Repose of the frontier settlements - Scout under Colonel Alexander Harper - Sent out to Harpersfield - Harper returns to Schoharie - His return to Harpersfield - Capture of the party by Brant - Recognition between Brant and Harper - Death of several of the party - Inscription on the Hendrys' tombstones in the Harpersfield burying ground - Young Lamb attempts to escape - Is overtaken and captured - Questions put by Brant to Harper - Harper's shrewd reply - Indian Council - Debate in regard to the fate of the prisoners - Party decamp for Niagara - Obtain provisions of a miller on the Delaware - Inhumanity of this man and his daughters to the prisoners - Incidents of the journey - Murder of Mr. Brown - Arrival of the party at Fort Niagara - Harper finds friends - Prisoners run the gauntlet - Expedient of Brant to alleviate their sufferings - Reception of the party at the Fort - Imprisonment in Canada - Return of the survivors of the party to Harpersfield. Punishment afterward inflicted on Beacraft, a tory - Bennett family - Early settlers - Capture of by a party of Indians - Incursion of the Indians into Colchester - Capture of Rose - Interesting incident - Correspondence in relation to the war - Indians capture Beach and family - Encounter a scout below Hobert - John Hagidore wounded - Company of troops pursue the Indians - Overtake and release the captives.
The expedition of Sullivan into the depths of the Indian territory the preceding year, and the desolation which had marked his course, had had the effect to lull the frontiers into a precarious repose. It was not deemed probable, or even possible, that the Indians could recover from the severe but just retribution that had been inflicted upon them, in order to prosecute an offensive part during the year 1780; but in what manner their hopes were to be realized will, in a measure, appear from the forthcoming chapter.
On the 2d day of April, 1780, a scout, under the command of Captain Alexander Harper, consisting, in all, of fourteen persons, was sent by Col. Peter Vrooman from Schoharie into Harpersfield for the purpose of making a quantity of maple sugar, and watching the movements of certain disaffected persons residing in that vicinity.
The names of the scout were Alexander Harper, captain, Freegift1 and Isaac Patchin, brothers, James Hendry, and his two sons, Thomas and John, William Lamb, and son, Ezra Thorp, lieutenant, Henry Thorp, Cornelius Teabout, James Stevens, and two others, whose names I have been unable to learn.
Shortly after the party had arrived at the place of rendezvous, a block-house2 near the present village of Harpersfield Centre, and distant from the Schoharie forts about thirty miles, where they deposited their provisions, a heavy snowstorm came on, during which the snow fell about three feet in addition to what was already on the ground.
After completing the "camp," as it was commonly termed, and seeing the men fairly engaged in the merry business of making sugar at the different bushes, five in number, Harper returned to Schoharie on some business, and did not come back to them till the 8th. Among the early settlers in Harpersville was one Samuel Cloughston, a tory, who resided on lot No. 13, now owned by James Smith, and situated on the road called Smith street. He had purchased the same of Col. John Harper, sometime in 1776, and had continued to harbor the Indians and tories ever since the commencement of hostilities in that quarter; indeed, so noted had this place become, in this respect, that it was universally known as the "tory house," which name it retained for many years after the cessation of the war, and even up to the time it was demolished. The residence of Cloughston lay directly on the road from the camp to Schoharie; and Harper, when he arrived near the house, and to the place where the ancient trail took a sort of circuit, and came back something like an ox-bow, in order to avoid observation, as well as to shorten the distance, determined to go straight across, and while in the act of stooping to adjust his snow-shoes, Brant, and two other Indians, came upon him unawares, and took him prisoner. Harper did not discover their approach until they were too near to allow even the slightest possible chance of escape by flight, and he consequently submitted peacefully. As Brant approached Harper, he swung his tomahawk, as if in the act of finishing his victim at a single blow, and when the instrument of death was suspended by his stalwart arm high in the air, Brant exclaimed, as he recognized in the person of his prisoner an old acquaintance: "Ah! Col. Harper, is it thee? I am sorry to find thee here!" "Why," said Harper, "are you sorry, Captain Brant?" "Because," he replied, "I must kill you, although we were schoolmates in youth." Harper replied, that "There was no use in killing those who submitted peacefully." He was accordingly bound, and taken to Cloughston's house, where he found the rest of Brant's forces, amounting in all to forty-three Indians, and seven tories. This was about 8 o'clock in the morning.
In order to make the surprise more complete, and to allow none an opportunity to escape, the enemy were distributed so as to fall upon all parties at once; and so well was the plan of attack concerted, and so silently did they approach, that not even a signal of alarm was given. A company approached the hut where Stevens was engaged, which was on land owned at present by A.B. Wilcox, Esq. Stevens had been up the greater part of the night boiling sap, but towards morning, his store becoming exhausted, he laid down in an empty storetrough and fell asleep; he was aroused by the voices of the approaching enemy, and was in the act of springing for his gun, which stood in one corner, when an Indian came to the entrance, and perceiving the movement, instantly hurled his tomahawk, which his intended victim dodged, and it struck in a log of the hut behind him. Stevens was an athletic man, and immediately grappled with the savage; the contest lasted but a moment; with almost herculean strength, in an instant he precipitated the Indian head-foremost beneath the boiler, upon the still unextinguished coals: but the fatal tragedy was not yet accomplished. The deed had scarcely been done, when a second tomahawk, hurled with unerring aim, sank deep into his brain; he reeled and fell dead, when the Indians finished the sad picture, by scalping the unfortunate man.
