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Full text of "The story of Old Fort Plain and the Middle Mohawk Valley (with five maps)"

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'he Story of 
Old Fort Plain 



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GREENE 



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THE STORY OF OLD FORT 
PLAIN AND THE MIDDLE 
MOHAWK VALLEY 

(WITH FIVE MAPS) 



A Review of Mohawk Valley history from 1609 to the 
time of the writing of this book (1912-1914,) treating par- 
ticularly of the central region comprised in the present 
Counties of Herkimer, Montgomery and Fulton. Especial 
attention is given to western Montgomery County and 
the region within a twenty mile radius of the Revolu- 
tionary fortification of old Fort Plain, including the 
Canajoharie and Palatine districts of then Tryon County 



Written, Compiled, and Edited by 

NELSON GREENE 




O'CONNOR BROTHERS :: :: :: PUBLISHERS 

FORT PLAIN, NEW YORK 

1915 



THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED, IN AFFECTIONATE 
REMEMBRANCE, TO MY GRANDMOTHER, EMILY 
HERKIMER GREENE. BORN IN THE EARLY 
YEARS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, HER 
LONG LIFE COVERED MUCH OF THE GROWTH 
AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE MOHAWK VALLEY 
FROM WILDERNESS TO CIVILIZATION, AND, 
HER STORIES OF THE EARLY DAYS PROMPTED 
THE INTEREST WHICH EVENTUALLY LED THE 
WRITER TO THE PREPARATION 
OF THIS VOLUME. 



Coi)vriKht 1915 
By NELSON GREENE 



Mohawk, ever-flowing. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing — curving broadly, hill-born, mountain-bound, meadow-edged ; its 
valley the nation's roadway. th(> nation's boatway — linking east to west, oceans to lakes; 
scurried by trains, by motor cars, thousands daily speeding along its banks, hill en- 
compassed. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing — river of the first days. 

In the evening shadows, in the night shadows, the spirit lurk of the savage days ; the 
lean red man pushing his live canoe o'er the rippling dark waters — on the nearby pine hill 
his bark cabin, on the flats his waving cornfield ; vaguely gray seen through the river 
l)ank trees, the settler's stone house ; from the flatland's edge the forest rising, all encom- 
passing ; the fisherman's skiff silently drifting past silhouetted giant elms ; whisper of night 
wind in the great treetops ; weird glow light of rising full, yellow moon. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing — river of days of darkness, of battle, of death, of suffering ; in 
the evening darkness, in the night darkness the spirit lurk of red days of blood ; shot, zip 
of tomahawk, wail of crushed infant, death gasp of hero mother ; the sturdy old farmer 
in bloody death clinch with the lithe, wriggling red man ; scarlet midnight gleam of burn- 
ing homestead. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing — great river of old. In the hilltop twilight, dim spirit figure — 
mighty, towering— the nation-maker, mounted, from a high pathway wisely viewing future 
vistas. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing — river of the n.-ition. Here the building of the nation — wisely, 
foolishly, strongly, recklessly, blusteringly, bravely — bridges, turnpikes, prairie schooners 
wending westward, canals, boats, railways, rattling engines, endless car-trains, flying trol- 
lies, speeding motor cars ; hamlets, towns, cities, bare brick factories belching black smoke. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing — river of the present. Comes a birdman flying the twilight heavens 
eastwai'd ; to him the earthdusk over-shadowing dull silver endless snake shapes of river, 
of canal ; man-jjiloti^d great air bird flying, curving, settling on green hill meadow. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing — river of our day. The steam car, electric car. flying past wide, 
dusty cities — standing brick bare in the summer sun — teeming with life — aimless, well- 
directed — streets, buildings, men. children, women, beauty, various clothes, strange hats, 
cars, carts, trucks, vehicles, hurrying, hither, thither, hustle, bustle — aimless, well-directed. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing — river of now — from rushing railroad car, from fl.ving motor car 
the speeding traveler, seeing villagi> houses twinkling whitt^ amid green leaves, church spires 
rising amid the trees ; school bells ringing, children running : on th(> village park the ball 
players, running, batting, catching ; the great red barn standing upon a knoll amid wide, 
yellow grain fields : horses galloping the pasture from rushing train ; cattle — black and 
white spots upon the distant meadow. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing eastward — river no more ; wide, full, waterway winding past great 
locks, great bridges, floating great boats — but still the same mysterious lines of flowing 
high hills, the same bordering green meadows. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing — spirit of old, symbol of today, mysterious with suggestions of 
days to come. 

Mohawk, ever-flowing. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 



NOTE.— It is sn.ijs'estpd that tho reader of this book follow this ovdn- in reading this 
work : 

First: Read the Fifteen School Dates (p. 322) in the Mohawk Valley Chronologies in 
the appendix. 

Second: Read the Mohawk Valley (.'hronology (p. 307), which starts the appendix. 

Third : Read the main body of the book. 

Fourth : At tlie conclusion of each chapter turn to the appendix and read therein the 
matter relative to the chapter in the main body of the book, which the reader has just 
completed. The appendix additions carry the main l)Ody chapter heads, to which the ap- 
pendix matter properly belongs and to which they will be added in any future editions of 
this work. 

This book can be read in connection with Lossins'"s "Empire State" or (for a shorter 
work) IIendrick"s "Brief (School) History of the Empire State." 

Pape 
INTRODUCTION ix 

FIRST SERIES 1609-1783 
CHAP. I. — The Mohawks and Iroquois — A Dutch Journey throujrh the Canajoharie 

District in 1634— Local Indian Villaj^ies and Trails 1 

CHAP, II,— 1609-1772 — Indians — Mohawk Valley Discovery — Settlement — Sir William 

.Tohnson 3 

CIIAI'. III.— 1774 — .Johnson Hall— Sir William Johnson, Sir John Johnson, Joseph and 

Molly Brant 10 

CHAP, IV,— Minden from 1720-1738— Sir George Clarke, Governor of the Province of New 
York, Establishes a Forest Home at Fort Plain — 1750. the Reformed Church and 
First Store Established — 1755, a Minden Tragedy of the French War 14 

CHAP, V, — 1772 — Tryon County and the Canajoharie and I'alatine Districts 16 

CHAP, VI.— Population of Tryon in 1757 and 1776— Ft. Johnson- The Highways 18 

CHAP. VII. — 1772 — Tryon County People — Farming, Religious and Social Life — Sports 

and Pastimes of the Days Before the Revolution 21 

CHAP. VIII. — 1774 to 1777 — (Jrowth of the .\merican Liberty Movement— Tryon County 

Committee of Safety and Militia 27 

CHAP. IX.— 1776— The Building of Fort Plain— Other Forts Near Here 32 

CHAP. X.— 1776— Adjacent Settlers and Buildings— Some Thrilling Incidents 35 

CHAP. XI.— 1777— Oriskany— Willetfs Trip— Arnold's March— Enemy Flees 40 

CHAP. XII. — 1777— A t'ontemporary Account of the Battle at Oriskany — Lossing on 

Willett's Journey to Schuyler for Aid — The Oriskany Roster 48 

CHAP. XIII. — 1777 — Personal lOxperiences at Oriskany — Indian and Tory Barbarities 54 

CHAP. XIV. — 1778 — Indian Council at .lohnstown, March 9 — Manheim, Caroga, Spring- 
field, Andrustown, German Flats Raids— Cherry \alley Massacre , 64 

CHAP, XV. — 1779 — (ien. (,'linton at Canajoharie — Guard on Otsquago Creek — Sullivan 

and Clinton Defeat Johnson and Brant 70 

CHAP. XVI.— 1780— May 21, Johnson's Johnstown Raid— August 2, Brant's Minden Raid 74 
CHAP. XVII.— 1780, August 2— Incidents and Tragedies and Details of Brant's Minden 

Raid 77 

CHAP. XVIII.— 1780— Johnson's Schoharie and Mohawk Invasion— Oct. 19, Battles of 
Stone Arabia and St. Johnsville — Van Rensselaer's Inefiiciency — Enemy Escapes — 
Fort Plain Named Fort Rensselaer — Fort Plain Blockhouse Built — Fort Willett 
Begun 89 

CHAP. XIX.— 1781— June. Col. Willett Appointed Commander of Mohawk Valley Posts, 
Makes Fort I'lain His Headquarters — Dreadful Tryon County Conditions — July 9, 
Currytown Raid — July 10, American Victory at Sharon — Fort Schuyler Abandoned 98 

CHAP. XX.— 1781— Oct. 24, Ross and Butler's Tory and Indian Raid in Montgomery and 
Fulton Counties— Oct. 25, .\mericau Victory at Johnstown — Willett's I'ursuit, 
Killing of Walter Butler and Defeat of the Enemy at West Canada Creek — Rejoic- 
ing in the Mohawk Valley — Johnstown, the County Seat, at the Time of the Hall 
Battle, 1781 105 

CHAP. XXI.— 1782— Last of the War in the Valle.v— Rebuilding and Repopulation— Tory 

and Indian Raid at Fort Herkimer — Tories — Gen. Washington at Schenectady 114 

CHAP. XXII.— 1783— February 9. Col. Willett's Attempt to Capture Fort Oswego— 

Privations of the American Troops on the Return Trip 117 

CHAP. XXIII.— 1783— April 17, Messenger From Gen. Washington Reaches Fort Plain 
Giving News of End of Hostilities — April 18, Captain Thompson's Journey to 
Oswego With a Flag of Truce " 118 



vi TABLE OF CONTENTS 

Page 

CHAP. XXIV.— 1783— July. Washington's Tour of Mohawk Valley and Visit to Otsego 
I.akf— His Lottors ("oncorning Trip— Slojis at Palafino. Fort Plain, Cherry Valley 
anrt Cana.idharit — Col. ('ly(l( — I'iiial Kccords of I'orl Plain or l''ort Uensselaer — 
Last U('Vt)liitionary Indian Murder in t'aiiajoharic District 123 

CHAP. XXV.— 1775-1783 — IJeviow of Mohawk Valley Events — Tryon County Militia 

Kecords— Territoi-y Covered in These Sketches 130 

SECOND SERIES 1784-1838 
CHAP. I.— 1784-1838— Mohawk Valley After the RovoUition— Constructive Period— Mont- 
gomery County and its Divisions — Towns and Tlieir Clianges 130 

CHAP. II.— 1784-1838— People and Life in the Mohawk Valley— Dress— The Revolutionary 
Houses — The Moliawk Dutch — English P.ecomes the Popular Tongue — Rev. Taylor's 
.Tourney in 1802- Valley Sports — Douhleday's Invention of Baseball — Last of the 
Mohawks in the Valley — The Iroquois Population in 1890 and the Mohawks in 
Canada 142 

CHAP. III.— 1689-1825 — Western Montgomery County and the Palatine and Canajohai-ie 

Districts Townships — Life. Trade. Schools. I»evelopment 154 

CHAP. IV. — The Five Revolutionary Churches of Western Montgomery County — Other 
Revolutionary Churches in Montgomery and Fulton Counties and in Danube and 
Manheim — Hon. Francis (Jranger's Account of the Old Caughnawaii;i D\itch 
Church 165 

CHAP, v.— The Mohawk River and Watershed— History and Topography 171 

CHAP. VI.— 1609-1795— Traffic and Travel on the Mohawk River— Canoes. Dugouts, Skiffs, 
Ratteaux — Carries at Little Falls and Wood Creek — 1792. Inland Lock Navigation 
Co.— 1795. Canals and Locks at Little Falls, (Jerman Flats and Rome— Schenectady 
and Durham Roatsand River Packets— 1821-1825. Mohawk Part of Erie Canal 
System — 1825. Erie Canal Supersedes River .-is ^■alley Waterway — Christian 
Schultz's 1807 Mohawk River Journey ". 178 

CHAP. VII.— 1609-1913— Mohawk Vallev Transportation— Indian Trails— Horse and Cart 
Roads, Highways (1700-1800)— Turnpikes and Mohawk Turnpike (1800-1840 > — 
Countrv Roads ' (1840-1885)— Bicycle Routes (1885-1900)— Automobile Roads (1900- 
1913)— Weed's 1824 Stage Coach Journey on the Mohawk Turnpike 185 

CHAP. VIIL— 1793-1913— First Bridges in Middle Mohawk Valley and Montgomery 
County — Celebration at Opening of Fort Plain Bridge. Julv 4, 180(3 — Fort Plain Free 
Bridge. 1858 194 

CHAP. IX.— 1812— The Militia System— Trainings— War With England— The Mohawk 

Valley Militia 197 

CHAP. X.— 1817-1825— Construction of Erie Canal— Clinton's Triumphal Trip— Fort 

Plain's Celebration 200 

CHAP. XL— 1831-18.36— First Valley Railroads— The Mohawk and Hudson (1831), Utica 
and Schenectady (1836), New York Central (1853), New York Central and Hudson 
River Railroad (1869), Fonda, Johnstown and (iloversville (1870), West Shore 
Railroad (1883)— First Freight Business— Trolley Lines 209 

CHAP. XII.— 1836, Fonda Made County Seat of Montgomery County — New Court House 
Built at Fonda — Dissatisfaction in Northern Montgomery — 1838. Fulton County 
Created From Northern Montgomery County 215 

THIRD SERIES 1838-1913 

CII.VP. I.— 1838-1913 — Montgomery County, Topography, I'opulation and History— Farm 
Statistics and Amsterdam Industrial Statistics — Fulton County, Herkimer County 
and Mohawk Valley Statistics 219 

CHAP. II. — 1848 — Trip of Benson J. Lossing From Currytown to Sharon Springs, to 

Cherry Valley, to Fort Plain — Revolutionary Scenes and People Then Living 231 

CHAP. III.— 1861-1865— Montgomery and Fulton County Men in the Civil War— 115th, 
153d and Other Regiments and t'ompanies With Montgomery and Fulton County 
Representation— 1912, 115th and 153d Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Mustering in 
at Fonda 234 

CIIAI'. IV. — 1892, Barge Canal Recommendation of State Engineer Martin Schenck — 

1900, Report of the Creene Canal Commission, Barge Canal Survev — 1903, Passage - 
of $101,000,000 Barge Canal Act— 1905— Work Begun on Erie Canal Section— Locks 
Widened to 45 Feet— Features of the Mohawk River Canalization 250 

CHAP, v.— 1911, August 14-25, Atwood's 1,266-Mile Flight From St. Louis to New York- 
Flies 95 Miles From Svracuse to Nelliston. August 22 and Stays Overnight at Fort 
Plain— Flies 66 Miles From Nelliston to Castleton, August 23, With a Stop in tJlen 
for Repairs— "Following the Mohawk" 262 

CHAP. \l. — (ieological Review of the Middle Mohawk Valley by Abram Devendorf — 
Lake Albany t'overing the Old Mohawk Country of Canajoharie. From Little 

Falls to the Noses — The (ilacial I'eriod — S\irface Indications 265 

CHAP. VII.— Western Montgomery County Schools— Supt. Alter's 1912 Report 271 

CHAP. VIIL — Deforestation and Reforestation — Denundation in Western Montgomery 
Countv — Arl)or Day— Adirondack and National Forest Preserves — The Forests and 
the Water Supply 273 

CHAP. IX.— 1894-1914- Western Montgomery County Hydro-Electric Development on East 

and Caroga Creeks 277 

CHAP. X.— 1825-1913— Western Montgomery County and the Five Townships of Minden, 

Canajoharie, Root, I'alatine and St. Johnsville 281 



TABLE OF CONTENTS . vii 

Page 
CHAP. XI.— 1825-1913— Western Montgomery County— The Town of St. Johnsville and 

St. Johnsville Villase 284 

CHAP. XII.— 1825-1913— Western Montjiomerv County— The Town of Palatine 286 

CHAP. XIII.— 1825-191.3— WestfM-n Montgomery County— The Town of Uoot 287 

CHAP. XIV.— 1825-191.3— Western Montgomery County— The Town of Caiiajoharie and 

Canajoharie Village 290 

CHAP. XV.— 1825-1913— Western Montgomery County— Fort Plain Village and Minden 

Township 293 

APPENDIX 

Mohawk Valley Chronology 307 

Western Montgomery County Dates 317 

Mohawk Valley Military Statistics 318 

Fifteen Dates for School Use 322 

Chronology of Mohawk Valley Pre-Revolutionary Houses and Churches 321 

Chronology of Sir William .Tohnson 326 

Mohawk Valley Travelers' Chronology 327 

Mohawk Valley Manufacturing Chronology — Sketches of Principal Industries and of 

Cheese Dairying 328 

ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS— SERIES I. 

CHAP. I. — The Mohawks and Six Nations — The Iroquoiau Tribes of North America — 

The Iroquois Legend of Hiawatha 341 

CHAP. II. — The Six Mohawk Valley Counties and the Mohawk Valley Considered as a 
Historical and Geographical Unit — Dutcli Settlement and Influence in the Hudson 
and Mohawk Valleys — Importance of the Hudson Valley, Geographical, Commer- 
cial, Industrial, Agricultural, Social 350 

1661—1 >utch Settlement of Schenectady 355 

The Mohawks a Bar to Early While Settlement Along the Mohawk 356 

■1709— Trip of Four Mohawk Chiefs to England 356 

1760— Mrs. (irant's Mohawk River Trip 357 

1760— (Jen. Amhersfs Expedition 358 

CHAP. III. — Sir William Johnson, an Appreciation 359 

CHAP. V 360 

CHAP. VIII.— 1764— The General Herkimer House— A 1913 Description 360 

1777 — Account of tlie Herkimer-Brant Conference at Unadilla by Joseph Wagner, a 

Palatine Militiaman 361 

Christopher P. Yates — A Biographical Sketch 362 

CHAP. IX 362 

CHAP. XL— 1777— The Battle of Oriskany Described by Miller and Seeber, Soldier Par- 
ticipants 362 

1777 — Capt. McDonald's Tory and Indian Invasion of Schoharie — Flockey Battle 364 

CHAP. XIII 365 

CHAP. XIV.— 1778— Battle of Cohleskill 365 

Additional Facts Concerning Ilelmer's Heroic Run of 1778 365 

CHAP. XV.— 1779— Gen. Clinton's Route From Canajoharie to Otsego Lake 365 

CHAP. XVII 366 

CHAP. XVIIL— 1780— Johnson's Raid and Battles of Stone Arabia and Johnstown De- 
scribed by Thomas Sammons, an American Volunteer-Participant 366 

CHAP. XIX.— Monuments to and Portraits of Colonel Willett 371 

CHAP. XX.— 1781— Lieut. Wallace's Story of the Battle of Johnstown 372 

CHAP. XXI 373 

CHAP. XXV. — Part Played by tlie Women, Children and Youth in Mohawk Valley 

History 373 

SERIES II. 

CHAP. I. — 1784^First Permanent Settlement of Oneida County — New England Immi- 
gration 377 

CHAP. VI.— Elkanah Watson's Mohawk River Trips of 1788 and 1791— His Views on and 

Efforts for Improved Mohawk River Navigation 377 

CHAP. VII.— 1800 (about)— The Mohawk and Albany Pikes— Toll Gates 381 

CHAP. XL— 1914— Mohawk Valley Railroads— Railroad Development 382 

SERIES III. 

CHAP. I.— Mohawk Valley Governors. Yates, 1823-5 ; Bouck. 1843-5 : Seymour, 1853-5, 

1863-5— Vice President Sherman, 1908-12 1 382 

CHAP. IV.— Prospective Barge Canal Commerce 383 

CHAP, v.— 1914— Aeroplanes 387 

Incorrect Historical Illustrations 388 

The Marking of the Site of Old Fort Plain — Valley Historical Societies and Thoir 

Accomplishirents — Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls 388 

Yankee Doodle and the Yankee r>oodle Bovs 389 

Value of the Study of Local History by Dr. Sherman Williams 390 

2200 Population of Hudson Valley— Ultimate Mohawk Valley Populations 392 

Scenic Features of the Mohawk Valley 393 

Notes 393 

Corrections— Series 1 397 

Corrections— Series II 398 

A Final Word 399 



viii TABLE OF CONTEXTS 

ADDITIONAL CORRECTIONS. 

In the Introcliiction, on pnao xiv. tliirty-flftli line read "white winter slumber" for 
"whih^ winter sluniher." 

In the Appendix, p. 351. fifth line from the l)ottoni. first column, read "history of coun- 
tries" for "history of countie.s." 

In the Appendix on p. 354, the statement is made that "At Poujjrhkeepsie in 1786, the 
New York State Assemlily ratified the T'nited States Constitution, making the ninth state 
to take such action and thus putting it into effect." Tliis is ;iu error. It was in 1788 that 
the State Assembly met at I'oufrhkeepsie to consider the adoption of the National Consti- 
tution framed at .\nnapolis in 1786. While in session news was received that New Hamp- 
shire had ratified the Constitution. It was the ninth state so to do and its action put the 
national government into effect. It was then up to New York to ratify or secede from the 
United States. A majority of the state legislators were against ratifying and it was only 
the great efforts of Alexander Hamilton that secured New York's approval by the close vote 
of 30 to 27. See Lossing's "Empire Stale," Chapter 23. 

In the Appendix, page 377, first column, seventh line from the top, read "New York 
State Revolutionary troops" for "New Y'ork State Revolutionary militia." 

In the Appendix, page 382. second column, fifth line from the top, read "250 loaded coal 
cars" instead of "250 loaded freight cars." 

In the Appendix. i)age 396, second column, fifth line from the bottom, read "Statue of 
Baron Steuben" instead of "Statute of Baron Steuben." 

In the acknowledgment of assist.-ince rendered the editor of this work by living (1914) 
writers on the Mohawk valley and others, the name of Mrs. A. T. Smith of Fultonvllle, N. 
Y., Is omitted. On page 230 appears an extract from one of Mrs. Smith's writings, "A 
Ramble, Visit to a Colonial House." 

.\n earnest effort has been made to correct the errors which have crept into this work 
during its preparation. These mistakes will he eliminated in any future editions of this 
book. 



I* 



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KEV TD CAMAL SIGNJS represents Bar^e-Caoil 

i:^^:^.:^^::.:^:^^-^;^ rcptiesents a cana.li2.<2ij riv/er 
"^^rt^^rn^r nz.pre,sents a canalized UKc. 

(1) represents proposed Black-River Barpe-Canal improveme.nl- ^  

(2) repve-sents proposed Seneca-Lake - Chemung-Riyer Bai^e. Canal ln1provGmen^ .\ I 
©represents proposed C(ens-Falls feeder Bar^e-Canal improi/ement ^' 
©represents proposed Newfown-CreeK=Flushinj-Bay BageCanal imprcvemetih 
©Ttpresent-s pnoposed FlushingBav^rJamaica-Baj Barje-Canal improwement- 



NEW YORK STATE RIVERS. 
Here are seen tlio principal rivers and river systems of New Yorl? State, including also 
those of northeastern New .lersey. which empty into the month of the Hudson. The great- 
est river systems in the order ol" their importance to New Yorlv State are the Hudson, the 
OswcKO. tlie St. T,awrenci' (Includinj; Lake Champlain). tlie (ienesee. tlie Susquehanna, the 
I)elaware. the IJlack. and the Allegheny. The borders of New York State are not here 
shown and it will interest th<> student (of any age) to su|)ply them. New York contains 
two of the three princii)al drainajxe systems of the United States— these three are the 
Atlantic, the (Julf of Mexico and the Pacific systems. The .Vllej^heny river, traversing a 
portion of southwestern New York Sl.-ite, represcmts the (hilf drainage system, while all (he 
other .streams lie within the Atlantic system. New York State takes its form from the 
Dutch and English occupation f)f tlie Hudson valley and the Ii'ocpujis occupancy of the Os- 
wego valley and western New York. New York Slate, generally speaking, is bordered by 
Lake Erie and the Niagara I'iver on tlie west. Ivake Ontario and the St. I^awrence on the 
north. Lake ('hami)lain and the watershed of the Hudson on the east and portions of the 
watersheds of the Allegheny. Susijuehanna and Helaware rivers on the south. Attention is 
called to th(> remarkable Hudson (including the Mohawk I and (Jswego river systems, which 
form such a large p.art of the New York State Harge ("anal. The canalized portions of 
these rivers are represented l)y dots alongside their channels. Note the canal signs which 
indicate proposed future unions of streams and their (■■•uiali/alion. See Chapter V., Series 
II., P. 171. "The Mohawk River and Waterslied :" also Chapter VI., Third Series, "(ieological 
Review of the Middle Mohawk N'alley." 



AD/R.ONDACK 

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©MANHATTAN BoftOucH 
©BRONX BOROUqH 

® Richmond borough 
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©KINCS B0ROUC.H ^ 
©QUEENS BOR.OU<4f< 



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INTRODUCTION 



In 1776 an American fort was erected, in the district of Canajoharie of 
Tryon county, at the then mouth of the Otsquago creek, on a bluff in the Sand 
Hill section of the present village of Fort Plain. Legend has it that there was 
some sort of fortification before that date and this is not improbable as here 
was the beginning of the Otsego trail through the Otsquago valley and the site 
in question is one naturally suited for defense. The fort built in the year 
of the Independence declaration was a regular army post and continued as such 
until Washington's v'sit in 1783, and for some years after. It is with this forti- 
fication that the story deals and with lands adjoining, of which it was a natural 
center. 

Artificial boundaries of territory are often confusing and somewhat ridicu- 
lous. The Mohawk forms a natural division between the north and south side 
sections about Fort Plain and it is fitting that these two neighborhoods should 
be treated as separate localities. Aside from supposed convenience to the citi- 
zens at election times and to facilitate town government, there is no reason 
whatever why we should try in our minds to conceive the township of Canajo- 
harie as set off in any way from the town of Minden. Walk back on the hills 
toward Seebers Lane; look off to the east and you will see the stream of 
the Mohawk separating you from the fertile hills of beautiful Palatine. But 
where you stand (if it is on the high hill about a mile southeast of Fort Plain 
village) you will see no line or natural boundary cutting off the farms of Minden 
from those of Canajoharie. So, in treating of the land, people or events of the 
valley, it is more vitally important to consider the sections naturally set apart 
than those which consist solely of imaginary lines drawn upon maps. 

In the following chapters, the story of old Fort Plain will be found to be 
interwoven with that of the old Canajoharie and Palatine districts of Tryon 
county. The acute mind of S?r William Johnson, in his division of the districts 
of Tryon, merely drew on his map the natural boundaries which ran through the 
county. This middle region of the Mohawk valley is set off from the upper part 
to the west of Little Falls by the range which cuts squarely across the Mohawk, 
known by the name of Fall Hill. To the east a similar barrier exists in the 
picturesque hill formations wh'ch rise from the Mohawk flats on each side, 
known as The Noses. The Mohawk here breaks through a high ridge which 
separates this mid section from the eastern part of the valley. Johnson fit- 
tingly named this region north of the river. Palatine, and that to the south 
Canajoharie, and these formed the Palatine and Canajoharie districts of 
Troyn county. The name Canajoharie had probably been applied to its section 



X INTRODUCTION 

from early Indian times. Five districts were set off and the other three were 
Mohawk, on both sides of the river from the line of Schenectady county west 
to the Noses, and from Fall Hill west, Klngsland to the north of the Mohawk 
and German Flats to the south. The districts north of the river were supposed 
to run to the Canadian line, while those to the south embraced territory to the 
northern boundary of Pennsylvania. However, most of the population was 
gathered along the Mohawk river and its tr'butary, the Schoharie, and the history 
of Tryon county is in reality that of the Mohawk valley; which is another in- 
stance where actual natural territory and boundaries must be considered rather 
than the dot and dash divisions of the maps. 

These two districts mentioned extend along the Mohawk for a distance of 
about twenty miles. The townships of Montgomery county that form part of 
old Canajoharie and Palatine are Minden, Canajoharie, part of Root (to the west 
of the Big Nose), Palatine and St. Johnsville. This publication deals with these 
five towns, as well as the older districts, and, as Fort Plain is approximately at 
their geographical center, it is fitting that the title of this narrative should be 
"The Story of Old Fort Plain." So the object of this work is to tell the tale of 
the Mohawk country between the Noses and Fall Hill and to relate as well all 
that can be gathered of importance with reference to the chief and central Revo- 
lutionary fortification of the territory in question, which was known as Fort Plain. 

It is interesting to realize that we have a prior authority, for the considera- 
tion of local history from this point, in that eminent New York state historian, 
Benson J. Lossing, particularly adapted to his task by being a descendant of the 
first Holland settlers. In his wonderfully interesting "Pictorial Field Book 
of the Revolution," he says: "At Fort Plain I was joined by my traveling com- 
panions * * * and made it my headquarters for three days, while visiting 
places of interest in the vicinity. It being a central point in the hostile move- 
ments in Tryon county, from the time of the flight of St. Leger from before 
Fort Stanwix until the close of the war, we will plant our telescope of observa- 
tion here for a time, and view the most important occurrences within this par- 
ticular sweep of its speculum." To do exactly this and, in addition, to continue 
our view of life and events from the Revolutionary time to the present, is the 
mission of "The Story of Old Fort Plain." 

The need has been felt of a continuous narrative of the fort and the condi- 
tions existing in its surrounding territory. The former chronicles of events and 
life about here were largely obscure and what could be obtained was imbedded 
in a mass of other material in local history. Fort Plain was next to Forts Dayton 
and Herkimer, the most advanced New York frontier post, during the last years 
of the war and seems to have been the most important. From here Willett is- 
sued on his heroic marches to victorious battles; here was the headquarters of 
the chief officers concerned in the Klock's field battle; here and within cannon 
shot occurred some of the most tragic and thrilling incidents of the Revolution 
in Tryon county. From here was heard Brown's brave stand at Stone Arabia, 
and from here was seen the glare from Currytown's burning farm-houses. Here 
was heard the rattle of the rifles of the victorious Americans on Klock's Field. 
This fort housed the settlers fleeing from the tomahawk and torch of the Indian 
and Tory. It was once, by Fort Plain's women, successfully defended by a femi- 
nine ruse. It remained a tower of patriot strength during the whole contest and 
finally at its close housed the great commander — Washington himself. Here 



INTRODUCTION xi 

came Gansevoort, Gov. Clinton, Col. Dayton, Gen. Clinton, the despised Van 
Rensselaer, probably Gen. Arnold, as well as many members of the committee of 
safety and of the county militia. Here commanded the mighty Willett and the 
sterling warrior Clyde. Through the dreadful, bloody struggle, which decimated 
the population and almost destroyed a thriving farming section, Fort Plain 
stood a tower of strength to keep aJive in a great territory the soul of American 
liberty and the spirit of American civilization and culture. This it did and, 
when the horrors of the conflict were past and its dead buried, some back of the 
church near by, the batteaux again floated on the river at its feet, within 
its sight blackened ruins were replaced by houses and barns and the plowman 
was once more seen tilling the neglected fields on the distant slopes. Civilization 
resumed its work in the valley and the task of old Fort Plain was done. But 
its story still remains for those who wish to learn it. 

The placing of the fortification was evidently largely a matter of geography. 
Its hill was capable of defense on all sides and was commanded by no higher 
ground which could be used as a base of attack at that time. It could be pro- 
vided with its necessary water from a good spring directly under its walls. It 
had a view of the country for miles in all directions. The road from Fort 
Stanwix to Schenectady ran along the foot of the hill. It, of course, was of easy 
access from the river at its base and commanded this highway of freight 
traffic, and a ferry ■♦ras here then as at a later date. Its location at the be- 
ginning of the Otsego trail or carry, as mentioned, probably influenced its site 
and here then the Otsquago flowed into the Mohawk. Boys who swam in the 
river before the beginning of the Barge canal remember "the low," as they called 
it and this shallow in the river, then about opposite the knitting mills, was un- 
doubtedly the remains of the rift which always existed in the Mohawk below the 
outlets of contributory streams. The mouth of the Garoga valley, penetrating a 
great extent of the country to the north, lay about two miles away and at that 
point the old Indian trail from Canada, by way of Lake George, joined the Mo- 
hawk river trails. Furthermore Fort Plain was located in the midst of the 
Palatine settlements of which Fort Herkimer and Fort Dayton defended the 
western and Fort Hunter the eastern end. Everything made this the natural 
site of what was later an important frontier post and the base of several mili- 
tary operations vitally affecting the settlers of the Mohawk valley. Here at 
Sand Hill, was a Reformed church, a river ferry, one or two traders and prob- 
ably a tiny hamlet at the time of the erection of this defense. Of course the 
fear of invasion of the state by British forces and Indian allies, from Canada 
through the Mohawk valley, was the prime reason for the renovation of Forts 
Stanwix and Herkimer and the building of Fort Dayton diagonally opposite, at 
the present site of Herkimer, and of Fort Plain in the center of the Canajoharie 
district in the year of the Declaration of Independence. 

The time dealt with lends added interest to a sketch of its people, places and 
events on account of its remoteness. Although we are separated from it by only 
about a century and a half of time (since the date of the erection of Fort Plain), 
the vital changes of that period have given American life an absolutely different 
phase. Up to the building of the Erie canal the details of human existence had 
been the same, practically, for centuries. Today we live in a different world 
from our American forebears of 1776. 



xii INTRODUCTION 

The main part of these sketches is founded upon "Beer's Illustrated History 
of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, 1878," Lossing's "Field Book of the Revo- 
lution" and Simms's "Frontiersmen of New York." Large parts of these works 
have been used bodily. Other authorities whose material has been made use of 
are Lossing's "Empire State," Benton's "History of Herkimer County" and the 
"Documentary History of New York." While no claim is made for especial 
originality in its preparation, a great mass of material has been arranged in 
proper chronological sequence, wh'ch, the writer believes, is the first instance 
of its having been done in relation to the Revolutionary history of Fort Plain 
and the region about it. In order to make a continuous narrative, dealing with 
the men of this territory, the Oriskany campaign is included. It 's presumed 
about half of the provincials concerned in this movement came from these two 
districts and the history of the men themselves of old Canajoharie and old Pala- 
tine is fully as vital as the study of events and places. An endeavor has been 
made to give a picture of different periods and, to this end, much detail has been 
necessary. 

The history of the middle Mohawk valley can, for convenience, be divided 
into four sections. 

The first is from its discovery about 1616, to the formation of Tryon county 
in 1772. This is the time of Indian life and of white settlement. 

The second period is from 1772 to 1783, embracing the Revolutionary war. 

The third is from 1783 to the division of Montgomery county into Fulton and 
Montgomery counties in 1838, covering the years of highway improvement, bridge 
building, canal digging, railroad construction and early town development. 

The fourth is from 1838 to the present day, and it is hoped that teachers and 
parents will, in future years, carry on this story for the young reader up to the 
time in which he or she reads this book. 

Many people have the idea that local history means, almost entirely, the 
events transpiring about here during the Revolution. That such an impression 
is erroneous is shown by the fact that, in this work, the recital of events here- 
abouts, during the War of Independence, occupies only about one-third of the 
space. Conditions have been so varied and so many elements have entered into 
the story of this valley of the northland that there is much to scan beside the 
tragedies, conflicts and life of the first war with England. Our chron'cle is not 
alone local but touches at every point the development Of our national life, and 
this is particularly true because the valley has always been, from the earliest 
times, one of the great highways of traffic, trade and travel between east 
and west. 

No section of our country affords more glo.wing historical pictures than the 
Mohawk country. Here are found all the elements that go to the making of the 
story of man from the stone age to the present era of a complicated civilization. 
The French priests and the Dutch traders discovered here red savages, who 
were living under conditions similar to those of prehistoric man in Europe. Of 
the latter we have only the most fragmentary knowledge, but, of the'r equivalent 
brethren in America, we know as much as we do of our own frontier ancestors. 
In the earliest days in the valley, of which we have historical knowledge, we find 
much of the Mohawk Indian life centered in the old Canajoharie district. This 
lends to the study of the most warlike tribe of the powerful Iroquois republic 
an added and poignant local interest. 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

The story of this great and beautiful valley of the Mohawk is soon told in 
brief. While it has been ages in the making, the reader can close his eyes and, 
in less time than it takes in the telling, its varied and colorful pictures sweep 
before his mental vision. 

Centuries, probably, after the great glacial ice sheet started ebbing toward 
the north, it turned the waters of some of the Great Lakes down through the 
valley to the Hudson sea inlet, making our river a great rushing torrent, large 
in volume and magnificent to the view. Before the mighty stream dwindled to 
its present course, back, through the great forest covering the old glacial bed 
and along the river, came slinking red human beings close, in brain and body, to 
the beasts they slew for food and clothmg. Here, in the ages before the dread 
ice came slowly and irresistibly from the dead and frozen north, perhaps had 
been men not unlike them, living wild lives in the wilderness among the stranger 
wild animals of that distant day. 

Gradually these savages, of the period after the great ice sheet, grew in the 
ruder arts of civilization; while, outside of their immediate bands, their lust 
for human blood and love of cruel spectacles probably increased. Then came 
red warriors from the north down upon the homes of these valley barbarians 
and began a bloody war of extermination. Suddenly from the forests, these ver- 
milion-faced, befeathered, naked savages rush out and with club and arrow, 
with stone axe and knife, they murder the startled people of the Mohawk 
villages. A hideous spectacle ensues — men, women and children are stabbed, 
struck down, brained and scalped, only a few escaping to later burn and agonize 
for the bestial enjoyment of the red raiders. To save themselves, the Mohawks, 
with their brethren of the other four tribes, join in the great league of the Iro- 
quois family. They drive back their foes, inflicting equally murderous and in- 
human punishment, and become the virtual rulers of the red men of the entire 
eastern country. 

Years after this, but upon a long ago day, a Mohawk stood in front of his 
village on a slope overlooking the bright and winding stream. Bronzed and 
naked to his breech cloth and deerskin leggins, with knife in belt and bow 
in hand, his sharp eyes scanned the summer scene. At his feet lay the flatlands 
of the valley, green with the promising crop of Indian corn. Gently back from 
these open spaces sloped the giant hills clad in a glorious forest unbroken to 
the summits of the fartherest ridges. In the distance a herd of deer stepped 
lightly to the river edge and drank, and far on high an eagle soared in the 
milky blue sky. A pleasing sight — a view of primeval nature undisturbed. En- 
tered, upon this quiet scene, a man in a canoe. Around a willow-bordered bend 
in the placid river he came paddling down stream and the red man saw that 
he was clad in strange garments and that he was white — a sight which filled 
him with superstitious amazement — which meant the end of his race in the 
valley. This was the first of the French priests whose mission of religion 
brought them among the valley Iroquois. 

As the river and its banks move quickly by, to this silent, serious white 
man, so the scene changes rapidly after his advent. The Dutch traders, in still 
stranger clothes, bring guns and rum to exchange with the Indians for their 
splendid wilderness furs. After them follow red-coated soldiers and traders of 
another race — the English. Then come, toiling painfully, up the banks of the 



xii INTRODUCTION 

The main part of these sketches is founded upon "Beer's Illustrated History 
of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, 1878," Lossing's "Field Book of the Revo- 
lution" and Simms's "Frontiersmen of New York." Large parts of these works 
have been used bodily. Other authorities whose material has been made use of 
are Lossing's "Empire State," Benton's "History of Herkimer County" and the 
"Documentary History of New York." While no claim is made for especial 
originality in its preparation, a great mass of material has been arranged in 
proper chronological sequence, wh'ch, the writer believes, is the first instance 
of its having been done in relation to the Revolutionary history of Fort Plain 
and the region about it. In order to make a continuous narrative, dealing with 
the men of this territory, the Oriskany campaign is included. It is presumed 
about half of the provincials concerned in this movement came from these two 
districts and the history of the men themselves of old Canajoharie and old Pala- 
tine is fully as vital as the study of events and places. An endeavor has been 
made to give a picture of different periods and, to this end, much detail has been 
necessary. 

The history of the middle Mohawk valley can, for convenience, be divided 
into four sections. 

The first is from its discovery about 1616, to the formation of Tryon county 
in 1772. This is the time of Indian life and of white settlement. 

The second period is from 1772 to 1783, embracing the Revolutionary war. 

The third is from 1783 to the division of Montgomery county into Fulton and 
Montgomery counties in 1838, covering the j^ears of highway improvement, bridge 
building, canal digging, railroad construction and early town development. 

The fourth is from 1838 to the present day, and it is hoped that teachers and 
parents will, in future years, carry on this story for the young reader up to the 
time in which he or she reads this book. 

Many people have the idea that local history means, almost entirely, the 
events transpiring about here during the Revolution. That such an impression 
is erroneous is shown by the fact that, in this work, the recital of events here- 
abouts, during the War of Independence, occupies only about one-third of the 
space. Conditions have been so varied and so many elements have entered into 
the story of this valley of the northland that there is much to scan beside the 
tragedies, conflicts and life of the first war with England. Our chron'cle is not 
alone local but touches at every point the development of our national life, and 
this is particularly true because the valley has always been, from the earliest 
times, one of the great highways of traffic, trade and travel between east 
and west. 

No section of our country affords more glo.wing historical pictures than the 
Mohawk country. Here are found all the elements that go to the making of the 
story of man from the stone age to the present era of a complicated civilization. 
The French priests and the Dutch traders d'scovered here red savages, who 
were living under conditions similar to those of prehistoric man in Europe. Of 
the latter we have only the most fi-agmentary knowledge, but, of the'r equivalent 
brethren in America, we know as much as we do of our own frontier ancestors. 
In the earliest days in the valley, of which we have historical knowledge, we find 
much of the Mohawk Indian life centered in the old Canajoharie district. This 
lends to the study of the most warlike tribe of the powerful Iroquois republic 
an added and poignant local interest. 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

The story of this great and beautiful valley of the Mohawk is soon told in 
brief. While it has been ages in the making, the reader can close his eyes and, 
in less time than it takes in the telling, its varied and colorful pictures sweep 
before his mental vision. 

Centuries, probably, after the great glacial ice sheet started ebbing toward 
the north, it turned the waters of some of the Great Lakes down through the 
valley to the Hudson sea inlet, making our river a great rushing torrent, large 
in volume and magnificent to the view. Before the mighty stream dwindled to 
its present course, back, through the great forest covering the old glacial bed 
and along the river, came slinking red human beings close, in brain and body, to 
the beasts they slew for food and clothmg. Here, in the ages before the dread 
ice came slowly and irresistibly from the dead and frozen north, perhaps had 
been men not unlike them, living wild lives in the wilderness among the stranger 
wild animals of that distant day. 

Gradually these savages, of the period after the great ice sheet, grew in the 
ruder arts of civilization; while, outside of their immediate bands, their lust 
for human blood and love of cruel spectacles probably increased. Then came 
red warriors from the north down upon the homes of these valley barbarians 
and began a bloody war of extermination. Suddenly from the forests, these ver- 
milion-faced, befeathered, naked savages rush out and with club and arrow, 
with stone axe and knife, they murder the startled people of the Mohawk 
villages. A hideous spectacle ensues — men, women and children are stabbed, 
struck down, brained and scalped, only a few escaping to later burn and agonize 
for the bestial enjoyment of the red raiders. To save themselves, the Mohawks, 
with their brethren of the other four tribes, join in the great league of the Iro- 
quois family. They drive back their foes, inflicting equally murderous and in- 
human punishment, and become the virtual rulers of the red men of the entire 
eastern country. 

Years after this, but upon a long ago day, a Mohawk stood in front of his 
village on a slope overlooking the bright and winding stream. Bronzed and 
naked to his breech cloth and deerskin leggins, with knife in belt and bow 
in hand, his sharp eyes scanned the summer scene. At his feet lay the flatlands 
of the valley, green with the promising crop of Indian corn. Gently back from 
these open spaces sloped the giant hills clad in a glorious forest unbroken to 
the summits of the fartherest ridges. In the distance a herd of deer stepped 
lightly to the river edge and drank, and far on high an eagle soared in the 
milky blue sky. A pleasing sight — a view of primeval nature undisturbed. En- 
tered, upon this quiet scene, a man in a canoe. Around a willow-bordered bend 
in the placid river he came paddling down stream and the red man saw that 
he was clad in strange garments and that he was white — a sight which filled 
him with superstitious amazement — which meant the end of his race in the 
valley. This was the first of the French priests whose mission of religion 
brought them among the valley Iroquois. 

As the river and its banks move quickly by, to this silent, serious white 
man, so the scene changes rapidly after his advent. The Dutch traders, in still 
stranger clothes, bring guns and rum to exchange with the Indians for their 
splendid wilderness furs. After them follow red-coated soldiers and traders of 
another race — the English. Then come, toiling painfully, up the banks of the 



xiv INTRODUCTION 

river, sturdy, patient men of a brother blood — the Germans. The Mohawks begin 
to lose their lands and we soon find them, few in numbers, confined to two vil- 
lages, one at the Schoharie creek and the other in the western Canajoharie 
district. To them the white men seem to come in swarms. They fell the trees 
and clear and till the land while the smoke from the burning prostrate forest 
giants clouds the sky. White women, little children, and strange new animals 
follow these woodsmen, who build yet larger houses of stone, who make wagon 
paths through the woods and who bring their flatboats, up and down the river, 
laden with grain, furs and many kinds of goods. These valley Europeans eat, 
drink, play, dance, love, sing, breed, work and die, like people the world over. 

Then, as now, spring comes to the Mohawk, flooding the white and grey 
valley with sudden warmth, making every tiny rivulet a rushing torrent and fill- 
ing the river with its j'early flood of brown turbid water and rushing ice. The 
rough clearings are plowed and planted and heavy crops soon cover the fertile 
soil. Forest, field, hillside — all are green, green in every shade; green every- 
where is the valley, except the winding river reflecting the whitish blue sky. 
Then the harvest time dots the verdant landscape with fields of brown and 
yellow and through flatland and meadow resounds the swish of scythe and cradle. 
Autumn colors the woods with a riot of scarlet, yellows and browns and the open 
spaces and the river margin sparkle with the azure and sheen of aster, golden 
rod, wild sunflower. Corn shocks rustle and nod and yellow pumpkins glow like 
giant oranges amidst the stubble. Now is the beauty of the vale of the Mo- 
hawk at its best, while the air is filled with subtle haze and the glorious autumn 
landscape drowses in the noontide of a perfect Indian summer. Mohawk and 
white hunter bring home deer and wild turkey; the small boy scours the woods 
for hickory and butter nut. In the branches chatters the thrifty squirrel as. 
the quiet air is startled by the crack and boom of rifle and gun. In the cabins 
and stone houses, wives and daughters bake and brew for autumn feasts and 
merrymakings. At night the great harvest moon, full-orbed, hangs in the sky 
flooding, with its greenish yellow light, a landscape of mystery, through which 
gleams the winding ribbon river — a scene inspiring that pensive seriousness 
which seems to possess the valley, even in its gayest autumn or tenderest 
springtime phases. 

And now down again comes the soft mantle of snow and the great hills and 
vales are once more wrapped in their while winter slumber. 

And so, for years, runs along the life of the pioneer beside the Mohawk. 
But after a time these white men of different nations begin to differ among 
themselves and fall to quarreling violently. The velvet and red-coated turn upon 
the men of homespun and buckskin; war to the death breaks out, while the valley 
reeks with horrid slaughter. 

The embittered Indians join the red coats, glad of a foe on whom to wreak 
vengeance for their stolen hunting grounds. As is usual the payment for this 
dread struggle of the Revolution is made in the lives of tender children and 
loving women as well as in those of enraged men. What had once been 
strong men of Tryon county lie rotting, to the number of two hundred on the 
field of Oriskany. 

Here particularly are shown all those revolting horrors of war which, when 
generally and constantly realized, will eliminate such bloody struggles from the 
life of civilized peoples — war which is no more essential to the development 



INTEODUCTION xv 

of nations than Indian barbarities are requisite to the cultivation of intrepid 
manhood. 

But the naked Indian, the velvet and the red coat are driven back. Sadly, 
the men of homespun and buckskin drop their guns, bury their dead, rebuild 
their burned and plundered homes and turn again to the task of tilling their 
neglected fields. 

Such is nature that, in ten year's time, the Mohawk skirts a country again 
smiling with plentiful harvests, and through the trees along its banks show 
solid houses and barns filled with corn and wheat and all the bountiful products 
of a fertile soil. Then men tire of the hardships of boating on the river and dig 
themselves a canal in which to float still larger freight craft, and great is the 
rejoicing v.hen it is done. Bridges are built across the Mohawk and soon, close 
along its edge, the engine of steam on iron tracks goes rushing by, before the 
gaze of the astonished farmer and his affrighted family. Villages with smoking 
factories dot the twin courses of the Mohawk and the Erie, broad cultivated 
fields have replaced the giant forest which live only in a few scattered woods. 
And here is the valley of our day, from whence, at the trumpet's blare which 
proclaimed a nation's peril, thousands of our men fare forth to fight and die on 
southern fields. 

Here is the valley of four hundred thousand people, where were but ten 
thousand when St. Leger came down upon Fort Schuyler; our valley which has 
always been a great highway, by land and water, since the day of the Indian 
trails and the river flatboat^great and growing greater with its railroads over 
which hundreds of trains speed daily; its highways traversed by countless auto- 
mobiles; its barge canal, soon to carry a large share of the country's east and 
west commerce: our valley, with its schools, societies, clubs, churches, theaters, 
fairs, factories, stores, bustling villages, great cities, tiny hamlets, fertile farms 
— with its restless, discontented human population, sharing in the trouble and 
perplexity of the nation's industrial anij political problems — but yet withal our 
northland valley of old, shorn of its noble forest but with the same everlasting 
hills rising in slope on slope, from the winding river to noble heights along the 
horizon. 

This in brief, is the story of the Mohawk. And what of the future — who 
knows what it may be, before the great green forest of yore again comes back 
over these rolling hills, yes and before that day when the dread cold encompasses 

it all once more — perhaps forever. 

NELSON GREENE. 
Fort Plain, New York, September 15, 1912. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 

(FIRST SERIES 1616-1783) 



CHAPTER I. 

The Mohawks and Iroquois — A Dutch 
Journey Through the Canajoharie 
District in 1634 — Local Indian Vil- 
lages and Trails. 

It is no part of this narrative to deal 
at length with the Indian inhabitants 
of the valley, who ceased to be people 
of this territory at the building of the 
Fort Plain fortification. The reader is 
referred to works dealing with the 
Mohawks and the Iroquois. That the 
aboriginal inhabitants of the IMohawk 
valley were a peculiar combination of 
shrewdness, semi-civilization, child- 
ishness and the blackest savagery, 
goes without saying. They cultivated 
the native vegetables on the river flats 
and some of the native fruits on near- 
by slopes. They made maple sugar, 
raised tobacco and trapped and fished, 
and handed on to the first white set- 
tlers their knowledge of the native 
soil and its products. The Mohawks 
wore skins for clothing and made cab- 
ins of saplings and bark, which were 
of considerable size at times. A stock- 
ade surrounded their villages. With 
them is concerned a legend of Hia- 
watha. The members of the original 
five nations, in the order of their dis- 
tribution from east to west, were Mo- 
hawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas 
and Senecas. These were joined by 
the Tuscaroras in 1714, and the Iro- 
quois, after that year, were known as 
the Six Nations. As the Mohawks 
were the most warlike tribe the war 
chief of the Iroquois was selected 
from the ranks of these valley savages. 
At the time of the Dutch occupation, 
the total Iroquois population is esti- 
mated at 13,000, and must then have 



been considerably greater than a cen- 
tury later. Seventeenth century ac- 
counts would indicate at least double 
the number of Mohawks living along 
the river, compared with eighteenth 
century figures obtainable. Sir Wil- 
liam Johnson, at one time, gives the 
available fighting strength of the Mo- 
hawks as 150 warriors, which seems a 
very low figure. However the tribe 
could not have much exceeded six 
hundred people, as their castle at Fort 
Hunter (in the eighteenth century) is 
described as their largest village, and 
only contained 30 huts. The Great 
Hendrick and Joseph Brant are the 
leading figures of the Mohawks in the 
century preceding the Revolution. 
Both were residents of the old Cana- 
joharie district which we are consid- 
ering. The famous Seneca chief Corn- 
planter comes into our story and he 
had local interest as being the son of 
John Abeelj a Fort Plain trader. All 
of these are considered at greater 
length later. 



Mr. John Fea of Amsterdam is the 
author of a very interesting article 
on "Indian Trails of the Mohawk Val- 
ley," which was published in the Fort 
Plain Standard in December, 1908. 
From this publication are taken the 
extracts which follow. The trip of the 
Dutch explorers, which Mr. Fea nar- 
rated, is of great local interest because 
it covers so much of the old Canajo- 
harie district along the Mohawk and 
describes in detail the Indian villages 
of that tribe, of which a great part 
seems to have been located in the dis- 
trict mentioned. 

Mr. Fea's paper says that this was 
"an expedition to the Mohawk and 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Seneca Indians' coutitry undertaken 
by three Dutchmen with Ave Mohawk 
Indians as guides in 1634-5. To us 
their journey througli our own part of 
the. Mohawk valley ought to be es- 
pecially interesting, as they proceed 
from one Indian village to another. 
This journal is the earliest written 
description of the Mohawk valley. 
* * * * Tjjg motive of the expedi- 
tion froin Fort Orange, as stated in 
the journal, was to investigate the 
movements of the French traders, 
who were holding out greater induce- 
ments than the Dutch were giving, 
thereby persuading the Mohawks to 
go and trade their rich furs in Canada. 
They left Fort Orange on Dec. 11, 1634. 
During a journey of two days' time 
they covered 49% English miles. This 
brought them up the Mohawk valley 
on the north side of the river to Yosts, 
near the 'Nose,' at a little house in 
which they lodged over night. This 
Indian house, according to this jour- 
nal, was one-half mile from the first 
castle, which was built on a high hill, 
where they found 36 houses in rows 
like a street. The name of the castle 
was Onekagonka. The evidence of this 
village can be found on the bank of 
Wasontah creek on the Vrooman farm 
near the 'Nose.' After three days so- 
journ at Onekagonka they continued 
westward over the ice on the river a 
Dutch half mile [a Dutch mile equal- 
ling two and one-fourth English 
miles] past a village of nine houses, 
named Canowarode. This is the pres- 
ent county house site [on the north 
side of the Mohawk] and the buildings 
are all on the Indian village site. They 
went another Dutch half mile and 
» passed a village of 12 houses, named 
Senatsycrosy. They had then arrived 
at Sprakers. They continued past 
Sprakers one Dutch mile and came to 
the second castle with 12 houses built 
on a hill. This castle was named Can- 
agere. The expedition remained at 
Canagere three days. They received 
a supply of stores from Fort Orange. 
Among the stuff was ham, beer, salt, 
tobacco for the savages and a bottle 
of brandy. Three Indian women came 
from the Senecas peddling flsh. They 



had salmon, dried and fresh, also a 
good quantity of green tobacco to sell. 

"Here the party employed an Indian 
to act as guide to the Senecas. As a 
retainer for his services they gave 
h'm half a yard of cloth, two axes, two 
knives, two pairs of awls and a pair 
of shoes. On this day, Dec. 19, [1634] 
there was a great rainfall. This cas- 
tle Canagere was on the Horatio Nel- 
lis farm. Dec. 20 they departed from 
the second castle and marched a Dutch 
mile to a stream they had to cross. 
The water ran swiftly. Big cakes of 
ice came drifting along; the rainfall 
of the previous day loosened the ice 
and they were in great danger if they 
lost their foot'ng. Here then we be- 
hold Canajoharie creek. 

"After going another Dutch half 
mile they arrived at the third castle, 
named Sochanidisse. It had 32 houses 
and was on a very high hill. It was 
on the projecting point of land in the 
Happy Hollow district west of Canajo- 
harie on the Brown farm. They re- 
mained over night at this castle. The 
journal makes mention of plenty of 
flat land in the vicinity. They ex- 
changed here one awl for a beaver 
skin. 

"Dec. 21 they started very early in 
the morning for the fourth castle. 
After marching one-half Dutch mile 
they came to a village with only nine 
houses, named Osquage. The chief's 
name was Ognoho, 'the wolf.' This 
was at Prospect hill, near Fort Plain. 
They saw a big stream that their 
guide did not dare cross as the water 
had risen from the heavy rainfall, so 
they postponed their journey until the 
next day. The stream we recognize is 
the raging Otsquago. The next day 
they waded through the stream and, 
after going one-half Dutch mile, came 
to a village of 14 houses, named Ca- 
woge. This was on the Lipe farm 
west of Fort Plain [at the site of the 
Revolutionary post]. After going an- 
other Dutch mile they arrived at the 
fourth and last castle of the Mo- 
hawks, named Tenotoge. This was 
the largest village in the valley at 
that period. There were 55 houses, 
some 100 paces long. Here is men- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



tioned a very definite landmark on the 
trail. 'The Kill (river), we spoke 
about before, runs past here, and the 
course is mostly north by west and 
south by east.' So reads the journal. 

"Tenotoge was on the Sponable and 
Moyer farms, two miles northwest of 
Fort Plain. Accompanied by Andrew 
H. Moyer, I counted 69 deep and well 
defined corn pits on adjoining land, 
then owned by Adam Failing. The 
whole site covered about ten acres of 
ground. Abundant evidence of pali- 
sades was found by the Moyer family 
when they broke up the ground. This 
large and important Indian castle has 
never been mentioned in New York 
state aboriginal records. 

"At St. Johnsville the river course 
is due east. It then commences to 
curve southerly and from Palatine 
Church its course is almost due south 
to Fort Plain, a distance of three 
miles. On the elevated ground west 
of the river, nearly opposite Palatine 
Church, was located the great Mo- 
hawk castle, Tenotoge. From this ele- 
vation they saw the Mohawk river 
course north and south as we may see 
it today. At this point the old Ca- 
nadian trail was intersected at the 
river. From here they [the Dutch ex- 
plorers] departed over the wilderness 
trail westward, passing the south edge 
of the Timmerman farm at Dutch- 
town, and what was known by the pio- 
neers of Dutchdorf as the old Indian 
trail to the Senecas." 

This important castle of the Mo- 
hawks must have been the largest vil- 
lage, inhabited by human beings, in 
this section of the present state of 
New York; and it was located cen- 
trally within the limits of the present 
town of Minden. Its site was doubt- 
less infiuenced by the junction of the 
Canadian trail with the river trail at 
the Caroga ford. 

"The whole Mohawk valley at an 
early period was interlaced with In- 
dian trails. The main ones from the 
Hudson river passed along both sides 
of the Mohawk. From the head of 
Lake George two trails led to the Mo- 
hawk river. The first led southwest- 
ward through a valley between Potash 



and Bucktail mountains in Warren 
county to the ford at Luzerne on the 
Hudson river below the mouth of the 
Sacandaga, thence along the Sacan- 
daga to the Vlaie at Northampton. On 
leaving the Vlaie the trail took a 
westward direction along the south 
side of Mayfield creek to Kings- 
borough, thence down the Cayadutta 
to Johnstown, continuing its course on 
the west side of the Cayadutta to the 
present village of Sammonsville. From 
this place the trail took a circuitous 
course over Klipse hill, thence through 
Stone Arabia to the ford at the mouth 
of Caroga creek. This was the prin- 
cipal route from the west into Can- 
ada via Lake George and was a favor- 
ite route traversed by the Oneidas, and 
as such possibly gives reason why, in 
1751, William Johnson secured from 
the Indians, for 'himself and others,' 
the Kingsborough tract of land, and 
later taking up his residence on the 
great Ind'an trail that passed 
through it." 



CHAPTER II. 

1616-1772— Indians— Mohawk Valley 
Discovery — Settlement — Sir William 
Johnson. 

The Mohawks were the most eastern 
of the Five Nations. They claimed a 
region extending from Albany, on the 
Hudson, westerly to the headwaters 
of the Susquehanna and Delaware, and 
thence northerly to the St. Lawrence 
river and embracing all the land be- 
tween this river and Lake Champlain. 
Their actual northern limits were not 
definitely fixed, but they appear to 
have claimed as hunting grounds, all 
the lands between the St. Lawrence 
and St. Johns river. This was a sub- 
ject of continual dispute between them 
and other tribes. Canada was settled 
by the French in 1608. In 1609 Cham- 
plain and his party of Canadian In- 
dians defeated a band of Iroquois 
(probably Mohawks), in battle, in the 
present town of Ticonderoga between 
Lake George and Crown Point. In 
1615 Champlain and ten other French- 
men joined the Hurons and Adiron- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



dacks in an expedition against the 
Five Nations. The Iroquois signally 
defeated this force, in the Onondaga 
country. Champlain was wounded 
twice and the invaders fled back to 
Canada. The first white man to ex- 
plore this region was probably a 
Canadian Franciscian priest, LaCarnon, 
who entered this field as missionary in 
1616 and was undoubtedly the first 
white man to behold the upper reaches 
of this famous river and its beautiful 
valley. In 1609 Dutch saUors from 
the Half Moon passed the mouth of 
the Mohawk and the Dutch may have 
then penetrated its lower valley a 
short distance. Jesuits, who in the 
interests of trade, as well as re- 
ligion, went alone and unarmed, suc- 
ceeded the Francisians in 1633. Three 
of these Jesuits suffered martyrdom 
at the hands of the Mohawks. The 
captivity and fate of Jogues exemplify 
the persistence of the Jesuits and the_ 
heroism with which thej' met death. 
In 1642 he and and a number of others 
were captured by Iroquois on the St. 
Lawrence. They came into the hands 
of the Mohawks near Lake George and 
were compelled to run the gauntlet. 
On reaching the villages of the Mo- 
hawks, Jogues was made to run the 
gauntlet twice more for their amuse- 
ment, agonizing a white man being 
then a novelty to the savages. During 
his captivity he was frequently tor- 
tured with the most heartless cruelty. 
His fingers and toes were removed 
joint by joint and his body and limbs 
mutilated with burning sticks and hot 
irons. He suffered in this way for 15 
months, when, through the influence 
of the Dutch, he was released and re- 
turned to France. He came back to 
the Mohawk in 1646 to prosecute his 
missionary work. The savages did not 
take kindly to him or his teachings 
and he was put to death by the most 
excruciating tortures, the Indians of 
course, being masters of the knowl- 
edge of every conceivable pain and 
agony which could be inflicted on the 
human body. The site of this martyr- 
dom was at the Mohawk village of 
Caughnawaga, where Fonda now 
stands. The Jesuits kept up their 



missionary work on these same sav- 
ages and finally, in 1670, converted 
them and induced them to move to 
Canada. 

In 1659, the Mohawks, suffering from 
their conflicts with the French and 
from the crippling of their warriors by 
the sale of liquor to them by the Dutch, 
sent a delegation to Albany asking 
that the sale of spirits be suppressed 
among them and for aid against their 
enemies. A council concerning these 
matters was held between the Dutch 
and Mohawks at Caughnawaga in 
1659, which was the first ever held in 
the Mohawk country. The governor 
of Canada, in 1666, tried to destroy 
the Mohawks, but only succeeded in 
burning their villages, as the warriors 
took to the woods. Troubles between 
the Mohicans and Mohawks followed, 
without much advantage to either. 
The Iroquois, including the Mohawks, 
were thoroughly won over to the En- 
glish side by Gov. Dongan in 1684. In 
1690 the French and Indians descended 
on Schenectady and burned that town; 
60 people were killed and 27 captured, 
a few of the survivors escaping 
through the deep snow to Albany. In 
1693 Count Frontenac captured the 
lower and middle Mohawk castles 
without much trouble, but had a hard 
fight at the upper castle; 300 Mohawks 
were taken prisoners. The people of 
Schenectady failed to warn their In- 
dian neighbors, which greatly incensed 
them. Schuyler, with the Albany mi- 
litia, pursued this French party and 
retook 50 Mohawk captives. For the 
last half century of the tribal exist- 
ence of the Mohawks in the valley, 
they had but two castles, one called 
Canajoharie, situated at the present 
Indian Castle, in the town of Danube, 
Herkimer county, and the other, called 
Dyiondarogon, on the lower or east 
bank of the Schoharie creek at its 
junction with the Mohawk. 

The first white valley settlement was 
by the Dutch in 1663 at Schenectady, 
under the Dutch rule of the colony. 
The next west of Schenectady was 
that of Heinrich Frey at Palatine 
Bridge in 1688. Their country, de- 
vastated by war, in 1708, a large body 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



of German immigrants, from, the Pal- 
atinate on the Rhine, landed in New 
York and were settled on the Hudson, 
where their treatment by the province 
is open to great criticism. In 1711 
their number was said to be 1,761, but 
they had no idea of remaining in their 
deplorable condition. In the expedi- 
tion of Col. Nicholson for the reduc- 
tion of Canada in 1711, 300 Palatines 
• enlisted to escape their condition of 
almost servitude. In 1711 some of 
them moved to the Schoharie valley 
and some are supposed to have settled 
in Palatine about that date. They are 
said to have threaded on foot an in- 
tricate Indian trail, bearing upon their 
backs their worldly possessions, con- 
sisting of "a few rude tools, a scanty 
supply of provisions, a meagre ward- 
robe, and a small number of rusty fire- 
arms." In 1723 numbers of the Pala- 
tines emigrated to Pennsylvania, 
others moved up and settled in the 
districts of Canajoharie and Palatine 
and along the Mohawk, and by 1725 
there were settlements of these Ger- 
mans extending up the river from 
the "Noses" to German Flats, the east- 
ern part of the valley being settled by 
Dutch farmers. 

October 19, 1723, the Stone Arabia 
patent was granted to 27 Palatines, 
who, with their families, numbered 127 
persons. The tract conveyed by this 
deed contained 12,700 acres. The 
names of these pioneer settlers of the 
district which was later to become 
Palatine were: Digert, Schell, Cremse, 
Garlack, Dillinbeck, Emiger, Vocks, 
Lawyer, Feink, Frey, Diegert, Copper- 
noil, Peiper, Seibert, Casselman, Fink, 
Ingolt, Erchart, Nelse. 

The story of the Mohawk valley 
from 1738 to 1772, the date of the for- 
mation of Tryon county, is largely the 
biography of that picturesque figure, 
Sir William Johnson. In order that 
the reader may better understand 
the subsequent history of the Can- 
ajohar'e and Palatine districts, the 
following account is given of Sir Wil- 
liam's life, taken from Beers' history: 

"Sir William Johnson was born at 
Warrentown in the county of Down, 
Ireland, in 1715. In 173S, at the age 



of 23, he was sent into the Mohawk 
valley to superintend a large estate, 
the title to which had been acquired 
by his uncle, Sir Peter Warren, a Brit- 
ish admiral. This tract containing 
some 15,000 acres, lay along the south 
bank of the Mohawk near the mouth 
of Schoharie creek, and mostly within 
the present town of Florida. It was 
called, from its proprietor, Warrens- 
bush. Here Johnson came to promote 
his uncle's interests by the sale of 
small farms and his own interests by 
acquiring and cultivating land for him- 
seif, and their joint interests by keep- 
ing a store in which they were part- 
ners. In 1743 he became connected 
with the fur trade at Oswego and de- 
rived a great revenue from this and 
other dealings with the Indians. Hav- 
ing- early resolved to remain in the 
Mohawk valley^ he applied himself ear- 
nestly to the study of the character 
and language of the natives. By freely 
mingling with them and adopting their 
habits when it suited his interests, he 
soon gained their good will and con- 
fidence, and gradually .acquired an as- 
cendancy over them never possessed 
by any other European. A few years 
after Johnson's arrival on the Mohawk 
he purchased a tract of land on the 
north side of the river. In 1744 he 
built a gristmill on a small stream 
flowing into the Mohawk from the 
north, about three miles west of the 
present city of Amsterdam. He also 
erected a stone mansion at this place 
for his own residence, calling it Fort 
Johnson. [This fine old building still 
stands and bears its own name, which 
it has also given to the town about it 
and the ra'lroad station there.] John- 
son also bought, from time to time, 
great tracts of land north of the Mo- 
hawk, and at some distance from it, 
mostly within the present limit of Ful- 
ton county. He subsequently became 
possessed, by gift from the Indians 
which was confirmed by the Crown, of 
the great tract of land in what is now 
Herkimer county, known as the Royal 
Grant. 

"The Mohawk river early became 
the great thoroughfare toward Lake 
Ontario for the Colonists in prosecut- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



ing their trade with the Indians. Gov. 
Burnet realized the importance of con- 
trolling the lake for the purpose of 
commerce and resistance to the en- 
croachments of the French and ac- 
cordingly established in 1722 a trading 
post and in 1727 a fort at Oswego. The 
French met this measure by the con- 
struction of defenses at Niagara, to 
intercept the trade from the upper 
lakes. This movement was ineffectu- 
ally opposed by the Iroquois, who, to 
obtain assistance from the English, 
gave a deed of their territory to the 
King of England, who was to protect 
them in the possession of it. To de- 
fend the frontier, which was exposed 
to invasions by the French, especially 
after their erection of the fortification 
of Crown Point, settlements were pro- 
posed and Capt. Campbell, a Highland 
chief, came over in 1737 to view the 
lands offered, which were 30,000 acres. 
Four hundred Scotch adults came over 
and many of them settled in and about 
Saratoga, becoming the pioneers of 
that section, as the Palatines were of 
the upper half of the Mohawk. This 
settlement was surprised by French 
and Indians in 1745 who burned all 
the buildings and killed or captured 
almost the whole population, 30 fami- 
lies being massacred. The village of 
Hoosic was similarly destroyed, and 
consternation prevailed in the outlying 
settlements, many of the people fleeing 
to Albany. The Six Nations wavered 
in their attachment to the English. 
At this juncture. Sir William Johnson 
was entrusted with the sole manage- 
ment of the Iroquois. [He succeeded 
Col. Schuyler of Albany, the former 
Indian commissioner.] It is his ser- 
vices in this most important and deli- 
cate position, wherein he stood for a 
large part of his life as the mediator 
between two races, whose position and 
aims made them almost inevitably 
hostile, that constitutes his strongest 
claim to lasting and favorable remem- 
brance. His knowledge of the lan- 
guage, customs and manners of the 
Indians, and the complete confidence 
which they always reposed in him, 
qualified him for this position. A high 
officer of his government, he was also 



in 1746 formally invested by the Mo- 
hawks with the rank of a chief in that 
nation, to whom he was afterward 
known as Warraghegagey. In Indian 
costume he shortly after led the tribe 
to a council at Albany. He was ap- 
pointed a colonel in the British ser- 
vice about this time, and by his di- 
rection of the Colonial troops and the 
Iroquois warriors, the frontier settle- 
ments were to a great extent saved 
from devastation by the French and 
their Indian allies, the settlements to 
the north of Albany, being an unhappy 
exception, while occasional murders 
and scalpings occurred even along the 
Mohawk. Johnson's influence with the 
Indians was increased by his having a 
Mohawk woman, Molly Brant, a sister 
of the famous Chief Joseph Brant, liv- 
ing with him as his wife the latter part 
of his life. 

"Peace nominally existed between 
France and England from 1748 to 1756, 
but hostilities between their American 
colonies broke out as early as 1754. In 
the following year, 1755, Col. Johnson 
was appointed a major general and led 
tlie expedition against Crown Point 
which resulted in the distastrous de- 
feat of the French near Lake George. 
At the same time with his military 
promotion he was reappointed super- 
intendent of Indian affairs, having re- 
signed that office in 1750, on account of 
the neglect of the government to pay 
some of his claims. On resuming the 
superintendency, General Johnson 
held a council with the Iroquois at his 
house, Fort Johnson, which resulted in 
about 250 of their warriors following 
him to Lake George. The victory there 
gained was the only one in a generally 
disastrous year, and General John- 
son's services were rewarded by a bar- 
onetcy and the sum of £5,000 voted by 
Parliament. He was also thereafter 
paid £600 annually as the salary of 
his office over the Indians. 

"In the spring of 1756 measures were 
taken for fortifying the portages be- 
tween Schenectady and Oswego, by 
way of the Mohawk, Wood creek, One- 
ida lake and the Oswego river, with a 
view to keeping open communication 
between Albany and the fort at Os- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



wego. The latter was in danger of be- 
ing taken by the French. Tardily 
moved the provincial authorities and 
it was but a few days before Oswego 
was invested that Gen. Webb was sent 
with a regiment to reinforce the garri- 
son and Sir William Johnson, with two 
battalions of militia and a body of In- 
dians, shortly followed. Before Webb 
reached Oneida lake, he was inform- 
ed that the besieged post had surren- 
dered, and he promptly turned about 
and fled down the Mohawk to German 
Flats, where he met Johnson's force. 
The fort at Oswego was demolished by 
the French, greatly to the satisfaction 
of most of the Iroquois, who had al- 
ways regarded it with alarm, and who 
now made treaties with the victors; 
and the Mohawk valley, exposed to the 
enemy was ranged by scalping parties 
of Canadian savages. 

"The Mohawks, through the influ- 
ence of Sir William Johnson, remained 
faithful to the English. The Baronet, 
with a view to counteract the impres- 
sion made upon the Six Nations by 
the French successes, summoned them 
to meet him in council at Fort John- 
son, in June, 1756. Previous to their 
assembling a circumstance occurred 
which rendered negotiations at once 
necessary and less hopeful. A party 
of Mohawks, while loitering around 
Fort Hunter, became involved in a 
quarrel with some soldiers of the gar- 
rison, resulting in some of the Indians 
being severely wounded. The Mo- 
hawk tribe felt extremely revengeful, 
but Johnson succeeded in pacifying 
them and winning over the Oneidas 
and Tuscaroras to the English inter- 
est. In the beginning of August, 1756, 
Sir William Johnson led a party of In- 
dian warriors and militia to the relief 
of Fort William Henry at the head of 
Lake George, which was besieged by 
Montcalm; but on reaching Fort Ed- 
ward his progress was arrested by the 
cowardice of Gen. Webb, who was 
there in command, and who used his 
superior authority to leave the besieg- 
ed fortress to its fate, which was a 
speedy surrender. The provincials, 
thoroughly disgusted by the disasters 
incurred through incompetency and 



cowardice of their English officers, now 
deserted in great numbers, and the In- 
dians followed suit. 

"Soon after the capture of Fort Wil- 
liam Henry, rumors gained circulation 
that a large force of French and In- 
dians was preparing to invade the set- 
tlements along the Mohawk. The Pal- 
atines who had settled on the Burnets- 
field Patent, were evidently most ex- 
posed, and feeling but poorly protect- 
ed by what fortifications there were 
among them, they were several times 
during the autumn on the point of de- 
serting their dwellings and removing 
to the settlements further down the 
river which were better defended. The 
ruinors seeming to prove groundless, 
they became careless and finally neg- 
lected all precautions against an at- 
tack. Meanwhile an expedition of 
about 300 Canadian, French and In- 
dians, under command of one Belletre, 
came down from Canada by way of the 
Black river, and at 3 o'clock in the 
morning of Nov, 12, 1756, the Palatine 
village, at the present site of Herki-V_- 
mer, was surrounded. This settlement 
contained 60 dwellings and 4 block- 
houses and the inhabitants were 
aroused by the horrid warwhoop, 
which was the signal of attack. The 
invaders rushed upon the blockhouses 
and were met with an active fire of 
musketry. The little garrison soon 
seemed to become panic stricken, both 
by the overwhelming numbers and the 
bloodcurdling yells of the savages and 
the active fighting of the French. The 
mayor of the village, who was in com- 
mand, opened the door of one block- 
house and called for quarter. The gar- 
risons of the other blockhouses follow- 
ed his example. These feeble defences, 
with all the other buildings in the set- 
tlement, were fired and the inhabi- 
tants, in attempting to escape were 
tomahawked and scalped. About 40 of 
the Germans were thus massacred, and l 
more than 100 persons, men, women 
and children, were carried into cap- 
tivity by the marauders :is they retired 
laden with booty. This they did not 
do, until they had destroyed a great 
amount of grain and provisions, and 
as Belletre reported, slaughtered 3,000 



8 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



cattle, as many sheep, and 1,500 horses 
[figures now generally supposed to be 
exaggerated beyond any semblance of 
truth.] 

"Although the marauders hastily 
withdrew the entire valley was thrown 
into panic. Many of the inhabitants of 
the other Mohawk settlements hasten- 
ed to send their goods to Albany and 
Schenectady with the intention of fol- 
lowing them, and for a time the upper 
towns were threatened with entire de- 
sertion. The Palatine • settlement at 
Fort Herkimer, near the one whose 
destruction has been related, was sim- 
ilarly visited in April, 1758. Lieut. 
Herkimer was here in command. The 
militia, under Sir William Johnson, 
rendezvoused at Canajoharie, but the 
enemy withdrew and did not after ap- 
pear in force in this quarter. About 
(^ this time Johnson, with 300 Indian 

warriors, chiefly Mohawks, joined 
Abercrombie's expedition against 
Crown Point, where the English were 
disastrously repulsed. Fear again 
reigned in the Mohawk valley but the 
French did not follow up their advan- 
tage in this quarter. 

"In spite of this disaster, the suc- 
cesses of the English, elsewhere in 
1758, made so favorable an impression 
on the Six Nations, that Sir William 
Johnson was enabled to bring nearly 
1,000 warriors to join Gen. Prideaux's 
expedition against Niagara in the fol- 
lowing summer, which the Baronet 
conducted to a successful issue after 
Prideaux's death by the accidental ex- 
plosion of a shell. Sir William in 1760, 
led 1,300 Iroquois warriors in Gen. 
Amherst's expedition against Montreal 
which extinguished the French power 
in America." 

Sir William removed in 1763 to 
Johnstown where he built himself a 
residence and buildings on his great 
estate. Here grew up the county seat 
of the new and great county of Tryon, 
formed in 1772, and here he died, as 
elsewhere described, in 1774. Sir Wil- 
liam Johnson was perhaps the most 
remarkable man of the many who fig- 
ure in the record of Tryon county. 
Nothing in the state's history is more 
interesting than this spot of civiliza- 



tion in a vast, savage wilderness, pre- 
sided over by an Irish gentleman who 
was at once a benevolent dictator and 
a virtual regent over a territory larger 
than some famous kingdoms of his- 
tory, and over a white people strug- 
gling toward civilization and the red 
men who were trying to keep their 
wild domains for their hunting 
grounds. 

The well known story of how John- 
son became possessed of the Royal 
Grant deserves a place here. Sir Wil- 
liam Johnson obtained over 60,000 
acres of choice land, now lying chiefly 
in Herkimer county, north of the Mo- 
hawk, in the following manner: The 
Mohawk sachem, Hendrick, being at 
the baronet's house, saw a richly em- 
broidered coat and coveted it. The 
next morning he said to Sir William: 

"Brother, me dream last night." 

"Indeed, what did my red brother 
dream" asked Johnson. 

"Me dream that coat be mine." 

"It is yours," said the shrewd Irish 
baronet. 

Not long afterward Sir William vis- 
ited the chief, and he too, had a dream. 

"Brother, I dreamed last night," said 
Johnson, 

"What did my pale-faced brother 
dream'.'" asked Hendrick. 

"I dreamed that this tract of land 
was mine," describing a square bound- 
ed on the south by the Mohawk, on 
the east by Canada creek, and north 
and west by objects equally well 
known. 

Hendrick was astounded. He saw 
the enormity of the request, but was 
not to be outdone in generosity. He 
sat thoughtfully for a moment and 
then said, "Brother, the land is yours, 
but you must not dream again." 

The title was confirmed by the Brit- 
ish government and the tract was 
called the Royal Grant. 



King Hendrick (also called the 
Great Hendrick) occupied, in the 
early eighteenth century, a position in 
the Mohawk tribe, similar to that held 
by Brant at the time of the Revolution. 
Hendrick was born about 1680 and 
generally lived at the upper Mohawk 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



castle (in Danube), being thus a resi- 
dent of the old Canajoharie district. 
He stood high in the estimation of Sir 
William Johnson and was one of the 
most active and sagacious sachems of 
his time. Hendrick, with a large body 
of Iroquois, accompanied Johnson on 
his Lake George expedition and was 
killed in the action (Sept. 8, 1755) 
which resulted in a victory against the 
French and Indians under Baron 
Dieskau. Prior to this battle, Johnson 
determined to send out a small party 
to meet Dieskau's advance and the 
opinion of Hendrick was asked. He 
shrewdly said: "If they are to fight 
they are too few; if they are to be 
killed they are too many." His objec- 
tion to the proposition to separate 
them into three divisions was quite as 
sensibly and laconically expressed. 
Taking three sticks and putting them 
together, he remarked, "Put them to- 
gether and you can't break them. Take 
them one by one and you can break 
them easily." Johnson was guided by 
the opinion of Hendrick and a force of 
1,200 men in one body under Col. Wil- 
liams was sent out to meet the French 
and Indians. Before commencing their 
march, Hendrick mounted a gun-car- 
riage and harangued his warriors in a 
strain of eloquence which had a pow- 
erful effect upon them. He was then 
over 70 years old. His head was cov- 
ered with long white locks and every 
warrior loved him with the deepest 
veneration. Lieut.-Col. Pomeroy, who 
was present and heard this Indian ora- 
tion, said that, although he did not 
understand a word of the language, 
such was the animation of Hendrick, 
the fire of his eye, the force of his ges- 
tures, the strength of his emphasis, 
the apparent propriety of the inflec- 
tions of his voice, and the natural ap- 
pearance of his whole manner, that he 
himself was more deeply affected by 
this speech than with any other he 
had ever heard. In the battle which 
followed, resulting in the rout of the 
Canadian force, Hendrick was killed, 



Baron Dieskau was mortally wounded 
and Johnson was wounded in the 
thigh. Lossing speaks of Gen John- 
son's conduct in this campaign as 
"careless and apathetic." Hendrick 
visited England and had his portrait 
painted in a full court dress which was 
presented to him by the king. This 
Mohawk sachem is one of the greatest 
characters in the history of the re- 
markable tribe of savage residents of 
this valley. In 1754, commissioners 
from the different colonies met at Al- 
bany to consider plans for a general 
colonial alliance, and to this confer- 
ence the Six Nations were invited. 
This Albany council was the initial 
step in the formation of the United 
States of America. Hendrick attended 
and delivered a telling speech in ref- 
erence to the inefficient military pol- 
icy of the British governors. This ad- 
dress shows the frankness and com- 
mon sense of the old warrior and is 
reported as follows: 

"Brethren, we have not as yet con- 
flrined the peace with them. (Mean- 
ing the French-Indian allies.) 'Tis 
your fault, brethren, we are not 
strengthened by conquest, for we 
should have gone and taken Crown 
Point, but you hindered us. We had 
concluded to go and take it, but were 
told it was too late, that the ice would 
not bear us. Instead of this you burn- 
ed your own fort at Sarraghtogee 
[near old Fort Hardy] and ran away 
from it, which was a shame and scan- 
dal to you. Look about your country 
and see; you have no fortifications 
about you — no, not even to this city. 
'Tis but one step from Canada hither, 
and the French may easily come and 
turn you out of doors. Brethren, you 
were desirous we should open our 
minds and our hearts to you; look at 
the French, they are men — they are 
fortifying everywhere; but, we are 
ashamed to say it, you are like women, 
bare and open, without any fortifica- 
tions." 



10 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



CHAPTER III. 

1774— Johnson Hall— Sir William, Sir 

John, Joseph and Molly Brant. 

While Johnstown was not in the 
districts of either Canajoharie or Pal- 
atine, but was located in the Mohawk 
district, still it was the county seat 
and thus of importance to all of 
Tryon. The influence of the John- 
son party was so strong before 
the Revolution and they formed such 
a large element of the Tory invaders 
of the valley that a glance at the 
Johnson Hall of pre-Revolutionary 
times is in order. This was the real 
seat of government in Tryon county. 
From the following standard accounts 
may readily be gained the secret of 
Sir William Johnson's tremendous 
popularity with the Indians and with 
all classes of the settlers. Prior to 
the Revolution Johnson Hall was the 
center of the political and social life of 
the county and for the people of its 
five districts of Mohawk, Canajoharie, 
Palatine, German Flats and Kingsland. 

Beer's History of Montgomery and 
Fulton Counties (1878) gives the fol- 
lowing account of Johnson Hall and the 
life about it prior to the death of Sir 
William Johnson in 1774: "After a res- 
idence of 24 years in the eastern part 
of the present county of Montgomery 
[at Fort Johnson], during which he 
had gained an immense estate by the 
profits of trade and the generosity of 
his Indian neighbors and had won a 
baronetcy by his successful campaign 
against the French and their Indian 
allies in 1755, Sir William removed to 
a stately mansion finished by him in 
the spring of 1763. The motive as- 
signed for the baronet's removal to 
this neighborhood is the promotion of 
settlements on his large domains here- 
abouts, on which he had already set- 
tled over one hundred families, gen- 
erally leasing but sometimes selling 
the land. Among those to whom he 
leased, with the supposed purpose of 
establishing a baronial estate for his 
descendants, were Dr. William Adams; 
Gilbert Tice, innkeeper; Peter Young, 
miller; William Phillips, wagon- 



maker; James Davis, hatter; Peter 
Yost, tanner; Adrian Van Sickler, 
Maj. John Little and Zephaniah 
Bachelor. 

"Johnson Hall, as Sir William John- 
son named his new residence, at 
Johnstown, was at that time one of 
the finest mansions in the state out- 
side of New York city. During its 
eleven years occupancy, like his for- 
mer home on the Mohawk, it was a 
place of frequent resort for his Indian 
friends for grave councils and for less 
serious affairs. Here at the Hall, 
Johnson had the Indiana hold annu- 
ally a tournament of their national 
games. Concerning this, Gov. Sey- 
mour wrote: 'It was from this spot 
that the agents went forth to treat 
with the Indians of the west, and keep 
the chain of friendship bright. Here 
came the scouts from the forests and 
lakes of the north to tell of any dan- 
gerous movements of the enemy. Here 
were written the reports 1o the Crown, 
which were to shape the policy of na- 
tions; and to this place were sent the 
orders that called upon the settlers 
and savages to go out upon the war 
path.' Among the more illustrious 
guests of Colonial times, who divided 
with the Iroquois braves, the hospitali- 
ties of Johnson Hall were: Lady 
O'Brian, daughter of tho Earl of II- 
chester; Lord Gordon, whom Sir John 
Johnson accompanied to England, 
where he was knighted; Sir Henry 
Moore, governor of New York; Gov. 
Franklin of New Jersey, and other Co- 
lonial dignitaries. [Johnson Hall is 
still (1912) standing at Johnstown and 
is a most interesting place of resort 
for those who care for matters con- 
cerning Colonial New York and its 
life.] It is a wooden building sixty 
feet in length by forty In width, and 
two stories high, facing southeast- 
wardly across lands sloping to the ad- 
joining creek, on the higher ground 
beyond which the city stands. A 
spacious hall, fifteen feet wide crossed 
it in the center, into which on each 
floor opened large and lofty rooms 
wainscotted with pine panels and 
heavy carved work. At either end of 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



11 



the northwestern wall, a little apart 
from the house stood a square stone 
structure, loopholed, to serve as a 
blockhouse for the defense of the Hall. 
They were part of the fortifications, 
including a stockade, thrown up 
around the Hall in 1763, in apprehen- 
sion of an attack by the western tribes 
under Pontiac. 

"Whatever time Sir William's official 
duties left him, was actively employed 
in the improvement of his estate and 
the condition of agriculture in the set- 
tlement. We find him obtaining su- 
perior seed oats from Saybrook, Conn., 
scions for grafting from Philadelphia, 
fruit trees from New London and 
choice seed from England. He de- 
lighted in horticulture and had a fa- 
mous garden and nursery to the south 
of the Hall. He was the first to in- 
troduce sheep and blooded horses in 
the Mohawk valley. Fairs were held 
under his supervision at Johnstown, 
the baronet paying the premiums. His 
own farming was done by ten or fif- 
teen slaves under an overseer named 
Flood. They and their families lived 
in cabins built for them across Caya- 
dutta creek from the Hall. They 
dressed very much like the Indians, 
but wore coats made from blankets 
on the place. Sir William's legal af- 
fairs were conducted by a lawyer- 
secretary named Lefferty, who was the 
county surrogate at the time of John- 
son's death. A family physician nam- 
ed Daly was retained by the baronet, 
serving also as his social companion 
in numerous pleasure excursions. A 
butler, a gardener, a tailor and a black- 
smith were among the employes at the 
Hall, across the road from which the 
last two had shops. 

"Sir William took a constant and 
lively interest in the welfare of his 
tenants, not only extending his bounty 
to their material needs, but providing 
for their spiritual and intellectual 
wants. One of his devices for their 
entertainment was the institution of 
'sport days' at the Hall, at which the 
yeomanry of the neighborhood com- 
peted in the field sports of England, 
especially boxing and footracing. In 



the latter the contestants sometimes 
ran with their feet in bags [the mod- 
ern sack race] and more amusement 
was furnished by horse races in which 
the riders faced backward; by the 
chase of the greased pig and the 
climbing of the greased pole; and by 
the efforts, of another class of com- 
petitors, to make the wryest face and 
sing the worst song, the winner being 
rewarded with a bearskin jacket and 
a few pounds of tobacco. A bladder 
of Scotch snuff was awarded to the , 
greatest scold in a contest between 
two old women. 

"Johnson died July 11, 1774, aged 59 
years. He had long been liable to at- 
tacks of dysentery. In combating his 
disease he had, in 1767, visited and 
drunk of the spring, now famous as 
the High Rock of Saratoga. He is be- 
lieved to have been the first white 
man to visit this spring, whose medi- 
cal virtues had been reported to him 
by the Mohawks, a band of whom ac- 
companied him to the spot, bearing 
him part of the way through the wil- 
derness on a litter. His cure was only 
partial but even that becoming known, 
was the foundation of the popularity 
of the Saratoga springs. At the time 
of Sir William's death, the Indians 
were exasperated over the outrages 
committed upon them by the Ohio 
frontiersmen, including the butchery 
of the famous Logan's kindred. The 
Iroquois had come with an indignant 
complaint to Johnson Hall. On the 
day the baronet died, he addressed 
them for over two hours under a burn- 
ing sun. Immediately after he was 
taken with an acute attack of his mal- 
ady and shortly died. Johnson had 
prophesied that he would never live to 
take part in the struggle which all saw 
was then impending. 

"The baronet's funeral took place on 
the Wednesday following his death 
and the pall bearers included Gov. 
Franklin of New Jersey and the judges 
of the New York supreme court. 
Among the cortege of 2,000 people who 
followed the remains to their burial, 
under the chancel of the stone church 



12 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



which Sir William had erected in the 
village, were the 600 Indians who had 
gathered at the Hall. These, on the 
next day, performed their ceremony of 
condolence before the friends of the 
deceased, presenting symbolic belts of 
wampum with an appropriate ad- 
dress." 

Lossing in his "Pictorial Field Book 
of the Revolution," says of Johnson 
and Johnson's Hall: "Here Sir Wil- 
liam lived in all the elegance and com- 
parative power of a English baron of 
the Middle Ages. ******* 
***** His Hall was his castle 
and around it. beyond the wings a 
heavy stone breastwork, about twelve 
feet high, was thrown up. Invested 
with the power and influence of an 
Indian agent of his government in its 
transactions with the Confederated Six 
Nations, possessed of a fine person 
and dignity of manners, and a certain 
style of oratory that pleased the In- 
dians, he acquired an ascendancy over 
the tribes never before held by a white 
man. When in 1760, General Amherst 
embarked at Oswego on his expedi- 
tion to Canada, Sir William Johnson 
brought to him at that place, 1,000 In- 
dian warriors of the Six Nations, 
which was the largest number that 
had ever been seen in arms at one 
time in the cause of England. He 
made confidants of many of the chiefs, 
and to them was in the habit of giving 
a diploma testifying to their good con- 
duct. His house was the resort of the 
sachems of the Six Nations for coun- 
sel and for trade, and there the pres- 
ents, sent out by his government, were 
annually distributed to the Indians. On 
these occasions he amused himself and 
gratified his guests by fetes and 
games, many of which were highly 
ludicrous. Young Indians and squaws 
were often seen running foot races or 
wrestling for trinkets, and feats of 
astonishing agility were frequently 
performed by the Indians of both 
sexes. ***** Sir William had 
two wives, although they were not 
made so until they had lived long with 
the baronet. Simms says that his first 
wife was a young German girl, who 



according to the custom of the times, 
had been sold to a man named Phil- 
lips living in the Mohawk valley, to 
pay her passage money to the captain 
of the emigrant ship in which she 
came to this country. She was a hand- 
some girl and attracted considerable 
attention. A neighbor of Sir William, 
who had heard him express a deter- 
mination never to marry, asked him 
why he did not get the pretty German 
girl for a housekeeper. He replied "I 
will." Not long afterward the neigh- 
bor called at Phillips's and inquired 
where the 'High Dutch' girl was. 
Phillips replied, 'Johnson, that tammed 
Irishman came tother day and offered 
me five pounds for her, threatening to 
horsewh'p me and steal her if I would 
not sell her. I thought five pounds 
petter than a flogging and took it, and 
he's got the gal.' She was the mother 
of Sir John Johnson and two daugh- 
ters, who became the wives respec- 
tively of Guy Johnson and Daniel 
Claus. These two girls, who were 
left by their dying mother to the care 
of a friend, were educated almost in 
solitude. That friend was the widow 
of an officer who was killed in battle, 
and, retiring from the world, devoted 
her whole time to the care of these 
children. They were carefully in- 
structed in religious duties, and in 
various kinds of needlework, but were 
themselves kept entirely from society. 
At the age of sixteen, they had never 
seen a lady, except their mother and . 
her friend, or a gentleman, except Sir 
William, Avho visited their room daily. 
Their dress was not conformed to the 
fashions, but always consisted of 
wrappers of finest chintz over green 
silk petticoats. Their hair, which was 
long and beautiful, was tied behind 
with a simple band of ribbon. After 
their marriage they soon acquired the 
habits of society, and made excellent 
wives. When she [the German wife] 
was on her deathbed Sir William was 
married to her in order to legitimate 
her children. After her death, her 
place was supplied by Molly Brant, 
sister of the Mohawk sachem, by 
whom he had several children. To- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



13 



ward the close of his life, Sir William 
married her in order to legitimate her 
children also, and her descendants are 
now some of the most respected peo- 
ple in upper Canada. Sir William's 
first interview and acquaintance with 
j-jgj. * * * have considerable ro- 
mance. She was a very sprightly and 
beautiful girl, about sixteen, when he 
first saw her at a militia muster. One 
of the field officers, riding upon a fine 
horse came near her and, by way of 
banter, she asked permission to mount 
behind. Not supposing she could per- 
form the exploit, he said she might. 
At the word, she leaped upon the crup- 
per with the agility of a gazelle. The 
horse sprang off at full speed, and 
clinging to the officer, her blanket fly- 
ing and her dark hair streaming in 
the wind, she flew about the parade 
ground as swift as an arrow. The 
baronet, who was a witness of the 
spectacle, admiring the spirit of the 
young squaw and becoming enamored 
of her person, took her home as his 
wife. According to Indian customs, 
this act made her really his wife, and 
in all her relations of wife and mother 
she was very exemplary." 



Joseph Brant was the strongest sup- 
porter of the Tory cause among the Iro- 
quois. He was a fuU-booded Mohawk. 
His father was a chief of the Onon- 
daga nation and had three sons in 
the army Avith Sir William Johnson, 
under King Hendrick, in the battle at 
Lake George in 1755. Joseph Brant, 
his youngest son, whose Indian name 
was Thayendanegea, which signified a 
bundle of sticks or, in other words, 
strength, was born on the banks of 
the Ohio in 1742, whither his parents 
immigrated from the Mohawk valley. 
His mother returned to Canajoharie 
[district] with Mary or Molly and 
Thayendanegea or Joseph. His father 
Tehowaghwengaraghkwin, a chief of 
the Wolf tribe of the Mohawks, seems 
to have died in the Ohio country. Jo- 
seph's mother, after her return, mar- 
ried an Indian named Carrabigo 
(news-carrier), whom the whites 
named Barnet; but by way of contrac- 



tion, he was called Bartit and finally, 
Brant. Thayendanegea became known 
as Brant's Joseph or Joseph Brant. 
Sir William Johnson sent the young 
Mohawk to the school of Dr. Whee- 
lock of Lebanon Crank (now Colum- 
bia), Connecticut, and, after he was 
well educated, employed him as secre- 
tary and as agent in public affairs. 
He was employed as missionary in- 
terpreter from 1762 to 1765 and exert- 
ed himself for the religious instruction 
of the tribe. When the Revolution 
broke out. he attached himself to the 
British cause, and in 1775 left the Mo- 
hawk valley, went to Canada and fln- 
ally to England, where his education, 
and his business and social connec- 
tion with Sir William Johnson, gave 
him free access to the nobility. The 
Earl of Warwick commissioned Rom- 
ney, the eminent painter, to make a 
portrait of him for his collection, and " 
from this celebrated painting most of 
the pictures of Brant have been repro- 
duced. Throughout the Revolution, at 
the head of the Indian forces, he was 
engaged in warfare chiefly upon the 
border settlements of New York and 
Pennsylvania, in connection with the 
Johnsons and Butlers. He held a 
colonel's commission from the King 
but he is generally called Captain 
Brant. After the peace in 1783, Brant 
again visited England, and on return- 
ing to America, devoted himself to the 
social and religious improvement of 
the Mohawks who were settled upon 
the Grand River in upper Canada up- 
on lands procured for them by Brant 
from Haldimand, governor of the 
province. This territory embraced six 
miles on both sides of the river from 
its mouth to its source. He translated 
the Gospel of St. Mark into the Mo- 
hawk language, and in many ways his 
efforts, for the uplifting of his people, 
were successful. He died at his resi- 
dence at the head of Lake Ontario, 
Nov. 24, 1807, aged 65. 



