The following was compiled by C. Wesley Murray, Truro, Nova Scotia:
JACOB VAN BUSKIRK, the progenator of all Van Buskirks who originated on Prince Edward Island, was born in Albany County New York, near Loonenburg on June 30, 1749. He was the son of Andreis Thomasen Van Buskirk (1698- 1761), and Anetje Vervey, daughter of Jan Cornelius Vervey and Christina Ackerman. About 1769 Jacob married Gertrude Schram who was born in 1753, and was the daughter of William Schram of Loonenburg. Three children were born to him and Gertrude: Catherine, Jacob, and Mary.
Jacob is described as being handsome, tall, blue- eyed, and a crack shot. He owned 500 acres of land which he valued at 500 pounds sterling. In the ordinary turn of events he would have lived out his days in the vicinity a peaceful citizen, as his ancestors had lived for three generations under the rule of Holland and England.
The revolution intervened and after the Declaration of Independence in 1776, those who refused to take an oath of allegiance to Congress were considered traitors. Jacob was loyal to his King, and refused; he was imprisoned for a month and four days as a consequence. While in prison he was witness to an atrocity, when a Loyalist wife seeking the release of her husband was promised it, but he was hanged first and the body given to her when she next appeared. On his release Jacob went over to the King's forces, rowing to a British warship in the river (probably the Hudson River) while the ship's marines held their muskets trained upon him.
From a quiet subject of the governing power, he became an enthusiastic Loyalist, and as a result he became an exile, giving up his property, his home, his family, and his country for the cause. He may have served with other regiments at first, but later joined Butler's Rangers. It is claimed that he was a liaison runner.
In 1777 Major John Butler was fifty- six when he received authority from Sir Guy Carleton to form a corps of rangers. Butler had served in the British Army for twenty- nine years and had been an officer since 1755. The corps was to begin with eight companies each with a Captain, a Lieutenant, three sergeants, three corporals, and fifty privates. There were to be two companies of men speaking the Indian languages, and who were well- acquainted with the Indian customs; they were to receive four schillings per day. Other companies were to be well- acquainted with the woods, and would receive two schillings per day. All were to clothe and arm themselves. This appears to have been high pay, for it was estimated that eight companies of Rangers cost as much as twenty companies of regular infantry. The uniform was a dark green coat faced with scarlet, a waistcoat of green cloth, buckskin leggings which extended from ankle to waist, a cap of black leather with a frontal plate, and a crossed belt of buff leather with a brass plate.
Eventually there were ten companies of Butler's Rangers; their captains were: Caldwell, McDonell (former aide de camp of Bonnie Prince Charlie), Ten Broeck, Hare, Frey, McKinon, Bradt, Dames, and Ginevy.
For the years 1777- 1783, we have no certain record of Jacob's activities, no papers, no diaries; one can only suppose that in the activities of the rangers he had a continuous part. If he was a liason runner for some of the time, there are only a few references to the dangerous errands they ran, slipping through the forests alone or in twos; their duty was to deliver the letters entrusted to them while they had to avoid contact with the enemy at all costs. Having delivered the dispatch to a company in battle, the runner might have to stay and fight with the others before proceeding on his return. Colonel Butler had a mysterious and efficient system of scouts, runners, informers, and spies. It is said that he was informed at all times of the foe's activities.
In 1779 four men were discovered passing through the mountains, two were captured and found to be carrying dispatches from New York City to Butler at Niagara. They were accused as spies and probably hanged. One wonders if Jacob was one of the two who escaped. In June of 1779 Colonel Butler sent a runner with a letter to Sir Henry Clinton in New York. Butler kept both Sir Henry and General Haldimand, in Quebec informed as to the movements of the rebels. In August of 1779 it was reported that a runner, from Sir Henry Clinton to Colonel Butler with dispatches, was captured on his return and at once executed. Runners appeared to go regularly between New York, Quebec City, and Niagara, but no further mention has been noted.
Since Jacob was in Captain Andrew Bradt's company in November 1783, we may suppose that he was there from its formation. In 1781 the tenth company was completed so we might suppose that it was Bradt's, and that Jacob participated in its activities from then on. In July 1782 Bradt's company headed towards the Ohio River to catch up with Caldwell's company, but in August with forty rangers and 250 Indians, turned towards Wheeling. On September 11th they attacked Fort Henry at Wheeling, but gave up after three days. They divided into smaller groups, laid waste to nearby areas, and withdrew across the Ohio, probably proceeding to Niagara for winter quarters. No further reference has been noted for Bradt.
