LYCO Home     Cemeteries     Census     Family Trees     Lyco History     Links     Obits     Surnames    

History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania
edited by John F. Meginness; ©1892




AFTER the second "runaway" settlers were slow in venturing to the valley, and it was late in the fall of 1779 before any considerable number had returned. There being an insufficient force of militia and no regular troops, it was unsafe, as small bands of savages still infested the country. Many farmers had lost their crops, and when they returned they found their houses and barns in ashes and their fences thrown down. The Indians were greatly exasperated because of the success of General Sullivan in devastating their country. A taste of war had been given them, and a blow administered from which they never recovered, but it made them more vicious and malignant and they prowled about in small guerrilla bands seeking whom they could kill and scalp.


Owing to the disturbing influences of the past year or two, the courts of justice had been not only greatly interrupted, but actually Suspended for some time. At the January term, 1779, several assessing cases were reported. Many of those driven from their homes had taken refuge at Northumberland and Sunbury, and owing to their impoverished condition were unable to proceed further. Some provision, therefore, had to be made for their support. One very sad case was that of Albert and Catharine Polhemus, already alluded to. They fled from Muncy in the "Big Runaway" of, 1778, with their seven children. In a short time both died and were buried at the expense of Augusta township, which had also to partly care for the orphaned children. An extra tax had to be levied for their support, and at the January sesssions the overseers were authorized to indenture them, the conditions being as follows: "To Elias Youngman, Magdalena Polhemus, until she be eighteen years of age, he accommodating her according to the custom of the country during her servitude; to teach or cause her to read and write English; bring her up in the Presbyterian religion; and at the expiration of her servitude give her decent freedoms with £20 lawful money of Pennsylvania."

At August sessions, 1779, "a certain Sarah Silverthorn, aged seven years" was indentured to William Huburn. The Silverthorns were also residents of Muncy township, and their names, as well as those of Polhemus, appear on the assessment list for 1778. There were two of the former, George and Oliver, but the records do not show what became of them. The court records, however, would indicate that they had been killed or captured. Sarah Silverthorn was indentured to William Huburn, who obligated himself to "teach her to read and write English, bring her up in the Presbyterian religion, and at the expiration of her servitude give her the usual freedoms, with a good spinning wheel."

According to the court records for November sessions, 1786, Youngman had not proved faithful to his obligations. Magdalena Polhemus petitioned the court setting forth that she had "faithfully and honestly" served Elias Youngman the full term of seven years, but that he had not "performed" the covenants in the said indenture mentioned, by furnishing her with her freedom dues at the expiration of her servitude. The subsequent court adjudged that she should be paid £8, in default of which an attachment should issue to compel payment. As nothing appears on the records regarding Sarah Silverthorn, it is presumed she fell into the hands of a better taskmaster.


Among the few that returned in the fall was Henry McHenry, father of the late Maj. A. H. McHenry, of Jersey Shore. He came from Fort Rice, a post not far from where Fort Freeland stood, on the Montgomery farm, in what is now "Paradise," in the northern part of Northumberland county. He was accompanied by ten men — probably a band of farmers — and their object was to thresh, or gather some grain on a farm near Loyalsock — possibly the farm, by which, young James Brady was scalped in August 1778. As soon as they reached the farm the first thing they did before beginning work was to post sentinels, McHenry being one. Stationing himself in a clump of bushes he kept a sharp lookout. He had not been in this position long until he discovered an Indian creeping up on his hands and knees for the purpose of getting a shot at the men engaged in threshing. Watching an opportunity McHenry fired and wounded him, in the back, the Indian sprang to his feet and ran a short distance and fell, when his comrades rushed up and bore him away.

It was finally decided to send a detachment of Continental troops to the West Branch valley, and the German regiment commanded by Col. Ludwig Weltner, was ordered here. This regiment was so reduced that it only numbered 120 effective men, exclusive of officers. Colonel Weltner made his headquarters at Sunbury and retained a small number of men to guard the stores. Her stationed twenty men'' at Fort Jenkins, and Captain Kemplen's rangers, a local company of fourteen men, were at Fort Meminger, on the west side of the West Branch', nearly opposite the mouth of Warrior run.

With this small force it was impossible to range the country to any extent, and the predatory bands of Indians had little difficulty in eluding them, and in committing depredations. Colonel Hunter wrote on the 27th of November :that a deep snow had fallen, which he hoped would prevent them making inroads during the winter. William Maclay, however, wrote on the 2d of April following: "They are with us before the snow is quite gone." On the 13th of December, 1779, Colonel Weltner wrote that the detachments at Montgomery's and Jenkins's had left him only enough men at Sunbury "to mount a couple of sentries."

The winter of 1779-80 was cold and dreary. And while the great quantity of snow that fell served to keep the Indians from being very troublesome, the rigors of winter were a great drawback to the few settlers who had mustered up courage to return. As nearly all the buildings had been destroyed they were forced to live in rude cabins hastily constructed, and the difficulty of getting supplies rendered life under such conditions anything but enjoyable. Fort Muncy had been so greatly damaged that it was untenable. Samuel Wallis and family, who were the life of the Muncy valley settlement, and whose stone house was the nucleus around which the settlers clustered, remained away with friends during the greatest troubles. There is nothing to show that his house was occupied during the winter, but as his interests were large, it is probable that some of the men in his employ came as early as possible to look after the property, and very likely stayed during the winter.

