Ole Larson's Folks

Mrs. Philip Myers, born Martha Bennett (my 4th great-grandmother), is a featured character in the book we are exploring, “Families of the Wyoming Valley…” Even more so her father, Thomas Bennett, one of the very first settlers in that place.

Mrs. Myers was born in Scituate, Rhode Island, January 15, 1763. The same year in which Martha Bennett or Mrs. Myers was born a settlement of Connecticut people was commenced in Wyoming, and Mr. Bennett rented a valuable property in Rhode Island, and removed to the Delaware, near Stroudsburg.

This refers to the Delaware river valley, about 50 miles east of the Wyoming valley (which is on the Susquehanna river). The language implies that the entire family, including infant Martha, “removed” there. Their intention was to settle in the latter locality, but the project was abandoned due to “surly” Indians. The family temporarily retreated eastward, to Goshen, New York, where they rented a farm for the next six years. During that period, the father several times

… set his sons at work upon the farm, and took his gun, his axe, and hoe and visited the much coveted valley.

In 1769, he helped a band of forty settlers build the eponymous Forty Fort. The following year, he was arrested at a nearby location, along with leaders of a new group of settlers building another fortification. As previously intimated, it was not only the Indians who objected to these Yankee settlements. The Pennamites had a competing claim to the land. At this juncture, Thomas Bennett and his companions

… were all taken into custody by John Jennings, sheriff of Northampton county, Pennsylvania.

On the way to jail, Thomas managed to escape, and returned to his family in western New York. Undaunted by these setbacks, with “courage equal to the dangers,” he gathered his family and modest belongings, and on horseback and pack train (as there was no wagon road), they proceeded to the Wyoming valley in the autumn of 1770. Martha Bennett was at this time seven years of age. When they reached eastern Pennsylvania,

The country now presented a striking contrast with the picture of Wyoming which was formed in the imaginations of Mr. Bennett’s family. The grasshoppers had destroyed all the vegetation, and the aspect was one of utter desolation.

In the Delaware valley, they stayed with a supportive Quaker named Wires, who accompanied them on towards Wyoming. A few hours shy of their destination, they stopped for a meal.

Mrs. Bennett was boiling some chocolate over a fire made by the side of a log. She seemed unusually sad. ” I don’t know,” said she, “what I am about to meet. I think something pretty heavy.” It was not long before several men came up from Wyoming — one bleeding from a wound made on his head by a club—and reported that the Pennamites had taken possession of the fort, and were resolved upon driving off all the New England settlers.

(To be continued)

Lawrence and Philip Myers
Martha and Thomas Bennett, part II