vrijdag 23 februari 2007

Hans Waltimeyer, spy

The son of German immigrants, Hans Waltimeyer as he was originally known, was a tenant farmer near Albany, in the British Province of New York, when the war broke out.
As the Revolution was also the first American Civil War, Meyers was faced with the agony of choosing sides against many of his neighbours and family. Although there is some question as to his earlier allegiance, Meyers eventually sided with the British and was ever after a most zealous Loyalist. He recruited other loyal colonists for the Provincial Corps of the British Army, earning himself the rank of Captain. John Meyers served in the infamous Burgoyne Campaign that culminated in the decisive Battle of Saratoga.
But John Meyers made his greatest impression as a courier, spy, and guerrilla. He gained a legendary, almost superhuman reputation among both friend and foe. His enemies noted him for "courage and daring rather than brutality or ferocity," - although rebel mothers would threaten their children that Captain Meyers would "eat them" if they did not behave!
Unfortunately for John Meyers and his family, he had chosen the losing side. While King George III lost his colonies, his American supporters lost their land, their homes, their possessions - virtually everything they had. Banished from their former homes, about 4O,OOO Loyalists fled to Britain's remaining North American colonies. Captain Meyers led his family and about 400 disbanded troops to settle on Missisquoi Bay, at the northern end of Lake Champlain. While this settlement established an English presence in southern Quebec, Meyers himself was forced to move on; the British authorities did not want a man with Meyers' reputation living so close to the new border.
The Meyers family eventually settled on the Bay of Quinte in western Quebec; later Upper Canada. It was here that John Meyers' entrepreneurial spirit came to light. He was a farmer, the area's first miller, a boat builder and shipper, a brick maker, a trader, a brewer, a distiller, and more! He was a Justice of the Peace, a commander in the Militia, and first Master of the Masonic lodge. He was instrumental in establishing an agricultural fair, the local parish of the Anglican Church, and the earliest local government in the Province. He was an early emancipator of slaves, he had close relations with the Indians, and he was renowned for his generosity and hospitality. His energy and vision attracted other settlers and industries and soon a fledgling community developed, eventually becoming the City of Belleville, Ontario. John Meyers was the catalyst for "civilizing" the area; he died a wealthy and respected man, and soon after entered into the folklore of early Canada.
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