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VAN BUSKIRK, JACOB, merchant, office holder, jp, judge, militia officer, and politician; b. 1760 in Bergen County, N.J., son of Dr Abraham Van Buskirk and Sophia Van Dam; m. 22 Feb. 1790 Sarah Breen in Shelburne, N.S., and they had one son and two daughters; d. 27 Nov. 1834 in Yarmouth, N.S.

Jacob Van Buskirk followed his father’s example of loyalism during the American Revolutionary War, and in 1777 he was commissioned lieutenant in the 4th battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers. On 27 November of the same year he and three fellow officers were captured by the rebels in a raid on Staten Island, N.Y., and charged with high treason. General George Washington considered that this proceeding “may prove a dangerous expedient . . . [for] by the same rule that we try them, may not the Enemy try any natural born subject of Great Britain, taken in Arms in our Service.” The trial never occurred. After his release Van Buskirk rejoined his regiment, and on 24 Feb. 1780 he was commissioned captain in the 4th battalion, transferring to the 3rd battalion on 13 May. On 8 Sept. 1781 he was wounded at the battle of Eutaw Springs while serving in the Provincial Light Infantry.

When the New Jersey Volunteers were disbanded in the fall of 1783 at Parrtown (Saint John, N.B.), Van Buskirk went to the Shelburne region, where his father and other family members also settled. He received half pay and was granted 200 acres on the west side of Shelburne Harbour at Gunning Cove, and an additional 300 acres at Tusket River in what is now Yarmouth County. He first lived on his property at Gunning Cove, where he cleared land for a farm he called Parr’s Grove, but about the time of his marriage he went to Shelburne to live and in 1792 was established as a merchant there. As a resident of Shelburne he was appointed a grand juror of the Court of Quarter Sessions in 1791 and 1793, and in 1800 he served as one of the fire wardens for the town. In June 1802 he was appointed by Lieutenant Governor Sir John Wentworth* a justice of the peace, and eight years later he was commissioned a justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, a position he held until his death. On the departure of the customs officer from Shelburne in 1816, Van Buskirk became deputy collector, and was later collector of the provincial duties of impost and excise for the district of Shelburne.

During these years Van Buskirk was commissioned major of the volunteer company of the Shelburne County Militia Regiment (1794), and in 1808 he was lieutenant-colonel commandant of the 22nd (Shelburne) Battalion of Militia. On the decease of James Cox, member for Shelburne County in the House of Assembly, in 1805, Van Buskirk was returned in a by-election, and also the next year in the general election. He served in the assembly until 1818. In that year he and the other owners of the privateer Nelson were arrested by the deputy marshal of the Vice-Admiralty Court for “contumacy and contempt” in having ignored a ruling to pay to the registry of the High Court of Appeals the proceeds from the sale of a prize vessel. Following the procedure of the House of Commons, a committee of the assembly requested Lieutenant Governor Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay*] to obtain from the Court of Chancery a writ in favour of the release of Van Buskirk “by virtue of his privilege” as an assemblyman.

Following his release, Van Buskirk continued to serve on the Court of Common Pleas and as collector of impost and excise until, after his wife’s death in 1832, he moved to Yarmouth to live with his son-in-law, John Bingay, who had succeeded him in the assembly. There he died on 27 Nov. 1834. He left an estate in Shelburne valued at £292 which he willed to Bingay and to his grandchildren, Thomas, Jacob, and Mary Bingay. The sturdy house that was Jacob Van Buskirk’s home for many years still stands and is marked as one of Shelburne’s historic houses.

Marion Robertson

PAC, RG 16, A2, 547, pt.2, 27 June 1816 (mfm. at Dalhousie Univ. Arch., Halifax). PANS, MG 1, 953, doc.1085; MG 4, 140 (photocopy); 141, Christ Church (Shelburne, N.S.), reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials (typescript); Places, Shelburne County, Court of General Sessions records, 8 July 1791, 14 Jan. 1793, 7 May 1800, 9 July 1802 (mfm.); RG 1, 171: 132; 444, no.57; RG 46, 3, no.471. Private arch., Marion Robertson (Shelburne), Kurney papers, bond binding G. H. Deinstadt and James Bower to Van Buskirk, 9 May 1829; Van Buskirk, appointment of Jacob Weiser as captain, 22nd Battalion, Shelburne Militia, 6 July 1808 (transcripts). Shelburne County Registry of Deeds (Shelburne), Deeds, 2: f.517 (mfm. at PANS). Yarmouth County Court of Probate (Yarmouth, N.S.), Wills, 2: 128 (mfm. at PANS). N.S., House of Assembly, Journal and proc., 12, 26 Feb. 1818. George Washington, The writings of George Washington, from the original sources, 1745–1799, ed. J. C. Fitzpatrick (39v., Washington, 1931–44), 10: 149. Yarmouth Herald and Western Advertiser, 28 Nov. 1834. Directory of N.S. MLAs. E. A. Jones, The loyalists of New Jersey: their memorials, petitions, claims, etc., from English records (Newark, N.J., 1927; repr. Boston, 1972), 226. Loyalists in N.S. (Gilroy), 103. R. M. Keesey, “Loyalty and reprisal: the loyalists of Bergen County, New Jersey, and their estates” (phd thesis, Columbia Univ., New York, 1957), 122, 166–67. Robin May and G. A. Embleton, The British army in North America, 1775–1783 (Reading, Eng., 1974), 23. Murdoch, Hist. of N.S., 3: 245, 254. Marion Robertson, King’s bounty: a history of early Shelburne, Nova Scotia . . . (Halifax, 1983), 115, 145.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Marion Robertson, “VAN BUSKIRK, JACOB,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 1, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/van_buskirk_jacob_6E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/van_buskirk_jacob_6E.html
Author of Article: Marion Robertson
Title of Article: VAN BUSKIRK, JACOB
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1987
Year of revision: 1987
Access Date: September 1, 2014