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Of patriots and loyalists

John Conway
Posted 7/7/23

Cushetunk, 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. The settlement …

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Of patriots and loyalists


Cushetunk, 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. The settlement stretched for approximately thirty miles up and down the Delaware River, from what is today Lackawaxen to present day Callicoon, eight or ten miles deep on either side of the river. From around thirty 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 been born in England and had fought with the British Army in the French and Indian War. He came to Cushetunk around 1768 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 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 others, remained loyal to King George throughout the Revolutionary War, and in general the Upper Delaware, and Cushetunk in particular, was largely a Tory stronghold during the war.

Some historians have estimated that as many as one third of those living in the colonies at the time were Loyalists or Tories, although others say that a more accurate estimate would be about 20 percent, with another 20 percent supporting independence and the remainder not strongly committed one way or the other and simply keeping their heads down waiting to see what happened.

That is not to say that ambivalence prevailed. Even on the frontier of the Upper Delaware, passions ran high, and the so-called “reprisals” enacted by both sides during the war were often indiscriminate and vicious, with even women and children drawn into the fray.

Because of the dangers inherent in living on the frontier, where Native Americans, mostly loyal to the British, often passed through, a number of the Cushetunk families who favored independence took whatever possessions they could easily transport and moved south to Minisink in Orange County, where like-minded residents were more numerous.  

In his first book, “Tom Quick the Indian Slayer and The Pioneers of Minisink and Wawarsink,” published in 1851, James Eldridge Quinlan writes a bit about the situation that developed in Cushetunk in the war years as neighbor took up the sword against neighbor, and in some cases brother against brother.

One such incident involved a reprisal against Bryant Kaine and his family.  

“For some reason, - probably because he expressed his ‘sentiments’ too freely – Kaine, as well as some others who remained in Cochecton, became obnoxious to the Whigs of Minisink,” Quinlan writes. “He was deemed a dangerous character, and it was considered unsafe to permit him to run at large. The Committee of Safety, therefore, determined that he should be arrested. 

“The Tories and others of Cochecton seemed to have been well advised of what was going on below. There were a few persons in Minisink, who, professing openly to be Whigs, were Tories in secret, or they had friends and relatives in Cochecton whom they wished to screen from Whig vengeance, and but little if anything was determined of which was not whispered to those whom it interested most. When it was decided that Kaine should be arrested, he was immediately informed that the scouts would soon pay him a visit and take him from his family to prison.” 

Bryant Kaine quietly disappeared, but not before hiring a man named Flowers to look after his family, which he left behind, thinking they would be immune to any reprisals from the patriot scouts from Minisink. He could not have been more wrong.

Although it is unclear to this day exactly who was responsible, Kaine’s entire family was murdered one night, and a similar fate might have befallen the neighboring Lands, had it not been for a friendly Native American waking one of the Land daughters and warning her of the impending danger. Another Cushetunk Tory, Joseph Ross, was said to be particularly friendly with Chief Joseph Brant, the Mohawk who fought for the British and conducted raids on the frontier settlements, one of which led to the bloody Battle of Minisink in 1779. Some historians have written that Ross served as Brant’s guide through the region, and was present at the July 22 battle that ended so tragically for the militia.   

The divided loyalties of the residents of Cushetunk will be explored in depth during Patriots and Loyalists Weekend at Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History tomorrow, July 8 and Sunday, July 9. The weekend activities start with the reading aloud of the Declaration of Independence at 12 noon on Saturday, followed by a passionate Tory response and a spirited debate. On Sunday, the new interactive museum exhibit, ‘A Settlement Divided’ will be officially unveiled at 2 p.m.

Fort Delaware is located on the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway at 6615 Route 97 in Narrowsburg. It is owned by Sullivan County, and operated by The Delaware Company.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  


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