Monday, April 30, 2012

Van Cortlandt Manor House, Paulding's Monument and St. Peter's Church

   Van Cortlandt's house [Town of Cortlandt] is situated in the midst of the fine estates of that family. It is a brick mansion, and was erected in 1773. It stands in the center of a pleasant lawn, shaded by locust trees, on the north side of the post-road. It was occupied by Washington, for a brief space, as head-quarters; and there the Van Cortlandt family resided in safety, while desolation was rife around them. When I visited the mansion, General Pierre Van Cortlandt, the late owner (brother of *General Philip Van Cortlandt) had been dead but a few months. Many of the family portraits were yet 1848 there, some of them more than one hundred years old. They have since been removed to the old manor house at Croton. The mansion which we are considering was occupied for a while by Gen. McDougall's advance guard, when the British took possession of Peekskill in March, 1777, an event that will be noticed presently.
   The old oak tree is standing in a field a little eastward of the house, which was used for the purpose of a military whipping-post during the encampment there. It is green and vigorous, and so regular are its branches, that, when in full foliage, its form, above the trunk, is a perfect sphere.
   Upon a knoll, a little eastward of Van Cortlandt's house, is an ancient wooden church, erected in 1767 for worship, according to the rituals of the Church of England. The site of this church and the grave yard was a gift of Andrew Johnson of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The parish was called St. Peter's; and this and the parish of St. Philip, in the Highlands, were endowed with two hundred acres of land by British Colonel Beverly Robinson. Within its graveyard, which spreads over the knoll westward, is the monument erected to the memory of John Paulding, one of the captors of Andre, by the corporation of the City of New York.
   The monument is constructed of West Chester marble, in the most simple form, consisting of a pedestal surmounted by a cone. It is massive, and is so constructed as to last for ages. The base of the pedestal covers a square of seven feet, and is surrounded by a strong iron railing. The height is about thirteen feet. One side of the monument exhibits a representation, in low relief, of the lace medal voted by Congress to each of the captors of Andre; the other side exhibits the reverse of the medal.
   The main inscription is upon the western panel of the pedestal. The monument was erected in 1827; the cone was placed on the pedestal on the 22d of November of that year, in the presence of a large concourse of citizens, who were addressed by William Paulding, then Mayor of New York.
   The following are the inscriptions on the monument:

NORTH SIDE.--"Here repose the mortal remains of JOHN PAULDING, who died on the 18th day of February, 1818, in the 60th year of his age.

WEST SIDE.--"On the morning of the 23d of September, 1780, accompanied by two young farmers of the county of West Chester (whose names will one day be recorded on their own deserved monuments), he intercepted the British spy, Andre. Poor himself, he disdained to acquire wealth by the sacrifice of his COUNTRY. Rejecting the temptation of great rewards, he conveyed his prisoner to the American camp, and, by this act of noble self-denial, the treason of Arnold was detected; the designs of the enemy baffled; West Point and the American army saved; and these United States, now by the grace of God Free and Independent, rescued from the most imminent peril."

SOUTH SIDE.--"The Corporation of the City of New York erected this tomb as a memorial sacred to PUBLIC GRATITUDE."

*Footnote: General Philip Van Cortlandt was the last possessor of the manor house, near Croton, by entail. He was born in the City of New York on the 1st of September, 1749, and was reared at the manor house. At nineteen, he commenced business as a land surveyor, but when the Revolution broke out, agreeing in sentiment with his father, Honorable Pierre Van Cortlandt, he joined the Republican army. His Tory relatives tried to dissuade him from his purpose, and Britsh Governor Tryon forwarded him a major's commission in the Cortlandt militia. He tore it to pieces, and accepted a lieutenant colonel's commission in the Continental army. He was appointed a colonel in 1776, and in that capacity served at the battle of Stillwater. He also served against the Indians on the New York frontier in 1778, and in 1779-80 was a member of the court martial convened for the trial of Arnold. He commanded a regiment of militia under Lafayette in 1780, and for his gallant conduct at the siege of Yorktown he was promoted to a brigadier's command. The seven hundred British and Hessian prisoners of war were entrusted to his care on their march to Fredericktown. He was for sixteen years a member of Congress, but in 1811 declined a re-election. General Van Cortlandt accompanied Lafayette in his tour through the United States in 1824. He died at the manor house at Croton, November 21st, 1831, at the age of eighty-two. With him expired the property entail. 

The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution...Vol.2 by Benson John Lossing

Sunday, April 29, 2012

"P.S.-- He Has Been Accordingly Executed."

   From the old church-yard I rode to the summit of Gallows Hill, a lofty ridge on the north, and bared of trees by the hand of cultivation. It is famous as a portion of the campground of the division of the American army under Gen. Putnam in 1777, and also as the place where a spy was hanged. It is about one hundred rods west of the road, on the southeastern slope of the hill, and is marked by a huge boulder lying upon the surface, by the side of which is the decayed trunk of a chestnut....
   The name of the spy was Edmund Palmer. He was an athletic young man, connected by nature and affection with some of the most respectable families in West Chester, and had a wife and children. He was arrested on suspicion, and enlisting papers, signed by Governor Tryon, were found upon his person. It was also ascertained that he was a lieutenant in a Tory company. These and other unfavorable circumstances made it clear that he was a spy, and on that charge he was tried and found guilty, and condemned to be hung.
   His young wife pleaded for his life, but the dictates of the stern policy of war made Putnam inexorable.
   Sir Henry Clinton sent a flag to the American commander, claiming Palmer as a British officer, and menacing the Republicans with the severest wrath if he was not delivered up. Putnam's sense of duty was as deaf to the menaces of the one as to the tears of the other, and he sent to Clinton the following laconic reply:

"Sir,--Edmund Palmer, an officer in the enemy's service, was taken as a spy, lurking within our lines. He has been tried as a spy, condemned as a spy, and shall be executed as a spy; and the flag is ordered to depart immediately. ISRAEL PUTNAM.

