By Keith Latta, Branch 13, KLATTA@SHAW.CA

I have have often been asked whether Branch 13 members are descendants of 'United Empire Loyalists.' John Latta(2) married Susannah Pitman - the Pitmans were UEL and Branch 13 members are designated as UEL through the Pitman connection. (UEL membership is like belonging to groups such as the Daughters Of The American Revolution - a quaint reminder of things long past.)

Russell Pitman, father of Susannah, served with the Loyalist Rangers regiment which mainly comprised recruits from New York and New Jersey. After the 'Troubles' ended, Russell and over 200 veterans of his battalion received land grants during the 1780's and stayed in Canada. Most settled in the area of the village later known as Latta's Mill, Ontario. (Many sons of the Rangers fought successfully in the Canadian militia during the War of 1812, aided and abetted by British army regulars and Indian warriors.)

William Latta(1) served with the Patriot army and his son, John, later settled in Ontario about 1798. (Thus, in the course of time, the son of a Patriot soldier married the daughter of a Loyalist soldier and, except for the brief championship rematch known as the War of 1812, we all lived happily ever after.)


I was recently clearing out a storage room and ran across some old family documents including what appears to be the draft of a movie script. It may have been written by my father as he wrote poetry many years ago. Or it may have been given to him. It is a movie script for an epic movie in the tradition of 'Gone With The Wind.'

Essentially, it is a great love story based on the lives of John Latta(2) and Susannah Pitman. It includes great battle scenes from the War of Independence and the War of 1812 - lots of violence, shooting, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, etc. - kids would love it. Apparently the original title was 'War And Peace' but this has been crossed-out and replaced by the words 'Down By The Old Mill Stream.'

The following are a few sample scenes:

Scene 3: William Latta(1) of Branch 13 has left the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland behind only to find after his arrival in America that there are "Big Troubles" - like a revolution. He reluctantly joins the Patriot army. This scene shows William trudging along with his battalion on a hot, dusty road in a funny hat. A rider on a horse gallops frantically past:

Rider: The British are coming, the British are coming!

William Latta: Yeah, whatever.

Scene 26: The revolutionary war has ended, and William Latta's teen-aged son, John, is informing his father that he is planning on settling in Canada and hopes to build a mill. William is distraught. This scene takes place in a public park where the two have gone with a friend named Ben who likes to fly kites in the park.

John: I've decided to leave America. I don't see anything but chaos in the future - the country will divide North and South, East and West - nothing can hold it together.

Ben: John, don't be foolish - we're going to build a great constitutional democracy here, a very powerful country, but kind and gentle. We'll be loved and admired by all the countries of the world and bring freedom and democracy to every corner of the globe. The British Empire tried and failed - why go with a loser?

John: I've made up my mind - I won't be talked out of it. (John walks slowly away with a heavy heart.)

William: (shouts, with tears in his eyes) I hope you realize all they have up there is Injuns and snow - take along some warm clothing!

The next scenes of the movie cover John's lonely months after settling on the Moira River north of Belleville, Ontario where he plans to build his beloved mill. He soon realizes that all of his neighbors served in the Loyal Rangers regiment and are United Empire Loyalists. At times they are nasty to him and some even call him "Rebel." John perseveres and, being a Latta, eventually charms them and wins their friendship.

This is where the great love story begins. John and Susannah Pitman, daughter of Russell Pitman a Loyalist war hero, meet for the first time at a local barn-raising. He is so impressed with her construction skills and work ethic - useful for building a mill - that it is love at first sight. There are many romantic scenes as their love for each other grows - John and Susannah together in secluded spots on the banks of the Moira. John spends all his time during these tender moments drawing crude plans for his mill, while Susannah enjoys bird-watching. Eventually, Russell Pitman overcomes his prejudice toward a member of a rebel family, and consents to his daughter's marriage to John.

But by 1812, dark clouds are gathering over the small Loyalist settlement on the Moira River - the threat of another war. Across the border, powerful forces have decided it is time to drive all remnants of the British Empire out of North America, with considerable encouragement from France, Britain's mortal enemy. The tranquil life along the Moira is shattered as the sons of the Loyal Rangers are called to arms in the Canadian Militia. The Militia supported by British army regulars and local Indian warriors prepares to take on the invaders from the south.

The next scenes will thrill movie goers - they are of unrelenting carnage. The close-up scenes of the Indian warriors ambushing the surprised invaders, who are massacred in the dense woods, are particularly exciting. Eventually, the invaders lose their enthusiasm for battle and withdraw. The young men from the Moira turn in their weapons and return to their farms and families. The Indian warriors return to their villages and resume their traditional fishing and hunting. The British regulars move on to fight other battles in far away lands. The border will never again be violated on either side.

Scene 67: Near the end of the War of 1812, there is one moving scene that could be considered almost anti-war. Militia soldiers and British army regulars are standing on the bank of the Ptomac River. It is late at night and they are watching the White House burn to the ground across the river after a raid on Washington. There are close-ups of their faces, lighted by the distant fire. The Militia soldiers look very young, only teen-agers. The Brits are hardened old professional soldiers with bad teeth. They stand there in silence until a Militia soldier finally cries out in anguish:

Militia soldier: Madness! It's all madness! [credit: Bridge on the River Kwai]

There appears to be something for everyone in this script - and what an emotional ending! Despite all the adversity, John has been able to realize his dream of building his mill and he and Susannah feel there is finally a chance for true happiness. In the final scene, John and Susannah are standing on a hill overlooking the Moira River valley, just above his new mill. John is holding his wife in his arms. The sun is setting behind them - it is a spectacular scene. The camera pans and zooms in on the front of the mill where there is a simple sign "Latta's Mill." The camera then pans to the couple on the hill for a final close-up:

John: I will always believe that we were destined to meet and fall in love in this northern wilderness. We have survived a terrible war and other adversity. I will always love you. But the only thing I fear is that our Branch 13 will never fully be accepted by the other branches south of the border as part of the great Latta family in North America - because I married a United Empire Loyalist.

Susannah: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn! [credit: Gone With The Wind]

(fade to credits)


Branch 13

Footnote: John Latta and Susannah Pitman were 18 and 17 years of age respectively when they married, and had 12 children.