A young and ambitious John Neilson came to this area in 1772 from just outside Elizabeth, NJ. He went to work in the village of Stillwater, two miles south of the house, on the farm of Abner Quitterfield. Only three years later, in 1775, he leased 150 acres of land, and ‘married the boss’s daughter,’ Lydia. Within a year or two, they built this small house on the lot he had leased.
In 1777, a British army was invading southward from Canada into New York. Their route would take them through the Neilsons’ back yard. John took Lydia and their possessions to the safety of her parents’ home in Stillwater. He then exchanged his home for a tent, serving with his local militia regiment—some of whom would be encamped nearby.
American army officers moved into his empty house on September 12, 1777. About ten miles north, British forces steadily descended the Hudson River Valley as American troops hastily built menacing defenses 3/4 of a mile east on Bemus Heights—a ridge of bluffs overlooking the Hudson.
The American army used this house as a divisional and brigade headquarters. Ephraim Woodworth’s house, 1/2 mile south of Neilson’s, was headquarters for the American army commanding general, Horatio Gates.
The only account from the time of the battles says General Enoch Poor of New Hampshire and General Benedict Arnold of Connecticut were quartered here.
Fighting came within about one mile of this house. As Gates’ army moved on, though, they left behind a farm in near-ruins. John and Lydia returned shortly after the army’s departure and began restoring the farm. Their crops had been ravaged, and their fields torn up. John filed a damage claim in May 1778, in the amount of £100 (about three times a soldier’s annual salary), but he was not reimbursed.
The Neilsons continued with their family life, eventually having eight children. As the family grew, a small house would no longer do; the first U.S. Census from 1790 lists eleven people living here. By 1830, they had built a larger, two-story home. By the 1890s, they had pushed back the original part of the house and added a carriage barn.
This house is based on the reproduction of Neilson,s Farmhouse, now standing in the grounds of the SARATOGA BATTLEFIELD NATIONAL PARK.
The model can be suitable for the French Indian War, American Revolution, and of course the American Civil War.
The model has a lift off roof, with basic interior detail, and a front door which can be opened or closed..