Colonel Weltner wrote to the Board of War under date of December 13, 1779, that when he came to the valley, he only found Fort Mancy and Fort Jenkins, with the magazine (Fort Augusta), at Sunbury standing. On the 2d of April, 1780, President Reed wrote to Colonel Weltner from Philadelphia: "This time twelve month they had a pretty good fort garrisoned at Muncy." Two days later he wrote to the same party: "Rebuilding of Fort Muncy has been deemed by many persons here a very proper measure. Consult Colonel Hunter and Colonel Antes, Mr. Martin, etc., of the county, and if they concur, let this business be set on foot with as little delay as possible."

The remnant of Colonel Weltner's German regiment having been withdrawn, it became necessary for Colonel Hunter to order the frontier companies of militia to "embody," and one-fourth of the men were kept constantly reconnoitering. This was absolutely necessary for the protection of the frontier from, the small roving bands of savages. Small garrisons were placed in the forts on the east side of the river below Muncy Hills.

On the 11th of September Gen. James Potter reached Sunbury and assumed command of the volunteers. By this time it was learned that the strength of the Indians was greatly exaggerated, when the volunteers were relieved from duty.


Late in the fall of 1780, William King, Simon Cool, and James Sweeny came up from Northumberland to hunt deer. They stopped at an abandoned cabin near the mouth of Dry run, a short distance west of Lycoming creek. A light snow was on the ground and they soon discovered Indian moccasin tracks. This gave them no alarm. The next day they went up Dougherty's run, intending to descend Bottle run to Lycoming creek. One traveled on each side of the stream, while the third walked down the bottom. After traveling some distance King, who was in the rear, heard Sweeny call Cool three times, and soon after he heard the report of a gun. He proceeded cautiously for some distance, but failing to find his companions he became alarmed and returned to the cabin, where he remained all night alone, As they did not return the next day he concluded that the Indians had either captured or killed them, and fearing to remain alone, he got aboard their canoe and paddled back to Northumberland and reported the strange circumstance.

Nothing was heard of the missing men for seven years. One day while King was standing in the door of a tavern at Northumberland, who should suddenly appear, like one risen from the dead, but Sweeny. After a warm and friendly greeting, he related his experience, beginning with the day of his disappearance seven years before Sweeny said that after they had separated to travel down Bottle run on the lookout for game, he suddenly discovered from his position on the hillside three Indians stealthily following Cool. He called to him and warned him of what was behind, whereupon Cool ran for his life and he did the same. When they came to Bottle run Sweeny sprang clear across, but Cool, who was a large man, fell short and landed in the water. When he clambered on the bank he found, on account of his wet clothes, that he could not run, and they took to trees and prepared to defend themselves, Cool had a dog noted for hunting Indians, and scenting their pursuers he barked furiously and tried to break away. In trying to quiet the dog Cool exposed his body, when an Indian shot him through the breast. Rising up he called to Sweeny that he was badly hurt, when he fell over dead. Seeing that it was useless to resist Sweeny surrendered. The Indians stripped Cool, and taking his gun, threw an old one down in its place when they hurried away with their prisoner. After a long march, during which Sweeny suffered much from cold and wet, they reached Canada. There he remained until he obtained his release, and after much delay and suffering finally worked his way back to Northumberland. When Cool was killed they scalped him and left his body lying on the ground. Years afterwards the rusty irons of the old gun left by the Indians were plowed up by a farmer.

Sweeny was a lieutenant in Colonel Hartley's expedition and had charge of the rear guard of thirty men, and was noticed in the report as "a valuable officer." He purchased lot No. 63 on Market street, Jaysburg, of Jacob Latcha, January 12, 1796. He afterwards moved west, where he died. At first he w as called "McSwiney," then "McSweeny," and finally plain "Sweeny."

Simon Cool first settled near the mouth of Larry's creek and made an improvement, very likely on the spot where the cabin of Larry Burt, the Indian trader, stood. He was an ensign in the Eighth Company of Associators, Capt. Henry Antes, January 24, 1776, and captain of the Sixth Company, Third Battalion, commanded by Colonel Plunkett, March 13, 1776. Excepting his tragic death, nothing further is known of his personal history.

William King was born in Edinburg, Scotland, January 29, 1745. He enlisted in a British regiment recruiting fox America and was sent with it to New Jersey to guard the royalists. On the breaking out of the Revolution he bought a substitute to serve out his time and left the English service. In a few months he married Elizabeth Tharp, and they moved to Northumberland county and settled on the site of Jaysburg, but were driven away by the Fair Play men on the ground of being intruders. They, then temporarily settled on Vincent island, in the river opposite Milton. King served in various capacities in the defense of the frontier. May 21, 1777, he was commissioned second lieutenant of a company of foot in the Fourth Battalion of county militia. His wife, who Was returning to join him, was killed in the bloody massacre of June 10, 1778, in the plum tree thicket on what is now West Fourth street, Williamsport, and their two daughters, Sarah and Ruth, carried into captivity.

He married, second, Martha Reeder, March 25, 1779, and, in March, 1787, returned with his family to the cabin on Dry run. In a short time he re-located on his claim on the site of Jaysburg, whence he had been expelled, occupied it, and lived there till his death, which occurred October 2, 1802. By the second marriage he had four sons and two daughters. Several of their descendants now live in and about Williamsport. He was evidently engaged in dangerous military service soon after the massacre, for this item appears in the accounts of Colonel Hunter: "Paid William King for reconnoitering between Muncy Hills and Lycoming, September 6, 1779, £30."


