Trials For Treason In 1776-7

This describes the settlement of Cumberland township in Nova Scotia by settlers from Rhode Island around 1762-1763. During the American Revolution, some settlers sympathized with the revolted colonies, leading to attempted capture of Fort Cumberland in 1776 by parties from Machias. This attempt failed, leading to arrests and trials.

Dr. Parker Clarke and Thomas Falconer were found guilty of treason but pleaded the King’s pardon. James Avery and Richard John Uniacke’s fates are unclear, with Uniacke later becoming a prominent figure in Nova Scotia’s legal and political spheres. Indictments were also issued against other individuals involved in the rebellion, highlighting the struggles Nova Scotians faced in going it alone during the tumultuous events of the revolutionary period.

“The township of Cumberland was settled in 1762-3 or thereabouts, by settlers from Rhode Island. They came in four schooners, and a list of their names was formerly in the Archives of the Province. During the whole of the struggle between the mother country and her colonies, the Cumberland settlers, especially those from the old colonies and the north of Ireland, warmly sympathized with the revolted colonies. In 1772-3-4 and 5, a large immigration took place to both the township and county, principally from Yorkshire, and in no instance during the revolutionary struggle, and the many acts of violence committed in and about Fort Lawrence and Fort Cumberland, is it known that a single Yorkshire settler ever swerved in his loyalty.

In the November of 1776 the original settlers of the township, at the instance of parties from Machias, and led by Jonathan Eddy, William Howe, Samuel Rogers, and John Allan, attempted the capture of Fort Cumberland, then garrisoned by 260 Fencibles under Lieut.-Col. Goreham. They had proceeded in their design so far as to invest the Fort when the timely arrival of forces from Windsor and Halifax under Major Batt put an end to their plans and dispersed their forces. Several arrests were made, and among them Dr. Parker Clarke, Thomas Falconer, James Avery, and Richard John Uniacke.

They were brought to Halifax, and Clarke and Falconer were detained in close custody until the Easter Term of 1777, when they were tried before Chief Justice Morris and Mr. Justice Deschamps. Clarke’s trial took place on the 18th of April, the Attorney General, William Nesbitt, and the Sol.-Genl., James Brenton, acting for the prosecution and Daniel Wood, Senr., for the defence. The Crown called William Black, Thomas Robinson and Lieut. Dixon as witnesses on behalf of the prosecution, but no witnesses appear to have been called for the defence.

Of course the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Falconer was tried the next day, counsel for the Crown same as before. He conducted his defence in person and appears to have acted like a sensible man in challenging as many of the jury as possible, who the day before had found Clarke guilty. The prosecution called the same witnesses as the day previous, with the addition of Milburn. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and both Falconer and Clarke before sentence and execution pleaded the King’s pardon, whereupon the Court ordered that the Provost-Marshal keep them in close confinement as convicts until the next term, and that in the meantime their sentence be respited.

James Avery and Richard John Uniacke appear to have fared somewhat differently. On the first day of the Easter Term Nesbitt moves that the court consider the nature of the security given by James Avery, who hath escaped out of the jail in Halifax; and on the 22nd of the same month the Solicitor General, James Brenton, moves that the Provost-Marshal assign over the bail bonds in The King vs. Avery and Uniacke, the defendants not having entered their appearance, and the motion was allowed and entered accordingly.

From Mr. Uniacke’s name appearing on the indictment as a witness he must have turned King’s evidence; clearly from the motion of the Sol. Genl. he was not at the trial. No mention is again made of either in the records of the court until the 3rd of April, 1781, when Mr. Uniacke takes the usual oaths, signs the roll, and is admitted a Barrister and Attorney. Thenceforth the records are full of him, and the court rings with the name of Uniacke. He became Solicitor General on the 5th of April, 1782; Member for the township of Sackville in 1783, (the township adjoining that from which a few years previous he had been taken as a rebel); Speaker of the House of Assembly in 1789; Attorney General in 1797; edits an edition of the Provincial Statutes in 1804; Member of the Council in 1805.

