Jeptha Root Simms.

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and taken to Canada, From his having been a hunter and fa-
miliar with the forest, DeLine was tightly hound. This was the
second time they were taken to Canada durmg tne war. and how
long they remained prisoners there at this time is unknown tc
the writer, James Jones of Florida composed the following
distich, which was often sounded in their ears after the war :

And when they name to the Hall, the house they did surround,
And Ben De Lme and Joseph Scott made prisoners on the ground


John, a son of Philip Helmer, named as one of the
pioneer settlers in Fonda's Bush, who remained there
after his patriotic neighbors had removed to Johns-
town, accompanied Sir John Johnson to Canada on
his removal from Johnson Hall, early in the Revolu-
tion. Returning to the settlement not long after, he
became an object of suspicion; was arrested by the
patriots, and confined at Johnstown. A sentinel was
placed over him who was very green in the service,
and improving a favorable opportunity, the prisoner
took occasion to praise his gun; and closed his adula-
tion by requesting permission to look at it, which was
readily granted. The piece had hardly passed out of
the young guard's possession, ere his authority was
set at defiance, and its new owner took it to a place of
retirement to inspect its merits; which were not fully
decided upon until he had safely arrived in Canada.

At a later period of the war, young Helmer again
had the audacity to visit the Johnstown settlements.
He returned late in the fall, and was concealed at his
father's house for some time, intending on the return
of spring, if possible, to take back some recruits with
him for the British service. The nonintercourse so
generally observed between whig and tory families


favored his design, but by some means his place of
refuge became known to three patriotic neighbors,
Benjamin DeLine, Solomon Woodworth and Henry
Shew^, w'ho determined on his capture. Well armed,
they proceeded one night to the vicinity of his father's
dwelling, and concealed themselves at a place where
they had reason to suppose he would pass. They had
not been there long w^hen, unsuspicious of danger, he
approached the trio, who poised their fire-arms and he
yielded to their authority, and was lodged in the Johns-
town jail. The entrance to the fort through the pick-
eted enclosure, w^as on the south side.

Helmer had a sister named Magdalene, the Germans
call the name Lana, by this name she was known.
Miss Lana w^as on intimate terms with a soldier then
on duty at the Johnstown fort; and at an interview
with him after one of several visits to her brother, to
whom she carried such little comforts as a sister can
provide, she got a pledge from him, that when on
sentinel duty he w^ould unlock the prison door and set
the prisoner free. It was in the night time and while
his vigils lasted, that she had found access to the pri-
soner. True to his promise, Lana's lover did set her
brother at liberty, and, with another soldier, was se-
duced from his duty by the prisoner, when both fled in
his company. When she wills it, what can not wo-
man do? A sergeant and five men, Amasa Stevens,
Benjamin DeLine, before named, and three continental
soldiers were soon upon their trail, which they w^ere


enabled to follow by the fall of a light snow, and taking
with them a lantern that they might travel by night,
they came up with and surprised them in the woods.
The two soldiers were fired upon and killed, but Hel-
mer, with a severe bayonet wound in his thigh es-
caped: he was afterwards discovered nearly dead, in
some bushes where he had concealed himself, and was
taken to the fort: there he was cured of his wounds
and again imprisoned. By some unaccountable means
he succeeded the third time in effecting his enlarge-
ment; fled to Canada, and there remained. He, too,
had been a hunter before the war, and was familiar
with the forest. A part of the preceding facts were
from Jacob Shew. At an interview between Helmer
and Nicholas Stoner, w^iich took place in Canada
subsequent to the war, he told the latter that he suf-
fered almost incredible hardships in making his last
journey to that country.

In the last year of the Revolution, Nicholas Stoner
belonged to a band of musicians, which marched into
New York with troops under Col. Willett, on its
evacuation by the enemy. He played the clarionet,
as did also Nicholas Hill. During the stay of Gen.
Washington in that city, an exhibition of fire-works
took place, on which occasion the band alluded to
performed. Stoner also saw Washington enter the
barge at Whitehall on his leaving New York; and to
use his own words, was one of the band that played
him off.