Sir John Johnson was the son of Sir 
William Johnson by his German wife. 
He was born in 1742 and succeeded to 
his father's title and estate in 1774. 



14 



THE STOEY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



He was unsocial and without any of 
his father's brilliant cleverness. Soon 
after the close of the war, Sir John 
went to England and on returning in 
1785, settled in Canada. He was ap- 
pointed superintendent and inspector 
general of Indian affairs in North 
America and for several years he was 
a member of the Canadian legislative 
council. To compensate him for the 
loss of his Tryon county property 
through confiscation, the British gov- 
ernment made him several grants of 
land. He died at the house of his 
daughter, Mrs. Bowes, in Montreal, in 
1830, aged 88 years. His son, Adam 
W"'^ Gordon Johnson, succeeded him in his 
title. 



to Col. Butler to say that he was far 
more humane than his son Walter. 
He died in Canada about 1800. 



y 



John Butler was one of the leading 
Tories of Tryon county during the war 
of the Revolution. Before the war he 
was in close official connection with 
Sir William Johnson and, after his 
death, with his son and nephew, Sir 
John and Guy Johnson. When he fled 
with the Johnsons to Canada, his fam- 
ily were left behind and were subse- 
quently exchanged for the wife and 
children of Colonel Samuel Campbell 
of Cherry Valley. He was active in 
the predatory warfare that so long 
distressed Tryon county, and com- 
manded the 1,100 Tories and Indians 
who perpetrated the infamous Wyom- 
ing massacre in 1778. He was of the 
Tory and Indian force that fought Sul- 
livan and Clinton in the Indian country 
in 1779. He accompanied Sir John 
Johnson in his Schoharie and Mohawk 
valley raid of 1780 which ended so 
disastrously for them at Klock's Field. 
After the war he went to Canada. His 
property upon the Mohawk was con- 
fiscated, but he was made an Indian 
agent, succeeding Guy Johnson at a 
salary of $2,000 per year and was 
granted a pension, as a military offi- 
cer, of $1,000 more. Like his son, Wal- 
ter, he was detested for his cruelties 
by the more honorable English officers 
and, after the massacre at Wyoming, 
Sir Frederic Haldimand, then Gover- 
nor of Canada, sent word that he did 
not wish to see him. It is but justice 



CHAPTER IV. 

Minden from 1720-1738 — Sir George 
Clarke, Governor of the Province 
of New York, Establishes a Forest 
Home at Fort Plain — 1750, the Re- 
formed Church and First Store Es- 
tablished — 1755, a Minden Tragedy 
of the French War. 

The years immediately succeeding 
1720, when German settlers first locat- 
ed along the Mohawk in the Canajo- 
harie district, was a time of land 
clearing, building, and rude agricul- 
ture — a period similar to that exper- 
ienced in the first few decades after 
settlement in all parts of the valley. 
The land was cleared, rude farming 
was carried on and log and stone 
houses and barns were built. 

The first event of importance trans- 
piring, in the Canajoharie district, was 
the advent of the Colonial governor of 
the state. Sir George Clarke, who, 
about 1738, built a summer lodge, on 
the first rise of ground from the fiats 
almost in the center of the present 
village of Fort Plain. 

At this time the Mohawk country 
was still practically an unknown for- 
est wilderness, with the exception of 
the district immediately along the 
river, which was already cleared in 
spots and which was then being rap- 
idly opened up and settled. 

This Clarke place was a house of 
two stories, with a hall passing 
through the center and large square 
rooms on either side. The second floor 
was reached by a broad stairway, with 
white oak bannisters and easy steps of 
the same material. The house had a 
frontage of nearly forty feet and its 
walls were built of a slaty stone taken 
from the bed of the neighboring Ots- 
quago. The steps to the front door 
were of slate also, but a limestone 
step used at one of its doors still 
serves its purpose. The Gov. Clarke 
house was, for its time, a structure of 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



15 



considerable pretension. It is said to 
have been erected by Clarke so as to 
remove two sons of "fast proclivities" 
from their New York city associa- 
tions. For a few years the Clarke 
family resided here in a commanding 
position, employing a force of slaves 
about the house and its plantation. At 
the river's bank, the governor had a 
good landing for his bateaux and 
pleasure boats. Clarke brought to his 
forest home several goats, then a nov- 
elty in the region, and, at one time, 
several of them strayed away and 
were lost. They were finally found 
on the high ground several miles 
southwest of Fort Plain, and this spot 
was afterward called Ge'ssenberg — 
goat hill. The Clarke family evidently 
did not stay at the^r Mohawk valley 
home any great length of time and 
about 1742 they abandoned the place, 
which was probably never anything 
more than a summer hunting and fish- 
ing lodge. The house then acquired 
the reputation of being haunted and 
was allowed to stand empty and de- 
cay. In 1807, Dr. Joshua Webster and 
Jonathan Stickney, who had come into 
the country shortly before from New 
England, built a tannery across the 
creek from the material in this old 
Colonial mansion. 

About 1750 George Crouse settled 
next north to the Clarke property and 
built a log house which was burned by 
Brant in 1780. Isaac Paris later be- 
came possessed of the Gov. Clarke 
place, and he sold it to George Crouse 
jr. The residence, occupied for many 
years by the late A. J. Wagner, was 
built on the cellar of the Clarke man- 
sion by Col. Robert Crouse. 

Sir George Clarke was acting gov- 
ernor of New York state from 1736 to 
1743. He was at that time reckoned 
an adventurer by many and was in 
constant conflict with the Colonial 
state assembly. It was during his 
weak administration (in 1741), and at 
the time he was a resident of the 
Canajoharie district, that the famous 
"negro plot" excited New York city. 
The baronet had an underground in- 
terest in the Corry patent granted in 
1737. This consisted of 25,400 acres 



in the present towns of Root, Glen and 
Charleston in Montgomery county 
and in Schoharie county. It is 
not improbable that Sir George 
built his Fort Plain hunting lodge to 
enable him to secretly look after his 
"property," as it was being surveyed 
and laid out in plots and farms for 
rental at this very time. 

He could not have an open' interest 
in the patent as the English law for- 
bade a Colonial governor being inter- 
ested in grants of land made by the 
government. Governor Clarke return- 
ed to England in 1745 with a big 
fortune "mysteriously gathered," as 
one of his historians puts it. On his 
way over he was captured by a French 
cruiser, but was soon released. He 
died in Cheshire, England, in 1763, 
aged 84 years. His Montgomery and 
Schoharie property was left to his two 
sons, George and Edward, for whom 
it is said the Fort Plain house was 
bu'lt and who had remained in New 
York after their father left the coun- 
try. George died childless in Eng- 
land and Edward died in 1744, leaving 
one son, George Hyde Clarke, who 
succeeded to the property. Corry sold 
his share of the patent, but it was 
confiscated by the state during the 
Revolution, on account of the Toryism 
of the owners. George Hyde Clarke 
remained in New York during the 
war, and, siding with the patriots, was 
confirmed in the large landed posses- 
sions of his father. The property de- 
scended from father to son, each suc- 
ceeding owner bearing the name of 
George Clarke. The dissensions, in- 
cendiarism and legal warfare, incident 
to the breaking up of this great estate, 
occurred within comparatively recent 
years. 



In 1750 the Reformed church of 
Canajoharie was established at Sand 
Hill (later Fort Plain) and about the 
same time William Seeber opened his 
store and became Minden's first trader. 
The settlement and development of 
the Minden section of the Canajoharie 
district, into a fertile agricultural sec- 
tion, was going forward rapidly at this 



16 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



period and that mentioned in the fore- 
going part of this chapter. 

During the French and Indian war 
the districts of Palatine and Can- 
ajoharie had suffered but little, 
although here and there scalping 
parties of Indians had cut down 
unfortunate settlers. One of these 
incidents, of particularly tragic 
character, occurred near Fort Plain in 
the westerly part of the town of Min- 
den. About 1755, the year of the be- 
ginning of hostilities, John Markell, 
who married Anna Timmerman, 
daughter of a pioneer settler of St. 
Johnsville, settled in the western part 
of the town. Markell and his wife 
left home one day, she carrying an in- 
fant in her arms. They had not 
gone far when they saw a party of a 
dozen hostile Indian warriors ap- 
proaching in the very path they were 
traveling and only a few rods dis- 
tant. Markell, knowing escape was 
impossible, exclaimed: "Anna, unser 
zeit ist aus!" (Anna, our time is up.) 
The next instant he fell, a bullet pass- 
ing through his body into that of his 
wife. They both fell to the ground, 
the child dropping from the woman's 
arms, and she lay upon her face, 
feigning death. Markell was at once 
tomahawked and scalped. One Indian 
said about the woman, "Better knock 
her on the head." Another replied, 
"No, squaw's dead now!" and reach- 
ing down he drew his knife around her 
crown, placed his knees against her 
shoulders, seized her scalp with his 
teeth and, in an instant, it was torn 
from her head. One of the party 
snatched the crying infant from the 
ground by one of its legs and dashed 
its brains out against a tree. The 
savages did not stop to strip the vic- 
tims and Mrs. Markell was left on the 
ground supposedly dead. She revived 
and managed to get to a neighbor's 
house, where she was cared for and 
recovered. She later married Chris- 
tian Getman of Ephratah, where she 
died in 1821 at the age of 85 years, 
making her about 21 at the time of her 
frightful experience. Such were the 
perils that, at times, surrounded the 
settlers of the New York border, and 



which, twenty years later, threatened 
the people even under the walls of 
Fort Plain. 



CHAPTER V. 

1772 — Tryon County and the Canajo- 
harie and Palatine Districts. 

German or Dutch settlers had come 
into the present town of Minden about 
the year 1720 and shortly after 
that date the influx of settlers, prin- 
cipally Palatinate Germans, was prob- 
ably quite rapid. The Indian settle- 
ments in 1776 were mainly confined to 
the lower Mohawk castle at Fort Hun- 
ter and to the upper one at what is 
now Indian Castle in the western end 
of the then Canajoharie district. 

Much of the confusion, attending the 
names of localities in reading local 
history, can be avoided by a knowl- 
edge of the boundaries of the five dis- 
tricts of Tryon county, which was 
formed in 1772, from the county of 
Albany. Most of its inhabitants then 
were settled along the Mohawk river 
and in the Schoharie valley but these 
five districts had a tremendous extent. 

The eastern border of Tryon county, 
named after the governor of that day, 
ran from the Pennsylvania border due 
north from the Delaware river through 
what is now Schoharie county and 
along the eastern limits of the present 
counties of Montgomery, Fulton and 
Hamilton to the Canadian border and 
embraced the entire state west of this 
line. Instead of townships it was di- 
vided into five large districts. The 
most eastern of these was called 
Mohawk and consisted of a strip of 
the state between the east line of the 
county already mentioned and a paral- 
lel line crossing the Mohawk river at 
the "Noses." The Palatine district ex- 
tended indefinitely northward from 
the river between the "Noses" on the 
east and on the west a north and 
south line crossing the river at Little 
Falls. With the same breadth on the 
opposite side of the river the Cana- 
joharie district extended south to the 
Pennsylvania line. North of the Mo- 
hawk and west of the Palatine dis- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



17 



trict as far as settlements extended 
was the Kingsland district, while south 
of the river extending westward, from 
Little Falls to Fort Stanwix and south- 
erly to the Pennsylvania line, was the 
German Flats district. These divis- 
ions were made March 24, 1772, and 
were suggested by Sir William John- 
son. The name of the Palatine dis- 
trict was at first Stone Arabia, but 
was changed to Palatine a year after 
this division. All these names except 
Kingsland, are retained in townships 
in the counties of Herkimer and Mont- 
gomery, comprising minute areas com- 
pared with their original size. 

The district of Palatine took its 
name from the German settlers from 
the Palatinate while thy.t of Canajo- 
harie was derived from the name of 
the famous creek. This stream's name 
comes from the huge pothole located 
almost at the beginning of the pic- 
turesque gorge leading to the falls. 
The title, Canajoharie, according to 
Brant, means, in Mohawk dialect, "the 
pot which washes itself." From the 
foregoing it will be seen that the af- 
fairs of Fort Plain are more imme- 
diately concerned with the districts of 
Canajoharie and Palatine, of the 
county of Tryon. Also that the Revo- 
lutionary name Can!ajoharie, applies 
to a large district, extending over 20 
miles along the river, and not to the 
present comparatively small township 
of that name. A reference to Canajo- 
harie of that time might mean any 
point in the present towns of Root, 
Canajoharie, Minden or Danube, or 
the districts back of these from the 
river. So when Washington speaks of 
going to Canajoharie he means the 
military post in that district located at 
Port Plain. Fort Canajoharie in 1757 
was located in Danube and the upper 
Mohawk village near the same place 
was called the Canajoharie Castle. 
Herkimer's residence was in the Cana- 
joharie district near its western end 
and he represented that district in 
the Tryon county committee of safety 
and was also the colonel of the dis- 
trict's militia as well as brigadier gen- 
eral of that of the entire county. A 
realization of the extent and boun- 



daries of the district of Canajoharie of 
the Revolution will aid in acquiring 
accurate knowledge of the history of 
that time. 

The first January Tuesday the voters 
in each district were to elect a super- 
visor, two assessors and one collector 
of taxes. Four judges, six assistant 
judges, a number of justices of the 
peace, a clerk and a coroner were ap- 
pointed by Governor Tryon, all but the 
clerk being Sir William Johnson's 
nominees. The first court of general 
quarter sessions was held at Johns- 
town, the county seat, on September 8, 
1772. The bench consisted of Guy 
Johnson, John Butler and Peter 
Conyne, judges; John Johnson, Daniel 
Claus, John Wells and Jelles Fonda, 
assistant judges; John Collins, Joseph 
Chew, Adain Loucks, John Frey, Peter 

Ten Broeck and Young, justices. 

It will be seen that Sir William John- 
son was practically dictator of the new 
county as the majority of the above 
officers were his Tory henchmen. Sir 
William Johnson was also major gen- 
eral commanding all the militia north 
of the highlands of the Hudson. He 
took great pride in his militia and 
their soldierly appearance. Governor 
Tryon in his tour of the Mohawk val- 
ley in 1772 reviewed three regiments 
of Tryon county militia at Johnstown, 
Burnetsfield and German Flats, re- 
spectively, numbering in all 1400 men. 
This military training of the Mohawk 
valley men was undoubtedly of great 
value to them in the following conflict. 

It was almost entirely the influence 
of Sir William Johnson which made 
Tryon county a region unfavorable to 
the cause of independence. He had 
created a county seat at Johnstown 
and a powerful following about him. 
As Indian commissioner and general 
of all the inilitia he was supreme as a 
director of affairs. Johnson had prac- 
tically absolute power over the Iro- 
quois and an almost equally strong in- 
fluence over a large portion of the 
white population. His domains in the 
Mohawk valley included the 66,000 
acres, mostly in what is now Her- 
kimer county and which in 1760 were 
given him by the Mohawks, in the pes- 



18 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



session of which he was confirmed by 
the crown and which led to its being 
called the Royal Grant. Aside from 
this his landed estate was large and 
his henchmen and numerous tenantry 
added to his political strength, which 
was increased still further by his 
great personal popularity with all 
classes. By the In(7ians, not only of 
the Six Nations, buc also of the west- 
ern tribes, which had fallen within the 
circle of his influence, the baronet was 
regarded with the greatest veneration 
in spite of his unassuming sociability 
and his familiar manners incident to a 
border life. This tremendous influ- 
ence over these Indian warriors was 
on his death in July, 1774, transferred 
to his son, Sir John Johnson, who suc- 
ceeded to his position as major general 
of the militia, to his title and most of 
his estate, and also to his son-in-law. 
Col. Guy Johnson, who became super- 
intendent of Indian affairs. The John- 
sons had the added support of Molly 
Brant, a Mohawk, who had been Sir 
William Johnson's housekeeper and 
who, with her brother, Joseph Brant, 
had great influence with their tribe. 
Joseph Brant had been in the service 
of the elder Johnson and upon his 
death became secretary to Guy John- 
son. Thus a great, though diminished, 
Tory influence still emanated from 
Johnson Hall. Its proprietor was in 
close official and political relations 
with Col. John Butler, a wealthy and 
influential resident of the county, and 
his son Walter, whose names are in- 
famous on account of their brutal and 
bloody deeds during the Revolution. 
The Johnson family, together with 
other gentlemen of Tory inclinations, 
owned large estates in the neighbor- 
hood and so far controlled a belt of 
the Mohawk valley as to largely pre- 
vent the circulation of intelligence un- 
favorable to England. 

Unlike Sir William Johnson, his 
successors at Johnson Hall were very 
unpopular with the farming popula- 
tion, which was composed in the main 
of the Dutch and Palatines. 

The first election in the county oc- 
curred pursuant to writs issued Nov. 
25, 1772. Colonel Guy Johnson and 



Hendrick Frey were chosen to repre- 
sent the county in the state assembly, 
where they took their seats Jan. 11, 
1773. 

The men of the Johnson party and 
others aforementioned will be found 
deeply concerned in later military op- 
erations around Fort Plain. 



William Tryon was a native of Ire- 
land and an officer in the British ser- 
vice. He married Miss Wake, -a rela- 
tive of the Earl of Hillsborough, sec- 
retary for the colonies. Thus con- 
nected, he was a favorite of govern- 
ment, and was appointed lieutenant- 
governor of North Carolina in 1765, 
later becoming governor. In 1771 he 
was called to fill the same office in 
New York. The history of his admin- 
istration in North Caroline is a record 
of extortion, folly and crime. During 
his administration in New York the 
Revolution broke out and he was the 
last royal governor of the state, though 
nominally succeeded in office by Gen. 
Robertson, when he returned to Eng- 
land. His property In North Carolina 
and New York was confiscated. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Population of Tryon in 1757 and 1776 
Ft. Johnson — The Highways. 

The white settlers of the five dis- 
tricts of Tryon county were generally 
the Dutch, who had gradually extend- 
ed their settlements westward from 
Schenectady and occupied the eastern 
part of the county, and the Germans 
from the Palatinate on the Rhine, who 
had located farther west. These were 
the general limits of the settlers but 
the two nationalities had considerably 
intermingled and intermarried prior to 
the Revolution, forming an element 
largely known as "Mohawk Dutch." 
In the whole valley at the Revolution- 
ary period the writer ventures the 
opinion that, of this Teutonic popula- 
tion, two-thirds were Palatine Ger- 
mans and one-third were of Holland 
Dutch blood. These people were not 
disposed to submit to new-fledged 
aristocrats who assumed a high and 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



19 



mighty style in dealing- with the Tryon 
yeomanry. This element, while it in- 
cluded many Tories, was the back- 
bone of the Whig party in the valley. 
Before the building of Fort Plain in 
1776 they had largely sided with the 
American cause and had taken decided 
steps for its furtherance. 

There was a considerable number of 
Irish and Scotch in the county, some, 
as at Johnstown, being Tories while 
others, as at the Cherry Valley settle- 
ment, were ardent patriots for the 
most part. On the eve of the Revolu- 
tion and at the time of the inaugura- 
tion of Fort Plain as an American out- 
post, the white population of the entire 
county was estimated at 10,000 and 
the militia available for the patriot 
cause at about 2,500 men. The Indian 
population along the Mohawk may 
have approximated 1,000 or even less. 

At this period the only settlement in 
the valley which could be dignified by 
the name of town was Schenectady, 
where the first river settlement had 
been made by the Dutch in 1663. 
There was a considerable village at 
Johnstown and a Dutch hamlet at 
Caughnawaga. At Cherry Valley 
there was a settlement mostly of 
Scotch, and at Fort Herkimer and the 
Palatine village, at West Canada 
creek, hamlets of Palatine Germans. 
At Fort Hunter and at Sand Hill were 
probably the beginnings of settle- 
ments. Johnstown was assuming im- 
portance, as it was made the county 
seat of Tryon when it was set off from 
Albany county in 1772, and it was also 
the seat of the powerful Johnson party. 

Everything tended against concen- 
tration of settlers in towns. Almost 
the entire population, with the excep- 
tion of a few traders and mechanics, 
was engaged in farming and clear- 
ing the land. The Mohawk, in the 
early days being the highway of 
commerce, tended to keep the popu- 
lation near it and the farms as a rule 
extended back from the fiats on to the 
slopes. This brought the dwellings 
along the river into fairly close prox- 
imity and, if we trust a French ac- 
count of 1757, we will find at that early 
day a surprising number of houses 



noted along the Mohawk from East 
Creek to Schenectady, a distance of 
about 50 miles. 

This old record gives .-t good idea of 
the Canajoharie and Palatine districts 
in the mid-eighteenth century. It 
mentions that the road was "good 
for all sorts of carriages" from 
Fort Kouari, later Fort Herki- 
mer, about opposite the mouth 
of West Canada creek, in the town of 
German Flats, to Fort Cannatchocari, 
which was at the upper Mohawk cas- 
tle, in the present town of Danube. , 
This was a stockade 15 feet high and 
100 paces square. The account con- 
tinues as follows: "From Fort Can- 
natchocari to Fort Hunter is about 12 
leagues; the road is pretty good, car- 
riages pass over it; it continues along 
the banks of the Mohawk river. About 
a hundred houses, at greater or less 
distance from one another we found 
within this length of road. There are 
some situated also about half a 
league in the interior. The inhabi- 
tants of this section are Germans who ^ -- 

compose a company of about 100 men. 

"Fort Hunter is situated on the bor- 
ders of the Mohawk river and is of 
the same form as that of Cannatcho- 
cari, with the exception that it is twice 
as large. There is likewise a house at 
each curtain. The cannon at each 
bastion are from 7 to 9 pounders. The 
pickets of this fort are higher than 
those of Cannatchocari. There is a 
church or temple in the middle of the 
fort; in the interior of the fort are 
also some thirty cabins of Mohawk 
Indians, which is the most consider- 
able village. This fort like that of 
Cannatchocari has no ditch; there's 
only a large swing door at the en- 
trance. 

"Leaving Fort Hunter, a creek 
[Schoharie] is passed at the mouth of 
which that fort is located. It can be 
forded and crossed in batteaux in 
summer, and on the ice in winter. 
There are some houses outside under 
the protection of the fort, in which the 
country people seek shelter when they 
fear or learn that an Indian or French 
war party is in the field. 

"From Fort Hunter to Chenectadi 



20 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



^ 



or Corlar is seven leagues. The pub- 
lic carriage way continues along the 
right [south] bank of the Mohawk 
river. About 20 to 30 houses are 
found within this distance separated 
the one from the other from about a 
quarter to half a league. The inhab- 
itants of this section are Dutch. They 
form a company, with some other in- 
habitants on the left bank of the Mo- 
hawk river, about 600 [ ?] men strong." 

This account puts Fort Hunter on 
the wrong side of the Schoharie, an 
error of the French narrator. 

Possibly the "600 men" referred to 
the milit'a of the town of Schenectady 
and its surrounding farming territory. 

The above gives an idea of the pop- 
ulation then on the south side of the 
river. Beginning again at the west at 
East Canada creek, the writer gives a 
similar account of the north side of 
the Mohawk from East Canada creek 
to Schenectady. 

"After fording Canada creek, we 
continue along the left [north] bank of 
the Mohawk river and high road, 
which is passable for carts, for twelve 
leagues, to Col. Johnson's mansion 
[at Fort Johnson]. In the whole of 
the distance the soil is very good. 
About five hundred houses are erected 
at a distance one from the other. The 
greatest number of those on the bank 
of the river are built of stone, and 
those at a greater distance in the in- 
terior are about half a league off; they 
are new settlements, built of wood. 

"There is not a fort in the whole of 
this distance of 12 leagues. There is 
but one farmer's house, built of stone, 
that is somewhat fortified and sur- 
rounded with pickets. It is situate on 
the banks of the river, three leagues 
from where [Bast] Canada creek 
empties into the Mohawk river. The 
inhabitants of this country are Ger- 
mans. They form four companies of 
100 men each. 

"Col. Johnson's mansion is situated 
on the borders of the left [north] 
bank of the Mohawk. It is three 
stories high, built of stone, with port- 
holes and a parapet and flanked 
with four bastions, on which are some 
small guns. In the same yard, on both 



sides of the mansion, there are two 
small houses. That on the right of the 
entrance is a store and that on the 
left is designed for workmen, negroes 
and other domestics. The yard gate 
is a heavy swing gate, well ironed; it 
is on the Mohawk river side; from this 
gate to the river there is about 200 
paces of level ground. The high road 
passes there. A small rivulet, coming 
from the north, empties into the Mo- 
hawk river, about 200 paces below the 
enclosure of the yard. On this 
stream there is a mill about 50 paces 
distant from the house; below the mill 
is the miller's house where grain and 
flour are stored, and on the other side 
of the creek, 100 paces from the mill, 
is a barn in which cattle and fodder 
are kept. One hundred and fifty paces 
from Col. Johnson's mansion, at the 
north side, on the left bank of the little 
creek, is a little hill on which is a 
small house with portholes, where or- 
dinarily is kept a guard of honour of 
some twenty men which serves also 
as an advanced post. 

"From Col. Johnson's house to 
Chenectadi is counted seven leagues; 
the road is good, all sorts of vehicles 
pass over it. About twenty houses are 
found from point to point on this road 
* * * In the whole country of the 
Mohawk river there are nine com- 
panies of militia under Col. Johnson; 
eight only remain, that of the village 
of Palatines [at Herkimer] being no 
longer in existence, the greater part 
having been defeated by M. de Belle- 
tre's detachment. Col. Johnson assem- 
bles these companies when he has 
news of anj^ expedition which may 
concern the Mohawk river." 

Here we have a good description of 
the location of the settlers in a 
considerablo portion of the Mohawk 
valley in 1757. With the exception of 
more houses and buildings and a 
largely increased population, con- 
ditions were probably .similar in 1776. 
In addition it must be realized that 
from East Creek, on both sides of the 
river westward to German Flats and 
beyond there was a large number of 
dwellings and a considerable settle- , 
ment of Palatine Germans. The ac- ^ 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



21 



count gives us a fair idea of what had 
been accomplished in the way of 
erecting large farmhouses, their neces- 
sary buildings, mills, and the opening 
up of plantations on a considerable 
sca'e in the instance of Johnson's place 
at ,Fort Johnson. Similar establish- 
niei'ts were present, on a somewhat 
smaller plan, along the river and some 
of the dwellings were undoubtedly as 
large and in a way as comfortable as 
those of today. As a well known in- 
stance that of Gen. Herkimer can be 
cited, which was built in 1764. From 
this account, the population was prac- 
tically composed of German and Dutch 
farmers. In the Canajoharie district 
there were probably, at this early date, 
more than 75 houses and in the Pala- 
tine district more than 400 dwellings. 
Together the two districts contained 
probably over 500 men liable to militia 
service and possibly a population of 
2,500, if the French account is correct 
in its figures. The number of the 
dwellings and of the population had 
very largely increased by 1776, to what 
extent it is difficult to estimate, but it 
is not improbable that it had almost 
doubled. The highways will be seen to 
be fair in their condition, at least in 
some parts, and much better than 
would be casually supposed, and in 
general civilized society in the valley 
was at no low stage. 



CHAPTER VII. 
1772 — Tryon County People — Farming, 

Religious and Social Life — Sports 

and Pastimes of the Days Before the 

Revolution. 

There is a large element of popula- 
tion in the valley today which is de- 
scended from what we call the "Mo- 
hawk Dutch," for want of a better 
name. It has strong virtues and like 
all other strains of humanity certain 
deficiencies. Both were noted by 
early writers. However it is difRcult 
to imagine a population better suited 
to stand the brunt of those early hard- 
ships and struggles. They made ideal 
frontiersmen, as a rule good soldiers 
and founders of American institutions 
and liberty in government, strong in 



their political and religious ideals. If 
they are, at that early date, criticised 
In their farming methods or for the 
number of the "tippling houses" they 
supported, the hardships of turning a 
great forest country into a civilized 
farming section must be borne in 
mind. They produced public leaders 
of integrity with high, unselfish ideals 
and the quality of their minds, as 
shown in their acts and writings, prov- 
ed them men in every sense of the 
word. Necessarily of bodily strength 
and vigor, the average of their mascu- 
linity and equipment for true men's 
work was of a standard to be envied 
by the male population of today. They 
showed some inclination toward learn- 
ing which writers say, at the Revolu- 
tion, had resulted in the establishment 
of schools in many of their valley 
settlements. 

Both Palatines and Dutch had suf- 
fered untold hardships for their re- 
ligion. In defense of their Reformed 
faith in their European homes they 
had been murdered, robbed and per- 
secuted to the utmost limit. The pres- 
ence of the Palatines in their Mohawk 
valley homes was largely due to these 
facts. Under such circumstances they 
took their religion seriously. Mostly 
of the Calvinistic belief they estab- 
lished Reformed churches and some of 
the Lutheran faith in the valley 
shortly after their settlement. At the 
birth of Fort Plain, in the Canajoharie 
and Palatine districts, there were Re- 
formed churches at Fort Plain (1750), 
at St. Johnsville (1756) and at Stone 
Arabia (1711). Lutheran churches 
were at Stone Arabia (established be- 
tween 1711 and 1732) and at Caroga 
Creek, now Palatine Church (in 1770). 
Near the Canajoharie castle (now 
Indian Castle) a church, largely for 
the use of the Indians, had been 
erected under the auspices of Sir Wil- 
liam Johnson. The dominies of that 
day were frequently men of strong 
character and fit leaders of the spirit- 
ual and intellectual life of their par- 
ishioners. The labors of those of the 
Reformed faith have resulted in mak- 
ing the Mohawk valley one of the 
strongest districts of that church. The 



22 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



life of the Reformed church of Sand 
Hill (now of Fort Plain) is closely 
bound up with that of the fort built 
close to it and it was just out of gun- 
shot of the post that it was burned 
during-, the Tory and Indian raid in 
1780. Preaching in these churches was 
in either the German or Dutch lan- 
guage or in both at intervals. After 
the Revolution English was introduc- 
ed and, in some churches, preaching 
was in all three languages until En- 
glish supplanted the others in the 
early nineteenth century. 

That early farming methods in the 
Mohawk valley were open to crit'cism 
is shown by the following letter to the 
English Society for the Promotion of 
the Arts by Sir William Johnson, dated 
Johnson Hall, Feb. 27, 1765. The letter 
in part follows: 

"The state of Agriculture in this 
country is very low, and in short like- 
ly to remain so to the great Detriment 
of the Province, which might other- 
wise draw many resources from so 
extensive and valuable a Country, but 
the turn of the old settlers here is not 
much calculated for improvement, con- 
tent with the meer necessaries of 
Life, they dont chuse to purchase its 
superfluities at the expence of Labour, 
neither will they hazard the smallest 
matter for the most reasonable pros- 
pect of gain, and this principle will 
probably subsist as long as that of 
their equality, which is at present at 
such a pitch that the conduct of one 
neighbor can but little influence that 
of another. 

"Wheat which in my opinion must 
shortly prove a drug, is in fact what 
they principally concern themselves 
about and they are not easily to be 
convinced that the Culture of other 
articles will tend more to their ad- 
vantage. If a few of the Machines 
made use of for the breaking of hemp 
was distributed a mongst those who 
have Land proper for the purpose it 
might give rise to the culture of it — 
or if one only properly constructed was 
sent as a model, it might Stir up a 
spirit of Industry amongst them, but 
Seed is greatly wanted, & Cannot be 
procured in these parts, and the Ger- 



mains (who are most Industrious peo- 
ple here) are in general in too low 
circumstances to concern themselves 
in anything attended with the smallest 
Expence, their Plantations being as 
yet in their infancy, & with regard to 
the old Settlers amongst the GeriTjans 
who live farther to the Westward, they 
have generally adopted the Senti- 
ments of the rest of the inhabitants. 
The country Likewise labours under the 
disadvantage of narrow, and (in many 
places) bad roads, which would be still 
worse did I not take care that the in- 
habitants laboured to repair them ac- 
cording to law. The ill Condition of 
Public roads is a Great obstruction to 
husbandry; the high wages of labour- 
ing men, and the great number of tep- 
ling houses are likewise articles which 
very much want Regulation. These 
disagreeable circumstances must for 
some time retard the Progress of hus- 
bandry. I could heartily wish I had 
more leisure to attend to these neces- 
sary articles of improvements to pro- 
mote which my Influence and Exam- 
ple should not be wanting. I have 
formerly had pease very well split at 
my mills, and I shall set the same for- 
ward amongst the people as far as I 
can. I have Likewise sent for Collec- 
tions of many Seeds, and useful 
grasses which I shall Encourage them 
to raise, and from the great wants of 
stock, even for home use, & Con- 
sumption, I am doing all I can to turn 
the inhabitants to raising these nec- 
essary articles, for the purchase of 
which, a good deal of Cash has hither 
to been annually carried into the N. 
England Collonies. 

"Before I set the Examples, no far- 
mer on the Mohock River ever raised 
so much as a single Load of Hay, at 
present some raise above one Hun- 
dred, the like was the case in regard 
to sheep, to which they were intire 
strangers until I introduced them, & 
I have the Satisfaction to see theni at 
present possess many other articles, 
the result of my former Labors for 
promoting their welfare and interests. 
My own tenants amounting to about 
100 Families are not as yet in circum- 
stances to do much, they were settled 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



23 



at great Expence and hazard during 
the heat of [French] War, and it was 
principally (I mav venture to affirm, 
solely) owing to their residence & 
mine, that the rest of the inhabitanti 
did not all abandon their settlements 
at that Distressful Period; But tho' 
my Tennants are considerably in my 
Debt, I shall yet give them ali the as- 
sistance I can for encouraging any 
useful Branches of Husbandry, which 
I shall contribute to promote thro'out 
the rest of the Country to the utmost 
of my power, and Communicate to you 
any material article which may occur 
upon that 'Subject.' " 

At the period of this letter and in 
the following decade a few grist and 
saw mills and similar industries were 
springing up in the valley where there 
was convenient water power. This 
letter gives us a vivid portrayal of one 
of New York's most interesting and 
sterling provincial characters, as well 
as the farming conditions in the Tryon 
county of that time and in its Canajo- 
harie and Palatine districts. 

Pioneer life was as hard as human 
life could well be. It required the 
strongest types of manhood, woman- 
hood and even childhood to clear and 
cultivate this great wooded wilderness. 
First went up the log house cabins 
and barns to be followed later by those 
of stone and sawn lumber. After the 
sturdy woodman felled the trees they 
were burned of their limbs and leaves 
and the ground was left strewn with 
their blackened trunks. To pile these 
together, when dry enough, so that 
another firing would consume them 
was the dirty job of "logging up." It 
was largely done by "bees," to which 
the frontiersmen rallied in numbers 
adequate to the heavy work to be 
done. Severe as that was, an after- 
noon at it left the young men with 
vim enough for a wrestling match, af- 
ter they had rested long enough to 
devour the generous supper with 
which the housewife feasted them. 

The grain grown on the fields thus 
laboriously cleared was threshed with 
the flail or by driving horses over it 
and winnowed by dropping it through 
a natural draft of air instead of the 



artificial draft of the fanning mill. 
When ready for market it was mostly 
drawn to Albany, some three days be- 
ing required for the journey. Rude 
lumber wagons or ox carts, or wood 
shod sleighs were the common vehi- 
cles for all occasions. Much of the 
grain also went down the river by bat- 
teaux to Schenectady. 

A variety of work then went on in- 
doors as well as out, which long ago 
ceased generally to be done in private 
houses. Every good mother taught 
her daughters a broad range of domes- 
tic duties, from washing dishes and 
log cabin floors to weaving and mak- 
ing up flne linen. The home was the 
factory as well and in it took place 
the making from flax and wool of the 
fabrics which the household needed. 
The houses resounded with the hum of 
the spinning wheel and loom and other 
machinery which the housewives used 
to make the family garments. The 
entire family were proud to appear in 
this goodly homespun even at church. 
Itinerant shoemakers made tours of 
the farmhouses, working at each place 
as long as the family footgear demand- 
ed, this being known as "whipping the 
cat." Common brogans were worn for 
the most part by the settlers. Many 
of the vegetables cultivated by their 
Mohawk Indian predecessors were 
adopted by their German and Dutch 
successors. Without tea or coffee, 
they made a drink of dried peas and 
sweetened it with maple sugar, the 
procuring of which they learned from 
the red man. 

In regard to Christmas time in the 
valley the missionary Kirkland wrote 
as follows in his diary in 1789: 

"The manner in wch. ye ppl. in yse 
parts keep Xmas day in commemor'g 
of the Birth of ye Saviour, as ya pre- 
tend is very affect'g and strik'g. They 
generally assemble for read'g pray- 
ers, or Divine service — but after, they 
eat drink and make merry. They al- 
low of no work or servile labour on ye 
day and ye following — their servants 
are free — but drinking, swearing, fight- 
ing and frolic'g are not only allowed, 
but seem to be essential to ye joy of 
ye day." 



24 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



The most common beverages drunk 
by the men of Revolutionary times 
were "flip" and "kill devil." "Flip" 
was made of beer brewed from malt 
and hops, to which was added sugar 
and liquor — the whole heated with a 
hot iron. "Kill devil" was made like 
flip, except that cider was substituted 
for beer. The price of each was one 
York shilling for a quart mug. Half 
a mug usually served two persons. 

Freemasonry had a foothold in the 
valley prior to the Revolution and Sir 
William Johnson and Col. Nicholas 
Herkimer were both members of the 
Johnstown lodge. Also as showing the 
wilderness state of the country, it is 
said that wolves were so common in 
Dutchtown in the town of Minden that 
sheep had to be folded nights as late 
as 1773. All the wild animals of the 
present Adirondack wilderness were 
numerous about the Mohawk settle- 
ments in their earliest days. 

Schools were located in many of 
the Tryon county settlements at the 
beginning of the Revolution. The first 
pedagogue in Dutchtown was John 
Pickard. As showing the early set- 
tlers' superstitions regarding sanita- 
tion and medical practise it may here 
be related that after Fort Willett was 
built he kept school in a hut within 
the palisade. Toward the close of the 
war he sickened and died of some dis- 
ease prevalent in the fort at that time. 
A lad named Owen, living in the Henry 
Sanders family, caught a live skunk, 
which was set at liberty in the fort 
and "the disease was stayed." After 
the war, a Hessian named Glazier, 
who came into the state under Bur- 
goyne, kept the Dutchtown school in- 
structing in both German and English. 
Such instruction was probably mostly 
confined to the three Rs. School pun- 
ishments were extremely severe and 
whipping a scholars' hands with a 
ruler until they bled was no unusual 
means of correction. One Palatine boy 
is said to have been so whipped in 
school on eighteen different occasions. 

That a Tryon county woman could 
handle a gun is shown by an anecdote 
of the wife of the brave Captain Gar- 
diner, of Oriskany fame, who lived 



near Fultonville: "His wife, like many 
of her sex on the frontier, on an emer- 
gency, could use firearms. On some 
occasion, when her husband was 
away from home in the service of his 
country, she saw from her house a 
flock of pigeons alighting upon the 
fence and ground not far off. She re- 
solved to give them a salute and, has- 
tily loaded an old musket, forgetting 
to draw out the ramrod. She left the 
house cautiously, gained a position 
within close gunshot, aimed at the 
pigeons on the fence, and blazed away. 
To her own surprise, and that of sev- 
eral of her family, who, from the win- 
dow saw her fire, seven of the birds 
sitting upon a rail, were spitted on the 
ramrod in which condition they were 
taken to the house." 

As befitted frontiersmen, their sports 
were rough and violent. They includ- 
ed rifle contests, wrestling, foot racing 
and horse racing. Horse races, on 
tracks and on the river ice, were great- 
ly in vogue in the latter half of the 
eighteenth century, excepting the war 
period. The Low Dutch of the east- 
ern end of the valley were famed for 
horse racing and even for running 
their horses from the foot of every 
hill two-thirds of the way up. Often 
between Schenectady and Albany were 
several farm wagons or sleighs trying 
titles for leadership at the hazard of a 
serious collision. Of this class of citi- 
zens at Schenectady was the well-to- 
do burgher Charick Van de Bogert, an 
old gentleman of worthy but eccentric 
character. He had a fine sleigh on 
the back of which was painted in 
Dutch the words, "Not to lend today 
but tomorrow." He had a span of 
horses named Cowper and Crown, 
which he raced successfully and- which 
responded intelligently to his whip sig- 
nals for the start and finish of a brush 
on the road. In his last illness, his 
affection for his team, induced the 
family to have the horses brought to 
his window where he patted them and 
bade them good-bye. He then turned 
to a close friend who was with him 
and asked him to drive the bier to the 
burial plot behind his beloved team, 
instead of having male bearers for 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



25 



the distance as was the valley custom. 
Van de Bogert requested his friend to 
touch the horses with his gad after a 
certain manner at a set point in 
the road and to again touch them in a 
different fashion at a farther point. 
Shortly after this the old gentleman 
expired and his funeral arrangements 
were ordered according to his wish. 
The friend who drove the hearse obey- 
ed the deceased's wishes as to the 
whip signals. The well-trained team 
responded and the worthy Dutchman 
made his final earthly ride behind his 
well-loved span at the racing clip in 
which he delighted. 

There were favorite race-courses in 
the valley, near Rotterdam, at Fort 
Hunter, at Conyne's tavern on the 
north river side a few miles further up. 
At Sand Flats, at Caughnawaga or 
Fonda was one of the most frequent- 
ed. In the Canajoharie-Palatine dis- 
tricts there were race courses at Seeb- 
ers Lane, on the flats at Canajoharie 
and at George Wagner's flats in Pala- 
tine. Every fall at Herkimer, horse 
racing was held on the flats at that 
place and it is not improbable that an- 
nual meetings such as these were the 
nuclei of the later county fairs. Such 
events were also common in the Scho- 
harie valley. There was much drink- 
ing and gambling at all these races 
and the crowds assembled like those 
seen at county fairs. 

There is every evidence that the 
men of those days had mighty athletes 
among them who were developed by 
the hard life of the day, instead of by 
modern training methods. Besides the 
foregoing sports and the usual crude 
field sports such as jumping, hurling 
the stone, etc., fighting bouts for 
purses were not uncommon. 

A few years before the death of Sir 
William Johnson, he had in his em- 
ploy a fellow countryman named Mc- 
Carthy, who was reputed the best 
pugilist in the Mohawk valley. The 
baronet offered to pit him against 
anyone. Major Jelles Fonda, tired of 
hearing this challenge, unearthed a 
mighty Dutchman named John Van 
Loan, in the Schoharie valley and 
made a journey of some fifty miles to 



secure him. Van Loan agreed to en- 
ter the ring for a ten-pound note. A 
big crowd assembled at Caughnawaga 
to see the contest. There was much 
betting, particularly on McCarthy. 
Van Loan appeared in a shirt and 
tight-fitting breeches of dressed deer- 
skin. McCarthy tried hard but the 
Schoharie fighter was too strong and 
agile and eventually soundly whipped 
Sir William's pet, who had to be car- 
ried from the ring. This was probably 
one of many pugilistic and wrestling 
contests witnessed by crowds of set- 
tlers. Brutal they were but they were 
the physical expression of sport among 
men of iron and should not be judged 
by the tender standards of a delicate 
and soft age. 

It will, of course, be understood that 
fishing, trapping and hunting, formed 
a large part of the vocations of the 
earliest settlers, who also availed 
themselves largely of the skins of 
game for clothing and other purposes, 
deerskin or buckskin forming a large 
part of this attire, particularly for 
sport or work in the woods. 
. Autumn husking bees and country 
dances were recreations of the river 
side folks and it is easy to see that 
here was no Puritan community but 
one which enjoyed the good things of 
life, after periods of strenuous toil. 
Barns and dwellings were raised by 
"bees" in which the neighborhood par- 
ticipated. Sports, dancing and solid 
and liquid refreshments followed in 
profusion. The final feast seemed an 
indispensable part of all social and 
most religious observances. 

As the Dutch were such a consider- 
able portion of the valley population, ^ 
particularly in the eastern end and 
were scattered largely through the re- 
mainder some idea of their charac- 
teristics may be gained from Mrs. 
Grant's word pictures of life, in Al- 
bany in the middle of the eighteenth 
century, included in her "Memoirs of 
an American Lady." These things 
would apply to the Low Dutch of 
the town of Schenectady or, with a 
rural setting, to those in other parts 
of the valley and we must remember 
that the Dutch influence and customs 



26 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



were very strong in every part of the 
state in those days, including Tryon 
county. 

Mrs. Grant says that the houses were 
very neat within and without and were 
of stone or brick. The streets were 
broad and lined with shade trees. Each 
house had its garden and before each 
door a tree was planted and shaded 
the stoops or porches, which were fur- 
nished with spacious seats on which 
domestic groups were seated on sum- 
mer evenings. Each family had a 
cow, fed in a common pasture at the 
end of the town. At evening the herd 
returned altogether of their own ac- 
cord, with their tinkling bells hung at 
their necks, along the wide and grassy 
street, to their wonted sheltering 
trees, to be milked at their master's 
doors. On pleasant evenings the 
stoops were filled with groups of old 
and young of both sexes discussing 
grave questions or gayly chatting and 
singing together. The mischievous 
gossip was unknown for intercourse 
was so free and friendship so real that 
there was no place for such a creature, 
and politicians seldom disturbed these 
social gatherings. A peculiar social 
custom arranged the yoving people in 
congenial companies, composed of 
equal numbers, of both sexes, quite 
small children being admitted, and 
the association continued until ma- 
turity. The result was a perfect 
knowledge of each other and happy 
and suitable marriages resulted. The 
summer amusements of the young 
were simple, the principal one being 
picnics, often held upon the pretty 
Islands near Albany or in "the bush." 
These were days of pure enjoyment for 
everybody was unrestrained by con- 
ventionalities. In winter the frozen 
Hudson would be alive with merry 
skaters of both sexes. Small evening 
parties were frequent and were gen- 
erally the sequel of quilting parties. 
The young men sometimes enjoyed 
convivial parties at taverns but ha- 
bitual drunkenness was extremely 
rare. 

Slavery was common in the valley 
and some plantations had a score or 
more slaves. The price of labor was 



so enormously high, because of the 
sparse population, that the importa- 
tion of negroes had become a prime in- 
dustrial necessity and they were then 
very numerous in the province of New 
York. Mrs. Grant speaks of slavery 
in Albany and her remarks are perti- 
nent to the valley as well. She says: 

"African slavery was seen at Albany 
and vicinity in its mildest form. It 
was softened by gentleness and mutual 
attachments. It appeared patriarchial 
and a real blessing to the negroes. 
Master and slave stood in the relation 
of friends. Immoralities were rare. 
There was no hatred engendered by 
neglect, cruelty and injustice; and 
such excitements as the 'Negro Plots' 
of 1712 and 1741 in New York city were 
impossible. Industry and frugality 
ranked among the cardinal virtues of 
the people." 

These seem to have been negro 
slave conditions in this section up to 
1827, when slavery was finally abolish- 
ed in New York. The slaves were 
allowed much liberty and had their full 
share of celebrations and jollifications 
such as Christmas and New Year. 
Many were freed by their owners, for 
good service or other reasons and in 
all the local records we find few inci- 
dents of cruelty or abuse on the 
part of the white man to the black. 
There is an instance of a slave woman 
born in the Herkimer family at Dan- 
ube who lived for years in Little Falls 
and was looked after and finally buried 
by the Herkimer grandchildren of her 
early master. 

A number of conditions tended to 
mold public thought into a Revolu- 
tionary form. There were discourage- 
ments to settlement and some of the 
English governors had been avaricious, 
bigoted and tyrannical. The lavish 
grants of much of the best land to their 
favorites and tools were special hind- 
rances to the rapid increase of popu- 
lation. The holders of large estates 
rated their lands so high that poorer 
persons could neither buy or lease 
farms. 

It is not the province of this ac- 
count to treat in detail of the grants "• 
of land in Tryon county. Suffice to 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



27 



say that these transactions frequently 
seemed to be honey -combed with ev- 
ery form of corruption known to Co- 
lonial adventurers and crooks. Such 
methods were well exemplified in the 
Corry patent which, tradition has it, 
was secured in part by Gov. Clarke 
for himself, although it was against 
the Colonial law for a governor to ac- 
quire land by free grant. This is the 
well known property which was the 
Koene of so much miserable trouble, 
arson and crime during the years of its 
last proprietorship under a George 
Clarke. These grants angered both 
Indians and settlers and tended, among 
many other things, to make the true 
American of the day distrust and hate 
his state government and mother 
country. For the most part the Dutch 
and Palatine grantees seem to have 
settled upon and improved for their 
own use the lands given them. 

Benson J. Lossing's "Empire State," 
says: 

"In the state of New York the Dutch 
language was so generally used in 
some of the counties that sheriffs 
found it difficult to procure persons 
sufficiently acquainted with the En- 
glish tongue to serve as jurors in the 
courts. Among the wealthiest people 
considerable luxury in table, dress and 
furniture was exhibited, j^et there was 
an aspect of homely comfort through 
society. Both sexes, of all except the 
highest classes, were neglectful of in- 
tellectual cultivation. The schools 
were of a low order. 'The instructors 
want instruction,' wrote a contempor- 
ary. The English language where it 
was spoken was much corrupted. The 
placid good humor of the Dutch seem- 
ed to largely pervade the province, in- 
cluding men and women, and there 
seemed to have prevailed an uncom- 
mon degree of virtue and domestic fe- 
licity. The population is reported as 
industrious, hospitable, as a rule sober, 
and intent upon money-making. 

"The people generally were religious. 
The principal church organizations 
were the Dutch Reformed, the Luth- 
eran, English Episcopal and the Pres- 
byterian. This was due to the racial 
elements of the state's settlers which 



were Dutch, German, English, Scotch, 
Irish and Huguenot French, and these 
elements penetrated to some extent 
into practically all the counties of the 
province, including Tryon. There was 
much freedom of thought and action 
among the people that fostered a 
spirit of independence. They were 
not bound hand and foot by rigid re- 
ligious and political creeds, as were 
the people of New England, but were 
thoroughly imbued with the toleration 
inherited from the first Dutch settlers, 
and theological disputes were seldom 
indulged in." 

Here and there were men of 
acute intelligence and fine minds who 
possessed initiative and the power of 
expressing themselves simply, clearly 
and forcibly. These were the leaders 
who were to be in the van in the im- 
pending struggle. 

All the foregoing pictures to us the 
Mohawk valley people, their lands, 
customs, manners and play at the 
period just antedating the war for in- 
dependence and the building of Fort 
Plain. This account is considered 
worthy of its length in portraying the 
men and women who were to be ac- 
tors in and around this frontier out- 
post, for after all the human element 
is more important than the dead walls 
of the old fort and both played their 
part on this stage of war and peace. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

1774 to 1777 — Growth of the American 
Liberty Movement — Tryon County 
Committee of Safety and Militia. 

At the opening of the Revolution the 
Mohawk valley had enjoyed 20 years 
of peace and consequent development 
and prosperity. Its people had al- 
most forgotten the horrors of the 
French and Indian depredations dur- 
ing the last contest between England 
and France which resulted in the lat- 
ter's loss of Canada. 

In 1774, the strong American senti- 
ment for independence took form in 
Tryon county at a meeting held in the 
Palatine district which warmly ap- 
proved the calling of a Continental 



28 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



congress for mutual consultation of 
the colonies upon their grievances 
against England. A set of resolutions 
was drawn up setting forth the Am- 
erican cause and correspondence was 
opened with the patriots of New York 
city. The Johnson party early in 
1775 published a set of resolutions ap- 
proving English acts and went about 
securing signatures, which excited the 
indignation of the majority of the 
Tryon county population who were 
Whigs. Most of the Tryon county of- 
ficials signed the Johnson petition. 
The Whigs held meetings and the first 
one, of three hundred patriots, assem- 
bled at Caughnawaga to raise a lib- 
erty pole. This was broken up by an 
armed party of Tories headed by Sir 
John Johnson. Young Jacob Sammons 
interrupted a fiery speech of Col. Guy 
Johnson and was severely beaten by 
the Tories. Further patriotic meet- 
ings were held and at the second held 
at the house of Adam Loucks in Pala- 
tine, a committee to correspond with 
those of other districts was formed, 
this being the beginning of the Tryon 
County Committee of Safety. John- 
son now armed further his fortifica- 
tions at the Hall and organized and 
equipped his Tory Scotch highlanders. 
In view of these affairs the Palatine 
committee addressed a letter to the 
Albany committee setting forth the 
situation in the county a.nd asking 
that the shipment of ammunition into 
it from Albany be supervised so that 
the Tories could not further arm 
themselves. Evidences soon appeared 
that Johnson was endeavoring to se- 
cure the support of the Six Nations. 
His personal army now amounted to 
500 men and he had cut off free com- 
munication between Albany and the 
upper valley settlements. The Pala- 
tine committee. May 21, protested 
against Johnson's course and the Ger- 
man Flats and Kingsland districts 
were invited to cooperate with them. 

May 24, 1775, the committees of all 
the districts but Mohawk met at the 
house of William Seeber in Canajo- 
harie (at Fort Plain) and adopted res- 
olutions of united action between the 
districts. Delegates were sent to Al- 



bany and Schenectady to confer with 
those committees. This was the first 
meeting of the Tryon County Com- 
mittee of Safety and was held close to 
the site of the later fortification. May 
25, the Tryon county and Albany 
committees held a council with the 
Mohawks at Guy Park without appar- 
ent results. On May 29, again at the 
house of William Seeber, near Fort 
Plain, a resolution was passed prohib- 
iting all trade with persons who had 
not signed the article of association 
and slaves were not to be allowed off 
their master's premises without a per- 
mit. Any person disobeying these in- 
structions was to be considered an 
enemy of the patriot cause. The first 
full meeting of the county committee 
was held in the western part of the 
Canajoharie district, June 2, 1775, at 
the house of Warner Tygert a neighbor 
and relative of General Herkimer. 
The names of the committee at that 
meeting follow: 

Canajoharie District — Nicholas Her- 
kimer, Ebenezer Cox, William Seeber, 
John Moore, Samuel Campbell, Samuel 
Clyde, Thomas Henry, John Pickard. 

Kingsland and German Flats Dis- 
tricts — Edward Wall, William Petry, 
John Petry, Marcus Petry, Augustinus 
Hess, Frederick Ahrendorf, George 
Wents, Michael E. Ittig, Frederick 
Fox, George Herkimer, Duncan Mc- 
Dougall, Frederick Hilmer, John 
Franck. 

Mohawk District — John Marlett, 
John Bliven, Abraham Van Horn, 
Adam Fonda Frederick Fisher, Samp- 
son Sammons, William Schuyler, Vol- 
kert Veeder, James McMaster, Daniel 
Lane. 

Palatine District — Isaac Paris, John 
Frey, Christopher P. Yates, Andrew 
Fink jr., Andrew Reeber, Peter Wag- 
goner, Daniel McDougall, Jacob Klock, 
George Ecker jr., Harmanus Van 
Slyck, Christopher W. Fox and An- 
thony Van Vechten. 

Of the members from the Canajo- 
harie district, Herkimer and Cox lived 
in the present town of Danube, Seeber 
and Pickard in Minden, Henry in Har- 
persfield and Campbell and Clyde in 
Cherry Valley. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



29 



Christopher P. Yates was chosen 
chairman of the county committee and 
Edward Wall and Nicholas Herkimer 
were selected to deliver a letter of pro- 
test to Col. Guy Johnson against his 
Tory stand. Col. Johnson returned a 
politic but non-committal letter to 
this deputation. He appointed a coun- 
cil at German Flats but did not hold 
it but went on to Fort Stanwix, tak- 
ing with him his family, a number of 
dependents and a great body of Mo- 
hawk Indians, who left their valley 
homes never to return except in war 
parties and against their old neighbors. 

On June 11, 1775, the committee 
chose Christopher P. Yates and John 
Marlett as delegates to the provincial 
congress. This meeting was held at 
the house of Gose Van Alstine (now 
known as Fort Rensselaer in the vil- 
lage of Canajoharie). Rev. Mr. Kirk- 
land arranged a council of the One- 
idas and Tuscaroras with the commit- 
tee and Albany delegates at German 
Flats, June 28, 1775, which largely re- 
sulted in the friendly attitude of the 
Oneidas and Tuscaroras during the 
war. 

July 3 the committee granted the 
petition of certain settlers for permis- 
sion to form themselves into militia 
companies. The Tory mayor of Al- 
bany, who was fleeing west, was 
stopped by Capt. George Herkimer and 
the rangers and his batteau was 
searched but nothing contraband was 
Vfc^ found. By this time Guy Johnson and 
his party had pushed on to Ontario, 
far beyond the reach of angry pa- 
triots, and wrote back a hostile letter 
in reply to a pacific one sent him by 
the provincial congress. From Os- 
wego Johnson went to Montreal ac- 
companied by many warriors of the 
Six Nations. The Tryon county 
settlers feared that he would soon col- 
lect an army, and cooperating with 
John Johnson, sweep the valley of the 
patriots. The committee now assumed 
the civic and military functions of the 
county and began to have trouble 
with John Johnson over its assump- 
tion of the sheriff's duties and use 
of the jail and also over the formation 
of patriot companies in the vicinity 



of the hall. Congress ordered Gen, 
Schuyler to capture the military stores 
at Johnson Hall and disarm and dis- 
perse the Johnson Tory party. Jan. 
18, 1776, Schuyler and his force met 
Col. Herkimer and the Tryon county 
militia at Caughnawaga. On the 19th 
at Johnstown, Sir John Johnson de- 
livered up his war supplies and his 300 
Scotch highlanders were disarmed. Col. 
Herkimer remained and brought in 
100 Tories, who were disarmed. John- 
son continuing his work for the Tory 
cause, in May, 1776, Col. Dayton was 
sent to capture him. Johnson escaped 
to Canada with many of his followers, 
striking into the northern wilderness 
as the Continentals were entering 
Johnstown, and leaving in such haste 
that he buried his plate and valuables. 
Lady Johnson was removed to Albany 
where she was held as hostage for her 
husband's actions. Johnson took a 
commission as colonel under the Brit- 
ish and organized two battalions, 
from the Tories who followed him, 
which were called the Royal Greens. 
These Tryon county Tories surpassed 
the Indians in their barbaric acts on 
subsequent raids into the Mohawk 
valley and in their depredations 
around Fort Plain. A large part of the 
Tory population soon left Tryon coun- 
ty for Canada. Sir John's estate and 
that of some sixty other Tories, were 
confiscated by the patriot govern- 
ment. The Whigs were now formed 
into companies by the different dis- 
trict committees. Aug. 22, 1776, the 
following were name^, by a majority 
of votes, as field officers for the differ- 
ent districts: 

Canajoharie, 1st Battalion— 1st Col., 
Nicholas Herkimer; Lieut.-Col., Eben- 
ezer Cox; major, Robert Wells; adju- 
tant, Samuel Clyde. 

Palatine, 2nd Battalion — Col., Jacob 
Klock; Lieut.-Col., Peter Waggoner; 
major, Harmanus Van Slyck; adju- 
tant, Anthony Van Vechten. 

Mohawk, 3rd Battalion — Col., Fred- 
erick Fisher; Lieut.-Col., Adam Fonda; 
major, John Bliven; adjutant, Robt. 
Yates. 

Kingsland and German Flats, 4th 
Battalion — Col., Han Yost Herkimer; 



30 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Lieut. -Col., Peter Bellinger; major, 
Han Yost Shoemaker; adjutant, Jno. 
Demooth. 

At the same time Nicholas Herki- 
mer was appointed "Chief Colonel 
Commander of the County of Tryon." 
Following his unsuccessful attempt to 
arrest Johnson, Col. Dayton was com- 
missioned by Gen. Schuyler, in com- 
mand of the northern army at Albany, 
to strengthen the valley defenses. Forts 
Dayton and Plain were erected, all of 
which work was under Col. Dayton's 
supervision. He also repaired and 
strengthened Fort Stanwix (later 
Schuj'ler) and Fort Herkimer. 

Four weeks after the Tryon county 
militia organization was effected, a 
battalion of "Minute men" (scouts or 
rangers) was formed with George Her- 
kimer, brother of Nicholas, as its 
colonel and Samuel Campbell as its 
lieutenant -colonel. 

In the spring of 1777 Brant, with a 
: large party of Indians, came down 
from Canada to Unadilla. Gen. 
Schuyler ordered Col. Herkimer to 
confer with Brant, as the two latter 
had been on friendly terms prior to 
the Revolution. Herkimer and 450 
Tryon county militia and regular 
troops accordingly proceeded to Una- 
dilla and met Brant, who had 500 well 
armed warriors under him. Two con- 
ferences between the two command- 
ers were ineffectual, a conflict was 
narrowly avoided and the American 
militia returned to the Mohawk. 



state of Vermont. The members rep- 
resenting Tryon were: William Har- 
per, Isaac Paris, Mr. Vedder, John 
Morse, Benjamin Newkirk. 



In 1777 occurred the establishment 
and organization of an independent 
state government (succeeding the Pro- 
vincial Congress) and the framing of 
a constitution for the government of 
the commonwealth. The new "Con- 
vention of Representatives of the 
State of New York" met in White 
Plains in July and representatives 
were present from the then fourteen 
counties of the state — namely. New 
York, Richmond, Kings, Queens, Suf- 
folk, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, 
Ulster, Albany, Tryon, Charlotte, Cum- 
berland and "Gloucester. The last two 
counties formed a part of the present 



Gen. Philip Schuyler, who disarmed 
Johnson and his followers at Johns- 
town in 1776, was connected with 
many of the military movements in 
this locality through being the com- 
mander of the American army of the 
north during the early part of the war 
with headquarters at Albany. He was 
born in Albany, 1733, and came of a 
Dutch family which had been promi- 
nently connected with the affairs of 
the city and the colony from its ear- 
liest days. Schuyler joined the British 
Colonial forces during the French war 
and became a major. Two days after 
the battle of Bunker Hill, congress 
made him a major-general and placed 
him in command of the northern de- 
partment. In the expedition against 
Canada, Schuyler commanded that by 
way of Lake Champlain. He was com- 
pelled, owing to ill health, to relin- 
quish his command to Montgomery 
after taking Isle au Noix, on Sorel river. 
The failure of the Canadian expedi- 
tion excited much hostility to Schuy- 
ler and insinuations were made 
against his loyalty. This became so 
offensive that he sent congress his 
resignation which that body declined 
to accept in the autumn of 1776. In 
April, 1777, Schuyler demanded a court 
of inquiry, which approved his man- 
agement. During this time he had 
continued in command at Albany and 
his influence with the Indians is said 
to have been of great value to the Am- 
erican cause. Gen. Schuyler sent aid, 
in August, 1777, to Fort Schuyler, un- 
der Arnold, in response to the plea of 
Col. Willett. This was opposed by his 
generals in council, but his wise and 
prompt action saved the fort, the val- 
ley and perhaps the nation. Schuyler 
resisted Burgoyne's advance but was 
superseded by Gates at the mouth of 
the Mohawk, where he had taken up 
a fortified position in September, 1777. 
Thus he was robbed of the fruits of 
the victory at Saratoga. 1778-81 he 
was a member of congress and in 1789 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



31 



and 1797 went to the United States 
senate from New York. In the New 
York senate he contributed largely to 
the code of laws adopted by the state 
and was an active promoter of the 
canal system. The Inland Lock Navi- 
gation Co. was incorporated in 1792, 
for the improvement of Mohawk river 
traffic, and Gen. Philip Schuyler was 
elected its president. One of his 
daughters married Alexander Hamil- 
ton. Schuyler died in Albany in 1804, 
aged 70. He is considered one of the 
leading figures of New York's Revo- 
lutionary period. 



contents, half robbers and half insur- 
gents, who harassed the English in 
Ireland at the time of the massacre in 
1640, were the first to whom the epi- 
thet was applied. It was also applied 
to the court party as a term of re- 
proach." 



Lossing gives the following origin of 
the terms, Whig and Tory: "They 
were copied by us from the political 
vocabulary of Great Britain and were 
first used here to distinguish the op- 
posing parties in the Revolution about 
1770. The term originated during the 
reign of Charles II., or about that time. 
Bishop Burnet, in his History gives 
the following explanation: 'The 
southwest counties of Scotland have 
seldom corn [grain] enough to serve 
them round the year; and the north- 
ern parts, producing more than they 
need, those in the west come in the 
summer to buy at Leith the stores that 
come from the north; and from a word 
'whiggam,' used in driving their horses, 
all that drove were called 'whigga- 
mores' and shorter, 'whigs.' Now in 
that year after the news came down of 
Duke Hamilton's defeat, the ministers 
animated their people to rise and 
inarch to Edinburg, and then came up 
marching at the head of other parishes, 
with unheard of fury, praying and 
preaching all the way as they came. 
The Marquis of Argyle and his party 
came and headed them, they being 
about six thousand. This was called 
the Whiggamores' inroad, and ever 
after that all that opposed the courts 
came, in contempt, to be called 
Whigg; and from Scotland the word 
was brought into England, where it is 
now one of our unhappy terms of dis- 
tinction. Subsequently, all whose 
party bias was democratic were called 
Whigs. The origin of the word Tory 
is not so well attested. The Irish mal- 



The following is a brief resume of 
events and their dates preceding and 
contributory to the Revolution and 
also of the principal events of the war 
from 1775 to the summer of 1777, when 
hostilities began in the Mohawk val- 
ley. It is prepared with especial ref- 
erence to the history of New York 
state. 

Albany convention (of delegates 
from eight colonies), 1754. New York 
congress of 1765, called to protest 
against the Stamp Act of 1765; for- 
mation of the Sons of Liberty in New 
York city and conflict between them 
and British troops, Jan. 18, 1770, re- 
sulting in bloodshed (Appleton's En- 
cyclopedia says "this irregular fight- 
ing was the real beginning of the 
Revolutionary war."); Boston mas- 
sacre, 1770; Boston tea party, Dec. 16, 
1773; organization of "Mohawks" in 
New York in 1773 and repetition of 
"Boston tea party" in New York har- 
bor, April, 1774; Continental congress 
in Philadelphia, Sept. 5, 1773 (in real- 
ity an assemblage of the patriot com- 
mittees from the different colonies), 
sitting also during 1774; battle of Lex- 
ington, April 19, 1775; American cap- 
ture of Ticonderoga, May 10, 1775; 
second Continental congress. May 10, 
1775; battle of Bunker Hill, June 17. 
1775; Washington made commander- 
in-chief of the American army, June 
15, 1775; American defeat under Mont- 
gomery at Quebec, Dec. 31, 1775; dec- 
laration of independence, July 4, 1776; 
evacuation of Boston by British, Mar. 
17, 1776; American defeat on Long 
Island, Aug. 27, 1776; American de- 
feats of Fort Washington, Manhattan, 
and Fort Lee, New Jersey, in fall of 
1776, and retreat across New Jersey; 
American victory at Trenton, Dec. 26, 
1776; American victory of Princeton, 
Jan. 3, 1777; Adoption of state consti- 
tution at Kingston (Esopus) April 21, 



32 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



1777, the legislators having removed 
there from White Plains on account of 
the nearness of the British force, oc- 
cupying New York city; Burgoyne's 
British army assembled at Cumberland 
Point, Lake Champlaln, June, 1777, and 
captured Crown Point, June 30, 1777; 
St. Leger's British army assembles at 
Oswego for invasion of Mohawk valley 
and junction with Burgoyne at Albany, 
July, 1777; George Clinton sworn in as 
governor of New York, July 31, 1777. 



CHAPTER IX. 

1776 — The Building of Fort Plain — 
Other Forts Near Here. 

At the close of the French war there 
were, in the valley, army fortifications 
at Fort Stanwix (now Rome, erected 
1758), at Fort Herkimer (1756) and at 
Fort Hunter (1711), besides other 
fortified places such as Fort John- 
son. Early in 1776 Col. Elias Dayton 
was sent to repair Fort Stanwix and 
he probably had supervision over the 
repairs to Fort Herkimer and the erec- 
tion of Fort Plain and Fort Dayton at 
Herkimer, which bears his name. 

The site of Fort Plain, on the rise 
just west of the present cemetery, at 
the extreme western end of the vil- 
lage limits, has already been noted. 
Simms says it was constructed mainly 
by farmers. Its form was an irregular 
quadrangle with earth and log bas- 
tions or block houses and embrasures 
at opposite corners a strong block 
house within in the center and also 
barracks. Cannon in the block-houses 
could command the fort on all sides. 
It enclosed from a third to a half acre 
of ground but when settlers began to 
be killed and burned out, the surviv- 
ors came here in such numbers that 
the space was found too small for the 
public needs. Three or four com- 
fortable huts were accordingly made 
along the verge of the hill. The ad- 
jacent spring furnished water and sup- 
plies were probably stored in the cen- 
ter block-house. There were two 
large apple trees within the fort in- 
closure. Its entrance was on the 
south-easterly side toward a road 
leading up to the ravine on that side 



to it. Lossing says it had block- 
houses in each corner; Simms says 
they were in opposite corners of the 
quadrangle. 

The plateau on which it stood is of 
penninsular form and, across the neck 
or isthmus, a breastwork was thrown 
up. The fort extended along the south- 
eastern brow of this hill and the block- 
house was about one hundred yards 
northwest on the edge of the northern 
slope of the hill. There is a tradition 
that nearby settlers aided in the erec- 
tion of this defense. The boss car- 
penter, John Dederick, was allowed to 
name the fort. It is stated that he 
named It Fort Plain on account of its 
plain or fine view of open country and 
because from here operations of an 
enemy could be so plainly detected. It 
is said to have been not so named be- 
cause the fortification was situated on 
a diminutive plain, as it was. 

There is a possibility that it might 
have been named thus because, from 
this height looking over the trees 
which lined the near-by Otsquago, an 
unbroken view of the treeless flats, 
stretching four miles away to Canajo- 
harie, was obtained. This was in 
strong contrast to the densely wooded 
slopes and heights stretching away to 
entire circle of the horizon around the 
fort. The outlook at that day must 
have been superb with the big woods 
cleared in spots only near the river 
and the heights covered by the great 
trees of the virgin forest. The Met- 
ropolitan Museum in New York houses 
a painting by Wyant called "The Mo- 
hawk Valley." It is a * considerable 
canvas, showing the river before the 
coming of the white man and is im- 
pressive in its wooded hills and its 
treeless flat lands with the Mohawk 
winding through them. It suggests 
strongly what might have been the 
view at one time from Fort Plain. 
However we will accept the Simms 
statement that the fort received its 
name on account of the fine, open, 
plain or unobstructed view. 

An acquaintance with the other reg- 
ular military posts of the time seems 
to show that of them all it was the 
best located for defense. Fort Plain 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



33 



was the first Revolutionary fortifica- 
tion and the most important within 
the Canajoharie-Palatine districts. 
Fort Canajoharie at Danube was a 
stockade erected during the French 
war to protect the Mohawks but did 
not figure in the conflict for independ- 
ence. 

Who commanded first at Fort Plain 
is not known and it probably was not 
regularly garrisoned until 1777. It 
formed a key for communication with 
and protection of the Schoharie, 
Cherry Valley and Unadilla settle- 
ments and was the chief protection of 
the Canajoharie and Palatine districts. 
About 1780-1 it became the head- 
quarters of the officer commanding 
this and the several military posts in 
this vicinity. Col. Marinus Willett was 
its commander for several seasons and 
he is believed to have been here con- 
stantly about 1781-2. He occupied 
the eastern one of the huts situated on 
the side hill below the pickets a rod or 
two from the spring. Col. Clyde was 
in command here in 178.3. The block- 
house, which will be noted later, was 
built to still further strengthen the 
defenses here in the tall of 1780 
and the spring of 1781, and was merely 
a part of the fortifications here and 
not a separate post. Fort Plain must 
have been considered of formidable 
strength for it never was attacked di- 
rectly by the considerable forces of 
the enemy who operated in this sec- 
tion at different times. The land on 
which the post stood was part of the 
Lipe farm. 

Five smaller fortifications were in 
the vicinity of Fort Plain. Commenc- 
ing westerly Fort Windecker, Fort 
Willett, Fort Plank and Fort Clyde 
were only two or three miles apart, 
the first three being nearlj^ on a north 
and south line, curving easterly to em- 
brace the last fort named, and being 
in something like a half circle around 
Fort Plain on its western side. Dur- 
ing the latter part of the war this line 
of forts, with the regular army post 
toward the center, made this section 
one of the best defended on the Tryon 
county frontier, and one historian says 
enabled the surviving to furnish most 



of the bread for the district. Fort 
Paris, at Stone Arabia, was the fifth 
fortification immediately about the 
central defense of Fort Plain. 

Fort Windecker, built in 1777, was 
a palisaded small enclosure surround- 
ing the dwelling of Johannes Win- 
decker. It was nearly eight miles 
west of north from the latter upon the 
river road. It had the usual signal 
gun and probably contained a small 
block-house. This place, like similar 
posts, had at least one sentinel on duty 
at night, who was posted usually out- 
side the pickets at this place. 

Fort Willett was a palisaded in- 
closure on the highest ground in the 
Dutchtown section and was situated 
over four miles from Fort Plain on 
land now owned by William Zimmer- 
man. This stockade was completed 
in the spring of 1781 and had ample 
room for huts for all the adjacent 
families. It had the block-house cor- 
ners and an alarm gun. As it was iso- 
lated from any dwelling, it had a good- 
sized oven, the ruins of which re- 
mained for many years. The timber 
for its pickets was cut on adjoining 
farms and was drawn together by the 
owners of them. Like other palisades, 
the pickets were the trunks of straight 
trees of different kinds, of about a foot 
thickness through the butt, and cut 
long enough to be sunk three or four 
feet in the ground and to rise above it 
about a dozen or more. On the com- 
pletion of this defense. Col. Willett 
rode out with a squad of his men 
from Fort Plain to see it. He was 
much pleased with the condition of 
things and said "You have a nice little 
fort here; what do you call it?" "It 
has no name yet; wont you give it 
one?" was the answer. Col. Willett 
replied, "Well, this is one of the nicest 
little forts on the frontier, and you 
may call it after me, if you please." A 
cheer went up at this, so the name of 
Willett became connected with the 
town in which he lived and fought for 
several years. The old south shore 
turnpike running through the Green- 
bush section of Fort Plain village is 
named Willett street after this very 
capable Revolutionary commander. At 



34 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



the end of the war each family who 
had contributed pickets for the build- 
ing of Fort Willett drew home their 
share and the fortification was demol- 
ished in the same manner as the many 
others when their use for purposes of 
defense had ceased. 

Fort Plank was established in 1776 
and was situated two and a half miles 
west of Fort Plain and one and a quar- 
ter miles in a direct line southerly 
from the Mohawk. Here then lived 
Frederick Plank, a whig, whose house 
was palisaded in a square enclosure 
with block-house corners. From its 
nearness to the settlements at Dutch- 
town and Geissenberg it served as a 
safe retreat for a score or two of fam- 
ilies. Capt. Joseph House, a militia 
officer living with Plank, usually com- 
manded in the absence of field officers. 
More or less troops were kept at this 
station through the war. 

Fort Clyde was established in 1777 
to protect the Freysbush settlers. It 
bore the name of Col. Samuel Clyde of 
Cherry Valley, who doubtless superin- 
tended its construction. This was not 
a palisaded dwelling but a fort by it- 
self, like that at Fort Plain and Fort 
Willett. It was an enclosure large 
enough to hold huts for the accommo- 
dation of refugees and a strong block- 
house in the center. A signal gun was 
mounted as at all such posts. It was 
about three miles south of Fort Plain 
and topped a sightly knoll on what 
was the old Gen. George H. Nellis 
farm. It is believed Col. Clyde exer- 
cised a sort of paternal supervision 
over this fort, where part of a com- 
pany of rangers or drafted militia was 
stationed. 

In the Palatine district similarly 
adjacent to Fort Plain stood Fort 
Paris. It was three or four miles to 
the northeast of Fort Plain and stood 
upon the summit of ground half a 
mile to the north of the Stone Arabia 
churches. It was a palisade enclosing 
strong block-houses and was of a size 
to accommodate a garrison of 200 or 
300 men. The fort was commenced in 
December, 1776, and completed in the 
spring of 1777. 

This was an important post and was 



usually manned by a company or two 
of rangers. Col. Klock and Lieut.-Col. 
Wagner had much to do with its im- 
mediate command. In the fall and 
winter of 1779 it became the head- 
quarters of Col. Frederick Visscher, 
who commanded this and its adjacent 
military posts, including Fort Plain. 
This headquarters was changed to 
Fort Plain in 1780-1, probably with the 
advent of Col. Willett to command the 
American forces in the valley. Fort 
Paris was named after Col. Isaac Paris. 
The post was ordered built by the 
Tryon County Committee of Safety, 
Dec. 19, 1776, and was largely erected 
by Capt. Christian Getman's company 
of rangers "under the sole direction 
and command of Isaac Paris, Esq.," to 
quote the language of the committee. 
It \yas located on what is now the 
Shull farm and was built of solid 
hewn timber and was two stories high 
with the upper story projecting over 
the lower on all sides. After it was 
taken down, early in the nineteenth 
century, its timbers were used in 
building structures now in existence in 
that section. 

Besides these more important posts 
around Fort Plain there were numer- 
ous stockaded dwellings" called forts 
generally named from the families who 
owned them. A small stockaded stone 
dwelling named Fort Keyser was lo- 
cated about a mile south of Stone 
Arabia. 

In the present village of Canajoharie 
on the east side of the creek stood 
the stockaded stone dwelling of Philip 
Van Alstine. A mile or two south- 
west of this on the Mapletown road 
and a mile from the creek stood Fort 
Ehle. Lieut. Cornelius Van Evera and 
Ensign John Van Evera were on duty 
in and around this fort. 

In the eastern part of the town of 
St. Johnsville stood "Fort House," 
named after its builder, although it 
was the home of Christian Klock. The 
house of Jacob Zimmerman was also 
stockaded. Both of these stockades 
repulsed repeated attacks of the 
enemy. Fort Hill, which was situated 
on an eminence in the western part of 
the town of St. Johnsville, was erected 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



35 



during the French war. It was re- 
paired and used during the Revolution. 
Thus before a blow had been struck, 
the settlers of Tryon county had real- 
ized the gravity of the situation and 
were prepared for defense. 



After his unsuccessful attempt to 
arrest Sir John Johnson in May, in 
the summer of 1776, Col. Dayton was 
sent by Gen. Schuyler to look after 
the defenses in the Mohawk valley. 
He started the reconstruction of Fort 
Stanwix (Schuyler), which work was 
not entirely completed when invested 
by the enemy in the following year. 
Col. Dayton is supposed to have had 
official supervision of the renovation 
of Fort Herkimer and of the construc- 
tion of Fort Dayton, which bears his 
name, at the site of Herkimer. It is 
reasonable to suppose that he super- 
vised the erection of Fort Plain at the 
same time. Elias Dayton was born 
in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in 1735. 
He joined the Colonial army during 
the French and Indian war. He was 
a member of the corps called "Jersey 
Blues," raised in 1759 by Edward Hart, 
the father of John Hart, one of the 
signers of the Declaration of Independ- 
ence. With that corps Dayton fought 
under Wolfe at Quebec. He was one 
of the Committee of Safety at Eliza- 
bethtown at the beginning of the Rev- 
olution. In February, 1778, congress 
appointed him colonel of a New Jer- 
sey regiment, and in 1782 he was pro- 
moted to the rank of brigadier-gen- 
eral. He was in several of the prin- 
cipal battles of the Revolution and had 
three horses shot under him — one at 
Germantown, one at Springfield and 
one at Crosswick Bridge. He was the 
first president of the Society of the 
Cincinnati of New Jersey, and, during 
the life of Washington, enjoyed the 
warm personal friendship of the na- 
tional leader. He died at Elizabeth- 
town in 1807, aged 72 years. 



"stood on the farm long owned by 
Ralph Manning, about half a mile east 
of north from the present Middle- 
burgh railroad station." It was built 
by soldiers and citizens, the farmers 
drawing the material together and the 
soldiers doing a great part of the 
building. The Upper Fort was situ- 
ated five miles west of south from the 
Middle Fort. It was begun in the fall 
of 1777 and completed the following 
summer. The Lower Fort, situated 
six miles north of the Middle Fort. 
The stone church, still standing one 
mile north of the court house, was 
enclosed within the palisades of this 
fortification. 



Three forts were erected in the 
Schoharie valley in the fall of 1777, the 
central being the first one built. It 
was known during the Revolution as 
the Middle Fort 'and, Simms saya. 



CHAPTER X. 

1776 — Adjacent Settlers and Buildings 
— Some Thrilling Incidents. 

The following deals with some of the 
buildings and families immediately 
around Fort Plain and in the Canajo- 
harie-Palatine districts during the 
Revolutionary period, 1775-1783. 

Across the river from the fort was 
the dwelling and farm of Peter W. 
Wormuth, whose son Matthew was 
shot down in 1778 while carrying de- 
spatches between Fort Plain and 
Cherry Valley. Here Washington 
stopped and remained over night on 
his visit to Fort Plain in 1783. Di- 
rectly across the river was the Wag- 
ner farm where a ferry ran later and 
probably then. 

Beside the Lipe family an imme- 
diate neighbor of Fort Plain, on the 
Minden side of the river, was William 
H. Seeber, who had a store and dwell- 
ing on the late Adam Lipe place. His 
store was opened about 1750 and he 
traded here during the French war. He 
was a member of the Tryon County 
Committee of Safety of the Canajo- 
harie district and a major of militia 
in the battalion from the same district. 
He was wounded at Oriskany and died 
126 days after at his home. Two of 
his sons were with hiin in this battle. 
One, Audolph, was killed on the field 
and the other, Capt. Jacob W. Seeber, 
fell with a wounded leg and died short- 
ly after it was amputated at Fort Her- 



N-" 



36 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



V 



kimer. The land on which Fort Plain 
was built was owned by Johannes 
Lipe, who had a dwelling and barns 
next to it. 

A neighbor of considerable size 
and importance at the time was 
the first Reformed Dutch church of 
Canajoharie, situated at Sand Hill, 
about a third of a mile north of the 
fort, and a little distance above the 
Abeel place on the Dutchtown road. 
This was a wooden building and stood 
on a sightly place on the westerly 
side of the road at what is now the 
old Sand Hill cemetery. At the time 
of its burning by Brant, Dominie Gros 
was its pastor, and from that time to 
the close of the war he preached in a 
barn on the Lipe farm in the ravine 
through which the road ran from the 
river up to Fort Plain. This barn 
was removed to make way for another 
in 1859. Another old dwelling a few 
yards below it gave way in 1875 to a 
brick dwelling. One of the ancient 
wooden structures standing on the 
left side almost at the beginning of 
the Dutchtown road is said to be the 
old parsonage. These buildings, with 
several others were so near the fort 
that they were never molested. One 
of these was the Young house which 
was superseded by the former Wil- 
liams residence on Canal street. Sev- 
eral of these old Sand Hill wooden 
structures have been destroyed by fire 
in comparatively recent years. 

Other adjoining property was that 
of John Abeel, a Dutch trader of 
Albany, who came into this part of 
the Canajoharie district in 1757. He 
was the father of the Seneca chief, 
Cornplanter, as mentioned elsewhere, 
and was engaged in the fur trade 
among the Six Nations when he be- 
came enamored of a Seneca girl. 
Abeel was captured near his home in 
the raid of 1780 by Brant and Corn- 
planter and was released by the lat- 
ter. The half-breed son later visited 
his relatives at Fort Plain. George 
Grouse built a log house to the south 
of the fort and between it and the 
Governor Clarke place. This cabin 
was burned by Brant in 1780. The 



Clarke wilderness home i.s mentioned 
at length in an early chapter. 

The Clarke property came into the 
possession of Isaac Paris jr.. who 
built a large store upon it in 1786 
(now the Bleecker house). Paris built 
this store after the Revolution but he 
must have owned the Clarke property 
as early as 1782 as he sold part of it 
to George Crouse jr. and Col. AVillett, 
who boarded with Crouse, advised the 
latter to buy it. Willett did not com- 
mand here after 1782. The land was 
to be paid for in wheat at 18 cents 
per skipple (three pecks). Later Col. 
Robert Crouse built a house on the 
cellar of the Clarke mansion and this 
was later the residence now standing 
of the late A. J. Wagner. The Crouse 
farm, on which so much of Fort Plain 
was built, was probably the original 
Clarke property. 

Among the soldiers and people of 
the country surrounding Fort Plain in 
the districts of Palatine and Canajo- 
harie, who had experiences in the war 
we summarize the following from 
Beer's History: "John Brookman 
was carried captive to Canada by 
the Indians and made to run 
the gauntlet; Castine Bellinger, who 
was taken by the Indians to Canada 
when only three years old, where she 
afterward married and refused to re- 
turn when found by her father, Fred- 
erick Bellinger; Christian, Jacob and 
Peter Bellinger, who were captured by 
the Indians, the last two tomahawked 
and scalped and Christian held for 
three years as a slave; Nicholas eas- 
ier, John easier, a baker for the army 
who is said to have kneaded dough 
with his feet; Jacob Conkling, mate 
of the brig Middleton; John Chisley; 
George Clock; Abram Copeman, a 
Revolutionary major; George Dieven- 
dorff, a captain; John Dievendorff, 
who escaped from captivity two years 
after he had been taken by the In- 
dians; Henry Dievendorff, who was 
shot at Oriskany by an Indian who was 
immediately killed by William Cox; 
Jacob Dievendorff, a captain, who 
passed safely through the war; George 
Davis, who was in the battles with 
Burgoyne and at one time with two 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



37 



other patriots, captured three Tories, 
whom Davis took to Albany; John 
Peter Dunckel; John Dillenbeck, a 
captain; George Dillenbeck, brother 
of the former, who in the war 
lost an eye from an Indian bul- 
let and after drew a pension; Cor- 
nelius Flint; Mrs. Dr. Frame, mur- 
dered by Indians while trying to es- 
cape to Fort Nellis; Peter Flagg, a 
soldier at Fort Plain under Col. Wil- 
lett; Henry J. Failing; John Gremps, 
a flfteen-year-old patriot soldier who 
was killed at Oriskany; Peter Gremps, 
who put out a fire kindled by Indians 
in his house, with a barrel of swill, 
during the Stone Arabia raid; Chris- 
tian Hufnail; Peter H. House; Samuel 
Howe; Rudolph Keller, who was taken 
to Canada by the Indians and died of 
consumption when he returned within 
six months; Peter Lambert, a spy; 
John Lambert, who was captured by 
the Indians when twelve years old and 
on his return two years after was 
known only to his mother by a scar 
on his arm, and could not eat regular 
food but would go into the woods and 
cook for himself, Indian fashion; Adam 
Lipe, wounded during the war; John 
Lipe; George Lambert, a butcher in 
the army; Moses Lowell, soldier; 
Francis Lighthall; Isaac Miller, who 
was taken by the Indians, scalped and 
left for dead but revived, reached 
friends and recovered; John Miller, 
a soldier and one of the pursuers of 
Brant; Jacob Matthews; Solomon, 
John Henry, Jacob and Henry Moyer, 
soldiers, the last wounded in the shoul- 
der; Nicholas Pace; John Roof, a sol- 
dier at Oriskany; John Roof, another 
of the same name, a soldier at the 
Johnstown battle; Henry and Peter 
Sitts, the latter of whom, while riding 
with Wormuth from Cherry Valley to 
Fort Plain, had his horse shot down 
and, falling under it, was captured and 
kept in Canada during the war; Bar- 
bara Schenck, captured by the In- 
dians while pulling flax and taken 
thinly dressed and barefoot to Canada 
with her baby and a girl of eleven, 
were cared for by a Tory who recog- 
nized them, later returned to their 
home, except the daughter, who mar- 



ried and went to New England; 
Henry Sanders, whose head was 
scratched by a bullet at Oriskany; 
Peter and John Snyder; Henry Seeber, 
a paymaster in the army; Henry Tim- 
merman, who was sixteen when he 
was in the block-house at St. Johns- 
ville when it was attacked by Brant; 
Giles Van Vost; Nicholas Van Slyke, 
a boatman on the Mohawk, who boast- 
ed of having killed 47 Indians, but who 
was finally killed by them and his body 
mutilated; Jacob Wagner; Jos. H. 
Wiles; Wilkes, grandfather of Mat- 
thew Wilkes, a scout; M. Wormuth, 
who was shot dead when Sitts was 
taken; Henrj^ Waffle; G. Walrath, who 
was captured by the Indians but killed 
his guard and escaped into a swamp, 
where he covered himself with mud 
and eluded search; Jacob Walrath, 
George Yoneker, Adam, John and 
Nancy Yordon, the latter of whom 
was taken a prisoner to Canada and 
there married; Christian Young and 
Henry Galler, who was killed in the 
war." 

It is impossible to give the names 
of all who participated in the Rev- 
olution. More of these soldiers' names 
will be found in the Canajoharie and 
Palatine names on the Oriskany ros- 
ter. Other Minden families are con- 
sidered at greater length in the chap- 
ter on Brant's Minden raid of 1780. 

In the Palatine district, among other 
neighbors of Fort Plain, was the 
patriot Major John Frey and his 
Tory brother, Hendrick Frey, both 
sons of Heinrich Frey jr., who 
was possibly the first white child born 
in the wilderness west of Schenectady. 
Henrich Frey sr., in 1689, had settled 
on 300 acres of land, at the now town 
of Palatine Bridge, where he built a 
log cabin. This was succeeded in 1739 
by a stone dwelling which is often 
called Fort BYey, and is still stand- 
ing. It had a row of portholes on all 
sides and was stockaded during the 
French war and occupied by several 
companies of soldiers. Col. Hendrick 
Frey, being the oldest son, inherited 
his father's landed estate which had 
grown to be of large size. He was 
educated at the school of Rev. Mr. 



38 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Dunlap in Cherry Valley, and married 
a sister of Gen. Herkimer. He had 
been a colonel of Colonial troops un- 
der the Johnsons and with Guy John- 
son had been the first to represent 
Tryon county in the assembly. After 
some delay Col. Hendrick Frey went 
over to the cause of England. 

Major John Frey was born in 1740 
and later educated also at Cherry 
Valley. He married a niece of Gen. 
Herkimer. At the age of sixteen he 
joined Bradstreet's expedition, to take 
Fort Niagara from the French, with 
the rank of lieutenant. He was a jus- 
tice of Tryon county, a member of the 
Committee of Safety and in 1776 its 
chairman. He was the first sheriff of 
Tryon county elected by the people. 
At Oriskany, Maj. Frey was wounded 
in the arm and taken a prisoner to 
Canada. It is said that he was in 
danger of being killed by his own 
brother, a Tory, after the battle. He 
held important offices and died at the 
age of 93. 

Peter Wagner lived on what is now 
the Smith farm in the town of Pala- 
tine and in sight of the Fort Plain 
location. His stone house was forti- 
fied and called Fort Wagner during 
the war. He was a member of the 
Committee of Safety and lieutenant- 
colonel in the Palatine battalion at 
Oriskany. 

Captains William Fox jr., Christo- 
pher P. Fox and Christopher W. Fox, 
commanded companies the first, sec- 
ond and third companies of the Pala- 
tine battalion. Their home was near 
Palatine Church. They fought at 
Oriskany and Christopher P. Fox was 
killed there. 

Peter Fox of near Palatine Church, 
was at Oriskany where he shot an In- 
dian. He also fought at Klock's Field, 
near his home. 

In the Palatine district, other set- 
tlers and soldiers adjacent to Fort 
Plain were John Cook of Stone 
Arabia, who was wounded in the 
jaw, but escaped, at Oriskany; Jo- 
hannes Schnell of Palatine, who lost 
all his sons at Oriskany; Philip Nellis 
of Palatine, who was wounded in the 
shoulder at Oriskany; Conrad Kilts of 



Palatine, who fought at Oriskany, 
Johnstown and Stone Arabia, and was 
at Col. Brown's side when he fell; 
George Spraker of Sprakers, who with 
his four sons fought in the Revolution, 
and the tavern built on his place was 
famous as the Spraker tavern; John 
Wohlgemuth of Palatine, a soldier sta- 
tioned for a time at Fort Plain; John 
Marcellus of Palatine, a minute man, 
who was stationed for a time at Fort 
Paris; Peter Loucks, first lieutenant 
of the third company of the Palatine , 
battalion; Adam Loucks of Stone 
Arabia, at whose house was held 
meetings of the Committee of Safety; 
Isaac Paris, a member of the county 
committee, of Stone Arabia, who 
fought as a colonel under Herkimer 
at Oriskany and who was stripped, 
kicked and clubbed by the Tories and 
finally barbarously murdered by the 
Indians; County Committeemen An- 
drew Reber, who then occupied the 
Nellis property near the Fort Plain 
railroad station; Major John Eisen- 
lord, who was an excellent penman 
and secretary of the county committee, 
and a man of good education and con- 
siderable wealth and who was killed 
at Oriskany. 

Andrew Fink of Palatine was a 
member of the Committee of Safety. 
He joined the Second New York regi- 
ment under Col. Goove Van Schaick, 
in 1775, and was a first lieutenant in 
the company commanded by Capt. 
Christopher P. Yates. He was later 
promoted to a captaincy and in 1781 
became a major and served under Col. 
Willett at Fort Plain and in the sur- 
rounding territory. In the campaign 
of 1778 he was with the army under 
the immediate command of Washing- 
ton and was in the battle of Mon- 
mouth. He fought at Johnstown 
under Willett in 1781. George Ecker 
jr., a member of the Committee of 
Safety, lived about a mile north of 
Palatine Bridge. 

Captain Andrew Dillenbeck of Stone 
Arabia was the hero of a fight at 
Oriskany which resulted in his death. 

Jacob I. Snell of Palatine fought 
under Col. Brown at Stone Arabia. 
After that officer fell, Snell attempted 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



39 



to escape when he was chased by In- 
dians, wounded in the shoulder, scalp- 
ed and left to die. He revived, reach- 
ed Fort Paris and eventually recov- 
ered. His oldest brother was killed 
in the battle. 

Malachi Bauder was a soldier at 
Fort Paris and there kept his family 
for safety. One August Sunday morn- 
ing he went to his home to examine 
the premises, taking along two of his 
sons, Malachi and Leonard, aged ten 
and twelve years. After going about 
the place for some time Malachi sen- 
ior became drowsy and lay down in his 
orchard under the trees and went to 
sleep, the two boys meantime playing 
about the house. A sma'I party of In- 
dians stole up at the time, and see- 
ing the boys, captured them and took 
them to Canada. After a time they 
were exchanged and shipped for 
home, with other prisoners, by way of 
Lake Champlain. At a landing Mala- 
chi strayed away and the boat left 
him. After a year or more his father 
getting trace of him left for New Eng- 
land, found his son and brought him 
back. 

Dr. George Vache was without 
doubt, the first physician in Palatine. 
During the Revolution he was in the 
army. On one occasion he was pur- 
sued by Indians and, with his horse, 
swam the Mohawk three times in one 
night, each time being warned by a 
little dog which closely followed him. 
Dr. Younglove was a surgeon and was 
with Herkimer's army at Oriskany and 
was captured. His thrilling story is 
related elsewhere. 

In the present Canajoharie town- 
ship, in 1770, were grist mills on the 
Canajoharie creek, owned by Gose 
Van Alstine and Col. Hendrick Frey. 

The present town of St. Johnsville 
was settled about 1725. Most of the 
early settlers were Germans. Among 
them were families named Helle- 
brandt, Waters, Getman, Van Riepen, 
Walrath and Klock. The first settle- 
ment in the present village of St. 
Johnsville was made in 1776 by Jacob 
Zimmerman, who built the first grist 
mill in the town soon after. As early 
as 1756 a Reformed church was erect- 



ed in the eastern part of the town by 
Christian Klock. The Rev. Mr. Rosen- 
krantz was the filrst preacher and 
Rev. John Henry Disland, the second. 
Christopher Nellis kept a tavern in 
1783 and a store in 1801. Capt. Jacob 
Klock, at whose house the Committee 
of Safety met, June 16, 1775, lived 
about a mile below the village of St. 
Johnsville. He was a member of the 
Tryon County Committee of Safety, 
and in September, 1775, was appointed 
colonel of the Second (Palatine) Bat- 
talion of the Tryon county committee, 
which position he held till the close 
of the war. Capt. Christian House 
was an earnest patriot of the Revolu- 
tion. He lived at that time near the 
west line of St. Johnsville township. 
He converted his house into a fort and 
stockaded it at his own expense. He 
served the American cause faithfully 
during the war and died soon after. 
Capt. House was buried in an old 
burial plot, still in existence near the 
former site of Fort House, where lie 
the ashes of many a gallant soldier of 
the Revolution. Near where the East 
Creek depot now stands, Andrew 
Helmbold was surprised by Indians 
while plowing. He was slain, but suc- 
ceeded in killing two of the savages 
with a paddle which he carried on his 
plow. 

The town of Root was formerly in 
part a portion of the old Canajoharie 
district. Some of its pre-Revolution- 
ary settlers were families by the names 
of Keller, Meyers, Bellinger, Tanner, 
Lewis and Dievendorff. 