A second party proceeded to the clearing of Thomas Hendry, who, offering some resistance, he, together with his eldest son James, was immediately tomahawked and scalped, while the youngest son, John, who submitted peacefully, was taken prisoner. A small detachment were sent to capture William Lamb and his son, who were at work alone some half a mile distant; they surprised and captured the father, who was in the hut. The son, who had gone to gather some sap, was just returning with two pails - which he carried with the aid of a yoke, a contrivance much used in sugar-making in those early times - when he perceived the Indians, and was at the same moment observed by them: he dropped his pails, and ran down the hill, closely pursued; being lighter, however, the frozen surface of the snow sustained him, while his pursuers broke through. He was apparently gaining on them, when he commenced ascending the opposite hill, which happening to face the east, the snow had become too much softened to sustain him, he soon became exhausted, and was obliged to yield. 3
After some time spent in plundering the different encampments of all articles of value, including the maple-sugar, the different parties reassembled with their prisoners, when Brant approached Harper in a menacing attitude, and fixing his eagle eye upon him, demanded, "Are there any troops in the forts at Schoharie?" Harper perceived in a moment, that his reply would procure their instant death or save their lives; for, if he should say "No" which would have been the truth, the Indians would have instantly killed them all, and then proceeded to the settlements at old Schoharie and cut them all off, before assistance could be procured from any quarter; accordingly, he answered: "There are three hundred continental troops now at the forts, who arrived there about three days since." The whole of his statement was untrue, yet who will condemn the Captain, or say the circumstances did not justify him.
On hearing this, the countenance of Brant changed from the fierceness of his peculiar look to a milder expression; a council of war was immediately held, and the eleven surviving prisoners were securely pinioned and confined in a pig-pen until morning. A guard of tories was placed over them, among whom was one Beacraft, a blood-thirsty villain: a large fire was built, around which their captors assembled, and held a long and fierce consultation in the Indian dialect, involving the fate of their prisoners.
"While this question was pending," says Patchin in his narrative, "we could see every act through the chinks of the pen, and hear every word, though none of us understood their language but our captain, whose countenance, we could perceive by the light of the fire, from time to time change to the alternate expressions of hope and fear, while the perspiration stood in large drops upon his forehead, from the labor of his mind, although it was a cold night; and added to this, the bloody Beacraft would every now and then console us with the imprecation, 'You will all be in hell before morning.'"
In the morning the Colonel was again paraded before Brant and his associate chiefs, who informed him that they were suspicious he had lied to them the night before. The Colonel, with an expression indicating scorn, at having his word disbelieved by them, replied: "That what he had said to them was wholly true, and if they any longer disbelieved the statement, they should go there and see."
Not a muscle of the brave man's countenance moved with hesitation or apprehension, and his statements - fortunately for himself, his companions, and the inhabitants of the whole Schoharie Valley, where the savages had determined to act over again the sad tragedies which had engraven desolation in characters of blood upon the beautiful, but unprotected valleys of Wyoming and Cherry, a couple of years before - were believed.
The rest of the prisoners were now let out of the pen, when Brant addressed them in English, telling them that the destination of the expedition had been to lay waste Schoharie, and that his men were so highly irritated at its failure, that it had been with difficulty that he had saved them from being scalped: that if they would accompany him to Niagara, as prisoners of war, he would deliver them up to the English; but if any of them failed by the way they must not expect to live, as their scalps were as good to him as their bodies. 4 The line of march was now taken up. The prisoners were compelled to carry the plunder in packs, upon their backs. About ten or twelve miles from the settlement at Harpersfield, on the Delaware river, was a grist-mill, owned by one Calder, 5 at which place the Indians made a halt, to obtain some refreshments. They were received and kindly treated by this man; and while he loaded the unhappy prisoners with the most horrible oaths and imprecations, he observed to Capt. Brant, that "they might better have taken more scalps and fewer prisoners." The daughter openly urged Brant to kill and scalp his prisoners, stating as a reason that should they ever return, their own lives might be taken by the whigs, but that dead men told no tales. At this mill the Indians obtained about three bushels of corn, which was all the whole party had to subsist on, except what they might accidentally fall in with, during their whole journey to Niagara.
I make the following extract from Patchin's narrative: - "From this mill we travelled directly down the river; we had not, however, gone many miles, when we met a man who was a tory, well known to Brant, by name Samuel Clockstone, who seeing us, the prisoners, was surprised, as he knew us; when Brant related to him his adventure, and how he had been defeated by the account Capt. Harper had given of the troops lately arrived at Schoharie. `Troops!' said Clockstone: `there are no troops at that place; you may rely upon it, Capt. Brant; I have heard of none.' In a moment the snake eyes of Brant flashed murder, and running to Harper, he said in a voice of unrestrained fury, his hatchet vibrating about his head like the tongue of a viper: `How came you to lie so to me?' when Harper, turning round to the tory said: `You know, Mr. Clockstone, I have been there but four days since: you know, since our party was stationed at the head of the river, at the sap-bush, that I have been once to the forts alone, and there were troops, as I have stated; and if Capt. Brant disbelieves it, he does it at his peril.'
"That Harper had been there, as he stated, happened to be true, which the tory also happened to know; when he replied, `yes, I know it!" All the while, Brant had glared intensely on the countenance of Harper, if possible, to discover some misgiving there, but all was firm and fair; when he again believed him, and resumed his march.
"There was a very aged man, by the name of Brown, who had not gone off with the rest of the families who had fled the country. This miserable old man, with two grandsons, mere lads, were taken by Brant's party, and compelled to go prisoners with us. The day after our meeting with the party, as above noticed, this old man, who was entirely bald from age, became too weary to keep up with the rest, and requested that he might be permitted to return, and alleged as a reason that he was too old to take part in the war, and therefore could do the king's cause no harm.
"At this request, instead of answering him, a halt was made, and the pack was taken from him, when he spoke in a low voice to his grandsons, saying , "I shall see you no more, for they are going to kill me;' this he knew, being acquainted with the manners of the Indians. He was now taken in the rear of the party and left in the care of Indian, whose face was painted entirely black, as a token of his office, which was to kill and scalp any of the prisoners who might give out by the way. In a short time the Indian came on again, with the bald scalp of the old man dangling at the end of his gun, hitched in between the ramrod and muzzle. This he often flapped in the boys' faces, on the journey. The place at which this was done, was just on the point of a mountain, not far from where Judge Foot used to live, on the Delaware, below Delhi. There he was left, and doubtless devoured by wild animals; human bones were afterward found on that part of the mountain.
