Jeptha Root Simms.

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on horseback, passed a little marsh, in which he heard,

* Money bag ! money bag ! you must come out !
The man he will be paid .'


as he believed, the voice of a new animal. Nearing
a house just after, he inquired, What animals were
making such a strange noise ? He was answered with
a grin, that they were hull frogs! He spurred up his
horse, not a little mortified to think he had but just
learned, as his countrymen would say, " what a toad a
frog was.^'

The family of which he inquired knew him (indeed
that family which did not know him in Western New
York, was behind the times), and soon the nature of
his inquiry reached the ears of his most intimate
friends, who bored him so unmercifully about it, that
he was obliged to own up. He admitted that he
never was so ashamed of having asked a question in
his life, as he was of that about the new animals on
the pine plains below Dorp. — James Frazier.

After the preceding pages were stereotyped, I
learned that the given name of Dunham, mentioned
on page 49, was Jacob: that when he was murdered,
as stated on page 50, which took place April 11, 1779,
a son named Samuel met the same fate. Zebulon,
another son, was made prisoner, but escaped from his
captors while they were engaged in plundering the
house. John, a third son of Jacob Dunham, fell with
Capt. Woodworth, in Fairfield. — Hon, John Dunham,
of Wells, N. Y., a son of Ebenezer Dunham, and
grandson of Jacob Dunham, above named.


Very little is known of Nicholas Stoner's boyhood,
but from his propensity in riper years we may suppose,
that if he did not play off some wild pranks, it was
only for the want of a butt. With perceptions na-
turally quick, his city life afforded him a fine school
for the study of human nature as developed in the
actions of men; but the transition at so early an age
to sylvan shades, where, instead of artificial objects
he might behold natmre by the pencil of God adorned,
was genial to his untamed spirit, and he was soon
fitted to enjoy to the fullest extent the life of a wood-
man: finding music in the scream of the panther,
growl of the bear and bay of the wolf

When a cry from the Boston Cradle announced that
the infant Liberty was about to be strangled by its
pretended nurse; the Gray Forest Eagle,

" An emblem of freedom, stern, haughty and high,"
having plumed his broad wing for a heliocentric
flight, was up—

" And away like a spirit wreathed in light,"
he fluttered over the land of his choice, until he aroused
the patriotism not only of the indweller of city and
village, but of him, who, though isolated his home,
could appreciate untrammeled thought and act.


The first two years of the war of Independence, the
pioneer inhabitants of New York enjoyed comparative
tranquillity; for the swift-footed Indian had not fully
determined to raise the hatchet of death against un-
offending innocence, in a quarrel that did not directly
concern him, and crimson the altar of domestic hap-
piness for the golden calf royalty had set up: but
as the portending storm lowered, and it became known
that the red man, having sharpened his scalping knife
and participated in the war dance of his nation, was
then on his way to the frontiers; exposed settlers who
were inclined to look with favor on the acts of those
who were raising an arm of rebellion along the sea-
board, found it necessary to remove to thickly peopled
neighborhoods. Accordingly, the families making up
the small and scattered settlement of Fonda's Bush,
except that of Helmer and Putman, removed early in
the summer of 1777, to Johnstown : soon after which
Nicholas Stoner went to reside with the Fisher bro-
thers in the Mohawk valley.* Living with patriots,

* John and Harmanus Fisher. They resided at that period
where the Hon. Jesse D. DeGroff now resides, between the vil-
lages of Fonda and Amsterdam, and were both killed and scalped
by the Indians and tories in the summer of 1780 5 at which time
the former was a captain and the latter a lieutenant of militia.
Col. Frederick Fisher (or Visscher, as he wrote his name in the
latter part of his life), a third brother, chanced to be there at the
time, and was scalped and left for dead, but recovered and lived
many years. For a more particular account of the Fisher family
and their sufferings, see my Border Wars of New York,


although a lad of only 14 or 15 summers, it is not sur-
prising that young Stoner, who had been properly
schooled at home as the removal of the family indicates,
should have imbibed the spirit which throbbed in older
hearts, and been ready to stand or fall with the com-
mon cause of his country.