The town of Danube, now in Herki- 
mer county, formed the extreme 
western part of the Revolutionary 
Canajoharie district and was probably 
settled at about the same period as 
the rest of the district (some time be- 
tween 1720 and 1730). It is of con- 
siderable interest as it contains the 
residence of Gen. Herkimer and the 
monument to him in the adjoining 
family plot. Danube also was the seat 
of the upper Canajoharie Mohawk 
castle. Here a fort was built by Sir 
William Johnson to protect the 
friendly Mohawks, from French in- 
cursion, in 1755. Here a church was 



40 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



VJ 



also built by Sir William Johnson, 
under the supervision it is said, of 
Samuel Clyde of Cherry Valley, about 
1760. Joseph Brant, in his younger 
years, was a resident of the Mohawk 
Castle and an intimate acquaintance 
sprang up between him and Herkimer 
when they were young men. Old 
King Hendrick, the celebrated Mo- 
hawk chief, who fell fighting under 
Johnson at Lake George, is said to 
have passed his last years here. Dur- 
ing the Revolution hostile Indians 
tried to steal the bell of the old Castle 
church, but forgot to secure the clap- 
per and its clanging in the night 
aroused the German settlers, who sal- 
lied forth and recaptured it. 

The town of Manheim, of Herkimer 
county, formed the extreme western 
end of the old Palatine district. Ben- 
ton places its settlement at about 1755. 
Among the names of the pre-Revolu- 
tionary settlers are Timmerman, 
Schnell, Reimensnyder, Boyer, Keyser, 
Van Slyke, Newman, Shaver, Klacks, 
Adle, Garter. There were nine men of 
the Schnell or Snell family who went 
into the Oriskany battle under Her- 
kimer. Two returned and seven were 
killed. 



CHAPTER XI. 

1777 — Oriskany — Willett's Trip — Ar- 
nold's March — Enemy Flees. 

In the summer of 1777 the intended 
invasion of the Mohawk valley by St. 
Leger was seasonably announced to 
the Tryon county authorities by 
Thomas Spencer, an Oneida half-breed 
sachem, who had learned of it in 
Canada on a spying expedition. He 
reported that there were 700 Indians 
and 400 British regulars at Oswego, 
who were to be later joined by 600 
Tories, for the invasion of the valley 
to effect a junction with Burgoyne at 
Albany. For a time th's startling 
news seemed to throw the Tryon 
county Whigs into a panic and many 
wavered in their Continental allegi- 
ance. The valley Tories remaining 
took on new heart and activity. The 
militia rangers constantly scouted the 
frontier and the farmers went armed 



at their work. Letters of John Jay 
and General Schuyler at this time 
sternly criticise the Tryon county 
Whigs for their panic-stricken condi- 
tion and lack of self-reliance. Schuy- 
ler wrote that he had sent Col. Van 
Schaick's and Col. Wesson's regiments 
into Tryon county and says further: 
"But if I may be allowed to judge of 
the temper of Gen. Herkimer and the 
committee of Tryon county, from 
their letters to me, nothing would sat- 
isfy them unless I march the whole 
army into that quarter. With defer- 
ence to the better judgment of the 
Council of Safety, I cannot by any 
means think it prudent to bring on an 
open rupture with the savages at the 
present time. The inhabitants of 
Tryon county are already too much 
inclined to lay down the'r arms and 
take whatever terms the enemy may 
be pleased to afford them. Half the 
militia from this (Tryon) county and 
the neighboring state of Massachu- 
setts we have been under the neces- 
sity of dismissing; but the whole 
should go." 

In the light of the truly heroic part 
the Mohawk valley men played in the 
conflicts which followed, the opinion 
must prevail that Gen. Schuyler did 
not read aright the temper of these 
militia men. A few days prior to the 
date of this letter written from Fort 
Edward, July 18, 1777, the county com- 
mittee had been called upon to rein- 
force Fort Stanwix, or Fort Schuyler, 
as later called. Of the 200 militia or- 
dered to muster and garrison this post, 
only a part responded. They had also 
ordered two companies of regular 
troops, stationed at different points in 
the county under their direction, to go 
to Fort Schuyler. These regulars made 
various excuses, among them that 
their duties as scouts unfitted them 
for garrison work, but they reluct- 
antly complied. Realizing that Tryon 
county must depend practically on its 
own men to resist this invasion. Gen. 
Herkimer, on July 17, 1777, issued a 
proclamation announcing that 2,000 
"Christians and savages" had assem- 
bled at Oswego for a descent upon the 
Mohawk valley, and warning the en- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



41 



tire population to be ready at a mo- 
ment's notice to take tlie field in fight- 
ing order, the men from 16 to 60 for 
active service and the aged and infirm 
to defend the women and children at 
points where they might gather for 
safety. Those who did not voluntarily 
muster for service when called upon 
were to be brought along by force. At 
this time many valley men were fight- 
ing in other American armies. 

The Oneida chief, Thomas Spencer, 
warned the committee, on July 30, 
that the enemy would be upon Fort 
Schuyler in a few days. On Aug. 2, 
Lieut. -Col. Mellon, of Col. Wesson's 
regiment, arrived at the fort with two 
batteaux of provisions and ammuni- 
tion and a reinforcement of 200 men, 
both sorely needed. As the last load 
of supplies was hurried into the stock- 
ade, the vanguard of St. Leger's army 
broke from the surrounding forest. 

St. Leger came down on Fort 
Schuyler from Oswego by way of 
Oneida lake and Wood creek, boating 
his supplies in flat boats through those 
waterways. His progress was con- 
siderably delayed in Wood creek by 
the tactics of the Americans, who had 
felled trees across that stream. This 
delay in the British advance was of 
vital value to Gansevoort's force at 
Fort Schuyler. 

This advance party of the enemy 
was commanded by Lieut. Bird and 
Joseph Brant. Col. Gansevoort com- 
manding the fort had 750 men with 
six weeks provisions and plenty of 
small arm ammunition, but not many 
cartridges for the cannon, there being 
only about nine per day for six weeks. 
The garrison had no flag when the 
enemy appeared, but a curious patch- 
work, conforming to the recent con- 
gressional regulations, soon waved 
.over the fort. Shirts were cut up to 
form the white stripes, the red was 
supplied by pieces of scarlet cloth and 
the ground for the stars was made 
from a blue cloak. This is said to 
have been the earliest use of the stars 
and stripes in regular siege and bat- 
tle. On Aug. 3, St. Leger arrived in 
front of the fort with his entire force 
and demanded its surrender, sending 



in a pompous manifesto at the same 
time, both matters being treated with 
derision by Gansevoort and his men. 
Active hostilities at once began, sev- 
eral soldiers in the fort being killed by 
the enemy's gun fire on the first and 
second days. 

At the news of St. Leger's invest- 
ment of Fort Schuyler, Gen. Herkimer 
summoned the militia to action. Not 
only the militia, but most of the mem- 
bers of the county committee took the 
field. The patriots concentrated at 
Fort Dayton to the number of over 800. 
This Tryon militia was composed al- 
most entirely of farmers, some in uni- 
form and others in homespun and 
buckskin. 

Molly Brant, then at the Canajoharie 
Castle, warned St. Leger of Herkimer's 
intended advance. The non-combat- 
ants, women, children, aged and in- 
firm, were gathered in the valley forts 
during this movement. Forts Dayton, 
Herkimer, Plain, Paris, Johnstown, 
Hunter and the smaller posts held 
their quota of these defenseless 
ones. A few able-bodied men were 
probably assigned to each fort, in ad- 
dition to the boys, old men and infirm, 
who were expected to aid in the de- 
fense. These posts were also the ren- 
dezvous of the militia of the neighbor- 
hood for the march to German Flats. 

At Fort Dayton was a garrison con- 
sisting of part of Col. Wesson's Mas- 
sachusetts regiment, but Herkimer left 
them there and set out on his march, 
starting on August 4. The patriot 
Tryon county regiment followed the 
road on the north side of the river, 
passing through the clearings, which 
became more and more infrequent, and 
plunging into the dense forests. On 
account of the great number of wagons 
which were being convoyed, the little 
army was strung out for a distance of 
two miles or more. Most of these oxcarts 
were loaded with supplies and pro- 
visions for Fort Schuyler. The pro- 
gress of these wagons along the nar- 
row trail was difficult and the advance 
of the American militia was neces- 
sarily slow. The first night's camp 
was made west of Staring creek, 
about twelve miles from Fort Dayton. 



42 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



On the morning of August 5, Her- 
kimer and his men pushed on west- 
ward until they came to the ford op- 
posite old Fort Schuyler, where they 
crossed to the south bank. The Am- 
erican force might have continued on 
the north side, but this would have 
necessitated the transportation of all 
the ox-carts across the river at Fort 
Schuyler, in the face of the enemy, and 
the Tryon county general judged this 
too hazardous a proceeding. This ford 
was at the present site of Utica. Her- 
kimer's camp on that night (August 
5) extended between the Oriskany 
creek and Sauquoit creek, upward of 
two miles through the forest. It was 
guarded on the west by Oriskany 
bluff and on the east by the Mohawk 
river. Three scouts were sent forward to 
inform Col. Gansevoort of the approach 
of Herkimer's force. The discharge of 
three cannon at the fort was to be the 
signal of their arrival there and for 
Herkimer to advance upon the enemy 
while Gansevoort made a sortie 
against their camp. The scouts sent 
to Gansevoort by Herkimer were Hel- 
mer, Demuth and an unknown. 

With the wisdom of an old frontier 
fighter, it was Herkimer's intention to 
stop at this point on the morning of 
August 6 and do some reconnoitering, 
while awaiting the expected signals. 

St. Leger, aware of the patriot ad- 
vance, had sent a detachment of In- 
dians under Brant and Tories under 
Col. Butler and Major Watts to meet 
them. Herkimer's subordinates were 
anxious to advance before the ex- 
pected signal from the fort and on the 
morning of August 6, became practic- 
ally mutinous. His officers attacked 
him violently for the delay and Cols. 
Cox and Paris denounced him as a 
coward and a Tory. Calmly the gen- 
eral told them that he considered him- 
self charged with the care as well as 
the leadership of his men and did not 
wish to place them in a perilous po- 
sition from which it would be im- 
possible to extricate them; he added 
that those who were boasting loudest 



of their courage, would be first to run 
in the face of the enemy, and satisfied 
the clamor of his officious subordinates 
by giving the order "Vorwaert." With 
great shouting the undisciplined mi- 
litia grasped their arms and rushed 
forward. Doubtless Gen. Herkimer 
realized that his officers and men, or a 
considerable part of them, would have 
gone on without him, and hence he 
gave the order to advance. 

The line of march soon led into a 
curving ravine with a marshy bottom, 
traversed by a causeway of logs and 
earth. Along this road the patriots 
were rushing hastily forward when 
the advance guard was shot down and 
the forest rang with Indian yells. The 
enemy cut off the baggage train and 
the rear battalion of Col. Visscher, 
which was pushed back in a disor- 
derly retreat, although Capt. Gardi- 
nier's company and some oth.ers of 
Visscher's men succeeded in pushing 
forward and joining the American 
main body. They were pursued and 
badly punished by the Indians. 
The 600 men left in the ravine 
were thrown into confusion and for a 
time seemed likely to be anni'nilated, 
as the slaughter was terrific. Al- 
though undisciplined and insubordi- 
nate, they were not panicstricken and 
soon were fighting back effectively 
against an enemy of more than double 
their number. 

Early in the action Gen. Herkimer 
was severely wounded by a bullet 
which shattered one of his legs just 
below the knee and killed his horse. 
Directing h's saddle to be placed 
against a tree, and having his wounds 
bound as well as possible, he lit his 
pipe, supported himself by his saddle 
and calmly directed the battle. 

After an hour of fighting with the 
foe closing gradually in upon them. 
Captain Seeber, without orders, threw 
the remnant of his men into a circle, 
the better to repel the attacks of the 
enemy. This example was followed 
by other sections of Herkimer's little 
army, whose defense from then be- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



43 



came so effective that it was thought 
necessary for a part of the Royal 
Greens and Butler's Rangers to make 
a bayonet charge. Thus old valley 
neighbors fought each other in this 
deadly hand-to-hand combat, when a 
heavy thunderstorm broke upon the 
fighters in the little ravine. The 
Tories drew off and there was a lull 
in the conflict. Herkimer's men took 
advantage of this to concentrate upon 
an advantageous piece of ground. 
Another piece of tactics now adopted 
was to place two men behind a single 
tree to fire alternately, thus protect- 
ing each other from the savages, who, 
when a marksman was alone, rushed 
upon him and tomahawked him as 
soon as he had fired and before he 
could reload. Meanwhile the Indians, 
good for nothing at the point of the 
bayonet and being severely punished 
were wavering. 

The signal gun from the fort now 
sounded gratefully upon the ears of 
the grimly-fighting farmers. Col. Wil- 
lett was assaulting St. Leger's camp. 
Here Brant tried an Indian trick of 
sending a company of Johnson's 
Greens disguised with American hats 
toward the patriots. Capt. Jacob 
Gardinier of Visscher's regiment, was 
the first to detect the stratagem. To 
Lieut. Jacob Sammons, who thought 
them friends, said Gardinier: "Not 
so; don't you see them green coats?" 
They were hailed by Captain Gardi- 
nier, just at which moment one of his 
own men, seeing a friend, as he sup- 
posed, approaching, sprang forward 
and offered his hand, which was 
grasped and he was drawn into the 
advancing corps a prisoner. The 
American struggled to free himself 
and Gardinier, jumping into the melee, 
killed the Tory captor with the blow 
of a spontoon. Instantly the captain 
was set upon by several of the enemy, 
one of whom he slew, and wounded 
another. Three of the foe now grap- 
pled with Gardinier and hurled him to 



the ground and held him there while 
one of the "Greens" pinioned his thigh 
to the ground with a bayonet. Another 
attempted to thrust a bayonet into 
his chest, but he caught it and jerked 
its owner down upon his body where 
he held him as a protection, until 
Adam Miller, one of his own men, 
came to his rescue and, with his 
clubbed musket, brained one of the 
assailants who was holding down the 
fighting captain. The other two now 
turned upon Miller, when Gardinier, 
partly rising", snatched up his spear 
and killed one of them, who proved to 
be Captain McDonald of Johnson's 
Greens, who is believed to have been 
the invader of the Schoharie settle- 
ments a short time before. In one of 
these terrible hand-to-hand fights, 
Captain Watts was fearfully wounded 
and taken prisoner, and Captains Hare 
and Wilson of Johnson's Greens were 
killed. 

The enemy being thus unmasked, a 
bloody fight at close quarters ensued. 
Bayonets, clubbed guns, swords, pis- 
tols, tomahawks, war clubs, spears and 
knives were used with murderous ef- 
fect. In this fierce melee the valley 
farmers had the advantage and killed 
and beat back their enemies, until the 
Indians sounded their call of retreat, 
"Oonah, oonah," and slunk back into 
the forest. Thus deserted, the Tories 
fled, leaving the field in the possession 
of the Tryon county militia, whom a 
miracle had saved from extermination. 
During the six hours of conflict nearly 
200 Americans had been killed. The 
wooded glen was littered with hun- 
dreds of wounded, dead and dying of 
both forces. The loss of the enemy 
was about 200, including 100 Indians. 

The enemy precipitately retired 
from the field and left the provincials 
master of it at about 3 o'clock in the 
afternoon. The decimated battalions 
were, by their surviving commanders 
as far as practicable, hastily reorgan- 
ized. The wounded, having been 



44 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



placed upon rude litters, the troops 
took up their mournful retrograde 
march, and encamped that night on 
the site of old Fort Schuyler (now 
Utica), eight miles from the battle- 
field. From this point, Gen. Herki- 
mer and Capt. Jacob Seeber and pos- 
sibly one or two others of the wounded, 
were taken down the river in a boat 
to Foi't Herkimer. At this place, 
Capt. Seeber was left with a broken 
leg, which was amputated and he bled 
to death. Gen. Herkimer was taken to 
his home below Little Falls — probably 
in a boat to the head of the rapid — 
and died there ten days later. It is 
stated that Lieut.-Col. Campbell and 
Major Clyde brought off the shattered 
troops. 



Colonel Willett, on the way down 
the valley to obtain relief from Gen. 
Schuyler for the fort bearing his 
name, wrote a letter concerning the 
siege by St. Leger and Willett's sortie. 
It was published in the Connecticut 
Courant, August 27, 1777, and is in 
part as follows: 

"On Saturday evening, Aug. 2d, five 
battoes arrived with stores for the 
garrison. About the same time, we 
discovered a number of fires, a little 
better than a mile from the northwest 
of the fort. The stores were all got 
safe in, and the troops which were a 
guard to the batteaux marched up. 
[This was part of a Massachusetts 
regiment under Lieut. Col. Mellon 
from Fort Dayton.] The Captain of 
the bateaux and a few of his men, de- 
laying their time about the boats, were 
fired on by a party of Indians, which 
killed one man and wounded two, the 
Captain himself was taken prisoner. 

"Next morning the enemy appeared 
in the edge of the woods about a mile 
below the fort, where they took post, 
in order to invest it upon that quarter 
and to cut off the communication with 
the country from whence they sent in 
a fiag, who told us of their great 
power, strength and determination, in 
such a manner as gave us reason to 
suppose they were not possessed of 
strength to take the fort. Our answer 
was, our determination to support it. 



"All day on Monday, we were much 
annoyed by a sharp fire of musketry 
from the Indians and German riflemen 
as our men were obliged to be exposed 
on the works, killed one man and 
wounded seven. The day after, the 
firing was not so heavy, and our men 
were under better cover; all the dam- 
age was one man killed by a rifle ball. 
This evening [Tuesday, Aug. 5], in- 
dicated something in contemplation by 
the enemy. The Indians were uncom- 
monly noisy, they made most horrid 
yellings great part of the evening in 
the woods, hardly a mile from the fort. 
A few cannon shot were fired among 
them. 

[The batteaux guard, which brought 
into Fort Schuyler, the five boatloads 
of supplies were part of Col. Wesson's 
Massachusetts regiment from Fort 
Dayton, under com.mand of Lieut. Col. 
Mellon. The German rifiemen, referred 
to, composed a company of St. Leger's 
very mixed force of British valley 
Tories, Indians and these Germans.] 

"Wednesday morning there was an 
unusual silence. We discovered some 
of the enemy marching along the edge 
of the woods downwards. About 11 
o'clock three men got into the fort, 
who brought a letter from Gen. Her- 
kimer of the Tryon County militia, 
advising us that he was at Eriska 
[Oriskany], eight miles off, with a 
part of his militia and purposed to 
force his way to the fort for our relief. 
In order to render him what service 
we could, it was agreed that I should 
make a sally from the fort with 250 
men, consisting of one-half Ganse- 
voort's and one-half Massachusetts 
ditto, and one field piece — an iron 
three pounder. 

"The men were instantly paraded 
and I ordered the following disposi- 
tion to be made. [Here follows the ar- 
rangement of his troops and plan of 
march.] Nothing could be more for- 
tunate than this enterprise. We to- 
tally routed two of the enemy's en- 
campments, destroyed all the provi- 
sions that were in them, brought off 
upwards of 50 brass kettles and more 
than 100 blankets, [two articles which 
were much needed.] With a quantity 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



45 



of muskets, tomahawks, spears, am- 
munition, clothing, deerskins, a variety 
of Indian affairs and Ave colors — the 
whole of which, on our return to the 
fort, were displayed on our flag-staff 
under the Continental flag. The In- 
dians took chieflj' to the woods, the 
rest of the troops then at the posts, to 
the river. The number of men lost by 
the enemy is uncertain, six lay dead in 
their encampment, two of which were 
Indians; several scattered about in the 
woods; but their greatest loss appear- 
ed to be in crossing the river, and no 
inconsiderable number upon the oppo- 
site shore. I was happy in preventing 
the men from scalping even the In- 
dians, being desirous, if possible, to 
teach Indians humanity; but the men 
were much better employed, and kept 
in excellent order. We were out so 
long that a number of British regulars, 
accompanied by what Indians, etc., 
could be rallied, had marched down to 
a thicket on the other side of the river, 
about 50 yards from the road we were 
to cross on our return. Near th's 
place I had ordered the field piece. 
The ambush was not quite formed 
when we discovered them, and gave 
them a well-directed fire. Here, es- 
pecially, Maj. Bedlow with his field 
piece, did considerable execution. 
Here, also, the enemy were annoyed 
by a fire of several cannon from the 
fort, as they marched round to form 
the ambuscade. The enemy's fire was 
very wild, and although we were much 
exposed, did no execution at all. We 
brought in four prisoners, three of 
whom were wounded. * * * From 
these prisoners we received the first 
accounts of Gen. Herkimer's militia 
being ambuscaded on their march, and 
of the severe battle they had with 
them about two hours before, which 
gave us reason to think they had, for 
the present, given up their design of 
marching to the fort. I should not do 
justice to the officers and soldiers who 
were with me on this enterprise, if I 
was not, in most positive terms, to as- 
sure the^'r countrymen that they, in 
general, behaved with the greatest 
gallantry on this occasion; and, next 
to the very kind and signal interposi- 



tion of Divine Providence, which was 
powerfully manifested in their favor, 
it was undoubtedly owing to that noble 
intrepidity which discovered itself in 
this attack, and struck the enemy 
with such a panic as disenabled them 
from taking pains to direct their fire, 
that we had not one man killed or 
wounded. The officers, in general, be- 
haved so well that it is hardly right to 
mention the names of any particular 
ones for their singular valor. But, so 
remarkably intrepid was Capt. Van 
Benscoten [he commanded the ad- 
vance guard of 30 men] and so rapid 
was his attack, that it demands from 
me this testimony of his extraordinary 
spirit." 

Among the effects taken from the 
enemy's camp were several bundles of 
papers and letters, which had been 
taken from Gen. Herkimer's baggage 
wagons a few hours before, not yet 
opened, one of which was for Col. 
Willett. There were also papers of Sir 
John Johnson, St. Leger and other of- 
ficers of the enemy's camp, some of 
which were of service. Willett writes 
further: "That evening (August 8) it 
was agreed by the field officers that I 
should undertake with Lieut. Stock- 
well — who is a good woodsman — to 
endeavor to get down into the coun- 
try and procure such force as would 
extirpate the miscreant band. After a 
severe march, of about 50 miles, 
through the wilderness, we in safety 
arrived at this place" (supposed to 
mean Fort Dayton, but as Port Plain 
is 50 miles from Port Schuyler, it may 
be that this letter was written from 
the local fort). This was a heroic and 
hazardous enterprise and resulted in 
bringing up Arnold's force. 

Prom the day of Oriskany until the 
enemy reached Oswego on their re- 
treat a number of American prisoners 
were barbarously beaten and murder- 
ed by Tories and Indians. Col. Paris 
of Palatine and Robert Crouse of Min- 
den were among these. Some of these 
victims were eaten by the Indians. 

A letter of Col. Claus shows the de- 
sire of the Tryon county Tories to 
murder and pilfer the homes of their 
old neighbors after the battle: "Sir 



46 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



John Johnson proposed (while siege 
of Fort Schuyler was still being prose- 
cuted) to march down the country 
with about 200 men, and I intended 
joining him with a sufficient body of 
Indians, but the Brigadier (St. Leger) 
said he could not spare the men, and 
disapproved of it. The inhabitants in 
general were ready (as we afterward 
learned) to submit and come in. A 
flag was sent to invite the inhabitants 
to submit and be forgiven, and assur- 
ance given to prevent the Indians 
from being outrageous; but the com- 
manding officers of the German Flats 
(Fort Dayton) hearing of it seized the 
flag, consisting of Ensign Butler of the 
Eighth Regiment, ten soldiers and 
three Indians, and took them up as 
spies. A few days after. Gen. Arnold, 
coming with some cannon and a rein- 
forcement, made the inhabitants re- 
turn to their obedience." Simms says 
Claus's opinion that the Tryon county 
settlers were ready to submit was a 
delusion. 

St. Leger now made new demands 
for surrender on Gansevoort, who was 
ignorant of the result of the effort of 
Herkimer's men, but who replied that 
he would defend the fort to the last 
extremity. Siege operations were re- 
newed with increasing vigor but the 
British artillery was too light to be ef- 
fective. It was feared the garrison 
might be starved into a surrender if 
not relieved, and accordingly on the 
night of the 10th of August, Col. Wil- 
lett and Maj. Stockwell set out to pass 
the enemy's lines and rally the sup- 
port of the county militia with whom 
Willett was deservedly popular. 
Reaching Stillwater after a most 
perilous journey, Col. Willett induced 
Gen. Schuyler to send Gen. Arnold 
with a Massachusetts regiment of 800 
men for the relief of Fort Schuyler. 
The force set out the next day, ac- 
companied by Col. Willett, and reached 
Fort Dayton where it waited for the 
militia to assemble, which they did 
in considerable numbers, considering 
their recent losses at Oriskany. 

St. Leger issued manifestos to the 
people of Tryon county signed by Sir 
John Johnson and Cols. Butler and 



Claus, in which he hoped by threats of 
Indian barbarities to induce Col. Gan- 
sevoort to surrender. In trying to 
circulate this document down the val- 
ley, Walter Butler was arrested by 
Wesson near Fort Dayton, tried as a 
spy before Gen. Arnold, and con- 
victed but was saved from death 
by the intercession of American of- 
ficers who knew him. Butler was 
sent to Albany and imprisoned. Gen. 
Arnold issued a stirring proclamation 
calculated to neutralize the effect of 
the Tory manifesto in the valley. 

The address issued by Arnold at 
Fort Dayton, to counteract the Tory 
proclamation, was well calculated to 
awe the timid and give courage to the 
wavering Whigs. The prestige of his 
name gave great weight to it. He 
prefaced it with a flourish of his title 
and position as follows: "By the Hon- 
orable Benedict Arnold, Esq., general 
and commander-in-chief of the army 
of the United States of America on 
the Mohawk River." 

He denounced a certain Barry St. 
Leger "a leader of a banditti of rob- 
bers, murderers and traitors, composed 
of savages of America and more sav- 
age Britons," and denounced him as 
a seducer of the ignorant and unthink- 
ing from the cause of freedom, and as 
threatening ruin and destruction to 
the people. He then offered a free 
pardon to all who had joined him or 
upheld him, "whether savages, Ger- 
mans, Americans or Britons " provided 
they laid down their arms and made 
oath of allegiance to the United States 
within three days. But if they per- 
sisted in their "wicked courses" and 
"were determined to draw on them- 
selves the just vengeance of Heaven 
and their exasperated country, they 
must expect no mercy from either." 

St. Leger ran forward his trenches 
to within 150 yards of the fort, but the 
accurate firing of the garrison pre- 
vented a nearer approach. His weak 
artillery had little effect. The defend- 
ers, utterly ignorant of any relief ap- 
proaching, began to be apprehensive 
and some suggested surrender. Ganse- 
voort stoutly maintained he would de- 
fend the fort to the last extremity and 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



47 



would then try to cut his way out at 
night. This proved unnecessary as, on 
the 22d of August, to the surprise and 
mystification of the fort's defenders, 
the enemy suddenly broke camp and 
vanished. 

This was the result of the cele- 
brated ruse adopted by Arnold who 
had captured an eccentric Tory sup- 
posed to be half-witted, in company 
with Butler. His name was Han Yost 
Schuyler and his sentence of death 
was remitted if he should carry out 
Arnold's instructions. Schuyler's 

brother was retained as hostage for 
his behavior. Bullets were fired 
through Schuyler's coat and he was 
sent on his mission, while arrange- 
ments were made with an Oneida In- 
dian to reach St. Leger at the same 
time. Both arrived at short intervals 
and told an extravagant story of the 
force on the way to raise the siege. 
When questioned closely as to the 
numbers of the provincials marching 
up the valley the tale-bearers merely 
pointed to the leaves on the trees. 
The effect of this story upon the Tory 
force and particularly upon the Indians 
can be imagined after the losses they 
had suffered. The retreat, to Oneida 
lake and Oswego, was begun at 
once and, disgusted by the conduct 
of the campaign, the Indians stripped, 
robbed and even murdered their late 
allies. Schuyler next day deserted 
from the retreating enemy, and re- 
turned to Fort Schuyler where he told 
his story and was received with lively 
demonstrations of joy. Gansevoort 
sent a party after the flying enemy, 
which returned with a number of pris- 
oners, a large quantity of spoil, and 
St. Leger's desk and private papers. 

General Arnold sent out from Fort 
Dayton to Fort Schuyler, after Schuy- 
ler's departure, a force of 900 soldiers. 
At the Oriskany battleground they 
were compelled to make a wide de- 
tour on account of the terrible stench 
from the battlefield. Many gruesome 
sights came to the soldiers' notice, 
mention of which is added later. Bur- 
ials of the bodies had been contem- 
plated but could not be carried out, as 
the officers feared for the health of 



the soldiers. At Fort Schuyler, Ar- 
nold's arrival was greeted with a mili- 
tary salute and great cheering and 
demonstrations on the part of the gar- 
rison. In all probability, had the 
enemy not run, they would have been 
soundly beaten by Arnold's and Ganse- 
voort's men. cut up and disheartened 
as the British force was by their en- 
counter with Herkimer and his Mo- 
hawk valley men at Oriskany. Ar- 
nold's force undoubtedly contained 
several hundred of the Tryon county 
militia who had fought on that fa- 
mous field two weeks before. Gen. 
Arnold and his regiment shortly there- 
after turned back and marched down 
the valley to Cohoes where he joined 
the American army gathered to oppose 
Burgoyne at the mouth of the Mo- 
hawk. His intrepid valor and immense 
aid, in the subsequent battles of Still- 
water, which wiped out the British 
army, are well known. 



Whether the action of Herkimer and 
his men at Oriskany is regarded as an 
actual defeat, a drawn battle or a 
practical victory, nevertheless the suc- 
cessful defense of Fort Schuyler was 
one of the causes which contributed 
to Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga. It 
is to be doubted whether the St. Leger 
force would have been intimidated so 
easily had not they suffered severely 
at the hands of the Tryon county mil- 
itia. In all the word story of armed 
conflict there is no more desperate or 
heroic flght recorded than that In the 
wooded glen of Oriskany. 

In the valley homes was great 
mourning For such a small popu- 
lation, the losses were almost 
overwhelming. In some families the 
male members were almost or even 
entirely wiped out in some Instances. 
It was many a long weary year before 
the sorrow and suffering caused by 
the sacriflces at Oriskany had been 
forgotten in the valley of the Mohawk. 

In closing the Oriskany campaign 
the following letter from the chair- 
man of the committee to the Albany 
committee, written three days after 
the battle, will be found of interest: 



48 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



German Flats Committee Chamber. 
August 9, 1777. 

Gentlemen: Just arrived Capt. De- 
muth and John Adam Helmer, the 
bearer hereof, with an account that 
they arrived with some difficulty at 
Fort Schuyler, the 6th of the month, 
being sent there by Gen. Herkimer. 
Before he set out for the held of l:)at- 
tle, he requested some assistance from 
the fort in order to make an effort to 
facilitate our march on the fort. Two 
hundred and six men were granted. 
They made a sally, encountered the 
enemy, killed many, destroyed the 
tents of the enemy and came off vic- 
torious to the fort. The commander 
(of the fort) desired them to acquaint 
us, and his superiors, that he is want- 
ing assistance, and thinks to stand 
out so long that timely assistance 
could come to his relief. 

Concerning the battle: On our side, 
all accounts agreed, that a number of 
the enemy is killed; the flower of our 
militia either killed or wounded, ex- 
cept 150, who stood the field and forced 
the enemy to retreat; the wounded 
were brought off by those brave men; 
the dead they left on the field for want 
of proper support. We will not take 
upon us to tell of the behavior of the 
rear. So far as we know, they took to 
flight the first firing. Gen. Herkimer 
is wounded; Col. Cox seemingly killed, 
and a great many officers are among 
the slain. We are surrounded by 
Tories, a party of 100 of whom are 
now on their march through the 
woods. We refer you for further in- 
formation to the bearer. Major Watts 
of the enemy is killed. Joseph Brant, 
William Johnson, several Tories and a 
number of Indians. 

Gentlemen, we pray you will send 
us succor. By the death of most part 
of our committee officers, the field of- 
ficers and General being wounded, ev- 
erything is out of order; the people 
entirely dispirited; our county as Eso- 
pus unrepresented, so that we can not 
hope to stand it any longer without 
your aid; we will not mention the 
shocking aspect our fields do show. 
Faithful to our country, we remain 
Your sorrowful brethren. 

The few members of this committee. 
Peter J. Dygert, Chairman. 

To the Chairman of the Committee of 
Albany. 

Dygert was in error as to the death 
of Brant and also as to the march of 
the 100 Tories. Probably many ru- 
mors were rife in the valley immedi- 
ately after Oriskany. 

William Johnson was a half-breed 
Mohawk and a reputed son of Sir Wil- 
liam Johnson. 



CHAPTER XIL 

1777 — A Contemporary Account of the 
Battle at Oriskany — Lossing on Wil- 
lett's Journey to Schuyler for Aid — 
The Oriskany Roster. 

A contemporary account of the Oris- 
kany battle is appended. This was 
published in the Pennsylvania Even- 
ing Post, Aug. 19 and 21, 1777, and is 
reprinted from that very interesting 
volume, "Diary of the American Revo- 
lution:" 

"Aug. 7: — Yesterday, about nine 
o'clock, an engagement ensued be- 
tween a part of the militia of Tryon 
county, under the command of Gen- 
eral Herkimer, and a party of sav- 
ages, Tories and regulars, a short 
distance from Fort Stanwix [Fort 
Schuyler]. It lasted till three o'clock 
in the afternoon, when the British 
thought proper to retire, leaving Gen- 
eral Herkimer master of the field. Un- 
luckily, however, the General and 
some valuable officers got wounded or 
killed in the beginning.. But this did 
in nowise intimidate the ardor of the 
men, and the general, although he had 
two wounds, did not leave the field 
till the action was over. He seated 
himself on a log, with his sword 
drawn, animating his men. 

"About one o'clock. Colonel Ganse- 
voort having received information of 
General Herkimer's march, sent out 
Lieutenant-Colonel Willett, with two 
hundred men, to attack an encamp- 
ment of the British, and thereby facil- 
itate General Herkimer's march. In 
this the colonel succeeded, for after 
an engagement of an hour he had com- 
pletely routed the enemy and taken 
one captain and four privates. The 
baggage taken was very considerable, 
such as money, bear skins, officers' 
baggage and camp equipage; one of 
the soldiers had for his share a scar- 
let coat, trimmed with gold lace to 
the full, and three laced hats. When 
Colonel Willett returned to the fort, 
he discovered two hundred regulars 
in full march to attack him. He im- 
mediately ordered his men to prepare 
for battle, and, having a field piece 
with him, Captain Savage so directed 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



49 



its fire as to play in concert with one 
out of the fort; these, with a brisk 
fire from his small arms, soon made 
these heroes scamper off with great 
loss. Colonel Willett then marched 
with his booty into the fort, having 
not a single man killed or wounded. 

"General St. Leger, who commands 
the enemy's force in that quarter, soon 
after sent in a flag to demand the 
delivery of the fort, offering that the 
garrison should march out with their 
baggage, and not be molested by the 
savages; that, if this was not com- 
plied with, he would not answer for 
the conduct of the Indians, if the gar- 
rison fell into their hands; that Gen- 
eral Burgoyne was in possession of 
Albany. Colonel Gansevoort, after 
animadverting on the barbarity and 
disgraceful conduct of the British 
officers, in suffering women and chil- 
dren to be butchered as they had 
done, informed the flag that he was 
resolved to defend the fort to the last, 
and that he would never give it up so 
long as there was a man left to de- 
fend it." 



Lossing's "Field Book of the Revo- 
lution" says of the heroic expedi- 
tion of Willett and Stockwell to get 
aid for Fort Schuyler: 

"Meanwhile the people in the Mo- 
hawk valley were in the greatest con- 
sternation. St. Leger had arrived from 
Oswego and was besieging Fort 
Schuyler, while the Tories and Indians 
were spreading death and desolation 
on every hand. Colonel Gansevoort, 
with a handful of men, was closely 
shut up in the fort. General Herki- 
mer, with the brave militia of Tryon 
county, had been defeated at Oriskany, 
and the people below hourly expected 
the flood of destroyers to pour down 
upon them. It was a fearful emer- 
gency. Without aid all would be lost. 
Brave hearts were ready for bold 
deeds. * * * * * Colonel Wil- 

lett volunteered to be the messenger, 
and on a very stormy night, when 
shower after shower came down furi- 
ously, he and Lieutenant Stockwell 
left the fort, by the sally port, at ten 
o'clock, each armed with a spear, and 



crept upon tlieir hands and knees 
along a morass to the river. They 
crossed it upon a log and were soon 
beyond the line of drowsy sentinels. 
It was very dark, their pathway was 
in a thick and tangled wood, and they 
soon lost their way. The barking of a 
dog apprised them of their proximity 
to an Indian camp, and for hours they 
stood still, fearing to advance or re- 
treat. The clouds broke away toward 
dawn and the morning star in the 
east, like the light of hope, revealed to 
them their desired course. They then 
pushed on in a zig zag way, and, like 
the Indians, sometimes traversed the 
bed of a stream to foil pursuers that 
might be upon their trail. They 
reached German Flatts in safety and, 
mounting fleet horses, hurried down 
the valley to the headquarters of Gen- 
eral Schuyler who had already heard 
of the defeat of Herkimer and was 
devising means for the succor of the 
garrison at Fort Schuyler. 

"The American army of the north, 
then at Stillwater, was in wretched 
condition and in no shape to offer 
battle to the advancing forces under 
Burgoyne. Its commander, Schuyler, 
ordered a retreat to the Mohawk, and 
it was during this movement, while 
the Americans were retiring slowly 
down the Hudson, that Willett and 
Stockwell came, asking aid, to the 
headquarters at Stillwater. 

"Not a moment was to be lost. The 
subjugation of the whole valley would 
inevitably follow the surrender of Fort 
Schuyler and, the victors gaining 
strength, would fall like an avalanche 
upon Albany, or, by junction, swell 
the approaching army of Burgoyne. 
The prudent foresight and far-reach- 
ing humanity of General Schuyler at 
once dictated his course. He called a 
council and proposed sending a de- 
tachment immediately to the relief of 
Fort Schuyler. His officers opposed 
him with the plea that his whole 
force was not then sufficient to stay 
the oncoming of Burgoyne. The clearer 
judgment of Schuyler made him per- 
sist in his opinion, and he earnestly 
sought them to agree with him. While 
pacing the floor in anxious solicitude, 



50 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



he overheard the half-whispered re- 
mark, 'He means to weaken the 
army.' Wheeling suddenly toward the 
slanderer and those around him, and 
unconsciously biting into several 
pieces a pipe he was smoking, he in- 
dignantly exclaimed, 'Gentlemen, I 
shall take the responsibility upon my- 
self; where is the brigadier that will 
take command of the relief? I shall 
beat up for volunteers tomorrow.' The 
brave and impulsive Arnold, ever 
ready for deeds of daring, at once 
stepped forward and offered his ser- 
vices. The next morning the drum 
beat and eight hundred stalwart men 
were enrolled for the service before 
meridian. Fort Schuyler was saved 
and the forces of St. Leger were scat- 
tered to the winds." 

Subsequently Schuyler retreated to 
the Mohawk and fortified Van 
Schaick's and Haver's island at the 
mouth of that stream where it empties 
into the Hudson. Schuyler ordered 
the grain in his own fields at Saratoga 
to be burned, in his retreat, to prevent 
the enemy reaping it. The following 
is taken from Lossing: 

"That seemed to tbe the most eligi- 
ble point [the islands at the Mohawk's 
mouth] at which to make a stand in 
defense of Albany against the ap- 
proaches of the enemy from the north 
and from the west. At that time there 
were no bridges across the Hudson 
or the Mohawk, and both streams 
were too deep to be fordable except 
in seasons of extreme drought. There 
was a ferry across the Mohawk, five 
miles above the falls (defended by the 
left wing under Gen. Arnold), and 
another across the Hudson at Half 
Moon Point or Waterford. The 
'sprouts' of the Mohawk, between the 
islands, were usually fordable; and as 
Burgoyne would not, of course, cross 
the Hudson or attempt the ferry upon 
the Mohawk, where a few resolute 
men could successfully oppose him, 
his path was of necessity directly 
across the mouth of the river. Forti- 
fications were accordingly thrown up on 
the islands and upon the mainland, 
faint traces of which are still visible." 

Aug. 6, 1777, occurred the battle of 



Oriskany. On Aug. 22, St. Leger and 
his force fled from before Fort Schuy- 
ler. Aug. 16, the New Hampshire 
militia, under Stark, beat the enemy 
at Bennington. Gen. Schuyler's army 
of the north began to be greatly re- 
inforced about this time when Gen. 
Gates superseded him. On Sep. 19 oc- 
curred the first battle of Stillwater, 
which was a virtual defeat for the 
British. On Oct. 7, 1777, Burgoyne was 
decisively beaten and started to fall 
back. Oct. 17, the British army sur- 
rendered to the American force. Over 
2,000 of the 6,000 captives were Ger- 
man mercenaries. 

Burgoyne's surrender is said to have 
been somewhat hastened by an Am- 
erican cannon ball which crossed his 
breakfast table during a council of the 
British officers. 



Benedict Arnold was born in Nor- 
wich, Conn., in 1740, a descendant of 
Benedict Arnold, one of Rhode Island's 
early governors. From 1763 to 1767 
he kept a drug and book store in New 
Haven. At the outbreak of the Revo- 
lution he was in command of a volun- 
teer company of that city and marched 
to Cambridge with it. He was in many 
of the stirring events of the war, up 
to his treason in 1780. Among his 
greatest services were his gallant 
leadership at Saratoga and his clever 
conduct of the relief of Fort Schuy- 
ler. He held commands in the 
British army during the latter part of 
the war and at its end went to Eng- 
land. From 1786 to 1793 he was in 
business at St. Johns, N. B., where he 
was so dishonest in his dealings that 
he was hung in effigy by a mob. He 
died in London in 1804, aged 63 years. 



Col. Peter Gansevoort, the intrepid 
commander of Fort Schuyler, was a 
Revolutionary patriot and soldier 
of the highest type and he de- 
serves a niche in the hall of fame 
dedicated to the heroes of the Revolu- 
tion. Gansevoort was born in Albany, 
July 17, 1749. He accompanied Mont- 
gomery into Canada in 1775, with the 
rank of major, and the next year he 
was appointed a colonel in the New 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



51 



York line, which commission he held 
when he defended Fort Schuyler 
against St. Leger. For his gallant de- 
fense of that post he received the 
thanks of congress, and in 1781 was 
promoted to the rank of brigadier- 
general by the state of New York. 
After the war he was for many years 
a military agent. He held several of- 
fices of trust and "was always esteem- 
ed for his bravery and judgment as a 
soldier and for his fidelity, Intelligence, 
and probity as a citizen." He died July 
2, 1812, aged 62 years. 



Of the 800 or more who consti- 
tuted the patriot army at Oriskany 
only the following soldiers are record- 
ed. Some of these are known also to 
have come from certain Tryon county 
sections, and wherever this is verified, 
it is given. The word, Mohawk, refers 
to the present town of Montgomery 
county. The letter K appended 
stands for killed; W for wounded; P 
for prisoner. Following is the "Oris- 
kany roster:" 

Abram, Arndt, Minden 
Alter, Jacob, Minden 
K. Ayer, Frederick, Schuyler 

Bellinger, Col. Peter, German Flats 
P. Bellinger, Lieut. Col. Frederick, 
German Flats 
Bell, Capt. Geo. Henry, Fall Hill 
K. Bell, Joseph, Fall Hill 
K. Bell, Nicholas, Fall Hill 
W. Bigbread, Capt. John, Palatine 
Bauder, Melchert, Palatine 
Boyer, John, Remesnyderbush 
K. Bowman, Capt. Jacob, Canajoharie 
P. Blauvelt, Maj. (supposed mur- 
dered), Mohawk 
Bellinger, Adam 
K. Bliven, Maj. John, Florida, Mo- 
hawk committee 
Bellinger, John 
K. Billington, Samuel, Palatine Com- 
mittee of Safety 

Billington, , Palatine 

Bargy, Peter, Frankfort 
K. Cox, Col. Ebenezer, Danube, Cana- 
joharie committee 
Campbell, Lieut. Col. Samuel, 

Cherry Valley, Canajoharie com- 
mittee 
Clyde, Maj. Samuel, Cherry Valley, 

Canajoharie committee 
Copeman, Capt. Abram, Canajo- 
harie 
Covenhoven (now Conover), 

Isaac, Glen 
easier, Jacob, Minden 
Casler, John, Minden 
easier, Adam, Minden 



Clock, John I., St. Johnsville 
W. Cook, John, Palatine 

Coppernoll, Richard, Minden 
Cox, William, Minden 
K. Crouse, Robert, Minden 
Crouse, George, Minden 
Clemens, Jacob, Schuyler 
W. Conover, Peter 
K. Cunningham, Andrew, Amsterdam 

Collier, Jacob, Florida 
K. Campbell, Lieut. Robert, 

Cherry Valley 
K. Dievendorf, Capt. Henry. Minden 
K. Dillenbeck, Capt. Andrew, Palatine 
K. Davis, Capt. John James, Mohawk 
K. Davis, Martinus, Mohawk 
Dievendorf, John, Minden 
Dunckel, Francis, Freysbush 
Dygert, Peter, Palatine 
Dunckel, Hon. (John) Peter, 

Minden 
Dunckel, Hon. Garret, Minden 
Dunckel, Hon. Nicholas, Minden 
K. Davis, Benjamin, Mohawk 

Dockstader, John, German Flats 
K. Davy, Capt. Thomas, Springfield 
K. Dygert, John, Palatine Committee 
of Safety 
Dygert, Capt. William, German 

Flats 
Demuth, Capt. Marx, Deerfield 
DeGraff, Nicholas, Amsterdam 
Degraff, Capt. Immanuel, Am- 
sterdam 
Dygert, Peter S., German Flats 
Dygert, George, German Flats 
Dorn, Peter, Johnstown 
K. Eisenlord, Maj. John, Palatine 

(secretary county committee) 
v^ Empie, Jacob, Palatine 
Ehle, William, Palatine 
P. Ehle, Peter 

Eysler, John, Remesnyderbush 
W. & P. Frey, Maj. John, Palatine, 

Palatine committee 
K. Fox, Capt. Christopher P., Palatine 
W. Fox, Capt. Christopher W., Pala- 
tine, Palatine committee 
Fox, Peter, Palatine 
Fox, William, Palatine 
Fox, Charles, Palatine 
Fox, Christopher, Palatine 
W. Folts, Conrad, Herkimer 
K. Failing, Jacob, Canajoharie 
W. Failing, Henry, Canajoharie 
Failing, Henry N., Canajoharie 
Fralick. Valentine, Palatine 
Fonda, Jelles, Mohawk 
Fonda, Adam, Mohawk, Mohawk 

committee 
Frank, Adam 
W. Gardinier, Capt. Jacob, Glen 
W. Gardinier, Lieut. Samuel, Glen 
K. Grant, Lieut. Petrus, Amsterdam 
Geortner, Peter, Minden 
Geortner, George, Canajoharie 
K. Gray, Nicholas, Palatine 

Gray, Lieut. Samuel, Herkimer 

K. Graves, Capt. , 

Gremps, John (15 years old), 

Palatine 
Gros, Capt. Lawrence, Minden. 



52 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



w. 



K. 



K. 



K. 



K. 
K. 



V 



K. 



V 



K. 



— K. 



W. 



K. 
K. 



Gray, Silas, Florida 
Groot, Lieut. Petrus, Amsterdam 
Harter, Henry, German Flats 
Herkimer, Gen. Nicholas, Danube, 

member Canajoharie committee 
Herkimer, Capt. George, Fort 

Herkimer, member German Flats 

committee 
He'.mer, Capt. Frederick, German 

Flats, German Flats committee 
Helmer, John Adam, German Flats 

[Sent to fort bj^ Gen. Herkimer] 
House, Lieut. John Joseph, Minden 
Hunt, Lieut. Abel (supposed), 

Florida 
Huffnail, Christian 
Hawn, Conrad, Herkimer 
Hiller, , Fairfield [shot from 

a tree-top] 
Huyck, John, Palatine 
Hand, Marcus, Florida 
Hall, William, Glen 
Hill, Nicholas 
Klock, Jacob I., Palatine 
Klepsaddle, Maj. Enos, German 

Flats 
Kilts, Conrad, Palatine 
Kilts, Peter, Palatine • . 

Keller, Andrew, Palatine 
Keller, Jacob, Palatine 
Keller, Solomon, Palatine 
Klock, John, St. Johnsville 
Klock, Col. Jacob G., St. Johnsville, 

member Palatine committee 
Klepsaddle, Jacob, German Flats 
Loucks, Lieut. Peter, Palatine 
Lintner, George, Minden 

Llghthall, , Palatine 

Longshore, Solomon, Canajoharie 
Loans, Henry, Canajoharie 
Lighthall, Francis, Ephratah 
Louis, Col., a St. Regis Indian with 

Oneidas. [He held a Lieuten- 
ant's commission, and was usu- 
ally called Colonel.] 
Moyer, Jacob, Fairfield [found 

with his throat cut.] 
Miller, Adam, Glen 
Miller, Jelles, Minden 
Miller, John P., Minden 
Miller, Henry, Minden 
Murray, David, Florida 
McMaster, Lieut. David, Florida 
Markell, Jacoli, Springfield 
Merckley, William, Palatine 
Myers, Jacob, German Flats 
Myers, Joseph, Herkimer 
Mowers, Conrad, supposed Danube 

Mowers, 

Mowers, , brothers 

Nellis, Philip, Palatine 
Nellis, Christian, Palatine 
Nellis, John D., Palatine 
Nestell, Peter, Palatine 
Newkirk, John, Florida 
Newkirk, Garret, son of John, 

Florida 
Paris, Hon. Isaac (murdered). 

Palatine Committee of Safety 
Paris, Peter, son of Isaac, Palatine 
Petry, Dr. William, Fort Herkimer 

Committee of Safety 



K. 
K. 



K. 



K. 
K. 
W. 



W. 

K. 



W. 

W. 

K. 



K. 
K. 



K. 

K. 
K. 
K. 

K. 
W^ 

K. 



K. 

K. 
K. 



Pettingill, , Mohawk 

Petry, Lieut. Dederick Marcus, Ger- 
man Flats, German Flats com- 
mittee 
Petry, John Marks, German Flats 

Pettingall, , town of Mohawk 

Putman, Ensign Richard, Johns- 
town 
Putman, Martinus, Johnstown 
Phillips, Cornelius, Florida 
Price, Adam, Canajoharie 
Pickard, Nicholas, Canajoharie 
Petry, John, Herkimei', German 

Flats committee 
Petry, Joseph, Herkimer 
Petry, Lieut. Han Yost, Herkimer 
Pritchard, Nicholas, Minden 
Quackenbush, Lieut. Abm. D., Glen 
Rechtor, Capt. Nicholas, Ephratah 
Radnour, Jacob, Minden 
Rother, John, Minden 
Raysnor, George, Minden 
Roof, Johannes, Fort Stanwix; af- 
terwards captain of exempts at 
Canajoharie 
Roof, John, a son (Col. of militia 

after the war) 
Rasbach, Marx, Kingsland 

Ritter, , Fairfield. Suffrenus 

Casselman, a tory, boasted of 
having cut Ritter's throat. 
Sammons, Sampson, Mohawk 

Committee of Safety 
Sammons, Jacob, Mohawk 
Shoemaker, Rudolph, Canajoharie 
Scholl, Ensign John Yost, Ephratah 
Sitts, Peter, Palatine 
Sharrar, Christian, Herkimer 

Sharrar, , a school teacher, 

Remesnyderbush 
Staring, Hendrick, Schuyler 
Shoemaker, Thomas, Herkimer 
Siebert, Rudolph 
Shults, George, Stone Arabia 
Shaull, Henry, Herkimer 

Shimmel, , Herkimer 

Sanders, Henry, Minden 

Shafer, William 

Seeber, Major William H., Minden, 

Canajoharie district committee 
Seeber, Capt. Jacob, Minden 
Seeber, Suffrenus, Canajoharie 
Seeber, Audolph, sons of William 

S., Minden 
Seeber, James, Canajoharie 
Seeber, Henry, Canajoharie 
Seeber, Lieut. John, Canajoharie 
Spencer, Henry (interpreter), an 

Oneida 
Schell, Christian, Schellsbush 
Smith, George, Palatine 
Smith, Henry, 

Swarts, Lieut. Jeremiah, Mohawk 
Sillenbeck, John G. 
Shults, John, Palatine 
Shults, George, Stone Arabia 
Sommer, Peter 
Stowitts, Philip G. P., Root 
Snell, Joseph, Snellsbush (now 

Manheim) 
Snell, Jacob, Snellsbush 
Snell, Frederick, Snellsbush 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



53 



K. 

K. 
K. 

K. 

P. 

W. 

w. 
w. 

K. 
K. 

K. 

W. 



P. 
W. 
K. 
K. 



P. 

K. 
P. 



W. 
P. 

P. 
W. 



Snell, Suffrenus, Snellsbush 
Snell, Peter, Snellslnish 
Snell, George, Snellsbush 
Snell, John, Stone Arabia 
Snell, John, Jun., a fifer, Stone 

Arabia 
Snell, Jacob, a committee man. 

Stone Arabia 
Sponable, John, Palatine 
Thum, Adam, St. Johnsvillc 
Thompson, Henrj^, Glen 
Timmerman, Jacob, St. Johnsville 
Timmerman, Lieut. Henry, St. 

Johnsville 
Timmerman, Conrad, St. Johns- 
ville 
Visscher, Capt. John, Mohawk 
Visscher, Col. Frederick, Mohawk, 

Mohawk committee 
Van Alstyne, Martin C, Canajo- 

harie 
Van Deusen, George, Canajoharie 
Vedder, Henry 
Vols, Conrad, German Flats 
Vols, Lieut. Jacob, German Flats 
Van Slyke, Maj. Harmanus. 

Palatine, Palatine committee 
Van Slyke, Nicholas, a fifer. 

Palatine 
Van Home, Cornelius, Florida 
Van Home, Henry, Florida 

Van Slyke, , Canajoharie 

Van Antwerp, John, Glen 

Wag-ner, Lieut. Col. Peter, Palatine, 

Palatine committee 

Wormuth, , Palatine 

Wagner, Lieut. Peter, Palatine 
Wagner, George, Palatine 
Wagner, John, Palatine (sons of 

Lieut. Col. Peter Wagner) 
Wagner, Jacob, Minden 
Wagner, John, Canajoharie 
Walrath, Garret, Minden 
Walter, George, Palatine 
Westerman, Peter, Minden 
Wohlever, John, Fort Herkimer 
Wohlever, Richard, Fort Herkimer 
Wohlever, Peter Fort Herkimer 
Wohlever, Abram. Fort Herkimer 
Walrath, Lieut. Henry, Herkimer 
Weaver, Jacob, German Flats 
Weaver, Peter James, German Flats 
Widrick, Michael, Schuyler 
Wrenkle, Lawrence, Fort Herkimer 
Walrath, Jacob, Palat'ne 
Walrath, Henry, Herkimer 
Yates, Capt. Robert, supposed 

Root 
Yerdon, Nicholas, supposed Minden 
Younglove, Moses, surgeon. Stone 

Arabia 
Youker. Jacob. Oppenheim 
Zimmerman, Henry, St. Johnsville 



This list of names indicates that 
Herkimer's regiment was composed 
three-quarters of German farmers, 
with some Dutch from the eastern 
part of the county, while the balance 



of one-quarter consisted of men with 
Scotch, Irish, English, Welsh, Swiss 
and names of indeterminate national- 
ity. The foregoing roster contains 256 
names, the largest list yet published 
and gives the identity of a little less 
than one-third of the Tryon militia of 
Oriskany. Further research would 
probably add more men to this record. 
The homes of 225 of the 256 are given. 
Of these 225, the Palatine district fur- 
nished 71 and the Canajoharie 66 — 137 
combined. This great proportion of 
the regiment from this midsection of 
the valley may be due largely to the 
fact that more effort has been made 
to identify the men of Oriskany here- 
abouts, particularly by Simms. Of the 
five western Montgomery towns. Pala- 
tine furnishes to this list 55, Minden 
35, Canajoharie 21, St. Johnsville 8, 
Root 2, a total of 119. At least 20 of 
the patriots were members of the 
Tryon County Committee of Safety. 

The loss of the American force at 
Oriskany is variously stated by writers 
of the period. One account gives it 
as 160 killed and another as 160 killed 
and wounded. Whatever it was it 
was large for the force engaged, 
and the loss of the enemy at Orisk- 
any and during Willett's sortie was 
fully as great as that of the pro- 
vincials. 

Assuming the patriot force, which 
set out from Fort Dayton for Orisk- 
any, to have numbered 850 men, the 
roster here published comprises about 
two-sevenths of this valley regiment. 
This list, out of 256 names, has 63 
killed, 24 wounded and 11 prisoners. 
The same proportion carried out would 
make the Oriskany losses 224 killed, 
84 wounded and 37 prisoners. This 
probably is not accurate as to deaths, 
as more names of killed soldiers were 
probably remembered and recorded 
and put on the roster than of the 
wounded, prisoners or unharmed. The 
proportion of wounded and prisoners 
may be assumed to be correct so that 
the opinion may be risked that the 
American losses were about 160 killed, 
80 wounded and 40 prisoners, a total 
patriot loss of 280. As 40 Senecas 
were killed, on the British side, it may 



54 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



be assumed that, aside from the pris- 
oners, the enemy's loss was as great 
and possibly greater, and this would 
indicate a total casualty list of 2,800 
engaged at Oriskany and Willett's 
sortie of 500 killed and wounded. 
This is merely ventured as an 
opinion, and the true or full ex- 
tent of the terrible losses at Oriskany 
(said to have been the bloodiest 
battle of the Revolution) on both 
sides will probably never be known. 
Certainly scores of dead were left 
by the provincials on the field 
and similarly, on the enemy's side, 
scores were buried by the Indians 
and Tories or were left lying in the 
forest where the battle was fought. 
Scores of wounded were carried down 
the vallej- by the patriots and back to 
the British and savage camps by the 
enemy. The patriot wounded were 
frequently slaughtered where thej' laj', 
many of the Americans being found, 
with their throats cut where they fell, 
by their comrades after the savage foe 
retreated. Here, as in many other 
Revolutionary conflicts, the Indians 
acted like bloodthirsty, cowardly wild 
beasts and, in many instances, their 
Tory comrades outdid them in deeds 
of bloody bestiality. The brave men, 
who went to this wood of death with 
Herkimer, came from the confines of 
the present counties of INIontgomery, 
Fulton, Herkimer, Oneida and Otsego, 
all from the Mohawk valley with the 
exception of the men from the Cherry 
Valley and Springfield settlements. 



After the battle of Oriskany a song, 
commemorative of the event was 
composed, and for a long time sung in 
the Mohawk valley, of which the fol- 
lowing is a stanza: 

"Brave Herkimer, our General's dead. 

And Colonel Cox is slain: 
And many more and valiant men. 
We ne'er shall see again." 



CHAPTER XIII. 

1777 — Personal Experiences at Oris- 
kany — Indian and Tory Barbarities. 

Having had a general review of the 
Oriskany campaign, a few of the ex- 
periences and particulars of the pa- 



triot actors in that affair may be in 
order, particularly as they relate to 
the Palatine and Canajoharie men. 
Regarding details of the Oriskany 
conflict, Simms publishes the follow- 
ing experiences of those engaged: 

"It is only in the minor events at- 
tending a battle, that the reader is 
made to realize its fullness and see 
its horrors, and that the reader may 
see this deadly conflict * * * some 
of its interesting scenes are here de- 
picted. 

"At the beginning of the Revolution, 
there dwelt in Fort Plain, two broth- 
ers named George and Robert Crouse. 
The former was a man of family, and 
his sons. Col. Robert and Deacon 
Henry Crouse, are well remembered in 
this community, where four sons of 
the latter still reside, [at the time 
Simms wrote these incidents.] Rob- 
ert was a bachelor. Those brothers 
were remarkably large and well form- 
ed men, and would have served a 
sculptor as a model for a giant race. 
Robert was the tallest and came to 
be called a seven-footer, and is believ- 
ed to have stood full six and a half 
feet in his boots, and well propor- 
tioned. His great strength became 
proverbial, and two anecdotes have 
been preserved in the memory of our 
venerable friend, William H. Seeber, 
going to prove it. In January, 1776, on 
the occasion of Gen. Schuyler's as- 
sembling troops at Caughnawaga, now 
Fonda, to arrest Sir John Johnson, 
the Tryon county militia were ordered 
thither by Gen. Tenbroeck of Albany, 
to whose brigade they then belonged. 
Nicholas Herkimer, then the senior 
colonel of Tryon county troops, as- 
sembled them as directed. The Tryon 
county militia became a separate bri- 
gade in September, 1776, with Col. 
Herkimer as its acting general, and 
he was, as stated elsewhere, later com- 
missioned its brigadier general. While 
there the brigade was paraded on the 
ice in the river, and Robert Crouse 
was designated to bear the flag in sa- 
luting the generals. He waved it so 
easily and gracefully with one hand, 
when hardly another man present 
could have handled it with both hands. 



THE STOKY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



55 



that not only the generals, but the 
entire assemblage was excited to ad- 
miration, and a significant murmur of 
applause was echoed from the hills 
hemming in the valley. Gen. Schuy- 
ler said to the officers near him, 'That 
man ought to have a commission,' and 
one is said to have been tendered him, 
which he declined. This incident 
probably accounts for the fact that 
Lieut. Sammons placed him among the 
officers killed at Oriskany. Henry 
Wali-ath, the strongest man by repu- 
tation in the Palatine settlements, 
came from Stone Arabia in the winter 
of 1775 and 1776, bringing a friend 
with him, as he told Robert Grouse, 
expressly to see which was the 
stronger man of the two. Said 
Grouse, 'Well, you go home and put 50 
skipples of wheat on your sleigh, and 
I will put 50 skipples with it, and the 
strongest one shall have the 100 skip- 
ples' — 75 bushels. The Stone Arabia 
bully never put in an appearance, 
which left Grouse the acknowledged 
champion. Robert Grouse was made 
a prisoner at Oriskany, and, as his 
friends afterward learned, by fellow 
prisoners who knew him, was most 
inhumanly murdered. Agreeable to 
the affidavit of Dr. Moses Younglove, 
who was also a prisoner from that 
battlefield, the Indians killed some of 
the prisoners at their own pleasure, 
and to his knowledge they tortured to 
death at least half a dozen. Of this 
number was Robert Grouse, who was 
the selected victim at one of their hell- 
ish orgies, as the late William Grouse, 
a nephew, learned subsequently by 
other prisoners who knew him. His 
remarkable stature possibly gave 
them a new idea of derisive torture, 
for, with their knives, they began by 
amputating his legs at the knee joints, 
and when accomplished they held him 
up on those bleeding limbs — derisively 
told him he was then as tall as those 
around him — and bade him walk. As 
his life was fast ebbing they sought 
other modes of torture. At length dis- 
patching him they tore off and se- 
cured for market his reeking scalp. 
Whether they ate any of his flesh is 
unknown, but it is not improbable 



they did as numbers of the Indians 
engaged in this contest had feasted on 
prisoners in earlier wars. Thus ig- 
nobly fell, not only the largest but 
one of the best men in the Mohawk 
valley." 

Sam Grouse, a giant Fort Plainer, 
who died about 1890, probably inherit- 
ed his enormous frame from these 
Revolutionary ancestors. 

Gaptain Jacob Gardinier: — after 
being literally riddled with bullets and 
bayonets, crept into a cavity at the 
roots of a tree and, by the aid of his 
waiter, a German lad, who loaded his 
gun for him, his hand having been 
lacerated by a bayonet, he continued 
the fight shooting from that position 
an Indian who was dodging about to 
get a shot at an American officer. Of 
this brave militia captain, said the 
Rev. Johan Daniel Gros of Fort Plain, 
in a work published after the war on 
"Moral Philosophy:" "Let it stand re- 
corded, among other patriotic deeds 
of that little army of militia, that a 
Jacob Gardinier, with a few of his 
men, vanquished a whole platoon, kill- 
ing the captain, after he had held him 
for a long time by his collar as a 
shield against the balls and bayonets 
of the whole platoon. This brave mil- 
itia captain is still alive and was 
cured of thirteen wounds." 

George Walter, at Oriskany, was 
struck down with a severe bullet 
wound. Faint from loss of blood, he 
crept to a spring and slaked his thirst 
and revived. While watching the 
fight, an Indian lurking near discov- 
ered him and, running up, gave him a 
blow on the head with his tomahawk, 
and in another moment had torn off 
his reeking scalp. When found by his 
friends, some of his wounds were fly- 
blown, but he recovered and lived until 
1831, dying at a ripe old age. It is 
said that Walter, in telling of his ex- 
perience, remarked: "Dat Indian tot 
I vash det, but I knows petter all de 
time; but I tot I would say nodding so 
as he would go off." 

Gaptain Ghristopher W. Fox: — ^In the 
Palatine batallion of militia, there 
were three captains by the name of 
Fox, viz: Gaptain William Fox jr., 



56 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Capt. Christopher P. Fox and Captain 
Christopher W. Fox. Probably they 
were all in the Oriskany battle and 
the last two named were quite surely 
there. Christopher W. was severely 
wounded in the right arm, which was 
partially dressed on the ground, 
where he remained with his men; and, 
discovering an Indian crawling from 
behind a tree in the direction of the 
enemy's encampment, grasping his 
sword in his left hand he said to some 
of his men: "You keep an eye on me 
for safety and I will kill an Indian." 
As he approached the savage, a mutual 
recognition took place. The Indian 
was a half-breed called William John- 
son, and was a reputed son of his 
namesake, Sir William Johnson. He 
was down with a broken leg and 
begged for his life because he was 
wounded. "Ah," said the dauntless 
captain, directing the prostrate war- 
rior to his crippled arm, "I am wound- 
ed too, and one of us must die." In an 
instant, with his left hand, he thrust 
the keen-edged sword through the In- 
dian's body. This Captain Fox was 
wounded in the following fashion: He 
and a hostile Indian, under the cover 
of trees a few rods distant were, for 
some time, watching in a vain en- 
deavor to get some advantage of each 
other; and, thinking to draw the In- 
dian's shot, and win the gaine, Fox 
extended his hat upon his hand be- 
side a tree to attract the savage's at- 
tention. The ruse succeeded and the 
Indian supposing the hat contained a 
head, fired on the target; but unfor- 
tunately Fox had a long arm and had 
extended it so far that the ball struck 
it and, dropping the hat, the hand fell 
limp at his side. The Indian, seeing 
the hat fall, no doubt supposed he had 
killed his man, but considered the 
hazard of securing a scalp too great 
to approach his victim. It was com- 
mon practise to thrust out a hat on 
one's ramrod or a stick to draw an 
antagonist's charge, when fighting in 
the Indian fashion, but so reckless an 
act as that of this captain's seemed to 
merit the punishment. Fox became a 
major and resided after the war at 
Palatine Church. The following has 



a direct bearing on the above: 

"Reed., Williger, Oct. 16, 1779, of 
Christopher Fox, Esq., eight dollars in 
full for curing his arm of a wound re- 
ceived in the Oriskany fight, £ 3. 4. 0. 
"Moses Younglove." 
Abram Quackenboss: — The last syl- 
lable of this name is written boss, but 
pronounced bush. One of the earliest 
Low Dutch families to locate in the 
present town of Glen was that of 
Quackenbush, as the name is now 
written. One of Quackenbush's boy- 
hood playmates, near the lower Mo- 
hawk castle at Fort Hunter, was an 
Indian called Bronkahorse, who was 
about his own age. Quackenbush was 
a lieutenant under the brave Capt. 
Gardinier. Among the followers of 
the Johnsons to Canada was his In- 
dian friend, who also tried to get the 
white Whig to go with him, assuring 
him that he would have the same office 
in the royal army. Their next meet- 
ing was in the dodging, tree-to-tree 
fight at Oriskany. The lieutenant 
heard himself addressed in a familiar 
voice, which he recognized as that of 
his early Indian friend, now posted be- 
hind a tree within gunshot of the one 
which covered his own person. "Sur- 
render j^ourself my prisoner and you 
shall be treated kindly," shouted the 
Mohawk brave, "but if you do not you 
will never get away from here alive — 
we intend to kill all who are not made 
prisoners!" The success of the enemy 
at the beginning of the contest made 
them bold and defiant. "Never will I 
become a prisoner," shouted back 
Quackenboss. Both were expert rifle- 
men and now watched their chance. 
Bronkahorse fired first and planted a 
bullet in the tree scarcely an inch from 
his adversary's head, but he had lost 
his best chance, as the lieutenant 
sprang to a new position from which 
his adversary's tree would not shield 
him, and in the next instant the In- 
dian dropped with a bullet through 
his heart. 

The Seebers: — Major William See- 
ber, who lived next to Fort Plain and 
was then nearly 60 j^ears old, was 
mortally wounded in the battle, where 
his son Audolph was slain and Capt. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



57 



Jacob H. fell with a broken thigh. 
Jacob cut staddles and attempted to 
withe them about his broken leg to 
enable him to escape, but could not 
stand upon it, and gave up, expecting 
to be slain. Henry Failing, an ac- 
quaintance, came to him and offered 
to remove him to greater safety, but 
Seeber declined, telling his friend to 
load his gun, take the remainder of his 
cartridges and leave him to his fate. 
He was afterward removed and died 
at Fort Herkimer. Failing was also 
severely wounded, but removed and re- 
covered. 

Garret Walrath, a soldier in the 
Cana.ioharie batallion, was at Oris- 
kany and is said to have never feared 
flesh or the devil. In one of the ter- 
rible encounters in the early part of 
the engagement, he was made prisoner 
and pinioned and told to keep close 
behind an Indian, who claimed all his 
attention. He often purposely ran 
against his captor, whining and com- 
plaining that his arms were so tightly 
drawn back. * * * At this period 
not only the Indians but the whites, 
especially those accustomed to hunt- 
ing, carried a sharp, well-pointed 
knife in a belt. Walrath * * * * 
cautiously grasped the handle of his 
knife and, watching his opportunity, 
in one of his stumbles over the heels 
of his captor, he adroitly plunged his 
knife into his body, and in the next 
instant he was a disembowled and 
dead Indian. The liberated captive, 
with his bloody knife in hand, cau- 
tiously sought his way back, and in 
an hour or two was welcomed by his 
surviving companions, who soon saw 
him armed again with a gun. 

Col. Henry Diefendorf was a brave 
militia captain from the present town 
of Minden, where his descendants still 
reside. In the discharge of his duties, 
he was shot through the lungs, during 
the latter part of the engagement. 
Near him when he fell were William 
Cox, Henry Sanders and probably 
others of his company. He begged for 
water, and Sanders stamped a hole in 
the marshy soil and, as the water set- 
tled in it, he took off his shoe and in 
it gave the dying man a drink. See- 



ing by the smoke from whence the 
shot came that struck down his cap- 
tain, Cox said: "Damn my soul, but 
I'll have a life for that one!" He ran 
to the tree before the foe could poss- 
ibly reload his gun, where he found a 
large Indian down with a broken leg. 
As Cox leveled his rifle, the warrior 
threw up his hand and shouted: "You- 
ker! you-ker!" which his adversary 
supposed was a cry for quarter. "I'll 
give you you-ker" said Cox as he sent 
a bullet through the Indian's head. He 
rejoined his comrades a few minutes 
later with the savage's gun. 

Henry Thompson was a helper to 
the doughty Capt. Gardinier, who 
lived and had a blacksmith shop near 
the present village of Fultonville. Into 
Oriskany he followed his brave em- 
ployer and, after the battle had raged 
for hours, he approached Gardinier 
and said he was hungry. "Fight 
away," shouted the captain. "I can't 
without eating," said the soldier. 
"Then get you a piece and eat," was 
the reply. He did so and sitting upon' 
the body of a dead soldier, he ate with 
a real zest, while the bullets whistled 
about his head. His lunch finished, 
he arose and was again seen with re- 
newed energy where peril was the 
most imminent. 

Sir John Johnson married a daugh- 
ter of John Watts of New York city 
and her brother, Stephen Watts, join- 
ed Johnson when he went to Canada. 
He was a British captain at Oriskany 
and, in making a deperate charge he 
was wounded and made a prisoner. As 
the Americans could not be encum- 
bered with their wounded foes, he was 
left to his fate — and not despatched 
and scalped as were all wounded Am- 
ericans found by the enemy. Being 
discovered by Henry N. Failing, a pri- 
vate soldier [from the present town of 
Minden] in the Canajoharie district 
batallion, he kindly carried him to a 
little stream of water that hs might 
there slake his thirst and die more 
easily. To his thanks for the soldier's 
kindness he added the gift of his watch. 
Two days after, Capt. Watts was di.s- 
covered by some straggling Indians 
looking for plunder, was taken to the 



58 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



enemy's camp, properly cared for and 
finally recovered. 

Among the tragic incidents of Oris- 
kany was one which happened at a 
tree afterward called "the bayonet 
tree." One of Herkimer's men was 
held up, dead or alive, and pinned to 
a tree several feet from the ground 
with a bayonet driven into the tree 
several inches. Here the body re- 
mained until it fell to the ground from 
decomposition. This bayonei; was ld 
have been seen in the tree for more 
than a quarter of a century and until 
the tree had grown so as to bury most 
of the blade. 

Henry Thompson was not the only 
one of the patriots to satisfy his hun- 
ger during the battle. Adam Prank 
also opened his knapsack and sat down 
and made a hearty but hasty meal, 
after which he was heard to exclaim 
in German, "Jezt drauf auf die kerls!" 
— "Now we'll give it to them!" 

Captain Andrew Dillenbeck of Stone 
Arabia, was the hero of a fight which 
resulted in his death. Tories of John- 
son's Greens attempted to take him 
prisoner and, on Dillenbeck's saying 
he would not be taken alive, siezed his 
gun. Captain Dillenbeck wrenched it 
away and felled his enemy with the 
butt. He shot a second one dead, 
thrust a third through the body with 
his bayonet and then fell dead from a 
Tory shot. 

Dr. Younglove, surgeon in the Tryon 
county brigade, was taken prisoner at 
Oriskany and, after his return to his 
Palatine home, made the following af- 
fidavit: 

"Moses Younglove, surgeon of Gen. 
Herkimer's brigade of militia, depos- 
eth and saith, that being in the battle 
of said militia on the 6th of August 
last, toward the close of the battle, he 
surrendered himself a prisoner to a 
savage, who immediately gave him up 
to a sergeant of Sir John Johnson's 
regiment; soon after which a lieuten- 
ant in the Indian department, came up 
in company with several Tories, when 
said Mr. Grinnis, by name, drew his 
tomahawk at this deponent and with 
a deal of persuasion was kindly pre- 
vailed on to spare his life. He then 



plundered him of his watch, buckles, 
spurs, etc., and other Tories, following 
his example, stripped him almost 
naked, with a great many threats, 
while they were stripping and mas- 
sacreing prisoners on every side. That 
this deponent was brought before Mr. 
Butler Sen. (Col. John), who demand- 
ed of him what he was fighting for? 
to which deponent answered: 'He 
fought for the liberty that God and 
nature gave him, and to defend him- 
self and dearest connexions from the 
massacre of the savages.' To which 
Butler replied: 'You are a damned 
impudent rebel!' and so saying imme- 
diately turned to the savages, encour- 
aging them to kill him, and if they did 
not, the deponent and the other per- 
sons should be hanged on the gallows 
then preparing. That several prison- 
ers were then taken forward to the 
enemy's headquarters with frequent 
scenes of horror and massacre, in 
which Tories were active as well as 
savages; and in particular one Davis, 
formerly known in Tryon county, on 
the Mohawk river. That Lieut. Sin- 
gleton of Sir John Johnson's regiment, 
being wounded, entreated the savages 
to kill the prisoners, which they ac- 
cordingly did, as nigh as this deponent 
can judge, about six or seven. That 
Isaac Paris was also taken the same 
road without receiving from them any 
remarkable insult, except stripping, 
until some Tories came up who kicked 
and abused him, after which the sav- 
ages, thinking him a notable offender, 
murdered him barbarously. That those 
of the prisoners, who were delivered 
up to the provost guards, were ordered 
not to use any violence in protecting 
the prisoners from the savages, who 
came up every day wnth knives, feeling 
the prisoners to know which were fat- 
test. That they dragged one of the 
prisoners out of the guard with the 
most lamentable cries, tortured him 
for a long time, and this deponent was 
informed, by both Tories and Indians, 
that they ate him, as appears they did 
another on an island in Lake Ontario 
[Buck's Island] by bones found there 
nearly picked, just after they had 
crossed the lake with the prisoners. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



59 



That the prisoners who were not de- 
livered up were murdered, in consid- 
erable numbers, from day to day 
around the camp, some of them so 
nigh that their shrieks were heard. 
That Capt. Martin of the bateaux men, 
was delivered to the Indians at Os- 
wego, on pretence of his having kept 
back some useful intelligence. That 
this deponent, during his imprison- 
ment, and his fellows were kept al- 
most starved for provisions, and what 
they drew were of the worst kind, such 
as spoiled flour, biscuit full of mag- 
gots, and mouldy, and no soap allow- 
ed or other method of keeping clean, 
and were insulted, struck, etc., without 
mercy by the guards, without any 
provocation given. That this depon- 
ent was informed by several sergeants 
orderly on St. Leger that twenty dol- 
lars were offered in general orders for 
every American scalp. 

"Moses Younglove." 

"John Barclay, Chairman of Albany 
Committee." 

Lieut. Peter Groat and Andrew Cun- 
ningham, a neighbor, were captured at 
Oriskany and murdered at Wood 
creek, slices of their thighs being 
roasted and feasted upon by the sav- 
ages with zest and mirth. Peter Ehle, 
a fellow prisoner, saw his comrades 
killed. 

There were a few Oneidas with the 
provincials in this battle, among whom 
was the Indian interpreter, Spencer, 
who was killed. The Indians of the 
enemy suffered severely, being put 
forward early in the fight. The Sen- 
ecas alone lost over 60 in killed and 
wounded, while the Mohawks and 
other tribes suffered severely. The fire 
of the patriots was fully as deadly 
against the Tories, their captains, Mc- 
Donough, Wilson and Hare, lying dead 
on the field, with scores of men in 
Tory uniforms scattered around them. 
The great loss of the Indians has been 
made a pretext by English writers to 
justify the cruelties inflicted by them 
on their prisoners. Says the "Life of 
Mary Jemison" (the white woman), 
page 88: "Previous to the battle of 
Fort Stanwix, the British sent for the 
Indians (Senecas) to come and see 



them whip the rebels; and at the same 
time stated that they did not wish to 
have them fight, but wanted to have 
them just sit down, smoke their pipes 
and look on. Our Indians went to a 
man, but contrary to their expecta- 
tions, instead of smoking and looking 
on, they were obliged to fight for their 
lives and, in the end, were completely 
beaten, with a great loss in killed and 
wounded. Our Indians alone had 36 
killed and a great number wounded. 
Our town (Little Beard's Town) ex- 
hibited a scene of real sorrow and dis- 
tress, when our warriors returned and 
recounted their misfortunes, and stat- 
ed the real loss they had sustained in 
the engagement. The mourning was 
excessive, and was expressed by the 
most doleful yells, shrieks and bowl- 
ings, and by inimitable gesticulations." 



Here is an incident of the defense of 
Fort Schuyler, of a time i)robably after 
the Oriskany battle, from Judge Pom- 
eroy Jones's "Annals of Oneida 
County": — "A sentinel, posted on the 
northwest bastion of the fort, was shot 
with a rifle while walking his stated 
rounds in the gray of the morning; 
the next morning the second met the 
same fate, on the same post; the crack 
of the rifle was heard but from whence 
it came, none could conjecture, and 
the alarm being given, no enemy could 
be discovered. Of course, on the third 
night this station was dreaded as be- 
ing certain death and the soldier to 
whose lot it fell, quailed and hung 
back; but, to the surprise of the whole 
guard, a comrade offered to take his 
place and was accepted. Towards 
morning, the substitute sentinel drove 
a stake into the ground at the spot 
where his predecessors had been shot, 
on which he placed his hat and watch 
coat and with the help of a cord and a 
well stuffed knapsack, he soon had a 
very good apology for a portly sol- 
dier, who stood to the life at 'support 
arms,' with his trusty shining musket. 
Having thus posted his 'man of straw,' 
he quietly sat down behind the para- 
pet closely watching through an em- 
brassure for coming events. At early 
dawn, the well known report of the 



60 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



same rifle was heard, and the column 
of smoke ascending from the thick 
top of a black oak tree some 30 or 40 
rods distant, showed the whereabouts 
of the marksman. The sergeant of 
the guard was soon on the spot and 
the commandant notified that the 
perch of the sharpshooter had been 
discovered. A four pounder was 
quickly loaded with canister and 
grape, and the sound of this morning 
gun boomed over the hill and dale in 
the distance, immediately succeeded 
by a shout from the garrison, as they 
beheld one of Britain's red allies tum- 
bling head foremost from the tree top. 
On examining the counterfeit senti- 
nel, the holes through the various 
folds of the knapsack were more than 
circumstantial evidence that the aim 
was most sure, and that, had the 
owner stood in its place, he would have 
followed to his account those who had 
preceded him there. It Is hardly nec- 
essary to add that the sentinels on the 
northwest bastion were not afterwards 
molested." 



It was hoped, by surviving friends in 
the valley below, that the troops ad- 
vancing under Gen. Arnold to raise 
the siege of Fort Schuyler would be 
able to perform the melancholy task 
of burying the remains of our fallen 
soldiery at Oriskany. But, as over 
two weeks of excessively warm 
weather had transpired — it being then 
the 23d or 24th of August — decompo- 
sition had so rapidly taken place that 
the stench was intolerable, making it 
necessary for the health of the troops 
to give the field as wide a berth as 
possible.. So said James Williamson, 
who was a soldier under Arnold and 
who was on duty at Fort Stanwix. As 
the relieving American army force vm- 
der Gen. Arnold approached Oriskany, 
evidences of its bloody onslaught 
greeted them. Here are some things 
which were noticed by Nicholas 
Stoner, a young musician in Col. Liv- 
ingston's regiment, and copied from 
Simms's "Trappers:" Near the mouth 
of the Oriskany creek a gun was found 
standing against a tree with a pair of 
boots hanging on it, while in the creek 



near, in a state bordering on putrefac- 
tion, lay their supposed owner. In the 
grass, a little way from the shore, lay 
a well dressed man without hat or 
coat, who, it was supposed, had made 
his way there to obtain drink. A black 
silk handkerchief encircled his head. 
John Clark, a sergeant, loosened it but 
its hair adhered to it on its removal, 
and he left it. He, however, took from 
his feet a pair of silver shoe buckles. 
His legs were so swollen that a pair 
of deerskin breeches were rent from 
top to bottom. On their way nine 
dead bodies lay across the road, dis- 
posed in regular order, as was imag- 
ined by the Indians after their death. 
The stench was so great that the Am- 
ericans could not discharge the last 
debt due their heroic countrymen, and 
their bones were soon after bleaching 
on the ground. A little farther on an 
Indian was seen hanging to the limb 
of a tree. He was suspended by the 
traces of a harness, but by whom was 
unknown. Such were some of the 
scenes, a mile or two away, but, where 
the carnage had been greatest, they 
had to make as wide a circuit as pos- 
sible. Not an American killed in that 
battle was ever buried. 



Scalping was done to some extent 
by the American troops, but was not 
prompted by the hope of reward, as 
in the case of the Indians and Tories. 
"Scalps for the Canadian market" 
proved a source of revenue to the In- 
dians, who took them to Montreal and 
redeemed them for cash, receiving 
payment for those of men, women and 
children alike. Lossing gives the fol- 
lowing account of this diabolical prac- 
tise: "The methods used by the Indians 
in scalping is probably not generally 
known. I was told by Mr. Dievendorff 
[who was scalped as a boy in Dox- 
tader's Currytown 1781 raid and sur- 
vived to an old age] that the scalping 
knife was a weapon, not unlike in ap- 
pearance the bowie knife of the pres- 
ent day. The victim was usually 
stunned or killed by a blow from a 
tomahawk. Sometimes only a portion 
of the scalp (as was the case with Mr. 
Dievendorff) was taken from the 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



CI 



crown and the back part of the head, 
but more frequently the whole scalp 
was removed. With the dexterity of 
a surgeon, the Indian placed the point 
of his knife at the roots of the hair 
on the forehead and made a circular 
incision around the head. If the hair 
was short, he would raise a lappet of 
the skin, take hold with his teeth, and 
tear it instantly from the skull. If 
long, such as the hair of females, he 
would twist it around his hand, and, 
by a sudden jerk, bare the skull. The 
scalps were then tanned with the hair 
on, and often marked in such a man- 
ner that the owners could tell when 
and where they were severally obtain- 
ed, and whether they belonged to men 
or women. When Major Rogers, in 
1759, destroyed the chief village of the 
St. Francis Indians, he found there a 
vast quantity of scalps, many of them 
comically painted with heiroglyphics. 
They were all stretched on small 
hoops." A remarkable phase of this 
unspeakable practise, is that a large 
number of the valley people who were 
scalped, recovered and lived to an old 
age. This was due to the hurried way 
in which many of the Indian attacks 
were made, so that the victims were 
stunned and not killed. 

Col. John Butler had charge of the 
traffic in scalps with the Indians, dur- 
ing the Oriskany campaign, and prob- 
ably later. Simms says "the usual 
bounty, after a time, was $8 for all, 
except those of officers and commit- 
teemen, which commanded from $10 
to $20." That there was such a traffic 
in scalps has been denied by English 
writers but the fact seems substanti- 
ated by abundant evidence. 



Undoubtedly the leading patriot in 
the valley at that time was Nicholas 
Herkimer, a resident of the Canajo- 
harie district and in command of the 
Tryon county militia and of the forces 
at Oriskany. His father, Johan Jost 
Herkimer, had emigrated from the 
Palatinate about 1720 and settled on 
the Burnetsfield patent. At Fort Her- 
kimer he established a trading place 
and later built a strong stone house 
which was stockaded and became the 



fort, bearing his name. Johan Jost 
Herkimer, legend says, was a man of 
mighty strength among a population 
of men of muscle. He knew the En- 
glish and Indian languages, as well as 
his native German, and acted as inter- 
preter between the English and In- 
dians. He was concerned in the erec- 
tion of Fort Stanwix and became a 
man of considerable property and died 
in 1775 at Fort Herkimer. His son, 
Nicholas, settled east of Fall Hill in 
the Canajoharie district and built there 
a substantial brick residence, in 1764, 
which is now standing. While at Fort 
Herkimer, Herkimer commanded that 
post during the two attacks of the 
French war, he then being a lieuten- 
ant of militia. His commission for 
this rank is now in the possession of 
a collateral descendant in San Fran- 
cisco, while his brigadier-general's 
commission, from the New York pro- 
vincial congress, hangs on the walls of 
a Fort Plain house. He was a mem- 
ber of the Tryon County Committee 
of Safety from Canajoharie district 
and colonel of the militia of that dis- 
trict, and colonel-in-chief of the coun- 
ty. In 1776 he was made a briga- 
dier-general. He is described by 
one who saw him as a large, 
square built Dutchman and, con- 
trary to many accounts which rep- 
resent him as an old man at the time 
of the battle, family figures give his 
age at 49, and family tradition has it 
that he was then a sturdy, vigorous 
man, all of which is borne out by 
Oriskany events. Herkimer was a 
close friend of Brant and probably of 
other Mohawks, and was possibly the 
most influential Whig figure of the 
time in Tryon county. He served as 
chairman pro tem of the committee of 
safety and some of its papers and let- 
ters extant are signed by him. He 
seems to have been a man of sound 
sense, wise counsel and quick and ef- 
fective action. His prestige was 
dimmed by the Tory action of his 
brother, Han Yost Herkimer, who was 
a militia colonel but ran away to Can- 
ada. Of his other brothers, only Capt. 
George Herkimer, an ardent Whig and 
scout officer, was with him at Oris- 



62 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



kany, although other brothers were 
patriots with the exception of Han 
Yost. Undoubtedly Herkimer's strong 
Whig attitude and military ability had 
great effect in upholding the cause of 
independence in the county, particu- 
larly among the "Mohawk Dutch." 
His first wife was a sister of Peter S. 
Tygert and his second wife a daughter 
of the same. He left no children. 
Gen. Herkimer left an estate of 
1,900 acres of land and willed 
his brother, George Herkimer, 500 
acres and his homestead, where the 
latter was living in 1783, when Gen. 
Washington made his tour through 
the valley when he stopped here. The 
general in his will signed his name 
Nicholas "Herckheimer," although he 
varied it at other times. Herkimer's 
wound was not mortal but unskilful 
amputation of his wounded leg caused 
his death. It is said that the leg was 
sawed off short without tying the blood 
vessels up and the sturdy patriot 
slowly bled to death. When the leg 
was amputated two neighborhood boys 
buried it in the garden, and shortly 
after the General said to one of 
them: "I guess you boys will have to 
take that leg up and bury it with me, 
for I am going to follow it." The am- 
putation was done by a young French 
surgeon with Arnold's expedition up 
the valley against the advice of the 
General's doctor. Dr. Petrie. Col. Wil- 
lett called to see Herkimer soon after 
the operation and found him sitting 
up in bed and smoking his pipe. His 
strength failed toward night and, call- 
ing his family to his chamber, he read 
composedly the 38th psalm, closed the 
book, sank back upon his pillow and 
expired. The last three stanzas of this 
Psalm read as follows: 

They also that render evil for good 
are mine adversaries; because I fol- 
low the thing that good is. 

Forsake me not, O Lord; O my God, 
be not far from me. • 

Make haste to help me, O Lord my 
salvation. 

Christopher P. Yates, who was a 
man of fine intellect and an efficient 
patriot, said of Herkimer: "I claim 



not for the General that he was versed 
in Latin or Greek, or in the philosophy 
of the German schools; but I claim for 
him, that no German immigrant was 
better read in the history of the Pro- 
testant reformation, and in the phil- 
osophy of the Bible than Gen. Her- 
kimer." 

Johan Jost Herkimer, the first of 
the family in the valley, left thirteen 
children — five sons and eight daugh- 
ters, which gives an idea of the size of 
the valley families of the day. The 
marriages of the children of Jo- 
han Jost Herkimer gives an idea 
of the ratio of the Teutonic ele- 
ments in the western Mohawk valley 
in the eighteenth century. Of these 
known marriages nine are with people 
of German ancestry, three with people 
of Holland blood and one (that of 
Hendrick Frey) with a person of Swiss 
descent. 

Jurgh, Johan Jost, Madalana and 
Catharina Herkimer (or Erghemar) 
were patentees named in the Burnets- 
field grant of 1725. Johan Jost was 
doubtless the progenitor of the family 
in America. Just who the others were, 
in relationship to him, is not definitely 
known. They are supposed to have 
come over in the Palatine immigra- 
tion of 1722 and in this patent 100 
acres was allotted to each of them on 
the south side of the river in the 
neighborhood that subsequently be- 
came known as Fort Herkimer. There 
is a tradition that Johan Jost carried 
a child and some of his chattels on his 
back from Schenectady to German 
Flatts. A family legend gives the 
story that on the first Herkimer's ar- 
rival at his future wilderness home, 
he asked permission, of his Indian 
neighbors, to build a cabin. They at 
first refused him, to Herkimer's great 
chagrin. At this time, these savages 
were busy trying to carry a dugout 
they had recently completed to the 
Mohawk. On account of its weight 
they were having difficulty in moving 
the canoe and asked the pioneer to 
help them. Motioning all the Mo- 
hawks to get on one end of the heavy 
boat, the stalwart German lifted th^ 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



G3 



other end alone, and in this way the 
dugout was carried to the neighboring 
river. Astounded at the white man's 
great strength, the Indians at once 
gave Herliimer permission to build a 
cabin and cultivate the land. 

Located amid a beautiful landscape, 
with the flatlands stretching away to 
the river and lofty Fall Hill in the 
background, the home of General Her- 
kimer, in Danube, is a fine example 
of the Colonial Mohawk valley houses. 
Built of brick and finely finished, it is 
a monument to the solidity of charac- 
ter of the valley's early Teutonic set- 
tlers. It, in connection with the mon- 
ument and the Herkimer family burial 
plot, has been, a number of times, the 
scene of patriotic gatherings. Here is 
located the first of the markers, which 
were put in position in the summer of 
1912, to show the route of the valley 
militia in its march to the field of 
Oriskany. Capt. George Herkimer 
succeeded to the ownership of the 
house and its farm and, on his death, 
it passed to his son, Hon. John Herki- 
mer, who occupied it until about 1815, 
when it passed out of the Herkimer 
family. Lossing, in 1848, writing of 
this place, says: "After breakfast I 
rode down to Danube, to visit the resi- 
dence of General Herkimer while liv- 
ing and the old Castle church, near 
the dwelling place of Brant in the Rev- 
olution. It was a pleasant ride along 
the tow path between the canal and 
river. Herkimer's residence is about 
two and a half miles below Little Falls, 
near the canal, and in full view of the 
traveler upon the railroad, half a mile 
distant. It is a substantial brick edi- 
fice, was erected in 1764, and was a 
splendid mansion for the time and 
place. It is now owned by Daniel Con- 
ner, a farmer, who is 'modernizing' it, 
when I was there, by building a long, 
fashionable piazza in front, in place of 
the [former] small old porch, or stoop. 
He was also 'improving' some of the 
rooms within. The one in which Gen- 
eral Herkimer died (on the right of the 
front entrance), and also the one, on 
the opposite side of the passage, are 
left precisely as they were when the 
general occupied the house; and Mi'. 



Conner has the good taste and patriot- 
ism to preserve thefn so. These rooms 
are handsomely wainscoated with 
white pine, wrought into neat mold- 
ings and panels, and the casements of 
the deep windows are of the same ma- 
terial and in the same style. Mr. Con- 
ner has carefully preserved the great 
lock of the front door of the 'castle' — 
for castle it really was in strength and 
appointments against Indian assaults. 
It is sixteen inches long and ten wide. 
Close to the house is a subterranean 
room, built of heavy masonry and 
arched, which the general used as a 
magazine for stores belonging to the 
Tryon County militia. It is still used^ 
as a storeroom but with more pacific 
intentions. The family burying ground 
is upon a knoll a few rods southeast 
of the mansion, and there rest the re- 
mains of the gallant soldier, as seclud- 
ed and forgotten as if they were of 
'common mold.' Seventy years ago the 
Continental Congress, grateful for his 
services, resolved to erect a monument 
to his memory of the value of five 
hundred dollars; but the stone that 
may yet be reared is still in the 
ciuarry, and the patriot inscription to 
declare its intent and the soldier's 
worth is not yet conceived. Until 1847 
no stone identified his grave. Then a 
plain marble slab was set up with the 
name of the hero upon it; and when I 
visited it (1848), it was overgrown 
with weeds and brambles. It was 
erected by his grandnephew, Warren 
Herkimer." In 1895, under the aus- 
pices of the Oneida Historical society, 
an imposing stone shaft was here 
erected to the memory of Herkimer, 
bearing the inscription "Vorwaert" 
(forward), his command to the militia, 
which started the march of the impa- 
tient men to the field of Oriskany. 

A statue of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer 
was erected in the park at Herkimer 
in 1907 on the occasion of the cele- 
bration of the centennial of that vil- 
lage. It is an excellently modeled 
figure, cast in brohze, and represents 
the Oriskany leader, wounded and 
seated upon his saddle, pipe in hand, 
while he directs the battle. The ac- 
tion of the statue, pointing the way to 



64 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



victory, is vigorous and inspiring. Tlie 
sculptor was Burr C. Miller of Paris, 
and the work is the gift to Herkimer 
of Warner Miller, former United States 
Senator from the state of New York, 
a resident of that town and father of 
the sculptor. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

1778 — Indian Council at Johnstown, 
March 9 — Manheim, Caroga, Spring- 
field, Andrustown, German Flats 
Raids — Cherry Valley Massacre. 

Early in 1778 the alarming news 
came to the valley that the western 
Indian tribes were to unite with the 
MohawJiS, Cayugas, Onondagas and 
Senecas in a war upon the frontier, 
instigated by the Johnsons, Claus and 
Butler. Congress thereupon ordered 
a council held with the Six Nations 
at Johnstown in February and ap- 
pointed Gen. Schuyler and Volkert P. 
Douvv to conduct it together with a 
commissioner named James Duane, 
appointed by Governor Clinton. The 
Indians showed little interest in 
the conference and delayed coming 
until March 9. There were then pres- 
ent more than seven hundred of them, 
mostly friendly Oneidas and Tuscar- 
oras and hostile Onondagas, with a 
few Mohawks, three or four Cayugas 
and not one of the Senecas, whose 
warriors outnumbered those of all the 
other Iroquois. Instead of attending 
the council the Senecas sent a message 
expressing surprise that they were 
asked to come while the American 
"tomahawks were sticking in their 
heads, their wounds bleeding and their 
eyes streaming with tears for the loss 
of their friends," meaning at the bat- 
tle of Oriskany, which shows the ex- 
tent of the damage the patriots in- 
flicted on that fateful day. 

