The Almas Family
The earliest Almas family member that I have discovered thus far was Christian Almas (also known as Christopher or spelled Cristeon - Almas, Almost, Allmos, Allmus, Almos or Almis). He was born in 1752 in (some say: Stuttgart and others - Strasbourg --- perhaps on a farm between both?). He was a Brunswick (Braunschweig) soldier, conscripted (pressed-ganged) into service, who fought with Von Riedesel's Regiment, under Johnny Burgoyne.
The Dukedom of Brunswick was tied to the British Crown by blood, so it was natural that when help was needed to combat the Americans in their Revolution, German princes would promise troops to George III of England.
There is a story that Christian, out in the barn one night with a sick cow, was taken (along with whatever else the press-ganging soldiers wanted), in January of 1776. They arrived at the docks on February 15th, but did not sail until the 22nd of that month. The Brunswick Troops numbered 5,723 men.
Christian served in the German troops with the British until the time of his capture, after the Battle of Saratoga. The petition of Chistian Almas (May 6, 1796) states that he was a soldier in the German troops and served under General Burgoyne. He was captured at Saratoga, was in a prison camp at Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 7 November, 1777 to 9 November 1778, when the prisoners were marched under guard to Charlottesville, Virginia (a march of 678 miles).
(Most of the Brunswick units, with the exception of 667 men who had been left behind with Governor-General Carleton, and the men from the Prince Frederick Regiment who had been left to garrison Fort Ticonderoga after its recapture by Burgoyne's army, were captured by the Americans at Saratoga, in 1777.)
The prisoners passed through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Somewhere during this march, Christian Almas deserted. (The Brunswick prisoners coming from the Boston camp marched on December 4th, 1778, to Sussex, New Jersey. From there they moved to Fussell (?) near Newton, 5th December. The 6th and 7th were days of rest but they marched on December 8th to Hackettstown, and on the 9th to Neulong (?). On the 10th they reached Pittsdown. Somewhere between Hackettstown and Pittstown, Christian escaped (according to the Regimental diary).
One story has it that Christian hid out - and worked for the rest of the War - on the farm of Jacob (or 'Henry') Backer (a German settler, with considerable land), whose daughter, Magdalena, he subsequently married. Magdalena Backer may have had Mary as her first name. (One story has it that her father was 'Henry' Backer and that she was a widow - her husband having been killed during the Revolution. That would mean that the older 'Almas' children may have really been the children of the first husband.) Christian Almas may have used the alias, Christian 'Backer', to escape capture and re-arrest, or other persecution.
There is also some connection between the Hendershott family, who lived in what is now the 'Long Valley' - 10 miles north of Oldwick.
Following the Revolutionary War, Christian Almas (Almis, Almost) was the eleventh petitioner on a petition of 1793 for land in Township #8 (Barton) made by James Wilson and Associates (altogether 22 names). " . . . having made settlements on which they live adjoining the west line of Township #8, near the (Governor's) road, lately laid out from the head of Lake Ontario to the River La Tranche (Thames), that they were encouraged by the Land Board and the Acting Surveyor to settle upon those lands four years ago before they were surveyed, which proves now to be reserved lands, your petitioners pray that the same may be confirmed to them." (They had squatted on their land in 1789.) Christian was the eleventh petitioner.
Province of Ontario - Grant to Christian Almis of the Township of Ancaster in the County of Lincoln in the District of Niagara, yeoman, of a tract of Land in the said Township of Ancaster in the County of Lincoln in the District of Niagara, containing 290 Acres being Lot number 42 in the 5th Concession and the South part of Lot number 43 in the 5th Concession of the said Township. Boundaries and Clergy Reservers as per Surveyor (?) Description and Specification annoexed. O.C. 12th July 1796.
old deed - Christian Almas land
Christian had arrived at Fort Niagara in 1787 with his wife, Magdalena Backer, and her four children, who had been treated very badly by the rebelling Americans. (He was married in New Jersey late in 1778 or early 1779. Magdalena was born in New Jersey.) After swimming a cow and all their belongs on a raft across the Niagara River, they crossed in what was to be Upper Canada. The four older children who came to Canada with Christian and Magdalena were: Anna Justina, Adam (through whom I descend), Henry and David.
Records in the Huntingdon County, New Jersey, Historical Society indicate that Henry, son of Christian Allmos and wife Magdalena Baker, was born June 29, 1784, baptized September 25, 1784, at the Zion Lutheran Church, New Germantown (now 'Oldwick'), Huntingdon County, New Jersey. They had at least 7 children.