Visiting his friends in Johnstown in the summer of
1777, at which time it had become a military post,
Nicholas, for whose ear martial music had peculiar
charms, needed but little persuasion to become a sol-
dier, and enlisted as a fifer into a company of New
York troops, commanded by captain Timothy Hughes.
Not long after his brother John, a mere boy, enlisted
under Capt. Wright. Captain W. had been a British
drum-major previous to the Revolution, and being
pleased with John, undertook to perfect him in the
art oi flammadiddles sind paddadiddles — in other words,
in the ability to make a world of noise in a scientific
manner. Henry Stoner, imitating the example of his
boys, soon after enlisted under Capt. Robersham for a
term of three years. The father and sons were all in
the same regiment, so that they not only saw each
other almost daily, but the former could to some little
extent, still exercise the duties of a parent. The re-
giment alluded to was commanded by Col. James
Livingston, of which Richard Livingston was lieuten-
ant-colonel, and Abraham Livingston captain; the
three Livingstons being brothers. In August 1777,
the troops under Col. Livingston joined the army of


Gen. Arnold, while on its way up the Mohawk valley,
to succor Col. Gansevoort at Fort Stanwix. Among
the patriotic rangers who left Johnstown at this time
was Jacob Shew, who is still living.

Nicholas Stoner saw the spy, Han Yost Schuyler,
who was captured at Shoemaker's place (where Spen-
cer now lives, at the upper end of Mohawk village),
set out on his mission to excite the fears of the enemy,
and thus save his own neck from a halter.* Boats

• This Han Yost (John Joseph) Schuyler and Walter Butler
were fortunately made prisoners near Fort Dayton, about the
time of Arnold's arrival at that post. Butler was sent down to
Albany as a prisoner, Schuyler had entered the Mohawk valley
as a spy — was tried by court-martial and sentenced to be hung, his
coffin being made ready to receive his remains. Gen. Arnold
thought to turn his life to more profitable account than his death,
and agreed to spare him on condition that he would enter the camp
of St. Ledger, and by an exaggerated account of the forces ad-
vancing under his command, thus contribute towards raising the
siege of Fort Stanwix, then called Fort Schuyler. Schuyler
accepted the terms for his life; and his brother Nicholas was
retained as a hostage, to suffer in his stead in case of a noncompli-
ance. Han Yost entered the enemy's lines, and his known fidelity
to their cause gave his representation of Arnold's forces no little
weight. Probably Schuyler had been sent below to learn whether
American troops were approaching. The camp was thrown into
confusion, and it was resolved to raise the siege. Several shrewd
Oneidas friendly to the American cause were in the secret, and ere
St. Ledger began his retrograde movement, one of them dropped
into the camp as if by chance. He was interrogated as to his
knowledge of the approaching Yankees, and replied mysteriously,
but in a manner to inspire awe. " Are the Yankees numerous?"
inquired a tory officer. The Indian pointing to the surrounding


laden with provisions were taken up the Mohawk,
guarded by troops along the shore. As they drew
near the theatre of the brave Herkimer's disasters,
evidences of the terrible onslaught at Oriskany met
them. Near the mouth of the Oriskany creek, a gun
was found standing against a tree with a pair of boots
hanging on it; while in the creek near, in a state
bordering on putrefaction, lay their supposed owner.
In the grass a little way from the shore, lay a genteely
dressed man without coat or hat, who it was supposed
had made his way there to obtain drink. A black
silk handkerchief encircled his once aching head.
John Clark, a sergeant, loosened it, but the hair ad-
forest replied by asking — " Can Oneida count the leaves? Can
white man count the stars?" The siege was precipitately aban-
doned, and agreeably to arrangement another and another Oneida
entered the ranks of the foe to add their enigmatic testimony to
that of the first. The stratagem succeeded to a charm 5 and find-
ing opportunity to return to the army of Arnold, and thence to
Fort Dayton, Schuyler saw his brother set free and went back to
Canada. Subsequent to the war, Schuyler returned to Herkimer
county where he died. Facts from John Roof^ who was on duty
at Fort Dayton, and saw the coffin made for Schuyler, and who
was familiar with the circumstances which led to his arrest and
novel liberation; corroborated by John Dockstader^ of Herkimer.
Says the latter, this Schuyler had a brother and two sisters who
were carried captive to Canada in the French war, and were re-
tained there until it closed. Herkimer, then called the Palatine's
village, was invaded by the French and Indians in November,
1757, its dwellings, grain, mills, etc., destroyed by fire, and its
inhabitants mostly slain or carried into captivity, as we may show
at some future day.


