It must have been a scene reminiscent of many before it, and many since.
Thousands of refugees crowded into Manhattan, realizing that the time had come
to flee this little bastion of safety. As the last and greatest stronghold of
the British and British sympathizers began to weaken, it was clear there was no
hope of reversing the course of history. The rebels had gradually pushed back
the loyal supporters of the King to this crowded island, and now it, too, was
about to fall. The city was teeming with refugees from all over the eastern
seaboard, as well as British soldiers and disbanded troops; plans were made to
evacuate New York and take the Loyalists to safety in British North America.
Though not (strictly speaking) Loyalists, the British and British American
troops are often considered as such by descendants. Indeed, they shared the
Loyalists’ point of view. Certainly many British troops chose to remain in North
America, rather than return home. Plans were made to evacuate New York. with the
refugees going principally to Saint John and Shelburne, both then in the Colony
of Nova Scotia (in 1784, Saint John and the western part of Nova Scotia were set
off as the Colony of New Brunswick largely because of Loyalist agitations there
for “home rule”).
Preparing to Leave New York
By October 1783, most of the men of the British regiments had received their
discharges and those going to Nova Scotia were ready to sail. The men of the
17th Light Dragoons were allotted to the transport L’Abondance with
Captain Valentine Nutter’s Loyalists, all destined for Shelburne. The men “were
to remain in their regiments as a militia and their officers were to continue in
their respective ranks and were to be obeyed as such until the Governor of Nova
Scotia made other arrangements” (Marion Robertson, King’s Bounty: A History
of Early Shelburne, Nova Scotia , p. 76, hereafter King’s
Bounty). During 1783 and 1784, between 30,000 and 35,000 Loyalists,
disbanded troops and freed blacks had gone to Nova Scotia, with 15,000 of them
locating in Shelburne.
Arrival in Shelburne
Conditions in Shelburne were hopeless, due to overcrowding, a lack of
provisions, scarcity of arable land and adverse economic conditions, including
heavy export duties. With these refugees arriving as they did late in the fall
of 1783, Shelburne became a veritable “tent city,” a miserable lot for those who
had expected better.
In the case of the British soldiers and disbanded troops, His Majesty
consented to grant every non-commissioned officer 200 acres of land. Each man,
additionally, was to be furnished the usual ration of provisions for one year,
and was to be permitted to retain his arms and accoutrements. As most of the
lots in the center of town had already been granted, most of the disbanded
soldiers were given lots south of the main part of town, in Patterson’s Division
and St. John’s Division. And there it is that we find Corp. Richard Moorfield,
formerly with the 17th Light Dragoons, receiving Town Lot No. 11, Letter L, in
Patterson’s Division, with a prestigious and much sought-after water lot as well
(Land Records, Shelburne Co., Public Archives of Nova Scotia; microfilm, Items
#3 and #2). While Moorfield’s allotment was granted (ibid.), it is not
clear what he did with his land when he and his family joined the exodus from
Shelburne the next year. One winter in the cold shanty-town was enough for many
of the refugees, some of whom fled to the western part of Nova Scotia, to the
St. John and St. Lawrence rivers, and to Upper Canada, while others chose to
cast their lot with the large group going to yet another untried locale, St.
John’s Island (known since 1 February 1799 as Prince Edward Island).
Removal to Prince Edward Island
Governor Patterson, on instructions from the King, offered liberal terms to
those refugees at Shelburne who might desire to come to the Island to settle.
Proclamations were posted in the streets of Shelburne telling of this new
opportunity. By 12 June 1784. there were 202 Loyalist males in Prince Edward
Island, with 178 women, children and servants or slaves. During the summer and
fall, several additional groups of Loyalists from Shelburne arrived: 27 men with
women and children came on 26 July 26 men with women and children arrived on 13
September, another 55 men with women and children followed on 19 September, and
12 more brought up the rear with their households on 25 September.
Thus, with those found there earlier in that year, we have, by late 1784,
some 600 Loyalists on the Island (Prof. Wilbur H. Siebert and Florence E.
Gilliam, “The Loyalists in Prince Edward Island,” Proc. and Trans. of the
Royal Society of Canada, 3rd series, 4 :109-17). Nevertheless, it is
conservatively estimated that by the fall of 1786 over half of the Loyalists who
came to the Island between 1783 and 1785 had left upon learning how landlords
were interpreting the apparently generous terms on which the government had
offered the land (George A. Leard, Historic Bedeque , p. 9).
