Wife: Susannah Hamblin (7)
02 (M): Alvah Ewer (14)
Born: 01 Apr 1799 in Lee, Berkshire, MA
03 (M): Jesse Ewer (15)
Born: about 1801
1752 – 1835
Sandwich, Massachusetts – Dryden, New York
13 Feb 2004
Tonight I want to tell you about one of our ancestors who was in the Revolutionary War as a PIRATE!
Paul Ewer was born on the 9th of September 1752 in Sandwich, Barnstable County, Massachusetts. This town is on Cape Cod. Paul was the son of Jane Hatch and Shubael Ewer, one of a long line of Ewers, the first of whom had come from England in 1635. During the Colonial period the family's name was written Ure, Eue, Ewe, and Ewer (pronounced "Your").
During the Revolutionary War most soldiers didn't come and stay in the army for the whole time. They would agree to come and fight for a month or two or until a certain goal was reached. Then they'd go home and work on their farms until they were needed again. So it was with Paul Ewer. According to what records I could find, he was in and out of the army 8 different times with stretches of from one month eight days to six months. And it wasn't all blood and gore. Some of the things he had to do were very boring. For instance, early in the war he was assigned to a group of soldiers that spent three months guarding the town of Scituate. It's on the coast between Boston and Cape Cod. We don't know if anything at all happened during those three months. Another time, in 1777, he was sent down to Falmouth, Massachusetts, that's on the south of Cape Cod across from the Island called Martha's Vineyard. He was sent there to guard that town and the British did attack and Paul helped to drive them off. Another time his job was to guard a ferry in Rhode Island. We know that on at least one occasion he enlisted along with his brother Barnabas.
In 1778 he spent five months in Cambridge, Massachusetts guarding prisoners that had been taken by General Burgoyne. This was probably a pretty boring job most of the time also, but at least once there was some excitement. This is what happened. One of the prisoners was an officer named Richard Brown who liked to chase the ladies. Several times he just walked out of the camp, went to Boston for a good time, and then came back to camp. The sentries were told not to allow him to go again. The next time he decided to leave camp a young friend of Paul's, William Green, was on duty. William told Richard he could not leave and he should get back in the camp. Richard ignored the order and got into a carriage with two pretty girls, so William shot him in the back and killed him. All the other English prisoners practically rioted when the shooting took place. They demanded that William be court martialed. He was and was found innocent since he was only doing his duty.
Probably the most action that Paul saw as a soldier was in the Battle of Valcour Island. In August 1776 he enlisted for 4 months in Massachusetts state troops under Captain David Porter in Colonel Brewer's regiment. They marched to Mt. Hope near Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain and built a fort and were in a battle. It happened this way. In the fall of 1776 Benedict Arnold brought his three ships of the Continental naval fleet to Lake Champlain in New York. The British had 10,000 men to the north of Lake Champlain just across the Canadian border. With the help of Vermont farmers Arnold built 13 more ships, bringing his fleet to 16 ships. On October 11, 1776 the two navies met near Valcour island and slugged it out with cannons for five hours. The Americans lost eleven ships and many men. The British "won" the battle. But it had been a tough victory and they were hurting too. So they retreated to Canada for the winter. Some historians think that if the colonists had not been able to put up such a good fight there, the British with their thousands of men could have come down the Hudson River and cut off New England from the rest of the colonies and won the war quickly. So you see, our forefather, Paul Ewer, was part of that battle, and he helped to win the Revolutionary War. And he was very lucky to survive that battle.
Here's where the pirate part comes in. Even during the times when he wasn't in the army Paul had a way to help the colonists. He was a privateer. Privateers were private citizens who used their own ships to attack British ships. They were a very important part of winning the war when the war began in 1775 the Continental Navy only had 31 ships. Privateers like our Paul supplied another 1697 ships and captured 2283 British ships. Privateers needed special government issued documents to operate legally. A “letter of Marque” authorized the captain to capture British ships and sell the cargoes at public auction. He also had to post a Privateer's bond stating that he would not violate international law. He received a set of instructions from Congress, which told him all of the laws and rules that he must follow to be considered a privateer and not a pirate. We know that our Paul was involved in this aspect of the war from the 19 May 1778 entry in the Diary of Benjamin Percival, "Paul Ewer and Barnabas Ewer got home to Day from privateering. Came up with us from town." Privateers were like pirates in many ways, but they had the backing of the Continental Congress. OK, so I exaggerated. He wasn't really a pirate. He was just sorta like a pirate - a pirate with permission.
