7 or 8 April 1780: Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant Raids Scouting Party in Harpersfield, New York

On April 7 or 8, 1780,¹ Mohawk Chief Joseph (Thayendanegea) Brant raided a scouting party in Harpersfield, New York, during the American Revolution. The group attacked by Brant’s Mohawk and Loyalist forces included three of my Hendry ancestors.


Thomas Hendry, my 7x-great-grandfather, served as 2nd Major of the Fifth Regiment, Tryon County, New York Militia; his sons Thomas and John (my 6x-great-grandfather) were 2nd Lieutenants.² Their names — mistakenly transcribed as “Henry” — appear in the Minutes of the Council of Appointments on March 3, 1780.³

Thomas “Henry” and sons Thomas and John in the Minutes of the Council of Appointments, Tryon County, New York Militia

The elder Thomas had another son, James, who volunteered with the 5th Regiment, but he was not an officer listed in the above appointments.

Old Stone Fort Schoharie, New York – Fortification where Harpersfield residents sheltered during Joseph Brant’s Mohawk raids, 1778-1783. (Photo from The Old Stone Fort.)

On April 2, a group of fourteen men — including brothers Thomas, John, and James⁴ — set out with Capt. Alexander Harper to collect maple syrup for supplying Fort Schoharie.⁵ Nearly all Harpersfield inhabitants had fled to this fort in 1778 after previous Mohawk raids drove them from their homes.⁶ In addition to the maple syrup, the scouting party was tasked with “watching the movement of certain disaffected persons” in the Harpersfield area.⁷

Collecting Maple Syrup, Historical Drawing (Image from Adirondack.net.)

The men separated into several small camps and began making sugar.⁸ Not expecting an attack in three feet of freshly-fallen snow, Capt. Harper decided to return to Fort Schoharie on business.⁹ He was intercepted by Brant and two other Mohawk at about 8 o’clock on the morning of April 7 or 8.¹⁰ In an amazing coincidence, Brant recognized Capt. Harper from their years as schoolmates, and he decided to take Harper prisoner instead of killing him.¹¹

After the capture of Capt. Harper, Brant sent Mohawk parties to ambush the sugar camps simultaneously.¹² One such party approached the Hendry brothers’ camp. Thomas and James fought their attackers and were killed and scalped; John submitted peacefully and was taken prisoner.¹³

In total, Brant’s forces killed three men and captured 11.¹⁴ Brant decided against additional raids of the Schoharie Valley, believing a lie Capt. Harper told him about 300 Continental troops just arriving in the area.¹⁵

Old Fort Niagara – John Hendry and the other captives marched here from Harpersfield, New York. (Photo from Old Fort Niagara.)

The Mohawk marched their prisoners, which included John Hendry, to Fort Niagara.¹⁶ The distance is roughly 260 miles. The captives survived terrible conditions and near starvation on the journey.¹⁷ Capt. Harper located some friends in the area, and they saved him from the suffering the other prisoners endured.¹⁸ The others were detained until the end of the war.¹⁹

Unfortunately, John Hendry would never return home to Harpersfield. Learning he was skilled as a carpenter, the British wanted to send him to work in Bermuda.²⁰ John refused and was confined to a Quebec dungeon where he died.²¹ His family learned of his terrible treatment through letters John was allowed to write during his imprisonment.²²

Two memorial stones stand in Harpersfield Rural Cemetery for the Hendry brothers:

Thomas & John Hendry Memorial Stone, Harpersfield Rural Cemetery, Harpersfield, Delaware County, New York (Photo by pkarches.)

Sacred to the Memory of
Thomas and John Hendry,
Who was Sacrificed by the Tory Party
April 8, 1780,
For the Crime Called Democracy

When the British and Tories, O’er this land bore sway,
A less cruel Indian, my body did slay.
Thomas Hendry

When my brother was murdered, I was standing by,
But in Quebec Prison I was doomed to die.
John Hendry²³



James Hendry Memorial Stone, Harpersfield Rural Cemetery, Harpersfield, Delaware County, New York (Photo by pkarches.)

In Memory of Mr. James Hendry
who was killed by Indians
& Tories April 8th, 1780 in
the 35th year of his age

While British tyranny
overspread this land
I was Slain by cruel hands²⁴


¹ Dates of the raid vary among sources. The public papers of New York Governor George Clinton state the raid occurred on April 7. Memorial stones to the Hendry brothers state they died on April 8, and the compiled Delaware County histories by W. W. Munsell and David Murray also use this date.

Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777-1795-1801-1804 (Albany, New York : J.B. Lyon Company, State Printers, 1902), 659-660, 727; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=IAobAQAAIAAJ : accessed 31 Mar 2019).

² Bernard Fernow, New York in the Revolution (Albany : New York State Archives, 1887), 297; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/records/item/448235-new-york-in-the-revolution : accessed 31 Mar 2019).

³ Thomas, Thomas, and John Henry (Tryon County Militia), United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, 74-New York (jacket 100-116); database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G94M-QC55?i=449&cc=2068326 : accessed 31 Mar 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M246.

⁴ A frequently cited text, W.W. Munsell’s History of Delaware County, N.Y. confuses the relationships of the Hendry men. Munsell contradicts himself by first stating James was the father of Thomas and John (p. 220), and then writing Thomas and James were brothers (p. 221). David Murray’s Delaware County, New York, History of the Century, 1797-1897 states Thomas, John, and James were brothers. Murray’s text agrees with the testimony of Levi Gaylard, who identified Thomas and James as brothers of his neighbor and co-worker David Hendry in David’s widow Salina’s pension application file. John is also mentioned in Gaylard’s testimony, but not explicitly identified as a brother.

“Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” digital images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com/image/23380725 : accessed 31 Mar 2019), entry for David Hendry and widow Selina, New York, W. 3990; citing Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA microfilm publication M804, roll 1254.

⁵ Spencer C. Tucker, ed., American Revolution: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection (ABC-CLIO, 2018), 718-719; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=CyJrDwAAQBAJ : accessed 31 Mar 2019).

⁶ W. W. Munsell, History of Delaware County, N.Y. (New York : W. W. Munsell & Co, 1880), 220-223; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/records/item/27911-history-of-delaware-county-new-york-with-illustrations-biographical-sketches-and-portraits-of-some-pioneers-and-prominent-residents : accessed 31 Mar 2019).

Ibid.

⁸ David Murray, Delaware County, New York, History of the Century, 1797-1897 (Delhi, New York : William Clark, Publisher, 1898), 423-430; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/records/item/326461-delaware-county-new-york-history-of-the-century-1797-1897-centennial-celebration-june-9-and-10-1897 : accessed 31 Mar 2019).

⁹ Munsell, History of Delaware County, N.Y. , 220-223.

¹⁰ Murray, Delaware County, New York, History of the Century, 1797-1897, 423-430.

¹¹ Ibid.

¹² Ibid.

¹³ Ibid.

¹⁴ Munsell, History of Delaware County, N.Y. , 220-223.

¹⁵ Ibid.

¹⁶ Murray, Delaware County, New York, History of the Century, 1797-1897, 423-430.

¹⁷ Ibid.

¹⁸ Ibid.

¹⁹ Ibid.

²⁰ Ibid.

²¹ Ibid.

²² Ibid.

²³ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/111533964/thomas-hendry : accessed 31 Mar 2019), memorial 111533964, Thomas Hendry (1744-1780), Harpersfield Rural Cemetery, Harpersfield, Delaware County, New York. 

²⁴ Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/63913230/james-hendry : accessed 31 Mar 2019), memorial 63913230 , James Hendry (1745-1780), Harpersfield Rural Cemetery, Harpersfield, Delaware County, New York. 

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