Early Nichols and the Wyoming Massacre
One of the most horrific events affecting American residents during the Revolutionary War was the Wyoming Massacre that took place on July 3, 1778 in what is now Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. That name “Wyoming” comes from the Native Americans who had lived in that area and were convinced by Quaker John Woolman to remain peaceful. Many Haudonsaunees (Iroquois) who were egged on by, and then served with, the British Army and Loyalists. Those who attacked the residents of the Wyoming Valley with Col. John Butler’s Loyalists were primarily Senecas.
The British forces began attacking settlers as early as June 28th when three men working at a gristmill were killed. Wintermute Fort surrendered, but when on July 3rd a large number of Americans gathered outside Forty Fort, the Loyalists destroyed Jenkin’s Fort, about a mile away; while Butler organized an ambush and ordered Fort Wintermute set on fire to lure the Americans into the ambush. The battle lasted about 45 minutes leaving the retreating Americans that were captured being killed. Even though Butler stated that only combatants were killed, over 200 civilians were killed and later buried in a mass grave. About 60 American corpses were found on the battlefield, and another 36 that had retreated. This does not add up with the official account of 227 scalps collected by the Senecas. The Loyalists and Natives burned about 1,000 houses; and many cattle, sheep, and hogs were driven off. The devastation of civilian life and property damage was significant and there were 565 children orphaned.
This brings us to how some of the earliest settlers in the Town of Nichols came to the area. The surviving civilians met at Wilkes-Barre on Feb. 12, 1783, to petition New York State for land:
“We the subscribers hereby covenant and agree to and with each other, and jointly petition the Assembly of the State of New York for a tract of land situate on the waters of the Susquehanna and within the limits of said State, sufficient for us the subscribers, our familys, and those who were Distressed and Drove from here by the savages in 1778; and also do hereby appoint Obadiah Gore our agent, with the full power and authority to apply to the Governor and Senate of said State, or to the General Assembly, or to any Board within and for said State, proper to make applycation [sic] to for lands as aforesaid; and in our names and behalf to petition &c., according to his best Descretion.”
New York State’s House and Senate voted to help the survivors. On March 23, 1783, the State voted to give the survivors allotments of 500 acres for each family. The list of petitioners contains the names of male heirs of both the civilian and militia causalities. The deeds should be listed in the deeds of Montgomery County, New York, Tioga’s parent county, but more research is needed to find them.
Again, many thanks to Cole family researchers Greg Paris and Hartley Cole who have recently done a really amazing amount of good research to solve this puzzle and have shared much of their findings with me.
Next installment: The Survivors in Nichols