Justus Sherwood, Loyalist Spy
An Augusta Loyalist with more than an average involvement in the Revolution, Justus Sherwood made major contributions to the building of the new country which was to become Canada.
The Sherwood family left England for America in 1634, settling in Connecticut, where Justus, his father and grandfather were born. By 1772, at the age of 25, Justus moved to Vermont and then settled on a New Hampshire land grant, in New Haven Township. His trade of surveyor was much in demand. He was soon a leader in the community.
He married Sarah Bothum in 1774 and eventually they had six children; Diana, Sarah, Samuel, Levius, Harriet and Sophia.
Justus was one of Ethan Allen's "Green Mountain Boys", a rugged lot. Justus remained loyal to Britain and was imprisoned for about a month in the Simsbury Mines. He escaped before he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He left his family, making his way through approximately 200 miles of wilderness to join Carleton at Crown Point, October, 1776. Later his wife and two children joined him.
His house had been ransacked and many of his possessions destroyed. It was rumoured that Justus had hidden the town records in an iron pot, covered it with a potash kettle and buried it on his farm. The records apparently never found. He planted an orchard that survived long after he had left the country.
By the time of the outbreak of the Revolution, Justus had acquired close to 3,000 acres of land. Before leaving to join the British forces, he transferred 50 acres to his father-in-law to prevent confiscation and this land was still owned by the Bottum family in 1955.
Governor Haldimand (Quebec) appointed Justus a Commissioner of Prisoners (Exchanges) and Refugees and he was in charge of sending out all scouting parties from Isle aux Noir, and all the scouts around Lake Champlain were under him. He was also ordered to build a post at the Northern end of Lake Champlain, known as the Loyal Blockhouse.
At the close of the war, Justus made a trip to the Maritimes and later to Cataraqui and the Bay of Quinte areas searching for land suitable for the settlement of the Loyalist soldiers and their families. He received a grant of farm land in Augusta Township, along the St. Lawrence River. Because of his rank and services, he was granted 3,000 acres with some being in Oxford township along with that close to the river.
There was a violent struggle between New York and New Hampshire over the land grants which is now Vermont. Haldimand had negotiations with Ethan Allen, trying to keep Vermont loyal to Britain.
Justus was a Captain in the Queen's Loyal Rangers serving in the same unit as his cousin, Thomas Sherwood, his brother-in-law, Elijah Bothum and a Lieutenant John Dulmage. With a re-organization of the Provincial Corps in 1781, Sherwood was under Jessup's command as a Captain in the Jessup's Rangers. He later settled in Augusta Township (Maynard) with his family and a Negro servant, Ceasar Congo.
Ceasar Congo served as Sarah's house servant and had assisted her on her trek from Vermont to the army outpost during the war. He stood by her when the men escorting her had abandoned them as they neared the fort for fear of capture by the British. In the new settlement, he helped build their log cabin while Justus was away attending to allotting land to the disbanded troops.
Justus and Sarah's first son, Samuel, was born before the war began, sent to school in Montreal when they lived at the army post. He became a lawyer in Prescott and Montreal. The eldest daughter, born during the conflict, married Samuel Smades, an Augusta farmer.
Shortly after making the dangerous journey from Vermont, Sarah gave birth to a second son, Levius Peters, who also became a lawyer. In addition, he was Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st Leeds Militia, member for Leeds in the Assembly, Judge of the Court of the King's Bench for Upper Canada and Speaker for the Legislative Council of Upper and Lower Canada. Levius married Charlotte, daughter of Ephraim Jones and Charlotte Coursel.
Three daughters were born in Augusta-Sarah who married Augusta farmer, Andrew McCollum; Harriet, wife of Dr. Benjamin Trask of Montreal and Sophia, who after marrying Jonathan Jones, died at the age of 22 years.
Colonel Jessup was often absent for long periods of time either due to illness or business which often took him to England. Justus was left to run the affairs of the settlement. He became the founder of the Township of Augusta's first hamlet. In 1784, June 5th, Justus laid out the town. He was also involved in the lumber trade.
Having endured imprisonment, secret service work, small pox and many hardships, Justus died in 1798 at 51 years of age. He fell off a raft and drown in the St. Lawrence River near Trois Rivieres. It was thought that he may have suffered a heart attack, as with his agility it was not very likely that he had accidentally fallen off the raft.
Sarah sold the farm to Levius. Leaving the house they had built on the property where the Blue Church stands, she went to Montreal to live with her daughter, Harriot.
Succeeding generations of this Sherwood family have carried on the tradition of leadership in law and government positions found in their Loyalist ancestors.
Justus Sherwood certainly led a very tough life full of excitement, intrigue, adventure and hardships. He also was a surveyor. He was courageous, determined, hard working, dependable, generous, intelligent and a first rate soldier.
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