The Oneidas and Tuscaroras ex- 
pressed their allegiance to the United 
States and predicted the extinction of 
the hostile tribes. The rest of the In- 
dians had little to say, excepting an 
Onondaga chief who hypocritically la- 
mented the course of his tribe, laying 
it to the young and headstrong war- 
riors. Nothing was effected by the 



conference, except the satisfactory ex- 
pression of allegiance on the part of 
the Oneidas and Tuscaroras. The 
commissioners closed the council by 
warning the hostile Iroquois to look 
to their behavior as the American 
cause was just or a terrible venge- 
ance would overtake them. The Mar- 
quis de Lafayette, who was tempor- 
arily in command of the northern de- 
partment was at the Johnstown coun- 
cil and considerably improved the 
frontier defences by ordering forts 
built at Cherry Valley and in the One- 
ida country, the three Schoharie forts 
garrisoned and armed and other bor- 
der fortifications strengthened. Learn- 
ing among other Tory activities. Col. 
Guy Carlton, nephew of the governor 
of Canada, was on a spying tour in the 
neighborhood, efforts were made for 
his capture, Lafayette himself offering 
a reward of fifty guineas for his ar- 
rest. 



Irruptions of scalping parties of Ca- 
nadian Indians and Tories began in 
the Mohawk valley about 1778 and 
continued up to 1783, when a peace 
treaty was signed. It is impossible to 
tell of each of these because they wei'e 
so numerous, and records of all have 
not been preserved. One of the first, 
in the settlement • of Manheim. oc- 
curred on April 3, 1778, under com- 
mand of Captain Crawford, two weeks 
after the sacking of Fairfield, Herki- 
mer county. About 50 Indians and 
Tories raided the Mohawk valley in 
the settlement of Manheim, near Little 
Falls. Among the Tories were L. 
Casselman, Countryman and Bowers, 
who had gone to join the British 
forces in Canada from the lower Mo- 
hawk. The marauders captured the 
miller, John Garter and his boy John 
and Joseph Newman and Bartholomew 
Pickert, who happened to be at the 
mill. At Windecker's place, James 
Van Slyck, his son-in-law, was sick in 
bed and, for a wonder, was unharmed 
by the savages. The prisoners made 
here and in the vicinity were John 
House, Forbush, John Windecker, a 
boy of 13; Ganet Van Slyck, another 
boy; John Cypher, Helmer, Jacob 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



65 



Uher, George Attle. The two latter 
were rangers on a scout from Fort 
Snyder. Garter's mill was burned, )3ut 
no other dwellings were destroyed and 
no one was killed. Four Whigs were 
captured in Salisljury, Herkimer coun- 
ty. The march to Canada was made 
through the snow and great hardships 
were suffered. Windecker's Indian 
captor proved veiT kind and carried 
hiiu across several rapid streams on 
his back. Windecker said afterward, 
concerning their scarcity of food, that 
"An Indian would eat anything except 
crow." This raid was one of the ear- 
liest of the war and was not marked 
by the bloody ferocity which charac- 
terized the later ones. 



The following, concerning the inva- 
sion of Ephratah in the Palatine dis- 
trict, in April, 1778, is abridged from 
Simms's "Frontiersmen of New York," 
Vol. II., pp. 146-151: 

In 1773, 20 or more German families 
settled along Garoga creek in the pres- 
ent town of Ephratah and some at the 
present site of Kringsbush. These 
Germans were part of a shipload of 
immigrants, mostly from the district 
of Nassau near Frankfort-on-the- 
Main, which landed at Baltimore in 
1773. Many of them settled in the 
Mohawk valley. The immigration 
from Germany, and even from Hol- 
land, into New York state was prac- 
tically cbntinuous from the time of 
first settlement up to the Revolution. 
On this voyage very rough weather 
was encountered on the Atlantic, the 
masts went by the board and the ship 
nearly foundered. 

The settlement of Ephratah was so 
called after a place of that name in 
Germany. Prominent among these set- 
tlers was Nicholas Rechtor, whose 
father, Johannes Rechtor, came from 
Hesse in Germany and settled at Nis- 
kautau, six miles below Albany. These 
early Ephratah families all built log 
houses, except Rechtor, who put up a 
frame house and barn. Simms says 
this house was still standing (in 
1882), "just back of a public house 
in Caroga, so called after the 
creek passing through it — the orig- 



inal name still attaching to the 
settlement." Rechtor was located 
al5out three miles west of the stone 
grist mill Sir William Johnson had 
built for the use of that region which 
was then known as Tilleborough. 
Within a radius of five or six miles 
from Nicholas Rechtor's house the fol- 
lowing were located: Jacob Appley, 
Jacob Frey, John Hurtz, Conrad Hart, 
John Smith, Henry Smith, John Cool, 
Jacob Deusler, Leonard Kretzer, Henry 
Hynce, Flander, Phye, John Spank- 
able (now Sponable), John Winkle. 

Among the settlers in the Krings- 
bush section were Matthias Smith, 
Leonard Helmer, Joseph Davis and his 
brother-in-law, John Kring, after 
whom the settlement was named. 

In 1775, a small company of militia 
was organized among these settlers 
along the Caroga. The oflicers were 
Nicholas Rechtor. Captain; John Wil- 
liams, George Smith, lieutenants; John 
Sholl, ensign. This company was in 
the Oriskany battle where Capt. Rech- 
tor was thrown from and stepped on 
by his horse, disabling him. 

About four in the afternoon of April 
30, 1778, about 20 Indians and Tories 
invaded the Ephratah settlement. 
Most of the farmers were making 
maple sugar. Rechtor was drilling 20 
meh of his militia company about a 
mile from his home. Six of the enemy 
made their first appearance at the 
Harts' home and killed Conrad Hart, 
the father, and took captive his son 
Wilhelmus, a youth of 16. They plun- 
dered and burned Hart's building and 
from thence went to Jacob Appley's, 
where they destroyed all property. A 
daughter of Hart had, in the mean- 
time escaped, at the time of the first 
attack, and ran to where the militia 
company was drilling. Instead of 
Rechtor and his men attacking the 
enemy in force they split up and ran 
singly or in small companies of three 
or four toward their homes. Jacob 
Appley, Daniel Hart and Peter Shyke 
went with Capt. Rechtor to his home. 

The enemy had already reached 
Rechtor's. Here the savages, both 
Tory and Indian, found considerable 
plunder as the captain was well pro- 



66 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



vided with the worldly goods for that 
time and locality. They were some 
time in packing up and Mrs. Rechtor, 
objecting to the wholesale looting of 
her household, was struggling with a 
big Indian over a long-handled frying 
pan. The Americans came up on the 
run and fired at the Indian. The shot 
struck the pan handle, glanced down 
and wounded the woman in the ankle. 
A general melee took place. Appley 
shot an Indian and was himself shot 
down. Shyke was severely wounded 
and Captain Rechtor was hit in the 
right arm. Helmus Hart came up with 
his hands bound, he having been tied 
to a tree when J;he Hart house was at- 
tacked. The Americans released his 
hands and he joined in the fight, which 
soon ended in the enemy running 
away. 

At this time few of the settlers had 
been killed as they were in the sugar 
bush distant from their dwellings. 
Rechtor gathered all of his family (of 
seven children) that he could find and 
set out for Fort Paris, which he reach- 
ed at midnight. The two youngest 
girls and the youngest l)oy could not 
be found in the bush, as they evi- 
dently feared Indians and would not 
venture forth even in replj^ to the calls 
of their parents. Appley was so se- 
verely wounded that he had to be left 
and, at his request, was propped up 
against the oven with a gun in his 
hand. Rechtor's little four-year-old 
boy Henry now came home and got 
himself some bread and milk and be- 
gan eating it. Just then the savages 
came back. Appley shot and killed 
one and was himself killed and scalp- 
ed and left with a bayonet sticking 
through his heart. The little boy 
Henry was killed and scalped and 
thrown into the creek. Here the dead 
little body was found next day, one 
hand still clutching the spoon with 
which he had been eating. The en- 
emy's stay was short as they were 
gone when, shortly after, the two 
youngest Rechtor girls came out of 
the bush. Seeing Appley's dead body 
they ran in fright to their neighbor 
Hart's house. This they found burned 
and Hart dead and mangled and, so in 



great fright, they ran back into the 
bush where they stayed all night. In 
the morning they found neighbors and 
were taken to Fort Paris, where they 
rejoined their family. 

After leaving Rechtor's the enemy 
captured Peter Loucks, whom they 
took to Canada. A company of Am- 
erican soldiers, from Fort Paris, start- 
ed in pursuit the next morning. May 
1, 1778. They had Henry Flathead, a 
"friendly" Indian, for a guide. Coming 
upon the enemy's campflre this Indian 
gave a yell, probably to warn his red 
brethren. When the company came 
up meat was still cooking in the fire, 
but the enemy had vanished and could 
not be found. 

At the time of the Ephratah inva- 
sion, two Indians of the raiding party 
shot and killed a girl named Rickard, 
as she was driving home cows near 
Fort Klock in the east end of the pres- 
ent town of St. Johnsville. Hearing 
the shot, George Klock came running 
out with his gun and as the Indians 
made for the girl's body to scalp it, 
he fired and they made for the woods 
and disappeared. Going north this 
pair of savages made John Smith a 
prisoner at Kringsbush and took him 
to Canada. He was a son of Matthias 
Smith, a veteran of Oriskany. 

After the Ephratah raid most of the 
Whig families abandoned their homes, 
which were left standing by the Tories 
to afford themselves shelter on subse- 
quent raids. Rechtor removed to his 
old home below Albany until after 
the war, when most of the surviving 
Ephratah settlers came back to their 
lands there. The raid along the Car- 
oga was one of the first in the Mohawk 
valley attended with bloodshed. 

On the day of the Ephratah raid a 
party of Senecas ravaged a portion of 
the Schoharie valley. 



Joseph Brant and his warriors gath- 
ered at Oghkwaga early in 1778. This- 
place is now Windsor, in Broome 
county. 

Brant appeared at Unadilla in the 
spring of 1778 and Capt. McKean was 
sent by the people of Cherry Valley 
with a small force to reconnoitre the 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



67 



Indian position. McKean injudiciously 
wrote Brant a letter violently de- 
nouncing him and asking him to come 
to Cherry Valley, with the taunting 
remark that there he would be chang- 
ed from a "brant" to a "goose." Brant 
was enraged by this letter and answer- 
ed it later with the Cherry Valley 
massacre. 

Brant's first hostile movement of 
consequence, after his return to Oghk- 
waga in the spring of 1778, was to fall 
upon the little settlement at Spring- 
field, at the head of Otsego lake. This 
was in the month of May and every 
house was burned but one, into which 
the women and children were collect- 
ed and kept unharmed. Several men 
were captured and much plunder was 
taken but no one was murdered, prob- 
ably because of no Tories being pres- 
ent. 

At this same time, in May, 1778, 
Brant started out to destroy the 
Cherry Valley settlement. While 
reconnoitering the village from a 
distant hill he saw a company of 
boys drilling on the open space in front 
of the fort. He mistook these young 
patriots for soldiers and, thinking 
this post was strongly garrisoned, he 
deferred his attack until a later 
time. Drawing off his warriors he re- 
paired to the deep glen northwest of 
the village to see if he could inter- 
cept any travellers along the road to 
the Mohawk and so pick up any in- 
formation. Lieut. Matthew Wormuth, 
with a companion, started from Cher- 
ry Valley that evening to Fort Plain. 
The same day he had left Fort Plain 
to tell the Cherry Valley people that 
the militia would come up the next 
day, as Brant was known to be in the 
neighborhood. While Wormuth and Sitz, 
his companion, were riding along the 
edge of this glen, on their return to 
Fort Plain, Brant's warriors fired upon 
them, mortally wounding Wormuth 
and capturing Sitz. Lieutenant Wor- 
muth was of Col. Klock's Palatine 
battalion, and that officer came up the 
next day with the valley militia, but 
Brant had fled and all that could be 
done was to take back Wormuth's 
body to Fort Plain, and thence to his 



father's home across the river in Pala- 
tine. Wormuth had been a personal 
friend of Brant, who expressed regret 
at the young officer's death. 



In July Brant destroyed the little 
settlement of Andrustown, six miles 
southeast of German Flats, killing its 
inhabitants and driving away its live 
stock. 

In the summer of 1778, Brant's long 
stay at Unadilla, without striking a 
blow on some of the exposed points of 
the frontier, excited suspicion among 
the inhabitants of the valley that he 
might be planning an attack on them, 
and a scouting party of four men was 
accordingly sent out to watch his 
movements. These rangers fell in 
with the enemy and three were killed. 
The fourth, John Adam Helmer, the 
famous scout, escaped and returned to 
German Flatts at sundown and gave 
the alarm that Brant and a large force 
would be upon the settlements in a 
short time. At nightfall the enemy, 
numbering about 300 Tories and 150 
Indians, came to the outskirts of the 
settlements and stopped near the 
house of Brant's Tory friend, Shoe- 
maker. Here the force remained until 
early morning. The settlers fled to 
Forts Dayton and Herkimer, taking 
with them their most precious belong- 
ings. Brant and his red and white 
warriors devastated the country in the 
vicinity of these forts, early the next 
day, and the whole valley thereabouts 
was illuminated with the light of burn- 
ing houses, barns and crops. Only 
two or three persons were killed in 
this foray, but 63 dwellings, 57 barns, 
three grist-mills and two saw-mills 
were burned, and 235 horses, 269 
sheep, 229 cattle and 93 oxen were 
taken and driven off by Brant and his 
raiders. This happened about Sept. 1, 
1778. No scalps or prisoners were 
taken and the enemy ventured no at- 
tack on the forts. 

In September, Col. Klock wrote to 
Gov. Clinton that 150 families were 
left destitute and homeless in the val- 
ley by the many Indian raids of 1778 
up to that month. 



es 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Walter Butler had obtained a trans- 
fer from the Albany jail to a friendly 
Tory's house by feigning sickness. 
He intoxicated his guard and escaped. 
In November, 1778, he, together with 
Brant, fell upon the Cherry Valley 
settlement with a force of seven hun- 
dred Tories and Indians and killed 32 
people and 16 soldiers of the garrison, 
looted the place, burned all the build- 
nigs and took captive most of the sur- 
vivors. The women and children were 
allowed to return, with the exception 
of three women and their children, 
one of the women being murdered a 
day or two after the massacre. 

At the time of the Cherry Valley 
massacre Lieut. Col. James Gordon of 
the Saratoga militia, is supposed to 
have been in command at Fort Plain 
and ordered Col. Klock's regiment and 
the company under Capt. Van Den- 
bergh at Fort Plank to march to re- 
lief of Cherry Valley, where they ar- 
rived two hours after the enemy had 
gone. Some survivors from the af- 
flicted district fled to Fort Plain for 
safety and many of them remained in 
its vicinity for the balance of the war. 

Lossing gives an account of the 
Cherry Valley massacre, which we 
here abridge: 

Colonel Ichabod Alden of Massa- 
chusetts, was in command of the fort 
and 250 men. On the 8th of Novem- 
ber, he had received a dispatch from 
Fort Schuyler saying his fort was 
about to be attacked, but treated it 
with unconcern and refused to allow 
the alarmed inhabitants to move into 
the fort or even leave their property 
there. However, Col. Alden sent out 
scouting parties. One of these, which 
went toward the Susquehanna, built a 
flre, went to sleep, and awoke prison- 
ers of Brant and Butler. From them 
all necessary information was extort- 
ed. The next day the raiders camped 
on a lofty hill covered with ever- 
greens, about a mile southwest of the 
village and overlooking the whole set- 
tlement. From that observatory they 
could see almost every house in the 
village. From the prisoners they 
learned that the officers were quarter- 
ed out of the fort and that Col. Alden 



and Lieut. Col. Stacia were at the 
house of Robert Wells, recently a judge 
of the county and formerly an inti- 
mate friend of Sir William Johnson 
and Col. John Butler. Early in the 
morning of Nov. 10, 1778, the enemy 
marched slowly toward the village. 
Snow had fallen during the night and 
the morning was dark and misty. A 
halt was made to examine the mus- 
kets, although the Indians, crazy for 
blood, could hardly be restrained. A 
settler on horseback, going toward the 
village, was shot, but, being only 
slightly woundedj galloped on and gave 
the alarm. The savages rushed in on 
the settlement. Wells's house was at- 
tacked and the whole family murdered 
together with Col. Alden, who escaped 
from a window but was struck down 
and scalped. The families of Mr. Dun- 
lap, the venerable minister, and that 
of Mr. Mitchell were next almost 
wiped out, Little Aaron, a Mohawk 
chief, saving Mr. Dunlap and his 
daughter; 32 people, mostly women 
and children, and 16 soldiers were 
killed. The whole settlement was 
plundered and burned. The prisoners 
numbered nearly 40, and included the 
wife and children of Col. Campbell, 
who was then absent. They were 
marched down the valley that night, 
in a storm of sleet, and were huddled 
together promiscuously, some of them 
half naked and without shelter. The 
enemy, finding the women and chil- 
dren cumbersome, sent them all back 
the next day, except Mrs. Campbell 
and her children and her aged mother 
and a Mrs. Moore, who were kept as 
hostages for the kind treatment and 
ultimate exchange for the Tory family 
of Col. John Butler. Young Butler was 
the head and front of all the cruelty 
at Cherry Valley that day. He com- 
manded the expedition and saw un- 
moved the murder of Mr. Wells, his 
father's friend, whom Brant hastened 
to save but arrived too late. Butler 
would not allow his rangers to even 
warn their friends in the settlement of 
approaching danger. 

While Brant was collecting his 
troops at Oghkwaga the previous 
year, 1777, the strong stone mansion of 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



69 



Samuel Campbell (colonel of the Can- 
ajoharie militia battalion) was forti- 
fied to be used as a place of retreat 
for the women and children in the 
event of attack. An embankment of 
earth and logs was thrown up around 
it, and included two barns. Small 
block-houses were erected within the 
enclosure. This was the only fort in 
Cherry Valley at this time. Mrs. Can- 
non, the mother of Mrs. Campbell, who 
was captured, was very old. On the 
retreat of the marauders, she was an 
encumbrance and a savage slew her 
with a tomahawk by the side of her 
daughter. Mrs. Campbell carried an 
eighteen-months old baby and was 
driven with inhuman haste before her 
captors, while they menaced her life 
with uplifted hatchets. Arriving 

among the Senecas, she was kindly 
treated and installed a member of one 
of the families. They allowed her to 
do as she pleased and her deportment 
was such that she seemed to engage 
the real affections of the people. Per- 
ceiving she wore caps, one was pre- 
sented to her, considerably spotted 
with blood, which she recognized as 
belonging to her friend, Jane Wells. 
She and her children, from whom she 
was separated in the Indian country, 
were afterward exchanged for the wife 
and family of Colonel John Butler, 
then in the custody of the Committee 
of Safety at Albany. There are many 
well-authenticated instances on rec- 
ord of the humanity of Brant, exer- 
cised particularly toward women and 
children. He was a magnanimous 
victor and never took the life of a for- 
mer friend or acquaintance. He loVed 
a hero because of his heroism, al- 
though he might be his enemy, and 
was never known to take advantage 
of a conquered soldier. The challenge 
of Capt. McKean to Brant has been 
mentioned. After the Cherry Valley 
massacre, he inquired of one of the 
prisoners for Capt. McKean, who with 
his family, had left the settlement. 
Said Brant: "He sent me a chal- 
lenge. I came to accept it. He is a 
fine soldier thus to retreat." The cap- 
tured man replied: "Captain McKean 
would not turn his back upon an en- 



emy when there was any probability 
of success." Brant said: "I know it. 
He is a brave man and I would have 
given more to take him than any other 
man in Cherry Valley; but I would not 
have hurt a hair of his head." Walter 
Butler ordered a woman and child to 
be slain in bed at Cherry Valley, when 
Brant interposed saying, "What, kill 
a woman and child! That child it not 
an enemy to the King nor a friend to 
congress. Long before he will be big 
enough to do any mischief, the dispute 
will be settled." When in 1780, Sir 
John Johnson and Brant led their 
raiding army through the Schoharie 
and Mohawk valleys, Brant's human- 
ity was again' displayed. On their 
way to Port Hunter an infant was car- 
ried off. The frantic mother followed 
them as far as the fort but could get 
no tidings of her child. On the morn- 
ing after the departure of the invad- 
ers, and while Gen. Van Rensselaer's 
officers were at breakfast, a young In- 
dian came bounding into the room, 
bearing the infant in his arms and a 
letter from Captain Brant, addressed 
to "the commander of the rebel army." 
The letter was as follows: "Sir — I 
send you by one of my runners, the 
child which he will deliver, that you 
may know that, whatever others may 
do, I do not make war upon women and 
children. I am sorry to say that I 
have those engaged with me who are 
more savage than the savages them- 
selves." He named the Butlers and 
others of the Tory leaders. Brant 
hated the cowardly white Tory fiend, 
Butler, and objected strongly to serv- 
ing under him in the Cherry Valley 
expedition. The Wells family were 
close friends of Col. John Butler, 
father of Walter Butler, and the mur- 
der of this family by Butler's raiders 
was particularly brutal. Mr. Wells 
was tomahawked by a Tory while 
kneeling in prayer. Jane Wells, his 
sister, who was a beautiful and ac- 
complished woman, attempted to hide 
in a woodpile. An Indian caught her. 
He wiped his bloody scalping knife 
and sheathed it deliberately in view of 
the terrified woman. Then he leis- 
urely took his tomahawk from his gir- 



70 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



die and at this moment, a Tory, who 
had been a servant in the family, 
sprang forward and attempted to in- 
terfere but the savage thrust him 
aside and burled his hatchet in his 
victim's head. It is said that Colonel 
Butler, professedly grieved at the 
beastly murderous conduct of his son 
at Cherry Valley, remarked concerning 
the Wells family: "I would have gone 
miles on my knees to save that family, 
and why my son did not do it, God 
only knows." 



Late in the fall of 1778, at the re- 
quest of Sir John Johnson, the Ca- 
nadian Governor-General Haldimand, 
sent fifty men to recover his and his 
father's papers which had been buried 
in an iron chest on the premises at 
Johnson Hall. They recovered the 
papers which were found to be prac- 
tically worthless from dampness. A 
Tory, named Helmer, was captured. 



The Saratoga and Oriskany cam- 
paigns have been summarized in the 
Oriskany chapter. The national events 
from the fall of 1777 through 1778 are 
summarized as follows: 1777, Oct. 4, 
American defeat at Germantown; 
winter 1777-8, American army in win- 
ter quarters at Valley Forge, Pa.; 
1778, February, French recognize Am- 
erican independence and become allies 
of the colonies; 1778, June, British 
evacuate Philadelphia and indecisive 
battle of Monmouth follows; 1778, 
July, Wyoming, Pa., massacre of set- 
tlers by British and Indians under Col. 
Butler; 1778, Dec, Savannah, Ga., cap- 
tured by British. 



CHAPTER XV. 

1779 — Gen. Clinton at Canajoharie — 

Road Built to Otsego Lake — Guard 

on Otsquago Creek — Sullivan and 

Clinton Defeat Johnson and Brant. 

To chastise the hostile Iroquois, Col. 
Van Schaick was sent from Fort 
Schuyler to make a descent on the 
Onondagas on April 18, 1779. The In- 
dians fled and their three villages were 
burned. The Onondagas retaliated by 
a descent into the Schoharie valley 
where ten militiamen were killed. 



In the spring of 1779 it was resolved 
to send a large American expedition 
into the Indian country to severely 
chastise the savages so as to discour- 
age them from renewing their rav- 
ages. Gen. Sullivan was placed in 
chief command of the expedition, the 
plan of which was a combined move- 
ment in two divisions; one, from 
Pennsylvania under Sullivan, to ascend 
the Susquehanna, and the other from 
the north through the Mohawk valley 
to Otsego lake and the headwaters of 
the Susquehanna, under Gen. James 
Clinton. The campaign had been 
carefully worked out by Washington 
and experienced men called in coun- 
cil. Gen. Clinton's forces assembled 
at Schenectady and his supplies and 
military stores were sent up the Mo- 
hawk on batteaux to Canajoharie. 
These same boats were later trans- 
ported to Otsego lake and used on his 
trip down the Susquehanna. 

Clinton had a force of 1600 men and 
made his Mohawk rendezvous in the 
present village of Canajoharie, which 
must then have been a scene of great 
activity as well as the river upon 
which ordnance and supplies were 
brought in bateaux. In Canajoharie 
Clinton boarded with Johannes Roof, 
a pioneer settler of land at Fort Stan- 
wix, which he abandoned on the ap- 
proach of St. Leger and came to Cana- 
joharie, there opening a tavern. 

While Clinton was preparing for his 
overland journey at Canajoharie, the 
Otsquago road to Otsego lake from 
Fort Plain was guarded by two com- 
panies of infantry and one of artillery, 
with Fort Plain as their base. 

John Fea, in his article on the "In- 
dian Trails of the Mohawk Valley," 
says: "Upon the return of the Onon- 
daga expedition, Clinton deployed two 
companies of infantry and one of ar- 
tillery on the Otsquago road, west of 
Fort Plain. One of the companies was 
stationed at Camp Creek, near the 
present village of Starkville, at the 
confluence of the creek and the Ots- 
quago. From this place the Indian 
trail from the Mohawk to Wa-ont-ha 
went southwestward. Lieutenant Van 
Home, of Colonel Fisher's regiment, 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



71 



was in charge of the work of defense 
at this point, as it was expected that 
Brant would make a sortie from the 
west by the way of this trail, to harass 
the movement of Clinton's wagon 
train. During the stay at Camp Creek 
a corduroy road was made along the 
Otsquago creek on ground where the 
present village of Van Hornesville is 
located. The old roadway to Spring- 
field at that time, went over the steep 
incline east of Van Hornesville. 
Clinton's troops made a new road over 
the 'pumpkin hook' district of about 
two miles in length to accommodate 
the carriage of his artillery. At the 
same time he was hewing a roadway 
through an unbroken forest from See- 
ber's Lane, southwest of Canajoharie 
creek, to the head of Otsego lake, a 
distance of about twenty miles. Over 
this road they transported 220 heavy 
batteaux and provisions for three 
months. June 17, 1779, he commenced 
the arduous task. He reached Spring- 
field with all his luggage, June 30. At 
this place Clinton was joined by the 
troops that had been deployed at Ots- 
quago." Eight horse wagons and ox- 
carts are said to have been used on 
this hard overland carry. 

Clinton's united force soon reached 
the head of Otsego lake where they 
launched their bateaux and floated 
nine miles down its placid waters 
to its outlet at Cooperstown. Tt 
is said that there was not then a 
single house standing at that site. 
The passage down the lake was made 
on a lovely summer's day, and every- 
thing connected with it was so novel 
and picturesque that the scene was 
truly enchanting. On arriving at the 
foot of the lake, the troops landed and 
remained several weeks, until it was 
sufficiently raised by a dam construct- 
ed at the outlet, to float the fleet of 
208 boats. When a sufficient head of 
water was thus obtained the boats 
were properly arranged along the out- 
let and filled with troops, stores and 
cannon. Then the dam was torn 
away and the flotilla passed down into 
the Susquehanna (a word signifying 
in Indian "crooked river"). It is said 
that, preparatory to opening the out- 



let of the lake, a dam made by beav- 
ers, on one of the large inlets, was or- 
dered destroyed. This was done but 
it was repaired by the little animals 
the next night. It had to be more 
thoroughly destroyed and a guard 
placed there all night to prevent its 
being rebuilt. While the army was 
quartered there two deserters were 
tried and one shot. The younger, a 
boy, was pardoned but the other, who 
had previously deserted from the Brit- 
ish to the Americans and then desert- 
ed them, was shot. Said Clinton: "He 
is neither good for king or country — 
let him be shot." The flood from the 
opening of Clinton's dam destroyed the 
Indian's cornfields along the river 
banks, who, being ignorant of the 
cause of their loss, were astonished 
and alarmed. 

Gen. Clinton's force formed a junc- 
ture with Sullivan's at Tioga on Aug. 
22, and the united force moved up the 
Tioga and Chemung, destroying the 
Indians' growing crops. The force of 
4600 Americans met the Tories and 
Indians under Johnson and Brant near 
the present city of Elmira on Aug. 29. 
A fierce battle ensued and was for 
long doubtful. The patriots' artillery 
under Proctor finally routed the 
enemy. The invaders rested that night 
and next day made a vigorous pursuit. 
The entire Indian country was rav- 
aged and destroyed in a most thor- 
ough fashion. In revenge the savages 
retaliated upon the frontier settle- 
ments whenever opportunity offered. 



While Clinton was waiting at Cana- 
joharie for his troops and supplies to 
assemble, and also for the construc- 
tion and delivery of bateaux, two 
Tories were there hung and a deserter 
shot. The Tory spies were Lieut, 
Henry Hare and Sergt. Newbery, both 
of Col. Butler's regiment. They were 
tried by a general court martial as 
spies and sentenced to be hanged, 
■'which was done accordingly at Cana- 
joharie, to the great satisfaction of all 
the inhabitants of that place who were 
friends of their country, as they were 
known to be very active in almost all 
the murders that were committed on 



72 



THE STOEY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



the frontiers. They were inhabitants 
of Tryon county, had each a wife and 
several children, who came to see them 
and beg their lives." The foregoing 
quoted words are those of Gen. Clin- 
ton himself in a letter to his wife. At 
the time of the execution, Gen. Clinton 
rode up to Fort Plain and spent an 
hour or two with Dominie Gros, to 
avoid the importunity of the spies' 
friends who begged for their lives, and 
especially was this the case with Mrs. 
Hare. Hare and Newbury had left the 
Seneca country with 63 Indians and 2 
white men, who divided them into 
three parties. One was to attack 
Schoharie, another party was to de- 
scend on Cherry Valley and the Mo- 
hawk river and the third party was to 
skulk about Fort Schuyler and the 
upper part of the Mohawk to take pris- 
oners or scalps. Both had lived in the 
town of Glen and were captured there. 
A fifteen-year-old boy, named Francis 
Putman, captured Hare, who was de- 
layed in his return to Canada by a 
sprained ankle. A party of Whigs 
under Lieut. Newkirk arrested New- 
bury that night. It is said "they were 
enabled to find his house in the woods 
by following a tame deer which fled to 
it." The executions in Canajoharie 
took place on Academy hill. While 
Hare was in custody, at the request of 
Gen. Clinton, Johannes Roof asked the 
Tory if he did not kill Caty Steers at 
Fort Stanwix in 1777. "For you were 
seen with your hands in her hair," said 
Roof. Hare confessed that he had 
killed and scalped her. 



Gen. James Clinton was born in Ul- 
ster county, New York, August 9, 1736. 
At the age of 20 (1756), he was a cap- 
tain under Bradstreet in the attack 
on Fort Frontenac. In 1763 he com- 
manded four companies in Ulster and 
Orange as protection against Indians. 
He, with his brother, George Clinton 
(governor of New York during the 
Revolution), early espoused the pa- 
triot cause. He was a colonel in 1775 
and went with Montgomery to Can- 
ada. In 1776 he was a brigadier gen- 
eral and was in command, under Gov. 
Clinton, at Forts Montgomery and 



Clinton when they fell into the hands 
of the enemy in 1777. He escaped and 
conjointly with Sullivan led the ex- 
pedition against the Indians in 1779. 
During the remainder of the war he 
was connected with the Northern De- 
partment of the Army, having head- 
quarters at Albany. He retired to his 
estate at Newburgh, after peace was 
declared, and died there in 1*812, aged 
75. He was the father of Dewitt 
Clinton, the eminent governor of New 
York and "father of the Canal system." 



The state legislature on Oct. 23, 
1779, levied a tax of $2,500,000, of 
which Tryon county's quota was $81,- 
766. The quota of the Canajoharie 
district was $16,728. April 6, 1780, an- 
other state tax of $5,000,000 was au- 
thorized of which $120,000 was as- 
signed to Tryon. The quota of the 
Canajoharie district was $28,000. Pay- 
ment of these two taxes, levied inside 
of six months, must have been a con- 
siderable hardship to the valley set- 
tlers at this time. 



Colonel Visscher was in command at 
Fort Paris in Stone Arabia in Novem- 
ber, 1779, having command of this sec- 
tion. "While Visscher was on a visit to 
Fort Plank, a detachment of soldiers, 
from Col. Stephen. J. Schuyler's regi- 
ment, located at Fort Paris, mutinied, 
knocked down the guards and started 
to desert. One of them was shot down 
and presumably the rest escaped. 
Capt. Jelles Fonda, in temporary com- 
mand there, was courtmartialed and 
honorably acquitted. In December, at 
a conference. Colonels Visscher and 
Klock and Lieut. Col. Wagner dis- 
persed a number of three months mi- 
litia men, on account of the lateness of 
the season and the improbability of 
immediate invasions. This was done 
with the sanction of Gen. Ten Broeck 
and some of the garrisons were broken 
up for a time. 



July 9, 1779, three Vols (now Folts) 
brothers and the wives of two of them, 
and a Mrs. Catherine Dorenberger, 
who had been a Hilts, went berry- 
picking up the West Canada creek, 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



73 



near Fort Dayton. A party of a dozen 
Indians and Tories discovered them. 
Two of the brothers and their wives 
escaped to the fort, although one of 
the women was wounded. Mrs. Dor- 
enberg-er was overtaken and stabbed 
to death with a spear by her own 
brother, named Hilts, who was one of 
the guerilla party. He also tore off 
the scalp from her dead body. Joseph 
Vols was separated from the rest, but 
leveled his gun and fired at a party of 
nine who were pursuing him in a nar- 
row path. He was so close that three 
Indians fell, two killed instantly and 
one mortally wounded. His gun was 
loaded with 21 buckshot. This is said 
to have been the best shot fired in 
Tryon county during the war. One 
Indian, in the race which followed, got 
up and wounded Vols with his toma- 
hawk, but the Whig knocked his as- 
sailant down, stunned him with a blow 
of his gun and escaped, although 
wounded by several shots. Troops, 
hearing the firing, came up and the 
white and red savages fled. Conrad 
Vols, one of the brothers, was wound- 
ed at Oriskany two years before. 



The national events of 1779 are here- 
with summarized: 1778-9, Col. Clarke 
conquers middle west from English by 
victories at Kaskaskia and Vincennes; 
1779, July 15, Americans under Gen. 
"Mad Anthony" Wayne capture Stony 
Point on the Hudson; 1779, Aug. 29, 
Sullivan's and Clinton's patriot army 
defeat Indian and British force in bat- 
tle of Chemung (at Elmira), Indian 
country subsequently devastated; 1779, 
September, Paul Jones, on American 
ship, Bon Homme Richard, defeats two 
British men-of-war; 1779, October, 
French and American attack on Sa- 
vannah repulsed. 



The lot of the soldier was not all one 
of warfare. In the midst of ever-pres- 
ent dangers, he took his holiday and 
his natural and robust pleasures with 
a carefree heart. An instance from 
Simms details a merrymaking of Rev- 
olutionary times: "In the fall of 1779, 



there was a corn-husking at the resi- 
dence of John Eikler in Philadelphia 
Bush. His house was some six miles 
east of Johnstown, and where John 
Frank formerly kept a tavern. Capt. 
John Littel permitted ten or a dozen 
young men of his company to go from 
the Johnstown fort to the husking, of 
which number was my [Simms's] in- 
formant, Jacob Shew. They went on 
foot from the fort to Eikler's. A lot 
of buxom maidens, corresponding in 
number, were already assembled from 
the scattered settlement on their ar- 
rival. As the night was a rainy one 
the corn was taken into the house to 
husk. 

"In the protracted struggle for po- 
litical freedom, many a lovely girl had 
to toil in the field to raise sustenance 
for herself and feebler friends, when 
the strong arms, on which they had 
before leaned, were wielding the sword 
or musket far away. As the husking 
progressed not a few red ears were 
found, imposing a penalty on the 
finder, and lucky indeed was the Son 
of Mars who canceled such forfeit, as 
he was brought in contact with the 
cherry lips of a blushing lass, who, al- 
though she may have said aloud the 
young rebel ought to be ashamed, se- 
cretly blessed the inventor of husk- 
ings. A part of the corn was risked 
and hung up under the roof on a lin- 
tel, which, to add variety to the enter- 
tainment, broke down under its ac- 
cumulated weight, and came near en- 
trapping one of the guests. After the 
corn was all husked and the eatables 
and drinkables — pumpkin pies and 
cider — were disposed of, the party had 
glorious times. But why specify at 
this late day the details of ancient 
sayings and doings? Suffice it to add, 
the rain came down in torrents, so as 
to prevent the guests from returning 
home; and after the midnight hilarity 
had stolen out through the crannies of 
the log dwelling, the guests — but how 
dispose of so many without beds? The 
husks were leveled down, and each 
took a soldier's lodge upon them; for 
the girls — heaven bless their memory 
— were the artless and true maidens 
of the times." 



74 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



CHAPTER XVI. 

1780 — May 21, Johnson's Johnstown 
Raid — August 2, Brant's Minden 
Raid. 

After Sullivan's campaign the val- 
ley had comparative repose for a time. 
So far the lower Mohawk section 
had suffered little. Its men had gone 
forth to fight for the common defense 
and their numbers had been reduced 
by death and capture. They had re- 
ceived an influx of population from 
the defenseless people driven in from 
above, which, however, was no added 
protection. 

May 21, 1780, Sir John Johnson en- 
tered Johnstown near midnight at the 
head of 500 Indians, Tories and Brit- 
ish. He had crossed the country from 
Crown Point to the Sacandaga, a point 
from which an invasion was least ex- 
pected, and stolen upon the settlement 
so quietly that the patriots were first 
warned of the enemy's presence by the 
beginning of the work of murder and 
destruction in their midst. The resi- 
dent Tories, being in the secret and 
assisting the raiders, were exempt 
from injury. Johnson separated his 
men into two parties, one going 
through Johnstown and down the 
Cayadutta to the Mohawk, there to 
join the other division, which was to 
take a more easterly route to Tribes 
Hill. They were then to unite and rav- 
age up the valley. The whole course of 
Sir John's eastern raiders was mur- 
derous and disgraceful. They mur- 
dered and scalped a Mr. Lodwick Put- 
man and son, dragged Putman's son- 
in-law, Amasa Stevens, out of his 
house and killed him in the most bru- 
tal manner and then went on to the 
house of Gerret Putman, a stanch 
Whig, who had been marked as a vic- 
tim but who had removed lately and 
rented his house to two Tory English- 
men. Ignorant of this the Tories and 
Indians broke into the house and mur- 
dered and scalped the two inmates be- 
fore they had a chance to explain their 
situation. Henry Hansen was next 
murdered and his sons carried off pris- 
oners. They next came to the house 
of Col. Visscher, whom Simms says 



was a brave man in spite of the un- 
fortunate panic retreat of his force at 
Oriskany. His two brothers were with 
him and they made a brave stand, 
fighting valiantly up the stairway and 
into their chamber, where they were 
stricken down and scalped and the 
house set on fire. Visscher was toma- 
hawked, scalped and left for dead, but 
revived and lived many j^ears. The 
western division led by Sir John him- 
self, went through Johnstown undis- 
covered by the Whig garrison of the 
fort which had formerly been the jail. 
This force captured Sampson Sam- 
mons and his three sons and, uniting 
with the eastern force, proceeded up 
the valley, burning every building not 
belonging to a Tory. The alarm, how- 
ever, was getting abroad and the peo- 
ple had some chance to escape to the 
neighboring forts. Returning after a 
few miles foray to Caughnawaga they 
burned every building but the church 
and parsonage. Here in the morning 
an old man named Douw Fonda had 
been murdered. He was one of nine 
aged men, four over eighty, who were 
brutally killed and scalped on this 
raid. Sir John returned to Johnstown 
and recovered his buried plate and 
valuables and about twenty slaves. 
The plate and valuables filled two bar- 
rels. Toward night the militia began 
to gather under Col. John Harper and 
Johnson decided to get away, heading 
for the Sacandaga. The militia were 
in too small numbers to attack him 
but followed him several miles. Col. 
Van Schaick came up with 800 men 
in pursuit but too late to engage the 
guerillas. 

While halting, on the day after leav- 
ing Johnstown, the elder Mr. Sammons 
(Sampson Sammons) requested a per- 
sonal interview with Sir John John- 
son, which was granted. He asked to 
be released, but the baronet hestitated. 
The old man then recurred to former 
times, when he and Sir John were 
friends and neighbors. Said he: "See 
what you have done, Sir John. You 
have taken myself and my sons pris- 
oners, burned my dwelling to ashes, 
and left my family with no covering 
but the heavens above, and no pros- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



75 



pect but desolation around them. Did 
we treat you in this manner when you 
were in the power of the Tryon Coun- 
ty Committee? Do you remember when 
we were consulted by General Schuy- 
ler, and you agreed to surrender your 
arms? Do you then remember that 
you then agreed to remain neutral, 
and that, upon that condition, General 
Schuyler left you at liberty on your 
parole? Those conditions you violat- 
ed. You went off to Canada, enrolled 
yourself in the service of the king, 
raised a regiment of the disaffected 
who abandoned their country with 
you, and you have now returned to 
wage a cruel war against us, by burn- 
ing our dwellings and robbing us of 
our property. I was your friend in 
the Committee of Safety, and exerted 
myself to save your person from in- 
jury. And how am I requited? Your 
Indians have murdered and scalped old 
Mr. Fonda, at the age of eighty years, 
a man who, I have heard your father 
say, was like a father to him when he 
settled in Johnstown and Kingsbor- 
ough. You cannot succeed. Sir John, 
in such a warfare, and you will never 
enjoy your property more." The baro- 
net made no reply but the old gentle- 
man was set at liberty. 



Soon after this murderous raid of 
Sir John Johnson, Gen. Clinton or- 
dered Col. Gansevoort to repair with 
his regiment to Fort Plain, to take 
charge of a large quantity of stores 
destined for Fort Schuyler and con- 
voy the batteaux containing them to 
their destination. This caution was 
necessary to save the supplies from 
capture by the Indians. Most of the 
local militia accompanied Gansevoort's 
command. 

Brant was again on the warpath, 
watching for a favorable moment to 
spring upon the unprotected inhabi- 
tants, and supplied the Tories with in- 
formation of movements in the settle- 
ments. He was early aware of the de- 
parture of troops for Fort Schuyler 
and, when they had gathered at Fort 
Plain and started on their march of 
protection for the supplies going by 
river, on August 2, 1780, made a de- 



scent on the Canajoharie district with 
a force of about 500 Indians and Tories, 
chiefly the former. There were sev- 
eral stockades in the neighborhoods 
desolated by the savages (for the 
Tories seem to have equaled the red 
men in their barbarity). Chief among 
them, however, was the principal for- 
tification of Fort Plain. Here the gar- 
rison was insufficient, without help 
from the militia, to give battle to 
Brant's force and, as has been stated, 
the local troops were absent with 
"Gansevoort's force. Brant evidently 
approached the Mohawk from the west 
by way of the Otsquago valley and his 
raiders in bands thoroughly devasted 
the Freysbush and Dutchtown roads. 
The approach of the Indians was 
announced by a woman firing the sig- 
nal shot from a Fort Plain cannon. 
The people were then busy with their 
harvesting, and all who were fortunate 
enough to escape fled to the fort, leav- 
ing their property to be destroyed. 
The firing of one signal shot indicated 
that the people were to flee to the 
nearest stockade, while two or three 
in quick succession ordered the set- 
tlers to seek safety by hiding in the 
bush or woods and told that the enemy 
was between them and the fort. Fifty- 
three dwellings were burned with their 
barns and buildings, 16 people were 
murdered and 50 or 60 captured. The 
Indians, knowing its weakness, rush- 
ed up within gunshot of Fort Plain, 
after ravaging the Dutchtown and 
Freysbush districts. Seeber's, Abeel's 
and other houses were burned and 
then the savages fired the Reformed 
Dutch church. The spire was adorned 
with a brass ball and the Indians, be- 
lieving it to be gold, watched eagerly 
for it to fall. When at last it dropped, 
with the burning of the spire, they all 
sprang forward to seize the prize. 
This red hot ball of brass was respon- 
sible for many a blistered red man's 
hand. To make a show of force at 
Fort Plain, some of the women who 
had fled there, put on men's hats and 
carried poles, showing themselves just 
sufficiently above the stockade to give 
the savages the impression of militia- 
men. This ruse was evidently success- 



76 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



ful for, had Brant known how feebly 
the fort was defended he would prob- 
ably have rushed this stockade, burn- 
ed it and massacred its inmates. 

The columns of smoke rising from 
the burning buildings were seen at 
Johnstown and were the first intima- 
tion of this latest incursion. The far- 
mers left their harvest fields and 
joined Col. Wemple, marching up the 
river with the Schenectady and Al- 
bany militia, but they were not in 
time to check the work of destruction 
or cut off the retreat of the maraud- 
ers. Colonel Wemple, who was 
thought to be more prudent than val- 
orous on this occasion, only reached 
the desolated region in time to see the 
smoking ruins and rest securely in 
Fort Plain that night. The next morn- 
ing some buildings, which had escaped 
the torch the day before were discov- 
ered to be on fire. Col. Wemple, on 
being notified of the fact, said that, if 
any volunteers were disposed to look 
into the matter, they might do so. 
Whereupon Major Bantlin, with some 
of the Tryon county militia, set out 
for the scene of the fire. It proved to 
have been set by a party of Brant's 
raiders who, as soon as discovered, 
fled to rejoin the main body. In a day 
one of the fairest portions of the val- 
ley had been desolated. The small 
forts which were demolished were not 
garrisoned and had been constructed 
by the people themselves. The inhabi- 
tants of the desolated region had pro- 
tested against helping the government 
to keep open communication with 
Fort Schuyler, when there was con- 
stant need for the protection of their 
own district. The withdrawal of its 
militia and the consequent terrible 
result justified their worst apprehen- 
sions. 

This raid which culminated around 
Fort Plain was one of the most de- 
structive made during the war. Brant 
had with him Cornplanter and other 
distinguished chiefs. Col. Samuel 
Clyde sent Gov. George Clinton an ac- 
count of this affair, evidently written 
from Fort Plain, as follows: 

Canajoharie, Aug. 6, 1780. 

Sir — I here send you an account of 
the fate of our district: 



On the 2d day of this inst. Joseph 
Brant, at the head of four or five hun- 
dred Indians and Tories, broke in upon 
the settlements, and laid the best part 
of the district in ashes, and killed 16 
of the inhabitants that we have found, 
took between 50 and 60 prisoners — 
mostly women and children — 12 of 
whom they sent back. They have 
killed or drove away with them, up- 
wards of 300 head of cattle and horses; 
have burned 53 dwelling houses, be- 
sides some outhouseSj and as many 
barns; one very elegant church, and 
one grist mill, and two small forts that 
the women fled out of. They have 
burned all the inhabitants' weapons 
and implements for husbandry, so that 
they are left in a miseralile condition. 
They have nothing left to support 
themselves but what grain they have 
growing, and that they cannot get 
saved for want of tools to work with 
and very few to be got here. 

This affair happened at a very un- 
fortunate hour, when all the militia of 
the county were called up to Fort 
Schuyler — Stanwix — to guard nine bat- 
teaux — half laden. It was said the 
enemy intended to take them on their 
passage to Fort Schuyler. There was 
scarce a man left that was able to go. 
It seems that everything conspired for 
our destruction in this quarter; one 
whole district almost destroyed and 
the best regiment of militia in the 
county rendered unable to help them- 
selves or the public. This I refer you 
to Gen. Rensselaer for the truth of. 

Brant, with subtle savagery, had 
thrown out a hint that he intended to 
take or destroy the supply flotilla on 
its way up the river. It was during 
this invasion that the Indians took the 
trader John Abeel, living at Fort 
Plain, and he was afterward liberated 
and sent back to his ruined home by 
his son Cornplanter, the Seneca chief- 
tain. Parties of Indians at this time 
also made minor raids around Fort 
Herkimer and Fort Dayton, in the 
Schoharie valley and other sections. 



Gyantwachia or Cornplanter, the 
Seneca chief, was associated with 
Brant in this Minden raid. He was a 
son of John Abeel, the Indian trader 
of Fort PlaiUj and the daughter of a 
Seneca chief. Although a half breed 
he was the leading man of his nation 
for a period of almost sixty years. 

At the close of the Revolution, he 
was not only ready to bury the hatchet 
but to take sides in all future troubles 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



77 



with the Americans. He became the 
Arm friend of Washington and was 
perhaps the only Indian war chief, in 
our borders, whose friendship for the 
United States was unshalien in the In- 
dian difficulties existing from 1791 to 
1794. In 1797 Cornplanter paid a visit 
to Washington at Philadelphia. He 
fixed his permanent residence on the 
Alleghany river in Pennsylvania, where 
he subsequently lived and died and 
where his descendants still reside. In 
1802 Cornplanter paid a visit to Presi- 
dent Jefferson. In the war of 1812 with 
England, the Seneca chief, then al- 
most 70 years old, offered to lead 200 
warriors with the American troops 
against the English. He was not al- 
lowed to do so but some of his nation 
were with the Americans in the war 
and rendered efficient service as 
scouts. His son, George Abeel, held a 
major's commission and led these red 
American soldiers. Cornplanter was 
about five feet, ten inches in height 
and a chief of fine bearing. He is said 
to have been a fine orator in the In- 
dian way and, to further the interests 
of his people, made effective speeches 
before Washington and before the gov- 
ernor of Pennsylvania. The latter 
state gave him, in 1789, 1,300 acres of 
land and the national government paid 
him $250 yearly, in appreciation of his 
services rendered the country by keep- 
ing his own people in friendship with 
the United States. In 1866 the legis- 
lature of Pennsylvania erected a mon- 
ument to Cornplanter at Jennesadaga, 
his village in Warren county in that 
state, and also published a pamphlet 
regarding his life and works. The 
inscription on the monument reads: 

"Giantwahia, the Cornplanter. 

"John O'Bail [Abeel], alias Corn- 
planter, died at Cornplanter town, 
February 18, 1836, aged about 100 
years. 

"Chief of the Seneca tribe, and prin- 
cipal chief of the Six Nations from the 
period of the Revolutionary war to the 
time of his death. Distinguished for 
talents, courage, eloquence sobriety, 
and love of his tribe and race, to whose 
welfare he devoted his time, his ener- 



gies and his means during a long and 
eventful life." 

Simms says the age given on this 
monument is wrong and that Corn- 
planter was born about 1746 and was 
about 90 years old at the time of his 
death. His visit to Fort Plain in 1810 
is treated of in a later chapter. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

1780, August 2 — Incidents and Trage- 
dies and Details of Brant's Minden 
Raid. 

The Canajoharie district raid of Au- 
gust 2, 1780, by Indians and Tories 
under Brant, was made from the direc- 
tion of the Susqehanna valley through 
the Otsquago valley and thoroughly 
ravaged the Dutchtown and Freysbush 
districts, culminating about Fort 
Plain. For that period, the portion of 
the Canajoharie district comprised in 
the town of Minden was thickly 
settled and the people fled to and 
crowded the forts which were so fee- 
bly defended on account of the with- 
drawal of the militia to convoy stores 
to Fort Schuyler. The maintenance of 
this latter exposed post, and the con- 
sequent splitting up of the defensive 
strength of Tryon county among so 
many forts, was doubtless the reason 
that so many terrible raids of the 
enemy devastated the valley, the hos- 
tile force escaping before the scat- 
tered garrisons and militia could unite 
for common defense. 

In the Minden raid the raiders broke 
up into small bands, the more thor- 
oughly to murder loot and burn. From 
Simms's account, it appears that 
the enemy remained in this section 
during August 2 and that night and 
the next day dispersed in small par- 
ties, probably toward the Susqehanna 
for the most part. This was done to 
evade pursuit by the militia then 
marching to Fort Plain and shows 
how difficult is was for the patriot 
Tryon county military authorities to 
check these forays and brings into 
prominence Willett's effective work in 
the following year, at the time of the 
two raids which ended in the American 



78 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



victories of Sharon Springs and Johns- 
town. 

The Minden raid, in point of loss of 
life, prisoners taken and property de- 
stroj'ed takes rank as the most de- 
structive which took place along the 
Mohawk during the Revolution. At 
German Flats, in September, 1778, 116 
houses and barns were burned, but 
there was no loss of life with the ex- 
ception of three rangers who were 
killed while scouting for Brant's force. 
It was due to the long heroic run of 
the noted scout Helmer to German 
Flats and his warning to the farmers 
that there was no further casualties. 
About the same number of barns and 
dwellings were burned in the Minden 
raid of 1780, but in addition 16 people 
were killed and 60 captured. The loss 
of stock and implements was a most 
serious one as it prevented the har- 
vesting of crops and the Canajoharie 
district was one of the most fertile 
sections of the valley and was de- 
pended upon frequently for bread and 
foodstuffs by neighboring communi- 
ties. Its defense of four forts had pre- 
viously prevented its sacking, but its 
forts were useless without sufficient 
men and these were absent on the 
march to Fort Stanwix to convoy a 
comparatively trifling amount of 
stores. 

In this chapter are narrated some of 
the personal experiences, tragedies 
and details of this hostile foray in 
Minden township. They show, as 
nothing else can, what these raids 
meant to the suffering valley people, 
just as the experiences of the patriot 
fighters at Oriskany display the hor- 
rors of Revolutionary warfare along 
the old New York frontier. They also 
give further information about the 
families about Fort Plain at that time 
and furnish some insight into the farm 
life of the period. They are summar- 
ized or copied from Simms's "Fron- 
tiersmen of New York." 

John Rother, at this time, owned a 
grist mill and had a farm in the Geis- 
enberg neighborhood. Daniel Olen- 
dorf was his miller. Rother owned a 
big dog which barked and gave warn- 
ing of the approaching Indians, on Au- 



gust 2. Rother seized his gun and ran 
for Fort Plank, more than a mile away, 
followed by his niece. His wife hid 
in a flax field. As the Indians ap-- 
proached the house the dog set upon 
them furiously and they stopped to 
shoot him, the reports arousing sev- 
eral settlers and warning them of dan- 
ger. The savages plundered and burn- 
ed the dwellings, the first they fired in 
that neighborhood. Rother and his 
niece were chased by one Indian. Not 
being able to keep up with her uncle, 
the girl kept falling behind and the 
Indian gaining. The panic-stricken 
girl shouted "Uncle, the Indian." 
Rother stopped and pointed his gun at 
the Indian who would stop or fall 
back. This was repeated a dozen 
times until the two fugitives reached 
the fort. Rother was afraid to fire for 
had he missed, both would have been 
tomahawked and scalped. His wife 
was not discovered by the savages and 
also escaped. 

Joseph Myers lived four miles south- 
west of Fort Plain. On the day of the 
raid, he had gone to Fort Plank to 
make cartridges, leaving his wife and 
three children, aged three, five and 
seven years, at home. Evan, the only 
girl, was five. Myers had lost a limb 
and wore a wooden leg. The family 
lived a mile from the Rothers, before 
mentioned, and Mrs. Rother was 
known as the "Doctress," as she dis- 
pensed home-made German herb rem- 
edies. Mrs. Myers sent the two oldest 
children to get some salve for the 
youngest child's head. The oldest 
brother said he would carry the 
youngest on his back to the Rothers, 
let the "Doctress" apply the salve, and 
then carry him back. Evan was al- 
lowed to accompany them. When 
nearly half-way they heard a gun 
fired and seeing Indians around Roth- 
er's house, started to run home. The 
savages saw them and several chased 
them, one of them pinning the two lit- 
tle boys to the ground with a bayo- 
net as they were running pick-a-back. 
Evan later thought she was not scalp- 
ed as she did not cry. She was picked 
up in the arms of an Indian and the 
savages went to the Myers. Mrs. My- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



79 



ers, hearing the gun shot at Rother's, 
hid and saved her life. The buildings 
were plundered and burned. Evan 
was taken to Canada with other pris- 
oners and, on account of her tender 
age, was borne on the back of an In- 
dian most of the long, tiresome jour- 
ney. On their arrival at the Indian 
village an Indian took the girl in his 
arms and whipped her. The little 
flve-year-old was then put on a horse 
led by an Indian, to run the gauntlet. 
She was knocked off by blows several 
times and put on again and was con- 
siderably hurt but did rot dare cry. 
She was then given an Indian dress 
and her cheeks painted. She quickly 
forgot her German tongue during her 
life with the Indians, who found such 
a small white child so much trouble 
that they finally delivered her at Mon- 
treal for a bounty. Here she soon 
forgot her Indian and learned to speak 
English. She was long in Canada be- 
fore it was learned whose child she 
was as she had forgotten her own 
name. Peter Olendorf, who was cap- 
tured in the same raid, readily guessed 
her parentage when she said her 
father had a wooden leg and lived not 
far from a fort. Mrs. Bartlett Pick- 
ard, with a nursing child, was cap- 
tured in the vicinity of Myers, and 
later liberated by Brant and sent 
home. In order to take her home, Mrs. 
Pickard claimed Evan was her child 
but the Indians were not fooled and 
the pretence was of no use. Mrs. 
Pickard arrived at Port Plain, three 
days after her capture, almost fa- 
mished and then Mrs. Myers first 
learned the fate of her daughter. Mrs. 
Pletts, made a prisoner on the same 
day in Freysbush, brought Evan back 
with her, on her liberation from Can- 
ada, taking a motherly care of her for 
which, it is -unnecessary to say, her 
parents were ever after grateful. 

David Olendorf was at work with 
his wife in his barn. He was pitching 
wheat from his wagon and his wife 
was mowing it away, a duty that often 
devolved on women during the war. 
When he, before the inuzzle of a gun, 
was ordered down from the wagon, she 
was not in sight and, upon being 



asked, Olendorf said there was no one 
else there. A suspicious savage said, 
"If any one else is in the barn call 
them out as we are going to burn it." 
True to their word they did burn it 
and, after it was set on fire, the wo- 
man was called down from the loft. 
The savages also burned and plun- 
dered the house. With other prison- 
ers, the Olendorfs were started on the 
long journey to Canada, suffering se- 
vere privations on the way. Soon after 
their journey started the Indians ask- 
ed Olendorf if he could run pretty 
well and he said "Yes." Thereupon 
they told him, if he could beat their 
best Indian runner, he would be set at 
liberty and this contest the white man 
easily won. He soon found out why 
his fleetness of foot had been thus 
tested, for he was secui'ely bound 
every night during the rest of the 
journey. During the dreary march he 
incurred the displeasure of an Indian, 
who threw his tomahawk at Olendorf, 
the blade sticking in a tree behind 
which the white man sprang. An old 
savage saved his life. On reaching 
Canada Olendorf and his wife were 
separated and he was imprisoned. He 
then decided to enlist in the British 
service and desert to his countrymen 
at the earliest opportunity. While on 
his way to the New York frontier set- 
tlements, with a raiding party under 
Sir John Johnson, two prisoners were 
brought in. Olendorf, who was then 
a sergeant, overheard the men talk in 
German and he proposed to them for 
all three to escape. It became his of- 
ficial duty to post sentinels that night 
which favored his design and after 
stationing the most distant one he 
took occasion on his return to lop sev- 
eral twigs that he might pass the 
outer watchman unobserved. Secur- 
ing provisions, he conducted the two 
men outside the camp at midnight. 
Observing great caution, part of the 
time crawling on their hands and 
knees, the three found the broken 
boughs and passed all the sentinels in 
safety. "Now if you know the way to 
the settlements, lead on for we have 
not a moment to lose," said Olendorf. 
One of the captives became pilot and 



80 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



in a few days the trio reached Fort 
Plain in safety, where they were joy- 
ously received by their friends, whom 
they forewarned of the enemy's ap- 
proach. 

Mrs. Olendorf, then with child, fear- 
ed longer to remain in an Indian fam- 
ily to which she had been taken and, 
watching her opportunity when the 
family were all drunk, to which condi- 
tion she had contributed as far as 
possible by freely passing the liquor, 
she fled for refuge to the residence of 
an English officer for protection. The 
family were at first afraid to conceal 
her, fearing the revenge of the sav- 
ages. Her condition excited their pity 
and they concealed her in a closet, 
where the Indians failed to find her on 
their search. On the birth of her little 
son, two English gentlemen acted as 
sponsors, from whom she had a cer- 
tificate of its birth. She was finally 
taken to Halifax, exchanged with other 
prisoners, and finally reached Fort 
Plain over a year after her capture. 
The boy born in captivity, Daniel 
Olendorf jr., became an inn keeper in 
Cooperstown and his brother Peter 
was an inn keeper at Fort Plain. Dan- 
iel Olendorf senior was one of the 
scouting party which shot Walter But- 
ler the next year at West Canada 
creek. 

Baltus Sitts, of the Geisenberg set- 
tlement, was at work in the fields with 
his wife and so escaped unseen, but 
his buildings were burned and plund- 
ered. Mary Sitts, nine years old, and 
her grandfather were captured. So- 
phia Sitts, a five-year-old, was taken 
by an Indian squaw in the apple or- 
chard. After carrying the little pris- 
oner on her back some distance, the 
squaw found it too hard and, setting 
the child on the ground, pointed to the 
house and told her to go back. The 
grandfather was taken to Fallhill 
where he was liberated at the interces- 
sion of the squaw named, who had 
doubtless received at some time some 
kindness or favor from the Sitts fam- 
ily. Mary Sitts was taken to Canada, 
adopted into an Indian family and 
ever after remained there. A few years 
later her father went after her and 



found her, in everything but color, a 
veritable squaw. No persuasion could 
induce her to return and she later be- 
came the wife of an Indian, at whose 
death she married a white man and 
remained in Canada. 

According to Simms, Sophia Sitts 
was living near Hallsville in 1882, be- 
ing then at the age of 107 years. 
Simms says she then distinctly re- 
membered her own and her sister's 
capture and says she was then five, 
placing her birth Oct. 6, 1774. This 
would make her the person living to 
the oldest known age in the history 
of the valley. In February, 1883, Mrs. 
Sitts was still living, being then 108 
years old. There is no record of her 
death, to the writer's knowledge, but 
she probably passed away soon after. 
Few women are said to have done so 
much hard work in their lifetime as 
this centenarian and for many years 
she was considered one of the best 
binders ever seen in a wheat field. 
Sophia Sitts had three husbands, Wil- 
liam Livingston, Joseph Pooler and 
Jacob Wagner. 

Another similar case to that of Mary 
Sitts is that of Christina Bettinger, 
taken prisoner near Hallsville. Her 
father, Martin, was with the militia on 
the expedition to Fort Schuyler and 
her mother was taken prisoner, with 
six children, but was liberated after 
the party had gone a short distance. 
Among all the demoniac savagery, 
which loved to murder and torture 
human beings of the tenderest years 
and of tottering age and all the per- 
iods between, Brant's periods of clem- 
ency and humanity stand out pecul- 
iarly. He evidently protected his for- 
mer friends as much as possible and 
he decried the fiendish savagery of 
Walter Butler and his like. There 
were other Indians somewhat like him. 
Christina Bettinger, 7 years old, was 
not at the house but was captured by 
another party and taken to Canada. 
She was not exchanged at the end of 
the war, and a few years later her 
father found her. He found her living 
among squaws and practically one of 
them. She was identified by the scar 
of a dog bite on her arm. She was 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



81 



given a small cake, baked and sent her 
by her mother, which touched her sen- 
sibility even to tears. She refused to 
return home and is believed to have 
married an Indian and, uncouth and 
uncivilized as she was, remained in her 
isolated wilderness adopted home. A 
family of Ecklers, residing near Bet- 
tingers, were also captured. 

Three brothers, John, Sebastian and 
Matthias Shaul, then resided at Van 
Hornesville and were all captured and 
taken to Canada. Frederick Bronner, 
living nearby, secreted himself under 
an untanned cowhide, and so escaped 
capture. The women and children 
here were allowed to return home by 
Brant, shortly after. Jacob Bronner, 
George Snouts and Peter Casselman 
were captured by the enemy near Fort 
Plank. After the raid nine settlers 
without cofRns were buried at this 
post. 

The following is copied verbatim 
from Simms, as probably represent- 
ative of family border experiences: 

George Lintner was among the pio- 
neer residents of that part of the Can- 
ajoharie settlements known as Geis- 
enberg in the present town of Min- 
den, four miles from Fort Plain. On 
the 2d day of August, Lintner went 
early in the day to Fort Plank, a mile 
or two distant, to perform some duty. 
At the end of only a few hours he 
learned from the signal guns of the 
neighboring forts, as also from the 
constant discharge of firearms, which 
he believed in the hands of the enemy, 
that the invaders of the territory were 
numerous and would doubtless find 
every habitation in the district. The 
arrival of Pother and his niece and 
probably other fugitives at this post, 
told him of the possible fate of his own 
family, but he dared not proceed 
thither alone and Fort Plank was too 
feebly garrisoned to afford a sallying 
party. His family consisted of a wife 
and five children, their ages ranging 
at about 15, 11, 8 and 6 years and an 
infant of a few months; and being 
now unable to afford them needed as- 
sistance caused him many an anxious 
thought and fearful foreboding. The 
names of these children in which their 
ages stand were, Albert, Elizabeth, 
John and Abram. During the fore- 
noon, Mrs. Lintner and her children 
had heard the frequent discharge of 
guns in the neighborhood but did not 
suspect it proceeded from the enemy 
until noon, when they had seated 
themselves at the dinner table. The 



mother then began to feel disquieted 
and said: "My children we are eating 
our dmner here and the Indians might 
come and murder us before we are 
aware of it." As she said this she 
arose from the table and opened the 
door; and instantly she saw a sight 
that alinost curdled the blood in her 
vems. Scarcely a mile distant she 
saw a thick cloud of smoke, and at 
once recognized it as coining from the 
roof of Pother's grist mill, while in 
the next moment she heard the dis- 
charge of several guns which the en- 
emy had fired into a flock of sheep 
near the mill. Such omens could not 
be misconstrued, and snatching her 
infant child she fled from the house, 
followed by the other children, down 
a steep bank into the woods just be- 
yond. Scarcely had they gained this 
covert when the Indians entered the 
house and found the table ready for 
dinner; and, not finding the family in 
the house, they fired into and then 
searched the bushes through which the 
family had passed a few minutes be- 
fore. Their firing told the fugitives 
they had not fled one moment too soon. 
Dispatching the dinner so opportunely 
provided for them, they plundered and 
set fire to the house, and only remain- 
ing long enough to be sure it would 
burn, they left it to pay a similar visit 
to some other dwelling. After Mrs. 
Lintner had found a favorable place 
of concealment she discovered that 
Abram, her six-year-old boy, had be- 
come separated from the party, and 
although she felt a mother's anxiety 
for his safety, she dared not make a 
search for him. The lad found his 
way back to the house well on fire, ev- 
idently soon after the Indians left it 
and had sufficient presence of mind 
to pull the cradle out of doors. He re- 
mained about there all the afternoon 
and as night came on he dragged the 
cradle into a pig sty, still standing on 
the premises, in which he slept that 
night, too young to apprehend danger. 
The three oldest children, two boys 
and a girl, wended their way late in 
the day to Fort Clyde, which they 
reached in safety. Mrs. Lintner, with 
her infant child, remained that night 
under a hollow tree not far from her 
late home. A family dog was with 
her and several times in the evening 
its bark was answered by another 
which she supposed belonged to the 
enemy and which she feared might be- 
tray her hiding place. After a night 
of fearful solicitude, she made her way 
in safety to Fort Clyde, to find the 
children who had gained it the even- 
ing before. On the. morning after he 
left his home of cheerful contentment, 
Lintner, having heard no alarm guns, 
ventured, as early as he dared to go, 
to learn the fate of his family. Find- 
ing his dwelling down, he approached 



\J 



82 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



its site with fearful apprehension, but, 
after careful examination of the de- 
bris in which he could find no charred 
remains, he became satisfied that the 
family had not been murdered in the 
house; and while still searching the 
premises, if possible to learn their 
fate, he discovered his little boj' in an 
adjoining field following some cattle, 
evidently not knowing what else to 
do. He asked h'm where his mother 
and the other children were, when he 
began to cry, being unable to give any 
account of them except that they ran 
into the bushes back of the house. The 
father, having become satisfied that 
if the remainder of the family were 
not prisoners on the road to Canada, 
they might have reached Fort Clyde. 
Taking the hand of his little boy, 
thither he directed his steps; where to 
their great joy, the family were again 
united; when Mrs. Lintner, in Ger- 
man, expressed her gratitude as fol- 
lows: "Obwhol wir nun Alles verboren 
haben ausser den Kleidern die wir auf 
den Liebe tragen, so fuhl ich mich 
doch reicher als jezmor in meinen 
Leben!" ("Now, although, we have 
lost everything but the clothes we 
have on, I feel richer than I ever did 
before in all my life!") 

Within a short distance of Fort 
Ehle (a mile or more south of Cana- 
joharie) Brant's raiders surprised and 
killed Adam Eights and took captive 
to Canada, Nathan Foster and Conrad 
Fritcher. 



John Abeel was born in Albany 
about 1724. He was an Indian trader 
among the Senecas where he met the 
"beautiful daughter of a Seneca chief" 
and by her had a son who became the 
celebrated Cornplanter. He was forc- 
ed by Sir William Johnson to give up 
his business among the Iroquois be- 
cause his traffic in rum produced so 
much drunkenness and misery among 
them. In or shortly after 1756 he 
settled at the beginning of the Dutch- 
town road in the Sand Hill section and 
built himself a stone house. His 
grandson, Jacob Abeel, built here the 
present substantial brick house about 
1860. John Abeel settled upon lands 
secured by patent to Rutger Bleecker, 
Nicholas Bleecker, James Delancey 
and John Haskoll, in 1729. They se- 
cured 4,300 acres 'in a body along the 
Mohawk on each side of the Otsquago 
and extending up the creek several 



miles. In 1759 John Abeel married 
Mary Knouts. At the time of the Min- 
den raid, Abeel was captured by the 
Indians. He was taken on the flats, 
between the house and the river. The 
family were preparing dinner and the 
table was set with food upon it, when 
an alarm gun at Fort Plain caused the 
women and children to run to that 
nearby shelter. Arriving at the Abeel 
house and finding a good dinner be- 
fore them, the savages sat down and 
finished it. Some of the Indians 
brought out food and sat upon a 
wagon, which stood before the door to 
eat it. Henry Seeber, who was in the 
fort and had a good gun, took a shot 
at them although they were almost 
out of range. There was a commo- 
tion among them immediately and they 
scattered at once. Some of them fired 
the dwelling before leaving. As bloody 
rags were found about later it was 
evident that Seeber's bullet found a 
mark. It is believed that Cornplanter 
did not know of his father's captivity 
under several hours, when some war 
parties came together not very distant 
from the river. He had not been a 
prisoner long when he asked in the 
Indian tongue: "What do you mean 
to do with me?" This led at once to 
the inquiry as to his name and where 
he learned the Indian language. These 
things becoming known, among the 
savages, it was not long before Abeel 
was confronted by a chief of com- 
manding figure and manner, who ad- 
dressed him: "You, I understand, are 
John Abeel, once a trader among the 
Senecas. You are my father. My 
name is John Abeel, or Gy-ant-wa- 
chia, the Cornplanter. I am a warrior 
and have taken many scalps. You are 
now my prisoner but you are safe from 
all harm. Go with me to my home in 
the Seneca country and you shall be 
kindly cared for. My strong arm shall 
provide, you with corn and venison. 
But if you prefer to go back among 
your pale-faced friends, you shall be 
allowed to do so, and I will send an es- 
cort of trusty Senecas to conduct you 
back to Fort Plain." The chief's father 
chose to return, and early in the even- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



83 



ing a party of Senecas left him near 
the fort. At the close of the war Abeel 
erected another house on the site of 
his burned dwelling. The trader had 
shown signs of insanity even prior to 
the war, and after that time, in one 
of his spells of insane anger, shot one 
of his negro slaves through the head, 
killing him. Neighbors went to ar- 
rest him but he seated himself in his 
door with his rifle and threatened to 
shoot the first one who attempted his 
arrest. At the first opportunity he was 
taken in charge but was not put on 
trial for the murder, as his unbalanc- 
ed condition was so marked. As there 
were no asylums in those days, he was 
chained to the floor in a room of his 
own house. Abeel had periodical fits of 
being very ugly and troublesome and, 
on such occasions, he would clank his 
chain and continue a kind of Indian 
war dance nearly all night. He was 
handed his food through a small hole 
with a slide door cut in the wall. As 
he advanced in years and became en- 
feebled he was allowed to wander 
about his farm, and on one of his ram- 
bles, he was gored to death by a bull. 
His death was recorded by Rev. D. C. 
A. Pick of the Reformed Dutch church 
of Canajoharie (now Fort Plain), as 
follows: "John Abeel, gestorben den 
1 December, 1794, alt 70; beerdigt den 
ejusd mensis anni alt in Michael."-^ 
John Abeel died 1 December, 1794, bur- 
ied the 3, same week, same month 
and year; aged in the day of St. Mich- 
ael 70 years. 



One of the numerous small bands, 
into which Brant divided his force to 
make destruction more complete, vis- 
ited the home of John Knouts in 
Freysbush. The site of the Knouts 
dwelling may still be seen in the apple 
orchard on the premises formerly 
owned by Josiah Roof. Here are also 
the graves of Mrs. Knouts and her 
children, slain by the Indians. Knouts 
was made here a prisoner and mur- 
dered on the way north after the sav- 
ages left the settlement. When the 
Indians entered the house, Mrs. Knouts 
was busy outside it and hearing the 



outcries of her children inside, she ran 
up just in time to see one of them 
tomahawked. While begging for her 
other children's lives, she was struck 
down and scalped with the other two 
children. Henry, a boy of eight or 
ten, was taken from the house, pre- 
sumably by a Tory neighbor, around 
the corner and told to run for his life. 
This he did but was seen by an In- 
dian, struck with a tomahawk, scalped 
and left for dead. On the day follow- 
ing a party went from Fort Clyde to 
bury these victims, when they found 
this little boy still alive and able to 
tell of the tragedy of the day before. 
He was an intelligent child and said 
he was running to get back of the barn 
and so into the woods. He said: "I 
should have escaped but an Indian met 
me between the house and the barn, 
who knocked me on the head with his 
hatchet and pulled out my hair," mean- 
ing that he had been scalped, of the 
details of which operation he was evi- 
dently ignorant. This brave little 
Knouts boy was taken to Fort Clyde 
and carefully treated and, after his 
wounds had nearly healed, he took cold 
and died. The mother was found ly- 
ing in the dooryard with the three 
children murdered with her in her 
arms. Thus Indians sometimes disposed 
of their slain, before firing a dwelling, 
as supposed to strike the greater ter- 
ror to living witnesses of their hellish 
cruelty. Her scalp was hanging on a 
stake, where the Indians had left it, 
evidently having forgotten it in their 
great haste to surprise other families. 
There is a tradition that the Indian 
who slew her took from her hand a 
ring having on it a Masonic emblem, 
discovering which he said: "Had I 
known the squaw had on such a ring, 
I would not have harmed her." It is 
needless to say the buildings on the 
Knouts place were burned and thus an 
entire family and their home were 
wiped out by almost incredible sav- 
agery. John Abeel, the Indian trader 
mentioned elsewhere, had married a 
Knouts girl, who was probably a rela- 
tive of this family. 

In the general destruction of the 



84 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 




Dutchtown settlements in Minden, to 
the surprise of everyone, the house of 
George Countryman remained un- 
harmed, since it was well known that 
there was not a more staunch Whig in 
the neighborhood. The circumstance 
remained a mystery until the close of 
the war. He had a brother who had 
followed the Butlers and Johnsons 
to Canada, who was with the Minden 
marauders. He was a married man 
and, supposing his wife was at his 
brother's house, induced the raiders to 
spare it. After the war this brother 
in Canada wrote George Countryman 
that had be known at the time that 
his own wife was not in it, he would 
have seen that smoke with the rest. 

The house of Johannes Lipe, very 
near Fort Plain, was saved from 
plunder and fire by the courage and 
presence of mind of his wife. She had 
been busy all the evening carrying her 
most valuable articles from her house 
to a place of concealment in the ra- 
vine nearby. The last time she re- 
turned she met two prowling Indians 
at the gate. She was familiar with 
their language and, without any ap- 
parent alarm, enquired of them if they 
knew anything of her two brothers 
who were among the Tories who had 
fled to Canada. Fortunately the sav- 
ages had seen them at Oswegatchie 
and, supposing her to be a Tory like- 
wise, they walked off and the house 
was spared. 

The families of Freysbush who were 
accustomed to seek safety in Fort 
Clyde were Nellis, Yerdon, Garlock, 
Radnour, Dunckel, Wormuth, Miller, 
Lintner, Walrath, Lewis, Wolfe, Fail- 
ing, Schreiber, Ehle, Knouts, Wester- 
man, Brookman, Young, Yates and a 
few others. From the Knouts house 
the savages went to the home of Johan 
Steffanis Schreiber, who discovered 
them approaching and made his es- 
cape. They made prisoners of his wife 
and two or three small children and 
led them into captivit^^ a fact record- 
ed on a family powder horn, which is 
now owned by the state. 

Nancy Yerdon was married to George 
Pletts and lived on a farm owned in 
1882 by Philip Failing. She had given 



birth to twins a few months previous, 
one of whom had died, and had sev- 
eral other children. The family were 
living at Nancy's father's house, that 
of John Caspar Yerdon. On the day 
of the raid she went to the vicinity of 
a spring at some distance to dig pota- 
toes for dinner, leaving her nursing 
child in a cradle in the house. While 
at work an Indian made her a pris- 
oner and hurried her away to where 
other captives were being rounded up. 
The Yerdon house, for some reason, 
was not approached. After several 
small war parties were assembled, with 
their captives, a shower came up and 
the party took refuge behind a hay- 
stack. Here the savages conferred 
and decided to kill their prisoners if 
they had to abandon them. Mrs. Pletts, 
as the weather was warm, was clad 
only in an undergarment and a skirt, 
not even having on the accustomed 
short gown of that period, and thus 
scantily clad was compelled to 
travel all the way to Canada. The in- 
fant left in the cradle was named 
Elizabeth and grew up and married 
Henry Hurdick, who was a jockey on 
the local race-tracks of that day. 
Maria Strobeck, a "sprightly girl just 
entering her teens," was also captured 
with her father at a clearing where 
they had gone to get some ashes near 
the Failing farm in the vicinity of 
Mrs. Pletts, and went with the party 
as the latter did to Canada. On their 
way to Canada, Mrs. Pletts and the 
Strobeck girl, toward whom the former 
acted as a foster mother, were scantily 
fed. On her return, Mrs. Pletts told 
her friends that on their long, weary 
journey they came to a brook in which 
they caught several small fish which 
they ate raw, and, although they were 
wriggling in their mouths, they proved 
a luxury. On arriving in the Canadian 
country, they were taken into separ- 
ate Indian families; and, finding many 
unclean dishes, Mrs. Pletts, who was a 
tidy woman, voluntarily scoured them 
clean and kept them so. This act very 
much pleased the Indians, who treated 
her afterward with marked kindness. 
She felt it still her duty to keep a 
parental eye on Miss Strobeck. Find- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



85 



I 



ing her romping with the young In- 
dians, the married woman tried to per- 
suade her to leave them, but "she was 
so happy with them she would give no 
heed to the counsel of Mrs. Pletts. In- 
deed she became so infatuated with 
the novelty of Indian life that she 
could not be persuaded to be included 
in the exchange of prisoners and did 
not return with Mrs. Pletts when she 
might. Some six or eight years after 
the war, her father journeyed to Can- 
ada and found her, but she could not 
be prevailed upon to return home with 
him; and it was supposed she subse- 
quently took an Indian husband and 
remained there." While among the In- 
dians, Mrs. Pletts was given a sewing 
needle, which she boasted of using for 
years after her return and which she 
prized very highly. Among the pris- 
oners who came back from Canada 
were Mrs. Pletts and John Peter Dunc- 
kel. Years later, when they were well 
along in years and were then widow 
and widower, they concluded to unite 
their fortunes, and came on foot to 
Dominie Gros, who then lived in Freys- 
bush. And so they were married and 
none of the ten grown-up children of 
the couple by former marriages, ob- 
jected or ever considered this uncon- 
ventional marriage of the old folks as 
a runaway match. It was an agree- 
able pastime for the young to hear 
this old couple relate stories of the 
war, their own perils included. 

Mrs. Dyonisius Miller was made a 
prisoner in the Freysbush settlement. 
She had with her a small nursing 
child. She was placed on a horse, 
which was led by an Indian to Can- 
ada. Although the savages generally 
came down in large bodies, they usu- 
ally returned in small parties; and 
prisoners taken near together often 
journeyed with different captives, some 
of them not meeting again until their 
return. As the party of which Mrs. 
Miller was one became straitened for 
food, she had but little nourishment 
for her infant child and, as it cried 
from weariness and hunger, an In- 
dian more than once came back, 
hatchet in hand to kill it, but pressing 
it to her breast, she would not afford 



him the desired opportunity. Indians 
dislike intensely the sound of a crying 
child. To save her darling, Mrs. Mil- 
ler kept almost constantly nursing it 
or attempting to, until her breast be- 
came so sore as to cause her great 
agony. But she saved the life of the 
infant girl and brought it back safely 
to her old home, when released. This 
child, when grown to womanhood, 
married William Dygert. 

Henry Nellis lived near Fort Clyde, 
upon whose land the post was erected, 
with his son, George H. Nellis. The 
latter became a general of militia and 
man of considerable prominence at a 
later day. On the day of the raid they 
both fled to the fort pursued by a 
party of Indians. At a shot the son 
caught his foot in some obstruction 
and fell, his father thinking him killed. 
The younger man jumped up and both 
got inside the stockade in safety. A 
bullet hole through the son's hat show- 
ed that the fall had saved his life.. 

Adam Garlock was riding his horse, 
when the beast scented the Indians, 
as horses frequently did in those days. 
Garlock, thus warned, saw a party of 
Indians approaching, wheeled his 
horse about and galloped in safety to 
Fort Clyde amid a storm of bullets. 
"This circumstance is said to have 
aided him in procuring a $40 pension, 
of which bounty he felt quite proud." 
At this invasion of the enemy Eliza- 
beth Garlock was scalped and left for 
dead on the river road above Fort 
Plain. She supposed the deed was 
done by a Tory named Countryman, 
who had been a former neighbor. He 
was painted as an Indian. Tories were 
often called "blue-eyed Indians." Eliz- 
abeth Garlock recovered and later 
married Nicholas Phillips and died at 
Vernon, N. Y., at the age of 80 years. 
John, son of Thomas Casler, who 
was an early settler of Freysbush, was 
captured. On the way to Canada, the 
prisoners were bound to trees nights 
and one night the carelessness of the 
Indians set the leaves on flre. As the 
flames neared Casler, he called to the 
savages to release him. A Tory, in the 
raiding party, named Bernard Frey, 
who knew the prisoner well, said to 



\J 



86 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



the Indians, "Let the damned rebel 
burn up." The red men, however, were 
more humane and saved Casler. A 
night or two later Casler escaped and, 
rightly supposing the savages would 
search for him on the back track, he 
ran back a short distance and hid to 
one side of the route. Here he remain- 
ed while his foes pursued him back 
and until their return. Then in safety 
he returned to the ashes of his home. 
Casler always said, in after life, that 
he would shoot Bernard Frey on sight, 
such was the feeling engendered 
among next-door neighbors around 
Fort Plain by this murderous warfare. 
Casler entertained no love for the In- 
dians and, during a subsequent deer 
hunting trip, killed a red man on a 
Schoharie mountain. 

Warner Dygert was murdered on his 
farm at the west end of the Canajo- 
harie district. He was a brother-in- 
law of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, and 
kept a tavern at Fall Hill. Dygert, 
with his son Suffrenas, started out to 
make a corn crib, carrying a gun as 
was the universal custom in those 
days. His movements were watched 
by four Indians. He set down his 
gun and, with his tinder box and i^int, 
lit his pipe. Just then he was shot 
down and scalped. The little boy was 
taken to Canada, finally returning in 
the same party with Mrs. Pletts and 
Mr. Dunckel, before mentioned and 
other captives from the Canajoharie 
district. The younger Dygert finally 
removed to Canada. 

Jacob Nellis of Dutchtown was jour- 
neying to Indian Castle on the day of 
the raid. He was shot down opposite 
East Canada creek. His father, who 
was called the oldest man of the name, 
saved himself by a ruse. As the In- 
dians approached the house, the old 
man shouted at the top of his voice: 
"Here they are boys! March up! 
March up!" and the savages fled, fear- 
ing the house was fortified. A German 
doctor and his wife, named Frank, 
were killed in Dutchtown. Frederick 
Countryman was stabbed with a 
spear nineteen times and killed. 
Brant expressed regret at this and 
coming up and seeing the corpse 



made the typical Indian remark: "It 
is as it is, but if it had not 
been, it should not happen." An old 
man named House was captured and 
killed because the savages thought 
him too old to bother with on the Ca- 
nadian march. A girl named Martha 
House was captured thinly clad and 
taken to Canada, reaching there after 
the long, hard journey in an almost 
naked condition. Her Indian captor 
treated her kindly. On her return she 
married a man named Staley, who had 
also been a Canadian captive. 

Regarding Brant, during this raid 
the following comes from an early 
writer, Rev. Dr. Lintner, born in the 
locality and who knew the people and 
circumstances: "He [Brant] occa- 
sionally exhibited traits of humanity 
which were redeeming qualities of his 
character. On the evening of the day 
when the Canajoharie settlement was 
destroyed by the Indians, some 12 or 
15 women were brought in as prison- 
ers. Brant saw their distress and his 
heart was touched with compassion. 
While the Indians were regaling 
themselves over their plunder— danc- 
ing and yelling around their camp 
fires, Brant approached the little group 
of terror-stricken prisoners and said: 
'Follow me!' They expected to be led 
to instant death but he conducted 
them through the darkness of the 
dreadful night to a place in the woods 
some distance from the Indian camp, 
where he ordered them to sit down and 
keep still until the next day, when the 
sun should have reached a mark which 
he made on a tree, and then they 
might return home. He then left them. 
The next morning, a little before break 
of day, he came again and made an- 
other mark higher on the tree and 
told them they must not set out till 
the sun had reached that mark; for 
some of his Indians were still back, 
and if they met them they would be 
killed. They remained according to 
his directions and then they safely re- 
turned to the settlement." The Rev. 
Mr. Lintner said in a historical ad- 
dress: "Much of the bitter feeling 
which existed in this country against 
the mother country, after the Revolu- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



87 



tion, was engendered by that inhuman 
policy which instigated the savages to 
mal<e war upon us with the tomahawk 
and scalping knife. The bounty of- 
fered for scalps was horrible. It stim- 
ulated the savages to acts of barbar- 
ity and was revolting to the moral 
feelings and social sympathies of all 
civilized peoples." 

There is at least one personal ex- 
perience related of a soldier who prob- 
ably accompanied Gansevoort's troops 
to Fort Schuyler, which expedition re- 
sulted in the Canajoharie district raid. 
In the spring of 1780 Jacob Shew went 
for one of "a class," as then termed, in 
Capt. Garret Putman's company, for 
the term of nine months, part of which 
time he was on duty at Fort Plank. 
The ranger service often called troops 
from one post to another. Shew was 
one of a guard of about a dozen men 
sent with a drove of cattle from Fort 
Plain to Fort Schuyler. While en- 
camped near the village of Mohawk 
they were fired upon in the dark and 
several Americans were wounded. The 
fire was promptly returned and there 
was no reply from the enemy. Shew 
was also one of a guard sent up the 
Mohawk with several boats loaded 
with provisions and military stores. 
These boats, at that time, were usu- 
ally laden at Schenectady and came 
to Fort Plain, where an armed guard 
was detailed to escort them up the 
valley. The troops went along the 
shore and at the rapids had to assist 
in getting the boats along, which were 
laid up nights, the boatmen encamping 
on the shore with the guard. 



The tactics of these British and In- 
dian raids was to destroy the supplies 
of Tryon county patriots and crumple 
back the frontier. During the whole 
war no deadlier blow, in this direction, 
was struck than that whose force cen- 
tered in Minden around Fort Plain. 

Fort Plain must have been a scene 
of tragedy enough to wring the stout- 
est heart. It was manned by a tiny 
garrison which feared, at any time, its 
utter annihilation and filled with men, 
women and children, all of whom had 
lost their homes and many of whom 



mourned part or all of their families 
as dead or captured. Their grief was 
not mitigated by resentment toward 
the stupid act of the officials who had 
left unguarded one of the richest gran- 
aries of the opulent valley, to insure 
the safety of a few boat loads of pro- 
visions and supplies. 



What was true of Fort Plain was 
also true of the other posts of the 
Canajoharie district. Forts Win- 
decker, Plank and Clyde. Fort Wil- 
lett was not then constructed. They 
were all crowded with the survivors 
of their neighborhoods. The Cana- 
joharie district was thickly settled for 
that time and that portion of it com- 
prised within the present town of 
Minden was particularly so, with its 
fertile Freysbush and Dutchtown sec- 
tions. It was owing to the very com- 
plete chain of fortifications hereabouts 
that the greater part of the popula- 
tion escaped massacre. The people of 
Palatine also gathered in Fort Paris 
and Fort Kyser, and all up and down 
the valley, the population, left unde- 
fended by the absence of their mili- 
tary force, fled to neighboring forts. 
The fortified and palisaded farmhouses 
must almost have been crowded by a 
panic-stricken population and it was 
only these few well-defended places 
that escaped destruction. 

Simms gives an account of the forti- 
fied houses of this section which are 
here summarized as follows: 

In Canajoharie township: Fort Ehle; 
Van Alstine house (now called, for 
some unknown reason, Fort Rennse- 
laer) ; Fort Failing. 

In Palatine: Fort Frey, Fort Wag- 
ner, Fort Fox. 

In St. Johnsville: Fort Hess, Fort 
Klock. Fort Nellis, Fort Timmerman, 
Fort House (a little below East Creek). 

Simms gives no similar list of the 
Minden fortified houses. 



William Irving Walter of St. Johns- 
ville, in a letter to the Fort Plain 
Standard under date of December 19, 
1912, says of the Minden raid: 

"The raiders, after their work of 
massacre and rapine, camped at a ra- 



88 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



vine a little to the west of Starkville, 
still known locally as Camp Creek, 
where they intended to rest a few days 
and recruit for their long trip on the 
return." Brant's stay here was short- 
ened by the approach of the militia, 
but at least part of his force was in 
the Minden vicinity two or three days. 
This shows the retreat of the Tory and 
Indian force to have been back up the 
Otsquago valley to the headwaters of 
the Susquehanna and from thence into 
the Iroquois country. 



Simms says that Fort Plain became 
the headquarters of the neighboring 
valley forts in 1780. Whether it was 
such at the time of the Minden raid is 
not known. Here a military escort 
took charge of the convoys of sup- 
plies brought up the valley on flat- 
boats, as before stated. This would 
necessitate a garrison larger than at 
the ordinary post and the American 
valley commander would naturally se- 
lect the post, with the largest garri- 
son and a central location, as his head- 
quarters. Fort Plain was the most 
centrally located post in the valley 
and it was also the point where the 
guard for the boats was located, so 
that it is probable it was the head- 
quarters on August 2, 1780. 



Mrs. W. W. Crannell, an Albany 
writer, in her "Grandmother's Child- 
hood Tales," gives a picture which 
might well pass and may well be that 
of a Minden family during the night of 
the raid of August 2, 1780. This ac- 
count also gives a picture of a Mo- 
hawk valley farm house in the early 
nineteenth century and the whole is 
here included: 

Seventeen miles from my own home 
in the county of Herkimer, was situ- 
ated the old home in which my mother 
was born. With the exception of 
Santa Claus, there was nothing looked 
forward to so eagerly, or from which 
we anticipated so much pleasure as 
the semi-annual visit to this old home- 
stead. After we left the main road, 
we drove along a private road or lane, 
that made its way from one main road 
to another; a sort of short cut of two 
or three miles, through the lands of 
several farmers whose houses were 
built, as the farmhovises of that period 
were wont to be, in the center of the 



farm. When we reached the door- 
yard, we unbarred the gate and drove 
through a flock of hissing geese and 
quacking ducks, up to the back or 
porch door. The noise of the geese 
would call grandmother to the door, 
and her bright, cherry face, crowned 
with its wealth of snowy, white hair, 
would appear at the upper half of the 
door, which was flung open while her 
trembling fingers were unfastening 
the lower half. How well I remember 
the old house, with its porch or 
"stoop," through which we passed 
into the "living room." The red beams 
overhead were filled with pegs, upon 
which were hung Ijraided ears of corn, 
stumps of dried apples, or other home- 
ly articles which had not been put in 
winter quarters yet. And then the 
fire-place — such corn and potatoes as 
we roasted in its ashes. How often we 
sat before its cheerful blaze and drank 
sweet cider and ate apples, while we 
listened to our elders' tales, until Mor- 
pheus wooed us to his emlirace. And 
what fun it was to climb into bed. 
First to pull the curtains back, and 
then throw down the blue and white 
spread, the flannel and the linen 
sheets, all homespun. If it was cold, 
the warming pan was placed between 
the sheets, and then, getting upon a 
chair, we stept upon the chest near the 
bed, and with the aid of mother and a 
"one, two, three," in we went, down, 
down, down into the soft warm feather 
beds. Did we ever sleep such a sleep 
as that in after years? 

But I digress; this is not what I set 
out to relate. When mother and aunts 
were out visiting the neighbors then 
grandmother (Nancy Keller), taking 
knitting, would sit down before the fire 
and talk of her girlhood. 

"Those were hard and dreadful 
times," she would say. "Some of them 
I do not remember, as I was a baby 
when they transpired, but my mother 
(Moyer) told me that often she would 
wake up in the middle of the night and 
the sound of a horn, and a man's voice 
crying out 'To arms! to arms!' 
Father would run for his musket, and 
mother would take me in her arms 
and, with my two brothers clinging to 
her dress, start for her shelter in the 
woods. All the farmers had some 
place of safety for their families to 
run to in case of an alarm. Ours was 
a hollow place in the woods between 
some trees. It was just big enough 
for us to lie down in, and the boughs 
and underbrush at the sides had been 
arranged to hide it from the savage 
eye. One night we had gained the 
place in safety, our way to the woods 
being lighted by fires from burning 
hay-stacks and buildings. I had been 
ill and I moaned and cried, while my 
brothers lay down as close to mother's 
side as possible. All at once we heard 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



89 



soft foot falls on the leafy ground; 
then an Indian passed quickly with a 
lighted torch, then another and an- 
other; how many was never known for 
we could see them so plainly through 
the boughs placed over us, that we 
closed our eyes in fear and scarcely 
breathed. les 'we,' for I ceased 
crying and nestled close on mother's 
breast. How long did we lie there? 
We never knew. Measured by what 
we endured it was ages before we 
heard father's voice calling, 'All 
right, come out,' and what must moth- 
er have suffered? Every gun shot 
might be the death call of her hus- 
band; every footfall and quick passing 
shadow, be death personified for her. 
And when the footfall ceased near 
her hiding place and the shadow re- 
mained stationary, when one cry of 
the baby in her arms or the children 
at her side were messengers of instant 
and horrible death; when at last the 
shadow started and the feet gave a 
headlong bound, and a fearful whoop 
rang out upon the stillness about her; 
what wonderful control of her nerves 
she must have had, not to betray her 
presence by the least movement, and 
how well we learned, even to the baby 
to sustain a rigid silence." 



CHAPTER XVni. 

1780 — Johnson's Schoharie and Mo- 
hawk Invasion — Oct. 19, Battles of 
Stone Arabia and St. Johnsville — Van 
Rensselaer's Inefficiency — Enemy Es- 
capes — Fort Plain Named Fort Rens- 
selaei — Fort Plain Blockhouse Built 
— Fort Wiilett Begun. 

In the fall of 1780, an invading force 
under Sir John Johnson, Joseph Brant 
and the Seneca chief Cornplanter, rav- 
aged the Schoharie and Mohawk val- 
leys. The battles of Stone Arabia and 
St. Johnsville were fought and the 
enemy escaped, after a defeat at the 
latter place. They would have been 
crushed or captured by a pursuing 
American force had it not been for the 
complete inefficiency of the militia 
commander. Gen. Robert Van Rens- 
selaer. Practically every town of 
Montgomery county was concerned in 
this campaign, either being the scene 
of ravages by Johnson or the march 
of and battles of the patriot force. 
The object of this Tory and Indian 
raid, like all others, was to destroy 
completely the houses, barns and crops 
of all the Whigs along the Schoharie 



and Mohawk. By destroying or plun- 
dering the country of all supplies the 
enemy hoped to weaken the resistance 
of the frontier. This raid was particu- 
larly destructive to the Schoharie coun- 
try. It followed, within three months, 
Brant's terrible Minden foray of Au- 
gust 2, 1780. Thus did blow after blow 
fall upon the suffering but valiant peo- 
ple of the Mohawk. 

At Unadilla, Brant and Cornplanter, 
with their Indians, joined Johnson and 
his force, which consisted of three 
companies of the Royal Greens, one 
company of German Yagers, 200 of 
Butler's rangers, a company of Brit- 
ish regulars and a party of Indians. 
The total force must have approximat- 
ed 800 men or more. Sir John and his 
army came from Montreal, by way of 
Oswego, bringing with them two small 
mortars and a brass three-pounder, 
mounted on legs instead of wheels and 
so called a "grasshopper." This artil- 
lery was mounted on pack horses. 

The plan of the raiders was, upon 
reaching the Schoharie, to pass the 
upper, of the three small forts on that 
stream, by night and unobserved; to 
destroy the settlements between there 
and the Middle Fort and attack the 
latter in the morning. This plan was 
carried out October 16, the homes of 
all but Tories being burned. The Mid- 
dle Fort was bombarded without ef- 
fect and the enemy then moved down 
the Schoharie to Fort Hunter, making 
a feeble attack on the Lower Fort by 
the way. 

