The Connecticut Yankee.  Fit For Mischief.

The Connecticut Yankee. Fit For Mischief.

A Note to My Readers:  Our ancestors are more than names, dates places…and shared DNA.   Some we take a shine to and thus we begin to explore the history in which they played a role.   Genealogy is history,  after all.  One of my favorite ancestors is Samuel Weyburn (1746-1825), my maternal 4x great grandfather.  I have a substantial bit of data on Samuel and some special antiquarian publications in my personal library. Somewhere in the flurry of researching…reading and note taking,  I forgot about “A History of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Volume 1”.  It is chock full of some of most interesting details of the colonization of Pennsylvania AND the conflict of the settlers from Connecticut who came to the Wyoming Valley under the Susquehanna Purchase.

Fit For Mischief

The clash between the “Connecticut Yankees” and the William Penn colonists was the result of two conflicting charters issued by King Charles II and complicated by the fact that in 1754 the English had secretly purchased the land from the Mohawks (the easternmost Iroquois Nation) not from the main inhabitants -the Delawares. [1]

In 1762 the Connecticut Yankees began to arrive and settle in the Wyoming Valley under the Susquehanna Purchase and establishing their first permanent settlement by 1769. By this time, Pennamites (settlers loyal to Pennsylvania colony) also claimed ownership to the area thanks to a purchase they made with the Iroquois. The two groups of settlers, as well as the various Indian groups, repeatedly clashed over rights to these lands—with sometimes deadly consequences. This period of time was called “The Pennamite-Yankee Wars”.

Among those “Yankee” settlers was Samuel Weyburn.

On the morning of Friday, May 12, 1769 twenty-four-year-old Samuel joined 24 of his fellow Yankees who, in a show of force and determination, rode up the Susquehanna to establish a fort under Major John Durkee. The group would pick up additional men along the way and eventually arriving in Wyoming Valley, numbered 146 individuals. Word went out to the Pennsylvania colonists and their authorities that this advance group would soon be a full complement of 500 men. It caused one of the Pennamite officials, Charles Stewart, to write in alarm to Governor William Penn describing the men and pleading for armed assistance.

“This afternoon about three o’ clock 146 New England men and others, chiefly on horseback, passed by our houses and are now encamped on the east side of the river.”

“From the view I had of those gentry, in their procession by our houses, they appear to be – at least an equal number of them – of the very lowest class, but are almost all armed and fit for mischief.”

In this letter, Stewart recognized a number of the men and listed them by name. Samuel Weyburn was among those ‘gentry’ listed.

As I am building the timeline of my ancestor in these turbulent pre-Revolutionary War days in Pennsylvania including his miraculous survival of the massacre on July 3, 1778 at Fort Wyoming as a member of the Continental Army Pennsylvania Rangers, I am compelled to consider what kind of individual could manage the continuing threat to his very existence.  Perhaps Mr. Stewart’s description of ‘fit for mischief’ would prove to be more accurate than he would ever know.

Migration Trail of Samuel WeyburnSullivan’s Campaign

As conditions continued to be dangerous and uncertain and after his survival at Fort Wyoming, Samuel’s response in 1779 was to join forces with his neighbors and enlist in Washington’s Continental Army leaving his wife, Jane Bratton and their four children to manage the homestead in Derry, Cumberland county, PA.    Serving under Colonels Dearborn and Zebulon Butler, the Pennsylvania Rangers became part of Sullivan’s Campaign, the cruel response ordered by Washington to force the indigenous peoples from their homes and to punish them for their support of their English allies.

Sullivan’s Army followed the old Indian trails up the Susquehanna, through the Chemung Basin near Owego and on to the heart of the Finger Lakes.   There was little to no resistance and in many instances, the native Americans had fled in anticipation of the superior numbers of Sullivan’s Army.  Furthering my research on this experience, I have read several military journals and came across historian General John S. Clark (1823-1912) and his prolific knowledge regarding the Sullivan Campaign.   In one of his writings, “Aboriginal Footprints”, Clark describes Dearborn’s exploration of the west side of Cayuga Lake and Samuel Weyburn and his settlement at “Taghanic” and his interviews with the Carmans – direct descendants of Samuel’s through his daughter, Jane.

I have taken some pains to learn what traditions exist in that locality in regard to this matter and my interviews with many of the old residents have only resulted in strengthening the conclusions arrived at from the statements contained in Dearborn’s journal.  Samuel Weyburn was one of the first settlers at this point and his descendants state in the most positive terms that he never knew of an Indian town there.

When Samuel returned from his participation in Sullivan’s Campaign, he continued to serve in the Continental Army under Captain Robert Samuels.   At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, there was still the issue of just who owned the land in the Susquehanna area.  Once again tensions flared and the Yankee-Pennamite War resumed.   Eventually the newly formed nation found common ground and the Connecticut Yankees were granted ownership of their land.  By that time, Samuel had already returned to Taughannock with the intention of settling in New York State.