"We pursued our way down the Delaware, till we came to the Cook-House, suffering much night and day from the tightness of the cords with which our arms were bound. From this place we crossed through the wilderness, over hills and mountains, the most distant and dismal to be conceived of, till we came to a place called Oquago, on the Susquehanna river, which had been an Indian settlement before the war. Here they constructed several rafts out of logs, which they fastened together by withs and poles running crosswise, on which, after untying us, we were placed, themselves managing to steer. These soon floated us down as far as the mouth of Chemung river, where we disembarked and were again tied, taking up our line of march for the Genesee country.
"The Indians, we found, were more capable of sustaining fatigue than we were, and easily out-travelled us, which circumstance would have led to the loss of our lives, had not a singular Providence interfered to save us; this was the indisposition of Brant, who, every other day for a considerable time, fell sick, so that the party were compelled to wait for him: this gave us an opportunity to rest ourselves.
"Brant's sickness was an attack of fever and ague, which he checked by the use of a preparation from the rattlesnake. The rattlesnake he caught on the side of a hill facing the south, on which the sun had shone and melted away the snow from the mouth of their dens, when, it appears, one had crawled out, being invited by the warmth. The reader will also observe that now about a fortnight had elapsed since the time of our captivity, so that the season was farther advanced; and, added to this, the snow is sooner melted on the Chemung in Pennsylvania, being farther south by about three degrees, than the head of the Delaware; yet in places, even then, there was snow on the ground, and in the woods it was still deep. Of this snake he made a soup, which operated as a cure to the attack of the ague.
"The reader will remember the three bushels of corn given us at the mill; this they fairly and equally divided among us all, which amounted to two handsful a day; and that none should have more or less than another, while it lasted, the corns were counted as we received them; in this respect Brant was just and kind. This corn we were allowed to boil in their kettles when they had finished theirs: we generally contrived to pound it before we boiled it, as we had found a mortar at a deserted wigwam, left by the Indians the year before, who had been driven away by General Sullivan. While in the neighborhood of what is now called Tioga Point, we but narrowly escaped every man of us being butchered on the spot; a miracle, as it were, saved us. The cause was as follows: At this place, when Brant was on his way down the Chemung, on this same expedition, but a few days before, he had detailed eleven Indians from his company, to pass through the woods from Tioga Point to a place called Minisink. It was known to Brant, that at this place were a few families, where it was supposed several prisoners might be made, or scalps taken, which, at Niagara, would bring them eight dollars apiece. This was a great stimulus by which the Indians, in the Revolution, were incited by Butler, the British agent, to perpetrate so many horrid murders upon women, children, and helpless old age, in this region of the country.
"This party made good their way to the Minisink, when, lying concealed in the woods, they managed to get into their possession, one after another, five lusty men, and had brought them as far as to the east side of the Susquehanna, opposite Tioga Point. Here they encamped for the night, intending in the morning to construct a raft, in order to float themselves over the river, as they had done on their way toward the Minisink, a few days before, and so pursue their way up the Chemung, which course was the great thoroughfare of the Indians from the Susquehanna country to that of the Genesee.
"Here, while the eleven Indians lay fast asleep, being greatly fatigued and apprehending no danger, as the prisoners were securely bound, and also sleeping soundly, as the Indians supposed, before they laid themselves down; but as the soul of one man, the prisoners were ever watching some opportunity to escape.
"But this was not possible, even if they could have made their escape; unless they should first have effected the death of the whole party of Indians. This object, therefore, was their constant aim. In the night, by some means unknown, one of the prisoners got loose, doubtless either by gnawing off his cord, or by chafing it in two as he lay on it, or during the day had managed to hitch it as often as he could against the snags of the trees, till it had become fretted and weak in some place, so that at last he got it in two. When this was effected he silently cut the cords of his fellows, the Indians sleeping exceedingly sound; when each man took a hatchet, and in a moment nine of them received their blades to their handles, in their brains; but the sound of the blows, in cutting through the bone of their heads, awaked the other two, who sprung upon their feet as quick as thought, when one of them as they fled, received the blade of a hatchet between his shoulders, which, however, did not kill him, nor prevent his escape, yet he was terribly wounded. These men, who had so heroically made their escape, returned, as was supposed, to their homes, to relate to their families and posterity the perils of that awful night.
"After they had gone, the two Indians returned to the spot where lay their ruthless, but unfortunate companions, fast locked, not only in the sleep of night, but that of death, never more to torment the ear of civilized life with the death-yells of their sepulchral throats. They took the moccasins from the feet of their slaughtered friends, nine pair in number, and then constructed a float of logs on which they crossed the river, and had proceeded a little way up the Chemung, where they had built a hut, and the well Indian was endeavoring to cure his wounded companion.
"When the whooping of the party of Indians to whom we were prisoners struck his ear, he gave the death-yell, which rung on the dull air as the scream of a demon, reverberating in dull echoes up and down the stream; at which the whole body made a halt and stood in mute astonishment, not knowing what this could mean, when directly the two Indians made their appearance, exhibiting the nine pair of moccasins, and relating in the Indian tongue - which Harper understood - the death of their companions. In a moment, as if transformed to devils, they threw themselves into a great circle around us, exhibiting the most horrid gestures, gnashing their teeth like a gang of wolves ready to devour, brandishing their tomahawks over us, as so many arrows of death. But here, let it be spoken to the praise of a Devine Providence, at the moment when we had given ourselves up as lost, the very Indian, who was a chief, and had been the only one of the eleven who had escaped unhurt, threw himself into the midst of the ring, and with a shake of his hand gave the signal of silence, when he plead our cause, by simply saying, `These are not the men who killed our friends, and to take the life of the innocent, in cold blood, cannot be right.'
"As it happened, this Indian knew us all, for he had lived about Schoharie before the war, and was known as an inoffensive and kind-hearted native, but when the war came on, had seen fit to join the British Indians: his words had the desired effect, arrested the mind of Brant, and soothed to composure the terrific storm that a moment before had threatened to destroy us.
