An Irish immigrant, John Kane served as a precinct supervisor for Dutchess County from 1771 to 1773, overseeing the tenant farmers who lived in the area, and would go on to join William Prendergast during the Anti-Rent Rebellion, 1765 – 1766. Initially he was considered a Tory and was accused during the Revolutionary War of having British sympathies. In 1777 he was jailed in Poughkeepsie on suspicion of treason.
His release was contingent on signing an oath pledging not to maintain any “traitorous” correspondence with the British Army, and to appear when called upon for military service. Freed and allowed to return to his home, he avoided signing the oath, and escaped with his two sons and thirteen other Loyalists across enemy lines on August 1, 1777. As his grandson, Judge John K. Kane, would later write, “He was a Colonel of the American militia, became disgusted at an insult to his patriotism, abandoned his property to confiscation and moved into British lines.”
When George Washington brought his army to Pawling, he chose as his headquarters the former home of the traitor John Kane, which has since been preserved as a historical site. After the war, John Kane returned to Dutchess County—but not to Pawling, where he was still hated.
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