Albany, American revolution, Battle of Oriskany, British, Chenango County, Chenango River, Chenango Valley, Cherry Valley, Cherry Valley Massacre, Continental Army, Cooperstown, General Burgoyne, General Clinton's Dam, General Sullivan, Hanau, Indian Territory, Indian Warfare, Jager, Joseph Brant, Loyalists, Montvalant, New York City, Oquaga, Oriskany, St. Leger, Susquehanna River, Tioga, Tory, Walter Butler, William Butler
John Bessac, in 1809, was offered a place to dwell. It was a peaceful valley plot that his son Lewis had purchased. The Chenango River was at its base and the hills, almost mountains, rose above it for several hundred feet.
This was the first movement of people west of the banks of the Susquehanna River. Prior to John Bessac’s move the American Revolution had turned into a very unconventional and nasty war. There were two army officers named Butler. Walter Butler fought for the British and the William Butler for the Continental Army.
All the territory to the west of the Susquehanna River was questionable territory. The white man had moved in and began farming. But with the American Revolution the territory was muddied; and no one wins when drinking muddied water.
There were farming settlements in Cherry Valley, Oquaga and Tioga. The British saw these territories as fair game for deflecting the war. Their thrust was towards those farmers who had no defense. This was especially true after the Battle of Oriskany. The American Revolution had moved from New York City to the midlands of New York.
The British had decided to split New England in half by taking control of the Hudson Valley. General Burgoyne, “Gentleman Johnny”, drove his forces from Quebec, Canada southward. This was timed with Lieutenant Barry St. Leger’s expedition of about 1,800 men that were a mix of British regulars, Hessian Jäger from Hanau, Loyalists, Indians, and hired rangers. St. Leger’s drive was a surprise attack from the west. They were to meet Burgoyne in Albany.
Between June of 1777 and 1778 General Walter Butler, a Loyalist to the British, had created havoc for the small farming communities. In 1778, he and Joseph Brant, a Mohawk chief, led a company of Tories and Indians in the raid that culminated in the Cherry Valley Massacre. He has been blamed for the deaths of the many women and children that were killed on that occasion.
The battles and massacres between the American’s Continental Army and the British mixture of Hession Soldiers of Fortune, Indians and Torys continued.
General Sullivan’s Expedition, which wiped out all opponents, halted these attacks on defenseless small farming communities. The expedition was a “scorched earth” campaign that flooded the entire Susquehanna Valley.
A dam was constructed by General Clinton’s men at the mouth of Otsego Lake. After several months the damn was destroyed. Indian, Tory and Loyalist settlements were wiped out; if not at first by the flood then with follow up troop movements that burned any remaining homes, Indian lodges and fields of corn.
With the opposition finally beaten the United States opened up the “Indian Territory” west of the Susquehanna River. This included the Chenango River Valley where Lewis Bessac, John’s son had purchased property.
When John Bessac moved to the Chenango Valley he found a previous settler already established. That settler was Abram Storms. Storms had hauled mill stones across the Katskill Mountains; from the Hudson Valley to the Chenango Valley. He had established a grist mill in what was to become Brisban, New York. Storms then started farming in what was known as the Stillwater Area of the Chenango River.
John Bessac learned proper farming methods from Storms. Then another farmer moved his family from the Connecticut/New York border; this farmer was Henry Birdsall.
Bessac, Storms and Birdsall learned from each other. Their farms became prosperous.
John Bessac had found a river, hills and friends that reminded him of his boyhood in Montvalant, France.
John Bessac was a happy man.