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Henry Wanamaker, loyalist

Henry Wanamaker was born in Bergen Co., New Jersey on 23 Dec. 1755, the son of Harmannus and Susannah (Pulisfelt) Wanamaker, christened as Hendrick Wannemaker 7 March 1856 in the Ramapo Lutheran Church. He died in Oct. 1829 in Hampton Parish, Kings Co., N.B. at the age 73. He married Leah VanNeesher in 1781 in New York and they emigrated to New Brunswick, Canada in 1783. She was born about 1757 in Pennsylvania, and died 12 Dec. 1853 in Studholm Parish, Kings Co., New Brunswick aged 96.

Henry's grandfather Johann Pieter Wanamaker immigrated from Darmstadt, Hessen, Germany to New York in 1709 as a teenager with other Palatine settlers including his brothers and his future wife. German Protestants in the Palatinate region of German fled when Louis XIV's French forces invaded the area during the War of Spanish Succession, 1702-13 after decades of French incursions which had already caused economic disruption. Many fled to Holland and England. When the number of refugees became insupportable in England, the government developed a plan to use these families as colonists. Peter was among nearly 3,000 sent to New York, who were settled in work camps along the Hudson. It was expected they would support the war effort by producing supplies for the Royal Navy, including rope, tar, turpentine and masts. They were indentured to repay the cost of their subsistence and transportation to the colonies. "Peter Wannemager" was part of the 5th party, sailing from Holland in 1709. This enterprise was a failure, and after it ended the German settlers disbursed to avoid starvation and oppression by the authorities. Many ended up in Pennsylvania or western New York. Peter and his new bride, Anna Clara Schmidt, were among a group that moved to the Ramapo area of New Jersey in 1713 instead. The family remained there for generations.

Henry's parents Harmannus Wanamaker and Susannah Pulisvelt married in about 1753. They had seven sons, of whom the oldest 4 served in the British army against the rebels during the Revolutionary War. One died as a prisoner of war and the other six all emigrated to Canada as Loyalists at the end of the war.

Henry served as a private attached to the third battalion, New Jersey Volunteers under Col. Van Buskirks and Genl. Skinner. Henry was taken prisoner on 29 December 1776 but later was either exchanged or escaped. He was 'lawfully discharged' from the army after landing in Canada in 1783.

He married Leah van Neesher in about 1781 in New York. They came to New Brunswick in 1783. 14,000 refugee Loyalists from the new United States arrived on the Saint John River in that year. Conflicts between the new settlers and the old settlers arose, and Nova Scotia was partitioned the next year to create New Brunswick. Part of the reason for establishing a new Province was to provide a self-contained province for these loyalists.

Henry and Leah's oldest recorded child John Wannamaker was baptized at the Anglican Church in Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada on Oct. 23, 1784.

In 1792 Henry leased land on the Little Kennebecasis River in Kings County, lot no. 2. The terms of the lease show he did not have money to purchase land. He had use of the land but was "bound to clear annually and well fence two acres of land on the same, untill it shall amount to twenty acres, after which he is to clear at his leisure." At Henry Wanemaker's demise all the property, with improvements, was to revert to the owner.

The family appears to have prospered, because 13 years later Henry was able to purchase 100 acres on nearby Darlings Island. The deed was recorded 30 Nov. 1805. He purchased the southern half of lot no. 1 in Hampton, the southern part of the island, and the marsh or meadow lying in front of it.

Henry was buried 14 Oct. 1829 in Hampton Parish, Kings Co., New Brunswick. He left a will that names his three youngest sons.

Leah survived over 20 years longer. She lived with her son Henry after her husband died. She appears in the 1851 census as 'Lanah Wanimochter' living with 'Henry Wanimochter,' 55 in Studholm, Kings County. She is listed as a 94 year old Dutch widow, born in Pennsylvania, and an 'old Loyalist.'

In 1839 'An Act for the Relief of Old Soldiers of the Revolutionary War and their Widows' was passed. Leah filed repeated pension applications for support between 1846 and 1854 under the terms of this bill, which provide much of the information above. Her first petition reports that she earned "a living by her industry until the last two or three years when from her extreme age (being now 87 years) and consequent infirmities she finds herself no long able to work." Applying for assistance and her inability to support herself bothered her. Her "present indigent circumstances" force her to seek relief "which she has heretofore refuse to do, ... but having lived to that age, when the grasshopper becomes a burthen..." she trusts "your Honourable House will grant her the usual allowance."

When her son Henry died aged 90 an obituary was published in Saint John's The Daily Telegraph (on December 11, 1886) which refers to his parents and early life, though it does not completely match the facts above. This is definitely the same man with whom Leah lived, but the weight of the evidence supports the account above rather than what is related here, since there are multiple documents showing the family's presence in New Brunswick before Henry's birth. "here died at his residence Upper Millstream (Kings Co.) 3rd inst., the oldest resident of that locality. Henry WANNAMAKE was born in the United States in 1796 and came to this province with his parents in 1804 when he was eight years old. At that date St. John was little more than a village. They settled at Darling's Island. ... It is worthy of mention that in his long life, Mr. Wannamake never suffered from illness or took medicine from a doctor, his death resulting from old age. He retained the use of his faculties till within a few days of his demise. He remained a steadfast churchman, frequently going to Sussex to attend the nearest Church of England service. Rev. Mr. Kirby, Methodist conducted the funeral services." He seems to have inherited his mother Leah's longevity and vigor.

There are two issues which deserve more research. The most pressing is proving that Henry and Leah's son John is the John Wanamaker from whom we descend. The age and general location matche and many family genealogies list the identity. However, Henry did not name his older sons in his will which could be because they had died instead of because he was making bequests only the younger children who were not yet established. Since Henry's brothers also came to Canada, there may have been other John Wanamakers of about the same age. Further proof needs to be located.

Many family histories claim that the Hendrik Wannamaker who married Mary Appelbie, widow, on 12 Aug 1782 at the New York City Reformed Church was Henry, husband of Leah. He was identified as a "privaat Soldaat in Coll. Buskerk's Batt.", which matches our Henry. Based on this, it is proposed that Leah was married first to an unknown Applebie. This is possible, but there is no further proof offered, and it conflicts with her name and the year she claims to have married. Again, the Wanamakers were a large clan, and gave their children the same names time and again.

© 2012 Footie Lund