John Young was born in 1742, likely on the Harrison
Patent, the site of the present-day St. Johnsville N.Y., and was baptized (no date
given) as Johanes Jung, with Fridrich Jung and Thoreda Hesen as sponsors. John moved to the south shore of the Mohawk
River in 1754 close to the Upper (Canajoharie) Mohawk Village (see biography of
his father and grandfather). It is
likely this proximity that brought him into close contact with the Mohawk
people, with the result that he learned to speak their language, and met his
future wife among them. He probably
married Catharine Hill in 1765, and lived on the property near the Mohawk
Village owned by his father Adam until 1771, when Adam deeded land near Ft.
Plain (the "Geissenburg Settlement" by Otsquago Creek) to his eldest
son (see later).
On 25 Apr. 1771 Adam deeded a 105 parcel of land at
Canajoharie (Lot 4, Bleeker Patent) on the Mohawk River (near Ft. Plain) to his
son John, adjoining the 250 acre farm of the former's brother Frederick Young.
It is apparent that John was still
residing on the property near the Upper Mohawk Village immediately prior to the
time the deed was issued. In one of the
account books of Jelles Fonda is an entry dated 5 November 1770 for
"Hannes Young now Near Ct. Seibers his son John". The Canajoharie Tax List for 1766 shows
Hannes Seeber located among a group of individuals residing on the Van Horne
Patent around Adam Young's parcel shown in the map (noted previously) of
1764. John's name does not appear here
since he was only occupying the property, his father Adam was the owner. At some point in the early 1770s however,
John moved to the property in Bleecker Patent. Adam who then sold the land in the Van Horne Patent such that
"at the Commencement of the late war"one Thomas Young, son of Johan
Christian Young (no relation to Adam Young) was in possession of the
property. An entry in the court
records may relate to some aspect of the sale.
On 2 March 1776 John Young sued Thomas Young for 3 pounds, 15 shillings.
A specific description of this property occupied by John
Young at the time of the Revolution may be of interest. Reference to the Loyalist Claims data
indicates that the farm was 105 acres in extent, and that Adam was
"offered 1000 pounds New York Currency by Peter Ramsay in New York
sometime before 1771." In terms of the exact location of John's residence,
the original deed to John from his father states that it is on Lot 4 of the
Highland Patent deeded to the Bleeckers.
A map composed about 1772 shows Adam on what was then (the lots were
renamed and renumbered) 210 acres of the "Wood Lotts" Lot 2 at the
northern section of the Bleecker Patent, opposite a large island in the Mohawk
River. Apparently the lots were severed in two (105 acres each) and Adam had
the portion which was the west section (furthest from the river).
This was a remote location, above the Dutchtown Road. Plotting the dimensions of this lot on
modern maps, it is apparent that Adam / John's residence was at the location
where, in 1853 A. Ornt was residing.
These individuals were descendants of Abraham Arndt who, on 26 January
1786, bought this property (Lot 2, Rutgert Bleecker Patent, 105 acres) from the
Loan Officers of the City and County of Albany. Arndt paid 112 pounds for the land (the buildings had been
destroyed during the Revolution 10 years earlier) in a programme where monies were
raised by the sale of confiscated lands to help the State pay its debts. Interestingly, a publication of 1878
provides a detailed engraving of the "Res. of Alfred Arndt Town of
Minden", which shows a large two story Georgian style house with a complex
of barns and out buildings, and the well pump just to the right of the raised
laneway, near the apparent drive shed, with a house situated in the
distance. The map compiled by the Army
Map Service Geological Survey in 1943 (Ft. Plain) shows no buildings on the
site, but a prominent tongue shaped eminence, the tip of which is where is all
likelihood the farm complex was located.
A narrow ridge shown was probably the area along which the laneway
ran. In June 1990, Ken Johnson now of
Ft. Plain, NY and the author visited the site and walked along a narrow tree
lined ridge to a wooded copse of about half an acre. In a site to the left (south) of the laneway ridge, a deep stone
lined well was located in an area of scrub brush - with the pump leaning inside
the well shaft. Further down the tongue
of land, where it dipped sharply, was found an area of about 50 feet square
where there was a heavy scatter of brick, stone, cinders, and household
artifacts (e.g., tea cups, a decanter stopper), some of which are dateable to
the late 1700s (e.g., pearlware, queensware).
This spot is situated in proper relationship to the laneway and pump
shown in the above noted engraving.
In March 1777 John Young escaped from the hands of the Rebels
(Patriots), leaving his family and his farm in order to join the British. A likely reason for the precipitous
departure was a pending arrest warrant being issued for his suspected role in
the burning of the grist mill of Philip W. Fox near the Palatine Church and the
farm of Henry William Nelles (his future neighbour on the Grand River). At a meeting of the Tryon County Committee
of Safety, 1 April 1777, an inquiry was held concerning the origin of the fire. Apparently Cunrad Matthes, who was the nearest
neighbour of John Young (see 1772 map of Bleecker Patent), stated that Henry W.
