May 1775

Tomorrow, May 11, will be the 198th anniversary of the taking of the ship LIBERTY, renamed from KATHERINE in honor of Philip Skene’s wife. This was effected by sailors and marines under the direction of Captains Brown and Sloan whom Benedict Arnold had sent to Skenesborough to finish the work intended for the Green Mountain Boys. The ship was taken down Lake Champlain and fitted out as a warship. Thus it became the first armed war ship of the United States Navy.

On May 9, 1775, occurred the capture of Skenesborough by the Green Mountain Boys under Captain Samuel Herrick. This capture took place during daylight hours. Another account reports that Captain Barnes from Salem arrived at dusk with another force for the same purpose. This brought the first military action of revolutionary nature into New York State and our community.

Perhaps many saw the account in the POST STAR May 3 that repeated the legends. In some respects true and in most false, even to the date of the capture, that are shallowly researched and written up sensationally to the discredit of Whitehall. The Town Historian sent a letter to the editor of that paper attempting to refute the implications.

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James Lonergan of Mount Defiance gave a stirring talk before the Veterans of the Big “T” on that mountain Sunday, May 6. In giving a short history of the area and lauding our beautiful scenery, he gave to Skenesborough and so Whitehall its rightful place in the Revolutionary story that so many historians omit, for here it was that the first ships of the United States Navy were constructed for the fleet that saw action in Valcour – action that gave to us our United States.

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Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – Whitehall Times – May 10, 1973

Bears – Wolves – Panthers 1775

What a contrast in viewing wild animals in 200 years.

This past month [August / September 1975] a bear family has provided entertainment and some trepidation for a family with apple trees north of here. Of course the bears do not visit the trees in the open field but pass them for a tree within 40 yards of the living room window. The tree is now  thoroughly bear-pruned of good and poor branches alike.

There is the other side.  One keeps a watchful eye in going to the garden and on the household pits. This is both day and night as the visits of the bears occur any time. Officials are reluctant to attempt capturing the animals to remove them to higher ground because of recent deer tragedies. One man said he’d shoot any bear he saw as they have wrecked his honey business for the year.

Disaster struck this bear family as one cub was killed on the Northway. They will doubtless meet death with the trigger happy sports who• are waiting for the season to open — and it won’t be for the excuse of killing for food.

Two hundred years ago the people of Skenesborough would not be enjoying the antics of bears or other wild animals. Their domestic animals had to be securely penned to be safe from the marauders coming out of the forests. A bear often seized a lamb and ran off with it.

Wolves were a menace.  Mrs. Tryphena Wright of Northeast Skenesborough kept her eight sheep locked in a tree stump at night. But one night the wolves gained entrance, killed all eight and scattered parts of the bodies around the clearing and nearby woods.

Panthers also were a source of terror. If you’ve ever heard their screech, you know the feeling of having your hair stand on end. These animals were common in the woods around Skenesborough. Not man but the domestic animals were their prey, as witnessed by the ancestors of the late Wheaton Bosworth as they fled from the animal stalking their team.

Knowing the depredations of these wild animals, one can understand the last round-up of wolves in Kingsbury which sent the survivors to the hills of Dresden.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – September 11 1975