Friday, May 20, 2016

David West (1758 – after 1826) Part 2: 1810 – 1817

Compiled by Joy Ikelman, May 2016. All disclaimers apply.

David West (1758 – after 1826)

[Part 2: 1810 – 1817]

Summary:  David West is the ancestor of one of our West DNA Family Group #5 participants. This article examines the years he lived in Prince Edward County, Upper Canada. Three questions will be answered:

  • How did David West’s land lease document reflect changes in Quaker thinking?
  • Was David West a Loyalist?
  • What else do we know about David West during the years 1810-1817?

     Note: Quaker customs, terminology, and record-keeping are unique. Please refer to UnderstandingQuaker Records on this blog site for more information.


Land Lease Petition, Ameliasburgh Township, Upper Canada

In March 2016, I found a remarkable document in the Canada Archives. It was David West’s land lease petition of 1811. In the family stories that had been recorded, his sons Benjamin, Abraham, and Levi lived in Canada. However, there was no mention of David West living there. This document was a total surprise!

To his Excellency Francis Gore, Esquire, Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Upper Canada

               In Council:

   The Petition of David West of the Township of Ameliasburg, Yeoman.

               Humbly showeth That your Petitioner is desirous to obtain a Lease of the Reserved Lot Number thirtythree on the third Concession Township of Ameliasburg Lake Side in the Midland District and begs leave to offer Benjaman [sic] West of the Township of Ameliasburg, Yeoman, as a Surety to be joined in a Bond with your Petitioner to secure the required payments of the rents According to the terms of the Lease, that your Petitioner is prepared to pay In Advance of Rent Immediately after the Order in Council the fees for perfecting the Lease.

               Wherefore your Petitioner Prays that your Excellency may be pleased to grant him said Lease as Your Petitioner is ready to Settle Immediately upon the same on the Terms mentioned In the Notice Issued from the Council office hearing at the fourth of April 1811. Your Petitioner being prepared to comply with the Terms of the same.

               And your Petitioner as in

               Duty bound will ever pray

               David West [signed]

               Ameliasburg, July 4th 1811


General Analysis of the Document 

There are five pages in the document: the petition, oath of allegiance, testimony of neighbors, payment, and stages of approval. The petition went through several layers of bureaucracy, and was finally approved on 28 Dec 1811. [1] David West assigned surety to his son, Benjamin.  

The Bay of Quinte settlements. The location of the land was in Ameliasburgh (or Ameliasburg) Township, Prince Edward County (not Prince Edward Island), Upper Canada. Prince Edward County is surrounded by Lake Ontario to the west, and the Bay of Quinte on the north and east. David West’s land was probably inland of these large bodies of water. Upper Canada is now Ontario.

Payment for the lease. David West paid “One Pound, twelve shillings and six pence of the fees in the Clergy Reserves, Lot no. 33.” The Clergy Reserves were parcels of land whose rent benefitted the Church of England. These plots, usually 200 acres, were leased for seven years and then renegotiated at a higher price. [2] The Wests left the area just before these seven years were complete. The crops grown on the land, including timber, could create profits for the lessee. Lot 33 was noted as “Timber not known.” Settlers were eager to rent these lands because they were unused parcels—some in very good locations and with timber ready to harvest.

Residency before leasing. The 1811 petition states that David and Benjamin West were “of Ameliasburg,” not “of New York.” This indicates that they were residents in Ameliasburgh before the land lease request. My theory is that they arrived shortly before August 1810, as they did not appear in the U.S. census of 1810. (The census began in August.) The (likely) birth of Benjamin and Polly’s daughter in Canada in 1810 also points to this year. [3]

Recommendation of the neighbors. The neighbors described David West as “a man worthy of the Notes of any gentleman,” and “a man we would wish to settell in our Neighborhood . . .” Eleven people signed this document. They verified that West had worked on the land prior to his petition, and even paid forty dollars to another man to help him. [4]

The importance of yeomen. David and Benjamin West stated that they were yeoman. In that era, a “yeoman” was usually defined as a property owner of either a small or large farm. To fellow Friends, they were “landed Quakers.” [5] In my opinion, this might indicate that the men owned land in Dutchess County or Greene County, New York, before they moved to Canada. [6] A yeoman’s presence would add value to the neighborhood. For instance, David West may have brought livestock, seed, tools, and supplies. These could potentially benefit others. [7] He may have also come with personal experience in land management that was useful to younger, landless settlers—both Quaker and non-Quaker. [8]

This is a first level analysis of the land lease petition. To understand implications relating to the Society of Friends, I looked deeper.

