1805/1806: Luke Brodhead and “The Battle of the Butcher Boys and Delaware River Raftmen”

"The City and Port of Philadelphia, on the River Delaware from Kensington". Frontispiece to The City of Philadelphia..., plate 2. Engraving, hand-colored. Wikimedia Commons: In public domain in US due to publication prior to January 1, 1923. (Image shown has been cropped)

“The City and Port of Philadelphia, on the River Delaware from Kensington”. Frontispiece to The City of Philadelphia…, plate 2. Engraving, hand-colored. Wikimedia Commons: In public domain in US due to publication prior to January 1, 1923. (Image shown has been cropped at the top)

Now here’s an interesting tale dating back to 1805/1806 about a memorable ‘David vs. Goliath’ brawl featuring one Luke Brodhead. I found it in The Evening Gazette (Port Jervis, NY), dated Tuesday, May 28, 1878. The paper is one of thousands archived on the free Fulton History website.

Having checked some Brodhead family genealogies, I believe this Luke was probably the son of Luke Brodhead of Revolutionary War fame (my fifth great-grandfather Garret Brodhead‘s younger brother).  I could be wrong, of course, but there have never been that many Luke Brodheads in the family tree, and age-wise Luke Jr. (1777-1845) is a good fit. He would have been about 28 or 29 at the time of this incident, and still a bachelor. Luke Sr., who was left quite disabled by the war, passed away in 1806 at age 65.

On a side note, you may remember one of last July’s posts: “The 1868 murder of Theodore Brodhead of Delaware Water Gap.” Luke Brodhead Jr. was Theodore’s father. Luke Jr. was married to Elizabeth Wills (1789-1873), and together they had nine children—one girl (b. 1812) and eight boys (born between 1814 and 1831), all very tall in stature. Remember how Elizabeth joked that she had “48 feet of sons”?

Luke Jr. and Elizabeth ran an inn* at the Delaware Water Gap beginning circa 1820 to accommodate the influx of tourists to the area. From the “Theodore” post, you know that some of Luke Jr’s sons carried on this tradition, most notably Luke Wills Brodhead, who is deserving of a separate post of his own.

But, back to the story. It’s quite a tale, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It obviously stood the test of time to be featured in a newspaper article some seven decades later! As always, comments, corrections, suggestions are welcome. And of course if you have different thoughts as to which Luke this was, please let me know.

The Evening Gazette. 28 May 1878

The Evening Gazette. 28 May 1878

— — — — — — —

MEMORABLE ENCOUNTER.
BATTLE OF THE BUTCHER BOYS AND DELAWARE RIVER RAFTMEN.
A HAND TO HAND CONTEST IN PHILADELPHIA OVER 70 YEARS AGO—HOW 10 RAFTMEN WHIPPED 30 BUTCHERS—DEATH OF THE LAST RAFTMAN ENGAGED IN THE FIGHT.

In the year of 1805 or 1806 a fierce fight took place in Philadelphia between about 30 butchers and 10 Delaware river raftmen. Some of the latter we have the names of. There was Major Ebeneezer Wheeler, his brother Joseph, Squire Holmes, John Weiss, Rock Run and William Tyler [**], Royal Warner, Luke Brodhead, and Captain C. Fennington of Delhi, N.Y.

Joseph Wheeler owned a very fleet black mare. The spring before the fight truth his horse had a race with one owned by the association of butchers. He won the race, but the butchers refused to give up the stakes, and it was finally agreed to have a second trial the following spring.

When the spring came around the race took place, and again there was a controversy as to which was the winning horse. This dispute led to the memorable conflict. Joseph Wheeler was challenged by the butchers to a single combat. This be declined to accept for the reason, as he said to his brother, that there was no prospect of fair play being shown him, the butchers outnumbering the raftmen three to one.

Ebeneezer Wheeler then stepped forward and accepted the challenge offered to his brother. He is represented to have been a man of wonderful strength and at the same time as fleet as a deer. He was just six feet two. Luke Brodhead was the same height, and was a man of great courage.

It was proposed by the butchers that the fight should take place with a rope between the combatants. To this Major Wheeler would not concede, saying: “Gentlemen, if I fight I fight to win, and want nothing between us.” An adjoining field was selected for the contest. The butcher who was to be Mr. Wheeler’s antagonist put one hand on the fence and as if to show his agility sprang over into the lot with a bound. The Major followed and jumped the fence without touching it.

Luke Brodhead and Mr. Weiss happened at the place by accident, not knowing any of the parties. They were mere spectators and not called upon to form a part of the ring around the fighters. The fight between the two men began. Mr. Wheeler’s antagonist fell at the first blow. He arose and the second blow from Mr. W’s big fist again sent him to the earth.

At this juncture Mr. Brodhead saw a butcher strike Wheeler with a heavy whip. (It afterward appeared that all the butchers were armed with loaded whips.) Mr. Brodhead went to one of the butchers and told him of the occurrence. He was thrust aside and told it was none of his business. But he persisted and said he would not stand by and see such foul play practiced. He had scarcely done speaking when he received a heavy blow on the head with a whip. The blow nearly stunned him.

Delaware River. An extract of an 1806 map of New Jersey, depicting the area around Philadelphia and Trenton. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Source: Source=http://maps.bpl.org/details_12444/?mti

Delaware River. An extract of an 1806 map of New Jersey, depicting the area around Philadelphia and Trenton. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Source: Source=http://maps.bpl.org/details_12444/?mti

In the mean time the fight in the field had progressed, and Wheeler had given his antagonist such a blow that it nearly killed him. Of course he retired at once from the contest.