Indictments were returned on the 3rd of April, 1777, against Jonathan Eddy, Zebulon Roe, William Howe and Samuel Eogers, and it was ordered by the court that a capias issue to the Provost-Marshal to apprehend them and seize their goods, chattels and estates wheresoever found, returning an inventory of their goods, &c. , into the court.

The following papers were found in an old box in the basement of the Court House at Halifax, and they are respectfully offered as a small contribution to the history of Cumberland County. They are in the hand writing of Edward Barron and William Nesbitt, and the reader will notice that they are the minutes of the preliminary examinations. The Judge’s minutes of the trial are still in existence, and may before long be given to the public in another form.

J. T. B.

Mr. Parker Clarke being accused of having Extorted Money from Mr. Thomas Robinson, of Amherst.

Thos. Robinson being sworn, Declares that Some days after the Rebels appeared in arms at Fort Lawrence, that said Parker Clarke came so to this defendant’s house with Zebulon Roe, when the former told this Deft, that he had an acct. against him of a long Standing for one pound fifteen shillings and that now was the time for payment, this Deft, than said that he did not know that he owed him a farthing, as he, the Defendant, understood that Wm. Bulmer had promised to pay it and he always thought it was paid, that said Clark then answered that ho had ‘not received anything from said Bulmer on his acct. and then again demanded payment, and that Roe demanded in a threatening manner that if this Deft, did not immediately pay said amount, he would oblige this deponent to go prisoner with him, this Deft, then said that he had not any moneyin the House but if they would pemitt him to go to Mr. Black’s he would endeavour to get the money, which he did, and pay’d it to Dr. Clarke.

It appears that Dr. Clarke did attend Mr. Robinson’s Son for which he brought his acct.

Fort Cumberland, 3rd Decemr., 1776.

E. BARRON, Just. Peace,


Halifax, S.S.

Province of Nova Scotia

[ At a Supreme Court, Court of Assize and General Goal Delivery, held at Halifax, the first Tuesday in April, A.D. 1777, for the County of Halifax and Province Nova Scotia. ]

The Jurors for our Sovereign Lord the King, upon their Oath present, that Parker Clarke of Cumberland, in the County of Cumber- land,, commonly called Doctor Clarke, and Thomas Falconer, of Cobequid, in the Province Nova Scotia, being subjects of our present Sovereign Lord, George the Third, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, &c., not having the fear of God in their hearts nor having any regard for the Duty of their allegiance, but being moved and seduced by the Instigation of the Devil as False Rebels and Traitors against our scl. present Sovereign Lord the King, then supreme head, natural and undoubted Sovereign Lord, entirely withdrawing that Cordial Love, and that true and due obedience, fidelity and allegiance which every subject of our said present Sovereign Lord the King should of right ought to bear towards our sd. Lord the King, and also Devising and as much as in them lay most subtilty, wickedly and Traitorously intending to subvert and change the Rule of Government of this Province, duly and happily Established under our suld present Sovereign Lord the King, in the months of November and December last, in the year of our Lord one Thousand, Seven hundred and Seventy-Six, and on several Days of sd. mouths with Force and Arms ; and in the Township of Cumberland, Province aforsd. with a Great number of Traitors and Rebels against our said Sovereign Lord the King, (to wit) to the Number of three hundred whose names are yet unknown to the Jurors, being armd. in a warlike and Hostile manner, with Drums beating and with Swords, Guns, Swords, Pikes, Pistols, Clubs and Divers, other weapons offensive and defensive, with force and arms; did falsly and Traitorously Assemble and Join themselves against our sd. Lord the King, and then and there with force and arms in pursuance and execution of their wicked Traitorously Intentions and purposes aforsd.; did falsly and Traitorously prepare, Order, wage and Levy a Public and Cruel War against our Sovereign Lord the King, then and their perpetrating and comitting slauther amongst the faithful subjects of our sd. Lord the King, and then and their during sd. war with Forces armd, and with sd. Traitors and Rebels so assembled, armed, and arrayed as aforsd.; did falsly and Trayterously assault and attack his Majesty’s Fort and Garrison at Fort Cumberland aforsd. by firing several shott at the same with Intention as they gave out and publickly declared to take from our sd. Sovereign Lord the King his sd. Fort and Garrison of Fort Cumberland, in the sd. Province Nova Scotia aforsd.; and the same to hold against our sd. Sovereign Lord the King, requires the Duty of their allegiance and against the Peace of our said Sovereign Lord the King, his Crown and Dignity, and against the form of the Statute in that case made and Provided, and against the Laws of this Province.

D. WOOD, JUNR., D. Clk. of Crown.

MR. T——., MR. UNIACKE. Witnesses.



That he was present on the 29th of November, last, when a party commanded by Lieut. Dixon, in his Majesty’s service, did take prisoners, James Falconer & —– Avery, both from Cobequid, they were both under Arms and endeavoured to make their escape by running away, but were taken in their flight and deprived of their Firelocks, Powder and Ball which they had about them, and was informed they had made their escape from camp still, where the Rebels were that day defeated and dispersed. And further deposeth that he saw one Parker Clark, of Fort Lawrence, in the County of Cumberland under arms, along with on Zebulon Roe, who they styled Colol. & one Wm. Howe, who was called Major of the Rebels and appeared of their Party, and they were at the Deponent’s house.

WM. BLACK. Sworn before me the 10th of January 1777.


That some time in the month of November, last, one Parker Clarke commonly called Doctor Clarke of Fort Lawrence, in said County of Cumberland, along with one Zebulon Roe, whom they called Lt. Colonel and Wm. How whom they called Major among the Rebels, came under Arms to this Deponent’s house. That said Clarke told that he owed him some money, about thirty-five shillings. The Depont. answered, he did not know he owed him any, but desired to know what it was for and said Clarke having told him, he then said he did not realy owe that money but it was due by another, on which the said Roe then clapping this Deponent on the shoulder and said, he must pay that money to said Clarke or go along with them a prisoner. On which the Depont. fearing to be made their prisoner, beged they would let him go and Borrow it from his Neighbour Mr. Black, on which said Clarke came along with this Depont. to said Mr. Black’s with a Bayonet tyed on his Gun, where he paid said 35 shillings to said Clarke which he would not otherwise have done had he not been forced in manner aforesaid.


County of Halifax.