Analysis of the Document from a Quaker Perspective

Clergy Reserve lands were off limits to Quakers. Quaker discipline stated that Friends were not allowed to lease Clergy Reserve lands. The resolution by the Canada Half Year Meeting stated: “that it is inconsistent with our religious principles for any member of our religious Society to lease lands that are set apart or reserved by Government for the sole use and maintenance of a Protestant Clergy.” [9] This referred to the Church of England.

David West ignored the ruling. The rule was in place in 1810, but it seems that David West chose to ignore it. Other Quakers ignored it, too. [10] This was an act of defiance from the settlers in Upper Canada to the controlling Monthly Meetings in distant New York and Pennsylvania. [11]

Quakers and non-Quakers worked together, contrary to the rule of separateness. The Clergy Reserve lands were often located in a checkerboard pattern. These vacant lands would generally have unimproved roads, and this would hinder the distribution of goods to markets. [12] In a cooperative effort, Quakers and non-Quakers would buy or lease continuous swaths of land. This was called land banking. This ensured better infrastructure such as road improvement, fencing, and area-specific regulations determined by the settlers, themselves. [13]

Quakers and non-Quakers, together, were reforming policy at a local level. Alliance with non-Quakers would be crucial in reforming the outdated policies of the colonial administration. [14] Participation in government was not approved by Quaker discipline. Cooperation with non-Quakers in matters of community was a new idea, and frowned on by the traditional Society of Friends. This was another step challenging the Quaker tradition of “separateness.”

Pledging allegiance to King George was contrary to Quaker discipline. The provincial government encouraged settlement by Friends because they were “hardworking and diligently fulfilled their settlement duties.” [15] However, in order to initiate the land lease petition request, the applicant had to pledge allegiance to the King. This was the law. The provincial government knew that Quaker discipline forbade taking oaths of any kind. So, the government allowed “affirmations.” Quaker discipline objected to affirmations of allegiance, too.

David West risked disciplinary action. David West was part of a new era of Friends who decided to risk disciplinary action to ensure his family’s future. Twenty years later, Benjamin West would affirm of allegiance while living in Norwich, Oxford County, Ontario. [16] By then, this kind of affirmation was more accepted by the Society of Friends. Here is a record of David West’s affirmation of allegiance of 1811 that I transcribed from the Clerk’s handwriting:

I do certify that David West being a Quaker has this day taken and Subscribed the Solemn affirmation and declaration of Allegiance to his Majesty King George as required by Law before me. Ameliasburg, July 4th 1811, James Young [Town Clerk]


Was David West a Loyalist?

Since he affirmed allegiance to the King in 1811, does this mean David West was a Loyalist? Let’s rewind back to the Revolutionary War.

The Wests during the Revolutionary War. The term “Loyalist” is usually associated with the Revolutionary War. In July of 1777, three things happened in this West family. (1) David’s brother, Benajah West, served in the New York Militia. [17] (2) Brother Elisha West took an oath of allegiance to New York. [18] (3) David’s father, Elijah West, was hosting Vermont state delegates at his Inn in Windsor to draft Vermont’s first Constitution. [19]

David West married into a traditional Quaker family. David West married Susannah Hoag between 1779 and 1782. [20] Susannah Hoag’s family had been Quakers for four generations. West probably was a convinced (converted) Friend before his marriage or shortly after he married. As a Quaker, he would have abided by the Peace Testimony.

