Robert Flowers
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Robert Flowers Alice Pennington
© Copyright 2001 William J. Flowers. All rights reserved.
The fort at Isle aux Noix. Robert Flowers was stationed here at least twice during his time in the 29th Regiment of Foot. Enlarge

The origin of Robert Flowers has been the subject of some disagreement during the last thirty years. Some have said that he was born in North America, most likely in New Jersey. Others have maintained that he was born somewhere in the British Isles. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever found definitive evidence of his birthplace, or his parents, in North America or anywhere else. The evidence below, however, argues persuasively that Robert's origin was not in North America, but probably somewhere in the British Isles.

Robert Flowers, about sixty-eight years old, and his wife, Alice Pennington, about sixty-three, bone-weary from the struggles of their difficult lives, had a particularly challenging year in 1816. Throughout the summer of that year, Robert and Alice, along with the young grandchild that was under their care, had experienced severe and repeated frosts. The crop failures that followed for them and their neighbors, in the town of New Carlisle on the shores of the Bay of Chaleur in Quebec, were so severe that they, and many of their neighbors, were forced to petition the Crown for relief during the Christmas season of 1816.

Against the cumulative backdrop of unseasonably cold weather that had probably depressed crop production since 1812, the petitions of Robert Flowers and many others to the Crown for relief are all the more meaningful. On the day after Christmas, 1816, Robert Flowers petitioned the representative of the Crown and “pray[ed] a free and Bounteous Relief being unable to pay or make any Return.” In support of his petition, Robert testified that he “Had a Bad Crop of Potatoes from the Frosts, and no more Grain than will serve for seed next spring, and in all has but 8 or 10 Barrels of Potatoes on hand.”

Robert’s petition appears in the historically and genealogically significant journal of petitions from the citizens of New Carlisle and surrounding area and is known either as the “Famine Book” or the “1816 Untitled Relief Book.” In it are not only the compelling descriptions of the economic plight of the petitioners but, in many cases, biographical statements of the petitioner. It is in fact— along with the embarkation list of passengers on the ships that brought the original settlers of New Carlisle to the shores of the Bay of Chaleur in 1784—a great keystone document that links many current descendants of the original settlers with their New Carlisle ancestor’s pre-Bay of Chaleur past. Genealogical research is often dependent on at least some luck. Without the survival of these important documents, the past of many of its settlers would be largely inaccessible.

In Robert Flowers’ petition for relief, for example, he proudly reminds the representative of the Crown that he [Robert] “Served in the [British] 29 & 53 Regiments [of Foot] for 11.3/4years, and in several engagements during the American Rebellion — badly wounded in storming an American fort at Lake Champlain, and now lame in his limbs by Rhumatism.” Robert’s biographical statement becomes the key to the search for his origins.

Since Robert Flowers is listed on the 1784 embarkation list (Haldimand 1784) of the snow, Liberty--a voyage that took him and other prospective settlers from Quebec to the shores of the Bay of Chaleur--as having served with the 29th Regiment of Foot, it is safe to assume that his first service to His Royal Majesty, King George, came approximately 11 years and 9 months before Robert’s discharge after the end of the American Revolutionary War.

If we use Robert Flowers’ statement regarding the length of his service in the 53rd and 29th Regiments of Foot as 11 and 3/4 years, and we count back from the Fall of 1783, that would mean he would first appear in musters of the 53rd British Regiment of Foot beginning in early 1772. And, indeed, that is where he is first found.

In a copy of a muster roll of the 53rd of Foot given to me by researcher Bev Gilchrist, “Robt” Flowers first appears in Belfast, Ulster [Northern Ireland] in Captain John Wight’s company on a muster of the British 53rd Regiment of Foot in a muster “taken for Ninety one Days, from the first Jan. 1772 to Thirty first March following both Days Inclusive.” Robert Flowers is listed as “B” for British on this muster. Other soldiers on this same muster have an “I” for Irish. The information recorded on this muster was recorded on 12 April 1772. (WO 12/6316, Pt. 2) (Wight 1772) Based on Robert’s 1816 statement, he would probably be 24 or 25 years old at this time.