"Again we resumed our course, bearing the anguish of our sufferings with considerably more patience and fortitude than it is likely we should have done, had not our lives been preserved from a greater calamity, just described. We soon came to Newtown, where we were nearly at the point of starvation, Indians and all, as we had nothing to eat except a handful or two of corn a day; and what the end would have been is not hard to foresee, had not an amazing number of wolf-tracks remaining directed us to the carcass of a dead horse. The poor brute had been left to take care of itself the summer before, by Sullivan, in his march to the Indian country, being unfit for the service of a pack-horse. Here, on the commons of nature - which, during the summer and fall, it is likely, produced an abundance of pasturage, but when winter came on, and rendered it impossible for the poor worn-out animal to take care of itself - death came to its relief. That it had lived until winter had become severe, was evident, from its not being in the least degree putrescent, but was completely frozen, having been buried in the snow during the winter.
"The wolves had torn and gnawed the upper side quite away, but not being able to turn the carcass over, it was sound and entire on the under side. This we seized upon, rejoicing as at the finding of hidden treasures; it was instantly cut to pieces, bones, head and hoofs, and equally divided among the whole. Fires were built, at which we roasted and eat, without salt, each his own share, with the highest degree of satisfaction.
"Near this we found the famous Painted Post, which is now known over all the continent, to those conversant with the early history of our country; the origin of which was as follows: - `Whether it was in the Revolution, or in the Dunmore battles with the Indians, which commenced in Virginia, or in the French war, I do not know: an Indian chief on this spot had been victorious in battle, killing and taking prisoners to the number of about sixty. This event he celebrated, by causing a tree to be taken from the forest and hewed four-square, painted red, and the number he killed, which was twenty-eight, represented across the post in black paint, without any heads; but those he took prisoners, which was thirty, were represented in black paint, as the others, but with heads on. This post he erected, and thus handed down to posterity an account that here a battle was fought, but by whom, and who the sufferers were, is covered in darkness, except that it was between the whites and Indians.'
"This post will probably continue as long as the country shall remain inhabited, as the citizens heretofore have uniformly replaced it with a new one, exactly like the original, whenever it has become decayed.
"Nothing more of note happened to us till we came to the Genesee river, except a continued state of suffering. We passed along between the Chemung and the heads of the lakes Cayuga and Seneca, leaving the route of Sullivan, and went over the mountains farther north. These mountains, as they were very steep and high, being covered with brush, and our bodies weak and emaciated, were almost insurmountable; but at length we reached the top of the last and the highest, which overlooks immeasurable wilds, the ancient abode of men and nations unknown, whose history is written only in the dust.
"Here we halted to rest, when the tory Beacraft, took it into his head to boast of what he had done in the way of murder, since the war began. He said that he and others had killed some of the inhabitants of Schoharie, and that among them was the family of one Vrooman. These, he said, they soon dispatched, except a boy about fourteen years of age, who fled across the flat, towards the Schoharie river. `I took after the lad,' said the tory, `and although he ran like a spirit, I soon overtook him, and putting my hand under his chin, laid him back on my thigh, though he struggled hard, cut his throat, scalped him, and hung the body across the fence.' This made my blood run cold, vengeance boiled through every vein; but we dared not say a word to provoke our enemies, as it would be useless. This man, however, got his due, in a measure, after the war was over, as will be related at the end of this account.
"Another of them, by the name of Barney Cane, boasted that he had killed one Major Hopkins, on Dimon's Island, in lake George. A party of pleasure, as he stated, had gone to this island on a sailing excursion, and having spent more time than they were aware of before they were ready to return, concluded to encamp and remain all night, as it was impossible for them to return to the fort. `From the shore where we lay hid it was easy to watch their motions; and perceiving their defenceless situation, as soon as it was dark we set off for the island, where we found them asleep by their fire, and discharged our guns among them. Several of them were killed, among whom was one woman, who had a sucking child which was not hurt. This we put to the breast of its dead mother, and so we left it. But Major Hopkins was only wounded, his thigh bone being broken; he started from his sleep to a rising posture, when I struck him,' said Barney Cane, `with the butt of my gun, on the side of his head; he fell over, but caught on one hand; I then knocked him the other way, when he caught with the other hand; a third blow, and I had laid him dead. These were all scalped except the infant. In the morning a party from the fort went and brought away the dead, together with one they found alive, although he was scalped, and the babe, which was hanging and sobbing at the bosom of its lifeless mother.'
"Having rested ourselves, and our tantalizing companions having finished the stories of their infamy, we descended the mountains towards the Genesee, which we came in sight of the next day about two o'clock. Here we met a small company of natives, who had come to the flats of the Genesee for the purpose of corn-planting, as soon as the waters of the river should fall sufficiently to drain the ground of its water. These Indians had with them a very beautiful horse, which Brant directed to be cut in pieces in a moment, and divided equally, without dressing or any such fashionable delay, which was done; no part whatever of the animal being suffered to be lost. There fell to each man of the company a small piece, which we roasted, using the white ashes of our fires as salt, which gave it a delicious relish; this, Brant himself showed us how to do.
"On these flats were found infinite quantities of ground-nuts, a root in form and size about equal to a musket-ball, which, being roasted, became exceedingly mealy and sweet. These, together with our new acquisition of horse-flesh, formed a delicious repast.
"From this place Brant sent a runner to Niagara, a distance of about 80 miles, to inform the garrison of his approach, and of the number of prisoners he had, their name and quality. This was a most humane act of Brant, as by this means he effected the removal of all the Indian warriors in the two camps contiguous to the fort.
"Brant was in possession of a secret respecting Harper, which he had carefully concealed in his own breast during the whole journey, and probably, in the very first instance, when he discovered that Harper was his prisoner, operated, by influencing him, if possible, to save his life. This secret consisted in the knowledge that there was then in the fort a British officer, who had married a niece of Harper, Jane More, whose mother was the sister of Captain Harper. This girl, together with her mother and sister, had been captured at the massacre of Cherry Valley, and carried to Niagara. This information was conveyed, by means of the runner, to the husband of Jane More, Captain Powell, who, when the girl was first brought by Butler and his Indians a prisoner to the fort, loved, courted, and honorably married her.