The Peace Testimony. Quaker discipline forbade participation in war. This is called the “Peace Testimony.” [21] Quakers were not to aid either side with money, men, or supplies. If they did, they were disowned from the Society of Friends. [22] There is a misconception that any Quakers who came to Canada were Loyalists. During the Revolutionary War, Quakers were not officially Loyalists. And, they were not officially Patriots. A Friend might favor one side over the other, but would have to abandon Quaker beliefs in order to act on his/her political beliefs.

Persecution from Both Sides. If was difficult to remain neutral during the Revolutionary War. There were incidents in which Patriots and Loyalists plundered Quaker farms—destroyed structures, burned fields, and took the livestock. Both sides imprisoned Friends. Both sides demanded payment for non-participation in war. Both sides believed that Quakers were spies and traitors. [23]

After the War. Some Loyalists (non-Quakers) moved to Canada right after the Revolutionary War. The settlements bordering the Bay of Quinte were settled beginning in 1784. [24] Only a few Quakers made the move at that time. Those that did were clustered in settlements, together. The religion was still based around its separateness from the secular world.

The Quaker Western Movement. Most Quaker immigration to Canada began in the early 1800s, twenty years after the Revolutionary War. This was not a Loyalist movement to Canada. It was essentially Quaker expansionism. This was called the “Western Movement.” [25] New Quaker communities were created in Canada, western New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. David West and his family came to Canada in 1810, almost thirty years after the War.

David West was not a Loyalist.  He did not move to Canada to escape the United States after the Revolutionary War. He was looking at the options for securing land at a good price. He chose Upper Canada first. The law said he had to affirm allegiance to the King just to start the petition process. After seven years he probably wanted to avoid the rent increase. The family moved to western New York and eventually to Michigan.


A Few More Records about the David West Family

During the Quaker migrations to new territories and states, groups of Quaker families would travel together, and sometimes settle together. The West Family may have traveled with other migrants from the Nine Partners Monthly Meeting (Dutchess County, NY). David West was 52 years old; Susannah was 55 years old. Benjamin was 28, and wife Polly was 21. Abraham was 23 and unmarried, and Levi was 14. If there were unmarried sisters, they might have been about 25 and 17 years old. Jacob (age 21) and his wife Lana stayed in Greene County, New York.

I could find no further records on David West until 1818—when he bought land in Genesee County, New York. [26] It is possible that he moved back to New York before then, and left the leased land in Benjamin’s care. There are records for Benjamin, Abraham, and Levi. Here are a few things that are I found.

  • Benjamin West was a member of Adophustown Monthly Meeting.  As far as I could tell, Benjamin was the only West who was active in a Monthly Meeting during this time period. In Ameliasburgh, Friends held Meetings in homes. [27] Anyone could come to the Meeting—you did not have to be a Friend. However, there were advantages of having a certificate of membership from the closest Monthly Meeting. Being a Quaker was much like having an insurance policy—it guaranteed that the community would take care of your family in matters of health, education, and finances. [28] In Dec 1812, Benjamin applied for membership in Adolphustown Monthly Meeting. He was approved in Feb 1813. [29] When it was time to move back to New York in 1817, Benjamin requested a transfer from the Meeting. [30]

  • Levi West served in the War of 1812. Levi West served in the militia during the War of 1812 (which lasted from 1812 to 1815). He was 17 years old during his service. As a son of a Quaker, the directive to remain neutral in war time was paramount. It is possible that Levi made his own decision. The age of commitment (or official adulthood) with the Friends was 21. [31]

In October of 1812, an order from the Provincial Parliament required all inhabitants of 16 and older to take an oath of allegiance. [32] I could not find a roll of these oaths, but Levi was probably on it. Also, in Prince Edward County the government fined Quakers “20 shillings a year in peace time for exemption, £5 sterling in war.” [33]