Nelles sent his "Negro" to
fetch a horse belonging to Nelles - said horse having been "stolen"
the same night that Fox's mill had been burned. It seems that one Rudolph Yucker became suspicious after hearing
this from Matthes, and interrogated Nelles's "Negro", in particular
about how a horse and bridle could be stolen from a locked barn. The Black servant said that both he and
Nelles were not at home that night so could not explain the matter. Another individual, Isaac Ellwood, also
questioned Nelles's servant, who tried to explain Nelles's strange awareness of
the whereabouts of his stolen horse, said that since Nelles had bought the
horse from Young and thought it may have wandered back to its former
master. The servant further said that
when he and Nelles's son came to Young's house and inquired about the horse,
they were told that the horse had been found fully bridled in front of the
house, so was placed in the stable.
Since it was established that the bridle was always kept in the Nellis
house, the whole matter became even more suspicious. The Black servant further
said that he believed that, considering his master's Tory convictions, it must
have been another "strong Tory" who took the horse. Since John Young lived directly across the
River from Nelles, it is difficult to imagine how it could have found its way
across the ford below Sand Hill, and up the road to the Geissenburg. It is also more than a bit odd that Nelles
should immediately conclude that his horse would be abandoned by the supposed
thief, then be able to discover the route to his former stable. It therefore appears that John Young and
Henry W. Nelles, who were good enough friends that they chose to settle side by
side on Indian land after the War, conspired to commit an act of sabotage. In the likely scenario, John Young burned
the mill and had a "get away" horse arranged to help him make a rapid
exit from the scene of the "crime".
Since the evidence clearly pointed to John Young being the
"perpetrator", it is likely that this is what prompted the Rebel's
attempt to capture him. The timing of March 1777 coincides perfectly with the
known date Young left his farm to avoid capture.
Young's farm was then rented from 7 June 1777 to a
neighbour (noted above) Jno. Seber. His
family was "drove off the premises" at this time, and likely were
sheltered at the Upper (Canajoharie) Mohawk Castle. On 25 Aug. 1777 the Tryon Co. Committee of Safety ordered the
apprehension of "John Young's wife" and her confinement at the Tice
house in Johnstown. She, her 4
children, and mother-in-law Catharine Elizabeth Young were in the "Hands
of the Congress" (1778). They were
probably exchanged (sent to Canada) in the winter of 1779/80. Earlier, soon after John Young departed for
Canada, The Commissioners of Sequestration sold some of the effects of John
Young. In December 1777 they sold "sundries" of John Young for 59
In June of 1777 John Young was in the employ of the
Indian Department, being commissioned as a lieutenant prior to 25 Dec.
1777. In the spring of 1778 John Young
was performing a dual role near the Pennsylvania - New York border. He had been sent to Unadilla with about 40
rangers and 2 Indians to scour the countryside to seek provisions for the army
of Col. John Butler which was advancing in that direction. He also acted as a recruiting officer behind
enemy lines in that area, reading a proclamation to the people of the
Butternuts settlement instructing all "friends to Government" to come
and join Butler, who would welcome them.
John Young had been particularly successful at Oquaga where he obtained
70 head of cattle and 60 to 70 recruits. This report is corroborated by the
returns of Col. Mason Bolton at Niagara who wrote that "Mr. John Young
detach'd from Auqhguaga with 30 Rangers and Indians constantly scouting towards
the German Flatts and Cherry Valley".
John Young's duties as an Indian Department officer were
diverse, as evidenced by the above and following recorded information. In 1780 he was selected by the Nanticoke
Indians to represent them, which probably required that he lead them in battle,
and live among them. In the same year
John Young was assigned to escort a group of Six Nations Indian deputies in a
boat from Ft. Schlosser to Ft. Erie, "there to see them well provided with
necessaries for their journey" in order that they could embark on a trip
to the west to encourage the Indians there to take up arms against the
Rebels. He was also frequently in
attendance at the Indian councils at Niagara between 1780 and 1782.
It would appear that June 1782 was a particularly busy
month. He and Lieut. William Johnston
were sent as "runners" with correspondence for Detroit, and in the same
month he was, assigned to Oswego where he tabulated a census return of the
number of Six Nations Indian and Brant's Volunteers present there on 21 June
1782. Four days later he submitted an
account of his expenses incurred at Tosioha on Buffalo Creek (a Delaware and
Nanticoke settlement). Some insight
into the performance of John Young in these various roles is found in a letter
from Capt. John Johnston to Col. John Butler, where he requests another officer
to assist him at Canadasaga, suggesting "Mr. Young who I look upon being
After seven years of service, John Young went on half-pay
24 March 1784 and settled among the Indians on the Grand River. John Young's property was confiscated by
"the people of the State of New York" 21 Jan. 1783, meaning that he
could not seriously contemplate a return to his former home.