Soon after the capture of Fort Freeland Colonel Hunter appointed Capt. Thomas Kemplen to recruit a company for service on the frontier. He entered the field, May 7, 1780, and was of great service that year. Later Colonel Hunter says, "Kempling and his eldest son were killed by the Indians at the mouth of Muncy creek in March, 1781." In the petition of his widow, who writes her name Mary Campleton, presented to the Assembly September 23, 1784, she says: "My husband and son, with others, went on a tour of duty up the West Branch early in the spring of 1781, and lying one night at the mouth of Muncy creek, in the morning the savages came on them, and my unfortunate husband and son, with one William Campble, fell a sacrifice to all the cruelties that savages could inflict, leaving your petitioner and six children. We were driven from house and home, and so reduced that I am unable to return to the place we had improved upon."

Thomas Kemplen is first noticed as living on the Indian land a short distance west of Newberry, and was at that time interested with the Fair Play men in dispossessing William King, who had located on a tract which it was alleged he had no right to claim. Kemplen was afterwards the owner of a claim near where this difficulty occurred, but sold it. That he was a squatter on the Indian land there seems to be no doubt. He fled with the other settlers, and when he returned in the capacity of a soldier, both he and his son fell by the hands of those who had despoiled his home, and left his family destitute.

Colonel Hunter's accounts show that he was paid the following sums for military services:

Paid Thomas Kemplen for recruiting a camp of rangers, May 7, 1779, £75; May 12th, £450; June 15th, £339 7s 6d. Total, £864 7s 6d. Paid him for the pay of his company, August 13, 1779, £82 10s. Paid him for John Carmady, sergeant, to pay for making shirts for Captain Kemplen's company, September 22,1779, £13 10s. Paid himself, October 8,1779, £82 10. Paid him for Thomas Moore for his company, November 19, 1779, £225; May 8, 1780, £112 10s. Total, £337 10s.

Aside from the foregoing incident, the winter passed without anything of an exciting character occurring. The people had largely returned to their homes along the river and were gradually recovering their equanimity. The outlook was more encouraging for peace than it had been for several years. Such was the condition at the opening of the spring of 1781. Yet it was not considered safe to neglect the defense of the valley entirely, as the Indians could not be trusted. They were liable at any moment to invade the settlements and murder the people for their scalps and then destroy their homes.

As the spring of 1781 advanced hostilities, as it was feared, were again reported. General Potter wrote on the 12th of March that five distinct attacks had been made since the 22d of that month, and the people were again becoming alarmed.


About this time a new man appeared on the scene, who was to take part in the closing military operations in this valley. On the 15th of June, 1781, Captain Thomas Robinson wrote President Reed from Sunbury, stating that he was making every possible effort to recruit a company, and had already secured fifty-two men to serve "during the war." The want of necessary money and clothing, he remarked, put it out of his power "to render that service to this distressed part of the county he could otherwise do." Times were indeed hard, the greatest trouble now being with the currency. Most of his men were naked. " They have not," he wrote, "a sufficiency of clothing to cover themselves. Blankets they had none!" He hoped Council would soon be able to furnish him with "clothing and what money was due his men to the 1st of June. This would enable him to fill up the company very soon." He reported further: "Lieutenant Grove has raised seventeen men for seven months. Mr. Samuel McGredy has raised twenty men for the same time, and has been extremely active with them." He had, on the advice of General Potter, nominated him as a lieutenant to command the detachment. Robinson had raised fourteen men for seven months, but as his entire force was mostly divided into small detachments it was impossible for Van Campen and himself to do the necessary duty. He had therefore with the advice of General Potter " nominated Samuel Quinn as an ensign." He had been "doing the duty of an officer since the 1st of May." "It would be more agreeable," he added, "to me to confer the rank of lieutenant on him." As the county was without a paymaster Captain Robinson also recommended that Quinn be appointed to perform that duty, as he knew he could " execute it without preventing him from doing duty as an officer," at least so far as paying his men was concerned. He might be allowed a small sum for this extra duty. By this arrangement the Captain thought it would be cheaper for the county than to appoint a man specially to perform this duty He also begged Council to appoint a surgeon, as there was " not one in the county—not within forty miles," so far as be knew. Neither did he know of any one "that would be willing to come here but Michael Jenneys or Dr. Smith of Lancaster county.

Captain Robinson also strongly favored the establishing of military posts in this county. "I have had it in contemplation for some time to rebuild Fort Muncy. This General Potter is extremely fond of and looks upon it as the most advantageous post in the county for many reasons." If this plan met the approbation of Council he requested instructions at once, as it was important that the work of rebuilding the fort should be commenced without delay.


That the fort was rebuilt there is little doubt, but the question was discussed for sometime. Colonel Hunter wrote Vice-President Potter, February 28, 1782; "It has been in contemplation for Captain Robinson's company to be all ordered to Fort Muncy and repair the garrison. In my humble opinion it would be the only way to have the most service done by that company. If Council is determined to order Captain Robinson's company to Fort Muncy, it would require at least 100 men to keep proper out-scouts and repair the garrison."

