My ggggg-grandfather James Anderson was a Loyalist who moved to Chester, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia around 1783. The Chester records indicate that he was from Baltimore, Maryland, as well as the names, birth dates, and birth places of his four children (born in Baltimore, New York, and Chester). I am descended from James Anderson in the following way: his son John Secomb Anderson, John’s daughter Margaret (Anderson) Martin, her son Marston Martin, his daughter Bessie Blanche (Martin) Baldwin, and her son Miles E. Baldwin, who was my grandfather, born in Massachusetts.
I reviewed what was known about James Anderson of Baltimore, in a blog post called “A Question of Loyalty.” We know the James Anderson in Chester who filed a Loyalist claim (detailed in that post) owned a house in the Fells Point section of Baltimore. Since then, a lot of interesting information has surfaced, thanks to collaboration with some smart and hardworking fourth cousins who are also tracing James’ story. What we have uncovered makes his story far more complex than any of us thought.
Towards the beginning of the conflict, James was some sort of privateer and took the Patriot’s oath. We found an example of an auction of a ship and its contents, right at James’ house on the Baltimore waterfront, in Maryland Journal, Tuesday, February 11, 1777 [from the book Naval Documents of the American Revolution, vol. 7, Part 8, p. 1173 (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1976)].
Baltimore, February 11, 1777
By Virtue of a Decree of the Honourable Court of Admiralty for the State of Maryland, on Tuesday the 18th Instant, at 10 o’Clock in the Forenoon, at the House of James Anderson, Fell’s Point, will be Sold, by Public Vendue, for Ready Money,
The Brigantine Mary-Ann, with her Tackle, Apparel and Furniture, as she came from Sea; a fine Vessel, Burthen 200 Tons, well found and fitted. An Inventory will be produced at the Place of Sale — Same Day will be Sold a Quantity of Mahogany and Logwood, the Cargo on board said Brigantine.
— David Stewart, Marshall
Evidence of the Patriot turned Tory
Some new information found by my cousin Bonnie Anderson Lord was from a doctoral thesis written by Richard D. Pougher, University of Maine: “Averse … to Remaining Idle Spectators:” the Emergence of Loyalist Privateering During the American Revolution, 1775-1778, Vol. 1, p.110. James Anderson of Fells Point, Baltimore “willingly [took] the rebel oath, he willingly joined their forces and was made a lieutenant on a galley.” He was “given his own command” but ultimately “proceeded to sail his vessel to New York and deliver her to the British. When next heard from, he commanded a loyalist privateer.” One of the cousins, Pat Hagan, discussed our research with Dr. Pougher and received some further advice about sources.
Using the Footnotes
Following the leads in footnote 85 of Chapter 3, “Averse … to Remaining Idle Spectators:”, I found further information.
From the Pennsylvania Gazette, September 6, 1780 page 3 [Accessible-Archives.com: accessed 1 Nov 2013]
Several of the enemy’s small privateers and whaleboats have lately infested Chesapeak-bay, and captured a number of small craft, some of them richly laden; but by late letters from Virginia we learn, that a sloop of ten guns decoyed and took one of their whale boats rowing 36 oars; after taking out the prisoners they manned the boat from the sloop, and proceeded down the Bay to the place where these picaroons [pirates] rendezvoused, and took six more boats, with a sloop of ten guns; among them is a barge with 25 men, commanded by the noted Jemmy Anderson, late of Fell’s-point.
a barge with 25 men, commanded by the noted Jemmy Anderson, late of Fell’s Point
Charged with high treason
The second footnote led us to the story of James’ capture and imprisonment in Virginia. This is recorded in a letter from the state of Maryland to Thomas Jefferson, Governor of Virginia. Since this will probably be the only time I find a letter about a direct ancestor written to a future American President, I’m going to enjoy that. High treason and all.
From volume 43 of the Journal and Correspondence of the State Council of Maryland, October 27, 1779 – November 13, 1780. [section dated Sept 13, 1780; p 289-290]:
Council to His Excy Govr. Jefferson. [Thomas Jefferson, Governor of Virginia in 1780 – James Anderson had been sent to a prison in Richmond]
Sir We have received Information that a certain James Anderson, a Subject of this State, was captured in one of the Barges or Gallies which have, for some Time past, infested our Bay and interrupted our Trade, by Capt Yellott & Folger and carried into the the State of Virginia, and is now confined at Richmond. Anderson, before and since our Governmt was formed, lived on Fell’s Point in Baltimore Town, took the Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity to the State prescribed by Law, was appointed and commissioned a Lieutenant in one of our Gallies, and from his Activity and apparent Zeal, was always reputed a Friend to America and entrusted with the Command of a Vessel owned by some Gentlemen in Baltimore which he carried to New York; he is well acquainted with our Bay and has committed great Depredations on the Property of our Inhabitants.