"Now, if Powell wished to save the life of his wife's uncle, he had the opportunity by doing as Brant had suggested, - that was, to send the warriors of both camps down the lake to Nine Mile Landing, with the expectation of meeting Brant there, whose prisoners would be given into their hands, to be dealt with as the genius of their natures and customs might suggest. Accordingly, Powell told his wife that her uncle was among the prisoners of Brant, who had sent him word, and that the warriors must be sent away; to whom he gave a quantity of rum, as they thought, to aid in the celebration of their infernal pow-wows, at the Nine Mile Landing, having obtained the consent of his superior, Col. Butler, to do so.
"Brant had concealed, from both his Indians and tories, as well as from the prisoners, that Powell, at the fort, was Harper's relative, or that he had made the above arrangement. The reader may probably wish to know why the warriors in those two camps must be sent away, in order to save the lives of the prisoners. All persons acquainted with Indian customs in time of war, know very well that the unhappy wretch who falls into their hands, at such a time, is compelled to run what is called the gauntlet, between two rows of Indians, composed of warriors, old men, women and children, who, as the prisoner flies between, if possible to reach a certain point assigned, called a council-house or fort, receives, from every one who can reach him, a blow with the fist, club, hatchet, or knife, and even wadding fired into their bodies, so that they generally die with their wounds before they can reach the appointed place, though they struggle with all the violence of hope and despair.
"We had now, on the fourth day after the runner had been sent, arrived within about two miles of Niagara, when the tories began to tell us the danger we were soon to be exposed to, in passing those two Indian encampments, which, till then, we knew nothing of; this difficulty they were careful to describe in the most critical manner, so that every step, although so near our journey's end, when we hoped at last to have our hunger satisfied, was as the steps of the wretch condemned to die. But on coming to the first encampment, what was our surprise and joy at finding nothing there capable of injuring us but a few old women and children, who had, indeed, formed themselves as before described. However, one old squaw coming up in a very friendly manner, saluted me, by saying, 'poor shild! poor shild!' when she gave me a blow which, as I was tied, could not be parried, that nearly split my head in two.
"But now the desired fort, although it was to be our prison-house, was seen, through the opening woods. I had come to within about five rods of the gateway, still agonizing under the effect of the old squaw's blow, when a young savage, about twelve years old, came running, with a hatchet in his hand, directly up to me, and seizing hold of the petumb hi, or cord by which I was tied, twitched me around so that we faced each other, when he gave me a blow exactly between my eyes on the forehead, that nearly dropped me dead, as I was weak and faint. The blood spouted out at a dreadful rate, when a soldier snatched the little demon's hatchet, and flung it into the lake. Whether Brant was rewarded over and above the eight dollars (which was the stipulated price per head) for Harper, or not, I cannot tell; but, as was most natural to suppose, there was, on the part of himself and niece, great joy on so unexpectedly falling in with friends and relations in the midst of enemies; and on the part of Powell, respect and kindness was shown to Harper, on account of the lovely Jane, who had become a talisman of peace between them.
"We had scarcely arrived, when we were brought to the presence of a number of British officers of the crown, who blazed in all the glory of military habiliments; and among them, as a chief, was the bloated, insolent, unprincipled, cruel, infamous Butler, whose name will stink in the recollections of men to the latest page of American history; because it was him who directed, rewarded, and encouraged the operations of the Indians and tories all along from Canada to the State of Delaware. This man commenced to question us in a very abusive manner, respecting the state of American affairs, and, addressing me in particular, probably because nearer me than any of the rest, asked, whether I did not think that, by and by his Indians would compel a general surrender of the Yankees? I replied to him in as modest a manner as possible - not feeling in any mood of repartee, as the blood from the wound in my forehead still continued to trickle down my face, covering my vest and bosom with blood - that I did not wish to say any thing about it, nor give offence to any one. But he would not excuse me, still insisting that I should say whether I did not think so; to which I firmly replied - feeling what blood and spirit there were yet in me to rouse a little - that if I must answer him, it was to say NO; and that he might as well think to empty the lake of its waters at a bucketful at a time, as to conquer the Yankees in that way. At this he burst out in a violent manner, calling me a 'dam'd rebel!' for giving him such an insolent answer, and ordered me out of his sight; but here, when ready to sink to the floor, (not from any thing the huge bulk of flesh had said to me, but from hunger, weariness, and the loss of blood,) a noble-hearted officer interposed, saying to Butler: 'The lad is not to blame, as you have compelled him to answer your question, which, no doubt, he has done according to the best of his judgement. Here, poor fellow, take this glass of wine, and drink.' Thus the matter ended. [Here the old General wept at the recollection of so much kindness where he expected none.]
"We were now given over to the care of a woman, Nancy Bundy by name, who had been ordered to prepare us a soup made of proper materials, who was not slow to relieve our distress as far as she dare, as she was also a prisoner. But taking off the belt which I had worn around my body, as the manner of the Indians is, to keep the wind out of the stomach, it appeared that I was ready to disown my own body, had I not been convinced by my other senses that there was no mistake.
"I will just give the reader a short account of this woman, as I received it from herself. She stated, that herself, her husband and two children, were captured at the massacre of Wyoming, by Butler's Indians and tories, and brought to the Genesee country, then entirely inhabited by the natives. There she had been parted from her husband, the Indians carrying him she knew not whither, but to some other and distant tribe. She had not been long in the possession of the tribe with whom she had been left, after her husband was taken from her, when the Indian who had taken her prisoner addressed her, and was desirous of making her his wife; but she repulsed him, saying very imprudently, 'she had one husband, and it would be unlawful to have more than one.' This seemed to satisfy him, and she saw him no more for a long time; but after awhile he came again and renewed his suit, alleging that now there was no objection to her marrying him, as her husband was dead; 'for,' said the Indian, 'I found where he was, and have killed him.' 'I then told him that if he had killed my husband, he might kill me also, for I would not marry a murderer. When he saw I was resolute, he took and tied me, and brought me to this place and sold me for eight dollars. But where my husband is buried, or whether he is buried at all, or where my children are, I cannot tell;' but whether she even returned to the States again, is beyond my knowledge.
