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"Stone for Sarah" revisited (Sarah Kast McGinness).

by Edgar Clow, UE

In 1950 and again in 1977, the late Dr. H. C. Burleigh published monograms unrolling the exploits of Sarah Kast McGinness, for twenty years a widow in the Mohawk valley who espoused the Loyalist cause in the American Revolution. Dr. Burleigh was a physician who practised in the town of Bath and in retirement lived in Kingston. Annually he used to spend time in New York State where he researched the Loyalist families who settled in the Lake Ontario Counties of Ontario.

Editor's Note: I am especially pleased to present this update on the Sarah Kast McGinness Story, because one of the last applications that Angela and I put through while we were the Dominion Genealogists, was Mr. Diminie's Sarah Kast McGinness submission. We had been promoting some changes in the genealogical area, that would make it easier for documented Loyalists such as Sarah to be recognized, and it is wonderful to have had a small part in that process. Sarah was also featured in past Gazettes: page 28/29, spring 1991 and an article by this author on page 25 of the spring 1992 issue.

In the February 1989 issue of The Loyalist Gazette. Lieutenant Colonel Wm. A. Smy under the title "A Woman's Service in the Revolution" quoted correspondence from David Claus, Indian agent, to General Haldimand, Commander in Chief of the British and Loyalist forces in Canada. In it Claus explained Mrs. McGinness' unique relationship with the Six Nations Indians, her loss of property to the rebels and her return to the Mohawk valley at Claus' request, to keep up the morale and loyalty of the Six Nations Indians after the defeat of Burgoyne in 1777.

Encouraged by Smy's article Mrs. Evelyn Drew of Picton, a long time member of Bay of Quinte Branch, and Edgar Clow, of Brockville, Col. Edward Jessup Branch, both descendants of Sarah, commenced laying plans to spearhead a campaign to erect a memorial to Sarah and made their intention known in a letter to The Loyalist Gazette in the spring of 1990. Mrs. Drew and Clow invited contributions from fellow descendants. A memorial, it was hoped, would be in place in September, 1991, to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Sarah's death.

In the spring 1991 issue of The Gazette. Barbara Hopper of Nepean, another descendant who had joined the original team, wrote a complete, well researched article on the life of Mrs. McGinness, entitling it "A Stone for Sarah". This phrase became the rallying cry for the project, which now had another descendant on board in the person of Mrs. Catherine Evans of the Kingston branch. It was Mrs. Evans' research that resulted in the eventual placing of "the Stone" in St. John's Cemetery in Bath.

Meanwhile, plans were taking shape for the memorial itself, the wording of the plaque, the participation of the then Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communications, which helped fund the plaque, the plans for the unveiling ceremony on the 200th anniversary of Sarah's death, September 8th, 1991.

In the end, close to 150 descendants from across North America banded together to erect the memorial and participate in the unveiling ceremonies. As Edgar Clow wrote in Sarah Kast McGinness Honoured in The Loyalist Gazette. Spring 1992: "The event had the classic earmarks of the Loyalist creed, crystallized into action in a unique way... `to preserve the history and traditions ... of the Loyalist families before it is too late ... to erect monuments, memorials ... to perpetuate the memory of the United Empire Loyalists'...".

The unveiling ceremony was preceded by a church service in St. John's Anglican Church. The rector of the time, Rev. Kenneth Blaber extolled the virtues of Sarah's loyalty and sacrifice, hymns of the 1700s were sung, and a later generation of Loyalists, Meribeth Clow, Donald Drew and Kevin Hopper were responsible for the psalm and scripture selections. At the unveiling ceremony which followed, officers of Bay of Quinte Branch, under whose auspices the event was conducted, participated, assisted by Arnold Nethercott of London, president of the Dominion Association. The memorial, a cast bronze plaque mounted on a rough cast slab of Leeds County granite, was unveiled by Barbara Hopper, her 11-year-old daughter Victoria Hopper, Catherine Evans and Verna Hill. Mrs. Hill was also the keynote speaker, revealing Mohawk philosophy including the place of women, and the mutual kindred spirit of loyalty and respect spanning most of Sarah's lifetime. A tribute to Mohawk friendship is a line on the plaque reading "Sken non Enhasatonrishen" the Mohawk equivalent of reading "Rest in Peace".

Descendants and friends were generous in their contributions to the project, and from the proceeds, Sarah's name is perpetuated in the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, through an endowment fund of $1,000 presented at the Association's annual meeting in Ottawa in the spring of 1992.

Also in 1992 under the auspices of the Secretary of State for Canada, the Canadian Committee on Women's History acting for the Status of Women, produced for Women's History Month a large chart carrying the names of women famous in Canadian history. Sarah McGinness was among the earliest anglophone women listed.

Nor did the accolades cease in 1993: significant treatment was given to Sarah's exploits by one of her long-standing champions in While the Women Only Wept by Janice Potter McKinnon.

Fortunately the Dominion Association took steps earlier this year to officially recognize Sarah as a Loyalist in her own right: henceforth her descendants joining the association as regular members can name her as their ancestor. The first certificate so issued was presented to Donald Diminie, current president of the Bay of Quinte Branch. Mr. Diminie, along with the original "sponsors" would still welcome hearing from other descendants, both in Canada and elsewhere, especially from the younger generations.
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Author:Clow, Edgar
Publication:The Loyalist Gazette
Date:Sep 22, 1998
Words:964
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