"P.S.--He has been accordingly executed."
Lossing's footnote: Near this tree and boulder a gallows, rudely constructed of lops, was erected, on which the spy was hung. It remained there for several years afterward, an object of superstitious dread to the country people who were obliged to pass it in the night. Spark's Washington, iv., 359.

The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution...Vol.2 by Benson John Lossing.

Washington Really Did Sleep Here

   Early on the morning of the 27th [1848] I made the sketch from Peekskill landing and then walked up to the village on the slopes and hills, by a steep winding way that overlooks a deep ravine, wherein several iron foundries are nestled. The town is romantically situated among the hills, and from some of its more prominent points of view there are magnificent prospects of the river and Highland scenery in the vicinity. Here, spreading out south and east for miles around, was the ancient manor of Cortlandt, stretching along and far above the whole eastern shore of Haverstraw Bay, and extending back to the Connecticut line. The manor house, near the mouth of the Croton River, is yet standing. Within Peekskill village, opposite the West Chester Bank, is the old Birdsall residence, a part of which, as seen in the picture upon the next page, is a grocery store.
   This building was erected by Daniel Birdsall, one of the founders of the village. His store was the first one erected here. The owner and occupant, when I visited it, was a son of the first owner, and was then eighty years of age. His lady, many years his junior, kindly showed me the different apartments made memorable by the presence and occupancy of distinguished men in the Revolution. It was occupied by George Washington when the head-quarters of the army were here; and in the parlor where Whitefield once preached, I sat and sketched one of the pieces of this venerable furniture. This old mansion, projecting into and marring the regularity of the street, is an eyesore to the villagers, and when the present owner shall depart, no doubt this relic will be removed...the desecrating hand of improvement.
   On leaving the Birdsall House, I proceeded to visit another octogenarian named Sparks, whose boyhood and long life have been passed in Peekskill. I found him sitting in the sun, upon his stoop, reading a newspaper without glasses, and his little grandson, a fair-haired child, playing at his feet.
   For an hour I sat and listened to his tales of the olden times, and of scenes his eyes had witnessed. He had often seen Washington and his suite at the Birdsall House, and well remembers Putnam, Heath, McDougall, and other officers whose quarters were at Peekskill. He never became a soldier, and saw only one battle during the war. That occurred near the Van Cortlandt House, two miles east of Peekskill, between some American pickets at the foot of Gallows Hill, and a picket guard of the enemy at the base of the eminences opposite. They were too near each other to keep quiet, and a skirmish at length ensued. "They made a great smoke and noise," said Mr. Sparks, "but nobody was hurt except by fright."
   Pointing to a huge oak standing near the Peekskill Academy on Oak Hill, and in full view of our resting-place, he related the circumstance of the execution of a British spy, named Daniel Strang, upon that tree. He was a Tory, and was found lurking about the American army at Peekskill with enlisting orders sewed up in his clothes. I left the vigorous old man to enjoy the warm sunlight and his newspaper alone, and procuring a conveyance, rode out to Van Cortlandt's house; the church yard, where rest the remains of one of Andre's captors; Gallows Hill, famous as the camping ground of Putnam for a short period during the revolution, and to Continental Village, the scene of one of Tryon's marauding expeditions.

The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution...Vol.2 by Benson John Lossing.


   The Courtlandts, or Van Courtandts, are descended from a noble Russian family. The orthography, in the Dutch language, is properly korte-landt, meaning short land, a term expressing the peculiar form of the ancient duchy of Courland in Russia. This domain constituted a portion of Livonia, but was conquered by the Teutonic knights in 1561, and subsequently became a fief of Poland. It remained a short time independent, under its own dukes, after the fall of that power, but in 1795 it was united to Russia. The dukes of Courland were represented in 1610 by the Right Honorable Steven Van Cortlandt, then residing at Cortlandt, in South Holland. He was the father of Oloff Stevenson Van Cortlandt, the first lord of the manor, of that name, on the Hudson.

The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution...Vol.2 by Benson John Lossing.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Revolutionary War Chronicles

The following sketches of history were written by Rev. David Craft, a Presbyterian minister, who lived in the borough of Wyalusing, Pennsylvania.  (Wyalusing is 82 miles from Cortland--less, as the crow flies. It is a scenic drive along US Route 6 at any time of the year.) Nearby Camptown was made famous by Stephen Foster's minstrel song Camptown Races. Craft described tumultuous events along the Susquehanna river frontier, which separated Iroquois territory from European-American settlements prior to and during the Revolutionary War. (Keep in mind that the place called Wyoming is located near present day Wilkes-Barre.) Neighbors fought neighbors in a bitter territorial war. Take your time and read all of it. You won't be disappointed. These sketches and more can be found in Craft's book: History of Bradford County 1770-1878, Settlements, Chapter 3. Visit Tri-Counties Genealogy:
Jeff Paine