All buildings and hay stacks belong- 
ing to Whigs were burned and their 
cattle and horses appropriated. One 
hundred thousand bushels of grain 
were thus destroyed and (says Beers) 
nearly 100 settlers were murdered. 
The Whigs were so roused over the 
destruction of their property that, af- 
ter the enemy disappeared, they fired 
the buildings and crops of their Tory 
neighbors, which had been spared, and 
the ruin along the Schoharie was thus 
complete. 

Ravaging the Schoharie valley, 
Johnson and Brant's Tory and Indian 
force moved north, down the Scho- 
harie creek, and entered that part of 



90 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



its course which flows through Mont- 
gomery county. Johnson buried one 
mortar he had been using and his 
shells in a little "Vlaie" (natural 
meadow) in the town of Charleston. 
In 1857 some of these shells were plow- 
ed up. The Schoharie militia, under 
Col. Vrooman, followed Johnson's 
course toward the Mohawk, during 
which march the enemy took several 
prisoners and continued the looting 
and burning of houses and barns. 
Johnson and Brant gave Fort Hunter 
a wide berth, passing that fortification 
at a distance of half a mile. Here a 
Tory named Schremling, was scalped 
and killed (his political leanings not 
being known) and a number of women 
and children of the Schremling, Young 
and Martin families were captured. 

An Indian and Tory detachment 
crossed the Mohawk to plunder and 
ravage the north side, while the main 
body continued westward through the 
town of Glen, on the south side high- 
way, to a point, in the town of Root, a 
little east of the Nose, known on the 
Erie canal as the Willow Basin, and 
there encamped for the night. Nearly 
all the buildings, on both sides, along 
the Mohawk were burned and plunder- 
ed from Fort Hunter to the Nose. On 
this march British regulars guarded 
the prisoners to prevent the Indians 
from murdering them. A little cap- 
tive girl of ten years, Magdalena Mar- 
tin, was taken up by Walter Butler 
and rode in front of him on his horse. 
The evening being very bitter, Butler 
let the little maid put her cold hands in 
his fur-lined pockets and thus they 
journeyed to the camping ground. 
One of the raiders asked Butler what 
he was going to do with the pretty 
girl. "Make a wife of her," was his 
quick reply. This small Revolutionary 
captive became the wife of Matthias 
Becker and the mother of ten children. 
She died in Fort Plain, at the home of 
her son-in-law, William A. Haslett, in 
1862, in her 93d year. So closely are 
we unknowingly linked with the past 
that there may be those who read this 
page who personally knew this old 
lady, who, as a little girl, rode with 
Butler and warmed her hands in his 



pockets on a chilly October night over 
a century and a quarter ago. And 
such a strange and wayward thing is 
the nature of man that we look with 
wonder at the picture of this Tory 
murderer of women and little ones 
cuddling a small rebel child to keep 
her from the cold. 

The next morning at the Nose, learn- 
ing that a force of Albany and Sche- 
nectady militia were coming after him, 
Johnson allowed Mrs. Martin and her 
children to return home, with the ex- 
ception of her 14-year-old son. 

News of the raid had reached Al- 
bany and the Schenectady and Albany 
militia quickly assembled and pro- 
ceeded with great speed up the Mo- 
hawk to attack Johnson's men. Gen. 
Robert Van Rensselaer of Claverack, 
commanded the pursuit and he was ac- 
companied by Gov. Clinton. On the 
evening of the 18th they encamped in 
the present town of Florida. From 
there Van Rennselaer sent word to 
Col. Brown at Fort Paris and to Fort 
Plain (probably directed to Col. John 
Harper). Brown was ordered to at- 
tack the enemy in the front the next 
morning, while Van Rensselaer's army 
fell on their rear. 

On September 11, 1780, according to 
a state report. Col. Brown, at Fort 
Paris, had 276 men under him, and 
Col. John Harper (supposedly at Fort 
Plain then) commanded 146, and there 
were but 455 men to guard the fron- 
tier in the Canajoharie-Palatine dis- 
tricts. These troops were then under 
the command of Brigadier-General 
Robert Van Rensselaer. When Brown 
attacked Johnson at Stone Arabia he 
had but 200 American militiamen with 
him and it is probable the balance of 
the patriot force (then located at three 
posts) in this neighborhood were left 
to guard the forts or were on duty 
elsewhere. The Fort Plain soldiers 
joined Van Rensselaer's force as later 
noted. The valley people, warned of 
the enemy's approach, gathered in the 
local forts for safety and there were 
few or no casualities among them, 
after Johnson left Fort Hunter on his 
march westward. 

On the morning of October 19, 1780, 



\! 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



91 



Johnson's army crossed the Mohawk 
at Keator's rift (near Sprakers) and 
headed for Stone Arabia, leaving a 
guard of 40 men at the ford. At al- 
most the same time Col. Brown parad- 
ed his men, to the number of 150 or 
200, and sallied forth from Port Paris 
to meet the enemy. The American 
commander, mounted on a small black 
horse, marched straight for the ap- 
proaching foe. He passed Fort 
Keyser, where he was joined by a few 
militiamen, and met Johnson's army 
in an open field about two miles east 
by north of Palatine Bridge. Capt. 
Casselman advised Col. Brown, con- 
sidering the overwhelming force and 
protected position of the enemy, to 
keep the Americans covered by a 
fence. Without his usual caution, 
Brown ordered an advance into the 
open, where his men were subjected to 
a heavy fire. The militia returned the 
fire, fought gallantly and stood their 
ground, although many of their num- 
ber were being killed and wounded. 
Seeing he was being outflanked by the 
Indians, at about ten in the morning. 
Col. Brown ordered a retreat, at which 
time he was struck down by a musket 
ball through the heart. The pursuit 
of the enemy made it impossible for 
his men to bear off their commander's 
body and it was scalped and stripped 
of everything except a ruffled shirt. 
Thirty Americans were killed and the 
remainder fled, some north into the 
forest and some south toward the Mo- 
hawk and Van Rensselaer's army. 
Two of the Stone Arabia men took 
refuge in Judge Jacob Backer's house 
and put up a defense until the Indians 
fired the building, after which the sav- 
ages stood around and laughed at the 
shrieks of their burning victims. The 
enemy's loss was probably less than 
that of the Americans on this field. 

The British regulars passed Fort 
Keyser without firing a shot. Capt. 
John Zielie, with six militiamen and 
two aged farmers, were at the port- 
holes, with muskets cocked and hats 
filled with cartridges at their sides, 
but held their fire for fear of an at- 
tack which would mean annihilation. 
When the enemy were out of sight four 



of the militiamen from this post set 
out for the field of battle, found Col. 
Brown's body and bore it back in their 
arms to Fort Keyser. 

The Tories, British and Indians after 
this ravaged, plundered and burned all 
through the Stone Arabia district, 
among other buildings, burning both 
the Reformed and Lutheran churches. 
Few, if any of the inhabitants were 
killed or captured as all had taken 
refuge in the forts or in the woods. 
After the burning and plundering, 
Johnson collected his men by bugle 
calls and the blowing of tin horns and 
pursued his way westward toward the 
Mohawk. 

On the morning of the 19th, Gen. 
Van Rensselaer started his pursuit, 
from his Florida campground, at 
moonrise. He reached Fort Hunter 
before daybreak and was there joined 
by the Schoharie militia. Van Rens- 
selaer came up to Keator's rift, 
shortly after Johnson had crossed. It 
was probably here that his force was 
joined by Col. Harper, Capt. McKean 
with 80 men (probably from Fort 
Plain) and a large body of Oneida In- 
dians under their principal chief, 
Louis Atayataroughta, who had been 
commissioned a lieutenant-colonel by 
congress. Col. Harper, probably then 
in command at Fort Plain (as S. L. 
Frey locates him there in September), 
was in chief command of the Oneidas. 
Van Rensselaer's army was now dou- 
ble that of Johnson's. Here the Am- 
erican commander halted, perhaps de- 
terred from crossing the ford by the 
small rear guard of the enemy which 
was stationed on the opposite bank. 
The firing at the Stone Arabia field, 
two miles distant, was plainly heard 
and here came fugitives fleeing from 
the defeated force, bringing news of 
the rout and of the killing of Col. 
Brown. One of Brown's men, a militia 
officer named Van Allen, promptly re- 
ported to Gen. Van Rensselaer, with 
an account of the action, and asked 
the latter if he was not going to cross 
the river and engage the enemy. The 
general replied that he did not know 
the fording place well enough. He was 
told that the ford was easy and Van 



92 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Allen offered to act as pilot. There- 
upon Capt. McKean's company and the 
Oneidas crossed the river. Instead of 
supporting this advance party, in his 
promised cooperation with Col. 
Brown's men, it then being near 
noontime, Gen. Van Rensselaer now 
accompanied Col. Dubois to Fort Plain 
to dine with Gov. Clinton. 

Gen. Van Rensselaer, after leaving 
Keator's Rift, ordered the company of 
Lieut. Driscoll and his artillery to 
Fort Plain, possibly anticipating an 
attack by Johnson in that quarter. He 
tried the ford opposite Fort Frey but 
found it impassable and ordered his 
men to cross at Walrath's ferry at 
Fort Plain. They, however, made the 
passage of the Mohawk at Ehle's rift, 
near what was later Ver Planck's and 
is now called Nellis's island. They 
stopped at the house of Adam Coun- 
tryman on the Canajoharie side and 
here turned into the road which led 
to the ford, which existed in the river 
prior to the barge canal operations. 
This was later the Ver Planck and 
still later the Nellis farm. Here the 
American troops began the passage of 
the Mohawk while their general was 
wasting valuable time in a lengthy 
dinner at "Fort Plain or Rensselaer." 

At Fort Plain, it is said. Col. 
Harper denounced Van Rensselaer 
for his incompetency and appar- 
ent cowardice and other officers 
joined in with Harper, while the 
Oneida chief called him a Tory to his 
face. About four o'clock Van Rens- 
selaer rode back, through the present 
village of Fort Plain, to his men, who 
were as bitter against him as his of- 
ficers were. Here he found that the 
remainder of his army had crossed 
the Mohawk at Ehle's rift (just below 
Fort Plain), in the extreme western 
end of the town of Canajoharie, on a 
rude bridge built upon wagons driven 
into the river. At length Van Rens- 
selaer was stung into something like 
activity and, late in the afternoon, the 
pursuit was rapidly resumed (from 
the present village of Nelliston) up 
the north shore turnpike through the 
town of Palatine. 

Sir John Johnson, seeing that he 



could not avoid an attack, threw up 
slight breastworks and arranged his 
forces in order of battle. This posi- 
tion was in the town of St. Johnsville, 
about one and one-half miles east of 
the eastern village limits of the vil- 
lage of St. Johnsville. The Tories and 
Butler's rangers occupied a small 
plain, partly protected by a bend in 
the river, while Brant with his In- 
dians, concealed in a thicket on a 
slight elevation farther north, were 
supported by a detachment of German 
Yagers. It was near evening when the 
Americans came up and the battle 
commenced. Van Rensselaer's extreme 
right was commanded by Col. Dubois, 
and then came the Oneidas and the left 
was led by Col. Cuyler. As the Amer- 
icans approached the Indians in am- 
bush shouted the war-whoop. The 
Oneidas responded and rushed upon 
their Iroquois brethren, followed by 
McKean's men; the latter supported by 
Col. Dubois, whose wing of the battle 
was too extended to match the ene- 
my's disposition of forces. Brant's 
savage band resisted for a time the 
impetuous charge, but finallj'- broke 
and fled toward a ford, about two miles 
up the river. Brant was wounded in 
the heel but got away. Several were 
killed and wounded on both sides and 
the enemy everywhere gave way in 
great disorder and fled westward. It 
was now becoming so dark that the 
American officers feared their men 
would shoot each other and the gen- 
eral flring was discontinued, although 
the Oneidas, Capt. McKean's and Col. 
Clyde's men pursued and harassed the 
flying enemy, capturing one of their 
field pieces and some prisoners. John- 
son's men, utterly exhausted from their 
prior marching and exertions, camped 
on a meadow, at a point on the 
river near the ford. Here he spiked 
and subsequently abandoned his can- 
non. At this time the Americans could 
have driven the enemy into the river 
and have captured or destroyed them. 
All accounts agree that the patriot 
troops were eager to get at the enemy 
but their spirit was of no avail owing 
to the weakness of their commanding 
officer. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



93 



Col. Dubois took a position above 
Johnson on the north side of the river 
to prevent the enemy's escape. Col. 
Harper's men and the Oneidas crossed 
to the opposite side and camped on 
the Minden shore, opposite Johnson's 
bivouac. Gen. Van Rensselaer or- 
dered an attack at moonrise, giving 
orders that it was to begin under his 
personal supervision. He then exe- 
cuted the remarkable manoeuvre of 
falling back with the main body down 
the river three miles, where he went 
into camp for the night. Johnson's 
entire force, as subsequently shown, 
could have been easily captured at 
any time, as it was on the point of 
surrendering. Van Rensselaer failed, 
of course, to attack and, at moonrise, 
Johnson crossed the ford and escaped 
to the westward with his entire force, 
abandoning his cannon and 40 or 50 
horses captured in the Schoharie val- 
ley, which were subsequently recov- 
ered by their owners. The next morn- 
ing one of the enemy was killed and 
nine captured by seven men and a boy 
from Fort Windecker, some of them 
surrendering voluntarily on account of 
fatigue. 

Gen. Van Rensselaer sent a mes- 
sage to Fort Schuyler for a force to 
proceed from that point to Onondaga 
lake to destroy Johnson's boats. Capt. 
Vrooman set out with 50 men, all of 
whom were captured by Johnson, 
through the treachery of one of Vroo- 
man's party. The Oneidas and a body 
of the militia moved up the river after 
the retreating enemy, expecting Van 
Rensselaer to follow as he promised. 
Coming next morning upon the still 
burning camp fires of the enemy, the 
pursuing party halted, the Oneida chief 
fearing an ambuscade and refusing to 
proceed until the main body came up 
under Van Rensselaer. After fol- 
lowing leisurely forward as far as 
Fort Herkimer, the Continental com- 
mander abandoned his weak pursuit 
and sent a messenger recalling the ad- 
vance force. 

The American army turned about 
face and marched back down the Mo- 
hawk. The garrisons returned to their 
posts and the militia to what shelters 



they had made or could make for 
themselves and their families, within 
the zones of protection afforded by 
these fortifications. The Schenectady 
and Albany militia continued on down 
the valley to their homes under the 
leadership of their thoroughly discred- 
ited commander. 



This American army was one of the 
largest yet concentrated in the valley 
and probably was only equalled in 
numbers by that of Clinton which had 
encamped at Canajoharie the year be- 
fore. The force that took the field on 
both sides at Klock's Field was the 
largest which arrayed itself for battle 
on any one Revolutionary field in the 
Mohawk country. About the same 
numbers were here engaged as at 
Oriskany (2,500), but at the action of 
St. Johnsville the clash took place on 
one battleground while Oriskany con- 
sisted of two fights several miles apart 
— the bloody struggle in the ravine and 
Willett's destructive sally from Fort 
Schuyler. Van Rensselaer's army had 
accomplished practically nothing and, 
moreover, had sat supinely by while 
Brown's heroic band was being scat- 
tered by the enemy. And all this lost 
opportunity and disgraceful record 
was due to the incapacity or cowardice 
of a general totally unfitted for mili- 
tary command. It was left for Willett, 
a year later, to show how effectively 
the valley Americans, when properly 
led, could beat off the Canadian in- 
vaders. 

Time after time, up to the day of 
the Stone Arabia battle, the local 
patriot soldiers had attempted to grap- 
ple with their savage white and red 
invaders, only to see them slip away 
on each occasion, unharmed and un- 
punished. Now, after the enemy had 
been cornered at Klock's Field and 
could have been easily destroyed or 
captured, they had been practically 
given their liberty by Van Rensselaer. 

The valley militia had flocked to the 
American standard, eager to strike a 
fatal blow at their hated foes. The 
patriot population and soldiers of the 
Mohawk must have been indeed dis- 
heartened, discouraged and disgusted 



94 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



at this fiasco of a campaign, whicli 
initially had promised complete Amer- 
ican success. 

Van Rensselaer's conduct was the 
worst display of inefficiency or cow- 
ardice seen in the valley, and perhaps 
anywhere, during the Revolution. An 
opportunity was lost of crushing com- 
pletely the raiders and probably pre- 
venting future bloodshed and loss in 
the valley. Van Rensselaer was sub- 
sequently courtmartialed at Albany 
for his conduct but was acquitted, 
largely on account of his wealth and 
social position, it is said. 

There was much scurrilous intrigue, 
dissension, bickering and petty jeal- 
ousy among certain cliques of so-call- 
ed patriots. The real American Revo- 
lutionary fighters were compelled to 
combat these vicious forces from 
within as well as the enemy. The ac- 
quittal of Van Rensselaer is an evi- 
dence that all Americans were not act- 
uated by high-minded patriotism and 
strict justice, during the war of inde- 
pendence. 

Had the Continental Revolutionary 
forces been composed exclusively of 
men like Washington and Willett the 
conflict would have ended within a 
year or two in complete American suc- 
cess. Not only did such patriots have 
to fight the early battles with raw, 
undisciplined and frequently unreli- 
able troops, but they had to constant- 
ly combat an insidious Tory influence 
among the people and the effect of 
such inefficiency as that exemplified 
in Van Rensselaer and men of his ilk. 



At this time, and until its discon- 
tinuance as an army post, the Minden 
fort was known both as Fort Plain and 
Fort Rensselaer, the latter being its 
official title, conferred upon it prob- 
ably by Van Rensselaer himself; Fort 
Plain evidently being its popular name 
and the one which survived until a 
later date. This is treated in a sub- 
sequent chapter. 

In S. L. Frey's article on Fort Rens- 
selaer (Fort Plain) published in the 
(Fort Plain) Mohawk Valley Register 
of March 6, 1912. he says: "Gen. Van 
Rensselaer * * * was appointed to 



the command of some of the posts in 
this section in the summer of 1780, — 
Fort Paris, Fort Plank, Fort Plain and 
others. His headquarters were at Fort 
Plain. In the fall of that year he wrote 
to Gov. Clinton from Fort Plain, dat- 
ing his letter 'Fort Rensselaer, Sept. 4, 
1780.' This is the first time the name 
appears." 

Van Rensselaer evidently gave his 
name to his headquarters post on his 
arrival there in the summer of 1780, 
which may have been in August after 
the Minden raid. At the time of the 
Stone Arabia battle, Col. John Harper 
was in command of Fort Plain (under 
Gen. Van Rensselaer, of course). 

In the court martial of Gen. Van 
Rensselaer the designation "Fort 
Plane or Rensselaer" is frequently 
used in the testimony of the witnesses. 
In this evidence appears the names of 
the following as having been engaged 
in the valley military operations of the 
time of the Stone Arabia battle: Col. 
Dubois, Col. Harper, Major Lewis R. 
Morris, Col. Samuel Clyde (who com- 
manded a company of Tryon county 
militia), Lieut. Driscoll and Col. Lewis, 
in whose quarters at "Fort Plane or 
Rensselaer," the commanding general 
went to dine. 



The number of Oneidas engaged in 
the foregoing military operations is 
given as 200 warriors by one author- 
ity and 80 by another, the smaller 
figure probably being nearer the truth. 
During part, at least, of the war this 
tribe lived in, about and under the 
protection of Fort Hunter, their own 
country being too exposed to invasion. 
The Oneidas were generally loyal to 
the American cause and did good ser- 
vice for the patriots on several oc- 
casions — notably the campaign treated 
in this chapter, at Oriskany and at 
West Canada creek. As previously 
stated Col. John Harper was in com- 
mand of these Indians, taking rank 
over their native chief. 



After the Stone Arabia battle, some 
25 or 30 Americans were buried in an 
open trench near Fort Paris. The sit- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



95 



\l 



uation is believed to liave been a few 
rods southeast of the present school- 
house. John Klock drew the bodies of 
Brown's men thither on a sled al- 
though there was no snow on the 
ground. They were buried side by- 
side in the clothes in which they fell. 
Some others who were slain were in- 
terred elsewhere. 

Col. Brown was buried in the grave- 
yard near the Stone Arabia churches. 
Most of the Americans killed on this 
field were New England men, although 
local militiamen were also engaged. 
The loss of the enemy probably did 
not exceed half of the 40 or 45 pa- 
triots supposed to have been slain. On 
the anniversary of Col. John Brown's 
death in 1836, a monument was erect- 
ed over his grave by his son, Henry 
Brown, of Berkshire, Mass., bearing 
the following inscription: "In mem- 
ory of Col. John Brown, who was killed 
in battle on the 19th day of October, 
1780, at Palatine, in the county of 
Montgomery. Age 36." This event 
was made a great occasion and was 
largely attended, veterans of the Stone 
Arabia battle being present. It is men- 
tioned in a later chapter dealing with 
its period in Palatine. 



It is reported that the Schoharie mi- 
litia, engaged in this campaign, were 
short of knapsacks and carried their 
bread on poles, piercing each loaf and 
then spitting it on the sticks. 



After the Klock's Field battle some 
of McKean's volunteers came upon 
Fort Windecker, where nine of the 
enemy had been taken. On one of 
them being asked how he came there, 
his answer was a sharp commentary 
on the criminal inaction of General 
Van Rensselaer. The man, who was 
a valley Tory, said: "Last night, after 
the battle, we crossed the river; it was 
dark; we heard the words, 'lay down 
your arms,' and some of us did so. 
We were taken, nine of us, and march- 
ed into this little fort by seven mi- 
litiamen. We formed the rear of three 
hundred of Johnson's Greens, who 
were running promiscuously through 
and over one another. I thought Gen- 
eral Van Rensselaer's whole army was 
upon us. Why did you not take us 
prisoners yesterday, after Sir John 
ran off with the Indians and left us? 
We wanted to surrender." 



Col. John Brown was born in San- 
dersfield, Mass., in 1744. He was grad- 
uated at Yale college in 1771 and 
studied law. He commenced practise 
at Caughnawaga (Fonda) and was 
appointed King's attorney. He soon 
went to Pittsfield, Mass., where he be- 
came active in the patriot cause and 
in 1775 went to Canada on a mission 
to try to get the people there to join 
the American cause. He was elected 
to congress in 1775 but joined Allen 
and Arnold's expedition against Ticon- 
deroga. He was at Fort Chambly and 
Quebec. In 1776 he was commissioned 
lieutenant-colonel. In 1777 he com- 
manded the expedition against Ticon- 
deroga and soon after left the service 
on account of his detestation of Ar- 
nold. Three years before the latter 
became a traitor Brown published a 
hand bill in which he denounced Ar- 
nold as a traitor and concluded: 
"Money is this man's god, and to get 
enough of it he would sacrifice his 
country." This was published in Al- 
bany in the winter of 1776-7, while 
Arnold was quartered there. Arnold 
was greatly excited over it and called 
Brown a scoundrel and threatened to 
kick him on sight. Brown heard of 
this and the next day, by invitation, 
went to dinner to which Arnold also 
came. The latter was standing with 
his back to the fire when Brown en- 
tered the door, and they met face to 
face. Brown said: "I understand, sir, 
that you have said you would kick me; 
I now present myself to give you an 
opportunity to put your threat into ex- 
ecution." Arnold made no reply. 
Brown then said: "Sir, you are a dirty 
scoundrel." Arnold was silent and 
Brown left the room, after apologizing 
to the gentlemen present for his in- 
trusion. Col. Brown, after he left the 
army, was occasionally in the Massa- 
chusetts service. In the fall of 1780, 
with many of the Berkshire militia, he 
marched up the Mohawk river, his 



u 



96 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



force to be used for defense as re- 
quired. 

Brown is said to have been a man 
of medium height, of fine military 
bearing and with dark eyes. He gen- 
erally wore spectacles. His courage 
was proverbial among his men and in 
the Stone Arabia action seems to have 
run into recklessness, although, sol- 
dier that he was, he probably figured 
on holding the enemy at any cost until 
Van Rensselaer's large force could 
come up and, falling on the rear, 
crush them completely, which could 
have been readily accomplished by a 
skilful and determined commander. 
Col. Brown was immensely popular 
with his troops — with the militiamen 
from the valley as well as with the 
soldiers he commanded who were from 
his own state of Massachusetts. 



Governor George Clinton visited Fort 
Plain on at least two known occasions. 
The first was during the Klock's Field 
operations and the second was when 
he accompanied Washington through 
the Mohawk valley in 1783. Clinton 
was a brother of Gen. James Clinton 
and an uncle of Dewitt Clinton, later 
the famous "canal Governor." He was 
born in Ulster county in 1739. In 1768 
he was elected to the Colonial legisla- 
ture, and was a member of the Con- 
tinental congress in 1775. He was ap- 
pointed a brigadier in the United 
States army in 1776, and during the 
whole war was active in military af- 
fairs in New York. In April, 1777, he 
was elected governor and continued so 
for eighteen years. He was president 
of the convention asseml)led at Pough- 
keepsie to consider the federal con- 
stitution in 1788. He was again chosen 
governor of the state in 1801, and in 
1804. Afterward he was elected vice 
president of the United States and 
continued in that office until his death 
in Washington in 1812, aged 73 years. 



In the fall of 1780 and the spring of 
1781 the fortification of Fort Plain 
was strengthened by the erection of a 
strong blockhouse. It was situated 
about a hundred yards from the fort, 
commanding the steep northern side 



of the plateau on which both block- 
house and fort stood. The construc- 
tion was of pine timber, 8x14 inches 
square, dovetailed at the ends, and 
Thomas Morrel of Schenectady, father 
of Judge Abram Morrel of Johnstown, 
superintended its erection. It was oc- 
tagonal in shape and three stories in 
height, the second projecting five feet 
over the first, and the third five feet 
over the second, with portholes for 
cannon on the first floor, and for mus- 
ketry on all its surfaces; with holes in 
projecting floors for small arms, so as 
to fire down upon a closely approach- 
ing foe. The first story is said to have 
been 30 feet in diameter, the second 
40 and the third 50, making it look 
top heavy for a gale of wind. It 
mounted several cannon for signal 
guns and defense — one of which was a 
twelve-pounder — on the first floor. It 
stood upon a gentle elevation of sev- 
eral feet. This defense was not pali- 
saded, but, a ditch or dry moat several 
feet deep extended around it. The 
land upon which both defenses stood 
was owned by Johannes Lipe during 
the Revolution. It is said it was 
built under the supervision of a French 
engineer employed by Col. Ganse- 
voort. The latter, by order of Gen. 
Clinton, had repaired to Fort Plain to 
take charge of a quantity of stores 
destined for Fort Schuyler, just prior 
to Brant's Minden raid of August 2, as 
we have seen. It was probably at this 
time its erection was planned. Ram- 
parts of logs were thrown up around 
the defenses at the time of the block-- 
house erection. Some little time after 
this, doubts were expressed as to its 
being cannon-ball proof. A trial was 
made with a six-pounder placed at a 
proper distance. Its ball passed en- 
tirely through the blockhouse, crossed 
a broad ravine and buried itself in a 
hill on which the old parsonage stood, 
an eighth of a mile distant. This 
proved the inefflciency of the building, 
and its strength was increased by lin- 
ing it with heavy planks. In order to 
form a protection against hot shot for 
the magazine, the garrison sta- 
tioned there in 1782 commenced throw- 
ing up a bank of earth around the 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



97 



block-house. Rumors of peace and 
quiet that then prevailed in the val- 
ley, caused the work to cease. A rep- 
resentation of this blockhouse consti- 
tutes the seal of the village of Fort 
Plain. It was as much a part of the 
defensive works of Fort Plain as the 
stockaded fort and was of a more 
picturesque appearance and so was 
chosen for use on the seal, 
chosen for the seal. A slight eleva- 
tion marks its site at the present day 
1913). 
Fort Willett was beg-un in the fall 
of 1780 and finished in the spring of 
1781. 



There are extant few records of the 
garrisons which tenanted Fort Plain, 
for ten years or more, and also those 
of its adjoining posts. Some have been 
preserved by Simms and the gist of a 
few are here given: 

In the summer of 1780, Captain Put- 
man's company of rangers from Fort 
Plain started for Fort Herkimer. They 
stopped for the night at Fort Win- 
decker and Cobus Mabee of Fairfield, 
was put on picket duty for the night 
outside the post. About midnight the 
guard saw a savage stealing up be- 
hind a rail fence. He deftly slipped 
his hat and coat over a stump and 
dropped down behind a nearby log and 
waited. The Indian came very near 
and at a short distance fired at the 
dummy man, drew his tomahawk and 
rushed up. But before he could sink 
it in the stump, Mabee shot him dead. 
The garrison, half dressed, rushed to 
arms and found their comrade had 
bagged a remarkably large Indian. As 
showing the crudity of the times, it is 
said the corpse lay unburied near the 
fort for some time and was made the 
butt of Indian play by the boys of Fort 
Windecker. 

In the summer of 1780 the enemy 
was reported to be in the vicinity of 
Otsego lake and Capt. Putman led his 
company of rangers from Fort Plain 
to the lake, accompanied by a company 
of militia under Maj. Coapman, a Jer- 
seyman. The route was from Fort 
Plain to Cherry Valley and from there 
to Otsego lake. Finding no signs of 



an enemy a return march was made to 
Cherry Valley and from there to the 
Mohawk. On the way back an argu- 
ment arose as to relative physical su- 
periority of the rangers or scouts and 
the militia. To prove which was the 
better set of men, a race was proposed 
to Garlock's tavern on Bowman (Cana- 
joharie) creek. Major Coapman and 
Captain Putman were both heavy men 
and did not last long in the race of five 
or six miles, which soon started be- 
tween the two rival companies. Put- 
man's scouts were victorious and three 
of them, John Eikler, Jacob Shew and 
Isaac Quackenboss (a "lean man") dis- 
tanced the militiamen and reached 
Garlock's pretty well played out. The 
soldiers were strung along the high- 
way for miles in this run. "After the 
men had all assembled at the tavern, 
taken refreshments and the bill had 
been footed by Major Coapman, the 
party returned leisurely and in order 
to Fort Plain." It is a significant com- 
ment on the hardihood of the Revolu- 
tionary soldiers that they should find 
excitement in a five-mile run over a 
rough highway carrying their guns 
and packs. 

Under date of April 3, 1780, Col. 
Visscher writes to Col. Goshen Van 
Schaick to order "some rum and am- 
munition for my regiment of militia 
[then stationed mostly in the Mo- 
hawk valley posts from Fort Johnson 
westward], being very necessary as 
the men are daily scouting." 



A story is told of Fort Klock, in the 
present town of St. Johnsville, and 
near where the battle between Brant 
and Johnson's forces and Van Rens- 
selaer's troops was fought. It prob- 
ably relates to the time of this action 
although no date is given. A grand- 
father of Peter Crouse was one of the 
garrison of Fort Klock. Seeing a party 
of mounted English troopers passing, 
the militiaman remarked that he 
thought he could "hit one of those fel- 
lows on horseback." Taking careful 
aim he shot a British officer out of his 
saddle, and his frightened horse ran 
directly up to Fort Klock, where 
Crouse secured him. A number of 



98 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



camp trappings were fastened to the 
saddle, among which was a brass l^et- 
tle. These articles became famous 
heirlooms in the Grouse family. 



Elias Krepp, an old bachelor, was 
the miller of the grist mill erected by 
Sir William Johnson, in the then Tille- 
borough at the now village of Ephra- 
tah. In 1780 a party of raiders burned 
the mill and took Krepp to Canada. 
After the war he returned and, with 
George Getman, went to the ruined 
mill and, from its walls, removed sev- 
eral hundred dollars in gold and silver 
which he had there hidden for safety. 



The Sacandaga blockhouse (built 
1779) was located two miles southeast 
of Mayfield and was a refuge for the 
few scattered families of the neigh- 
borhood and to defend Johnstown 
from surprise by way of the Sacan- 
daga, a favorite route to the Mohawk 
for Canadian invaders. Its garrison 
being withdrawn, it was attacked by 
seven Indians in April, 1780, and suc- 
cessfully defended by one man, Wood- 
worth, who, though slightly wounded, 
fought them off and put out fires they 
kindled. The savages fled to the forest 
and were followed by Woodworth and 
six militiamen on snowshoes a day or 
two later. The Americans came up 
with the savages and killed five of the 
party, returning with their packs and 
guns. 



The chief national events of the year 
1780 are summarized as follows: 1780, 
May 12, capture of Charleston, S. C, 
by British; 1780, August 16, American 
army under Gates defeated at Cam- 
den, S. C; 1780, Sept. 23, capture of 
Major Andre of the British army by 
three Continental soldiers, Paulding, 
Williams and Van Wart, and subse- 
quent disclosure of Arnold's treason, 
following his flight from his post at 
West Point on the Hudson. 



CHAPTER XIX. 
1781— June, Col. Willett, Appointed 
Commander of Mohawk Valley Posts, 
Makes Fort Plain His Headquarters 
— Dreadful Tryon County Conditions 
— July 9, Currytown Raid — July 10, 
American Victory at Sharon — Fort 
Schuyler Abandoned. 

Of the conditions in the Mohawk 
country at the opening of 1781, Beer's 
History of Montgomery County has 
the following: 

"Gloomy indeed was the prospect at 
this time in the Mohawk valley. Deso- 
lation and destitution were on every 
side. Of an abundant harvest almost 
nothing remained. The Cherry Valley, 
Harpersfield, and all other settlements 
toward the headwaters of the Susque- 
hanna, had been entirely deserted for 
localities of greater safety. Some idea 
of the lamentable condition of other 
communities in Tryon county may be 
obtained from a statement addressed 
to the legislature, December 20, 1780, 
by the supervisors of the county. In 
that document it was estimated that 
700 buildings had been burned in the 
county; 613 persons had deserted to 
the enemy; 354 families had abandon- 
ed their dwellings; 197 lives had been 
lost; 121 persons had been carried 
into captivity, and hundreds of farms 
lay uncultivated by reason of the 
enemy. 

"Nor were the terrible sufferings in- 
dicated by these statistics, mitigated 
by a brighter prospect. Before the 
winter was past. Brant was again 
hovering about with predatory bands 
to destroy what little property re- 
mained. Since the Oneidas had been 
driven from their country, the path of 
the enemy into the valley was ilmost 
unobstructed. It was with difficulty 
that supplies could be conveyed to 
Ports Plain and Dayton without being 
captured, and transportation to Fort 
Schuyler was of course far more haz- 
ardous. The militia had been greatly 
diminished and the people dispirited 
by repeated invasions, and the de- 
struction of their property; and yet 
what information could be obtained 
indicated that another incursion 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



99 



might be looked for to sweep perhaps 
the whole extent of the valley, con- 
temporaneously with a movement from 
the north toward Albany. Fort 
Schuyler was so much injured by 
flood and fire in the spring of 1781, 
that it was abandoned, the garrison 
retiring to the lower posts; and all the 
upper part of the valley was left open 
to the savages. [The Fort Schuyler 
troops went to Forts Dayton, Herki- 
mer and Fort Plain.] 

"Gov. Clinton was greatly pained by 
the gloomy outlook and knowing that 
Col. Willett was exceedingly popular 
in the valley, earnestly solicited his 
services in this quarter. Willett had 
just been appointed to the command 
of one of the two new regiments form- 
ed by the consolidation of the rem- 
nants of five New York regiments, 
and it was with reluctance that he left 
the main army for so difficult and 
harassing an undertaking as the de- 
fense of the Mohawk region. The 
spirit of the people, at this time lower 
than at any other during the long 
struggle, began to revive when Col. 
Willett appeared among them. It was in 
June that he repaired to Tryon county 
to take charge of the militia levies and 
state troops that he might be able to 
collect. In the letter to Gov. Clinton 
making known the weakness of his 
command. Col. Willett said: 'I con- 
fess myself not a little disappointed in 
having such a trifling force for such 
extensive business as I have on my 
hands; and also that nothing is done 
to enable me to avail myself of the 
militia. The prospect of a suffering 
county hurts me. Upon my own ac- 
count I am not uneasy. Everything I 
can do shall be done, and more cannot 
be looked for. If it is, the reflection 
that I have done my duty must fix my 
own tranquility.' " Willett made his 
headquarters at Fort Plain, which con- 
tinued to be the valley headquarters 
during the rest of the war. He had 
not been long at Fort Plain before his 
soldierly qualities and great ability as 
a commander were brought into play. 
Willett came to his valley headquar- 
ters in June and, in a month's time. 



occurred the first raid he had to com- 
bat — that led by Dockstader. 

The following is largely written from 
Simms's account of the Currytown in- 
vasion and Sharon Springs battle: 

1781, July 9, 500 Indians and Tories 
entered the town of Root on one of the 
raids that devastated Montgomery 
county the latter years of the war. 
Their commander was Capt. John 
Dockstader, a Tory who had gone 
from the Mohawk country to Canada. 
The settlement of Currytown (named 
after William Corry, the patentee of 
the lands thereabout) was the first 
objective of these marauders. Here a 
small block-house had been erected, 
near the dwelling of Henry Lewis, and 
surrounded with a palisade. At about 
ten in the morning the enemy entered 
the settlement. Jacob Dievendorf, a 
pioneer settler, was at work in the 
field with his two sons, Frederick and 
Jacob and a negro boy named Jacobus 
Blood. The last two were captured 
and Frederick, a boy of 14, ran toward 
the fort but was overtaken, toma- 
hawked and scalped. Mrs. Dieven- 
dorf, in spite of being a fleshy woman, 
made for the fort with several girl 
children and half a dozen slaves and 
reached it in safety, on the way break- 
ing down a fence by her weight in 
climbing over. Peter Bellinger, a 
brother of Mrs. Dievendorf, was plow- 
ing and hearing the alarm, unhitched 
a plow horse and, mounting it, rode 
for the Mohawk and escaped although 
pursued by several Indians. Rudolf 
Keller and his wife happened to be at 
the fort, when the enemy appeared; 
Keller, Henry Lewis and Conrad En- 
ders being the only men in the block- 
house at that time. Frederick Lewis and 
Henry Lewis jr. were the first to 
reach the fort after the invaders' ap- 
pearance. Frederick Lewis fired three 
successive guns to warn the settlers of 
danger and several, taking the warn- 
ing, escaped safely to the forest. 
Philip Bellinger thus escaped but was 
severely wounded and died with 
friends shortly after. Rudolf Keller's 
oldest son, seeing the enemy approach, 
ran home and hurried the rest of the 
family to the woods, the Indians en- 



100 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



tering the Keller house just as the 
fugitives disappeared into the forest. 
Jacob Tanner and his family were 
among the last to reach the block- 
house. On seeing the Indians coming, 
Tanner fled from his house, with his 
gun in one hand and a small child in 
his other arm, followed by his wife 
with an infant in her arms and several 
children running by her side holding 
onto her skirts. Several redmen with 
uplifted tomahawks chased the Tan- 
ner family toward the fort. Finding 
that they could not overtake them, one 
of the Indians fired at Tanner, the ball 
passing just over the child's head he 
carried and entering a picket of the 
fort. The defenders fired several shots 
at the savages and the fleeing family 
entered the block-house safely. 

The Indians plundered and burned 
all the buildings in the settlement, a 
dpzen or more, except the house of 
David Lewis. Lewis was a Tory and, 
although his house was set on fire, an 
Indian chief, with whom he was ac- 
quainted, gave him permission to put 
it out when they were gone. Jacob 
Moyer and his father, who were cut- 
ting timber in the woods not far from 
Yates, were found dead and scalped, 
one at each end of the log. They were 
killed by the party who pursued Peter 
Bellinger. 

The lad, Frederick Dievendorf, after 
lying insensible for several hours, re- 
covered and crawled toward the fort. 
He was seen by his uncle, Keller, 
who went out to meet him. As he ap- 
proached, the lad, whose clothes were 
dyed in his own blood, still bewildered, 
raised his hands imploringly and be- 
sought his uncle not to kill him. Kel- 
ler took him up in his arms and car- 
ried him to the fort. His wounds were 
properly dressed and he recovered, but 
was killed several years after by a 
falling tree. Jacob Dievendorf senior, 
fled before the Indians, on their ap- 
proach and, in his flight, ran past a 
prisoner named James Butterfield, and 
at a little distance farther on hid him- 
self under a fallen tree. His pur- 
suers enquired of Butterfield what di- 
rection he had taken. "That way," said 
the prisoner, pointing in a different di- 



rection. Although several Indians 
passed by the fallen tree Dievendorf 
remained undiscovered. 

An old man named Putman, cap- 
tured at this time, was too infirm to 
keep up with the enemy and was killed 
and scalped not far from his home. 

The Currytown captives taken 
along by the enemy were Jacob Diev- 
endorf jr., the negro Jacob, Christian 
and Andrew Bellinger, sons of Fred- 
erick Bellinger, and a little girl named 
Miller, ten or twelve years old. Chris- 
tian Bellinger had been in the nine 
month [militia] service. He was cap- 
tpred on going to get a span of horses, 
at which time he heard an alarm gun 
fired at Fort Plain. The horses were 
hobbled together and the Indians, with 
a bark rope, had tied the hobble to a 
tree in a favorable place to capture the 
one who came for them, who chanced 
to be young Bellinger. His brother 
(Andrew) was taken so young and 
kept so long — to the end of the war — 
and was so pleased with Indian life, 
that Christian had to go a third time 
to get him to return with him. Michael 
Stowitts (son of Philip G. P. Stowitts, 
who was killed on the patriot side in 
the Oriskany battle) was made a pris- 
oner on the Stowitts farm, and is cred- 
ited with having given the invaders an 
exaggerated account of the strength 
defending the fort, which possibly pre- 
vented its capture; but it is well 
known that even small defenses were 
avoided by the enemy, who did not like 
exposure to certain death. 

On the morning of the same day of 
the Currytown raid (1781, July 9) Col. 
Willett sent out, from Fort Plain, Capt. 
Lawrence Gros with a scouting party 
of 40 men. Their mission had the 
double object of scouting for the enemy 
and provisions. Knowing that the set- 
tlements of New Dorlach and New 
Rhinebeck were inhabited mostly by 
Tories and that he might get a few 
beeves there, Gros led his men in that 
direction. Near the former home of 
one Baxter, he struck the trail of the 
enemy and estimated their number 
from their footprints at 500 men at 
least. Gros sent two scouts to follow 
the enemy and then marched his 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



101 



squad to Bowman's (Canajoharie) 
creek to await their report. The 
scouts came upon the enemy's camp 
of the night before after going about a 
mile. A few Indians were seen coolc- 
ing food at the fires — malting prepar- 
ations, as the Americans supposed, for 
the return of their comrades who had 
gone to destroy Currytown. The two 
rangers returned quickly to Gros and 
reported their find, and the captain 
dispatched John Young and another 
man, both mounted, on a gallop to Fort 
Plain to inform Col. Willett. The com- 
mandant sent a messenger to Lieut. 
Col. Vedder, at Fort Paris, with or- 
ders to collect all troops possible, at 
his post and elsewhere, and to make a 
rapid march to the enemy's camp. 
Col. Willett detailed all the garrison 
of Fort Plain he could, with safety de- 
tach from that post, for the field. In 
addition he collected what militia he 
could from the neighborhood and set 
out. Passing Fort Clyde in Freys- 
bush, Willett drafted into his ranks 
what men could there be spared and 
about midnight he joined Capt. Gros 
at Bowman's creek. The American 
force numbered 260 men, many of whom 
were militia. Col. Willett's battalion 
set out and, at daybreak, reached the 
enemy's camp, which was in a cedar 
swamp on the north side of the west- 
ern turnpike, near the center of the 
present town of Sharon and about two 
miles east of Sharon Springs. This 
camp was on the highest ground of 
the swamp, only a few rods from the 
turnpike. On the south side of the 
road, a ridge of land may be seen and 
still south of that a small valley. By 
a roundabout march, Willett reached 
this little dale and there drew up his 
force in a half-circle formation. The 
men were instructed to take trees or 
fallen logs and not to leave them and 
to reserve their fire until they had a 
fair shot. 

The enemy was double the number 
of the patriot force and stratagem was 
resorted to by the Fort Plain com- 
mandant. He sent several men over 
the ridge to show themselves^ fire 
upon the raiders and then flee, draw- 
ing the foe toward the American 



ranks. This ruse completely suc- 
ceeded and the entire Tory and Indian 
band snatched up their weapons and 
chased the American skirmishers who 
fled toward Willett's ambuscade, Fred- 
erick Bellinger being overtaken and 
killed. The enemy was greeted with 
a deadly fire from the hidden soldiers 
and a fierce tree to tree fight began 
which lasted for two hours until the 
Tories and Indians, badly punished, 
broke and fied. John Strobeck, who 
was a private in Captain Gros's com- 
pany and in the hottest part of the 
fight, said afterwards that "the In- 
dians got tired of us and made 
off." Strobeck was wounded in the 
hip. During the battle, from a bass- 
wood stump, several shots were fired 
with telling effect at the patriots. 
William H. Seeber rested his rifie on 
the shoulder of Henry Failing and 
gave the hollow stump a centre shot, 
after which fire from that quarter 
ceased. About this time, it is said, 
the enemy were recovering from their 
first panic, learning they so greatly 
outnumbered the Continental force. A 
story is told that Col. Willett, seeing 
the foe gaining confidence shouted in 
a loud voice, "My men, stand your 
ground and I'll bring up the levies 
and we'll surround the damned ras- 
cals!" The enemy hearing this, and 
expecting to be captured or slain by 
an increased American body, turned 
and ran. In the pursuit Seeber and 
Failing reached the stump the former 
had hit and found it was hollow. See- 
ing a pool of blood on the ground. 
Col. Willett observed: "One that stood 
behind that stump will never get back 
to Canada." 

The enemy, in their retreat, were 
hotly pursued by the Americans, led 
by Col. Willett in person and so com- 
plete was the defeat of the raiders 
that Willett's men captured most of 
their camp equipage and plunder ob- 
tained the day before in the Curry- 
town raid. Most of the cattle and 
horses the raiders had taken found- 
their way back to that settlement. 
Col. Willett continued the pursuit but 
a short distance, fearing that he might 
himself fall into a snare similar to 



102 



TlIK STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



the one he had so successfully set for 
the enemy. The American force re- 
turned victorious to Fort Plain, imme- 
diately after the battle, bearing with 
them their wounded. Their loss of 
five killed and about the same number 
wounded was small and due to their 
protected position and the surprise 
they sprang on their foe. 

The Indians, in their retreat from 
Sharon, crossed the west creek in New 
Dorlach (near the former Col. Rice 
residence) and made for the Susque- 
hanna. The loss of the enemy was 
very severe — about 50 killed and 
wounded — and Dockstader is said to 
have returned to Canada (after one 
other engagement) with his force 
"greatly reduced." Two of the enemy 
carried a wounded comrade, on a 
blanket between two poles, all the way 
to the Genesee valley, where he died. 

Five of Willett's men were killed, 
including Capt. McKean, a brave and 
eflicient officer. He was taken to Van 
Alstine's fortified house at Canajo- 
harie, which was on the then road 
from New Dorlach to Fort Plain, and 
died there the following day, after 
which he was buried in "soldier's 
ground" at Fort Plain; which was 
probably the burial plot about one 
hundred yards west of that post, re- 
mains of which are still to be seen. 
On the completion of the blockhouse, 
McKean's body was reburied on 
the brink of the hill in front of this 
fortification with military honors. 

Among the wounded was a son of 
Capt. McKean, who was shot in the 
mouth. Jacob Radnour received a 
bullet in his right thigh which he 
carried to his grave. Like that Sir 
William Johnson got at Lake George, 
it gradually settled several inches and 
made him very lame. Hon. Garrett 
Dunckel was wounded in the head, "a 
ball passing in at the right eye and 
coming out back of the ear." Nicho- 
las Yerdon was wounded in the right 
wrist, which caused the hand to shrivel 
and liecome useless. Adam Strobeck's 
wound in the hip has been mentioned. 
All three of the latter came from 
Freysbush and Radnour, Dunckel and 
Yerdon were in the Oriskany battle. 



where Radnour and Yerdon were 
wounded. All these wounded were 
borne on litters back to Fort Plain and 
all recovered. 

Finding their force defeated and 
having to abandon their prisoners in 
the fiight, the Indians guarding them 
tomahawked and scalped all except 
the Bellinger boys and Butterfield. 
The killed at this time included a 
German named Carl Herwagen, who 
had been captured by the enemy on 
their return from Currytown to their 
camp the previous evening. 

After the battle was over Lieut. - 
Col. Veeder arrived from Fort Paris 
with a company of 100 men, mostly 
from Stone Arabia. He buried the 
Americans killed in battle and fortu- 
nately found and interred the priso- 
ners who were murdered and scalped 
near the enemy's former camp. The 
Dievendorf boy, who had been scalped, 
was found alive half buried among the 
dead leaves, with which he had covered 
himself to keep off mosquitoes and 
flies from his bloody head. One of 
Veeder's men, thinking him a wounded 
Indian, on account of his gory face, 
leveled his gun to shoot but it was 
knocked up by a fellow soldier, and 
the Currytown boy's life was spared 
for almost four-score years more. 
Young Dievendorf and the little Mil- 
ler girl, also found alive, were tenderly 
taken back to Fort Plain, but the lat- 
ter died on the way. Doctor Faught, 
a German physician of Stone Arabia, 
tended the wounds of both Jacob 
Dievendorf and his brother Frederick 
Dievendorf and both recovered. Jacob 
Dievendorf's scalped head was five 
years in healing. He became one of 
the wealthiest farmers of Montgomery 
county and died Oct. 8, 1859, over 
seventy-eight years after his terrible 
experience of being scalped and left 
for dead by his red captors on the 
bloody field of Sharon. 

The battle of Sharon was fought, al- 
most entirely, by men from the pres- 
ent limits of the town of Minden — the 
Fort Plain garrison, with additions 
froin that of Fort Clyde, and the Min- 
den militia. Some of the soldiers doubt- 
less came from Forts Willett, Win- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



103 



decker and Plank. The Fort Paris 
company, as seen, did not get up in 
time to fight. The list of the Ameri- 
cans wounded at Sharon would indi- 
cate that the greater part of Willett's 
battalion were local men. Probably 
the men of the Mohawk formed a large 
percentage of the valley garrisons of 
that time. There was then little for 
the men of the Mohawk to do but to 
guard and fight and, between times, to 
till the fields which were not too ex- 
posed to the enemy's ravages. A con- 
siderable population must have clus- 
tered in and about the principal forts 
for protection. 



Col. Marinus Willett, who made his 
headquarters at Fort Plain for the last 
three years of the war and who was 
connected with so many of the valley 
military operations and almost all the 
patriot successes in the valley, de- 
serves mention here. He was a sol- 
dier of the highest qualifications, great 
courage and daring, a clever and fear- 
less woodsman and an intrepid fighter 
in the open field. His quick, powerful, 
decisive blows, such as at Johnstown 
and Sharon Springs, conspired to end 
the raids from Canada which had de- 
vastated the valley. Marinus Willett 
was born in Jamaica, Long Island, in 
1740, the youngest of six sons of Ed- 
ward Willett, a Queens county farmer. 
In 1758 he joined the army, under 
Abercrombie, as a lieutenant in Col. 
Delaney's regiment. Exposure in the 
wilderness caused a sickness which 
confined him in Fort Stanwix until the 
end of the campaign. Willett early 
joined the Whigs, in the contest 
against British aggression. When the 
British troops in New York were or- 
dered to Boston, after the skirmish at 
Lexington in 1775, they attempted to 
carry off a large quantity of spare 
arms in addition to their own. Willett 
resolved to prevent it and, although 
opposed by the mayor and other 
Whigs, he captured the baggage 
wagons containing the weapons, etc., 
and took them back to the city. These 
arms were afterwards used by the first 
regiment raised by the state of New 
York. He was appointed second cap- 



tain of a company in McDougal's regi- 
ment and accompanied Montgomery's 
futile expedition against Quebec. He 
commanded St. John's until 1776. He 
was appointed lieutenant-colonel in 
1777 and cominanded Fort Constitu- 
tion on the Hudson. In May he was 
ordered to Fort Stanwix, recently 
named Fort Schuyler, where he did 
such signal service. He was left in 
command of that fort where he re- 
mained until 1778, when he joined the 
army under Washington and fought 
with him at Monmouth. He accom- 
panied Sullivan in his campaign 
against the Indians in 1779. Col. Wil- 
lett was actively engaged in the Mo- 
hawk valley in 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783. So 
he spent at least four or five years 
in military service in the Mohawk val- 
ley. Washington sent him to treat 
with the Creek Indians in Florida in 
1792 and the same year he was ap- 
pointed a brigadier-general in the 
army which was intended to act 
against the northwestern Indians. He 
declined this appointment, being op- 
posed to the expedition. Col. Willett 
was for some time sheriff and in 1807 
was elected Mayor of New York city. 
He was president of the electoral col- 
lege in 1824 and died in New York 
August 23, 1830, in the 91st year of 
his age. A portrait of Col. Willett 
hangs, among those of other former 
mayors, in the City Hall in New York 
and shows a face of much intelligence, 
power and forceful initiative. Marinus 
Willett was one of the men of iron 
who made the American republic pos- 
sible. There are few natural leaders 
and he was one. Simms says Willett 
was a "large man." He was a direct 
descendant of Thomas Willett, who 
was a man of great ability and influ- 
ence in the early years of New York 
province, and who was the first mayor 
of New York city after the Dutch 
rule, being appointed by Gov. Nicolls 
in 1665. Col. Marinus Willett had a 
natural son by a Fort Plain woman. 
This son he cared for and educated 
and later, when the son was a grown 
man, he returned to his birthplace and 
lived here and hereabouts for several 
years. 



104 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



The following, concerning Willett, is 
taken from "New York in the Revo- 
lution:" 

"Captain, Major, Lieutenant-Colonel, 
Colonel and Acting Brigadier Marinus 
Willett was a gallant officer. He held 
many commands and his promotion 
was rapid. In 1775-6 he was captain 
in Col. Alexander McDougal's regi- 
ment, 1st N. Y. Line. On April 27, 1776, 
the Provincial Congress recommended 
him to the Continental Congress for 
major of the same regiment. In No- 
vember of the same year he was rec- 
ommended for lieutenant-colonel of 
the 3d Line [regiment] and in July, 
1780, he was made lieutenant-colonel 
commandant of the 5th regiment of 
the line. In 1781 as lieutenant-colonel 
he commanded a regiment of levies 
[men drafted into military service] 
and in 1782 was made full colonel of 
still another regiment of levies. After 
the death of General Nicholas Herki- 
mer, Colonel Willett commanded the 
Tryon County militia as acting briga- 
dier-general." The regiment of levies, 
which Willett commanded in 1781 and 
which engaged in the Sharon and 
Johnstown battles, is mentioned in a 
later chapter dealing briefly with the 
Tryon county troops. It numbered 
1008 soldiers, was largely composed of 
Mohawk river men, and probably form- 
ed all or part of the valley garrisons 
of the time when Fort Plain was the 
military headquarters of this section. 



At German Flats, 1781, were several 
encounters. One of them was mark- 
ed by great bravery on the part of 
Captain Solomon Woodworth and a 
small party of rangers which he orga- 
nized. He marched from Fort Dayton 
to the Royal Grant for the purpose of 
observation. On the way he fell into 
an Indian ambush. One of the most 
desperate and bloody skirmishes of 
the war hereabouts then ensued. 
Woodworth and a large number of his 
scouts were slain. This was the same 
Woodworth who so valiantly defended 
the Sacandaga blockhouse, as told in 
a previous chapter. His company as- 
sembled at Fort Plain only a few days 
previous to the fatal action, which 



took place at Fairfield. Some of his 
men were recruited from soldiers of 
the Fort Plain garrison whose time 
was soon to expire. 

In this year also occurred the heroic 
defense by Christian Schell of his 
blockhouse home about five miles 
north of Herkimer village. Sixty 
Tories and Indians under Donald Mc- 
Donald, a Tory formerly of Johnstown, 
attacked the place, most of the people 
fleeing to Fort Dayton. Schell had 
eight sons and two of them were cap- 
tured in the fields while the old man 
ran safely home and with his other six 
sons and Mrs. Schell hade a successful 
defense. They captured McDonald 
wounded. The enemy drew off having 
11 killed and 15 wounded. Schell and 
one of his boys were killed by Indians 
in his fields a little later. 



Early in May, 1781, high water from 
the Mohawk destroyed a quantity of 
stores in Fort Schuyler. On May 12 
this post was partially destroyed by 
fire. The soldiers were playing ball 
a little distance away and pretty much 
everything was burned except the pal- 
isade and the bombproof, which was 
saved by throwing dirt on it. This fire 
has been said to have been of incen- 
diary origin having been started by a 
soldier of secret Tory sentiments. 
Samuel Pettit, who was then one of the 
garrison, in his old age, told Simms 
that the fire originated from charcoal 
used to repair arms in the armory. 
The post was abandoned and the 
troops marched dJwn the Forts Day- 
ton and Herkimer, which became now 
the most advanced posts on this fron- 
tier. Some of the Fort Schuyler gar- 
rison are said to have been removed 
to Fort Plain. After the abandonment 
of Fort Schuyler the principal Mohawk 
valley posts of Tryon county were, in 
their order from west to east, as fol- 
lows: Fort Dayton (at present Her- 
kimer), Fort Herkimer (at present 
German Flats), Fort Plain, Fort Paris 
(at Stone Arabia), Fort Johnstown. 
Fort Hunter. Fort Plain's central po- 
sition probably influenced its selection 
as the valley American army head- 
quarters. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



105 



Slmms says that, in the spring of 
1781, Col. Livingston, with his regi- 
ment of New York troops marched up 
the Mohawk valley to Fort Plain. No 
mention is made of further disposition 
of the troops, however. Possibly, these 
may have been part of "the reinforce- 
ments lately ordered northward" re- 
ferred to by Gen. Washington in his 
letter of June 5, 1781, to Gov. Clinton. 
Washington advocated the concentra- 
tion of these troops "on the Hudson 
and Mohawk rivers." 



In the summer of 1781 Col. Willett 
went with a scouting party from Fort 
Plain to Fort Herkimer and on his re- 
turn stopped at the Herkimer house. 
Here then lived Capt. George Herki- 
mer, brother of the deceased General, 
who had succeeded to the Fall Hill 
estate. At this time a small body of 
Indians was seen in the woods above 
the house and Mrs. Herkimer went to 
the front door and stepped up on a 
seat on the stoop and, with her arm 
around the northwest post, she blew 
an alarm for her husband who with 
several slaves was hoeing corn on the 
flats near the river. Col. Willett came 
to the door and seeing the woman's 
exposed position shouted, "Woman, 
for God's sake, come in or you'll be 
shot!" He seized hold of Mrs. Herki- 
mer's dress and pulled her inside the 
house and almost the instant she 
stepped from the seat to the floor a 
rifle ball entered the post — instead of 
her head — leaving a hole long visible. 
It is presumed that Willett's men 
quickly drove off the enemy as Cap- 
tain Herkimer was not harmed. 



In July, 1781, a party of 12 Indians 
made a foray in the Palatine district 
and captured Ave persons, on the 
Shults farm two miles north of the 
Stone Arabia churches. Three sons 
of John Shults — Henry, William and 
John junior, a lad named Felder Wolfe 
and a negro slave called Joseph went 
to a field to mow, carrying their guns 
and stacking them on the edge of the 
field, skirted on one side by thick 
woods. From this cover the Indians 
sprang out, secured the firearms, cap- 



tured the harvesters and took them 
all prisoners to Canada. Upon the 
mowers not returning, people from the 
farm went to the field and found their 
scythes, but the guns were missing. 
These were the only evidences that 
the harvesters had been made priso- 
ners. They remained in Canada until 
the end of the war. 



CHAPTER XX. 

1781— Oct. 24, Ross and Butler's Tory 
and Indian Raid in Montgomery and 
Fulton Counties — Oct. 25, American 
Victory at Johnstown — Willett's Pur- 
suit, Killing of Walter Butler and 
Defeat of the Enemy at West Can- 
ada Creek — Rejoicing in the Mohawk 
Valley — Johnstown, the County Seat, 
at the Time of the Hall Battle, 1781. 

Small guerilla parties continued to 
lurk around the frontier settlements 
during the remainder of the summer 
and early autumn of 1781. The vigi- 
lance of Col. Willett's scouts prevented 
their doing any great damage. The 
Tories, however, had lost none of their 
animosity against their former neigh- 
bors in the Mohawk valley, and in the 
late autumn of this year again took 
the field. 

In October, 1781, occurred the last 
great raid, which took place during 
the war in the limits of western Mont- 
gomery or within present Montgom- 
ery and Fulton counties. The invad- 
ers were so severely punished by the 
valley troops under Willett, that it 
had a deterrent effect upon their fur- 
ther enterprises of this kind, at least 
in the neighborhood of Willett's head- 
quarters at Fort Plain. 

This last local foray was commanded 
by Major Ross and Walter Butler and 
consisted of 700 Tories and Indians 
and British regulars. Ross was after- 
ward in command of the British fort 
at Oswego, when Capt. Thompson 
came from Fort Plain bearing to the 
enemy news of an armistice between 
England and the United States. Of 
this interesting journey, mention is 
made in a following chapter. Oct. 24, 
1781, the enemy broke in upon the Mo- 
hawk settlements from the direction of 



106 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



the Susquehanna, at Currytown, where 
they had so ravaged the country a few 
months earlier. They burned no 
bviildings as they did not wish their 
presence yet known to the neighboring 
militia. That same morning a scout- 
ing party went from Fort Plain to- 
wards Sharon Springs, there separat- 
ing, all of them returning to their post 
except Jacob Tanner and Frederick 
Ottman, who set out for Currytown 
where Tanner wished to visit his 
family. Near Argusville they came in 
touch with the enemy, who were ap- 
proaching the Mohawk by the south- 
west route. The two American scouts 
ran down Flat creek and, throwing 
away their guns and knapsacks, es- 
caped and spread the alarm. At the 
Putman place (Willow Basin, in the 
town of Root below the Nose), they 
came upon a funeral party attending 
services over the remains of Frederick 
Putman, who had been killed by the 
enemy while hunting martin up Yates- 
ville creek. Thus warned, the party 
broke up and its members fled for 
safety and to warn others. 

The enemy in force, to the number 
of 700, went from Argusville to Curry- 
town, plundering houses on their way 
but avoiding the little fort at that 
place. From Currytown they made 
for the Mohawk and there came upon 
and captured the two scouts. Tanner 
and Ottman, Rudolf Keller and his 
wife, Michael Stowitts and Jacob 
Myers, all returning from the Putman 
funeral, and later took John Lewis 
near the river. Mrs. Keller was left 
near Yatesville (now Randall) by the 
intercession of a Tory nephew. Half 
a dozen other women just previously 
taken were also left here, among them 
Mrs. Adam Fine and a girl named 
Moyer. The invaders after this did 
not encumber themselves with any 
more women prisoners on this raid. 
Myers was an old man and, on the 
forced and terrible march which fol- 
lowed the Tory defeat at Johnstown, 
he could not keep up with the party 
and was killed and scalped. 

Leaving the Yatesville neighbor- 
hood. Major Ross led his party on the 
south side down the Mohawk, taking 



the new road recently laid over Stone 
Ridge, into the present town of Glen. 
On the ridge, they came at twilight to 
the Wood home, and took there John 
Wood captive. Here Joseph Printup, 
a lieutenant of militia, was at his son's 
(William L Printup) house, as were 
also Jacob Frank, John Loucks and 
John Van Alstyne, neighbors. Printup 
had been cleaning his gun and, as he 
reloaded it, said: "Now I'm ready for 
the Indians." Almost at the same in- 
stant the advance party was seen ap- 
proaching the house. Frank and 
Loucks ran for the woods, Loucks be- 
ing shot down and scalped and Frank 
escaping. Printup fired on the ad- 
vance party. An Indian put his gun 
to the patriot's breast, but a Tory 
friend of Printup's, with the Indians, 
struck the gun down and the Whig 
lieutenant was hit in the thigh. The 
Tory interfered and saved Printup's 
life and then he was made a pris- 
oner. Several times, during the fol- 
lowing march the lieutenant was 
saved from the Indians' tomahawks by 
his friend of the enemy. Printup suf- 
fered agonies on the way but finally 
got to Johnstown, where an old Scotch 
woman, Mrs. Van Sickler (probably 
the wife of Johnstown's first black- 
smith and also Sir William's), inter- 
ceded for him and he was left at her 
house. From here he returned to 
Stone Ridge and was finally cured of 
his wounds. At the time of his cap- 
ture Van Alstyne was also made pris- 
oner and he helped Printup along the 
road. According to the Indian cus- 
tom, had he not been able to keep up, 
he would have been at once scalped 
and killed. 

Jacob, a brother of the former Van 
Alstyne, was taken shortly after as 
was Evert Van Epps. John C, a son 
of Charles Van Epps, spread the 
alarm on horseback down the river, 
and the inhabitants fled to safety 
in the woods. At Auriesville Printup 
told John Van Alstyne to escape if he 
could and the latter promptly ran for 
liberty up the ravine. The enemy con- 
tinued on to Yankee Hill, in the town 
of Florida, fording the Schoharie at 
its mouth. Captain Snook sent Con- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



107 



rad Stein to warn the settlers here- 
abouts, who mostly escaped. 

On the morning of October 25, 1781, 
the invading party broke camp, forded 
the Mohawk, entered the town of Am- 
sterdam and headed for Johnstown, 
small parties of Indians meanwhile 
raiding the country in every direc- 
tion. Houses were burned belonging 
to farmers by the name of Wart, 
Henry Rury, Captain Snook, John 
Stein, Samuel Pettingill, William De- 
Line, Patrick Connelly, George Young 
and several others in the neighbor- 
hood. A man named Bowman was 
killed and scalped. 

The raiders crossed the Mohawk 
near Stanton's Island, below Amster- 
dam. Here they burned the houses of 
Timothy Hunt and Nathan Skeels, 
Soon after the Tory main body went 
over the ford a Whig named Ben 
Yates, came up on the south bank and 
saw an Indian on the opposite shore. 
"Discovering Yates and, doubting his 
ability to harm him, he turned 'round 
and slapped his buttocks in defiance. 
In the next instant, a bullet, from the 
rifle of Ben, struck the Indian, and the 
former had only to ford the river to 
get an extra gun and some plunder 
made in the neighborhood." 

That same morning Capt. Littel led 
a scouting party from the Johnstown 
fort to learn the enemy's whereabouts. 
Five miles east of Johnstown they 
came upon Ross's advance party. 
Here Lieut. Saulkill, of the scouts, was 
killed and the rest of the party fled 
and later were in the ensuing battle. 
At Johnstown, Hugh McMonts and 
David and William Scarborough were 
killed by the raiders. 

As soon as the news reached Col. 
Willett at Fort Plain, he started to 
the rescue with what men he could 
hastily collect. Marching through the 
night he reached Fort Hunter the next 
morning (October 25, 1781), but the 
enemy had already crossed the river 
and directed their course toward 
Johnstown, plundering and burning 
right and left. Willett's force lost 
some time in fording the Mohawk 
which was not easily passable at this 
point, but this accomplished, the pur- 



suit was vigorously prosecuted and 
the enemy were overtaken at Johns- 
town. 

Col. Willett had but 416 men, and 
his inferiority of force compelled 
a resort to strategy in attacking. Ac- 
cordingly Col. Rowley, of Massachu- 
setts, was detached with about 60 of 
his men and some of the Tryon County 
militia to gain the rear of the enemy 
by a circuitous march and fall upon 
them, while Col. Willett attacked 
them in front. The invaders were met 
by Col. Willett near Johnson Hall and 
the battle immediately began. It was 
for a time hotly contested, but at 
length the patriot militia, under Wil- 
lett, suddenly gave way and fled pre- 
cipitately, before their commander 
could induce them to make a stand. 
The enemy would have won an easy 
and complete victory had not Col. 
Rowley at this moment, attacked vigor- 
ously upon their rear and obstinately 
maintained an unequal contest. This 
gave Col. Willett time to rally his men, 
who again pressed forward. At night- 
fall, after a severe struggle, the enemy 
overcome and harassed on all sides, 
fled in confusion to the woods, not 
halting to encamp until they had gone 
several miles. In the engagement the 
Americans lost about 40; the enemy 
had about the same number killed and 
50 taken prisoners. This American 
victory was won on the nothwest lim- 
its of the present city of Johnstown 
and near Johnson Hall, where a monu- 
ment marks the field. 

A young patriot, named William 
Scarborough, was among the garrison 
at the Johnstown fort at the time of 
this action, left it with another sol- 
dier named Crosset, to join Willett's 
force. They fell in with the enemy on 
the way, and Crosset, after shooting 
one or two of the latter, was himself 
killed. Scarborough was surrounded 
and captured by a company of High- 
landers under Capt. McDonald, for- 
merly living near Johnstown. Scar- 
borough and the Scotch officer had 
been neighbors before the war and 
had got into a political wrangle, which 
resulted in a fight and the beating of 
the Highland chief. Henceforward he 



108 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



cherished a bitter hatred toward his 
adversary, and finding him now in his 
power, ordered him shot at once. His 
men refusing the murderous office, Mc- 
Donald tooli it upon himself, and cut 
the prisoner to pieces with his sword. 

Capt. Andrew Fink of Palatine, was 
also in the Johnstown battle. During 
the action near the Hall, the British 
took from the Americans a field-piece, 
which Col. Willett was anxious to re- 
cover. He sent Capt. Fink with a 
party of volunteers, to reconnoitre the 
enemy and if possible, get the lost 
cannon. Three of the volunteers were 
Christian and Mynder Fink, brothers 
of the captain, and George Stansell. 
While observing the movements of the 
enemy from the covert of a fallen 
tree, Stansell was shot down beside 
his brave leader with a bullet through 
his lungs, and was borne from the 
woods by Han Yost Fink. Strength- 
ening his body of volunteers, Capt. 
Fink again entered the forest. The 
cannon was soon after recaptured and, 
it being near night and the enemy 
having fled, Willett drew off his men 
and quartered them in the old Episco- 
pal church at Johnstown, gaining en- 
trance by breaking a window. 

The day after the battle. Col. Wil- 
lett ordered Capt. Littel to send a 
"scout" (scouting party as then called) 
from Fort Johnstown to follow the 
enemy, discover its direction and to 
report the same. Captain Littel had 
been slightly wounded in the Hall bat- 
tle but took with him William Laird 
and Jacob Shew and set out after the 
enemy. (Shew was on service in many 
of the neighborhood posts. Fort Plain 
included, and is responsible for much 
of the information Slmms used re- 
garding local events). 

The enemy camped the first night 
near Bennett's Corners, four miles 
from the Hall, and the following day, 
striking the Caroga valley, went up 
that stream and went into camp for 
the night (Oct. 26, 1781) half a mile 
beyond the outlet of Caroga lakes. 
The next day Littel's scouting party 
came up and warmed themselves at 
Ross's deserted camp fires. After 
further observing the enemy's trail 



Littel became satisfied that they would 
go to Canada by way of Buck's Isl- 
and. His party lodged in the woods, 
near Ross's last camp, and re- 
turned to Fort Johnsown next day, 
from whence Peter Yost was sent on 
horse, with messages to Col. Willett 
at Fort Dayton, to which post he had 
advanced. 

Ross's party meanwhile was head- 
ing for West Canada creek. The re- 
treating Tories and Indians struck 
the most easterly of the Jerseyfield 
roads (leading to Mount's clearing), 
followed it several miles and encamped 
for the night on what has since been 
called Butler's Ridge, in the town of 
Norway (Herkimer county), half a 
mile from Black creek. 

Early the next morning (Oct. 26, 
1781) Willett started his pursuit. He 
halted at Stone Arabia, and sent for- 
ward a detachment of troops to make 
forced marches to Oneida lake, where 
he was informed the enemy had left 
their boats, for the purpose of de- 
stroying them. In the meanwhile he 
pushed forward with the main force to 
German Flats, where he learned the 
advance party had returned without 
accomplishing their errand. From his 
scouts of the Johnstown fort party, 
he also learned that the enemy had 
taken a northerly course to and along 
the West Canada creek. With about 
400 of his best men, he started In pur- 
suit In the face of a driving snow 
storm. 

The route of the pursuing band of 
Americans was as follows: From Fort 
Dayton up West Canada creek, cross- 
ing it about a mile above Fort Dayton, 
going up its eastern side to Middle- 
ville, from there up the Moltner 
brook to the Jerseyfield road leading 
to Little Falls; striking the Jersey- 
field road northeast of present Fair- 
field village, following it up and camp- 
ing at night a mile or two from the 
enemy's position. 

Willett's camp was in a thick woods 
on the Royal Grant. He sent out a 
scouting party under Jacob Sammons, 
to discover the enemj'. Sammons 
found them a mile or so above and, 
after reconnoiterlng their position, re- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



109 



turned and reported to Col. Willett 
that the enemy were well armed with 
bayonets. 

The American officer gave up the 
plan of a night attack upon them and 
continued his pursuit early the next 
morning (Oct. 28, 1781), but the enemy 
were as quick on foot as he. In the 
afternoon he came up with a lagging 
party of Indians, and a short but sharp 
skirmish ensued. Some of the Indians 
were killed, some taken prisoners and 
others escaped. Willett kept upon the 
enemy's trail along the creek, and to- 
ward evening came up with the main 
body at a place called Jerseyfleld, on 
the northeastern side of West Canada 
creek. A running fight ensued, the In- 
dians became terrified, and retreated 
across the stream at a ford, where 
Walter Butler, their leader, tried to 
rally them. In this action it is said 25 
of the enemy were killed and a number 
wounded. A brisk fire was kept up 
across the creek by both parties for 
some time. Butler, who had dismoun- 
ed, left cover and took some water out 
of the creek with a tin cup. He was 
in the act of drinking it when he was 
seen by two of the American pursuing 
party — Anthony, an Indian, and Daniel 
Olendorf, a man from the present town 
of Minden. They both fired at once at 
Butler, who fell wounded in the head. 
The savage then threw off his blanket, 
put his rifle on it and ran across the 
stream to where Butler lay in great 
pain, supporting his head on his hand. 
Seeing the Indian brandishing his 
tomahawk, the Tory raised his other 
hand saying, "Spare me — give me 
quarters!" "Me give you Sherry Val- 
ley quarters" replied the red man and 
struck Butler dead with his weapon, 
burying it in his head. Just as the 
Tory captain fell, Col. Willett came up 
on the opposite side of the creek. Olen- 
dorf told him where Butler lay and the 
American commander together with 
Andrew Gray of Stone Arabia and 
John Brower, forded the stream and 
came upon the scene just as Anthony 
was about to take his dead victim's 
scalp. Col. Lewis, the Oneida chief 
with the American party here came up 
also and Anthony asked permission to 



scalp the fallen Tory. The red officer 
asked Willett if he should permit it. 
Col. Willett replied: "He belongs to 
your party, Col. Lewis," whereupon 
the chief gave a nod of assent and the 
reeking scalp was torn off the quiver- 
ing body of the man v/ho had incited 
his savages to inflict death and the 
same bloody mutilation on the bodies 
of scores of men, women and children. 
Anthony stripped Butler and re- 
turned across the creek to Olendorf. 
Here the savage put on the red regi- 
mentals and strutted about saying: 
"I be British ofser." "You a fool," 
remarked Olendorf and told the In- 
dian that if he was seen in Butler's 
uniform he would be instantly shot by 
mistake. The savage thereupon hur- 
riedly shed his victim's clothes. 

Butler's body was left where it 
fell, and the place was afterwards 
called Butler's Ford. The pursuit was 
kept up until evening, when Willett, 
completely successful by entirely rout- 
ing and dispersing the eneiny, stopped 
and started on his return march. 

The sufferings of the retreating 
force of beaten Tories and Indians, on 
their way to Canada, must have been 
many and acute. The weather was 
cold and, in their hasty flight, many of 
them had cast away their blankets to 
make progress more speedy. The loss 
of the Americans in this pursuit was 
only one man; that of the enemy is 
not known. It must have been very 
heavy. Colonel Willett, in his de- 
spatch to Governor Clinton observed, 
"The fields of Johnstown, the brooks 
and rivers, the bills and mountains, 
the deep and gloomy marshes through 
which they had to pass, they alone can 
tell; and perhaps the officers who de- 
tached them on the expedition." 

On account of the inclement weather 
and the lack of provisions, Willett and 
his force returned to Fort Dayton, 
after abandoning the chase of the 
badly beaten enemy. Here the people 
had gathered together and prepared a 
feast for the victorious American sol- 
diers and their able commander. And 
the occasion was also one of great re- 
joicing over the death of Butler, from 



110 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



whom the people of Tryon county had 
suffered so much. 

The news of the Johnstown and 
West Canada creek victories and the 
death of Butler was spread through 
the valley at about the same time as 
the tidings of the surrender of the 
British army under Cornwallis at 
Yorktown. That great event did not 
give any more joy to the people along 
the Mohawk than the welcome assur- 
ance that the fiend Butler had been 
wiped out in the vigorous pursuit by 
Willett and his fighting men. Wil- 
lett's return to his headquarters at 
Port Plain must have been in the na- 
ture of a triumphal march and he 
probably was there heartily greeted by 
the much tried people of the Canajo- 
harie and Palatine districts. 

The battle of Johnstown was fought 
by the garrisons of the Fort Plain 
headquarters and its adjacent posts, 
by what local militia could be quickly 
gathered, and probably some men 
from Fort Hunter and Fort Johnson 
and with the aid of the Johnstown 
garrison. The picked force Willett 
took up West Canada creek doubtless 
included some of the scouts or militia 
posted at Fort Herkimer and Fort 
Dayton. So this campaign takes on a 
particular local interest as, although 
the battle of Johnstown and the skir- 
mish at West Canada creek were 
fought outside of the Canajoharie and 
Palatine districts, the great majority 
of the forces there engaged were from 
the Fort Plain valley headquarters and 
the posts within a five-mile radius of 
it. This, as has been before mentioned 
is true of the Sharon Springs battle 
as well. So, like the greater action of 
Oriskany, these Revolutionary Tryon 
county conflicts are of much local in- 
terest because so large a proportion of 
the American soldiers engaged came 
from the Canajoharie and Palatine 
districts of which Fort Plain was the 
center, even though the scenes of bat- 
tles were outside of them. 

Three of the late Revolutionary ac- 
tions — Stone Arabia, St. Johnsville and 
Sharon Springs, occurred within the 
Canajoharie and Palatine districts and 
the two former within the present lim- 



its of the towns of Palatine and St. 
Johnsville. The battle of Johnstown 
has been stated to have been the last 
action of the Revolution on record and 
fittingly terminated in an American 
victory. 



The Mohawk Valley Democrat 
(Fonda), in its issue of Feb. 27, 1913, 
printed a statement of Philip Graff, a 
Mohawk valley soldier who took part 
in the West Canada creek skirmish 
and was present at the death of Wal- 
ter Butler. This document has been 
in the possession of the Sammons 
family for over a century. Graff's ac- 
count differs somewhat from 01en-» 
dorf's, but both are probably true, the 
confusion of the battle preventing 
both from seeing all its incidents indi- 
vidually. The Graff statement follows 
in its original form: 

"In October 1781, I was Inlisted in 
the state troops for four months and 
was then stationed at fort Herkimer 
in a company of Capt. Peter Van Ran- 
selaer and Lent. John Spencer. Some 
time in November after Col. Willett 
had a battle with Major Ross at 
Johnstown he arrived at Fort Herki- 
mer. Our company then was ordered 
to join with Col. Willett's men and 
with them we crossed the river from 
the south to the north side the next 
morning; we were marched to the 
north through the Royal Grants and 
encamped in the woods, made fire; 
some snow had fell that day. The 
next morning by daybreak we marched 
on to the enemy about one and came 
with the rear of the enemy, took some 
prisoners and Lieut. John Rykeman, 
several of their horses with blankets 
and provisions and packs on — we then 
pursued the enemy on to Jersey Field 
and in coming down a hill to the 
creek, we received a very strong fire 
from the enemy who had [crossed] 
the west Canada creek, which was 
returned from Willett's men with 
spirit. The enemy on the west side of 
the creek and Willett's men on the 
east side. One of the Oneida Indians 
having got near the creek saw Major 
Butler look from behind a tree to 
Willett's men at the east, took aim at 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



111 



him and shot him tlirough his hat and 
upper part of his head. Butler fell, 
the enemy run, the Indian run through 
the rest of the Indians and [an] ad- 
vance immediately followed when In- 
dian who shot Butler arrived first 
having noticed particular where But- 
ler fell; he was tottering up and down 
in great agony, partly setting, looking 
the Indian in the face when the In- 
dian shot him about through the eye 
brow and eye and immediately took 
 his scalp off. The Oneida Indians then 
luostly got up and give tremendous 
yell and war hoop, immediately striped 
Butler of all his close, left him naked 
laying on his face. The Indian walked 
forward (the rest followed) with the 
scalp in his hand; came to the guard 
called out, 'I have Butler's scalp,' 
struck it against a tree, 'take the 
blood' [evidently addressing] Lieut. 
Rykeman who was in the guard, 
[and] struck it at his face [saying] 
'Butler's scalp, you Bogen.' Rykeman 
drew his head back and avoided the 
stroke. I saw two [of] his sergeants 
and little farther saw another of the 
enemy shot through the body. Butler 
was killed about 11 o'clock. We pur- 
sued the enemy until evening and re- 
turned the morning, past Butler again 
in the position we left him the day 
before. I believe he never was buried." 



Some incidents of the West Canada 
creek pursuit follow: 

Soon after crossing West Canada 
creek, some of Willett's men found a 
little five-year-old girl beneath a fal- 
len tree, crying piteously. She had 
been made a prisoner and left by the 
Indians in their flight. The militia- 
men comforted her and took her back 
to her valley home. The weather at 
this time was very severe and the suf- 
ferings of the enemy and their prison- 
ers were intense. 

A militiaman named Lodowick 
Moyer, who was in the American pur- 
suit, said that "ice was forming in the 
creeks and, in crossing them, the sol- 
diers took off their pantaloons (note 
the 'pantaloons') and thought the ice 
would cut their legs off." They were 
gone four days on two days rations. 



He said "the enemy left a wounded 
Tory behind after the West Canada 
creek skirmish, who had been wounded 
at the Hall battle. Col. Willett sent 
him back down the creek on a horse, 
with someone to care for him. He 
died on the way and was buried under 
a fallen tree. Col. Willett was as kind 
as he was brave." 

Simms says: "The prisoners cap- 
tured by Major Ross and party suf- 
fered much on their way to Canada 
from the cold, being 17 days journey- 
ing to the Genesee valley, during 
which time they were compelled to live 
almost entirely on a stinted allowance 
of horse-flesh. Some of the prisoners 
wintered in the Genesee valley and 
were taken to Niagara the following 
March. Keller, one of the Currytown 
prisoners, on arriving at Niagara was 
sold, and one Countryman, a native of 
the Mohawk valley and then an officer 
in the British service was his pur- 
chaser." He was sent successively to 
Rebel Island (near Montreal), to Hal- 
ifax, Nova Scotia, and finally to Bos- 
ton, "where he was exchanged and left 
to foot it home without money, as were 
many [liberated] prisoners during the 
war. They were however, welconied 
to the table of every patriot on whom 
they chanced to call and suffered but 
little by hunger. Keller reached his 
family near Fort Plain, whither they 
had removed in his absence, Dec. 24, 
1782. Van Epps, a fellow prisoner, 
reached his home [in Glen] about 18 
months after his capture and the rest 
of the prisoners, taken that fall [1781], 
returned when he did or at subsequent 
periods, as they were confined in dif- 
ferent places." 



Johnstown, the scene of the forego- 
ing battle, was begun by Sir William 
Johnson in 1760. At the time of the 
battle of Johnstown, in 1781, it con- 
sisted, besides Johnson Hall, of a court 
house and jail (both erected in 1772), 
a stone Episcopal church (built in 
1771), a few taverns and stores and a 
small number of dwellings, some of 
which had been built by Sir William. 
After Sir John Johnson's flight to Can- 



112 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



ada in 1776, the patriot committee had 
the stone jail converted into a fort, 
further strengthening it with a pali- 
sade and block-house. The Johnstown 
fort, Port Johnson, Fort Hunter, Fort 
Paris, Fort Plain, Fort Clyde, Fort 
Plank, Fort Willett and Fort Win- 
decker were the chief fortifications in 
the present limits of Montgomery and 
Fulton counties during the Revolu- 
tion. With the addition of Forts Day- 
ton and Herkimer (in present Herki- 
mer county) and Fort Schuyler (aban- 
doned in 1781, and in present Oneida 
county) they formed the defenses of 
the valley and this part of the 
Revolutionary New York frontier. Six 
of these nine Fulton and Montgomery 
army posts were within the limits of 
the present Minden and Palatine 
townships. 

On June 26, 1872, at Johnstown, was 
held the centennial celebration of the 
erection of the court house and the 
jail which was the Johnstown fort of 
the Revolution. Gov. Horatio Seymour 
was the chief speaker. A portion of 
his address follows: 

The edifice and its objects were in 
strange contrast with the aspect of 
the country. It was pushing the forms 
and rules of English jurisprudence far 
into the territorities of the Indian 
tribes and it was one of the first steps 
taken in that march of civilization 
which has now forced its way across 
the continent. There is a historic in- 
terest attached to all the classes of 
men who met at that time [the laying 
of the corner stone of the court house 
in 1772]. There was the German from 
the Palatinate, who had been driven 
from his home by the invasion of the 
French and who had been sent to this 
country by the Ministry of Queen 
Anne; the Hollander, who could look 
with pride upon the struggles of his 
country against the powers of Spain 
and in defense of civil and religious 
liberty; the stern Iroquois warriors, 
the conquerors of one-half the original 
territories of our Union, who looked 
upon the ceremonies in their quiet, 
watchful way. There was also a band 
of Catholic Scotch Highlanders, who 
had been driven away from their na- 
tive hills by the harsh policy of the 
British government, which sought by 
such rigor to force the rule of law 
upon the wild clansmen. There were 
to be seen Brant and Butler and 
others, whose names, to this day, recall 
in this valley scenes of cruelty, rapine 



and bloodshed. The presence of Sir 
William Johnson, with an attendance 
of British officers and soldiers gave 
dignity and brilliancy to the event, 
while over all, asserting the power of 
the Crown, waved the broad folds of 
the British flag. The aspects of those 
who then met at this place not only 
made a clear picture of the state of 
our country, but it came at a point of 
time in our history of intense interest. 
All, in the mingled crowd of soldiers, 
settlers and savages, felt that the fu- 
ture was dark and dangerous. They 
had fought side by side in the deep 
forests against the French and Indian 
allies; now they did not know how 
soon they would meet as foes in deadly 
conflict. 



In the fall of 1781, Conrad Edick was 
captured by a party of seven maraud- 
ing Indians in the neighborhood of 
Fort Plank, in the present town of 
Minden. They hurried off into the 
wilderness and at nightfall stopped at 
an abandoned log house to stay there 
for the night. The party made a fire, 
as the weather was cold, and ate a 
scanty supper. After this the savages 
sat about on the cabin floor and dis- 
cussed the poor success of their ex- 
pedition, lamenting the lack of spoil 
and prisoners they had secured. They 
determined to hold a pow wow in the 
morning, kill and scalp their prisoner 
and return to the vicinity of the Mo- 
hawk to secure more plunder and 
prisoners if possible. Edick, unbe- 
known to them, understood the Mo- 
hawk dialect, and was harrowed to 
thus learn his fate. When the Indians 
lay down to sleep, their prisoner was 
placed between two of the red men 
and tied to them by cords passing over 
his breast and thighs. Sleep was out 
of the question for the agonized white 
man, as he lay trying to figure out 
some plan of escape. His restless 
hands felt about the debris on the 
floor and came in contact with a bit of 
glass, to his great joy. Assuring him- 
self that his savage bedfellows slept 
soundly, he found he could reach his 
bindings with his hands and cautiously 
severed those which were fastened to 
his chest and then the ones about his 
legs. He knew the Indians had left a 
large watch dog on guard outside the 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



113 



door and he had also noticed, on his 
captive journey the preceding day, a 
large hollow log in the woods nearby. 
From the door he made a break for 
the forest and the dog at once chased 
him barking loudly. Before Edick 
reached cover 100 yards away, the In- 
dians woke, grasped their rifles and 
pursued. As he neared the edge of 
the woods they flred at the fleeing 
prisoner but Edick luckily stumbled 
and the volley went over his head. 
Jumping up he ran among the trees 
until he found the hollow log and 
crawled inside. The Mohawks and 
their dog made a search for their es- 
caped captive but the animal proved 
poor on the scent and did not discover 
Edick's hiding place. The savages 
sat down on the very log in which the 
white man was concealed and dis- 
cussed their prisoner's escape. They 
decided he had climbed a tree or that 
"the devil" had spirited him away. As 
it was nearing morning the party re^- 
solved to eat and follow their plan of 
the night before to return and plunder 
along the Mohawk. One Indian went 
to a neighboring field and shot a sheep 
which they dressed. Then the savages 
built a flre against the same log in 
which Edick was hidden and proceeded 
to cook their mutton. The white man 
suffered tortures from the heat and 
smoke and stuffed parts of his cloth- 
ing and some leaves into the crannies 
of the log to keep the fire out. He 
controlled his tortures of mind and 
body and desire to cough on account 
of the smoke, knowing he would be 
instantly killed if discovered. When 
the cooking was finished, his miseries 
gradually subsided with the dying flre. 
The savages, after their breakfast, left 
one of their number on guard to keep 
a lookout for their lost prisoner and 
started on their new foray. Often dur- 
ing the morning the Indian sentinel 
sat or stood on Edick's log. Not hear- 
ing the savage's movements for some 
time, the white man ventured to creep 
out of his hiding place. Not seeing 
the savage, Edick ran for his life and 
eventually reached Fort Plank in 
safety. Conrad Edick, after this terri- 



ble experience, lived to a ripe old age, 
dying at Frankfort, N. Y., 1846, aged 
about 80 years, which would make 
him under 20 at the time of the above 
exciting affair. Ittig was the original 
German for the name Edick. 



In the latter part of. October, 1781, 
four patriots were captured in the 
Sharon neighborhood by Indian ma- 
rauders. Christian Myndert aban- 
doned his home there in the fall of 
1781, on account of the several Indian 
forays in that neighborhood. He re- 
turned with Lieut. Jacob Borst of Co- 
bleskill, Sergeant William Kneiskern 
and Jacob Kerker, all armed, to fix his 
buildings for the winter. After the 
work the party went to the house, 
built a flre and warmed themselves, 
setting their guns in a corner of the 
room. Six Indians, commanded by a 
valley Tory named Walrath, broke 
into the room, seized the guns and 
captured the entire party, carrying 
them off to Canada. They were sub- 
jected to such cruelties in the Indian 
country that Borst died at Niagara. 



Following are the principal national 
occurrences of the year 1781 summar- 
ized: 1781, Jan. 17, Americans under 
Morgan destroy British force at Cow- 
pens, S. C; 1781, March 1, Articles of 
Confederation (adopted 1777) between 
the thirteen states finally go into ef- 
fect; 1781, March 15, indecisive battle 
at Guilford Court House, S. C, be- 
tween British under Tarleton and Am- 
ericans under Greene; 1781, April 25, 
defeat of Greene's army at Hobkirk 
Hill, near Camden, S. C; 1781, Sept. 6, 
Benedict Arnold, in command of a 
British force, burns and plunders New 
London, Conn., while his associate of- 
ficer, Col. Eyre, takes Fort Griswold 
and massacres half the garrison after 
the surrender; 1781, Sept. 8, battle at 
Eutaw Springs, S. C, with advantage 
with the Americans; 1781, Oct. 19, sur- 
render of the British army, under 
Cornwallis, to Washington at York- 
town, Va. 



114 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



CHAPTER XXI. 

1782— Last of the War in the Valley- 
Rebuilding and Repopulation — Tory 
and Indian Raid at Fort Herkimei — 
Tories — Gen. Washington at Sche- 
nectady. 

The following chapter deals with 
the year 1782 .and 1783 as relating to 
the Canajoharie and Palatine districts 
and Tryon, later Montgomery county. 
As there were no hostilities to speak 
of in those years in this immediate 
section, the valley began to rapidly 
build up again. Families returned to 
their burned homes. The whole sec- 
tion had been razed of dwellings by 
the raiding parties of the enemy but 
houses and barns were now reared 
and, with rumors of peace in the 
air, the valley was rapidly repopu- 
lated in these two years. When Wash- 
ington came to Fort Plain in 1783 much 
of the marks of war along the Mohawk 
had vanished. In 1782, and even in 
1783, small scalping parties of Indians 
committed occasional murders and 
depredations and in 1782 the Herki- 
mer settlements were destructively 
visited but the Canajoharie and Pala- 
tine districts were comparatively free 
of further hostilities, except in a small 
way. This was largely due to the 
efficient protection afforded by Col. 
Willett and his garrisons. 

In February, 1782, the Tryon county 
court of general session indicted 41 
persons for their Tory proclivities, on 
the charge of "aiding, abetting, feed- 
ing and comforting the enemy." Molly 
Brant was one of those indicted. In 
February, 1781, this court indicted 104 
Tryon county Tories on this charge. 
In October, 1781, 16 more were so 
charged. Among the 163 persons 
indicted many bore the names of Mo- 
hawk valley German and Dutch pio- 
neer families. Simms says, "Indeed 
we may say that thus very many of 
the German families of New York be- 
came represented in Canada, and are 
so to this day." 

The Tories were not allowed to re- 
turn without vigorous protests. Peter 
Young of the town of Florida, living 
at Young's lake (a small pond near 



Schoharie creek) was an ardent 
patriot. He married a Serviss girl, 
whose family were Tories. At the 
close of hostilities two of Young's 
brothers-in-law made Mrs. Young a 
visit. Young came in on them and or- 
dered them back to Canada at the 
point of a musket and they promptly 
took up their return journey. 

Christopher P. Yates wrote a letter 
to Col. H. Frey dated Freyburg, March 
22, 1782. He said among other things: 
"We have already had three different 
inroads from the enemy. The last was 
at Bowman's kill, [Canajoharie creek] 
from whence they took three children 
of McFee's family." 

1782, July 26 and 27, occurred Capt. 
Crysler's last Tory invasion of the 
Schoharie country at Foxescreek and 
in the Cobleskill valley, which was the 
final incursion in that quarter. 

One of the last Indian murders of 
the Revolution, within the present 
limits of Fulton and Montgomery 
county was that of Henry Stoner of 
Fonda's Bush, later Broadalbin, in 
1782. He was an old patriot and was 
struck down and tomahawked in his 
fields. His son, Nick Stoner, the fa- 
mous trapper, attacked the Indian 
murderer of his father with an andiron 
in a Johnstown tavern after the war. 
Strange to say young Stoner was im- 
prisoned for this affray in which he 
laid out several savages, but was 
shortly after released from the Johns- 
town jail. 

In July, 1782, all the buildings on the 
south side of the Mohawk in the Ger- 
tnan Flats section, except Fort Herki- 
mer and the Johan Jost Herkimer 
house, were destroyed by a force of 600 
Tories and Indians. The night before 
the mill at Little Falls had been burn- 
ed by the raiders. One man was killed 
in attempting to escape to Fort Her- 
kimer and another was caught, tor- 
tured and killed near that post, the 
Indians hoping his cries would draw 
a party from the fort and so weaken 
it that they could make a successful 
attack. The garrison's hot fire kept 
off the enemy. Two soldiers in the 
fort were hit and killed and a number 
of the invaders are presumed to have 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



115 



been killed and wounded. The valley 
of the Mohawk was not again visited 
by any serious raid during the re- 
mainder of the war. The conflict had 
not entirely ceased in other quarters 
but there was a general subsiding of 
hostilities here. Toward the close of 
1782, the British commander-in-chief 
directed that no more Indian expedi- 
tions be sent out, and those on foot 
were called in. 



The following account shows the re- 
sourcefulness and reckless daring of 
one, at least, of the Tories of the val- 
ley: Among the Mohawk valley refu- 
gees in Canada was John Helmer, a 
son of Philip Helmer, who lived at 
Fonda's Bush. Having returned to 
that settlement he was arrested and 
imprisoned at Johnstown. The sen- 
tinel at the jail one day allowed Hel- 
mer to take his gun in hand to look at 
it, as the prisoner expressed adniira- 
tJon for it. Helmer, with the weapon, 
intimidated the guard and escaped 
again to Canada. With charcteristic 
recklessness, he returned later to re- 
cruit British soldiers among his Tory 
neighbors and was again captured and 
jailed at Johnstown. Fortunately for 
the venturesome Tory, a sister of his 
had a lover among the garrison sta- 
tioned at the jail, which was then also 
a fort; and he not only released Hel- 
mer but with another soldier set out 
with him for Canada. The two desert- 
ers were shot dead by a pursuing party 
and Helmer, although severely wound- 
ed by a bayonet thrust, escaped to the 
woods. Later he was found half dead 
and was returned to the jail for the 
third time. His wound, having healed, 
he again escaped and reached Canada 
after almost incredible sufferings. 
Here he remained and made his home 
after the war. Among the Tory fight- 
ers seem to have been many of reck- 
less valor, although their most typi- 
cal leader, Walter Butler, died the 
death of a coward after a record un- 
equalled for bloody and inhuman 
crimes, showing that a craven heart 
and a murderous hand go together. 
The spirit animating the Tory fighters 



seems to have been absolutely different 
from that of the Americans. Believing 
that the cause of the king was just, 
they resorted to every diabolical de- 
vice to murder and intimidate the 
Whig population of the valley. The 
more violent their crimes, however, 
the harder did the provincials stand 
their ground. Many of the Tories were 
more savage than the Indians, as 
Brant affirms and their murderous 
cruelty toward the women and chil- 
dren, as well as men, who were for- 
merly their neighbors, almost surpass 
belief. They seem to have been as 
ready with the scalping knife as the 
Indians and were constantly inciting 
their savage allies to the utmost bar- 
barities. In contrast to this attitude, 
that of the Whig population of the 
valley was marked. Much as the Tory 
soldiers were hated, their women and 
children who were left behind were 
not injured or maltreated in a single 
known instance, and the Tory prison- 
ers taken were treated with the utmost 
justice. The intense hatred of Eng- 
land, which prevailed in the valley 
after the Revolution, was due as 
much to Tory barbarities as to the 
murders and tortures perpetrated by 
the Indians. American justice com- 
bined with American brawn, won in 
this horrible struggle against white 
and red savagery, but the bitter pas- 
sions engendered by this civil war 
along the Mohawk endured for years 
afterward. 

