As seen in the September 2001 edition of W&ET Magazine
Deep In Tim's Country
By: Ed Fedory
"This country has been made by Timothy Murphys, the men in the ranks. Conditions here called for the qualities of the heart and head that Timothy Murphy had in abundance. Our histories should tell us more of the men in the ranks, for it was to them, more than to the generals, that we were indebted for our military victories."
The plaque beneath Timothy Murphy's image lists only a few of the historic benchmarks in his long and eventful life. "This country has been made by Timothy Murphys, the men in the ranks. Conditions here called for the qualities of the heart and head that
So spoke Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the ceremonies commemorating the Timothy Murphy monument on the Saratoga Battlefield in 1929. We've all heard of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett... some have heard of Simon Kenton, or Daniel Morgan... but so few have heard of Timothy Murphy.
While searching sites that have seen multiple occupations over the centuries, it is always wise to keep your eyes on the ground. The Indian pestle, used for grinding corn, was found on the surface near a partial arrowhead and a large-caliber musketball.
He was born of Irish immigrant parents in 1751, near the Delaware Water Gap, and his later life would read like a gazetteer of Revolutionary War sites, for his name can be found among the ranks who served at such notable places as the Siege of Boston, the Battle of Long Island, Trenton, Princeton, and the Battle of Saratoga. He suffered during the frosty winter at Valley Forge, and was with Sullivan on his expedition against the Iroquois in western New York during the Revolution.
After crops have been harvested, coil swinging is easy and unobstructed- and while recoveries have decreased over time, there's always the hope of finding a hotspot!
On October 7th, 1777, during the Battle of Bemis Heights (the Second Battle of Saratoga), Murphy was reputed to have shot Sir Francis Clerke and General Simon Fraser, an event which was one of the major turning points of the battle.
Over the years of searching the valley floor, numerous King George coppers have been recovered beneath the surface, while non-metallic artifacts like gunflints and pipe stems can be found atop the soil after annual plowing.
Each spring when we unload our detectors from the truck and trek out into those expansive fields, we can't help but sense that Timothy Murphy's presence is still there, guarding the valley he was to call his home. During the last quarter-century of relic hunting up and down the valley, there was always the felling that I was walking in those giant footprints he left on the valley floor over two centuries ago.
A wide variety of different caliber musket and rifle balls have been recovered on the Colonial valley sites. The larger calibers are likely from military-issued muskets, while the smaller caliber balls were undoubtedly fired by citizen soldiers who helped man the fort walls during attacks.
Twenty-five years ago, the frequency of recoveries made on the stockaded fort, which once surrounded the Feeck dwelling, were numerous. At times the targets were large and abundant, but over years of continual searching, the number of buttons, musketballs, buckle fragments, and other Colonial relics began to dwindle. Today, a half-dozen fired balls from the site would be considered a great day; but every so often, Lady Luck smiles on us, and another hotspot is stumbled upon, yielding a number of interesting relics.
This nearly life-size bronze and granite monument stands above Timothy Murphy's final resting place, overlooking the valley he helped to protect during the American Revolution.
During the last relic hunting season, and plainly within view of where Timothy Murphy's home once stood, we were able to recover several Colonial coins, along with dozens of musket and rifle balls, a brass mouth harp, several USA buttons, and a large variety of Colonial civilian buttons.
Colonial shoe and belt buckles recovered from the sites of early dwellings, mills, and forts are always a bonus to any relic hunt.
Several miles away from the former Feeck dwelling is the site of the only valley fort which was given a name, Fort Defiance, and it was through the actions of Timothy Murphy that the fort was to bear that unique distinction.
Charlie and Joe recovered musketballs, buttons, and an interesting stone artifact (used during an earlier Native American occupation) on the site of a Colonial fort.
Infuriated, Woolsey ordered that the fort raise its white flag. Murphy replied that he would shoot anyone attempting to raise the flag. Obviously, the flag never was raised, and shortly afterward Woolsey relinquished his command of the fort to the commander of the local militia. Later in the afternoon, the British siege of the fort was withdrawn as the enemy troops headed out to burn more valley farms and crops. From that time on, the Middle Fort was also known as Fort Defiance!