Friday, February 3, 2012

The Spy Who Eluded Me, Part 4: Post-War Migrations

The Spy Who Eluded Me, Part 3: What Might Have Been  

Following the American Revolution, David Dobson relocated to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where he married the widow Hannah Richardson on 2 August 1784.

Hannah is as much a mystery to us as David once was. She was probably connected to James Richardson and his brother Alexander, who ran a tavern near David’s. Many years later, Alexander acted as a land agent for David, so he was not Hannah’s first husband. Too little is known of James to hazard a guess as to whether or not he was married to Hannah. Further research into the Richardsons of Charlottetown is clearly indicated.

Whatever David’s fortunes after his brief service in the Royal Fencibles and subsequent imprisonment in Boston, he seemed to have accumulated a moderate measure of wealth (records indicate that he sold both his inherited properties, in 1784 and 1789). Apparently denied the land grant that the other Fencibles received in 1784, he was still able to purchase two lots of Charlottetown land from Lt. Governor Walter Patterson on November 28, 1786.

David’s reasons for relocating to Charlottetown were not apparent, given his lack of a land grant. Perhaps his Loyalist stance would not allow him to live so near his brothers-in-law, William Wells and William Jones, who were both accused of supporting the Eddy Rebellion. Maybe he simply felt the need to make his own mark or to remove himself from the scene of his capture.

David spent his early years in Charlottetown as a tavern keeper, but he switched to farming by 13 April 1790, when he sold one of his town lots to Thomas DesBrisay. Around this time, David Dobson Jr. was born.

Shortly after this, the family moved back to the mainland, settling at Hammonds Plains in Halifax Township. In 1793, David Sr. made a living as a labourer, employed by the Blue Bell Inn and/or Farm (owned by John Clark of Charlottetown) on the Windsor Road.

David Sr.’s status changed to yeoman (farmer) by February 24, 1798, at which point he sold his second Charlottetown lot to John Ross. The transaction was reversed on September 28th. In both instances, Alexander Richardson, Postmaster and Island Attorney, acted as David Sr.’s agent. Alexander’s relationship to Hannah (widow Richardson) Dobson was not indicated. Nor was Hannah mentioned on the deeds, suggesting that she had passed away by then.

Whether David and Hannah had children other than David Jr. was not indicated in any extant records. What was recorded was David Jr.’s marriage to Elizabeth Jones on 29 August 1808 in Westmorland County, New Brunswick. He was said to be “late of Manchester, Co. of Sydney, NS.” Obviously, his family had moved away from Halifax sometime prior. However long he stayed in the area, he doubtless had the opportunity to know his grandmother, Mary Forkinther, by then known as Granny Forky. She may even have attended his wedding.

Elizabeth Jones was “of Westmorland” County and was apparently a daughter of William Jones, a Welshman. His wife, Mary “Polly” Dobson, was David Sr.’s younger sister. Thus, David Jr. and Elizabeth were first cousins.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Getting in Synch

I recently upgraded to Family Tree Maker 2012, which allows me to synch up with the tree I store on

It's only been a few days, but I already appreciate the feature. Not only do the two "versions" match, but the synching also covers photos. With older versions of FTM, I could download a gedcom from, but that wouldn't incorporate any of the photos (have thousands) that I've either found on the site or uploaded myself.

I still prefer to work on the site --'s hints work better in an online environment -- but I love the fact that I have a 100% accurate backup on my computer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Spy Who Eluded Me, Part 3: What Might Have Been

The Spy Who Eluded Me, Part 2: War and Captivity

Following the prisoner exchange of 1778, David Dobson seems to disappear from public records for about 12 years (more on that in part 4).

I've so far found reference to two other David Dobsons during the time period in question:

Silver belt plate worn by
soldiers of the New Jersey
Volunteers, 4th Battalion
1) Private David Dolson (a.k.a. Dobson in some source documents) appears on the muster roll of the New Jersey Volunteers, 4th Battalion, Capt. Ryerson's Company in September 1779. In December, he transfers (on detachment with Capt. Ryerson) from Capt. William Van Allen's Company into the American Volunteers (Ferguson's Corps of Riflemen and Rangers) in New York. The Volunteers are soon shipped to South Carolina for a prolonged campaign ending with their defeat at the Battle of King's Mountain (7 October 1780), where Private Dobson is wounded and captured. He is listed as "deceased in the Southern War" on the April 1781 muster roll of the New Jersey Volunteers, 4th Battalion, Capt. Wm Van Allen's Company). But what if reports of death were greatly exaggerated?

2) On 30 November 1781, refugee David Dobson of the Township of Tennicock is assaulted and robbed of a large sum of money by two soldiers of the Regiment du Corps near Brooklyn Church, Long Island, New York. In his memorial for assistance, he states he has a wife and four small children to support. He claims that Lord Rawdon and General Lesley witnessed his services to his country (in the "perilous capacity of a guide"). He also claims to have been captured and "tried for his life" by the Rebels but to have made his escape from prison. His assailants, Conrad Sonderwein and Adam Goebell, are hanged for their crime by August 1782.

Are these two men connected to each other or to my David Dobson?

In the one confirmed record of my ancestor during this period, David Dobson of Cumberland sells 350 acres of inherited land to his stepfather George Faulkinther for £60. While the deed is dated 9 December 1780, it isn't registered until 4 March 1782. But the language of the deed suggests that David is present in Cumberland, Nova Scotia, at the time the document is drafted. Does this rule him out as being the same man as either of the two identified above?

I need to get my hands on more primary source documents!