Although the Revolutionary War dragged on until 1783, by 1779 the tide had turned for the Patriots, and General George Washington was now in the driver’s seat. In that year, Washington ordered the Sullivan Campaign against the Iroquois nations to “not merely overrun, but destroy,” the British-Indian alliance.
By the end of the War for Independence, Washington’s Continental Army, and more than 300,000 white settlers who inhabited Pennsylvania, had forced the Indians to move farther west into Ohio. Between 1770 and 1780 the Native American population in Pennsylvania declined from about 5,000 to only 1,000 (statistics from this site). So, the ratio of Whites to Indians had reached 300 to one, including cities like Philadelphia and Bethlehem. Pretty fast work, as ethnic cleansing goes. Let’s not get into just how the “savages” were “forced” to leave.
In the spring of 1781 Mr. Bennett, his son Solomon, and old Mr. Stevens each built a small log house on the flats, near where Mr. Bennett’s home stood before the massacre. They raised fine crops, and had abundance until another calamity overtook them, which was the ice flood in the spring of 1784. Mr. Bennett’s house was taken down the stream some distance and lodged against some trees near the creek, and they lost seven head of young cattle. Mr. Bennett now hastily put up a temporary cabin, constructed of boards and blankets. Mrs. Myers said : “For seven weeks we lived all but out of doors, doing our cooking by a log before our miserable cabin. After this we occupied our new, double log house, and by slow degrees was improved so as to be comfortable.”
They had not quite recovered from this disaster of nature, when their old enemies, the Pennamites, returned in force. A Congressional court had determined in 1782 that the the disputed territory should come under the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. Geographically, it was a logical decision, since other parts of Pennsylvania, and a large area of New York, separated the Wyoming valley from Connecticut’s western boundary. The Yankee settlers for the most part accepted this jurisdictional decision, but held firm in their determination to stay on the land they had settled. Their right to do so was apparently not specifically addressed in the court’s order, nor in the Articles of Confederation then in force in the soon-to-be United States. Thus, in the summer of 1784,
Mr. Bennett had just removed his family into his new house, while it was without chimney or chinking, when the old troubles between the two classes of settlers were revived. Armstrong and Van Horn, under the authority of the legislative council of Pennsylvania, had come on with a company of armed men, took possession of the fort at Wilkes-Barre, and proceeded to drive the New England people from the country by force and arms. Many families were driven from their houses; among them the widows Shoemaker and Lee, near neighbors of Mr. Bennett.
As for the widows,
In vain did they plead that their husbands had been slain by the tories and Indians, and they were helpless and defenseless widows, and they could not leave their homes and take a long journey through the wilderness. Go they must, and they made the best of the necessity. They left a portion of their goods with Mrs. Bennett, and were taken to Wilkes-Barre, and thence with Lawrence Myers, Giles Slocum, and many others, were hurried on towards “the swamp.” At Capouse (Scranton) Myers and Slocum escaped; but the great mass of the persecuted people had no remedy but to submit to their fate.
While it does not say so, Thomas Bennett must also have been taken away at this time, as in the next paragraph, he escapes.
Mr. Miner says: “About five hundred men, women, and children, with scarce provisions to sustain life, plodded their weary way, mostly on foot, the roads being impassable for wagons ; mothers, carrying their infants, literally waded streams, the water reaching to their arm-pits, and at night slept on the naked earth, the heavens their canopy, with scarce clothes to cover them.” Mr. Bennett and Colonel Denison escaped and went up the river to Wyalusing.
As for Martha and her mother, they were not so easily dislodged.
Mrs. Bennett stuck by the “stuff.” She had never yet left the valley for the Pennamites, and she had made up her mind that she never would. She was not left, however, in the possession of her home without an effort to drive her away. Mrs. Myers says: “Van Horn and his posse came up, having pressed a Mr. Roberts with his team to carry off our goods. Van Horn ordered mother to clear out, but she finally replied that she was in her own house, and she would not leave it for him or anybody else. He ordered Andrew and me to put things upon the wagon, a service which we refused to render. Some of the men went out to the corn house, where there was a quantity of corn; but mother seized a hoe, and, presenting herself before the door, declared that she would knock the first man down who touched an ear of corn. They looked astonished and left her.”
With this remarkable anecdote from the lips of my fourth great-grandmother, the narrative turns from the Bennetts to other families of the valley. The Pennamite Wars continued at some level until 1787-88, when the U.S. constitution was ratified, and the U.S. army intervened to protect the newly established rights of the settlers. About this time, Martha Bennett married Philip Myers, and the rest, as they say, is (our family’s) history.
I hope you have found interest in this story, even if the Myers’ and Bennetts do not happen to be your ancestors, as they are mine. We will “remove” our attention from the Wyoming Valley after one more follow-up on the “Lost Sister” (not our actual relative), Frances Slocum.