Keynote Speech
2000 Swarthout Family Reunion
by Charles H. Swartwout
September 3rd, 2000

Good Evening! I am a 10th generation Swartwout and my wife, Nancy, and I live on the Swartwout Homestead in the hamlet of Huguenot, New York.That's in Orange County and we are just four miles north of Port Jervis,New York, where the states of NY, NJ, and PA come together at a singlepoint on the Delaware River.

According to the Swartwout Chronicles, Tomys (Thomas) Swartwout came to America with his family in 1652. His son, Roeloff, married Eva Albertse Bratt here in 1657. They had three sons: Tomys, Bernardus, and Antoni. These three brothers along with Jacobus Cuddeback, Peter Gurmer, John Tyse,and David Jamison, walked some sixty miles down the valley from Esopus(which is the present day Kingston, NY) and settled in the Town of Deerpark,where we now live. This very fertile valley became known as Peenpack, aDutch term meaning low, soft land, and is supported by the Neversink River,which flows southward four miles into the Delaware River at Port Jervis. Peenpack was known as the upper neighborhood and Port Jervis or Makachameckwas known as the lower neighborhood. So, the establishment of a community begins.

Peenpack was inhabited by the Mensi or Wolf Tribe of the Lenni Lenape Indians and had lived in the valley for years. They were a peaceful lot and helped their new neighbors establish themselves in the area. That relationship certainly creates an interesting scenario, as the Indians spoke Munsie and the settlers spoke Dutch, French, and English! I would Eke to thinkof that time as the real beginning of "sign language" and the origin of the game, "charades!'

In 1697, the settlement sent Jacobus Cuddeback to the Provincial Governor to procure a royal patent of 1200 acres from King William the Third; itwas, indeed, granted to the families of Swartwout, Cuddeback, Gumaer, Westbrook, Tyse and Jamison. And, of these original patentees, only the Tyse and Jamison families left the valley.

Although life among the Lenape Indians was peaceful it was not peaceful in the valley. Eagers' HISTORY OF ORANGE COLONY reports a 'ferocious conflict" between the white settlers of New Jersey and New York, dating back to 1701, as a disputed boundary line claimed by both New York and New Jersey ran right through the 1200 acre patent! Boundary conflicts so continued for the next 65 years and were a constant source of contention. Despite the differences between the colonies, the Indians and White Settlers did enjoy a mostly harmonious existence.

With the coming of the French and Indian War, those in this out-post region experienced great distress. In about 1755, the Indians started todisappear and the settlers began preparations for war by sending the womenand children away. It is not known where these families found safety, butit is believed many fled to the Sussex, New Jersey area.

Three forts were then built in the Peenpack neighborhood and three others next to the Delaware River, to the south. These forts were not officialmilitary forts, per se, but mostly fortified houses.

A year later in 1756, the first hostile act of this war occurred when three men, harvesting crops in the field were killed. Subsequently, the next attempt to capture a "fort" in Peenpack, was at William Westfall's house, occupied, so the Indians thought, by two lone women. However, between the time of the first reconnoiter and their attack, a party of militia from New Jersey had arrived at the fort. These men were just seating themselves at the table when the Indians burst in. Both parties were greatly surprised; the soldiers quickly got their "wits" together and opened such destructive fire that the invaders retreated, although a number on both sides were killed. Truly a hand-to-hand skirmish.  However, the French and IndianWar merely added to the problems of the on-going border wars.

The state, or then colony, of New Jersey is surrounded by water except for its northern border, which is bounded by New York. It was the attempt to establish this colonial boundary with the royal colony of New York that precipitated many on-going skirmishes and involved all the first families who settled in the Neversink Valley for at least two generations.

While these border war stories begin to appear from 1701 just ten years after the settlement in Peenpack, it is unclear whether the disputes were over the PROPOSED Jersey claim line, OR with the 1200 acre patent from the King. One source relates the Westfalls, who occupied lands south ofthe Jersey Claim Line, were displeased with the QUALITY of the land, and believing they received the poorest, went to court. Then the court ruled the issue was a private dispute and not within its jurisdiction. We must remember New York was a Royal Colony and the King collected quit rents on all properties. New Jersey was a proprietorship and collected taxes as opposed to rents. Taxes were obviously cheaper than quit rents. It was bureaucracy at its finest! Hence, the Westfalls established themselves as the primary leaders of the Jersey faction, and the Swartwout's, because of the location of their property in New York, became leaders of the NewYork faction.

Border wars were numerous in this country during these early years leading up to the American Revolution and the years immediately following. Forexample, Connecticut claimed her borders went from 'sea to shining sea' and truly believed that its territory did go from Long Island Sound as far west as one could go! Just a little 'pushy' of then, but that particular issue got sorted out in early days. The NY/NJ line war went on for a much longer period of time, simply due to the vagueness of land descriptions written in the charters of the provinces, and was the largest of all the colonial land disputes, as these lands in contention totaled some 210,000 acres.

For example, the New Jersey charter carried the west bounds "along said River or Bay (the Delaware) to the northward as far as the northward most branch of the said Bay or River, which is in latitude 41 degrees, 40 minutes and crosseth over thence in a straight line to the latitude 41 degrees on Hudson's River.' A surveyor's nightmare!! This particular description does not exist, nor did it ever exist, on the landscape.  No wonder lands were in dispute! As an aside, scholars have wondered where "41-40"originated. There are those who believe it was chosen to honor King James II, a Roman Catholic, because Rome, Italy is located at the exact same latitude.