Mischief lurked in the veins of young Stoner to the
end of the war, and often brought him into ditBculty,
from which fortune sometimes extricated him quite as
easily as he deserved to be. The summer of 1783,
was one of comparative inactivity in the army, as
hostilities had nearly ceased that spring. Stoner was
with a body of troops which were encamped back of
Newburgh, when a little incident occurred which
afforded some momentary amusement. In the camp
was a black soldier, who had frozen oflf his toes while
under Col. Willett the preceding February, in his
abortive attack on Fort Oswego. In consequence, the
poor fellow experienced such difficulty in walking,
that few could observe his peculiar gait, without
having their risible faculties get the mastery.

As he was waddling along near the young musician,
the latter called him a stool-pigeon. The words were
scarcely uttered, ere the sable patriot, who felt the in-
sult sensibly, pursued the offender, armed with a bay-
onet, threatening vengeance. A clarionet was a poor
weapon with which ton-epel an attack, and its pos-
sessor fled for dear life, and took refuge in the hut of
Lieutenant-Col. Cochrane, who was then entertaining
several friends. So abrupt an entrance started all to
their feet, little doubting that the enemy from New
York were upon them: but fears of an invasion were
soon at an end, as close upon the heels of Stoner came
tumbling in the infuriated, frost-bitten hero. What^s
the matter? What has happened? What means this


intrusion? several voices were at once demanding, as
the last enterer, almost out of breath, stammered out —
" Massa curnil ! dis deblish musiker, he 'suit me berry
badj I'm lame, can't help it; froze my feet, like to
froze my body too : all under Curnil Will't in de bush ;
snow knee deep: dis rascal call me tool pigeon; I no
stand it."

" I comprehend," said Col. Cochrane: "you have
been very unfortunate while in the service of your
country, and it grieves you, as w^ell it should, to have
any one speak lightly of your misfortunes."


" Well, my good fellow, leave the matter to me^
and go to your quarters: I'll punish the impudent

" Dat's wat I want," said the lame soldier, now re-
stored to good humor; " he desarbs it, and I hope you
whip him berry hard, massa curnil; yah-yah-yah — "

" That I will," interrupted the officer.

"Tank you, curnil, cause you my friend;" con
tinned the offended warrior, as he turned to go out,
and restored a care worn drab and black hat to his
bump of pugnacity. While closing the door to leave
the presence of his umpire and friends, a smile of
satisfaction was seen lurking about his under lip, and
he was observed to close his fist and shake it at his
offender, as much as to say — " Ha, de curnil gib it to
you; you get your hide loosened dis time."

While the dialogue lasted, a frown sat upon the


brow of Col. Cochrance, and the young culprit began
to feel in imagination the whistling lash his unruly
tongue had invoked ; but no sooner had the complain-
ant closed the rough door, than, in spite of all his
efforts to the contrary, he found himself obliged to
join his merry companions and laugh heartily. The
figure of the limping negro, ^vho, if he did not wear
cotton, w^as amazingly outward-bound, seemed still
before him, and turning to the mischief-maker, he
with no little effort gave him a sharp reproof for thus
imprudently wounding the feelings of one ^vho should
exite his sympathy; and then, not daring to venture
a longer speech, lest he should spoil it with a laugh,
he ordered him from his presence with a threat of
terrible vengeance at the end of a rawhide, if he ever
did the like again.

Bowing his thanks for the easy and unexpected
terms meted to him, young Stoner promised to do bet-
ter in future, and as he left the hut to seek his own,
the walls of the rude dwelling behind him shook with
the boisterous merriment of its inmates, at their very
unique entertainment.

When the w^ar of the Revolution closed and the
dove took the place of the eagle — when the prattling
infant could nestle in its mother's bosom secure from
midnight assassins — when the warrior once more laid
aside his sword and musket to grasp the hoe and spade
of thrift — when commerce again spread her white
wings without fear of the foeman's fire — w^hen art and


science again smiled o'er hill and dale, enriched by
the blood of freemen slain — when Liberty, with a
home of her own, invited the oppressed of the earth
to her embrace, extending to the penury-stricken the
horn which needed only his industry to become one of
plenty — then and not till then did our hero, grown to
man's estate, return again to reside in the vicinity of

Where is the hoary-headed warrior that never felt
the melting influence of woman's smiles? If any such
there are, let them come forth while I tell them a brief
love-story of their own time. I have already informed
the reader, that there dwelt at Johnstown in the Re-
volution, a soft haired, dark eyed maiden named Anna
Mason ; and have shadowed forth the fact, that a little
intimacy existed between her and our hero in their
youthful days. As no matrimonial engagement had
passed between them, not having seen or heard from
the young pigeon hunter for several long years ; and
not informed whether the glory of a dead warrior or
the triumph of a live one were his ; in fact, not know-
ing if he were alive in a distant colony, but what
some other young heart then beat against his own; it
is not surprising that she looked upon him as lost to
her, however vividly fancy at times may have brought
back his graceful figure.