   The quiet and prudent among the settlers had hoped that peaceable measures would prevail among them. They were exposed to immediate danger in case the war should be transferred from the coast to the interior. They were just on the confines of the Indian country, and must necessarily suffer the horrors and cruelties incident to border warfare if the savages violated their pledge of neutrality. They were about equally divided in sentiment among themselves, as many being favorable to the Crown as were in sympathy with Congress.
   Every consideration of prudence would seem to counsel mutual forbearance with each other and peace with their dusky neighbors. In the summer of 1777, British emissaries came among the Indians, persuading them to violate their pledge of neutrality, and among these settlements, stirring up the disaffected and endeavoring to muster recruits for St. Leger, who was then investing Fort Schuyler. This same year some deserters from the American army sought refuge in the settlements. Diversity of sentiment began to develop itself. The old land quarrel was renewed. The terms Yankee and Pennamite were dropped, and those of Whig and Tory took their place. The peace once disturbed, a thousand things contributed to foment the quarrel.
   During the latter part of this year the Indians began to assume a more threatening attitude towards the Susquehanna settlements, and before the close of the year acts of undisguised hostility began to be perpetrated, and many of the Whigs were plundered of their property, and the men carried into captivity. Those who escaped sought refuge at Wyoming, then esteemed a place of comparative security. Those who sympathized with the British interest removed their families within the British lines, and the men joined Johnson’s Royal Greens. The whole county was swept clean of white settlers—both Tory, Whig, and neutral—by the various hostile expeditions which passed through it, and from 1779 to 1783 was probably without an inhabitant, either white man or Indian.
   To aid the commissioners, appointed under the act of 1799, in confirming titles to the Connecticut claimants, Nathan Kingsley, Esq., and Justus Gaylord, Jr., made out a list of the early settlers in Springfield; Jacob Bowman and Henry Strope a like list for Claverack, which will be referred to as the Springfield and Claverack lists, and will be found in full at the close of this chapter.
   To preserve the record of these early settlers, such sketches and facts as can now be obtained will be given.
   Leonard Lott settled on the farm now owned by Joseph Gamble, in Wilmot township. He was married on Long Island to a Frenchwoman named Letitia Flander. Removed to Stillwater, N. Y., where he was living in 1773. In the summer of 1777 he was at Wilmot, from whence he removed to Plymouth in the early part of the winter, and lived there with Ira Manville from the 10th of December, 1777, until the 1st of June, 1778. He was at the Forty fort at the time of the battle. After the war he returned to the Gamble place, remained there two or three years, when he moved to Meshoppen, thence to the Mehoopany creek, where he died. His descendants still reside in Wyoming county.
   Philip Painter lived farther up the river, on the farm subsequently purchased by James Quick. He was probably a lessee of Philip Weeks, the Connecticut claimant, but of his history I have been unable to learn nothing more, except that after the war it is probable that he settled in Northumberland county.
   Edward Hicks, from Dutchess Co., N. Y., made a possession at the mouth of Sugar Run, as early as 1775, and remained there about a year, and left. He embraced loyalist sentiments, and was taken by the Westmoreland militia, December, 1777, from which time his name disappears from our local records.
   Prince Bryant, of Providence, R. I., a tanner by trade, occupied this farm in 1776. By deed dated April 21, 1777, he sold the property to Benjamin Eaton, for £200, and described it as “a certain lot or parcel of land in Westmoreland, being the lot that I bought of Amaziah Close, containing three hundred acres, lying in a district that was laid out by Jeremiah Ross and Lieut. Wells; said lot is situated on the south side of the Susquehanna river, opposite Wialuchin.” About this time he was engaged for nine months as post-rider between Hartford, Conn., and Wyoming, making the round trip each fortnight. In January, 1781, he was living in Goshen, Orange Co., N. Y., to which he removed about the time of the battle of Wyoming. He subsequently settled above Athens, near the mouth of Cayuta creek, where, in 1788, he owned six hundred acres of land, on which were two dwelling-houses, a grist-mill, and a saw-mill, which in January of that year he sold to Nathaniel Shaw and John Shepard.
   Benjamin Eaton, who purchased of Prince Bryant, was from Kent, Litchfield Co., Ct. He remained on this property until the spring of 1778, when re removed to Wyoming for safety. Near by him was settled Calvin Eaton, probably a relative. In 1787, Mr. Eaton was living in the “Mohawk district, Montgomery Co., N. Y.,” when he sold his land in Bradford County to Isaac Benjamin. In Erwin’s History of Painted Post it is said that, “in 1795, Benjamin Eaton opened the first store in the town, if not in the county, for the benefit of civilization.” I have failed to learn anything further of his history there. A note from Prof. D. C. Eaton, of Yale college, gives the following facts: Benjamin, fifth son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Parker) Eaton, was born at Tolland, Conn., Feb. 1, 1732. Thomas was the oldest son of Thomas and Lydia (Gay), who was the son of John, oldest son of John, who emigrated from London to Massachusetts Bay in 1635.
   It may be added, that Isaac Benjamin sold the farm to Jonas Ingham, Sept. 4, 1789, whose great-grandson now occupies it.
   It will be remembered that Henry Pauling, of Montgomery Co., Pa., purchased of Job Chillaway the site of the Mission village, in May, 1775. Soon after he sent up Isaac Hancock, to take possession of his lands and cultivate them. Here, on the 10th of September, 1777, Mrs. Hancock gave birth to a daughter, Betsy, who became the wife of Jesse Ross. Mr. Hancock returned to his home, near Philadelphia, late in the fall of the same year. His subsequent residence in the county will be noticed in the township annals.
   In order to make his title secure, Mr. Pauling purchased four rights in the Susquehanna company, and his three sons, Benjamin, William, and Jesse, came upon the property in the year 1776 or ’77. The wealth and social standing of the family gave the young men great influence among the settlers. Generous of their means, fond of the hunt and the rough sports of the times, they soon became the leading spirits in the community, and lived on terms of great friendship with their neighbors until the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, when their ardent zeal for their Pennsylvania title, the suspicions and possibly unwise eagerness of the prominent Whigs to crush out all loyalty to the crown of England, led them, in common with many other prominent men in the colonies, although greatly to the mortification and chagrin of their father, who espoused heartily the cause of the colonists, to join the loyalists, and identify themselves with the interests of the mother government. The prominence of the family made the course of the young men the subject of much correspondence among the leading men of this valley, a few extracts from which are appended.
   In a letter written by Judge Gore, he says, “The circumstance of Mr. Pauling is this: when he had purchased of Job Chillaway, he then sent his son, John Pauling, to Wyoming to purchase a number of Connecticut rights to cover the tract he had purchased of the Indian. Those Connecticut rights were laid in a different direction from the former, so as to cover about one-half of the bottom land, while the Indian right took no other. Afterwards he settled three sons, to wit: Benjamin, Jesse, and the other name don’t occur. However, they lived there several years in good agreement, so far as I know, until the Indians made war against the United States, when these young men went off and joined the enemy. One [William] was appointed a captain in Butler’s rangers, one a lieutenant, and the third a quartermaster. They were all personally down against the settlement at Wyoming, with the savages, and exercised great severities upon the prisoners. They are yet at Niagara, one a justice of the peace.”