Levi West’s service was in two parts. In July 1813, Levi served in the Prince Edward (County) Militia under Lieutenant Daniel Dorland. He was a Private. His unit brought Government batteaux from the head of the Bay of Quinte to the fort at Kingston, Ontario. [34] Batteaux were flat-bottom boats used to carry supplies—and sometimes soldiers—down the difficult waterways to forts. [35]  


In October 1813, Levi served under Sergeant James Pierson, in Captain James Young’s Company, transporting Government batteaux from Kingston to York, Ontario. [36] Sergeant Pierson, Captain Young, and two other men in his unit were neighbors who had signed the land lease petition for David West in 1811. [37]

  • The West brothers married the White sisters. In 1815, Abraham married Mary White. Mary was the daughter of Nathaniel White and Mary Bowerman, who lived in Hallowell, Prince Edward County. The Whites had migrated from Dutchess County in about 1790. [38] Abraham and Mary’s first child, Elizabeth, was born in Hallowell in February 1816. [39] They moved back to New York, where their second child, Mary Ann was born in December 1817. [40] It is likely that Mary West (his wife) died shortly thereafter. Abraham remarried in 1822. [41] Sometime in 1817, Levi married Nancy White, the sister of Mary. [42] Their first child (Mary) may have been born in Palmyra, Wayne County, New York. [43] Their second child, Nathaniel, was born in 1818, in Elba, Genesee County, NY. [44]

The data about Benjamin, Abraham, and Levi point to the West Family’s move to western New York before December 1817. All four sons—Benjamin, Abraham, Levi, and Jacob—were counted in the 1820 Census of Elba, Genesee County, New York. By the 1840s, the brothers were living in Michigan.



Between 1810 and 1817, David West and his family were living in Upper Canada. This was part of a Quaker movement to expand into new territories. Quaker settlers were many miles from their original Meeting, which held strict discipline over many aspects of their personal lives, including marriage. A more progressive viewpoint was held in the new settlements. Cooperation with non-Quakers was essential to living in these remote areas. Waiting for a ruling from the Monthly or Yearly Meeting was non-productive. Personal life and social interactions—including mixed marriages of Quakers and non-Quakers (“marriage out of unity”)—increased.

While many historians maintain that the restlessness in the Society began in the 1820s, the David West story shows that it started nearly a decade before that time.


Please refer to Part 3: 1818-1826 for more information on David West.


References and Additional Notes

West Family DNA group results are at

1. Library and Archives, Canada, 2012: “No. 74, Lease, The Petition of David West for a Lease of Lot No. 33, 3rd Cn, Ameliasburgh,” Upper Canada Land Petitions “W” Bundle Leases, 1797-1817, RG 1, L3, Vol. 545. Accessed Mar 2016. The microfilm images were added to the site in 2012.

2. Wikipedia: Clergy Reserves. Accessed Mar 2016.

3. Daughter Mary West was born in 1807 in New York. Daughter Susan or Susannah West was probably born in 1810 in Canada. This needs to be verified. Son Briggs West was born in 1811 in Canada. The rest of Benjamin and Polly West’s children were born in Ameliasburgh or Norwich, Canada. Data from Lorelle Van Fossen: Accessed May 2016. Also refer to Raisin Center Friends Cemetery on

4. Transcribed directly with original spelling, including original spelling of names:

         To whom These presents shall Come We the under Subscribers do Recommend David West of Amelesburge a man worthy of the Notes of any gentleman, before whom these presents shall come and further do Certify that the Provost brought the Labour of one John Hauck done on Lott No 33 in the third Consseson of Ameliasburge Lake Shore For which he paid forty dollars and since he has done a great deal of Labour on said Lott himself and it is our sincear wish that the Provost might order a Lease for Sd Lott as he is a man who would we would wish to Settell in our Neighborhood and do pray that your honors would be pleased to grant our request.

Ameliasburg the 4th of July 1811

[Signed:] Robert Young, James Peirson, Thomas Young, Aaron Peirson, Stephen Chase, Robert Hauyck, John Huyck Junr, John Thease, Simon [?], Amos Phillips, James Young, T.C. [Town Clerk]

5. Gregory Finnegan, 1995: “People of Providence, Polity and Property: Domesticity, Philanthropy and Land Ownership as Instruments of Quaker Community Development in Adolphustown, Upper Canada, 1784-1824,” Canadian Quaker History Journal, Canadian Friends Historical Association, Toronto. As an example, p. 11.