It was the Tory methods of warfare, 
particularly as shown on the frontier 
of New York, that so thoroughly em- 
bittered American sentiment against 
England, a feeling that existed in vary- 
ing degree for the greater part of a 
century after the close of the Revolu- 
tion. Warfare, based upon the murder 
of women and children and the de- 
struction and looting of property can 
never stand high in the eyes of civil- 
ized people. Tory and Indian mur- 
ders, barbarities and scalpings com- 
bined with the Revolutionary use of 
hired foreign troops, such as the Hes- 
sians, were the causes which tended to 
divide the two great branches of the 



116 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



English speaking peoples during the 
greater part of the nineteenth century. 

It is probable that the actions of 
many of the Tryon county Tories, dur- 
ing the war for liberty, were actuated 
by the thought of gain. In case the 
British cause had triumphed the 
patriots' lands would doubtless have 
been confiscated and given to the 
Tories in proportion to their Revolu- 
tionary "services." This would be 
rendered easier by the wholesale mur- 
der of the "rebel" population and it 
was probably such a policy that in- 
duced the fiendish methods of the Tory 
invaders and their Indian allies. 

There is abundant evidence that the 
valley Tories were promised the 
"rebels' " lands if they would fight for 
King George. Sir John Johnson was 
particularly lavish with these prom- 
ises to his followers from the Mohawk 
valley. It is said that two Tryon 
county Tories, then serving under Sir 
John, began an argument as to which 
should have the rich lands of Lieut. - 
Col. Wagner in Palatine. It ended in 
a rough and tumble fight which laid 
the two warriors up for several days. 

It is a fitting place here to refer to 
the difficulty experienced in the fore- 
going Revolutionary chapters in nam- 
ing, as a whole, the forces invading 
the valley. They are generally spoken 
of as the "enemy" or the "raiders" or 
some such term, for the simple rea- 
son that they cannot be referred to as 
"English" or "British," because they 
were composed of such vary elements, 
were composed of such verying 
elements. British, Tories, Indians 
and Germans composed the army 
imder St. Leger and under Sir 
John Johnson at Stone Arabia and 
St. Johnsville and in almost 
every other case of battle and in- 
vasion. The Americans looked upon 
the British use of Indians in the con- 
flict as a brutal, uncivilized proceed- 
ing and England's further employment 
of Hessian troops was a still further 
cause of the just hatred of our coun- 
tryman against Britain. True, Amer- 
ica had many friends in England but 
the ruling party countenanced the 
savagery referred to and brought 



about a deplorable state of affairs in 
the after relations of the two coun- 
tries. 



Philip Helmer had had a love 
affair with a maiden of the Pal- 
after district. Johannes Bellinger, 
a Whig, lived just above Fort Hess, in 
the town of St. Johnsville, and had 
six daughters, with one of whom the 
lively Tory, Philip Helmer, was enam- 
ored. He was of course forbidden the 
Bellinger-place and consequently form- 
ed a plot to kidnap his sweetheart, 
Peggy by name. Taking a party of 
Indians he set out for Bellinger's but, 
evidently fearing the savages would do 
harm to the family, he gave the alarm 
at Fort Hess and a party of volunteers 
set out to ambuscade the red men. On 
their approach, one of the militia be- 
came excited and shouted: "Boys, 
here they are," and the Indians turned 
and fled, one of their number being 
shot down and killed. It Is said that 
this double-turncoat, Helmer, married 
Peggy Bellinger after the war. 

Another account says that Tories 
and Indians of the guerilla party in- 
tended carrying off the Bellinger girls 
as concubines for themselves, leaving 
Helmer entirely out of the deal. 
Learning of this he turned informer 
as related. 



The reunions of valley families with 
members who had been captured dur- 
ing the Revolution, furnish countless 
dramatic incidents. One of these has 
a homely smack of early farm life. 
Leonard Paneter was captured in the 
present town of St. Johnsville, when 
he was but eight years old, and taken 
to Canada. On his release from cap- 
tivity a year later he was sent to 
Schenectady with others who had been 
taken in the valley and who were now 
exchanged and free to return to their 
Mohawk homes. Young Paneter's 
father sent an older son down to Sche- 
nectady to bring the boy back. Here 
he found a number of lads drawn up 
in line waiting for parents or relatives 
to identify them. The boys did not 
at once know each other but Leonard 
upon seeing the horse that carried his 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



117 



brother, remembered it at once, and 
the brothers were soon reunited and 
happily on their way, probably both 
riding the old nag homeward. 



In the summer of 1782, Gen. Wash- 
ington was at Albany and was invited 
to visit Schenectady by its citizens. 
He accepted and rode there from Al- 
bany in a carriage with Gen. Schuy- 
ler on June 30, 1782. Washington 
walked with his hat under his arm in 
a long procession which served as his 
escort a considerable distance. A pub- 
lic dinner was given the commander- 
in-chief at the tavern kept by Abra- 
ham Clinch, who was a drummer boy 
under Braddock. Being acquainted 
with the adventures and sufferings of 
Col. Visscher, who then lived in Sche- 
nectady, Washington expressed sur- 
prise that the noted Tryon county mi- 
litia officer had not been invited, and 
sent a messenger for him. Visscher 
was a man of spirit, but somewhat re- 
tiring. He was found in his barn do- 
ing some work, which he left with re- 
luctance. Presenting himself to 
Washington the latter gave him mark- 
ed attention and seated Visscher next 
himself at the dinner. A number of 
Tryon militia officers were there pres- 
ent. Visscher, it will be remembered, 
was in chief command of the neigh- 
boring posts, with headquarters at 
Fort Paris in Stone Arabia, in 1779, 
and later was scalped by Indians but 
recovered, as previously related. He 
also commanded the unfortunate rear 
guard at Oriskany but was himself a 
man of utmost bravery. 

During this Schenectady visit, it is 
related, Washington was walking 
about the streets of that city with a 
citizen named Banker, a blacksmith. 
An old negro passing took off his hat 
and bowed respectfully to the general, 
a salutation which Washington po- 
litely returned. His Schenectady com- 
panion expressed surprise, saying that 
slaves were not thus noticed in the 
valley. Washington replied: "I cannot 
be less civil than a poor negro." 
Washington on this Schenectady jour- 
ney also visited Saratoga Springs and 
vicinity. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

1783— February 9, Col. Willett's At- 
tempt to Capture Fort Oswego — Pri- 
vations of the American Troops on 
the Return Trip. 

One of the last military enterprises 
(and possibly the very final one) on 
which Colonel Willett set out from 
Fort Plain was the attempt to capture 
the important British fortification of 
Oswego in February, 1783. This, as 
per Washington's report to congress, 
was an expedition in which a force of 
500 Americans were engaged under 
Willett. They were troops of the New 
York line and part of a Rhode Island 
regiment and were all probably then 
stationed at the valley posts of which 
Fort Plain was the headquarters, and 
it was doubtless here that the plan- 
ning and final preparations, for the 
Oswego expedition, were made. Of 
this little known enterprise, one of the 
last of the Revolution, Simms has the 
following: 

"Said Moses Nelson, an American 
prisoner there [at Oswego] in the 
spring of 1782, when the enemy set 
about rebuilding Fort Oswego, three 
officers, Capt. Nellis, Lieut. James 
Hare, and Ensign Robert Nellis, a son 
of the captain and all of the forester 
service had charge of the Indians there 
employed. [These Tory Nellises may 
have been of the Palatine Nellis fam- 
ily.] Nelson and two other lads, also 
prisoners, accompanied this party 
which was conveyed in a sloop, as 
waiters. About 100 persons were em- 
ployed in building this fortress, which 
occupied most of the season. The win- 
ter following. Nelson remained at this 
fort and was in it when Col. Willett 
advanced with a body of troops, Feb- 
ruary 9, 1783, with the intention of 
taking it by surprise. The enterprise 
is said to have been abortive in con- 
sequence of Col. Willett's guide, who 
was an Oneida Indian, having lost his 
way in the night when within a few 
miles of the fort. The men were illy 
provided for their return — certain vic- 
tory having been anticipated — and 
their sufferings weie, in consequence, 
very severe. This enterprise was un- 



118 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



dertaken agreeable to the orders of 
Gen. Washington. 

"Col. Willett, possibly, may not have 
known, as well as Washington did, that 
Fort Oswego had been so strongly 
fitted up the preceding year and con- 
sequently the difficulties he had to en- 
counter before its capture. Be that as 
it may. the probability is, that had the 
attack been made, the impossibility of 
scaling the walls would have frus- 
trated the design, with the loss of 
many brave men. The fort was sur- 
rounded by a deep moat, in which were 
planted many sharp pickets. From the 
lower part of the walls projected down 
and outward another row of heavy 
pickets. A drawbridge enabled the in- 
mates to pass out and in, which was 
drawn up and secured to the wall 
every night. The corners [of the fort] 
were built out so that mounted can- 
non commanded the trenches. Two of 
Willett's men, badly frozen, entered 
the fort in the morning, surrendering 
themselves prisoners, from whom the 
garrison learned the object of the en- 
terprise. The ladders prepared by 
Willett to scale the walls were left on 
his return, and a party of British sol- 
diers went and brought them in. Said 
the American prisoner Nelson, 'The 
*" longest of them, when placed against 
the walls inside the pickets, reached 
only about two-thirds of the way to 
the top.' The post was strongly gar- 
risoned and it was the opinion of Nel- 
son that the accident or treachery 
which misled the troops was most 
providential, tending to save Col. Wil- 
lett from defeat and most of his men 
from certain death." 

John Roof of Canajoharie, who was a 
private in this ill-fated expedition, told 
Simms that so certain was Willett of 
success that insufficient provision? 
were taken along for the journey out 
and back to the valley. There were 
several dogs with the American troops 
at the start and these were killed on 
the out trip, as their barking, it was 
feared, would betray the expedition to 
the enemy. On the wintry trip back 
the suffering and famished soldiers 
were glad to dig these animals out of 
the snow and eat them. The return of 



the Americans to the valley forts must 
have been a trip of great privation. 

Gen. Washington reported the fail- 
ure of Willett's attempt on Oswego to 
the President of Congress, February 
25, 1783, as follows: 

"Sir — I am sorry to acquaint your 
Excellency — for the information of 
Congress — that a project which I had 
formed for attacking the enemy's fort 
at Oswego — as soon as the sleighing 
should be good, and the ice of the 
Oneida lake should have acquired suf- 
ficient thickness to admit the passage 
of a detachment — has miscarried. The 
report of Col. Willett, to whom T had 
entrusted the command of the party, 
consisting of a part of the Rhode 
Island regiment and the State troops 
of New York — in all about 500 men — 
will assign reasons for the disappoint- 
ment." 

Washington further said that, al- 
though the expedition had failed, "I 
am certain nothing depending upon 
Col. Willett, to give efficiency to it, 
was wanting." 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

1783 — April 17, Messenger From Gen. 
Washington Reaches Fort Plain Giv- 
ing News of End of Hostilities — 
April 18, Captain Thompson's Jour- 
ney to Oswego With a Flag of Truce. 

In April, 1783, Captain Alexander 
Thompson made a journey from "Fort 
Rennselaer" (Fort Plain) to the British 
post of Oswego to announce the for- 
mal cessation of hostilities between 
England and the United States of 
America. He kept a record of his trip 
and this journal was given to Simms 
by Rev. Dr. Denis Wortman, long a 
pastor of the Reformed church at Fort 
Plain. It is headed, "Journal of a tour 
from the American Garrison at Fort 
Rennselaer in Canajoharie on the Mo- 
hawk river, to the British Garrison oi 
Oswego, as a Flagg, to announce a 
cessation of hostilities on the frontiers 
of New York, commenced, Friday, 
April 18, 1783." 

This journal recounts a wilderness 
journey made within a year of a cen- 
tury and a half after the trip of the 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



119 



Dutch traders through the Canajo- 
harie district, narrated in the first 
chapter. Traveling conditions along 
the route seem to have been similar 
even at this later date. It also details 
a tour over a historic route of traffic 
of which the Mohawk was an impor- 
tant part, and a great highway so vital 
to the Canajoharie and Palatine dis- 
trict people. The details narrated give 
vividly, moreover, a characteristic pic- 
ture of wilderness travel and life at 
that day. Thus, aside from its in- 
terest in relation to the news of peace 
in the Mohawk valley and its revela- 
tion of the importance of old Fort 
Plain, it is given due place here. 

This diary belonged (in 1880) to 
Mrs. Thomas Buckley of Brooklyn, a 
granddaughter of its Revolutionary 
author. We have seen that the name 
of Fort Plain had been changed to 
Fort Rensselaer, in honor of Gen. Van 
Rensselaer, who had proved so lacking 
during the Stone Arabia and Klock's 
Field battles. This name it retained 
officially to the end of the war. Simins 
has summarized Captain Thompson's 
record as follows: 

"On the first of January of this year 
(1783), Capt. Thompson, as his jour- 
nal shows, was appointed to the ar- 
tillery command of several posts of 
the Mohawk valley, which he names as 
follows: Fort Rensselaer, Fort Plank, 
Fort Herkimer and Fort Daj^ton. Fort 
Rensselaer — another name for Fort 
Plain — being, as he says, the head- 
quarters for the river forts, he thought 
proper to have his own quarters near 
those of the commanding officer [Col. 
Willett], so as to furnish from his own 
company detachments as required. 

"On the 17th of April — only a little 
over two months after Col. Willett's 
attempt to surprise Fort Oswego — an 
express arrived at Fort Plain, from 
Washington's headquarters, to have an 
officer sent from thence with a flag to 
Oswego to announce to that garrison 
(from whence many of the Indian 
depredators came) a general cessation 
of hostilities, and an impending peace. 

"Major Andrew Fink, then in com- 
mand at Fort Plain [under Col. Wil- 
lett], committed this important and 



hazardous mission to Capt. Thompson. 
His companions were to be four, a 
bombardier of his own company, a 
sergeant of Willett's militia, and a 
Stockbridge Indian, and his guide and 
interpreter were to join him at Fort 
Herkimer. All things were to be ready 
for an early start on the morning of 
the 18th, but, when the nature of his 
mission became known along the val- 
ley, many, having lost friends whose 
fate was unknown, desired a chance to 
send lettei-s by the flagbearer; and the 
start was thus delayed until 11 o'clock, 
at which hour numerous packets and 
letters were collected to be sent to 
friends in Canada. To some inquirers 
he said on his return, his mission 
proved to be one of joy, to others one 
of sadness; as the veil of mysteries 
had not been lifted. 

"A flag of truce having been made 
by securing a white cloth to the head 
of a spontoon [a short spear much used 
on this frontier] to be borne by the 
sergeant, he left the fort with the 
flag man 'n front of him and the ar- 
tilleryman and the Indian in his rear. 
He started with a pack horse which 
he discreetly left at Fort Herkimer. 
The novelty of his mission drew a 
great crowd together and he was ac- 
companied several miles by a caval- 
cade of officers, soldiers and citizens. 
He went up the river road on the 
south side of the Mohawk and spoke 
of passing Fort Windecker (near Min- 
denville), and the Canajoharie or Up- 
per Mohawk castle (now Danube, 
where the Mohawks' church still 
stands), arriving at Mr. Schuyler's 
house at the foot of Fall Hill about 3 
p. m., where he and his party were 
presented ah excellent dinner. Leav- 
ing Schuyler's at 4 o'clock he passed 
over Fall Hill and arrived at Fort 
Herkimer at sunset. At this garrison, 
Capt. Thompson found David Schuy- 
ler, a brother of the man he had dined 
■^vith, who became his guide and inter- 
preter. Eight days' rations were put 
into knapsacks, and one short musket 
Vv'as concealed in a blanket, with which 
to kill game, if by any means their 
provisions failed. On Saturday morn- 
ing, April 19, in a snow storm, this 



120 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



party of Ave set out on their wilder- 
ness journey, still on the south side of 
the Mohawk. They met several hunt- 
ing parties and made their first halt 
opposite 'Thompson's place, abov^e New 
Germantown,' now in the town of 
Schuyler. A few miles above they fell 
in with a party of ten families of In- 
dians on a hunting excursion and 
learned how forest children lived. 
Here his men, instructed by their In- 
dian companion, soon erected a wig- 
wam for the night in the following 
manner: Two stakes, with crotches 
at the upper end, were set upright 
about ten feet apart, upon which they 
placed a pole. Then they covered the 
sides with bark resting the top against 
the pole with the bottom on the 
ground, so as to leave a space about 
twelve feet wide. The gables were 
also covered with bark; a fire was 
made in the middle of the structure, 
and a small hole left in the top for the 
smoke to pass out, and when some 
hemlock boughs had "been cut for their 
beds, the wigwam was completed. 
Such a structure the Indians would 
construct in an incredibly short space 
of time, where bark was handily ob- 
tained. In such rude huts, many a 
hunter or weary traveler has found a 
good night's rest. 

"The next morning the journey was 
resumed on the Fort Stanwix road, and 
at 10 o'clock he passed the ruins of 
Old Fort Schuyler of the French war 
(now Utica). On Capt. Thompson's 
arrival at the 'Seekaquate' creek (Sad- 
aquada or Saquoit creek), which en- 
ters the Mohawk at Whitestown, he 
found the bridge gone. Soon after 
passing this stream, he said he as- 
cended 'Ariska (Oriskany) Hill,' which 
he observed 'was usually allowed to be 
the highest piece of ground from 
Schenectada to Fort Stanwix.' Says 
the journal: 'I went over the ground 
where Gen. Herkimer fought Sir 
John Johnson; this is allowed to be one 
of the most desperate engagements 
that has ever been fought by the mi- 
litia. I saM' a vast number of human 
skulls and bones scattered through 
the woods.' This was nearly five and 
a half years after the battle. He halt- 



ed to view the ruins of Fort Stanwix 
[Fort Schuyler] and those of St. Le- 
ger's works while besieging the fort 
and, passing along the site of Fort 
Bull, on Wood crtek, at the end of a 
mile and a half, he encamped for the 
night, erecting the usual Indian v/ig- 
wam. The night was one of terror, as 
the howling of wolves and other ani- 
mals prevented much sleep, but, keep- 
ing up their fires, tbe beasts were kept 
at bay. 

"Monday morning, on arriving at 
Canada creek, a tributary of Wood 
creek, two trees were felled to bridge 
the stream. A mile and a half below 
he left the creek and ascended Pine 
Ridge, where he discovered in his path 
a human footprint made by a shoe, 
which indicated a white wearer. On 
arriving at Fish creek, he halted to 
fish but with poor success. He had 
purposed to cross the creek and pur- 
sue his way to Oswego on the north 
side of Oneida lake, striking Oswego 
river near the falls, but, learning from 
his Indian (who had recently been on 
a scout to the Three Rivers) that he 
had seen three flat-bottomed boats 
with oars, and as the ice had recently 
left the lakes and thinking they might 
still be there, he changed his course 
for Wood creek, and striking it at a 
well-known place, called 'The Scow,' 
he sent the Indian and sergeant to 
search for the boats and to return the 
same evening. The three remaining 
at 'The Scow' were soon searching 
for material for a cabin, but neither 
bark nor heinlock could be found and, 
as it was fast growing dark, they col- 
lected what logs and wood they could 
to keep up a good fire which was 
started. At eight o'clock it began to 
rain terribly and in two or three hours 
the fire was put out. As the boat 
seekers did not come back that night 
it became one of great anxiety and 
discontent. 

"The men returned after daylight 
and reported a serviceable boat with- 
out oars, which they had launched and 
towed round the edge of the lake and 
left at the royal block house, known as 
Fort Royal, at the mouth of Wood 
creek. No time was lost in reaching 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



121 



the boat, which was found to leak 
badly. They caulked it as best they 
could with an old rope. From a board 
oars were soon made, a pole raised 
and blankets substituted for a sail' with 
bark halliards. Having everything 
aboard, they moved into Oneida lake 
(20 miles long) with a favorable but 
light wind. It was deemed prudent to 
run across the lake to Nine Mile Point, 
on the north shore, but before reaching 
it two men were kept constantly bail- 
ing. The boat was again repaired and 
put afloat, sailing from point to point. 
As night approached the crew landed 
half way down the lake, where they 
improvised a cabin with a good fire to 
dry their clothes. The night was 
pleasant but the howling of wild beasts 
again terrific. 

"On Wednesday, the 23d [of April], 
a lieautiful day, the party were early 
on the move, and, from the middle of 
the lake, Capt. Thompson said he could 
see both ends of it, and enjoyed one of 
the most beautiful views imaginable. 
There were several islands on the wes- 
tern side of the lake covered with lofty 
timber, while back of the Oneida cas- 
tles the elevated ground made a very 
beautiful prospect. After about eight 
miles sail, he heard a gun, evidently 
fired by an enemy, but, to avoid ob- 
servation, he sailed along the shore 
until he was opposite 'Six Mile 
Islands,' as the two largest islands in 
the lake, lying side by side, are called. 
He went ashore, where a fire was 
kindled and a good dinner enjoyed; 
after which he again dropped down 
the lake, passed Fort Brewerton, and 
entered the Oneida river. Here he 
found a rapid current in his favor and 
the river, the most serpentine of any 
stream he had ever been on, abound- 
ing at that season with immense num- 
bers of wild fowl, especially of ducks 
of many varieties. He saw many 
flocks of geese, but he would not allow 
the old musket to be fired, lest a lurk- 
ing scout might be attracted to his 
position. He continued his course 
down the river, sometimes on the On- 
ondaga side, and at others on the Os- 
wego side. 



"About two miles from Three Rivers 
(nearly 20 miles from Oneida lake), he 
discovered a party of Indians, in three 
canoes, coming up the river near the 
same shore. On seeing his boat, they 
gave a yell and paddled to the opposite 
shore; they landed, drew their canoes 
out of the water, ascended the bank 
and took to trees [not having presum- 
ably made out the flag of truce]. When 
the flag was opposite, they hailed in 
Indian and in English, which last was 
answered. When assured that the 
captain had a flag of truce, the Cana- 
dians asked him to come ashore. Four 
Indians then came out from behind 
trees and beckoned him to land. He 
did so and was conducted into the 
woods. His men also landed and the 
Indians drew his boat well on shore. 
He was brought into the presence of 
two white men and an old Indian, who 
were seated on the ground. One of 
them told Capt. Thompson his name 
was Hare, a lieutenant of Butler's 
rangers, and that he had just started 
on an enterprise to the neighborhood 
of Fort Plain. Thompson assured the 
lieutenant that all hostilities had 
ceased on the warpath, and that his 
mission was to convej^ such intelli- 
gence to the commanding oflticer at Os- 
wego. When assured that all Ameri- 
can scouts had been called in, after 
several consultations, the war party 
(consisting of one other white man 
and eight Indians — all being painted 
alike) concluded to take Thompson to 
the fort, saying, if the measure proved 
a flnosse, they had him sure. He was 
conducted back to his boat, to the great 
relief of his friends who were exer- 
cised by thoughts of treachery, and, 
with a canoe on each side of the boat 
and one behind it, the flotilla passed 
down the river, Lieutenant Hare tak- 
ing a seat with Captain Thompson in 
his boat. The party glided down past 
the Three Rivers [the junction of the 
Oneida and Seneca rivers with the Os- 
wego], about three miles below which 
they landed and encamped for the 
night, constructing two cabins, one of 
which Lieut. Hare, Capt. Thompson 
and two Indians occupied, the remain- 
der of both parties using the other. 



122 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



"Early Thursday morning, Lieut 
Hare sent one of his canoes to Oswego 
to inform the commander of the ap- 
proaching flag, and, soon after sun- 
rise, they all embarked down the rap- 
ids which increased as they approach- 
ed the falls [of the Oswego]. On ar- 
riving there they drew the boats 
around the carrying place, and safely 
passing the rifts below, they stopped 
within a mile of Lake Ontario where 
they were hailed by a sentinel on shore 
to await orders from the commandant 
of the fort [Major Ross]." 

Thompson was conducted blindfolded 
into the fort, hearing the drawbridge 
over the trench let down, the chains 
of which made a remarkable clatter- 
ing. In the fort his blindfold was re- 
moved and he delivered his message 
to Major Ross, who received him very 
courteously, the latter inviting him to 
sit down to a dinner of cold ham, fowl, 
wine, etc., while the major looked over 
the papers. Major Ross had, within a 
fortnight, received orders from Gov. 
Haldimand of Canada to strengthen 
his fortifications for American inva- 
sion and was greatly surprised at the 
news Thompson had brought. How- 
ever, Ross pledged his honor that all 
his scouts would be at once called in 
and ordered the sloop Caldwell 
(mounting 14 guns) to Fort Niagara to 
spread the news of the armistice. The 
curtains, which had been put up at the 
windows looking out on Lake Ontario, 
were now drawn and Major Ross 
asked his guest to look out and see the 
Caldwell departing on her errand of 
peace. The view from the window 
opening out upon the wide sunlit wat- 
ers of the lake was a delightful one. 
Ross regretted that he could not con- 
duct the American captain about the 
British works. The matter of Ameri- 
can prisoners in Canada was brought 
up and Major Ross said information 
about them would be forthcoming as 
soon as possible, in the meantime re- 
ceiving a list of those made in Tryon 
county cHiring the war, and the mes- 
sages Thompson brought. Ross said 
it was impossible for any officer to con- 
trol the savages when on excursions 
and :ie really believed many cruel 



depredations had been committed by 
them on the frontiers which were 
known only to the Indians. He had 
exerted himself to prevent the murder- 
ing of prisoners and said "but the ut- 
most effort could not prevent them 
from taking the scalps of the killed." 
The major said that he was very happy 
that such an unnatural war was ended, 
adding however that war created the 
"soldier's harvest." Ross was much 
upset to learn that the entire state of 
New York, including Oswego and Port 
Niagara, were to be ceded to the 
United States in the treaty of peace 
then under consideration. 

Captain Thompson was introduced 
to a number of British officers and 
treated with great courtesy, having 
however a verbal tilt with Capt. 
Crawford of Johnson's Greens (who 
invaded the Mohawk valley in 
1778). Says the journal: "This per- 
son comes under that despicable char- 
acter of a loyal subject. He appeared 
to be really ignorant of the cause he 
fought for, and had the wickedness to 
observe that he had made more 
money in the British service in the 
war than he would have made in the 
American service in 100 years." Cap- 
tain Thompson replied that "Ameri- 
can officers fought for principle, not 
money." 

Major Ross wished to send Thomp- 
son back up the Oswego river and 
through Oneida lake to Wood creek in 
his own barge, but the American cap- 
tain said he desired to return, by land 
on the west side of the Oswego to see 
the country, and politely refused the 
courteous offer. The Indians at Os- 
wego iiad heard a rumor that "all their 
lands were to be taken from them and 
that they were to be driven to where 
the sun went down." They had threat- 
ened the life of the American messen- 
ger and were in an ugly mood. Capt. 
Thompson was given a list of the val- 
ley American prisoners then in Can- 
ada that evening. The patriot cap- 
tain, for his own and his comrades' 
safety, deemed it best to depart at once 
and thanking Major Ross for his cour- 
teous treatment, he was again blind- 
folded and led outside the fort down 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



123 



to his companions at the river edge at 
11 o'clock on Sunday evening, April 
27. He took back with him a 14-year- 
old American boy who had been cap- 
tured near Fort Stanwix. Here the 
journal ends. Major Ross had prom- 
ised to send a detachment of British 
troops back with the American party 
over the most dangerous part of their 
journey and it is probable he did so. 
The patriots, retracing their former 
steps, arrived at Fort Plain once 
more, having completed satisfsictorlly 
their important mission. «' 

After Capt. Thompson's return. Fort 
Plain must have been the Mecca of 
people from all over the Mohawk val- 
ley who came to learn of friends or 
relatives captive in Canada. 

Thus from Fort Plain was spread 
the first news of approaching peace 
through the valley and to the British 
foe on the borders of New York state. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

1783 — July, Washington's Tour of Mo- 
hawk Valley and Visit to Otsego 
Lake — His Letters Concerning Trip 
— Stops at Palatine, Fort Plain, 
Cherry Valley and Canajoharie — Col. 
Clyde — Final Records of Fort Plain 
or Fort Rensselaer — Last Revolu- 
tionary Indian Murder in Canajo- 
harie District. 

In the spring of 1783, an order for 
the cessation of hostilities between 
Great Britain and the United States 
was published in the camp of the lat- 
ter, but an army organization was 
kept up until fall. As the initiatory 
step to his contemplated tour of ob- 
servation in central New York, Gen. 
Washington wrote to Gen. Philip 
Schuyler, from his Newburgh head- 
quarters, July 15, 1783, as follows: 

"Dear Sir: — I have always enter- 
tained a great desire to see the north- 
ern part of this State, before I return- 
ed Southward. The present irksome 
interval, while we are waiting for the 
definite treaty, affords an opportunity 
of gratifying this inclination. I have 
therefore concerted with Geo. Clinton 
to make a tour to reconnoitre those 
places, where the most remarkable 



posts were established, and the ground 
which became famous by being the 
theatre of action in 1777. On our re- 
turn from thence, we propose to pass 
across the Mohawk river, in order to 
have a view of that tract of country, 
which is so much celebrated for the 
fertility of its soil and the beauty of 
its situation. We shall set out by 
water on Friday the 18th, if nothing 
shall intervene to prevent our journey. 

"Mr. Dimler, assistant quartermas- 
ter-general, who will have the honor 
of delivering this letter, precedes us to 
make arrangements, and particularly 
to have some light boats provided and 
transported to Lake George, that we 
may not be delayed upon our arrival 
there. 

"I pray you, my dear sir, to be so 
good as to advise Mr. Dimler in what 
manner to proceed in this business, to 
excuse the trouble I am about to give 
you, and to be persuaded that your 
kind information and discretion to the 
bearer will greatly increase the obliga- 
tions with which I have the honor to 
be, etc." — Sparks Life, 8, 425. 

On July 16, Washington wrote the 
president of congress as to his intend- 
ed trip. He returned to his headquar- 
ters at Newburgh, August 5, 1783, and 
on the following day, August 6, wrote 
to the congressional president a brief 
record of his journey. After speaking 
of his return, which was by water from 
Albany to Newburgh, he says: 

"My tour, having been extended as 
far northward as Crown Point, and 
westward to Fort Schuyler [Stanwix] 
and its district, and my movements 
having been pretty rapid, my horses, 
which are not yet arrived, will be so 
much fatigued that they will need 
some days to recruit, etc." In another 
letter, of the same date, he refers fur- 
ther to his tour in these words: "I 
was the more particularly induced by 
two considerations to make the tour, 
which in my letter of the 16th ultimo, 
I informed Congress I had in contem- 
plation, and from which I returned 
last evening. The one was the inclina- 
tion to see the northern and western 
posts of the State, with those places 
which have been the theatre of im- 



12i 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



portant military transactions; the 
other a desire to facilitate, as far as in 
my power, the operations which will 
be necessary for occupying the posts 
which are ceded by the treaty of peace, 
as soon as they shall be evacuated by 
the British troops." He had his eye 
upon Detroit as a point to be looked 
after and wanted some of the well- 
affected citizens of that place to pre- 
serve the fortifications and buildings 
there "until such time as a garrison 
could be sent with provisions and 
stores sufficient to take and hold pos- 
session of them. The propriety of this 
measure has appeared in a more forci- 
ble point of light, since I have been up 
the Mohawk river, and taken a view of 
the situation of things in that quar- 
ter. * * * I engaged at Fort Rens- 
selaer [Fort Plain] a gentleman whose 
name is Cassaty, formerly a resident 
of Detroit and who is well recommend- 
ed, to proceed without loss of time, 
find out the disposition of the inhabi- 
tants and make every previous in- 
quiry which might be necessary for the 
information of the Baron on his ar- 
rival, that he should be able to make 
such final arrangements, as the cir- 
cumstances might appear to justify. 
This seemed to be the best alternative 
on failure of furnishing a garrison of 
our troops, which, for many reasons, 
would be infinitely the most eligible 
mode, if the season and your means 
would possibly admit. I have at the 
same time endeavored to take the best 
preparatory steps in my power for 
supplying the garrisons on the western 
waters by the provision contract. I can 
only form my magazine at Fort Her- 
kimer on the German Flats, which is 
32 miles by land and almost 50 by 
water from the carrying place between 
the Mohawk river and Wood creek. 
The route by the former is impractic- 
able, in its present state, for carriages 
and the other extremely difficult for 
bateaux, as the river is much obstruct- 
ed with fallen and floating trees, from 
the long disuse of the navigation. That 
nothing, however, which depends upon 
me might be left undone, I have di- 
rected 10 months provisions for 500 
men to be laid up at Fort Herkimer, 



and have ordered Col. Willett, an ac- 
tive officer commanding the troops of 
the state [evidently meaning state 
troops in this locality], to repair the 
roads, remove the obstructions in the 
river, and, as far as can be effected by 
the labors of the soldiers, build houses 
for the reception of the provisions and 
stores at the carrying place [Fort 
Schuyler] in order that the whole may 
be in perfect readiness to move for- 
ward, so soon as the arrangement shall 
be made with Gen. Haldemand [gov- 
ernor general of Canada.]" 

October 12, 1783, Washington wrote 
to the Chevalier Chastelleux, as fol- 
lows: "I have lately made a tour 
through the Lakes George and Cham- 
plain as far as Crown Point. Thence 
returning to Schenectady, I proceeded 
up the Mohawk river to Fort Schuy- 
ler and crossed over to Wood creek, 
which empties into the Oneida lake, 
and affords the water communication 
with Ontario. I then traversed the 
country to the eastern branch of the 
Susquehanna, and viewed the Lake 
Otsego, and the portage between that 
lake and the Mohawk river at Canajo- 
harie. Prompted by these actual ob- 
servations, I could not help taking a 
more extensive view of the vast inland 
navigation of these United States, 
from maps and the information of 
others, and could not but be struck 
by the immense extent and importance 
of it, and with the goodness of Provi- 
dence, which has dealt its favors to us 
with so profuse a hand. Would to 
God we may have wisdom enough to 
improve them. I shall not rest con- 
tented till I have explored the western 
country, and traversed those lines or a 
great portion of them, which have 
given bounds to a new empire. But 
when it may, if it ever shall happen, I 
dare not say, as my first attention 
must be given to the deranged situa- 
tion of my private concerns, which are 
not a little injured by almost nine 
years absence and a total disregard of 
them, etc., etc." 

Simms publishes the following ac- 
count of Washington's visit to Fort 
Plain, during his trip through this sec- 
tion: 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



125 



"The reader will observe by Wash- 
ington's correspondence that he made 
the northern trip by water to Crown 
Point, but from Schenectady to Fort 
Stanwix [Schuyler], or rather its site, 
on horseback. The tour of inspection, 
as shadowed in his letters, is devoid of 
all incident, and whether or not he 
halted at Fort Plain on his way up is 
uncertain; but as he speaks last of 
going to Otsego lake, it is presumed 
he made no halt at the river forts going 
up, nor is there any account of his vis- 
iting Johnstown in his tour, but it is 
reasonable to conclude that he did. He 
did not mention Fort Plain, but it is 
well known that he was there, giving 
it another name [Fort Rensselaer]. 
Arriving in this vicinity [on July 
30, 1783], said the late Cor- 
nelius Mabie, who was thus in- 
formed by his mother, he tarried over 
night with Peter Wormuth, in Pala- 
tine on the late Reuben Lipe farm, the 
former having had an only son killed, 
as elsewhere shown, near Cherry Val- 
ley. It was no doubt known to many 
that he had passed up the valley, who 
were on the quivive to see him on his 
return, and good tradition says that, 
in the morning, many people had as- 
sembled at Wormuth's to see world's 
model man, and to satisfy their curi- 
osity, he walked back and forth in 
front of the house, which fronted to- 
ward the river. This old stone dwell- 
ing in ruins, was totally demolished 
about the year 1865. 

"We have seen that Washington 
found Col. Willett in command at Fort 
Herkimer [then together with Fort 
Dayton, the most advanced frontier 
posts in the state], at which time 
Col. Clyde was in command of 
Fort Plain. Just how many attended 
his Excellency through the Mo- 
hawk valley, is not satisfactor- 
ily known. His correspondence only 
names Gov. George Clinton. Campbell 
in his 'Annals' says he was accompan- 
ied by Gov. Clinton, Gen. Hand and 
many other officers of the New York 
line. The officers making the escort 
were no doubt attended by their aids 
and servants. Whether any other of- 
ficer remained with Washington at 



Wormuth's over night is unknown. It 
is presumed, however, the house being 
small and the fort only a mile off, that 
his attendants all went thither, cross- 
ing at Walrath's Ferry, opposite the 
fort, some of whom returned in the 
morning to escort the Commander-in- 
Chief over the river. [July 31, 
1783] A pretty incident awaited 
his arrival on the eminence near 
the fort. Beside the road Rev. 
Mrs. Gros had paraded a bevy of 
small boys to make their obeisance 
(her nephew, Lawrence Gros, from 
whom this fact was derived, being one 
of the number). At a signal, they took 
off and swung their hats, huzzaed a 
welcome and made their best bow to 
Washington, when the illustrious guest 
gracefully lifted his chapeau and re- 
turned their respectful salutation with 
a cheerful 'Good morning, boys!' Im- 
mediately after, he rode up to the fort 
where he received a military salute 
from the garrison. 

"I suppose Washington to have been 
welcomed within the large blockhouse, 
and on introducing the guest to its 
commandant. Gov. Clinton took occa- 
sion to say to him: 'Gen. Washing- 
ton, this is Col. Clyde, a true Whig and 
a brave officer who has made great 
sacrifices for his country.' The Gen- 
eral answered warmly, 'Then, sir, you 
should remember him in your appoint- 
ments.* From this hint, Gov. Clinton 
afterward appointed him sheriff of 
Montgomery county. Gen. Washing- 
ton dined with Col. Clyde, after 
which, escorted by Maj. Thornton, 
they proceeded to Cherry Valley, 
where they became the guests over 
night, of Col. Campbell, who had re- 
turned not long before and erected a 
log house. Burnt out as the Campbells 
had been, their accommodations were 
limited for so many people, but they 
were all soldiers and had often been 
on short allowance of 'bed and board' 
and could rough it if necessary. Be- 
sides, it is possible other families had 
returned to discover their hospitality 
for the night. They found themselves 
very agreeably entertained, however. 
Mrs. Campbell and her children had 
been prisoners in Canada. In the 



126 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



morning, Gov. Clinton, seeing several 
of her boys, told Mrs. Campbell, 'They 
would make good soldiers in time.' 
She replied she 'hoped their services 
would never be thus needed.' Said 
Washington, 'I hope so too, madam, for 
I have seen enough of war.' One of 
those boys, the late Judge James S. 
Campbell, was captured so young and 
kept so long among the Indians that 
he could only speak their language 
when exchanged. After breakfast the 
party were early in the saddle to visit 
the outlet of Otsego lake, and see 
where Gen. James Clinton dammed the 
lake, just above its outlet, to float his 
boats down the Susquehanna, to join 
in Sullivan's expedition. The party 
returned the same evening to Fort 
Plain, via the portage road opened by 
Clinton to Springfield from Canajo- 
harie, and the next day, as believed, 
they dropped down the valley." 

On reaching Canajoharie, August 1, 
1783, Washington and his company 
were received by Col. Clyde, who had 
ridden down from Fort Plain in the 
morning to receive the commander's 
party on its return from Otsego lake. 
After the destruction of Cherry Valley 
in 1778, Clyde removed his family to 
the neighborhood of Schenectady, 
where they remained until the close of 
hostilities. One account says that, at 
this time (August, 1783) they had re- 
moved to the Van Alstine stone house, 
in the present village of Canajoharie. 
Here, it is said, Washington and his 
party were the guests of Col. and Mrs. 
Clyde at dinner on August 1, 1783. 
Part or all of the distinguished party 
probably returned to spend the night 
at Fort Plain, where there were ac- 
commodations. 

Undoubtedly crowds of valley peo- 
ple gathered at points where Wash- 
ington stopped on his trip. A consider- 
able assemblage of patriots must have 
been present at Fort Plain on this 
eventful long ago midsummer day. 
There had been no severe raids in the 
Canajoharie and Palatine districts in 
two years. The much tried people 
were rebuilding their homes, those who 
had removed to safer localities were 
returning to their abandoned farms. 



and, with the assurance of peace, new 
settlers were already coming in. 

Mr. S. L. Frey gives the following 
list of names of persons who probably 
accompanied General Washington into 
the Mohawk valley in 1783: Gov. 
George Clinton, Gen. Hand, Mr. Dimler 
(assistant quartermaster). Col. David 
Humphries, Hodijah Baylies, Wm. S. 
Smith, Jonathan Trumbull jr.. Tench 
Tilghman, Richard Varick (recording 
secretary), Benjamin Walker, Richard 
K. Mead, David Cobb, and many of- 
ficers of the New York line. 

We see, from the foregoing letters of 
Washington, that at Fort Plain [Fort 
Rensselaer] the commandant of the 
army of the United States engaged "a 
gentleman whose name is Cassaty" (a 
sketch of whom appears later) as his 
personal emissary to Detroit to ob- 
serve the conditions at that important 
post on the lakes, preparatory to its 
American occupation. So that it be- 
comes evident that two messengers at 
Washington's orders, left Fort Plain 
in 1783 on momentous errands for the 
British lake posts of Oswego and 
Detroit. 



Col. Samuel Clyde, then in command 
at Fort Plain, was born in Windham, 
Rockingham county. New Hampshire, 
April 11, 1732, his mother's name being 
Esther Rankin. He worked on his 
father's farm until 20, when he went 
to Cape Breton and labored as a ship 
carpenter, from whence he went to 
Halifax and worked on a dock for the 
English navy. In 1757 he came to New 
Hampshire and raised a company of 
batteaux men and rangers, of which he 
was appointed captain, by Gen. James 
Abercromby, said company being under 
Lieut. Col. John Bradstreet. This 
commission was dated at Albany, May 
25, 1758. He marched his company to 
Albany and to Lake George where he 
fought in the battle of Ticonderoga, 
when Gen. Howe was slain and the 
British defeated. Clyde was after- 
ward at the capture of Fort Frontenac, 
and, returning from the campaign to 
Schenectady, in 1761, he there married 
Catherine Wasson, a niece of Mat- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



127 



thew Thornton, a signer of the Declar- 
ation of Independence. Judge Ham- 
mond, who knew Mrs. Clyde, wrote of 
her in 1852 as follows: "Mrs. Clyde 
was a woman of uncommon talents, 
both natural and acquired, and of great 
fortitude. She read much and kept up 
with the literature of the day. Her 
style in conversing was peculiarly ele- 
gant, and at the same time easy and 
unaffected. Her manner was digni- 
fied and attractive. Her conversation 
with young men during the Revolu- 
tionary war, tended greatly to raise 
their drooping spirits, and confirm 
their resolution to stand by their 
country to the last." Not a few noble 
women of the frontiers thus made their 
influence felt in the hour of need. 

In 1762 Clyde settled at Cherry Val- 
ley and while here he was employed, 
about 1770, by Sir William Johnson to 
build the church for the use of the 
Indians at the upper Mohawk castle 
in the present town of Danube. At 
the beginning of the country's 
trouble with England, a company 
of volunteers was raised in Cherry 
Valley and New Town Martin for 
home protection, of which Samuel 
Clyde was commissioned its captain 
by the 40 men he was to command, and 
John Campbell, jr., was chosen lieu- 
tenant and James Cannon ensign. 
Among the names of the volunteers 
voting for these officers appears that 
of James Campbell, afterwards colonel. 
Capt. Clyde's commission was dated 
July 13, 1775. Oct. 28, 1775, the state 
provincial congress commissioned him 
as a captain and adjutant of the first 
(Canajoharie) regiment of Tryon coun- 
ty militia. Sept. 5, 1776, he was com- 
missioned second major of the first 
(Canajoharie) regiment commanded by 
Col. Cox. 

After the battle of Oriskany and 
death of Gen. Herkimer, many of the 
officers of the brigade wanted Major 
Clyde to consent to accept the office of 
Brigadier-General, whose appointment 
they would solicit. To this he would 
not accede, as other officers in the 
brigade outranked him and he would 
not countenance an act that would 
originate jealousies, however well mer- 



ited the honors might be. It has ever 
surprised the student that Gen. Herki- 
mer's place remained unfilled during 
the war. That the eye of the army was 
fixed upon Major Clyde for this honor- 
able promotion is not surprising when 
we come to know that of all men in 
that bloody ravine, no one better knew 
his duty or acquitted himself more 
valiantly than he. He was in the 
thickest of the fight, and in a hand to 
hand encounter was knocked down by 
an enemy with the breech of a gun, 
while in another he shot an officer 
whose musket he brought from the 
field to become an heirloom in his 
family. Besides Gen. Herkimer slain, 
and Brigade Inspector Major John 
Frey a prisoner, he is believed to have 
been the only man at Oriskany who 
ranked as high as a captain in the 
French war, which doubtless had 
something to do with the confidence 
reposed in him. 

After Cherry Valley was destroyed 
in 1778, Col. Clyde removed with his 
family to the neighborhood of the Mo- 
hawk where he lived six or seven 
years, at least part of the time in the 
Van Alstine house in the present vil- 
lage of Canajoharie. 

June 25, 1778, Major Clyde was ap- 
pointed lieutenant-colonel of the Cana- 
joharie regiment, James Campbell then 
being colonel. His commission as 
such passed the secretary's office with 
the signature of Gov. George Clinton, 
March 17, 1781. That Clyde was acting 
colonel of this regiment long before the 
date of his commission as lieutenant- 
colonel, there is positive evidence. The 
acting colonels of the Tryon county 
militia in May, 1780, so recognized by 
the government at Albany, were Cols, 
Klock, Visscher, Clyde and Bellinger. 
Col. Clyde seems to have been on duty 
every summer in the bounds of his 
regiment until the close of the war. 
As colonel of the Canajoharie district 
regiment, he would naturally have 
been, as he was, on duty at its princi- 
pal fortification^ Fort Plain, during 
Washington's visit in 1783. On the 
organization of the state government 
in 1777, he was a member of the legis- 
lature. March 8, 1785, true to Wash- 



]28 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



ington's pertinent suggestion at Fort 
Plain, he was commissioned as sheriff 
of Montgomery county by Gov. Clin- 
ton, which office he discharged with 
conscientious fidelity. It is said he 
frequently swam his horse across the 
Mohawk at flood tide at Canajoharie 
in order to attend court at Johnstown. 
Simms says: "After the destruc- 
tion, in 1778, of Cherry Valley, Col. 
Campbell made his home at Niska- 
yuna and is not remembered to have 
taken any part in military affairs [in 
this vicinity] after that date." It is 
doubtless true that, although he held 
a lieutenant-colonel's commission, 
Samuel Clyde was recognized by the 
Albany military authorities and the 
Tryon county militia as. colonel of the 
Canajoharie regiment, which Clyde 
says was "the best regiment of militia 
in the county." Col. Clyde was the 
leading figure in militia affairs in the 
district of Canajoharie during the 
years 1779, 1780, 1781, 1782 and 1783. 
He died in Cooperstown Nov. 30, 1790, 
aged 58 years. 



The Cassaty whom Washington "en- 
gaged at Fort Rensselaer" as his emis- 
sary to Detroit was Colonel Thomas 
Cassaty. He married Nancy, a daugh- 
ter of Peter Wormuth and a sister of 
Lieut. Matthew Wormuth, who was 
shot by Brant near Cherry Valley in 
1778. Cassaty was living near or at 
his father-in-law's when Washington 
stopped there (in Palatine near Fort 
Plain) during his valley tour of 1783. 
This probably readily led to his en- 
gagement in the service mentioned. 
Colonel Cassaty as a boy and young 
man was stationed at the British post 
of Detroit, where his father, James 
Cassaty, was a captain in the English 
service. At the outbreak of the Revo- 
lution the two Cassatys, both Ameri- 
can born, sided with the colonists. 
The commandant of Detroit denounced 
Capt. James Cassaty and in the alter- 
cation young Thomas Cassaty, then a 
youth of seventeen, shot down the 
British officer. He then fled into the 
Michigan woods and escaped. He 
lived with the Indians and there is one 
report which says he was the father 



of the noted chief, Tecumseh. Toward 
the end of the war he appeared in the 
Mohawk valley. Colonel Cassaty died 
at Oriskany Falls, Oneida county, 1831, 
aged about 80 years, leaving two sons 
and five daughters. After the Detroit 
affray, Capt. James Cassaty was con- 
fined in a Canadian dungeon for three 
years. 



It will be noted that Washington 
speaks of Fort Plain as "Fort Rensse- 
laer," this being the name it bore in 
the last four years of the Revolution 
— it being named for the Gen. Van 
Rensselaer, whose conduct was so du- 
bious when there at the operations of 
1780, ending at Klock's Field. 

As previously shown, at the court 
martial of Gen. Van Rensselaer in Al- 
bany for dereliction in the campaign 
of 1780, witnesses referred constantly 
to "Fort Rensselaer or Fort Plain" or 
vice versa. 

Dr. Hough published some years ago, 
an account of the Klock's Field cam- 
paign and the subsequent court martial 
of Gen. Van Rensselaer, shov/ing that 
the latter officer writing from Fort 
Plain — a name which had been estab- 
lished for years — dated his papers at 
"Fort Rensselaer;" anxious, as it would 
seem, to have this principal fort take 
his own name. It is believed that 
never before that time it had ever been 
called by any other name than Fort 
Plain. About three years later Gen- 
eral Washington was here and dated 
his correspondence from "Fort Rensse- 
laer," and others probably did so, un- 
aware that the name of the fort had 
been changed. The following docu- 
ment, from the papers of the late Wil- 
liam H. Seeber, shows how the vanity 
of the inefficient soldier had tempor- 
arily affected the name Fort Plain: 

"By virtue of the appointment of his 
Excellency, George Clinton, Esq., "Gov- 
ernor of the State of New York, 
etc., etc. 

"We do hereby, in pursuance of an 
act entitled an act to amend an act, en- 
titled an act to accommodate the in- 
habitants of the frontier, with habita- 
tions and other purposes therein men- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



129 



tioned, passed the 22d of March, 1781 
— Grant unto William Seeber, Peter 
Adams, George Garlock and Henry- 
Smith, license and liberty to cut and 
remove wood or timber from the lands 
of John Laile (or Lail), George Kraus, 
John Fatterle, John Plaikert, Wellem 
(William) Fenck, George Ekar, John 
Walrath and Henry Walrath, lying 
contiguous to Fort Plain, being a place 
of defense, for fuel, fencing and timber 
for the use of the first above mentioned 
persons. 

"Given under our hands at Canajo- 
harie, this Sth day of November, 1782. 

Christian Nellis, 

M. Willett, 

Commissioners." 

This instrument was drawn up in the 
handwriting of Squire Nellis and taken 
to Col. Willett to sign. In the hand- 
writing of the latter and with the ink 
of his signature, Willett crossed off the 
word "Plain" and interlined the name 
"Rensselaer." Simms says: "It seems 
surprising that Col. Willett, who so 
disapproved of changing the name of 
Fort Stanwix, should have connived at 
cnanging the name of Fort Plain; and 
it can only be accounted for by pre- 
suming that he was thereby courting 
tlie influence of wealth and position." 
The foregoing quotation does not co- 
incide with Willett's sturdy character, 
and it seems entirely probable that 
Van Rensselaer had succeeded in hav- 
ing his name adopted, at least for the 
time, as the official designation of Fort 
Plain. 

The foregoing chapter is taken en- 
tirely from Simms's "Frontiersmen of 
New York," with some few additions. 

S. L. Frey says, in his interesting 
paper oh "Fort Rensselaer," (published 
in the Mohawk Valley Register, March 
G, 1912): 

"In 1786, Capt. B. Hudson was in 
command of the place, taking care of 
the stores and other government prop- 
erty. As this is the last time that 
'Fort Rensselaer' is mentioned as far 
as I can find, I give a copy of an old 
receipt: 

Fort Rancelair, Aug. 22d, 1786. 
State of New York, Dr. 
To John Lipe, Senior. 



For Timber Building the Blockhouse, 
for fire wood, Fancing & Possession of 
the Place by the Troops of the United 
States Under the Command of Colonel 
Willet one hundred & fifty Pounds, 
being the amount of my Damage. 

his 
John X Lipe. 
mark 
Witness Present 

B. Hudson. 

From this it will be seen that Jo- 
hannes Lipe had not been paid for his 
timber, used in the blockhouse six 
years before. Following this receipt is 
a note by Rufus Grider, the former 
antiquarian of Canajoharie: 

"Copy of a paper found and obtained 
on the Lipe Farm, where Fort Plain 
and Fort Rensselair was located. The 
present owners are the descendants of 
the Lipe who owned it during and 
after the Revolution; the ownership 
has not gone out of the family. 

R. A. Grider. 

June 17, 1894." 

Mr. Frey continues: "We thus have 
a continuous mention of 'Fort Rens- 
selair,' as another name for Fort Plain, 
from Sept. 4, 1780, to Aug. 22, 1786. It 
would be well if the old Revolutionary 
families in the vicinity v/ould examine 
any paper they may have relating to 
that period; possibly we might find 
that 'Fort Rensselair' is mentioned 
after 1786." 



Thus we are able to trace the history 
of the Fort Plain fortifications through 
a period of ten years of important ser- 
vice. Although the fort and block- 
house probably stood for some years 
after 1786, reference to Fort Plain, 
after that date, implies the Sand Hill 
settlement (which took its name from 
the fort) and the later village which 
thus became known during the con- 
struction of the Brie canal. The name 
has thus been in existence for a period 
of almost 140 years. How long Fort 
Plain or Fort Rensselaer continued to 
exist as an army post after 1786 is not 
now known. 



The accounts to follow deal with 
western Montgomery county and with 
the settlement adjacent to Fort Plain, 



L 



130 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



known as Sand Hill and Fort Plain 
and a continuation of the record of 
life and events, in the old Canajoharie 
and Palatine districts, until about 
1825, when the old settlement ceased 
to be important and the new canal 
town which sprang up adopted the 
honored name of Fort Plain. For con- 
venience the end of the second series 
of sketches is put at 1838, the date of 
the severance of Montgomery and 
Fulton counties. Washington's visit 
to Fort Plain properly marks the end 
of the first series of chapters of the 
story of old Fort Plain. 



The last victims of savage marau- 
ders near Fort Plain were Frederick 
Young and a man named House, of 
the town of Minden. They were in a 
field when a small party of Indians 
shot them both down. Young was not 
killed and when an Indian stooped 
over to scalp him, the victim seized 
the knife, the blade nearly severing his 
fingers. Both were scalped but Young 
was found alive and taken to Fort 
Plank, where he died before night. 
The two Minden men were shot within 
sight of the fort but the Indians got 
away before the patriot militia could 
assemble to engage them. This event 
happened in 1783, eight days after the 
inhabitants had news that peace had 
been ratified, and it is probable that 
the savages had not heard of this. 



One of the first murder trials in the 
Johnstown jail after the war was that 
of John Adam Hartmann, a Revolu- 
tionary veteran, for killing an Indian 
in 1783. They met at a tavern in the 
present town of Herkimer, and the 
savage excited Hartmann's abhorrence 
by boasting of murders and scalpings 
performed by him during the war, and 
particularly by showing him a tobacco 
pouch made from the skin of the hand 
and part of the arm of a white child 
with the finger nails remaining at- 
tached. Hartmann said nothing at the 
time and the two left the tavern on 
their journey together, traveling a 
road which led through a dense forest. 
Here the savage's body was found a 
year later. Hartmann was acquitted 



for lack of evidence. He had been a 
ranger at Fort Dayton. On a foray, in 
which he killed an Indian, at almost 
the same instant, he was shot and 
wounded by a Tory. Hartmann was 
a famous frontiersman and had many 
adventures. He was a fine type of the 
intrepid soldiers in the tried and true 
militia of Tryon county. 



Following are the principal events 
of 1783 summarized: The treaty of 
peace with Great Britain, acknowledg- 
ing the independence of the United 
States of America was signed in Paris, 
Sept. 3, 1783; 1783, Nov. 25, "Evacua- 
tion Day," British left New York and 
an American force under Gen. Wash- 
ington and Gov. Clinton entered New 
York city, shortly after which Wash- 
ington bade farewell to his officers at 
Fraunce's Tavern in that city and left 
for Mount Vernon, Md., his journey 
through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and 
Maryland being a triumphial tour; 
1783, Dec. 23, Washington resigned his 
command of the American army to 
congress at Annapolis, Md. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

1775-1783 — Review of Mohawk Valley 
Events — Tryon County Militia Rec- 
ords — Territory Covered in These 
Sketches. 

With this chapter are concluded the 
first two periods of the history of 
the middle Mohawk vallej' — that of 
settlement and that of the war of the 
Revolution. At almost every point 
this story touches that of the nation. 
Just as Walt Whitman sings of man 
as representative of the race and the 
race as the single man multiplied, so, 
in this history of the Mohawk coun- 
try, we see the growing nation and in 
viewing the land of America we get a 
diminished yet clear prospect of our 
own valley. Thus while following the 
current of local life and events we are 
borne along as well on the great 
stream of national life. 

In the foregoing chapters, mention 
has been made of the connection of 
the men of the Mohawk country with 
the decisive event of the Revolution — 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



131 



the success of the Americans in the 
1777 campaign against Burgoyne and 
St. Leger. A further instance of the 
vital interloclving of our story with 
that greater one of the United States, 
is evidenced in that thrilling first en- 
counter of the Iroquois with the 
French power, represented by Cham- 
plain and his Canadian savages. The 
shots fired by the Frenchman into the 
ranks of the red men of the Five Na- 
tions gave us these United States, for 
it made the Iroquois enemies of the 
French power forever. They formed 
a bulwark against the encroachment 
of the Gallic dominion and may, at 
that early date, have prevented France 
from conquering the greater part of 
the thirteen colonies. Thus it is that 
the shot of an arquebus, on the shore 
of a lonely lake, or the death struggle 
of a few hundred farmers in a forest 
fight, may settle the destinies of a na- 
tion. A further instance of past condi- 
tions affecting the present is evidenced 
in the state of New York, the boun- 
daries of which were largely deter- 
mined by the Dutch settlements along 
the Hudson and the territory occupied 
by the Five Nations. It has also been 
stated that the successful example of 
the Iroquois confederacy had a con- 
siderable infiuence in formation of the 
United States of America. 

The Revolutionary record of Tryon 
county, besides detailing the defense 
against British invasion of the New 
York frontier, is concerned with two 
great national military movements of 
the war — the vital defeat of Burgoyne 
at Saratoga (to which the successful 
defense of Fort Schuyler contributed) 
and the Sullivan and Clinton invasion 
of the Indian country, in connection 
with which occurred the march of the 
New York detachment of the Ameri- 
can army along the Mohawk to Cana- 
joharie, the rendezvous there, the cut- 
ting of a road through the wilderness 
to Otsego lake and the subsequent 
unique march thither of Clinton's 
force, convoying the river flatboats 
with their supplies, loaded on eight- 
horse wagons and oxcarts. This cam- 
paign was one of the most noteworthy 
of the war and the Mohawk valley side 



of it seems to have never received the 
full and proper presentation that it 
merits. 

The Tryon county infantry and mi- 
litia, as has been shown, had been in- 
strumental in the American success of 
the Saratoga campaign. Creasy calls 
this one of the fifteen decisive battles 
of the world (up to 1855) and mentions 
the British checks at Fort Stanwix 
(Schuyler) and at Bennington as 
strongly influencing the final defeat of 
Burgoyne and the British army. Of 
this historically great battle Lord 
Mahon wrote: 

"Even of those great conflicts, in 
which hundreds of thousands have 
been engaged and tens of thousands 
have fallen, none has been more fruit- 
ful of results than this surrender * * 
at Saratoga." 

The victory at Stillwater was de- 
cisive not only in ensuring American 
independence but it eventually brought 
about American predominance over 
the western hemisphere. To this great 
world result the men of the Mohawk 
contributed, at Oriskany and Fort 
Schuyler, as much as if they had 
fought on the fleld of Stillwater itself, 
where some of them were also en- 
gaged. 

The record of the Mohawk country 
garrisons and the militia of Tryon 
county is one of the best of the Amer- 
ican soldiery of the Revolution. Wher- 
ever the Tryon county men met the 
enemy on anything like equal footing 
they had beaten them. Under good 
leaders like Willett they had proved 
the best of rangers and line of battle 
men. The feats of scouts like Helmer 
and Demuth are fit subjects for song 
and legend, and the deeds of the Am- 
erican man behind the gun, on the 
fields of Tryon county, make stories 
which will hold the interest of Mo- 
hawk valley folk for centuries to come. 

It would be interesting if the com- 
position of the different Tryon county 
garrisons, throughout the Revolution, 
could be known. Future research may 
show them, and it may be here men- 
tioned that the history of the Mohawk 
valley during the war for independ- 
ence should be made the subject of a 



332 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLxVIN 



comprehensive work, treating the mat- 
ter in complete form. It furnishes as 
interesting material as that of any 
region of similar extent within the 
limits of the original thirteen colonies. 

Occasional glimpses have been 
caught, in the foregoing chapters of 
the garrisons and the commanders 
of the army posts of present western 
Montgomery county — Fort Plain, Fort 
Paris, Fort Windecker, Fort Willett, 
Fort Plank, Fort Clyde. We know 
from the frequent recurrence of the 
names of families then resident along 
the Mohawk, in the accounts of the 
Revolutionary movements of the Tryon 
county American forces, that the 
patriot army in the Mohawk country 
was always largely composed of local 
men. They are frequently spoken of 
as militia but their years of service 
made them as efficient as regulars, and 
they were such in every sense espec- 
ially during the latter years of the war. 

We have records of Tryon county 
men who were engaged in many of the 
military movements hereabouts during 
the Revolution. There were undoubt- 
edly scores who fought at Oriskany 
who took part in all of the later con- 
flicts. This was especially true of the 
Palatine and Canajoharie district men, 
as their territory was the scene of most 
of the important events after Oriskany. 
We have one record of a Canajoharie 
district man who took part in the first 
and last Revolutionary military move- 
ments in the Mohawk valley. This 
was John Roof jr., who fought at 
Oriskany in 1777 and went with Wil- 
lett on the expedition to Fort Oswego 
in 1783. He was probably in military 
service, in the intervening years and 
there were scores like him. At the 
end of hostilities, about 1782, these 
Tryon county soldiers entered upon 
the reclamation of their farm lands 
and the rebuilding of their homes as 
vigorously as they had opposed the 
motley savages employed by England 
to ravage their country during the six 
years from 1777 to 1782. 

That the valley Revolutionary sol- 
diers of Tryon county were men of the 
greatest physical hardihood is plainly 
evident. Proof of this Is seen in the 



many instances of their long marches 
over rough ground and, at the end of 
these "hikes," frequently the infantry 
went into battle. In 1780, Van Rens- 
selaer's army, from the neighborhood 
of Albany, marched to Keator's rift at 
Sprakers, a distance of over fifty miles, 
and at the close of their second day 
in Montgomery county, after marching 
over ten miles more, went into action 
at Klock's Field. On this day, from the 
time they left their camping ground 
in the town of Florida, they covered 
thirty miles and fought a battle as 
well. On the evening of the day of 
the appearance of Ross and Butler and 
their raiders (Oct. 24, 1781), Colonel 
Willett and his four hundred fighters, 
from Fort Plain and the neighboring 
posts, marched through the night to 
Fort Hunter (a distance of twenty 
miles), reaching there the next morn- 
ing, October 25. After a strenuous 
time crossing the Mohawk, the Ameri- 
cans made a further journey of nine or 
ten miles, when they went into action 
and won the victory of Johnstown. 
They had tramped thirty miles and 
won a hard victory in a night and a 
day. After a day's rest, the troops 
continued the pursuit of the beaten 
enemy to Jerseyfield on West Canada 
creek, where they killed Butler and 
many of his band and scattered Ross's 
force completely. On their return to 
Fort Dayton, they had covered over 60 
miles of ground under winter condi- 
tions, suffering great hardships, and 
had performed this feat in four days 
on two days rations. The Fort Plain 
soldiers in this campaign, covered 
150 miles from their start until the 
time they returned to their barracks. 
The great physical vigor of the men of 
the Mohawk country is also shown in 
the amusing incident of the footrace 
between a company of scouts and a 
company of infantry, on the Freysbush 
road, while on the march back to Fort 
Plain. It is to be regretted that con- 
ditions which produced such men of 
iron in the valley could not have con- 
tinued to give us men of equal vigor. 
Besides this evidence of the gener- 
ally fine physical condition of the val- 
ley Americans, the previous chapters 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



133 



have given abundant proof of the in- 
dividual military valor and physical 
prowess of men like Herkimer, Clyde, 
Dillenbeck, Willett, Stockwell, Gardi- 
nier, Helmer, Demuth, Grouse, Vols, 
Woodworth, and a host of others. 

Some years ago the state of New 
York pu))lished part of its Revolu- 
tionary records in a volume entitled 
"New York in the Revolution." This 
is a roster of the regular troops and 
militia raised in New York during the 
war of independence and includes the 
Tryon county militia. Many of the 
names are misspelled but this roll of 
the local militia forms a record of 
the families settled in the country of 
the Mohawks at the time of the Revo- 
lution. Regarding the Tryon county 
list. State Historian James A. Holden, 
says: "I am doubtful as to how many 
of the inen served in more than one 
regiment or capacity. The names are 
apt to be doubled, as the terms of en- 
rollment were very lax and a man 
might be on more than one regiment 
roll at a time, as I am informed. How- 
ever the number given is approximate 
and can be so stated in your work." 
In the publication referred to the en- 
rolled men's names are given. No date 
is attached to any of the lists. Below 
is summarized the numbers of each 
organization together with its officers, 
from the county of Tryon: 

Tryon County Brigade of Militia: 

First Regiment (Canajoharie dis- 
trict). Officers: Colonel, Samuel 
Campbell; colonel, Ebenezer Cox 
(killed at Oriskany) ; lieutenant-col- 
onel, Samuel Clyde; major, Abraham 
Gopeman; major, Peter S. Dygert; ad- 
jutant, Jacob Seeber; quartermaster, 
John Pickard; surgeon, Adam Frank; 
surgeon, David Younglove. Summary: 
Staff, 9; line, 38; men, 552; total, 599. 
Col. Clyde was acting colonel after 
1778. 

Second Regiment (Palatine district). 
Officers: Colonel, Jacob Klock; lieu- 
tenant-colonel, Peter Wagner; major, 
Christian William Fox; major, Chris- 
topher Pox; adjutant, Samuel Gray; 
adjutant, Andrew Irvin; quartermas- 
ter, Jacob Eacker; surgeon, Johann 



Georg Vach. Summary: Staff, 8; 
line, 43; men, 615; total, 666. 

Third Regiment (Mohawk district). 
Officers: Colonel, Frederick Visscher 
(Fisher); lieutenant-colonel, Volkert 
Veeder; major, John Bluen (Bliven?); 
major, John Nukerk; adjutant, Peter 
Conyn; adjutant, John G. Lansing jr.; 
adjutant, Gideon Marlatt; quarter- 
master, Abraham Van Horn; quarter- 
master, Simon Veeder; surgeon, John 
George Folke (Vach?); surgeon, Wil- 
liam Petry. Summary: Staff, 12; line, 
62; men, 651; total, 725. 

Fourth Regiment (German Flats and 
Kingsland). Officers: Colonel, Peter 
Bellinger; adjutant, George Demuth; 
quartermaster, Peter Bellinger. Sum- 
mary: Staff, 3; line, 20; men, 415; 
tntal, 438. The foregoing list of staff 
officers for this fourth regiment is, of 
course, incomplete. 

Fifth Regiment (Schoharie valley?). 
There is no list of men given. John 
Harper was colonel. 

Battalion (company?) Minute Men. 
Officers: Colonel, Samuel Campbell; 
captain, Francis Utt; lieutenant, Adam 
Lipe; lieutenant, Jacob Matthias; en- 
sign, William Suber (Seeber?). Sum- 
mary: Staff, 1; line, 4; men, 60; total, 
65. Col. Campbell removed to Niska- 
yuna, below Schenectady, in 1779 and 
had no share in Tryon county military 
matters after that date. 

Battalion Rangers (Scouts), First 
Company: Captain, John Winn; lieu- 
tenant, Lawrence Gros; lieutenant, 
Peter Schremling. Second company: 
Captain, Christian Getman; lieuten- 
ant, James Billington; lieutenant, 
Jacob Sammans (Sammons?). Third 
company: Captain, John Kasselman; 
lieutenant, John Einpie; ensign, George 
Gittman (Getman). Summary: Of- 
ficers, 9; men, 155; total, 164. 

Associated "exempts." Captain, 
Jelles Fonda; lieutenant, Zephaniah 
Batchellor; lieutenant, Abraham Gar- 
rason; ensign, Samson Sammon 

(Sampson Sammons); ensign, 

Lawrance. Summary: Line, 5; men, 
159; total, 164. These were invalids 
or men beyond the age of military ser- 
vice (then about 60 years) who were 
organized for defense, while the ac- 



134 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



tive men were absent on military duty. 
They could be called upon in case of 
great emergency. 

The total of the Tryon county mi- 
litia foots up 2,830 men. This does 
not include the fifth regiment which 
evidently came from the Schoharie 
valley and of which there are no 
records in "New York in the Revolu- 
tion." This is not a chronicle of the 
Schoharie valley (a separate region), 
but only of the land of the Mohawk 
or the central Mohawk river section, 
and the Schoharie valley is only treat- 
ed where it passes through present 
Montgomery county or where it affects 
this story. 

In 1781 Colonel Willett was in com- 
mand of a regiment of "levies" at Fort 
Plain as aforementioned. These were 
men drafted into service, and included 
many men from the settlers along the 
Mohawk. A list of these levies is 
given in "New York in the Revolu- 
tion," which is here summarized as 
follows: Officers: Colonel, Marinus 
Willett; lieutenant colonel, John Mc- 
Kinstry; major, Andrew Fink (major 
of brigade) ; major, Lyman Hitchcock 
(muster master) ; major, Josiah 
Throop; major, Elias Van Bunscho- 
ten; adjutant, Jelles A. Fonda; adju- 
tant, Pliny Moore; quartermaster, 
John Fondey (Fonda) ; quartermaster, 
Matthew Trotter; quartermaster, Ja- 
cob Winney; paymaster, Abraham 
Ten Eyck; surgeon, Calvin Delano; 
surgeon. William Petry; surgeon's 
mate, George Faugh; surgeon's mate, 
Moses Willard; chaplain, John Daniel 
Gros (pastor of the Canajoharie dis- 
trict Reformed Dutch church at Fort 
Plain). Summary: Staff, 17; line, 75; 
men, 916; total, 1,008. These men 
were probably distributed among the 
principal valley posts and acted in 
conjunction with the Tryon county 
militia. This regiment may have 
done duty in the valley a large part of 
the last three years of the war. On 
page 68 of "New York in the Revolu- 
tion" is recorded a regiment of 
"levies" of which Col. John Harper 
was commandant. On page 77 is 
given another of which Col. Lewis Du- 
bois was in command. The Revolu- 



tionary records are frequently frag- 
mentary and incomplete and, as be- 
fore stated, there is no date given with 
each roll so that it is impossible to 
tell at just what period of the war the 
different bodies listed were engaged. 
It may be that they include all the 
men enrolled in each militia organiza- 
tion throughout the war, or even all 
the men liable for military duty in 
each district. 

In consideration of all the Revolu- 
tionary history in the chapters fore- 
going it must be rememljered that the 
events recorded all occurred in the 
great county of Tryon, of which Johns- 
town was the civic center and Fort 
Plain the military headquarters, dur- 
ing the last four years of the war — 
1780, 1781, 1782, 1783. 

It will be noted that all the Mo- 
hawk valley military actions, with the 
exception of Oriskany and West Can- 
ada creek, occurred within a fifteen- 
mile radius of Fort Plain, and this is 
the region especially considered in all 
the chapters of this work, comprising 
as it did the Mohawk river sections 
of the Canajoharie and Palatine dis- 
tricts of Tryon, later Montgomery 
county. 

This historJ^ also, in full detail, 
covers the middle valley countrj' oc- 
cupied by the Mohawks, during the 
greater part of the historical period 
and in which their settlements were 
located exclusively during the last 
century of their valley tribal exist- 
ence. Here much Indian life was cen- 
tered, all of which is of great interest 
to the student of Indian lore and 
which would fill a considerable volume. 
At Indian Hill, on a branch of the Ots- 
quago south of Fort Plain, are found 
some of the earliest Ilidian remains in 
eastern New York. This interesting 
spot is considered in a later chapter 
on the town of Minden. The Mohawk 
valley, from the Schoharie river to Fall 
Hill, seems to have been the home of 
the Mohawks from the earliest histor- 
ical times. However, the seats of their 
castles and villages were frequently 
changed within this territory. The 
river section between Fall Hill and the 
Noses has been called Canajoharie by 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



135 



the Mohawks, evidently from the ear- 
liest times. 

Their later chief villages, as shown in 
the foregoing chapters, were at Fort 
Hunter and Indian Castle. This river 
country occupied by the Mohawks is 
here treated in detail historically as 
well as the Canajoharie and Palatine 
districts. So that "The Story of Old 
Fort Plain," is, in truth, a history of 
old Tryon and Montgomery county, of 
the country of the Mohawk Iroquois 
(from the time of its discovery) which 
is also the middle Mohawk valley, of 
the Canajoharie and Palatine dis- 
tricts and the five western towns of 
present Montgomery county, as well 
as the "Story of Old Fort Plain." It 
Is all of these because the stories of 
them are so interwoven that it is bet- 
ter to here present the whole fabric to 
the view of the reader than it is to 
tear it apart and attempt to show the 
different threads separately. 

In a general way, also, the history of 
the valley, within a radius of fifty 
miles of Fort Plain, is treated during 
the first three periods of its history 
(from 1616 to 1838). This enables the 
reader to gain a clearer idea of the 
life and events of the smaller area 
aforementioned, which is considered 
in great detail and from every view- 
point. 

The foregoing chapters offer an op- 
portunity of close acquaintance with 
many actively connected with the 
thrilling events of the Revolution and 
with the life of the times. It is prob- 
able that mention has been made in 
this work, of the majority of families 
or heads of families in the Canajo- 
harie and Palatine districts. The be- 
ginnings of human things are extra- 
ordnarily interesting to human beings 
and, in the chapters dealing with the 
first three periods of the history of 
the country of the Mohawks, we see 
the individuals themselves, who make 
up the local communities and live 
again with them their lives of peace 
or war on the hills and in the vales of 
this fair northland country. 

The growing population makes it 
impossible to consider individuals, in 
this local record, after the end of the 



third period of Montgomery history 
(1838) and, after that date, the valley 
hereabouts is treated historically and 
in a general way without reference to 
people individually, except where the 
mention of names is absolutely nec- 
essary to the continuity of the story. 

The succeeding chapters cover the 
third and fourth periods of the history 
of the country of the Mohawks, in its 
relation to the old Canajoharie and 
Palatine districts, whose river sec- 
tions are now largely comprised with- 
in the present limits of the five west- 
ern towns of Montgomery county. 
Here we see a similar linking to- 
gether of local with national history in 
the matter of the valley's highways 
and waterways. The Mohawk route to 
the west, by its natural formation, was 
and is probably the most important in 
the eastern states. It was largely 
through it that the tide of westward 
emigration flowed and through it east 
traded with the west from the earliest 
times. Its highways and great rail- 
roads follow the old Indian trails and 
the Barge canal, in its eastern sec- 
tion, covers largely the exact route 
from the Hudson to the Great Lakes, 
followed by the Indian canoe and the 
Mohawk flatboat. The Erie and the 
subsequent railroads, made the na- 
tion, the state, the metropolis and the 
valley great, populous and rich 
in material things, as it is today. On 
the completion of the Erie canal, the 
trade and traffic it brought, to and 
through New York, raised it from a 
secondary to a first position among 
the states and its metropolis quickly 
became the largest city in the western 
hemisphere. 

Rich in material things our valley is 
indeed today, according to modern 
ideas, albeit it is poorer far in its 
natural resources than it was when 
the Dutch made their first settlements 
in its eastern part two centuries and 
a half ago. It is for the men of today 
and of the future to conserve the 
natural wealth remaining and to bring 
back, as much as possible, that which 
has been lost and wasted — particularly 
the health-giving and soil-preserving 
forest. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 

(SECOND SERIES 1784-1838) 



CHAPTER I. 

1784-1838— Mohawk Valley After the 
Revolution — Constructive Period — 
Montgomery County and its Divis- 
ions — Towns and Their Changes. 

The Revolutionary struggle had 
well-nigh destroyed the one-time 
prosperous farming community along 
the Mohawk and in its adjacent terri- 
tory. This section had been more 
harried, l)y the enemy and their red 
allies, than any other part of the thir- 
teen colonies. Raid after raid had 
swept down from Canada over the fair 
valley, luirning, plundering, and mur- 
dering. Stoutly had the sturdy peo- 
ple fought back their dreadful foe. 
The savage enemy had been again and 
again beaten back from the Mohawk, 
but the bloody contest had left the 
population greatly depleted and the 
farm land in ruin and rapidly going 
back to the wilderness from which it 
had been wrestqd. Those of faint 
heart and of Tory leanings had fled 
the country and the patriot families 
who were left were often sadly broken. 
Numbers of defenseless women and 
little children had been struck down 
In- the savage tomahawk and the 
bones of the men of Tryon county 
whitened the fields where battle and 
skirmish had been bitterly' fought. 
The bravery of the women, and even 
the children, of the patriot families, 
amid the bloody scenes of the Revolu- 
tion, had been remarkable in the ex- 
treme. Terrific as had been the mur- 
derous destruction, along the Mo- 
hawk, yet a wonderful rejuvenesence 
and rapid growth were to follow. The 
years ensuing were ones of great 
development of the farmlands, in- 
crease of population and steps, for the 
furtherance of transportation and 



commerce, whii'li were e\eiiluall.N to 
make the Mohawk valley one of the 
greatest arteries of trade and traHie 
in the entire world. 

Toward the close of the war, Col. 
Willott sent to Gen. Washington a 
lengthy statement of the condition of 
affairs in Tryon county, from which it 
appears that, whereas at the opening 
of the struggle the enrolled militia of 
the county numl)ered not less than 
2,500, there were then n')t more than 
SCO men liable to bear arms, and not 
more than 1,200 who could be taxed 
or assessed for the raising of men for 
the public service. To account for so 
large a reduction of the Tryon people, 
it was estimated that, of the number 
l>y which the population had been de- 
creased, one-third had been killed or 
made prisoners; one-third had gone 
over to the enemy; and one-third for 
the time being, had abandoned the 
country. Beers's history says: 

"The suffering of the unfortunate 
inhabitants of the Mohawk valley were 
the measure of delight, with which 
they had hailed the return of peace. 
The dispersed population returned to 
the Ijlackened ruins of their former 
habitations, rebuilt their houses and 
again brought their farms under cul- 
tivation. With astounding audacity, 
the Tories now began to sneak back 
again and claim peace and property 
among those whom they had impover- 
ished and bereaved. It was not to be 
expected that this would be tolerated. 
The outraged feelings of the commun- 
ity found the following expression at 
a meeting of the principal inhabi- 
tants of the Mohawk district. May 9, 
1783: 

"Taking into consideration the pe- 
culiar circumstances of this county 
relating to its situation, and the num- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



137 



bers that joined the enemy from 
among us, whose brutal barbarities in 
their frequent visits to their old neigh- 
bors are too shocking to humanity to 
relate: 

"They have murdered the peaceful 
husbandmen, and his lovely boys 
about him unarmed and defenceless 
in the field. They have, with ma- 
licious pleasure, butchered the aged 
and infirm; they have wantonly 
sported with the lives of helpless 
women and children, numbers they 
have scalped alive, shut them up in 
their houses and burnt them to death. 
Several children, by the vigilance of 
their friends, have been snatched 
from flaming buildings; and though 
tomahawked and scal^ied, are still liv- 
ing among us; they have made more 
than 300 widows and above 2,000 or- 
phans in this county; they have killed 
thousands of cattle and horses that 
rotted in the field; they have burnt 
more than two million bushels of 
grain, many hundreds of buildings, 
and vast stores of forage; and now 
these merciless fiends are creeping in 
among us again to claim the privilege 
of fellow-citizens, and demand a res- 
titution of their forfeited estates; but 
can they leave their infernal tempers 
Ijehind them and be safe or peacealile 
neighbors? Or can the disconsolate 
widow and the bereaved mother recon- 
cile her tender feelings to a free and 
cheerful neighborhood with those who 
so inhumanly made her such? Im- 
possible! It is contrary to nature, the 
first principle of which is self-preser- 
vation. It is contrary to the law of 
nations, especially that nation which 
for numberless reasons, we should be 
thought to pattern after. ***** 
It is contrary to the eternal rule of 
reason and rectitude. If Britain em- 
ployed them, let Britain pay them. We 
will not; therefore, 'Resolved, unani- 
mously, that all those who have gone 
off to the enemy or have been ban- 
ished by any law of this state, or 
those, who we shall find, tarried as 
spies or tools of the enemy, and en- 
couraged and harbored those who went 
away, shall not live in this district on 
any pretence whatever; and as for 
those who have washed their faces 
from Indian paint and their hands 
from the innocent blood of our dear 
ones, and have returned, either openly 
or covertly, we hereby warn them to 
leave this district before the 20th of 
June next, or they may expect to feel 
the just resentment of an injured and 
determined people. 

" 'We likewise, unanimously desire 
our brethren in the other districts in 
the county to join with us to instruct 
our representatives not to consent to 
the repealing any laws made for the 
safety of the state against treason, or 



.confiscation of traitors' estates, or to 
passing any new acts for the return 
or restitution of Tories.' 

" 'By order of the meeting. 
" 'Josiah Thorp, Chairman.' " 

Notwithstanding these sentiments 
of the Whigs, numbers of Tories did 
return and settle among their old 
neighbors. The Mohawk lands, which 
were considerable before the war, were 
confiscated and the tribe were granted 
homes in Canada, as has been stated in 
the sketch of Brant. 

During the revolution, the English 
governor, in honor of whom Tryon 
county was named, rendered the title 
odious by a series of infamous acts 
in the service of the Crown, and the 
New York legislature, on the 2d of 
April, 1784, voted that the county 
should be called Montgomery, in 
honor of Gen. Richard Montgomery, 
who fell in the attack on Quebec, 
early in the war. At the beginning of 
the Revolution, the population of the 
county was estimated at 10,000. At 
the close of the war it had probably 
been reduced to almost one-third of 
that number, but so inviting were the 
fertile lands of the county, that in 
three years after the return of peace 
(1786) it had a population of 15,000. 
Doubtless many of these were people 
who had deserted their valley homes 
at the beginning of hostilities and who 
now returned to settle again among 
their patriot neighbors who had borne 
the brunt of the struggle, and who had 
so nobly furthered the cause of Am- 
erican rule. By 1800 the population 
of present Montgomery county can 
safely be estimated at 10,000, almost 
entirely settled on the farms. 

The boundaries of the several coun- 
ties in the state were more minutely 
defined, March 7, 1788, and Montgom- 
ery was declared to contain all that 
part of the state bounded east by the 
counties of Ulster, Albany, Washing- 
ton and Clinton and south by the state 
of Pennsylvania. What had been dis- 
tricts in Tryon county were, with the 
exception of Old England, made towns 
in Montgomery county, the Mohawk 
district forming two towns, Caugh- 
nawaga north of the river and Mo- 



138 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



hawk south of it. The Palatine and 
Canajoharie districts were organized 
as towns, retaining those names. Thus 
after an existence of sixteen years, 
principally during the Revolutionary 
period, the old Tryon districts experi- 
enced their first change. 

The presence of the warlike Mo- 
hawks and their use as allies on the 
frontier, had saved the valley savages 
their lands until about the year 1700. 
Notice has been made of the Dutch, 
German and British immigration after 
that date into the Mohawk valley. 
With the virtual breaking down of the 
Iroquois confederacy on account of 
the Revolution, their wide lands were 
thrown open for settlement and, after 
1783, another and greater tide of im- 
migration set in along the Mohawk. 

The war had made people of other 
states and of other sections of New 
York familiar with Tryon county. 
Sullivan and Clinton's campaign, in 
the Iroquois country, had particularly 
revealed the fertility of the western 
part of the state, and a tide of emi- 
gration thither set in at the close of 
the war, mostly by way of the Mohawk 
valley. The river had been the first 
artery of transportation and traffic. 
Now it began to be rivaled by turn- 
pike travel. Later water travel was 
to resume first place after the dig- 
ging of the Erie canal, afterward to 
be again superseded by land traffic 
when the railroads began to develop. 
All of these were to make eventually 
the Mohawk valley the great road and 
waterway it is today. 

Immigration to western New York 
led to the formation from Montgom*- 
ery, Jan. 27, 1789, of Ontario county, 
which originally included all of the 
state west of a line running due north 
from the "82nd milestone" on the 
Pennsylvania boundary, through Sen- 
eca lake to Sodus Bay on Lake On- 
tario. This was the fiist great change 
in the borders of Tryon or Montgomery 
county (which had been of larger area 
than several present-day states) since 
its formation seventeen jears before. 
Other divisions were to come rapidly. 
In 1791 the county nf Montgomery 
was still further reduced by the for- 



mation of Tioga, Otsego and Herki- 
mer. The latter joined Montgomery 
county on the north as well as the 
west, the present east and west line, 
between Fulton and Hamilton, con- 
tinued westward, being part of their 
common boundary, and another part 
of it a line running north and south 
from Little Falls, and intersecting the 
former "at a place called Jersey- 
fields." Of the region thus taken from 
Montgomery county on the north, the 
present territory of Hamilton was re- 
stored in 1797, only to be set apart 
under its present name, Feb. 12, 1816. 
April 7, 1817, the western boundary of 
Montgomery was moved eastward 
from the m.eridian of Little Falls to 
East Canada creek, and a line run- 
ning south from its mouth, where it 
still remains. This divided the terri- 
tory of the old Canajoharie and Pala- 
tine districts between two counties, 
after this region had formed part of 
Tryon or Montgomery county for a 
period of forty-five years, which was 
undoubtedly that of its greatest 
growth as well as covering the thril- 
ling Revolutionary period. It also, for 
the first time, made an unnatural and 
artificial demarcation of the Canajo- 
harie region, known as such north and 
south of the Mohawk since the dawn 
of history. The line between 
Montgomery and Schenectady has 
always been part of the boundary 
of the former, having originally 
separated it from Albany county. 
The formation of Otsego county, Feb. 
16, 1791, established the line which 
now separates it and Schoharie from 
Montgomery. The latter took its 
northern boundary and entire present 
outline on the formation of Fulton 
county in 1838, which will be consid- 
ered later. Thus the present Mont- 
gomery is the small remainder of a 
once large territory and bears that 
region's original name. It also con- 
tains the greater part of the territory 
immediately along the river, of three of 
the five districts which originally 
composed Tryon and Montgomery 
county. These three districts were 
Canajoharie, Palatine and Mohawk, 
and are all names of present-day 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



139 



townships of our county, which were 
portions of the original districts. It 
is in the lands along the Mohawk 
river, contained in these old districts, 
where the principal part of the popu- 
lation was gathered at the close of 
the Revolutionary war. 

The three towns of Montgomery 
which formed part of the Canajoharie 
district were set apart on the follow- 
ing dates: Minden 1798, Root 1823 
(formed partly from the old Mohawk 
and old Canajoharie districts). Cana- 
joharie, part of the original district of 
that name set apart in 1772. The town 
of Palatine is the remaining portion 
of the original Tryon county district 
of that name. The town of St. Johns- 
trict, was set apart on the formation 
of Fulton county in 1838. In 1793 
Caughnawaga was divided into Johns- 
town, Mayfield, Broadalbin and Am- 
sterdam, and Mohawk into Charles- 
ton and Florida, their dividing line 
being Schoharie creek. In 1797 Salis- 
bury, now in Herkimer county, was 
taken from Palatine and in 1798 part 
of Canajoharie went to form Minden. 



An eighteenth century writer gives 
us a good view of the valley during the 
decade after the Revolution in a "De- 
scription of the Country Between Al- 
bany and Niagara in 1792," from 
Volume II. of the "Documentary His- 
tory of New York." It follows ver- 
batim. 

"I am just returned from Niagara, 
about 560 miles west of Boston. I 
went first to Albany, from thence to 
Schenectady, about Sixteen miles; this 
has been a very considerable place of 
trade but is now falling to decay: It 
was supported by the Indian traders; 
but this business is so arrested by 
traders far in the country, that very 
little of it reached so far down: it 
stands upon the Mohawk river, about 
9 miles above the Falls, called Cohoes; 
but this I take to be the Indian name 
for Falls. Its chief business is to re- 
ceive the merchandise from Albany 
and put it into batteaux to go up the 
river and forward to Albany Such pro- 
duce of the back country as is sent to 
market. After leaving Schenectada, I 



travelled over a most beautiful coun- 
try of eighty miles to Fort Schuyler, 
where I forded the Mohawk. This ex- 
tent was the scene of British and Sav- 
age cruelty during the late war, and 
they did not cease, while anything re- 
mained to destroy. What a contrast 
now! — every house and barn rebuilt, 
the pastures crowded with Cattle, 
Sheep, etc., and the lap of Ceres full. 
Most of the land on each Side of the 
Mohawk river, is a rich flat highly cul- 
tivated with every species of grain, 
the land on each side rising in agree- 
able Slopes; this, added to the view of 
a fine river passing through the whole, 
gives the beholder the most pleasing 
sensations imaginable. I next passed 
through Whitestown. It would appear 
to you, my friend, on hearing the re- 
lation of events in the western coun- 
try, that the whole was fable; and if 
you were placed in Whitestown or 
Clinton, ten miles from Fort Schuyler, 
and see the progress of improvement, 
you would believe it enchanted 
ground. You would there view an ex- 
tensive well built town, surrounded by 
highly cultivated fields, which Spot in 
the year 1783 was the 'haunt of tribes' 
and the hiding place of wolves, now a 
flourishing happy Situation, contain- 
ing about Six thousand people — Clin- 
ton stands a little South of Whites- 
town and is a very large, thriving 
town." 

This writer also says that "after 
passing Clinton there are no inhabi- 
tants upon the road until you reach 
Oneida, an Indian town, the first of 
the Six Nations; it contains about 
Five hundred and fifty inhabitants; 
here I slept and found the natives 
very friendly." He also writes, "The 
Indians are settled on all the reserva- 
tions made by this State, and are to 
be met with at every settlement of 
whites, in quest of rum." 



On Dec. 2, 1784, a council was held 
at Fort Schuyler between the Six Na- 
tions and American representatives. 
Gov. Clinton, Gen. Lafayette and other 
distinguished men were present. 
Brant was displeased with the Iro- 
quois situation, their lands having 



140 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



been ceded to the United States by the 
treaty of peace. Red Jacket was for 
war with the new nation while Corn- 
planter was for peace. Under certain 
conditions, the Six Nations were al- 
lowed to retain a portion of their old 
lands, with the exception of the Mo- 
hawks who had permanently settled 
themselves in Canada. After the 
multitude of whites and Indians had 
enjoyed a great feast (due to the wise 
forethought of Gov. Clinton), a foot 
race took place, in which each of the 
Six Nations was represented by one 
competitor. Gov. Clinton hung up a 
buckskin bag, containing $250, on a 
flag staff at the starting point on the 
bank of the Mohawk. This was a 
race of over two miles and was won, 
amid great excitement by a mere lad 
of the Oneida tribe, named Paul, who 
ran the great champion of the Mo- 
hawks off his feet and distanced the 
rest of his competitors. Gov. Clinton 
presented little Paul the prize and 
heartily congratulated him. Thus 
ended the last council of the Six Na- 
tions in the Mohawk valley, exactly a 
century and a quarter after the first 
held at Caughnawaga between the Iro- 
quois and the Dutch in 1659. 



Following is a short sketch of the 
Revolutionary patriot for whom this 
county was named: Richard Mont- 
gomery was born in the north of Ire- 
land in 1737. He entered the British 
army at the age of 20 and was with 
Wolfe at the storming of Quebec. Al- 
though he returned, after the French 
war, he had formed a liking for Am- 
erica and, in 1772, came back and made 
his home at Rhinebeck on the Hud- 
son, where he married a daughter of 
Robert B. Livingston. He sided with 
the patriots at the outbreak of the 
Revolution and in 1775 was second in 
command to Schuyler in the expedition 
against Canada. The Illness of Schuy- 
ler caused the chief command to de- 
volve upon Montgomery and in the 
capture of St. John's, Chambley and 
Montreal and his attack en Quebec, he 
exhibited great judgment and military 
skill. He was commissioned a major 
general before he reached Quebec. In 



that campaign he had every diflSculty 
to contend with — undisciplined and 
mutinous troops, scarcity of provisions 
and ammunition, want of heavy artil- 
lery, lack of clothing, the rigor of 
winter and desertions of whole com- 
panies. Yet he pressed onward and in 
all probability, had his life been 
spared, would have entered Quebec in 
triumph. In the heroic attack of the 
Americans on this stronghold, Dec. 31, 
1775 (during a heavy snowstorm), 
Montgomery was killed and his force 
defeated. Congress voted Montgomery 
a monument, by an act passed Jan. 25, 
1776, and it was erected on the Broad- 
way side of St. Paul's church in New 
York. It bears the following inscrip- 
tion: "This monument is erected by 
order of Congress, 25th of January, 
1776, to transmit to posterity a grate- 
ful remembrance of the patriot con- 
duct, enterprise and perseverence of 
Major-General Richard Montgomery, 
who, after a series of successes amid 
the most discouraging difficulties, fell 
in the attack on Quebec, 31st Decem- 
ber, 1775, aged 37 years." 

In 1818 his remains were brought 
from Quebec and buried under this 
memorial. 

General Montgomery left no chil- 
dren, but his widow survived him more 
than half a century. A day or two 
before he left his home at Rhinebeck 
for the Canadian campaign, the gen- 
eral was walking on the lawn in the 
rear of his brother-in-law's mansion 
with its owner. As they came near 
the house, Montgomery stuck a willow 
twig in the ground and said, "Peter 
let that grow to remember me by." 
Losslng says it did grow and that 
when he visited the spot (in 1848) it 
was a willow with a trunk at least 
ten feet in circumference. 



The following is a summary of the 
principal Mohawk valley events of the 
period covered in this chapter (from 
1784 to 1838), prepared with especial 
reference to the Canajoharie and PaK 
atine districts and the five western 
towns of Montgomery county: 

1784, last council of the Iroquois in 
the valley (with Gov. Clinton at Fort 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



141 



Stanwix) ; 1789, first cutting up of 
Montgomery to form Ontario county 
in 1789; 1790, legislative appropriation 
of £100 to erect a bridge at East 
Creek, opening up a period of bridge 
building in the valley; 1792, incorpor- 
ation of Inland Lock and Navigation 
Co. to improve the Mohawk; 1794, 
Johnstown academy formed; 1795, 
Union college, Schenectady, incorpor- 
ated, formerly Union academy, 1785; 
1798, Schenectady incorporated as a 
city; 1800, charter granted for con- 
struction of Mohawk turnpike from 
Schenectady to Utica; 1808, first sur- 
vey for Erie canal; May and Septem- 
ber, 1812, Mohawk valley regiments 
garrison Sacketts Harbor and take 
part in repulse of British there in 
1813; July 4, 1817, beginning of Erie 
canal work at Rome, N. Y. ; 1819, busi- 
ness part of Schenectady burned; 
1819, first canal boat launched at 
Rome to run between Rome and Utica; 
1821, navigation on the Erie between 
Rome and Little Falls, canal boats 
using the river from there to Schen- 
ectady; 1823, canal open to Spraker's 
Basin on the east end; Oct. 26, 1825, 
start of Clinton's triumphal tour on 
the completed Erie canal from Buffalo 
to Albany and from thence, by the 
Hudson, to New York; 1827, slavery 
finally abolished in New York state; 
1831, building of the Albany and Sche- 
nectady railroad; 1836, completion of 
the Utica and Schenectady railroad; 
1836, removal of the Montgomery 
county court house from Johnstown to 
Fonda (Caughnawaga) ; 1838, separa- 
tion of Fulton from Montgomery 
county. 



