Pursuit from Bethany
Wearily the leaden hours of night dragged
themselves onward, while Mrs. Dayton and
her frightened children sat, where the robbers
had left them, waiting for the dawn. By the help of
her servants, she had succeeded in extricating herself
from the strips of sheeting with which they had bound
her, but she could do nothing more. Neither commands
nor entreaties would have induced the blacks
to venture out in the night to arouse the neighbors;
and Mrs. Dayton herself, overcome with prostration
from excitement, found herself unequal to the exertion.
Besides, she had shuddered at the fearful threats of
vengeance which had been heaped on her if she attempted
to give the alarm before morning; so she composed
herself as well as she could, and wished for the
At last a faint blush began to spread over the east,
and the noisy fowls, calling to each other from the
neighboring barns, announced the coming of the morning.
Slow indeed is her approach in circumstances
like these. Does she linger on her way, and wear the
blush of shame when she appears, as if conscious of
the evil deeds that have been done in her absence, but
which she is now to meet with with open face?
With trembling hand Mrs. Dayton drew aside the
window curtains, and beheld the smoke from Dr.
Hooker's mansion shooting up like a slender pillar in
the keen March air. A few minutes later the doctor
himself appeared, on the way to his stable, as if preparing
to set forth on a professional visit. With difficulty
the window was raised, and the united voices of
the lady and her servants shouted to him for help. So
unwonted a sound in the still morning atmosphere
penetrated far, and the doctor hastened to ascertain
Arriving at the unfortunate dwelling, a few words
of explanation, in connection with the broken window,
sufficed to reveal the cause of alarm.
Good heavens! he exclaimed,
and all this within
sight and hearing of us all! I should say that was
a smart piece of business.
However, it's no more than I expected. I've told
neighbor Dayton fifty times that it was not safe to
have so much money and valuables in his house.
There are ever so many tories that wouldn't scruple a
moment to engage in a job as this.
I know it, replied Mrs. Dayton;
and I have
worried over it a great deal. But Mr. Dayton always
said there were enough here to protect the house; and
indeed our men have been here till yesterday, when
they went away. My husband, too, had to go to Boston,
and leave us alone â€“ just for once, he said.
Well, I've no doubt the villains found it out, and
seized the opportunity. It's very probable that somebody
has been watching a good while for just such a
chance as this. But I must not stay here gabbling.
Something's got to be done, and right away too. They
have had time enough to get clear off, I'm afraid, already.
Do you know whether the rascals had horses?
I did not hear of any; but I was in such a state of
excitement that may be I shouldn't if they had.
Well, compose yourself as well as you can, and
I'll have the alarm given at once. No time to lose.
Stupid that I was not to hear the noise.
And the doctor hastened home, muttering at his
own obtuseness in allowing such a crime as this to be
perpetrated so near them, and not to know it.
Arriving at his house, he sent Scipio, his black man,
to ring the meeting-house bell. The marauding expedition
of General Tryon and his British troops, the
summer before, at New Haven and along the Sound,
had greatly alarmed the coast towns, and in the apprehension
that their ravages might be renewed, they
had agreed that the ringing of the bell, except in the
usual way for public worship and funerals, should be
the signal of danger.
Ring it hard, Scip, cried the doctor;
After relating briefly to his family the events of the
night, he next hastened across the Green to the Rev.
That gentleman had already risen, and at first
stroke of the bell, had come to the door to ascertain
the cause of the alarm. He was just in time to receive
the greeting of Dr. Hooker, who cried, as he approached
A pretty piece of business this, Parson Hawley â€“
done right here under our noses, and we so stupid as
not to hear a sound!
Why, what has happened, doctor? inquired the
In a few words the physician stated in what condition
he had found Mrs. Dayton and her family, and
repeated her account of the robbery during the night.
Mr. Hawley agreed with him in the opinion that this
was the work of the tories, and thought it likely it
was some retaliatory expedition from Long Island,
from whence it was well known Dayton had brought
They that take the sword shall perish by the
sword, said the good man.
Captain Dayton ought
not to expect that one one who has been so active and successful
in privateering as he could escape retaliation,
although so far from the coast. It is a very fortunate
thing for him that he was not at home, for he could
not alone have resisted a half dozen of armed ruffians,
and would, in all probability, have been murdered in
his own house.
No doubt of it, replied the doctor.
had caught him, he would never have gone privateering
again, you may be sure. However, it's a
pity he is not here now. He knows all the haunts of
the cow-boys and tories on the island, and very likely
could tell just who the robbers were, and where to find
Meanwhile the lively peal of the bell, under the vigorous
demonstrations of old Scipio, sent its sharp summons
through the clear March morning; and it was not
long before the alarmed townsmen began to appear.
Some brought muskets with them; a few, from the
more distant dwellings, came on horseback. All were
in a state of greatest excitement, inquiring what
The doctor, having snatched a morsel of breakfast,
returned to the church door, and explained to the people,
as they assembled, the reason of the alarm. With
one voice, they concurred in the suspicions he had already
expressed as to the perpetrators of the outrage.
