Written by John Wood -- October 20, 2011
Copied with permission -- December 23, 2014
Jeremiah Tracy was born on August 9, 1744, in Falmouth, Maine, a son of Jonathan and Abigail (Riggs) Tracy. He married Sarah Leighton in 1771. Sarah was born on September 18, 1746, in Dover, New Hampshire, a daughter of Hatevil and Sarah (Trickey) Leighton. Jeremiah and Sarah lived in Gouldsboro, Maine for a time.
Jeremiah was not a Loyalist, but fought for the American side against the British during the Revolutionary War.1 He was serving as a soldier at Machias, Maine when, in June, 1779, the British landed 700 to 800 soldiers at Majorbagaduce at the mouth of the Penobscot River to protect the northeastern colonies from revolutionary incursions and to use as a base to launch attacks. Massachusetts authorized an expedition to destroy the Penobscot base and petitioned the Continental Congress for assistance. Commodore Dudley Saltonstall was named to lead the naval portion of the expedition. There were 19 armed ships (with 344 guns) on the American side and 24 transport ships. There was also a landing party of over 1,000 men under Brigadier General Solomon Lovell. The landing force included a group of volunteers known as Captain Daniel Sullivan’s Company, and Jeremiah Tracy was a Private in that force. Colonel Paul Revere was the ordnance officer of the land forces. This was the largest American naval expedition of the Revolutionary War.
The landing party marched on Majorbagaduce on August 7, 1779 but Lovell’s ground force and Saltonstall’s naval force could not agree on a strategy and the affair turned into the worst American naval defeat in history. The Americans lost 43 ships. What was left of the American force of sailors and soldiers had to travel overland back to their bases. Jeremiah Tracy survived, but 500 of his comrades – nearly half of the whole landing party – were killed.
This defeat soured Jeremiah on the war and, in 1781, he took his wife and children (probably including Abigail, Solomon, Mary and Sarah) and headed north to the Saint John River in the company of a Morgan family.2 This was John Morgan who later settled in Rusagonis. Tracy was recorded in the Studholm report of 1783: “Jeremiah Tracey has a wife and six children, been on about 2 years, from Goldsbury, Mass., purchased the improvements of one Stephen Young and has a log house and about 2 or 3 acres of cleared land”.3 ‘Goldsbury’ should have read ‘Gouldsboro’; and the reference to Massachusetts was a reflection of that colony’s expansionist tendencies.
Major Studholm had commissioned his report in preparation for the arrival of the Loyalists, to determine how many people were living on the river and what claim they had to the land that they were occupying. Tracy had ‘purchased improvements’, which meant that he paid Stephen Young for the work that he had put into clearing some land, and perhaps for the log house. It does not imply that Young or Tracy had any claim on the land itself; and Tracy was therefore open to eviction to make way for Loyalists. However, he remained near the town of Oromocto on the Saint John River and probably continued to occupy the land.
Major Studholm was very knowledgeable about the people living on the river, and added notes to the report about which of them were rebels or rebel sympathizers, and about some who had misrepresented themselves. He had nothing to say about Tracy.4 Socially, Jeremiah could have lived harmoniously on the Saint John River even given his war service, as a great number of the people were branded as rebels and even as ‘very great rebels’ by Major Studholm. Jeremiah had left politics behind, judging from his anonymity in Studholm’s eyes.
With the coming of the Loyalists, Jeremiah’s history could not have been kept a complete secret and, in fact, Jeremiah’s relative slowness in obtaining a land grant speaks to this fact. On the other hand, there is nothing to indicate that the details were common knowledge.
Jeremiah was living on Lot 33 in Burton. This lot is on the south bank of the Saint John River, directly opposite the upstream end of Mauger’s Island. In 1785, Oliver Arnold petitioned for this lot, but Council noted only that “Mr. Tracey appears to be in possession.”5 Again in 1785, Alexander Montgomery and his sons asked for the same lot or, if they could not have it, then they at least wanted a road allowance through it to get around some swampy land on the half-lot that they already occupied. In the end, Lot 33 was equally split between Tracy and Montgomery and, eventually, Montgomery and another man were granted the lot outright.
