We recently had the opportunity to develop a customized GPS Heritage Quest for Linda Schurman and her family from Chicago, Illinois. Linda is a descendent of the United Empire Loyalist William Schurman who brought a group of Loyalists to the Bedeque area in the late 1700’s. William had 11 sons and daughters and Linda is descended from his son Isaac. While she knew a fair amount of her genealogy, she had never been to Prince Edward Island nore met any of her Island relatives (worldwide there are over 15,000 descendents of William.)
When Linda decided to come to the Island to connect with her roots, she contacted Experience PEI regarding our GPS Adventure Quests asking whether any of them included any Loyalist history. While we do have one route that includes a stop at the Loyalist monument in Bedeque we suggested developing a customized Schurman Heritage Quest that focused specifically on her family history. She love loved the idea and asked us to go ahead.
So we set about researching the William Schurman family history which turned out to be quite easy since a two volume set had been published in the 1970’s that traced most of the more than 15 thousand descendants of William and his 11 children. Linda Schurman is descended from William’s son Isaac so it was his line we were most interested in seeing if we could find locations…houses, graveyards, etc related to him.
The first thing we went looking for was the site of William Schurman’s original log cabin. According to the Descendants book it was located on the Dunk River in Bedeque. With a little digging we learned it was on the farm now owned by Sydney Green so I went to visit Sydney who took me down as close as he could to where he said the log cabin had been located. I had to struggle through waist high weeds growing between a canola field and the trees lining the bank of the river. It was a very hot July day and I was wearing shorts….not a good decision because I got my legs all scratched and bloody from the rose briars. Of course the blood just sent the mosquitoes into a feeding frenzy. I got the where Sydney said the log cabin had been located….There’s nothing there now although Sydney said at one time when he was clearing land he found some old charred timbers which he figured belonged to the cabin after it burned down. (The picture on the right is a drawing of the house William built after the fire destroyed the cabin. It was built about a kilometre up river. It’s also gone now)
It was obvious I was not going to be able to bring Linda and her family back to the log cabin site this way. Then I came up with what I thought was a great idea. What if we came in by water….just the way William would have. I called my neighbour, Brian Lewis who is an oyster fisher and asked him if he would take me up the Dunk to see if we could get to the site of the log cabin. I had the GPS coordinates so we would just use them to lead us to the location.
When Brian and I went to scout out the location to make sure we could find it, we discovered a little channel just wide enough for our dory to go through that led in from the river right to where the log cabin had been built. Brian figured it was probably a lot wider 200 years ago which is likely why William built the cabin there…he could get his boat right up to the site. We both kind of got goosebumps thinking we were actually following a route used more than two centuries ago.
When we took Linda and her family in the channel, they were clearly excited to be so close to where their ancestor had once lived…where he started his live on Prince Edward Island as a United Empire Loyalist. The fact there was no longer any signs they had been there….except perhaps the remnants of the apple orchard they probably planted didn’t seem to make a difference. Their imaginations filled in the blanks.
The next stop was the location of William’s second house….just a ways up the river….only a grove of trees marks where the house once stood. Then we returned them to their car so they could resume their Quest for Schurman heritage. I had found the house Linda’s great, great, great, great grandfather Isaac Schurman had built further up the Dunk River. It is still lived in and retains some of the original character of the early 1800’s.
We were unable to find where Isaac or his wife Jane (Lefurgey) were buried. None of the provincial cemetery records contain any listings of their grave sites. However William and his second wife Elizabeth are buried in the North Bedeque cemetary. The photo at the top of this post shows Linda next to William’s gravestone. And the graphic on the right, shows the epitaph etched on William’s grave marker. Even though Elizabeth died in 1843, there was no gravestone marking her burial plot (next to William’s) until 2010 when a number of Schurman descendents decided it was time she was recognized and erected one.
From here Linda and her family followed the GPS route over to what today is called Marchbank’s Pond. This was the site of William’s saw milll where he cut all the lumber for his shipbuilding company as well as for most of the houses built in the community. Over the years, the mill became known as Clark’s Mill and then finally Marchbank’s Mill. It produced lumber well into the mid-1900’s. Today the mill is long gone but the dam that was built to hold back the water is still there as is the mill race.
We arranged for them to have lunch at the Lefurgey Cultural Centre in Summerside where Marlene Campbell and her staff prepared a wonderful meal of seafood chowder and homemade biscuits….and treated them to stories of the Lefurgey family. (Isaac Schurman’s second wife Jane was a Lefurgey and it was her uncle John who was the famous shipbuilder John Lefurgey)
Then after lunch they made their own ice cream….the old fashioned way.
Following lunch we had arranged for them to go next door to the MacNaught Heritage Centre to spend some time with archivist Fred Horne who showed them a number of documents pertaining to the Schurman family.
The highlight of the visit was the opportunity to see and hold a unique cane owned by their great, great, great, great uncle Peter. Normally it is kept in a locked display case but Fred allowed them to take it out and actually hold it and the old tintype photo showing Peter with his cane.
It was quite a treat.
The final stop on their Schurman GPS Adventure Quest was a family gathering put together for them by Layton and Marsha Schurman. Several members of the family were there to meet Linda and her family including David Schurman (who is also a descendent of Isaac.) He brought an old lustreware plate that had been owned by Jane Lefurgey Schurman and passed down through the generations to David. The Island Schurman’s did a great job of assembling several tables full of artefacts for Linda to see.