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Annals of Tryon County

Annals of Tryon County

It has been mentioned in a preceding chapter, that the inhabitants of Cherry Valley signed the association early in the summer of 1775. Their committee met with the committee of the county, and were connected with the transactions of that summer. It was stated in the account which has been given of the early settlement of Cherry Valley, that its inhabitants were very strict in their observances. The following letter was written by the committee, and is in confirmation of that statement.

Cherry Valley, June 9th, 1775.

“We received yours of yesterday, relative to the meeting of the committee on Sunday, which surprised us not a little, inasmuch as it seems not to be on any alarming circumstance; which, if it was, we should readily attend. But as that does not appear to us to be the case, we think it very improper; for unless the necessity of the committee sitting superexceed the duties to be performed in attending the public worship of God, and we think it ought to be put off till another day; and therefore we conclude not to give our attendance at this time, unless you adjourn the sitting of the committee till Monday Morning; and in that case, we will give our attendance as early as you please. But otherwise, we do not allow ourselves to be cut short of attending on the public worship; except the case be so necessitous as to exceed sacrifice. We conclude with wishing success to the common cause, and subscribe ourselves to the free born sons of liberty.

“If you proceed to sit on the Sabbath, please to read this letter to the committee, which we think will sufficiently assign our reasons for not attending.”

This letter was sent to the county committee.

During the early part of the summer of 1776, Capt. Robert M’Kean of Cherry Valley raised a company of rangers, who were stationed at that place. As this settlement was the principal one to the south of the Mohawk, it was much exposed to incursions of the Indians in that direction. The Indians had their paths from Oquago along up the main streams flowing into the eastern branch of the Susquehanna. From thence they passed through the low indentations to the Mohawk. One of these passes was through Cherry Valley. Every movement of the Indians about Oquago was calculated, therefore, to excite their fears. Orders having been given for the removal of Capt. M’Kean’s company, the following letter was written to the committee, in the name of the inhabitants, by the Rev. Mr. Dunlop, under date of June 3d, 1776.

“We, the inhabitants of Cherry Valley, being assembled yesterday at a public town meeting, and among other things taking the present critical situation of affairs into consideration, looked upon ourselves, and the neighborhood around us, Springfield and Newtown Martin, as a frontier, lying very open and unguarded, and very much exposed to the enemy, in case an Indian war should break out, or any party of the enemy should take it into their heads to come down upon us; and that it would be absolutely necessary to have a party of men stationed here among us, in order to keep a sharp look out, and to scout all around our frontiers; lest at any time we be taken by surprise. And therefore, have appointed me to write to you, to lay this matter warmly before the committee, and earnestly to impress them with the absolute necessity of the thing, and to beg of them, that if Capt. M’Kean and his company be removed from this place, that they would be pleased to send some others in his stead; that we may not lie altogether naked and exposed to the assaults of the enemy.”

The committee not being able to comply with this request, on the 1st of July several of the inhabitants drew up and signed the following petition:

“To the honorable members of the Provincial Congress of New York

“The humble petition of the inhabitants of Cherry Valley, Newtown Martin, and Springfield, in the county of Tryon, humbly showeth:

“That we, the aforesaid inhabitants, from the most authentic intelligence we have received from our missionaries and Indian friends, learn that we are in imminent danger of being cut off by the savages, our enemies, whom we understand are bribed by Sir John Johnson and Col. Butler to execute the same.

“Know also, honorable gentlemen, that the spirit of our inhabitants has been such for the American cause, that out of the small and scattered bounds of Cherry Valley and Newtown Martin, no less than thirty three has turned out for immediate service, and good of their country, and thereby left us in a defenseless condition.

