Why were the Pillars and Cryslers loyal to the crown? Was it because they owned land which was confiscated when they refused to swear allegiance to the state of New York? Was it because their families felt a debt of graditude to the British government for helping them escape tryanny in the Germany? Who was on the side of right? These are questions which have no easy answers. These ancestors of Alice Ethel Lupton were considered demons in human form by those who fought to throw off the British government. They are considered heroes by today's Canadians for helping to found their country. There is much to be learned about the true history of the American Revolution from exploring these questions. If nothing else it should be considered the first American civil war as family members and neighbors came to fight against each other. Both sides were quilty of incredible acts of violence and of kindness to each other.
One such case is the story of the families of Philip Crysler and Bastian France. Crysler was the loyalist whose land was confiscated. His family remained in Mohawk Valley while he went to fight with Brisith General Sir William Johnson and Butler's Rangers. During his absence his family was sustained by that of Sebastian France who was a member of the Tryon County committee of Safety and a private in the 3rd Albany Regiment.
In 1780 Crysler returned to his home under the cover of raids by Sir Johnson's troops combined with native Americans who remained loyal to the crown. Crysler wanted to get his family to Canada as the war was not going in favor of the British. Crysler went to get his family while the others went on to house of France to maim and scalp them. France's son, John, was seriously wounded. Mrs. Crysler, upon learning of the attack on the France family, convinced her husband to disguise himself as a native American and to disuade the attackers from anymore harm to the France family. This Philip did but John died of his wounds. Was this blue eyed Indian (Crylser) good or evil?
The final connection between the families of Crysler and France came in 1961 at the marraige of a Crysler descendant and a France descendant in Chicago. Such are the complexities of history.
This tale was repeated many times in Schorarie history what follows is from a very biased HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY, by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845. Feelings against the Loyalist still ran very high.
When the war of the Revolution commenced, three brothers, William, John, and Philip Crysler, who lived in new Dorlach; with their brother Adam, who lived in Schoharie, took up arms with the foes of their country, and went to Canada in 1777. As it began to be doubted by many of the tories in 1780, whether Britain could subdue the states, Philip, whose family still lived in New Dorlach, and who desired to remove it to Canada, had a party assigned him near Harpersfield to aid in its removal. It is supposed they arrived near the settlement a day or two before the army reached Schoharie; and were concealed until Seth's Henry and possibly some others met them in an appointed place, and communicated intelligence of the proceedings in Schoharie, that the movement of Crysler's destructives should not precede the general irruption. However that may be, it is certain Seth's Henry, who was at the burning of Schoharie, was on the following day also of the hostile party in New Dorlach.
The enemy, consisting of eighteen Indians and three tories, made their appearance just after noon at the dwelling of Michael Merckley, 4 where Hiram Sexton now resides. Merckley was at this time a widower. His family consisted of three daughters, three sons and a lad named Fox. The daughters were all young women; one was married to Christopher Merckley, and lived in Rhinebeck, a small settlement a few miles from New Dorlach - the other two were at home. The oldest son had gone to Canada three years before, the second was then at Schoharie, and the youngest, a lad about thirteen years old, and Fox, a boy near his age, were also at home. Frederick, a brother of Michael Merckley, then resided less than a mile east of the latter. He had an only daughter named Catharine, who by repute was the fairest young lady in the Schoharie settlements. He also had several sons. Christian, (from whom some of these particulars were obtained) about seventeen years old, who was then at home; Martin, a younger brother, who had been sent to his uncle Martin's about noon of that day to borrow a currier's knife, and possibly one or two others. On arriving at Merckley's, the enemy captured his two daughters, the two boys, and their cousin Martin who chanced still to be there.
About three-fourths of a mile west of Michael Merckley, then resided Bastian France, where his son Henry now resides, a little distance from the road, which ran much as it does at the present day. As the country was new, however, it was shaded more by trees, and not bounded by fences as at present. Mr. France had eight children. His two oldest sons, young men, had gone to Schoharie on the 17th, to learn how matters stood in that valley, and were in the Lower fort when the enemy passed it. Christopher, the oldest of those brothers, (who was the first white child born in the town of Seward,) and Miss Catharine Merckley, had plighted hymenial vows, and were to have been married two weeks from the day of her death. Four other sons were at home - John, fourteen years old, Henry, thirteen, and two younger: and two daughters - Betsey, a young lady of seventeen, and a little girl perhaps ten years of age. At the road, near the residence of France, resided Henry Haines, a tory. West creek, a tributary of Cobelskill, passed near his house, and on this he had erected a small grist-mill - the first erected in the town of Seward. Philip Hoffman, an old gentleman, lived not far from Haines, where Klock now resides.
