Jane McCrea

STORY BY JIM FINA

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Jane McCrea was the daughter of Rev. James McCrea, a minister, and Katherine Rosbrugh--they lived in Lamington, Somerset County, NJ. Rev. James McCrea was an Ulster Scot--born in Lifford, Londonderry County, (now) Northern Ireland. Catherine Rosebrugh was the daughter of Rev. Robert Rosebrugh (brother to Rev. John Rosebrugh) also an Ulster Scot. They were all Presbyterian.

Jane's brothers and sisters were:

  • John McCrea, Colonel American Army
  • William McCrea
  • Samuel McCrea, soldier American Army
  • Dr. Stephen McCrea, surgeon American Army
  • Philip McCrea
  • Catherine McCrea
  • Creighton McCrea, Captain in the 75th Highlanders, Queens Rangers
  • James McCrea
  • Robert McCrea, Captain in the Queens Rangers and a Major in the 5th Royal Vet. Battalion

As seen above, the McCreas were split between the American Army and the British army during the Revolutionary War. After the war, the British side of the McCrea family settled in Guernsey, Channel Islands, UK, and have a long history of service to the British Crown from the Revolutionary War until well into the late 1800s, from the battle of Trafalgar to the campaigns in India.

In 1777, Jane McCrea was 26 years old and living at the farm of her older brother, Col. John McCrea at Fort Edward, NY to be close to her fiancé, Lt. David Jones, a loyalist serving with General Burgoyne's army. On July 27th of that year, while she was visiting the home of Mrs. McNeil, the two women were captured by Indians allied to the British. Since both women were under the protection of General Burgoyne, they were reasonably sure nothing would happen to them. Their captors separated into two bands, each with one of the women. When Mrs. McNeil, a cousin of General Simon Fraser's, arrived with her captors at the British camp, she wondered where Jane was, since she had departed ahead of Mrs. McNeil. Shortly thereafter, the first party of Indians returned to the camp with a fresh scalp lock. It seems an argument had ensued over Jane McCrea, and to settle the argument, she had been killed.

Death of Jane McCrea

"The Death of Jane McCrea"
by John Vanderlyn, painted in 1804
Scanned by Carol L. Gerten of
CGFA Gallery Web Site & used with permission

General Burgoyne could not punish the guilty party for fear of breaking his alliance with them. This enraged the countryside and Jane became an instant martyr to the Revolutionary cause. Men took up arms to revenge this wrongdoing and were formed into many companies, some from as far away as the green mountains of Vermont. This greatly aided the rebel cause, and helped, several months later, in the defeat of the Burgoyne's British army at Saratoga--a major turning point in the Revolutionary war.

Jane was first buried a few miles north of Fort Edward, and later re-buried at Union Cemetery in Fort Edward. But this was not the end of her tale. Nearly 50 years later, when he wrote the book "The Last of the Mohicans", James Fenimore Cooper immortalized Jane's story when he created the character of Cora.

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Other related sites:

History and The Last of the Mohicans
Jane McCrea
The Mahican Channel

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If you have questions or comments,
please e-mail Jim Fina.
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