In 1802, Col. John Jenkins writes to Joseph Kingsbury as follows: “The three Paulings who left our settlement the year before the battle in 1778, went and joined Col. John Butler. They were commissioned as officers in his rangers. They afterwards returned home in the winter, and made arrangements for their friends, returned again, and joined Col. Butler early in the spring of 1778.”
   Living in the immediate neighborhood of the Paulings were two families, one named Page, and the other Richmond Berry. They were tenants of the Paulings, and were loyalists. Berry was taken by the militia in 1777, and his family were removed to Wyoming in the following spring.
   James Wells lived next above the Paulings. His house stood in a grove of white oaks, about sixty rods above the Stalford line, and twenty rods west of the State road. He was a native of Colchester, Connecticut, from which place he emigrated to Wyoming in 1771, and removed to Wyalusing in 1774. In company with Jeremiah Ross he laid out the town in that year. He probably had two children born in Wyalusing, viz., Alice, born in 1774, the first white child born in the township, and Mary, born in 1776. Mr. Miner says (Hazleton Travelers, p. 57), “The family were the earliest settlers in Springfield, on the Wyalusing, from which, on danger becoming imminent from the savages, they removed to the more densely settled part of the country, in the valley.” He and his oldest son, James, enlisted in the First Independent Company, of Wyoming, under command of Captain Robert Durkee. In this company Mr. Wells was first lieutenant. He, with others, on learning the great danger to which Wyoming was exposed from the savages, resigned his commission, left his company in New Jersey, and hastened home to participate in the ill-starred battle of Wyoming. In this battle he probably served as a private in Captain Bidlack’s (lower Wilkes-Barre) company, which was on the right wing of the patriot army. Here he was surrounded and slain. There is a tradition, which comes pretty well authenticated, that he was wounded in the leg so that he could not run, and the Indians attempted to capture him. Being a man of stalwart frame and giant strength he hurled off his enemies, when one sunk a tomahawk into his skull, which ended his life. He was forty-six years of age.
   After the battle, the mother with her ten children fled with the other fugitives to their friends in Connecticut, where they remained until 1787, when they returned to Wyalusing, where the family will be again mentioned. James, Jr., served in Captain Spalding’s company until the close of the war, when he removed to the State of New York. James and Amos Wells were appointed in 1773 to settle the line in dispute between the towns of Kingston and Plymouth, and reported in November of that year. He was a proprietor of Charlestown, one of the Susquehanna company’s townships, laid out on the West Branch, and sacked by Plunket, September, 1775, but there is no evidence that he ever lived there. Little else can be found in the meager records of these early times, but these scraps show that he had the confidence of the early settlers in this part of the country.
   Nathan Kingsley, Esq., lived on the northern half of the farm now owned by George H. Welles, at Wyalusing. The old house in which he lived is still standing about thirty rods north of the railroad depot. He was the oldest son of Salmon Kingsley, and was born in Scotland, Windham Co., Connecticut, January 23, 1743, and married Roccelana (Wareham?), of Windsor, Connecticut. (Prof. James L. Kingsley, of Yale College, was a nephew of Nathan.) He came to Wyoming about 1772 or ’73 and was one of the original proprietors of Springfield. August 8, 1775, he was appointed one of the committee of inspection for the county of Westmoreland. He purchased by deed bearing date January 8, 1776, of Elijah Brown, for £60, one-half of a saw-mill “standing on a creek called by ye name of Moughshopping, together with one-half of ye stream, tools, and timber belonging thereto,” etc. He sold the same to Thomas Wigton on the 8th of March following. The precise date of Mr. Kingsley’s settlement at Wyalusing cannot now be fixed. He was there previous to the survey of the township of Springfield in October, 1777, and had set off to him lots numbered 34 and 35, and it appeared that subsequently, in his absence, the township committee changed his corners.
   About the latter part of this year he was captured by the Indians, and remained in captivity nearly a year. While in captivity he secured the friendship and confidence of the Indians by his skill in doctoring their horses. He was, in consequence, allowed considerable liberty, and permitted to go into the woods to gather herbs and roots for his medicines. Seizing a favorable opportunity, he made his escape, and reached Wyoming in safety. During his captivity his family found a home with Jonathan Slocum, a member of the Friends’ society. Here Nathan, Jr., was killed, and another son carried into captivity by the Indians. Mr. Miner gives the account as follows: “A respectable neighbor, Nathan Kingsley, had been made prisoner, and taken into the Indian country, leaving his wife and two sons to the charity of the neighbors. Taking them home, Mr. Slocum bade them welcome until Mr. Kingsley should be liberated, or some other mode of subsistence present. On the 2d of November (1778), the two boys being engaged grinding a knife, a rifle-shot and cry of distress brought Mrs. Slocum to the door, where she beheld an Indian scalping Nathan, the eldest lad, fifteen years of age, with the knife he had been sharpening. Waving her back with his hand, he entered the house, and took up Ebenezer Slocum, a little boy. The mother stepped to the savage, and, reaching for the child, said, ‘He can do you no good; see, he is lame.’ With a grim smile, giving up the boy, he took Frances, her daughter, aged about five years, gently in his arms, and, seizing the younger Kingsley by the hand, hurried away to the mountains; two savages, who were with him, taking a black girl seventeen years old. This was within one hundred rods of Wilkes-Barre fort. An alarm was instantly given, but the Indians eluded pursuit, and no trace of their retreat could be found.”
   July 12, 1780, Lieutenant Kingsley was appointed on a court-martial, but when, where, or in what company he received his military title is not known.
   At the close of the war he returned to his old home in Wyalusing. His wife and one son, Wareham, had survived the perils of the war, and now he enjoyed a few years of quiet and comfort. On the organization of Luzerne county, Mr. Kingsley, Matthias Hollenback, William Hooker Smith, Benjamin Carpenter, James Nesbit, and Obadiah Gore were commissioned, May 11, 1787, judges of the common pleas and justices of the peace, and constituted the first court held in the county. Under date of Jan. 14, 1790, Mr. Kingsley sent the following letter to the president of the supreme executive council, resigning his commission:
   “Nathan Kingsley, of the county of Luzerne, commissioned one of the judges of the courts of quarter sessions and common pleas for the county aforesaid, finding it impracticable many times, by reason of high water, to attend courts, and living sixty miles from the county town, joined to the smallness of the fees allowed him in this behalf, is obliged, from necessity, to inform council that he cannot in future serve in his aforementioned capacity. Were his abode nearer than what it is at present to the county town, he would think of resigning his office, but would continue in it with pleasure and satisfaction. The fall and spring sessions happen at a time when the waters are high, and of consequence make his traveling not only expensive, but very difficult and dangerous. The time of attending, coming to, and returning from courts takes up so considerable a part of the seasons of summer and fall that he is obliged to neglect his agricultural pursuits, to the singular injury of his interest. From these considerations, he desires council to accept his resignation, and take such other order in directing the choice of another judge in his district as to them shall seem meet.