hered to it on its removal, and he left the prize. He
took from his feet a pair of silver shoe-buckles. His
legs were so swollen, that his deer-skin breeches were
rent from top to bottom. Nine dead bodies lay across
the road, disposed in regular order, as w^as imagined,
by the Indians after their death. The stench was so
great that the Americans could not discharge the last
debt due their heroic countrymen, and their bones
were soon after bleaching upon the ground. A little
farther on an Indian was seen hanging to the limb of
a tree by the heels. He was suspended with the traces
of a harness from a baggage w^agon by the Americans,
as believed, after death. Col. St. Ledger having made
a flying retreat towards Canada, Gen. Arnold, after
giving his troops time to rest, left Fort Stanw^x and
returned with his command to the army of Gen. Gates
near Stillwater.

At some period subsequent to the action of September
19th, in which Gen. Arnold was by many thought the
master spirit of the American officers engaged, an
altercation took place between him and Gen. Gates,
supposed by some on account of envy entertained to-
wards the former, either by Gen. Wilkinson or Gen.
Gates, and possibly both,* which resulted in his being
deprived of his command. Consequently, in the san-
guinary battle which took place on Bemis's Heights,
October 7th, Gen. Arnold had no authority for the
glorious deeds he there performed. Towards evening

* See Neilson's Burgoynes Campaign^ page 150.


of that day, that daring chief led a .body of troops into
the very heart of the Hessian camp; carrying dismay
along the whole British line. In this impetuous onset
he was shot through the leg,* and would to God the
ball had passed through his heart; and that that fear-
less and reckless leader, who, up to that hour had
been one of Liberty's boldest champions, could have
sealed with his life-blood his former deeds of glory!
Yes, would to God that that brave general, who had
faced his country's foes on the snow-clad plains of
Abraham, and been a companion in peril of the gal-
lant, warm-hearted Montgomery, could now have
found a grave on those heights, where his own blood
had mingled with that of the foeman ! But alas ! alas !
a sombre destiny awaited him.

Among the death-daring spirits who followed Ar-^
nold to the Hessian camp, was Nicholas Stoner, and
near the enemy's works he was wounded in a singular
manner. A cannon shot from the breastwork killed a
soldier near Stoner, named Tyrrell. The ball de-
molished his head, sending its fragments into the face
of Stoner, which was literally covered with brains,
hair and fragments of the skull. He fell senseless,
with the right of his head about the ear severely cut

* A wounded Hessian fired on Arnold, and John Redman, a vo-
lunteer, ran up to bayonet him, but was prevented by his general,
who exclaimed, ''^ He's a fine fellow — don't hurt him!'''' The
Hessians continued to fight after they were down, because they
tiad been told by their employers that the Americans would give no
[juarters, — Stoner.



by portions of the skull bone, which injury still affects
his hearing in that ear. Shortly after, as the young
fifer was missing, one Sweeney, an Irish soldier, was
sent to seek out and bear him from the field ; but a
cannon shot whizzed so near his own head, that he
soon returned without the object of his search. Col,
Livingston asked Sweeney where the lad Stoner was?
" Ja — s ! colonel," replied the soldier, " a goose has
laid an egg there, and you don't catch me to stay
there !" Lieut. William Wallace then proceeded to the
spot indicated by the Irishman, and found our hero
with his head reclining upon Tyrrell's thigh, and taking
him in his arms, bore him to the American camp.
When young Stoner was found, a portion of the brim
of his hat, say about one-fourth the size of a nine-pound
shot, was observed to have been cut off very smoothly,
the rest of it was covered with the ruins of the head
of Tyrrell, who, to use the words of Stoner, did not
know what hurt him.

Peter Graff, from Switzer Hill, and Peter Conyne
also from the vicinity of Caughnawaga, were at the
American camp as teamsters on the day of this bat-
tle, and served as volunteers among the troops led on
by Arnold. Conyne having raised a gun to fire on
the enemy, received a bullet in his arm and breast.
Young Stoner and Conyne were taken from Stillwater
to Albany in a boat wuth other woun(ied Americans.
Col. Frederick Fisher chanced to be in that city when
they arrived, and took Stoner home with him, from


whence he carried him to Johnstown. He was under
the care of Dr. Thomas Reed, a surgeon in Livmgston's
regiment, and was cured. Conyne also recovered.

