Glimpses of the Past
People, Places, and Things in Letchworth Park History

Moses Van Campen

A Revolutionary War Soldier

We don't know that this distinguished pioneer Indian fighter ever visited Letchworth Park but visitors who enjoy the Museum will recall seeing Moses' portrait on display.

His connection to the park is by way of the Council House located on the Council Grounds where Mr. Letchworth chose to display the remnants of the Native American presence in the Genesee River valley that he preserved -- the Mary Jemison statue and grave, the Nancy Jemison cabin and the Council house that he purchased and had delivered to the Glen Iris Estate while he still lived there.

Van Campen arises in the history annals in Columbia County, Pennsylvania about 1773 when his parents brought him to that area where they settled along Cabin Run. He became a soldier and served under Washington. By 1778 he was a Lieutenant serving frontier duty when ordered to construct a fort on Fishing Creek about 3 miles above its mouth to protect the settlements in that area. This Fort was attacked twice. The Indians burned the houses and buildings in the area but settlers made it to the fort. Van Campen's family lost their home in that attack. Some time later the family attempted to return to their home site and were surprised by a raiding party and Van Campen's father and brother were killed. Moses was captured. Eventually he was with other captives being moved north when he convinced his fellow captors to escape. Using a knife that one of the Indians had lost they cut themselves free and attacked the sleeping captors killing nine of the ten. The tenth was wounded by Van Campen but managed to escape. This escapade occurred near the mouth of Tunkhannock Creek.


Eventually he was captured again and was taken as far as Caneadea NY where the Council House of Letchworth Park originally stood. There Van Campen was forced to run the gauntlet. He managed to accomplish this tortuous run and again escaped. Thus he is one of the legends of Letchworth park Native American lore.

The Berwick Pennsylvania chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is named the Van Campen Chapter in honor of his service on the frontier along the Susquehanna river.

Van Campen returned to the Genesee Valley in the 1790's as a pioneer and a surveyor. He laid out much of the 100,000 acre "Church Tract" belonging to Judge Philip Church and laid out the important turnpike between Bath and Olean. He eventually moved to Dansville, Livingston County, in 1831, but returned to his homestead in Angelica just before his death on October 15, 1849.

Moses Van Campen rests from his long and adventurous life in the cemetery in the charming village of Angelica, but will for ever be associated with Letchworth Park.

Tom Breslin



Barton, Edwin M. History of Columbia County, Sponsored by the Columbia County Historical Society and the Commissioners of Columbia County. 1958

Hubbard, J. Niles. Sketches of Border Adventures in the Life and times of Major Moses Van Campen. Fillmore NY: Jno. S. Minard, publisher, 1893.

Also see: Busch, Clarence M. REPORT OF THE COMMISSION TO LOCATE THE SITES OF THE FRONTIER FORTS OF PENNSYLVANIA.Volume One. State Printer of Pennsylvania. 1896.

Additional information about Moses VanCampen's career and that of his cousin Daniel is available from the Berwick Historical Society, P O Box 301, Berwick, PA 18603

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