“We therefore, your humble petitioners, humbly pray you would forthwith take this, our deplorable and distressed state and condition, under your immediate consideration, and meditate some speedy relief for us, before it is too late; especially, as the inhabitants of the Old England district, and Unadilla, are daily flying in to our settlement, so that we shall immediately, in all appearance, become an open, defenseless, and unguarded frontier, and very much exposed to the insults of the enemy, especially scalping parties; and are at present without either ammunition or men, any way sufficient to defend ourselves; and unless you, gentlemen, that can help us, will help us, by sending ammunition to the inhabitants, and a sufficient number of men, such as you may think proper, to guard our frontiers, we must expect to fall victims to the rage and fury of our merciless enemies. And, therefore, must once more beg you may take this our deplorable circumstances under your consideration, and send us immediate relief, and your petitioners shall ever pray.”

This petition was signed by Samuel Dunlop, Samuel Campbell, James Scott, Robert Wells, James Richey, James Moore, Samuel Clyde. Their request was not granted, and a company of rangers under Capt. Winn was ordered there.

Those persons who had held commissions, or who were exempt from military duty in consequence of being above 60 years of age, formed themselves into a company to protect themselves and families. The spirit of disaffection found its way into this settlement, and several went to the enemy during the campaign of 1777. No fortification had yet been erected. Brant, during the summer of 1777, had collected a considerable number of warriors at Oquago. His visit to Unadilla, as before stated, excited the fears of the inhabitants, and they deemed it necessary that some more efficient steps should be taken, to prepare for a defense, in case they should be attacked. The house of Col. Samuel Campbell, being the largest, and situated on elevated ground, was selected as the best place for a fortification. A rude embankment of logs and earth was thrown up, enclosing the house and two large barns. The inhabitants of the surrounding country assembled there, carrying with them such of their effects as were most valuable. The doors were doubled, strong window shutters were provided, and the whole rendered bullet proof. Two small block houses were erected within the enclosure. Military law was enforced, and no person was suffered to come into, or leave the settlement, without permission. They remained in this situation during most of the summer, and in the fall returned to their respective habitations. They obeyed the call of Gen. Herkimer, but, being detained, did not arrive until after the action. Lieut. Col. Campbell, and Major, afterward Col. Clyde, were the only persons from Cherry Valley in the battle of Oriskany. They were next in command to Col. Cox, and at the close of that unfortunate contest led off the remains of his brave regiment.

In the spring of 1778, when Gen. La Fayette was at Johnstown, Col. Campbell and Mr. Wilson waited upon him, and represented the exposed situation of Cherry Valley. After examining its location on a map which they furnished him, he directed a fort to be built there. It was considered an object of great importance to keep the inhabitants of the frontiers at their homes, as by moving in they would necessarily create great confusion, and would expose to sudden inroads of the enemy places of great importance. For this reason, small forts were erected, and military posts were maintained along the frontier, wherever it was found practicable.

A fort was subsequently erected, in pursuance of the directions of Gen. La Fayette. Early in the spring, the inhabitants returned to their old quarters, where they remained until it was completed. Many of the inhabitants of Unadilla and other towns came in. As all the exercises and sports were of a military nature, the younger boys, in imitation of their elders, formed themselves into a company. Those who were acquainted with military evolutions, instructed them. Armed with wooden guns, they paraded with all the pride of soldiers. It was a fine pleasant morning, toward the latter part of May, that these minature soldiers sallied out, and paraded upon the green east of the house. That morning, Brant, having come up from Oquago with a party of his men, had posted them upon the hill about a mile farther east; and concealed by the thick woods which covered it, was looking down upon the little fortification. His intention, as afterwards explained by a Tory who accompanied him, was to make an attack the following night, and either to kill, or carry away prisoners, some of the principal persons, and especially the committee. This sagacious warrior was deceived when he saw this little company of boys. Looking down from an elevation, and the view being obstructed by the trees, he supposed them to be men. Turning round to his followers he remarked “Col. Campbell has got his house well guarded, I perceive.” During the day, he ascertained that the inhabitants were in garrison, but that no militia or soldiers from abroad were there. Wishing to gain definite information, as to the force, and the preparations for defense, he moved his party to a place near the main road leading to the Mohawk River, about two miles to the north. Here he lay in wait behind a large rock.