Of the 388 disbanded troops and Loyalists mustered in the summer of 1784, and
who settled on Prince Edward  Island and were issued recorded
grants, 181 were soldiers and 154 were Loyalists. Of these men, at least 110
were married and came with their wives and some children, too (Orlo Jones, “The
Loyalists of the Island of St. John or Prince Edward Island,” The Loyalist
Gazette, 23 [June 1985]: 13). Available muster rolls show that 295 men, 85
women, 51 children over 10 and 80 children under 10, as well as 17 servants, and
another group of “51 men, women and children” were living on the Island with a
few black slaves brought with them (Ibid.). Sixty percent of the Island’s
inhabitants in 1784 were Loyalists and disbanded troops, and these groups still
represented 25% of the population in the 1798 census (Ibid., 14). Most of
the Loyalists settled in the Bedeque Bay and Malpeque areas, with smaller
settlements in the Vernon River/Pownal area around Orwell Bay and along the
Hillsborough River (Ibid., 13).
Land Grant at Bedeque
The Minutes of the Council meeting in Charlottetown on 29 July 1784 show that
William Schurman had been to Shelburne and brought from there a number of
refugees and disbanded troops, with their families, to take up lands on Lots 17,
25 and 26. This document shows Richard Moorfield receiving 200 acres on Lot 25
(Public Archives of Prince Edward Island. Accession No. R.G.5, Vol. 34
[Petitions]). We further learn that these settlers arrived at Charlottetown from
Shelburne 26 July 1784 (ibid., Accession No. 2379, Item 13). The 200
acres granted to Richard Moorfield on Lot 25 fronted on the water near the head
of Dunk, or Bedeque, Bay (ibid., Accession No. R. G. 14, Lot 25 Return
Warrant of Survey 1786-87). In 1985 the Bedeque Harbour Loyalists, following the
centennial of their ancestors’ arrival on the Island, erected a handsome
monument listing the names of all the Loyalists and disbanded troops who settled
in that area, including the name of “Cpl. Richard Moorfield, wife and 1
On 23 July 1787, Walter Patterson, Esq., officially deeded the 200 acres at
Bedeque on Lot 25 to Moorfield, the latter subsequently trading this for another
grant of two parcels of land, also on Lot 25, on 1 January 1789 (P. E. I.
Deeds, 3:213-219, and 11:11-16). On 7 April 1789, however, for a mere £10,
Moorfield sold these parcels to Malcolm Shaw of Covehead, and at that time
presumably moved to Park Corner, on the north shore of Prince Edward Island.
There, on 20 August 1796, James Townshend sold Richard “Morefield” and Mary his
wife, of Park Corner, 50 acres of land which they were then occupying, said land
to be theirs “during their natural lives.” The said Richard Moorfield and Mary
his wife, or either of them, were to pay a rent of six pence per acre for six
years and after that one shilling per acre for the rest of their lives. After
their decease the land was to revert to James Townshend or his heirs (ibid.,
13:63). Both the Moorfields made their mark. being unable to sign their
names. It should be further noticed that this deed is the only place where the
name of Moorfield’s wife is stated; it is a supposition and not a fact that she
was his only wife and the mother of his child. This deed was recorded on 25
February 1804, which may be significant in that nothing is seen of the
Moorfields after the 1798 census. At that time he was head of a household of one
male aged 16 to 60, and one female aged 16 to 60, on Lot 21, where Park Corner
is located (Duncan Campbell, History of Prince Edward Island [1875, repr.
1972)], p. 209.
What of this man, Moorfield?
Little is known about Richard Moorfield, and nothing is known of his wife.
The first time we ever see him is in a muster roll of the 17th Light Dragoons,
dated “New York.” 9 January 1777, where, as “Robt Moorefield” he appears for the
first time, presumably indicating that he had only recently joined (Muster
Rolls, 17th Light Dragoons, Public Record Office, Kew, Surrey, England, WO
12/1306, Doc. No.97). He is consistently called Richard thereafter, indicating
initial confusion over the new recruit’s given name in the above-cited document.
In the muster roll for the period 25 June -24 December 1777, dated at
Philadelphia, 7 February 1778, he is shown for the first time as “Corporal,”
with the notation, “Appointed” 7 August 1777 (ibid., Doc. No.