Later settlers, who came from New York, were ignored by the New Jersey government, which favored the Jerseymen who came north over the mountains, and who were parceled this disputed land.  But, the New York Dutchmen refused to give up what they believed to be land rightfully theirs. We now have the makings of a real dispute because of the vast overlapping of land claims. Skirmishes were rampant, and numbers of settlers were captured and lodged in Jersey prison houses; the men went armed all the time and the women were seldom without their pitchforks! And, were not at all reserved about using then!

Between 1730 and 1740, several attempts were made to oust Major Jacobus Swartwout, who was a major in the Orange County militia, from his holdings in Peenpack.

"Major Jacobus (James) Swartwout was a large, heavy, strong, portly and likely man, of noble and dignified appearance, very suitable for a military officer, and was possessed of a spirit as noble as his appearance. He was very witty, jocose and humorous in conversation (these were Swartwout family traits), and he was too liberal and easy in his business affairs to accumulate property, in consequence of which he became much involved in matters of the community." (DESCRIPTION OF JACOBUS FROM GUMAER'S HISTORY OF DEERPARK)
According to local history, the Major, who was held in much local reverence as a model for all heroes (he may have contributed to his own reputation!), spent a reasonable portion of his time telling of the awful things that would happen to the Jerseymen, should they attempt to lay violent hands on him or his. BUT ... the enemy did come in the night, and the Major and his family, in spite of all his bombast, was bundled out into the great outdoors in a fashion that took all the brag out of him while those from New Jersey made themselves at home ... in his house. After the Major got HIS wits together, he gathered the Militia and recaptured his homestead, literally kicking the Jerseymen out, the Major himself administering many of the kicks while imparting advice as to where they should go ... which was not to Jersey!! Sadly, the major's wife, who was not well because she had just recently given birth, was so traumatized by this whole episode, that she died shortly thereafter. After this event, a spy was regularly kept among the Jerseymen, and thus future invasive efforts thwarted.

During another skirmish on Swartwout land, Major Swartwout turned his back, disdainfully on Johannes Westfall who, infuriated, picked by a large pumpkin and threw it at old Jacobus. The impact knocked the Major down, and of course, the pumpkin exploded. Legend has it that Swartwout exclaimed "I am killed and my brains spilled!" Love that story!

Harmanus Van Inwegen, the Major's son-in-law, was also regarded as prize by the Jerseymen and they next planned a raid for his capture. But, word was brought by one of the planted spies and a call was sent to the clans to meet at Van Inwegeds house. The call was answered by a goodly number and Major Swartwout assumed command as a matter of course. He arranged his forces in line of battle, placing the left wing in command of Van Inwegen, while Jacob Cuddeback was given command of the right. The invaders, led by a Jersey constable on horseback, marched onto the field. Neither force, it seems expected to see such a formidable array on the other side. As the distance gradually lessened and they came within gunshot of each other, the Jerseymen halted in uncertainty and a dread silence fell that, as minutes passed, became embarrassing. It only needed a very small event to turn the scale of battle either way. Fortunately, for the home guard, this was furnished by a son of the Major, who, uncertain in the event of being ordered to shoot, as to whether he should aim at the enemy or over its head, called to his father for instructions. Whereupon, the old gentleman, remembering the former raid on his home, roared back in a voice that shook the hills "Kill them!"

This was too much for Jersey, whose sons had come over the mountains with no thought of being killed and its ranks broke, filled with consternation of such an untimely end. The Major's men, knowing the lay of the land, intercepted the retreating forces in a ravine about two miles away and turned the retreat into a rout. The only life lost was that of the constable's horse which fell in the first fire, "giving its owner a lift in the world he had not calculated on, and landing him in a bunch of brambles."

As I mentioned earlier, the French and Indian War diverted both sides for some years and it was not until 1765 that the next and last raid took place. And, this was indeed a bloody occasion, although no lives were lost. Both Major Jacobus Swartwout and Captain Johannes Westbrook, no longer young men, were the targeted victims of a kidnapping by the Jerseymen who claimed that these two had taken land from a Jersey family that had owned it since 1698. The unsuspecting community was at worship at the Maghackemeek (Old Dutch) church and in pews separated by geographic location; Jerseymen were on one side and Yorkers on the other. When they sallied forth for Sunday dinner they met a fight for which they had little appetite. The church was surrounded and the enemy rushed down on the defenseless worshippers with a soul-piercing shout that made them think the Devil himself, had come for them. As it was the Sabbath, neither side would use weapons except for their fists and there soon ensued a regular Donnybrook in the churchyard! This time, the element of surprise and strength of numbers favored the Jerseymen and both Major Swartwout and Captain Westbrook were held in a Sussex County Jail but were soon released.

In 1767, Commissioners were appointed (Benjamin Franklin and John Jay being two of them), by the two colonies to run a boundary line, but owing to the bitterness of feeling, and given the number of commissioners, length of time they had to travel to meet, the lack of priority on complicated boundary dared not attempt it. It was not until 1773 that the disputed territory was surveyed and about equally divided. So you might think that the boundary wars between New York and New Jersey were put to rest 200 years ago or more. Not so! Just very recently, New York and New Jersey divided Land, which has been under contention for some time, land upon which the famous State of Liberty stands.... Liberty Island in New York harbor! And, the reason was not the land, but the issue was really about the sales tax revenues! Nothing much has changed!!

Our family has played a very major role in border disputes; Major Jacobus Swartwout was the provocateur that forced the colonies to deal with boundary dispute issues. His name appears in a great many of the primary documents of the period. The border war that started three centuries ago, in which our ancestors played major roles and in which they had major claims, have finally come to a satisfactory conclusion, for the most part. And, we,the sons and daughters of those brave emigrants, are here to attest to their courage, determination, hard work, and to their contributions to this glorious country. Every generation of Swartwouts has its story, I ask you to raise your glass to them all, but especially to old Major Jacobus!

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