Tory Refugees on the Way to Canada by Howard Pyle

Loyalists in New Hampshire in the 1770s

I had the great fortune to hear the Town Historian of Derry, New Hampshire speak about the history of Nutfield, as it was known on July 19th. He told a fascinating story of Stephen Holland, a well-known Tory who lived in East Derry during the time that America was about to claim her independence from British rule.

Curious, I searched the Accessible Archives databases to see what was known about Mr. Holland and came across some interesting information in the “History of Rockingham” about the lives of those whose loyalty remained with the Crown instead of the newly forming nation:

…Stephen Holland was the most prominent. His reputation as a Tory was more than local, as the history of the times clearly proved. He was a tavernkeeper and merchant, a man of wealth and education…He was…banished by the act of November 19, 1778 [because he was sympathetic to the British cause, or in Mr. Holmes description ‘a spy,’] and his property, numbering four farms, was confiscated.

Apparently there were about twenty Tories in East Derry including a Mr. John Clark. Not as prominent as Stephen Holland, Clark was “confined for a time to his own premises, with liberty only to attend church on Sunday. He ventured to step across his lines to pick up a hawk he had shot, for which he was fined.

In defense of the Tories, their entire lifestyle was dependent on the Crown. For those who did not want to lose their position in society and their financial backing, maintaining good relations with the hands that fed you so to speak was crucial to their well-being and the well-being of their families. In colonial societies, the tight-knit community could really control what people did as Mr. Clark found out by trying to retrieve his dinner.

So, whatever became of Mr. Holland and Mr. Clark? The local Forest Hill Cemetery shows that there are several John Clarks buried within it. However, there are no Stephen Hollands to be found. Perhaps Mr. Clark reformed his ways and was able to live out his life peacefully with his colonial neighbors. Perhaps Mr. Holland removed himself to Britain or Canada to begin life anew. Once again, I have more questions than answers. Looks like it’s time to head back to the records and see what else I can find!


History of Rockingham County New Hampshire and Representative Citizens, 1915

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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