The Other Wyoming

Continuing with the Machackemack saga… Actually, this post is as much about the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania as anything else, so let’s first dive into some back story.

King Charles II of England granted a bunch of land (including said Valley) to Connecticut in 1662, but then granted the same lands to William Penn in 1681. After Connecticut settlers founded Wilkes-Barre in 1769, angry Pennsylvanians tried to expel them in 1769-70, and again in 1775. These skirmishes, sometimes very bloody ones indeed, became known as the Yankee-Pennamite Wars.

Eventually, the fledgling federal government brokered a settlement between the parties. Pennsylvania would keep the lands granted by the King, and Connecticut would be compensated with a patch of ground on the nation’s Western frontier, known at first as the Connecticut Western Reserve, and later as Ohio. (A gross simplification, granted – but you get the general idea.)

Completely unrelated to the Pennamite thing, another major incident happened in Wyoming. On July 3, 1778, while the area’s soldiers were otherwise engaged with Revolutionary matters, the infamous attack referred to as the Battle of Wyoming took place.  It wasn’t much of a battle in the true sense: British and Tory soldiers, along with some 700 Indian allies, slaughtered more than 300 residents.

So we have our location, time to introduce our characters. Since there’s so much I don’t know about the Earl Family, I’ll start with what I do know. Robert Earl was my 5th great-grandfather. His father was Ebenezer Earl, and Ebenezer had a brother named James.

In 1778, they were named as members of the militia in nearby Northampton County. And Ebenezer is on the tax rolls for Northampton County in 1781, in a town called Lower Smithfield (just on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, but still part of the general Minisink Valley region). 

The Pennsylvania Archives includes some papers concerning the events of the Pennamite period in the Wyoming Valley. One list names James and Ebenezer Earl among those “plundered and ordered off the ground on pain of Death, and their houses burned over their heads, but are remaining at Wyoming.” (I’m fairly certain they weren’t from Connecticut, so these must have been retaliatory attacks on Pennsylvanians by the Yankees.)

This document places the brothers in the Wyoming Valley at some point around 1784, the time of the “second” Pennamite Wars. And since the purpose of the list was to name those residents who were resolved to stay in the Valley, it’s presumed they continued to reside there for a time. 

(Apparently only something like the American Revolution could interrupt these folks slaughtering one another – the first Wars were in 1769-70 and 1775; the second in 1784.)

In June 1789, sons of both Ebenezer and James were baptized by a minister from the Machackemack Dutch Reformed Church, and those baptismal records appear alongside the notation “Wyomy [place of baptism]”.

On the Hit Parade of Research Landmines, this is right up near the top. Searching for birth info for either of these two baby boys, you will find these references to these baptismal records. These search results will strongly insinuate (if not state outright) that they were baptized in Machackemack, New York – leading one to presume they were also born there, and that they were part of the congregation. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

If it isn’t absolutely clear from the baptism records that the brothers and their families lived in the Wyoming Valley in 1789, they are definitely there the following year, at the time of the first federal Census in 1790. Ebenezer is enumerated by name, with a household including his wife, two sons, and one daughter.

I’m not sure when it happened, but both brothers eventually pulled up stakes and headed with their families to Washington County, Pennsylvania, in the southwest corner of the state. In about 1798, Ebenezer died and his wife Susannah married her third husband, Zophar Carn (or Carnes).

(It occurs to me I neglected to mention that Susannah Ray Earl married her first husband – one John Earl – perhaps as early as 1768. In all likelihood, he was another brother of James and Ebenezer, but no proof has been found.)

Susannah Ray Earl Earl Carn(es), her husband, and her children were all part of a wave of settlers that washed into Ohio pretty much as soon as they were able. These folks settled in Portage and Trumbull Counties, Ohio – primarily in the area between Ravenna and Newton Falls. So that’s how a baby baptized in a New York Dutch church managed to end up in northwestern Ohio, by way of Pennsylvania.

I’m going to stop here for now, because it’s time to introduce Robert Earl’s wife – and that’s gonna take some ca-a-a-areful planning.

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