"From this place, after being sold to the British garrison for eight dollars a head, we were sent across the lake to Carlton Island; from this place down to the Cedars: from the Cedars we were transported from place to place, till at length we were permanently lodged in the prison at Chamblee. Here we were put in irons, and remained for two years, suffering everything but death, for want of clothes, food, fire, medicine, exercise, and pure air. At length, from the weight and inconvenience of my irons, I became so weak that I could not rise from the floor, when my fellow sufferer, Thorp, who was not so badly off as myself used to help me up.
"The physician appointed to have the care of the prisoners, whose name was Pendergrass, paid but very little attention to his charge, seldom visiting us, and never examining closely into our situation; consequently a description of my horrid condition would afflict the reader, on which account I forbear it. At length, however, this physician was removed, and another put in his place, of an entirely contrary character; he was humane, inquisitive, industrious, and skilful. When he came first to that part of the prison where myself and about twenty others were confined, the captain of the fort came with him, when the doctor proceeded one by one to examine us, instead of giving us a general look only, as the other had done. The place where I sat was quite in one corner. I had chosen it because it was the darkest, and served to hide me from observation more than any other part of the room. I had contrived to get into my possession an old rug of some sort, which partly hid my naked limbs; this I kept over my lap, in the best possible manner.
"After a while it became my time to be examined; when he said, 'Well my lad, what is the matter with you?' From shame and fear, lest he should witness the loathsome predicament which I was in, I said, 'nothing sir!' 'Well then,' said he, 'get up.' 'I cannot, sir,' said I. He then took the end of his cane, and putting it under the blanket which was partly over me, and served to hide me from my waist downward, threw it quite from me, when a spectacle of human suffering presented itself, such as he had not expected to see. I had fixed my eyes steadily on his face to see if aught of pity moved his breast, which I knew I could trace in his countenance, if any appeared. He turned pale; a frown gathered on his brow, the curl of his lip denoted wrath; when he turned round to the captain of the fort, whose name was Steel, and looking sternly at him, said, in a voice of thunder, 'you infamous villain ! in the name of God, are you murdering people alive here? send for your provost-sergeant in a moment, and knock off that poor fellow's span-shackles, or I will smash you in a moment!'"
"O, this language was balm to my wounds, was oil to my bleeding heart ; was the voice of sympathy - of determined mercy and immediate relief. I had a soldier's heart, which shrunk not; a fountain of tears; I had none in the hour of battle, but now they rushed out amain, as if anxious to see the man, who by his goodness, had drawn them from their deep seclusion. An entire change of situation now took place, and our health was soon recovered, which rendered my imprisonment quite tolerable. From this place, after a while, we were sent to Rebel's Island, or Culoctelack, or Cut-throat Island, where we remained a year, when peace was declared. We were now sent to Montreal, thence to Quebec, and there put on board a cartel ship and sent round to Boston, though before we reached that place, we were driven out to sea in a storm and nearly shipwrecked, suffering exceedingly; but at last we arrived at the desired haven, where I once more set foot on my native land, and rejoiced that it was a land of liberty and independence.
"As fast as possible we made the best of our way to old Schoharie, which was our home, after an absence of three years, during which I suffered much, as well as my companions, for the love of my country; which, under the blessing of Heaven, I have enjoyed these many years.
"The reader will recollect Beacraft, the tory, who stood sentry over us during the first night of our captivity, in the sap-bush, who boasted he had cut the throat of a boy of the Vrooman family; this man had the audacity to return after the war to old Schoharie, the scene of his villanies. As soon as it was known, a number of persons, properly qualified to judge his case, - having, during their captivity, tasted a little of his ability to distress and tantalize unnecessarily and remembering his deeds, which he had confessed boastingly on the mountains of Genesee - hastened there, and surrounded the house where he was. Two or three of the number, who were as greatly indebted to his philanthrophy as need be, knocked at the door and were bidden to come in, when the redoubtable gentleman arose, respectfully inquiring after their health, and extending his hand: the compliment was returned by a hearty and determined clench of his shoulders, by which he had the opportunity of making progress, without the aid of hydraulic or locomotive power, as far as to a very ominous staddle, which stood not far off, in a beautiful grove of hickory. There were ten persons in number, who composed this jury, and although it lacked two of the legal quantum, they understood the case equally well, nevertheless; and as five of them happened to be left-handed, and five who could swing the right honorable arm full as adroitly, were an assortment of kind and character.
"Beacraft was stripped of the habiliments that covered a skin which shrouded a heart in which dwelt a spirit as bad as the devil's worst, and tied to this smooth staddle - as fair a one as grew in the forest. Ten fine excoriators (gads) were taken from the generous redundancy of the axe-handle tree (hickory,) and given to each of those right and left-handed gentlemen, who after binding the culprit to save him the trouble of running away from said staddle, began, after dividing themselves in due form, so that a circle was formed quite around him, to do as the spirit of the occasion might lead their minds.
"Fifty lashes were declared by them a suitable expiation, to be placed upon the bare back, and in such a manner as strength and the exigency of the case most rigorously demanded. Now, in the hour of judgment, a ten-fold apparatus, that had the pliancy of examining subjects quite around, endeavoured to awake into life a conscience that had died an unnatural death some years before.
"A very commendable care in resusitating this valuable principle, was taken at the dawn of its opening life, to inculcate what particular crime it was that had operated with such deleterious influence; and now, through the smarting medium of what is esteemed a corrective, as well as a coercive - an attempt was making not only to enliven the conscience, but to fix the affrighted memory on the horrible points most prominent in his life of depravity.
"Now commenced the work of retribution. The first ten lashes played around him like the fiery serpents of the Great Sahara, hissing horror, when they said: 'Beacraft, it is for being a tory; when your country claimed the services of those it had nurtured on its bosom, you, like a traitor, stabbed it to the heart, as far as your arm had the power.' The second ten lashes came with augmented violence, as if the arrows of vengeance were drinking deep of life's keenest sensations - 'Beacraft, it is for aiding in the massacre of those who were your neighbors, the Vrooman family.' A third series of ten lashes at a time, played around him, as the lightnings of some frowning cloud, streaming its direful fury at one selected victim, tearing anew, and entering deep into the quivering flesh - 'Beacraft, it is for the murder of that helpless boy, the son of Vrooman, whom you scalped and hung on the fence.'
