The Story of John Evans and Ann Birney
(as understood on 26 September 2011)
1. John Evans: Early years
John Evans was born about 1738 in the United Kingdom. Many say Wales, but no proof of this has been found. He is most likely from Wales or England, but Scotland and Ireland should not be ruled out as there was mobility throughout the United Kingdom and indeed throughout the British Empire for a person of John Evans position in society.
The names of his parents are unknown. John Evans was from the Gentry class, which indicates a family with enough assets to live on without working. If his father did work, then his likely occupation would be as a merchant or in other educated pursuits without manual labor. Possibly his family had recently emerged from a lower class as no evidence of a prior existence has yet been found.
It is often erroneously reported that John Evans was of an even higher class, that is to say a Knight or even a member of the peerage. His name appeared as “John Evans, Gent” in all references to his military commission in 1756. Had his father been a knight, or if his father had been a significant landowner who was not knighted, then John Evans’ would properly have been addressed as Esquire. And of course had he been titled, he would have been addressed by his proper title, Sir John, etc. The term “Gentleman” that was applied to John Evans clearly places his father in the Gentry class, but probably without significant land holdings.
As a member of the Gentry, John Evans would have been educated as evidenced by his later profession as a school master. He would have had no exposure to the manual labor of farming, and there is little evidence that he himself ever farmed. However, to start at the beginning, he began his career in the military.
Inheritance practices in the UK at that time saw the family position and wealth go to the eldest son. Subsequent sons were trained for other pursuits, with the military and the priesthood being common professions. John Evans’ commission as a Lieutenant would have been purchased by his father (or elder brother were his father dead). The commission is likely all the inheritance John received. Had his family been more wealth, John may have been gifted an allowance supplementing his military pay, but there is no evidence of this in later life.
Family tradition says John Evans was a Lieutenant in the British Army, and the British Army Lists support this tradition. John Evans was commissioned as a Lieutenant into the British Army on 29 May 1756. There were actually two Lieutenants named John Evans in the British Army during the period 1756-1762, but one never left the British Isles until 1763 when his regiment was posted in Gibraltar. The other served in the 60th Regiment of Foot, the Royal American Regiment, and saw continuous duty in America during the whole period of the French and Indian War.
Commissions were purchased at that time and John Evans’ commission can be no exception given his age and lack of previous military experience. Probably his father or older brother purchased his commission, likely through Mr. Calcraft of Channel-Row, Westminster, who was the commission agent for the 60th Regiment at the time.
Reference to John Evans’ commission in the 60th Regiment can be found in several documents at the British Archives in Kew Gardens, including: the commission book, the succession book, the notification book, and a warrant for issue of commission. Typical of these documents (the wording is almost exact in each document) is the reference in the War Office Notification Book (WO25/137, page 89, dated 09 July 1756):
"John Evans, Gent:, to be Lieutenant in the said (60th) American Regiment of Foot, commanded by Major General John Earl of Louden (vice Lt. Drew, who goes into an Irish Regiment) -- 29 May 1756."
The 60th Regiment (originally the 62nd and reordered in 1757) was formed earlier in 1756 specifically for duty in America, and John Evans was one of the first replacements, taking the place of "Lt. Drew who goes to an Irish Regiment." He is consistently found in the British Army Lists every year through 1762. In 1763 and later years, he is no longer found in the British Army List and he is not listed as replaced (a sure sign of being dead or wounded). In 1763, the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the 60th Regiment were disbanded and additional officers of the 1st and 2nd Battalions were reduced to coincide with the cessation of hostilities in America. The reduced 60th Regiment remained in America for several more years, saw service in Jamaica and Cuba, and was around during the American Revolution, most notably in Savannah, but Lt. John Evans is no longer among them.
Officers did not retire then, so there are no pension records to be examined. Instead they went on half-pay, and they were theoretically available for recall to active service. The half pay lists grew extensively in 1763 with the disbandment of so many regiments, and many officers of the 60th Regiment are listed. Lt. John Evans is not listed. That John Evans wasn't on half-pay, wasn't in the regiment, and wasn't replaced because of casualty, makes it entire plausible that he resigned his commission and remained in America after his regiment’s disbandment or reduction. Thus these facts coincide with the family tradition.
The 60th Regiment mobilized to America in 1756. While it is not known in which of the four regiments John Evans served, elements of the 60th were involved in virtually every significant action during the war. After disembarking at New York harbor in 1756, the regiment was widely disbursed, with 1st Battalion wintering in Philadelphia, the 2nd in New York, the 3rd along Chesapeake Bay and the 4th in the Jerseys. 1757 found the Regiment was spread as far south as Charles Town, as far west as the Pennsylvania frontier and as far north as Halifax. The 3rd Battalion became involved in defending Albany’s northern approaches and was involved in the disaster of Fort William Henry (of “Last of the Mohicans” fame).
1758 found the 1st and 4th Battalions an integral part of the large army formed at the head of Lake George for a march on Montreal. But all came to naught at Fort Ticonderoga where the British assault was soundly defeated. After Ticonderoga, the 1st Battalion, having suffered officer corps causalities of 65%, was reduced to garrison duty at Fort George for much of the remainder of the war. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions were meanwhile involved in the much more successful sea bourn assault and siege of Louisbourg at the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence which set the stage for the final attack up the St. Lawrence to Quebec City the following year.
