Biography of John Strong

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The Strong family has been a prominent one in this town. The Hon. John Strong was born in Salisbury, Conn., in 1738 and came to Addison in February, 1766, as before noted. After he was driven away from his settlement by the British he went to Dorset, which town he represented in the Legislature from 1779 to 1782, and in 1781 he was elected assistant judge of Bennington county, and re-elected in 1782. In 1783 he returned to his former home in this town. His first dwelling here was built near the lake and destroyed by the British. In 1796 he built his brick residence, the brick for which were made on the farm. He represented Addison in the Legislature three years, from 1784, and in 1785 was elected first judge of the Addison County Court. In 1786 he was elected judge of probate and a member of the Council; these offices he held until 1801. In 1791 he was a member of the convention which ratified the constitution of the United States. He died in June, 1816, and many of his descendants are still residents of this town and vicinity. His son, the Hon. John W. Strong, was a prominent man in the town; the son of the latter, Charles W., still lives in the town.

For their historical value we quote from Mr. Strong’s sketch of the town of Addison the following incidents connected with early life in the wilderness

“Wild animals,” he wrote, “were very troublesome, especially bears, with which he had many encounters. In September Mrs. Strong, whilst her husband and a few neighbors had joined together and gone up the lake in a bateau and thence to Albany to procure necessaries for the settlement, one evening was sitting by the fire with her children about her. The kettle of samp had just been taken from the fire when, hearing a noise, she looked towards the door and saw the blanket that served the purpose of one raised up and an old bear protruding her head into the room. The sight of the fire caused her to dodge back. Mrs. Strong caught the baby, and sending the older children to the loft, she followed and drew the ladder after her. The floor of this loft was made by laying small poles together, which gave ample opportunity to see all that was going on below. The bear, after reconnoitering the place several times, came in with two cubs. They first upset the milk that had been placed on the table for supper. The old bear then made a dash at the pudding pot, and thrusting in her head, swallowed a large mouthful and filled her mouth with another before she found it was boiling hot. Giving a furious growl she struck the pot with her paw, upsetting and breaking it. She then sat herself up on end, endeavoring to poke the pudding out of her mouth, whining and growling all the time. This was so ludicrous, the cubs sitting up on end one on each side, and wondering what ailed their mother, that it drew a loud laugh from the children above. This seemed to excite the anger of the beast more than ever, and with a roar she rushed for the place where they had escaped up aloft. This they had covered up when they drew up the ladder, and now commenced a struggle; the bear to get up, the mother and children to keep her down. After many fruitless attempts the bear gave it up, and towards morning moved off. After Strong’s return, a door made from the slabs split from a basswood and hung on wooden hinges gave them some security from like inroads in the future.

“At another time Strong and Smalley were crossing the lake from Chimney Point to McKenzie’s in Moriah, in a canoe, and when near Sandy Point they saw something swimming in the water which they at once supposed to be a deer and gave chase. As they drew near they found, instead of a deer, it was an enormous black bear they were pursuing. This was a different affair, and a consultation was held. They had nothing but an axe, but were too plucky to back out; so it was planned that Smalley was to get into the wake of the bear and run the canoe bows on, whilst Strong, standing in the bow with the axe, was to knock Bruin on the head. . . . Smalley brought the boat up in good style and Strong, with all the force of a man used to felling the giants of the forest, struck the bear full on the head. The bear minded it no more than if it had been a walking-stick instead of an axe, but instantly turning, placed both fore paws on the side of the boat and upset it, turning both men into the lake. The bear, instead of following them, crawled up on to the bottom of the boat and took possession, quietly seating himself and looking with great gravity whilst the men were floundering in the water. Smalley, who was not a very good swimmer, seeing the bear so quiet, thought he might hold on by one end of the boat until it should float ashore ; but no Bruin would have none of their company; and they were obliged, each with an oar under his arm to sustain him, to make the best of their way to Sandy Point, the nearest shore. From here they had to go around the head of Bullwagga Bay, and north as far as Port Henry, where they found their boat, minus their axe and other baggage, and were very glad to come off so well.”