But the fight now became general. The butchers used their loaded whips freely and the numbers being greatly in their favor gave them courage. Unfortunately, however, for the butchers every time one of them received a square blow from the raftmen he was forced to leave the field. Their numbers soon became less, none of them caring to risk a second blow. The contest thus steadily grew in favor of the raftmen, none of them becoming disabled. They stood their ground to the last, the butchers dropping away one by one until the field was cleared and the victory won for the sturdy raftmen, the butchers finally running from the field.

The mistake the butchers made was in using their whips instead of their fists. They were large, strong men, yet they could not strike the whip with sufficient force to prostrate one of the sturdy raftmen. Nevertheless some very severe blows were given them. Messrs. Wheeler, Brodhead, and Fennington were cut badly and were confined to their boarding-houses several days under medical treatment.

It is said that Mr. Eb. Wheeler and Brodhead each disabled five butchers from as many blows. Captain Fennington of Delhi was a giant in strength and rendered very efficient aid to the raftmen. Mr. Weiss was badly scared and climbed a tree when the fight became general. He was not to be blamed, however, for he was a little fellow and would not have stood much of a chance. Royal Warner also showed the white feather. Joseph Wheeler got over the fence to see the fight when he received the blow of a loaded whip. He picked up a new beaver hat and left.

Luke Brodhead and the Wheelers became warm friends after this fight. The latter insisted on his accompanying them home after their recovery, which he did and remained with them several months. He frequently visited them. They afterward presented him with a tract of land on the Delaware river in Delaware county, which he declined to accept.

Brodhead was one of the most peaceable of men, and was esteemed for his good character and sound judgment, integrity and love of justice. The characters of Mr. Fennington and the Wheelers were also beyond reproach. Rock Run Tyler, the last of the survivors of this fight, ever memorable among raftmen, died in November, 1877, at a very old age.

That part of the family tree

How we are related

*Better in the Poconos by Lawrence Squeri (Penn State Press, 2010), p. 23.

**I think they mean “William ‘Rock Run’ Tyler” judging from the brief bio about him on p. 634 in the book History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties by Alfred Mathews (Philadelphia: RT Peck, 1886)

Categories: Brodhead, Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia | 2 Comments

Post navigation

2 thoughts on “1805/1806: Luke Brodhead and “The Battle of the Butcher Boys and Delaware River Raftmen”

  1. As you said— a great tale. And justice. 🙂 –Curt

    Like

Leave a reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Lee's Birdwatching Adventures Plus

Birdwatching from a Christian Perspective

Story_Trails

Family history in stories recalled by Edie and Leo. Edith GAYLORD Allen, Leo ALLEN, Jr

Princes, Paupers, Pilgrims & Pioneers

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.” Teaching children values and giving them the opportunity to excel is essential to good parenting. However, I feel I must also provide my children (and myself) insight into the ones who came before us: our ancestors whose lives and stories have shaped us into who we are. This is my journey; these are their stories…

Myricopia

Exploring the Past to Improve the Future

Buddha walks into a wine bar ...

Sits down with The Two Doctors and .....

Elves Choice

Holiday Bargains & Recipes

MarileeWein.com

DOUBLE GENEALOGY: the ADOPTION WITNESS

Tastes of Health

Passionate about Health, Fitness and easily prepared Delicious Food

Applegate Genealogy

Helping others discover their roots

allenrizzi

Sempre in Movimento! Published Every Monday and Friday at 12 PM EST

Cooking Without Limits

Food Photography & Recipes

THEVYPEFFECT

all about travelling in korea

My Descendant's Ancestors

Tips, Tools and Stories for the Family Historian

Smart Veg Recipes

Welcome to home made, vegeterian, healthy & kids friendly recipes

ICI & LA NATURE PICTURES

Walk and Bike in France. www.icietlanature.com

The Lives of my Ancestors

Lives, Biographies and Sketches of my Family History

Down the Rabbit Hole with Sir LeprechaunRabbit

Serious about Genealogy? Let this Olde Grey hare show you about

Diggin' Up Graves

Genealogy and family history, dirt and all.

Momoe's Cupboard

Low Budget Meals and Ideas

Generations of Nomads

On the Trail of Family Faces, Places, and Stories Around the World

Your daily Civil War newspaper [est. 1995]

All the Civil War news fit to re-print

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Author Adrienne Morris

Books, Art and the Writing Life at Middlemay Farm

Travels with Janet

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Uma Familia Portuguesa

A história da nossa família

The Good, the Bad and the Italian

food/films/families and more

newarkpoems

350 years of Newark in verse 1666-2016

Russian Universe

Understanding Russia with a Russian

Almost Home

Genealogy Research and Consulting

Old Bones Genealogy of New England

Genealogy and Family History Research

Out Here Studying Stones

Cemeteries & Genealogy

WeGoBack

family research ... discover your ancestry

the Victorian era

Did I misplace my pince-nez again? Light reading on the 19th century.

Genealogy Technology

Family history for the 21st century

Moore Genealogy

Fun With Genealogy

Meeting my family

RESEARCHING MY FAMILY TREE

Shaking the tree

musings on the journey towards knowing and sharing my family's stories

A Hundred Years Ago

Food and More

Scots Roots

Helping you dig up your Scots roots.

Root To Tip

Not just a list of names and dates

Food Perestroika

Adventures in Eastern Bloc Cuisine

Being Em | From Busan to America

this journey is my own, but i'm happy to share.

TWISTED LIMBS & CROOKED BRANCHES

Genealogy - Looking For "Dead People"!

Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine

To live in the hearts we leave behind, is not to die. ~ Thomas Campbell

%d bloggers like this: