By Kieran O’Keefe
When Newburgh is discussed in the context of the American Revolutionary War, it usually concerns its role as General George Washington’s military headquarters or the threatened uprising of Continental Army Officers in 1783, known as the Newburgh Conspiracy. However, Newburgh also had a sizeable Loyalist community, which is the focus of my master’s thesis. The thesis examines the community’s origin, analyzes its composition, explores its wartime experiences, and considers the Loyalists’ post-war exile in Canada.
Through my research I learned that the origin of Newburgh’s Loyalist community dates to the 1750s when Anglicans and dissenting Protestants battled for control of the church glebe. A glebe was land owned by the church that was leased and the income used to fund the church and provide the minister’s salary. Anglicans took control of the glebe in 1752, but were challenged by the Presbyterian-led dissenters during the 1760s and early 1770s. The religious division between Anglicans and dissenters carried over into the American Revolution, as Presbyterians were almost universally Patriots, while many Anglicans were Loyalists. About 23 to 25 percent of Newburgh remained loyal, and in addition to being predominantly Anglican, the Loyalists tended to be poorer than their Patriot counterparts and were often related to one another. Notable Newburgh families, such as the Flewellings, Hardings and Purdys, almost entirely remained loyal.[…]
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This history article was featured as an additional page to the Historical Society’s print version of the newsletter, the Riverview. Subscribers to our email list receive the Riverview in their inboxes and members receive the print version in the mail. Included only in the print version are additional pages featuring interesting articles based on materials in our collection.