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From Snell’s Warren County History: Hardwick chapter and the 1844 "Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey" by John W. Barber and Henry Howe.



Indian Outrage

One of the most audacious acts in the whole series of predatory aggressions by the Indians in this township was the incursion of a party of Indians into Hardwick in 1755, when they captured a boy named Thomas Hunt, and a Negro then belonging to Richard Hunt; and on their retreat by way of the Big Pond they surprised and made prisoners a man named Swartwout and two of his children, a son and a daughter, having first shot his wife, who stood in the door when they reached his house.

When they went to the house of Richard Hunt (an elder brother of the boy Thomas) they found young Hunt and the Negro alone. The latter was fiddling and dancing, and the boy Hunt was a gratified spectator. In the midst of their hilarity the Indians were discovered close by and about to enter. Quick as thought, the boys sprang to the door, closed and bolted it. The intruding savages bore this rebuff with apparent philosophy, and soon disappeared, but then returned in about an hour. Their footprints indicated that they had reconnoitered the house of Mr. Dildine, in his absence, where Richard Hunt happened to be at the time, but they evidently dared not make an attack at that place.

They returned to Hunt’s house and made a movement to set it on fire, as the surest method of making the boys open the door. The stratagem succeeded: the boys yielded, and were forced to accompany the savages.

At Swartwout’s house, after murdering his wife, they attempted to enter, but he seized his rifle and held them in check for a while, when he finally agreed to surrender if they would spare his life and the lives of his son and daughter, which proposition the Indians agreed to; but, as usual in all such cases, they violated their pledges, tied him to a tree, tomahawked him, and left his body to the birds and beasts of prey. His two children were taken to an Indian town, Shawnee (now Plymouth), on the Susquehanna, on the opposite side of the river, and five miles below the city of Wilkes-Barre, while Hunt and the Negro were taken to Canada. Hunt was sold by his captors to a French military officer and accompanied him as his servant. Hunt’s mother, anxious for his return, if alive, attended the general conference at Easton in October 1758, where a treaty was made with the Six Nations, and finding an Indian there who knew her son, she gave him £60 to procure his freedom and return him to his friends. This proved to be money wasted, but Hunt was soon after liberated under the provisions of the treaty of Easton, which made a restoration of prisoners obligatory upon the Indians, and reached home in 1759, after a servitude of three years and nine months.

From Snell’s Sussex County History pp. 35-36

The Indians would sometimes elude the vigilance of these garrisons, get into the interior, and there perpetrate their bloody work. Such was the case when the penetrated into Hardwick, the very heart of the county, and captured the Hunts and Swartwout. From the different accounts given of this tragical affair we condense the following statement: A party of five Indians who had formerly resided in the neighborhood, but had removed to Pennsylvania, determined to capture three men, - Richard Hunt, Harker, and Swartwout, - having become disaffected towards them because of the part they had taken in the colonial service. They accordingly crossed the Delaware near Dingman’s bridge and in the evening reached the log house of Richard Hunt, having traveled about fifteen miles on the Jersey side of the river. Richard Hunt was absent from home, and the only occupants of the house at the time were Thomas Hunt, a younger brother, and a Negro servant. The latter was engaged in playing on a violin, when their entertainment was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of the Indians. Quick as thought, the boys sprang to the door and closed and bolted it. Their fun was at an end, and the Negro, in his terror, “threw his fiddle into the fire and awaited in trembling suspense the result of the unwelcome visit.” The Indians disappeared and were gone about an hour, when they returned. It was discovered, by their footprints in a newly plowed piece of ground, that during their absence they had reconnoitered the house of Mr. Dildine, where Richard Hunt happened to be at the time, but they evidently dared not make an attack at that place. Returning to Hunt’s house, they made a movement to set it on fire, threatening to burn the inmates alive if they did not surrender. The boys yielded and were forced to accompany the savages, who proceeded towards the Delaware by the way of the southerly end of Great Pond, and soon came to the house of Swartwout, who lived on the tract now occupied by the village of New Paterson. Mrs. Swartwout, soon after their approach to the house, without a thought of danger, went out to the milk-house, and was instantly shot down. They then attempted to enter the house, but Swartwout seized his rifle and held them in check. Finally, he agreed to surrender if they would spare his life and the lives of his son and daughter. They consented to this proposition, but they either themselves violated their pledge or, what was worse, procured a white man to do it, for Swartwout was murdered, and a man named Springer was arrested, convicted and hung for the murder. We shall give the details of the trial and execution farther on; meantime, we proceed with our narrative.

