New Clue for Loyalist Wife Catherine (MNU) Carlisle or Just a BSO?

I’ve mentioned before that I am one of those “leave no stone unturned” researchers and I have been true to form with my research on the family and origins of Loyalist Robert Carlisle and his wife, Catherine (MNU). The difficulty here is that there just aren’t many stones around to overturn!

A list of Royal Fencible Americans and families, of which Robert Carlisle was a part, was dissected, looking for possible Catherines who could have been his wife.

Robert Carlisle sold land in 1784, with no wife releasing dower rights, but in the summer of 1785, when he again sold some land, Catherine released her rights. Knowing that their first child was born c1785/6, it doesn’t seem like a stretch of the imagination to believe that they married in late 1784 or early 1785.

As a quick review, Carlisle is a very rare surname in Canada around the time of the Revolutionary War. Robert was given Lot 809 in Parrtown (today the city of St. John) in 1784. He must not have liked city life, as that land was sold and he settled in Sussex Vale, Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada, where he lived until the 1820s. His sons removed to Charlotte, Washington, Maine and Robert and Catherine moved with them.

Until that move, I have no evidence that Robert ever lived in the United States or what was formerly the thirteen colonies. The Royal Fencibles were organized in Nova Scotia, where they served until 1783.

Recently, I read an index of those receiving lots in Parrtown, which is where I found the tidbit that Robert owned Lot 809, which today is at the corner of Prince William and Duke Streets in St. John.

What caught my eye while reading the index was the name of “widow Catherine Cleveland,” whom I had never come across in my research. Why did she catch my eye? Well, it was just because she owned Lot 805, which was just three doors away from Robert on Duke Street.

Source: Google Earth

The purple arrow on the bottom is Robert’s Lot 809 on the corner. The upper purple arrow is Lot 805 and Duke Street actually runs east and west.

Could Catherine have been a young widow who lost her husband either through war or sickness? After all, she was given the lot as the widow of a Loyalist, but there were no other obvious clues that might shed more light on who she was.

Catherine’s name was just one of hundreds in a running paragraph summary of who was assigned which lot number in Parrtown. Robert Carlisle’s name was the fourth name after Catherine’s because their lots were close together.

As you can see, she was called “widow” not “widow of,” which left some questions.

Like Carlisle, Cleveland was also a rather uncommon surname in the area in that time period. A quick survey of Loyalist lists produced one William Cleveland, an Ambrose Cleveland and a Keturah (Briggs) Cleveland. There was also a James Cleveland on the ship that brought the Royal Fencibles to Parrtown, but he had no family onboard with him.

Ambrose Cleveland seemed to be a good starting point since his name was less common than William or James. There was a three volume genealogy published in 1899 about the history of the Cleveland family in America, written by Edmund Janes and Horace Gillette Cleveland.

Ambrose Cleveland’s life and family were sketched out and he appears to be my man. Ambrose was born in 1730 in Freetown, Bristol, Massachusetts and, in 1776, at the start of the American Revolution, he picked up and moved to Canada.

He married Keturah Briggs of Berkley, Massachusetts on 4 August 1753. The list of their children seems to be a bit incomplete, although the eldest have recorded dates of birth – Ambrose Jr., Elizabeth, William, Jonathan, and then maybe Sylvia, Rebecca, Susan, Eunice and John.

It is said that Ambrose Cleveland died in St. John about 1782 and that Keturah was still living as of 1784.

Now, I am a bit suspicious by genealogical nature and what bothered me is that Keturah is a very unusual given name. Use your imagination for a moment and think about faded ink and that K sound that could also be made with a C. Now imagine that the H at the end of her name was faded and a bit difficult to read. So much so that it might have been read as a lower case N. So, Keturah might have been read as Keturan. Now add the likelihood that someone thought her name was misspelled and sound it out: Ca ter in. Catherine?

Was my widow Mrs. Catherine Cleveland possibly Keturah Cleveland or was she a separate person really named Catherine?

Next, the index to St. John County land deeds was searched. There was an entry:

Cleveland, C et al to George Livingston in volume E1:108.

A look at volume E1 page 108 brought up the deed and it was the only Cleveland entry found in that volume.

The most important detail was exactly what piece of property was described in this deed. The red arrows answered my question – LOT 805 on Duke Street. It was, indeed, the lot given to widow Catherine Cleveland.

Next most important detail was who were the sellers? They are all listed on the second page of the deed, page 109: Samuel Smiler and Cynthia his wife, Elizabeth Cleveland (described in the deed as the sister of Cynthia Smiler), Jonathan Cleveland and Ambrose Cleveland.

The deed is dated 1 May 1797.

Now, let’s take another look at those children of Ambrose and Keturah Cleveland – Ambrose, Elizabeth, William, Jonathan and maybe Sylvia, etc.

Sellers include Ambrose, Elizabeth and Jonathan and perhaps the sketchy information about a daughter Sylvia might be an error for Cynthia. Jonathan Cleveland named a daughter Cynthia, but she was too young to be the one married to Samuel Smiler.

Unfortunately for me, I think I’ve answered my own question. I believe the widow Catherine Cleveland was actually a misspelling of widow Keturah (Briggs) Cleveland and that she died sometime between a second recording of her land grant on 1 January 1785 and 1 May 1797, when her children sold it off to George Livingston.

I have to say I am very disappointed that I think this was just a shiny BSO. What do you think?





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