New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

John Mersereau, Loyalist 2

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From the blog at

This is a revised edition of an earlier blog entry with the same title. It contains some new information plus many editorial changes to be more to my liking. The original blog post is now deleted.

John Mersereau was born in 1735 and was a native of Staten Island. He married Charity (Gertrude) Van Horne circa 1755 and they had a family of five boys: John, Lawrence, Jacob, Andrew and David. There were many Mersereaus in the New York area and they all descended from Daniel or Joshua Mersereau, brothers who came from France to New York via England circa 1688. Several of John’s cousins were American Patriots and included spies for General Washington. John Mersereau was a Loyalist and took refuge in New Brunswick. It is only from this point when he was 48 years of age that much is known of his life.

John became Captain of refugee Company 16 which evacuated New York for Parr Townat the mouth of the Saint John River in July of 1783 aboard the Lord Townsend. Upon arrival, John went up river to Maugerville and bought half of lot 93 opposite the head of Middle Island from pre-Loyalists Stephen and Francis Peabody. Mersereau was one of the first Loyalists in Maugerville indicating how active and busy he was in establishing himself then, and during the next couple of years.

With a lot in hand John likely returned to Parr Town and stayed there until the spring of 1784. The Peabodys had retained ownership of their 1783 crops, and we know that John received emergency supplies in Parr Town in May of 1784. He had moved on by June, however.

John received a grant of land in Dipper Harbour during the summer of 1784, but relinquished it in February of 1785 with the intention of joining Captain Ford’s group. In the meantime, he joined a group led by Dr. Joseph Clark and did not pursue the idea of also working with Captain Ford. Groups such as this wanted to establish whole settlements and hoped that their leaders, such as Ford, Clark and Mersereau, would be rewarded with larger than normal grants in return for their entrepreneurial contributions to the colony.

John Mersereau and Joseph Clark spent the summer of 1784 exploring the Oromocto River for a likely settlement site. The competition for land around Maugerville was fierce but the upper Oromocto had only a few squatters and was a good place to try to get an early grant with little opposition.

Mersereau and Clark assembled a group of ten other men to join their venture and, in February of 1785, they filed their petition to government. Mersereau and Clark complained that they each lost land amounting to £2000 due to the Rebellion and that they could not recover any of this because it was too late to make a claim to London. Furthermore, they still had no grant of land and their circumstances had become ruinous and unhappy. They proposed that, if their group were given grants, they would promote the construction of a road between the upper Oromocto River and Carleton (West Saint John). This would draw settlers to remote areas and therefore be of benefit of the colony. In view of these benefits they asked for grants of 500 acres for each family man in the group and 300 acres for each single man

Council ruled that the usual maximum grant of 200 acres per man must apply, and that Mersereau and Clark’s request was therefore excessive. It is interesting that Mersereau had claimed that he still had no grant of land. He had bought a lot in Maugerville and had relinquished a grant in Dipper Harbour.

Mersereau likely spent the winter of 1784-85 in Maugerville.

Mersereau and Clark asked permission to survey lots in Blissville. This was in June of 1785 and grants of around 200 acres each were quickly made to them and their group which included Mersereau’s sons Lawrence and Andrew, plus Enoch Gearish, William Scobey, Peter Fick, Richard Rogers, Daniel Smith, Joseph Mundy, John Bedell and Nathaniel Hubbard. Reservations were also made for a school lot and for a glebe lot.

John eventually left the Oromocto and returned to his lot in Maugerville where he would spend the rest of his life. He was a farmer.

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Mersereau was elected one of the first Wardens of the Church of England in Maugerville on September 29, 1784. Rev. John Sayre led this congregation and Mersereau drew the plans for a rectory for James Bissett, one of Sayre’s successors.

On July 6, 1785 John was appointed a Justice of the Peace in Sunbury County. As a JP he was one of eight members of the Court of General Sessions of the Peace which dealt with criminal matters. He and three others were justices of the quorum and no lawful General Session could be held without one of them being present. He was also one of three justices of the Inferior Court of Record of the Common Pleas which dealt with small civil cases. Being a member of both inferior courts and a justice of the quorum indicated status. James Simonds was the leading justice.

JP’s also had administrative duties such as issuing warrants, appointing constables, gaol keepers, assessors, various clerks, commissioners of roads, weighers of hay and so forth. They would not have been termed Judge or Justice except in court records.

John Mersereau’s fellow justices initially included James Simonds, Thomas Colden, Samuel Peabody, William Hubbard, Gerardus Clows, Joseph Clark and Richard Vanderburgh. Clark was also a refugee Captain and a partner of Mersereau during the early days, as we have seen. Peabody and Simonds arrived around 1759 and had been justices of the pre-Loyalist Nova Scotia County of Sunbury. Richard Vanderburgh had carried Burton area Loyalist claims to the Royal Commission in London. He eventually returned to the United States. Clowes was an officer in the Royal New Brunswick Regiment and died of a fall from a horse.

John Mersereau was a respected magistrate, but this should be interpreted carefully. Most magistrates brought little education or special qualifications to their office. In general, John was a middle class person before there was such a thing. He was a man of some financial means but was not rich. He knew his way around government procedures and was acquainted with some influential people, but was not a power broker of a ‘fixer’ by any means.

