One of the fun things about doing research for my historical fiction based on a true story, Hold Fast, is finding out about real-life characters that fit into the story. Among the people Ann MacLean would have known at the refugee camp at Machiche, Quebec was the Loyalist captain Jeptha Hawley.
Jeptha first came to my attention where he was listed in one website as being the brother in law of Josiah Cass, my ancestor. But there doesn’t seem to be any evidence elsewhere for the connection. It remains true, however, that he was certainly someone Ann and Josiah knew, and knew well.
Jeptha, at the time living in Arlington, Vermont, joined the British Army in 1776 after Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys persecuted his family and confiscated his property. He received the rank of Captain and led men in the disastrous Battle of Bennington, after which point he was given permission to take his family to safety.
He and his wife Esther, along with their eight children, travelled with Josiah and Mercy Cass to Machiche, where he was apparently put in charge of the refugee camp. One can only imagine what a difficult job that would have been—keeping order among thousands of displaced people, distributing meagre rations fairly, and watching many die of disease and scarcity—including his own wife—during the six years spent there.
After the war the refugees received land grants from the government. While Josiah Cass chose Chaleur Bay in the Gaspé Peninsula, Jeptha Hawley took his family to Cataraqui—modern-day Kingston—where he built what is now the oldest house in the area, in the village of Bath.
The Cass-Hawley connection isn’t a complete fabrication, however. Jeptha’s son Davis married Mercy Cass—Josiah’s daughter.
It will be interesting to see how Jeptha’s life plays out in Hold Fast.
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Three generations…Three true stories
One family…One faith.