The above Recapitulation of Facts renders it unnecessary to suggest to your Excellency that the said Anderson cannot be deemed a Prisoner of War and exchangeable, though he may hold a Commission from the Enemy and was taken in one of their Vessels, because he was a Subject of this State, took the Oath of Allegiance as such, and no subsequent Act by him can dissolve the Obligation he was under to the State, and therefore was, at the Time he received his Commission and must now be considered a Subject of this State and amenable to its Laws for any Offence committed against the Peace and Government thereof. We do charge the said Anderson with High Treason against the State and solicit you to cause him to be sent to us, under a Sufficient Guard in Order to take his Trial at our General Court, which will be held on the second Tuesday in October next and to transmit what Testimony you may have against him. We shall take Care that every Expence incurred thereby shall be reimbursed, as soon as it is ascertained. [Council Colo. George Dashiell]
Thomas Jefferson, by Rembrandt Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
From volume 43 of the Journal and Correspondence of the State Council of Maryland
, October 27, 1779 – November 13, 1780. [section dated Sept 19, 1780; p. 295-296]:
[Council to John Sterrett Esqr]
Sir Commander Barron from the State of Virginia, is just arrived here, … The Commodore has brought up the Barge in which Anderson was taken, and thinks, if she was properly fitted, she would be very serviceable and, in Conjunction with the State Boats, be sufficient to attack the Enemy’s Barges & Whale Boats, and that the Barge would be particularly useful in expelling them from the Creeks & other Places of Concealment …
Finding court records
Maryland has a significant quantity of historical records online, but I was unable to find any collection that might contain “his Trial at our General Court” mentioned in the letter to Jefferson. So I turned to:
- The Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources, Third Edition, ed. by Alice Eichholz.
- Genealogical Encyclopedia of the Colonial Americas by Christina K. Schaefer (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1998). If you can find the record set you want, it actually gives you FamilySearch microfilm numbers. For the states, it covers the period before the United States government was in place.
I learned a lot about Maryland records, and in the end I decided that the large set of digitized volumes, online, may hold a lot of the “court” records I am looking for.
“Both a Pirate & a spie”
This week cousin Bonnie made a discovery that was pretty startling. On the Maryland State Archives site, there were affidavits taken in 1781 from several individuals about an “Anderson” that ring very true for our James.
First of all, below, I repeat the first paragraph of the record, in which the writer laments the easy distribution of certificates that allow “Traitors” to travel freely. Apparently James impressed the magistrate so favorably that he was actually asked to carry a letter to the governor!
But the real clue in this paragraph is the mention of Capt. Yellot as the one who caught James. This matches the name in the 1780 record about James’ extradition to Maryland (see above), where Fell’s Point is mentioned. I’m quite sure this is our James Anderson.
Mr John Mackall a Majestrate of St Marys I think Deserves Censure. His administring the Oath of Allegiance, & Granting a Certificate to Anderson, Gave Colour for His application to Colo Barnes, whom I am willing to suppose, was Influenc’d only, by that Plausable Appearance of His being a Good Subject, to Grant Him a Pass & Give Him the Letter which He carried to your Excellency. These several Circumstances together, Occasion’d His Passing thro this County without Interruption — & had He not spoke freely to Heathman & Ogg, in Confidence of security, having restor’d to them their Vessell, wth a Complement of Salt, & they afterwards Devulg’d it, so that it came to Capt. Yellot, who was going Immediately to Annapolis, He Anderson, might probably have PasStd unmolested to the Enemys Lines at New York. Magistrates & Officers Ought to be Extreamly Caution to whom they administer Oaths, or Grant Passes; otherwise, whatever Laws may be Enacted, it will be very Difficult, Nay almost Impossible, to Detect Traitors & Spies when Passing thro: the Country, as I believe they frequently have Done without the least Notice.
Apparently Anderson encountered several men that, six months earlier, he had stolen a barge of tobacco from, offering them a share if they swore allegiance to the British and accompanied him to New York. He may, later, have returned the barge to them. Each appeared in court and made a statement about the encounter.
[Willm Fitzhugh, Calvert County, to Gov. Lee.] July 18, 1781.
… It appears Clearly that Anderson is both a Pirate & a spie. He was acting in the Enemys Barges when they murder’d Burn’d & Plunder’d Particularly at Lower Marlbro the 8th Day of Apl last, He was also a Principal man, at the taking of several Vessels Loaded with Tobo in the mouth of Patuxt in December last besides what is mention’d in Your Excellency’s Letter to me on that Subject. He Has also traveled through the Country under two Names, & Different pretences & told various falsehoods & shew’d a Commission from the Enemy &c &c.
