Hannah Sypes – Loyalist Icon

1778

Ontario

Our ancestor Hannah Schauer Sypes was an ardent and courageous Loyalist during the American Revolution. Her husband Jacob, a former British Army soldier, died in 1778. The family lived on a farm in Bradford County, in northeastern Pennsylvania, an area that became increasingly hostile toward Loyalists. After Jacob's death, Hannah fled the farm with her 3 sons and 6 daughters, and began the long, perilous trek northward to Canada, a route followed by many Colonial Loyalists. Her youngest child, Hannah (Jr.), our next in this lineage, was just 5 years old.

The family spent many months traveling north through New York, hiding during the day and moving mainly at night in order to avoid Patriot patrols. They finally arrived in Quebec, and settled in a refugee camp on an island, Machiche, near Montreal, where the family is listed on the July 1779 census. 2 of Hannah's sons fought with a Loyalist military unit, Butler's Rangers, based further to the south at Fort Niagara. After the war, Hannah and her family were among the first settlers of Bertie, a Loyalist township in Ontario near Niagara. Hannah's daughter, Hannah (Jr.), was Annie Willson's great grandmother.

Hannah was born in the Hudson Valley in 1737 to our Palatine German ancestors, Johann Adam Schauer and Maria Fritz. At age 18 she married Jacob Sypes, also of German descent. Jacob fought with the British Army during the French and Indian War of 1754-1763. This long war between England and France was fought in Europe as well as in North America, and left both nations deeply in debt (sound familiar?). As a result, both England and France began more aggressive taxation policies that helped precipitate, respectively, the American and French Revolutions.

Before the French and Indian War, France laid claim to all of Canada, and all of the Mississippi valley west of Fort Duquesne at the future site of Pittsburgh. In fact the war started at Fort Duquesne when a Virginia militia unit under George Washington ambushed a French patrol near the fort. France ceded Canada to England in the Treaty of Paris of 1763, causing Voltaire famously to sniff that King Louis XV had merely "lost a few acres of snow" as a result.

When the American Revolution broke out, the Sypes family was committed to fighting on the side of the British. Around the time that Jacob died in 1778, an American Loyalist, John Butler, organized a military unit comprised of colonial Loyalists called Butler's Rangers. The Rangers fought throughout the war mainly in the area of western New York and Pennsylvania. Many of the Rangers were of German descent. A painting of the Ranger uniform is attached.

With Hannah's blessing and encouragement, two of her sons, Jacob Jr. and Andrew, enlisted in Butler's Rangers. To protect her young family (her daughter Hannah, our next ancestor in this family line, was just 5 years old), she moved with her children to Canada, first to Machiche near Montreal, and later to the west bank of the Niagara river in Ontario, where the Butler's Rangers had their winter camp. Hannah's uncle Michael Schauer also relocated with her to join the Rangers. Hannah and Michael were among the very first colonists to move to Canada because of Loyalist sentiments; tens of thousands would follow in the years during and after the war.

Hannah and her children all survived the war, and remained in Ontario afterward. The British government routinely awarded 200 acres of land to those who could prove they had contributed to the Loyalist cause during the American war: much of Ontario's population in the early 19th century were descendants of American Loyalists. Hannah Sypes was one of the few women who were awarded land grants: she received 200 acres in Bertie for herself, and an additional 50 acres for each of her children (one mile square in all), in recognition of her support of her 2 sons fighting with the Rangers, and in recognition of her bravery in putting her family in harm's way in support of the cause. Her land application of 1797 recounts her sons' service with the Rangers, and further states that she had 6 daughters, all of whom were married and settled in Ontario.

The youngest of those daughters, Hannah Sypes, married Gilman Willson in 1791: these were Annie Willson Bonner's great grandparents. Gilman Willson was born in Wantage, New Jersey; he came to Ontario in 1787, after the Revolutionary War, with his parents, Benjamin and Sarah Willson. Read more about Gilman Willson and Benjamin Willson, U.E., respectively in the articles about these ancestors on this site.