It is the work of the cursed tories, cried one.
must hang every mother's son of them.
Ay, said another;
and I'll be one to do it. But
we have got to catch them first, and that may not be
so easy. They have had time to get half way to the
I don't know about that, was the reply.
they have carried off Captain Dayton's goods, they
have got some heavy bundles to lug, and if we are
smart, we can overtake them yet.
With all agreed, however, that the robbery was the
work of tories, there was not altogether the same
unanimity of feeling as to the character of the transaction.
Bethany, like some of the adjacent towns, had a
large sprinkling of tories among its inhabitants; and
these, as well as the whigs, responded to the call of
the bells, so far at least as to ascertain what was going
on. When they learned what had taken place, they
were far from expressing the indignation which was
felt by those of the opposite party. They were sorry,
indeed, to have Mrs. Dayton and her children disturbed,
but had no regrets for Dayton himself.
One of the most bitter of these tories was an old fellow
named Lines. He was profane and vulgar, and
had an impediment in his speech, which, when he was
excited by drink or passion, often occasioned very ludicrous
scenes. He came up to the Green mounted on
an old mare, never of the most amiable temper, but
this morning particularly ruffled at being taken from
her snug stable, and compelled to face the cutting
March wind. When he learned that Captain Dayton's
house had been broken into and robbed, he declared
he was glad of it.
S-s-sarved him right, he said,
the old p-pirate!
G-g-guess he'll know how g-good it seems t'other
p-people to have their homes p-p-plundered.
You think so â€“ do you, Uncle Luke? said
Sam Perkins, riding up behind him, and touching the
old mare with his whip under the flank.
The vicious beast, laying her ears back, responded
with a kick which tossed her rider forward upon her
neck. Grasping instinctively at the mane, to save
himself from falling, he lost his hold of the bridle, at
the same cryingâ€“
Sam, seeing Line's plight, brought his whip again
with a sharp cut across the haunches of the irate animal.
This insult was more than she could bear.
Wheeling herself in the direction of home, she started
off at full gallop, her rider stuttering curses upon the
mare and the rebels and crying,
Whoa! wh-who! But curses and
commands were alike unavailing, and
the old man disappeared over the hill, clinging to the
neck of his beast, while the rest of the company shouted
Go it, you old tory; three to one you'll win the
When the laughter at Uncle Luke's discomfiture
had subsided, the townsmen began to consult in good
earnest as to the measures they should adopt for overtaking
and capturing the robbers.
Meanwhile a portion of the men had been examining
the premises to see what clew to the robbers, if
any, might be found. Some traces of their footsteps
were detected in the snow under the broken window,
but they had been mostly obliterated by the wind, nor
could they be tracked away from the house. No
signs of horses could be discovered, and it was inferred
that they probably had none, which was a favorable
circumstance, giving hope that the pursuit
would not be fruitless.
On inquiring further of the family, little additional
could be learned beyond what Dr. Hooker had already
stated. Mrs. Dayton described the appearance of the
burglars, who seemed to her to be six or eight in
number, mostly young men. One of them they called
Captain, and another, who had been set with his
musket to guard Mrs. Dayton,
Dave. The sacks
they used for bundling up the goods were mentioned,
and the goods themselves, so far as she could recollect
them, â€“ at least those which she knew that they had had
in the house. From the sound of their voices and
steps when they left, she concluded that they had
gone off westward toward Chuse-town.
After gathering all the information possible, a consultation
was had as to the course to be taken in pursuit.
On this point opinions were divided. Some
believed that the plunderers had started for Derby,
where it was known many tories lived, and from
which frequent communication was held with the
island. Others thought it more likely they had gone
to New Haven, or possibly West Haven, the point
where the British troops had landed the summer before,
and which should be several miles nearer Long
Island than any other within their reach.
By this time, the bell having continued its noisy
clangor, a large number had assembled, and it was decided
to divide into several parties. A portion, who
had horses, should take the road through Amity parish
to New Haven; others should start for Derby.
Others still should call upon certain tory families in
Bethany itself, and see if something could not be
learned that would afford a clew to the perpetrators
of the outrage. It was agreed also that if these were
found, notice should be given by again ringing the
bell, ending with a half-dozen separate strokes, as if
tolling on a Sabbath morning.
The pursuit thus organized began with vigor. The
party destined for New Haven, rode rapidly forward,
making inquiries of all whom they met, but of course
learned nothing of the robbers. They continued their
journey, however, toward the city, deeming it important,
if these had not already reached there, that such
information should be given of the affair as should lead
to their arrest if they came. But though they failed
in the immediate object in view, they succeeded in another
scarcely less important, viz., in meeting Captain
Dayton himself, and informing him of what had taken
place in his absence.
Dayton had started from Boston for home on Monday
morning, and reached New Haven on the evening
of Tuesday. At that time the only means of travel
between the two places were on foot or on horseback.
