Joseph Wheeler was born about 1701 in Wales, England. He came to New York as a young man. He married Pieternelle Schoonmaker June 4, 1724 in Old Dutch Church in Kingston, Ulster County, New York. He is listed as a doctor. Pieternelle may be Eleanore in Dutch. She was born in 1706 in Raysester, Ulster County, New York. Her parents were Hendrick Jochemen Schoonmaker and Heyltie Gerritse Decker. Joseph and his wife moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They had two sons: Joseph Wheeler was born September 4, 1726 in Kingston, Ulster County, New York. Jan (John) Wheeler was born July 28, 1728 in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. Joseph Wheeler died in Pennsylvania in 1731. Pieternelle likely married a second time to a Baker.
Joseph Wheeler (born in 1726) married Mary Alice Holmes in 1748 in Northumberland Conty, PA. I will try to copy and paste their children here. Sometimes, this does not work well, but this is easier than typing all this in.
i. Levi Wheeler, married April 23, 1800 in Mason Co., Kentucky.
ii. Phoebe Wheeler, born in Pennsylvania; died 1825 in Christian Co., Kentucky.
13 iii. Elinor Holmes Wheeler, born Abt. 1738 in Bloomsbury, Northumberland, Pennsylvania; died Aft. October 1793 in Sumner, Tennessee; married Robert Desha (2) 1758 in Bucks Co., Pennsylvania.
iv. Elizabeth Wheeler, born Bef. September 29, 1751 in Pennsylvania.
v. Joseph Wheeler, born Abt. 1752; died Aft. 1782.
vi. John B. Wheeler, born Bef. May 05, 1754 in Smithfield, Monroe, Pennsylvania; died March 1823 in Mayslick, Mason, Kentucky; married December 11, 1775 in Columbia, Pennsylvania.
vii. Samuel Wheeler (2), born January 13, 1757 in Smithfield, Fayette Co., Pennsylvania; died June 1818 in Nathan's Ferry, Clermont Co., Ohio; married 1783 in Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania.
viii. Benjamin Wheeler, born April 15, 1760; died September 13, 1779 in Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania.
ix. Ann Wheeler, born November 12, 1762 in Columbia County, Pennsylvania; died 1832; married 1780 in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. Ann married one of the soldiers who helped build Fort Wheeler.
x. Mary W. Wheeler, born April 02, 1765 in Easton, Northampton Co., Pennsylvania.
"Young Joseph and Maria Holmes Wheeler purchased rights to land from the Indians as members of the Susquehanna Company. Joseph is listed in the Susquehanna Papers, Vol 1, as going with the "Connecticut People" to Wyoming Valley. This appears to be about 1762. In Vol X of the Susquehanna Papers, Joseph was found at "Shawnee Flats about 6 miles from Wilksbarre, a settlement there under Pennsylvania early in the Spring of 1769. Joseph Wheeler, 2 of the Van Campens, Joseph Sheer(?), Bob McFree(?) and one or two more had houses and ploughed and planted. Witness helped to survey twice, one Lot called #20 and another #21. Obviously, Joseph had switched sides in the interim, is no longer with the Yankees, but with the Pennamites. Many references in the Susquehanna Papers support this."