Robert’s remaining time in the British 53rd Regiment of Foot was compiled as follows by two of the researchers recording separate examinations of the musters:

• The Company moved to Limerick, Ireland and Robert transferred to Capt. Robert Wright’s Company in June of 1772. (WO 12/6316, Pt. 2) (Sylke 1999) On two dates during this period he is recorded as sick: first on 2 Aug 1772 and again on 13 Oct 1772. On 23 Jan 1773 he is recorded as on duty. (Marsden 2000)

• He moved to serve under Captain John Edward in Lisburn, Ireland from April of 1773.(WO 12/6316, Pt. 2) (Sylke 1999) He is also listed on musters in Lisburn on 15 April 1773, 12 Jul 1773, 10 Oct 1773, 13 Jan 1774, and on 24 Jan 1774. (Marsden 2000)

• Captain John Edward’s company was stationed in Dublin, Ireland from April 1774 until 1775. (Marsden 2000) Robert Flowers was discharged in Cork, Ireland on 24 Jun 1775. (WO 12/6316, Pt. 2) (Sylke 1999) (The muster that records then discharge is dated 1 July 1775 and lists Robert as discharged 24 Jun 1775 with the words “to complete” as a notation next to the discharge. (Marsden 2001) (The muster was written in Cork, but recorded the period of time—July 1774 to 5 July 1775—that the company was in Dublin. (Marsden 2001)) Robert Flowers would be 27 or 28 years old at this time.

What Robert does next is not documented. It is possible that he immediately joined the 29th Regiment of Foot at this point. (The 29th Regiment of Foot was located in Chatham, England from 1774-75. From June 1775 until June 1776 there are no musters for the 29th. (WO 12/4493 and WO 12/4494) (Sylke 1999) It is also conceivable that he was either on leave or, less likely, a civilian. Unfortunately, no musters of the 29th are available from the period of 25 June 1775 to 24 June 1776. By early May of 1776, the 29th was already in Quebec, having sailed from Portsmouth and Portland—both in England—in early March of that same year.

There are also no musters for the 29th from Dec 1776 until June 1777, but there are some remaining musters from the period June 1776 until Dec 1776. Unfortunately, Robert Flowers does not appear on any of these. It should be noted however, that the muster of the company of the 29th on which Robert first appears in 1777—that of Capt. David St. Clair—and in whose company Robert remains until mid-1783—is also missing from the musters still extant from the period covering June 1776 until June 1777. It is entirely possible, then, that Robert’s service is the 29th began when he left the 53rd in 1775 and was continuous from that point until mid-1783. (Musters of the company of Captain David St. Clair appear—with the above noted gaps—at least from 1774, while Robert was still in the 53rd, until mid-1783, when Robert Flowers last appears on a muster of the 29th.) (Flowers 2005)

Robert Flowers first appears on a muster with the 29th in Montreal in Capt. David St. Clair’s Company by the end of June of 1777, according to one researcher. (WO 12/4493 and WO 12/4494) (Sylke 1999) Another researcher doesn’t note Robert’s presence until 13 Jul 1778 when the 29th is in Montreal and he is noted as “on duty.” (Marsden 2000)

For the remainder of Robert’s time with the 29th Regiment of Foot, his activities are recorded as follows:

• Captain St. Clair’s Company, with Robert present on musters, moves to Isle aux Noix in 1778. (WO 12/4493 and WO 12/4494) (Sylke 1999)

• Musters for the 29th are again missing from the period 25 Dec 1778 to 24 Jun 1780. (Marsden 2000)

• Later Robert moves to St. Denis and is listed on duty on 24 Feb 1781 and 16 July 1781. (Marsden 2000) He is listed on duty at Mascouche on 4 April 1782. (Marsden 2000) The unit is back at Isle aux Noix on 6 Oct 1782 (Marsden 2000), and the last two entries show him at St. John on 7 April 1783 (Marsden 2000), and again on the last muster (previously described) on which he appears, dated 15 Oct 1783. (Hollier 1783) Musters are again absent from June 1783 to Dec 1783, but Robert shows up on no later musters (WO 12/4493 and WO 12/4494) (Sylke 1999) Robert would have been 35 or 36 years of age at his final discharge from the British Army.