A short distance from this, the road wound along near the top of a ledge of rocks, forming a precipice a hundred and fifty feet high. It was shaded by evergreens, and was dark even at mid day. Its wildness was increased by the dashing of a small stream which fell over this precipice, called by the Indians the falls of the Tekaharawa.wholesale jerseys from china That day, Lieut. Wormwood came up from the Mohawk River, and informed the garrison that Col. Klock would arrive the next day, with a part of his regiment of militia. It was almost night when he started to return, accompanied by Peter Sitz, the bearer of some dispatches. Throwing down his portmanteau, he mounted his horse, saying he should not need it until his return on the morrow, with his company. The fine personal appearance of this young officer, who was clad in a rich suit of ash colored velvet, attracted much attention during his stay; and many persons remained at the door, looking at the horsemen until they were hid by the hill over which they passed. The clattering of hoofs had scarcely died away upon the ear, when the report of a volley of musketry was heard. Soon after, Wormwood’s horse returned; the saddle was covered with blood, which excited fears as to his fate but too well founded. A party went out that evening, but could make no discoveries. The next morning the body was found behind the rock before mentioned. They had arrived near the rock, when they were hailed, and ordered to stop. Disregarding the order, they put spurs to their horses and endeavored to pass. The Indians immediately fired; Wormwood was wounded, and fell from his horse, when Brant, rushing out, tomahawked him with his own hand. They had been personal friends before the war, and Brant is said to have lamented his death; at the time he supposed him to be a continental officer. Sitz’s horse was killed, and he himself taken prisoner. The dispatches which he carried were double. He had presence of mind to destroy the paper containing the true account of the garrison, and to give Brant the other. Brant retired without doing any further injury. The next day, Col. Klock arrived, and the father of Wormwood, who had been immediately apprised of the death of his son. He was a wealthy man, living in Palatine district, and this was his only son. His feelings, as he bent over the dead and mutilated body, were excruciating; and when, in the agony of his soul, he cried out, “Brant, cruel, cruel Brant!” tears started in many an eye which scarcely knew how to weep.

On account of their exposure to sudden attacks of scalping parties, the inhabitants joined together and went round over the different farms; some stood as sentinels, while others labored. This course was not peculiar to this place; it was adopted along the whole frontier. William M’Kown, then a lad of about fourteen years of age, related the following interview, which he had this summer with Brant. Contrary to custom, he was sent out alone, to cure some hay. While engaged in raking, he heard some one walking behind him, and turning round, perceived an Indian very near him. He raised his rake to defend himself, when the Indian, addressing him in English, said, “Do not be afraid, young man, I shall not hurt you.” He then inquired where Mr. Foster (a Tory) lived. Having directed him, M’Kown inquired if he knew him; to which the Indian replied, “I am partially acquainted with him, having once seen him at the Halfway Creek” (meaning Bowman’s Creek, half way between Cherry Valley and the Mohawk River.) The Indian then inquired of M’Kown his name. “You are a son of Mr. M’Kown, who lives in the northeast part of the town, I suppose; I know your father very well; he lives neighbor to Capt. M’Kean. I know M’Kean very well, and a fine fellow he is, too.” This free, familiar conversation induced M’Kown to inquire of the Indian his name. After a moment’s hesitation, he answered, “My name is Brant.” “What, Captain Brant?” “No, I am a cousin of his.” An arch smile played over his dark features, as he gave this reply; then turning, he directed his course toward Foster’s. It was Joseph Brant himself, who afterward gave the same account. M’Kown immediately informed the garrison, and a party went directly to Foster’s; but he was not there, and Foster denied having seen him.