As Council, however, had it in contemplation to remove Captain Robinson's company to Lancaster, for the purpose of guarding prisoners, the inhabitants were greatly alarmed when they heard of it. They felt that such a movement would be an invitation to the Indians to return and overrun the country. A petition remonstrating against the removal of the company was at once drawn and signed by thirty-six of the leading inhabitants. Among other reasons they gave for the retention of the company was, that they understood it was raised for their defense and it was not meant to be taken away entirely from the county. If it was removed they could not remain; they thought it would be cruel for Council to leave them without any adequate protection. The petition was dated December 18, 1781, and among the signers we find the following who were residents of this portion of the county: Robert Martin, John Caldwell, Frederick Antes, Andrew Culbertson, Peter Hosterman, William Hepburn, David McKinney, and Henry Starrett. The appeal of the petitioners was heeded by Council, which greatly encouraged them.

Strenuous efforts were continued by leading men to have the old fort repaired, and all the influence that could be secured was brought to bear on the Supreme Executive Council to issue an order to that effect. Colonel Hunter wrote that as the heavy snow was disappearing the settlers were anxious that something of the kind should be done for their protection. If it was not done they would not remain to cultivate their farms and run the risk of being scalped. All that kept them here during the winter was to take care of their cattle. If unprotected during the dangerous season, they would drive their cattle away and quit the country.

On the 6th of March Council ordered Captain Robinson to establish his headquarters at Fort Muncy, and directed the county lieutenant (Hunter) to order the necessary detachments "from said county, and that the Vice-President. write to Colonel Hunter to have the necessary repairs made, having due regard to frugality.

Owing to the poverty of the county scarcely anything was clone for some time to carry out the order. The people wanted the State authorities to do the work, as they thought they had suffered enough without being required to put this defensive, work in good condition again.

Colonel Hunter replied to Vice-President James Potter, April 17, 1782, and says: "Agreeable to your letter and the resolve of Council, Captain Robinson's headquarters is at Fort Muncy, and I am certain he does all he can in the way for the good of the county, but as for doing much towards the repairing of the fort, it is not in his power at present, as the enemy have made their appearance once more on our frontiers. The 7th instant they took off a woman and four children, from Wyoming; and on the 14th instant a scout of Captain Robinson's men came on fresh tracks of Indians about a mile from Lycoming, and followed them up the creek towards Eeltown." He then remarked that he was sorry "Council was made believe that a number of the inhabitants would move up to Muncy as soon as the ranging companies would be stationed there." He did not believe they would return under such conditions. They wanted the fort repaired so that there would be a place of some strength to fly to in case of serious danger. He believed that "whatever was done must be by the soldiers themselves, in case Mr. Wallis does not come up with a party of Hessians-as we have been told by some people–to build a fort of stone and lime." "This I would like very well," he continued, "if there was a probability of defraying the expense that would accrue by erecting such a fort. But in the meantime I gave Captain Robinson orders to repair the fort in the best manner he could at present for his. own preservation, as I had no assurance from Council of any such fort being built by Mr. Wallis."

It seems that a rumor was started about that time that Samuel Wallis was making an effort to secure the services of a lot of Hessian prisoners to rebuild the fort, but there is nothing in the records to show that the rumor had any foundation in fact. As he was anxious to have the fort reconstructed, it is probable that he made such a proposition, but the idea of using prisoners of war for such purposes could not be entertained. Out of this proposition the rumor doubtless started, and in later years there were people who believed the fort was rebuilt by Hessians. A few might have worked on it, but that there was any considerable number brought here for that purpose, there is no evidence to show.

Colonel Hunter futhermore stated in his correspondence of that date, that Captain Robinson was expecting "some arms to be sent up for the use of his company, as they are very much wanted. He exchanged twenty muskets in Reading when he came from there, and he would require twenty muskets more with bayonets and fifteen rifles." The Colonel thought it would be much better for the company to have public arms, " for every now and then they [the men] are selling and bartering off their rifles because they are their own property." When supplied with United States arms be believed this evil would be stopped, as they would, have to account for them.

On the 18th of July, 1781, Captain Johnson, of Lancaster county, arrived at Sunbury with twenty-six militiamen to serve the balance of their time in this county. They were in poor condition for soldiers. Fourteen were without arms, and no ammunition or arms could be furnished them. Colonel Hunter said "they had no stores of any kind, not even provisions!" The county at that time could not have been in a much worse poverty-stricken condition.

Colonel Hunter immediately wrote to Col. Maxwell Chambers, sub-lieutenant of Lancaster county, expressing surprise that he would send re-enforcements here in that condition. He thought it would be "really hard" if they were forced to return because they had no arms; but he was trying to get some arms repaired for them. He had not thought militia would be ordered here without being equipped.

On the 22d of August he wrote to Colonel Hubley, of Lancaster county, saying that he would be compelled to discharge the militia before their " tour of two months was out," because he could not procure rations for them. "There is no money to purchase with, and the public has no credit at present, so our commissioner of purchases can do nothing."