… The Deposition of Thomas Heathman aged about thirty six years being duly sworn … saidth That on Friday 29th June last he fell in Company with a Man at Hunting Town who called himself Anderson dressed in a country Cotten kersey coat light sandy hair grey eyes and being asked by Col Joseph Wilkinson if he ever saw this person before & where. The deponents answers he believes him to be same person that captured him in Patuxent River a few days before Christmas last as one of Ridley’s Crew in a Barge, That he told this deponent that he was one of the persons in the Barge with Robinson at Lower Marlbro, That if this deponant had gone with them to N. York he would have been considered as Owner & had the Vessell & half the Cargoe given to him, … That he said he had a Brother arrived in Phila. who commanded a Ship or vessell called the Holker & that he want’d to go there to see what his brother would do for him as he had now deserted from the English the cause of which was his killing a Man in a duel, That he told this deponent he was chased in a Vessell from Bilboa into St. Mary’s River …
Lately, I am very drawn to the book The Pirates Own Book by Charles Ellms, 1837. Now, I guess I know why.
… The Deposition of Alexander Ogg aged about thirty six years … deposeth & saith That on Friday the 29th June last a Man who called himself Anderson carrying his hand a white wintry made kersey Coat striped trowsers a handsome bristol Stone freemason Broach in the breast of shirt a black silk barcelona handkerchief about his neck and asked this deponent if he kept Tavern who answered in the Affirmative & the Man called for Grog he told this deponant he had brought in from Bilboa a fine parcell of Arms Viz. 2800 Stand and the vessell was chased by two English Frigates from point look out up the River Potowmack & that he had run into Britons Bay where he had delivd them safe to Col. Richard Barnes whose pass he said he had This deponent then went about his business and after sometime on his return into the house he saw Mr Thomas Heathman & the above Anderson siting near together Heathman reading a printed paper which he is satisfied was an English Commission & that Anderson had a letter directed to his Exy Thos Sim Lee. Mr Heathman adressed this deponent this is the Man that took our Tobacco in Patuxt a few days before Christmas, this deponent demanded of Heathman if he did not know this Man who answered yes he now recollected him but did not know him at first Anderson then said to Heathman it was the best Tobo ever carried to N. York and had you staid with the vessell & gone to N. York you would have shared sixty pounds hard money for that was each man share …
— Journal and Correspondence of the Council of Maryland, 1781, vol. 47, p. 355-359.
In Nova Scotia
Whatever the trial and subsequent activities in the Revolutionary War may have been, ultimately James Anderson and family settled in Chester, Nova Scotia by the mid-1780’s. They had four children, including a son, John Secomb Anderson, my gggg-grandfather. John Secomb Anderson has several descendants who are pursuing the history of this family today.
Early poll tax records in Chester:
list at least one James Anderson, occupation Seaman, but it’s not possible yet to be sure this is him. When son John Secomb Anderson died in 1869, his death record stated that his father was James Anderson, Sailor. John’s death record can be found at https://www.novascotiagenealogy.com/ by searching for this: John A Anderson, died 1869 in Kentville, Kings County.
The treasure chest
OK it’s not exactly a treasure chest, but this chest IS full of family treasures, and according to the family in Nova Scotia, had once belonged to James Anderson and was his “sea chest”. A few documents belonging to James have actually been preserved in this chest, and the rest are various family documents from later periods, safely stored away. It’s a amazing that the family managed to save this.
James Anderson’s sea chest, which contains a few of his documents and many later family papers. Photo by Pat Hagan.
One document from the chest is James’ certificate from the New York Marine Society, 1781.
New York No 759. These are to Certify that Capt James Anderson was by a Majority of Votes regularly admitted a Member of the New York Marine Society at a Meeting held the 11th day of June A.D. 1781 Given under my hand and the Seal of the Society this 11th day of June – Annoque Domini 1781. Geo. Fowler Sec. [illegible] President.
The most important seems to be the certification from Masonic Lodge No. 9, Nova Scotia. The wording on this certificate appears to be standard for the fraternal organization, and is dated 24 June 1791.
James Anderson Masonic document, 24 June, 1791. Photo by Pat Hagan.
What’s on the reverse of the certificate makes it so valuable.
The Masonic document, with writing on the back “Died in the West Indies, July, 1796.” Photo by Pat Hagan.
This note – “Died in the West Indies July 1796” – is the only death information we have for James. There is a marriage record for a “Mary Anderson, widow” and Josiah Marvin in Chester in 1797. Recently, cousin Pat found a death record for a “Captain Anderson” in St. James, Jamaica, September 11, 1796. We are looking into that.
Many of James’ descendants are curious about his origins. I can find no records from early Baltimore that make it appear likely that James Anderson was born there. Where was he from, and who were his parents? Were any of the possible brothers named so far in various documents really his brother? I wonder if I can find an origin for one of them?
What caused James Anderson to turn to the Tories, after taking the Patriot oath in Baltimore? If he broke with the British during the war, why/how did he submit a Loyalist claim later in Nova Scotia? Did he see any actual service, or was he a privateer during most of the war? Did he continue a seafaring life after relocating to Nova Scotia? Does the 1796 death record refer to him, and what caused his death?
The post you are reading is located at: onerhodeislandfamily.com/2013/11/21/james-anderson-both-a-pirate/
Ship illustration, and chest illustration, below, from Dover. Pirate’s Own Book (illustration of Captain Avery, page 29) available on Google books.
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