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A Passionate Tory

John Conway
Posted 7/8/22

The first permanent European settlement in the Upper Delaware Valley was established around 1755 by a group of Connecticut farmers calling themselves the Delaware Company, and within a few years …

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A Passionate Tory


The first permanent European settlement in the Upper Delaware Valley was established around 1755 by a group of Connecticut farmers calling themselves the Delaware Company, and within a few years those hardy families had been joined by a number of others who were not part of their initial group.  

The settlement, called Cushetunk, stretched for about 30 miles up and down the Delaware River, from what is today Lackawaxen to present day Callicoon. The settlers laid claim to lands for eight or ten miles on either side of the Delaware. From fewer than 30 families at the outset, the number of inhabitants grew slowly but steadily in the early years, as others arrived and took up residence.

Robert Land, for instance, had fought with the British Army in the French and Indian War. He came to Cushetunk around 1763 and was appointed Justice of the Peace and Magistrate by the British government. Joseph Ross was from Bound Brook, New Jersey, and came to the area near present day Callicoon around 1756 as a land agent for Joseph Griswold (or Greswold), who had purchased a large section of the Hardenbergh Patent with the intention of subdividing it and selling lots. Bryant Kaine (also spelled Kane) acquired land near Cochecton Falls a few years before the Revolutionary War and lived there with his wife and children, and his brother, Jonathan.

All of these men, as well as a number of others, remained loyal to King George throughout the Revolutionary War period, and in general the Upper Delaware, and Cushetunk in particular, was largely a Tory stronghold during the war.

Of all the Tories in the region during those years, none were likely as passionate as Robert Land and his family. According to John M. Coleman, writing in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography in 1955, Robert Land was so exertive for the British during the war, he became known to the patriot side as “an old offender.”

“The reputation of the Land family as active, militant Loyalists is shown also by the fact that the oldest son John was jailed at the beginning of the war and kept in custody during most of the conflict,” Coleman writes. “The second son Abel served in the British military forces, first in conjunction with Indian troops, and later as an engineer. Abel Land described his service as follows: ‘That in the early part of the late American War (he) with his Father, commonly called Captain Robert Land, took arms for Government and entered upon actual service under Captain Brandt [sic], was afterwards taken prisoner at a place called Cochecton when acting as a volunteer under the said Captain Brandt, made his escape from confinement and joined the Royal Standard at New York when he entered into service in the Engineer Department.’”

Meanwhile, Robert Land carried dispatches for the British Army between Long Island and Niagara until he became such a wanted man by the Patriots that he had to flee to Canada.

These facts leave little doubt that when news of the approval by the Continental Congress of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 finally reached the Cushetunk settlement, the Lands and most of the others living in the settlement would not have reacted favorably.

It is hard to say now, but since other Cushetunk families, including the Tylers and some of the Skinners, were avowed Patriots, there might have been some celebrating in the settlement. Certainly, relations between the two sides became so strained that those siding with independence fled to other parts of the region as the war approached, and Cushetunk residents ended up on both sides at the Battle of Minisink in 1779.

These tensions in the settlement are the impetus behind the re-enactment tomorrow, Saturday, July 9 of the public reading of the Declaration of Independence and a passionate Tory response at the Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History in Narrowsburg. It is just part of “Patriots and Loyalists Weekend” at the Fort, which includes a program on Sunday, July 10 on the role of African Americans in the Revolutionary War.

The Saturday afternoon program will also include a panel discussion about the Declaration of Independence and its reception in the Upper Delaware.

Fort Delaware, located on the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway at 6615 Route 97 in Narrowsburg is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the program on Saturday begins at 12 noon, while the Sunday event starts at 1 p.m. Both programs are included in the admission price for the Fort. For more information, call the Fort at 845-252-6660.

Fort Delaware is owned by Sullivan County and operated by The Delaware Company.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com. He will be reading the Declaration of Independence and leading a panel discussion about it at Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History in Narrowsburg beginning at 12 Noon on Saturday, July 9.


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