Patriot Heroes

[From ‘Bits of Local History,’ Allentown Messenger dated October 12, 1911]


The late Samuel W. Fidler, of Allentown, during his early life was well acquainted with men who had fought in the Revolutionary army; and among his many interesting reminiscences concerning people and things in the Allentown of former times, none were of more interest to the writer than his description of those who had been actors in the stirring scenes of the Revolutionary period. Those whom Mr. Fidler had often spoken of are was below mentioned:



James Montgomery was a son of James and Esther Montgomery, of Eglinton, near Allentown. He was educated to the law; but at the beginning of the war of the Revolution he entered the army, holding a lieutenant’s commission in the New Jersey militia. He was under Gen. Richard Montgomery in his expedition against Quebec, in December 1775, and where that officer lost his life in the assault. He was also in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth.


After the war was closed Mr. Montgomery engaged in merchandising in Allentown; and later removed to his farm near Eglinton. It was here that he died in 1832, being 77 years of age. He was the father of Gen. William R. Montgomery, who achieved distinction in the Mexican War; and was the great uncle of Bennington Gill.


Two of Mr. Montgomery’s brothers, Joseph and John, were also soldiers of the Revolution, the latter being a member of the First City Troop of cavalry, of Philadelphia, an organization which is still in existence and has never been disbanded.



A prominent figure in Allentown in early times was Col. David Hay, a former officer in the army of the Revolution, he having seen service in the Monmouth militia, under command of Gen. David Forman.


For a long time after the war he resided in a dwelling that stood on the site of the present Bunting store, at the corner Main and Church streets. At the right of his house was a building in which he carried on the business of a hatter, that being an important industry in Allentown in those days.


Colonel Hay never abandoned the old-time style of wearing his hair in a queue, although he lived so long into the years of the nineteenth century. His death occurred at Allentown in 1834, at the age of 82 years, his remains being interred in the Presbyterian cemetery.


For many years after his death one of his daughters, Miss Sarah Hay, lived in the dwelling on Main street which afterward came into possession of the late Mrs. Louisa Davis, and where Miss Hay passed the latter part of her life. Another daughter, Mary, married William Scudder, of Trenton, and these were the parents of a large family of children, one of whom is the well-known John H. Scudder, of that city.


The dwelling of Colonel Hay was afterward removed to another part of the town, and in its place was put his former hat shop, which, after being enlarged, was used as a general store by different proprietors for many years.



A Revolutionary soldier residing in Allentown for many years was John Clutch, his home being in the building now occupied by Probasco’s bakery, on [13 S.] Main street. It was in 1832 that he applied for a pension, which was granted.


Mr. Clutch was a member of the New Jersey militia and entered the service of the State in May 1776. Most of the duties of the command to which he belonged were guarding the seacoast and the Delaware river against foraging and plundering parties of the British, while they were occupying New York and Philadelphia.


To quote the veteran’s own words, their duties were “to repel foraging parties and to protect the inhabitants, their cattle and sheep, to guard the ferries between the hostile parties, to prevent the Tories and others from trading with the enemy, to capture active Tories and be ready to turn out an alarm and other emergencies.”


The most serious engagement in which Mr. Clutch took part was the battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778. According to his own statement, the last of his army service was in [Springfield] Somerset county in June, 1780, in the campaign which ended in driving the British out of that part of New Jersey.


Mr. Clutch was a great-grandfather of George V. Leming, of Allentown. He lived to be over 91 years old, his death occurring at Hamilton Square in 1840. His burial was in the Allentown Presbyterian Cemetery.



At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, James B. Stafford was in the mercantile business in the city of New York. He refused to take the oath of allegiance to King George III, as was required by the British authorities, and went to Boston, where he assisted in fitting out the privateer “Kitty,” commissioned by the Boston officials to cruise upon the high seas.


He entered the service of the United States on the 18th of April 1776, and served upon the said ship until captured by a British frigate and the crew of the “Kitty” put in irons.

The latter vessel was soon afterwards recaptured by Commodore Paul Jones and the irons placed upon the British crew. This was about ten days before Jones’ great naval fight, in which his vessel, the “Bon Homme Richard,” engaged the British “Serapis.” During the engagement Jones’ flag was shot away and fell into the sea, when young Stafford leaped overboard and recovered the flag. He received a severe wound in his shoulder on this occasion from the sword of a British officer. The wound was never well healed and in his old age it caused him much pain.


Mr. Stafford continued in the naval service of the United States until the crew of the “Alliance,” of which he was a member, was discharged per resolution by Congress. His discharge is dated Thursday, February 19, 1784, signed by Commodore John Barry. Under an act of Congress he received a pension of $120 per annum during his life.


After the war, Mr. Stafford devoted himself to school teaching, several years of which he spent in Allentown [at the non-secular Presbyterian Academy]. Before leaving here, he opened a school in Imlaystown, walking the entire distance every day between the two places. Among his pupils at the last named school where the late Abel and Enoch Cafferty, who were then young lads living with their parents at Imlaystown.


Mr. Stafford remained at Allentown until his removal to Trenton, where his death occurred on the 19th day of August 1838, at a very advance age. Charles H. Fidler