Among the Johnstown patriots was a young man
named William Scarborough, who answered also to
the name of Crowley. His mother, at the time she


married Jeremiah Crowley, was a widow Scarborough,
her husband having been killed in the batteau service,
and w^as already possessed of little Willie, but people
did not always stop to consider his true parentage, and
after a while he almost ceased to be called Scarborough.
On page 477 of my History of Schoharie County, etc.,
where his death is mentioned, he is called Crowley, as
I was then ignorant of his true parentage. William
Scarborough, who was in some respects a very worthy
young man, paid his addresses to the charming Anna
Mason. Now William was a brave youth, and had
been in the service of his country, which Anna hap-
pened to know, and on w^hich account she the more
highly respected him; for the women of that period
could and did discriminate between right and wrong;
between liberty and oppression. To cut a long story
short, for wooing is full of mazes and phases, and in-
teresting filagree, William found himself enamored
with the bewitching Anna, who, on his making tender
advances, cast a long sigh on the war-path of a cer-
tain hunter, blushed deeply and reciprocated ardently
his attachment.

Early in the year 178 J, but in what month we can
not speak with certainty, Anna Mason was led to
Hymen's altar, an altar on w^hich have been offered
many pure affections, but few more unsullied than
hers, and became the bride of her heroic William.
Days, weeks, even months passed, and still the young
wife w^as happy; should she ever be otherwise? for


she had a kind husband, and was surrounded by those
who loved and respected her.

The green summer flew past, and autumn with her
russet-clad meadows and golden forests arrived, and
still Anna Scarborough was cheerful and happy: but
alas! a civil war that had raged for years and stained
with life-blood the threshold of many dwellings within
a few miles, was still devastating the land; and
although the war-cry for a little season w^as removed
to a distance, and no immediate danger was appre-
hended, yet the midnight alarm might again break on
the ear, and the most tender ties be sundered in a mo-
ment: for

Storms that have been again may be !

The battle-axe if yet on high,

Stained with the blood of martyrs free —

When thought most distant may be nearest by;

And from it fondly cherished may not fly.

On the morning of October 25, 1781, a large body
of the enemy under Maj. Ross, entered Johnstown with
several prisoners, and not a little plunder; among
which were a number of human scalps taken the after-
noon and night previous, in settlements in and adjoin-
ing the Mohawk valley; to which was added the
scalp of Hugh McMonts, a constable, who w^as sur-
prised and killed as they entered Johnstown. In the
course of the day the troops from the garrisons near
and the militia from the surrounding^ country, rallied
under the active and daring Willett, and gave the


enemy battle on the Hall farm, in which the latter
were finally defeated with loss, and made good their
retreat to Canada. Young Scarborough was then in
the nine months' service, and while the action was
going on, himself and one Crosset left the Johnstown
fort, where they were on garrison duty, to join in the
fight, less than two miles distant. Between the Hall
and woods they soon found themselves engaged.
Crosset after shooting down one or two, received a
bullet through one hand, but winding a handkerchief
around it, he continued the fight under cover of a hem-
lock stump. He was shot dowm and killed there, and
his companion surrounded and made prisoner by a
party of Scotch troops commanded by Capt. McDonald.
When Scarborough was captured, Capt. McDonald
was not present, but the moment he saw him he or-
dered his men to shoot him down. Several refused ;
but three, shall I call them men? obeyed the dastardly
order, and yet he possibly would have survived his
wounds, had not the miscreant in authority cut him
dowm with his own broadsword. The sword was
caught in its first descent, and the valiant captain drew
it out, cutting the hand nearly in two.