In late Sept. 1784 Young, then residing on the Grand
River, was called upon by two Missisauga Indians to visit a site on the shores
of Lake Erie where three White men had been killed. He went with Capt. Cackbush and three other Delaware Indians, and
described the scene of the carnage in a letter to the commandant at Ft.
Niagara. Within a day, when it became
apparent that the perpetrators were Delawares, the leading men of this tribe
told Young that they would do their best to find the guilty parties. Subsequent testimony by an individual who
escaped during the incident provided more specific details, supporting Young's
observations and inferences about what had happened.
The name of John Young appears in various account books
relating to the Niagara Penninsula. For
example, he paid a debt owed in the 1790's by his wife's cousin "Aaron
Hill Capt David Son" to merchant William Nelles. He also participated in Six Nations Indian councils; entertained
various travellers at his home; and was a founding member of the Barton Masonic
Evidence that John Young was the first settler on the
Grand River is found in a letter from Robert Hoyes to Frederick Haldimand 2
Nov. 1783 stating that, "A party of Rangers with an Indian as their guide
march by land to the Grand Riviere.
They carry a letter, from Col. Butler to a Mr. Young, who resides
amongst the Indians settled on that river,…" He was the first to purchase
land from the Mississauga owners, the deed to his farm (one mile square) in the
Young Tract being dated 20 Jan. 1784.
John Young, however, had an additional place of residence at the Mohawk
Village, at least in the 1780's. It is
apparent that John Young lived in relative comfort, having four slaves (Dean,
Laya, a man named Jack, a boy named Jack) to attend to many of the chores at
his two residences.
Some insight into the personality of John Young is
available through an examination of the diaries of those who visited him. For example, Patrick Campbell reported
playing "whist, cribbage, and other games" with Young, adding that it
was the first time he had ever played cards with a "squaw". This statement indicates that in the Young
home, women participated with the men in some forms of leisure recreation. Whether this behaviour was typical of
pioneer society at this time, or, for example, reflects Young's egalitarian
attitude toward women, or mirrors the fact that Catharine was "strong
willed" (assertive), is unknown.
It is not possible to read motives from this isolated excerpt in a
diary. Young also gave Campbell a tour of the area in his sleigh, pointing out
the local sites of interest, and in general showed him "marked attention
and hospitality". Another facet,
however, is seen in the testimony of a neighbour Charles Anderson, relative to
the treatment of Charles Brown, a man who was apparently an indentured servant
of Young. Anderson reported that Young
"locked him <Brown> up in a room, and threatened to beat him"
if Brown didn't sign a note for £50. When Brown escaped through a window, Young
sent two Indians who were staying at the house to retrieve him. The jury which heard the case decided in
favour of Brown - the incident revealing a possible dark side to the character
of John Young.
John's first wife Catharine Hill died some time soon
after the visit of Campbell, and he married secondly Priscilla (Ramsay) Nelles,
widow of Henry William Nelles, who outlived him.
Precise locations of the house sites on the Grand River
occupied by John and his brothers are found in the survey notes recorded by
Augustus Jones. A collection of
archaeological artifacts, obtained under license from the Ministry of
Citizenship and Culture, from the site of John Young's house is presently held
in trust by the writer.
John wrote his will 15th April 1805 "considering the
uncertainty of this mortal life”, giving various effects to his wife Priscilla
including "the Negro woman Dean sufficient maintenance as long as she
remains my widow and conducts herself with Propriety". He also gave her, during her life, "the
Negro man Jack and the Negro woman Laya, and after her death the Negro man Jack
to be given to my son Abraham and the Negro woman Laya to go to my daughter
Elizabeth". It was also his will
that "my wife will live in the house with my son Joseph and to have
together all the household furniture".
He even made provisions as to how the house should be divided into rooms
assigned to each party. Joseph was to
have the farm where his father resided, various effects, and "the negro
boy Jack". The one mile tract
fronting the River was basically divided in four. John Jr. was to have the section furthest down river, Joseph the
next portion, then the section reserved for Elizabeth, and finally the
uppermost segment to Abraham. The
island was to be owned primarily by Joseph, with a smaller portion to
Abraham. All farms were about 20 chains
(i.e., ¼ mile or 1,320 feet) along the River, and three miles back. John Jr. and John A. Young (son of Abraham)
were to equally share (100 acres each) in John Sr.'s military lands in Walpole
Township (one half of Lot 19, Concession 10). On the 10th May 1811 John (with a
very shaky hand) signed a codicil to the above will. Herein he stated that he wished that the land reserved for his
daughter Elizabeth, wife of Warner Nelles, instead go to his son Joseph
Young. He died between 20 May 1811 when
he signed the codicil to his will, and 17 July 1812 when his will was proved,
and is in all probability buried in the Young Tract Burying Ground near the
site of his home.