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Casper Springsteen

Casper Springsteen, a Butler’s Ranger from 1778 to 1783, was a native of Albany, New York with an ancestry there going back to 1652 in Flatbush (Brooklyn, NY). This family, originally from Groningen, Holland, had a naming convention for their sons that has to be unique or very close to it. Do the names Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar mean anything to our readers? With very few exceptions for generations, both in Holland and America, the Springsteen’s gave their sons the legendary names of the Three Wise Men! A reliable source confirms that rocker Bruce Springsteen (“the Boss”) is Casper’s direct descendant.

Although no one has elected to claim him until now Casper Springsteen is listed in our UELAC directory as “Springston, Gaspar”, OC 9 Feb, 1807. This unusual spelling is taken from the group of disbanded Butler’s Rangers who settled at Niagara, as reported by Lieutenant Colonel A.S. De Peyster in 1784, and printed in the 1891 Report on Canadian Archives.

In September of 1792 a petition to JG Simcoe signed by “sundry inhabitants settled on the land on the head of the Chippawa Creek and the 20 Mile Creek” asked that survey work be completed in order that proper claims to title could be laid for their already cleared properties.

Signatures included: Griffins, Lanes, Dochstaders, Blacks, Thomas Harris, Thomas North, John Wrong, Casper Springsteen, Robert Comfort, and Henry Johnson.

On 2 May 1798 Casper sent a note to the Surveyor General, “Sir, I understand my lots are vacant in the office. I hope your Honour will be so kind and enter my name down on Lot 9 & 10 south end in the 6th conc[ession, Gainsborough]. I have lived on these lots seven years and never took up another lot.” These were eventually granted to him.

Did the Dutch marry late? Not usually. One of the more interesting things about Casper Springsteen’s life was that a 49 year old bachelor would marry a 15 year old neighbour girl. Casper’s wife, Elizabeth, was the youngest child of Nancy Anne Johnson Comfort, who was first married when SHE was just 13. When John Comfort, UEL, Anne’s first husband, died in 1794 Elizabeth, at 15, was the only one still left at home on the Gainsborough farm. Anne, now past her childbearing years, soon after remarried a neighbour and widower 12 years her senior, Alan McDonell or McDaniel, as he was sometimes called. Elizabeth’s marriage, then, was probably a matter of expediency.

By all accounts, though, Casper and Elizabeth were happy, raising 10 children, all of them benefitting from Casper’s UEL status with land grants of their own. Perhaps Casper had been hurt by love in his earlier life back in Albany before the War. There is just the tiniest hint of a man used to disappointment in his 1807 petition for proper title to his farm on the 20 Mile Creek when (speaking about himself and the government’s ineptitude when it came to filing) he uses the words, “neither his petition nor any order in his favour can be found” followed a few lines later by “and that [your petitioner’s] name may be inserted on the Roll of UE Loyalists, which has been omitted thro’ negligence of your petitioner’s brother, Staats Springsteen.”

Happily, the situation was rectified.

Submitted by descendant Paul Bingle UE