Small parties of Indians continued to raid the settlements. The house of a settler named Tate, a few miles above Northumberland, was visited, and a young woman named Catharine Storm knocked down and scalped. She recovered from her wounds and lived many years afterwards. This same party committed other depredations. It is supposed they were the same Indians that killed Alexander Hamilton who fled to Northumberland at the time of the "Big Runaway," from

Pine creek. Colonel Hunter induced him to remain, as he had three sons, young men, to assist in holding Fort Augusta. They were employed as sentinels and on scouting parties. Hamilton occupied a house in Northumberland that had been vacated, and he engaged in cultivating some ground near the town. The Indians waylaid him as he was returning from the field, shot and scalped him, and then fled. One of his sons, Robert, married Anna Jackson and became the father of a family noted for intellectual vigor and high moral standing. The venerable John Hamilton, of Pine creek township, Clinton county, who died April 24, 1891, at the great age of ninety years, six months, and five days, was a son. James, another son, became a. Presbyterian clergyman and died in 1886. William, his brother, also studied for the ministry, and was ordained at Jersey Shore in 1837. He became a distinguished missionary among the Indians of Nebraska, and labored there for fifty-four years. He died September 17, 1891.


About this time the Assembly passed a law levying a heavy tax on each county for the purpose of raising revenue to purchase supplies for the army. Matters were growing desperate, the currency was greatly depreciated, the army needed supplies, and there was but one way to obtain them, and that was by, a resort to heavy taxation. To the consternation of the few remaining inhabitants it was found that the quota for Northumberland was greater than could be raised by the sale of all the personal property in the county I To impress upon the authorities the impossibility of raising the amount called for, William Clark and William Antes, two of the commissioners, united in a letter to President Reed: "We are obliged," they said, I to, declare our utter inability to comply with the demands of that law Those who have property sufficient to support themselves are gone. Then shall the quota of the county be levied on the miserable few that remain? Their whole personal property, if removed to a place where hard cash could be had for it, and sold, would not pay the tax." This was a sorry prospect for revenue. They said it would be useless to lay a tax on absentees. The improvements were grown up or destroyed and the personal property removed. They wished to obey the laws, but in this case it was simply impossible. It does not appear that any attempt was made to enforce the law.


The murder of Maj. John Lee and several members of his family, some time in August, 1782, was very cruel and caused much excitement among the people. He lived near what is now the little town of Winfield, a few miles above Northumberland, on the west side of the river. It was a warm evening, and Lee and his family, with one or two neighbors, were eating supper. Suddenly a band of Indians burst upon them. Lee was stricken down and scalped, and an old man named Walker shared the same fate. Mrs. Boatman was killed and scalped, and a daughter was also scalped. Two or three escaped. A sort of Lee named Robert was returning home, and when he came in sight of the house the Indians were leaving it. He fled to Sunbury and gave the alarm. In the mean time the Indians, retreated up the river, carrying Mrs. Lee and her infant child with them as prisoners. Colonel Hunter hastily collected a party of twenty men and started in pursuit. When they reached the house they found Lee and Miss Boatman still, living. They were sent to Sunbury on litters for treatment, but Lee soon after died. Miss Boatman recovered and lived for many years.

Colonel Hunter and his party hurried after the savages, who crossed Bald Eagle mountain by the Culbertson path, which came out opposite the mouth of Lycoming creek. When the pursuing party reached the river next day and crossed they found that the savages had gone west, and their fresh tracks showed that they were not far ahead. Hunter and his men accelerated their speed. In crossing the mountains Mrs. Lee was bitten on the ankle by a rattlesnake, and her leg soon became so much swollen that she traveled with great difficulty. She was constantly bemoaning her condition and imploring the savages to release her. They refused and fiercely urged her forward. At a point near Pine run, in what is now Piatt township, she became so much exhausted that she seated herself on a stone and refused to go any further. By this time, it is supposed, the Indians had discovered that they were pursued, and fearing that Mrs. Lee would be rescued, a savage ran behind her and placing the muzzle of his gun close to her head fired and blew off the entire upper portion! Another seized her infant by the feet and dashed it against a tree. They then fled with increased speed and crossed the river at Smith's fording and ran up Nippenose bottom. When Colonel Hunter came up he found Mrs. Lee? s body yet warm. The sight was a horrible one. The child was found to be little injured and was cared for. They rushed forward, and crossing the river soon came in sight of the Indians, who, on discovering them, separated and disappeared in the bushes at Antes gap.

Colonel Hunter then deemed it imprudent to follow them any further, and he reluctantly gave up the pursuit and returned. On the way back they stopped and buried the body of Mrs. Lee; they then hurried over the mountain by the path they came, and in due time reached the scene of the first tragedy, when they stopped and buried the dead in one grave. The old man Walker was buried in a grave near where he fell.

This atrocious affair aroused the authorities to renewed action, and they straightway resolved on some retaliatory measures. On the 14th of September, 1782, the Supreme Executive Council ordered militia from Berks, Lancaster, Cumberland, and Northumberland counties to rendezvous at Fort Muncy on the 4th of October; and on the 17th of September commissioners were appointed to make purchases of commissary stores and hire pack horses to carry them to the fort. The object of this movement was the organization of a sufficient force to make another expedition into the Indian country, and, if possible, wipe the savages out. The proposed expedition, however, was abandoned soon after the orders were issued to prepare for it, because there were indications of the war soon closing.


But a better day was dawning for the distressed settlers. A silver lining was discernible on the face of the black cloud which had so long hung over them and blighted their prospects. On the 30th of November, 1782, news was received of the signing of a treaty on the part of Great Britain acknowledging the independence of the United States, and on the 20th of January, 1783, the preliminary treaty of peace was signed, and on the 11th of April Congress issued a proclamation enjoining a cessation of hostilities, and on the 16th of the same month the Supreme Executive Council made public announcement of the happy event. The definitive treaty of peace with England was ratified by Congress, January 14, 1784, and the event so long looked for was celebrated all over the land as soon as the fact was made known. The inhabitants, from Muncy valley to Lycoming and Pine creeks, rejoiced as they never rejoiced before, when the cheering news spread through the land, for they now felt that they would no longer be molested and could cultivate their fields in safety.

