History From America's Most Famous Valleys
STORIES OF THE REVOLUTION
With an account of the lost child of the Delaware: Wheaton and the Panther, &c.
Thanks to Willis Barshied Jr. for the donation.
Printed by Hoffman and White,
No. 71 State Street 1836.
OF COLONEL JOHN HARPER
Related by Judge Hager of Schoharie.
McDaniel, a Tory Captain, in the year that Burgoyne was taken, had posted himself and associates on the Schoharie flats, a small distance above the bridge which now crosses the stream. The intention of McDaniel was to kill and plunder, although his men were badly armed; having but few guns, which however were substituted with dirks, knives, spears, and even sharpened sticks or poles; and knowing the inhabitants were without the means of defence, did considerable damage before the mauraders could be decidedly dealt with.
At this critical juncture, when parents nor children were safe in their beds-when the property of fields and barns were exposed to midnight fires -when the unsuspecting traveller was frequently pounced upon, as by a wolf or panther, robbed and murdered-at such a time as this, it was necessary that aid from some quarter should be procured, or the whole population thereabouts must submit to the insolence and barbarousness of this agent of the British.
The only resort of the inhabitants was, as quickly as possible to flee to Albany and Schenectady, to solicit the proper aid, either to cut to pieces, or disperse this band of fratacides.
This hazardous undertaking was exactly adapted to the daring spirit of John Harper, which he promptly undertook to perform, although the tories were in considerable strength on the road; especially at the forks where Vrooman now lives, at the north end of the Schoharie flats, where the bridge crosses Foxen Creek.
A secret journey through the woods, not following any road, would doubtless have been the most secure from attack, but such an expedient the soul of Harper would not stoop to. He, therefore, determined on a more rapid, as well as a more heroic method of effecting his purpose.
The sun was retiring in glory beyond the towering peaks that skirt Schoharie river, on the western shore, from Gilboa's rapids, along the Vrooman lands, to where the falls near the Mohawk sends up its spray, when Harper, dressed in the smooth brief habilaments of a rifleman, came on a beautiful courser, from the way of the CLOVE where he had been that day to see his family.
On leaping from the saddle, where he had sat an hour or two, in patriotic meditation, while softly winding his way from his home, among the lime-quarries, and bushes that overhung the path, the burghers of Schoharie gathered around him in solemn, though earnest graduations. While each and all together as earnestly as if but one had been there, cried, "O Harper, the tory McDaniel has come; there is the blaze of his fires," pointing to the curling smoke as it ascended in white columns above the trees; "Hagar and Keeker have already gone to Albany, where we hope they will arrive in safety to-night, when by tomorrow evening, we shall be able to quench those fires and the lives of the scoundrels who kindled them." To all this he listened, while his eyes flashed the impression their words had made on his mind, when once for all he shouted, "I will go to Schenectady," and vaulted into the saddle, from whence but a few minutes before he had lightly descended, and was directly out of sight.
It was dark when he had rode as far as an INN, which stood near where the Stone Church now stands; here he halted for the night, desiring an upper room, with a lock and key, lights and refreshments to be placed on a table. All was complied with, when he entered locked the door, laying his rifle, two pistols and a dirk near his person, sat down to eat. This finished, he took a seat beside the door, with an ear at the key-hole, where he passed the dull hours in intense thought. All was silent till the "noon of night."
"Hark !" he involuntarily exclaimed in a whisper, fixing his ear still closer, not even breathing; when he heard the light tread of feet on the lowermost step of the stairs, which led to his room. Now the fierce blood of his veins began its careering, a glance of his eye to the tools of death, when the low voice of some one speaking struck his ear: it was that of the land-lord. "For heavens sake, gentlemen, desist; you know he is a soldier. I beg of you by all that is sacred, decline the attempt. Several of your lives will be lost, as he is terribly armed; and why should three or four be the price of but one ?" He heard no more; they were a party, doubtless, from thy forks of the road. At length the day broke; when he descended the stairs, not, however, without the utmost caution, lest an ambush might surprise him even in the house. The horse was ready and away he flew, just as the light prisms of day began to streak the east.
But now a more fearful RUBICON was to be passed; this was the bridge over Foxen, Creek, the sentinel there, and the house where the Tories had possession. The slowly measured step of the guard was discovered by Harper at a distance through the grey mist of the morning, as he swiftly neared him on a full and fearless trot. He had reached the northern end of the bridge, when the sentinel, who nothing doubting but whoever he was on horseback, must be a friend, or he would not so carelessly and rapidly approach the very climax of danger, hailed him in the accustomed way, out of mere form, more than for any apprehensions of the strangers true character; and therefore did not even present his piece, but continued it in the position of an order, or standing by his side. The moment there-fore that the word stand had passed the lips of the sentinel, Harper's rifle was cocked and presented, its dreadful muzzle nearly reached the bosom of the astonished sentry, which motion was accompanied with this determined admonition, "Not a word from you lips, nor motion of your gun, or you are a dead man." All this time, which, however, was but a moment, Harper had only slackened his pace from a trot, to that of a walk, continued to pass on, while he turned in his stirrups, with the deadly aim of his rifle at the breast of the petrified sentry, until he had gained the opposite side of the knoll, well known to those acquainted with the road, when he put spurs to his horse and was soon out of sight.
He had gained the distance of several miles on his road to Schenectady, congratulating- himself that he had been wonderfully delivered in two instances from imminent danger; when the sound of a horses hoofs, not far behind, struck on his ear, in rapid pursuit. In a moment he faced about, and having the advantage of a turn in the road, saw, across the distance, that he was pursued by an Indian, the noted murderer, Sethen Henry.
His rifle was again brought to the shoulder, cocked, and levelled; when on coming round the turn the Indian found himself unexpectedly in the power of Harper, who he had pursued, as soon as informed by the sentinel at the bridge that he had passed, with the intention of killing him. The instant their eyes met, Harper in a voice of thunder cried, "Stand you villain, and face about, then ride away with yourself, or the ball of my rifle shall whistle through your heart."
Sethen Henry's gun was in his hand, in the position of a trail, and not cocked; which he knew if he attempted to change would be the signal, of his death. He therefore obeyed and was soon out of sight, on the back track.
It may be asked, why did not Harper shoot him, as he had the opportunity ? He feared the report of his gun might advertise other opponents, every moment dreading the horrors of an ambush, and to kill one Indian was not so much an object, as to apprise the inhabitants of Schenectady of the position and depredations of McDaniel, who, in consequence of the exertions made, was ousted and driven from Schoharie.
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.