   His resignation was accepted on the 1st of the following February, and Lawrence Myers was appointed to fill the vacancy. About 1787 or 1788 he built a distillery on the creek, near the stone quarry, which was probably the first in the township. His wife died, and is buried in the cemetery at Wyalusing, but the precise date is not known. Mr. Kingsley is described as a large, tall man, of more than ordinary intelligence, deeply interested in the prosperity of the community and the development of the country. He fell a victim to the habits of the times, lost his property, and in his old age was supported at the public charge. He died in the State of Ohio in 1822, at the age of eighty.
   Amos York lived next neighbor above Mr. Kingsley, on what has more recently been known as the John Hollenbeck place. He came from Voluntown, Conn. At what period I am unable to ascertain. He purchased a farm opposite the mouth of Meshoppen creek, in Wyoming county, and there made a settlement. From the Mehoopany creek up, on the west side of the river, several families were settled prior to 1776. In Joseph Biles’ field-notes of the survey of the Susquehanna river, under date of March 30, 1796, he notes “Eight pitches by article of agreement, dated June 14, 1776, “which were to contain 1200 acres, of which Elijah Phelps had three lots, numbered 4, 5, and 8; Thomas Millard, No. 2; Amos York, No. 7; Ichabod Phelps, No. 3; Benjamin Kilbourn, No. 6; and Thomas Millard, Jr., No. 1. From the records of the commissioners, under the act of 1799:
   “Thomas Wigton, sworn in support of the first claim entered by Mrs. York [for about 300 acres], saith that the said Amos York erected a house on, and inclosed a considerable part of, the said tract of land opposite and above the mouth of the Meshopping; that after he had removed to Wyalusing he, the said deceased, went down and wrought on this land before the Indian battle in 1778, and that Elijah Phelps being entered upon the said land, the deceased informed the said deponent, some time prior to the said battle, that he was going over the river to warn off the said Phelps, and on his return said he had warned him off.”
   Mr. York moved to Wyalusing about 1774. His daughter, Sarah, in her narrative, says about four years previous to 1778, although she may have included in this the time they lived at Meshoppen. Manasseh Miner, the father of Mrs. York, was one of the original proprietors in the Susquehanna company, and conveyed this right to his daughter, and Mr. York made the pitch on which the right was to be located at Wyalusing, on some of the Indian clearings. Here he had carried on his improvements with considerable success. He had erected a good log house, a log barn, and had a considerable stock of horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs, and raised sufficient quantities of grain for their support.
   On the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, he was known as an active and ardent Whig, which arrayed against him the enmity of his Tory neighbors. Apprehending trouble from the Indians, in the fall of 1777 he went down to Wyoming to seek the advice of friends, and make arrangements for the removal of his family. It was there thought there would be no danger from the savages in the winter, and if in the spring they continued to favor the interests of the British, there would be ample time to seek the protection of the lower settlements. The capture of some of his neighbors occasioned new alarm, but there seemed to be no alternative but run the risk of being undisturbed until spring. To move his family sixty miles through a pathless wilderness, in the depth of winter, could not be thought of.
   On Feb. 12 and 13, 1778, there occurred a severe snowstorm. Each evening a negro from the old Indian town came to Mr. York’s, on a trifling excuse, and remained until late in the evening. On the 14th the storm ceased, and Mr. York determined to find out the reason for the negro’s strange conduct. Immediately after breakfast he set out on horseback on an errand to Mr. Pauling’s. As to what followed will be nearly in the words of his daughter Sarah, who at the time was fourteen years of age. She says, “The snow was two feet deep. In the afternoon, Miner, his little son, ran in and said the Indians were coming. The family looked out and saw Indians and white men, quite a company,* and the children said they were not afraid, for father was with them. Parshall Terry came in first, Tom Green next, and father next. Father took his seat on the bed and drew his hat over his eyes. I went to him and said, ‘Father, what is the matter?” He made no answer, but the tears were running down his cheeks. Terry used to boat on the river, and often stopped at our house. When he came in, mother said, ‘How do you do, Terry?’ He replied, ‘Mrs. York, I am sorry to see you.’ Mother said, ‘Why, have you taken my husband prisoner?’ He answered, ‘Ask Tom Green.’ Mother said, ‘Tom, have you taken my husband prisoner?’ He said, ‘Yes,’ but added, that he should not be hurt, only that he must take an oath that he will be true to King George. My mother appealed to him and Terry by the many acts of kindness they had done, represented to them the peaceable, generous, and obliging disposition of her husband, and deplored the wretched condition of the family.
   *There were forty or fifty in the whole company, of whom only fourteen went to Mr. York’s house.
   “After a while Terry lit his pipe and said to Green, ‘It is late, and we must be going.’ They then drove the cattle into the road, stripped the house of everything of value they could carry away, broke open the chests, tied up the plunder in sheets and blankets, and put the bundles on the backs of the men. Father had to take a pack of his own goods. When they got prepared to start, my father asked permission to speak to his wife,----he took her by the hand, but did not speak. When the company started, my father was compelled to walk, carry a bundle, and assist in driving his cattle, while his favorite riding-mare carried Terry.”
   The journey was a tedious, toilsome one for the captive. He was held a prisoner for about nine months, during which time he was subject to exposure and want, and endured all manner of hardship and suffering, not the least of which was the constant anxiety for the welfare of his family, who were left destitute in the midst of winter, and far from friends on whom they could call for aid in their distress.
   The narrative continues: “After the company had gone, and no more was to be seen of father, my mother and sister, Wealthy, started down to the town of Wyalusing, to see what had been done there. When they came to the village they found only two women, the wives of Page and Berry, and some children, whose I do not recollect. My mother stayed there a while and then came back…..That night we expected every moment when the Indians would come and kill us, or take us prisoners. We sat up and waited for the Indians all night. Next morning my mother and the older children concluded to move the family down to Wyalusing. We had eight fat hogs in the pen and a crib of corn. The bottom of the crib was opened and the hogs let out, so they could get what corn they wanted, and we all started for the village, taking what we could of necessaries. My oldest sisters went every day and brought some things out of our house. We lived in this village, in one of the cabins, about three weeks. One night, a man came to our cabin and handed my mother a letter from my father. His name was Secoy (John Secord), a Tory. While he was in the house, my brother Miner came in and said there were three men coming. Secoy said, ‘Mrs. York, for God’s sake, hide me!’ She threw some bedding over him on the floor, and then went and stood in the door. The men came up. They were Captain Aholiab Buck, her son-in-law, Miner Robbins, my mother’s sister’s son, and a Mr. Phelps. My mother told them not to come in, but to cross the river and stay at Eaton’s that night; that Eaton was the only man left in the settlement; that early in the morning she and the children would be ready to go with them. They crossed over as my mother advised. She then told Secoy he might get up. He said he was hungry, and mother gave him something to eat. He said she had saved him, and he would save her; that his son was at the head of a body of Indians close by, and he was sent as a spy to see if there was any armed men there.
