Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Chloe Cooley, Adam William Vrooman, and My Family Tree

I've written a few times about my Van Every ancestors ties to slavery.
I am back again with their ties to another slave. A historical one, that many Canadian schoolchildren might have been able to tell me about ten years ago if they read my posts.

Who was Chloe Cooley?

Chloe Cooley was a young black woman held as a slave in Fort Erie and Queenston, Upper Canada in the late 1700s, as the area was being settled by Loyalists from the United States. Her owner forced her into a boat to sell her in 1793 across the Niagara River in the United States.

This incident was observed by several witnesses, who petitioned the Executive Council of Upper Canada. Although charges were dropped against Cooley's owner, the incident is believed to have led to passage of the Act Against Slavery, 1793, in Upper Canada. It prevented slaves from being imported into the province and provided for gradual abolition of slavery within a generation among those held there. 

Who was the Loyalist owner? Adam Vrooman. (Some sources give his name as William)

Source (Wikipedia entry)

About 1784 Adam Vrooman and my ancestor, McGregory Van Every likely shared a lot. 

Source: Niagara Historical Society Publication Number 27.

Geo Vanevery is almost certainly McGregory. No known son or close kin of McGregory was named George. McGregory is listed as one of the original 1782 settlers in the First Census of Niagara, 25th of August, 1782. 

In that census there was one male slave, belonging to Thomas McMicken. That slave had been incorrectly assigned to McGregory by some researchers, which I clarified in Following the Citations in 2012. Vrooman isn’t in the original census, so he arrived between 1782 and 1784. 

Why would Adam Vrooman and McGregory Vanevery share a lot?

Good question. I have a couple possible answers. 

1) They were cousins. Or at least the families were close.

Looking at my family tree, it suggested a Sara Meyndertse married a Jacob Vrooman in the early 1700s. There was no specific date, and no source. It's continually frustrating that I wasn't very good at citing sources in early research. 

Sara appears to be the great-granddaughter of Myndert Fredericksen. McGregory was the great-grandson of Myndert, so second cousins with Sara. His children would have been third cousins with any children of Sara and Jacob.

Wikitree says Adam’s parents were Jacob Vrooman and Rachel Van Woert. And that Jacob and Rachel were married in 1743. 

Wikitree has no definite spouse of Sara Meyndertse, but questions whether she married Jacob Vrooman. If you look at the entry, you will see I added her entry in 2011. Since then someone has questioned her spouse. Did I make a mistake? 

FamilySearch agrees with me, as does Ancestry, and they both cite New York Marriages, 1686-1980 for a 1742 marriage. So I have now added that as a source. 

So there is a possibility there was a brief marriage between Sara and Jacob Vrooman, and that Jacob's children, including Adam, were not actually DNA cousins with my ancestors, though the families may have remained close. There is also a possibility there were two Adam Vroomans, marrying separate women.

2) There are also suggestions that Abigail VanEvery, daughter of McGregory married either a Peter Vrooman or an Isaac Vrooman. There are also suggestions that this Vrooman spouse died in 1782 in New York. I am not certain what Abigail and a possible child did at that time, but joining her father in Niagara is certainly a possibility. Possibly along with some Vrooman kin. 

Back to the events of 1793. 

There was growing sentiment in Canada to free slaves, and owners were deciding to sell before being forced to free. Vrooman arranged a sale across the Niagara River in New York. Cooley fought back. 

Vrooman beat Cooley, tied her up and forced her into a small boat, aided by two other men. (Wikipedia entry above)
Who were the two other men? 

Adam’s brother, Isaac, and one of the sons of McGregory Van Every. (Canadian Encyclopedia)

[Another Isaac]

Which son of McGregory? Every source I can find refers to the third individual in the same format. I suspect there is no document that specifically identifies him

Records suggest, when Adam arrived in Niagara, he had another slave named Tom. Even if Adam was the owner, if the lot was a partnership with my ancestor, and they had familial ties, my ancestor likely directly benefitted, and likely approved. McGregory died in 1786, but at least one of his sons was close enough with Adam Vrooman ten years later to provide his assistance in what Canadians call the Chloe Cooley Incident. 

Chloe Cooley received a postage stamp earlier this year. 

Note: There are no known images of Cooley, so all images are artistic renderings.

Other resources: