My ancestor, Alexander McFee, came to this country just before the start of the American Revolution. He came from Scotland with his wife, Peggy (Clark), his three eldest children and, I believe, his father and two sisters.
The McFee’s settled in Cherry Valley, then a part of Tryon County. It is there that, around the time of the war, Alexander’s children were captured by Indians.
I learned of this tale through family writings and my grandmother. The details of the story vary, as almost all family tales do, but the general tale is the same.
On the day of the capture, Alexander was at the fort and his wife, Peggy, went to the spring to get some water. As Peggy turned back toward her log home, she saw Indians climbing over a nearby brush fence. The Indians seized Peggy and went to the log home where they took the children. These were William, age eight, Barbara, age 5 and an infant, Frances.
There was snow on the ground, the air was very cold, and the walk was hard. Peggy carried Frances, who was crying, and it was hard for her to keep up with the party. Enraged by the crying and straggling behind, the Indians sent Peggy back with Frances but kept William and Barbara.
Barbara was kept for eight months or so. It is not known where or how she was able to return to her family.
William was kept several years. His father, Alexander, was said to have gone to Canada to retrieve him. It is also said that William would not “own” his mother. He would say his mother was “up in a tree”, as that is how the Indians would dispose of their dead.
William grew up to marry Margaret Garlock and settled in Schoharie County, where he is buried.
I am told a full account of this capture can be found in the Manuscript of Yates. I have yet to locate these papers. I did find an excerpt in The Story of Old Ft. Plain and the Middle Mohawk Valley by Nelson Greene that relates to this tale. It is as follows:
“Christopher P. Yates wrote a letter to Col. H. Frey dated Freyburg, March 22, 1782. He said among other things: ‘We have already had three different inroads from the enemy. The last was at Bowman’s kill [Canajoharie Creek] from whence they took three children of McFee’s family.”
By Heidi Phillips
*descendant of Alexander McFee