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War on the Niagara Frontier, circa 1813

Six years after the Truesdells arrived in the wilderness in the Holland Land Purchase, the United States was at war again with England. At a time when there wasn’t an organized army, volunteer militias from each state were activated. When the call went out, 30-year-old Jeremiah Truesdell, 25-year-old Solomon, 23-year-old Gideon R.; and 22-year-old Timothy Truesdell joined Noble’s Regiment in the light infantry.

Battle of Lake Erie, September 10th, 1813, by William Henry Powell, courtesy of the U.S. Senate Archives.

Battle of Lake Erie, September 10th, 1813, by William Henry Powell, courtesy of the U.S. Senate Archives.

Regiments from the Holland Purchase were called to fight during the “War on the Niagara Frontier.” Although their length of service was only a little more than a month, the action pulled hundreds of men from their work in the fields during the fall harvest. During another call to arms, Timothy Truesdell stayed behind to harvest crops while his brothers were away on the shores of Lake Erie.

The previous decade had been difficult for settlers due to high property taxes and land payments. When the fighting began, another tax was imposed to pay for the war, which  everyone had to pay or risk losing their property. This forced housewives to spin cloth from flax so they had something to trade for goods at the general store so they could conserve enough cash to pay their taxes. Not surprisingly, some farmers smuggled food across the Niagara River to the British at inflated prices so they could pay high wartime taxes.


The fighting began on September 8, 1812, when 100 New York soldiers crossed the Niagara River into Canada to seize the schooners Caledonia and Detroit, but due to a calm wind they couldn’t sail back, and were only able to beach them against the Canadian shoreline. After stealing about $150,000 worth of furs, they set the Detroit on fire.


A few days later, when the Truesdell’s crossed the river to fight the British there were heavy casualties. General VanRensselaer sent for reinforcements but when 1,200 soldiers saw wagon after wagon piled with dead soldiers, they refused to cross the river. They would fight to protect New York farms and settlements but not to defend foreign soil.


The 800 soldiers who had crossed the river were badly outnumbered, and about 1,000 Americans were wounded, captured or killed. Sometimes the British recruited the Indians, mostly Algonquin’s, to strip dead militia soldiers of their clothes and scalp them. Some militia soldiers surrendered, but the Truesdell brothers managed to escape and found their way back to their farms.

On November 3, 1812, when Noble’s Regiment was disbanded, the Truesdell’s and in- law Daniel Bannister returned home. Two years later when they were once again called to duty, Solomon Truesdell spent a month in Churchill’s Militia while his brother Timothy was assigned to Captain Bronson’s New York Volunteers.

After the fighting was over Gideon R. Truesdell (1789-1847) returned to his cabin in South Warsaw along Truesdell Road, where several years earlier, at the age of 17 he had begun clearing land to plant wheat, a cash crop he could sell to grain elevators in Buffalo for a high price due to demand.

Corn, which didn’t sell for nearly as much but had myriad uses, was mixed with tall grass and fed to the cattle. Husks were used to stuff mattresses, and cobs were turned into corks for jugs or tool handles. Four bushels of corn could feed a hog until he tipped the scales at over four hundred pounds, and a hand-full of kernels fed a flock of chickens. In addition to harvesting hay from fields for winter feed, every farmer planted a few acres of barley to supplement their livestock’s diet.

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