The forces giving General James Wolfe’s victory at Quebec City in 1759 included the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, while elements of the 4th Battalion were involved in the successful taking of Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Niagara and the defense of Oswego. 1760 saw the repulse of the French counter-attack of Quebec City and the British forces converging on Montreal culminating in the surrender of Montreal on 8 September 1760. This was the last campaign size engagement on the North American continent.
While the 3rd Battalion went on to Caribbean in 1761 and saw further action, the other battalions settled into garrison duty on the New York and Western Pennsylvania frontiers. In the late summer of 1763 the 4th Battalion was disbanded and the 1st and 2nd Battalion reduced. The 3rd Battalion was returned to New York from Caribbean duty in early 1764 and was disbanded. Since Lt. John Evans was not listed in the British Army List at the end of 1763, it is not expected that he was in the 3rd Battalion.
Many officers and men of the 60th found life in America desirable compared to what awaited them back in England and chose to remain in America after their discharge from service. The Royal Proclamation of 7 October 1763 authorized distribution of Crown land to officers and men on a graduated scale. Lieutenants received 2000 acres. The land was at the edge of civilization and possession had to be demonstrated within three years. Possession was demonstrated by completion of settlement duties, which included maintaining three cattle or every 50 acres of marginal land, the drainage of three acres of every fifty acres of marsh, or the planting of three acres of every fifty acres of cultivatable soil. The three year requirement was intended to deter speculation.
Not all eligible participated in the frontier land rush. Those with no interest in farming whatsoever saw little benefit in relocating to the colonial frontier. Land rights could be and were sold, the glut resulting in reduced values. No one got rich, but welcome income was provided. Discharged soldiers became concentrated in the major population areas with those able to read and write commanding more prestigious positions as clerks, storekeepers, inn holders and school teachers.
The Colony of New York became the residence of choice for discharged soldiers because the colony offered the best settlement prospects nearest the discharge point and it was already a familiar haunt to those of the 60th Regiment. Those taking up bounty land tended to locate northwards from Albany, with choice locations around Fort Edward and Crown Point first settled. Other grants were issued along the eastern shores of Lake Champlain.
It is most likely that Lt. John Evans elected to stay in America and was discharged in New York State along with the other discharged officers and men of the 60th Regiment. No record has been found of bounty land awarded in his name, although he would have been eligible for 2000 acres of land. His Gentry class background in England is unlikely to have prepared him for life as a frontier farmer, thus it is likely that he sold his rights and fell back to more populated areas down the Hudson to pursue a more refined profession such as school teaching.
Nothing has been found to locate John Evans whereabouts from late 1763 when he was discharged to 1769 when he married Ann Birney. All evidence points to him being somewhere in the more populated regions along the Hudson River. John Evans and Ann Birney were married 10 April 1769, possibly in the vicinity of Dutchess County, New York, as will be discussed in the next section. Their first child, Mary (Polly) Evans was born on 12 February 1771 in New York as recorded in the 1850 U.S. Census for Monroe Township, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. Their son Thomas Evans was born on 22 August 1775 in New York as recorded in the 1850 U.S. Census for Plymouth Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
The first certifiable record of John Evans in America is the baptism of his son William B. Evans in Goshen, New York on 14 December 1777.
2. Ann Birney: Early years
Ann Birney was likely born in Ireland on 22 June 1751. She married John Evans on 10 April 1769, possibly in the vicinity of Dutchess County, New York. While these locations are speculative and discussed in detail below, the dates are known from family records.
Little else is known about Ann Birney’s early life except these dates. However, there are clues to Ann Birney’s likely origins, and that is her association with two other Birney’s of the time, Henry Birney and William Birney. The documentation on these two men demonstrate an early life in three New York counties along the lower Hudson River; Dutchess, Orange and Ulster.
Henry Birney was born in Ireland on 03 January 1737; this confirmed by his enlistment record in the militia of Orange and Ulster Counties under Captain James Clinton on 23 November 1763. Henry Birney is cited numerous times as being one of the earliest settlers in the Wyoming Valley, with his first appearance on the list of 215 settlers on the Susquehanna compiled by Zebulon Butler in May 1772. Henry Birney married Rachel Shears on 20 May 1769 in the Presbyterian Church at Rumbout (Poughkeepsie), Dutchess County, New York. The baptismal records of the first two children of Henry and Rachel, Sarah born 01 Jan 1770 and Hannah baptized on 06 October 1771, are also found in the Rumbout Presbyterian Church records. After 1772 Henry Birney and Rachel Shearer resided in what is now Luzerne County until sometime before 1795, at which time they moved further up the Susquehanna River to Standing Stone, near Wysox, in what is now Bradford County. Henry’s later life is well documented and his Revolutionary War record is the basis of successful DAR applications. Henry Birney is likely to be an older brother of Ann Birney.
William Birney’s birth date is not known. He married Abigail Land prior to 1777. Abigail Land was born 27 March 1757. Accepting that William could have been much older than Abigail, a reasonable assumption is that William was born in the mid-1750’s. Abigail Land was the daughter of Robert Land, a well documented historical figure, who resided at Cushentunk from about 1763 until the Revolutionary War. Cushentunk is on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River at present day Damascus, Wayne County, Pennsylvania. Cushentunk was the “headquarters” of the Delaware Company, one of two Connecticut ventures aimed at claiming Connecticut’s rights to contested land in Pennsylvania. The other Connecticut venture was the Susquehanna Company that hotly contested the Wyoming Valley against the Pennamites.
Robert Land family history indicates that William Birney was killed at the Battle of Minisink in 1779, but there is other evidence that seems to contradict this. The 15 March 1791 probate record for the estate of William Birney of Orange County, New York, appoints John Evans, his brother-in-law and school master residing in Pennsylvania, as administrator. Clearly this William Birney is the brother of Ann Birney.
The possible family connection of Henry to Ann and William is strengthened because these are there are no other Birney names that have been found in public records in these locations during these times. The likely assumption is that these three people; Henry, Ann and William, are siblings. Because of the age of Ann and William at the time of Henry’s enlistment in 1763, it can further be assumed that the children’s parents emigrated from Ireland during the period 1737 to 1763.
Since no other Birney surnames have been identified in public records for this time, the hypothesis is that the parents may have died leaving the younger children (Ann and William) under the care of older brother Henry. In 1769 Henry was 32 years old, Ann was 18 years old, and William was likely less than 18 years old. It is possible that Ann’s marriage to John Evans in April released Henry to marry Rachel Shearer a month later in May of that year. William Birney, who was perhaps as young as twelve years old in 1769, could have continued to reside with either of his siblings for a time. It does not appear that William accompanied Henry to the Wyoming Valley in 1773. Thus, after 1773 he is likely to have resided with or near his sister and brother-in-law, John Evans.
So where were these people prior to 1773? Rachel Shearer’s parents were long time residents of Dutchess County, New York. Dutchess County is located between the Hudson River on the west and Connecticut on the east. Many of the Connecticut settlers of the Delaware and the Susquehanna Companies came from or passed through Dutchess County. Henry Birney, one of the settlers of the Susquehanna Company, was in the militia of Orange and Ulster Counties in 1763, these counties being right across the Hudson River from Dutchess County. It is reasonable to expect that Birney children were along the Hudson near Rumbout, thus in Dutchess, Orange, or Ulster County during the period prior to 1773.
The first child of John Evans and Ann Birney was Mary (Polly) Evans who was born on 12 February 1771 in New York, the location as recorded in the 1850 U.S. Census for Monroe Township, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. Their son Thomas Evans was born on 22 August 1776 in New York, the location as recorded in the 1850 U.S. Census for Plymouth Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
The first certifiable record of Ann Birney in America is the baptism of his son William B. Evans in Goshen, New York on 14 December 1777.
3. The years prior to the Revolution
Henry Birney and Rachel Shearer continued to live in the vicinity of Rumbout, Dutchess County, New York in the years immediately after their marriage. Their first child Sarah Birney was born on 01 January 1770 and baptized on 18 March 1770 at the Rumbout Presbyterian Church. Their second child Hannah Birney was baptized on 06 October 1771 at the Rumbout Presbyterian Church. The baptism of their subsequent children is not on record at Rumbout Presbyterian.
On 20 May 1772 in Dutchess County records, it is found that an assault & battery case was filed against Henry Birney and Hugh Connen, charging that “Henry Berney, a resident of Rumbout District assaulted Rumbout R. Brett.” On posting bail the case was held over to May Court of 1773 where it was dismissed, Henry apparently having left the county. By this time Henry Birney is in the Wyoming Valley, recorded as being among the Connecticut Settlers resident at Wilkes-Barre in May 1772 and again on 03 April 1773. Henry Birney is continuously listed among the Connecticut Settlers of the Wyoming Valley from 1773 until well after the Revolutionary War.
The migration of John Evans and the Birney’s from the vicinity of Rumbout is inextricably tied to the competing claims of Connecticut and Pennsylvania to lands in current day Pennsylvania north of the 41st parallel. In 1762 King Charles II granted these lands to Connecticut and in 1681 King Charles II also granted these lands to William Penn, thus overlapping land claims existed. Initially these competing claims were academic as the intrusion of the colonists was strongly opposed by the Indians. However, by the 1750’s, both Connecticut and Pennsylvania were able to purchase these lands from the Indians and the competing claims became problematic.
In 1753 Connecticut made the first serious attempt to claim the land when the Susquehanna Company was formed for the purpose of developing the Wyoming Valley. The lands claimed by the Susquehanna Company started at a line 10 miles east of the Susquehanna River and continuing westward 120 miles. Colonization from Connecticut was first attempted in 1762–63, but it was 1769 before any definite settlement was made in the Wyoming Valley.
A second Connecticut company was formed in 1754, the Delaware Company, to settle the tract lying between the Delaware River and the eastern boundary previously established by the Susquehanna Company. In 1757 the Delaware Company established a settlement at Cushetunk and by 1760 there were as many as 30 dwelling houses on the site.
Pennsylvania made little effort to dislodge the settlement at Cushetunk, but hastily encouraged competing settlement of the Wyoming Valley once it was apparent that Connecticut was bent on colonizing. Soon rival settlers from Pennsylvania and Connecticut were embroiled in on again/off again armed conflict, known as the Yankee-Pennamite Wars. The conflict was to continue until well after the American Revolution and inhibited settlement in the Wyoming Valley for many years.
Henry Birney is well documented among the early settlers of the Susquehanna Company. Neither John Evans nor William Birney is found in the Susquehanna Company records, so it is highly unlikely that they accompanied Henry Birney to the Wyoming Valley. Perhaps the Yankee-Pennamite tensions are the reasons that William Birney did not accompany his elder brother on the adventure to the Wyoming Valley. If this is so, then this is possibly an indication that William Birney had not yet become of age and was in the household of John Evans and Ann Birney at that time.
It is likely that John Evans and William Birney would have remained in the vicinity of Rumbout until such time as Henry Birney departed for the Wyoming Valley. However, they must not have remained very much longer after Henry left, for sometime before 1777 William Birney had to have resided, at least for a little while, in a location where he would have opportunity to meet, court, and marry Abigail Land. Where could this have been?
Prior to 1763 Robert Land, the father of Abigail Land, settled at Cushentunk, the “headquarters” of the Delaware Company of Connecticut Settlers on the Delaware River near present day Damascus, Wayne County, Pennsylvania. Robert Land was a Connecticut appointed magistrate for the area claimed by the Delaware Company. As such, he had jurisdiction for the territory along the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River from above Cushentunk to below Milford. He would have been a man well known by all the Connecticut Settlers of the Delaware Company and by most of the settlers of the Susquehanna Company as well.
Cushentunk was not much of a town, really just a collection of thirty or so Connecticut settlers of the Delaware Company. Being isolated as they were, the community depended on trade and supplies with more established settlements down the Delaware River. The Minisink Valley region of the Delaware had been settled years before by Dutch pioneers following the “Old Mine Road” down from Kingston, and the established town in the Minisink region was Machackemeck (modern day Port Jervis). Machackemeck was at least a day away by canoe.
Prior to 1762 the Connecticut Settlers traveling to the Wyoming Valley followed a footpath that forded the Delaware River at Cushentunk and went overland to the headwaters of the Lackawanna River. In 1762 the settlers undertook to develop an improved route linking the Wyoming Valley with the Delaware River. This route originated at the ford of the Delaware River at Machackemeck (Port Jervis), continued along the Delaware to present day Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania, and then proceeded inland to join the Lackawanna near present day Scranton. Thus bypassed, Cushentunk became further isolated from civilization.
Subsequent Connecticut Settlers of the Delaware Company tended to locate along this new route, called the Lackawaxen Road, and some settled in the vicinity of Milford. John Evans (perhaps with young William Birney also in the household) likely relocated from Rumbout area about the same time as Henry Birney departed for the Wyoming Valley (i.e., about 1773). It is likely that John Evans also settled near to the Connecticut Settlers as many from Dutchess County were doing at the time. No record of him is found in the Susquehanna Company papers, so it is more likely he located among the Delaware Company settlers. The records of the Delaware Company have been lost to time so there has been no opportunity to verify this.
As a settler near the Delaware Company settlers John Evans would have likely resided somewhere in the Minisink Valley, that is to say along the path to the Wyoming Valley which ran from the vicinity of Machackemeck (Port Jervis) to Milford along the Delaware River. The Minisink Valley is broadly located along the Delaware River in the tri-state area of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
John Evans likely never become a farmer, but probably continued to follow more gentlemanly pursuits, such as teaching school; his documented profession later in life. If he were a school teacher, then he may have been engaged among the Connecticut Settlers as these new arrivals were an insular group under pressure from the Pennamites and likely not readily accepted by the historic Dutch settlers of the area.
With the settlers at Cushentunk traveling down to the Minisink Region for supplies and trading, and with John Evans (with William Birney) near the Connecticut Settlers in the Minisink Region, there would have been ample opportunities for William Birney to meet Abigail Land. Further, it can be speculated that perhaps Rebecca Land and William Birney were students of John Evans, school master to the children of the Connecticut Settlers.
This is all rank speculation at this point. However, as shall be presented following, there is ample documentation during the Revolutionary War period and after to firmly place John Evans and William Birney in this area.
4. The Revolutionary War
William B. Evans, son of John Evans and Ann Birney, was baptized on 14 December 1777 at First Presbyterian Church in Goshen, Orange County, New York. Joseph Birney, son of William Birney and Abigail Land, was baptized on 05 April 1778 at the First Presbyterian Church in Goshen, Orange County, New York.
It is possible that John Evans and William Birney had been living in the near vicinity of Goshen since relocating from the Rumbout area. Indeed Rumbout is just 30 miles across the Hudson River from Goshen, so they families could have been in the vicinity for some time. However, evidence suggests it is more likely that the families of John Evans and William Birney were newcomers to the area, perhaps having withdrawn from the Minisink Valley region with the advent of hostilities on the frontier.
The Revolutionary War was particularly cruel to the families living along the frontier. Unlike the well known set piece battles between the British Regular Army and the Continental Line, the frontier quickly became embroiled in guerrilla warfare, pitting neighbor against neighbor, sometimes brother against brother. The colonists were split roughly into thirds, with those in rebellion (interchangeably called rebels, Patriots, Whigs, etc.), those loyal to the King (Tories, Loyalists, etc.), and those who wished to remain neutral in the conflict. The Indians chose sides based on their perceived best interests, and most tribes, but not all, sided with the British.
Orange County, New York was no exception. While those living nearer the Hudson River tended to favor the Crown, further west the leanings were for the rebellion. Few were allowed to remain neutral as residents were required to sign a pledge of association to the Rebel cause and failure to sign was taken as proof of opposition. Along the Delaware River settlers were besieged from both sides, with the Committee of Public Safety harassing the Tories or suspected Tories, and the British-lead Indians raiding among the Rebels. Most settlers moved out for the duration, falling back to quieter areas with folks of similar persuasion. The Goshen environs were among the refuge areas chosen for rebel families from the Delaware River frontier.
William Birney’s father-in-law, Robert Land, was a notorious Tory who initially disguised his bias as he served the British cause. Because of his knowledge of the frontier region along the Delaware, he served as a messenger between the British General staff in New York City and those leading the irregular warfare on the frontier. Ultimately his family home at Cushentunk was burned by rebels and his family took refuge in New York City to be under the protection of the British Army headquartered there. Robert Land was finally captured by the Rebels, tried as a spy and sentenced to be hanged, only to have his sentence overturned by General Washington himself—on a technicality, not because he was misjudged. The Robert Land story is well documented and easily researched.
However, we find William Birney and Abigail Land not allied with Robert Land, but in Goshen among those rebels finding refuge in that area. It seems most likely that William Birney had split with the Land Family and followed the rebel cause. There is compelling evidence of this split, including that both William Birney and John Evins are found on the muster rolls of Hathorn’s Florida Regiment, sometimes now called the 4th Orange County Regiment.
Colonel John Hathorn was from Warwick and responsible for the militia in the “southern areas” of Orange County—essentially below Goshen down to the New Jersey state line. Five companies were initially formed—Warwick, Florida, Wantage, Ponds, and Sterling. These five companies essentially cover the area of current Warwick Township, Orange County, New York. Unfortunately there are no company rolls existing, so the location of John Evans and William Birney cannot be pinpointed more exactly, but Colonel Hathorn was responsible to sign up all able bodied men residing in his area who were between the ages of 16 and 60.
Neither John Evans nor William Birney is listed among those signing the 1775 pledge of association in Orange County. The existing lists of signers are thought to be complete, so it is unlikely that John and William were in this area in 1775. By 1777 both were enrolled in Hathorn’s Regiment and had seen service. Their relocation into this area between 1775 and 1777 is consistent with families that had been living on the frontier along the Delaware River and had been driven out of their homes by the war.
Prior to the fall of Fort Montgomery (on the Hudson River in Orange County) to the British on 6 October 1777, both John Evins and William Burney were paid for 8 days service, likely for short term duty at Fort Montgomery. John Evins served in the rank of "fifer" from 29 July to 05 August 1777 under Colonel Pauling of the Ulster County militia. William Burney served from 27 September to 04 October 1777 under Colonel Hasbrouk of the Ulster County militia. During this period officers and militiamen from all regiments in Orange and Ulster were drawn for short term duty Fort Montgomery and other forts along the Hudson River. Colonel John Hathorn is best known for assuming command at the Battle of Minisink on 22 July 1779. Forty plus militiamen were killed in the infamous battle, most from the Goshen Regiment, but likely a few from Hathorn’s Florida Regiment. A monument (the second one) honoring the fallen in this battle was erected in Goshen (in 1862) replacing the original monument which had weathered poorly. This second monument still exists and has David Barney listed among those killed in the Battle of Minisink. A few early authors have this name as David Burney and this may have been the name on the original monument (erected in 1822). When the original monument was erected 43 years after the battle, an effort was made to recall and list the names of the dead and concern was that the final listing was inaccurate and incomplete. Since no David Burney, David Barney, or any other Barney is listed in the regimental rolls or pledge of association lists for Orange County, could this have been William Birney incorrectly named? Tradition of the Robert Land Family says that William Birney died at the Battle of Minisink on 22 July 1779. Without saying as much, the Land Family tradition causes one to think that William Birney died fighting on the Tory side in the conflict. While William Birney may have died at this battle, the circumstances described above certainly indicate that William Birney chose to oppose the King in the war and that daughter Abigail Land dutifully stuck with her husband, possibly over the wishes of her family. By 29 July 1781 Abigail Land Birney was in New York City living with her mother. On that date, Rebecca Birney was baptized at the Trinity Church in New York City. The baptismal record shows the witnesses to be her parents and Phebe Land (Robert Land’s wife and Abigail’s mother). The baptismal record also shows Rebecca Birney’s birth date as 09 March 1780, a date compatible with her father William Birney having been killed at the Battle of Minisink eight months before. The baptismal record does seem to say that the “parents” were witnesses, but this is weak evidence that William Birney was still alive. What is certain is that Abigail Land Birney was now with her mother in New York City rather than with her husband in the Goshen area. Phebe Land along with most of her children was evacuated by the departing British Army from New York City to Nova Scotia in April 1783 at the end of the war. Abigail Land Birney and her children, Joseph Birney and Rebecca Birney, went with them. Abigail Land Birney either had already married or was soon to marry Oziah McCarty, a Tory and a close associate of her father Robert Land and her brother Abel Land during the war. Thus by this time the separation of Abigail and William Birney was complete--William Birney was dead, divorced or abandoned. One final record exists to close the story on William Birney. On 15 March 1791 in the Surrogate Count of Orange County, John Evans is appointed administrator of William Birney’s estate. In this probate record, John Evans is described as being “of the state of Pennsylvania, schoolmaster, a brother-in-law, and a creditor of William Birney, late of the county of Orange in the said state of New York.” On the surface this probate appears as if William Birney had recently died intestate, and that may well be the case. However, it is just as likely that John Evans, himself a creditor of the estate of William Birney, had himself appointed administrator to collect property from the estate. Returning to John Evans’s record during the war, in 1782 he is found for the first time in the 3rd Company of 5th Battalion of Northampton County Militia under Capt. Jacob DeWit of Upper Smithfield Township. Upper Smithfield Township encompasses the area around current day Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania which will be remembered as being in the Minisink Valley and along the road traveled by the Connecticut settlers in route to the Wyoming Valley. John Evans is listed as a Class 7 private in the Northampton Militia; a rather lowly position likely representing a relatively new enlistee. By 1782 the actual fighting in the Revolutionary War had virtually ceased and displaced settlers had found it relatively safe to return to their frontier homes. Likely this was the case with John Evans and Ann Birney. As the next section will show, John and Ann continued to live in the Milford area for the next 12 to 15 years.