Soon after the project of invading the Indian country again was abandoned, Capt. Thomas Robinson, who had proved himself such a vigilant and efficient guardian of the valley, was removed from Fort Muncy to Wyoming, and in March, 1783, he was placed in command of the fort at that place, where he served until discharged in November of that year.

Nothing is known of his early history. He came here from Reading and raised his company of rangers. After the war he settled on an island in Pine creek, and it came to be known as Robinson's island. He engaged in land speculation, and the tract on which Youngwomanstown is located was surveyed on a warrant issued in his name, October 6, 1786. When on a visit up the North Branch on land business he was taken ill, and while descending the river to Wyoming in a boat, exposed to the warm sun, his disease was so much aggravated that he died on his arrival there in August, 1792. He had a family, but the number of his children is not now remembered. One of his daughters, Mary, became the wife of John T. Cook, who lived on a fine farm lying on the river just west of the mouth of Pine creek. Cook represented Clinton county in the legislature in 1843, and died, January 19, 1860, and is buried in Jersey Shore cemetery.

In the statement of Colonel Hunter's receipts and disbursements, it appears that he paid Captain Robinson the following sums, either on his own account, or on account of raising his company:

For raising his company, July 11, 1780, R2878 178 6d; for recruiting his ranging company, December 8, 1781, £120, specie. For the recruiting service, January 7, 1781, £815 12s 6d; January 16th, £811 10s; total, £1627 2s 6d. Paid him for raising his company, October 3, 1781, £37 10s; October 15th, £18 15s; total, £65 5s, State currency. For raising his company, December 21, 1781, £18; February 23, 1782, £6; May 20th, £23 10s; total, £47 10s, specie. Paid him per Lieut. Samuel McGrady for six-months' men, May 20, 1782, £13 2s 6d, specie.

On pages 766-767, Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, Vol. XIV, the following record of Captain Robinson's "Ranging Companies" is given: Captain, Thomas Robinson, April 8,1780. Lieutenants: Joseph Alexander, April 8, 1780; resigned June 16, 1780; John Faulkner, June 16, 1780, vice Alexander. Ensign, Moses Van Campen.

Captain, Thomas Robinson, February 10, 1781. Lieutenant, Moses Van Campen, February 10, 1781. Ensigns: Samuel Quinn, June 26, 1781; Thomas Chambers, March 6, 1782. Surgeon, Alexander Smith, of Lancaster, July 21,1781.

The names of the privates, of whom there were between fifty and sixty, were not preserved. Their duties were extremely hard, as they had to "range" up and down the valley from Fort Rice to the Great Island, and they were poorly paid, fed, and clothed; and with all their vigilance several lost their lives, notably Edward Lee, sergeant, and Robert Carothers, private, while serving as spies near Fort Rice, October 24, 1782.


On the departure of Captain Robinson from Fort Muncy, the fortification which had served such a good purpose was no longer kept in repair, and soon fell into, decay; but its ruins existed for many years and were pointed to as a reminder of the dangerous times of 1778-82. When the Wallis plantation passed under the sheriff's hammer and strangers came to take possession of the old homestead, the, crumbling earthworks for more than fifty years were regarded as a great curiosity. From year to year the elements did their work slowly but surely, until nothing remained but a great pile of stones to mark the site of the old fort. Finally, during the absence of Mr. Hall, (the owner), his farmer, in order to make an improvement which he thought would greatly please his employer, removed the last vestige of the old military work. Mr. Hall was greatly displeased when he learned what had been done, as he wished the debris to be retained as a relic, or historic landmark. But for the vandalism of the farmer a few stones at least might have remained to the present day to show where Fort Muncy stood.


Col. Samuel Hunter, who bore such a conspicuous part in the "times that tried men's souls" in this valley, was born in County Donegal, Ireland, in 1732. His military career commenced in 1760, and he served in various capacities in a, subordinate position as an officer of volunteers, took part in Bouquet's expedition, was at Fort Augusta in 1763, and again in 1768. When Northumberland county was organized in 1772 he was appointed one of the first justices, and served in the, Assembly from 1772 to 1775. He became a member of the Committee of Safety in 1775 and served one year, and of the Council of Censors in 1,783. When the militia was organized in the beginning of the Revolution he was chosen colonel of the First Battalion, February 8, 1776; and county lieutenant, March 21, 1777, and re-appointed April 6, 1780. He served in this responsible position, and directed the movements of the county militia, to the close of the war. His voluminous correspondence, written in a quaint style, and printed in the Colonial Records and State Archives is of great value to the historian, as it gives a true insight of that dark and gloomy time. He made some mistakes, and was accused of precipitating the "Big Runaway," by a hasty order, when it, was believed that calamity might have been averted if he had acted with more discretion and coolness.

Colonel Hunter married Susannah Scott, sister of Abraham Scott, formerly member from Lancaster. He died April 10, 1784, in the fifty-second year of his age. His remains rest under a large marble slab in a private burial. ground, surrounded by a stone wall, near the site of Fort Augusta. He left two daughters,. Mary and Nancy, minors. His will was dated March 29th, just twelve days before he died, and was proved the 21st of June following.

One of the most daring and adventuresome characters –next to Robert Covenhoven– who figured in this valley at the close of the Indian war, was Moses Van

Campen. He was an officer, as already noted, of Captain Robinson's company of rangers. He was a native of Hunterdon county, New Jersey, where he was born, January 21, 1757. His parents emigrated to Pennsylvania before the beginning of the Indian troubles and settled on Fishing creek, a tributary of the North Branch of the Susquehanna. In his early days young Van Campen became an expert woodsman and an unerring shot. He early entered the military service and was with Colonel Cooke's regiment at Boston. In 1778 the Indians killed his father and brother, burned their house, took him and Peter Pence, and one or two others, prisoners. There were ten Indians and they started up the North Branch. One night while encamped near Wyalusing, Van Campen managed to cut the thongs that bound him, when he released Pence and they attacked the sleeping Indians. Van Campen killed five with a tomahawk, and became engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle with the sixth. The Indian disengaged himself and as he turned to flee Van Campen buried the hooked blade of the tomahawk in the muscles of his shoulder. With a bound that wrenched the weapon from Van Campen's hand, the Indian dashed into the gloom of the forest, bearing the tomahawk in his quivering flesh, and escaped! Pence killed four, so that out of the ten only one escaped. Of all the bloody encounters reported with Indians, this one stands alone for coolness, nerve, bravery, and number slain by two men!

Van Campen and Pence released the other prisoners, gathered up the guns and plunder of the savages, embarked on a raft, and floated down the river to Wyoming, and thence to Northumberland. Soon after this we find Van Campen serving in Captain Robinson's rangers as an officer. Pence, who also saw much service, settled in Nippenose valley and died there in 1812.

In April, 1782, Andrew Culbertson applied to Captain Robinson for a guard of twenty men to accompany him to Bald Eagle creek, where his brother William had made an improvement and was afterwards killed by the Indians. He had been informed that his brother had buried some property, which he was desirous of searching for. Van Campen was selected to command the party. He picked twenty men in this way: Taking a board and placing a piece of white paper on the end of it, he stepped to one side a few rods and holding out the mark invited each man to take his station and fire at the mark. If be hit it he would be chosen. His twenty men were soon selected.

They started up the river about the middle of April. Culbertson and four men preceded in a boat and reached the Great Island in safety. Van Campen and his men soon joined them. They proceeded to where the improvement had been made and encamped for the night. Early next morning they were surprised by a large body of Indians. A desperate fight ensued, but being outnumbered Van Campen was compelled to surrender. Three of his men, Wallace, Stewart, and Craton, who had been wounded, were cruelly murdered before his eyes. Several had been killed in the battle. Van Campen and the survivors were taken prisoners. One of his men named Burwell, who had been shot through the arm, was, after much parleying, spared and taken along. Several Indians were killed and their comrades buried them under a log, which they displaced for that purpose. Another named Henderson, also badly wounded, was afterwards killed while on the march. Culbertson and one or two others escaped in the beginning of the fight.

The Indians with their prisoners traveled up Pine crook and in due time reached. Fort Niagara, where they turned them over to the British authorities. After they were placed in the fort the English discovered that Van Campen was the man who had killed five Indians on the North Branch and seriously wounded another. When the Indians learned this they were furious to get hold of him for torture. The English officers then made him a dishonorable proposition to save his life. They informed him that if he would renounce the rebel cause and join them his life should be spared. If he refused they would turn him over to the Indians for torture. His answer was characteristic, of the man: "No sir, no––my life belongs to my country; give me the stake, the tomahawk, or the scalping knife, before I will dishonor the uniform of an American officer!"

Being a prisoner of war they dare not give him to the savages, for he told them that if they gave him up they might expect retaliation in case one of their officers fell into the hands of the Americans.

He was soon afterwards exchanged, returned, home, and rejoined his company at Fort Muncy. He accompanied Captain Robinson to Wyoming, where they were mustered out of service in November, poor and penniless. In a few years after retiring from the service, Moses Van Campen married Margaret McClure, whose parents lived near the present town of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Some time in 1831 they took up their residence in Dansville, New York, where they lived for many years. When he grew old they removed to Angelica, where, he died, October 15, 1849, at the great age of ninety-two years, eight months, and twenty-four days.

John Mohawk, the Indian who escaped from Van Campen with the tomahawk sticking in his shoulder, recovered from his wound and lived many years. He often expressed a desire to meet his former antagonist, and a meeting was finally arranged. They met at Dansville, clasped hands in friendship, and talked the matter over. The Indian showed him the great sear in his shoulder and told him how he carried off his tomahawk as a trophy. Long before the meeting John Mohawk presented the famous tomahawk to Horatio Gates Jones to be preserved as a keepsake. The weapon has ever since been retained in the family as an heirloom, and is now the property of the old interpreter's only surviving son-Charles Jones-the youngest but one of sixteen children, who lives at Genesee, New York.


