Jane Demarest Full Biography
I was born in 1743 and christened Jannetje Zabriskie by my parents, Albert and Tjelltje Akkerman Zaborisky of Bergen County. On March 13, 1761 I married David G. Demarest at Schrallenberg, Bergen County. When the Revolution broke out David’s family provided soldiers to both sides in the conflict. At least thirty five men are known to have served, two dozen on the Patriot side and another eleven fighting for the Crown. David and I disagreed on which side to support in the conflict. I was a staunch Patriot and was horrified when David enlisted on November 23, 1776 in Captain William Van Allen’s Company of the 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, a Loyalist battalion. He was soon after taken prisoner on December 6, possibly during a raid with his unit on Tappan. Somehow he was able to get back home, but on May 16, 1779 he left home and re-joined his Loyalist battalion, part of a body of about 1,000 British troops that entered Bergen County and drove away the picket at New Bridge that day.
When David rejoined the Loyalists, I certainly did not follow him, but I still suffered the consequences for his actions. The State began the process to confiscate his estate, which unfortunately for me and my family, was in his name. In an effort to stave off confiscation, I quickly petitioned Governor Livingston and the legislature hoping to transfer the property title to our Patriot family members. I wrote that I had “incurred the reproaches and hatred” of my husband and many family members because of my “attachment to the interests of America” and my “zeal in instilling those principles” in my children. My eldest son, seventeen year old Guilliam, in spite of his father’s commands to the contrary, joined the Patriot Bergen County militia under the command of Colonel Theunis Dey, and served when called to defend the frontiers of the State.
I desperately continued trying to preserve our property that the State was confiscating even though my son was fighting for the Patriot cause. David left the New Jersey Volunteers by 1780 and became one of the initial members of Thomas Ward’s Loyal Refugee Volunteers, raised to supply the British army with firewood. Little did David know that this choice would bring him into direct conflict with our son. The Loyal Refugee Volunteers supplemented their wages by conducting raids into Bergen County, making off with cattle and other plunder. David was one of the 110 defenders of the Bull’s Ferry Blockhouse attacked by General Anthony Wayne’s troops that following July, and was still listed on their rolls in 1782, as David Demerea, a name also used by the family. His actions brought an indictment for high treason in Bergen County that was published in The New Jersey Gazette on November 22, 1780.
When the major fighting of the war moved south in 1781, the petit guerre taking place in Bergen County still directly impacted our lives on a daily basis. For David it meant cutting wood on Bergen Neck and raiding up into Bergen County. For Gilliam, it meant defending against Loyalist raids by forces that might include his father. The Royal Gazette, the New York Loyalist paper, on August 1, 1781 carried news that a party of Loyal Refugees who penetrated as far as the New Bridge, near Hackensack, captured three notorious rebels, drove off their stock, and returned without firing a shot. The three “notorious Rebels” were Gilliam, John and Philip Demarest, and they had been taken prisoner by David G. Demarest’s battalion. Two of the three captured Demarests, John and Philip, were imprisoned for less than six months before being paroled home and soon after exchanged. But my son Gilliam remained a captive in the notorious Sugar House prison in New York City. David took advantage of this and tried to convince him to join the Refugees. Gilliam, though, resisted his father’s repeated requests (more like demands) and remained committed to the Patriot cause. He survived the prison, was exchanged and went back into the Patriot military service. Soon after he was wounded in the hand during an engagement, again with his father’s Loyalist troops.
At the end of the war our family found itself irreconcilably torn apart. I never again returned to David and spent the rest of my life in the new United States, as did Gilliam. However, we lost the comfort of our three room stone home, confiscated by the State in retaliation for David’s Loyalist actions. And as for David? He left Bergen County for good in October 1782 and sailed with his corps to Nova Scotia, eventually settling in Upper Canada (modern Ontario) on free grants of land provided by the British. The American Revolution left our family either exiled or homeless, despite fighting for both the winners and losers.
Braisted, Todd. Bergen County Voices from the American Revolution: Soldiers and Residents in Their own Words. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2012.
Documents from the New Jersey State Archives
Petition of Jane Demarest to Governor William Livingston, Hackensack, 13 September 1779. Department of Defense, Military Records, Revolutionary War, Revolutionary Manuscripts Numbered, Document No. 10667.
Bounty Roll of men serving under Lt. Col. Peter R. Fell, Hackensack, 20 July 1779. Department of Defense, Military Records, Revolutionary War, Revolutionary Manuscripts Numbered, Document No. 3891.
National Archives and Records Administration, M-804, Pension and Bounty Land Application Files
W16952 – Guilliam Demerest
R2860 – John Demarest
S29114 – Philip Demarest
Document from the Library and Archives Canada
Muster Roll of Captain William Van Allen’s Company, 4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, Paulus Hook, 7 July 1779. RG 8, “C” Series, Volume 1858.
Document from The National Archives, Great Britain
Account of losses sustained by David Demare late of Bergen County, New Jersey, 15 April 1786. Audit Office, Class 13, Volume 81, folio 73
Documents from William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
Return of men serving at the blockhouse at Bull’s Ferry, enclosed with Abraham C. Cuyler to John André, 1 August 1780. Sir Henry Clinton Papers, Volume 114, item 21.
Subsistence Roll of the Refugees serving on Bergen Neck under Major Thomas Ward, 23 March 1780. Sir Henry Clinton Papers, Volume 167, item 34.
Thomas Ward to Oliver DeLancey, Jr., New York, 31 July 1781. Sir Henry Clinton Papers, Volume 190, item 37