The Johnny Appleseed of the American Revolution

April 18, 2024

It may come as a surprise to learn that Clinton County has its own Johnny Appleseed; a well-storied figure who was responsible for introducing apples to this area. That person would be Jean-Baptiste LaFramboise, named by some of his English neighbors as “John Raspberry”. He  for many things - the first, permanent European settler of Clinton County, a soldier who fought two wars in North America, and a farmer who began an orchard which continues to bear fruit over two-hundred years later.

Born in Amiens, France in 1722, Jean-Baptiste migrated to Quebec to serve as a soldier there. Not much is known about this period in his life. When the Seven Years War broke out between England and France, their colonies and allies here in North America were drawn into it as well. Jean-Baptiste was posted to Fort Carillon (presently Fort Ticonderoga) with other French forces in the hopes of preventing a British invasion of Canada. There he was captured by British forces on patrol before the fort fell into their hands. After the war, he was released and returned to Quebec. It was a trip in1763 that first brought him hiking through this part of New York. He found the land to be so remarkable that when he went back home he inquired about purchasing a lot of it for himself.

Five years later Jean-Baptiste was moving his entire family to their newly-acquired property in present-day Chazy. This consisted of his wife Marie-Charlotte, daughters Charlotte, Genevieve, and Marie-Charlotte II, and sons Jacques, Jean-Baptiste II, Jean-Francois, and Nicholas. Soon after, other French families from Canada followed the LaFramboises to the area. There a small settlement grew in the years leading to the Revolution. But when war broke out again in North America, this time between the Thirteen Colonies and England, the Canadian settlement found itself in a dangerous position. The families there drew the ire of the Americans and British after rumors claimed the community to be a haven for spies on either side. Both sides harassed and attacked the settlers. In 1776, British soldiers burned down the LaFramboise home.

Though the family was left unharmed they were soon after captured by Americans believing them to be spies. The family was forcibly movedto Albany, then to Boston in early 1777. By then it became clear that the family was innocent, and they were let go. After their release Jean-Baptiste and three of his sons (Jean-Baptiste II, Jacques, and Nicholas) then enlisted in the Canadian Regiments of the Continental Army. With the exception of Nicholas, the father and his sons served under Colonel James Livingston. But in1780 they deserted and fled to Canada. The trio remained there for the remainder of the war. By 1783, the LaFramboise family was together again in New York. They met with Benjamin Mooers and surveyors for the Beekman Patent in Albany, traveling north with the group to return home. Jean-Baptiste and his sons were all granted new lots in present-day Chazy for their service (despite their desertions). While his sons settled on their new lots, Jean-Baptistere turned to the family’s original land. On one of his lots he began planting apple trees, the first in upstate New York. Jean-Baptiste cared for his orchard until he passed away in 1810. The LaFramboise land still bears fruit to this day, with it currently being owned by Chazy Orchards. But the story of the LaFramboises and their orchard doesn’t end there.

After Jean-Baptiste’s passing, the family’s ownership of the original land they settled on was called into question. It turned out that Jean-Baptiste was duped into purchasing it illegally, as he had been unaware of the old French patents being voided after the Seven Years War. The courts in New York eventually sided with the LaFramboise family’s claims of ownership on the condition that they could prove their residence prior to the area’s resettlement. Ironically, the individual they found to testify on their behalf was Alexander Ferriole: a resident of Plattsburgh who, as a young recruit to the Patriot cause, was one of the same soldiers who captured the family in1776! With this assistance, the LaFramboises were able to keep their land. Jacques inherited and kept it, but eventually moved away from the area to live near Saranac Lake.

Desmond Meacham

Team Leader for Clinton County Pathway to America250 Committee

Adirondack Coast Adventures

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