In June of this summer, Brant came up with a party, and burned Springfield, carrying away several prisoners. He collected together the women and children into one house, and there left them uninjured an example which was not always followed by his allies. About the same time, it was reported that he was fortifying at Unadilla, and that great numbers of Indians and Tories were collecting around him. A reward was offered to any person or persons who would gain any satisfactory information relative to his proceedings there. Capt. M’Kean, who was at this time in Cherry Valley offered to go as a volunteer, provided that he should be accompanied by five others. The complement was soon made up. They arrived the first night at the house of a Mr. Sleeper, a Quaker, who lived in the town of Laurens, a distance of some twenty five miles from Cherry Valley. Sleeper informed them that Brant had been at his house that day with fifty men, and would return there that night. He advised them to leave, as they would be killed or taken in the event of his return. M’Kean looked round upon the house with the eye of a soldier; observing that it was built strong, and of logs, he remarked “your house, friend Sleeper, shall be my fort to night; I have with me five good marksmen, and I am not myself deficient in that qualification of a soldier.” Sleeper remonstrated, saying, “he wished to remain neutral; that he would be involved in difficulty, and in the end would probably lose his property, probably his life.” M’Kean finally withdrew, and took possession of a vacant house a mile or two distant. It was on this, or another scout a short time afterward, that M’Kean wrote a letter to Brant, and fastening it in a stick, placed the stick in an Indian path. He blamed him for his predatory warfare, and challenged him to meet him, either in single combat, or with an equal number of men, adding, that if he would come to Cherry valley, and have a fair fight, they would change him from a Brant into a Goose. He received this challenge, as appears by a letter written soon after to Parcifer Carr, a Tory living in Edmeston. The following is an exact transcript of it:

“I understand by the Indians that was at your house last week, that one Smith lives near you, has little more corn to spare. I should be much obliged to you, if you would be so kind as to try to get as much corn as Smith can spare; he has sent me five skipples already, of which I am much obliged to him, and will see him paid, and would be very glad if you could spare one or two your men to join us, especially Elias. I would be glad to see him, and I wish you could sent me as many guns as you have, as I know you have no use for them, if you any; as I mean now to fight the cruel rebels as well as I can: whatever you will able to sent’d me, you must sent’d by the bearer.

M’Kean returned along the Susquehanna River, having succeeded in taking two prisoners. He was pursued by the Indians, and narrowly escaped being taken. When he returned to Cherry Valley, Capt. Ballard had arrived with a detachment of 100 men, being a part of Col. Alden’s continental regiment. Col. Alden arrived a day or two after with the remainder of the regiment. Stockades had been placed around the church by the militia and rangers. Col. Alden immediately took possession of his little fortress. This was an eastern regiment, and few of the officers or soldiers were conversant with the Indian mode of fighting. Col. Gansevoort solicited this post when Col. Alden was ordered here; at the head of the brave regiment he commanded at Fort Schuyler, he would doubtless have given the enemy a different reception on the 11th of November following.

It was in July of this year, that Col. John Butler and Brant, at the head of 800 Indians and rangers, made an incursion into the beautiful valley of Wyoming, and ravaged and laid waste its flourishing settlements. A great number of the inhabitants were killed, and the most wanton acts of barbarity were committed. {See Appendix, Note H.} The destruction of Wyoming produced a thrill through all the States, and especially along the frontiers similarly exposed. Butler returned to Niagara, and Brant to his stations about Unadilla and Oquago. Brant continued about the branches of the Susquehanna until fall. Early in October, Mr. Dean, the Indian interpreter and agent, wrote Major Robert Cochrane commanding at Fort Schuyler, the following letter:

“As the Seneca chief, called the Great Tree, who was all the summer past with General Washington, returned through Oneida, he gave our friends there the most solemn assurances, that upon his arrival in his country he would exert his utmost influence to dispose his tribe to peace and friendship with the United States, and that should his attempts prove unsuccessful he would immediately leave his nation and join the Oneidas with his friends and adherents. A long time having elapsed without hearing from the Great Tree, the Oneidas, a few days since, despatched a runner to him, desiring an account of his success. The express returned yesterday with the following intelligence, which the sachems immediately forwarded to me by three of their warriors, namely: that upon his arrival in the Seneca country he found that whole people in arms, and the two villages, Kanadaseago and Jennessee, where he was, croweded with their warriors, who were all collected from the remote settlements. That upon the Great Tree’s first arrival, appearances seemed to promise him success, but that a rumor being circulated that the Americans were about to invade them, they had all flown to arms. The Great Tree was there, and determined to chastise th