That on or about the 11th of November, that being sent a Message by Col. Gorham Commanding ye Garison at Fort Cumberland to a place called Number 1, to one Mr. Smith which having delivered, and the next morning being about to return to the Garison, one Mr. Richd. J. Uniacke who liveth at Number 1 aforesaid that he must goe along with said Smith to the Rebel Camp, which the Depont. at first refused, but said Uniacke Insisted he must go, otherwise the Rebel Centrys would carry him there by force, and that Colol. Eddy as he called him of the Rebells would never forgive them if he would not goe to him and would Immagine they harbored any person from the Garison he would never forgive him, on which choosing rather to goe to the Centry of himself than be carried by violence he went along with said Mr. Smith to the Centry in order to get permission to return to the Garison. When he came there he told said Eddy what he came about, and to let him return with Mr Smith to the Garison who had teams with him to bring out some Goods, said Col. Eddy said he had no objection, but some Frenchmen particularly one John Cassie told said Col. Eddy that the Depont. was a spy sent out from the Garison, and not to give credit to what the Depont. told him, upon which the Depont. was detained a prisoner with said Rebells, and in a day or two after said Eddy told this Depont. he was Glad they had detained him as a prisoner for that in a few Days they expected some Guns from Machias, with them Privateers, and as he knew he the Depont. was more experienced in Guns than any of them, he would make him their Gunner, to which the Depont. declared he would never fire a Gun against that Garison or his Majesty’s troops, but he might do as he pleased, on which he ordered this Depont. before their Committee as they called them at the house of one Ebenezer Gardner, about 2 miles from their camp, and being carried before said Committee consisting of one Foster Chareman, one Amos Kellum, Wm. Maxwell, Elijah Airs of Sackville, Jessie Bont of Fort Lawrence, one —– Suthrich of Jolly Cure, Simon Chester of Amherst, Nath. Reynolds, Junr. of Amherst and one —– Newcomb of Amherst, and one Michel Burke of Bloody bridge, Committeemen who gave him a writen order as soon as he had passed their Centries, to go to a place called Tantermar in Sackville, and there to remain till further orders, he remained in the camp about 7 Days before he went to Tantermar, Dm-ing which he saw a Company of men from the River St. Johns, commanded by one Capt. West, and another arived from Cobequid in the Rebell Army’s Camp, about 25 men who joined the Rebells, he the Depont. did not know any of them, but one James Falconer and James Averey. Falconer they called Captain, he has seen him very oft come to said Col. Eady’s, and Avery he was told was their Commissary, and has seen him distribute some Flower to them, that as soon as the Rebells were dispersed he came to the Garison. He also deposeth that while he was a prisoner in the Rebell Camp, he heard said Col. Eady & Zebulon Roe say they would give a reward of two or three hundred pounds to any person who would tning in Fraiiklyn, as they called him, to them.


Sworn before me this 10th of January, 1777. WM. NESBITT. }

Nova Scotia, HALIFAX, S.S.}


The King, ag. Parker Clarke, } High Treason


John Cody, foreman ; James Coxdale, Philip Merlin, Robert Nesbitt, Conard Spence, John Taylor, Casper Drilleo, Robert Collins, George Lunn, John Wooden, Jr. John McGra, John McDonald. Who do say that the said Parker Clark is guilty of the Treason as Indicted.

Recorded in open Court this 18th day April, 1777.}

By order of court, D. WOOD, JUNR., D. Clk. Crown.


The King ag. Thomas Falkconor. } For High Treason


John Cody, foreman; James Coxdale, Philip Merlin, Robert Nesbitt, Conard Spence, Thomas Phalon, Casper Drilleo, Robert Collins, George Lun, John Wood, Junr., John McGra, John Godfried Huntrys. Who do say that the said Thomas Falkconor is guilty of the Treason, whereof, he stands indicted.

Recorded in open Court this 19th of April, 1777. }

D. WOOD, JUNR., Clk.



In the Cause, The King, against Parker Clarke, for Treason.

The Prisoner, the said Parker Clarke, Humbly praying Leave of this Honourable Court, and requesteth, That Judgment and execution may be stayed and respited on the verdict found against him, the prisoner, for that it was given in evidence on the Trial that he, the said Parker Clarke, did on or about the Twenty Ninth Day of November last, voluntarily surrender and deliver himself up to Lieut. Thomas Dixon, Then under command of Lieut. Colonel Gorham, in order, as the prisoner then hoped, to acquire and obtain His Majesty’s Mercy and Most Gracious protection and pardon under the several proclamations as well of His Majesty’s Commissioners for Restoring peace. Lord and General Howe and of Lieu. Col. Gorham commanding at Fort Cumberland. And doth most Humbly pray this Honourable Court for the stay or respite of Judgment and Execution against him, and that this Court will be pleased to command him, a fit object of compassion, to the Mercy of His Majesty’s most Gracious protection and Free Pardon under the said Royal authority granted and Impowered by his Majesty’s Most Merciful and Gracious Commission to the said Commissioners, That the same may be extended to him, the prisoner, who in perfect penitance and Repentance is, and shall be, ever bound to pray as well for our Most Gracious Soverign Lord, King George as this Honourable Court.”

Nova Scotia Historical Society “Reports and Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society for the year 1878. Volume 1”. Morning Herald, 1879.