Mr. Merckley, at whose house the Indians first appeared, had been to visit his married daughter at Rhinebeck settlement, as had also Catharine Merckley and Betsey France, all on horseback. Mr. Merckley returned home but a little in advance of the girls, and approaching his house he discovered the Indians about the door, but conscious of his kind feelings towards them, and zeal in the royal cause, while in the act of dismounting from his horse with perfect unconcern, he was shot down, killed, and scalped. It was at his house, it will be remembered, the party were harbored who captured his neighbor, William Hynds, and family, the preceding July. When the girls approached his mill, Haines came out, and addressing Catharine, enquired, "What is the news?" The reply was, "Betsey will tell you; I am in a great hurry to get home." Miss France had reined up just above the mill, to cross the creek, between the road and her father's dwelling, as her beautiful companion rode forward, evidently excited from some cause, to meet her impending fate. Possibly she had heard the gun fired at her uncle, and anticipated danger. She had but little more than a mile to go after parting with her young friend. The road, by a bend from Haines' mill, swept along the verge of a rise of ground on the north side of West creek, leaving the flats southwest of the road. The ground is elevated in front of the Merckley place, and just beyond it the road turns off, nearly east, towards Hyndsville.
Miss Merckley was riding a noble gray horse, and as she drew near her uncle's dwelling she saw the Indians and tories about the door, several of whom called on her to stop; but her eye, no doubt, caught a view of the mangled remains of her uncle, and instead of reining, she urged her horse up the acclivity at a quick gallop. At the instant she was opposite to him, Seth's Henry leveled his rifle and fired at her, and as she did not immediately fall, he snatched a rifle from the hands of another Indian and fired again. The horse, as though conscious of danger, and the value of his burden, increased his speed, but the fatal messenger had done its errand - the lovely victim pitched forward and fell to the earth, writhing in the agonies of death.
She was shot through the body evidently by the first bullet, as it had passed in at the right side. She survived but a few minutes, and expired clasping her bands firmly upon the wound. The tragic death of this young lady, so justly celebrated for her personal charms, was witnessed from the house by her brother and cousins. Her murderer, as he tore off her bleeding scalp, struck with the beauty and regularity of her features, remarked - "She was too handsome a pale face to kill, and had I known the squaw had such long black hair, I would not have shot her." The horse ran home, after losing his rider, and the bloody saddle shadowed forth the tidings her friends might expect to hear, of their dear relative's fate. The family instantly fled, and secreted themselves in the woods, where they remained until the following day.
Bastian France, who was then advanced in life, and quite infirm, was in his chamber making shoes. Hearing the firing at Merckley's he came down and told his family (his wife was then visiting at the house of Haines near by) he felt alarmed and taking his gun, said be would go through the woods south of his house and learn the cause of disturbance. He had not gone half way to Merckley's, when he discovered several Indians proceeding directly to his own dwelling. Knowing be could not reach it before they did, he resolved to proceed on foot, by a circuitous route, to the lower Schoharie fort for assistance, distant eighteen or twenty miles, and return as soon as possible. He arrived there late in the evening, greatly fatigued, and found that all the troops which could be spared were preparing to follow the enemy to the Mohawk. It was late the following day when he again arrived at his own dwelling.
Two Indians reached the residence of France in advance of their fellows, at which time the children were standing on the stoop looking for the cause of alarm. As they approached the house, a large watch-dog ran out and attacked them, which one halted to shoot. The other approached the children and led out John and Henry, the two oldest boys at home, towards a pile of wood to be killed. As the Indian who had shot the dog came up, John was handed over to him by his captor to be murdered for the British value of his scalp. The Indian aimed a blow with his tomahawk at his head, which the latter warded off with his arm. As the second blow which brought him to the ground was raked, Henry saw the other children running off, and followed them. Seeing his captor start in pursuit, lest he should be shot down, he sprang round a corner of the house and stood still. The Indian turned the corner and took him, with the other children, back to the stoop.
