Student relates family history as area prepares for War of 1812 bicentennial celebrations
By Donna Schell
As Algoma gears up to celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, Rob Gallinger feels right at home.
Gallinger, in his first year as a summer student at the St. Joseph Island Museum, east of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., just learned that his six-times-great-grandfather, Peter Drummond, a United Empire Loyalist, who during his military career not only fought during the Revolutionary War and was captured and escaped, but later was a commanding officer who helped build Fort St. Joseph.
Drummond’s name is found on the Indian Treaty No. 2, the document of deed of purchase for St. Joseph Island.
Gallinger, of Richards Landing, recently shared a history lesson, compiled by his uncle, Don Galna of Brockville, Ont., at the St. Joseph Island Museum as part of its Annual Tea Day.
Capt. Drummond remained loyal to the Royal Standard at the time of the American Revolution in 1776.
“Due to the very unique Canadian law, I, too, am a United Empire Loyalist and have the legal right to place the letters U.E for Unity of Empire after my name,” Gallinger, a second-year English major at Lake Superior State University, told those gathered. “This is the only inherited honour allowed in Canada. Every direct descendant of a proven Loyalist holds that right. Not only do I carry the genes but this unique recognition of being the descendent of Peter Drummond.”
After emigrating from Scotland to New York Province in 1774, Drummond hardly settled before the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1776. He lived with Maj. Daniel McAlpine, an elderly British officer in Saragoga, N.Y., the site of a Revolutionary War battle. McAlpine formed a small militia unit of farmers, loyal to King George. Drummond was made an officer by McAlpine and the two officers, along with their men, fought their way to Crown Point, a large British fort on Lake Champlain.
There, McAlpine’s small force was attached to the much larger Jessup’s Rangers. Drummond officially received the commission as lieutenant by Lord Dorchester. He participated in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and the Battle of Saratoga in 1779, and was captured by American troops and imprisoned at Albany for nearly two years. Drummond escaped through a subterfuge and made his way to Vercheres, modern-day Quebec. He was commissioned captain and command of Loyal Militia and regular British troops, gathering as the war was ending, Gallinger said.
In 1793, Maj. Holland, a British Army surveyor, laid out farm lots in Upper Canada along the north bank of the St. Lawrence River, extending along the north shore of Lake Ontario, 14 townships in all. Loyalists were awarded land for their service, receiving farm lots by draw.
Drummond built his home, a small grey house, in New Wexford shortly after receiving his land in 1784, now among the oldest remaining post and bean houses in Canada and perhaps the oldest in Ontario, Gallinger said.
In 1796, Sir John Graves Simcoe, first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, called on Drummond to move the British fort at Michilmackinac to St. Joseph Island. “After settlement and prior to his service at St. Joseph Island, Drummond was one of 16 Loyalists to sign a petition that would result in the Canada Act or Constitution Act, which is still the basic constitutional document of modern Canada,” Gallinger said. “The Upper Canada House of Assembly had been established by John Graves Simcoe in 1791 and Peter Drummond was elected as member, equivalent to a modern-day member of Parliament.”
The Jay’s Treaty of 1794 was created to “tidy up” boundary lines between Canada and the U.S. Simcoe was obliged to abandon Fort Michilmackinac, which fell on the U.S. side. The new location on the Canadian side would be St. Joseph Island. In part, to affect this move, Simcoe formed Canada’s first armed force, The Royal Canadian Volunteers.
“Simcoe personally requested that retired Capt. Drummond join his new force and take command of the move from Michilmackinac to St. Joseph Island,” Gallinger said. “Drummond agreed, and here we are.”
When Drummond left his home in Edwardsburg Township in 1796, he left behind a wife, Elizabeth Fell, and son, George, returning four years later to find his son. His wife left and married a British officer in Montreal. Drummond remarried. “I am the descendant of the first marriage,” Gallinger said.
Returning to Edwardsburg, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada Peter Hunter made Drummond a provincial judge. His appointment hangs on the walls of the historic court house in Brockville, Ont.
Celebrating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, Gallinger shared the fact the Drummond family was involved in this war, as well. Drummond volunteered his home for “picket duty” to monitor enemy movement. George Drummond, Peter’s son, fought with the Grenville Militia at the Nov. 11, 1813 Battle of Crysler’s Farm.
“This was one of the most pivotal battles of the war and if lost … Canada may well have become part of the United States,” Gallinger said.
George Drummond also fought at the Battle of the Windmill in November 1838. He was one of five Canadians officers killed. Drummonds still live on the 200-acre farm drawn by Drummond in 1784 and the stone house that George Drummond built in 1830.
“This is one of few Loyalist Crown land grants in Ontario where the original family still occupies the original grant,” Gallinger said. “This has always been a successful farm and is now well known for its sugar bush, which has been in constant operation since 1802 … That’s 210 years.”
Several military officers bearing the ranks of captain, major or colonel, direct descendants of Peter Drummond, can be found in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Spencerville.
Gallinger’s grandfather, John Douglas Drummond, fought in the Second World War and his great-grandfather father, Maj. John Lilburn Drummond, fought in the First World War.
“In Canada’s national anthem will be found, the words, ‘We stand on guard for thee…,’ this is what it means,” Gallinger shared.