"A fourth quantum of ten lashes at a time, lapped their doleful history around his infamous body - 'Beacraft, it is for taunts, and jeers, and insults, when certain persons, well known to you, were captives among a savage enemy, which marked you as a dastardly wretch, fit only for contempt and torture, such as is now bestowed upon your infamous body.' The fifth and last series of lashes fell as if the keen sword, hot from the armory of an independent and indignant people, had sundered the wretched body, one part to the zenith, the other to the nadir - 'Beacraft, it is for coming again to the bosom of that country, upon which you have spit the venom of hate, and thus added insult to injury, never to be forgotten.'"
Here they untied him, with this injunction - to flee the country, and never more return to blast with his presence so pure an atmosphere as that where liberty and independence breathe and triumph - with which it was supposed he complied, as he has never been known in these parts since. He expressed his gratitude that he had been so gently dealt with; acknowledging his conduct to have been worthy of capital punishment.
The capture of the scout under Colonel Harper, was the last incident of note that occurred in Harpersfield during the war; it was at that time completely destroyed by Brant, and at the close of the war hardly a vestige of the former settlement remained.
Isaac Bennet, of Stamford, says his father was in Stamford before the war, and helped survey the township of New Stamford; that he bought a farm in the township, and afterwards finding a piece of land near the Cook-house that suited him better, he exchanged farms. At the latter place there were a few families just commencing a settlement. Daniel Bennet and Abijah, his son, (the residue of the family being in Connecticut,) joined them some time previous to 1780, and were taken prisoners with others, the same spring that the Harpers were, but not by the same party; were taken to Oneida, and there remained for three months. From thence they were taken to Canada, and were absent four years and five months before they returned to Connecticut, their native place. The elder Bennet was a tailor by trade, and he was employed in making clothes for the king's troops; the younger Bennet was a drummer.
In the winter of 1786, this family of Bennets settled in the township, on the lands now owned by widow Blish, on which farm Mr. John More built a saw-mill before the war. This is said to have been the first saw-mill in this section of country, some remains of the mill were in existence in 1780. The first mill built after the war, in this county, was built by a man named Potter, near where the Hobart furnace now stands, some time between l782 and l786. Potter sold this mill to a Mr. Warn, and he sold it to Bears & Foote. Potter then built a grist-mill on Betty's Brook, and in consequence of some difficulty with one Mills, an agent of the Kortright patent, Potter moved his mill in the night, down on the west side of the river, (about two miles,) on land now owned by James Wetmore.
During the same season, and shortly after the capture of the Bennets, a party of Indians made an incursion into Colchester, then known by its Indian name of Papagonck. The families composing this settlement had for the most part sought safety along the Hudson - a man named Rose, had, however, remained with his family unmolested in this exposed situation, during the whole war. The father of the family, at the time of this incursion was absent on a scouting excursion, which fact doubtless, had it been known to the Indians, would have proved a source of mischief to his family, but as it was, they did no injury, except appropriating whatever they chose, to themselves, without asking leave.
At the time the Indians approached the residence of Mr. Rose, his son William was engaged in constructing a canoe on the bank of the river, a short distance from the house. He was shortly afterwards surprised and taken prisoner, and was informed that he must accompany them to the home of the Red men, in the west. He protested stoutly against accompanying them, but all in vain. The Indians also took three cows belonging to his father, which they drove before them, together with whatever the house contained which seemed to them valuable. The first night, the Indians with their prisoner, encamped but a short distance from the residence of Mr. Rose, and in the morning one of the cows was found to have strayed for home. Young Rose was sent back after the missing cow alone, but with the injunction, "That if he did not return immediately with the cow, they would return and murder them all, and burn their buildings." The boy related to his mother all that had happened, and showed very little inclination to return to his captors; but knowing how well the Indians were apt to execute their threats, she insisted with heroic fortitude, upon his immediate return into captivity with the missing cow. He accompanied the Indians to Niagara, and after a prolonged captivity of three years, was once more permitted to return to his friends at Colchester, where he spent the remainder of his days: he died many years since. We have been favored with the following correspondence, which, although unconnected with the history of the county, except in a general sense, is, nevertheless, worthy of preservation.
The following are copies of the letters:
"Middle Fort, Schoharie, July 19th, 1780."
"Dear Colonel: - By express just now received, yours of the 17th inst. came - am sorry to understand that the enemy have burnt Germantown, but at the same time am glad to hear that the serjeant's party of your regiment behaved so well as to oppose those infernal wretches against that fortification. Last night received information from Colonel Wimple, of Schenectady, that a party of tories were gathering at one Captain Pall's, Beaver-dam, in order to go off and join Butler and Brant at Niagara; accordingly we have dispatched this morning a party in pursuit of them - just now received information that three of the tory party are taken by a detachment of Colonel Wimple's regiment, this morning at three o'clock.
"If anything extraordinary should offer, you may be assured I will communicate
the first. Scouts are continually kept out in order to guard against surprise. Old
Mr. Harper, together with your other good friends, desire to be remembered.
"I am, with great respect, dear sir,
"Your humble servant,
"To Col. Harper,
(Superscribed) "On public service,
"To Col. John Harper,
"Poughkeepsie, 25th August, 1780.
"DEAR COUSIN : - I embrace this opportunity to inform you I am still in high spirits. We shall see New York this fall.
"The second division of the French forces has not arrived, but expected soon. The weather has been so uncommonly hot, that it would have been imprudent to fatigue men in the business of besieging, even were we ready in other respects. The French and Spaniards are masters of the West India seas - have had three engagements with the English this summer in that quarter, in all of which the latter have come off second best; and we hourly expect to hear of Jamaica being attacked by our allies.