6. It is possible that David West and son Benjamin owned land in Windham Township, Greene County, NY, prior to moving to Upper Canada. Jacob West (another son) and his wife stayed behind.

7. Arthur Garratt Dorland, 1927: A History of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Canada, The MacMillan Company of Canada Limited, Toronto, p. 87.

8. Finnegan, p. 12.

9. Dorland, p. 23.

10. Robynne Rogers Healey, 2002 (article): “From Quaker to Upper Canadian: The Boundaries of Community Identity among Yonge Street Friends, 1801-1850,” Annual Conference, University of Toronto, 26-27 May 2002, Historical Papers, Canadian Society of Church History, p. 33.

11. Dorland, p. 23.

12. Healey, p. 33.

13. Finnegan, p. 3.

14. Healey, p. 37.

15. Healey, p. 25. Healey’s article is a history of the Yonge Street Friends settlement (Toronto). Similar narratives existed wherever Quakers settled in the early 1800s.

16. Upper Canada: Naturalization Registers, 1828-1850, #G5, B47, Vol. 3. Library and Archives Canada. Benjamin West’s oath of allegiance was sworn in 1831 in Norwich, Oxford County, Upper Canada. Found at, accessed Mar 2016.

I do swear or being one of the persons allowed by Law to affirm in special cases, do affirm, that I have resided seven years in His Majesty’s Dominions without having been during that time a stated resident in any foreign country, and that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of this Province as dependent therein. So help me God.

#45. Benjamin West, Norwich, Farmer, February 28, 1831 [signed Benjamin West]

17. Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Research Database. Accessed April 2015.

18. State of New York, 1925: Minutes of the Committee and of the First Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies in the State of New York, December 11, 1776 – September 23, 1778 with Collateral Documents. New York Historical Society, New York, NY, p. 338.

19. Elijah West’s dwelling in Windsor, Vermont, is now a designated historic landmark.

20. For more information, please refer to Part 1 in this series on David West.

21. Lisa Hansen, 2004: “Friends and Peace: Quaker Pacifist Influence in Ontario to the Early Twentieth Century,” The Quaker Archives and Library of Canada, Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Accessed Apr 2015.

22. Robynne Rogers Healey, 2006 (book): From Quaker to Upper Canadian: Faith and Community among Yonge Street Friends, 1801-1850, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal and Kingston, p. 103. Healey quotes The Discipline of the New York Meeting, 1810:

[It is a disownable offense] to bear arms, or actively comply with military requisitions, be concerned in wartime preparations, offensive or defensive, by sea or land, pay a fine, penalty, or tax, in lieu of personal service, deal in prize goods, directly or indirectly, or be concerned in promoting the publication of writings which tend to excite the spirit of war.

23. Hugh Barbour, Christopher Densmore, Elizabeth H. Moger, Nancy C. Sorel, Alson D. Van Wagner, and Arthur J. Worrall, 1995: Quaker Crosscurrents, Three Hundred Years of Friends in the New York Yearly Meetings, New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York. Pages 57-61 provide some examples of Quaker persecution during the Revolutionary War.

24. Clarence M Warner, 1914: “The Bay of Quinte Settlements during the War of 1812,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 13, pp. 189-198.

25. Dorland, “Chapter 3: The American Background of the Quaker Migration to Canada,” p. 42-62.

26. Karen E. Livsey, 1991: Western New York Land Transactions, 1804-1824, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, p. 194.  Accessed on, Mar 2016.

27. Dorland, p. 86.

28. Finnegan, p. 2.

29. Adolphustown Monthly Meeting Minutes, 1798-1813, Archives O-2-1, Trustees of the Canadian Yearly Meeting at the Religious Society of Friends, transcriptions by Carm Foster (p. 267, 269), Lynda Worther (p. 271, 273), coordinated by Randy Saylor, Toronto, Ontario.