By 1795, Tracy was seeking a lot of his own. He said that he needed land because he had five sons, three of whom were grown, and also a yoke of oxen, six cows and twenty sheep. He asked for lots 32, 33 and 34, on the east bank of the Oromocto River just below Bass Creek. By 1802, he was still trying to get a lot. In that year, he and his sons Solomon and Samuel, together with Lemuel Nason applied for 200 acres each on the northwest branch of the Oromocto River. It appears that it was this petition that was finally succeeded in getting a 225-acre grant in 1810.6
In his 1795 petition, Jeremiah said that he had resided in the Province for 12 years. This was to associate himself with the Loyalists and was not correct. He had actually been there for 14 years.
Jeremiah was 66 years old in 1810, when he relocated to the area that is now known as Tracy on the North Branch of the Oromocto River. This was not a rushed move, and I imagine that he and his sons spent that summer making preparations, including building a new dwelling on the south side of the river. They would also have had to establish their livestock at Tracy before they arrived, and I note that the story which follows concerning the clock involved an ox cart for example. I therefore expect that it was late in 1810 that they traveled by boat up the Oromocto River to Prides Landing, just below the falls at what is now Fredericton Junction. There, they transferred their belongings to a wagon and proceeded upward to about two miles above Second Falls at Tracy.
It is often recounted that they discovered the next morning that their wooden clock with brass works was missing. They therefore dispatched an ox cart and found the clock in the water, having fallen off of the wagon.7 This clock remained in the family and eventually belonged to Lola Harrison, a daughter of John C. Tracy and a descendent of Jeremiah and Sarah.
Much has been made of the fact that their house in Tracy was built of logs. However, their move up the Oromocto River was planned in advance and the building would not have been thrown together in a haphazard fashion. I do not think that logs were a very unusual building material in those days, and prefer to think that this was typical early-19th century rural New Brunswick architecture. For example, there is a picture of a log house that was built by the Hayward family in the 1780s.8 It was a very regular bungalow-style house with at least two fireplaces and a nice symmetric arrangement of windows on the front and a loft overhead. Jeremiah’s log house was still occupied at least in 1927.9 I do not know if it is still there today.
So little is known of the details of Jeremiah’s life, and yet it is remembered that his brother Solomon visited him on the North Branch very early in 1812 and that, aside from that visit, he never had contact with his family in the United States again.10 I do not believe that such memories lack significance but think, rather, that their context has been lost. My interpretation11 of why Solomon’s visit is remembered even after 200 years would begin by noting that the amused look on Solomon’s face and his gentle nature were in opposition to his six foot four inch frame. His 250 pounds and his bushy red hair added to this contradiction – but such was the usual experience of a Tracy from Old Falmouth. He had the look of a man who could not be ignored upon landing in Saint John, however, with a face revealing the determination of a man performing a duty, unsure of how events would unfold.
Early winter had made the short voyage difficult and he immediately got space at an inn and began inquiries into river transportation. It was two days later, on a Wednesday morning that he hired space on a post sleigh; and it was not until Friday noon that he arrived in Fredericton to his third inn and more inquiries. Eventually, he ended up on a schooner and arrived at Pride’s Landing one week to the day after leaving Saint John. He was just in time to avoid the river ice.
He walked the distance from Pride’s Landing to Jeremiah Tracy’s place and arrived very tired and not disposed to conversation. Sarah, too, was at a loss for words when she opened the door and they stood there staring at one another for what seemed to be a long time. Finally, Sarah invited him in.
There was so much to absorb in a short time. There was the sight of Sarah after 30 years; there was the house and its rural construction to survey; and there was the necessity of finding out the condition of his brother, Jeremiah. Sarah was no longer a young woman but was still very much the same person that she had been in Gouldsboro. She was as small as Jeremiah was large, was thin, and was opinionated.
“He’s in there”, she said, pointing at a curtain across the end of the room, and they both moved in that direction.
