Baum Site 13: Betsy Taylor’s Story

View from Site 12. Photo by Andrew Alberti

View from Site 13. Photo by Andrew Alberti

Dr. Asa Fitch Jr. Photo courtesy Town of Salem Historian.

Dr. Asa Fitch Jr. Photo courtesy Town of Salem Historian.

In the mid-18th century, Dr. Asa Fitch collected oral histories that provide interesting insights into early Washington County settlements, the Revolutionary War and the first decades of the 19th century. Fitch’s stories about the American Revolution are generally second-generation stories, which are based on fact but filled with local lore. Despite some inaccuracies of the text as a historical record, they do reflect themes evident from the primary sources. Winston Adler’s book Their Own Voices provides a selection of Fitch’s stories, including Baum’s trek through Washington County, the marauding troops, the Battles of Bennington. One of those stories is the narrative of Betsey Taylor.

“The story has been related hundreds of times that when the inhabitants were flying before Burgoyne’s Indians – perhaps some of Baum’s Indians in Cambridge − an alarm was given in the vicinity where Mr. Kimmis resided, that a party of Indians was near upon them.  The family fled from the house.  Mrs. Kimmis had a number of chintz dresses, which she was loath to leave for the Indians to steal when they rummaged the house for plunder.  So she put them on, one upon the other.  This detained her so − the Indians were in sight when she left the house.

They pursued her.  Encumbered with such a load of clothing, she could not make a very rapid flight.   Finding the Indians were gaining upon her, and supposing plunder was what they most wanted, she slipped off her outer dress and dropped it, hoping they would be satisfied . . . But no, picking it up, after a short pause to examine its value, they continued the pursuit.  Another dress was soon dropped off − then another – and another – till finally she had given them all, save her chemise.

Still they continued their pursuit and had nearly overtaken her, when she – quite out of breath – ran into a house that had just been deserted.  The Indians came and caught her.  Finding she had nothing more of value upon her person as the chemise had some rents in it − with some dough left in a kneading trough (the family had hastily escaped from the house), the Indians strove to paste up the rents in her chemise!  They then told her to run for her life, which she showed them she was unable to do, with her pasted garment sticking tight to her skin.  They, however, allowed her to escape without further annoyance.”

Recorded by Dr. Asa Fitch on November 8, 1847

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Learn More
18th Century Chintz Dresses
Their Own Voices: Oral Accounts of Early Settlers in Washington County, NY – Lakes to Locks Passage Travel Planning Official National Geographic Mapguide

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