Fort Edward Chamber of Commerce
Fort Edward, New York



JANE MCCREA - SARAH McNEIL - DUNCAN CAMPBELL




In this photo taken from the Union Cemetery in Fort Edward are the graves of Jane McCrea, Sarah McNeil and Duncan Campbell. Who were these people and why are they buried together?

During the French & Indian War, Major Duncan Campbell led the Scottish "Black Watch Regiment of Foot" soldiers up the hill against entrenched French cannons in an attempt to take Fort Carillon on July 8, 1758. (Fort Carillon is now known as Fort Ticonderoga). Infantry doesn't work well against cannons firing lengths of chain and also something called "cannister" (oversized buck shot) and he managed to get most of his troops killed, and himself fatally wounded. He died of his wounds on July 17, 1758, after a bad amputation at the military hospital at Fort Edward on Rogers Island, and he was buried in the State Street Burying Ground in the Village. He was 55 years old. That was back in the days when Fort Edward was the 3rd largest city in the colonies after Philadelphia and Boston, with between 30,000 and 100,000 troops stationed here plus all the merchants and craftsmen and others that came with them. Our little Village was something really big back then, larger than New York City.

Six years later in 1764, Sarah and Archibald Campbell were sent from Scotland to bring Duncan's body back, but he died on the ship on the way here. Sarah remained in Fort Edward, married a new husband named McNeil, and was then known as Sarah McNeil and lived her life in Fort Edward, and never did bring Duncan Campbell's body back to Scotland. She built the house that sits next door to Stewarts in the Village. The historical marker out front says, "Jane McCrea House" but it was actually Sara McNeil's.

Fast forward to 1777, during the American Revolution. A 17 year old girl from New Jersey named Jane McCrea arrived here and stayed awhile on her relative's farm on what is now West River Road. Jane became engaged to a British officer, but soon hostilities broke out, and the British Army came south from Canada in an attempt to split the colonies in two. The local farmers all clustered in the Village for safety, and Jane stayed at Sarah McNeil's house and the two women became good friends.

On July 27, 1777, the British Army had arrived in what is now Hudson Falls and camped there. By this time the military fort at Fort Edward was a ruin and no longer used. On that day, Sarah (now aged 55) and the young Jane walked up the hill to try to meet her fiancee the British officer, but they encountered hostile Indians working for the British instead. They fled back to the Village and hid in Sarah's basement. The Indians, led by a Wyandot named Le Loup, went in after them and the women were captured and dragged up the hill. They were separated, and Sarah was ransomed to the British, but Jane was killed and scalped. The location of Jane's killing is marked by the small monument across the street from the High School.

Sarah NcNeil lived until 1799 and died at age 77.

Some stories say that Jane's fiancee found out about it by seeing her scalp hanging from an Indian's belt. The scalp was brought to the British army to collect the bounty on settler's scalps.

Other stories say that Jane was killed by "friendly fire" from Colonel John McCrea's Militia. When the two women were taken, the militia pursued and gunfire erupted. The grave of Lieutenant Tobias Van Veghten remains to this day at Jane's original burial site.

Colonial Generals and various government officials wrote letters to newspapers etc, about the cruelty of the British and their bounty on settler's scalps and the awful way Jane McCrea was killed. And with each re-telling, she became more beautiful, and her red hair became longer etc, as one newspaper published that Jane was so "lovely in disposition, so graceful in manners and so intelligent in features, that she was a favorite of all who knew her", and that her red hair "was of extraordinary length and beauty, measuring a yard and a quarter".. This publicity campaign created so much anger among the Colonials that they all joined up with the militia and defeated British General Burgoyne at Saratoga. The story became so well known that 49 years later in 1826 James Fenimore Cooper wrote the book Last of The Mohicans loosely based on the killing of Jane McCrea.

Jane was buried at a site 2-3 miles south on the Village now on Route 4 with a Historical Marker there. Around 1823, the original Champlain Canal was built right thru the graveyard and Jane's remains were moved to the State Street Burying Ground in the Village. Duncan Campbell's remains were also there, and a Historical Marker now marks the spot.

In 1853 the Union Cemetery was opened, and the owners moved Jane and Sarah and Duncan to a small enclosure just inside the front gate where she remains today. In 2003, Jane was exhumed again, DNA testing was done to verify the identity of her remains, and she was re-buried. The headstones there now were made by Daniel Giroux of Loiselle Memorials.

The "Jane McCrea House" was not originally located where it is now, it was somewhere across the street, and was disassembled and then rebuilt where it is now. In the attic, you can still see where the beams are all numbered for easy re-assembly after the move. The House is now a private residence, the home of my friend Mary Ellen Russo.

Over the years the house was expanded. Back then bathrooms and kitchens were located outside, but are now, of course, inside the house.

I have two women friends that regularly come to visit me from New Jersey, and I love to remind them that Jane McCrea was the story of a New Jersey girl who came to Fort Edward to visit friends and got killed and scalped by Indians. They give me such a look each time I do that ... heh!






This monument is near the site where Jane McCrea was killed, July 27, 1777. Its located across the street from Fort Edward High School. The actual location is about 100 yards south.




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