Jacob Crossett Sr.

Craftsman, Patriot, Pioneer



acob was the first son of Archibald and Sarah (Savage) Crossett.  He was their only son until he was ten years old. Undoubtedly he learned much from working with his father who was both farmer and housewright. This meant learning   not only carpentry but also the craft of stonemasonry and all the skills of  farming needed in that new land. 

Apparently, he learned his lessons well for in 1771 at his twenty first birthday his father deeded to him a lot in New Salem, Massachusetts near Pelham. In December of 1772 Jacob settled on this land with his new bride the former Elinor English of Greenwich. Together they developed their land and their family. Issa was born in 1775 and Jacob Jr. in 1777. 

Unfortunately, a peaceful life was not to be theirs. In 1776 the war broke out to sever America's ties with England. The Scotch-Irish settlers all over the colonies turned out to fight in large numbers. There was very little affection in their hearts for England after what their parents and grandparents had experienced in Ireland. In March of 1777 Jacob joined the Continental Army in Captain Daniel Shays' Company of Colonel Rufus Putnam's Regiment. Shays was later to lead a popular rebellion known by his name, which involved other Crossetts. Eight other Crossett men from the nearby towns also enlisted in various regiments of the army. 

Colonel Rufus Putnam was present at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was Chief Engineer of the Continental Army until the close of the war. Continental Army pay accounts and regimental records were kept as you might expect in the early days of our nation when there was no clear organization that was not made up as it went along. Still, Jacob's record as it appears in the publication Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution  indicates that he served for three years until February 29, 1780. Regiments and commanding officers changed often but it is possible to say that Jacob was with the Massachusetts line of the Continental Army throughout the war and probably not far from Colonel Putnam. Being Chief Engineer the Colonel was always near General Washington. There are no pension records for Jacob, but his immediate commanding officer, Daniel Shays, did leave a record. It may not be too long a leap to suppose Jacob was with him. He says he was present at the surrender of General Burgoyne, the storming of Stony Point, and was under General Lafayette. Many other battles and skirmishes were mentioned without specifics. General Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga, New York in 1777. Stony Point is a small peninsula extending into the Hudson River twenty five miles above Manhattan. The British fort there was taken in 1779 by soldiers carrying unloaded weapons with bayonets in order to insure surprise. They were under the command of General Anthony Wayne, sometimes known as "mad Anthony". These battles were scrappy affairs, with British tactics of firing in line against colonial tactics of shooting from cover. An advance with fixed bayonets was not their style but surprise won the day for them.

Between these two battles the record says Jacob was taken prisoner by the British. That was on June 28, 1778. This is the date of the Battle of Monmouth. Eleven thousand British regulars together with a thousand Loyalists were marching on Philadelphia through New Jersey. Washington's generals did not believe that their troops could stand against the regulars and advised against open fighting. Washington compromised and sent a small group to harass the enemy under General Lafayette. General Harry Lee who had at first refused the command, reversed himself at this and took the command. However, he made no reconaissance, sent out no sentries, and issued no orders. Colonel Putnam's engineers were on the field and, not being trained infantry, they broke under British advance. General Lee did nothing to stop them. General Washington rode up and relieved him.

Following this, a regrouping took place and while exposing himself to enemy fire, Washington regained the initiative. British commander, General Clinton, withdrew his forces under fire and left the field to the Americans. While the Battle was not decisive, the British left the field and lost much of their stores and equipment. General Lee was court-martialed and removed from command for a year. This was the last large battle of the war, which then moved to the south.

A famous incident of this battle is the story of Molly Pitcher who, when her husband was wounded, took over his position at the artillery and served the gun throughout the fight. Molly Pitcher

I believe that Jacob must have been one of those under Putnam who was doing field engineering work dismantling British defenses when he was captured. Putnam had many special units made up of skilled workers for these jobs. They received better pay than usual and were sometimes the object of envy of the regular troops who got less pay. Nevertheless, they were in harms way constantly. Since Jacob survived and went on to serve until 1780, he was either rescued or exchanged soon after capture. Neither side wanted to be encumbered with prisoners needing guards and feeding. As we saw with the story of Remembrance Philley elsewhere on this site, Lafayette was sent south to bother General Cornwallis, leading to the final surrender at Yorktown. Men of the Massachusetts line went with him.

Returning home from war was probably a joyous occasion especially since Jacob had not seen much of his son, Jacob Jr. who was born in October of 1777. His joy was brief. Elinor died that same year. The exact date of her death is not recorded but it must have been soon after his return, because before the year was out Jacob remarried. She was Fanny Savage, maybe a cousin. Jacob sold his Salem property in 1783 to his cousin Samuel Crossett who, with his brothers Robert, Ebenezer, and Edward lived on adjoining properties in New Salem. Their parents were Jacobs aunt and uncle Mary (Savage) and Robert Crossett. Jacob and Fanny moved to Shutesbury, Massachusetts, not far northwest of Pelham. Jacob and Fanny had a son whom they named John Savage Crossett, likely after the John Savage who came with his parents and hers to America in 1716. The 1790 Census shows another boy under 16 living with Jacob and Fanny in Shutesbury but it is not known if this was a son or another relative. It is probably the latter since there is no further sign of him. In 1793 Jacob bought land in Pelham where he is shown on tax records. The stay there was brief and in 1794 he sold the land to Libious Howard and went west to stay.

Jacob is next found in Salem, New York. He went there to settle on land known as the Turner Patent. In fact, he lived close to Alexander Turner, the patentee. 14,246 acres were granted in 1764 to Turner and others, among whom was James Crossett. Only a few of the owners got settled before the war broke out. The land on the east side of the Hudson River near Albany was the scene of much fighting and land was taken by the British and given to loyalists. When the war was over the land was taken from the loyalists and given back to its original owners. By that time many of them had died and their heirs claimed their portions. By 1790 James, Samuel, and two John Crossetts were in Washington County. By 1800 the number had climbed to eight as Jacob, David, William, and Ann are found there.

It was during this time that Vermont and New York were haggling over the boundary. Vermont wanted all up to the Hudson River, but New York wanted the portion east of the river which is now Washington County, where Salem was located. A lot of the westward movement followed immediately after Shays Rebellion. It is not known whether any other Crossetts participated, but it is likely since Shays was from Pelham and Jacob served under him in the war. The need for a loyalty oath and the taxation practices of Massachusetts did not sit well with these hardy and independent men. By 1810, Jacob is living in Clinton County Town of Peru. He is not found in the record after that. We now can follow his eldest son, Jacob Crossett Jr.