“Indians in their visits,” wrote Mr. Strong, “caused more fear than wild beasts, especially after the commencement of the Revolutionary struggle. Although through the policy of some of the leading men of the Grants the British had been induced to treat the settlers on the east side of the lake with mildness, and had forbidden the Indians to molest them , yet their savageness was ready to burst forth on the slightest provocation. So much was this the case, that, if a party of Indians made their appearance when the men were absent the women allowed them to help themselves to whatever they liked. At one time a party came in when Mrs. Strong was alone. They first took the cream from the milk and rubbed it on their faces ; then rubbing soot on their hands, painted themselves in all the hideousness of the war-paint, and sang the war-song with whoop and dances. just as they were leaving, one of them discovered a showy colored short gown, that her husband had just made her a birthday present of This he took, and putting it on, seemed greatly delighted, and with yells and whoops they departed. She had a place between the outer wall of the house and the chimney where, whenever Indians were seen about, she used to hide her babe. A barrel of sour milk was kept, where a set of pewter dishes (a rare thing at the time) was, as soon as used, put for security. One day an Indian came in and saw a small plate, which he took, and making a hole in it, put in a string and wore it off as an ornament. They would sometimes, when hungry, kill a hog or beef. The following will show that their fears were not groundless: One morning in June, just when the sky takes on that peculiar hue that has given it the term, ‘gray of the morning,’ Mrs. Strong arose and went to a spring, a few rods from the house, standing on the bank of the lake. The birds had just commenced their morning matins, making ‘woodland and lea’ vocal with song. The air was laden with the perfume of the wild flowers. Not a breath stirred a leaf or ruffled the glasslike surface of the waters of the lake. She stopped a moment to enjoy it. As she stood listening to the song of the birds, she thought she heard the dip of a paddle in the water, and looking through the trees that fringed the bank, saw a canoe filled with Indians. In a moment more the boat passed the trees in full view. A pole was fastened upright in the bow, on the top of which was the scalp of a little girl ten years old, her flaxen ringlets just stirred in the morning air, while streams of clotted blood all down the pole showed it was placed there whilst yet warm and bleeding. Whilst horror froze her to the spot, she thought she recognized it as the hair of a beautiful child of a dear friend of hers, living on the other side of the lake. She saw other scalps attached to their waist-belts, whilst two other canoes further out in the lake, each had the terrible signal at their bows. The Indians, on seeing her, gave the and made signals as though they would scalp her; and she fled to the house like a frightened deer. The day brought tidings that their friends on the other side had all been massacred and scalped, six in number, and their houses burned.

The morning previous to the taking of Crown Point by Burgoyne, Mrs. Strong was sitting at the breakfast table. Her two oldest sons, Asa and Samtiel, had started at daylight to hunt for young cattle that had strayed in the woods. Her husband had gone to Rutland to procure supplies of beef for the American forces at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, when a daughter of Kellogg (afterwards Mrs. Markham) came rushing in with, ‘The Indians are coming, and we are all flying. There are bateaux at the Point to take us off, and you must hurry!’ And back she ran to help her own folks, her father then being a prisoner in Quebec. Mrs. Strong was in very feeble health, totally unable to encounter hardships or fatigue; her husband away, her two oldest sons in the woods, and no one to warn or seek them. There was no way but to try and save the children that were with her. She took her youngest, a babe of six months (Cyrus), and putting him in a sack, with his head and shoulders out, fastened him on the back of her eldest daughter, and making up a bundle for each of the other children of the most necessary clothing, started them for the Point, charging them not to loiter or wait for her, and she would overtake them. After putting out the fire she closed the house, leaving the breakfast-table standing as it was when they first heard the news. She traveled on as fast as she was able until she came to the north bank of Hospital Creek. Here, entirely exhausted, she sat down, when Spaulding, of Panton, who waited to see all off, and also the approach of the foe, came riding at full gallop up the road, and seeing her sitting where she was, said, ‘Are you crazy ? The Indians are in sight, – the lake is covered, and the woods are full of them. She told him she could go no further. He dismounted, and placing her on the pillion, remounted, and putting his horse to his speed, arrived just as the last bateaux containing her children was putting off, – it having remained as long as they dared on her account. She was put on board, Spaulding going on with his horse. That night they arrived at Whitehall. Here the settlers scattered in many directions, – some returning to Connecticut, others going east. Zadock Everest and family, with other neighbors, went east, and she went with them. Asa and Samuel, as they returned towards night, saw, by the columns of smoke coming up from every house, that the Indians must have been there. They hid themselves until dark, and then cautiously approaching, found their house a blazing ruin. Believing that the family had escaped, they retraced their steps, and made the best of their way towards Otter Creek. At daylight they found themselves near Snake Mountain. Fortunately, when they left home the morning previous, they took a gun and ammunition. They shot a partridge and roasted it, saving a part for their dinner, and pushed on, and in about a week found their mother and the rest of the children. They then hired a log-house, the older boys working out, and each doing what they Could for their support.