John Mersereau was a property appraiser for the Board of Arbitration in the handling of claims by pre-Loyalists whose land had been expropriated. He apparently ordered new grants for Acadians displaced from the Jemseg area. Property appraisal was a serious business. In 1784, thirty pre-Loyalist families in Gagetown objected to being turned off their lots, but all they could hope for was some payment for their buildings, clearings, and other improvements. The Loyalists feared that there might be some public support for the squatters and that they might deserve something. The Loyalists therefore proposed that the government compensate them instead. When the Governor threatened to sue the Loyalists if they did not pay the pre-Loyalists what was due, they arranged for Mersereau and other Loyalists to join the Board. Evaluations were rolled back, some drastically. Eventually the Governor changed his mind and compensated the indigent pre-Loyalists directly.

There was a good deal of friction between the Church of England and the dissenting Protestants. A group of Dissenters of the pre-Loyalist Congregational church had been using lot 90 in Maugerville for their services. The struggle for land resulted in their being more or less evicted by the Church of England and in 1789 they hauled their meeting house three miles down the river ice to lot 15 in Sheffield.

The preacher was in the midst of a lively debate with his congregation and was accused of extravagant and whimsical salary demands, absenteeism, dereliction of duty and laziness while present, associating with undesirables, drinking to excess, hot headedness, and “scandalous indecencies” involving a young lady. He was not popular.

Faced with an uprising among his congregation, the preacher announced in March, 1792 his conversion to the Church of England and continued to preach in his new fashion and to his new congregation in the lot 15 meeting house. He also kept the livestock which had been his as a preacher to the Dissenters.

During 1793 the Church of England petitioned for lot 15, disputing the Dissenters’ claim to that property also. The petition was signed by John Mersereau, sons Lawrence and Andrew, and 120 others. On August 6, 1793 two Dissenters occupied the lot 15 parsonage and stayed despite the arguments of Justice Hubbard and Sheriff DeVaber. DeVaber was one of the most powerful officials in Sunbury.

The next day Hubbard and the Sherriff returned with Justices Mersereau, Clark and Miles, and a man named Carvell. Carvell had two loaded muskets and was criticized at that for not having brought bayonets. They all took control of the parsonage, or tried to.

Mersereau and the others said that they were there as justices, but the evidence is that they were there as churchmen. Mersereau, Clark, DeVaber, Hubbard and Miles were signatories of the 1793 petition for lot 15. Miles, Clark and Hubbard were Vestrymen and Mersereau was a Warden.

Hubbard maintained that the occupation had been forcible, but Mersereau finally admitted that it had not. Mersereau could not produce a transcript of any lawful proceedings.

The Dissenters played down their own role in the affair and it is doubtful that any occupation was ever so gentle as the one which they described. It took two days for six prominent men with muskets to dislodge them. Finally the Dissenters kept their parsonage and the established church was given another lot.

John’s financial worth by 1814 was £1151, less than what he had had on Staten Island more than thirty years earlier. Nearly all of his estate consisted of his farm in Maugerville, crops and animals. Furnishings consisted only of 3 beds, 2 tables, 8 chairs, a chest, a carpet and a mirror. Other household effects were few and little could be turned to quick cash. The value of the Maugerville farm was average and was mostly dedicated to agriculture. He had less than the average amount of meadow land and there was no pasture land at all. Nonetheless, he was able to keep an average amount of livestock from time to time.

John Mersereau died on July 9, 1814. They said at the time that he was 93 years old, though he was likely only 79.

Both of John’s New Brunswick sons were Captains in the Sunbury County Militia. Andrew is said to have been second in command on the march of the 104th Regiment to Quebec in 1812. The 104th went on to Montreal and Kingston, a march of 700 miles in 52 days.

Lawrence established a winter mail service between St. John and Fredericton in 1787. He was a Justice like his father.

Three of John’s grandsons were militia officers and one was a preacher.


Notes Concerning  Early Mersereau Arrivals

Two groups of Mersereaus arrived in Parr Town in 1783. The first group was Captain John and Charity Mersereau with sons Lawrence and Andrew. Captain John arrived with one servant and Lawrence and Andrew with Companies 16 and 27 at the end of July or in early August. Gertrude arrived late in the summer with another group. Some Mersereaus say that other sons came for a while.

John and Charity’s son Jacob and likely other brothers remained behind on Staten Island to settle their affairs and to keep what they could from the “rapacity of the enemy”. It is not known why some brothers found it safe to remain on Staten Island while their parents and brothers evacuated. By early 1786 Jacob was preparing to move to New Brunswick. No evidence has been found that he actually did move.

The second group of Mersereaus was Paul Mersereau who arrived with sons Paul Jr. and David with Company 13 on the Duchess of Gordon with the June fleet. Another John Mersereau arrived with Company 45 under Captain John Ford on the Mary in October. He was apparently also a son of Paul and was likely the one who received a lot in Parr Town in 1784.

Both groups of Mersereaus came from the New York area and were certainly cousins.

Another Andrew Mersereau with Company 16 remains unidentified.


Written by johnwood1946

October 4, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. How ever much i respect this man’s opinion it’s just that opinion i am a descendant of the mercereau’s from blissville these were in fact french/indian mix bloods considering the fact that my family are still having aboriginal featured children to this day obviously genetics play a role some have very slight some look like reserve indians but the feautures are there and the further back i go the darker they are i have pictures for any naysayers i can provide them to whom ever has interest


    May 12, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    • Nate, how interesting, I am also a descendant of the Mercereau’s of Blissville, who married into the Seeley family.

      Donna van Eeghen

      September 3, 2015 at 7:58 PM

      • My wife is a Seeley, and we’re both descended from Mersereau.


        September 4, 2015 at 6:33 AM

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