   “Next morning Captain Buck came over, and we all started on foot and traveled ten miles towards Wyoming, with no track except what the three men made coming and going. The first house we came to was Mr. Van der Lippe’s. My mother and two of the older sisters went on next day with Captain Buck, the rest of the children stayed at Van der Lippe’s,* until spring, when Mr. Phelps took us away in a canoe to his house. Afterwards Miner Robbins took us in a canoe to Wyoming fort, where mother was.”
   * Mr. Fitzgerald and probably some others from up the river were staying in this neighborhood.
   As affording some idea of the value of Mr. York’s improvements at Wyalusing, Mrs. Carr (Sarah York) says the Indians took off one yoke of oxen, one yoke of four years’ old steers, one horse, eleven good cows, a number of young cattle. There were besides eight fat hogs, store hogs, sheep, fowls, etc.; that he had sufficient hay for his stock, three hundred bushels of corn in the crib, besides other grain. When it is remembered that this was on hand the latter part of February, we may infer that his crops were quite abundant. Including clothing and bedding taken off by the enemy, she estimates the loss to the family at $1395.
   While living at Wyalusing, Mrs. York gave birth to two sons: one named Amos, born July, 1775, and died April 27, 1776, probably the first death in the township; the other born June 27, 1777, consequently about six months old at the time of his father’s capture.
   Mrs. York and her family took refuge in the Forty fort, where she maintained herself by cooking for the garrison stationed there. Here she remained until after the battle in which Capt. Buck fell, in the twenty-seventh year of his age, leaving an infant daughter, born March 25, 1778, and who afterwards became the wife of Major Taylor, of Wyalusing. Speaking of the evening of the battle, Mrs. Carr, whose narrative I have quoted, says, “Some crawled in on their hands and knees, covered with blood, during the night. The scenes of that night cannot be described,----women and children screaming and calling, ‘Oh my husband! My brother! My father!’ etc.
   “Next morning after the battle this Parshall Terry* came with a flag and written terms from Tory Butler to Col. Denison. He told Denison if he surrendered peaceably not a soul should be hurt, but if he refused the whole fort should be put to the tomahawk. My mother went to Col. Denison and told him that this was the man who had deprived her of a husband and her children of a father, and she could not bear to see him come into the fort; that she had no confidence in his promises, and if he was allowed to come in she would go out. Denison said she must not go out. She declared she would, called her children to her, went to the gate and demanded a passage out. The sentry presented his bayonet to her breast and asked Col. Denison if he should let her pass. The colonel said no. He then pushed the bayonet through her clothes so that it drew blood. She said to Col. Denison, ‘I will go out with my children, or I will die here at the door.’ The colonel said, ‘Let her pass.’ We went down along the bank of the river. We could see burning houses on both sides of the river, which the Indians had set fire to. We went on until we got opposite Wilkes-Barre. We saw a woman on the other side of the river, and mother called to her to bring a boat over. The woman was a Mrs. Lock, a Dutchwoman. We all got into it, and Mrs. Lock pushed it down the river with all her might. We run all day, and at night we stopped at a house near the bank. Not long after we had been in the house a boy informed us that Lieut. Forsman was on the bank with a boat-load of wounded men. We all got into our canoe again, and Forsman took a man [Richard Fitzgerald] from his boat to manage the canoe for us, and we run all night. We went down to Paxton, where we stayed until October. At Paxton my mother buried her youngest child, a son of thirteen months. He died at the house of Col. Elder.
   * Col. Butler, in his report, says he sent Lieut. Therry with a flag. A different spelling.
   “After a time mother received letters from Wyoming stating that she might return with safety. In October we went up to Wyoming in company with a Dutch family. Capt. Buck’s widow was with us. We stayed about two weeks at Wilkesbarre; but, as there was frequent murdering in the neighborhood, mother would not stay. There were three men going through the big swamp; mother and her family accompanied them on foot, resolved to make her way to her father’s in Voluntown, Conn. One of the men was Asahel, brother of Capt. Buck. We lay one night in the swamp. When we got through it the men left us. We traveled on foot to New Milford, Conn., where mother was taken sick, and it was a fortnight before she was able to travel.
   “When we were at the North river, where Gen. Washington lay, an officer informed him that there was a woman in distress. Gen. Washington ordered her to be brought to his tent. She told him her story, and Washington gave her fifty dollars. But we did not need money to bear traveling expenses, for the people on the road treated us with great sympathy and kindness.
   “At New Milford my sister, Buck, was among her husband’s relatives. She and sister Esther remained there all winter. From New Milford we were carried in a wagon a hundred miles to Windham, from there we traveled on foot a day and a half to Voluntown. When within a mile of her father’s, a man met her and said, ‘How do you do, Mrs. York?’ Mother said she did not recollect him. He told us who he was, and said, ‘Have you heard about your husband?’ She said she had not. Said he, ‘I will tell you. He is dead and buried.’ Mother looked around on her children, but did not speak. Not another word was spoken by her until she got to her father’s. This was the first intelligence we had of father from the time he was taken, except the letter Secoy brought. He was detained a prisoner at different places nine months, and was exchanged at New York. After his release he went to Mr. Miner’s to make inquiries after his family, but could get no intelligence from them. He declared that he would start in two days, and would find his family if living; but was taken sick, and died eleven days before his family arrived. We all visited his grave that night.”
   The following is a copy of Col. Butler’s pass to Mrs. York, the original of which is still in existence:
   “Permit the Bairor, Mrs. York & family consisting of Nine to pass from this to Stonington in Connecticut. And I do also Recommend to all Authority both Sivil and military to Assist the above family as they are of the Distressed [inhabitants] which were drove from this Town by Indians and tories, and her husband has been a prisoner with the enemy for eight months.----“ZEBN. BUTLER, Lt. Col. Comdg.
“WESTMORELAND, Oct. 13, 1778.”
   I have given the narrative thus full because it presents a vivid picture of the fortitude and heroism of the women of this period of our country’s history. Mrs. York was only one of thousands, especially on the border, who endured similar sufferings, and were compelled to exhibit like firmness and self-reliance in the hour of danger or of necessity.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gallagher's Old Horse