Noting, above, the possible use of the Christian Backer alias - other records in the Huntingdon County Historical Society indicate that Christian paid taxes on land for a number of years: "1778 - Cristeon Backer, 1784, Tewskbury" (Township); "Allmus, Cristeon. Tewskbury, 1784"; "Cristofer Backer, 1786, Tewskbury: (Township), Huntingdon County; "Cristean Backer (?), 1785"; "Almose, Cristean. Tewksbury, 1785"; "Almos, Cristeon. Tewksbury, 1786."
In 1787, the Almas family squatted on Lot 19, 8th Concesssion of Barton Township (also claimed by William Mcleese, whose heirs later gave up their claim), and on 3 August, 1794, Christian received land grants for Lots 55 and 56 of the 3rd Concession, Ancaster Township. He lived here the rest of his life where, until just a few years ago on this original homestead property, a descendant - Charles Russell Almas still resided. The crown deed for this property was still in his hands. The land now includes a fairly new housing development, called 'Almas Acres.' The old brick house, built by Christian ca 1836 was demolished in 1986.
Christian Almas House, Ancaster Township, ON; built ca 1836
There is a marginal note on a Surveyors' Certificate at the Ontario Archives, Toronto: "A discharged German soldier from the Reidhazell's (Riedesel's) Regiment, brought with him a wife and three (there -sic, their?) children in the year 1787."
In a statement attached to his Petition with the Land Board at Nassau, it says: "This may certify that this (??) or Christian Almis hath this day sworn before me that he served as a Private soldier in Capt. Slagindogs (Schlagenteuffel's?) Company of the German Troops under General Burgoen (Burgoyne). Also Jacob Wilson who was a Sergt. in Col. Delanies (DeLancey's?) Corps. I am he. I am the said Alms (sic) in the army in (Sotdoers?) living. Given under my hand this 19th of October, 1796."
old Christian Almas deed to land
The Simcoe Papers state: "Petitions read on 12 July, 1796 - "#1 Christian Almis, late a soldier in the German Troops, stating that he came into this Province in 1787 with a wife and four children, and has received 160 Acres, praying for 400 in addition. Certificate to be produced and his discharge."
Another record indicates that Christian Almas, Nassau District, was granted by the Land Board at Newark some 300 acres ("having served in the last war"), and 200 acres for his family (August 30, 1794) In the Council Chamber, York, 23 May, 1798 - "Christian Almas, praying for the residue of his military lands, ordered 100 acres to complete the Petitioner's military lands, ordered 100 acres to complete, if not granted before."
Christian was one of the original 15 share-holders of the Union Mill Co. (The Wilson Mill) and operated it as early as 1806, but did not buy the mill until 4 May, 1809, from Jean Baptiste Rosseau. During the Ancaster 'Bloody Assizes' of 1814, the Union Mill was used as a jail for the traitors that were to be tried. One of the traitors, Abraham Markle, head of the Union Mill Co., was tried in absentia (he had escaped to the US), and his properties were confiscated, incuding his 1/15th share in the mill. The mill changed hands in 1816.
The first Union School - S.S. #3, located in Barton, but serving Ancaster, Barton and Glanford Townships, was built in 1810, on a lot granted by Christian Almas.
Almas Homestead - ca 1987 (3rd Concesssion, Ancaster)
Christian worked with surveying parties, 1787 - 1791, with Augustus Jones as leader.
Christian spoke German all his life (according to an interview I had with Russell Almas). He was struck blind, suddenly one Sunday morning while on his way to church. Christian died at his residence in Ancaster Township on the 30th of November, 1843. He and Magdalena, his wife, were buried in Barton Union Cemetery (St. Peter's), on Mohawk Road, West. The gravestones decayed and disappeared in the 1920's.
Christian Almas (1751 - 1843) ~ Magdalena Backer
Adam Bowman Almas (1780 - 1871) ~ Elizabeth Kitson
Adam Bowman Almas Jr. (1816 - 1880) ~ Mary Unknown
David Almas (1840 - 1867) ~ Jane Newman
Newman James Almas (abt 1866 - 1867) ~ Mary Jane Lambshead
Ernest Hayes Almas (1900 - 1939) ~ Ellen May King
Mary Lillian Almas ~ Arthur Freeman Barber
Laurence James Barber ~ Jane Arlene Barber
Andrew Alexander Barber ~ Dana Louise Ainsworth
I am grateful for some of the above information, in addition to my own notes and research, found by Johannes Helmut Merz and published in 'The Hessians of Upper Canada' (Copywrite 1997, 703-350 Concession Street, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, L9A 1B6 - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org); published by German Canadian Historical Book Publishing, 703-350 Concession Street, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, L9A 1B6, ISBN 0-96975445-2-8. Russell Almas kindly showed me through the old Christian Almas residence, shortly before it was demolished (Almas Acres residential area is now on the site). He gave me permission to photograph the old deeds and the painting.