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The Immigration Story of Shadrack Stephens (Welsh Immigrant)

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Shadrack Stephens was born in Wales in 1761, according to the Commemorative Biographical Record of York, published 1908, and emigrated to South Carolina when he was very young. The earliest primary record found for him is when he enlisted in the South Carolina Royalists at the age of 17, at the start of the American Revolutionary War. Since there were no other Stephens in that regiment, it appears likely that Shadrack emigrated without his parents and was living with an unrelated American family. Many Welsh children were emigrated to the USA at this time because their parents were dead or otherwise unable to care for them. Shadrack was likely one of those children.
Muster rolls show that Shadrack was promoted to corporal 1st December 1779 and then to sergeant in May 1780. The South Carolina Royalists were quite successful for a time, until they were ambushed at Musgrove’s Mills, on 19 August 1780 in which many men were killed. Shadrack was taken prisoner and put in jail in North Carolina for the last 22 months of the war. This may have saved his life, not only in battle, but also from being murdered by the Patriots after the war was over. Many Royalists were dragged out of their beds by neighbours who lynched them in their orchards, a practice that was encouraged by George Washington, who said “It would be best if all the royalists were killed.” No one was ever arrested for these crimes.
At the close of the war, on 22 August 1783, Shadrack was transferred to Delancy’s Second Battalion, sent to New York City, which was still held, temporarily, by the British. Loyalists, as we Canadians call them, or Royalists or traitors, as Americans called them, had their property confiscated and/or destroyed and had to leave their homes with only what they could carry. Their hopes of starting life over in New York were soon crushed, when the Patriots took that as well and ordered all the Loyalists to leave the country.
Where were they to go? Britain was already overcrowded and did not want them back, but there was an obligation to do something for the men who had fought for her. So Britain offered a choice of free land in either the British West Indies, or in the territories now known as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. Shadrack chose New Brunswick and he sailed on the ship “Palliser” in October of 1783. On the same ship was Wm Judd from Connecticut, his wife Ann, their son Reuben, three daughters: Jerusha, Lydia (future wife of Shadrack) and Sarah; as well as Wm Tyler who would marry Sarah, and Wm Kennedy who would marry Jerusha. Wm Judd, Wm Kennedy and Wm Tyler had served in the Prince of Wales Regiment.
The first winter must have been very hard. They had to live in tents with whatever food they might have brought with them, or could find in the wild. Food was promised by the British Crown, none of which arrived in the first three months. When the food came, it was of poor quality, but they did receive some muskets, a few tools and some seeds. The existing settlers were not welcoming. They resented the newcomers. There are reports of men and women, who never shed a tear during the war, overcome with grief as they were abandoned in the wilderness.
Shadrack, Justus Seeley and Freeman Smith were jointly granted 330 acres in Charlotte County, New Brunswick. Shadrack and Lydia Judd had six children there over the next sixteen years: Sarah, born 1786, Wm in 1790, Lydia, in 1791, Rachel, in 1795, Shadrack, in 1796 and Frederick Smith 4 May 1799. Finally, Shadrack despaired of ever being able to make a decent living on the rocky swampy land he shared with the two families. He decided to move his family to Upper Canada (Ontario) where free land was still being offered to American Loyalists. Wm Judd, Wm Kennedy, and Wm Tyler had all been given land in Naashwaak and they opted to go at the same time. Reuben Judd, who had served as a Patriot, and thus fought against his father, had returned to the USA in 1794. The journey to Ontario was made via waterways, with frequent portages around rapids and waterfalls, sleeping on shore or in the boats.
When Shadrack arrived in the Newmarket area, he rented 200 acres on the west side of Yonge St in King twp, while he was waiting for his grant. An old survey of 1799 shows him on Lot 78 C 1 King twp, with Wm Tyler and Wm Kennedy on adjoining lots. Shadrack applied for a grant on 3 Oct 1799 and 15 Feb 1800, he was granted the lot he had been renting.
