A One-Name Study
for the BARNUM/BARNHAM Surname
Notes for Barnabas BARNUM
Barnabas Barnum is said to have been one of the original settlers of Rupert, Vermont, about 1770, and was also one of the original settlers of Monkton, Vermont, in 1774. He was one of 21 men to sign up as members of the Green Mountain Boys, at Caphas Kent's tavern in Dorset, Vermont in 1775. He was a captain of the Green Mountain Boys when Ethan Allen led them at the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. Allen listed his name and rank in a letter he sent to Congress telling of the capture of the fort. When the Green Mountain Boys went into Continental service (after NOT electing Ethan Allen to lead them) Barnabas was commissioned as a First Lieutenant from NY. He was killed at Shelburne, Vermont in 1778, in the fight to defend Pierson's blockhouse. Twenty-four colonists fought against 68 British soldiers and Indians. The Colonists won -- losing just three men. Barnabas was one of the three. He was supposedly killed when he went outside to pour water on a wall fired by the enemy. Another source says that he opened a window and was looking out when he was shot and killed instantly by an Indian. Some sources also spell his surname as Barnabas.
Smith, Henry Perry, History of Addison County, Vermont (Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason, 1886.), p. 514 states: "According to tradition, John Bishop was the first settler in Monkton. His farm was on the Ridge, upon which he undoubtedly located with the idea, so prevalent in those days, that the heights were better than the valleys for the habitations of men. He came in 1774. The same year witnessed the arrival of Barnabas Barnum, whose followers of the same name originated "Barnumtown," and John and Ebenezer Stearns, who lived in the north part of the town, just south of the Hinesburg line. The settlement was broken up and dispersed by the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, and all attempts to clear the forests and cultivate the fields were replaced by endeavors to stem the approaching tide of British tyranny and misrule, and repel the arrogant invaders. Between the close of the war and the year 1787, however, we find that [numerous] settlers took up lands in Monkton, and, by taking the freeman's oath, evinced a determination to remain."
Sawyer, Thomas, Genealogy and Biography of Ontario County, New York: "A man by the name of Moses Pierson emigrated from the State of New Jersey to Shelburne, Vt., in 1777, and built a block-house, which was in an unfinished condition, for the security of his family. That section of the state being infested by Tories and Indians, and being unprotected by any military force, he was made acquainted with an expected incursion of Tories and Indians from Canada. A message was sent to Clarendon for assistance. Captain Sawyer heard the call and his action was prompt. He called his company together and beat tip for followers. L. Barnum and fifteen others caught their Commander's spirit and turned out at the tap of the drum. Capt. Sawyer had a wife and six children, the oldest of which was a son twelve years of age, whose business it was to chop and draw the wood, and assist his mother in tending the gristmill. These he left and took up the line of march with seventeen volunteers on the 20th of January. 1778. Their pathway was a trackless forest, except by the Indian, wolf and panther. The season was inclement and the snow (1910) deep. The march was tedious and their suffering and privations intense; the last ten miles of their march the party came near perishing.
"On their arrival at Mr. Pierson's block-house, the place of destination, a distance of sixty-six miles, late in the evening and nearly frozen, they found Pierson and family in a state of anxious solicitude for their safety, and that of a few other hardy pioneers. They were hospitably received and shared with them a frugal meal of hominy ground in a steel handmill, brought by Pierson from New Jersey. Glad were they to share his shelter, and to camp about his ample fire.
"When morning came the volunteers set about repairing the defenses by putting the block-house in better repair. The doors and windows were insecure and required to be barricaded. Operations were at once commenced and they had nearly completed the defense, all except securing one window, when they found the block-house surrounded by Tories and Indians, the first notice of which was the discharge of a volley of musketry through the insecure window, by which three persons were killed. named Barnum, Woodward, and Daniels, the latter two of whom were not of the party. but only came in for protection during the night.
"The battle then commenced in good earnest. The guns of the assailed were pointed with deadly aim at the enemy. Numbers fell, reaping a rich reward for their temerity, till at length they became desperate and set fire to the house in several places. What was to be done was the question, as there was no water at hand and the flames were rapidly spreading. Captain Sanger ordered the contents of a barrel of beer to be used, and one of the number sallied out under a shower of bullets and fortunately extinguished the fire. A second attempt was made to fire it. but our little band became in turn the assailants. The enemy was driven from the field carrying off their wounded, and as was supposed a portion of their dead, leaving seven on the field, together with four prisoners taken.
"At morning's early dawn they surveyed the battle-field. Pursuing the track of the enemy to Lake Champlain, about half a mile distant from the scene of action, tracing it by the bloody snow (1910) which was deeply tinged, they passed down the banks of Bloody Brook, so called from the battle. They found. in the lake, holes cut through the ice, the edges of which were bloody, and into which it was evident some of the slain Indians had been plunged.
"Among the killed was an Indian Chief with ear and nose jewels. These jewels, also a powder born, belt and bullet pouch, were trophies kept by the Captain as long as he lived, as mementoes of an illustrious deed, achieved by _hiram and his followers, on the 12th of March. 1778.
"Three days previous to the battle, a Tory by the name of Philo left the vicinity on skates for Saint Johns, to give the British notice that a patroling party were at Shelburne, and they projected the plan of their capture, and the extirpation of these devoted friends of liberty. The assailants came on skates that the surprise might be complete, but the cowardly miscreant, Philo, did not return, but stayed behind. They doubtless congratulated themselves with certain prospects of a bloodless triumph, so far as they were concerned, and that the scalps of this hand of heroes would entitle them to a liberal bounty from the British government. But they learned to their sorrow the Sons of Liberty were awake. and ready to pour out their blood like water, in defense of their homes and fireside altars.
"From the preceding facts it was believed by the victors that the number killed far exceeded what were found on the field, but nothing certain was ever known. Captain Sawyer, as a reward for the heroism of the soldier who extinguished the flames of the burning block-house with the contents of the beer barrel, presented him with his watch."
A letter sent to Captain Ebenezer Allen at that time says : "Gentlemen: By the express, this moment received the account of Capt. Sawyer's late signal victory over the enemy at Shelburne. By order of the Council of Safety. Thomas Chandler Jr. Secretary."
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