5. The post War years On 23 July 1782 son John Evans was born to John Evans and Ann Birney in Pennsylvania, the location as recorded in the 1850 census for Monroe Township, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. John Evens, along with his sister Elizabeth Evens (born 21 January 1780), children of John Evens and Ann Birney, were baptized together according to the combined baptismal records of the Minisink-Machackemeck Dutch Reformed Church. The Minisink church was located about eight miles below Port Jervis in the present township of Montague, Sussex County, New Jersey, and directly across the Delaware River from Milford. The Machackemeck church was in the present day town of Port Jervis itself. It is noted that the Machackemeck church was burned during the war and had not yet been rebuilt at the time of these baptisms. The first record book of the Minisink church records was also used by the Machackemeck church thus it is impossible to tell for certain which location was used for the baptisms. Nevertheless during this time, the congregation was combined and served by a single minister, the Rev. Elias Van Benschoten. John Evans is found on the tax rolls of Upper Smithfield Township (Milford area) in the years 1782, 1785, 1786, and 1788. In all years prior to 1788 John Evans is shown with no land and only one cow. This lack of property ownership could be indicative of many things, among them someone who is a schoolmaster and not a farmer. In 1788 John Evans is shown with 10 acres of land—perhaps a little more prosperous now that he has farm-hand aged boys for the manual labor. On 28 September 1787 John Evens registered as a church member of the Minisink-Machackemeck according to church records. A gap in the membership records from 1767 to 1785 may explain why Ann Birney has not been identified as a member. As recorded in the records of the Minisink-Machackemeck Church, on 24 May 1790 Mary Evvens married George Luths was married by the Rev. E. Van Bunschooten. Mary (Polly) Evans was the first child born to John Evans and Ann Birney. She and George Lutes lived nearby as evidenced that George Lutes is listed in the 1790 Census for Minisink Township, Orange County, New York. On 31 August 1790 son George Evans was born in Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania, according to his biography in the book, “Early Methodism within the bounds of the Old Genesee Conference.” John Evans is also listed in the 1790 Census in Upper Smithfield Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. This census indicates one adult male, four male children and two females. At the time there were six or seven sons. Is it possible that several of the eldest sons are elsewhere learning a trade, or perhaps with Henry Birney who only had one son and probably could have used some help on the farm? As mentioned previously, on 15 March 1791 John Evans, a schoolmaster and resident of Pennsylvania, was appointed administrator for the estate of his brother-in-law, William Birney of Orange County, New York. According the records of the Clove Dutch Reform Church, a child of John Evins and Anna Barney was baptized on 18 May 1794 by the Rev. Elias Van Benschoten. Although the child’s name is not mentioned in the church records, it is most likely that this child was Rebecca Evans, born 21 February (or 12 February) 1794. The Clove Church, in Wantage, Sussex County, New Jersey, had joined with the church at Westtown, Minisink Township, Orange County, New York, in 1791 in order to divide the expense of Rev. Van Benschoten salary. Thus the actual location of the baptism could have been at either place. For several years Rev. Van Benschoten served the Clove church in addition to his continuing duties with the Minisink-Machackemeck Church. And about the mid-1790’s the Minisink Church was in financial difficulty, leading to its closure for a period of time. With the Minisink Church out of operation, and with Rev. Benschoten still serving the Clove Church congregation, it is not unlikely that John Evans chose the Clove Church over the Machackemeck Church for Rebecca’s baptism. Rebecca’s baptism is the final record found for the family John Evans in the Milford area, although one final connection to the area has been found. Many years later, on 28 December 1814, Rebecca Evans married David Carr of Wantage, New Jersey.
6. The Wyoming Valley
Henry Birney was in the Wyoming Valley more or less continually from 1772 to sometime before 1795 when he acquired his property at Standing Stone, Luzerne County ( now Bradford County), from his son-in-law, Peter Loop, Jr. He is documented as being in Plymouth or Hanover Townships from his arrival in 1772 until at least 1784. Sometime between 1784 and 1795 he moved up river to Standing Stone. John Evans and Ann Birney moved to the Wyoming Valley sometime between 1794 and 1796. It is possible that the event of John Evans moving into the area coincided with the event of Henry Birney moving up river, but no connection has yet been proven. The initial conflicts between the competing claimants from Connecticut and Pennsylvania, known as the Yankee-Pennamite War, took place between 1769 and 1771 and would have been largely over by the time Henry Birney arrived in the Wyoming Valley. Although tensions remained high throughout this time, the next major uprising occurred with the Plunkett Expedition in December 1775, just prior to the American Revolution. This regional conflict was put aside during the Revolution, but quickly re-ignited after the war as shall be seen. The conflict in the Wyoming Valley during the Revolution was between the settlers in the Wyoming Valley, who were overwhelmingly with the rebellion, and the Indians led by their Tory neighbors from up the Susquehanna. Many retreated from the frontier back to more settled areas, but it is evident from tax rolls of 1776, 1777 & 1778 that Henry Birney remained. He remained at least until the overwhelming defeat and pursuit of the settlers known as the Wyoming Massacre which occurred on 03 July 1778. After the Wyoming Massacre, the Wyoming Valley was empted of all inhabitants. Only after it became evident that the Indians had withdrawn back up the Susquehanna did a trickle of settlers begin to return, but most stayed away until the end of the War. It is evident that Henry Birney was among those that returned soon after the massacre. He was a sergeant of the militia under Capt. John Franklin and participated in the Sullivan Expedition of 1779. The Sullivan Expedition was a major strike against the Indians up the Susquehanna and into the Indian homelands in south central New York. After the Sullivan Expedition the Indians were no longer a major threat, although they continued guerilla along the Susquehanna for the remainder of the War. Capt. Franklin’s company of militia continued in service for the remainder of the War to counter this threat with Henry Birney continuing as sergeant. Immediately after the War of Independence was won, the conflicting land claims in the Wyoming Valley were taken by the respective states to court for adjudication. The Decree of Trenton on 30 December 1782 gave jurisdiction over the region to Pennsylvania closing that issue and eliminating the possibility of armed conflict between two states. However, the decree was mute on the settlement of the competing land claims of the settlers themselves, thus ensuring that civil conflict would continue. A commission was established to decide the issue of individual land ownership and in early 1783 it was determined that the Connecticut settlers had no claim and were to turn over their properties to the Pennsylvania claimants by April 1784. Pennsylvania troops were stationed at Wilkes-Barre and a harsh civil administration was put in place to enforce the decision. On 31 October 1783, the settlement of Shawnee (Plymouth Twp) was invaded by the Pennsylvania troopers under the leadership of the civil administrators and eleven Connecticut settlers were arrested and imprisoned. Henry Burney lived in Shawnee at the time but it is unknown if he was among those arrested. Harassments continued and then on 13 May 1784, after the imposed deadline had passed, 150 families (500 men, women and children) were disposed and forced to flee to the down the old Lackawaxen Road to the Delaware River at Milford. During the Revolution, this path, which traversed enemy controlled territory, had fallen into disuse and had deteriorated to such an extent that it was little more than a wilderness tract. This atrocity was too much for the public to accept and sentiment in Pennsylvania shifted to favor the Connecticut settlers. The troopers were disbanded, the civil administrators sacked, messengers were sent petitioning the refugees to return, and many did. However, the civil administrators who perpetrated this outrage did not yield, but instead retained the troops and prepared to resist the returning settlers. As tensions escalated, shots were fired, and the third Yankee-Pennamite War had erupted. It was during this conflict on 11 August 1784 that Henry Birney gave deposition as to events that were unfolding around his residence in Shawnee (Plymouth). From this deposition it appears that he was not among those forced from his home and that he was attempting to remain out of the conflict unfolding around him. These events were the last armed conflict of the Yankee- Pennamite Wars. An unsteady truce evolved as the conflict became political. In 1785 the Susquehanna Company resumed making grants in an attempt to populate the area with Connecticut settlers under its control. Half shares made available to proprietors without cost, but with the requirement that they would remain on the land for three years and would submit to the orders of the Company. Settlers began to flood into the area. In 1786 Pennsylvania countered this by establishing the area as Luzerne County, and legislated that those Connecticut settlers in place at the time of the Decree of Trenton would retain ownership rights of their property. An Oath of Fidelity to Pennsylvania was required for the settlers to exercise these rights. By 1787 the conflict was no longer between the Pennamite and Yankee, but between the Old Settlers and the “Wild Yankees,” that is those newcomers with half share rights. The last act of the Connecticut Company was to appoint Commissioners to make out a complete and fair list of the proprietors, to research and decide to claims of the individual settlers, and to establish new townships when appropriate. These were very powerful positions indeed. Peter Loop Jr. was one of the Commissioners so appointed. Peter Loop Jr. married Sarah Birney on 20 April 1790, and on 04 March 1795 sold to his father-in-law, Henry Birney, the property in Standing Stone where Henry Birney made his home. Nothing in the record has been found to indicate when Henry Birney moved from Plymouth Township (sometime after August 1784), when Henry Birney arrived in Standing Stone (sometime on or before March 1795), or whether Henry Birney lived somewhere else in between. The first record of John Evans in Luzerne County is on 13 September 1795 when he signed a petition to the Connecticut General Assembly as being “an inhabitant and actual settler on the County of Luzerne.” He shows up in the 1796 tax rolls of Providence Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Providence Township is on the Lackawanna up river from Pittston Township and at that time, adjacent to Tunkhannock Township. Before 1800 his son Thomas Evans married Sarah Scott, daughter of John Scott of Pittston (in the 1800 Census Thomas Evans is enumerated in Pittston Township adjacent to John Scott). John Evans is enumerated in United States Direct Tax of 1798 (known as the “Glass Tax”) as being a resident of Tunkhannock Township. This record indicates that his family owned and occupied a single dwelling of 20 feet by 24 feet situated on 300 acres of land, all valued at $220. This is the first indication of John Evans having any substantial property holdings. His adjoining neighbor is shown as Richard Brockway to the south. In 1800 John Evans and a man named Scott were the first school teachers in what was to become Eaton Township (it was taken from Tunkhannock Township in 1817). Eaton Township is located on the west side of the Susquehanna while Providence is on the east side. So this location, while still in the same vicinity, does indicate further migration between 1795 and 1800. The “man named Scott” is possibly a relative of his son Thomas’ wife, thus providing the connection between the Evans and the Scott families. In November 1801 John Evans signed another petition stating that he was among the Connecticut claimants in the Wyoming Valley. From 1804 to 1817 John Evans is continuously found in the tax rolls of Tunkhannock Township, although rarely with an appreciable accumulation of land. In 1818 his sons and heirs have land in Eaton Township, which marks the date of the formation of Eaton Township from Tunkhannock and confirms that John Evans had located to the west side of the Susquehanna. His land ownership patterns indicate one who is acquiring land and gifting it to his sons as they become of age, with first John Jr., then James, then Simon, then Stephen , then George acquiring sizable parcels of land sequentially. Thus while John Evans likely did not farm himself, through his accumulation and disposition of land in the Wyoming Valley he enabled his sons the opportunity to become farmers. The tax rolls for Eaton Township for 1818 references the heirs of John Evans supporting Family Tradition that he died on 06 December 1817 at 79 years of age. Family Tradition has it that Ann Birney died on 13 April 1826 at 74 years of age.
7. Myths and legends John Evans lived many years in New Jersey prior to moving to Pennsylvania.: Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Application #359806 was submitted on 04 October 1945 and approved with the following citation for John Evans: Private in 2nd Regiment Col. Israel Shreve, New Jersey. Enlisted May 8, 1778 served nine months – March 5, 1779. This copied from tablet in Court House at Tunkhannock, Wyoming Co., Penna. This citation appears to be the original basis for the Family Tradition that John Evans lived in New Jersey prior to moving to the Wyoming Valley. Subsequent DAR Applications also referenced service in the Hunterdon, New Jersey Militia and Col. Somers 3rd Regt. Gloucester Co., New Jersey Militia (#831685 filed 16 February 2002). These citations are not for the John Evans who was in Tunkhannock after 1800, but others also named John Evans, as evidenced below: There was a John Evans, private, Capt Luce's Company (9th), Col. Israel Shreve's 2nd Battalion, Continental Line, enlisted May 1778 for nine months. This John Evans is also found as “Johne Evans, Reding Twp, Hunterdon County, age 18 years, enlisted 11 May 1778, for Col John Taylor's Battalion of Hunterdon Militia.” This John Evans filed a pension application (S41525) on 16 February 1820 stating the following:
a) That he was 60 years of age on 16 February 1820 (born about 1760).
b) That he lived in Stroud, Northampton County, Pennsylvania on 16 February 1820.
c) That he enlisted in Hunterdon County, New Jersey about the commencement of the summer that the Battle of Monmouth took place (1778).
d) That he enlisted for nine months in the 2nd New Jersey Regiment, Col. Israel Shreve.
e) That both before and after said service he served in the state troops.
f) That he had a wife living on 16 February 1820, her age is stated as about 54 years (born about 1766) and that he had eleven children, two sons living with him at the time—the youngest aged 16 (born about 1804).
g) Also in the application is an affidavit stating that John Evans was 66 years of age at the time (born about 1754, however his separate militia enlistment record confirms him as age 18 in 1778, born about 1760).
This John Evans is clearly not the John Evans born in 1738 with service in the French & Indian War (1756-1763) who married Ann Birney and died in Eaton Township in 1816.
The second reference service in DAR applications is in the Gloucester County militia. Tax records for Gloucester County include two John Evans’ in the period from 1775 to 1790. These John Evans were:
a) Newton Township: appears as single in 1784, appears married in 1785 through 1790. Also Joshua and Joseph Evans in same township.
b) Woolwich Township: 1782 (w/500 acres of unimproved land), through 1790. Also Lewis Evans in same township.
Given that George Evans, son of John Evans and Ann Birney, is recorded as being born in Milford, Pennsylvania on 31 August 1790, it is highly doubtful that either of these men are the correct John Evans.
Ann Birney was born in Newark, New Jersey and she married in Newark or near Philadelphia or in Nova Scotia:
It is commonly accepted that Ann Birney was born in Newark, New Jersey and that John and Ann were married there. There is no evidence of this, although Newark was possibly picked because there are documented Birney’s in Newark, although not until the 19th Century. It is likely that a New Jersey location was picked to coincide with the idea that John Evans was living in New Jersey at the time.
A DAR applicant indicated that John Evans married Ann Birney “near Philadelphia.” There is no other support or explanation of this other than Gloucester County, New Jersey is “near Philadelphia.”
A Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) International Genealogical Index (IGI) records indicates John and Ann were married in Gloucester, Nova Scotia. Ann Birney did have family in Nova Scotia, as her sister-in-law Abigail Land Birney McCarty relocated there after the war, along with her children, Joseph Birney and Rebecca Birney. It is entirely likely that the children of John and Ann grew up with the story of their cousins living in Nova Scotia. If so, then it is easy to see how later generations may have assumed that Ann Birney herself had come from Nova Scotia. The Gloucester part is likely a late addition as someone tried to connect the Gloucester myth with the Nova Scotia legend.