The Stephens family continued to grow. Joshua was born about 1802, Delilah in Sept of 1804, and Charles about 1806. It appears that Shadrack sold this property in the early part of 1809, as on 18 April 1809, Shadrack bought 200 acres from Richard Lippincott and wife of Toronto. It was likely in unimproved or minimally improved condition, as Richard Lippincott never lived there; he likely bought it as an investment. However, by 1908, when the CBRY was published, it was reported to be a very prosperous farm, producing good beef, grain and apples. It remained in the Stephens family for nearly 200 years. The last family member to occupy the property was Don Stephens. Another family member, Trevor Stephens, was instrumental in saving the Stephens Family Cemetery from being paved over during the widening of Bayview Avenue in Newmarket. He also arranged for a new street in Newmarket to be named “Shadrack Drive” and another “Lydia Street”.
The Stephens Family Cemetery is still there, but is now surrounded on the south by a housing development and to the north by the athletic facilities for the Police Association. The cemetery contains only three gravestones, and 13 unmarked graves. By some method of imaging which I do not understand, they have been able to determine that some are adults of different sizes, some are children, and some infants. Shadrack Stephens sr and Lydia Judd are surely two of the adults in unmarked graves which probably had wooden or fieldstone markers originally. The three headstones are for their son, Shadrack jr, and his wife, Elizabeth Warriner, and two of their adult married daughters, Lydia Prior and Ruby Ann Tunkey.
Shadrack senior’s death was recorded in the family bible as 3rd June 1837. This bible appears to have been a gift to his wife Lydia at the time of his death. The inscription is in beautiful handwriting and is the first death recorded. Likewise, the first two names under “Births”, in the same elegant script, are “Ludia Judd Connecticut 26 April 1768” and “Sarah Judd Connecticut 16 May 1772”. As there were no official death, birth or marriage certificates issued in York county at that time, family bibles are sometimes the only records available. Wills, however, were recorded, and in addition to giving his date of death, Shadrack’s named most of his children and the spouses of the daughters. It is not known why one daughter was omitted, but perhaps, she predeceased him without leaving any children.
Shadrack, his wife and children, were all adherents of the Church of England, but they did not all choose their mates from that church. Three of their children married Quakers: Rachel married John Webb; Delilah married Cadwallader Evans; Charles married Rachel Vernon. I descend directly from Delilah Stephens and Cadwallader Evans, as well as from Charles Stephens and Rachel Vernon, while John Webb was the brother of Phoebe Webb, who is also a 3x great grandmother of mine. In a small community, it was not unusual to see multiple marriages like these from among the same families.
An obit in the Newmarket Era, dated July 20 1888, for Shadrack Stephens jr, said, in part, "All the old residents of that time, now living, will recollect well two other brothers, Joshua and Charles (sic),noted for their great physical strength and personal courage" Joshua and Charles had both died c. 1851, and they were still remembered in Newmarket, 37 years later.
The son of most general interest is Frederick Smith Stephens, who was a successful landowner, magistrate, township councillor, and Division Court Clerk. He was one of the earliest settlers in Tecumseth township and owned a number of properties. He himself lived on L 12 C8 Tecumseth twp, Simcoe county, in what is now the town of Beeton. He also owned the land directly across the road which he rented out to Cadwallader Evans, who was married to his sister, Delilah Stephens. After Cadwallader died, about 1837, he rented it out to Nelson Stephens, one of his sons. The first wife of FS Stephens was Huldah Maria Smith, born in Orange county, Vermont. She died c.1859.They had eight children. His second wife was Catherine Murray 1837-1865. They had one son, Judd Murray Bannerman Stephens. His third wife was the widow Jane York (nee Bannerman) 1825-1881. There were no children of this marriage. F.S. Stephens died of a paralytic stroke in 1873.
Lydia Judd 's father, William Judd, died either shortly after arriving in the Newmarket area, or possibly during the trip from New Brunswick. When his claim was submitted on C 15 Oct 1799, ha had already passed away. His land grant was then awarded to his widow, Ann Judd. She got 400 acres in Scott twp, then part of Ontario county, on C 6 Lots 14 and 15. The grant was approved in 1805; the patent was paid in 1810 and the final registration was July 11 1810. The 400 acres indicates that William Judd was a commissioned officer. Shadrack Stephens was awarded 200 acres because he was a sergeant. Privates received only 100 acres.
I would like to thank my cousins John Franklin Stephens and Lynda Beedham for sharing their research with me. My narrative would not have been possible without their help. It is my sincere hope that future researchers will fill in the gaps in this story and correct any errors that may have crept in.