Without waiting to scalp the victim, the Indian who had felled John, left him and ran across the creek to the house of Hoffman, but the latter with his wife, having heard the gun which was fired at France's dog, took seasonable alarm, fled into the woods and escaped. As the children returned to the door with their captor, some half a dozen more of the enemy arrived; and proceeding to the cellar, helped themselves to several pies, and such other food as it contained, which they took up stairs, placed on a table in the centre of a room and greedily devoured. Mrs. France hearing the noise, hastened home to protect her children or share their fate, just as the Indians were surrounding the table. When Henry was taken back, he went to his wounded brother, who could still sit up, and attempted to raise him on his feet; but he was unable to stand. Henry then told him to crawl under the oven where the dog usually had slept, but the hatchet had done its bidding, and he was too weak. When his mother arrived at the house and beheld the situation of her dying son, who was then past speech, her maternal sympathy was aroused. Her little daughter, crying, clung to her knees and besought her to save John from the cruel Indians; and she in tears entreated them to carry him into the house, or spare him from further injury. This they refused to do, but promised not to harm her other children.
While his captor was eating, Henry was compelled to stand near him, by whom he was closely eyed. Twice he walked to the door, and on turning round, observed the stealthy eye of the red man fixed upon him and he walked back; he thus lulled the suspicion of his keeper, and the third time he reached the door, perceiving he was not watched, he sprang out of the house, ran round it and fled towards the woods. When about twenty rods distant, he looked back and saw several Indians turn a corner of the house, and instantly falling to the ground be was gratified to observe, that as they scattered in pursuit, none started in the direction he had taken. From behind some old logs he watched their motions, and as soon as they had returned to the dwelling, he gained the adjoining woods in safety.
A few minutes after Henry had eluded the vigilance of his new master, the Indian who had gone to Hoffman's returned, was quite angry because the former had escaped, and instantly dispatched and scalped John. Philip Crysler lived in the direction of Hoffman, and when the murderer returned, the former, disguised as an Indian, came with him. He was not known to the family at the time, although they observed he had blue eyes, (the eyes and hair of a blooded Indian are almost invariably black,) but they afterwards learned from a sister of Crysler, that his wife, hearing the gun fired at the dog of France, told her husband to put on his Indian dress, run over and save the France family by all means, as she was under such great obligations to them. They had almost wholly supported herself and family for three years. To the counsels of the blue-eyed Indian, as Crysler was called, the party reluctantly yielded; and leaving the rest of the family and most of their effects undisturbed, soon after withdrew. The Indian who had been foiled by Henry, seemed most dissatisfied; and snatching a brand of fire he ran to the barn and thrust it into the hay. Another Indian drew it out and threw it away, but some coals must have remained, as the barn and its contents were soon after in flames. Two large barracks, each an hundred feet in circumference, standing near the barn, were also consumed. Two of the Indians at the house of France could speak Low Dutch; Mrs. France begged of them to intercede for the lives of her offspring.
The invaders went as far west as the dwelling of Haines, capturing several of his slaves. Haines went to Canada himself at a subsequent period. As soon as the Indians were out of sight, Mrs. France carried the body of her murdered son into the house, his warm blood trickling upon her feet; and then, with Betsey and three younger children, concealed herself in the woods.
Henry France, after gaining the forest back of his father's house, ran, by a circuitous route, towards the dwelling of William Spurnhuyer, who resided not far from Christian Merckley. In the mean time, the enemy, with their plunder, accompanied by the family or Crysler, after burning the dwelling and barn of Michael Merckley, set forward on their journey. On arriving at the house of Spurnhuyer, who had gone with his family to a place of greater security but a day or two before, they made a halt. Spurnhuyer had left a young heifer near the dwelling, which was shot to serve the party for food. When the gun was fired at the animal, young France was not in sight, though near, but was running directly toward that place, and supposing it fired at himself, changed his course, nor did be know at what the gun was discharged, until the return of Martin Merckley, some time after. Thus had this lad a third time escaped the tomahawk. He then went back and secreted himself, about sun-down, near the creek, a few rods from his father's dwelling. He had been but a short time in this place when Mrs. Haines, who was going past with a milk-pail, discovered him in the bushes, and told him where he could find his mother. Procuring blankets at the house the weeping group returned to sleep in the woods, fearing a visit from the bears and wolves less than they did that of the armed savage. The family lived in the woods until the third day following their disaster, when they went to Schoharie.
