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Whitmore saga revealed

By Staff | Nov 26, 2013

Various Whitmoyer families numbering 21 attended a recent meeting of the East Lycoming Historical Society to hear the saga of the 1779 massacure of the Peter Whitmore family.   

HUGHESVILLE – In the early morning hours of April 1779, savages broke through the door of the Peter Whitmore family cabin and shot or knifed, then scalped the father, Peter Whitmore, his wife Maria Sheets and son Philip.

This was the beginning of an account of events near present day Jerseytown, Columbia County, by speaker W. M. “Bill” Baillie who in 2007 published “The Whitmore Saga,” following his three year research chronicling the five surviving Whitmore children carried away into captivity.

The author followed the children’s paths to maturity, their struggles to rejoin white society, and later reunions-in one case, many decades later. “The gripping tales show the American Revolution from the perspectives of the children and Loyalists, their world wrenched awry by the Rebellion,” Baillie said.

He also related that this incident was but one of hundreds of such muderous attacks on the frontier, a result of the British incensing the natives into punishing the ever increasing population of whites.

The story continued with the raiders taking six children, the number quickly reduced to five when they killed a sobbing infant, clutched by a sister who could not curtail her cries.

“Heading north, they rode for two days without food, after dividing the children among them, the party representing three Indian nations, went their separate ways,” Baillie said.

After finding and listing family names, the book identifies the survivors and the 45 grandchildren produced from the murdered couple.

Some locals with the same surname with various spellings of Whitmore have long sought to connect themselves to the ill-fated family. Having exhaused that possibility, it’s Ballie’s opinion that some locals descended from the sons of Peter Whitmore’s brother, namely David, who settled at Briar Creek near Berwick, and Conrad who came to Pine Summit where the counties of Columbia and Lycoming meet.

Among the pines, the latter fathered 15 children and most locals refer to Conrad Whitmoyer as their ancestor.

Attendees of the meeting came from West Virginia, Berwick, Bloomsburg, Turbotville and many places within the East Lycoming area. Those attending spelling their name ‘Whitmire’ were Kenneth, William, Nelson, Vernon E. and Vernon T.Whitmire. The ‘Whitmoyer’ representatives were James, William, Michael, Richard C., Robert W., Sharon Meek, Sharon Waltman, Karen Ellis, Stacy Woodley, Kayla Lavan, Holly Opsomer, Emma Shetler and Dennis Keiser.

Baillie, author of The Whitmore Saga, is Emeritus Professor of English at Bloomsburg University and author of other books including “The History of Madison Township,” and “Columbia County Grist Mills.” His books are available through the Columbia County Historical and Genealogical Society of which Baillie is a past president.