Swartwout’s two children were taken to an Indian town on the Susquehanna, while Hunt and the Negro were conveyed to Canada. “Hunt was sold by his captors to a French military officer, and accompanied him as a servant. His mother, anxious for his deliverance if alive, attended the general conference at Easton, in October 1758, where a treaty was made with the six nations, and , finding a savage there who knew her son, she gave him sixty pounds to procure his freedom and return him to his friends. This proved money wasted. Hunt was soon after liberated under that provision of the treaty of Easton which made a restoration of prisoners obligatory upon the Indians, and reached home in 1759, after a servitude of three years and nine months. Swartwout’s children must have been freed about a year after their capture, for we find his son in New Jersey in 1757, active in causing the arrest of a white man named Benjamin Springer, whom he charged with being the murderer of his father.

Springer was arrested and confined in the jail of Essex County. An act was passed by the Assembly of New Jersey on Oct. 22, 1757, authorizing his trial to take place in the county of Morris, “because the Indian disturbances in Sussex rendered it difficult, if not dangerous, to hold a Court of Oyer and Terminer there.” The act also ordered that the expenses of the prosecution should be borne by the province. “Pursuant to this act, “ Says Allison, “Springer, on the positive testimony of Swartwout’s son and the contradictions in the prisoner’s own story, after a full and fair hearing, at which an eminent councilor attended in his behalf, was convicted, to the satisfaction of most all present, and was executed in Morris. He declared himself innocent of the crime, and on the return of Thomas Hunt and a negro who had been taken a few miles distant by the same party that captivated Swartwout’s family (with which party it was proved at the trial Springer was, and that he killed Swartwout), it appearing by their declarations that they did not see Springer until they got to the Indian town, some inclined to believe that he might not have been guilty. Thus the question seemed obscured. It is, however, agreed that his trial was deliberate and impartial, and many think that his life was forfeited to the laws of his country” * Allison, “Laws” p. 215

Springer declared on the scaffold that Thomas Hunt knew him to be innocent, and his parents, after Hunt’s return, came on from Virginia to learn if their son was really guilty. “Hunt assured them, as he did everyone else to the end of his days, that he considered him innocent. He did not see Springer until he arrived at the Susquehanna flats, where he found him, like himself, as he believed, a prisoner. Neither did he see Swartwout murdered, but he was confident that the deed was done about one mile northwest from his own house; he and the Negro at the time were guarded by two Indians, the others being busy not a great way off dispatching Swartwout. He heard his cries, - heard him beg for his life and promise to go with them peaceably if they would spare him. He was an athletic, resolute man and the Indians were afraid of him, and therefore, as Hunt always declared, murdered him, and left his body to the wolves and birds of prey.” The Indians doubtless murdered him to gratify an old grudge: putting him out of the way was the surest revenge, as well as an indemnity against any personal violence which they might have apprehended from him, and the danger of the arrest of the party by the scouts from some one of the block-houses.

During these troubles with the Indians the courts of Sussex County were held at Wolverton’s, in Hardwick. In February, 1756, the grand jury appeared, but were not sworn, “by reason,” as the record says, “of troublesome times with the Indians.” The term of May 1756, found the condition of affairs in the county equally alarming, and the “Grand Inquest” was again dispensed with.

Precautions and Adventures of Frontier Settlers- p. 36 Sussex History- Snell

Upon the first breaking out of hostilities, in 1755, most of the settlers upon the southeastern and northwestern slopes of the Blue Mountains fortified their houses by building stockades around them; Casper Shafer, in Stillwater valley, was one who took this precaution. There were at that time a few Indians living in the neighborhood, though not previously hostile, it was not known that their conduct would continue to be pacific. At Mr. Shafer’s house it was common for the neighbors to assemble upon each recurring alarm. One night however, when Mr. Shafer was alone, the Indians showed signs of hostility by yelling around his house and threatening violence. He thereupon fastened up the house and started across the fields to procure assistance from his neighbors. “Soon he found himself hotly pursued by one of the enemy, and likely to be overtaken; whereupon he turned upon his pursuer, and, being an athletic man, he seized, threw, and with his garters bound him hand and foot, leaving him prostrate, while he went on his way and procured the desired assistance.

Now...more interesting is the account as told in my 1844 "Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey" by John W. Barber and Henry Howe which says about this incident: "Communicated by Nelson Robinson, Esq. of Newton- Swartwout's Pond (The present Swartswood Lake) a beautiful sheet of water, near the NE. boundary of the township, is about 3 miles long, and 1 broad. It derives its name from a man by the name of Swartwout, who in the time of the French and Indian was lived close the northerly edge of the pond, in what is now a rich and beautiful plain, just south of the village of New Patterson (now Swartswood, NJ). Swartwout was an officer in the British colonial service, and by reason of his active service against the French and their Indian allies, drew upon himself the vengeance of the latter.