In the summer of 1778, the three Stoners were all
on duty in Rhode Island. In an engagement with
the enemy while there, the father was wounded by a
musket ball, which lodged in his head. He was sent
to Providence, where he was trepanned, and recovered.
A piece of silver placed over the wound, it was be-
lieved, the Indians who afterwards killed and scalped
him, obtained with their plunder. The relic (an
ounce ball), was preserved by the wounded man, but
was lost when his dw^elling w^as burnt by the hirelings
of Britain.

While the Stoners w^ere serving in Rhode Island,
the following incident occurred in the American camp.
Two soldiers, Williams a Yankee, and Gumming an
Irishman, had a quarrel, in which the former gave the
latter a severe flogging. To revenge his chagrin, the
worsted combatant took a shirt from his own knap-
sack, and placed it in that of Williams, to give it
the appearance of having been stolen, in the hope of
seeing the latter punished. The officers found it ne-
cessary to use severe measures for petty theft, as it
was of very frequent occurrence. The missing gar-
ment of Gumming having been found in Williams's
possession, the latter was tied up w^th his coat off to
be whipped. The son of Erin, conscience stricken,
then advanced into the ring, and drew off his coat to


take the lash. He said he had received one licking
from Williams, and although he had used stratagem
to get him publicly flogged, he would rather receive
the scorpioii'tailed cat himself, than see a man pun-
ished for a crime of which he was not guilty. So
manly a confession on the part of Gumming, excited
the admiration of the Rev. John Greenough, a baptist
minister, and chaplain of the regiment, who interceded
with Col. Livingston, and he readily forgave them

The Americans had several skirmishes with the
enemy in Rhode Island, in the summer and autumn of
1778, in two of which Nicholas Stoner was engaged.
Capt. Hughes was out one night with his command
as a piquet guard on Poppasquash point, opposite
Bristol. The troops having been observed before dark
by a British vessel in the vicinity, a body of marines
and 'grenadiers landed and made them prisoners. The
enemy having gained the beach in boats, came round
a salt marsh which was separated from a corn field by
a stone wall. Capt. Hughes and his men were on the
marsh side of the wall, and fired on the marines as
they approached. The latter called to them not to
fire, saying, " we are your own men." As they drew
near, their white belts betrayed them however, and
the Americans attempted their retreat. In endeavoring
to leap the wall, our hero missed his footing and fell
back, at which instant he was seized by the collar by
a British grenadier named John McGaffee. At this


instant another soldier raised his musket to strike him
down, but was prevented by McGaffee, who exclaimed,
*' Vast, shipmate, it is only a child." Daniel Basin,
a Frenchman, who was leaping the wall near Stoner,
w^as bayoneted and killed. Capt. Hughes and all his
men were made prisoners, except the one killed, and
two who were missing, supposed to have scaled the
fence and escaped; and as the American army was
near, they were hurried into the boats and taken to
Conanicut island. While crossing the marsh to the
boats, the young fifer thought it was best to secure
the rum in his canteen, and accordingly took a long-
gurgling swig, which was broken oiF by McGafiee,
who claimed a share, as being his by the fortune of
war, and he gave the finishing guzzle. As they
neared the beach, Stoner threw the empty casket away.
An officer hearing it strike the water, raised his sword
to punish, as he supposed, an act of treachery, think-
ing a prisoner had cast a cartridge-box from him, but
McGaffee, with his tongue now oiled, again inter-
posed, and observed that the boy had only thrown away
an empty and valueless canteen.

At daylight the prisoners were paraded and lodged
in the enemy's prison on the island. When aroused
by the morning roll-call, young Stoner, who had been
w^ofully drunk, from his attempt to swallow the contents
of his own flask the evening before, and whose brain
was still broiling from the effects of the potation, started

up, supposing at first he was required to play the re-


veille in the American camp, but he was soon brought
to his senses, and to a situation in which he could
get sober at his leisure; in other words, he learned
that others were to pipe while he danced. John Stoner
was at this time a drummer in the American camp,
not far distant from where his brother was a prisoner;
indeed, the spangled banner was floating in sight.*

Gen. Prescott,* the British commander on that sta-
tion, was captured the summer before Capt. Hughes
was taken. He had gone to pay his devoirs to a
buxom widow, at a little distance from his own camp,
and a slave of the lady foimd means to communicate
the fact to the Americans. Lieut.-Col. Barton, of the
Providence militia, an officer of spirit, at once con-
ceived the bold project of his capture. At dead of
night, in a barge, well manned by stout-hearted volun-
teers with muffled oars, he landed and approached
the house in which the general was so happily quar-
tered. Feeling quite secure, he had accepted the kind
lady's hospitality, and resolved to tarry all night.
Possibly his arrest was set on foot by the fair hostess,
for woman often proved the champion of freedom.

