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Sunday, July 5, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #28: Solomon Avery, Revolutionary War massacre survivor

     Solomon Avery was born 17 Jun 1729 in Groton, London, Connecticut.  Son of Humphrey Avery and Jerusha Morgan, he was from a large family of Averys in that area.  He married Hannah Punderson in Groton on 18 Feb 1751.  They had nine children between 1752 and 1774. They were living in Norwich, Connecticut in 1772 when he moved to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania.  He had land in Wilkes-Barre and Putnam in that area.

     In July 1778, during the American Revolution, this area of the Wyoming Valley was the site of a large battle and massacre called the Battle of Wyoming or the "Wyoming Massacre". There were three American forts in the valley, Wintermute, Forty Fort and Jenkin's.  The British Colonel John Butler with a regiment of Loyalists, known as Butler's Rangers, and 464 Iroquois warriors (mostly Seneca) attacked these forts.  They captured all three,  killing most of the defenders, capturing and torturing to death about 30 as well. Most of the settlers fled. The Boston Gazette and County Journal ran an article on 27 Jul 1778, quoting a letter from Samuel Avery of 15 Jul 1778,  "Giving the disagreeable intelligence brought by Mr. Solomon Avery this moment returned from Wyoming on the Susquehanna River, which says 'the informant conceiveds [sic] that of about five thousand inhabitants one half are killed and taken by the enemy prisoners and the others fleeing away naked and distressed!". News of this event created quite a popular outcry against the British and their use of the Indians. In 1780, Solomon and others asked Congress for help to build a fort to protect the settlers on the Susquehanna River.

     After this event Solomon returned to Groton (with his family presumably).  But here he was yet again to confront a massacre and tragedy for his larger family.  On 6 Sep 1781 the British, under Benedict Arnold himself of Connecticut, attacked Fort Griswold, on the heights above Groton.  This is called the Battle of Groton Heights or the "Fort Griswold Massacre."  Being very outnumbered the Americans surrendered. At this point the British came and slaughtered the soldiers and took others prisoner.  About 150 died.  This was a major disaster for Groton both in terms of lives lost and in destruction to the town.  It was the last battle in the North as the British surrendered at Yorktown only six weeks later.  A letter of 11 Jul 1783, survives that Solomon wrote to his brother, Waightstill, in which he says, "Eleven Averys were killed in the fort at Groton and seven wounded.  Many Averys have been killed in this county, but there have been no Tories among them of our name."  Solomon's son, Ebenezer, age 16, told of his moccasins being covered in blood when he went to the fort to help recover the bodies of his family members.

     There are records that suggest that Solomon also fought for brief time periods in the War.  But certainly he was a patriot and proud of his family's involvement and lack of Tories!

     Solomon returned to Pennsylvania where he died on 23 Dec 1798 in Putnam. He is buried in Marcy Pioneer Cemetery, Tunkhannock, Wyoming, Pennsylvania. It seems appropriate to review his life on July 4, 2015, at the anniversary of America's fight for independence.


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