In Will of Joseph Wheeler, date 2 Nov 1782, Fort Wheeler is mentioned, which was located on his land. A complete account of Fort Wheeler may be found in "Frontier Forts of PA". Vol. I, though refers to him as Mr. Isaiah Wheeler of New Jersey, this is in error. Joseph Wheeler served as a Lieutenant in Braddock's Army and a private in the Invalid Regiment during the Revolution. He is buried near the Fort which was built on his farm in 1778 - Source: James Pyles (See below)
Joseph Wheeler Will - Page 72 Will Book #1, Northumberland CO PA
In the name of God Amen, I Joseph Wheeler of the County of Northumberland being weake in body but sound in memory blessed be God to this day November second in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty two, make and publish this my Last Will and Testament. In manner following--that is to say, after all my lawful debts be equally levied. First, I give my son JOHN WHEELER all that message of land laying on the west side of Fishing Creek only reserving that pease of timberland laying between clearing and the creek for use of all the Plantation until the timber is off and then the land to remain the property of my son JOHN WHEELER. Next my wife MARY WHEELER I bequeath all my land on the east side of the creek with the moveables to remain her property during her widowhood for the soport of herself and the three younger children and at her decease it belonging to the two younger sons SAMUEL WHEELER and LEVY WHEELER to be equally divided only observing that LEVY is to have ye old homested with the buildings and if my son SAMUEL WHEELER should marry and chose a labour for himself my wife may allow him the lower part by the old fort with the buildings all laying in Wioming Township on Fishing Creek and if either of my sons should die without an heir his part of the land shall belong to the other two and after the estate being clear of debt my sons to give my daughter ELLEN one cow and likewise one cow to my daughter ELIZABETH and to my daughter ANN, I bequeath twenty pounds, likewise to my daughter MARY W. forty pounds and my youngest daughter FEEBY WHEELER
forty pounds and if an;any of my daughters should die before their legese be paid their part is to be divided with the other children. And if any of my heirs disagree and will not perform according to my will and testimony they shall forfeit their part of the estate. And I make my loving friends ANDREW CAMEL and GEORGE OMAN overseers of this my Will to take care and see this same performed to my true intent and meaning. In witness whereof I the said JOSEPH WHEELER have to this my last will and testimony, set my hand and seal the day and yeare above written.
WILL Recorded 22 Nov 1790
Fort Wheeler was built on Joseph and Mary Wheeler's land. I found this about the Fort.
Moses Van Campen
This tablet erected by
Moses Van Campen Chapter
Daughters of the American Revolution
Fort Wheeler was built on the western frontier of Pennsylvania during the American Revolution. It was built on the property of Joseph Wheeler, father of Elizabeth Wheeler Drake Goodan. Even though some newspaper articles written at the time the monument was erected assign the ownership of the property to Isaac Wheeler, there can be no doubt that it was the property of Joseph Wheeler. In his will, Joseph describes one parcel of land as being "down by the old fort".
During the days of the American Revolution, the colonists living on the Pennsylvania frontier needed protection from not only the British, but the Indians as well. The British were paying $8.00 for the scalps of the settlers. Raids on the settlers were a common occurrence. So the colonial government charged Moses VanCampen with the task of building a fort for the protection of the settlers around Fishing Creek.
When the alarm was sounded, sometimes a child ran shouting through the community, all the settlers would run to the protection of the one of several forts scattered along the frontier. The arrangement was certainly not foolproof. It is believed that most if not all of the settlers abandoned the forts for extended periods and moved to safer areas of the state. During the 1781 tax collection, Daniel Goodan can be found in Augusta Township, probably living in Sunbury, PA. He paid taxes on property he owned in Wyoming Township "where he used to live". Many of his Fishing Creek neighbors can be found living near him in Augusta Township.
The site of the fort is hard to find today. No one in the small college town of Bloomsburg, PA seems to know that there ever were outposts of civilization nearby called forts. Today a dog kennel operates on the property near the site of Fort Wheeler. Because a gravel company once operated near the site of the fort, the topography has even changed. Those living in the house on the site, take care of the monument the best they can. But, it is indeed a forgotten place that one must work to discover.
To find the monument marking the site of the old fort, one must go out of Bloomsburg on US11. The site of Old Fort Wheeler is very near Interstate 80.
Words from Van Campen who built the fort and more:
Lieut. Moses Van Campen says, “Early in the month of April 1778, he was ordered to go with his men up the North Branch of the Susquehanna river to the mouth of Fishing creek and follow up this three miles to a compact settlement, located in that region, and build a fort for the reception of the inhabitants in case of an attack from the Indians. News had come thus early of their having visited the outer line of settlements and of their committing depredations, so that terrified messengers were arriving almost daily, bringing the sad news of houses burned, victims scalped and of families carried into captivity.
“It was no time to be idle; a few days, it might be a few hours, and the savage might be amongst those whom he was appointed to guard and repeat these scenes of cruelty and blood. He and his men, his command of twenty men, who, as well as himself, were familiar with the country, expert in the use of the rifle and acquainted with the Indian modes of warfare, without delay they entered vigorously upon the work, selecting a site for the fort on the farm of Mr. Wheeler (hence, when completed, it was called Fort Wheeler). It was built of stockades and sufficiently large to accommodate all the families of the neighborhood. Anticipating an early approach of the foe, they worked with a will to bring the fort to completion or at least into a condition that would afford some protection in case of an attack. The Indians, in approaching the border settlements, usually struck upon the head waters of some of the streams upon which settlers were located and followed them down through valley or mountain defile until they came near a white man’s house, when they would divide so as to fall in small companies upon different habitations at the same time. “Before the fort was completed a runner came flying with the speed of the wind to announce the approach of a large party of savages. The inhabitants gathered into the fort with quick and hasty rush, taking with them what valuables they could, and leaving their cheerful homes to the undisputed sway of the enemy. Very soon the Indians came prowling around under cover of the woods and all at once, with wild yells, burst forth upon the peaceful farmhouses of the settlement. Fortunately, the inmates were not there to become victims of the tomahawk and scalping knife. From the elevated position of the fort the inhabitants could see their dwellings entered, their feather beds and blankets carried out and scattered around with frantic cries and very soon after the flame and smoke leap to the tops of their houses and, finally, the whole settle down into a quiet heap of ashes. The Indians spent most of the day in pillaging and burning houses, some of them made an attack on the fort but to little purpose. Van Campen and his men were actively engaged in preparing for a vigorous defense in case of an attack to storm their unfinished works. They were successful in surrounding the fort at a distance of four rods with a barricade “made with brush and stakes, the ends sharpened and locked into each other so that it was difficult to remove them and almost impossible for one to get through. The Indians, seeing this obstruction, were disposed to fire at them from a distance, and keep concealed behind the bushes. Their shots were promptly returned and a brisk firing was kept up all the time till evening. It was expected that the Indians would renew the attack the next morning and, as the ammunition of the fort was nearly expended, Van Campen sent two of his men to Fort Jenkins, about eight miles distant, on the Susquehanna, who returned next morning before dawn of day with a plentiful supply of powder and lead. The remaining hours of darkness were spent in running bullets and in making needed preparation for the encounter they were looking for on the approaching day. They judged from what they knew of the superior force of the enemy and from the activity already displayed that the struggle would be severe.” In the morning they found the enemy had disappeared. “The Indians, not liking the preparations made to receive them, retired, leaving blood on the ground, but nothing else that would indicate their loss. But the Indians, not satisfied with this visit made another attempt to surprise this fort in the month of June. On one evening in the month of June,” says Lieut. Van Campen, “just at the time when the women and girls were milking their cows, a sentinel called my attention to a movement in the bushes not far off, which I soon discovered to be a party of Indians making their way to the cattle yard. There was no time to be lost. I immediately selected ten of my sharpshooters and, under cover of a rise of ground, crept between them and the milkers. On ascending the ridge we found ourselves within pistol shot of our lurking foes. I fired first and killed the leader; this produced an instant panic among the party, and they all flew away like a flock of birds, A volley from my men did no further execution; it only made the woods echo with the tremendous roar of their rifles; it sounded such an unexpected alarm in the ears of the honest dairy women that they were still more terribly frightened than the Indians. They started upon their feet, screamed aloud and ran with all their might, fearful lest the enemy should be upon them. In the mean time the milk pails flew in every direction and the milk was scattered to the winds. The best runner got in first.” Lieut. Van Campen appears to have made Fort Wheeler his headquarters this season when not engaged in scouting. After the Sullivan campaign, in the fall of 1779, when Van Campen returned to Fort Wheeler, his father living there – leaving there late in March 1780.
Fort Wheeler, the traditions of the many descendants of the men who occupied the fort say, was not abandoned but held by hardy settlers, when not garrisoned by troops and that it is the only one of its date of the line in front of Fort Augusta that was not destroyed. Of couse, I do not include McClure, Rice or Swartz, as they were built later. Near here lived Peter Meelick, who served as one of the committee of safety for this Wyoming township from its institution until superseded by another system.
There is nothing today to indicate where the fort stood except the spring is there. Mr. William Creveling, who owns the property, says many years ago he ploughed up the fireplace.
O. B. Melick, Esq., of Bloomsburg, says the place his grandfather, the Peter Meelick above named, and his father fixed upon as the site of Fort Wheeler is the same as that shown by Mr. Creveling. Mr. Theodore McDowell, since dead, showed the same site as the one he and his comrades when boys used to visit as the remains of Fort Wheeler. The graveyard, where the soldiers and others were buried, about thirty rods from the site, I regret to say, is not cared for. There is not a dissenting voice as to the site, but unanimity rarely found.
Mr. Isaiah Wheeler, (this has been proven to be Joseph Wheeler) on whose land the fort was built, and whose dwelling the stockades enclosed, was a settler who came here from the State of New Jersey, and some accounts say he died and was buried here. Col. Joseph Salmon, a man of prominence as a scout and of extraordinary courage in these times, when examples of courage were not rare, married one of his daughters. It is said an open manly rivalry existed between Van Campen and Salmon for her hand, when Salmon distanced the lieutenant and won the damsel.
Mr. Joseph Crawford, an old and respected citizen of Orangeville, says his father, John Crawford, was born in Fort Wheeler soon after its completion in 1778, being the second white child born in this vicinity.
One of the men who helped construct this Fort Wheeler married Joseph Wheeler's daughter, Ann. This area was called Wyoming Valley, PA. At first when I read about this area I was confused thinking to the State out west, but this Wyoming is in Pennsylvania. Fort Wheeler was constructed before the Wyoming Valley Massacre July 3, 1778. The British were paying the Indians $8.00 for every settler's scalp they could take!! I thought this article about the Forts was interesting and enlightening.
The Wyoming Massacre and Columbia County
by William Baillie
The year 2003 marks the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Wyoming and the infamous Wyoming Massacre during the Revolutionary War. On July 3, 1778 a contingent of about 300 American militia met a much larger invading army of British regulars, Tories and Indians in the Wyoming Valley near modern Exeter south of Scranton. The Americans were overwhelmed and driven into a panicked retreat, with the Indians scalping every soldier they could lay hands on. The several American forts in the Valley were surrendered or abandoned; the invaders killed many civilians and destroyed houses, crops, and cattle. As news of the "massacre" spread along the River, settlers in the Valley (more than 3000) fled in panic, joined by thousands more from the whole of the North Branch and West Branch regions of the Susquehanna, in what came to be known as the Great Runaway.
While few if any men from the area of modern Columbia County fought in the Battle itself, this region was directly involved in the events which led up to and followed from the Massacre. Local forts, fighters, and families played heroic roles in the struggle to cast off British rule and claim the frontier lands. Among the most noted local names were Lieutenant Moses VanCampen, Captain Lazarus Stewart and pioneer settler James McClure. All three owned lands in the Bloomsburg-Orangeville area; the latter two were brothers-in-law, married to sisters Martha and Mary Espy.
Early in 1776, a Committee of Safety was set up in then-Northumberland County, a huge territory which included all the land in the Forks of the Susquehanna. Wyoming Township, which included modern Columbia County, was represented on the Committee by James McClure (of later Bloomsburg), Thomas Clayton of Catawissa, and Peter Mellick of Fishing Creek. The Committee raised a regiment to join Washington’s army near Boston, and one of the early recruits was nineteen-year-old Moses VanCampen, whose family had recently settled on Fishing Creek. James McClure, however, knowing that young VanCampen was a crack shot and expert scout, persuaded him to stay and enroll in the Northumberland militia to help protect the local settlers.
Forts in Columbia County
As a key defense to fend off Indian raids from the north, the county’s military commander at Fort Augusta (modern Sunbury) established a chain of forts running from the West Branch to the North Branch, roughly along the line of an ancient warrior trail. Fort Muncy (near today’s Lycoming Mall) anchored the line on the west. Next was Fort Freeland along Warrior Run (near Turbotville), then a fort at Bosley’s Mills in the Forks of Chillisquaque Creek (now Washingtonville, Montour County). Within (modern) Columbia County were Fort Wheeler (at Lightstreet) and, anchoring the eastern end of the chain, Fort Jenkins along the North Branch (at Lime Ridge). (A third Columbia County fort was established slightly later, Fort McClure at Bloomsburg.)
Fort Wheeler and Fort Jenkins were both established in early 1778. In the winter and spring of 1777-1778, the region was frightened by reports of a large British/Indian invasion planned for the summer. Moses Van Campen’s autobiography relates that "early in the month of April he was ordered to go with his men [from Sunbury] up the North Branch of the Susquehanna river, to the mouth of Fishing Creek, and follow up this three miles, to a compact settlement located in that region [modern Lightstreet], and build a fort for the reception of the inhabitants in case of an attack from the Indians." He built a stockade of sharpened stakes around the farmhouse of Isaiah (JOSEPH) Wheeler, "sufficiently large to accommodate all the families of the neighborhood." (In the choice of Wheeler’s house, Van Campen may have been "influenced by the tender passion," for he was wooing Wheeler’s daughter Ann in rivalry with his best friend, Joseph Salmon; the friend won and married Miss Wheeler.) In May!
, before this fort was completed, Indian raiders approached, driving all the local inhabitants into the stockade. There they watched in dismay as the raiders pillaged and burned their homes, but the fort itself withstood the Indian attack, and by morning the invaders had gone away.
One evening the next month a scout saw Indians sneaking up to the cattle pound at milking time. VanCampen led a party of ten sharpshooters to intercept the raiders, and their volley killed the leader and drove off the rest; the milkmaids "started upon their feet, screamed aloud and ran with all their might, fearful lest the enemy should be upon them. In the mean time the milk pails flew in every direction and the milk was scattered to the winds." VanCampen made Fort Wheeler his headquarters for the next year as he led scout parties regularly on patrols, north up Green Creek, west across the headwaters of Little Fishing Creek to the Muncy Hills, and returning by the line of forts described above.
Fort Jenkins was situated along the North Branch just north of the modern I-80 bridge and about 40 yards from the riverbank. This "fort" too was simply a farmhouse surrounded by a stockade, sixty by eighty feet, intended primarily to afford shelter to local residents. The Fort was already in existence in April 1778: VanCampen’s narrative reports that at the first attack on Fort Wheeler, the defenders ran short of ammunition and at night he sent two men to Fort Jenkins, about eight miles distant, for a supply of powder and lead. As the key fort along the lower North Branch, Fort Jenkins was defended by as many as 100 soldiers; in 1778 there were troops of the Pennsylvania Line, then local militia until late 1779 when Hessian mercenaries from General Sullivan’s expedition were quartered there for a short time.
Fort McClure was the home of James McClure along the North Branch about a mile above the mouth of Fishing Creek. In late 1778 a company of militia from Lancaster was posted to Fishing Creek and stayed at the McClure house. Lieutenant VanCampen, their officer for a time, stockaded the home and stored supplies there for his scouting operations. This Fort, however, was not regularly garrisoned and apparently was never attacked during the War.
The Battle of Wyoming
Isolated attacks by small Indian raiding parties, though terrifying and often deadly, paled in comparison with the one major pitched battle in this region, the Battle of Wyoming. As mentioned above, few if any men from (later) Columbia County fought at Forty Fort on July 3, 1778. Aid had been urgently requested from Fort Jenkins, but the commander felt that sending soldiers upriver would leave his fort indefensible.
One leader in the Battle, however, did have a Columbia County connection: Captain Lazarus Stewart. Born near Harrisburg of Scotch-Irish immigrants, during the French and Indian War of the 1760s he had been a leader in the unofficial mounted militia troop known as the Paxtang Rangers, performing heroically in patrols to protect isolated settlements from enemy raids. After that War ended, however, the Rangers continued forays against local Indians and came into disfavor with the Pennsylvania colonial government; Philadelphia offered a large reward for the arrest of the leading Raiders, including Stewart.
In 1769 Stewart found new opportunities beckoning him up the Susquehanna. There a bitter conflict had broken out in the "Wyoming Settlements" between claimants from Connecticut and from Pennsylvania. (A century earlier, Britain’s King Charles II had granted charters to Connecticut and to William Penn which set up overlapping rights to lands between Fishing Creek and the New York border.) (NOTE BY BETTY: Winnie's Wheeler were on the side of the Pennsylvanians even though they came into the Valley with the Connecticut group.)
Connecticut men formed a private joint-stock venture, the Susquehannah Company, to settle the lands in the Wyoming Valley along the North Branch, with their southern boundary at the mouth of Fishing Creek. (Actually, the forty-first parallel crosses the Susquehanna River at the northern end of Bloomsburg Airport and cuts diagonally across the Town to the northeast corner of the fairgrounds.)
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania began selling off the same lands under the Patent system, which allowed anyone to stake out up to 300 acres for just £5 per 100 acres. Each colony rushed to beat the other in settling the Wyoming Valley. The rivalry soon broke out into armed conflict called the Yankee—Penamite War, with each side in turn gaining temporary advantage and evicting the other from their new homes.
On May 12, 1769 the Penns’ agent in the Valley wrote to the Governor: "On my way up the River from Shamokin, on Wednesday Evening last, I was hailed by a Man at the Mouth of Fishing Creek, named James McClure, who told me He and four others, then at a Fire hard by, was an advanced Party of one hundred, going to join the New England Men, and that they would chiefly be from Lancaster County." Whatever McClure’s intent, he soon settled near where he was camped that night. Lazarus Stewart also claimed patent land at Fishing Creek, evidently intending to defend the southern border of the Connecticut claim. In 1770, however, the Yankees offered the Paxtang Rangers large land grants in the Wyoming Valley in exchange for the Rangers’ protection of Connecticut settlers. Lazarus Stewart led some forty Paxtang men to the Wyoming Valley and built a blockhouse at the southern end of the Valley (near modern Nanticoke).
When the Revolutionary War began, the Yankees and Penamites set their local quarrel aside for the duration of the struggle against the British. That is how things stood when in 1778 the British at Niagara gathered forces for a strong raid to clear Americans out of the land in the Forks of the Susquehanna. This army included about 400 British "green coats" and Tories along with nearly 700 Iroquois warriors. The Americans in the Wyoming Valley had a chain of forts to help protect their settlements, but most of their able-bodied fighters had gone off to join the Continental Army. As the invaders approached the Valley in late June, there remained to defend it six companies of raw militia recruits, chiefly old men and boys. By chance, home on leave was a regular-army officer, Col. Zebulon Butler, and he took command of the American militia gathered at Forty Fort across the river from Wilkes-Barre.
After receiving a British demand for surrender, the Americans held a council of war. Col. Butler and several other officers advised waiting for reinforcements. (A troop of Continentals was expected within a day or two, and other forces had been requested from Col. Clingaman at Fort Jenkins.) Captain Lazarus Stewart and others, however, argued vehemently for marching out immediately to face the enemy before Forty Fort was surrounded; according to some reports, Stewart even accused Col. Butler of cowardice. In mid-afternoon, the Americans marched out and within a couple miles met the British. The outnumbered American forces fought bravely, but after a half hour their left flank was turned and they were trapped. The battlefield became a slaughter ground; among those killed were all six company commanders, including Captain Lazarus Stewart.
Fleeing soldiers were chased down and killed; many captives were tortured and then scalped. (Upon their return to Fort Niagara, the Indians collected bounty payments for 227 scalps.) Some of the American soldiers escaped to Forty Fort, but the next morning that fort was surrendered to the British. The Indians went on a rampage throughout the Valley, burning homes and destroying crops and cattle.
The Great Runaway
The terrified settlers fled in all directions, without provisions or protection. Some hiked east through forest and swamps to the Delaware River; others fled by water down the North Branch to Fort Augusta. Among the latter was Lazarus Stewart’s widow, Martha. She lashed two canoes together and embarked with her nine children—the youngest just two days old. She floated downstream through the rapids at Nanticoke and Nescopeck; when she reached her sister, the widow of James McClure at their farm in modern Bloomsburg, Mary McClure joined the flight with her children.
As news of the disaster spread beyond the Wyoming Valley, it prompted a general exodus of residents from throughout the area of the Forks of the Susquehanna. In a letter of 1 August, Col. Thomas Hartley reported to the colony’s Council: "Four fifths of the Inhabitants fled with such Effects as they could carry from this Country. . . . A most extraordinary panic seems to have struck the People. The Wyoming Settlement is almost totally destroyed." A few days later, on 10 August, Hartley wrote: "All the People of the West Branch above . . . Muncy had fled & evacuated their settlements—so on the North-East Branch, all above Nescopeck Falls were gone."
Most of (modern) Columbia County was caught up in this panicky flight. In the Greenwood Valley along Fishing Creek, for example, a friendly Indian named Job Shiloway brought news of the Massacre to the John Eves family, who fled West on the Indian path to the fort at Bosley’s Mills. The village of Catawissa, on the other hand, was not emptied out; the Quakers there were known to have close ties to the Indians, and some of them were suspected of being Tory sympathizers who would not be bothered by the British. In fact, some refugees fleeing the upriver settlements stopped and stayed at Catawissa. There were also Tory sympathizers remaining in Scotch Valley in (modern) Main Township.
To restore settler confidence, General De Haas sent a contingent of 80 men to the mouth of Briar Creek, but on August 10 that position was abandoned and Fort Jenkins was garrisoned by Continental troops. In the Fall some refugees began to return, but on 7 October Lieutenant Samuel Hunter wrote from Fort Augusta: "As for the Inhabitants of this [Northumberland] County, they seem very much afraid at present. . . . one half of this County is left vacant, and not more than one third of the Inhabitants that lived formerly here, is putting in any fall crop this year." Indian raids on isolated settlements continued. Lt. Hunter and others repeatedly urged General Washington that only a punitive expedition deep into Iroquois territory in the Finger Lakes region could halt the incursions.
In April of 1779, the Indians approached again in force; Penn agent William McClay reported to Council April 27th: "almost every Hour for Three days past, we have had fresh alarms of the Enemy. Massacres and Depredations have been committed at Wioming, Fort Jenkins, Fishing Creek [and three other forts] almost at one and the same Time. . . . The whole Force of the Six Nations seems to be poured down upon Us." He, too, urged that the American army "carry an Expedition immediately into their Country."
In fact, such an expedition was already planned. In midsummer General Sullivan gathered at Easton a force of some 3000 men, marched overland to Fort Wyoming (Wilkes-Barre) and from there up the North Branch. Lieutenant Moses VanCampen as Quartermaster marshaled the army’s supplies carried upriver in 300 boats, while the army marched along the shore. After defeating a British/Indian force at Chemung, New York, Sullivan marched through the home grounds of the Iroquois as far as Rochester, razing villages, orchards and crops everywhere. By September 30 the army was back in the Wyoming Valley, having destroyed the homeland of the Six Nations.
After Sullivan’s raid, the region of the Forks of the Susquehanna gradually filled up again with settlers. In most cases, we have no exact information about the resettlement of (present) Columbia County. Mary McClure seems to have stayed with her family in Northumberland until the end of the War, and the Eves family came back to their farm but had to flee again. Catawissa, on the other hand, seems to have grown considerably in population by War’s end.
Indian raids on settlements in the region continued throughout the War. For example, in late April 1779 a band of thirty-five Indians attacked three families living near Fort Jenkins, killing one and taking twenty-four prisoners. Twenty soldiers from the Fort pursued and overtook them, and a thirty-minute battle ensued. During the melee the prisoners escaped and returned to the Fort; the Indians also got away after killing four soldiers and wounding five. The next month, another incident happened just across the river from the fort, where a settler family named Windbigler had a cabin (near modern Mifflinville); one morning two children of the family were sent to Catawissa to purchase flour, but on the way they found evidence of Indians and turned back, only to discover their home burning and the four other family members slain and scalped. Moses VanCampen was twice captured by Indian raiders, escaping once and being freed on parole from Montreal the second time.
Fort Jenkins continued to play an important part in defense of the North Branch. On November 14, 1778 Col. Hartley wrote from that fort: "The enemy is in force between here and Wyoming. By their plunder and desolation near this place they expect the frontiers to give away; but the good continuance of this garrison has saved all below." The next year, however, when the garrison marched to the aid of besieged Fort Rice, a band of Tories and Indians found the fort unoccupied and burned it; it was never rebuilt. By contrast, tradition holds that Fort Wheeler was the only one of the original line of forts across the Forks that was never captured or abandoned. The later Fort McClure, likewise, survived the War intact.
The Battle of Wyoming and the Great Runaway which followed dealt a severe blow to the tenuous settlements in the area of Columbia County. A majority of settlers fled the region, and of those brave ones who remained many were attacked and burned out. Others, including some Tory sympathizers, remained safely in their homes throughout the War. After the Treaty of Paris in 1783 made the region safe from incursions, settlement proceeded rapidly and by 1795 extended to remote valleys and uplands throughout the county.
Stories of the "Massacre" at Wyoming became a powerful propaganda weapon. The bravery of the outnumbered Americans and the heartless cruelty of the enemy were often retold in story, poem, and oration; throughout the Thirteen Colonies, "Wyoming Massacre" became a rallying cry in the War and an important element in eventual American success. On the periphery of the Wyoming Settlements, the region of Columbia County shared in both the horror and the eventual hard-won triumph.
[Here are listed the MAIN SOURCES, but not for publication, unless you feel they are essential:]
Barton, Edwin, Columbia County Two Hundred Years Ago (1976)
Bradsby, H. C., History of Luzerne County (1893)
Girton, Dean B. and Paul Trescott, Millville: The First 200 Years (1972)
Harvey, Oscar J., History of Wilkes-Barre, (1909)
Montgomery, Thomas, ed., Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, 2nd edn. (1916)
Pennsylvania Archives, 1st ser., vols. 6 & 7 (1853)
Pennsylvania Colonial Records, vol. 9 (1852)
VanCampen, Moses, The Life and Times of Major Moses VanCampen, 2nd edn., ed. John S. Minard (1893)
Wallace, Virgil W., "Fort Jenkins" in Northumberland County Historical Society Proceedings, vol. 13 (1943)
Winnie's ancestor Joseph Wheeler's sons were Revolutionary soldiers! Even the elder Joseph is listed as a Revolutionary soldier. Joseph Wheeler served as a Lieutenant in Braddock's Army and in the Invalid Regiment during the
Revolutionary War. Joseph was an old soldier and I suppose that is why he is listed as in the Invalid Regiment. Joseph Wheeler died in 1790. His dust is mixed with the soil around old Fort Wheeler.
I will post about his children in the next post on here. All for today!