111). Appearing regularly on the rolls, taken with few exceptions at New York
locations, such as New York, “New York Island” [i.e. Manhattan], Bloomingdale,
Philadelphia [Penn] Flushing, Southampton, Hempstead, East Chester, Fort
Knyphausen [Penn.], and Harlem, Richard Moorfield’s name is found with other
names later seen among the Loyalists in Prince Edward Island: Samuel Barnet,
Samuel Birth, Thomas Coughlan, Benjamin Rix, Isaac Birch, John Ramsay, Thomas
Murray, George Mabey, and even a William Woodside, though no claim is made in
this paper that all of these individuals are identical to those bearing these
names who later appear on the Island. In the roll dated at Southampton 2 March
1779, Moorfield is said to have been “Reduced to private,” 21 November 1778, and
“Received from Corporal,” 22 November 1778. He was said to be “On duty at
Hampstead (sic)” (ibid., Doc. No. 121). In the roll taken at Fort
Knyphausen, Pennsylvania, on 8 July 1782, it was stated that Moorfield was
appointed corporal again on 16 May (ibid., Doc. No. 166), and he remained such
thereafter. In his final appearance on the rolls which, incidentally, is the
last one before the 17th Light Dragoons returned to England, it is stated that
Corporal “Richd Moorefield” was Invalid & pd to 24 of
Septr 1783” (ibid., Doc. No. 178). This notation clearly indicates
that he left the service shortly before this date, and soon after set sail for
Shelburne, Nova Scotia.
The 17th Light Dragoons had been stationed in Ireland for some time prior to
going to the colonies to help put down the rebellion. For at least three years
prior to shipping out for Boston, in April 1775, to be at the Battle of Bunker
Hill. the men had been at such places as Clonmel, Kilkenny, Carrick-on-Shane,
Laghlin Bridge, Carrick-on-Shane, Athy, Carlow, Callen, Sullow, Mount Mellick,
and Maryborough, among others, and were stationed at Maryborough just prior to
passage. Many of the men in this unit were recruited in these places in Ireland.
After arriving in  Boston, the unit spent nearby a year there before
proceeding to New York. As Moorfield’s name does not appear until some months
after the unit arrived in New York, it is presumed that he was recruited there
from among the numerous Loyalists and Loyalist sympathizers in New York at that
time. The men of the New York campaign saw fighting at Long Island, Fort
Washington and Princeton. Some served at Forts Clinton and Montgomery. In the
Philadelphia campaign, the men saw fighting at Whitemarsh and were at the Siege
of Philadelphia. Later the men were in the fighting at Monmouth Court House, and
in the skirmish at Pound Ridge, New York.
Besides being reduced from corporal to private, as above, which in the case
of a non-commissioned officer may not indicate that a disciplinary procedure had
taken place, the only other glimpse we get of this man as a person is found in
the Royal Gazette, and Miscellany of the Island of Saint John, printed in
Charlottetown on Saturday, 14 July 1792, page 4. There it is reported that John
Barefoot [of Lot 20], and Richard “Morefleld” [of Lot 21] were brought from New
London to the public “goal” where they were safely lodged. They were then
indicted for breaking into a store at New London, and stealing several gallons
of rum. They testified that they had first unsuccessfully tried seven different
keys to get the door open, but none worked, whereupon they impatiently broke
open the door! The thirsty pair pleaded guilty and were sentenced to receive 180
lashes each on their bare backs, 60 of which were inflicted on them then and
there, the rest being remitted. One “Mary Browne, alias Marshall,” an accomplice
charged with having aided and abetted the men, was acquitted.
Where did the Moorfields come from?
The surname is very rare, despite its being a “typical” English name. The
International Genealogical Index of the Genealogical Society of Utah shows the
name to be fairly numerous in Devonshire, Gloucestershire and Lancashire, with a
few early in “London/Middlesex,” with only a few people of the name in a few
other English counties. A number of Richard Moorfields appear in the first three
counties named above. But it seems likely that our man was an American Loyalist,
recruited in New York. At least, he was a resident of New York at the time he
joined the 17th Light Dragoons.
Loyalists from all over the Thirteen Colonies and the Caribbean had gathered
in New York as the rebels gained control over one area after another of British
North America. With this mixture of people from a great variety of places, it
would seem hopeless, in the absence of other information, to find an
individual’s origin. Fortunately, the name Moorfield is even rarer in North
America than in England. With the exception of one small family in colonial
Hingham, Massachusetts (who seem to turn into Merrifields by the time their
remnants go to York Co., Maine) the name is confined to Virginia, with branches
of that family moving by the latter half of the 1700s into Rowan Co., North
Carolina, and Augusta Co., Virginia [now West Virginia]. The name Richard
Moorfield is found in the latter place, too late to be the New York Loyalist,
but perhaps indicating a relationship. Yet the [West] Virginia branch seems to
have quickly become Merrifields (which perhaps they had been all along), and
their appearance as Moorfield is possibly an error.