This was the route followed from Taughannock Point southward by Co. Dearborn with 200 men, on their raid along the west side of the Cayuga Lake in September, 1779.  At the intersection of two county roads just south of Willow Creek crossing, along the Indian Trail, is a little-known boulder monument commemorating this brave expedition.

Over this trail, in the year 1790, came Samuel Weyburn, who traveled from Tioga Point (now Athens, PA) with his wife and four children. He built the first log cabin at Taughannock Point.[2]

Samuel and his wife Jane Bratton traversed the same Indian Trail to Taughannock with not four, but seven children: Samuel, Jane, Rachel, Sally, George, William and Elizabeth.  Elizabeth Weyburn (1785-1865) is my maternal 3x great grandmother.  Three more children were born to the Weyburns in their new home along the western shores of Cayuga Lake: Oliver, Clarissa and Isabella.

Samuel Jane and Oliver Weyburn monuments Interlaken NYSamuel and his wife Jane are buried in the “Old Farm” section of Lake View Cemetery at Sheldrake’s Point along with son Oliver and daughter Clarissa – eleven miles north of Taughannock Falls.

 

 

Deborah Jane Martin-Plugh

Genealogical Researcher, Historian, Contributing Writer and Author

© Copyright 2018

[1] Iroquois Land Deed, 1754, DAR.1925.13, Darlington Collection, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

[2] Old Indian Trails in Tompkins County. W. Glenn Norris.  DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County.  Ithaca, NY.  1944.  Chapter IV. P. 22.

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Much Reason to Fear

A Note to My Readers:  It’s been a deep plunge into early American history and my German-Swiss immigrant families…the Learns and the Brinkers…and their pre-Revolutionary life in northeastern Pennsylvania. I found a number of colonial Pennsylvania archives online that witness the months, weeks and days before the Learn family massacre on July 3, 1781. It becomes a warren of circumstances that entail personal grudges, slander, political clay feet, atrocities and the fog of war.

Pennsylvania Historical Marker-The Learn Massacre

Pennsylvania Historical Marker-The Learn Massacre

For quite sometime I have researched Tannersville and Wyoming Valley during the pre-Revolutionary period because my maternal 4th great grandfather, Samuel Weyburn, fought with the Pennsylvania Rangers as part of Washington’s Continental Army and was under General Sullivan’s command. Journals from officers encamped in Tannersville, refer to John Learn’s tavern as a favorable and strategic bivouac point in the Pocono Mountains. General Sullivan and his troops used the Learn site to gather and prepare for Sullivan’s Campaign in 1779.  Not far from the site of John Learn’s tavern is Brinker’s Mill which still stands today. Jacob Brinker is my paternal 6th great grandfather. His daughter, Anna Margaretha, married George Learn (son of John Learn) and they are my paternal 5th great grandparents.  On July 3rd, 1781, Jacob Brinker would lose his daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and close friend in what has come to be known as “The Learn Massacre”.

As the story unfolds, John Learn and Jacob Stroud (Stroudsburg, PA was named after him.) were not on the best of terms. It seems that Stroud got it into his mind that John Learn was a Tory sympathizer and as the local in charge of militia, left Learn’s tavern without protection during the restless and uncertain days of the Revolutionary War. Though the Learns often traded with the local native population and according to survivors had no issue of any kind, they still worried. Tory sympathizers and British soldiers under the command of the infamous Captain Joseph Brandt, a Mohawk,  and Colonel John Butler were providing the local tribes with liquor and guns and fostering ill will against the settlers. The situation was escalating and becoming unpredictable and perilous.  John Learn and Jacob Brinker petitioned over Stroud’s head for more military protection. While witnesses testified Stroud’s behavior was concerning and promised a tragedy, nothing went further up the line to get help. It seems a junior politician (Robert Levers) worried about his fledgling career though he did have the honesty to admit it in a letter to his superior after the massacre.

On July 7, 1781 a grieving Jacob Brinker came to the quarters of Robert Levers and gave the account of the Learn Massacre and what led up to that unfortunate day. I transcribed the letter that Levers wrote to Joseph Reed, President of the Supreme Council (a position analogous to Governor).

“Jacob Brinker, whose daughter was the Wife of George Lerne, Two of the late unhappy Victims slain by the Indians, was with me last Evening, with young John Lerne, who killed and scalped an Indian soon after his Father was shot, desiring a small party of men might be posted at the place of his late Father deceased, for the Protection of his Crop and of his mother and younger Brethren – upon what occasion I know not, but Lerne tells me, that a few men were posted at one Jacob Lewis(?) about a mile & and half within Lernes’. Here a Regard to Truth, and a Commiseration of this unhappy Family, constrain me to reveal to Council what has long lain on my mind with deep Concern; it is in the Line of my duty now I apprehended if I interfered some Persons in County might have given an ungenerous Construction to my good design.