The general was nabbed in a bed-chamber; and
without allowing the drowsy hero time to collect his

*At the time Gen. Prescott's capture was noted, it had escaped
the writers recollection that an account of it had ever been pub-
lished •, and Stoner's narrative of the event was adopted in the
first edition, making it a year later than its occurrence. It look
place July 10, 1777 — five miles from Newport. Col. Barton left
Warwick Neck with 38 men in two boats, surprised the generaJ
in bed, and returned with him in safety {Holm€s''s jinnah).


scattered thoughts, or the war-god to chase the dreams
of love from his mind — or, indeed, what was far more
uncharitable, time to put on his breeches, he was
hurried off to the rebel barge. Passing through a
piece of standing barley, his legs were tickled, as we
may suppose, not in the most agreeable manner. So
silently had the Americans arrived, and so brief had
been their stay, that they were even bending their
oars for their own camp before the general's guard
could be mustered. Great was the surprise among
the British next day, when it became known that their
general had been spirited away. On being apprised
of the fact, some of the soldiers were heard to say,
" The rebels have got the old rascal, and I hope they'll
kill him ! " He was a man some sixty years of age,
was a severe disciplinarian, and not very popular. He
w^as exchanged for Gen. Lee — for w^hich object he was
possibly captured — in April preceding the surprise of
Capt. Hughes. After several months imprisonment,
Ca]U. Hughes and his command were exchanged.

In the fall of 1778, the several regiments of New
York state troops having become much reduced, a
new organization took place, their number being les-
sened, at which time Nicholas Stoner joined the com-
pany of Capt. Samuel T. Pell, attached to Col. Cort-
landt's regiment, which marched to Schenectada. The
state troops were sent, during the winter months, to
different frontier stations, and Capt. Pell proceeded to
Johnstown for w^inter quarters.


Small parties of the enemy kept the inhabitants
along the frontier of New York, in a state of almost
constant alarm. While stationed at Johnstown Nicho-
las Stoner often went hunting and fishing with other
lads, to provide a dainty morsel for some officer, who
thought more of his palate than of his purse; and con-
sequently paid liberally for their success. Young
Stoner, in company with three others, one Charles-
worth, Charles Darby and John Foliard, all nearly of
the same age, went out with guns and fishing tackle,
in the vicinity of Johnson Hall. After they had be-
come busily engaged along the Cayadutta,* all at once
Darby, without uttering a word, was seen to start as
if terribly frightened, and run off in the direction of
the Hall. His comrades soon learned the cause of his
alarm, by seeing a small party of Indians emerge from
a patch of hemp not far distant from them, and near
the Hall barn. One of them fired on Charles worth,
but the boys scattered, fled and all effected their
escape. These Indians, or, as probably some of them
were, tories disguised, had no doubt visited the settle-
ment as spies, and were anxious to take back a pri-
soner as a proof of having accomplished their mission.
They were sure of their reward, if they could return

* Ca-ya-dut-ta signifies mttddy creek, says the Hon. John Dun-
ham, of Hamilton county, who had the signification from Indian
hunters. The creek courses in Johnstown through a soil which
gives to the water at most seasons of the year a dirty appearance ;
hence the ahoriginal name.


with occular evidence of having visited the place de-
signated by some British or refugee officer in Canada.
Thomas Harter, an inoffensive man, nearly seventy
years old, who resided in Scotch Bush, a few miles
from Johnson Hall, went to his field, bridle in hand,
to catch a horse, and was made prisoner and taken to
Canada, by a small party of the enemy (in the fall of
1778, or spring of 1779), that did not wish to harm
him, but w^ere anxious to prove they had been to
Johnstown. His unaccountable absence from home
greatly alarmed his family, but their apprehensions
were softened by a tory neighbor, who assured them
he was alive, but had been taken prisoner as a matter
of necessity, and would be kindly used. His treat-

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