We next find Jacob mentioned in the papers of Sir Fredeick Haldimand, K.C. B. who was governor-in-chief of Canada after Sir Guy Carleton. In a return dated: Niagara, November 30, 1783 under Captain Bradt's company we find Corporal Jacob Van Buskark, Gertrude, Catherine, Jacob, and Mary. In a paper dated Quebec: September 11, 1784 in a list of loyalist families wishing to emigrate to Cape Breton were included Jacob and sergeant Richard Lorway. Another paper: Sydney, November 30, 1785, Richard ans Jacob were drawing government rations. The paper of 1783 gave the final mention of Gertrude and the three children. For years their whereabouts were a mystery, but finally one theory has been proved. In 1783 Gertrude wanted to return to her homeland, after spending a hard winter at Niagara with the prospect of a hard future on the west side of the Niagara River where most of the other rangers were settling. She was determined to return home. Jacob, on the other hand, could not go back to New York under the pain of death. So they separated, Gertrude and the children went back to their homeland, and Jacob became an exile.
In Cape Breton, Lorway and Jacob met James Townsend, who had been at the capture of Fortress Louisburg in 1758and at the capture of Quebec in 1759. Townsend was later given a grant in Louisbourg. There were seven daughters in the Townsend family, and eventually Richard Lorway married Mary and Jacob took Susannah as his second wife some time before 1788. They had moved to the island of Saint John by 1789. They lived near New Glasgow or Rustico while Jacob waited for the grant of land that he had been promised. He may have been engaged in the fishing industry, and leased land where he lived. To Jacob and Susannah nine children were born, Susannah probably died before 1833, as in that year Jacob appeared before the Assembly in Charlottestown again asking for a grant. He was now eighty- four years old, and living with a son on leased land. He did not get the grant, but lived to be 108 years old, according to his grandson.
This is the last official reference that we have of Jacob Van Buskirk. It is believed that he and Susannah are buried in New Glasgow Cemetery, Prince Edward Island, but the grave is unmarked.
The children of Jacob Van Buskirk and Gertrude Schram:
Catherine Van Buskirk (1770- 1845)
Catherine, the eldest daughter was born in 1770 in old Albany County, New York, now Greene County, in or near Loonenburg, now Athens, on the Hudson River. Catherine was fourteen when she said good- bye to her father at Niagara, and with her mother, brother, and sister headed back through the forests towards their homeland in the Hudson Valley. We do not know the route that was followed; it may have been along Lake Ontario to Oswego, then overland to the Mohawk Valley, and then along the valley to Albany, and from there down the Hudson to Athens, a distance of about 350 miles. Boats and canoes may have been used for some of the journey, but much of the distance must have been covered on foot.
Eventually Catherine married Gerritt Van Hoesen junior (1769- 1859), the son of Gerritt Van Hoesen and Elizabeth (?). They became pioneers in the Preble, New York area between 1800 and 1810. Catherine and Gerritt are both buried there, she died in 1845 and Gerritt in 1859. To them five children were born: Gerritt, Jacob, Elizabeth, Keturah, and John.
Jacob Van Buskirk (1774- 1825)
Jacob junior was born December 25, 1774 in Albany County NY probably at Loonenburg. Jacob was a mere ten years of age when he was separated from his father at Niagara in 1784. He, with sisters Catherine and Mary, traveled with their mother back to the Hudson Valley which was their home area.. Possibly they traveled over the same trails they had journeyed on when they went to Niagara with their father a year or two previously. No doubt Jacob wished many times that he had his tall woodsman father with them during the many dark and fearsome nights on the journey home. Jacob was married on April 9, 1797 to Annetje Van Hoesen at Coxackie, New York. It is not known if Annetje was a sister of Gerritt who married Jacob's sister Catherine. The date that they moved is unknown, but Jacob died at Penn Yan, Yates County New York in 1825. As his two sisters, he named his son Jacob, after his father. Children of Jacob and Annetje included:
Jacob, 1881. He was married to Adelaine Wilson (1804- 1880) in 1823. They lived in Seneca County Ohio. Jacob died in 1837.Both are buried in Tiffin Ohio.
Jane, 1803. No information
Mary Van Buskirk (1778- ?)
Mary, the youngest child, was born in 1778, probably at Loonenburg as were all the others. It is possible that Mary might not have seen her father until 1783 when they all arrived at Niagara. She was then only five years old and the next spring or summer she was parted from him forever. Mary married John C. Spoor. Mary and John had a son born April 8, 1798 and baptized in 1799, who was named Jacob. Sponsors at the baptism were Jacob and his wife Annetje. Thus Mary, like her brother and sister called her son after her father, Jacob.
Nine children were born to Jacob Van Buskirk, Loyalist, and Susannah Townsend. These were:
Mary, c.1785- ?
John, c.1787- ?
Susannah, c.1788- ?.
James, 1789- 1858.
Ann, 1794- 1865
Eliza, 1806- 1883
REFERENCES: Papers of Elizabeth Sellick Murray, statements of Jacob Van Buskirk to the PEI Assembly, April 2, 1833, Papers of Stanley Sellick, Sir Frederick Haldimand, B105A. Papers. Letter of John Van Buskirk, 1930, C. H. Van Tyne- The Loyalists in the American Revolution.