The World of Grandpa Don

The Copeland Family Line
Sally Downer Story

Sally Downer married Joseph Copeland, the 5th generation in our Copeland. Not much of the Downer family is known at this time but here experiences and that of her father and brothers during the War of Independence warrants special notice.

This is their story, as I know it.

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Sally Downer and the Royalton Vt. Raid.

 

The Raid

The Royalton Raid was a British-led Indian raid in 1780 against various towns along the White River Valley in the Vermont Republic, and was part of the American Revolutionary War. It was the last major Indian raid in New England.

In the early morning hours of October 16, 1780,Lieutenant Houghton of the British Army's 53rd Regiment of Foot and a single Grenadier, along with 300 Mohawk warriors from the Kahnawake Reservein the British province of Quebec, attacked and burned the towns of Royalton, Sharon and Tunbridge along the White River in eastern Vermont. This raid was launched in conjunction with other raids led by Major Christopher Carleton of the29th Regiment of Foot along the shores of Lake Champlain and Lake George and Sir John Johnsonof the King's Royal Regiment of New York in the Mohawk River valley, to attempt to drive the Vermonters out of Vermont and to burn anything of military value that might be used by the Green Mountain Boys if they decided to attack Montreal or Quebec City again. Four Vermont settlers were killed and twenty six were taken prisoner to Quebec.

By the time the local militia could assemble, Houghton and his command were already on their way back north. The militia caught up with the raiders near Randolph, Vermont, and a few volleys were fired back and forth, but when Houghton said that the remaining captives might be killed by the Mohawks if fighting continued, the local militia let the raiders slip away.

The Hannah Handy monument, on the South Royalton town green, is a granite arch honoring a young mother who lost her young son in the raid, crossed the river, and successfully begged for the return of several children

 

The Downer Family

Ephraim Downer, was a widower with three small children, Ephraim, Daniel, and Sally. The two boys were at home, but Sally, who was a wee tot, was cared for in the family of Tilly Parkhurst, a fellow-townsman. Early on the morning of  October 16, 1780,  Ephraim, who was a carpenter, was in a loft over the shed looking over some lumber, when the Indians suddenly sprang upon him. They dragged the two boys from their beds, frightening the youngest so that he never recovered from the shock. All three were taken captive and started for Canada. Ephraim Downer may have lived in the vicinity of South Royalton. If so, he may possibly have lived near the mills, and so had been one of the first to suffer from the savages.

 

The Heroin of the town

One of the wives, Mrs. Hannah Handy, attempted to take some of the children of the town to safety. They could have had little expectation that the savages would be upon them so quickly, for it is said that Mrs. Handy had gone but a short distance when she met Indians on the run, who took away her seven-year-old boy, Michael. When the Indian told her he would make a soldier of him, she spiritedly replied, "A good deal you will. The tomahawk is all you will give him. I will follow you to Canada before I will give up my boy." According to a tradition of the descendants of Lucretia, the little daughter who was some years younger than Michael, Mrs. Handy recognized among the Indians one whom they had fed and kindly treated at one time, and it was he who carried her over the river, and who interceded in her behalf in the release of the children.

Mrs. Handy is said to have been about 27 years of age at this time, and from a description of her as she appeared in old age, there is no doubt that she was a young woman of attractive personality. Young Lieut. Houghton could not withstand the charm of the agonized mother, beautiful in the strength and courage of her mother-love, and his better nature was awakened by her unselfish and fearless pleading for her neighbors' children. This surrender to the higher dictates of his conscience, and the kind act of the Indian in aiding Mrs. Handy across the river, are almost the only touches that relieve the brutal savagery of the events of this day. One cannot easily picture the joy of each household, scattered here and there, as she restored to the sorrowing parents their children, or they received word that their loved ones were safe through the heroism of this noble woman. There was one, Daniel Downer, motherless, and now fatherless, for his father was taken to Canada, for whom no parents' arms were outstretched in loving welcome. It is not strange that he pined, and never afterward knew the gladness of protected and tenderly nurtured childhood.

The names of the children who were indebted to her for their release from the savage tribe, were Michael Hendee, Roswell Parkhurst, son of Capt. Ebenezer Parkhurst, Andrew and Sheldon Durkee, Joseph Rix, Rufus Fish, Nathaniel Evans, and Daniel Downer. The latter received such an affright from the horrid crew, that he was ever afterwards unable to take care of himself, wholly unfit for business: and lived for many years, wandering from place to place, a solemn, tho' silent witness of the distress and horror of that dreadful scene.

 

The Copeland Connection

On the 10th of March in 1792, Sally Downer, was married to Joseph Copeland and they were our 3rd great grandparents. We have no information about Ephraim Downer's family or his wife. He and his son Ephraim Jr., apparently never returned from Canada and nothing is known of them. The severely distraught Daniel Downer apparently never married and it is reported that he died at a young age. However, Sally and Joseph had 8 children and named two of them after the Tilly Parkurst who raised Sally. Most of their family moved to Pennsylvania where we find the Copeland line continuing to us via Alden Parkus (or was it Parkhurst) to the present generations.

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My Family

Sally Downer

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