Spurnhuyer's house, after being plundered, was set on fire, and, with his barn consumed. The invaders had proceeded only a mile or two from the settlement, when the two boys cried to return. 'The executioner of the party halted with them, and soon after overtook his comrades with their bloody scalps. Berkley, a tory present, from the vicinity of Albany, told the Misses Merckley that their brother and young Fox would not have been killed had they not cried. Indians never fancy crying children. It was not known in New Dorlach that those boys were killed, until a year or two afterwards, when the fact was communicated by a letter from the Merckley girls to their friends. Persons who visited the spot near the mountain south of their father's, designated as the place where the boys were murdered, found bones scattered over the ground, wild beasts having no doubt eaten the flesh that once covered them. The party journeyed directly to Canada by the usual southwestern route, and as the weather was then cold, the suffering of the prisoners was very severe. They were greatly straightened for food on the way, and putrid horse-flesh, fortunately found in the path, was considered a luxury, and doubtless saved some of them from starving. Martin Merckley was compelled to run the gantlet, and was beaten and buffeted a great distance. Prisoners captured in the spring or fall, when the Indians were congregated in villages, usually suffered more than those taken in midsummer. As the Merckley girls were then orphans, and their father's personal property all destroyed, they accepted offers of marriage, and both remained in Canada.
On the day following their massacre, the remains of John France were buried by Henry Haines, Sen., and those of Mr. Merckley and his charming neice, by Mr. Haines, Michael Frimire, and Christopher France, Miss M.'s intended husband. Sad, indeed, must have been the feelings of the young lover, while performing this most melancholy duty. Few were the witnesses present; no funeral knell told the distant neighbor that death was abroad; the ceremony was brief and informal. No long procession followed those mangled corpses to measured steps, preceded by the man of God in sacerdotal robes; yet one there was whose sorrowing came from the heart. A few rough boards were laid in the "narrow house" which had been hastily dug a little distance east of where they had fallen, and blooming youth and parental age were placed side by side in it, and quicky buried. A few years ago their remains were taken up, placed in a coffin, and funeral services performed over them; after which they were deposited in the family burying ground, on the Frederick Merckley place, where a marble slab may now be seen with the following inscription:
"In Memory of Catharine Marcley and Michael Marcley, who was [were] killed by the Indians, Oct. 18, 1780."
Nothing on the stone indicates their ages or consanguinity: she was about 18; and her uncle, probably, 45 or 50 years old. After young France was engaged to Miss Merckley, he gave her, agreeable to custom, a pair of silver shoe-buckles. These Seth's Henry left upon her feet, and they were returned to the lover.
It has been a mystery to many in Schoharie that Michael Merckley, who was the avowed friend of royalty, should thus have been killed, his property destroyed, and his family broken up. The following circumstance reveals the secret. A short time previous to the Revolution, a daughter of Philip Crysler (then in her teens) was living in the family of one Barnhard, in the capacity of a hired girl. While there, a son of Michael Merckley several times visited her, about which time she became gravis. This fact coming to the knowledge of her parents, they desired her to fix paternity on young Merckley and compel a marriage. She was taken before Judge Brown, then a justice of the peace, who, having previously been apprized of all the circumstances in the case, told the girl the nature of an oath, the criminality of its being falsely rendered, and what the future consequences might be. He then administered the oath, and the honors of paternity were awarded Barnhard. (It is believed that she was pressured by the Merckleys to not name their son. this is the reason for the hatred) This affair caused a lasting hatred between the two families; and when Crysler obtained the direction of a party of Indians, there can remain little doubt but what some of them were found willing, in anticipation of plunder, to share his prejudices and gratify his savage propensities; for such we must call the inclinations of those who joined the enemy, went to Canada, and from choice came back repeatedly, to imbrue their hands in the blood of their former neighbors and relatives.
Many of the settlers, tories as well as whigs, concealed their effects in the war; and it is said that Philip Crysler had concealed part of his. As old Mr. Hoffman and his wife were inoffensive people, and did not meddle with politics, it was supposed from the attempt to kill them at the time of his removal, and of their massacre the next season, that it was in consequence of the fact, that a girl, who had once lived with Hoffman, had discovered and appropriated to her own use, some of the hidden property of Crysler. Trifling circumstances were construed into plausible pretexts too often in the Revolution - as, in fact, they will be, from the nature of things, in all civil wars - for the perpetration of the most heinous and revolting cruelties. The reason is obvious: when all laws are disregarded and set at defiance, the baser passions of the human breast triumph over virtue and social order; and crime -