30. Norwich Monthly Meeting, Men’s, 1822-1834, May 1826. West Lake Monthly Meeting, Book C, 1824-1837. Images at in Canada, Quaker Meeting Records, 1786-1988. Accessed March 2016. Correspondence between the two Monthly Meetings occurred between January and May of 1826 before the matter was settled. West Lake took over the minute book of Adolphustown when it was laid down (discontinued) in 1821. I transcribed this from the handwritten record:

Benjamin West requested our certificate to your meeting. This may certify that he has a right of membership with us, and by inquiry his temporal affairs appeared settled to satisfaction. Signed in and on behalf of Adolphus Monthly Meeting, held on 20 of 11 month 1817, by Gilbert Dorland, Clerk.

31. J. William Frost, 1973: The Quaker Family in Colonial America: A Portrait of the Society of Friends, St. Martin’s Press, NY, p. 136. Age 21 was the age of legal accountability, and men were encouraged to marry after this age.

32. Warner, p. 195.

33. William Richard Lunn and Janet Lunn, 1967: The County: The First Hundred Years in Loyalist Prince Edward, Prince Edward County Council, Picton, Ontario, p. 134.

34. Randy Saylor, transcriber, 2011: “Prince Edward Militia, Muster Rolls and Pay Lists of Various Officers, 1812-1814.” Accessed April 2015. Original source: War of 1812, Returns, Nominal Rolls and Pay Lists, R 1022-1-6-E, film at Toronto Public Library, p. 297-298.

35. Robert Malcomson, 2003: “Batteau in the British Service during the War of 1812,” The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord, Volume XIII, No. 4, p. 17-28. Men who had this job were called batteaumen. Malcomsen writes: “Life in the batteaux was demanding. The hours long, the labour hard and tedious, potentially dangerous, and completely exposed to the elements.”

36. Prince Edward Militia, p. 321-322.

37. Neighbors who were in his company were: James Peirson, Aaron Peirson, Thomas Young, and James Young. Henry Hyuck was also in this company—he was probably related to John Huyck, another neighbor.

38. Albert C. Bowerman, 1904: The “Bowerman” Family of Canada, Descendants of Ichabod Bowerman of Dutchess Co., NY, 1683-1796, unpublished, typed manuscript. Part of the collection of E.H. Marion Crock of Bloomfield, Ontario. Archived at Pickering College, Newmark, Ontario. Folder 5-4-6. Information used with permission of Canadian Quaker Archives and Randy Saylor, project coordinator. Image 71, transcribed by Judy Andrus Toporcer.  

39. William Wade Hinshaw, Thomas Worth Marshall, and Dr. Barlow Lindley, compilers, 1946: “Adrian Monthly Meeting,” Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, 1607-1943, Volume IV, p. 1384. Reprint: Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 1994. The originals are archived at Swarthmore College, Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, probably found in Adrian Preparative Meeting, 1836-1874.

40. Hinshaw, p. 1384. This is also mentioned in the Bowerman manuscript of 1904.

41. Hartland Monthly Meeting of Friends, 1821-1905: Vital Records: Marriages 1821-1850, H393, Volume 3.1. Swarthmore College, Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore, PA.

42. Bowerman, Image 99, transcribed by Doug Smith.

43. _______, 1888: Portrait and Biographical Album of Lenawee County, Michigan, Chapman Brothers, Chicago, Illinois, p. 452.

44. “Norwich Monthly Meeting Records, Names Set off from Pelham Monthly Meetings,” Archives of Ontario, Toronto. Canada, Quaker Meeting Records, 1786-1898, images online at Accessed March 2016.   This is a census of the Norwich Monthly Meeting from 1830. Nathaniel is listed as born in 1819.


Many thanks to Lorelle VanFossen for her genealogical work. VanFossen is a descendant of Levi West. To see her compilation of the descendants of David West, go to: