History From America's Most Famous Valleys
The Story of the Money Hole.
An Address Delivered Before a Joint Meeting of the Mohawk Valley Historical Association and the Van Epps-Hartley Chapter, New York State Archeological Assn., 1936. (By Robert M. Hartley.)
Many brave men never came back from the field of Oriskany on that memorable August day in 1777. Some of the most prominent residents of Old Warrensburg died there and their bodies were never recovered or buried. Among them was Samuel Pettingill, a well to do farmer and country doctor, he was a man of education and influence and a captain in Col. Frederick Fisher's Third Tryon County Militia.
Family tradition is that on the morning of the day he marched with his company to join General Herkimer for the relief of Fort Stanwix, that having a considerable savings of silver money, which evidently he feared to leave during his supposed temporary absence he put this money in an old copper teapot of tea kettle, picked up a shovel and walked eastward from his house to the woods near the Chuctamunda creek where he buried his savings. His family had noted with interest all his preparations, but none accompanied him, merely noting the direction he had taken towards the creek, consequently were in ignorance of the exact spot he had chosen as a safe hiding place from theft and possible raiders. It is said he was gone a short half hour. That afternoon he marched away, and never returned. Many searches were made by the family for this buried money, but without results. Though the years that followed its burial, many friends and neighbors assisted in the search, but its hiding place was never discovered.
About thirty-five years ago two of Capt. Samuel Pettingill's great great grandsons, Dewitt and Milton Devendorf, enthusiastically renewed the search in which I and others assisted. During the early springtime we prodded over several acres with sharp pointed steel rods and many excavations were made where the rods indicated obstructions that did not feel like stones. However, the labor expended was no more successful than all previous searches. Captain Pettingill's hiding place of where he buried his money on that August morning, so long ago, perhaps will never be known.
The tradition of this buried treasure still lingers, for the ravine near where the money was supposed to be buried has been commonly known for a hundred years or more as "The Money Hole."
As the next two stories have to do with the Ross and Butler raid on Warrensbush in October, 1781, it may not be amiss to here explain why this last raid was made.
Warrensbush was the most eastern section of Tryon County and because of its close proximity to Schenectady and Albany and their protection, few raiders had previously been able to penetrate and successfully destroy this settlement and Duanesburgh, while the people of all other sections along the frontier to the south and west were badly torn and quite destitute. Consequently, Warrensbush, until october, 1781, was as yet almost untouched and able to supply its less fortunate neighbors with much of their wheat and other necessary supplies. Knowing this, Governor Haldiman in the spring of 1781, sent spies into the Mohawk country to learn the condition of the people of Warrensbush and of their security against attack. These spies reported back that the people were alert to invasion. However, Haldiman was determined to destroy this settlement of possibly by a swift and secret attack. This raid was carefully planned by the Governor and his most experienced Ranger and Indian officers. Every detail was studied for its successful accomplishment, as all previous raids had lost their force before reaching this thickly settled section, which was producing for their more unfortunate neighbors in the Schoharie and upper Mohawk Valley the supplies they so badly needed. So during the summer preparations were made to send a picked forced of about a thousand men and Indians, under the command of Major John Ross and Lieut. Walter Butler, to destroy Warrensbush and Duanesburgh. A complete account of these preparations for this raid is contained in Chapter 10, of Cruickshank's History of the Royal Regiment of New York," ("Johnson's Greens") and also of Major Ross' official report to Gov. Haldiman, of the results of this expedition in which he states: "In seven miles of Warrensbush every house was in flame, 100 farms, three miles and a large granary for public use were reduced to ashes, the cattle and livestock were likewise destroyed--the inhabitants fled in the night, etc., etc."
The raiders advanced rapidly from Oswego over unfrequented trails, but when near Corry's Mush (Root) were discovered and an alarm was sent to the eastern settlements of Tryon and Schenectady counties. But by marching all night the invaders crossed the Schoharie creek near Fort Hunter, where they lay in the woods on the present Billing's farm on Yankee Hill, until daylight, when various detachments were sent out to destroy the settlements before help could reach them from Schenectady and other points. Among the descendants of Florida's pioneer families there still lingers stories and traditions of many thrilling escapes that have never been published. Simms, Beers and Frothingham histories have recorded many family traditions of the raids in the central and upper Mohawk and Schoharie Valley sections, but comparatively little of the escapes and experiences of the settlers of Warrensbush in one of the worst and most destructive raids that ever befell any section of our frontier at any one time has even been published. Perhaps this may be accounted for as it was the last great invasion in the Mohawk country just at the close of the Revolution and that while the results of the raid was quite complete, the effect was not so far reaching and sooner recovered, than had it come earlier in the war, but the war was ended and the inhabitants left to themselves without further fear, immediately began to recover and rebuild. This raid on Warrensbush ended with the battle of Johnstown late that afternoon and the death of Walter Butler on the retreat, at the crossing of the West Canada Creek the following morning.
The Escape of Mrs. Pettingill and Her Family in the Ross and Butler Raid of 1781.
This story had to do with another loss and near tragedy that befell the widow and family of Captain Samuel Pettingill. You will remember that Capt. Pettingill was killed at Oriskany. The death of husband and father must have been an almost paralyzing loss to his wife as she was left with a family of thirteen children, but courageous woman as she was, they had managed to live and we find them in the fall of 1781 living on their farm on the highlands in the southwestern part of the town with sufficient feed for their few cattle and supplies for the family for the coming winter.
One of the detachments sent out from the raider's temporary encampment on Yankee Hill, as previously mentioned, was discovered approaching the dwelling of Mrs. Pettingill, who with her family was able to escape to the nearby woods. They continued their breathless and headlong flight until they reached a secluded over-hanging branch along the Chuctanunda creek. here they hid in a cove like recess in the creek gorge. But several Indians had trailed them and with hushed breath the hidden family could hear them coming over the tinkling slate rock along the shore of the creek, searching for their place of concealment. Soon several Indians passed by -- almost within touching distance, but they did not discover the terrified family as they lay huddled in the crevice covered by vines and branching hemlocks. As the sound of the Indians' footsteps became less distinct over the crackling slate, the youngest child, a little girl, began to sob and cry, fearing the child's crying would reach the ears of the retreating Indians the dauntless, quick witted mother grabbed her apron and smothered the cries of the child. Instant action was necessary, for it meant death for all the family if their place of concealment was discovered. Several minutes passed before the mother dared remove her hand from the mouth of the now unconscious girl. She was apparently dead, but by vigorous shaking soon began to breathe again. Towards nightfall the family cautiously made their way back to their home only to find their buildings burned with all their possessions. Family tradition is that fortunately a stack of wheat had been missed by the raiders and it is declared that the family lived ion this stack of wheat during the early fall until they could build themselves within the cellar of their burned dwelling a make shift shelter from partially burned timbers and poles which they thatched and roofed with brush and straw and here they lived through the hard winter of 1781-82. It is also family tradition that the undestroyed wheat in the partially burned stack contributed very largely to the family's source of support during the winter.
Surely these ancestors of ours never failed to meet an emergency in those dark days of bloody strife.
(Note--I have heard the above story told several times by Mrs. Rachel Pettingill Devendorf or our town, it being related to her by her great grand-mother who was the wife of Capt. Samuel Pettingill.)
The Escape of the Rowland Family.
This is also a story of the Ross and Butler raid of 1781. The Rowland family, upon the coming of the raiders in the early morning, carried some of their most useful household effects to the nearby woods when they all took up a hiding place, prepared in advance for such an emergency upon a platform of poles built some fifteen feet above the ground in the middle of a dense thicket of sizeable low limbed hemlock trees, which ordinarily would not be seen either from the ground or from any other direction. Here the family quietly lay and in the distance could see the smoke of their burning home and that of their neighbor--Timothy Hunte, rolling over the tree tops.
For several hours the family feared to come down, when hearing a slight noise below they saw to their terror several Indians coming through the woods in their direction. Suspense and fear held them stupefied as the Indians passed directly under their hiding place, the last one suddenly stopped, but he did not look up or around, he had only stopped to adjust some of the load of spoil he was carrying, when he hurried on after his companions and needless to say greatly to the relief of the terrified family in the tree tops above.
(This story was told me by the late Jay C. Rowland in 1905, whose grandmother was the mother of the family in the tree tops, she telling it to him when a boy.)
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