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June 19, [1998] declared EMPIRE LOYALIST DAY in hamlet [of Williamstown]

From the Glengarry News, Wednesday June, 10, 1998 p.16 Sue Harrington Column. 347-2279.

June 19th from here on in will be a pretty special day for a pretty special group of people so important to Williamstown.

At long last, after many years of lobbying, the Ontario Government has proclamed June 19 to be United Empire Loyalist Day.

The proclamation was made by an act of parliament last December.

Up in Toronto, the actual celeberations this year will be held at Queen's Park on June 18 at 11 a.m. when a town crier and costumed participants will present and raise the "First Union Flag" and will present gifts to the Legislative Assembly. The celebrations in the province's capital is being held a day earlier, as parliament is not meeting on June 19.

Realization that the province had at long last set apart a day to recognize the contribution of the Loyalists to the settling of what was to become Ontario, has pleased local UELs, says Williamstown's Archibald MacDonell, a member of the St. Lawrence Branch of the UEL Association of Canada.

Most of you no doubt know that Williamstown was founded by a group of Loyalists who were led here by Sir John Johnson during the American Revolution.

The Loyalists who came to Ontario were a diverse group representing many nationalities, including Scottish, German, Dutch, French, Irish, and English. There also among the Loyalists, many Aboriginal peoples who were allies, as well as a smattering of Black Loyalists. In fact, any of you who have read Pringle's book "Lunenburg, or the Old Eastern District," will no doubt be familiar with the listing of lots on the 2nd concession of Lancater, which were given to Cato Prime, James Fonda, Jack Powell, Jos. Goff, Wm. Thomas, and to one man known only as "Sambo."

As diverse as their background were, these people were united by common political principles and a desire to remain true to the British crown. They all opposed the revolution and were forced into exile. Approximately half of the Loyalists made their way to the wilderness of what was to become Canada.

Besides being instrumental in persuading the British Government to create the Province of Upper Canada in 1791, the Loyalists and their descendants defended the border during the War of 1812, successfully thwarting an American invasion.

It is said that St. Andrew's Church, here in Williamstown, was interupted in its building, when all the able-bodied men working on it went off to fight in that war.

Today it is estimated that there are four million descendants of the Loyalists in Canada. Many belong to the 29 branches of the UEL Association. The members' mandate is to preserve Canadian history and Loyalist traditions, to collect and preserve artifacts, hold meetings which are open to the public, publish newsletters and materials, and provide speakers.

Here in Williamstown, Loyalists traditions carry on in fine form at the Nor'Westers and Loyalists Museum -- a tribute to our first settlers, and at the Sir John Johnson Manor House, whose volunteer committee members are trying to re-establish the house once owned by the Loyalists' famous leader.

On June 19, this year and in the years to come, let us pay tribute to those who have made Williamstown the great place it is. A tip of the hat [or better still, a tip of the bottle] to Archibald MacDonell, Doris Ferguson, Earle Sandilands, David Anderson, Lynn Lafave, Mabel MacLean, and Gordon Ferguson -- locals who are striving to do their parts to keep the tradition alive.

On June 17, Doris and Mabel will be visiting Williamstown Public to talk to the students about what a Loyalists is. And on Loyalist Day,itself, members of the group will be laying a wreath at the Loyalists Memorial at Upper Canada Village.

End of article.

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