Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883

Volume II, Page 477 Tragic Death of John Shew.-- In the spring of 1780, John Shew, one of the Fish House family of Shews, went upon the farm of Capt. Peter Service, to work it, situated a few miles southwest of Johnstown and adjoining the Cayadutta; as agricultural pursuits, owing to the constant calls for provisions to supply the army, paid better than military service. Capt. Service had two sons, Peter and Philip, who both went to Canada early in the war and remained in the British service to its close. He also had a pretty daughter, named Maria, which communicated to the homestead a peculiar attraction for young Shew; and on that fact is suspended a tale. Maria Service was of midling statue, with a very fair skin, brown hair, and soft blue eyes. She was charmingly formed and unusually good looking. At the period under consideration she was about 22 years old and blest with blooming health.

The reader will not wonder that the young soldier desired to transfer his labors from the battlefield to the cornfield without the influence of preaching, when informed that the had met, within less than pistol-shot distance, Maria's blue eyes, orbs that would have burned their way into a breast wearing harder heart than did our hero. Resolution is the mainspring to almost every successful undertaking, and John resolved to win the girl who had, possibly without suspicion of it, won him. For this ostensible purpose, although other and more sordid motives may have floated upon the surface of the business portion of the transaction; he took her father's farm to work upon shares; an arrangement for which was easily made with the father, abandoned as he had been by his sons, who preferred the camp of the enemy to the domestic circle.

Ere the harvests of autumn were gathered, young Shew, to whom nature had given a manly figure and prepossessing features, had gained the affections of the best encumbrance upon her father's farm; and looked forward to no very distant day for the consummation of his earthly happiness. That matters were thus progressing between the young couple seemed very gratifying to Mr. Service; who, as any good parent would, desired to see his amiable daughter the wife of a man worthy of her. But the horrors of a civil war, alas! how many sunny prospects are blighted by its iron mouthed mandate. I have elsewhere hinted that John Shew was a celebrated hunter. When the season of fall hunting returned he could not resist the temptation to indulge in his favorite sport, although peril might beset every footstep. Accordingly, some time in October, 1780, having said good-bye to her parents and embraced for the last parting kiss, he betrothed, his retiring form was followed from the house by the tearful eye of the blushing Maria, who, as her lover threw his rifle carelessly upon his shoulder and gained the public road to Johnstown, through which place he intended to journey, waved him an adieu with her hand, every saddened feature of her lovely face proving the tell tale thought, "O John! with what foreboding of future evil do I see you depart."

The Surprise.--He proceeded to the Ballston settlements some 25 miles from home, and put up at the house of Isaac Palmatier, another hunter of repute and an acquaintance of our hero. Not far from his residence, chestnuts were abundant, and as deer are fond of them, a visit at that early day to a chestnut grove was sure to reward the hunter for his journey. The two friends took an early start in the morning to a favorite deer's haunt, where they were surprised by a party of seven Indians in ambush for them; who had been apprised of their intended visit by a Tory named John Parker, the latter having entered the settlement with the enemy, and been informed by a Tory settler named Tuttle, of the intended movement of the hunters.

The late William A. Smith, of Glen, assured the writer, that Mina Vrooman, a Tory who returned to the town of Mohawk after the war, informed him that he was present when Shew was captured, and also at his death. He agreed to be disarmed only on condition that they (the captors) constituted the whole party of invaders; but he was soon taken to the encampment of the enemy in large numbers. He was led aside from the camp, when an Indian insultingly slapped him in the face: to be reproved by another Indian for thus treating a prisoner doomed to die. When killed, Vrooman said he was picking wintergreen berries, and turned his head so as not to see the fatal hatchet, which he heard crash through the skill. At the time of his death he had on a clean hunting frock, which was soon crimsoned with his own blood. His face looked fresh and life like after death. Vrooman said also that a Scotch boy the the first one to tell the foe of Shew's exposure.

Invasion of Ballston.--The enemy at this time had entered the Ballston settlement under Monroe. John Parker had resided before the war in Philadelphia Bush, and was well acquainted with Shew. Palmatier was carried to Canada with Col. Gordon, and other prisoners made in that vicinity at the time; but the fate of his companion was a melancholy one. He was murdered by his captors near the spot where he was surprised, some eight or nine miles distant from Ballston Spa. The place where he fell is in the northwest part of the present town of Milton, near the Galway line. The manner in which he was captured, said the venerable James Scott, of Ballston, was as follows: He discovered his approaching foes just in time to regain his trusty rifle; seeing which, and knowing his skill as a marksman, they called to him to lay down his gun and surrender himself their prisoner, promising if he complied, to treat him as a prisoner of war. As they stood but two to seven, Shew was induced by their fair promises to be disarmed; but in the next moment regardless of their solemn assurance of safety he was, a Palmatier afterwards informed Sherman Batchellor, bound to a tree and slain by tomahawks hurled at his head.

Such was the untimely fate of this brave and patriotic young man, who had but just arrived at his majority in years, and was on the eve of marrying the beautiful Maria Service. Her father was heard to say after the death of John, that, "If he had lived he had intended to give him his farm." Reader, imagine if you can what where the feelings of his affianced, when the gloomy tidings reached her--

That throbless "was that constant heart,
She did to every heart prefer;
For though it could its king forget,
'Twas true and loyal still to her."

It was understood subsequent to the war that Parker had informed the enemy that Shew was one of the number which pursued and killed the Indians who attempted to burn the Sacanddaga block house. Such was not the fact, and Parker, no doubt, knew it, but the lie subserved his purpose. (The subsequent arrest and execution of Parker are given elsewhere.) Palmatier's dwelling was not burnt at this time, and soon after his family removed near to Schenectada, whence it returned at the close of the war.

A few days after Shew's death, intelligence of it reached Fort Plains, where his brothers, Henry and Jacob, were on duty; and, obtaining leave of absence from Capt. Putman, who furnished them provisions for the journey, accompanied by John Eilkler, a fellow soldier furloughed for the purpose, they went to the place, of massacre, intending to bear the remains of their friends to Johnstown; but being unable to obtain boards to make a coffin, they had to leave his body where some unknown hands had buried it. There were two dwellings on the Service farm, one of which was occupied for some years by Jacob Keats, who married an older sister of Maria Service. Maria, in 1784, married Henry Fizbeck, who occupied the other dwelling a few years; but his wife's brother, Peter, returned from Canada, Fizbeck had to vacate the premises. After this, Service and Keats occupied the farm together. -- Facts from Jacob Shew, corroborated by Nicholas Stoner and others.

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