Mrs. Elizabeth Fitchett Davison
From the Theresa, N.Y. Chronicle of Friday morning, May 5, 1848
From: Mary Josephine Wallitt DeYoung
Transcribed by: Dawn Benn Anderson
As sunset beams that fade away,
Until we lose their every rat,
Those patriot hearts go one by one,
But when the night of death's gone by
They rise beneath a greater sky.
The above named lady departed this life on the evening of Tuesday, the 2nd instant, in the 91st year of her age at the residence of her daughter, in this village.
Mrs. Davison was a native of Poughkeepsie, from whence she removed with her parents to Pennsylvania, at the period of the Revolution, and resided at the time of the massacre at Wyoming, at a small settlement about six miles from the ill-fated town. The news of that lamentable event warned the settlers of the village, consisting of nine families of which Mrs. Davison formed one, of thedangerous situation they were in. Accordingly they lost no time in endeavoring to seek out a more secure abode; and after undergoing fatigue and hunger for nine days, they were captured by a party of Indians and Tories, whose business was plunder, and after having selected the most commodiuos and sumptuous residence, set up life in a princely style, compelling their captives to perform all the menial offices of their household.
On one occasion, a party of the brigands, returning hungry, ordered their captives to slaughter a pig and prepare a supper. Preparations being hastened with all possible dispatch, the leader in dressing the food. A tall Indian standing in front of him, offered his hand in friendly greeting, another, at the same moment, planting himself in the rear of his intended victim, with his tomahawk lifted as if to give the fatal blow, while the first savage attempted to seize the knife with which the prisoner was employed. A struggle ensued for the weapon in which the savage, disarming his foe, fell with the impetus of his own weight. Regaining his feet, the furious Indian sprang upon the prisoner aiming the fatal blow at his breast. The distracted daughter, who had remained till this moment saw no more but fled with arrow speed and reported the supposed murder of her father in the rendevouz of his party, and then with the spirit of extermination aroused in her agonized breast, she procured a quantity of onions, a vegetable of which the Indians were know to be fond, and slicing them, she mingled with them a quantity of arsenic, and took her way to their place of banqueting to share the late fate of her father or destroy the savages. But their supper was ended and the banqueters gone on some new expedition of mischief. Where the girl expected to find the mangled corpse of her father, no tract of him was to be(missing text)
(missing text) met with, but during the ensuing night his party were gladened by his return, free from harm. Having eluded the savages who had been intent on having his scalp, he kept himself secreted till their departure.
On another occasion, accopmanying a distressed housewife, whose absent husband it was feared had fallen a victim to the violence of the times, to her deserted cabin, on some necessary errand. The sorrowing woman fell upon her knees and addressed her petitions with such fervor to the God of battles for the preservation and safe return of her husband, that she inspired the trembling girl, who had never heard prayer uttered in that fervent manner till then, with a sympathetic confidence with the poor wife, that the Supreme Disposer of events would not only restore the absent husband, but in due time rescue the suffering band of captives, whose lives were suspended as upon the breath of a savage brigand.
"And when on the following morning" to use the impressive language of the deceased " I saw Thomas Payne, for whose survivor of a scout of sixty men, ascend from the river's bank, in his saturated apparel and rush to the embrace of his Eternal Jehovah took cognizance of and superintend the affairs of men."
The discovery of a barrel of spirits, which had been hidden in an adjoining field of wheat, on the flight of its proprietor, led to the escape of the captives, and consequent breaking up of this Tory rendezvous. The intoxicating beverage being distributed among the reckless band aroused the slumbering fiend in their fierce nature. A plot was formed in their drunken councils for the massacre, during the ensuing night of all the prisoners in their possession, and but for the vigilance of Elizabeth (whose favor with the chief gave her assurance sometimes to mingle with his Tory court) the whole captive party must have shared the fate of their neighbors of Wyoming. Suspecting all was not right, the heroic girl taking advantage of a young Indian girl, won the important secret, and then acting in concert with the young squaw, locked it close in her breast till the captives had returned with their children to their allotted "caboose" for the night, and the precise time had arrived when the frenzy of the savages had subsided into more helpless intoxication. She then informed her party of their danger, when they noiselessly and successfully stole from their drunken guard, took a new direction through the forest, and finally eluded their pursuers. Tough in momentary apprehension of a recapture, or a scarcely more dreaded death from exposure or starvation, the hopes of this hunted party seemed not to be broken, when on the third day of their second flight, the arrival of Col. Buttler with a force of 375 men, to their inexpressible relief, dispersed the brigands and garrrisoned Fort Wilkesbarre for the protection of the defenseless.
The father of Mrs. Davison, having suffered so severely from the depredations of the Tories, resolved to quit so insecure an abode. Accordingly, he set out immediately with his family (consisting of eight children, all of whom were under seventeen years of age) to return to Poughkeepsie, whither the mother of these children had sometime preceeded them. They had now a distance of some two hundred miles to traverse. The cattle with the goods secured upon the backs of the of the oxen were given in charge of the heroic Elizabeth, now fifteen years of age, who, without shoes, and no other covering for her head than a man's hat which was in three places gashed with a tomahawk entered upon her charge. On arriving at the Lehigh, Elizabeth with her cattle, had no means of crossing but by fording, and being at a distance from her party, who crossed a few miles below on fallen timber, she was thrown upon the resources of her own invention for a mode of subduing the difficulty. Directing her cattle into the stream, which, to use her own language, "were as orderly as a company of soldiers", she had kept back her heifer which she claimed as her private property, and which she had retained by regaling it with salt with which her pocket was furnished for the use of her little herd. Then grasping her heifer by the tail with her right hand, she directed the animal into the stream, holding a parcel containing her clothing above her head, resolved in her own words, "If I must be drowned to die with my heifer." But the strong and active beast, instinctively carrying its head above the surface, buffeted the current strongly, notwithstanding the burden of its struggling mistress, and both were soon in safety on the opposite shore.
On one of the last days of their journey, Elizabeth in addition to her other charge, bore her little brother, tow years of age, sixteen miles upon her back.
At length the toilworn party arrived at their destination, in August 1778. Refugees bereft of home and possessions, the evils of destruction and want reared their formidable front to menace the happiness of this sorely tried family. Elizabeth and her sisters procured employment in the families of their more wealthy neighbors and thereby assisted their parents with the labor of their hands to retrieve their fallen fortunes.It was while thus employed that Elizabeth met her future husband in the person of a Continental soldier, who became, some months later, her companion for fifty two years of wedded felicity.
The subject of this sketch was the mother of thirteen children, four boys and nine girls, most of whom are living. She has lived to see her sons occupy honorable stations in that government she had seen in its infancy struggling for independence, and like other mothers of the Revolution, will remain graven upon the memory as a monument of female patriotism and greatness. It would be well for the girls of the present day to read this sketch, and profit by the example of this departed relic of the Revolution. We are indebted to her son, Dr. John D. Davison of this village, for many interesting incidents of her life, which we shall publish at some future day. Also to Mrs. Alvin Hunt, to whose able pen we are mostly indebted for this interesting sketch of the deceased.
Copied by Sidney A. Judson into the David Judson family bible at Roseboom, Otsego County, New York approximately in the year 1905 or 1906 from a copy of the Theresa Chronicle of Friday morning, May 5, 1848. A copy of this newspaper had been loaned to David Judson by a relative whose name I do not remember. This paper was son after returned. August 30, 1966Sidney A. Judson