Grand River Branch

United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada





Selected Reprints from the

Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches


"Billy Bishop's Loyalist Roots"

Helene Weaver, February 1993, Vol.5 No.1, Pages 10-12





 " For most of us, life is not punctuated by a moment or two of crowded glory.  In the usual scheme of things, life holds to a rather predictable course moving, at best, from small victory to small victory.  But for Billy Bishop, the crowded hours of glory came early. "

From Great Canadians: Billy Bishop, Flying Ace

Heritage Canada, October, 1980


  At the end of World War I, William Avery "Biliy" Bishop, still only 24 years of age, held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Flying Corps.  He had been awarded the Victoria Cross, D.S.O, and Bar, Military Cross, Distinguished

 William Avery "Billy" Bishop, V.C., U.E. : 1894 - 1956


21 Squadron


William Avery "Billy" Bishop, V.C., U.E.

1894 - 1956

 Flying Cross, the Legion of Honour and the French Croix de Guerre.  He was the youngest flyer to receive these honours and the only man on whom King George V pinned three medals at the same time.  He later received the Order of the Bath.

  In World War II, he served as director of recruiting for the RCAF, attaining the rank of Air Marshall.  He died of natural causes in Florida in 1956 and his ashes are buried in Owen Sound, Ontario where his childhood home is preserved as a shrine.

 Nothing in Billy Bishop's early years suggest that his name would become a household word.  He was far from being the model child or a conscientious student, but something drove him... an insatiable desire for adventure or a dogged determination to win against all odds.


  Billy Bishop, born February 8, 1894, had at least three loyalist ancestors: James Kilbourn, Caleb Seaman and David McCready.  His paternal grandmother was Sarah Kilbourn whose mother was Eliza Ann Seaman.  Her mother was Margaret McCready.


  Sarah Sophia Kilbourn married Eleazer Wilson Bishop.  Sarah's portrait hangs in the Billy Bishop Museum in the Victorian red brick house on Third Avenue West in Owen Sound.  She was the daughter of Hiram Kilbourn, Jr., son of Hiram Kilbourn who married Sarah (Sally) Billings.  They are both buried at Brockville.  Hiram Sr.'s father was James Kilbourn, a loyalist born at Litchfield, Connecticut in 1750.  When he joined the loyal forces, he moved his family to Castleton, Vermont and in 1798, they emigrated to Leeds County, Upper Canada.


  The Kilbourns came from Cambridge, England.  Thomas Kilbourn sailed from London on the ship Increase on April 15, 1635 and settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut.  He died four years later.  There followed three generations who lived in Connecticut before the American Revolution.


  Captain John Seaman came to America with the Winthrop expedition in 1630.  While at New Haven, Connecticut, he was involved in the Pequot Indian War (hence the title "Captain").  In 1647, he received title to land at Hempstead, Long Island where he had sixteen children by two wives.  Eliza Ann Seaman was a granddaughter of Caleb Seaman II, a loyalist.


  The Seamans were a divided family -- some joined the rebel cause, but Caleb's branch was loyal.  When Caleb went off to join the New York Volunteers, he was watched by his rebel cousins and arrested and held at Fishkill, New York.  According to muster rolls, he was a prisoner for seven years.  However, we know that he had a daughter born in 1779 and a son Nehemiah (Eliza Ann's father), born 1780 at Amenia, New York.  Obviously, Caleb either escaped, was exchanged or released on a bond of non-participation.  Continuing harassment forced Caleb Seaman and his family to flee to Canada in 1789 (see: Escape: Adventures of a Loyalist Family, by Mary Beacock Fryer, Dundurn Press, 1976).


 Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

  Caleb was a blacksmith who set up shop in the village of Lyn, near present-day Brockville.  As a United Empire Loyalist, Caleb petitioned for land at the Lunenburg Land Board and a certificate was granted on July 6, 1790 for 200 acres near the village of Rockport.  The signing officer was Justice Sherwood.  In 1798, Seaman was told to provide more proof of eligibility by a certain date and when he failed to comply, he was expunged from the loyalist list although still in possession of his 200 acres.  There is no indication that he served in an organized military unit, but there is evidence that he joined a party of loyalists under the leadership of John W. Meyers in 1777.  They were engaged in acts of resistance against the revolutionaries near Amenia and Schenectady (see: Caleb Seaman: A Loyalist, by Mary Beacock Fryer, Ginn & Co., 1970, p.6).


  Caleb's son Nehemiah, married Margaret McCready (see Loyalist Families of the Grand River Branch U.E.L., pp. 372-8).  Their daughter, Eliza Ann Seaman, who married Hiram Kilbourn, was Billy Bishop's great grandmother.  The Kilbourns came to Owen Sound from Smith Falls, Ontario in 1845 and established a tannery.  Sarah Sophia was five years old.  She was educated at a private school and enrolled at Chalmers Presbyterian Sunday School in Owen Sound.  While still a teenager, she married one of her father's employees, a son of Avery Bishop and Elizabeth Helmke.  The Bishops were part of the Berczy settlers who came to Genesee County, New York State before moving north in 1894 to Markham and then Owen Sound.  The Bishops came from Germany in 1792.


  The Kilbourn-Bishop connection ploughed a wide furrow across the history and development of Owen Sound and Canada.  They were involved in numerous large projects including the construction of the first elevators at Owen Sound, etc.  There are few descendants of the Kilbourn-Bishop family still resident in Owen Sound, but the city remembers Billy with affection and pride.


  Eliza Ann Seaman was a sister of David Seaman, great great grandfather of Frank Weaver U.E., member of Grand River Branch.


The author wishes to thank Fred W. McKay (nephew of Billy Bishop), R.C. Bishop, Thunder Bay and Mary Beacock Fryer as well as the Long Island Historical Society for help in gathering this material.  The History of the Billings Family by Bessie Billings was also helpful.

The author, Helene Weaver, is a member of Grand River Branch UELAC who is connected by marriage to a descendant of the Bishop family.



The Loyalist Ancestry of William Avery "Billy" Bishop

Caleb Seaman

1740 - 1820

m. Martha Jackson



David McCready

1752 - 1819

m. Katharine Donnan

1741 - 1829


James Kilbourn

1750 - 1820

m. Sarah Crompton

Nehemiah Seaman

1780 - 1830

m. Margaret McCready ______

1793 - 1853




Hiram Kilbourn

1784 (1786?) - 1847

m. Sally Billings

1791 - 1834


Eliza Ann Seaman

1822 - 1893

m. Hiram Kilbourne ________

1816 - 1858




Sarah Sophia Seaman

1839 - 1903

m. Eleazer W. Bishop

1833 - 1914



William Avery Bishop

1858 - 1922

m. Margaret Louise Greene

1858 - 1936



William Avery (Billy) Bishop V.C.

1894 - 1956

m. Margaret Eaton Burden

d. 1979