After the battle and massacre of July 1778, nearly all of the surviving settlers fled the Wyoming valley. These of course included a large number of widows and fatherless children. Especially crowded with miserable refugees was the 100 miles of wilderness track leading to Stroudsburg, where Thomas Bennett and his sons had fled hours prior to the massacre. Martha Bennett first traveled to Sunbury (PA) to secure some replacement clothes. While she was away, Mrs. Bennett and her youngest daughter took the opportunity to remove to Stroudsburg with one of the last parties to leave Wyoming. In Sunbury, according to “Families of the Wyoming Valley…“
It was soon rumored [correctly] that the Indians and Tories had again visited Wyoming, and all the settlers had left. A company commenced making preparations to go across the mountains to Stroudsburg, and Miss Bennett accepted an invitation to go with them. All the means of conveyance they had was a small cart drawn by a yoke of steers. There were some small children in the company, who were allowed to ride when they were tired, but as for the rest they all walked. Their journey was of the distance of about one hundred miles through the wilderness, and crossing the high ridges which lie between the Susquehanna and the Delaware.
The Misses Bennett and Marshall with three other girls outstripped the rest of the company, and saw nothing of them during the day. They became hungry and turned aside and picked berries to satisfy the demands of nature. The path was exceedingly rough, and Miss Bennett’s shoes gave out in consequence of the constant contact with stubs and sharp stones, and her feet were so injured as to leave blood behind them. “But,” says she, ” we made ourselves as happy as possible, amusing ourselves with singing songs and telling stories.” They were constantly annoyed with fears of “the Indians,” knowing that those dreadful scourges of the country [sic] might chance to cross their path at any moment.
After several days, they arrived at Stroudsburg.
Miss Bennett there met her mother and sister, who had come over the mountains with Major Pierce and his family, but was greatly disappointed in not finding her father and brothers. Her brother Solomon had been to Middletown in pursuit of her, had returned that day, and set out immediately with Colonel Butler and Captain Spaulding for Wyoming. Mrs. Myers said, in relation to the events of that day: “One disappointment followed another in quick succession, and I seemed almost left without hope.”
Mrs. Bennett and her daughters did not remain long in Stroudsburg, but went to Goshen [NY], and early in the spring to Bethlehem [PA], where Mrs. Bennett’s brother, Samuel Jackson, resided, then to Litchfield, Nobletown, and Caanan, where they remained among their friends. In the fall Solomon Bennett came on with a horse to bring his mother and two sisters back to their loved and much desired Wyoming ; and finally Mr. Bennett’s family, after two years’ separation, were together again.
However, their troubles were far from over. In addition to the difficulty of re-starting their farming and home-building practically from scratch, the danger of Indian raids loomed as large as ever.
There were now about thirty families in the settlement. Mr. Bennett could procure no land to work under cover of the fort, and finally resolved to make an attempt to work his own land above Forty Fort. On March 27, 1780, he commenced plowing within the “Ox-bow,” a bend in the creek on the flats. His team consisted of a yoke of oxen and a horse. The boy Andrew rode upon the horse. When they came to the bend in the creek the horse seemed shy. Mr. Bennett said: “I fear all is not right. I think we will go around once more.”
When they came again to the same point four Indians sprang from the bushes, and one seized Mr. Bennett and another took Andrew from the horse. The Indians hurried off their prisoners, and soon came up with two more Indians, having Lebbeus Hammond as a prisoner. Mr. Bennett exclaimed, “Hammond, are you here?” With downcast look Hammond answered, “Yes.”
When Mr. Bennett left home he told his wife that if he did not return by sundown she might conclude some harm had befallen him. Soon after sundown Mrs. Bennett gave the information at the fort that her husband and son had not returned, and desired that a party might be sent out in search of them. Mr. Hammond’s wife was also alarmed on account of his failing to return as expected. Mrs. Bennett and her remaining children were now left in a state of most cruel suspense for the space of six or seven days.
…In the midst of the gloom and despondency of the families of Mr. Bennett and Mr. Hammond, and the general impression that the prisoners would never return, three emaciated, limping, reeling figures were seen directing their course toward the fort at Wilkcs-Barre. Who could they be ? As they came near it was discovered that they were ” the Bennetts and Hammond.”
Their appearance almost seemed like a resurrection from the dead. The mystery was soon explained; they had arisen upon their captors at Meshoppen and cut them to pieces, and had found their way back to the embraces of their families and friends. Their feet had been badly frozen, and the consequences were most painful. When the excitement of their flight was over they scarcely had a spark of life left. Good nursing soon restored their physical strength, and Mr. Hammond and Andrew Bennett were able to get about in a few weeks ; but Mr. Bennett’s feet were so dreadfully injured by the frost that several of his toes came off at the first joint, and he was obliged to walk with crutches for more than a year, during most of which time he suffered indescribably, and required much attention.
There follows a graphic 2-page blow-by-blow of how these two men and a boy rose up on six Iroquois braves as they slept, killing four of them with axes and rifle butts, and chasing the last two off, wounded.
For the next several years, the Bennett farm prospered. But more trouble was on the way, in the form of natural disaster, more imprisonment, and more outright warfare with the Pennamites.
Next: The Flood of 1784.