The distance was about one hundred and twenty-five
miles, constituting two hard days' ride. Such a thing
as a regular coach for passengers was hardly known
in this country. The first public conveyance of the
kind, established at Boston, was in 1763, called the
Flying Stage-coach, running once a
week, each way, between Boston and Portsmouth. It
was not till after the Revolution that so serious an undertaking
was ventured upon as to set up a line between
Boston and New York. Having rested in New
Haven on Tuesday night, Dayton had now, on
Wednesday morning, started for Bethany, and had
gone but a mile or two, when he was met by the party
of pursuers from that place.
On receiving information of the catastrophe which
had happened to his house and family, Dayton at once
confirmed the general belief that the perpetrators of
it were from Long Island, and added his opinion that
they had come by way of Derby, whither they
had also probably returned. So strong was his conviction
of this fact, that the pursuers did not think it
worth while to go further toward New Haven, but
returned with him to Bethany.
The search in the direction of Derby, though equally
unsuccessful in capturing the robbers, procured, nevertheless,
important information concerning them. It
was soon made apparent that they had come from
thence. In sheltered places in the road the footsteps
of several men were still discernible in the snow. At
one house where they stopped to inquire it was stated
that such a company as the robbers were supposed to
be had been seen passing in the night by a watcher in
charge of a sick room. It was not, however, until
they reached Whittemore's tavern in Chuse-town,
that they got an definite clew to the men themselves.
The landlord recalled the fact that two strangers had
lodged at his house on the Saturday night previous,
and that a considerable number of young men, among
whom were Doolittle and the Woosters, were gathered
in the bar-room. He observed also that they were engaged
in a conversation about Captain Dayton and his
privateering expeditions, in which considerable warmth
of feeling was manifested, the strangers expressing
admiration of Dayton's exploits, and others mostly
condemning and denouncing them. He said, however,
that he had retired early that evening, feeling
somewhat unwell, leaving Wooding in charge of the
bar-room, and knew nothing more of what happened.
Wooding was next questioned, and very soon betrayed
that he knew more of the affair than he was
willing to acknowledge. He said that the two strangers
had left on Sunday morning, and he had not seen
them since; and that the young men who were conversing
with them in the bar-room went away, as
usual, at a somewhat late hour. While this questioning
was going on, two of the pursuers, learning where
Wooding lived, went to his house, and soon obtained
evidence of the falsity of his story, the very strangers
whom he professed to know nothing about having, as
his wife confessed, lodged with them for two nights in
succession. Further inquiries were also made at Mr.
Wooster's and at the place where Doolittle worked,
neither of whom had been at home the past night.
Suspicions now quickly ripened into conviction that
the culprits, or part of them, had been ascertained.
Wooding was arrested and put under keepers; then,
arranging that sharp lookout should be kept at the
tavern and the vicinity, the party galloped back to
Bethany to report the result.
Captain Dayton at once concurred in the belief that
sure clew had been obtained to the plunderers of his
house, and the mention of the Woosters suggested the
probable direction of their flight. It was well known
that several tory families of that name lived in Gunntown,
and nothing was more probable than that the
robbers should have gone thither with their booty.
He immediately drew up an advertisement, narrating
the crime which had been committed, naming the persons
suspected, and offering the large reward of five
thousand dollars for such information as would lead to
the conviction of the plunderers and the recovery of
It was now a little past noon, and a fresh party of
men, well mounted, set forth on the road to the suspected
neighborhood. Dayton declared himself too
much exhausted with his journey from Boston to accompany
them, but promised to come the next day if
they did not succeed in their quest sooner.
About three miles north from Bethany Center was
a tavern kept by Mr. Perkins, who, as we have before
related, had on a summer or two before brought home
his young wife, Rosanna Judd, Chauncey's eldest sister.
The news that Chauncey was missing, however,
had not as yet reached them. Stopping here for a moment,
they received a new and strong confirmation of
their belief that they were now on the right track.
Some children on their way to school that morning
had picked up a small marine spy-glass, which they
had brought into Mr. Perkin's as a curiosity. On examination
this was found to have the name "E. Dayton,
Brookhaven, L.I.," engraved upon it, which at
once identified it as part of the property stolen the
Under the fresh impulse afforded by this discovery
the pursuers rode forward at a rapid pace, and in less
than an hour reached the bridge at Judd's Meadow.
Here they first heard that Chauncey was missing, a
messenger being met who had been sent to Bethany
to inquire for him, under the supposition that he had
for some reason gone thither to his sister's. This intelligence
at first awakened a suspicion that Chauncey
himself might have been one of the robbers. But
a little further consideration of the fact that he
had always borne an irreproachable character, that
he was from one of the best families in the place, distinguished
for their patriotic sentiments, and more
than all, that it had been ascertained where he had
been the preceding night, at least until long past the
time of the robbery, soon satisfied the persons that
their suspicions were groundless. But still was there
not some connection between this sudden disappearance
and the robbery? Was there not, in short, a new
clue to the perpetrators of the crime?