John Saxon was born on November 17, 1761, in the City of New York, British Colonial New York. John married Elizabeth Mary Evans about 1785 in Dutchess County, New York. John Saxon died on September 24, 1862, in Blackford County, Indiana.
John Saxon was born on November 17, 1761, in the City of New York in the British Province of New York. His parents are not known although one descendant reported them to have been Dutch while another descendant said British. The Dutch settled the city then known as New Amsterdam, prior to the British taking control in 1664. When John was born, the population of the city included people from Holland and Britain as well as from Germany.
By the start of the Revolutionary War, approximately 20,000 people lived in the City of New York. It also contained more loyalists than any other place in the colonies.
Following the Declaration of Independence, George Washington moved troops into New York City to defend the city and the harbor. Prior to the arrival of Washington’s troops, about ⅓ of the citizens fled. In August of 1776, the British invaded Manhattan Island and gained control of the city, holding control until the end of the war.
John was 14 years of age as these events unfolded. According to a diary written by John’s acquaintance Joseph P. Van Cleve, John ran away to Georgia where he remained until the age of 16. John’s own testimony given in depositions recorded decades later does not contain this information. However one deposition John gave relates that he had a sister who “carried away” the family prayer book to England. During the 7 year British occupation of the city, nearly 30,000 loyalists departed New York, John’s sister likely being one of them. If the Saxon family's loyalties were divided, it would make sense that John would run away from his family and that his sister returned to England.
Joseph P. Van Cleve also wrote in his diary that John Saxon served as a drummer boy until the close of the war and was wounded by a sword thrust in his shoulder at the last battle. John’s two depositions, one he gave in 1833 and the other in 1855 tell a different story.
In 1781, 19 year old John Saxon lived in Amawalk, Westchester County, New York, when on May 1st he enlisted in the state troops of New York for an 8 month term at the house of Captain Joshua Hyatt in Shrub Oak. John was assigned to Captain Richard Sackett’s company and the next day joined the unit in Bedford, about 20 miles southeast of Shrub Oak, Amawalk lying in between the two towns.
At the time of John’s enlistment, Westchester County was “in ruins” as described by Dr. James Thacher, a “neutral ground” because it lay in a no man’s land between the forward posts for the armies, the Americans at Peekskill and the British at King’s Bridge. The county that had once been a prosperous farming area was plundered by both sides, leaving the farms ravaged.
John remained in Bedford for about 2 weeks while the unit gained additional recruits. The unit then joined the front lines about mid May 1781.
On July 1st, 1781, John’s unit was joined by the French Army under the command of Count de Rochambeau. That evening John’s unit joined the French army and marched toward Loyalist controlled Morrisania, located in today’s South Bronx on Manhattan Island. They joined a unit led by Colonel Alexander Scammell and according to John’s testimony, the British evacuated the day before their arrival. Historical accounts confirm that the appearance of the Americans at Morrisania was so unexpected that the Loyalist troops were forced to pull back hurriedly to the British lines “but had not time to bring off their stock, which the Rebels seized upon and drove off”.
Under Col. Scammell, John crossed over the Brussels River at Williams Bridge, today the Bronx River at Gun Hill Road, and stopped to watch the movements of the enemy. The units then proceeded northward along the Hudson River where they joined the American army under the command of General George Washington. Two days later, John’s unit along with other regiments and some French troops proceeded northward to Dobbs Ferry, where, according to John, they remained for some time.
During this time, July through mid-August 1781, General Washington and Count de Rochambeau were probing for weaknesses in the British army with hopes to plan an attack. French and American calvaries were scattered out in all directions to obtain information and to capture Tory troops. John was sent out on one scouting party with 12 others, two of the party were killed. This period in the Revolutionary War was so significant that it was named “The Grand Reconnaissance”.
On August 14, 1781, a communication was received from French Admiral De Grasse in the West Indies which caused Washington to change his strategy. De Grasse’s communication proposed a joint land and sea attack against the British in Virginia. After the decision was made to march to Virginia, General Washington had to decide which units to take and which to leave behind to keep an eye on the British in New York. The plan was top-secret and only the highest officers were informed.
On August 19, 1781, the Continental Army was ordered to break camp. The army’s departure from Hobbs Ferry was staggered over two days and different routes were taken. To the surprise of the enlisted men, the routes all headed north, not south to New York City. John and his unit marched north to Pines Bridge located at the Croton River. Here they remained and were placed under the command of Colonel Elisha Sheldon while the chosen units proceeded across the Hudson River and on to Virginia. John and his unit marched backward and forward along the lines watching the movement of the British until November 1, 1781.
