Name: Joshua Mersereau III
Birth: 1758 in Probably Staten Island, Richmond, New York; Removed to Tioga County, N.Y, then Unadilla, then bef 1792 to Union
Death: 20 JAN 1857 in Lindley, New York
Two Teenagers Who Helped Save America
The story of two teenagers at the beginning of the Revolutionary War giv es us insight into the beginnings of what is today the township of Guilfor d. The two boys by the names of Joshua and John lived in Staten Island wi th their father Joshua Sr. The father was educated at what is now Columb ia College and practiced law in New York City. He was also a successful bu sinessman on Staten Island having a tavern, stagecoaches and several boat s. George Washington and Lafayette were frequent visitors in his home.
Early in July, 1776, when New York fell to the British, a large amou nt of Joshua Mersereau's property was destroyed and he narrowly escaped ca pture. His brother John turned his horses, which were used by the stagecoa ch line, into Washington's service. When George Washington was retreati ng through N.J., he asked Mersereau that his son John La Grange Merserea u, who was about 19 at the time, remain behind in Staten Island and a ct as a spy. This was the beginning of the "Mersereau Spy Ring." John d id successful espionage for 18 months. Mrs. Smith in her book, "Staten Isl and- Gateway to N.Y." mentions that with people like the Mersereaus' Geor ge Washington could report to the Continental Congress. "I have people con stantly on Staten Island who gives me daily information on the operatio ns of the enemy. These are brave men." John La Grange Mersereau eventual ly came under suspicion but escaped and rejoined the American army. Lat er he became Assistant Deputy Commissary of Prisoners. He was never ab le to serve with troops in the field because a defective right arm ma de it impossible to hold a musket, but for courage he was unsurpassed in t he revolution.
The Indian Orchard Falls in Spring
Joshua Jr., now about 14 years old, replaced his brother moving back and f orth in a skiff hidden by day in a relative's cellar. When George Washingt on crossed the Delaware, the British were in pursuit. It was Joshua Jr. a nd Joshua Sr. who were the principle instruments in preventing the Briti sh army from crossing the Delaware. Joshua Sr. asked if every precaution h ad been taken and that the materials left behind had been burnt. To be su re Joshua Sr. and Joshua Jr. asked if they might go back across and sear ch the shore. On the other side of the river they found below the water 's surface two Durham boats (troop carriers) sunk purposely before by t he Tories. They raised the boats and burnt them. Thus, when the British un der General Howe arrived at the Delaware they had no means of following Wa shington. The war was saved for Washington. Twenty-five days later Washing ton returned and "Crossed the Delaware." Victory resulted.
From 1776 through 1782 Joshua Jr. served in many battles of the Revolution ary War. In May of 1782 he worked as a carpenter for the ship South Caroli na and later joined the crew. In a battle with three British ships he w as wounded in the leg, a wound he says later, " has never since healed." T he South Carolina was captured and Joshua Jr. was put on the prison shi p, the Scorpion. In the end of Jan in 1783 he was paroled until the Trea ty of Peace in 1784.
Joshua Jr. was an impressive man. He was six feet tall, weighed about 2 50 pounds and had red hair. His most impressive feature though was his cha racter. After the war the Mersereaus continued to serve their country n ot fighting for freedom but as pioneers helping to carve a nation out of t he wilderness.
The Mersereaus first returned to their property in Staten Island after t he war. Joshua Sr. was a member of the Provincial Assembly in New York Sta te from 1777 to 1786. His brother John was Clerk of the Court of Richmo nd County in 1784. Rather than rebuild the businesses, the Mersereaus deci ded to move to Tioga County, N.Y. Joshua Sr. became one of the earliest ju dges. They moved again to Unadilla and later separated. Joshua Sr. settl ed in Union marrying his third wife, Esther Christopher. His brother Jo hn and family joined him there in Union in 1792.