“Jeremiah, it’s me, your brother Solomon, here to visit you after all of these years.”
“He cannot speak, Solomon. He hasn’t been bad lately, compared with when he was having those spells, but it has been very difficult for all of us. I can tell that he understands, though.”
Outside, Solomon replied. “I warrant that he can understand. You can tell from the look in his eyes. And it’s good to see you, Ma’am. The family all liked you and we were all very sorry when you had Jeremiah leave the Army, just when we needed men, and to come up here.”
“Solomon, Sir, I’m innocent. I would never do that. I own that I was glad to come away from Gouldsboro, but it was Jeremiah’s decision. I did not tell him what to do. I warrant that you remember more than you know.”
“Ma’am, I meant no affront. I’m trying to say that it’s time to forgive and forget.”
“Sir, please. If I was to repent of frankness then I would not be doing service to Jeremiah nor, I fear, to his memory. But I cannot repent of Jeremiah’s decision. You know that Jeremiah and Jonathan Jr. and Asa barely escaped from the battle on the Penobscot and how, all of the time (up there so far above Boston) the British threatened our very existence. What were we to do? We made a different decision from the rest of the family and have been ignored for it. What if the British had won after we left? Sir, you and we were there, and we both know that neither of us could have controlled the outcome.”
“Solomon! It has not been easy. We came up here and got along well, and I don’t think that the British even knew about the Lincoln Regiment involvement. Not that it would have mattered to most people. Then, not two years later, the war was won and lost and the Loyalists came. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we managed to get a grant of land from their Loyalist government, because the British and the Loyalists ruled everything.”
“It was very difficult after the Loyalists come. They nearly took our house and land for themselves. They were determined that loyalty during the war should be the test for government favour. But that first winter some of them were actually starving and you just had to help them. We’ve seen both sides.”
Solomon looked around the room. There was one main fireplace almost in the middle of the room, and a smaller one toward one end. There was a long table with twelve chairs and there were barrels of goods along the edge of the room with wide pine planks on top to make more work surfaces. Jeremiah was behind the curtain at the end of the room, with a loft area overhead where three or four people could sleep. There were several glass windows, and a good shake roof with black spruce rafters. A grandfather clock stood across from the door, and the whole interior was well plastered.
Solomon stayed for a month, and got along well with Sarah. He tried to talk to Jeremiah but the one-way conversations were difficult. He met with several of Jeremiah and Sarah’s children, and shared some advice with Jeremiah Jr. who, at 26 years of age, was already talking about gathering some partners and building a sawmill. He also visited John Morgan on the Rusagonis Stream.
In the end, the amused look returned to Solomon’s face although he was still somber with concern for Jeremiah. He and Sarah parted with the words “I guess I’ve seen both sides too, Sarah”.
Jeremiah died in the spring of 1812, and another family story centers around his burial. It seems that the ground was still frozen and that they took the body along the river in a canoe looking for a place that was thawed out enough for a burial.12 That place was found on a hillside not far away, and Jeremiah was laid to rest there. This is now the Pioneer Cemetery at Tracy, and Jeremiah has a gravestone there, albeit a new one. Sarah died in 1834 and is also buried in the Pioneer Cemetery.
Jeremiah and Sarah’s son Israel married Annie Hoyt and moved to Upper Canada, and their son Asa is believed to have returned to Gouldsboro, Maine. The rest of the family remained in the area.
Appendix: Evidence that Jeremiah Tracy and John Morgan of New Brunswick also served in the Continental Army.
Jeremiah Tracy was one of nine sons and four daughters of Jonathan Tracy and Abigail Riggs. Sons that were old enough to possibly have served in the Continental Army included Jeremiah, Jonathan Jr., Solomon, Christopher and Asa. Younger sons were Samuel, Wheeler, Thomas and Daniel.
Jeremiah’s service at Majorbagaduce was reported on the web site of Barbara Ellen Boyce. The 17-volume work Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors who Served in the Army and Navy During the Revolutionary War as reproduced in a database at ancestry.com1 was used to research this report and to compile the following information.