     Is Mayor Tobin riding Gallagher's old horse, Tax and Spend? It appears so. That old horse eats fees and taxes, and enables the City of Cortland to spend lavishly on questionable technical devices, wireless service, and other more expensive ($230k) no-bid-required IT product and services. And that's for starters.
     If you see the mayor riding toward your house on Gallagher's old horse, don't hold out a bag of oats. It's your checkbook that he wants.
     Want to know why former Mayor Tom Gallagher moved from Cortland to Cortlandville after he retired? Folks, he's an intelligent man. He dreamed that his old horse was returning to Floral Avenue with a new rider. Next day, his neighbors spotted a FOR SALE sign.

Editor's note: To hear the horse's comments on this story, click:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Citizen Connects

     Using the average of the last three years, in connection with property taxes as a percent of home value, Cortland County ranks 6th of 1,824 counties nationwide.
     For a citizen's guide to the 2% property tax cap, and to find your county rank in property taxes, visit Citizen Connects This website has some useful information, whether or not you appreciate the messenger.
     For more detailed information on the property tax cap, visit the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance:
     Read Joe Spector's article for Gannett newspapers on tax cap applied to schools:|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Property Tax Exemptions

     New York State's Office of Real Property Tax Services created a list of city property tax exemptions for fiscal year 2010. Here are a few: Ithaca at 62%, Oneonta at 51.4%, Cortland at 36%, Oswego at 36%, and Batavia at 25.7%. Included in these exemptions are federal, state, county, city, school, other municipal authorities, and non-profits such as hospitals and churches. See the listed cities at: 
     Cortland's overall exemption will increase with the addition of a new multi-million dollar building on state campus.
     Individual property owners and businesses not covered by PILOT agreements may pay more when these property tax exemptions increase. Talk to home owners in the Fall Creek area of Ithaca to understand the onerous effect of these taxes. Homes have been reassessed to higher values and taxes have increased over the years. Some homeowners are having serious financial trouble as a result.
     Most homeowners, businesses and municipal authorities already recognize the problems associated with increasing property tax exemptions. The state legislature, however, largely ignores the issue.
     There are several property tax associations in New York State. All lobby for reform. Each has a different solution or solutions. Some argue for spending restraints, others argue for tax equity. Please visit TaxNightmare at:, Nassau County Civic Association at:, and Town of Potsdam Taxpayers Association at:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"I've Got The World On A String"

     The Cortland Contrarian recently joined scientists and software experts of WeAreAllWastedLabs for an experiment to compress into full digital format the popular old song: I've Got the World on a String. The song was composed by Harold Arlen. The lyrics were written by Ted Koehler.
     We wanted to test the delay and amplitude distortion of this digital format traveling over a long distance, including underwater cable. The delay would be measured in microseconds and the distortion would be measured in percentage. The experiment was funded by a grant from NASA.
     We chose Shanghai, China, as our "bust back" server location and transmitted our digitally formatted lyrics 14,288 miles round trip from Cortland to Shanghai to Cortland.
     These are the uncompressed lyrics we sent:

I've got the world on a string
I'm sitting on a rainbow
Got that string around my finger
What a world, what a life - I'm in love

I've got a song that I sing
And I can make the rain go
Any time I move my finger
Lucky me, can't you see - I'm in love

Life's a wonderful thing
As long as I've got that string
I'd be a silly so-and-so
If I should ever let you go

I've got the world on a string
I'm sitting on the rainbow
I've got that string around my finger
Oh, What a world, what a life - I'm in love

Life's a wonderful thing
As long as I hold the string
I'd be a crazy so-and-so
If I should ever let her go

I've got the world on a string
I'm sitting on a rainbow
I got that string around my finger
What a world, what a life
Oh, what a world, what life
What a world, what life, cause I'm in love
(He's in love, he's in love)
I'm in love
(Got the world on a string)
And what a wonderful thing
When you get the world on a string
(Uh huh)

     These are the uncompressed lyrics we received:







     We recorded zero microseconds of delay and zero percent amplitude distortion. We have forwarded our findings to NASA. The lyrics were supposed to return in English, exactly as sent.
     We contacted an acquaintance who lives and works in Shanghai and requested assistance. The phone connection was poor. We heard her say, "Bu shi!"
     This reply has us puzzled. Chinese bu shi means no in English. We don't know if she was speaking fluent Chinese, or garbled English.
     We are presently advertising for a professional Chinese interpreter.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Former Mayor Susan Feiszli Comments On City Government

   I am writing in response to recent articles in the Cortland Standard – one regarding the purchase of tablets for elected City officials, the other relating to the berm project at the Waterworks to alleviate flooding in the City.