Indian Orchard Falls - Bottom Pool
The two sons Joshua and John came to Chenango County. They were the fir st settlers of what is now Guilford, N.Y. in 1788. The county clerk's offi ce in Norwich has records of large tracks of land purchased and sold by t he Mersereau brothers. In French's "Gazetteer" it is mentioned that Josh ua Jr. built the first saw mill in the town at the mouth of the Guilford C reek. Joshua in his memoirs stated, " I did not get them (the mill) start ed the first year which was in 1788. When I commenced building my mil l, I was disappointed in a mill wright and had to go all the way to Poughk eepsie on the North River for a mill wright and I got a man by the na me of Brown. I took him into a boat and rowed him up the river and then to ok him across the county and finished my mill in 1789. Made boards and so ld them to settlers as fast as I sawed them."
In 1791 Joshua Jr. was elected one of the first officers of the town of Ba inbridge. His brother John was the first Surrogate in Chenango County appo inted March 27, 1798. They both settled near the mouth of the Guilford Cre ek but Joshua later went to Guilford Center and ran a tavern, the Angel In n, which is still standing and is now called the Pillars.
Joshua's wife, Dinah Garretson died in Guilford Center in 1822. Together t hey had 12 children and it was Joshua Jr's. son, another Joshua, that mov ed to Lindley, N.Y. in 1817. His father joined him in 1840 at the age of 8 7. His eyesight was poor and his old leg wound from the war bothered hi m. Joshua Jr. died Jan 20, 1857 in his son's house at the age of 97. His b rother and partner in espionage, John La Grange Mersereau, also came to Li ndley with his family and died at the age of 84 in Covington, Pa. in 1841.
On April 26, 1997 Joshua Mersereau Jr. was inducted into the Steuben Coun ty Hall of Fame for his services and activities as a spy and soldier und er General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. A portrait of J oshua is in the Soldier's Room of the Tioga County Historical Society in W ellsboro, Pa.
The wooden mill built by the Mersereaus rotted down about 1820 only to le ad the way for other mills to be built on the Guilford Creek. Mills that w ould supply power for sawing wood and grinding grist for the new town of G uilford. Walking along the shores of Guilford Creek today, by what once w as called, "Indian Orchard" by Joshua, I feel a sense of wonder at the pow er of the water over the rocks. The waterfalls has that peaceful yet haunt ing sound of a Guilford long past. I think back to those days in the 1700 's when courage and fortitude by settlers like the Mersereaus carved out o ur towns and our country. One never walks alone.
Guilford Town Historian
March 16, 1999
1. Spies of the Revolution, Katherine and John Bakeless
2. Central N.Y. Geneology, Cutter
3. Annals of Staten Island, J.J. Clute
4. History of Chenango County, N.Y. 1784-1880, James H. Smith
5. Joshua Mersereau, National Archives, Wash.,D.C.
6. Papers of John La Grange Mersereau, National Archives, Wash., D.C.
7. Deeds and Records, Chenango County Clerk's Office, Norwich, N.Y.
8. Revolutionary War Veterans Chenango County, Nelson Tiffany
9. The Spy Who Rescued America, Star Gazette, Ap. 6, 1997
10. the Mersereau Presho House, Paul Mortziem
11. Staten Island Gateway to N.Y., Smith
12. Articles on Mersereau, Lindley Historians Jim & Sandy Lundgren
All information on this site are excerpts from Unadilla Valley: Pictori al Glimpses of the Past, 1976, Unadilla Valley Historical Society; Mert Br ownell: Unadilla Valley: 1788-1976, 1976, Unadilla Valley Historical Socie ty and partially reprinted with permission by Thomas Gray, Guilford Town H istorian.
All pictures and photographs on this site courtesy of the Guilford Histori cal Society; underwater photographs by Robert M. Small, Professional Divi ng Services, Norwich, New York.
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Last modified April 20, 1999
Father: Joshua Mersereau , Jr. b: 26 SEP 1738 in Probably Staten Island, Richmond, New York
Mother: Sophia La Grange b: ABT 1739
Diana Garretson b: ABT 1760
in They had 12 children together
- Joshua Mersereau IV b: ABT 1780