“Strong, hearing that Burgoyne had taken Crown Point, left his cattle at Brandon, and hastened for his home. On coming within sight of the forts he secreted himself until light. He then moved on cautiously, for fear of the Indians. On reaching the center of a narrow ridge of land, just south of Foard’s Creek, with a marsh on either side, covered with a dense growth of alders and Willow, a yell, as demoniac as though the gates of the infernal regions had opened upon him, burst forth, and instantly he was surrounded by more than 200 savages, whooping and swinging their tomahawks over his head. Instant death seemed inevitable. A Tory was in command. Having heard that he was expected in with cattle, he had got the assistance of this band of Indians to intercept him. After a few moments he partially stilled the Indians, and addressing Strong, asked: Where are your cattle?’ Strong answered, ‘Safe.’ This short and disappointing answer fairly drove him mad with rage, and no doubt he would have sacrificed him on the spot, if an old chief, who knew Strong, had not interposed. Strong then told them to take him to the fort, and whatever was proper for him to answer he would cheerfully do. He was then bound and taken to the other side, and placed in the guard-house until morning. When he was brought before the commanding officer, who was Colonel Frasier (afterward killed at Stillwater), Strong explained who he was, the uncertain fate of his family, and his anxiety on their account. Frasier generously let him go on parole until the middle of November, when he was to be at Crown Point, to go with the army and prisoners to Canada. After thanking him, and just as he was leaving, he said: ‘Colonel, suppose the army never returns, how then?’ Frasier, smiling incredulously, said: ‘Then you are released from all obligation;’ and ordering a supply of provisions for his journey, dismissed him. He now procured a boat and went to his house, which he found in ashes. After searching for any remains that might be left, in case his wife and children had been burned in the house, he returned to the fort, where he procured a passage up the lake to Whitehall. He was here completely at fault as to which way his family had gone, but was induced to believe they were in Connecticut, whither he went, but found they had not been there, and returned and went in another direction, and after weeks of fruitless search, had almost despaired of finding them, when one evening, weary and foot-sore, he called at a log house in Dorset, Vt., for entertainment for the night. It was quite dark. A flickering light from the dying embers only rendered things more indistinguishable. He had just taken a seat when a smart little woman, with a pail of milk, came in and said : ‘Moses, can’t you take the gentleman’s hat?’ That voice! He sprang towards her. ‘Agnes!’ and she, with outstretched arms: ‘John! 0, John!’ How quick the voice of loved ones strikes upon the ear and vibrates through the heart! That was a happy night in the little log house. The children came rushing in, and each in turn received their father’s caress. Smiles of happiness and tears of joy mingled freely, for a father and husband was restored as from the dead. They had received no tidings from him after he left his cattle and went to look for them, and they mourned him as dead.”

Such thrilling and pathetic incidents and anecdotes might be multiplied to fill a volume, in which most of the early settlers shared; but these must suffice for this town.



MLA Source Citation:

Finished Round 1 Editing. Needs locations and topics in round 2. Needs index page AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 25 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/vermont/biography-of-john-strong.htm - Last updated on Sep 1st, 2012


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