While General Cornwallis had surrendered his army at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, the conflict was not over. On December 2, 1781, John likely faced his greatest challenge. John’s account stated that he and 30 men under the command of Lieutenant William Mosher were attacked by 45 British light horsemen, and that the unit’s Captain, Richard Sackett, had been taken prisoner prior to the attack. John testified that the horseman charged them twice and then were forced to retire. John’s fellow militiaman that day, Daniel Chapman, provided a much more vivid account which was documented by John D. Sinks in “Daniel Chapman in the American Revolution”.
“Daniel Chapman [was] in a company of about 30 militia serving under Capt. Richard Sackett and Lt. William Mosier [Mosher is the correct spelling]. The company had established an outpost at Merritt's Corner to guard against British movement. Sackett was being shaved at Josiah Fowler's tavern when a company of about 45 Tory horsemen suddenly appeared and captured the captain and his brother. Mosier and the company saw the Tories and started to flee through the fields. Normally under these circumstances the faster horsemen would catch militia and cut many down with their heavy cavalry sabres. Militia who survived and were captured could expect to be imprisoned on the hulk of a ship in New York harbor, an often fatal outcome.”
“By the time Mosier and his men reached the top of a hill on the Brundage Farm, the Tories were almost upon them. Mosier formed his men into a square or circle. He ordered them to fix bayonets and not to fire until ordered. The Tories attempted to ride through the patriot band, but Mosier's men jabbed at the horses with their bayonets. The horses reared up and the Tories were thrown into disorder. The Tories tried a second time with similar results. A Tory named Strang fired his pistol and was shot dead on an order from Mosier. Colonel John Holmes, a hated turncoat, aimed his pistol at Mosier, but did not fire when he realized that doing so would be certain death to him. Another Tory, Capt. Samuel Kipp baited John Patterson, one of several black soldiers in Mosier's militia, by calling him a “black rascal.” Patterson jumped of the formation, jabbed his bayonet into Kipp’s hip, dodged a sword blow, and then jumped back into the formation. After about an hour, the Tories gave up and rode away.”
John remained under the command of Lt. William Mosher at White Plains until his discharge on January 1, 1782, at Somerstown, today’s Somers, New York. John was 21 years old at the time of his discharge.
Following his service, John returned to New York City and lived with an Uncle, although it is not known if it was a paternal or maternal uncle. After 6 months in New York City, he returned to Amawalk and lived with Joseph Osburn for a year. Around July of 1783, John moved to Fredericktown, Dutchess County, New York, which became Frederick and later Kent, Putnam County, New York.
Around 1785 John married Elizabeth Mary Evans, likely in Dutchess County, New York. John and Elizabeth had the following known children:
Census records also suggest that John and Elizabeth had a son born between 1795 and 1800, who lived with them until at least 1820. The identity of this son is currently unknown.
In July of 1793, Michael Evans appeared before the Court of Common Pleas in Dutchess County pleading that he was “an insolvent debtor”. Michael owed money to several persons including John to whom he owed 35 pounds 5 shillings. Other creditors were William C. Evans and Stephen Evans, likely all relations of John’s wife Elizabeth.
John and Elizabeth raised their family in Frederick. Around 1804 daughter Mary married Gilbert Townsend. Around 1810 daughter Hepsebeth married Selah Ellis. Shortly after, daughter Fannie married Joseph Sprague.
On October 9, 1825, John, who was approaching his 64th birthday, his wife Elizabeth, along with their three children still at home, Lydia, James and Malinda, moved to Steuben County, New York, a distance of a little over 250 miles. Daughter Mary Townsend and her family and daughter Hepsebeth Ellis and her family also made the journey while daughter Fannie Sprague remained in Kent. Why Steuben County? At the time, land was extremely cheap in Steuben county and agents were pursuing settlers to move to western New York. The Steuben County historian also notes that John may have been given land for his Revolutionary War service and the number of Revolutionary War veterans in Steuben County around this time appears to confirm this.
The family settled in the town of Wheeler, John, Elizabeth and their daughters lived with their son James. Next door was Shubel Wixon and a few houses away lived daughter Mary Townsend. A little bit further out was daughter Hepsebeth Ellis.
In March of 1828, son James married Asenith Wixon, daughter of next door neighbor Shubel, and in May of 1828, daughter Malinda married Ira Casterline who had moved to Wheeler from New Jersey and was a neighbor of her sister Hepsebeth. Around 1832 Lydia married widower Ebenezer Ellis, brother of her sister Hepsebeth’s husband.
In June of 1833, 71 year old John appeared before the Steuben County court and gave a deposition regarding his Revolutionary War service. The deposition was part of the application for a pension, which John received, $26.66 annually for the duration of his natural life.
Around 1836 John and Elizabeth moved again, along with their daughters’ families the Townsends and Casterlines, initially to Fayette County, Indiana, and then further north to Blackford County, Indiana. On January 22, 1840, John appeared before the court in Fayette County requesting that his pension be paid to him in Indiana. In his testimony John stated that the reason he left New York was “he arrived at the conclusion that the land was of better quality in the state of Indiana”.
John and Elizabeth lived with their son James on son-in-law Ira Casterline’s 160 acre farm near Hartford City. Daughter Hepsebeth and son-in-law Selah lived nearby.
In 1843 the Commissioner’s of Blackford County exempted Revolutionary War soldiers from paying taxes, John being one of the soldiers residing in the County.
In April of 1852 John’s wife Elizabeth died.
In March of 1855, 93 year old John appeared before the Blackford County court and gave a deposition as a part of an application to receive bounty land for his Revolutionary War service. He was awarded 160 acres in Decatur County, Iowa, which in 1859 he assigned (i.e. sold) to George W. Fleming.
Hartford City would celebrate John and the other Revolutionary War veterans every July 4th. By 1854 John was the only veteran still living. According to John’s great grandson John Wesley Townsend, we would “haul him [John} in a buggy … as he was afraid to ride in a buggy drawn by a horse, so we boys pulled the buggy ourselves to please him for he was so old and childish that he delighted in helping celebrate the birth of the Republic he helped to establish”.
John A. Bonham described an event in 1860:
“When John Saxon was almost 100 years old, an important event in his life occurred during the National Campaign of 1860. In October, 1860, the Douglas Rally was held, and the main exercises took place in the Courtyard near the southeast corner. Those were the days when big rallies and big demonstrations were very popular. He expressed a desire to attend, if possible, one more rally. His relatives wrapped comforts and quilts around the old gentleman, placed him in an old-fashioned rocking chair, lifted him into a wagon bed filled with straw, and brought him to town. He was the guest of honor.”
Joseph’s P. Van Cleve’s diary documented that it was the last time John made the trip to Hartford City.
On September 24, 1762, John Saxon died in Blackford County, Indiana, at the age of 100 years, 10 months and 7 days. He was buried in the Old Methodist Cemetery.
The country was at war when John died. The possibility of a civil war was of great concern to John before his death, his death notice noting that “this time worn veteran has been laboring under painful apprehensions of a great internal trouble which he said would inevitably come upon this nation, and desired that his life be spared that he might see the Government pass through the crisis. But he has been called away in the very midst of the horrid strife …”
In 1896 John Saxon's remains were moved from the Old Methodist Cemetery to the Revolutionary War Soldiers Plot in Hartford City.
In 1933 The Daughters of the American Revolution of Blackford County erected a Revolutionary War Hero Marker in Hartford City, Indiana, on the lawn of the County Courthouse. John Saxon’s name is 1 of 5 soldiers listed on the marker.
Genealogical Research and Life Sketch Completed: June 2022
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"United States Census, 1810," database with images, FamilySearch, John Sanson, Frederick, Dutchess, New York, United States; citing p. 214, NARA microfilm publication M252 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 30; FHL microfilm 181,384.
"United States Census, 1820," database with images, FamilySearch, John Saxton, Kent, Putnam, New York, United States; citing p. , NARA microfilm publication , (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll ; FHL microfilm .
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"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch, John Guyon in household of James Guyon, Licking Township, Blackford, Indiana, United States; citing family , NARA microfilm publication (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
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Beeson, Cecil, and Bonham, John A. “‘76 and Blackford County, Indiana”
Van Cleve, Joseph P. “The Diaries of Joseph P. Van Cleve, 1856-1880”. Compiled by Cecil Beeson. Recorded by Sinuard Costelo. Blackford County Historical Society. Hartford City, IN.
Bureau of Land Management. “Land Patent Search.” digital images. General Land Office Records. Sept 1, 1859. Saxon, John. Decatur, Iowa. Military Warrant #9054.
John A. Bonham, “Revolutionary War Heroes Buried in Blackford County, Indiana”, Hartford City Times Gazette, Hartford, Indiana, June 17, 1933.
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