There are two records of a Jeremiah Tracy in the Army. He was a member of Capt. Daniel Sullivan’s Company in the march on Majorbagaduce in 1779, and was also associated with Capt. John Hall’s Company under Col. Benjamin Foster in the Lincoln County Regiment on the same march. He is also listed as a member of Lieut. John Scott’s detachment of the 6th Lincoln County Regiment at Machias where it was noted that he served at Penobscot (i.e., Majorbagaduce).
There is one record only of a Jonathan Tracy, where he is also referred to as Jonathan Jr. He was stationed in Francis Shaw’s Company at Gouldsborough (Gouldsboro), the home of Jeremiah Sr. and Abigail, and was a member of Capt. Daniel Sullivan’s Company of the 6th Lincoln County Regiment and served at Majorbagaduce. He also served at Narraguasus and on the Pleasant River for the defense of the seacoast.
There are many records for persons named Solomon Tracy, but one record is for a Solomon stationed at Gouldsborough in Capt. Francis Shaw’s Company and who served at Narraguasus and on the Pleasant River for the defense of the seacoast.
There is one record only for a Christopher Tracy. He was a member of Capt. Reuben Dyer’s Company of the Lincoln County Regiment and served at Machias. (He also served in an expedition against ‘St. Johns’ in Nova Scotia.)
There are two records of an Asa Tracy. He was a member of Capt. Daniel Sullivan’s Company and is also listed under Capt. Reuben Dyer’s Company. He served at Machias, and was on the expedition to Majorbagaduce.
There are no records for persons named Samuel, Wheeler or Daniel Tracy. These sons of Jonathan Sr. and Abigail were too young to have served. There are five records for persons named Thomas Tracy but these records share none of the things in common with the others as outlined above. Thomas, son of Jonathan Sr. and Abigail was too young to have served in any event, and these records must be for another Thomas Tracy.
There are 50 other records for persons named Tracy, including 10 for Solomon Tracys. However, none of these (except for one Robert Tracy record) share anything in common with the other records as outlined above. “Service at Penobscot” (i.e., at Majorbagaduce) is noted in the record for a Robert Tracy, but he was a sailor, which was non-typical, and must have been a cousin at most.
In conclusion, there is sufficient information to demonstrate that all of Jonathan Sr. and Abigail’s sons who were of age served in the Continental Army in similar service and at about the same time.
William Noble has researched the origins of John Morgan2. Ann Morgan, “a widow with three sons”, was recorded in Annapolis Township in 17683. By September of 1775, John was briefly enlisted in Captain Shaw’s Company4 for the defense of the seacoast in Maine, and by November of 1776 he was back in Annapolis and a member of the militia for the defense of the Township against American attacks5. No further record of him is found in Annapolis, and Noble notes that many Nova Scotians returned to New England during those years6.
By March of 1780, John was a member of the then ‘Continental Army’ in Captain Reuben Dyer’s Company for the defense of the seacoast in Maine7. This and his earlier service with Captain Shaw’s Company establish a possible connection between John Morgan and brothers Jonathan, Solomon, Asa and Christopher Tracy.
It has already been shown that Jeremiah Tracy arrived in what is now New Brunswick in 1781, and he was supposed to have traveled there in the company of a Morgan family. We know that John Morgan also arrived in New Brunswick in 1781, because he said in a petition in July of 1785 that he had “been a true Loyalist on this River Four Years” 8. He is not recorded in the Studholm report but there is good evidence that he was well established in the lumbering operations of Hazen and White by 17839.
It is therefore concluded that John Morgan was raised in peninsular Nova Scotia and that he was a ‘patriot’ who volunteered for service on the American side in the Revolutionary War. He was caught up by the Militia Bill, however, and served on the loyalist side when he came back to Nova Scotia on one occasion. He was therefore a ‘neutral Yankee’ indeed, and participated briefly on both sides of the War before coming to New Brunswick in 1781.
Notes for Appendix: