♂ John Irish

1745 - 1777

John Irish
Lucretia Irish
Lucretia Irish
1772 - 1850

John Irish - Murder and Background

John Irish Murder and Background
July 27, 1777 , Tinmouth, VT 

John Irish [1745 – 1777, son of Jesse, brother of Jonathan and William (below), husband of Rebecca Doty (below) (also brother of David (1735-1807), our direct ancestor)] settled in Tinmouth on the farm afterwards owned by Judge Noble. He was also [like his father, Jesse] considered a Tory and was shot by Isaac Clark, afterwards General Clark. Daniel Chipman, LL. D., in his Memoirs of Col. Seth Warner, says "that Clark was a Lieutenant in Herrick's regiment of rangers and commanded one of the scouts sent out from Manchester. He concealed his men in the woods not far from Irish's house, and after watching the house for some time, and finding that Irish was within, and wishing to ascertain whether he had any hostile designs against the Whigs, instead of surrounding the house and taking him, he sent one of his men, by the name of Clough, unarmed. Clough had been a neighbor of Irish’s, but on the evacuation of Ticonderoga, had moved off. They entered into a conversation 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 a 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 his political opponents renewed the charge of murder against Clark, with many aggravating circumstances.” 

Another account of John Irish was written by C. H. Congdon, Esq., in 1855, in reply to one written by Judge Noble, and published in the Rutland Herald. Mr. Congdon says: “I noticed a communication in your paper, over the signature of O. Noble, relative to incidents of the Revolution: and were it not for the fact that said communication had produced considerable excitement in this vicinity, I would gladly be silent. But whenever a matter of this nature is recorded, whether it be fact or tradition, unless refuted as the time soon passes into historical truth. With due deference to the age and ability of Judge Noble, I shall proceed to narrate the circumstances as I understand them. I have had occasion during about twenty years, while collecting material for a work which I may hereafter publish, to consult the then (1777) wife of John Irish, now (1842) the widow Rebecca Stafford of South Wallingford. Of course my information is traditional, but at the same time the most direct I think that can possibly be had of the ‘Irish affair.’ The wife of John Irish was a strong, resolute woman and possessed a strong, retentive memory. She was an eye witness of the whole affair, and the following is her statement: 
“’ John Irish bought his farm from his brother, Jonathan Irish, on the 20th day of May, 1775, as I find on examining a deed now in my possession, and as it is somewhat antiquated I have thought proper to copy it entire, as it may be a rarity to some of your numerous readers. The following is a true copy:

“Know all men by these presents, that I Jonathan Irish, of Danby, in the county of Charloty and province of New York, Yeoman, for and in consideration of the sum of forty-nine pounds, New York money, received to my full satisfaction of John Irish of the township of Danby, aforesaid yeoman, I have sold and by these presents give, grant, bargain, sell, alienate, convey and confirm and forever acquit claim unto him, the said John Irish to his heirs and assigns for ever, one certain pese or parcel of Land, lying and being in the township of Tinmouth in the county of Charloty and province aforesaid, that is to say, one eighty acre lot, it being lot No. 15 of the first division of lands, in said township, the same was granted unto Elijah Cole by the govornor and council of the province of New Hampshire, I have sold and by these presents give, grant, bargain, sell, alienate, convey and confirm and forever acquit claim unto him the said John Irish his heirs and assigns for his and their own proper used, benefit and behoof, furthermore, I the said Jonathan Irish Do for my self, my heirs, Executors and administrators, covenant-promises, and engage to, and with the said John Irish, his heirs and assigns for Ever, to warrant, secure and defend the above granted Bargain, primisces unto him the said John Irish to his heirs and assigns against all the Lawful claims and demands of any person or persons Laying claim thereto or any part thereof, from by or under me or any person or persons whatsoever claiming the same by virtue of any act or acts allredy past by the governor and councel of the province of new Hampshire. Sined, sealed and Delivered this twentieth Day of May A. D. 1775, and in the fifteenth yere of his magosty Rain, and in presence of us.

{ John Hart, Tucker Hart } Witnesses”

“He moved on to it the same season and commenced improving, as related by Judge Noble, and lived in the peaceable enjoyment of his property until the day he was shot by Isaac Clark, on the 27th day of July, 1777. I have never heard it contradicted that the character of John Irish was without reproach. He, as well as many others of this vicinity, was a Quaker in principle, was quiet and unassuming. On the 24th of July he went to Burgoyne’s head-quarters at Skeensborough (now Whitehall) and procured protection papers and returned on the morning of the 27th of July, had previously been engaged in reaping wheat, he was now mowing, had mowed about an acre in the forenoon when Clough came to his house between 11 and 12 o’clock and enquired the way to Durham Bridge; wished Irish would direct him through the woods as he did not like to travel the road on account of spies. Irish told him to keep the road as the safest way. Dinner being ready Irish asked Clough to eat but declined, but while Irish and his family were eating sat partly in the door. After dinner Irish put a pitchfork into the fire to bore a hole into a new handle and then laid down on the bed with his two eldest children. After dinner Clough called for a drink of water, which Mrs. Irish gave to him, fresh from the spring; a few moments after she had fetched the water for him, while she was engaged in doing up the dinner dishes, all at once Clough started and ran out of the house in the direction of the spring. Mrs. Irish spoke to her husband, who immediately jumped up and followed Clough out of doors—at the same time his wife begged him not to leave the house—he advanced about three rods from the door, when Allen raised up from behind a maple log and shot Irish through the hand, severing his third and little finger from his hand, or nearly so. Clark then in a rough manner asked him if he wanted to take more prisoners. Irish answered that he should take or harm no man, and added, you have wounded me, upon which he held up his hand and Clark shot him through the heart. He turned, walked about a rod and fell dead upon his face. When Clark and Allen shot him he was not more than three or four feet from the muzzles of their guns—so near that the smoke rolled up on his breast as he turned round. After this the men all disappeared in the woods. Mrs. Irish went immediately to Mr. William Irish’s who was just putting on his clean clothes, being Sunday. He said ‘Becca, you must take care of yourself, I cannot help you. He immediately started off and did not return until about six weeks afterwards. Mrs. Irish went home, but did not attempt to do anything with her husband (hoping that some of her neighbors would come in) until nearly dark when, no one coming, she, with [William] Irish’s two oldest children, Mary 14 years old and Gibson 12 years old, assisted in getting him into the house; this they did by rolling him on a plank and drawing him along. She afterwards laid him out. When she returned from William Irish’s the children said to her that the men had gone and Papa was asleep. He was a man that would weigh over two hundred pounds, and it was with difficulty that she and the children got him into the house. He was buried the next day by Francis and David Matteson, Jesse Irish, the father of John, and a Scotchman by the name of Allen. A coffin was made by Francis Matteson from rough boards out of the chamber floor. The grave is about forty rods from where the house formerly stood, on a knoll; a mound and rough stones mark the spot of this day. The wife was not permitted to follow the body of her husband to the grave, as it was not thought prudent even for the men to perform the task, so perilous were the times. Scouting parties were out on both sides at this period.”

John Irish had three children, the oldest about three years, and the youngest only two months. Mrs. Irish did not know any of the men at that time; John Irish knew two of them; his wife had never heard him speak of only two. 

The party after killing Irish went to the widow Potter’s, in the edge of Clarendon, and took dinner, stating that they had shot Irish; and here a few days after Mrs. Irish learned all their names, and also that they did not intend to kill John Irish, but that William Irish was the man they were after, as they had been offered £30 for his head. The widow thus left secured her hay and grain and also her flax, of which she had a fine lot. This was the situation we find her in when in the following November Ernest Noble (the father of Judge Noble) notified her that she must leave, as he had purchased the place of the confiscating agent at Rutland, and that twelve days would be given her to leave in peace. She left within the twelve days—traveled on foot with her three children to Danby, a distance of seven miles, through the uninterrupted forests of the then wilderness country, rendered doubly gloomy by the fitful gusts and wails of a bleak November wind. Tears of anguish and regret no doubt dimmed her eye and moistened her cheek, as she left her home and the grave of her husband and journeyed alone and unprotected through the wilderness to find protection for herself and children, among strangers, although her deceased husband’s relatives.—She had married John Irish when on his way from Nine Partners up the country, and consequently had no intimate acquaintance with his father’s family. 