Why this cold-blooded murder? Were those hostile
warriors rivals in love? Had the epauletted hero, com-
missioned at the door of the infernal regions, sought
the hand of the blooming Anna and been rejected be-
cause his arm^ivas raised against his sufifering country?
Or must the prisoner be destroyed because in arms


with his countrymen? A more hellish and malignant
act was not perpetrated, even by the sons of the forest,
on the frontiers of New York.* Jeremiah Crowley,
the step-father of Scarborough, was made a prisoner
by the enemy and taken to Canada. Mrs. Scarborough,
who was at her father's on the morning of the action,
fled to the fort with her father, Mrs Mason choosing
to brave the dangers of the day to save her effects.
Mason's house stood a little north of the present site
of John Yost's tavern, and on the edge of the Hall
farm. The action was fought in its vicinity, and thir-
teen balls were fired into it, which no doubt kept the
old lady from falling asleep. One of McDonald's men,

* Previous to the war, McDonald and Scarborough were neigh-
bors, and in a political quarrel which took place soon after the
commencement of national difficulties and eniled in blows, the
loyalist was rather roughly handled. A spirit of revenge no doubt
prompted him to wreak his vengeance on an unarmed prisoner. —

Scarborough was overbearing and at times insolent towards those
who differed with him in politics. On one occasion during the
war, at the gristmill in Johnstown, Scarborough met an old man
upon whom he heaped a deal of abuse. The young miller, a mere
lad, offended at such unkind treatment, jumped into a sleigh then
at the door, rode up to the fort, and informed the garrison of what
he had witnessed. Several soldiers, determined to see fair play,
returned with the miller; and on their reproving Scarborough for
ill treating the poor old man, he turned upon and began a quarrel
with them. The result was he received a severe castigation for
his temerity, which cooled him down. From James Frazier^
then a boy, who, if I mistake not, witnessed the whole scene at
the mill.


who had been ordered to fire on young Scarborough and
refused to obey, was so disgusted with his captain for
the act, that he deserted the same ervening and joined
the Americans.

On the morning after their death, the remains of
Scarborough and Crosset were taken to the fort on a
wooden-shod sleigh drawn by horses.* Need I stop to
tell the reader how the young bride, Anna Scarborough^
was overwhelmed with sorrow on the day succeeding
the Johnstown battle? How her keenest sensibilities
were on fire, at beholding the mangled remains of her
beloved William; and what mental agony she endured?
But such sufferings are at all times the attendants of a
civil war, in which neighbor is clad in armor against
his fellow, and kinsman against those of his own blood.
Some time after the death of her husband, and about
eleven months after the sealing of the nuptial vow,
Mrs. Scarborough was presented with a daughter as a
pledge of her early love, which tended in no measured
degree to reconcile her to the cruel fate war had meted
her. This daughter grew up to woman's estate.

Time and change of circumstances, with the bless-
ings of social intercourse returning at the close of a
protracted war, again restored the young widow, who
possesed a buoyant disposition, or a spirit to wrestle

* Yockum Folluck, a soldier killed in the Johnstown battle,
was found with a piece of meat placed at his mouth, as supposed
by the Indians in derision. Folluck resided in the vicinity of
Johnstown. — David Zielie.


successfully with trials, to the enjoyment af society
and the shaded realities of life.

One that has won, again may win;
and soon after the return of Nicholas Stoner to Johns-
town, he came within the pale of the young widow's
charms, which in the military camp had often brought
him to his senses, and shortly after sought and obtained
her hand in marriage. Although her affections had
been chastened by the blight of sorrow, her young
heart was still susceptible of an ardent offering to the
one who had inspired the first budding of love there,
and she proved a boon companion and cheerful wife.
The fruit of this connection w^as four sons and two
daughters. Three of the sons are still living. The
daughters w^ere Mary and Catharine: the former mar-
ried William Mills, and now ( 1847) resides in Fulton
county; and the latter died when a young woman.