Consistently Moorfield (or Morefield), the Virginia family seems to trace
back to either Thomas Moorfield, here by 17 November 1664, or John Moorfield,
here by 16 March 1665/6 (Stratton Nottingham, Certificates and Rights,
Accomack County, Virginia 1663-1709 , pp. 12,24). Though it is not
known where these men settled, descendants are found by the mid-1700s in south
central Virginia counties, but the name was never numerous. Any relationship to
early Virginia Merrifields is unknown. Whether Richard Moorfield of New York,
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island came from Virginia, West Virginia or North
Carolina, or whether he was from England, is also unknown. There is no clue
whatsoever to the identity of his wife.
Curiously, the couple seems to have had only one child, born in New York.
which may indicate the gallant young corporal married there, perhaps to the
daughter of another Loyalist family. That the child, a daughter, may have been
born about 1777, allowing her to be about 22 years old at the estimated time her
first child was born, is evidence for thinking that her father was either
recently married at the time he joined the 17th Light Dragoons, or that he
married very soon after. During 1777 and 1778 he was in New York. Bloomingdale,
Philadelphia and Bushing. Perhaps his marriage record, and the baptismal record
of his daughter, may one day be found in one of those places.
Descendants of Richard & Mary Moorfield
Elizabeth Moorfield (known as Betsey), the only child of this couple, was
born in New York about 1777. She married in Prince Edward Island, about 1798,
Patrick Quinn, an Irish-born Roman Catholic fisherman. As many of the early
Irish people on Prince Edward Island (only a few Irish families were enumerated
in the 1798 census) are said to have first been either in Newfoundland or at the
Miramichi River in New Brunswick, it is possible that Patrick Quinn had been in
one of those places earlier. Those early Irish adventurers came largely from
southeastern Ireland - Waterford, Wexford, Carlow and southern Kilkenny, and
adjacent areas within a radius of 30 miles of the city of Waterford - often
sailing from the port of Waterford. Little is known of Patrick Quinn: he seems
to have lived first around Princetown or Malpeque; he lost a court case against
Sylvester Bryant, 10 September 1810, to recover four days’ wages (Capt. George
Eden Meggison Diary, Public Archives of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown,
P.E. I.., Accession No. 2814); he and Edmund Reilly bought four sheep of Capt.
Meggison on 25 July 1816 (ibid.). Quinn’s Inlet, an old name for one of
the inlets off Cascumpec through the sandhills, was presumably named for him. He
was living 25 July 1816 when he bought the sheep mentioned above, but dead by 28
June 1826 when William Maddox Hull of Cascumpec swore to the 
accuracy of his list of the tenants of Harriet Hill of Exmouth, Devonshire, who
were then resident on Lot 6, P.E. I. “Widow Quin,” age 49, and her surviving
dependent children Thomas, age 16; Eliza (sic), age 14; Ann (sic),
age 13; Patrick. age 11; and Catharine (sic), age 9, were among those
on the list (P.E. I. Deeds, 33:251-254).
It was probably Mrs. Quinn who, as “Elizabeth Morphil, widow,” was remarried
18 May 1834 to William Gain (Justice of the Peace marriage book), an old
Irish-born sea captain and widower of Margaret Warren, whom he had married by a
license dated 20 February 1800 (P.E. I. Marriage Licenses), and who died leaving
a number of children. This second marriage for both was recorded by a
French-speaking priest who, as was their custom, recorded the bride under her
maiden name, finding it difficult to spell “Moorfield.” William Gain, born about
1771 in Ireland, lived first at Princetown and then Fermoy, in Lot 18. On 19
February 1838, some four years after his marriage to Widow Quinn, he petitioned
the legislature, through William Clarke his representative, for relief, saying
that he was an infirm pauper,” and had an affliction that would require
amputation of his left leg. He was granted £5 by the Island legislature 5 March
1838, the record stating it was “towards the support of William Gain of Lot
Eighteen, a deaf and dumb person in indigent circumstances” (Betty M. & Leo
E. Styer, Styer, Gahen & Poehnelt Families of Wisconsin: History and
Lineage, 1785-1935 , p. 56; letter [30 Dec. 1989] to the writer from
Betty M. and Leo E. Styer). Nothing further is known of Elizabeth (Moorfield)
(Quinn) Gain. She presumably died on P.E. I., and, like her Loyalist parents,
saw many changes in her life before coming to rest in an unmarked grave, long
Following her death, her aged husband may have gone to North Tetagouche,
Gloucester Co., New Brunswick. to live with his son James, later joined by his
son Benjamin. About 1850, James Gain and his family, together with his unmarried
brother Benjamin and their aged father William, moved to Springville, Adams Co.,
Wisconsin, where William resided in the family of his son Benjamin. The poor,
old sea captain died in 1861, aged about 90 years, having been called 94 and an
“idiot” on the 1860 census of that place, a less-than-charitable way of
describing an old amputee who had probably suffered a serious stroke many years
Children of Patrick and Elizabeth (Moorfield) QUINN (list perhaps
i. MARY QUINN, b. ca. 1799, d. Lot 11, P.E.I., ca. 1901, ae. 102, and
was bur. St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Cem., Bloomfield, Lot 5, P.E.I. She m.
