July 23, 2012

John and Rebecca Doty Irish - Part 1

Peter Doty, my 4-greats grandfather, had a sister, 
Rebecca, who was the sister closest to him in age, just a bit younger.  Rebecca married John Irish, son of Jesse Irish, and one of seven brothers who settled with their father in or around Tinmouth, Vermont, now Rutland County in 1768.  This area was a hotbed of British activity, especially after the Battle of Ticonderoga in upstate New York, an American victory in early 1777.  The British began to move southward and many Tinmouth residents packed up and moved south, too, to avoid this influx of the enemy.  Others traveled to General Burgoyne's headquarters to ask for protection.  John's father, Jesse, did so and was granted protection as long as he swore not to take up arms against the Tories and to just stay quietly at home.  (After the war, Jesse was accused of aiding the British army, however, and his property was confiscated.  Other brothers also were involved in transporting Loyalist citizens into Canada and safety after the war.)

Rebecca Doty, my gggg-aunt, married John Irish, born 21 September 1745, in 1772.  Rebecca was a young teenager when she married the much older John, who was about 27.  The couple moved to Tinmouth, Vermont, where John eventually purchased eighty acres of land from his brother, Jonathon, in May 1775.  The farm was adjacent to the land one of his other brothers, William, and their houses were only a short distance apart.  John and Rebecca had three children: Lucretia, born 1774; Joseph, born 1775; and Rhoda, born April 1777.  One resource noted that John lived "by Quaker principles" which would mean that he did not want to involve himself in war or killing.  In this interest, John, himself, traveled to British headquarters on July 27, 1777 and obtained protection for himself and his family...the very day that he was killed.  One can be sure that the colonial soldiers kept a sharp eye on those under protection, lest they really be British spies or aiding the enemy in some way.  And that is how John Irish apparently was looked upon by some - a man under suspicion, when perhaps he really just wanted to lead a peaceable life with his wife and young children.

Tinmouth was part of the New York colony at this time.

Several versions exist describing John's murder on July 27, 1777.  One is a report given in the Rutland County, Vermont history published in 1886; a short description is given in Memoirs of Col.Seth Warner; and the last is an eyewitness account of Rebecca Doty Irish Stafford (she remarried) in the Danby, Vermont history (also published in the Rutland Herald in 1855), published in 1869.  I am going to post them all and you can decide if the shooting was premeditated or self-defense.

Version 1: Rutland County, Vermont history (Syracuse, NY, Smith and Rann, Ed., 1886, Chapter XL - "History of Tinmouth")
"John Irish and his tragic fate merit some attention from the historian.  He and his brother William lived in the north part of the town on adjoining farms, and built their houses but a little distance apart and near the road which ran parallel to the line fence between their farms.  When the news of the surrender of Ticonderoga reached Tinmouth on the 1st of July, 1777, a great part of the inhabitants started southward into Arlington, Shaftsbury and Bennington.  Those who did remain on their farms sought protection, as a rule, from Burgoyne.  Among these were the two brothers Irish.

A little later the Council of Safety sent a scouting party consisting of Captain Ebenezer Allen, Lieutenant Isaac Clark, and John Train and Phineas Clough, private soldiers, into Tinmouth to learn what was going on among the 'Protectioners' and to reconnoiter a Tory camp in East Clarendon.  These men were personal acquaintances of the Irish brothers.
When the party arrived in the west part of Tinmouth, they were informed that it was suspected the two brothers were about joining the Tories and that the shortest route to the Clarendon camp would pass their dwellings.  They accordingly took that road.  As they approached Irish's clearing, Allen directed Clough to give his gun to Train, go on and ask William Irish the nearest road to the Tory camp, at the same time telling him that he (Clough) had decided to go and join the Tories.

When Clough arrived at the house, he found both brothers and made the statement according to his orders.  Clough was told that he must consider himself a prisoner; that they would see about his joining the Tories.  William then directed John to take Clough home with him, and he would soon follow and help take care of him.  John had an Indian tomahawk in his hand and told Clough to walk along with him;  they walked on toward John's house, he with the uplifted tomahawk in his hand.

When Allen saw this from his place of concealment, he said to Train: 'We must get as near as we can to John's house without being discovered.'  He and Train started by one path and Clark crawled along behind the brush fence, the three meeting near the house undiscovered.  Here Allen gave directions that under no circumstances was either of them to fire until he did.  He then stationed himself about two rods north of the path; Clark about the same distance south of it, and Train fifteen or twenty rods farther east, all being hidden behind trees.

They had not waited long until Clough stepped from the door and, after looking about, started for the woods.  He had got partly over the fence when Irish came out, partly dressed, with a gun in one hand and a powder-horn in the other.  He called out to Clough to stop or he would shoot him.  While in the act of raising his gun, apparently to carry out the threat, Allen shot him through his left hand, knocking his gun from him.  Irish then turned around so as to face Clark, who shot him through the heart.

The party, after killing Irish, went on to Clarendon, and after reconnoitering the Tory camp, returned to Arlington.  It is perhaps, proper to state that different versions of this affair have been given, one of which is to the effect that Allen went to the dwelling place of Irish for the express purpose of killing him, but the details given above come down to us upon the authority of Judge Obadiah Noble, and probably should be given credence." 

 Seth Warner was a patriot and one of the Green Mountain Boys who fought bravely at Ticonderoga. In the Memoirs of Colonel Seth Warner, written by Daniel Chipman and published in 1848, the story of John Irish's death was told briefly this way:
"John Irish settled on a farm afterwards owned by Judge Noble.  Lt. Isaac Clark (of Herrick's regiment of rangers), in command of scouts sent out from Manchester, quietly surrounded John Irish's house and sent one of his men, named Clough, unarmed, to ask John Irish 'if he had any hostile designs against the Whigs.'  Clough had been a neighbor of John Irish's, but on the evacuation of Ticonderoga, had moved off.  'They entered into a conversations which was continued for some time.  At length, Clough began to suspect that Irish intended to detain him, as he was unarmed, and feeling unsafe, he walked with apparent unconcern out of the door, and turning the corner of the log house, out of sight of Irish, he set out on a run toward the scout.  Clark, who was watching, saw this and instantly saw Irish chasing Clough with his gun, and perceiving that he intended to shoot him before he reached the woods, drew up his rifle and shot him dead upon the spot.  This was represented by the Tories as a wanton murder, and many years afterwards, when Clark was in public life, and a prominent political partisan, some of his political opponents renewed the charge of murder against Clark, with many aggravating circumstances."

Next, I'll relate what John's wife, Rebecca Doty, remembered of the incident.  The above two accounts have John brandishing a gun or a tomahawk in a threatening manner.  One account has Clough setting out to trick William and John Irish into admitting they supported the Tories and could lead Clough to them.  Is this what really happened?   Was it murder or self-defense? Stay tuned.


  1. Thanks for posting several accounts of this story. I have only recently learned about John Irish while researching my husband's ancestors. According to "The History and Map of Danby, Vermont", my husband's 5th great grandfather (David Matteson), along with Francis Matteson, buried John Irish after his murder.

  2. What a great addition to the story! Thanks for commenting, Margie.


  3. With some effort I found this answer
    and a link to the for-pay copy of the full article

    I am a descendant of Peter Irish, Another of Jesse's sons. Peter was in trouble since he was double taxed as a Quaker and as tax collector for Danby, he had significant, but not mortal results. He spent the war years leading loyalists to safety in Canada and was jailed for "a long time." He did move with his whole family to Ontario.
    Lynn Keller

  4. where is the information about Peter Irish being jailed. Where was he jailed, and by whom?