Nicholas Stoner, the first two years after his mar-
riage, lived near Johnson Hall, and then settled at
Scotch Bush, now know^n as McEwen's Corners, in
the western part of Johnstown, where he resided many
years. John Stoner, whose temperament did not bring
him into trouble often, continued in the army to the
close of the war ; after which he was for several years
employed by Col. Frederick Fisher, w^ho built him a
farm-house nearly on the site of his homestead, and
where he had been scalped by the Indians. To the
location of this dwelling, a substantial brick edifice,
I have already alluded. After John Stoner left the


employ of Col. Fisher, he married Miss Susan Philes,
by whom he had a daughter, Catharine Ann, and four

Soon after the Revolution, Nicholas Stoner was for
three years a deputy sheriff under John Littel, Esq.
He was also a captain of militia, and filled several
town offices at different periods. When we again
came to blows w4th England, because of her insolence
in searching our ships and impressing our seamen into
her service, the Stoner brothers were once more en-
rolled in the American armyj John enlisting in 1812,
and Nicholas in 18 13. John Stoner, who was a drum-
major in this war, was taken sick at Sacket's Harbor
and died there. Nicholas enlisted at Johnstown into
the 29th New York regiment, of which Melancthon
Smith was colonel, G. D. Young lieutenant-colonel,*
and John E. Wool, major. He joined the company
of Capt. A. P. Spencer, Lieut. Henry Van Antwerp
being the recruiting officer under whom he enrolled
his name. He proceeded to Utica, and from thence
to Sacket's Harbor, where he remained until fall; at
which time he went into winter quarters at Greenbush.
Early the following spring he joined the army at
Plattsburg, going from Whitehall by water.

Lake Champlain and the territory adjoining it, in
in September, 1814, became the theatre of some of
the most important events which characterized the war

• Lieut. -Col. Young was killed in 1817, in the abortive attemp:
of Gen, Mina to revolutionize Mexico.


of that period. The withdrawal of troops from Platts-
burg to succor Fort Erie, determined the governor
general of Canada, Sir George Prevost, to attack it
with a force he supposed irresistible; and for that pur-
pose he invaded the territory of the States on the 3d
day of September, with an army some fourteen thousand
strong, well equipped and provided with a splendid
train of artillery. About the same time, so as to make
a clean sweep. Commodore Downie, with 'a naval
force far superior in number of vessels, guns and men,
made preparations to engage the American flotilla on
Lake Champlain, then under the command of the gal-
lant Commodore Thomas McDonnough, who, ten years
before, had so distinguished himself under Decatur in
a captured Turkish ketch before the walls, and under
the very batteries of the bashaw of Tripoli.

Gen. Macomb, at Plattsburg, had only about fifteen
hundred men at his command when the invasion of
Prevost began, but his call on the patriotic sons of
New York and Vermont was promptly obeyed, and he
was enabled to keep a vastly superior force at bay,
until reinforced sufficiently to cope with his adversary.
From the 3d until the 11th of September, repeated
engagements took place contiguous to Plattsburg, in
several of which Nicholas Stoner, then a fife-major,
was engaged. He took a musket, however, and per-
formed duty at this time as a sergeant, and as he was
a good marksman, several must have fallen before his
deadly aim.


There was not a little excitement in the American
camp at Plattsburg as the British army was advancing
on that post, and great exertions were made to put it
in a fit state for the enemy's reception. The merit-
orious young Trojan, Captain Wool, as a reward for
his daring conduct in storming Queenston heights, in
October, 1812, had been appointed major, of the 29th
New^ York regiment, and in the absence of its colonels,
the command of it devolved upon him in September,

As the enemy were approaching, Major Wool vo-
lunteered his services, and repeatedly on the 5th of
September, urged General Macomb to allow him to
meet the enemy and make at least a show of resistance;
as nothing more could be expected against such odds.
The general met his earnest solicitations with some
coolness, and expressed his apprehensions that if he
went out he would be captured. On the evening of
the 5th. the gallant Wool received a reluctant assent
to meet the enemy, but was not allowed to do so until
morning. So anxious was he for active service, how-
ever, that long before day light on the 6th, the major
had mustered his corps and was on the Beekmantown
road. Gen. Macomb had assured him Capt. Leonard,
with his company of artillery, should accompany him,
but the latter declined marching without the express
orders of the general, and he moved forward without
him. His own regiment then numbered only 200 men,
to which were added about 50 from other regiments^


and some 30 volunteer militia: in all nearly 280 men.

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Online LibraryJeptha Root SimmsTrappers of New York; → online text (page 6 of 17)