MARTIN LYNCH, a native of Co. Kilkenny, Ireland, and had at
least nine children. The 1891 census shows her mother’s place of birth as “N.Y.
U.S.” Blind for many years, Mary’s eyesight returned some time before she died.
They lived at “Martin’s Cove” on Foxley River, Lot 11.
ii. MARGARET QUINN, b. ca. 1801, d. Lot 11, P.E.I., and was bur. there
in the old St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Cem. 12 Sept. 1873 (gravestone states
that she d. 18 Aug. 1873). She m. PHILIP GAIN,
son of Philip and Helen (Coughlin) Gain, and nephew of her step-father, William
Gain. Their old home was finally razed in 1982. She had at least nine
iii. THOMAS QUINN, b. Lots, P.E.I., and bp. May 1810 (“The Roman
Catholic Book” Public Archives of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, P.E.I.,
Accession No. 3011); it was perhaps he who m. MARYDEVLIN and res. briefly at Tignish, Lot 1, P.E.I., after which
all trace of them is lost. One child is seen, bp. Tignish.
iv. ELIZABETH QUINN, b. ca. 1812 d. Tignish, Lot 1, P.E.I., between
the birth of her youngest child 16 Sept. 1858, and the marriage of her second
son 27 Nov. 1860, in which record she is called deceased. She m.
JOSEPH RICHARD “JR.” of
Tignish, son of Hilaire and Thersile (Bernard) Richard, an Acadian and
descendant of the founding families of Malpeque and Tignish. Known also as
Eliza, Betsey or Isabelle, she had twelve children.
v. ALICE QUINN, b. Kildare, Lot 3, P.E.I.., 6 Oct. 1814, bp. as “Anne
Queen,” 23 Oct. 1814 (St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Parish Reg., Rustico, Lot
24, P.E.I..), d. Coates’ Mills, Kent Co., N.B., 4 Feb. 1894 (Buctouche Circuit
Methodist Church recs.), and was bur. there (called a “Roman Catholic” and ae.
“94”) in the cem. of the Coates’ Mills Wesleyan Methodist Church. Often called
Elsie or Ann, she m. P.E.I. 10 Sept. 1833 (Justice of the Peace marriage book)
PETER COLLINS, believed to have been a native
of Co. Cork, Ireland. They res. many years in Lot 11, P.E.I., where their
children were born and where Peter Collins died before the birth of their
youngest child. Their old house was destroyed by the forest fire which swept Lot
11 in 1960. Alice was blind for many years before her death. She had seven
children, including the writer’s great-great-grandmother. One of her daughters
married a grandson of Alice’s step-father William Gain.
vi. PATRICK QUINN, b. Cascumpec 1 Feb. 1817, bp. 23 March 1817 (St.
Augustine’s Roman Catholic Parish Reg., Rustico, Lot 24, P.E.I..), d. Grand
Falls (Portage), Victoria Co., N. H., 27 Dec. 1890 (N. H. Vital Statistics). He
m. ELIZABETH NICHOLSON, a native of Ireland.
There were no children.
vii. CATHERINE QUINN, b. say 1819, m. 16 Nov. 1841 MURDOCH
MacDONALD of Pierre Jacques (now Glenwood), Lot 8, P.E.I.. (Justice of
the Peace marriage book), son of Ronald & Margaret (___) MacDonald of that
place, and widower of Margaret Smith, whom he had m. 1 April 1834 (ibid.)
Catherine did not long survive, for he soon m. (3) by early 1843, Sarah
MacIntyre. Catherine appar. had no children.
Numerous descendants of this family are found in New England and throughout
the United States and Canada; several are members of the Society.
George Freeman Sanborn Jr., Director of Technical Services at NEHGS,
recently (with his wife, Melinde Lutz Sanborn) compiled Vital Records of
Hampton, New Hampshire, to the Year 1900 (NEHGS, 1992). He is president of
the New Hampshire Society of Genealogists and edits that society’s journal,
The New Hampshire Genealogical Record. One of his other great interests
is research in Prince Edward Island.