"In North Carolina, no less a body than one thousand tories had the other day formed themselves and set off to reinforce their friends in Charleston, when a Colonel Rutherford dispatched four hundred militia to watch their movements; they drawing near them, and perceiving them employed in feeding their horses, fell upon them, killed seventy, took four hundred prisoners and all their baggage, with seven hundred horses; the remainder of the thieves dispersed through the woods. Our cause gains ground amazingly among the nations of Europe - Russia, Denmark, Sweden, and the States of Holland, have all agreed to afford England no succor, though pressingly demanded; but on the contrary, have entered into a league of armed neutrality. They have invited England to join, but have yet received no answer. The ostensible object of this league is a free unlimited trade to all the world, even to towns besieged; but the real object is to embarrass Great Britain, and make her sick of the war.
"The aforesaid powers have agreed to fit out immediately, for their mutual defence, fifty-two ships of war, which are to defend their ships from being searched, and support their claim to an equal right to the sea. On the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of June last, there were the greatest disturbances in London known for one hundred years past. Lord George Gordon, at the head of fifty thousand men, marched through Westminster six men deep, crossed over London bridge, and went to the Parliament house, about 12 o'clock on the 2nd of June, and handled all the members they could get at, who were our enemies, in the roughest manner, tearing off their bags, breaking their coaches, &c. They then went to burning their houses up and down throughout the city; they seized the Archbishop of York and several of the Lords, tore their gowns from their backs, and squeezed them almost to death. The King's Council have offered a reward of £500 for the discovery of the ringleader, but I believe they are afraid to find him out, for Lord George Gordon publicly avowed what he had done, and we hear of no notice having been taken of him; it seems that the mob also demolished several ambassador's houses, who belonged to some of the petty princes who are not our friends. This is a good beginning - may they go on and prosper.
"In Dublin, they have also been at the same work; and in Drogheda, twenty-two
from Dublin, the English soldiers have killed ten of the inhabitants in the street,
upon which the volunteer companies there have put the soldiers in jail, and mount
guard at the prison, determined to have them brought to trial and execution.
"All this you may depend on for truth, as it has been intercepted in a ship
few days ago, bound from England for New York.
"I have no more to add but my sympathy for the distresses of your suffering
and hope that you will be able to give us a good account of some of those villains.
My best respects to the old gentleman and your brothers.
"I am, dear sir, your friend and servant,
(Superscribed) "To Col. John Harper, of Tryon county.
"Per favor of Mr. Boone."
For the following particulars, the author is indebted to the History of Schoharie, and the narratives of John L. More and others.
In the latter part of July, Seth Henry, of whom we have spoken in the narrative of the capture of Cowley and Sawyer, succeeded in capturing William Bouck, together with a female slave belonging to him, and her three children, two sons and one daughter. Mr. Bouck was captured about two miles from the upper fort, where he had gone to do some work on his farm. The prisoners were all bound, and started with their captors for Niagara. The first night they encamped on the Delaware river, and were entertained by one Hugh Rose, a Scotchman, who was favorable to the king, and who furnished them with several days' provisions for their journey to Canada.
Shortly after the Indians had left the house of Rose, which was about eight o'clock in the morning, and were pursuing their way down the river, a scout, consisting of Wm. Bouck, jr., son of the prisoner, John Hagidore, Bartholomew C. Vrooman, and Barthlomew Hadigore, who had been sent out from the upper fort to anticipate any hostile movement of the enemy, arrived at the residence of Rose, where they halted. They inquired of this man, "if he had seen any Indians in that vicinity?" He replied, "'Yes, the woods are full of them!" and instead of sending them from, he directed them to take the same route pursued by the Indians. The scout proceeded but a short distance when they overtook the party, who had been made aware of their approach, and had awaited them in ambush. As they approached the eminence on which the enemy were concealed, Bouck saw his father's slave, who waved her bonnet at him in such a manner as to warn him of their danger, and they turned and beat a hasty retreat.
The Indians perceiving the backward movement of their foes, fired, when John Hagidore fell, wounded in the hip, but instantly springing up, followed his companions. The Indians did not see fit to pursue, and the scout returned to the house of Rose, where Hagidore's wound rendering him unable to proceed further, they were obliged to leave him with this tory, assuring him that if their friend was not well cared for, or if harm befel him, his own life should be the forfeit.
But to return to the fort at Schoharie - Bouck not returnmg as was expected, Captain Hager dispatched a company of twenty men, under the command of Lieutenants Joseph Harper and Ephraim Vrooman, to pursue their captors, and if possible, retake the prisoners. They luckily pursued the same route taken by the Indians, and when near the house of Rose they met the scout on their return to Schoharie, who immediately, however, joined in the pursuit.
After arriving at the place where Hagidore was wounded, they struck the trail of the enemy, which ascended the mountain toward the Little Delaware, which course the Indians had evidently taken to avoid further pursuit. They proceeded cautiously but expeditiously up the mountain, near the summit of which, upon an open plain, they discovered the party, who had halted to refresh and rest themselves. Seth Henry, who was chief, had ascended to the summit, from which point he obtained a view of the country for many miles around, and perceiving no indications of pursuit, had returned to his companions with perfect assurance of safety; but that instant the troops gained a fair sight, and within rifle-shot, he having overlooked them from his elevated position. The first impulse was to discharge a volley of musketry into the midst of the Indians, which was timely prevented by Lieutenant Harper, who remarked the exposed situation of the prisoners. But one of the men, having a fair shot at an Indian, raised his rifle and snapped it, but unfortunately it missed fire. The Indians hearing the click, and that instant, for the first, perceiving that they were pursued, seized their weapons, and leaving their packs and prisoners behind them, fled down the mountain and escaped. They then unbound the prisners, who were overjoyed at so unexpected a deliverance, and proceeded down the mountain to the house of Rose. At this place a litter was made, and one of the tory's best beds was unceremoniously appropriated to add to the comfort of the suffering man during his journey. On this litter Hagidore was placed, and carried on the shoulders of the men to the upper fort, where, with skilful treatment, he soon recovered. 6
On the same stone: -
"While British tyranny o'erspread the land,
I was slain by cruel hands."