Katherine Cole Gaylord
Patron Saint of the Revolutionary Period
In the burying ground at Burlington, Conn., there stands a monument bearing the following inscription:
KATHERINE COLE GAYLORD
LIEUTENANT AARON GAYLORD
In memory of her sufferings and heroism at the
massacre of Wyoming, 1778, this stone is erected
by her descendants and the members of the
Katherine Gaylord Chapter of the Daughters of
the American Revolution, July 3, 1895.
Katherine Cole Gaylord was the wife of Lieutenant Aaron Gaylord of New Cambridge (Bristol), Conn., who had fought at Bunker Hill, remained before Boston until the expiration of his term of enlistment, December, 1775, and then with his wife and three children joined a party of emigrants who were starting for the famous Wyoming Valley. They settled at Forty Fort, and for the next two years lived the usual frontier life. The story of Wyoming Valley, with its long and bitter contentions between Yankee and Pennamite, and that of the subsequent massacre have been too well told to warrant retelling except the part taken by the women—Katherine Gaylord and her sisters in sorrow.
Their story really opens on the morning of July 3, 1778. Colonel William Butler, with four hundred British Provincial troops, between six and seven hundred Indians, and a number of Tories, came down the Susquehanna River and stopped at a point about twenty miles above the fort; from there a prisoner was sent to the fort with a demand for his surrender. A council of war was held. When Lieutenant Gaylord came to his wife, after the council, it was to tell her that the little garrison was going out to fight. Lieutenant Gaylord was opposed to leaving the fort, believing that with their inefficient force a more effectual resistance could be made inside the fort than out, but he gave way to the will of the majority, though with little hope of success. Before he started, he counselled [sic] long with his wife and formed careful plans for her escape if he should not come back. Even after mounting his horse, it is said that he rode back to the door and gave her his wallet containing all the money he had. Calling his son Lemuel, he told him to go to the pasture and get the horses and bring them to the fort, as they might need them.
That was the last that Katherine Gaylord ever saw of her husband. Following his direction she packed her clothing and provisions ready to fasten on one horse, leaving the other for herself and the three children to ride alternately.
About nine o’clock that evening a friend, worn out, begrimed, and bleeding, came to her door carrying a hat with a bullet hole through it. She knew it was her husband’s. He had been killed and scalped by the Indians. About midnight, Mrs. Gaylord and her little brood passed out of the fort into the wilderness. After the second day, one horse went lame, and fearing any delay he was abandoned and thenceforth all walked. For three nights they rested under the trees, the tired children sleeping with their heads on the mother’s lap while she watched and listened for wolves, Indians, the hundred black perils of the night. On the fourth day, they arrived at a large stream where Mrs. Gaylord and the boy Lemuel, only thirteen, built a raft to get their possessions across. It was an unfortunate venture as they lost the raft and all it carried. They had now, one horse, one blanket, their flint and tinder, and one musket with a small quantity of ammunition.
For weeks, the brave woman struggled on, cheering her little ones, hiding her own fears as she repressed her grief. After the loss of their provisions, they subsisted on berries, birch bark, roots, and various other edible plants. A fire they dared not build for fear of attracting the enemy, and the small stock of ammunition they carried must be husbanded for their protection; also the shot might draw upon them the dreaded savages.
A biographical sketch of Katherine Gaylord, most interestingly told, has been written by Mrs. Florence Muzzy who had the benefit of the remembrances of the little girl Lorena, as told to her grandchildren. Once, she recalled, they went from Thursday until Sunday without food and then met a band of friendly Indians who fed them; afterward they met friendly Indians upon several occasions.
As days grew into weeks and Wyoming was left farther and farther behind they built a fire whenever they camped for the night and the boy shot game. Occasionally they met travellers [sic] and were almost invariably treated with kindness. On one occasion, they lost the trail and at nightfall came upon a large building with lighted windows through which they could see a company of men eating supper. They were tired and hungry yet almost afraid to enter. Desperation finally drove them to enter a back room where the mother gathered her two little girls beside her while the boy walked into the room and asked for food for his mother and sisters.
“In a moment more a light was brought and they were surrounded by astonished men who with curious and pitying faces gazed upon the forlorn little group and listened to their pathetic story with manhood’s unaccustomed tears. Nothing could exceed their kindness as they rivalled [sic] each other in giving comfort to the poor wanderers. The unwonted luxuries of enough to eat, a bed in which to sleep, and strong ready protectors were theirs that night; while the sense of security must have given the poor mother such a rest as had not been hers for weeks. In the morning they were loaded with provisions and sent on their way with many kind and hearty words.”
One time, they were followed all day by a panther that awaited darkness to make an attack. The mother and her two little daughters were riding the horse which the boy was leading. It was cold and raining and their single blanket was but slight protection. The mother was almost wild with terror as the gathering darkness hastened the catastrophe which she feared. Then as she strained her eyes peering into the darkness they came into a clearing in which stood a deserted cabin.
The boy led the horse right into the open door, dropped the bar across it, and they were safe. That was not all. The place had evidently been abandoned in haste. There were firewood, potatoes, and corn-meal ready at hand, and with dried clothing, warmth, and a hot supper of roast potatoes and corn-meal cakes the children soon forgot their troubles. They remained in the deserted cabin two days and then again took up their journey.
After many weeks they reached the home of James Cole, Mrs. Gaylord’s father, all of them in good health notwithstanding their long hard journey. Mrs. Gaylord never remarried again but lived to the age of ninety-five years. The boy Lemuel enlisted at the age of 16, in 1780, and was at the surrender of Cornwallis. He afterward went back to Wyoming where he married a daughter of Noah Murray. Phebe, the eldest daughter, married Levi Frisbie and emigrated to Orwell, Pa. Lorena, the youngest, married Lynde Phelps of Burlington, Conn,, and in her family Katherine Gaylord spent the last forty years of her life, loved and revered by all who knew her. She had lived to look upon the faces of twenty-two grandchildren.
Her story differs only only in details, more or less tragic, from that of hundreds of other brave and devoted women who fled from that awful scene of blood and pillage.
Reference: The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. Third Volume, Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.