At that time only a few dwellings (log houses) were to be found in the township of Stillwater; and perhaps none, exceedingly few at any rate, in Newton, and the other townships of Sussex County, excepting Sandiston or Montague, and even there it was not populous. A few families had recently settled in Stillwater, the Hunt, Harker and Shafer- possibly a few others in the neighborhood- but almost strictly speaking, the county was a wilderness.

One of the Hunt family, and the head of the Harker family, father of Mr. Samuel Harker, who still lives on or near the old homestead, and who is quite a sensible old man, had gained the particular ill-will of the Indians for taking strong ground against them. It appears that a party of Indians from Pennsylvania had determined on capturing these three men, viz: Thomas Hunt, Harker and Swarwout. The accordingly crossed the Delaware, near where Dingman's Bridge now is, and in the evening reached the log-house of Hunt; having travelled about 15 miles on the Jersey side of the river.

They were discovered before they reached the house, soon enough for a young man, Thomas Hunt, and a negro, (the only persons in the house) to shut and fasten the door, and secure themselves from immediate capture. The negro was faithfully occupied in his legitimate calling, of sawing catgut before a good cheerful fire, for the edification, probably, of his young companion, and his own amusement, when these prowling sons of the forest disturbed their quietude and silenced the merry strains of the violin, and that too, most effectually; for no sooner was Cuffee aware of his danger, than he threw his fiddle into the fire, and awaited in trembling suspense the result of the unwelcome visit.

The Indians finally succeeded in gaining admittance, by threatening to burn down the house and those in it, unless they soon found peaceable entrance. The proceeded with their captives to Harker's, the elder brother of Hunt, whom they came to take, being away from home attending to his duties as an officer of the colonial troops. There were about a dozen men at this time at Harker's, his own help, and some who had been on a frolic during the day. The Indians, on reconnoitering, thought it imprudent to attack them, and went away. They were discovered to have been at the house the following morning, by their tracks in a newly plowed field, and their number, by the same means, ascertained to be thirteen.

From Harker's they returned towards the Delaware, by route around the southerly end of the Great Pond (Swartswood), when in five miles, they arrived at the Swartwout's residence. In this the cunning ot the Indians was evinced. Meditating Swartout's destruction when they started, they passed by to commence their depredations further off from their homes first, so as to arouse no antagonists between themselves and the river to cut off their retreat; and perhaps the chance of Swartout's discovering them at an earlier hour in the evening, if he had then approached his house, and being thereby enabled to do some serious execution among them, might have been another reason for delaying their plans against him. But having, stealthily and unnoticed, passed through the forests to the extent of their proposed incursion, and accomplishing their object as far as practicable, they trace their way back, leaving their outrages behind, and not on ground which they must repass.

Mrs. Swartwout, soon after their approach to the house, without a thought of danger, went out to the milk-house, and was instantly shot down. Swartwout himself, being thus apprized of his danger, sprang for his loaded rifle and musket, successively, and killed two or three and wounded others, before he was captured. After which they conveyed him to a place about 1 mile NW. of his dwelling, and fastened one end of his entrails to a tree, the stump of which was shown to me, and then he was tortured to death, after having been compelled to witness the cruel destruction of a large family of children, except two, a son and a daughter. They beat him, lacerated him, and forced him to wind his bowels around the tree by walking around it. What devils at revenge!

After this horrid display of savage ferocity the party proceeded on their return. On recrossing the Delaware one of them lost his rifle, which slipped from his grasp between the logs of a raft; and the depth of the water, together with their haste to get out of the white man's reach, obliged them to leave it there, where it must still remain, the only rifle yet known to be in our midst, loaded by one of these warriors of the forest, who about a century ago, dealt out ruin and wide-spread desolation among the pioneers of these them untamed wilds.

Hunt and the negro were taken to the French in Canada, whence the negro made his escape shortly after back to the country. Hunt was three years after exchanged for some French captives. He returned here, lived to an advanced age, and related the perils of his boyhood may a time to knots of listeners, who would gather around to hear the thrilling account of days gone by.

He said after his capture he was for at time at a loss to know how to get along with the Indians, but he thought he would try to please them by acting as near like then as he could in eating and other respects. This succeeded, and they consequently treated him well. The little son and daughter of the murdered Swartwout were brought up by the Indians. The girl married a chief among them, and the boy, becoming attached to the Indian life, chose to live with them. Upon arriving at manhood, he having learned about his parentage, visited the home of his youth; but civilization had lost its charms for the adopted child of the woods, and he returned to spend his days with the inhabitants of the forest- an Indian in all, save birth, features, and complexion."