Here is a story about a young boy, Andrew Sherburne, that sailed on a privateering voyage. It may be very like a voyage on which our Paul sailed. Let's imagine it is.
The continental ship of war, Ranger of eighteen guns, commanded by Thomas Simpson, Esq. was at this time shipping a crew in Portsmouth. This ship had been ordered to join the Boston and Providence, frigates and the Queen of France of twenty guns, upon an expedition directed by congress. .... Being ready for sea, we sailed to Boston, joined the Providence frigate, commanded by Commodore Whipple, the Boston frigate, and the Queen of France. I believe that this small squadron composed nearly the entire navy of the United States. We proceeded to sea some time in Junee, 1779. A considerable part of the crew of the Ranger being raw hands and the sea rough, especially in the gulf stream, many were exceedingly sick, and myself among the rest. We afforded a subject of constant ridicule to the old sailors. Our officers improved every favorable opportunity for working the ship and exercising the guns. We cruised several weeks, made the Western Islands, and at length fell in with the homeward bound Jamaica fleet on the banks of New-Foundland. It was our practice to keep a man at the mast head constantly by day, on the look out. The moment a sail was discovered a signal was given to our consorts and all possible exertion was made to come tip with the stranger, or discover what she was. About seven ofclock one morning, the man at the fore-topmast head cried out ga sail, a sail on the lee-bow; another there, and there.h Our young offices ran up the shrouds and with their glasses soon ascertained that more than fifty sail could be seen from the mast-head. It should here be observed that during the months of summer, it is extremely foggy on the banks of New-Foundland. Sometimes a ship cannot be seen at the distance of one hundred yards, and then in a few moments you may have a clear sky and bright sun for half an hour, and you are then enveloped in the fog again. The Jamaica fleet which consisted of about one hundred and fifty sail, some of which were armed, was convoyed by one or two line of battle ships, several frigates and sloops of war. Our little squadron was in the rear of the fleet, and we had reason to fear that some of the heaviest armed ships were there also. If I am not mistaken the Boston frigate was not in company with us at this time. My reader may easily imagine that our minds were agitated with alternate hopes and fears. No time was to be lost. Our Commodore soon brought to one of their ships, manned and sent her off. Being to windward he edged away and spoke to our captain. We were at this time in pursuit of a large ship. The Commodore hauled his wind again and in the course of an hour we came up with the ship, which proved to be the Holderness, a three decker, mounting 22 guns. She struck after giving her several broadsides. Although she had more guns, and those of heavier mettle than ourselves, her crew was not sufficiently large to manage her guns, and at the same time work the ship. She was loaded with cotton, coffee, sugar, rum and alspice. While we were employed in manning her out, our Commodore captured another and gave her up to us to man also. When this was accomplished it was nearly night; we were however unwilling to abandon the opportunity of enriching ourselves, therefore kept along under easy sail. Some time in the night we found ourselves surrounded with ships, and supposed we were discovered. We could distinctly hear their bells on which they frequently struck a. few strokes that their ships might not approach too near each other during the night. We were close on board one of their largest armed ships, and from the multitude of lights which had appeared, supposed that they had called to quarters. It being necessary to avoid their convoy we rolled to leeward, and in an hour lost sight of them all. The next day the sky was overcast, and at times we had a thick fog. In the afternoon the sun shone for a short time and enabled us to see a numerous fleet a few miles to windward, in such compact order, that we thought it not best to approach them. We were however in hopes that we might pick up some single ship. We knew nothing of our consorts, but were entirely alone. Towards night we took and manned out a brig. On the third morning we gained sight of three ships to which we gave chase, and called all hands to quarters. When they discovered us in chase, they huddled together, intending, as we supposed, to fight us; they however soon made sail and ran from us; after a short lapse of time we overhauled and took one of them, which we soon found to be a dull sailor. Another, while we were manning our prize, attempted to escape, but we found that we gained upon her. While in chase, a circumstance occurred which excited some alarm. Two large ships hove in sight to windward, running directly for us under a press of sail. One of them shaped her course for the prize we had just manned. We were unwilling to give up our chase, as we had ascertained from our prize that the two other ships were laden with sugar, , cotton, etc, and that they were unarmed. We soon came up with the hindmost, brought her to, and ordered her to keep under our stern while we might pursue the other, as our situation was too critical to allow us to heave to and get out our boat.
The stranger in chase of us was under English colors; we however soon ascertained by her signal, that she was the Providence frigate, on board of which was our Commodore. This joyful intelligence relieved us from all fear of the enemy, and we soon came up with our chase. In the mean time the prize which we had taken, (but not boarded) sought to get under the protection of the Providence, mistaking that frigate for one of the English convoy, as he still kept their colors flying. Our prize therefore as she thought eluded us, and hailing our Commodore, informed him, gthat a Yankee cruiser had taken one of the fleet!h Very well, very well, replied the Commodore, Ifll be along side of him directly. He then hauled down his English colors, hoisted the American, and ordered the ship to haul down her flag and come under his stern. This order was, immediately obeyed. We now ascertained that the strange ship, which was in chase of our first prize, was another of our consorts, the Queen of France. Having manned our prizes and secured our prisoners, we all shaped our course for Boston, where we arrived some time in the last of July or beginning of August, 1779.
Source: Andrew Sherburne, Memoirs of Andrew Sherburne; a Pensioner of the Navy of the Revolution, Written By Himself (Utica, N.Y.: W. Williams, 1828), 16-23.
By June of 1781 the war was still going on. Paul had served eight different times and also helped out as a privateer. He was tired of fighting so he decided to get married. Abraham Crocker was a friend of Paul's from the army. On the way home from one of their stints working in the war, Abraham invited Paul and another friend, Jacob Cobb, to stop by at his house for a visit. There they were introduced to his pretty sisters. On the 6th of June 1781 Paul married Mercy Crocker. Jacob married Anna Crocker one week later on June 13, 1781. We THINK this is how it may have happened. What we know for sure is that these three men were in the army together and the dates of the weddings.
Shortly after the wedding Paul and Mercy moved to the westernmost part of Massachusetts, the town of Lee in Berkshire County on the Housatonic River. Though we don't know exactly why they moved away from the Cape Cod area, we do know why many other people left at that time as well. The following paragraph is taken from Massachusetts, Centennial History of theTown, by Rev. C.M. Hyde and Alexander Hyde written in 1878. It gives us an idea of why people came to Lee from Cape Cod and what life was like at that time and place.
"The Revolutionary War brought peculiar distress to the population of Cape Cod. Not only did they suffer the burdens of the war, such as fell upon the whole state, the drain of men and money, but their principal occupations, fishing and coasting, were almost entirely broken up. With the loss of all ordinary means of livelihood, and constantly depreciating currency, they were compelled to seek some other location where willingness to work and persevering diligence would be in themselves resources more valuable than money.... Marvelous stories, transcending any fish stories, had been carried to Cape Cod in regard to the fertility of the soil of the new lands on the Housatonic....But the reality was a hard and trying experience of obstacles and difficulties which only undaunted perseverance, strong arms and stout hearts could overcome. The snows were deep and lay long on the hill-sides. It was no easy matter to travel any distance, even with the aid of snow shoes....The name of Cape Street was given to the eastern section of the town, because so largely occupied by people from Cape Cod....The people lived in small log houses, mostly located upon the sides of the mountains. Marked trees served for roads, and a tree felled so as to fall across the river served for a bridge, where such a contrivance was necessary or convenient..."
They probably came west with many friends and neighbors. We know from a deed for the sale of land in Lee in 1784 that at least one other Crocker family had also moved to Lee. Mercy's cousin Lemuel and his family signed the deed as witnesses.
In Lee Paul and Mercy started and grew their family. John Crocker Ewer, their first child, was born in 1783, the year the war ended. Tillotson was born in 1785. In 1787 came Mary Bursley Ewer. Jane was born in 1789, Martha in 1793, and Paul Jr. in 1795. On March 18, 1795, Mercy died. Her son Paul was baptized the following day. These two facts show us that Mercy probably died from complications of childbirth and baby Paul may not have been expected to live. This must have been a very sad and very difficult time for the family. Paul senior found himself alone with seven children under the age of 12, one of them a newborn infant. In those days a home desperately needed the work of the mother as well as her love, to survive. Paul found a new wife quickly. He married Susannah Hamblin less than a year after Mercy's death on 18 February 1796. Susannah's mother was a Crocker, so his two wives were probably related.
Paul and Susannah lost no time in adding to their family. Their first child, Charles, our ancestor, was born in 1796. Then came Alvah in 1799, and Jesse in 1801.
Not only did Paul have to work hard felling trees and clearing land to farm, and being a father to all his children, he also had another occupation as many settlers did. A deed signed on 15 January 1796 mentions that Paul Ewer is a "cordwainer." This is an old fashioned term for a shoemaker or cobbler.
There is a letter dated 16 June 1804 from the Congregational Church of Lee recommending Paul as a member in good standing with the church. A person needed a letter of this sort to join a church in a new community. And that is why Paul received it. He moved his family to Scipio, Cayuga County, New York in 1804. This part of New York is called the Finger Lakes region. Look on a map and you will see why. Land in Cayuga County was awarded as a bounty to soldiers who had served in the Revolutionary War from New York. It is thought Paul probably purchased his land from someone who had settled elsewhere, but no deed has been found. Paul joined the First Congregational Church of Kings Ferry, which later became the First Presbyterian Church, on 12 June 1806. Also joining on that day were Joseph and Martha Crocker
After 1810 Paul changed the family name from Ewer to Ewers, possibly to differentiate between his own family and that of his half brother Lazarus Ewer. The Lazarus Ewer family were Quakers. They included several grown and married sons. They moved to Scipio after 1810. Lazarus and his wife, Lydia, moved back to Sandwich is 1816, leaving their sons in New York. About 1817 Paul sold his land in Cayuga County and moved to Dryden in Tompkins County, New York, again he carried a letter of recommendation saying that he was a member in good standing with the church .
Paul built a log cabin on land in Dryden purchased in 1816 by his son John from Jesse Bradley Bartholomew. is a handwritten note (author unknown) in the Ewers family file at the DeWitt Historical Society in Ithaca that states that Paul Sr. built a log cabin there, and also built the home that his great grandchildren (Paul and Nellie Ewers) still lived in. The note also states that this home was called Indian Tavern, because Indians were made welcome - they would come in, roll up in blankets in front of the fireplace and sleep.
The following is from History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins, and Schuyler Counties, NY, Everts and Ensign, 1879:
"Paul Ewers, a soldier of the Revolutionary War, came from Lee, Mass.,and settled first at Scipio, Cayuga Co, In 1813 he removed to Dryden, and located on the property now owned by the family. His son, Paul Ewers, Jr., joined his father here in 1818, and is now eighty-three years of age."
In 1820 Paul's wife Susannah died in Dryden at the age of 56. Paul Ewers died at Dryden, NY on 17 July 1835. He was almost 83 years old. He had fought, both as a soldier and as a sailor, in the war that brought us from a group of colonies to a young republic. He had joined the westward surge after the war as a pioneer, first in western Massachusetts, and then in two different Finger Lakes regions of New York. He was a husband to two wives, a father to ten children, and a friend to the Indians. He was a good church member and a cobbler. And if he wasn't EXACTLY a pirate, he had pirate-like adventures on the high seas. We can be very proud to have Paul Ewers in our family.
Now here's how he's related to us. Paul and Susannah had Charles Ewer. Charles had Mary Malvina Ewers. Mary had John Charles Balis. (Remember him? He was in the Civil War.) John and Mary Derrick Balis (You're always going to remember Mary Derrick Balis, right?) had Flora Lulu Balis. Flora had Harold Balis Stevens. Harold had Paul Robert Stevens. Paul married me, Granny, and had Dawne Irene Stevens. Dawne married Jason Pamplin and had Sarah, Hannah, Timmy, and Becky!
So Hooray for Paul Ewer!
"The Revolutionary War brought peculiar distress to the population of Cape Cod. Not only did they suffer the burdens of the war, such as fell upon the whole state, the drain of men and money, but their principal occupations, fishing and coasting, were almost entirely broken up. With the loss of all ordinary means of livelihood, and constantly depreciating currency, they were compelled to seek some other location where willingness to work and persevering diligence would be in themselves resources more valuable than money.... Marvelous stories, transcending any fish stories, had been carried to Cape Cod in regard to the fertility of the soil of the new lands on the Housatonic....But the reality was ahard and trying experience of obstacles and difficulties which only undaunted perseverance, strong arms and stout hearts could overcome. The snows were deep and lay long on the hill-sides. It was no easy matter to travel any distance, even with the aid of snow shoes....The name of Cape Street was given to the eastern section of the town, because so largely occupied by people from Cape Cod....The people lived in small log houses, mostly located upon the sides of the mountains. Marked trees served for roads, and a tree felled so as to fall across the river served for a bridge, where such a contrivance was necessary or convenient..."
Revised: November 26, 2016