From carelessness in preserving the records and muster rolls during the Revolution, it has been found impossible to make up a full list of those who served in the Continental Army from this portion of the valley during the struggle for independence. One reason for the confusion that existed is that Northumberland was a frontier county and was constantly subjected to Indian raids, and twice the inhabitants were driven away from its northern and western borders. The following list embraces the names of nearly all those who served in the Revolutionary army from the territory within the present limits of Lycoming county: David Bents, John Brady, Samuel Brady, Henry Lebo, James McClary, Robert Trift, Cornelius Dougherty, George Sands, John Scudder, David Davis, William Calhone, Thomas Callady, John Murphy, Thomas Pilson, Henry Thomas, William Jamison, William Atkins, Robert Ritchie, Robert Covenhoven, George Sutyman, James Carson,

John White, David Clamains, Michael Parker, Robert Wilson, John Hamilton, Robert Lincey, Samuel Sealy, Alexander McCormick, Edward Cavennah, Robert Carothers, Patrick McWey, Patrick McManus, Dennis Higgins, John Toner, Robert King, John Bradley, Patrick McGinnis, James Randolph, Robert McGran, Peter Davis, Joseph Lackary, Michael Lachary, John Reddicks, Thomas Thompson, George Kline, Michael Drury, James McGinsey, John Martin, James Cummins, Robert Campble, Angis McFaton, John Dunn, Joseph McFaton, John McMeen, Thomas McMeen, James Ervine, Michael Sealey, William King, Daniel Callahan, John English, James English, John Nicholas Beeber, James Davidson, James Thompson, James McMicken, Richard Martin, Jacob Hill.

There were others, whose descendants live in the county today, who served in the local militia, and whose services were as arduous, if not more so, than many who served in the Continental Army. The survivors of the Revolutionary struggle drew a pension of $40 a year from the State. The oldest pensioner was Robert King. He died March 29, 1848, aged ninety-four years, seven months, and twenty-nine days, and was buried in the old Lycoming graveyard on West Fourth street, Williamsport.


In 1783 the inhabitants of Muncy township again became involved in an election difficulty. At the election for members of Assembly, sheriff, and other officers, held October 14th and 15th, two returns were made, one signed by Elias Youngman, Anthony Geiger, and John Tschops, judges of the Augusta district, certifying to the election of Samuel Hunter, Jr., and William Gray, as members of the Supreme Executive Council; William Maclay, William Cooke, and John Weitzel, as members of Assembly; John Buyers, commissioner, and Henry Antes, sheriff. The other return, signed by James Murray, James Espy, and Simon Spaulding, of the Northumberland district, and Richard Manning, of the Muncy district, certified to the election of William Montgomery and Samuel Hunter as Censors; Robert Martin as Councillor; James McClenachan, Daniel Montgomery, and Frederick Antes as members of Assembly; Henry Antes as sheriff, and John Clark as commissioner.

The former judges arrived at their result by throwing out the Northumberland boxes. They did this because it was alleged intruders from Wyoming were allowed to vote at Northumberland, and residents on the Indian land, above Lycoming creek, were allowed to vote at Muncy. On the 25th of November the House of Representatives arrived at a different result, by rejecting the Muncy box alone, thus admitting William Maclay, William Cooke, and James McClenachan as members; Samuel Hunter and William Montgomery became members of the Council of Censors by counting all the votes, John Boyd, Councillor, and John Clarke, county commissioner.

Linn, in his Annals of Buffalo Valley, (page 216,) shows that in the investigation that followed, Thomas Hamilton deposed that at the Muncy election Richard Manning, who lived on Long Island, (supposed to be Indian land) acted as judge, and David McKinney, who lived opposite the Great Island, on Indian land, acted as inspector; that John Price, John Hamilton, Bratton Caldwell, William Tharpe, and

others, who resided on Indian lands, had voted at the Muncy district election hold at the residence of Amariah Sutton, on the east side of Lycoming creek. The Muncy district was composed of Bald Eagle and Muncy townships. The reader will remember that residents west of Lycoming, on the north side of the river, were not recognized as living within the Commonwealth, as the land was still claimed by the Indians. Robert Fleming was the only one from Bald Eagle who voted.

Richard Manning testified that he acted as judge, and lived on Long Island; that Daugherty, who acted as inspector of the election, lived fifteen miles from the district, in Turbutt township, which was in the Northumberland district; that the Indian land men voted generally in favor of Montgomery, Antes, and McClenachan for Assembly, etc.

William Sims's testimony, with that of others, in regard to the Northumberland box, was that he had been up at Wyoming, and saw William Bonham there, in company with Col. Zebulon Butler, and Bonham admitted to him that it was his business there to get the Wyoming people to go down to Northumberland and vote; that Bonham was exceedingly busy in inviting and persuading the New England people to go down and vote; that Colonel Butler told Captain Gaskins that there would be over 100 down; that many of them were in Northumberland and had voted, and Bonham kept an open house for them; heard Bonham tell Schott to go up to his house and got his dinner; and further said the election had cost him $20. Captain Spaulding, one of the New England men, acted as judge, and Lord Butler, son of Colonel Zebulon, acted as clerk. There were other depositions to the same effect. A petition to the Assembly remonstrating against receiving the returns from Muncy and Northumberland was numerously signed by the inhabitants of the southwestern part of the county.

It appears that fraudulent voting was in vogue among the pioneer settlers in this valley as early as 1783, and earlier, and that their politicians know how to "import" voters to carry on an election.

Next Chapter

Lycoming County, PA Genealogy home page
© 2001 Lycoming County Genealogy Project

Please note this book was written more than 110 years ago and was reproduced exectly as published.