   Your article on 4/4/12 discussed newly purchased Motorola XY tablets for the mayor and common council in attempts to cut back on paper and mailing expenses. No such items were included in the 2012 budget as stated by city officials. The online City budget shows $500 allocated towards contractual expenses for the council. Data processing has only $14,000 for all City equipment, and administration and finance does not have a line for this expense. During my administration, council approval was necessary to transfer funds between accounts prior to purchase as required by state law. It would be nice to know from which line item this purchase came.

   The purchase was not necessary to be in compliance with the state comptroller's audit as stated by City officials. The comptroller's report concentrated primarily on the need to consolidate data processing services to a centralized location so that individual departments discontinue the handling of their own payroll and procurement. Currently, there is no mechanism in place to assess or review payroll and expenditures prior to going out.

   The amount of paper used for council packets and associated costs as quoted in the Cortland Standard was three times more that the actual amount used during my term. Supplements to the agenda that were too voluminous would be sent by email to the aldermen. I am not opposed to modernization of City functions, but I do not care for misleading information being presented to the public as justification.

   The article on 4/6/2 that referenced the berm project was also inaccurate. It implied that grant funding was required in order to begin construction this summer. This project was extremely important to me as an alderperson and mayor – as it was for many of my constituents. Five years ago, common council bonded for the project based on estimates prepared at that time. Since then, the department of public works has increased that estimate so that it now exceeds the bonded $60,000. Last year the City applied for grants that were regrettably unsuccessful. To insure that this long overdue project would be completed this year, the necessary funding was included in my 2012 budget. The common council approved $349,000 to be placed in the contingency account with knowledge that a portion was to be used towards construction of the berm. It is discouraging that there was no mention of this fact and that the reader was led to believe that money was not available.


Susan Feiszli

Editor's note: This letter was published in the Cortland Standard April 13, 2012.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Effective NY

     The Cortland Contrarian recommends a New York State constitutional reform effort called Effective NY. It is a project of the New Roosevelt Foundation. Those who are interested in good government and reform of government should visit:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sherwood's Photo Released

     Today the Cortland County Sheriff''s department and City of Cortland police jointly released a photo of Sherwood and requested public assistance in locating him. He is wanted for assault and battery, false impersonation and destruction of public property.

    Sherwood, a locally trained, English-speaking chimp, has been on the lam since last September, 2011, when he went on a rampage in the county office building, assaulted former legislature chairman Jack B. Nimble and later impersonated him by assuming the chairmanship of the Cortland County legislature.
    Calling Sherwood a fugitive from justice, Sgt. Pepper of the Cortland police said:
     "We suspect someone in Cortland is harboring this fugitive from justice. We have our eye on a former mayor of Cortland, and we consider him a person of interest. I had planned to retire this year. However, I will not retire until Sherwood is apprehended and brought to justice. If you see this fugitive, phone Animal Control Officer Chris Bestochi at 607-7523-437610. Sherwood has an unpredictable temperament. Don't get too close to him--he throws a wicked left hook."
     Readers are directed to: Has Anyone Seen Sherwood? posted October 1, 2011., and Reporter Interviews Cortland Contrarian Editor:
     Quote of the day: "God created the chimpanzee because he was disappointed in man. Mark Twain didn't write that--I did." Sherwood

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brian Tobin's Beard

A worried young man with a beard
Said, "My God, it's just as I feared--
Falls off when I swim--I lose it,
As well as my cap and swimsuit! 
When I grin they stay on,
Indeed, nothing is gone.
As your mayor, most fit,
I shall offer this writ: 
I would rather grin than bare it."

Editor's note:
     After reading this poor excuse for a poem, the sensitive mayor shaved and removed every trace of his hirsute appendage. We hope he grows it back soon. We would like to tweak it again.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Squires Building

      Before it burned down on April 11, 2006, The Clocktower building in Cortland was known as the Squires building. The Squires building was erected in 1883 by James Squires. It cost $40,000 to build, and it contained seven stores, eight offices and ten rental flats. It encompassed a portion of the old Eagle store, which was built in 1815 and was owned by Gen. Roswell Randall.
    James Squires was born in Virgil on January 31, 1819. Neighbors and friends said that he was a merchant at birth. By age ten he was buying and selling and making a profit. He started his first business in Virgil, recovered from a business failure in 1843, then was appointed postmaster of Virgil and later he became superintendent of the Virgil school.
    James Squires came to Cortland in 1853. He was engaged in a very profitable mercantile business at that time. He was elected president of the Bank of Cortland in 1869. He was one of the principal founders of the State Normal School at Cortland. He was treasurer of two railroads. He helped fund and erect the Baptist Church of Cortland, and was a prominent member of the church.
    Mr. Squires built his personal residence on lot #44 at the corner of Prospect Terrace and Tompkins street in 1871. It was one of the finest homes in Cortland. By 1885, many improvements were made to his residence, including conservatories and piazzas.
    James Squires was married three times. He married his first wife, Lucia Chamberlain, in 1843. They had four children. Lucia died in 1862. He married his second wife, Libbie Adelia Purinton, in 1865. They had three children. Libbie died in 1871. He married his third wife, Mary Elizabeth Lester, in 1873. They had two children [our primary reference is dated 1885.] Mary died in 1941.
   James Squires died November 21, 1900. His obituary was published in the New York Times.