About three weeks after her husband was killed, and in her absence from home, her house was pillaged of everything valuable—clothing, furniture, etc. All she ever found of the missing property was a valuable scarlet cloak, about three or four rods from the house, trampled into the mud and badly torn. Relics of plunder were met with years after, among some of the families of the western part of Tinmouth. It is stated by Judge Noble that the party took Irish’s gun to the council of safety. This could not have been so, from circumstances that I will relate:-- About two weeks previous to the transaction above named, John Irish, hearing that all persons, irrespective of political sentiment, is found with arms, would be dealt with as enemies, and wishing to evade all trouble he dismembered his fowling piece of its stock and lock. The lock was wrapped in tow and put in the bottom of his chest, and the stock and barrel he took into a swamp west of the house. The former he secreted under a hollow log, the latter in the same, and there the gun remained until the winter following Irish’s death, when, Irish’s wife having no means to furnish her children with shoes, gave the gun to William Irish for the necessary articles. She told him where to find the gun and he went and recovered it and long had it in his possession. This party Judge Noble says were sent by the council of safety. Where the record of the fact is to be found I know not, but it is certain from documents in my possession that they belonged to a class of men styled Cow Boys in those days; that their friends and families resided in Tinmouth, and that they went there of their own accord and on their own responsibility.

After this affair William Irish went to Burgoyne’s camp, in about six weeks, or the same autumn, and resided in Danby, until the close of the war. Their property was confiscated. How? I believe that John Irish was never accused of being a Tory—was never tried as a Tory, and how his property could be confiscated, under the circumstances, was something that puzzled the most learned of the law subsequent to the peace of 1783. That it was confiscated I do not contradict, but whether in accordance with the rules practiced at that time is a question.

The best legal talent of the State decided more than thirty years ago that it was a fraudulent act, and that the heirs of John Irish could recover the property, but like their progenitor were peaceable citizens and evaded litigation. Mr. Joseph Irish of South Wallingford was the only one I ever knew. All that knew him can attest to the statement here made. Many offers were made him by legal men to recover the property free of expense to him, but being a Quaker he always desisted, and consequently the Noble family have been left unmolested in the possession of the property.

As regards the truth of the statement of the wife of John Irish, wherever she was known her word was never doubted. She was a high spirited woman, with a temperament rather sanguine than otherwise, and her villifiers with all their heroism dare not confront her. We will give an illustration: About six weeks after her husband was killed, one Noel Potter and another young man came to her house and demanded her husband’s protection papers. In the words of the old lady, “one with a drawn sword, the other with an iron gunstick,” meaning a ramrod. She peremptorily refused, and at the same time seizing the poker ordered them out of the house. They precipitately withdrew and she was not again troubled with them. The foregoing is an account of this affair nearly word for word as the old lady gave it, and what motive she could have for falsifying the matter is left for others to judge. On the other hand, those men who committed the deed were conscious whether it was right or wrong. If right, posterity can judge of the merits: if wrong, their own consciences upbraided them. They are numbered with the past, both friend and foe, and far be it from me to characterize, now they are gone. It is left for the reader to determine whose lot was the most enviable, that of the men who deprived the widow of her husband and support, her children of a father and protector; who robbed the widow of her house and all earthly comforts; the men who stealthily approached their dwelling, and, having artfully drawn him forth, with their deadly aim coolly and deliberately shot him; or the woman who, after experiencing the vicissitudes above related, comes out unscathed, and lives to a good old age in the midst a large circle of friends, respected and beloved by all. Providence has assisted her in acquiring a sufficiency of his world’s goods, so that in age she was beyond the privations of earlier life.”

John Irish Left two children, Joseph and Lucretia, m. Jeptha King. She some time after this left her home and joined the Mormons at Nauvoo, Miss.