A Catskill Catalog: Feb. 13, 2008
Harmonus DuMond has his own website. At least, someone in the 21st century maintains a website dedicated to the 18th-century Margaretville pioneer. DuMond headed one of the first four families to settle on the East Branch of the Upper Delaware River, back in 1763. Do a Google search on Harmonus DuMond. You‚Äôll find a fascinating but unsigned and unattributed website that pursues a very cold case: the August 26,1778 Arkville-area shooting of Harmonus DuMond. Was Margaretville‚Äôs first settler killed because he was a loyalist to King George III or because he was a patriot in the cause of liberty?
From 1763 to 1778 nearly 40 families from the Shandaken, Marbletown and Kingston areas had joined the original four families from Hurley in the growing East Branch settlement then called Pakatakan. Frontier farms stretched along both sides of the river from present-day Arkville, through present-day Margaretville, downstream to lands presently under Pepacton Reservoir waters, as far down as present-day Downsville.
This frontier was Tory country, loyal to the king. Patriot General Nicholas Herkimer met with Iroquois warrior-chief Joseph Brant on June 27, 1777 to try to persuade the Six Nations of the Iroquois to join the American cause. ‚ÄúYou are too late,‚Äù the well-educated Brant told Herkimer, ‚ÄúI am already engaged to serve the King.‚Äù The forces of the Six Nations would dominate the frontier for the next couple of years.
Now, western New York‚Äôs greatest landowner up to that time was Sir William Johnson who made his fortune trading with the Iroquois. His heirs and dependents sided with their Six Nation friends and remained loyal to the king. One, John Butler, and his son Walter, formed an irregular loyalist-militia that, allied with Brant‚Äôs native warriors, began an escalating series of raids on frontier farms and settlements in the winter of 1777 and 1778. Their goal was to buy, steal or confiscate food, fuel and fodder from the farms and, equally important, to keep those coveted supplies out of the hands of the patriots.
How about the locals? Which side were they on? Catskill Mountaineers Henry Bush and Nathanial Park were reportedly seen raiding along with the Iroquois downriver from Pakatakan settlement in April 1778. In July, literally hundreds of supposed Tories were seen on the road between Catskill and Batavia, today‚Äôs Windham. Rumor had it that a great loyalist rendezvous was planned for the big flat at the bend of the East Branch of the Delaware ‚Äì Pakatakan. Further rumor suggested this encampment would include upwards of 500 British soldiers who had escaped, or deserted from, the major patriot victory at Saratoga the previous October. From the East Branch, rumor had it, this enlarged loyalist army would move to Catskill to reinforce English General Howe on the Hudson. In wartime, rumor creates suspicion, which creates havoc.
Add to this web of rumor Butler‚Äôs Rangers, the Tory raiders who were actually reported to be raiding farms downriver from the Pakatakan settlement. A story goes that Pakatakan‚Äôs settlers were forewarned of a raid by a friendly Indian ‚Äì Tunis. Legend has it Tunis warned the sleepy pioneers that Iroquois raiders were coming. The settlers were able to escape, up over Pine Hill to Shandaken. In that story, Harmonus DuMond and James Burrows decided to stick around. The truth, it appears, may be a less romantic story, in a logical chain of events.
That summer of 1778, the frontier was in turmoil, and the East Branch of the Delaware River was right at the heart of the trouble. On August 19, New York Governor Clinton wrote to Colonel Cantine, commander of the Ulster Patriot Militia, ‚Äú‚Ä¶it will be best to remove, if possible, the grain and all kind of provision from the settlements on the Delaware‚Ä¶and if it cannot be effected I think it would be better even to destroy it than to let it remain there and fall in the hands of the enemy.‚Äù
In response, Colonel Cantine ordered patriot troops from Fort Shandaken to march up the valley of the Esopus to Pakatakan, to evacuate the valley, and to bring to Shandaken all the settlers and as many of their goods as possible. This was done. Immediately upon arrival at Shandaken, Harmonus DuMond and John Burrows headed back over Pine Hill to fetch more of their stuff.
Meanwhile, Colonel Vroman of Schoharie decided that it was his responsibility to calm the frontier. He ordered a unit of the Schoharie Guards ‚Äúto scour the headwaters of the Delaware‚Äù to ‚Äúarrest certain disaffected persons‚Äù and ‚Äúdestroy supposed Indian settlements.‚Äù
When Harmonus DuMond and James Burrows made their way back down the Bushkill to the East Branch, back from their brief evacuation to Shandaken on August 26, 1778, the Schoharie Guards were mopping up their operation and heading back to Schoharie. The guard ordered the two men to halt! Witnesses tell us they turned to flee. The Schoharie Guards fired. Burrows got away. But Harmonus DuMond was mortally wounded. They took him to a nearby house. The soldiers who fired apologized to Harmonus as he lay dying.
Now, did Harmonus DuMond run because he was a Tory and this was a patriot militia patrol? Or did DuMond, the patriot, mistake these Schoharie irregulars for Butler‚Äôs irregulars, the Tory raiders whose expected arrival led to the evacuation of Pakatakan to Shandaken that very day. Check out the very interesting Web site to decide for yourself.
- William Birns