An examination of the muster rolls of the British 29th Regiment of Foot at the Public Record Office (PRO) in Kew, London, England by four different researchers, working independently of each other, has revealed that Robert last appears in the 29th Regiment of Foot in a muster dated 15 Oct 1783 in St. John’s [Quebec]. This muster is “taken for 182 days Commencing the 25th Dec. 1782 and Ending the 24th June 1783 both days Inclusive.” (WO12/4493) (Hollier 1783)

The actual discharge date does not appear on later musters of the regiment. The muster roll for the 29th appears to be missing at the PRO covering the period of June 1783 to Dec. 1783, and Robert is also missing on existing musters of the 29th Regiment of Foot from Dec. 1783 and beyond. (Marsden 2000)

The formal declaration of cessation of hostilities, the Treaty of Paris, was signed on 3 Sep 1783. It is reasonable, then, to conclude that Robert was discharged sometime after that date, and before the end of the time period covering the missing muster, 24 Dec 1783, because he appears, as a former soldier in the 29th, on that above mentioned embarkation list entitled Return of Loyalists and Discharged Soldiers Embarking on Board the Province Vessels for Chaleur Bay, Quebec, 9th June, 1784. (Haldimand 1784)

On this list of disbanded British soldiers and Loyalists, many with families, Robert Flowers is counted in the company of a woman (presumably his wife, Alice Pennington) and three children on that hopeful voyage. (Haldimand 1784)

On 4 Aug 1784, Robert, and other disbanded British soldiers and Loyalists, drew for farm lots. Robert Flowers, again listed as a veteran of the 29th Regiment, acquired 300 acres— Lots 90, 153, and 270— in an area now known as New Carlisle, Bonaventure Co., Quebec, Canada. Listed with him are his wife, two sons, ages 4 and 2, and a daughter age 8. (Flowers 1973, p. 74)

In 1786 Robert Flowers is listed on a muster that certified that he had taken an oath of allegiance to the King as a requirement for Land Grant. On that muster, he lists his "profession" as "Button Maker." (National Archives of Canada, p. 9417)

It's probably a reasonable assumption that the occupations listed by the men on the muster are from their pre-Chaleur Bay past. In the case of Robert Flowers, button-making was probably his occupation before he joined the 53rd Regiment of Foot. This is also consistent with the disproportionate number of recruits in the British military from the depressed regions of the English textile industry during this period. (Frey, pp. 10-13)


(1816). Untitled Relief Book. New Carlisle, Quebec, Canada.

Flowers, A. D. (1973). The Loyalists of Bay Chaleur. Vancouver, Precise Instant Printing.

Flowers, William J. (2005) Personal examination of the muster rolls at the National Archives (formerly known as the PRO) in Kew, England of His Majesty's Twenty Ninth Regiment of Foot Commanded by Lieut General William Evelyn. Muster Rolls of the 29th Regiment of Foot. WO 12/4493; WO 12/4494

Frey, Sylvia (1981). The British Soldier in America. Austin. University of Texas Press

Haldimand, W. (1784). Return of Loyalists and Discharged Soldiers Embarked on Board the Province Vessels for Chaleur Bay. Haldimand Papers. Quebec.

Hollier, L. T. (1783). Muster Roll of His Majesty's Twenty Ninth Regiment of Foot Commanded by Lieut General William Evelyn. Muster Rolls of the 29th Regiment of Foot. London.

Marsden, B. (2000). PRO - Saturday 22 July 2000. W. Flowers.

Marsden, B. (2000). Re: Flowers. W. Flowers.

Marsden, B. (2001). Re: Robert's Discharge Date. W. Flowers.

National Archives of Canada, (1786) RG 4, A-1, Vol.29, pp. 9417

Sylke, S. (1999). Fwd: Report on Robert Flowers. W. Flowers.

Wight, C. J. (1772). Muster Roll of Capt. John Wight's Company. Muster Rolls of the 53rd Regiment of Foot. London.

All War Office (“WO”) references are to records held by the PRO in Kew, London, England. These records were referred to in email communication by the researchers, or their commissioned agents, who actually saw the records.

© Copyright 2003—2006 William J. Flowers. All rights reserved.

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Parade uniform of the 53rd Regiment of Foot. From Cannon, Richard, "Historical Record of the 53rd Foot," W. Clowes & Sons:London.1847.
The movements of Robert Flowers in Ulster and Ireland with the 53rd of Foot. Enlarge
Moat at entrance of fort at Isle aux Noix.. Enlarge
Mont St. Hilaire near Fort Chambly on Richelieu river. Enlarge
Public square at St. Denis 18th century building in background. Enlarge
Cannon position overlooking Richelieu river at Fort St. John. Enlarge
Richelieu river from Fort St. John. Enlarge
Fort Chambly at rapids on Richelieu River. Enlarge
St. Lawrence river at Quebec City. Enlarge
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