great-Great Aunt Ella Jane (Pleau) Britenstool

Ella Jane Pleau was born March 10, 1988 in Rochester, NY. Although she was the second to last child born to George and Emma Pleau, she became the baby of the family after the death of her younger sister Lucy in 1895.

Ella worked as a clerk in a photograph company, which I assume was Eastman Kodak. On December 27, 1911, she married Chester B. Britenstool in Rochester, NY (more on that in a minute) by clergyman R.R.M. Converse, witnessed by Elizabeth Foster (perhaps a friend?). Chester, the son of Julius Britenstool and Ella Bryant, was a tailor and later a clothing designer.

The couple lived with Chester’s mother at 93 Prince Street, then at other locations in Rochester. They moved to Buffalo, NY in 1917 and back to Rochester in 1929. Eventually they moved to Webster, NY by 1944 and lived there at least through 1965. They appeared to have returned to Rochester by the time Chester died in June 1970.

Ella died November 16, 1980. Ella’s funeral, like her sister Evelyn’s, was at St. Boniface Church. Both Ella and Chester are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, next to Chester’s parents.

Grave of Chester and Ella Britenstool.  Author's collection.

Grave of Chester and Ella Britenstool. Author’s collection.

As I conclude this outline of my great-grandfather’s siblings, I’d like to return to a scene from Ella and Chester’s wedding reception. I discovered an article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and found it to be the most intimate look at the family. Following is my transcription of the article, with my comments in brackets:

New Year’s Wedding Reception

On New Year’s eve at the home of the bride, No. 609 North street, there was a wedding reception for Ella J. Britenstool, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Pleau, who on Wednesday last became the bride of Chester Britenstool. [I wonder if they took a short honeymoon before returning to celebrate.] The bride wore white serge and carried roses. The dining room was decorated with holly and wedding bells, and the table with ferns and pink carnations. [This tells me that George and Emma shelled out some money for this, if they got flowers and greenery in the middle of a Western New York winter! And doesn’t this sound pretty and festive?] There were musical selections by Miss Florence Weber, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Weilert, Albert[,] George, Jr., and Eugene Pleau. [First, I am concluding that they must have had a piano in the house. Second, what a musically talented family! And what a joyous time they must have had!] Mr. Britenstool is a son of Ella M. and the late Julius Britenstool, of No. 93 Prince Street.

A modern view of 609 North Street, Rochester, NY.  Courtesy Google Earth.

A modern view of 609 North Street, Rochester, NY. Courtesy Google Earth.

I can only imagine the scene, with snow on the ground outside the home, but music and laughter coming from the inside; the entire family together in celebration.

Great-Great Aunts Ida and Lucy Pleau

This will be a short post, because both Ida and Lucy lived very short lives.

Ida was born in 1885, after Evelyn and before Ella. She probably attended school for a time, and passed away on April 18, 1896.

Lucy was the last child born or George and Emma Pleau.  She was born about 1890 and died on July 2, 1895.  This was only two months before her pregnant sister Cordelia got married.  I wonder if her death (and perhaps illness?) contributed to delaying the wedding.

Both Ida and Lucy are buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Section I, which is a children’s section of the cemetery.  As I tried to look for their stones (which do not exist or are gone now), being in this section made my heart break for all the parents.  There were many stones with little lambs on top and laments inscribed on the side.  My thoughts go to Emma, who lost her two little girls within a year of each other.  Did she want to provide a stone for her daughters?  Were they too poor to do so?  I was glad to be able to be close enough to the graves to pay my respects to these little-known Pleau children.

Section I, Lot 6; the area where Ida and Lucy are buried

Section I, Lot 6; the area where Ida and Lucy are buried