These Families, there is too much reason to fear, have unhappily fell a Sacrifice to malicious Resentment; -Frequent application had been made to Col. Strowd for Guard, by the late unhappy John Lerne, whose Place is so situated that it is certainly a proper Post, and he was as often refused; and, as the deceased some time past told me himself, because Col. Strowd asserted he was a Tory, and he only wanted men there to have them destroyed, and on which Account John Lerne, in his Life Time, brought and action of Slander against Col. Strowd. On the 30th June, when Col. Chambers was with me, he produced to me a paper directed to him, & delivered as he said, by one Mr. Denis (?) to him; the Paper contains a Number of Charges against Col. Strowd, and I have taken the Liberty to enclose a Copy; and I was desired to put Col. Strowd under Arrest.

‘It occasioned me much Uneasiness of mind, and I declined the matter, telling Col. Chambers I was young in office, the Military duty never having engaged much of my Thoughts; and that as it was well known that I had an unfavorable Opinion of Col. Strowd, which however well grounded, my Interference at such a time might rather be injurious, and frustrate my design, which was rather to cement different Parties than divide; nevertheless, I would take a Copy of them, and if upon strict Enquiry, I should find the Charges well grounded, I would transmit them to your Excellency and sollicit advice and Instructions from you on matters of that Nature. What has since happened, has made me conceive it to be my duty to represent the Whole to Council without Reserve.

From the Account I have received from young John Lerne, the Indian attack was thus: – his Brother George was mowing Grass in a meadow where he was attacked; upon endeavoring to make to the House, his Retreat was cut off and he killed & scalped. The old man with Son John were in a Rye Field, and attacked by Two Indians, who both fired; John Lerne the Elder having first fired, but missed, he was shot and began to run; his Son escaped, and whilst he was watching the Fate of his Father, the Two Indians running after him to scalp him, Young Lerne saw another in the Rye, with his Head down as if he was doing something to his Rifle, upon which Lerne immediately fired & shot him through the Head, but dared not venture to scalp him at that time. He thinks he could have shot another of the Indians after he had loaded, but his Weakness of body being such that he could not make his Escape if he should have missed, he judged, as his Father and Brother were killed, it was best to secure himself. He says had there been Four or Five Persons then present, beside the Family, all the Indians must inevitably have fallen into their Hands –From every Circumstance it appears there were but Four. The Indian he killed was of those who formerly lived at Chemung, named Edsky, but about Five years ago gave himself the name of Jacob Stroud. His Brother George’s Wife and Child were taken & carried off by the Indians, with some Plunder, the House, &c, not destroyed – and after the Prisoners were taken some distance were both killed. That upon Col. Strowd coming up with a Party, the Indians were pursued to the Edge of the Great Swamp; and upon one of the Party’s going into the Swamp & whistling in the Indian Fashion, he was answered by the Indians, and by the Sound at a very small distance, it is imagined the Indians supposed it to be the Comrade that Lerne had killed – But it is said that the Party Col. Stroud had the Command of, had taken out a Ten Gallon Keg of Whiskey, and some of them had become so intoxicated with Liquor, and began to whistle, hoop & haloo, that they might have been heard a mile, by which unhappy Accident the Indians were alarmed, when that had collected wood to make a Fire, and went off in a great Fright, leaving their Plunder, besides other matters of their own, behind them.

It is generally conjectured old John Lerne wounded one of the Indians, and that he died somewhere of his Wounds; because Two Indian tracks were only seen on their Retreat. – Young Lerne tells me a strange circumstance of Col. Strowds’ Conduct, which I have heard from others, and is difficult to be accounted for – That after having marched some distance with Party on the Pursuit along the Indian Tracks, and had passed the Place where the Woman and Child had been killed, he lost his party, and was afterwards found on the Road leading from his house to Wyoming, (about Four miles, supposed to be across from the Indian Track pursued, by a party that had come out to strengthen him, and had reached Lernes’ after he and his Party had marched about two Hours; with which latter Party her returned & proceeded to the great Swamp. The Two Companies is said to have been about Fifty men. I cannot say how far this Report is to be depended on, as I have heard nothing from Col. Chambers; but it appears of too serious a nature not to mention it in Council.

I have the Honor to be,
your Excellency’s
most obedient Servant,
ROBERT LEVERS.

John Learn Monument.  Miller Cemetery, Lansing, NY

John Learn Monument. Miller Cemetery, Lansing, NY

Other accounts of the event are more specific. John was killed first and then his son George, as in the testimony given by George’s surviving brother, Margaretha was carried off with her infant daughter, Susan. Both were scalped and gutted. Their two year old son, John, survived the attack after being gathered up by his aunt who hid with him in the unmowed rye. The young family dog threatened to give them away so she kept it and the child silent until it was clear to run for help.

The little boy is John Learn, my 4th great grandfather. He was raised by his father’s family and when they migrated to New York State, he settled in Lansing, New York. John is buried in Miller Cemetery along with his wives, Elizabeth (my 4th great grandmother) and Linda.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c)Copyright 2015.  All Rights Reserved.