George Labar of Upper Mt. Bethel Township

From "Early History  Easton to Bushkill: Reminiscences of George LaBar: Centenarian of Monroe County PA…." by A.B. Burrell; Philadelphia, PA; Claxton, Remsen & Hafflefinger, 1870.


Upper Mt. Bethel Native Was of French Descent

George Labar who lived to be nearly 113 years of age was born in Upper Mt. Bethel Township in 1763 when Indians staged their last drive against the whites. His birthplace was a log cabin, about midway between what is now Slateford and Portland, and a half mile from the road overlooking the Delaware river.

His grandfather, Peter Labar, came to this country from France, about the year 1730, on account of religious persecution.

Indians’ Last Drive

In the year of George Labar's birth (1763), the Indians made the last desperate attempt to drive the white settlers from the valley below the Blue mountains; and from the Delaware Water Gap to Bethlehem, many families were killed by the savages pouring over the mountains from the North. They were led by the Indian Chief Teedyuscung.

George grew up a robust lad, skillful with his gun, or with oxen and wooden plow. The rude shanty, first built by his grandfather, had been replaced by a house comparatively modern, and contentment bloomed upon a home quite as happy as the most refined today.

The schoolmaster had not entered this part of Pennsylvania. The labor of the field was his employment, and the gun and fishing rod his amusements, which were turned to good account in furnishing supplies for the table of wooden plates and spoons.

Some of his descendants still tell the story he often told of the day his father and he were splitting rails.

Story of Spy

A stranger, in citizen's dress came to them and said he was a spy from the British army and asked to stay all night. His father said he never turned anybody away who wanted a night's lodging. It was near night, and they went to the house. Soon after entering the pretended British spy looking through a crack of the door, said the Yankees were after him, and asked where he should go.

The father answered "up stairs"; George's mother said, "No! get out of the door, and be off." A moment more and a half dozen Yankee soldiers, in uniform, came in; the spy had played his game, and Labar was pronounced a Tory. He was at once arrested and taken that night to Easton.

Mother Worried

George's mother was greatly troubled that night, and he, to comfort her, told her he would follow in the morning, and offer to take his father's place. But she knew his generous offer would not be accepted, nor would such a substitute afford her the desired relief.

Early the next morning, Mrs. Labar set out, on horseback, for Easton whither she supposed her husband had been taken.

Arriving there, she found he had been bailed by Squire Levis and Abraham Labar, a cousin who soon after was a colonel in the Revolutionary army. He was allowed to return home, to the joy of the woman and the satisfaction of the children. Later he took the oath of allegiance and became a full-fledged patriot.

Ill only thrice

In his long and useful life, George Labar had been sick only three times--once with yellow fever, the camp fever, and once typhoid. He was always a good eater, denying himself nothing at any time. He chewed tobacco and smoked, but he was never intoxicated.

Labar took daily exercise and when long past the century mark felled trees and peeled with his own hands, three wagon loads of bark. He was fond of hunting bees in the woods, and enjoyed teaching the younger generation how to catch rock-fish in the Delaware river.

Washington at Easton

He loved nothing better than to tell the story of being in Easton one day when General Washington was expected to visit that place; so he resolved to wait and see the Father of his Country. As the expected hour drew near, every flag in the place was flung to the breeze; all the military of that region assembled to do honor to the man; the cannons were loaded and primed, ready for a salute; the fifes and drums that had marshaled some of the same soldiers on the battlefields of the Revolution, were waiting to strike joyful notes of welcome.

At length the little company of horsemen was seen coming in the distance. The cannons belched forth their harmless wads, and shook the earth. The fife and drum kept silence no longer, while the glad populace ring out cheer after cheer.

They entered the town, and joy and gladness was unbounded. It was no difficult matter to distinguish the loved and honored guest. Tall, commanding, majestic, he sat on his white charger, "the noblest work of God."

Faithful Servant

Following him on a black horse, was his black servant, whose life was so wrapped up in a faithful service to his master that, in studying to anticipate his wants, he barely noticed what was going on around him. George Washington dismounted and after the soldiers, the citizens took him by the hand. George Labar shared the privilege of touching the great and good man, and was satisfied as he turned to his team and was soon on his way home.

Such is the narrative as he gave it to his friend, A. B. Burrell.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In the Easton Argus of Feb. 5, 1873, the following interview with the old pioneer then 110 years old, but hale and hearty, appeared.

"'And you shook hands with General Washington?' I asked of the old man after his disposition to become communicative evinced itself.

"'Yes, yes,' he answered, and his eyes brightened with the recollection. 'General Washington fought them [the British] at Trenton. He fought them three days, and he made 500 Hessians prisoners. Yes, Yes.' Here he paused to refresh his memory.

"'Good many Hessians was brought to Easton, and when they was set loose they settled north of the mountains.'

"'Some of them (their descendants) is still there.'"

"Was it about that time you saw Washington?"

"’Yes, yes.'"

Was Youth Then

"’How old were you?'"

"'I was a young man. I suppose 19 or 20. I went down from Mt. Bethel with Sam Van Campen and George Shoemaker. We stopped at the Oaks Tavern. There was only about ten or a dozen houses in Easton then.'

"'General Washington came up to the same tavern and shook hands with all the boys. He shook hands with me first because I was the first to go up and tell him I'd hold his horse, but he told me never mind, that the Negro servant on a horse as black as himself would do that.

"'General Washington went into the Oaks and had something to eat and drink. He wore yaller breeches and long boots and only one spur.

"'O! he was a fine man. He took off his coat, and Van Campen took it into the kitchen to dry. His boots was all wet, and his pistols were wet too.'"

Voted at Richmond

George Labar voted at Richmond, Northampton County, for the first President of the United States, George Washington, and never missed a Presidential election. He always voted the Democratic ticket.

Many of the older people in this vicinity remember the time that the Pennsylvania State Fair was held at Easton in September, 1873. George Labar was there and was exhibited in a tent or "side show" at ten cents a view. This was but two years before his death, and a daughter, then in the eighties, took charge of the dimes that fell into her father's large felt hat. He surpassed the crowd by his wonderful memory in answering their questions, and telling his oft-repeated Revolutionary stories.

Lived in Monroe

Later in life, George made his home in Monroe County, near Analomink, where many of his descendants reside today. Nearby, in the village of Wooddale, is a little white church in the wildwood.

Adjoining the church is the burial grounds, containing many graves, most of which have neat head-stones. The most elaborate is the granite Labar monument, about five feet by six feet, erected 12 years ago by the descendants of the Monroe County Centenarian, George Labar. The west side inscription thereon is handsomely carved and reads:

"George Labar--1763--1875. Aged 112 years, 9 months, 24 days. Also his wife, Mary E. Labar."  

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