The chief national events of the for- 
mative period between 1784 and about 
1840, which has been treated some- 
what locally in the foregoing chapter 
are as follows: 

1787, September, Constitution of 
the United States framed by state del- 
egates at Philadelphia; 1788, July 26, 
New York state ratifies Constitution, 
being the ninth state so to do and 
putting it into effect; 1789, April 6, 
Washington inaugurated first presi- 



dent in New York city (then national 
capital), John Adams, vice president; 
1790, Philadelphia becomes national 
capitol until 1800; 1792, Washington 
re-elected president, John Adams, vice 
president; 1795, invention of the cot- 
ton gin by Eli Whitney of Savannah, 
Ga. ; 1796, John Adams elected second 
president, Thomas Jefferson, vice 
president; 1799, Dec. 14, Washington's 
death; 1800, Washington city becomes 
national capital; Thomas Jefferson 
elected third president, Aaron Burr, 
vice president; 1803, cession of French 
Louisiana territory (1,171,931 square 
miles) to United States for $15,000,000; 
1804, Thomas Jefferson re-elected 
president, George Clinton (former gov- 
ernor of New York) vice president; 
1807, Clermont, first steamer, runs 
from New York to Albany; 1808, James 
Madison elected fourth president, 
George Clinton re-elected vice presi- 
dent; 1812, James Madison re-elected 
president, Elbridge Gerry, vice presi- 
dent; 1812, June 18, second war (of 
1812) declared by congress against 
England; 1813, British repulsed from 
in front of Sackett's Harbor, N. Y.; 
1813, Harrison defeats British force 
and Indian force under Tecumseh; 
1813, Sept. 10, Perry's American fleet 
captures British squadron on Lake 
Erie; 1814, July 25, battle of Lundy's 
Lane in Canada on the Niagara fron- 
tier; 1814, August, British army burns 
the Capitol and White House at Wash- 
ington; 1814, September, McDonough's 
American fleet destroys British fleet 
on Lake Champlain at Plattsburgh, 
N. Y., and American force checks 
British army there preventing inva- 
sion of New York; 1814, Dec. 24, peace 
■of Ghent signed; 1815, Jan. 8, defeat 
of British by Jackson's army before 
New Orleans, La.; 1816, first tariff, 
with protection as its aim, enacted; 
1819, first ocean steamer, "Savannah," 
crosses Atlantic from Savannah to 
Liverpool, England, in twenty-two 
days; 1820, first struggle between slave 
and free states over the Missouri 
Compromise act; 1823, "Monroe doc- 
trine" first propounded by President 
Monroe in his annual message to con- 
gress; 1824, John Quincy Adams elect- 



142 



THE STOKY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



ed sixth president, John C. Calhoun, 
vice president; 1827, first U. S. railway 
from Quincy, Mass., quarries to tide- 
water (built to transport granite used 
in construction of Bunker Hill monu- 
ment) ; 1828, Andrew Jackson elected 
seventh president, John C. Calhoun 
re-elected vice president; 1831, Cyrus 
McCormick operates first successful 
mowing machine at Steele's Tavern, 
Va. ; 1832, South Carolina passes Act 
of Nullification of national (high) pro- 
tective tariff of 1832; 1832, Andrew 
Jackson re-elected president, Martin 
Van Buren elected vice president; 
1832, first American sewing machine 
made by Walter Hunt of New York 
city; 1830-5, first threshing machine 
made at Fly Creek, N. Y., not perfect- 
ed there until 1840; 1836, Martin Van 
Buren elected eighth president, Rich- 
ard M. Johnson, vice president; 1836, 
first model of telegraph instrument 
made by Samuel F. B. Morse of New 
York city; 1837-1842, years of finan- 
cial depression; 1839, first photo- 
graphs from life made by J. W. Draper 
of New York city; 1840, invention of 
baseball by Abner (afterward General) 
Doubleday, a schoolboy at Coopers- 
town, N. Y. 



CHAPTER II. 

1784-1838 — People and Life in the 
Mohawk Valley — Dress — The Revo- 
lutionary Houses — The Mohawk 
Dutch — English Becomes the Popu- 
lar Tongue — Rev. Taylor's Journey 
in 1802— Valley Sports— -Doubleday's 
Invention of Baseball — Last of the 
Mohawks in the Valley — The Iroquois 
Population in 1890 and the Mohawks 
in Canada. 

The history of the Mohawk valley 
from 1784 to 1838 is one of great de- 
velopment and progress. Immigration 
poured into and through the valley, 
and consequently steps were taken for 
the bettering of transportation facili- 
ties, in the improvement of Mohawk 
river navigation and of the highways 
and in the building of bridges. The 
clearing of the land made the forest 
recede far back from the river except 
in scattered woods, and, toward the 



end of this important period, the val- 
ley began to assume its present day 
aspect. Settlements were made far- 
ther and farther away from the Mo- 
hawk and rough highways to them 
were opened up. Logging was an im- 
portant industry. Towns began to 
spring up along the course of the river 
or to develop from the hamlets and 
little villages already there located. 
Manufacturing began and factories 
were established. Schools and 

churches were built everywhere. 
Newspapers were started and the 
whole complicated fabric of modern 
civilization was woven from the crude 
materials of a frontier civilization. 
Human life in the valley changed 
from its early strong simplicity to that 
of today, with its advantages and dis- 
advantages. Albany was the metrop- 
olis for Central New York, while 
Schenectady was the most important 
town in the valley until the close of 
this period when Utica outstripped it. 
The cities and villages of the present 
were, almost without exception, in ex- 
istence at the end of this time. 
Johnstown continued the county seat 
during this half century. Toward the 
close of this chapter of the valley his- 
tory came the epochal events of the 
construction of the Erie canal and the 
railroad, the latter of which may be 
said to end this historical period and 
usher in that of today. 

The steam engine had been perfect- 
ed in England early in the eL^rhteenth 
century but it was not in general use 
in the Mohawk valley until the nine- 
teenth century. Water power was 
generally utilized for manufacturing 
purposes and this is the reason of the 
early growth of factory towns like 
Little Falls and Amsterdam, which 
used the power of the Mohawk and 
the Chuctanunda. Almost every 
stream, with sufficient fall and volume 
of water, had its power utilized. The 
principal water courses in western 
Montgomery county, used for milling 
and manufacturing purposes were 
Zimmerman's creek in St. Johnsville, 
Caroga and Knayderack (Sehenck's 
Hollow) in Palatine, Yatesville (Ran- 
dall) and Flat Creek (Sprakers) in 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



143 



Root, Canajoharie in Canajoharie and 
the Otsquago in Minden. 

This period also marked the passing 
of slavery in the Mohawk valley, it 
being finally abolished in the state of 
New York in 1S27. This would have 
ordinarily occasioned disturbance in 
valley labor conditions as some far- 
mers had had a score of black slaves. 
The emancipation had probably 
been discounted and many slaves had 
been previously voluntarily freed by 
their masters. It is remarkable, con- 
sidering the evidently large number of 
slaves here a century ago, that the 
colored population of the valley is no 
larger today than it is. 

The time was also one in which the 
apprentice system flourished and or- 
phan children, and others, were fre- 
quently bound out as apprentices until 
they attained their majority, being 
virtually under the control of their 
guardians (except in cases where the 
legal ties were dissolved by law) un- 
til the minors attained their majority. 

In a general way this was a period 
of great evolution, in which was fin- 
ally produced the valley as we know 
it today. The life of the people of the 
Mohawk country is here considered, 
with reference to their dress (a mat- 
ter of undoubted importance historic- 
ally) their home and daily lire, their 
character and changing language and 
their pastimes and sports. When his- 
tory is truly written we shall all see 
the people's life of the past days pic- 
tured as well as the movements of the 
chief actors in the great and changing 
drama. 

The river traffic, highway and canal 
building, and other items of the life of 
this period, are dealt with in later 
chapters. These include churches, 
militia, war of 1812, bridges, railroad 
building and other valley features of 
the years from 1784 to 1838. 



The period from 1784 to about 1800, 
which is partly considered in this 
chapter, was one of great transition in 
the dress of the people. Its most dis- 
tinguishing mark in that respect was 
the adoption, for general use of trous- 



ers or pantaloons, which supplanted 
the "small clothes" dress of men about 
the beginning of the nineteenth cen- 
tury. Mrs. John Adams, wife of the 
later president who was then minister 
to England, commented, in 1784, in 
one of her interesting letters, on the 
fact that dress and fashion seemed 
less regarded in London than in the 
American cities. True, to the major- 
ity of Tryon county people, fashionable 
dress was of little concern as this was 
a frontier and farming country, but 
rich apparel was no stranger to them, 
having been seen at civil and military 
functions in Johnstown and other val- 
ley points and at Schenectady and Al- 
bany. The advent of Washington's 
staff in his tour of the valley and stops 
at Fort Plain and Fort Herkimer in 1783 
must have been a brilliant spectacle, 
which undoubtedly brought out all the 
good clothes in Tryon county. Gen. 
Washington was most punctilious and 
careful in matters of dress, his atti- 
tude, in his own words, being that "or- 
derly and handsome dress was impera- 
tive for men in office and authority, 
that they and the nation should stand 
well in the eyes of other peoples, that 
they should impress the simpler of 
their own folk." 

Robert W. Chambers, the well- 
known novelist, is a resident of Ful- 
ton county, living at Broadalbin in 
what was the Mohawk district of 
Tryon. His novel "Cardigan" deals, in 
its early pages, with life at Johnson 
Hall. It suggests that, at the military 
and civic functions at the Tryon 
county seat, the dignitaries, officials, 
officers and their ladies there assem- 
bled must have rivalled the rainbow in 
the kaleidoscopic brilliancy of their 
rich attire. In 1780 when John Han- 
cock was inaugurated governor of 
Massachusetts he wore a scarlet velvet 
suit which is still preserved in the 
Boston State House. His dress "on 
an important occasion when he de- 
sired to make an impression and yet 
not to appear over-carefully dressed," 
was thus described by a contempo- 
rary: "He wore a red velvet cap with- 
in which was one of fine linen, the last 
turned up two or three inches over the 



144 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



lower edge of the velvet. He also wore 
a blue damask gown, lined with vel- 
vet, a white stock, a white satin em- 
broidered waistcoat, black satin small- 
clothes, white silk stockings and red 
morocco slippers." Many of the por- 
traits and descriptions in Mrs. Earle's 
"Two Centuries of Costume in Amer- 
ica" bring vividly before us the life of 
the time and its American people. 
Tasteful and beautiful are many of the 
gowns of the fine ladies of the time, 
some of whom are radiantly lovely 
themselves. The men pictured therein 
show frequently strong well-modeled 
features of an American type which 
today is found only occasionally. 
Readers interested in this and the 
colonial period should study Mrs. Alice 
Morse Earle's "Home Life in Colonial 
Days," which gives a vivid insight 
into the life of both times. 

Cleanliness was a not uncommon 
virtue of the Americans of that day. 
Dr. Younglove was the Palatine phys- 
ician who was a surgeon with Herki- 
naer's regiment. As we have seen he 
was captured by the British at Oris- 
kany and taken to Canada. One of his 
chief complaints, during his early cap- 
tivity, was as to the lack of soap and 
other means of keeping clean. English 
travelers of the time commented on 
the general neatness and cleanliness of 
American women, which would sug- 
gest a not similar condition existing 
in Europe. These same foreigners of 
the time found grounds for criticism 
in the riot of extravagance of dress 
and living which pervaded the "up- 
per" classes of society in the American 
cities. The Count de Rochembeau as- 
serted that the wives of American 
merchants and bankers were clad to 
the top of the French fashions and 
another French critic deplored it as a 
great misfortune that, in republics, 
women should sacrifice so much time 
to "trifles." Franklin warned his 
countrymen against this wave of reck- 
less expenditure and Washington, who 
in his younger years was most care- 
ful about his rich and correct dress, 
later wore, as an example, home-rear- 
ed and native made cloth. His wife 
was attired in domestic products, and 



we find her knitting and netting, 
weaving cloth at home, using up old 
materials. 

In the few growing villages along 
the Mohawk and among a compara- 
tively small number of well-to-do 
families in Tryon county this passion 
for rich attire probably existed, but 
the Mohawk valley Dutchman and his 
household needed none of Franklin's 
warnings against extravagance. 

While a few families of means and 
luxurious tastes affected the rich fash- 
ions of the day, the mass of the val- 
Tey people dressed simply, as farmer 
folk generally do the world over. The 
short working skirt for women prob- 
ably persisted and the change from 
breeches to trousers but little affected 
the Mohawk farmer, for the buckskin 
leggings of the frontier were nothing 
liut a form of trousers and nether gar- 
ments reaching below the knee had 
always been worn by workingmen and 
farm laborers, and by gentlemen for 
rough and ready wear. For farm la- 
borers, these were frequently of coarse 
tow and were called "tongs," "skilts," 
overalils, pantaloons or trousers. One 
writer, speaking of farm workers and 
their "pants" of a period prior to the 
Revolution, says: "They wore checked 
shirts and a sort of brown trousers 
known as skilts. These were short, 
reaching just below the knee and very 
large, being a full half yard broad at 
the bottom; and, without bi'aces or 
gallows, were kept up by the hips, 
sailor fashion." Mrs. Earle says: "It 
is plain that these skilts or tongs were 
the universal wear of farmers in hot 
weather. Tight breeches were ill 
adapted for farm work." 

Trousers, or pantaloons, were evi- 
dently also the country dress or rough 
and ready wear of eighteenth century 
gentlemen. Young Major Andre was re- 
puted one of the dandies of the British 
army in America but, at the time of 
his capture (perhaps in the disguise of 
a patriot country merchant) he wore "a 
round hat, crimson coat (such as was 
worn by English and American gen- 
tlemen) with pantaloons and vest of 
buff nankeen," and riding boots. Pres- 
ident John Adams also makes mention 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



145 



of his wearing "trousers" about liis 
farm. It is also probable that trous- 
ers or pantaloons were worn by sol- 
diers during the Revolution, at least 
by the Continental militiamen. Dur- 
ing the pursuit of Ross and Butler up 
West Canada creek in October, 1781 
(as stated in a previous chapter), it is 
said the American soldiers took off 
their "pantaloons" to ford the icy 
creeks. This is on the authority of one 
of their number. The word "panta- 
loons," however, as used here may 
refer to either breeches or trousers. 

Women's costume in 1784 varied 
from the plain, simple, somewhat full 
skirted dress of the housewife to the 
thousand frivolities of the fashionablle 
society of the American cities. Vel- 
vets, silks, and laces in every variety 
of brilliant color were used by both 
men and women. About 1800 came the 
change to the simpler dress for men 
of today, although for full dress oc- 
casions knee breeches continued to be 
worn by some men until about 1830, 
and a few old gentlemen clung to this 
fashion of their youth even after that 
period. 

Visitors to New York city, who are 
interested in the life of the people at 
the period covered by this chapter, will 
find the Governor's room in the City 
Hall a most interesting place. Here 
are portraits of many state notables 
from the early days of the colony until 
the middle of the nineteenth century, 
affording a vivid insight into the life 
and changes of those times. Three of 
Port Plain's distinguished visitors are 
present — Washington, Governor Clin- 
ton and President Van Buren. Horatio 
Seymour of Utica and Joseph C. Yates 
of Schene'ctady, Mohawk valley gov- 
ernors, are also here, as is Bouck, the 
Schoharie governor. Washington and 
Clinton are depicted in buff and blue 
continental regimentals, perhaps of 
the very style they wore during their 
Mohawk valley trip and Fort Plain 
visit of 1783. Most interesting is the 
study of the changing costume of these 
dignitaries. Colonial and Revolution- 
ary military dress was frequently a 
resplendent affair and so continued to 
be until after the war of 1812. Mor- 



gan Lewis, who was governor of the 
state 1804-7, is shown here, in a por- 
trait of 1808, in a uniform of yellow 
and black with a maroon sash, Wel- 
lington boots, highly decorated long 
sabre, and white gloves. He has a 
military coat of black velvet, edged 
with gold braid and lined with crimson 
satin. 

Governor Joseph C. Yates is repre- 
sented in a superb full-length portrait 
painted by the New York artist, John 
Vanderlyn, in 1827. He is depicted in 
black full dress, with knee breeches, 
black stockings and pumps. Governor 
Yates was a member of the well- 
known Yates family of Schenectady 
and Yates county is named for him. He 
was born in 1768 and died in 1837, and 
was a founder of Union college, first 
mayor of Schenectady in 1798, and 
governor 1823-5. 

Governor Dewitt Clinton was also 
painted in 1827 in the saine style cos- 
tume with the addition of a black 
cioak with a red lining. Both Yates 
and Clinton, although past middleage, 
make a brave showing in this attire 
and it seems incredible that men of 
taste and fashion should have dropped 
such a dignified and stately full dress 
for that which Martin Van Buren wears 
in a portrait dated 1830. Here we have 
the dress suit of the* nineteenth cen- 
tury with a few differences of cut and 
the funny pantaloons which make mal- 
formations of Van Buren's Iqgs com- 
pared with the underpinning of Yates 
and Clinton. And so went out the 
knee breeches and entered the era of 
the stove-pipe hat. Students of such 
things say man's dress both reflects 
the spirit of the times and also in- 
fluences it. Truly it seems to have in- 
deed done so and particularly at the 
end of this post-Revolutionary period 
of fifty years. While the costume of 
1913 may not be as resplendent as that 
of 1784, it has features of comfort 
lacking at the earlier time. In Am- 
erica the wearing of underclothes is 
now well-nigh universal and these 
garments were unknown, except in 
winter, in Revolutionary days. Un- 
derwear manufacture is a feature of 
Mohawk valley industry. 



146 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Valley homes and Mfe after the war 
are vividly pictured in the following 
from "Beer's History (1878)." This was 
written of the town of Florida, but 
applies equally to the other Montgom- 
ery county towns as well: 

"With the opening of the nineteenth 
century we seem to come a long step 
toward the present. It seems a great 
milestone in history, dividing a fading 
past from the fresher present. The 
long, doubtful struggle with England 
had resulted in a dearly bought, dear- 
ly prized peace, with its beautiful vic- 
tories. Local tradition has not yet lost 
the memory of the suffering that fol- 
lowed the infamous raid of Butler and 
Brant through this neighborhood in 
1780; and still treasures tales of hair- 
breadth escapes of families that found 
darksome homes in the cellars of their 
burned dwellings, of the fearful hush- 
ing of children, lest their voices should 
betray the places of concealment, of 
the hiding of plate and valuables, tea 
kettles freighted with spoons being 
hid in such haste as to defy future un- 
earthing. * * But at last 'the land 
had rest.' The red man, once sover- 
eign lord, had disappeared; the power- 
ful Johnson family was exiled, its 
homes sequestered and in other hands. 
Sturdy toil and earnest labor won their 
due return and Ihrift and competency 
were everywhere attested by hospit- 
able homes and well stored barns. Al- 
bany was the main market for the 
products, wheat forming the most con- 
siderable item. School houses and 
churches now dotted the landscape, 
and busy grist and saw mills perched 
on many streams. The Dutch [and 
German] language was much spoken, 
but many Connecticut and New Eng- 
land settlers never acquired it, and 
theirs [eventually] became the com- 
mon tongue. 

"Not alone have the 'blazed' or 
marked trees and saplings, which in- 
dicated the lines of roads or farm 
boundaries, long since decayed, but 
'block house' and log cabin have also 
disappeared, and it may be doubted if 
five specimens of these early homes 
can now be found within the bounds of 
Florida. Yet still there live those who 



can remember the old-fashioned 
houses. Says Mr. David Cady: 

"We have seen the type and warm- 
ed ourselves at the great hospitable 
fireplace, with crane, pothooks and 
trammels, occupying nearly the side 
of the room; while outer doors were 
so opposed that a horse might draw in 
the huge log by one entrance, leaving 
by the other. Strange, too, to our 
childish eyes, were the curious chiin- 
nies of tree limbs encrusted with mor- 
tar. The wide fireplace was universal; 
the huge brick oven indispensable. 
Stoves were not, though an occasional 
Franklin was possessed. The turkey 
was oft cooked suspended before the 
crackling fire; the corn baked in the 
low coal-covered bake kettle, the po- 
tatoes roasted beneath the ashes, and 
apples upon a ledge of bricks; nuts 
and cider were in store in every house. 
As refinement progressed and wealth 
advanced, from the fireside wall ex- 
tended a square cornice, perhaps six 
feet deep by ten feet wide, from which 
depended a brave valance of gay 
printed chintz or snowy linen, per- 
chance decked with mazy net work 
and tassled fringe, wrought by the 
cunning hand of the mistress or her 
daughter. These too have we seen. 
Possibly the household thrift of the 
last [eighteenth] century was not 
greater than that of the present time, 
but its field of exertion was vastly 
different. The hum of the great and 
the buzz of the little spinning wheel 
were heard in every home. By the 
great wheels the fleecy rolls of wool, 
often hand carded, were turned into 
the firm yarns that by the motions of 
deft fingers grew into warm stockings 
and mittens, or by the stout and 
clumsy loom became gay coverlet of 
scarlet, or blue and, white, or the 
graver 'press cloth' for garb of women 
and children, or the butternut or 
brown or black homespun of men's 
wear. The little wheel mainly drew 
from twirling distaff the thread that 
should make the 'fine, twined linen,' 
the glory and pride of mistress or 
maid, who could show her handiwork 
in piles of sheets, tablecloths and gar- 
ments. Upon these, too, was often 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



147 



lavished garniture of curious needle- 
work, hemstitch, and herringbone and 
lacestitch. Plaid linseys and linen 
wear were, too, fields for taste to dis- 
port in, while the patient and careful 
toil must not go unchronicled that 
from the wrecks of old and worn out 
clothes produced wondrous resurrec- 
tion in the 'hit-or-miss' or striped rag 
carpet, an accessory of so much com- 
fort, so great endurance, and often so 
great beauty. 

"Horseback was the most common 
style of traveling. The well-sweep or 
bubbling spring supplied the clear, 
cold water. Such was the then, we 
know the now. In modes of life, in 
dress and equipage, in social and po- 
litical habits, in locomotion, in com- 
forts, in commerce, one needs not to 
draw the contrast; more wide or 
striking it scarce could be." 



Mr. Cady has most pleasingly de- 
scribed the old log cabin homes, but 
we must remember that much that he 
details of them was also true of the 
stone and brick houses which were 
built up along the Mohawk, almost 
from the first advent of the white set- 
tlers. The century or more following 
the initial settlements was marked by 
the erection of strong, well-made 
houses and barns, which might well be 
adapted for present day construction. 
When stone was easily obtainable, as 
in the Palatine and parts of the Cana- 
joharie districts, fine, solid, comfort- 
able farm dwellings were built which 
seem to reflect the simple, solid, hon- 
est character of the Mohawk valley 
men of German and Dutch ancestry 
of the time. While the "Mohawk 
Dutchman" has been criticised, justly 
or unjustly, for penury, lack of enter- 
prise and progressiveness and other 
failings, he seems to have possessed 
the sterling virtues of horse sense, jus- 
tice, honesty, toleration, self restraint 
and, greatest of all, pertinacity. All 
these qualities are so well exemplified 
in the greatest American of the time — 
Washington — of a different blood. 
These same traits seem to reflect 
themselves in the structures built by 
the men of the Mohawk from 1784 to 



1838. There are many examples lin- 
ing the river's course on both high- 
ways and in the villages. The Frey 
house (1800) in Palatine Bridge is an 
example of the stone construction, 
while the Groff house (typical of that 
fine old Schenectady Dutch style) and 
the public library (1835) on Willett 
street. Fort Plain, are examples re- 
spectively of brick and wood building 
of the period under consideration. The 
old Paris store or "Bleecker house," 
in Fort Plain, is another interesting 
specimen of early valley building. The 
reason the middle and upper Mohawk 
valley have so few pre-Revolutionary 
buildings is that these were destroyed 
in the raids from 1778 to 1782. 

These same human qualities enumer- 
ated have continued to make the "Mo- 
hawk Dutch" such an important part 
of the valley's population, probably 
the largest element even at this day. 

It has been authoritatively stated 
that the Teutonic is the largest single 
racial factor in our country. It has 
never been exploited like the Puritan 
strain has in history and literature 
but it is none the less important on 
that account. Wherever the Teutonic 
race settled it did its work well as did 
other peoples of America. Of its origi- 
nal locations, the Dutch settlements of 
New Jersey and the Hudson and Mo- 
hawk valleys and the German settle- 
ments of Pennsylvania and the Hud- 
son, Mohawk and Schoharie valleys are 
of prime historical importance. As 
has been previously mentioned, these 
two elements (the Dutch and the Ger- 
man) were much intermingled and al- 
ways have been. 

At the beginning of the Revolution, 
it may be roughly estimated, that, in 
the entire valley, one-half the popula- 
tion was of German blood, one-quar- 
ter of Holland descent (including pop- 
ulous Schenectady county) and one- 
quarter of other racial elements, or in 
other words, three-quarters "Mohawk 
Dutch." This supposition is borne out 
somewhat by the "Oriskany roster" 
and similar records of the time. After 
the Revolution, with growing immigra- 
tion, the Teutonic element somewhat 
decreased, but the majority of the 



148 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



families of a great part of the valley 
possess some strain of this sterling 
blood. And the spirit of toleration and 
restraint inherited from these early 
Teutonic settlers is a valued heritage 
of the valley people of today. Possibly 
the Holland Dutch element was greater 
than in the foregoing estimate. There 
is no means of accurately telling, but 
the guess may stand for Tryon county 
alone. 

There were then present other 
equally sterling racial elements, nota- 
bly Irish, Scotch, Welsh and English, 
but these were not of such numerical 
strength as the Teutonic in the for- 
mative period of the valley and did 
not consequently affect the course of 
life and events to the same extent as 
did the latter, so generally predomi- 
nant in the early years. Today the 
British element (inclusive of the four 
peoples mentioned) is present in much 
greater proportion than in colonial and 
Revolutionary times. However in the 
towns of Montgomery county, aside 
from the city of Amsterdam, the opin- 
ion is worth venturing that the old 
"Mohawk Dutch" stock still consti- 
tutes a majority of the population. 
This is particularly true of the country 
sections and of the Ave western towns. 
In the list of premium winners at the 
Fort Plain street fair of 1912, two- 
thirds of the names published were 
of this typical valley, original Teu- 
tonic stock. The foregoing racial dis- 
course will have served its purpose if 
it indicates that we must consider 
New York, New Jersey and Pennsyl- 
vania history (and that of other great 
regions where non-British elements 
largely located) in an entirely differ- 
ent light from that of the Puritan set- 
tlements of New England or the cava- 
lier's Virginia and Maryland. These 
latter (especially New England) seem 
to have been historically exploited to 
the slighting of other equally import- 
ant colonial centers of life. This coun- 
try is not a second England, or even 
an enlarged New England, but a new 
nation, made up of many elements, 
although dominated by one great co- 
hesive national idea, and largely dif- 
fering in racial ancestry in different 



areas. Historically these race and na- 
tional elements must be duly consid- 
ered to give a clear understanding of 
certain periods, but we are today all 
Amei'icans — and Americans alone — re- 
gardless of the original stock from 
which we sprang. 

The period under consideration 
marked the passing of German in the 
western and Dutch in the eastern val- 
ley as the predominant tongues. The 
change was gradual. Dominies, who, 
at the close of the war preached, in 
the churches, several sermons in Ger- 
man or Dutch (or both) to one in 
English, after 1800 were discoursing 
more in the latter than in "the former 
tongues. German and Dutch were 
still spoken in 1838 but then English 
had long been the popular language. 
The old "Mohawk Dutch" still lingers 
as a subsidiary speech to a limited 
extent. 

For the most part the men of this 
period (from 1784 to 1838) led lives of 
hard work in the open air, and were 
consequently sturdy. Factory life was 
a negligible quantity, even toward the 
end of this time, and the town popu- 
lation was small in comparison with 
the people who were on the farms. 
Agricultural conditions and work 
gradually improved and approached 
the more advanced niethods of the 
present, although doubtless not spec- 
ialized as now. In inost sections, the 
farming population, at the end of this 
period, was larger than it is at the 
present time (1913). The country 
was what might be called a nat- 
ural country and human life was 
consequently natural and not lived 
under such artificial conditions as now. 
The great health-giving and soil-pre- 
serving forest still occupied consider- 
able stretches of country and fur- 
nished hunting and fishing for the 
male population. There were farms, 
forests and watercourses and no huge 
cities, with their big factories and in- 
door life, to tend toward the deterior- 
ation of the valley's people. 

With none of the present-day ag- 
ricultural machinery, such as the 
reaper and thresher, the men of that 
day were compelled to do themselves 



THE STORY OF OLD FOKT PLAIN 



149 



the hard work of the farms and also of 
the towns. Consequently they had 
sturdy bodies, and so did the women 
and their children, as Avell — and no 
people can have a better asset. The 
women were probably generally good 
housewives, who gave their d.iughters 
thorough training in the work of the 
household, and who took the same 
pride in a well-kept house as their 
husbands did in a well-managed, pro- 
ductive farm. Aimless discontent 
seems to have been markedly absent 
and the women of the time were evi- 
dently lacking in sexless prudery and 
priggishness. The natural ardors of 
youth seem not to have been then 
considered evidences of depravity, and 
early marriages and large families 
were the rule. There was no need of 
sending the little child, of that day, to 
kindergarten for pretty nearly every 
farm and town house was a kinder- 
garten in itself. It is said that never, 
in any nation's history, has there been 
such a record of population increase 
as in the American states from their 
settlement up to the time of the great 
invasion of foreign immigrants about 
1840, when this natural national 
growth began to slacken and approach 
the present (1913) stationary position 
among the purely American element of 
the population (let us say among 
families who settled here prior to 
1840). If this trend should unfortu- 
nately continue the Revolutionary 
American stock is bound to die out or 
become at most a negligible national 
quantity. 

It is not to be inferred from the 
foregoing that 1784 or 1838 is superior 
to 1913 as a period of human life. In 
comfort, sanitation, kindliness and 
toleration w^e are ahead of the earlier 
time. Both times have something that 
each lack by themselves. 

During the time of this chapter, the 
tavern continued, as before and during 
the Revolution, a center of social and 
political life. Here were held dances, 
banquets, meetings and elections. 
"Trainings" of the militia and horse 
races brought out the people as at 
present county fairs. An agricultural 
association was formed in Johnstown 



and county fairs were held there about 
the middle of this period. 

The work and government of the 
valley, after the conflict for independ- 
ence, were in the hands of the patriot 
Revolutionary warriors. They assum- 
ed the direction of county affairs, 
without change — the form of .srovern- 
ment of old Tryon being much like 
that of the Montgomery county which 
it became. Later the sons and grand- 
sons of Revolutionary sires took up 
their share of work and politics and at 
the close of this after-war period (in 
1838) there must have been but com- 
paratively few of the men of '76 left. 



Rev. John Taylor's journal of 1802, 
written during his journey up the Mo- 
hawk valley, gives us a sketch of the 
people and country hereabouts at that 
interesting time, also an insight into 
the crude farming methods then pre- 
vailing. Parts of his diary relating to 
this section are as follows: 

"July 23, 1802— Tripes (alias Tribes) 
Hill, in the town of Amsterdam, coun- 
ty of Montgomery. * * * This place 
appears to be a perfect Babel as to 
language. But very few of the peo- 
ple, I believe, would be able to pro- 
nounce Shibboleth. The articulation, 
even of New England people, is injur- 
ed by their being intermingled with 
the Dutch, Irish and Scotch. The 
character of the Dutch people, even on 
first acquaintance, appears to be that 
of kindness and justice. As {o re- 
ligion, they know but little about it, 
and are extremely superstitious. They 
are influenced very much by dreams 
and apparitions. The most intelligent 
of them seem to be under the influ- 
ence of fear from that cause. The 
High Dutch have some singular cus- 
toms with regard to their dead. When 
a person dies, nothing will influence 
ye connections, nor any other person, 
unless essentially necessary, to touch 
the body. When the funeral is ap- 
pointed, none attend but such as are 
invited. When the corpse is placed in 
the street a tune is sung by a choir of 
persons appointed for the purpose — • 
and continue singing until they arrive 
at the grave; and after the body is 



150 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



deposited, they have some remarks 
made, return to ye house and in gen- 
eral get drunk. 12 men are bearers — 
or carriers — and they have no relief. 
No will is opened or debt paid until 
six weeks from ye time of death. 

"27th — Left Amsterdam and traveled 
5 miles to Johnstown — a very pleasant 
village — containing one Dutch pres- 
byterian chh and an Episcopalian. The 
village is tolerably well built. It is a 
county town — lies about 4 miles from 
the River and contains about 600 in- 
habitants. In this town there is a jail, 
court house and academy. About 
%ths of a mile from the center of the 
town we find the buildings erected by 
Sir William Johnson." Mr. Taylor 
also continues as follows: 

"Johnstown, west of Amsterdam on 
the Mohawk — extent [the town] 11 by 
8 miles. It contains one Scotch Pres- 
byterian congregation, who have an 
elegant meeting house, Simon Hosack 
Pastor of the Chh, a Gent, of learning 
and piety, educated at Edinburgh. 
This is a very respectable congrega- 
tion. The town contains an Episco- 
pal congregation, who have an elegant 
stone church with organs. John Ur- 
quhart, curate. Congregation not 
numerous. There is also in this town 
one reformed Dutch chh. Mr. Van 
Horn, an excellent character, pastor. 
A respectable congregation. Further 
there is one large Presbyterian congre- 
gation — vacant — the people [of this 
congregation] principally from New 
England. 

"Palatine, west of Johnstown and 
Mayfield; extent 15 by 12 miles [then 
depleted in size from 1772]. A place 
called Stone Arabia is in this town and 
contains one Lutheran Chh and one 
Dutch reformed Chh. Mr. Lubauch is 
minister of the latter and Mr. Crotz of 
the former. Four miles west of Stone 
Arabia, in the same town of Palatine, 
is a reformed Lutheran Chh to whom 
Mr. Crotz preaches part of the time. 

"After leaving this town [Johns- 
town] I passed about ten miles in a 
heavy timbered country with but few 
inhabitants. The soil, however, ap- 
pears in general to be excellent. The 
country is a little more uneven than 



it is back in Amsterdam. After trav- 
eling ten miles in a tolerable road, I 
came to Stonearabe (or Robby as the 
Dutch pronounce it). This is a par- 
ish of Palatine and is composed prin- 
cipally of High Dutch or Germans. 
Passing on 4 miles, came upon the 
river in another parish of Palatine, a 
snug little village with a handsome 
stone Chh [Palatine Church]. Hav- 
ing traveled a number of miles back 
of the river, I find that there is a 
great similarity in the soil, but some 
difference in the timber. From Johns- 
town to Stone Arabia, the timber is 
beech and maple, with some hemlocks. 
In Stone Arabia the timber is walnut 
and butternut. The fields of wheat are 
numerous and the crop in general is 
excellent. In everything but wheat 
the husbandry appears to be bad. The 
land for Indian corn, it is evident from 
appearance is not properly plowed — 
they plow very shallow. Neither is 
the corn tended — it is in general full 
of weeds and grass and looks miser- 
ably. Rie is large. Flax does not ap- 
pear to be good. Whether this is ow- 
ing to the season or the soil, I know 
not. Pease appear to flourish — so do 
oats; but the soil, I believe, is too hard 
and clayey for potatoes — they look 
very sickly. I perceive as yet, but one 
great defect in the morals of the peo- 
ple — they are too much addicted to 
drink. The back part of Montgomery 
[now Fulton] county consists of some 
pine plains; but in general the lumber 
is beach and maple. A good grass and 
wheat country." 



Like many after war times, the 
close of the Revolution ushered in an 
era of recklessness and license. 
Gambling, extravagance, horse-racing, 
drunkenness and dueling were forms 
of its evidence. The duel was a recog- 
nized and tolerated method for the 
settlement of private grievances at the 
beginning of the nineteenth century. 
The Roseboom-Kane affair at Cana- 
joharie is treated in a later chapter 
relative to that town. Another duel 
caused great public excitement in New 
York city and state in the first year 
of the nineteenth century. The prin- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



151 



cipals were Philip Hamilton, son of 
Alexander Hamilton, and George J. 
Eacker, who had come to New York 
from his home in the town of Palatine 
a few years before. The latter was 
the son of Judge Eacker of Palatine 
and a nephew of General Herkimer. 
Eacker studied law, was admitted to 
the bar and became associated in a 
law firm with Brockholst Livingston, 
after his arrival in the city. He was 
a friend and admirer of Aaron Burr 
and a Jeffersonian in politics. Party 
feeling ran very high and Eacker be- 
came embroiled with the Federalists 
of which party Alexander Hamilton 
was a national and state leader. In 
1801 Eacker delivered the Fourth of 
July oration in New York city, and 
seems to have thereby incurred the 
enmity of the Hamiltons and their 
party. Nov. 20, 1801, Eacker and his 
fiancee (a Miss Livingston) occupied 
a box at the John St. theatre, and he 
was there insulted by Philip Hamilton 
(then in his twentieth year), son of 
Alexander Hamilton, and by young 
Hamilton's friend Price. The talk be- 
tween them, in Eacker presence, ran 
somewhat as follows: "How did you 
like Backer's sour krout oration on 
the Fourth of July?" The answer 
placed it in a very low scale. "What 
will you give for a printed copy of it?" 
"About a sixpence" was the reply. 
"Don't you think the Mohawk Dutch- 
man is a greater man than Washing- 
ton?" "Yes, far greater," etc., etc. 
Eacker resented this abuse and a duel 
with Price followed at noon, Sunday, 
November 22, at Powle's Hook. Four 
shots were exchanged between the 
principals without result, when the 
seconds intervened. A second duel 
with young Hamilton took place the 
following day, Monday, November 23, 
at three in the afternoon at the same 
place, in which Eacker shot Hamilton 
through the body at the first fire and 
the unfortunate young man died the 
next day. It is a curious commentary 
upon the position dueling occupied, in 
the estimation of men of the time, that 
Alexander Hamilton held no griev- 
ance against the slayer of his son, 
and Joseph Herkimer of Little Falls, 



observed to a friend that he "never 
witnessed more especial compliments 
or respectful greetings pass between 
lawyers than did between Gen. Hamil- 
ton and Eacker after his son's death." 
Eacker died in 1803 of consumption 
and Alexander Hamilton was himself 
killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in 
1804. George J. Eacker was a promi- 
nent militiaman and volunteer fire- 
man of New York city at the time of 
his early death. 



Among the valley sports, after as 
before the Revolution, the chief seem 
to have been horse racing, foot racing 
and ball. 

We have the following somewhat 
amusing anecdote concerning the 
meddling of the clergy with the sports 
of the people. At a race on the Sand 
Flats at Fonda, the German minister 
of Stone Arabia thought it his duty to 
protest against race track gamb- 
ling, which was the cause of much in- 
iquity, so he rode there in his chaise 
with that intent. Arriving at the 
grounds he had barely commenced his 
protest against the evils of the race 
course, when a wag, who knew the 
parson's horse had been in a former 
similar race, rode up saying: "Do- 
minie, you have a fine horse there" 
and, touching both horses smartly 
with his whip, shouted "Go!" and both 
animals and drivers started off toward 
the minister's home at a racing clip. 
Several voices were heard shouting, 
"Go it, dominie, we'll bet on your 
horse." Before the reverend gentle- 
man could pull up his nag both horses 
had sped a long way and the Stone 
Arabia clergyman, realizing the force 
of his remarks had been unavoidably 
broken, kept on to his home and was 
never again seen at a race course. 

Trivial as certain of these accounts 
and anecdotes may appear they give 
us an insight and understanding of 
the people's character and daily life in 
the early days of the valley, which no 
citation of mere events and figures, 
however correct, can picture. They 
bring up visions like looking on a 
camera obscura, filled with the moving 



152 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



figures and backed by the unfamiliar 
scenes of a day long passed. 

Here is appended a hand bill of 
races in Palatine forty years after the 
Revolutionary period. However the 
character of the pre-Revolutionary 
races was, without doubt, similar and 
it will give us an idea of what was the 
major sport and recreation of our val- 
ley ancestors: 

"Second Day's Purse, $50 — 

"To bo given to the jockey rider, 
running two mile heats, winning two 
heats out of three; free for any horse, 
mare or gelding in the United States. 

"The third day a new SADDLE and 
BRIDLE, to be given to the jockey 
rider running one mile heats, winning 
two heats out of three; free for any 
three-year-old colt in the United 
States. 

"Likewise on the last day, a BEA- 
VER HAT, worth $10, to be given to 
the jockey footman running round the 
course in the shortest time. To start 
at four o'clock, p. m., on the last day's 
running. 

"On the first Tuesday in November 
next, races will commence on the flats 
of George Waggoner in Palatine. The 
purses as above, except the hat. 
"October 4, 1819. 

"A SPORTSMAN." 

The foot race did not take place as 
a Palatine contestant was sick, and a 
purse of $30 was made up for a quar- 
ter-mile foot race. William Moyer, a 
tailor, and John K. Diell represented 
the town of Canajoharie and one Wag- 
goner and an unknown man were the 
champions of Palatine. The tap of a 
drum started them, as was usual then, 
and Diell won the sprint by six feet. 
The time was 58 seconds, which was 
very fast considering the track and 
the fact that there were no spiked 
shoes in those days. 

In 1824 a footrace took place in the 
village of Canajoharie for a purse of 
$1,000, the runners being David 
Spraker of Palatine and Joseph White 
of Cherry Valley. The distance of ten 
rods was marked off on Montgomery 
street and the contestants were started 
by David F. Sacia. Spraker won the 
prize and the race by three feet. This 



race was a topic of general conversa- 
tion for a half century afterward. 

Games of ball had been popular 
sport with the soldiers of the Revo- 
lution. We read that the garrison was 
playing ball when Fort Schuyler took 
fire. This was probably then as later 
the game of "town ball." There were 
four bases in that game, but, instead 
of touching the runner to put him out, 
the rule required that, he must be hit 
with a thrown ball. There were no 
basemen. This game survives, in the 
rules of our national sport, in that a 
baserunner who is hit by a batted ball 
is out. 

The modern game of baseball was 
invented by a schoolboy of the old 
Canajoharie district, Abner Doubleday, 
who originated it at Green's school in 
Cooperstown, during the Harrison 
presidential campaign of 1840. This is 
so near to the time dealt with in this 
chapter that it is given place here, 
particularly as Cooperstown was for 
years so closely connected with Fort 
Plain, the latter village being its out- 
let to the Mohawk valley, by way of 
the Otsquago, all the towns along 
which route made Fort Plain their 
trade center, particularly before the 
days of the railroads. 

In 1840, a great crowd had gathered 
at Cooperstown for a picnic and po- 
litical meeting, during the excitement 
of this famous campaign. Of course 
the boys of the neighborhood of the 
school mentioned were present in large 
numbers. Young Doubleday (who 
later became a U. S. army general) had 
been working for some time on a game, 
based on "town ball," for the boys to 
play at the picnic. American boys 
of that time were vastly interested in 
all games requiring agility, quick 
thinking and athletic prowess and 
Doubleday's game took hold like wild- 
fire. The New York Evening World, 
in June, 1908, had the following re- 
garding this truly historic event: 

"Young Doubleday was also fond of 
town ball, but he saw the opportunity 
to make the game more scientific and 
for several nights he worked on a new 
set of rules and a diagram of the field. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



153 



"When the boys assembled that af- 
ternoon Doubleday gathered them 
around and explained as well as he 
could, the points of the new game. He 
decided that there must be four bases 
ninety feet apart, and the boys imme- 
diately began to refer to the game as 
'baseball.' The name stuck. 

"The rules made by Gen. Doubleday 
specified that the ball should be made 
of rubber and yarn and covered with 
leather. It must weigh about five 
ounces and must not be more than 
nine inches in circumference. The 
weight of the ball and the size of the 
hand were taken into consideration in 
determining these measurements. The 
bat was to be of round wood, and to 
be used with both hands. In town ball 
the bat was frequently used with one 
hand. 

"The next thing for the inventor 
was to determine the distance between 
the bases. After several experiments 
it was found that a man would have 
to hustle to run 42 [walking] paces or 
about 90 feet before a ball of those 
dimensions could be returned after 
having been driven to the outfield. 
Thus it was that 90 feet was fixed as 
the distance between the bases. A 
proof of Doubleday's wonderful judg- 
ment is the fact that, to this cay, the 
ball is 'five ounces, 9 inch' and the dis- 
tance between the bases is 90 feet. 
The underlying principles of baseball 
have not been changed one iota since 
1840. 

"The batters immediately began to 
study means by which they could drive 
the ball so as to easily make the 90 
feet. But there were two sides to that 
proposition and the fielders learned to 
handle the ball faster so as 1 1 affect 
the batsmen. The American boy is 
naturally inventive and for 70 years 
he has worked, both at the bat and in 
the field, to overcome the problem 
which was created by Doubleday's 
measurements. That constant effort 
has made baseball the great national 
pastime of America." 

All American boys should take pride 
in the fact that the leading athletic 
game of North America was invented 



and virtually perfected by a Coopers- 
town schoolboy. 

The Mohawk valley has produced a 
number of ballplayers of exceptional 
ability. A St. Johnsville man is 
today (1913) with the New York 
National League team as an out- 
fielder and a Palatine (Nelliston) na- 
tive is manager of the Brooklyn Na- 
tional League team, after a long and 
successful career as shortstop with 
three championship league teams — 
New York, Brooklyn and Chicago. 
This player, W. F. Dahlen. started his 
career on the famous old Institute (C. 
L. I.) school team of Fort Plain. 

General Abner Doubleday was born 
at Ballston Springs, Saratoga county, 
June 26, 1819; graduated at West 
Point in 1842. He became a captain 
of the U. S. army in 1855 and was one 
of the garrison of Fort Sumter in 1861. 
He was made a brigadier-general of 
volunteers Feb., 1862, and a major 
general in Nov., 1862. Doubleday was 
in the battles of Manassas, South 
Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville 
and at Gettysburg commanded the 
First Corps in the first day's battle 
after the death of Gen. Reynolds. He 
was breveted a major-general of the 
U. S. army and became colonel of in- 
fantry in 1867; retired 1873; died 1893. 
Gen. Doubleday published "Reminis- 
cences of Forts Sumter and Moultrie" 
(1876), and "Chancellorsville and Get- 
tysburg" (1882). 



The historical time covered in this 
chapter witnessed the complete dis- 
appearance of the Mohawk Iroquois 
from his old valley hunting grounds. 
At the close of the Revolution a few 
friendly or neutral Mohawks and a 
small number of individuals of other 
tribes remained along the river. There 
was a violent but natural prejudice 
against all Indians, on the part of the 
white population, which caused many 
of these natives to move to Canada or 
other friendly neighborhoods. By 
1840, it is probable that the last of 
these remaining valley savages had 
died out. As has been previously noted 
the majority of the Mohawks left the 
valley with the Johnson family, at the 



154 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



beginning of Revolutionary hostilities, 
and settled in Canada, on the Grand 
river. Here they were granted lands 
and many of them have become pros- 
perous farmers. The Mohawks and 
Oneidas have increased greatly in 
number and prospered while other 
Iroquois tribes have diminished. 

According to the U. S. census of 
1890 the total Iroquois population of 
North America was 45,000, a large 
proportion of the Indian inhabitants. 
This included, besides the Six Na- 
tions, the Cherokees who numbered 
28,000 and is the largest tribe of Iro- 
quois blood, numbering twice as many 
individuals as the New York state Iro- 
quois or the Six Nations. The Wyan- 
dots, also of the same American In- 
dian stock, numbered 689. In the cen- 
sus of 1890, the Mohawk population 
includes those of that tribe living at 
Caughnawaga and Lake of Two Moun- 
tain, Quebec, and at Grand River, On- 
tario, and the Mohawk, Oneida and 
Huron mixed-bloods living at St. 
Regis, and those living on other reser- 
vations. The great majority are, of 
course, resident in Canada. In 1890 
the numbers of the Six Nations were 
as follows: Mohawks, 6,656; Oneidas, 
3,129; Senecas, 3,055; Cayugas, 1,301; 
Onondagas, 890; Tuskaroras, 733. To- 
tal, 15,664. This is about what the 
New York state Iroquois population 
was at the time of the Dutch settle- 
ment. From a small tribe the Mo- 
hawks have risen to the greatest in 
numbers, while the Senecas, once the 
first, and numliering as many as the 
other five tribes combined, have 
shrunk so that they now are third in 
rank in population. The success of 
the Mohawks on their Canadian lands 
would suggest that the Indian, under 
proper conditions, can make a place 
for himself in civilized society. 



CHAPTER HI. 

1689-1825 — Western Montgomery Coun- 
ty and the Palatine and Canajoharie 
Districts Townships — Life, Trade, 
Schools, Development. 

This is the first of two chapters 
dealing with Western Montgomery 



county and treats of the period from 
settlement in 1689 to 1825, but princi- 
pally of the time from 1784 to 1825. 
The second chapter, in the third series, 
gives the record from 1825 to 1913. 

The succeeding descriptions are in- 
tended to portray the state and growth 
of trade, traffic and commerce in the 
five west end towns of Montgomery 
county from their settlement until 
about the building of the Erie canal. 
The history of these towns is divided 
into four periods: of settlement, 1689- 
1774; Revolution, 1774-1783; agricul- 
tural and highway and river traffic de- 
velopment, 1784-1825; development of 
commerce, manufacturing and towns, 
1825-1913. The beginnings of things 
are always interesting and will be 
found particularly so in these in- 
stances. Names and personalities are 
treated which, in later accounts, 
must be disregarded on account of the 
great growth of the population. While, 
prior to the advent of the Erie canal, 
we can deal with individuals, in our 
later accounts the people must be 
treated in classes or as a whole. The 
10,000 people in the Mohawk valley and 
that of its tributary Schoharie, at 
the time of the formation of Tryon 
county in 1772, have grown to between 
four hundred thousand and a half mil- 
lion of human beings. In the five west 
end towns of Montgomery where, in 
1772, there were prol)ably two or three 
thousand white people there are to- 
day approximately eighteen thousand. 

Dutchtown and Freysbush were the 
first Minden sections settled and here 
schools were first established by the 
German settlers. There was some in- 
struction given also at the Reformed 
Dutch church at Sand Hill. The cere- 
monies at this house of worship in 
honor of the memory of Washington 
in Dec, 1799, is treated in a separate 
chapter which describes this church 
as one of the five Revolutionary 
churches of Western Montgomery 
county. The church and the tavern 
were the centers of social life in the 
eighteenth century in the valley. The 
militia trainings, the part the men of 
the Mohawk played in the war of 1812, 
the improvement of and traffic on the 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



155 



Mohawk, highway development and 
the inn life along the Mohawk turn- 
pike, the construction of the canal 
and the railroad, the change of busi- 
ness center from Sand Hill to Pros- 
pect Hill, and other features of the 
life of this period, in Minden, Western 
Montgomery county and the Mohawk 
valley, are all given space in succeed- 
ing chapters. 

The greater part of the following is 
from Beer's History of Montgomery 
and Fulton counties: 

Small stores were established in the 
different Mohawk valley German set- 
tlements soon after they were planted. 
They contained small stocks of such 
goods as their white neighbors must, 
of necessity, have and certain kinds 
which their trafHc with the Indians 
called for; the latter consisting of 
firearms, knives, hatchets, ammuni- 
tion, trinkets, brass and copper ket- 
tles, scarlet cloth, rum and tobacco. 
These, with a few other articles, were 
bartered for furs to great advantage, 
at least, of the early white storekeep- 
ers, who were German or Dutch for 
the most part. 

The first store, in the town of Min- 
den, was established near the Sand 
Hill church by William Seeber, a Ger- 
man, at the place where for years (the 
late) Adam Lipe resided. His store 
was opened about 1750 and he traded 
here during the French war. As we 
have seen he died here of a wound 
received at Oriskany, over four months 
after that battle in which his two 
sons were also killed. 

John Abeel settled at Fort Plain 
about the middle of the eighteenth 
century, shortly after Seeber opened 
his store. He probably traded here 
also, to what extent is not known. As 
the father of Cornplanter, the Seneca 
chief, his story is told in a former 
chapter. 

A few of the trading places were 
general stores on a considerable scale 
and such a one must have been that 
of Isaac Paris jr., during the short 
time he traded at Fort Plain. The 
size of his store shows that he did a 
large business for the eighteenth cen- 
tury. 



Isaac Paris jr. seems to have follow- 
ed SeeVjer, having erected his store in 
1786, this being what is now known 
as the Bleecker house. Here he re- 
sided and traded several years, dying 
at an early age. Conrad Gansevoort 
came from Schenectady in 1790. He 
married Elizabeth, a daughter of John 
Roseboom, who also moved up from 
Schenectady and settled below Cana- 
joharie. Gansevoort built a dwelling 
with a store in it on a knoll at the 
foot of Sand Hill, on the farm where 
the late Seeber Lipe lived. This house 
is still standing, just this side of the 
Little Woods creek, on the extreme 
western edge of Fort Plain. It has 
been converted into a double dwelling. 
Shortly before 1810 Gansevoort retired 
from business and returned to Sche- 
nectady. He had been a successful 
merchant and was a man much re- 
spected in the township. The elevated 
road across the flats from the river 
ferry met the south shore highway 
just in front of Gansevoort's store 
and about the year 1800 and shortly 
before old Fort Plain or Sand Hill 
must have been a lively little hamlet. 

Three Oothout brothers, Garret, 
Jonas and Volkert, came from Sche- 
nectady about the advent of Conrad 
Gansevoort. They erected a large 
two story building, some fifty feet 
long, for a store with a dwelling in its 
easterly end. It stood on the river 
road, just west of the Sand Hill set- 
tlement, about one and a quarter miles 
west of the present center of Fort 
Plain. "Of the Oothout firm, it is re- 
membered that Garret, the oldest and 
who was a bachelor, was blind, but re- 
markably shrewd with a sense of feeling 
so keen that he could readily distin- 
guish silver coins, so that no one could 
pass a ten-cent piece on him for a 
shilling or a pistareen for the quarter 
of a dollar." For a number of years, 
Gansevoort and the Oothouts had 
quite a large trade, the latter firm 
wholesaling to some extent. Both of 
these firms purchased considerable 
wheat, as no doubt their neighbor 
Paris did while in trade, which they 
sent to Albany, by way of Schenec- 
tady, on the river in their own boats. 



156 



THE STORY OF OTjD FORT PLAIN 



Abram Oothout was a younger brother 
and with his wife, Gazena DeGraff, 
settled on a farm adjoining the store. 
In the dwelling, known later as the 
Pollock house, his daughter Margaret 
was born in 1811. She later became 
the second wife of Peter J. Wagner. 

Robert McFarlan appears to have 
been the next merchant to come to 
old Fort Plain, having removed here 
in 1798 from Paulet, Vt. He was "a 
remarkably smart business man," and 
established his store on the opposite 
side of the road from the church. He 
married a daughter of Major Hause, of 
the neighborhood, "which proved a 
stroke of good policy, since he not 
only got a good wife but also the 
trade of her host of relatives and 
friends. He also ran an ashory near 
Hallsville in connection with his Sand 
Hill store. McFarlan at once became 
active in the affairs of the section, fill- 
ing the positions of justice of the 
peace and colonel of the militia." He 
is said to "have been not only a fine 
looking but a very efficient officer. One 
of the few remaining gravestones in 
the old Sand Hill cemetery is one 
bearing the inscription 'In memory of 
Robert McFarlan, Esq., who departed 
this life July 14, 1813, in the 49th year 
of his age.' " 

In 1806 a bridge was erected across 
the Mohawk river at the "island," 
near old Fort Plain, superseding the 
ferry which was located just below. 
This was an important event for this 
locality and was duly celebrated. This 
structure, together with the one 
built at Canajoharie in 1803, were at 
that time the only bridges over the 
river between Schenectady and Jjittle 
Falls. The matter of bridges is treated 
later. 

About the year 1808, when Conrad 
Gansevoort returned to Schenectady, 
Henry N. Bleecker, a young man from 
Alliany, who had long been his clerk, 
succeeded him in liis business. At the 
end of a few years he returned and 
went to Canajoharie and there mar- 
ried Betsey, a daughter of Philip R. 
Frey and granddaughter of Col. Hen- 
drick Frey. She "is said to have been 
the prettiest of three fine looking sis- 



ters." Here Bleecker settled and died 
at an early age on the Frey farm. 
David Lipe and Rufus Firman suc- 
ceeded Bleecker and are supposed to 
have been the last merchants to oc- 
cupy the Gansevoort store. 

A year or two after the death of Mc- 
Farlan, John A. Lipe and Abraham 
Dievcndorff began to trade in the Mc- 
Farlan building. They soon separated 
and Henry Dievendorff joined his 
In-other Abraham in trade at thi.s store, 
liipe fitted up a store on the same side 
of the street but closer to the church, 
which his son, Conrad IJpe, occupied 
until the year 1819, when he died, his 
father continuing the business for 
some time after. A postoffice was es- 
tablished at Sand Hill in 1816, with 
Conrad Lipe as postmaster, and as, at 
that time, there were three or four 
merchants located there, the only 
church in Canajoharie or Minden near 
tlie river, and a i)ridge across the Mo- 
hawk, the settlement must have been 
a place of considerable life for the 
period. 

About 1820, the Dievendorff brothers 
erected a store near the Erie canal 
which was then being constructed, 
hoping to bo benefited by the canal 
trade. This l)uilding stood near the 
premises, formerly occupied by Wil- 
liam Clark on Upper Canal street. It 
was a long, yellow two-story building, 
the upper floor being used for a public 
hall. Preaching was held in this room 
and it was also the scene of dances 
and other social occasions. One of 
these was the marriage of the Peter 
J. Wagner aforementioned to Mar- 
garet Oothout in 1823. In connection 
with their business, the Dievendorffs 
ran a distillery. They failed and were 
succeeded by David Dievendorff, a son 
of Henry, who had long been a clerk 
for his father and uncle. He also 
failed. About 1828, as the business 
part of the young village was de- 
stined to be lower down, the Dieven- 
dorff block was removed to the site of 
the present brick stores occupied by 
H. E. Shinaman and Lipe & Pardee. 
John R. Dygert and John Roth suc- 
ceeded the Dievendorff Bros, in the 
Sand Hill section and after a little 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



157 



time Solomon H. Meyer bought out 
Roth. A few years hiter Dygert & 
Moyer removed to a store erected by 
Dygert at the canal bridge, where 
Wood, Clark & Co. were in business 
for so many years and which is now 
occupied by William Linney. Many 
of the Sand Hill or old Fort Plain 
buildings have been destroyed by fire 
or demolished within the last quarter 
century (prior to 1913). 

Before 1805 it is said there were 
few buildings on the site of the pres- 
ent village of Fort Plain. It must be 
remembered that several of the build- 
ings aforementioned, including the 
fort and blockhouse, were within the 
present limits of the village at its 
western end. Isaac Soule kept a tav- 
ern here as early as 1804. In 1805 Jo- 
seph Wagner settled on a farm, occu- 
pying a large part of the site of pres- 
ent Fort Plain, and in 1806 he put up 
a small public house which was kept 
as such until 1850. It then became a 
residence and is still standing and 
owned by Andrew Dunn. In 1807 Dr. 
Joshua Webster and Jonathan Stick- 
ney, settlers who came here from New 
England, built a tannery on the east 
side of the old Otsquago creek chan- 
nel. This was constructed from the 
material in the old Governor Clarke 
mansion which had long been aban- 
doned and had the reputation of being 
a "haunted house." John C. Lipe op- 
ened a store in Soule's tavern in 1808, 
there also being a tailor shop in the 
building. Dr. Webster was the first 
physician, having come here in 1797 
from Scarboro, Maine. Peter J. Wag- 
ner was the first lawyer and he also 
represented old Montgomery county in 
congress. Before and shortly after the 
completion of the Erie canal many busi- 
ness houses were established in Fort 
Plain and when the village was in- 
corporated in 1822 practically the en- 
tire business of old P^'ort Plain or Sand 
Hill had removed to the present center. 
The first hatter in the present village 
was William A. Haslet, who estab- 
lished a store in 1826. Harvey E. Wil- 
liams opened the first hardware store 
in 1827. S. N. S. Gant establi.shed the 
Fort Plain Watch Tower, the first 



newspaper, in 1828. This became, by 
various changes The Mohawk Valley 
Register. Numerous other professional 
and business men established them- 
selves in Fort Plain in the five years 
after the completion of the Erie canal 
in 1825. 

John Warner came into Freysbush 
as a successful Yankee schoolmaster, 
and, about 1810, he opened a store. In 
1825 he built the store (now occupied 
by the Co-operative store), which was 
the second store devoted to dry goods 
in Fort Plain. Henry P. Voorhees had 
built the first in 1824 on the bank of 
the creek. This building formed the 
back part of what was for a long 
period the Lipe and Mereness crock- 
ery establishments. In those days be- 
fore aqueducts were in use on the 
canal, the creek water was dammed 
back, and, on a bridge over the Ots- 
quago, the canal horses drew the 
boats across the creek. This set back 
the water up the channel of the stream 
and canal boats then unloaded mer- 
chandise and grain on the docks (re- 
mains of which may be seen) at the 
back of the Main street stores. 

Robert Hall moved from Washing- 
ton county about 1800 and followed the 
trade of a pack peddler through the 
Mohawk valley. He settled about 1810 
at the site of Hallsville, which bears 
his name. He, with two men named 
John White and Cooper, built a store 
and tavern. Later Hall bought out his 
partners and continued the business 
alone. He had an extensive business, 
at one time having four stores run- 
ning in the county, besides a brew- 
ery, an ashery and distillery, and he 
also owned a grist mill in Herkimer 
county. General trainings were fre- 
quently held at his place and elections 
were held at the tavern. Hall served 
in the war of 1812 as captain and was 
stationed at Sackett's Harbor during 
the war. Du/ing the early part of 1800 
bands of Mohawk Indians frequently 
camped at this place. Robert Hall was 
a member of the state legislature and 
was interested in the establishment of 
the Fort Plain National bank. 

Whipping posts and stocks were not 
only to be seen in nearly every town 



158 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



in New England at the beginning- of 
the nineteenth century, but also in all 
the older settlements of New York. 
They were designed to punish petty 
thefts, for which from ten to fifty 
lashes were inflicted, according to the 
magnitude of the crime and its attend- 
ant circumstances. They were prob- 
ably in use at Amsterdam, Caughna- 
waga, Stone Arabia and Herkimer and 
they are known to have been located 
at Johnstown, Fort Hunter, Freysbush 
and old Fort Plain or Sand Hill. The 
Freysbush post stood on the site of 
the cheese factory. One of the last 
punishments of that kind in this sec- 
tion was meted out to Jacob Cramer 
at the Freysbush post. John Rice, a 
constable of the then town of Canajo- 
harie, gave the culprit thirty-nine 
lashes on his bare back for stealing a 
wash of clothes. This custom of pun- 
ishment has long been obsolete, but 
there seemed to have been times when 
immediate penalty for petty offenses, 
inflicted in this way, saved a bill of 
expense if it did not actually lessen 
crime. 

In ISIO the Seneca chief Cornplanter, 
son of John Abeel of Sand Hill, paid a 
visit to his relatives at Fort Plain and 
to the scenes of the murderous Indian 
raid in which he had been engaged 
with Brant some thirty years before. 
Simms gives the following account of 
this event: 

"The Hon. Peter J. Wagner, a grand- 
son on the mother's side of John 
Abeel, well remembers a visit of Corn- 
planter to his relatives at Fort Plain. 
He places the visit in the fall of about 
1810. The noted chieftain then came 
here, in his native dress of feather and 
plume, on his way to Albany, attended 
by several other Indian chiefs. The 
party was first entertained at the 
house of Joseph AVagner, the father 
of informant, whose wife was a half- 
sister of the distinguished chief, who 
received at her hands that kind and 
courteous attention which his reputa- 
tion justly entitled him to expect. The 
distinguished guests also found the 
fatted calf prepared for them at Nich- 
olas Dygert's; his wife being a sister 
of Mrs. Wagner [and a half-sister of 



the Seneca chief]. Indeed, they were 
made to feel equally at home at Jacob 
Abeel's, at the homestead — his father, 
John Abeel having then been dead 
more than a dozen years. His widow 
was living with her son and exerted 
herself to make her home one of com- 
fort and hospitality for the red men. 
These guests were here several days, 
and Cornplanter was so handsomely 
treated by his kinsfolk, that he must 
have carried home a grateful recollec- 
tion of his visit. He was then judged 
nearly six feet high and well propor- 
tioned. He appeared in attire and or- 
nament as the representative man of 
his nation, and well did he sustain the 
role of his national reputation. Many 
people in this vicinity then saw the 
celebrated Cornplanter, who never 
gave his white relatives cause to blush 
for anj' known act of his life, and his 
visit has ever been treasured as a 
bright spot in the memory of his 
friends." 



The following relates to life, trade 
and the general early development of 
the townships of Canajoharie: 

Johannes Roof had kept a tavern at 
Fort Svanwix and, when that post was 
threatened by St. Leger in 1777, he 
moved down the Mohawk to Canajo- 
harie where he also conducted a public 
house during the Revolution and for 
some years thereafter. When the army 
under Clinton rendezvoused here, pre- 
paratory to crossing to Otsego lake. 
Gen. James Clinton boarded with Roof. 
The accommodations of the tavern 
were rather meagre, but ale, spirits, 
sauerkraut, Dutch cheese, bread and 
maple sugar generally abounded. A 
more modern tavern was later erected 
in front of the stone inn. It was called 
the "Stage House" and had a coach and 
four horses painted on its front. It 
was kept in 1826 by Reuben Peake and 
later by Elisha Kane Roof. The stages 
ran to Cherry Valley and originally 
had two horses. In 1844, four-horse 
stages, carrying mail and passengers, 
began running to Cherry Valley and 
Cooperstown, leaving the Eldridge 
house daily. This line was kept up for 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



159 



about twenty years. Washington is 
said to have stopped at Roof's house in 
1783. It was of stone rubble work 
22x38 feet and a story and a half high, 
with gable end to the public square. 
This building was bought of Henry 
Schremling by John (Johannes) Roof. 
Martin Roof, a brother of Johannes, 
was a druggist at an early day in Can- 
ajoharie and one of its first postmas- 
ters, also an acting justice of the peace. 
It is said that the Roofs were so prom- 
inent here that at one time the early 
settlement was called Roof's village. 
They kept tavern here until after 1795. 
When Roof came here in 1777 it is said 
there were not more than half a dozen 
houses on the site of Canajoharie vil- 
lage. 

Henry Schremling conducted a grist 
mill near the site of Arkell & Smiths' 
dam, in the latter part of the eigh- 
teenth century. The first grist mill on 
Canajoharie creek was erected by Gose 
Van Alstine about 1760. It was a 
wooden building and stood on the east 
bank of the stream about 30 rods from 
the end of the gorge leading to the 
falls. From here, near the original 
"Canajoharie," or the big pothole in the 
creek's bed, the water is said to have 
been conveyed to it in a race course. 
About 1815 the mill burned down and 
Mrs. Isaac Flint, who, among the ig- 
norant, weak-minded and supersti- 
tious, was considered a witch, was ac- 
cused of setting it on fire. Learning 
that she was in danger of being ar- 
rested, she hung herself. Nathaniel 
Conkling, an uncle of Senator Roscoe 
Conkling, was the coroner who called 
the inquest. Instead of the poor vic- 
tim of superstition it is probable that 
a relative of the mill owners was the 
culprit. The old stone miller's dwell- 
ing which adjoined the mill was after 
occupied as Lieber's cooper shop for 
the manufacture of flour barrels, and 
was also burned in 1828. 

In 1817, a short distance below this 
site, a stone mill was erected by Goert- 
ner and Lieber. At this place they also 
had a sawmill, distillery, fulling mill 
and carding machine. For some time 
a large business was done here, in- 



cluding much of the milling for the 
towns of Palatine, Root and Charles- 
ton as well as Canajoharie. In 1838 
these mills were burned and never re- 
built. Henry Lieber and his brother, 
John, on coming to America at the be- 
ginning of the nineteenth century were 
sold into servitude to pay their pass- 
age from Germany — a custom long in 
vogue and of which many immigrant 
people without means availed them- 
selves. Henry Lieber, on becoming his 
own master, first learned the weaver's 
trade, and then became a pack peddler. 
He next had a small store in Freys- 
bush, then one in Newville and then 
became established in trade at Cana- 
joharie, just before the advent of the 
canal. 

The second grist mill on Canajoharie 
creek was built about 1770, by Col. 
Hendrick Frey, from whom Freysbush 
took its name and who was a noted 
Tory during the Revolution. Thig" 
place was known as the Upper Mill 
and was forty or fifty rods from the 
Van Alstine mill. It stood at the base 
of the high land on the west side of 
the stream near the mouth of the 
gorge. Col. Frey was an extensive 
landholder and, in disposing of farms 
in Freysbush, he stipulated that the 
buyers should have their milling done 
at his mill. Near it was his stone 
dwelling, where he lived during the 
war. Henry Frey Cox inherited this 
property, in 1812 from his grandfather. 
Col. Frey, and with it about 750 acres 
of land mostly heavily timbered. 
Much of this timber John A. Ehle, who 
erected a store house, sawmill and dry 
dock below Canajoharie village, on the 
canal at its completion, sawed up and 
took to tidewater in boats of his own 
construction; thus, for several years, 
giving employment to a large • number 
of men.. The Upper Mill property be- 
came the property in 1828 of Harvey 
St. John and Nicholas Van Alstine and 
for several years they manufactured 
flour for the New York market, work- 
ing up most of the wheat raised in 
this and several adjoining towns. The 
property passed through a good many 
hands until 1849 when the mill was 
burned down and never rebuilt, and 



160 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



the stone house was burned only eight 
days after the mill. 

The first trader after the war, in the 
present town of Canajoharie, was Wil- 
liam Beekman, who located near Van 
Alstine's ferry, a mile east of (present) 
Canajoharie village in 1788. In a few 
years he moved to Sharon and became 
the pioneer merchant of that town. On 
the organization of Schoharie county 
in 1795 he was appointed the first 
judge of the common pleas bench, 
which position he held for nearly forty 
years. He was succeeded in his busi- 
ness at Canajoharie by Barent Rose- 
l)Qom & Brothers, John and Abraham. 
Philip Van Alstine later became sole 
partner with Barent Roseboom, the 
firm occupying a store on the east side 
of Canajoharie creek, and within the 
present village limits, which then con- 
tained scarcely a dozen houses. 

The Kane brothers, seven in num- 
ber, came into Canajoharie very soon 
after the advent of Beekman, probably 
about 1790, and at first established 
themselves in business in the old stone 
dwelling of Philip Van Alstine, which 
was erected about 1750 and later be- 
came known as Fort Rensselaer. It is 
still standing and tradition has it that 
Washington was here on his valley trip 
in 1783. The firm was known as John 
Kane & Brothers, but whether a'l of 
them were interested is not known. 
They were a family of smart young 
men and soon made their store the 
leading one. in this section, so that, for 
a time, much of the trade of the Her- 
kimer county settlements centered 
here. These brothers were John, Elias, 
Charles, Elisha, Oliver, James and 
Archibald. Before long they built a 
stone dwelling with an arched roof at 
Martin Van Alstine's ferrv', a mile east 
of Canajoharie. This ferry had been 
in operation some time before the Rev- 
olution. At this place James and Ar- 
chibald Kane continued to trade until 
about 1805. Probably no business firm 
in the valley ever before became so 
widely known. In 1799 their purchases 
of potash and wheat amounted to 
$120,000. On leaving Canajoharie 
these famous brothers separated 
widely, John going to New York, Elias 



and James to Albany, Elisha to Phila- 
delphia, Oliver to Rhode Island, 
Charles to Glens Falls and Archibald 
to Hayti, where he married a sister of 
the black ruler of the country and 
where he afterward shortly died. The 
Kane dwelling came to be called the 
"round top," as it had a hip in its roof, 
w^hich was covered with sheet lead. A 
little canal which led from the Kane 
store to the river was long visible. 

The war of the Revolution, as all 
wars do, inaugurated a dissolute per- 
iod of drinking, gambling and horse- 
racing, which lasted for years and was 
at its height at the time of the Kanes. 
Their house became the rendezvous for 
card players and a quarrel over stakes 
occurred on one occasion, resulting in 
a duel, April 18, 1801, in the small pine 
grove on the hill west of the Kane 
house. Barent Roseboom wounded 
Archibald Kane in the right arm. Dr. 
Webster of Fort Plain was Kane's sur- 
geon and charged him 10s — .$1.25 — for 
each of his half-dozen visits but one 
for which the charge was 8s. The doc- 
tor lived four miles from his patient 
and the moderateness of his charges is 
said to have been characteristic of the 
man. 

About 1805 Henry Nazro had a store 
in the present limits of Canajoharie 
village. In a few years he was suc- 
ceeded by Abram Wemple, a good bus- 
iness man and a captain of a com- 
pany of militia cavalry. He is reputed 
to have been a "tall, handsome, and 
resolute officer, and died, greatly la- 
mented, about 1815." His father was 
with him in business in "the yellow 
building" vacated by Barent Roseboom. 
Joseph Failing succeeded as store- 
keeper in this place, when Wemple 
moved his business across the creek, 
in a new store which he built. Usher 
joined Failing and in 1817 one of the 
numerous fires, which afflicted Cana- 
joharie in the nineteenth century, 
wiped out the old Roseboom store in 
which they were doing business. Fail- 
ing also kept a tavern here. The 
Abram Wemple store was occupied in 
1826 by the somewhat eccentric Dick 
Bortle. Here at his opening he fixed 
up a lot of bottles with colored liquids 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



161 



to make a notable liquor show and 
here he kept a saloon. "He drew an 
easy fiddle bow, spun an inimitable 
yarn, and could gracefully entertain 
any guest from a beggar to a prince." 

James B. Alton, came from Ames 
and kept a store and public house but 
failed before the Erie canal was com- 
pleted. In 1821 Herman I. Ehle began 
business and in 1824 erected his store 
on the canal. Henry Lieber establish- 
ed himself here about 1822 and, in con- 
nection with his mills did a consider- 
able business. He built several canal 
boats for his own traffic and one, the 
"Prince Orange," was the first of the 
class called lake boats constructed in 
this part of the state. It was built in 
1826 and was launched at the site of 
the brick brewery and malt house 
built by Lieber in 1827. This building 
went in the great fire of 1877. One of 
the industries of this period, removed 
to Canajoharie from Palatine Bridge, 
was a furnace for plow and other cast- 
ings, the firm being Gibson, Johnson & 
Ehle. Herman I. Ehle, with whom the 
historian J. R. Simms, later of Fort 
Plain, was for two years a clerk and 
afterward a partner, was for a num- 
ber of years known as one of the best 
dry goods dealers in Central New York. 
John Taylor moved to Canajoharie, as 
a partner of Ehle in 1827. Edward H. 
Winans was in business in the village 
then. The above comprises what is 
known of the business life of Cana- 
joharie village at about the eventful 
and trade booming period of the con- 
struction of the Erie canal. 

Canajoharie's first physician was Dr. 
Jonathan Eights, who removed to Al- 
bany before 1820. To represent the 
legal profession, the village had in its 
earliest days Roger Dougherty and 
Alfred Conkling, father of Senator 
Roscoe Conkling, and a little later, 
Nicholas Van Alstine, a native of the 
locality. 

The first school in the present town 
of Canajoharie, stood on Seebers Lane, 
a mile and a half southwest of Cana- 
joharie village, and the district was 
styled "No. 1, in and for the town of 
Canajoharie" when the common school 
system was adopted. 



About 1797 a grist mill, a sawmill 
and a wheelwright's shop were set in 
operation at Ames in the town of Can- 
ajoharie. A pottery and nail factory 
followed. Russell and Mills were the 
first merchants of Ames, beginning 
business about 1800. 

Jacob Ehle and James Knox, his 
brother-in-law, settled at Mapletown, in 
Canajoharie township, in 1791, paying 
$2.62% per acre for their lands. Mr. 
Ehle built his house on the old Indian 
trail from Canajoharie to New Dor- 
lach (Sharon Springs) and, in clear- 
ing his lands he left all the promising 
hard maple trees. This "sugar bush" 
gave the settlement its name. 

Marshville, in the town of Canajo- 
harie, was the site of a sawmill built 
at an early day by one of the Seeber 
family. Stephen and Henry Garlock 
later operated this property. At this 
place one Joe Carley did the horse and 
ox shoeing for a large circle of the 
country, being near the main route to 
Cherry Valley. Carley flourished after 
the war of 1812, during the "shinplas- 
ter" period. Some sheep were stolen 
from a farmer named Goertner and the 
thief was traced to a nearby dwelling, 
where bones and horns were found 
under a floor. Shortly after manu- 
script shinplasters appeared purport- 
ing to be issued by "The Muttonville 
Bank, Joe Carley, President" and "pay- 
able in good merchantable mutton." 
Hence came the name "Muttonville," 
by which the little hamlet is some- 
times called. 

The following gives an idea of how 
matters stood with the smaller far- 
mers and poorer classes of this sec- 
tion at about the year 1800. Beer's 
History tells of an interview with Mrs. 
Bryars of Ames, whose family were 
early settlers of that place. "In her 
mother's time, the neighbors would 
live for six weeks in succession with- 
out bread, subsisting upon potatoes, 
butter and salt. Barns were so scarce 
that grain had to be hauled many 
miles to be threshed; hence farmers 
put off the job until they had finished 
sowing their winter grain, living with- 
out breadstuffs rather than lose the 
time necessary for threshing. Mrs. 



162 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Bryars was married in petticoat and 
short gown and Mr. Bryars in linen 
pantaloons [and it is presumed a coat 
and shirt]; neither wore shoes or 
stockings. Philip Button of Ames, 
says that his grandfather, Jonah 
Phelps, cleared the place where But- 
ton lives and that he used to carry 
his grist on his back two and a half 
miles to Sharon Springs. He made 
his first payment ($10) on his place by 
burning potash. Mr. Button's great- 
grandfather, Benjamin Button, was for 
five years a soldier in the American 
army of the Revolution. Being grant- 
ed a furlough of three days he walked 
seventy miles between sunrise and 
sunset to his home. He remained 
there one day and walked back to his 
regiment the next." 



The town of Root is today a beau- 
tiful and fertile agricultural section. 
Business and trade have always taken 
second place to the important work 
of farming. Its business development 
occurred mostly at and after the build- 
ing of the Erie canal which is the limit 
of the period of trade growth we are 
considering. 

Before the canal period, John Mc- 
Kernon had established a store in 
Currytown. He retired from this bus- 
iness and about 1820 was engaged in 
the work of building a bridge across 
the Mohawk in this town at the point 
now known as Randall. 

A mill was built before this date on 
Yatesville creek (the Wasontha). 
About a mile below Rural Grove, oc- 
curs what is known as Vrooman's 
Falls, a perpendicular cataract of 
about twenty-flve feet, which, when 
the stream is in full flow, is a most 
attractive spectacle. Here stood Vroo- 
man's grist mill and his name has been 
perpetuated in the natural water 
power that turned his mill wheel. The 
building was carried off bodily by a 
flood in 1813 and dashed to pieces 
against a large elm. 

Only the half of the town of Root, 
west of the Big Nose, was in the old 
Canajoharie district» but the whole 
town is included in the accounts in 
these sketches. 



Palatine is the oldest section settled 
by whites in old Tryon county. Hen- 
drick Frey located in the wilderness at 
now Palatine Bridge in 1689, as before 
stated and here came the Palatine im- 
migrants at some time about 1711 or 
1712. Minden seems to have been set- 
tled in the Dutchtown and Freysbush 
sections a few years after, in 1720, and 
St. Johnsville about that time or a 
few years later. Canajoharie, Dan- 
ube, Root and Manheim were then 
colonized by Germans and a few 
Dutch within a comparatively short 
time. Prior to the Revolution, there 
were storekeepers or traders as they 
were called in the Palatine settle- 
ments. The latter town has always 
been a strictly agricultural commun- 
ity. Fox's mills on the Caroga were 
burned in the Stone Arabia raid of 
1780. Major Schuyler rebuilt mills on 
this stream about 1784. Major Jellis 
Fonda had a mill on the Canagara 
creek, near the present county home 
(the old Schenck place). About 1800, 
on the improvement of the Mohawk 
(north shore) turnpike, many taverns 
sprang up in Palatine, along this route, 
which formed a considerable indus- 
try. The first postoffice in the 
town was established at Palatine 
Church in 1813. It is said that, 
during the war of 1812, when a person 
wished to send a letter to a valley 
friend or relative with the American 
army at Sackett's Harbor, he left it 
at any hotel on the turnpike. The 
landlord would then hand it to any 
teamster going that way, "who would 
carry it as far as he went on the road, 
and then pass it to another of his craft 
and in that way it would [possibly] 
eventually reach its destination." The 
first brewery in Palatine was erected 
about 1800 by a German named Moyer. 
It was situated about a mile north of 
Stone Arabia and was in operation only 
a few years. 

In regard to the schools of Pala- 
tine, Beer's History says: "Until 
after the close of the Revolutionary 
war German was the prevailing lan- 
guage and, probably without an excep- 
tion, the schools prior to that date 
were taught in the German tongue. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



163 



Soon after the restoration of peace, 
people from New England began to 
settle here, followed immediately by 
the innovation of the 'Yankee school- 
master.' Among the early teachers of 
English schools in the town were John 
Martin and men named Crookenburg 
and Mackey. The former [Martin] 
taught in the vicinity of Oswegatchie 
about 1795 and a building was subse- 
quently erected for his school. It was 
finished with living apartments in one 
end and a school room in the other. 
He was succeeded by his son in the 
early nineteenth century. Mackey 
taught about 1795 near Stone Arabia 
and Crookenburg kept school near 
Palatine Church." 

The first school commissioners and 
inspectors of schools were elected, in 
accordance with a new act of the leg- 
islature in April, 1813. They were 
Abraham Sternburgh, Henry J. Frey 
and John Quilhart, commissioners; 
and John J. Nellis, John I. Cook, Rich- 
ard Young, Jost A. Snell and Har- 
manus Van Slyck, inspectors. The 
town was first divided into school dis- 
tricts — eleven in number, Dec. 7, 1814, 
by David T. Zielley, Andrew Gray and 
Chauncey Hutchinson, school commis- 
sioners. In the spring of 1815, a redi- 
vision was made, creating in all seven- 
teen districts. It will be remembered 
that at that time (and until the forma- 
tion of Fulton from Montgomery 
county in 1838) Palatine embraced the 
present town of Ephratah. There are 
now twelve well-apportioned districts, 
a few of which are fractional, and 
eleven schoolhouses within its limits. 

A union academy, the first within 
the present boundaries of Montgom- 
ery county, was established at Stone 
Arabia and incorporated by the Re- 
gents of the University, March 31, 1795, 
as "The Union Academy of Palatine." 
The only records obtainable relating 
to this institution, are in connection 
with the Reformed church of that 
place. At a meeting of the consistory, 
held January 24, 1795, composed of 
Rev. D. Christian Peck, pastor; Henry 
Loucks and Christian Fink, elders and 
John Snell and Dietrich Coppernoll, 
deacons, it was "resolved that the five 



acres of church land of the Reformed 
Dutch church of Stone Arabia, which 
are not given to the present minister 
as a part of his salary, shall be given 
and presented to the use and benefit 
of the Union Academy to be erected 
at Stone Arabia." On the 14th of No- 
vember, 1795, the board of trustees, 
through their president, Charles New- 
kirk, asked and obtained permission 
from the consistory of the Reformed 
church to occupy their school house 
(which appears to have been a part of 
the parsonage which had been used for 
school purposes), for one year for the 
use of the academy. 

John Nifher was probably its first 
principal and its teacher of English. 
The academy building was a two-story 
frame structure, erected by subscrip- 
tion and completed in 1799. Its site 
was immediately opposite the Reform- 
ed church. Fire destroyed it about 
1807 and it was never rebuilt. 

Directly after the Revolution, prob- 
ably in the summer of the years be- 
tween 1784 and 1786, Molly Brant, with 
two of her grown up children, came 
down from Canada to recover prop- 
erty willed them in Philadelphia Bush. 
One of the children was George John- 
son, who was of a dark complexion 
and the other was the wife of Dr. Carr, 
late a surgeon in the British army. 
They all visited Major Philip Schuyler 
at Palatine Church, where he was 
erecting mills on Caroga creek. Fox's 
mills there having been burned by the 
enemy. Mills were rebuilt on the op- 
posite side of the creek. Maj. Schuy- 
ler was one of the commissioners ap- 
pointed to look after such claims as 
those of Molly Brant and her children. 
The heirs were too young to forfeit 
their inheritance and recovered pay 
for lands now in Mayfield and Perth. 
While at Schuyler's, the party con- 
versed in the Mohawk dialect, except 
Dr. Carr. Mrs. Schuyler, when night 
came on, was quite perplexed to know 
how to dispose of her guests, as the 
carpenters and millwrights were oc- 
cupying all of her beds. Molly Brant 
set her at ease by assuring her that 
they would care for themselves and 
spreading their blankets on the floor, 



164 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



they camped down in true Indian 
style, to Mrs. Schuyler's great relief. 

In 1784, Moses Van Camp worked 
for Garret Walrath, who had a black- 
smith shop in Palatine about half a mile 
westward from the Fort Plain depot 
and near the ferry of that day. While 
trying to drive away some Indians, 
who were stealing Walrath's potatoes, 
one of the savages threatened Van 
Camp with a knife whereupon the 
blacksmith killed him with a hammer. 
The Palatine man narrowly escaped a 
tomohawk hurled at him, by a brother 
of his victim, at P"'ort Stanwix a year 
or two later. 

In 1836 a monument was erected 
over the grave of Col. Brown in Stone 
Arabia by his son, Henry Brown of 
Berkshire, Mass., and on the 19th day 
of October, 1836, a meeting was held 
at the burial place in honor of the 
event and of the patriot's memory. A 
large assemblage was present and in- 
cluded some veterans of the Stone 
Arabia action. A sermon was preach- 
ed by Rev. Abraham Van Home of 
Caughnawaga, and a patriotic address 
was delivered by Gerrit Roof of Cana- 
joharie (a grandson of Johannes Roof, 
the Revolutionary patriot). In a por- 
tion of his speech Roof addressed the 
veterans as follows: 

"I see before me a little remnant of 
those intrepid spirits who fought in 
the memorable engagement of October 
19, 1780. Fifty-six years ago this day 
you battled with greatly superior num- 
bers, consisting of British regulars, 
loyalists and savages. Venerable pa- 
triots, we bid you welcome this day! 
In the name of your country, we 
thank you for the important services 
you rendered in the dark hours of her 
tribulation. Be assured they will be 
held in grateful remembrance while the 
Mohawk shall continue to wind its 
course through yonder rich and fertile 
valley. They will be the theme of 
praise long after the marble, erected 
this day to the memory of your brave 
commander, shall have crumbled to 
dust. Fifty-six years ago, this day, 
these hills resounded with the din of 



arms and the roar of musketry. Look 
yonder! The field — the field is before 
us — the field on which the heroic 
Brown poured out his life's blood in 
defense of his country. You fought 
by his side. You saw him as he fell, 
covered with wounds and with face to 
the foe. * * * His was that bravery 
that quailed not before tyranny, and 
that feared not death. His was the 
patriotism that nerves the arm of the 
warrior, battling for the liberties of 
his country, and leads him on to the 
performance of deeds of glory." 



The town of St. Johnsville was set- 
tled about 1725. It was part of Pala- 
tine until 1808 and its early history, 
both as to events and commerce, is 
largely that of the older town. The 
first settlement at the village of St. 
Johnsville was made in 1776 by Jacob 
Zimmerman, who built the first grist 
mill in the town soon after. George 
Klock built another in ISOl. David 
Quackenbush erected the third grist 
mill in 1804. This became later the 
Thumb iron foundry and the saw and 
planing mill of Thumb & Flanders. In 
1825 James Averill built a stone grist 
mill and distillery. Christopher Nellis 
kept a tavern at St. Johnsville in 1783 
and a store in 1801. The foregoing are 
the industries that the writer has 
knowledge of which were located at St. 
Johnsville prior to the completion of 
the Erie canal in 1825. 

Henry Hayes taught a German 
school at an early day and Lot Ryan, 
an Irishman, taught the first English 
school in 1792. 



Danube and Manheim were included 
in Western Montgomery county u]j to 
1817. They were and are agricultural 
towns. The development of Dolgeville 
came at a period later than that herein 
described. In 1817 the eastern boun- 
dary of Herkimer county was moved 
from Fall Hill to East Creek and the 
old Canajoharie and Palatine districts 
towns were divided between two coun- 
ties. 



THE STOKY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



165 



CHAPTER IV. 

The Five Revolutionary Churches of 
Western Montgomery County — Other 
Revolutionary Churches in Mont- 
gomery and Fulton Counties and in 
Danube and Manheim. 

The first Reformed Dutch church 
of Canajoharie (now the Reformed 
church of Fort Plain) was erected in 
1750 on Sand Hill, a little above the 
Abeel place, on the Dutchtown road. 
The Germans who, about 1720, settled 
the town of Minden, at first located 
principally in the Dutchtown section. 
The road through t'hat section led 
down to the river at Sand Hill where 
there was a ferry. The road across 
the flats (raised several feet to make 
it passable in times of flood), to this 
crossing of the Mohawk, is still plainly 
visible. At this central point would 
be a natural gathering place of the 
people and here the German frontiers- 
men erected the first known house of 
worship in the Canajoharie district. 
Of this church, Rev. A. Rosencrantz 
was the pastor for the first eight 
years. This building was of wood and 
stood in a sightly spot on the westerly 
side of the Dutchtown road, in front 
of the burial ground still to be seen 
(1913), surrounded by its dying grove 
of ancient pine trees. As previously 
told the church was burned in the In- 
dian raid of 1780, after which services 
were held in a barn that stood on the 
old William Lipe farm in a ravine, 
through which the road ran from the 
river ferry up the hill to the gate of 
old Fort Plain. This old barn was 
torn down and a new one erected on 
its site in 1859. An old dwelling 
standing below it was over a century 
old when it was demolished in 1875 to 
give place to the present one of brick. 
These buildings, with several others, 
were so near the fort that the enemy 
never ventured to injure them. An- 
other one so protected was an old 
house which was torn down by Har- 
vey E. Williams when he built the 
present large brick dwelling on upper 
Canal street about 1870. 

A new church edifice, erected on the 
site of the old one at the close of the 



war, was also constructed of wood, 
and was a large and well proportioned 
building, with a small half-round pul- 
pit having a short uncushioned bench 
for its seat that would accommodate 
only one sitter; while over the domi- 
nie's head was a dangerous looking 
sounding board. The church had a 
gallery on three sides and was topped 
by a steeple without a bell. It was 
built by contract by Peter March for 
£1,000 ($2,500 at that time). A light- 
ning rod on the building having be- 
come broken, it was struck during a 
storm and considerable damage was 
done. 

General Washington died Dec. 14, 
1799, and his death was solemnly 
observed at this church, as at many 
others throughout the land. As a 
number of days was then necessary to 
spread the news of important events 
throughout the land, the funeral cere- 
monies did not take place until the 
latter part of December, 1799. The 
weather was cold, but there was little 
snow on the ground and the gathering 
of people was immense. The church 
was beautifully decorated with ever- 
greens and crepe and was literally 
packed with an interested audience. 
The Rev. Isaac Labaugh officiated and 
his discourse was afterward published. 
Led in a procession was a caparisoned 
horse with holsters upon the saddle, 
to which was also attached a pair of 
boots, indicating the loss of a soldier. 
This was the custom at the funeral of 
an officer, or cavalryman. Where the 
procession formed is not known but 
probably at the tavern of Nicholas 
Dygert, then located next beyond the 
Christian Bellinger place, westward of 
the church. This was perhaps the 
most important and imposing observ- 
ance of Washington's death witnessed 
in the Mohawk valley, and not a few 
were there assembled who saw the 
national leader on* his visit to Fort 
Plain in the summer of 1783, sixteen 
years before, when his excursion ex- 
tended to Fort Schuyler and up the 
OtsQuago valley to Cherry Valley and 
from thence to the foot of Otsego lake 
at the present site of Cooperstown. 



166 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Following the first pastor of the 
first Reformed Dutch church of Cana- 
joharie, Rev. A. Rosencrantz, came 
Rev. Ludwig Luppe, Rev. Kennipe, 
Rev. J. L. Broeffle, Dr. John Daniel 
Gros (1776 (?)-1788), Rev. A. Christian 
Diedrich Peck (1788 to 1796), Dr. John 
Daniel Gros (1796 to 1800), Rev. Isaac 
Labaugh (from 1800 to 1803 pastor of 
the Reformed churches of Fort Plain, 
Stone Arabia and Sharon), Rev. J. I. 
Wack (1803 to 1816). Dominie Kennipe 
was mercilessly beaten one day, as he 
was riding along the river, by his fel- 
low traveler, a hard man named Diel. 
"The minister would not prosecute but 
appealed to God, and, strange to say, 
both men died on the same night." 
Dominie Peck is described as "a portly 
man, an amateur equestrian, who left 
behind him the reputation of an un- 
surpassed orator." Great congrega- 
tions thronged to hear him. Dr. Gros 
was "a man of considerable learning 
who had been professor of moral phil- 
osophy in Columbia college," New 
York city. Dominie Wack was an 
army chaplain in the war of 1812 and 
"a man of commanding personal ap- 
pearance." The Reformed church at 
Sand Hill ceased to exist when the 
church society moved to its present 
site in Fort Plain and erected a church 
in 1834. This event practically marks 
the end of Sand Hill or old Fort Plain, 
the new canal town of that name tak- 
ing up its story. 



The Reformed church of Stone Ara- 
bia was the oldest church west of 
Schenectady, having been formed by 
Rev. John Jacob Ehle in 1711. Ehle 
was Reformed minister for this section 
and his services were conducted in 
German. A log church was first erect- 
ed about 1711 on the lot now occupied 
by the Lutheran church. In 1733 the 
joint Lutheran and Reformed societies 
erected a frame church where the Re- 
formed house of worship now is lo- 
cated. A disagreement arose as to the 
denomination of the new church and 
the Lutherans withdrew to the log 
church. Dominie Ehle was followed 
by Rev. Johannes Schuyler (1743-1751), 
Rev. Armilo Wernig (1751-1758), Rev. 



Abraham Rosencrantz (1759-1769). 
Rev. Mr. Rosencrantz at first preached 
only at Schoharie and Stone Arabia, 
but later had charge also of the Re- 
formed churches of Canajoharie (at 
Fort Plain), St. Johnsville and Ger- 
man Flatts, supervising, in that way, 
the religious instruction of almost the 
entire western Mohawk valley popula- 
tion of the Reformed faith. His salary 
at Stone Arabia was £70 annually, 
paid promptly as the receipts show, 
and from all the churches his salary 
must have been considerable for that 
time. He came to this country from 
Germany when a young man and mar- 
ried a sister of General Herkimer. He 
later settled at German Flats, where 
he died in 1794 and was buried under 
the Reformed church there. From 
1769 to 1787 Stone Arabia church seems 
to have been without a pastor, al- 
though supplied occasionally by Do- 
minie Gross of the Fort Plain church 
and by Dominie Rosenkrantz. The 
Stone Arabia Dutch Reformed church 
as well as that of the Lutherans was 
burned by the Tory and Indian force 
under Johnson and Brant, Oct. 19, 1780. 
After the Revolution a frame building 
was erected. In 1788 Rev. D. C. A. 
Peck was called and a new stone 
church was built at a cost of $3,378, 
which was considered at that time the 
best church building west of Schenec- 
tady. It is today the best and most 
interesting example of the eighteenth 
century Mohawk valley church archi- 
terture in this section. Philip Schuy- 
ler was the master mechanic. The 
workmen were boarded near by, the 
women of the church taking turns 
cooking for them. The Rev. Mr. Peck 
preached here in the German language 
only but kept the records in English. 
In 1797 he was called to German Flats 
and went from there to New York, 
where he fell dead in the street in 
1802. In 1799 the adjoining parsonage 
was built and Rev. Isaac Labaugh of 
Kinderhook became pastor in connec- 
tion with the Fort Plain church. It 
is significant of the trend of those 
times and also of the racial strains in 
the old Palatine district at this period 
that the consistorial minutes show 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



167 



Dominie Labaugh was to preach in 
three different languages as follows: 
"He shall preach two sermons in the 
German languages, then one in En- 
glish, then two again in German, then 
one in Low Dutch." In 1803 this order 
was changed to two sermons in En- 
glish instead of one, which is also sig- 
nificant of the growth of the English 
language and its attendant institu- 
tions and customs in this midsection 
of the Mohawk valley. Rev. J. J. 
Wack preached here in German and 
English from 1804 to 1828, also minis- 
tering to the Fort Plain church at the 
same time. His salary was $200 from 
each church, $1 for each marriage or 
funeral, and 50 cents for each infant 
baptism. Rev. Isaac Ketcham (1830- 
1836) and Rev. B. B. Westfall (1838- 
1844) were succeeding pastors. Under 
the latter the church was repaired and 
a new bell procured. This church at 
its formation in 1711 was the only one 
in a district where eight Reformed 
churches are now. 



The Stone Arabia Lutheran church 
dates from the separation of the united 
Reformed and Lutheran societies in 
1733. Rev. William Christian Buck- 
meyer came here from Loonenburg on 
the Hudson and was the first pastor. 
Succeeding him were Rev. Peter Nich- 
olas Sommer (1743), Rev. Frederick 
Rees (1751), Rev. Theopilus England 
(1763), Rev. Frederick Reis (1773), 
Rev. Philip Grotz (1780). It was dur- 
ing Dominie Grotz's labors, in 1792, 
that the present frame Lutheran 
church was built at Stone Arabia. 
Rev. Peter Wilhelm Domier came 
here from Germany and was pastor 
from 1811 to 1826, when he returned to 
his native country. All these pastors 
had preached in German and the first 
dominie to have services in the En- 
glish language, as well, was Rev. John 
D. Lawyer, who was here from 1827 
to 1838. 

Sir William Johnson, in a charac- 
teristic letter dated April 4, 1771, to 
the Rev. Dr. Auchmutty, writes as 
follows: "I desired our friend, Mr. 
Inglis [the Rev. Theopilus England, 
pastor of the Lutheran church of Stone 



Arabia from 1763 to 1773] to mention 
a Circumstance concerning Religion 
here that I think you ought to know. 
The Lutheran minister at Stoneraby 
has lately in a voluntary Manner with- 
out any previous Arguments to induce 
him thereto desired to take orders in 
the Church of England, and what is 
much more Strange, It is the desire of 
his Congregation that he should do so. 
The great difficulty is That, they will 
be without a Minister during his ab- 
sence, and that it will be attended with 
an expence which from their great 
Occonomy, they do not chuse to In- 
curr. Especially as they have some 
Charitable Establishments amongst 
themselves that are chargeable. If 
* * * * it Could be Carried through 
without making much noise, It would 
add the Majority of Inhabitants of a 
very fine Settlement to the Church, 
and as they are Foreigners must 
strengthen their allegiance to the 
Gov't." Dr. Auchmutty replied from 
New York favorably to the change of 
denomination but whether from the 
"great Occonomy" of the church for- 
bidding them to send their minister to 
England for ordination, or for some 
other reason, nothing seems to have 
come of the proposal. 



The "Palatine Evangelical Lutheran 
Church" edifice, at Palatine Church, is 
the oldest church building now stand- 
ing within the limits of Montgomery 
and Fulton counties. It was also the first 
church structure in the Palatine or 
Canajoharie districts to be fittingly 
built of a permanent material such as 
the stone of which it is constructed. 
Others were mostly of clapboards at 
that time. It was erected in 1770 of 
stone by the generous donations of a 
few individuals. Peter Wagner and 
Andrew Reber contributed £100 each. 
Johannes Hess and six Nellises, name- 
ly, William jr., Andrew, Johannes, 
Henry, Christian and David each gave 
£60, while the building of the spire, 
which seems to have been an after 
consideration, was paid for by the 
Nellis family exclusively. This church, 
unlike most others in the valley, was 
not destroyed by the British raiders of 



k 



168 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



the Revolution, for the reason, it is 
supposed of the Tory proclivities of 
one or more of the Nellis family. It 
remained as originally built for a cen- 
tury, when it was remodeled and re- 
paired at a cost of $4,000 and in the 
fall of 1870, on its one hundredth an- 
niversary, a large celebration and fair 
was held, at which Gov. Seymour de- 
livered an appropriate address. Many 
later celebrations have been held here 
and the church has been restored. In 
its early history, this society seems 
never to have had any independent 
church organization but was supplied 
by ministers from other churches, 
principally the Lutheran church of 
Stone Arabia. 



ton Berne, Switzerland, and was ap- 
pointed by the 'high German authori- 
ties of Palatine district, Canajoharie 
Castle' to the church, July 13, 1788." 



As early as 1756 a Reformed church 
was erected in the eastern part of the 
town of St. Johnsville by Christian 
Klock. The Rev. Mr. Rosenkrantz was 
the first preacher and John Henry 
Disland the second. This structure 
was torn down in 1818 and a church 
was erected in the present village. 
This was replaced in the latter nine- 
teenth century by the present substan- 
tial brick church edifice. 

Mason's History says of St. John's 
Reformed church of St. Johnsville: 
"The name St. Johnsville was un- 
questionably derived from St. John's 
Reformed church, erected in 1770 and 
moved to the village in 1804 * * * 
The Reformed church of St. Johnsville 
is one of the oldest religious societies 
in the Mohawk valley, its history dat- 
ing back to the middle of the eigh- 
teenth century. The present hand- 
some brick edifice was built in 1881. 
* * * The church received the name 
of 'St. John's Dutch Reformed' during 
the latter part of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, and reliable records indicate that 
the church title suggested a name for 
the village. This fact has been sub- 
stantiated in a great degree by Rev. 
P. Furbeck, who devoted a great deal 
of attention to the subject. The Rev. 
Abram Rosenkrantz, who first minis- 
tered to the Dutch Reformed church, 
was a historic character, as was also 
his successor, Rev. John Henry D:s'slin. 
The latter was born in Burgdorf, Can- 



It is only the province of this sketch 
to treat of the churches which were in 
existence in the five west end towns 
of Montgomery at the time of the for- 
mation of the Canajoharie and Pala- 
tine districts of Tryon county in 1772. 
Their story is continued until about 
the end of the story of Old Fort Plain, 
which may be put at 1834, when the 
Reformed church of Fort Plain with- 
drew from its old home in the Sand 
Hill section and erected a new church 
at its present Fort Plain site. These 
details throw light on the life of the 
people, during this changeful period, 
at the end of the eighteenth and the 
beginning of the nineteenth century. 
Shortly after this time, church socie- 
ties of other denominations were form- 
ed in great numbers in the five towns 
under consideration. 

In 1794 a Free Will Baptist church 
society was formed several miles west 
of Ames, in the township of Canajo- 
harie, and in 1796 it was removed to 
that settlement. This was the first 
known religious organization in that 
town. Its present church at Ames was 
built in 1832. 

So far as known there was no church 
in the present village of Canajoharie, 
prior to the Revolution, the first house 
of worship, in that settleinent, being 
a union church which was built in 
1818. Rev. George B. Miller, a Luth- 
eran, was the first settled preacher. 
He had many difficulties to contend 
with, among them being that of having 
to be his own chorister. In this mu- 
sical capacity he had to compete with 
the bugles played on the line and 
packet boats in the summer of 1826, 
the first year of through canaling. 
The canal had been dug so near the 
church as to leave barely room for 
the tow path. These instruments were 
even sounded before the open windows 
in prayer time and it was not until an 
appeal was made to the state authori- 
ties that this nuisance was broken up. 
Mr. Miller was pastor for nine years 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



169 



and later died at Hartwick seminary, 
of which he was long principal. Be- 
fore the erection of this union church, 
the people in the present township of 
Canajoharie probably attended the 
Stone Arabia or Fort Plain churches. 
After the organization of the Reform- 
ed church in 1827 other church socie- 
ties soon were formed in the village 
of Canajoharie 

In the town of Root a Dutch Re- 
formed church was organized at Cur- 
rytown about 1790 and a church was 
built and dedicated in 1809, which was 
remodeled in 1849 and the spire re- 
built. This was the first church so- 
ciety in Root and the only one in ex- 
istence before 1800. 



Mention has been made of the Indian 
Castle (Danube) church, erected by 
Sir William Johnson in the western 
part of the Canajoharie district about 
1760, largely for the use of the Mo- 
hawks then residing there. It is 
said that Samuel Clyde, later colonel 
of the Canajoharie battalion or regi- 
ment of militia, superintended its con- 
struction. 

Lossing writes of the church at In- 
dian Castle, which with the Herkimer 
house, constitute an interesting pair 
of pre-Revolutionary objects of the 
town of Danube and of the old Cana- 
joharie district. "The Castle church, 
as it is called — the middle one of the 
three constructed under the auspices 
of Sir William Johnson — is still stand- 
ing (1848), two and a half miles below 
the Herkimer mansion. It is a wooden 
building, and was originally so paint- 
ed as to resemble stone. Its present 
steeple is not ancient, but the form is 
not unlike that of the original. Here 
the pious Kirkland often preached the 
Gospel to the heathen, and here Brant 
and his companions received lessons 
of heavenly wisdom. The church 
stood upon land that belonged to the 
sachem, and the house of Brant, where 
Christian inissionaries were often en- 
tertained before he took up the war 
hatchet, stood about seventy- five rods 
northward of the church. Bricks and 
stones of the foundation are still to 
be seen in an apple orchard north of 



the road, and the locality was well de- 
fined, when I visited it, by rank weeds, 
nowhere else in the field so luxuriant." 
Previous mention has been made of 
the stealing of the bell of the "Castle 
church" by hostile Indians during the 
Revolution. The savages probably in- 
tended to take this souvenir of their 
old house of worship to install in a 
new Indian church in Canada. The 
marauders forgot to secure the clap- 
per and its clanging roused the Ger- 
man patriots of the neighborhood, who 
sallied forth and recovered the bell 
and returned it to its place. 



The "old yellow church" is situated 
in the western part of Manheim about 
three miles northerly from Little Falls 
at what was formerly known as Rem- 
ensneider's Bush, almost on the line 
between the town of Little Falls" and 
Manheim, where there was a consid- 
erable settlement at the time of the 
Revolution. Here was a mill and a 
block house and this was the scene of 
the raid in April, 1778. At this church 
are buried 35 Revolutionary patriot 
soldiers. 

Before the war of independence a 
Reformed Dutch church was organized 
in Manheim and a building erected. 
The Manheim Reformed church was 
burned during the Revolution and re- 
built soon after. This building re- 
mained standing until 1850 when the 
present new frame edifice took its 
place. Rev. Caleb Alexander, who 
made a tour of the valley in 1801, 
wrote: "Between Fairfield and Little 
Falls is a Dutch settlement called 
Manheim, rich farms, a meeting house 
and a minister." This is the only 
Revolutionary church society in the 
town of Manheim. 



Aside from the five Revolutionary 
churches of western Montgomery 
mentioned in the foregoing, the other 
sectarian buildings or societies of that 
time, within the present limits of 
Montgomery and Fulton counties, are 
noted as follows: Queen Anne's 
Chapel at Fort Hunter was erected 
about 1710, the year before the build- 
ing of the fort. Beer's (1878) History 



170 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



says: "The liberality of Queen Anne 
caused the erection and endowment of 
a chapel and manse. The manse is 
still standing in sturdy strength. It is 
a two-story stone building, about 25 
by 35 feet, and is, perhaps, the oldest 
structure in the Mohawk valley, west 
of Schenectady [county line]. * * * 
This chapel contained a veritable or- 
gan, the very Christopher Columbus of 
its kind, in all probability the first in- 
strument of music of such dignity in 
the wilderness west of Albany'. Queen 
Anne in 1712 sent as furniture for the 
chapel a number of silver dishes and 
a quantity of church furnishings and 
supplies (including bibles) for this 
chapel and for missionary use among 
the Mohawks and Onondagas. This 
chapel was destroyed by the building 
of the Erie canal." At the time of the 
building of Queen Anne's chapel the 
Dutch Reformed and Episcopal de- 
nominations supported missions or 
missionaries among the Iroquois tribes. 

A mile east of Minaville in the town 
of Florida (in which Fort Hunter is 
also situated) a Reformed church was 
erected before 1784. 

The Caughnawaga Reformed Dutch 
church was built in 1763 at the eastern 
end of Caughnawaga (Fonda) in the 
present town of Mohawk. It was a 
stone structure and served the people 
of its neighborhood until 1842 when 
its congregation removed to worship 
in a church nearer the railroad sta- 
tion. In 1868 this noted building was 
torn down. 

An English church (which became 
the present St. John's Episcopal) was 
built of stone in Johnstown in 1771, 
by Johnson, and is mentioned in pre- 
ceding chapters. In 1836 this struc- 
ture was burned and in 1837 a new 
church was erected. Sir William 
Johnson gave his Lutheran and Pres- 
byterian neighbors glebes of 50 acres 
each and their church societies, at 
least, were in existence prior to the 
Revolution. These are the only Revo- 
lutionary church societies of Fulton 
county. 



existence in western Montgomery 
county, before or during the Revolu- 
tion: Three Reformed churches at 
Stone Arabia, Fort Plain, St. Johns- 
ville; two Lutheran churches at Stone 
Arabia and Palatine Church. In the 
Canajoharie and Palatine districts 
were seven churches — four Reformed 
churches at Stone Arabia, Fort Plain, 
St. Johnsville and Manheim; two 
Lutheran churches at Stone Arabia 
and Palatine Church and one Episco- 
pal or Union church at Indian Castle, 
Danube. In Montgomery county were 
eight Revolutionary churches — five Re- 
formed churches at Stone Arabia, Fort 
Plain, St. Johnsville, Caughnawaga 
(Fonda) and Minaville; two Lutheran 
churches at Stone Arabia and Palatine 
Church and one Episcopal church at 
Fort Hunter. In Fulton county were 
three Revolutionary church societies — 
Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian. 
In Fulton and Montgomery counties 
(or old Montgomery county prior to 
1838) were eleven church societies at 
the end of the Revolution. All of these 
are in existence, with the exception of 
the Episcopal church at Fort Hunter, 
which was destroyed by the building 
of the Erie canal, as previously stated. 



The foregoing shows the following 
five churches or church societies in 



Hon. Francis Granger, postmaster- 
general under Gen. W. H. Harrison, has 
left an account of a Sunday at the 
old Caughnawaga Reformed Dutch 
church, which deserves a place here as 
illuminating the life of the times. A 
condensation of his narrative follows: 

" * * * Loads of the worshippers 
were coming in from the country. As 
fast as the women alighted from the 
sheepskin-bottomed chairs which 
formed the seats in the wagons, the 
men, after providing for their teams, 
repaired to a neighboring bar-room. 
Gravely, as befitted the day, each or- 
dered a drink. Having drained his 
glass, the thirsty Christian thrust his 
hand deep in his pocket and drew forth 
a long, narrow leather wallet, with a 
string woven in the neck, rolled up 
around the coin which it contained. 
Taking the purse by the bottom and 
emptying the cash into his left hand 
he selected a sixpence and laying it 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



171 



before the landlord, poured back the 
remainder into the depths of the wal- 
let, folded it carefully up, restored it 
to his pocket, and returned to the 
church. Thither Mr. Granger also be- 
took himself. An officious usher took 
him in charge, and, shutting him up in 
one of the high-partitioned box pews, 
which occupied most of the floor, left 
him to pursue his meditations. The 
most noticeable feature of the odd in- 
terior of the building was the pulpit, 
which was a little five-sided coop, 
perched aloft on a slender support, 
reached by the narrowest of stairways, 
and canopied by a sounding board 
that completely roofed it over. On the 
wall, on either side of the pulpit, hung 
a pole several feet in length, suspend- 
ed by an iron hoop or ring, from which 
also depended a little bag with a bell 
at the bottom. In due time the clergy- 
man entered, and, inounting the slen- 
der stairway, seated himself in his 
little domain, which barely contained 
him. From his fresh and rubicund 
face, it would almost seem that his 
parishioners were countenanced by 
him in their matter of their Sunday 
morning dram. Here, thought the vis- 
itor, observant of his glowing features, 
was a light of the church set in a 
Dutch candlestick and covered with an 
umbrella, to prevent any untimely ex- 
tinguishment. The congregation en- 
tered heartily into the singing, and 
Mr. Granger thought it might be good 
worship, though sad music. At the 
proper stage, the ushers, taking down 
the scoop nets from beside the pulpit 
went fishing expertly among the wor- 
shipers for a collection, tinkling the 
little bells appended, as if to warn 
them to be ready with their change. 
There was need of notice, for getting 
at the coin was the same deliberate 
operation as at the tavern. There was 
the diving for the purse, the unrolling 
and emptying of the contents; but the 
observer noted that the burgher's eye 
scanned his palm for a penny instead 
of a sixpence. When they had gone 
the round of the house, the collectors 
took their turn at the performance, 
seeming to hear the Head of the Church 
saying, as of old 'Bring me a penny.' 



The dominie had got well into his ser- 
mon, in a commonplace way, before he 
saw Mr. Granger. Then, at the sight 
of a well-dressed and intelligent 
stranger in the house, he perceptibly 
roused himself, and became really elo- 
quent. At the close of the service he 
had an interview with the visitor, who 
assured him, in all sincerity, that he 
was never more interested in a sermon 
in his life." 



CHAPTER V. 



The Mohawk River and Watershed — 
History and Topography 

This is the first of five chapters deal- 
ing with the Mohawk river, its valley 
and watershed and with water traffic 
on the Mohawk through its valley. 
This chapter treats of the Mohawk, its 
geological history, its topography and 
geography. The following chapter 
deals with early traffic on the Mo- 
hawk, including the years from 1609 
to 1825. Subsequent ones will treat of 
the Erie canal 1825-1913, the Barge 
canal, and of the geology of the cen- 
tral Mohawk river section, particularly 
that between Fall Hill and the Noses. 
This latter is from the pen of Abram 
Devendorf and forms chapter VII. of 
the third series of these papers. At- 
tention is called to the accompanying 
map which gives a birds-eye view of 
the Mohawk watershed, the names of 
all except the first and second class 
tributaries being omitted for the sake 
of clearness. 

The Mohawk valley forms a most 
important region of the Hudson river 
watershed. As it is the site of the 
eastern section of the Barge canal, the 
water supply of the Mohawk water- 
shed is a subject of the greatest im- 
portance. The valley of the Mohawk 
breaks through the Atlantic states 
mountain system and forms a natural 
road and waterway between tidewater 
and the Great Lakes. Its position in 
this respect is uniqvie and makes it a 
link in a great chain of land and water 
communication, running from the sea 
far into the middle and northwestern 
portions of North America. The Mo- 



172 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 




THE MOHAWK RIVER, ITS VALLEY AND WATERSHED. 

THE NAMES OF ITS FIRST AND SECOND CLASS AFFLUENTS ARE GIVEN TO AID THE READER IN 
LOCATING THE DIFFERENT STREAMS AND REGIONS OF THE WATERSHED. 



hawk river basin takes natural im- 
portance as the seat of the life of the 
Mohawk tribe of the great Iroquois 
confederacy; as a place, in the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries, of 
interesting settlement by Dutch, Ger- 
man and British; as the scene of vital 
and terrible Revolutionary warfare, 
and as a region of highway, water- 
way, railroad, industrial, town and 
agricultural development. All these 
are treated in separate chapters of 
this work. 

The Mohawk river rises in the south- 
ern part of Lewis county and flows 
about 135 miles to its junction with 
the Hudson at Troy. Its course is in a 
generally easterly direction. The 



stream has two tributaries of the first 
class — the West Canada and Schoharie 
creeks. The West Canada rises in the 
Adirondacks in Herkimer and Hamil- 
ton counties and has a course of about 
sixty miles to its junction with the 
Mohawk at Herkimer. The Schoharie 
rises in Greene county, among the 
Catskills, about seventy miles or more 
to the south of its confluence with the 
Mohawk at Fort Hunter. It was 
through this valley, from the Hudson, 
that the first Palatines came to Pala- 
tine on the Mohawk, settling the Scho- 
harie valley on the way. The Scho- 
harie valley is a beautiful and im- 
portant region of the Mohawk valley, 
whose history, however, is only con- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



173 



sidered very generally in this publica- 
tion. 

The Oriskany, entering the Mohawk 
at Oriskany, the East Canada creek 
entering at East Creek station and the 
Caroga (also written G^roga) joining 
its parent stream at Palatine Church, 
may be considered second class tribu- 
taries. The Oriskany rises in Madi- 
son county and the East and Caroga 
creeks have their headwaters on the 
edge of the Adirondack region, — the 
East creek in Herkimer, Hamilton and 
in the Canada lakes of Fulton county 
and the Caroga in the lake region of 
Fulton county formed by headwaters 
of East creek just mentioned and its 
own headwaters — the Caroga lakes. 
Peck's Pond and minor ponds. 

A rough classification of the Mo- 
hawk's third class tributaries com- 
prise the following: Nine Mile creek, 
Saquoit, Nowadaga, Otsquago, Cana- 
joharie, Flat creek, Cayadutta, North 
Chuctanunda, South Chuctanunda, 
Alplauskill. The greater part of 
these important tributaries, both of 
the first and second class, enter 
the Mohawk in Montgomery county. 
In the central section of the Mo- 
hawk basin, which is considered 
particularly in these chapters, the 
southern rim of the watershed lies 
much nearer to the river than the 
northern. In the valley country from 
I lion to Fultonville, the southern rim 
lies about fifteen miles or less from 
the river while the northern is from 
two to three times that distance from 
the Mohawk. The Adirondack region 
covers a large part of -the northern 
edge of the watershed. The head- 
waters of the Schoharie lie in the Cats- 
kill country. The Mohawk watershed 
was, three hundred years ago, part of 
the great eastern forest, and two- 
thirds of it has been denuded by the 
European colonists. Much of the farm 
lands a*re fertile — some of them very 
fertile. 

The Oneida lake watershed lies to 
the west of the Mohawk headwaters 
and the Black river valley to the north. 
The Oneida lake waters continue the 
Mohawk waterway westward to Lakes 
Ontario and Erie and the Black river 



forms a water and highway to north- 
ern New York and the St. Lawrence. 
The Mohawk's "parent" valley — the 
Hudson — borders the northeastern and 
eastern sides while the Susquehanna 
bounds the southwestern limit of the 
Mohawk basin. The Delaware head- 
waters lie close to those of the Scho- 
harie. The foregoing gives a gen- 
eral view of tile Mohawk and its 
watershed. The following matter 
covers the subject in greater detail. 

The story pt the Mohawk river is the 
history of civilization in America. Its 
chronicle is of interest to a great 
region of territory of North America, 
as it is the chief link between the 
Great Lakes and the ocean_ Together 
with Oneida lake and the Oswego 
river, it connects the tidewaters of the 
Hudson with the great inland seas. 
These latter today carry an enormous 
commerce which should find a great 
part of its outlet through the Barge 
canal, which follows the Mohawk river 
in its eastern course. With progress 
in canalization it may be that a canal 
will eventually join the Great Lakes, 
by way of the Lake of the Woods to 
Lakes Winnipeg and Winnipegosis in. 
Canada. This would make a territory 
immediately contributory to these 
great waterways of an area equal to 
about one-third of the United States, 
and a much greater region would in- 
directly contribute to its commerce. 
It would extend from New York city 
up the Hudson, through the Mohawk 
river, Oneida lake and Oswego river 
to Lake Ontario, to Lake Erie, through 
Lakes Huron and Superior to the out- 
let of Rainy Lake, through that lake 
and the river of the same name into 
the Lake of the Woods, in Canada, 
and thence into Whitemouth river, 
into Winnipeg river, into Lake Winni- 
peg (tapping the Red River of the 
North running down into theDakotas), 
into Lake Manitoba, into Lake Winni- 
pegosis and there joining the great 
Saskatchewan river, and, by way of 
Lake Winnipeg, reaching many more 
waterways of the Canadian northwest, 
which drain practically that entire 
great granary of North America. This 
waterway would reach, from the sea 



174 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



into the interior, four thousand miles 
and has long been projected. The 
present Great Lakes — Barge canal — 
Mohawk river^Hudson waterway has 
a length of about fifteen hundred 
miles or more, and taps a great 
part of industrial America. This route 
would be impossible without the break, 
in the Eastern States mountain sys- 
tem, through which the Mohawk flows 
from a point very close to the water- 
shed of Lake Ontario to sea level at 
Troy. Thus the history and develop- 
ment of this important link in this 
inland waterway is of interest to peo- 
ple along the whole route, as, without 
the Mohawk, this line of transporta- 
tion would be non-existent. 

The Laurentian hills of Quebec pro- 
vince and the Adirondack region com- 
prise some of the oldest land surfaces 
of the world. Of the latter the Mo- 
hawk valley now forms the greater 
part of the southern border, the hills 
north of the river in Montgomery 
county being the first foothills of the 
Adirondack mountains. When the 
Adirondack region rose from the ocean, 
the southern shore was approximately 
along the northern border of Fulton 
county and many of the streams now 
flowing from the north into the Mo- 
hawk were rushing mountain torrents 
which fell from those barren heights 
into the sea at the shore line men- 
tioned. Some of these were probably 
the West and East Canada and the 
Caroga creeks and some others men- 
tioned later. The Mohawk valley was 
then under the ocean and its rise and 
emergence from the waters of the sea 
came at a later date. 

After this emergence but before the 
"birth" of the Mohawk, this region 
was part of the slope from the Adi- 
rondack mountains to the sea, which 
then flowed along the southern bor- 
ders of New York during the carboni- 
ferous era. Some of the then streams 
of this drainage slope are supposed 
to have been the West Canada creek. 
East Canada creek, Garoga, Cayadutta, 
North Chuctanunda and Sacandaga. 

The Mohawk river dates its geologi- 
cal history from the end of the coal 
period, when occurred the elevation of 



the Appalachian range of mountains. 
This uplift (according to S. L. Frey, 
in his interesting "Story of Our 
River") extended through New York 
state and included Ohio, Indiana, Illi- 
nois and Wisconsin and, in conse- 
quence, the Great Lakes were formed, 
with their drainage outlet probably 
by way of the Illinois river at that 
time. The Cherry Valley hills were 
part of this uplift and in this way the 
Mohawk valley was made between 
that range of low mountains of which 
they are a part and the Adirondack 
highlands. 

Mr Frey says: "At the time of the 
disturbance [raising of the Appala- 
chian range] there had been two im- 
portant uplifts running north and 
south at right angles to the Cherry 
Valley hills. These are called by 
geologists 'the uplifts of the Mohawk,' 
one at the Noses and the other at 
Little Falls. When, therefore, the 
water could no longer flow south, on 
account of the hills, or east, on ac- 
count of the uplifts, it gathered until 
the basins filled, when all to the east 
of Little Falls discharged over the 
top of the uplift at the Noses, and all, 
to the west of the barrier [Fall Hill] 
at Little Falls ran west and emptied 
into the Great Lakes basin. Thus 
was the Mohawk river formed, a part 
of it running east and a part west. 
This condition probably prevailed for 
a very long period, the river wearing 
its way into the soft and fissile shale." 
Here we see the eastern of these early 
"lakes of the Mohawk," covering a 
large part of what the Mohawks termed 
Canajoharie and which was later the 
Canajoharie and Palatine districts, 
with which we are dealing in this 
narrative. 

As the ages rolled by, the lowering 
of the temperature in North America 
(attributed to a variety of causes) 
produced the glacial period, "during 
which Ihis part of the continent was 
covered by an ice sheet (5,000 feet 
thick in places) as far south as cen- 
tral New Jersey. The glacier, in its 
southern march, reached the Mohawk 
valley and the river, which then ran 
in a deep channel. Says Mr. Frey: 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



175 



"The ice filled this deep depression, 
and, turning eastward, followed the 
course of the river, grinding and 
grooving and tearing the rocks at the 
sides and bottom. Of course the up- 
lift at Little Falls was greatly lowered; 
but it was at the uplift at the Noses 
that there seems to have been the 
hardest struggle, and the most enor- 
mous amount of grinding and erosion. 
The glacier seems to have been held 
back by the peculiar configuration of 
the hills, at a point just west of 
Sprakers Basin. The result was the 
scooping out of a deep trough in the 
rock, beginning at Gros's rift. This 
grew deeper as it goes east, the sides 
of the excavation slope up to the 
banks and cliffs on each side, and the 
rock is now buried under deposits of 
soil and sand, of gravel, boulders and 
hardpan. The village of Canajoharie 
(that is the business part of it) stands 
on a deposit of this character fifty feet 
in depth. As we go eastward the ex- 
cavation in the rock grows deeper and 
deeper and the steep hills seem to sur- 
round a great basin and to close the 
valley. * * * The age of ice lasted 
long, but it came to an end at last. 
As the climate grew warm again the 
ice melted and great floods poured 
out at the foot of the glacier and, held 
by the high ridge at the south and by 
the ice wall at the north, gathered 
into great lakes. The most northern 
one, which has been called Lake Agas- 
siz, was where the Red River of the 
North is and was 600 miles long. The 
other, called Lake Iroquois, occupied 
the Great Lakes basin. It is probable 
that the former discharged into the 
latter and the outlet, as long as the 
glacier blocked the St. Lawrence, was 
by way of the Mohawk valley [to the 
Hudson valley and the ocean], al- 
though there may have been one or 
two other outlets toward the south- 
west. But the most of it ran east to 
the Hudson and was our river on an 
immense scale. [Here we have the 
original Great Lakes to the sea water- 
way through the Mohawk valley.] 
* * * This great flow of water fin- 
ished the work of the glacier, made 
the rounded hills that we see; and the 



worn, rocky cliffs, finished the cutting 
of a channel through the uplifts at 
Little Falls and the Noses, and made 
an easy grade for canals and rail- 
roads and boulevards." With the con- 
tinual gradual recession of the ice 
sheet to the north, the waters of the 
Great Lakes made their outlet to the 
sea through the St. Lawrence river. 
The Mohawk then drained only its 
own watershed and shrank to its pres- 
ent course. When the forest was here 
it probably carried a larger volume of 
water than at present, with its water- 
shed largely denuded. 

The total area of the actual Mohawk 
valley watershed is 3,485 square miles, 
which is roughly 8 per cent or about 
one-fourteenth of the state's area. 

This Mohawk drainage territory is 
comprised in the following counties 
with a very rough estiinate of the 
number of acres in each drained by 
the Mohawk and its tributaries: 
Lewis, 20,000; Oneida, 500,000; Madi- 
son, 5,000; Herkimer, 500,000; Hamil- 
ton, 150,000; Montgomery 250,000; Ot- 
sego, 5,000; Fulton, 225,000; Schoharie, 
400,000; Delaware, 5,000; Greene 
(headwaters of Schoharie river), 150,- 
000; Albany, 30,000; Saratoga, 30,000. 
This makes thirteen of the state's 
sixty-one counties, some part of which 
forms a portion of the Mohawk water- 
shed. Of these thirteen counties, 
Montgomery is the only one whose ter- 
ritory is entirely within the limits of 
the Mohawk river drainage system. 

The western part of Oneida county 
is drained by the Oneida lake water- 
shed, while the extreme southern sec- 
tion belongs to the Susquehanna val- 
ley, and the extreme northeastern lies 
in the Black river watershed. The 
upper portion of Herkimer county (in 
the Adirondack forest section) is 
drained by the Black river, and the 
extreme south lies in the Susquehanna 
valley. The eastern part of Fulton 
county belongs to the upper Hudson 
system, being watered by the Sacan- 
daga and its tributaries. The south- 
ern part of Schenectady county drains 
into the Hudson and a small portion 
of western Schoharie county is in the 
Susquehanna valley. 



176 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



The Mohawk drains a country of 
high rolling hills, rising into mountains 
on several of its divides" from other 
adjoining basins. In the central Mo- 
hawk region, which is the one under 
consideration in this work, the edges 
of the watershed rise to summits of 
over 2,500 feet on the north and south 
margins. The divide which separates 
.the Big Sprite (branch of the East 
creek) and the headwaters of the 
Caroga from the Sacandaga valley, has 
summits of the following elevations: 
In the town of Bleecker, Fulton county. 
Pigeon Mt. 2,700, Pinnacle 2,514, Shaker 
Mt. 2,500; in the town of Caroga, Ful- 
ton county, adjoining Canada lakes. 
Pine Mt. 2,200, Camelhump 2,278 and 
2,265, Sheeley Mt. 2,120; in the town 
of Stratford, Fulton county, West 
Rooster Hill, 2,240. Hills of from five to 
over eight hundred feet elevation rise 
from the Mohawk flats themselves. In 
western Montgomery county, the high- 
est of these is Getman Hill (sea eleva- 
tion, 1,140 feet and 838 feet above the 
Mohawk). This summit is almost in 
the point where the town lines of St. 
Johnsville, Ephratah and Oppenheim 
join and is part of the ridge that oc- 
cupies the northern horizon as seen 
from old and new Fort Plain. Prob- 
ably the highest hill rising directly 
from the Mohawk river flats is Yan- 
tapuchaberg, on the south side of the 
river between Amsterdam and Sche- 
nectady. This mountain has a sea 
elevation of 1,385 feet and rises about 
1,150 feet above the Mohawk. Old 
Yantapuchaberg is one of the most 
beautiful hills in the Mohawk valley, 
or anywhere else, with its wooded 
slopes rising to a forest crested sum- 
mit. It is an object of the traveler's 
interest on the Central railroad op- 
posite. Summits, equal in height to 
those in the Fulton county lake region 
rise in the Cherry Valley hills on the 
central southern rim of the water- 
shed. 

The Mohawk river bed falls from a 
sea elevation of 420 feet at Rome to 
184 feet at Crescent in Saratoga 
county. From there the river drops, 
by Cohoes falls and rapids, to feea level 
at Troy. In Montgomery county the 



river elevations vary from 302 feet at 
St. Johnsville and Fort Plain to 255 
feet at Amsterdam. The Mohawk, for 
over sixty years prior to 1913 was 
paralleled by canals the greater part of 
its length. Black River canal follows the 
course of the east upper head branch 
of the Mohawk a*nd the main stream 
from near Boonville to Rome, a dis- 
tance of over twenty miles, and from 
Rome to Cohoes the Erie canal follows 
the river for over 100 miles. The 
Barge canal largely follows the Mo- 
hawk's course from Rome to Cohoes. 

It must be remembered that the 
name Mohawk valley applies to the 
entire watershed of this important 
river — to the headwaters of the Scho- 
harie in the Catskills and the lake 
sources of the West Canada, East 
Canada and Caroga creeks in the 
Adirondacks just as much as to the 
Mohawk itself, along which main 
stream, the greater part of the popu- 
lation of the Mohawk basin is located 
and where the major items of human 
life and activity have had their scene 
and enactment. 

The lakes of the Mohawk basin are 
confined to the north central rim of 
the watershed and to the headwaters 
of the West Canada, East Canada and 
Caroga creeks. The majority of these 
lakes and ponds lie in northern Fulton 
county and include the Canada and 
Caroga lakes and Peck's pond and its 
tributary lakes or ponds. Two small 
lakes or ponds, one at the headwaters 
of Oriskany creek and the other at the 
source of the South Chuctanunda are 
the only ponds of a size worthy of 
mention on the south side of the Mo- 
hawk watershed. Honnedaga. Lake, 
one of the headwater lakes of the 
West Canada, is the largest and Can- 
ada, Caroga, Peck and Jerseyfield 
lakes are of the second class and about 
the same area. According to the maps, 
Honnedaga lake is about four miles 
long and a mile wide. Canada lake 
is about two miles long and a half 
mile wide. The Barge canal reser- 
voirs, Hinckley and Delta, are the 
largest lakes in the Mohawk watershed 
although they are, of course, artificial. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



177 



Under the heading "A brief topogra- 
phy of the Mohawk valley," Simms 
writes as follows: "The Mohawk river 
rises in Lewis county, about 20 miles 
to the northward of Rome, [near a 
place called Mohawk Hill] arriving at 
which place it takes an easterly course, 
and, at a distance of about 135 miles 
from its source, enters the Hudson 
between Troy and Waterford. Its 
source is near Black river, which, 
running northwesterly, empties into 
Lake Ontario. Wood creek also 
rises northwesterly from Rome and, 
at a point two miles distant from 
the bend of the Mohawk, [the 
old carrying place between Wood 
creek and the Mohawk] it finds 
a westerly course into Oneida 
lake, which discharges into Oswego 
river and runs into Lake Ontario at 
Oswego. The Mohawk has two prom- 
inent cascades to interrupt its navi- 
gation — the Cohoes Falls, not far from 
its mouth with 70 feet fall, requiring 
six deep locks on the Erie canal to 
overcome the ascent, and the Little 
Falls [also called Canajoharie Falls in 
the early days], so called as compared 
with the Cohoes, having a fall of 42 
feet, the canal descending 40 feet in a 
single mile by five locks, averaging 
about eight feet lift. The mountain 
barrier at this point through which 
the water furrowed its way in the 
long ago, affords some of the most ro- 
mantic scenery in Central New York. . 
The river in its course through One- 
ida, Herkimer, Montgomery and Sche- 
nectady counties, passes through some 
of the richest bottom lands or river 
flats to be found in any country. 

"For nearly two centuries the Mo- 
hawk was navigated above Schenec- 
tady by small water craft, mostly bat- 
teaux, [flatboats] around which danced 
the red man's canoe; but it was al- 
ways interrupted by the Little Falls, 
some 58 miles above, which necessi- 
tated a carrying place of a mile; and, 
at a later period, when the waters of 
Wood creek and Oneida lake were 
utilized, a carrying place of two miles 
was established between that creek 
and the Mohawk, so that boats from 
Schenectady went to Oswego and 



back, at first to convey Indian goods 
and military stores. For the benefit 
of young readers I may say that, at 
carrying places, both cargo and boat 
had to be taken from the water and 
conveyed around the obstruction by 
land — usually by teams and extra 
hands, quite constantly employed — of 
course, to be relaunched and reloaded 
to pursue its onward course. 

"After the Revolution which had 
familiarized the whole country with 
the rich lands of western New York, 
from which the Indians had mostly 
been driven by their sympathy with 
Britain, many citizens from New Eng- 
land — not a few of whom had been sol- 
diers — removed thither, especially to 
Ontario county. * * * Some of these 
settlers moved up the Mohawk valley 
with ox-teams and covered wagors, 
while others journeyed in boats from 
Schenectady, their cattle being driven 
along the river roads. Parties by 
water were often composed of several 
families, to aid each other at the carry- 
ing places, as also to guard against 
any and every danger. The valley 
soon became a thoroughfare for thous- 
ands passing through it, and the travel 
has gone on increasing, with improved 
facilities, until millions by rail are 
now speeding along, where thousands 
sought their way by river craft and 
private ctnveyances or, a little later, 
by canal craft and stages. The world, 
at times, now seems hurrying to and 
fro through the valley. 

"The Mohawk valley is not only 
wonderfully beautified but its fertility 
is greatly increased by the numerous 
tributaries, large and small, entering 
the river upon both shores, which af- 
ford advantageous mill-sites for hun- 
dreds of mills and manufactories, em- 
ploying the labor of many thousands 
of operatives." 

Regarding Wood creek, which was 
formerly connected by a canal with the 
Mohawk at Rome, Spafford wrote in 
1824, as follows: "Wood creek of the 
Oneida lake, long so famous for its 
navigation, on which millions of prop- 
erty have been wafted and large 
armies — a little stream over which a 
man may almost step — deserves notice 



178 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



for its historic importance in days 
of yore, the rather as it now is lost 
sight of and will soon be forgotten, 
merged in the glories of the Erie 
canal." 

Simms gives a list of the tributaries 
of the Mohawk of which the following 
are the principal, with the points at 
which they enter the river. Com- 
mencing at Rome, on the south side of 
the Mohawk, descending the valley are 
the following: Oriskany at Oriskany; 
Saquoit, near Whitesboro; Furnace 
creek at Frankfort; Steele's creek at 
Ilion; Nowadaga (also called Inchu- 
nando, Conowadaga) at Indian Castle; 
Otsquago at Fort Plain; Canajoharie 
at Canajoharie; Plattekill or Flat 
creek at Sprakers; Wasontha (Yates- 
ville) at Randall; Oghrackie or Aries- 
kill at Auriesville; Schoharie river at 
Fort Hunter; Tuechtanonda, or Little 
Chuctanunda or South Chuctanunda 
at Amsterdam (south side) ; Cowilla, 
opposite Cranesville; Zantzee, near 
Hoffman's Ferry; Plotterkill, a little 
distance below; Bennekill, just above 
Schenectady; Donker's Kill between 
Schenectady and the mouth of the 
Mohawk. 

Beginning on the north side and go- 
ing down the river from Rome are the 
following tributary streams: No. 6, 
Mile creek, two and a half miles from 
Rome; No. 9 Mile creek, seven miles 
from Rome; Rasceloth or Sterling 
creek in the town of Schuyler; Teugh- 
taghnarow or West Canada creek, be- 
low Herkimer; Ciohana or East Can- 
ada creek at East Creek (called also 
Gayohara) ; Crum Creek; Fox's creek, 
[or Timmermans creek] at Upper St. 
Johnsville; Zimmerman's creek at St. 
Johnsville; Mother creek, between St. 
Johnsville and Palatine Church; Car- 
oga at Palatine Church; Kanagara [or 
Knayderack] at the county home 
[Schenck's]; Cayadutta at Fonda; 
Dadanoscara at DeGraff's; Kayaderos- 
seros at Fort Johnson; Chuctanunda, 
or North Chuctanunda, at Amsterdam; 
Eva's Kill at Cranesville; Lewis Kill 
and Vertkill, above Schenectady; Al- 
plauskill and Anthonykill, between 
Schenectady and Troy. 

The foregoing treats of the geologi- 



cal history and topography of the Mo- 
hawk and its valley. The following 
chapter tells of early navigation on the 
river, which formed such an important 
feature of life along the Mohawk dur- 
ing the two centuries from 1609 to 1825. 



CHAPTER VI. 

1609-1795 — Traffic and Travel on the 
Mohawk River — Canoes, Dugouts, 
Skiffs, Batteaux — Carries at Little 
Falls and Wood Creek— 1792, Inland 
Lock Navigation Co. — 1795, Canals 
and Locks at Little Falls, German 
Flats and Rome — Schenectady and 
Durham Boats and River Packets — 
1821-1825, Mohawk Part of Erie 
Canal System — 1825, Erie Canal Su- 
persedes River as Valley Waterway. 

This is the second chapter dealing 
with the Mohawk river. It is also the 
first chapter dealing with transporta- 
tion and commerce along that stream, 
either by land or water. This chapter, 
concerning Mohawk river traffic from 
1609 to 1825, is to be followed by others 
treating of bridges, turnpikes, Erie 
canal, railroads. Barge canal, etc., 
making in all seven or eight sketches 
on this subject. Even Atwood's aero- 
plane journey over the course of the 
Mohawk might fittingly be included In 
this chronicle of three centuries of 
traffic and travel through the valley. 
Persons interested in this subject sep- 
arately can follow the story in the 
chapters aforementioned as they are 
published in their chronological order, 
just as the same procedure may be 
carried out in the consideration of the 
chapters dealing with the Mohawk 
river, as suggested in the last chap- 
ter. Agriculture, manufacturing and 
transportation are said to form a tri- 
angle comprising the business life of a 
country or region. The following 
opens up the interesting subject of 
transportation in the Mohawk valley 
during three centuries. 

The first settlers of New York in the 
Hudson valley adopted water trans- 
portation as the forests were gener- 
ally impassable, except over the In- 
dian trails. Travel by water or on 
foot were the first methods used in 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



179 



the Mohawk valley. The history of 
transportation along the Mohawk may 
be epitomized in the following meth- 
ods of freight and passenger carriage: 
Man carriage, canoe, dugout, skiff, 
flatboat, raft, skates, snowshoes, sad- 
dle-horse, pack-horse, oxcart, sled, 
chaise, coach, sulky, wagon, covered 
big (Conestoga) wagon, stage coach, 
large river boat, buggy, canal boat, 
canal packet boat, railroad coach, rail- 
road freight car, steam tug, horse car, 
steam launch, steam yacht, bicycle, 
electric trolley car, automobile, motor 
bus, motor truck, motor cycle, motor 
boat, motor tug, aeroplane, canal 
barge. 

Mohawk river trafflc may be briefly 
summarized as follows: The Mohawk 
Indians, living on the river shores and 
frequently changing their habitations 
from the south to the north side and 
back again, used bark canoes and dug- 
outs to traverse the river. These were 
doubtless also used by the first white 
explorers and traders. After Schenec- 
tady was settled, in the lower Mo- 
hawk valley in 1661, probably the flat- 
bottomed "scow skiff," propelled by 
oars, made its appearance. From this 
was evolved the larger flat or flatboat 
or batteau, propelled by oars, poles and 
sails. These boats were in use by 
traders, settlers and soldiers to carry 
goods, farm produce and war material 
until after the Revolution. They car- 
ried from one to two tons, their size 
being determined by the fact that they 
had to make two land carries on the 
river trip. The Inland Lock Naviga- 
tion Co. was formed in 1792 and the 
building of locks and canals, at Little 
Falls, German Flats and Rome in 1795 
made larger boats possible. The Dur- 
ham and Schenectady boats of ten 
tons burden, made their appearance, 
poles and sails being the propelling 
forces employed by the Mohawk sail- 
ors of a century ago. The smaller 
batteaux also continued in use. From 
1795 to 1825 the river was a lively line 
of traffic, even passenger packets be- 
ing in use. From 1821-1825 the Mo- 
hawk was utilized as a part of the 
Erie canal system and when the canal 
had been dug from Rome < to Little 



Falls, the canal boats entered the river 
at the latter place and continued their 
journey to Schenectady on the Mo- 
hawk. Later when the canal was fin- 
ished from Rome to Sprakers boats 
left the canal near the Noses and con- 
tinued on by the river to their desti- 
nation at Schenectady. In 1826 Erie 
navigation began and the Mohawk 
ceased to be used as a trade route. 
Many of the river boatmen and some 
of their craft, however, continued their 
work on the new canal, which eclipsed 
the river until these latter days of the 
Barge canal. 



From the days of the Mohawk canoes 
and dugouts and those of the first 
Indian traders, the river was the 
artery of trade between the east and 
the far west. From Albany to Schen- 
ectady was a portage and also around 
the Cohoes falls. From these points 
the boats called batteaux or flatboats 
soon came into use by the white set- 
tlers and traders. The river was fol- 
lowed to Little Falls where there was 
another carry by land around the 
rapids, although these were sometimes 
shot by venturesome boatmen on the 
down trip when the river was swollen. 
At Wood creek was a third carry from 
the Mohawk. Canals were built at 
Little Falls and Wood Creek in 1795. 

Before this at Little Falls sleds and 
wagons were used to carry the 
batteaux around the portage. These 
batteaux were flat-bottomed scows 
of sufl^cient dimensions to carry 
several tons and were propelled by 
setting poles which were kept for sale 
at convenient points along the river. 
With backs to the prow the batteaux 
men thrust the poles to the river's bed 
and, bearing hard upon them and 
walking aft, laboriously pushed the 
boat against the current. A sort of 
harmony of movement was secured by 
the captains by the cries, "Bowsmen 
up!" and "Second men up!" Steering 
was done with a tiller oar. Such was 
the mode of transporting merchandise 
and Indian commodities to and from 
the west for nearly two centuries; 
and such, too, the method of transport- 



180 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



ing munitions of war during- the Rev- 
olution. Much of the material used in 
building defenses like Fort Plain was 
brought up this way and convoying 
batteaux flotilla containing war sup- 
plies was frequently part of the duties 
of the militia and regulars located here 
and in surrounding districts. Revolu- 
tionary captains in the batteaux ser- 
vice were in 1832 made entitled to the 
same pensions as captains in the Con- 
tinental army. 

Small batteaux, known in those times 
as three-handed and four-handed 
boats, were in early use on the Mohawk. 
They were so called because three or 
four men were required to propel and 
care for them. Passing the carry at 
Little Falls in early days, the boats 
proceeded to Fort Stanwix where the 
carry was made to Wood creek, whence 
they floated into and through Oneida 
lake and the Oswego river to Oswego 
where they entered Lake Ontario. 
From Oswego to Niagara, then a place 
of much importance, merchandise was 
transported in the same boats or 
aboard sloops. This was the water 
route to the west until the completion 
of the Erie canal in 1825. 

The earliest boatmen were troubled 
by the Indians who look toll for the 
navigation of the river and who were 
particularly threatening and rapac- 
ious at the Wood creek carry. The 
rifts in the river offered a serious 
menace to this form of transportation 
and wrecks and drownings were not 
infrequent. On the down trip the 
flood times were welcomed as over- 
coming this trouble and this must 
have been a favorite time for making 
the journey east. On the up trip over 
the rifts the polemen were assisted by 
men on shore with ropes. Rude sails 
were also used during favoring winds 
and sails, oars and poles were the 
three methods of propelling the white 
man's boats on the Mohawk for two 
centuries. 

It was not until 1800 that the turn- 
pikes were improved sufficiently to 
compete with the Mohawk in matters 
of transportation, and the river, at the 
Revolutionary period, was the main 
artery of traffic and remained so for 



some time. Schenectady then was a 
lively river port and important town 
to the Mohawk valley people. 

The first rift or rapids, above Sche- 
nectady, was met with, at a distance 
of six miles, and was called Six Flats 
Rift. Proceeding west in order came 
Fort Hunter rift, Caughnawaga rift at 
Fultonville, Keator's rift at Sprakers, 
the greatest in the river, having a fall 
of ten feet in a few rods; Brandy wine 
rift at Canajoharie, short but rapid; 
Ehle's rift, near Fort Plain; Kneis- 
kern's rift, a small rapid near the up- 
per Indian Castle and a little above 
the river dam; the Little Falls, so 
called in contradistinction to the great 
Falls at Cohoes; Wolf's rift, five miles 
above the falls. 

At Fort Plain, a bend in the river 
opposite the house of Peter Ehle from 
whom the rift took its name was 
known as Ehle's crank; and opposite 
the residence of Nicholas Gros, a little 
below, another turn in the river was 
called Gros's crank. 

At the Little Falls, a descent of 40 
feet in half a mile, boats could not be 
forced up the current and it became a 
carrying place for them and merchan- 
dise, which were transported around 
the rapids, usually on the north shore, 
at first on sleds and later on wagons 
with small wide rimmed wheels. 
The water craft were then re- 
launched and reloaded and proceeded 
on their western journey. On such oc- 
casions, one of the party usually stay- 
ed with the goods deposited above 
while the team returned for the boat. 

The difficulties of forcing the boats 
over the rifts of the Mohawk increased 
with their size. As many as twenty 
men, pulling with ropes on the bank 
and pushing with poles on the boat, 
were sometimes unable to propel a 
single boat over Keator's rift. Black 
slaves, owned by settlers near the 
rapids, were frequently employed in 
this occupation. 

An early traveler writes as follows of 
this waterway: "The Oniada Lake, 
situated near the head of the River 
Oswego, receives the waters of Wood 
Creek, which takes its rise not far 
from the Mohawk River. These two 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



181 



lie so adjacent to each other that a 
junction is effected by sluices at Fort 
Stanwix. * * * * Here [Little Falls] 
the roaring rapids interrupted all nav- 
igation, empty boats not even being 
able to pass over them. The early 
portage, of one mile here in sleds over 
the swampy ground, has been describ- 
ed as it was in 1756, when enterprising 
Teutons residing here transferred all 
boats in sleds over marshy ground 
which 'would admit of no wheel car- 
riage.' * * * Later on, about 1790, 
we find that the Germans' sleds were 
out of use and that boats were trans- 
ferred on wheeled vehicles appropri- 
ately fashioned to carry them without 
damage to their hulls. No great boats 
could be transferred by such means; 
this fact had a tendency to limit the 
carrying capacity of Mohawk batteaus 
to about one and a half tons." Johan 
Jost Herkimer, father of Nicholas Her- 
kimer, was a pioneer in this carrying 
business at "The Falls" and here laid 
the foundation of a considerable for- 
tune. 

Washington mentions the advantages 
of the Mohawk valley waterway and 
after the Revolution efforts were made 
to improve it and many plans were 
put forward, some bearing a rude re- 
semblance to the present barge canal 
dams. To this end the Inland Lock 
Navigation company was incorporated 
March 30, 1792, Gen. Philip Schuyler 
being elected its president. Locks and 
canals were built at Little Falls, at 
Wolfs Rift at German Flats, and at 
Rome, connecting with Wood Creek. 
These canals were constructed about 
1795, prior to which time there were 
carries at Little Falls and Wood Creek. 
These river locks and canals continued 
in use until 1825, the year of the open- 
ing of the Erie canal. 

After the river improvements were 
made the Durham boat was substituted 
for the unwieldly batteaux. The Dur- 
ham boat was of ten or fifteen tons 
capacity and had sharpened bows. 
Cleats were along the sides to give the 
polemen's feet better purchase and a 
small caboose was the crew's store- 
house and the cooking was done on 
shore, where fuel was plenty. It is 



related that one of these boats left 
Utica in the morning and reached 
Schenectady on the evening of the 
same day, which was considered a 
record trip. The expense of transpor- 
tation from Albany to Schenectady 
was 16 cents per 100 pounds. From 
Schenectady to Utica, 75 cents and 
from Utica to Oswego $1.25, making a 
through rate of $2.16 per 100 pounds. 
This would give $43.20 per ton as the 
freight rate between Schenectady and 
Oswego, less than 200 miles. In 1913 
the rate per ton by lake boats from 
Buffalo to Duluth, about 700 miles, 
was 39 cents. 

The river improvements and cost of 
transportation made the enterprise un- 
profitable and the company sold out 
to the state in 1820. With the build- 
ing of the Erie canal the traffic boat- 
men disappeared from the Mohawk. It 
is probable that at Fort Plain was a 
landing for batteaux, during the life- 
time of the post, and afterward for the 
larger boats. Possibly the Otsquago 
was here deep where it traversed the 
level flatland for a half mile and bat- 
teaux may have been able to pene- 
trate its still waters up to the Clarke 
house and Paris store. 

Along the river road, near some of 
the rapids, were public houses, a good 
share of whose custom came from the 
boatmen. As near these runs as pos- 
sible, boats often tied up for the night 
and here a lot of old Mohawk sailors 
had jolly times. Jost Spraker's tav- 
ern, at Keator's rift, was one of those. 
Another riverman's favorite tavern 
was the old Isaac Weatherby house at 
Brandywine rift, situated a mile below 
Palatine Bridge, and below the junc- 
tion of the Oswegatchie and the river 
roads. 

Accidents, drownings and wrecks 
were many. Two which occurred near 
Fort Plain, shortly before the Erie 
was opened, are described by Simnis 
as follows: "Ezra Copley in 1823 ran 
a Durham boat on a rock in Ehle's rift, 
below the Fort Plain bridge. It was 
loaded with wheat in bulk, was stove 
and filled with water. The wheat was 
taken to Ehle's barn and dried, the 
boat was repaired, reloaded and went 



182 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



on its destination. One of the best 
of this class of craft, l^nown as the 
'Butterfly,' was descending the river, 
swollen by floods, when the steersman 
lost control of it and it struck broad- 
side on one of the stone piers of the 
Canajoharie bridge and broke near the 
centre. The contents of the boat lit- 
erally filled the river for some distance 
and three hands were drowned. The 
body of one, named Clark, was recov- 
ered twelve miles below at Pulton- 
ville. The steersman retained his hold 
on the long tiller (some 20 feet long) 
and reached shore about a quarter 
mile below the bridge. Most of the 
flour on the boat was saved along the 
river. The owner of the craft, a man 
named Meyers, had the boat's frag- 
ments taken to Schenectady and re- 
built. After this it was taken through 
the newly completed Erie canal to 
Cayuga lake. Here, while making a 
trip loaded with gypsum, it sank and 
its owner was drowned. Thus ended 
the unfortunate 'Butterfly,' one of the 
last of the freight craft that sailed the 
Mohawk." Many of the river boats 
probably found early use on the Erie 
canal, after 1825. In the last few 
years (1821-1825) of canal construc- 
tion the Mohawk was used in connec- 
tion with the completed portions of 
the Erie canal for the transportation 
of canal boats from the west to Sche- 
nectady and vice versa, notably from 
Little Falls and later from Sprakers, 
to Schenectady. 

Several large rowboats, constructed 
especially to carry twenty passengers 
each, from Utica to Schenectady, and 
tastefully curtained, were in use on 
the Mohawk at about 1800. They were 
called river packets. 

Christian Schultz, who journeyed 
on the river in 1807, spoke of there be- 
ing three kinds of boats on the Mo- 
hawk — the Schenectady boats being 
preferred, which carried about ten 
tons when the river would permit. He 
said they usually progressed 18 to 25 
miles per day up the stream by sails 
and poles. These boats, modeled much 
like the Long Island round-bottomed 
skiffs, were 40 to 50 feet in length and 
were steered by a large swing oar of 



the same length. When the wind 
favored they set a square sail and a 
top sail. He was informed that one 
"galley," the "Mohawk Register," had 
gone at the rate of six miles an hour 
against the stream and he adds: 
"During this time, believe me, nothing 
could be more charming than sailing 
on the Mohawk." They did not often 
have a favorable wind and the curves 
in the river rendered the course of a 
boat irregular and the use of sails pre- 
carious, on which account their chief 
dependence was upon their pike poles, 
which it required much experience to 
use to advantage. 

Of the poles and the manner of 
using them on the river boats, Mr. 
Schultz gives the following account: 
"These poles are from 18 to 22 feet in 
length, having a sharp pointed iron 
with a socket weighing 10 to 12 pounds 
affixed to the lower end; the upper has 
a large knob called a button mounted 
upon it, so that the poleman may 
press upon it with his whole weight 
without endangering his person. This 
manner of impelling the boat forward 
is extremely laborious, and none but 
those who have been some time ac- 
customed to it, can manage these poles 
with any kind of advantage. Within 
the boat on each side is fixed a plank 
running fore and aft with a number of 
cleats nailed upon it, for the purpose 
of giving the poleman sure footing 
and hard poling. The men, after set- 
ting the poles a'gainst the rock, bank 
or bottom of the river, declining their 
heads very low, place the upper end 
or button against the back part of 
their shoulder, then falling on their 
hands and toes creep the whole length 
of the gang boards and send the boat 
forward at considerable speed. The 
first sight of four men on each side of 
the boat, creeping along on their 
hands and toes, apparently transfixed 
by a huge pole, is no small curiosity; 
nor was it until I perceived their per- 
severance for 200 or 300 yards, that I 
became satisfied they were not play- 
ing some pranks. 

"From the general practise of this 
method, as likewise from my own trials 
and observations, I am convinced that 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



183 



they have fallen upon the most pow- 
erful way possible to exert their bod- 
ily strength for the purpose required. 
The position, however, was so ex- 
tremely awkward to me, that I doubt 
whether the description I have given 
will adequately describe the proced- 
ure. I have met with another kind of 
boat on the river, which is called a 
dorm or dorem; how it is spelled I 
know not. [This was the Durham 
boat and the third boat to which he 
alludes was the batteau, propelled by 
oars.] The only difference I could ob- 
serve in this [the Durham] from the 
former one, is that it is built sharp on 
both ends, and generally much larger 
and stouter. They likewise have flats 
[scows] similar to those seen on the 
Susquehanna, but much lighter built 
and larger. On all these they occa- 
sionally carry the sails before men- 
tioned. 

"The Mohawk is by no means dan- 
gerous to ascend, on account of the 
slowness of the boat's progress; but 
as it is full of rocks, stones and shal- 
lows, there is some risk of staving the 
boat and, at this season [probably 
midsummer], is so low as to require 
the boat to be dragged over many 
places. The channel, in some in- 
stances, is not more than eight feet in 
width [the boats were long and nar- 
row], which will barely permit a boat 
to pass by rubbing on both sides. This 
is sometimes caused by natural or ac- 
cidental obstructions of rocks in the 
channel, but oftener by artificial 
ineans. This, which at first view would 
appear to be an inconvenience, is pro- 
duced by two lines or ridges of stone, 
generally constructed on sandy, grav- 
elly or stony shallows, in such manner 
as to form an acute angle where they 
meet, the extremities of which widen 
as they extend up the river, while at 
the lower end there is just space 
enough left to admit the passage of a 
boat. The water being thus collected 
at the widest part of these ridges, and 
continually pent up within narrower 
limits as it descends, causes a rise at 
the passage; so that where th« depth 
was no" more than eight inches before, 
a contrivance of this kind will raise 



it to twelve; and strange as it may 
appear, a boat drawing fifteen inches 
will pass through it with safety and 
ease. The cause is simply this: The 
boat, being somewhat below the pas- 
sage, its resistance to the current is 
such as to cause a swell of four or five 
inches more, which affords it an easy 
passage over the shoal." 

The reader must remember that at 
this time, the waters of the Erie then 
having their channel in the Mohawk, 
the river was of considerable more 
volume than it was after the building 
of the canal. 

This writer says that the Mohawk 
might be considered 100 yards in width 
with extremely fertile banks. He 
speaks of passing through eight locks 
at Little Falls, whereas two of these 
were at Wolf's rift, several miles above. 
He said the Mohawk afforded very 
poor fishing, since at the end of nine 
days he had only caught a "poor cat 
fish, no longer than a herring." He 
visited Utica, which then had 160 
houses, and Whitestown. 

Of Rome he says: "Rome * * * 
is near the head of the Mohawk. The 
entrance into this village is through a 
handsome canal about a mile in 
length. It is here that the Mohawk is 
made to contribute a part of its stream 
towards filling Wood creek, which of 
itself is so low in dry seasons as to be 
totally insufficient to float a boat with- 
out the aid of the Mohawk. Rome, 
formerly known as Fort Stanwix, is 
delightfully situated in an elevated and 
level country commanding an exten- 
sive view for miles around. This vil- 
lage consists of about 80 houses, but it 
seems quite destitute of every kind of 
trade, and rather upon the decline. 
The only spirit which I perceived 
stirring among them was that of 
money digging, and the old fort be- 
trayed evident signs of the prevalence 
of this mania, as it had literally been 
turned inside out for the purpose of 
discovering concealed treasures." 

In descending Wood creek he passed 
through a range of five canal locks. 
He spoke of the rate of toll as being 
too high. He said the toll, in passing 
the eight locks at Little Falls, was 



184 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLxVIN 



$2.25 per ton of merchandise, and the 
toll on the boat was from $1.50 to 
$2,621/2 each boat. The toll was at a 
still higher rate to pass through the 
Wood creek locks, being $3.00 per ton 
on the goods and from $1.50 to $3.50 
on the boats. 

In 1S07, at the time of Mr. Schultz's 
trip up the Mohawk, he passed the fol- 
lowing towns to which is added a 
rough estimate of their population at 
that time: Schenectady, several thou- 
sand; Amsterdam, 150; Caughnawaga 
(Fonda), 200; Canajoharie, 200; Fort 
Plain, 200; Little Falls, 300; Herki- 
mer, 300; Utica, 1,200; Whitestown; 
Rome, 500. Johnstown, only three 
miles from the Mohawk, had prob- 
ably 600 and was the third town in 
importance in the yalley. Montgom- 
ery county, in 1807 and up to 1817, ex- 
tended westward from the Schenec- 
tady county line to Fall Hill. Schen- 
ectady was the most important town 
in the state west of Albany in 1807. 

The Rev. Mr. Taylor, previously al- 
luded to, gives an interesting account 
of the Little Falls locks and the Little 
Falls country itself in 1802: "Passing 
on from Manheim, we found the moun- 
tains drawing to a point upon two 
sides of the river. When we come to 
the river there is only a narrow pass 
for about three-fourths of a mile be- 
tween the river and the foot of the 
rocks. When we come to the Falls 
the scene which it presents is sublime. 
We now enter Herkimer county — a 
small village of the town of Herkimer, 
called Little Falls, by which the canals 
pass, which were constructed in [17]95. 
The length of the canal is three- 
fourths of a mile. There are six locks. 
The appearance of the falls is sub- 
lime. The village is built upon a ledge 
of rocks. It promises fair to be a 
place of business as to trade, as all 
produce of the Royal grants will nat- 
urally be brought here to be shipped. 
They have a. new and beautiful meet- 
ing house, standing about 40 rods back 
on the hill, built in the form of an oc- 
tagon. I am now, July 27 [1802], about 
30 rods from fall mountain on the 
south. Between this and the moun- 
tain is the Mohawk, and a bridge over 



it, in length about 16 rods. Between 
this and the bridge is the canal. On 
the right about 40 rods are the falls, 
or one bar of the falls in full view. 
The falls extend about three-fourths 
of a mile. Upon the whole, the place 
is the most romantic of "any I ever 
saw; and the objects are such as to 
excite sublime ideas in a reflecting 
mind. From the appearance of the 
rocks, and fragments of rocks where 
the town is built, it is, I think, dem- 
onstratably evident that the waters of 
the Mohawk, in passing over the fall, 
were 80 or 90 feet higher, in some 
early period, than they are now. The 
rocks, even a hundred feet perpendic- 
ular above the present high water 
mark, are worn in the same manner as 
those over which the river passes. The 
rocks are not only worn by the descent 
of the water, but in the fiat rocks are 
many round holes, worn by the whirl- 
ing of stones — some even 5 feet and 20 
inches over. If these effects were pro- 
duced by the water, as I have no doubt 
they were, then it follows as a neces- 
sary consequence, that the flats above 
and all the lowlands for a consider- 
able extent of the country, were cov- 
ered Ti^ith water, and that here was a 
lake — but the water, having lowered, 
its bed, laid the lands above dry." 

In regard to the foregoing specu- 
lations of the Rev. John Taylor the 
following from the Fort Plain Stand- 
ard of August 1, 1912, is of interest: 

"The Mohawk valley, and especially 
that section of it at Little Falls, is a 
classic example among geographers. 
Not only is the Little Falls gorge the 
only low pass o\er the Appalachian 
Highlands between Canada and Ala- 
bama through which easy access is 
made from the Atlantic to the West, 
but is is also an extremely interest- 
ing place in itself. The Mohawk river 
at one time had its source at Little 
Falls while a westward flowing stream 
ran from that point to where now is 
Lake Ontario. During the glacial per- 
iod the gorge was partly scooped out 
by ice, then for a time, while the St. 
Lawrence river was obstructed by ice, 
the Great Lakes had their- outlet 
through the Mohawk valley instead of 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



185 



the St. Lawrence and Little Falls ri- 
valled Niagara. Today the evidences of 
the work of ice and water, and also 
of far more ancient earthquake and 
volcanic action, are to be seen in un- 
usual clearness at the Little Falls 
gorge." This item was anent the visit 
to Little Falls of leading geographers 
of the world in 1912. 

The batteaux and boats of the Mo- 
hawk were the natural predecessors of 
the Erie packets and canal boats, the 
Central freight car, coach and Pull- 
man and the 3,000 ton barge. To the 
Mohawk and the utilization of its 
stream for transportation, is due much 
of the subsequent development of. the 
communities along its banks and of 
New York state in general. 



CHAPTER VII. 

1609-1913 — Mohawk Valley Transpor- 
tation — Indian Trails — Horse and 
Cart Roads, Highways (1700-1800) 
— Turnpikes and Mohawk Turnpike 
(1800-1840) —County Roads (1840- 
1885)— Bicycle Routes (1885-1900) — 
Automobile Roads (1900-1913) — 
Weed's 1824 Stage Coach Journey on 
the Mohawk Turnpike. 

This chapter, dealing with the Mo- 
hawk valley highways, is the second 
one describing transportation in the 
Mohawk valley. The first, published 
just before this one, covered traffic on 
the Mohawk river. Others follow 
treating of bridges, the Erie canal, 
railroads and the Barge canal. The 
highways are the most important and 
basic element in the matter of trans- 
portation, and their history and the 
life on the Mohawk thoroughfares are 
therefore of prime interest to all the 
valley inhabitants. 

The early highways and rude roads 
of our valley generally followed the 
Indian trails. These trails were good, 
though only two or three feet wide 
and "in many places, the savages kept 
the woods clear from underbrush by 
burning over large tracts." All 
streams had to be forded, except where 
the few ferries were, and these fords 
often determined the location of 



roads. Trees were felled across nar- 
row streams to make footbridges and 
the colonial governments frequently 
ordered these made. "When new paths 
were cut through the forests, the set- 
tlers 'blazed' the trees, that is they 
chopped a piece of bark off tree after 
tree, standing on the side of the way. 
Thus the 'blazes' stood out clear and 
white in the dark shadows of the for- 
ests, like welcome guide-posts, show- 
ing the traveler his way." 

The Indian trails covered eastern 
New York and connected the various 
Iroquois villages with each other or 
led to hunting and fishing grounds 
(like the Otsqxiago and Caroga trails) 
or into or towards these grounds and 
the countries of the enemies of the 
Mohawks and their brother tribes — 
such as the trail which ran from Can- 
ada to the Sacandaga and through 
Johnstown, Stone Arabia and Palatine 
to the ford at the mouth of the Caroga, 
there connecting with the Otsquago 
trail. The explorers, soldiers, traders 
and "wood-runners" used these Indian 
trails and the first white settlers util- 
ized them as roads as a matter of 
course, because, like the buffalo trails 
of the great west, they connected the 
most important points and water- 
courses and lakes by the shortest and 
easiest routes. These western buf- 
falo trails were also Indian trails and 
are now trunk line railroads. So the 
trails naturally became the first valley 
highways and most of the more im- 
portant of these today are the Indian 
trails, enlarged, improved, straight- 
ened and graded. Of those of western 
Montgomery' co'unty are the north and 
south shore Mohawk turnpikes, the old 
Caroga road leading to the Caroga, 
Canada and other lakes of northern 
Fulton county and into the Adiron- 
dack country, the Canadian trail 
aforementioned leading from Lake 
George through Johnstown and Stone 
Arabia to the mouth of the Caroga, 
and the Otsquago valley road begin- 
ning at the other side of the Caroga 
ford and running to Otsego lake, the 
headwaters of the Susquehanna and 
into the Iroquois country. 

Over the old Indian valley trails 



186 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



or on the river came the first Dutch 
explorers and traders with their Iro- 
quois guides and helpers and the early 
French explorers and priests with 
their Algonquin aids and guides. Fol- 
lowing them came the Dutch, German 
and British settlers carrying their 
goods on their backs, on packhorses 
or in oxcarts or horsecarts — many of 
their fellow pioneers toiling painfully 
up against the current of the river in 
flatboats to their new homes in the 
Mohawk wilderness. Still later with 
the settlement and clearing of farms, 
these hardy men widened and cleared 
the trails and blazed new ones over 
which they transported farm and for- 
est produce in their rude wooden sleds 
and carts. Probably the first valley 
cartroad was the one between Albany 
and Schenectady after the settlement 
of Schenectady in 1661. 

Prior to 1800, and even later, these 
farm carts and wooden sleds were 
made on the farm. Just as all food 
and raw materials (such as hemp, flax, 
wool, etc.) were grown by the hus- 
bandman on his own lands, so was 
everything he and his family used 
made there. This necessitated an 
endless round of toil on the farm, from 
sunrise until after sunset all the year 
round excepting part of Sundays, but 
it made the farmer self-supporting, 
self-sufficient and independent of the 
world outside his own personal do- 
main. Each farm was a kingdom unto 
itself. Every homestead had its car- 
penter's room or bench, just as it had 
its soap kettle, cheese room and smoke 
house (and occasional ice house), and 
all tools, implements' vehicles and 
rude farm machinery were made on 
the farm by the farmer himself. The 
nearest blacksmith shop supplied the 
necessary ironwork. 

Later the valley trails, or the cart- 
roads they were turned into, were 
used by the American and British 
troops and their baggage trains during 
the Revolution. Following their grad- 
ual improvement and the great immi- 
gration and traffic following the war 
for independence came the turnpikes, 
coincident with the building of bridges. 
Probably by 1800 the majority of our 



Mohawk valley highway system had 
been constructed, but it had for its 
basis the old Indian trails of the Mo- 
hawks. None of these improvements 
such as highways and bridges came 
of themselves but were the result of 
the strenuous work of the early valley 
men. 

After 1783, it was found necessary to 
improve transportation facilities in the 
Mohawk valley to accommodate its 
population and the tide of emigration 
pouring through it to the west. Roads 
were iinproved, bridges constructed 
and taverns built or remodeled from 
farmhouses on the lines of travel. 
New towns and counties were also 
formed as told in prior chapters. 

In April, 1790, the state legisla- 
ture voted "£100 for the purpose of 
erecting a bridge across the East Can- 
ada creek, not exceeding three miles 
from the mouth thereof, upon the road 
from the Mohawk river to the Royal 
Grant." In 1793 commissioners were 
appointed by the legislature with di- 
rections to build "a bridge over the 
East Canada creek, nearly opposite 
Canajoharie Castle, on the public road 
leading from Tribes Hill to the Little 
Falls." 

About 1790 stages made weekly 
trips in the valley and daily trips after 
the completion of the Mohawk turn- 
pike. The completion of the Scho- 
harie bridge at Fort Hunter and the 
construction of the Great Western 
turnpike from Albany westward 
marked the year 1798. This route 
connected with the Mohawk at Cana- 
joharie by stages which ran from 
Roof's tavern where the Hotel Wag- 
ner stands. 

The most important of all the valley 
roads are north and south shore turn- 
pikes which traverse the shores of the 
Mohawk for a distance of about ninety 
miles between Schenectady and Rome. 
In future days these will be splendid 
highways and are today most import- 
ant roads, the north shore or Mohawk 
turnpike being one of the historic 
roads of North America and an im- 
portant part of the trunk highway be- 
tween New York and Buffalo, largely 
paralleling the Central railroad sys- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



187 



tem, trolley systems and the Barge 
canal. Chapter V. of this work gives 
n French account of these two river 
highways in 1756, covering the dis- 
tance mentioned from Rome to Sche- 
nectady. 

Prior to 1800 the south shore road 
seems to have been the more import- 
ant but since that time the north 
shore or Mohawk turnpike has been 
the major one. Over the Mohawk 
turnpike vast quantities of crops, raw 
material and merchandise were trans- 
ported in the half century comprised 
in the latter years of the eighteenth 
and early part of the nineteenth cen- 
turies. It has figured as a Mohawk 
Indian trail (until 1700), cart and 
horse path (1700-1750), wagon and 
stage road (1750-1836), freight wagon 
turnpike (1800-1840), bicycle and au- 
tomobile touring route (1890-1913) 
and has a future, among other things, 
as a freight and passenger motor car 
line. It is paralleled (1913) through- 
out by the New York Central railroad 
and by trolley lines from Rome to 
Cohoes, with the exception of a 
gap between Little Falls and Fonda, 
which doubtless will be connected ere 
long. The Mohawk turnpike shares, 
with the Mohawk river and the early 
Erie canal the glory of having been 
one of the valley travel routes 
by way of which hundreds of 
thousands of the ancestors of the 
present day westerners made their 
way to new homes, prior to the build- 
ing of the railroads and even for a 
number of years thereafter. 

The building of bridges over the 
East and West Canada creeks in 1793 
made the north shore road the favorite 
valley route, and the next forward 
step was the improvement of this Mo- 
hawk turnpike from Schenectady to 
Utica. The charter for its construction 
was granted April 4, 1800. 

Seth Wetmore, Levi Norton, Ozi'as 
Bronson, Hewitt Hills and three others 
were the first board of directors. This 
road was also called the Albany turn- 
pike. 

The Mohawk turnpike connected at 
Schenectady with the Mohawk and 
Hudson turnpike to Albany, the two 



forming a continuous trade route over 
• one hundred miles in length from Al- 
bany and the Hudson valley to Rome 
and thence to the Great Lakes and 
western New York and the Great 
West. 

"The charter of the Utica and Sche- 
nectady Railroad company, granted in 
1833, required it, before beginning 
transportation, to purchase the rights 
of the Mohawk Turnpike Co. and to 
assume the responsibilities of the lat- 
ter. One of these responsibilities was 
that of keeping the turnpike in re- 
pair. It was provided however that 
the railroad company might abandon 
the turnpike, giving notice to the com- 
missioners of highways, and after such 
notice it should be kept in order in the 
same manner as other highways. The 
railroad company for a time took toll 
on the turnpike and kept it in repair, 
but subsequently removed the gates 
and became responsible for the main- 
tenance of only a part of the old high- 
way." 

With the opening of the Erie canal 
in 1825, traffic on the Mohawk turn- 
pike began to diminish as the freight 
wagons could not compete with the 
canal boats during the summer 
months. Probably they had a consid- 
erable use for a number of years, on 
the north turnpike in winter and on 
other Mohawk valley roads, to the 
north and south, all the year round. 
The stages continued to largely carry 
the valley passenger traffic, sharing it 
with the Erie canal packets in the 
summer months until after the build- 
ing of the Utica and Schenectady rail- 
road in 1836. This railroad, like any 
other railroad, was and is merely a 
highway with an iron bed carrying, 
by mechanical motive power, greatly 
enlarged editions of the turnpike 
stages and freight wagons. Stages 
continued in use on other Mohawk 
valley roads until the present day. 

The legislature in 1802 authorized 
the opening of certain roads in the 
state, and in pursuance of this act, 
the highway called the State road, 
leading from Johnstown in a north- 
western direction to the Black River 
country, was opened. It was subse- 



I 



188 



THE STOEY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



quently much used while that part of 
the country was being settled by emi- 
grants from the east. 

The improvement of the road, lead- 
ing from Schenectady to Utica along 
the south side of the Mohawk was 
deemed expedient, and commissioners 
were appointed in 1806 to direct the 
work, their instructions being to 
strighten the existing road and open 
it to a width of fifty feet. The towns 
through which it passed were required 
to repair and maintain it if their pop- 
ulation was not too small. 

The following from Simms's "Fron- 
tiersmen of New York," gives a good 
picture of the Mohawk turnpike and 
life thereon during the early nine- 
teenth century: 

"While the Mohawk was literally 
filled with boats of different kinds — 
for nearly every family living upon its 
banks had some kind of one — and 
Schenectady was a live town for re- 
ceiving and dispatching freight on and 
off them — large wagons were used in 
competition with them in the trans- 
portation of merchandise and produce 
to and from western New York. The 
produce — wheat, whiskey and potash — 
came to Albany, from whence mer- 
chandise was returned. These wagons, 
covered with canvas, and drawn by 
three to eight horses, were seen in 
numbers on the western and Mohawk 
turnpikes. The leaders usually had a 
little bell fastened upon the headstall. 
Mr. Alonzo Crosby, long superintend- 
ent of the eastern part of the western 
turnpike, counted up to 50 or more 
taverns between Albany and Cherry 
Valley, in the distance of 52 miles. 
Palatine Church, a hamlet at that time 
of some importance on the Mohawk 
turnpike, was 61 miles from Albany, 
the inns in that distance also averag- 
ing one to every mile. Indeed, inn- 
keepers were neighbors on those roads 
for a hundred miles to the westward' 
of Albany. At this period tavern 
keeping was a lucrative business, es- 
pecially for the hovises prepared with 
inclosed sheds and good stabling. 

"The horses before these wagons, 
which, at times, had a hundred or 
more bushels of wheat on, never trav- 



eled out of a walk. At the period of 
their use, brakes were unknown in de- 
scending hills, but a heavy iron shoe 
was used on the six-inch tire, which 
could be thrown from the wheel at the 
foot of a hill Ijy a spring managed by 
the foot of the driver. The teamsters 
usually went on foot, whip in hand, 
and their constant travel had worn a 
good foot-path along each side of the 
road, near the fence, a hundred miles 
from Albany. The horses were seldom 
stabled nights, but had an oilcloth 
covering and were fed from a box or 
trough carried along and attached to 
the pole, which could not fall to the 
ground. The rear of the wagon was 
ornamented with a tar bucket and a 
water pail. The wagons were painted 
blue or slate color, and the covering 
remained white. A small box was se- 
cured upon one side or end of the 
wagon, containing a hammer, wrench, 
currycomb, etc. Those wagons paid 
no toll as they filled the ruts made by 
farm wagons. Some of the teams were 
driven by a single line on the forward 
nigh horse, and occasionally a postil- 
lion was seen on the nigh wheel horse; 
but those large Pennsylvania horses 
were so well trained as to be dexter- 
ously managed with a long leathern 
whip. When it was heavy traveling, 
those monster wagons progressed but 
a few miles in a day, sometimes being 
two weeks in going from Albany to 
Geneva, Canandaigua or Rochester. 
Freight or merchandise west was, at 
first, one dollar a hundred from Albany 
to Utica. Although there were so many 
taverns on the road, still so numerous 
were the teams that, at times, one of 
a party in company was mounted and 
sent forward before night to secure ac- 
commodations with a good wagon- 
yard inclosure. 

"From two to ten of these large 
wagons were sometimes seen in com- 
pany, some of them carrying from 
three to four tons. The horses were 
usually fat. Some carried a jack- 
screw for raising an axle to take off a 
wheel; but this was seldom done, as a 
hole for pouring in tar or grease was 
made for the purpose. In ascending 
hills, the wagon was blocked at inter- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



189 



vals with a stone, carried by the team- 
ster behind it. After those mammoth 
wagons were supplanted by the Erie 
canal, several .of them might have 
been seen about the old Loucks tav- 
ern, [in Albany] as also at Paul 
Clark's inn in the southwest part of 
Albany, where some of them rotted 
down. 

"On the Mohawk turnpike, as re- 
membered by Andrew A. Fink, George 
Wagner and others, were the following 
inn-keepers from Herkimer (80 miles 
from Albany) descending the valley. 
They may not be named in the order 
in which they stood: John Rasback, 
John Potter, Heacock; across West 
Canada creek, Nathaniel Etheridge, 
Upham, James Artcher, a teamster 
married one of his daughters. This inn 
had a peculiar sign. On o-ne side was 
painted a gentleman richly clad and 
elegantly mounted on horseback with 
this motto, 'I am going to law.' On 
the reverse side was a very dilapi- 
dated man on a horse, the very pic- 
ture of poverty, saying, 'I have been 
to law.' [Continuing the list] John 
McCombs, Warner Dygert; at Little 
Falls, John Sheldon, Carr, Harris, 
Major Morgan; below the Falls, A. A. 
Fink. From Fink's to East Creek is 
five miles, and in that distance were 
13 dwellings, 12 of which were 
taverns occupied as follows: Bau- 
der; William Smith, his sign had on 
it an Indian chief; John Petrie, Henry 
Shults, James Van Valkenburgh, Law- 
rence Timmerman, John Wagner, 
Owens, Nathan Christie, Esq., David 
Richtmyer, Frederick Getman, James 
and Luther Pardee; below East Creek, 
John Stauring, Van Dresser, James 
Billington, John Bancker, Michael U. 
Bauder, Yates, Jacob Failing, a favor- 
ite place for large wagons; Zimmer- 
man, Joseph Klock, Christian Klock, 
Daniel C. Nellis, John C. Nellis, 
Brown, Gen. Peter C. Fox, at Palatine 
Church; George Fox, John C. Lipe, 
George Wagner, Charles Walrath, 
Harris, Weaver, Richard Bortle, Nich- 
olas Gros, Samuel Fenner, an old sea 
captain who spun his skipper's yarns 
to customers; Jacob Hees, who also 
had a boat and lumber landing at Pal- 



atine Bridge; Josiah Shepard, a stage 
house; Weatherby, Jost Spraker, John 
DeWandelaer, now Schenck's place 
near the Nose; Frederick Dockstader, 
kept many large wagons; Connelly, 
Fred Dockstader, 2d, who had a run 
of double teams; Gen. Henry Fonda 
at now village of Fonda; Giles Fonda, 
Pride, Hardenburgh, Conyne, Lepper; 
in Tribes Hill, Kline, Putman, Wil- 
son; Guy Park, a favorable place for 
large wagons, kept at one time by 
McGerk; Col. William Shuler at Am- 
sterdam; below were Crane of Cranes - 
ville, Lewis Groat, Swart and others 
on this part of the route not remem- 
bered. At Schenectady are recalled, 
Tucker, Jacob Wagner, Shields, while 
the names of two others are forgotten, 
— one of them had a house in Frog 
Alley, which was burned by the slack- 
ing of lime. Between Schenectady and 
Albany were, Havely, Brooks, Vielie. 
The Half-way house was a stage house 
and kept by Leavitt Kingsbury, which 
became noted for its delicious coffee. 

"In the period of wagon transport 
when hay was $20 a ton, innkeepers 
had one dollar a span for keeping 
horses over night; and when hay was 
$10 a ton they had 50 cents a span, or 
one shilling a pound for hay. In spring 
and fall it was a common sight to see 
ten or fifteen horses drawing a single 
wagon from its fastness in the mud. 
The first load of hemp from the west, 
said Fink, was a five horse load from 
Wadsworth's flats in the Genesee 
valley. 

"Some of the teamsters were at dif- 
ferent times on both (the Mohawk and 
the western) turnpikes. Freight from 
Albany to Buffalo was at first $5 per 
hundred weight, but competition at 
one time brought it down to $1.25. The 
teamsters on these turnpikes were as 
jovial and accommodating set of men, 
as ever engaged in any vocation, sel- 
dom having any feuds or lasting diffi- 
culties. Said Mr. Fink, in 1805-6 when 
Oneida and adjoining counties were 
receiving many of their pioneer set- 
tlers, New England people came pros- 
pecting on horseback, with well-filled 
saddte-bags and portmanteaus, and he 
often had 30 or 40 in a single night to 



190 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



entertain at his house below Little 
Falls." 

This was the day of the stage 
coach also and the Mohawk turnpike 
presented a spectacle of life and bustle 
as it shared with the Mohawk river 
the traffic of the valley. This was par- 
ticularly so during the years from 1800 
to the building of the Erie canal in 
1825. 

The earliest authentic town rec- 
ord of Palatine, now in existence, is 
that of a meeting of the commission- 
ers of excise, held May 3, 1803, for the  
purpose of granting licenses to inn- 
keepers. The number thus licensed 
will give an idea of the teaming and 
travel through the Palatine district, 
before the days of railroads or canals 
or even the completion of the Mohawk 
turnpike. The commissioners of ex- 
cise were Jacob Ecker, Henry Beek- 
man and Peter C. Fox who swore to an 
oath, before Justice of the Peace John 
Zielley, that "we will not on any ac- 
count or pretense whatever, grant any 
license to any person within the said 
town of Palatine, for the purpose of 
keeping an inn or tavern, except when 
it shall appear to us to be absolutely 
necessary for the benefit of travelers." 
Jost Spraker, Henry Cook, Andrew J. 
Dillenbeck, John F. Empie, Peter W. 
Nellis and 47 others (51 in all) were 
granted licenses. The sum paid by 
each was from $5 to $6.50, according 
to location, amounting in the aggre- 
gate for that year to $258.50. 

The Mohawk turnpike was the scene 
of much military activity during the 
years of 1812, 1813 and 1814, caused 
by the movement of New York troops 
going to defense of the frontier (in 
the second war with Great Britain) 
and their return at the close of hostil- 
ities. It shared this military traffic 
with the Mohawk river. 

After the railroad trains on the 
Utica and Schenectady road (forerun- 
ner of the New York Central), started ' 
running up and down the valley, the 
Mohawk turnpike ceased to be a line 
of bustling activity and important 
traffic route, being used only for local 
and farm wagon freightage. Orl the 
valley roads about 1880 appeared 



riders on the high bicycle and a few 
years later the serviceable "safety" 
came into use and a veritable "bicycle 
craze" was inaugurated which lasted 
until about 1900, after which time the 
cheap and useful "wheel" took its 
rightful place as a means of trans- 
port. After 1895 appeared the "bi- 
cycle's son" — the automobile, and the 
future of our highways lies largely in 
their use as automobile freight and 
passenger roads — this use probably 
always to be supplemented by the 
farm horse and wagon. Coeval with 
the appearance of the bicycle and au- 
tomobile came the trolley car, whose 
lines parallel the valley roads in many 
places and which will undoubtedly 
form a traffic system, together with 
the railroads, the Barge canal and 
good highways, that will give well- 
nigh perfect transportation facilities 
to the Mohawk valley. The proper 
building of lasting highways is now 
one of the most important features of 
traffic in the Mohawk region as well 
as in New York state. Today we see 
regular lines of motor buses carrying 
passengers and motor trucks carrying 
freight running between different 
points in the valley. This is borne out 
by the following paragraph from the 
Fort Plain Standard of June 19, 1913: 

"The Fort Plain and Cooperstown 
Transportation Co. will start a pas- 
senger, freight and express business 
between this village and Cooperstown 
July 1. Motor busses will be utilized." 

This is doubly interesting as it was 
only a few months previous to this 
that the Cooperstown-Fort Plain stage 
route was abandoned after a duration 
of probably a century or more over 
this historic route to the Susquehanna 
valley. 

The interest in automobiles and the 
automobile interests were largely re- 
sponsible ^'or tlie good roads move- 
ment out uv: motor car has been its 
own enemy in that the suction of the 
rubber tires destroys the surface of 
what were once conridered fine roads. 
Better materials will doubtless be 
found adapted to automobiles and all 
other vehicles, but in the meantime 
much money has been wasted. Writ- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



191 



ing on this subject S. L. Frey has said: 
"The automobile road between Albany 
and Buffalo runs through Montgom- 
ery county for thirty miles. It has 
for a foundation the solid strata of 
the Silurian rocks and the stone bed 
of the old Mohawk turnpike. It passes 
through a country of granite bould- 
ers, gneiss, sandstone, limestone, all 
kinds of ledges, cliffs and quarries, 
and yet .$20,000 [cost] a mile. And 
the grade some two feet to the mile 
with no hills!" 

The north shore turnpike is about 
forty miles long through Montgomery. 
Mr. Frey's article suggests that the 
Mohawk valley, with its abundance of 
stone supply, is an ideal region for the 
construction of ideal roads. Doubt- 
less they will come in time. At pres- 
ent (1913) the automobile traffic is 
enormous, particularly in summer. 
An average of a car every two min- 
utes has been noted, during a period 
of several hours over the old Mohawk 
turnpike and the cars come from every 
part of the country. 

The New York Times of July 20, 
1913, published a description of the 
autonTiobile route from New York to 
Canada by way of the Hudson and 
Mohawk valleys. The itinerary in 
part, is here given, thus describing 
the Mohawk turnpike from Schenec- 
tady to Rome in 1913. This is one of 
the most important highways of the 
United States today just as it was one 
of the most noteworthy stage and 
freight wagon lines a century previous: 

"From Albany, owing to the poor 
condition of the direct route, it is ad- 
visable to go by way of Loudonville 
and Latham's Corners, then over the 
Troy-Schenectady State road to Sche- 
nectady, whence good macadam leads 
through the beautiful Mohawk valley, 
passing Scotia, Hoffmans, Amsterdam, 
Fort Johnson, Tribes Hill and Fonda. 
The road is under construction from 
Fonda to Palatine Bridge, and a de- 
tour is advisable over a good but nar- 
row country road on the south side of 
the river. A good State road is fol- 
lowed from Palatine Bridge through 
Nelliston, St. Johnsville, Little Falls, 
Herkimer and Mohawk, and thence 



through Ilion, Schuyler and Deerfield 
to Utica. The scenery through the 
Mohawk valley leaves little to be de- 
sired. 

"On the other side of Utica the 
route leads through Rome, Camden, 
Williamstown, Richland, Mansville and 
Adams to Watertown. This route of- 
fers better road conditions than that 
through Boonville and Copenhagen." 
The route continues from Watertown 
to Ogdensburg and across the St. Law- 
rence river to Canada. 

The New York Sun, in July, 1913, 
published an automobile itinerary 
from New York to Cooperstown. It 
describes the route and road condi- 
tions of the north shore Mohawk turn- 
pike, from Schenectady to Nelliston 
and the Otsquago valley road from 
Fort Plain to Otsego lake, in 1913, and 
may be interesting to future readers. 
It is here reprinted as follows: "Leav- 
ing Albany the run is over a rough 
macadam and then poor dirt to Schen- 
ectady. Excellent macadam is then 
followed through Fonda. A pictur- 
esque alternate from Schenectady to 
Amsterdam is that via Mariaville. Al- 
though a little longer than the first 
route, the scenery is enjoyable and the 
roads are of good macadam. Between 
Fonda and Palatine Bridge the going 
is not of the best. Construction work 
is going on, but the road is passable, 
although very heavy in wet weather. 
A continuous panorama of beautiful 
views on this drive will more than 
recompense one for the discomforting 
road conditions. From Palatine Bridge 
[through Nelliston and Fort Plain] 
the roads are of good macadam and 
brick to about one mile before reach- 
ing Starkville, where a fairly good dirt 
road is encountered and followed 
through Van Hornesville to Spring- 
field Centre. To Cooperstown from 
Springfield Centre good roads are 
found. First a dirt road is followed 
which offers good going in dry 
weather. The balance to Cooperstown 
is macadam with some badly worn 
stretches. The run down the west side 
of Otsego lake is replete with excellent 
scenery, affording splendid views of 
the lake." 



192 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



This Fort Plain-Springfield-Coop- 
erstown road is a historic one, devel- 
oping from a Mohawli trail, Revolu- 
tionary road, stage and freight traffic 
route to the automobile highway of 
today. Mention has been made of the 
unique geographical position of the 
Mohawk valley in its being the only 
natural break through the Applachian 
.range to the west in the Middle Atlan- 
tic states. The Otsquago valley occu- 
pies a similar position in the southern 
central Mohawk basin, as it is a 
natural break and easy grade leading 
from the Mohawk river to the Susque- 
hanna watershed. 



The following from the Beers his- 
tory of Montgomery county was writ- 
ten by Thurlow Weed, for many years 
a power in Whig and Republican poli- 
tics in N«w York state and editor of 
the Albany Journal. It was evidently 
written in 1870 and recounts the inci- 
dents of a stage coach trip on the Mo- 
hawk turnpike in 1824, a year before 
the completion of the Erie canal and 
in the heyday of Mohawk valley coach- 
ing days. Although Mr. Weed, writ- 
ing almost a half-century after his 
trip, makes many errors in the loca- 
tion of stage houses, etc., yet his nar- 
rative gives a suggestive picture of 
stage coach and freight-wagon days 
along the Mohawk in the early years 
of the nineteenth century. Mr. Weed's 
and other writings of the period, show 
that, while Conestoga was the true 
name of the great freight wagons and 
the stout breed of horses which drew 
them, yet they were generally known 
in the valley and in New York state 
as Pennsylvania wagons and horses. 
The part of the sketch of travel on the 
Mohawk turnpike by Thurlow Weed, 
printed herewith, covers that historic 
highway from Fall Hill through Mont- 
gomery county. His narrative deals 
entirely with the year 1824, except 
where he says "Judge Conkling is now 
(1870) the oldest surviving New York 
member of congress from this dis- 
trict." This Judge Conkling of Cana- 
joharie, was the father of U. S. Sena- 
tor Roscoe Conkling, who became as 
much of an influence in the machin- 



ery of New York state politics as 
Thurlow Weed himself had been. 

The proper location of the points 
mentioned by Mr. Weed in his jour- 
ney, in their order from west to east, 
are as follows, according to Simms: 
East Creek, Couch's stage house; St. 
Johnsville, Failing's tavern; between 
Canajoharie and Sprakers (south side 
of river), Kane's store; Sprakers, 
Spraker's stage house; near Tribes 
Hill, Conyne's tavern; Fort Johnson, 
at Fort Johnson. Of these, Mr. Weed 
correctly located only Couch's tavern 
and Fort Johnson. His account follows: 

"From Little Falls we come after 
an hour's ride to a hill by the bank of 
the river, which, several years before, 
Gen. Scott was descending in a stage 
when the driver discovered at a sharp 
turn near the bottom of the hill a 
Pennsylvania wagon winding its way 
up diagonally. The driver saw but 
one escape from a disastrous collision, 
and that to most persons would have 
appeared even more dangerous than 
the collision. The driver however, 
having no time for reflection, instantly 
guided his team over the precipice and 
into the river, from which the horses, 
passengers, coach and driver, were 
safely extricated. The passengers, 
following Gen. Scott's example, made 
the driver a handsome present as a 
reward for his courage and sagacity. 

"We dine at East Canada Creek, 
where the stage house, kept by Mr. 
Couch, was always to be relied on for 
excellent ham and eggs and fresh 
brook trout. Nothing of especial in- 
terest until we reach Spraker's, a well 
known tavern that neither stages nor 
vehicles of any description were ever 
known to pass. Of Mr. Spraker, senior, 
innumerable anecdotes were told. He 
was a man without education, but 
possessed strong good sense, consider- 
able conversational powers, and much 
natural humor. Most of the stories 
told about him are so Joe-Millerish 
that I will repeat but one of them. On 
one occasion, he had a misunderstand- 
ing with a neighbor, which provoked 
both to say hard things of each other. 
Mr. Spraker having received a verbal 
hot shot from his antagonist, reflected 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



193 



a few moments and replied, 'Ferguson, 
dare are worse men in hell dan you;" 
adding after a pause, 'but they are 
chained.' ********* 

"At Canajoharie a tall handsome 
man with graceful manners, is added 
to our list of passengers. This is the 
Hon. Alfred Conkling, who in 1820 was 
elected to congress from this district, 
and who has just been appointed judge 
of the United States District Court, 
for the Northern District of New York, 
by Mr. Adams. Judge Conkling is now 
(in 1870) the oldest surviving New 
York member of congress. In passing 
Conyne's hotel, near the Nose, the fate 
of a young lady who 'loved not wisely 
but too well,' with an exciting 
trial for breach of promise, etc., would 
be related. Still further east we stop 
at Failing's tavern to water. Though 
but an ordinary tavern in the summer 
season, all travelers cherish a pleasant 
remembrance of its winter fare; for 
leaving a cold stage with chilled limbs, 
if not frozen ears, you were sure to 
find in Failing's bar and dining- 
rooms 'rousing fires;' and the remem- 
brance of the light lively 'hot and hot' 
buckwheat cakes, and the unimpeach- 
able sausages, would renew the appe- 
tite even if you had just risen from a 
hearty meal. 

"Going some miles further east we 
come in sight of a building on the 
west side of the Mohawk river, and 
near its brink, the peculiar architec- 
ture of which attracts attention. This 
was formerly Charles Kane's store, or 
rather the store of the brothers Kane, 
five of whom were distinguished mer- 
chants in the early years of the pres- 
ent century. They were all gentlemen 
of education, commanding in person, 
accomplished and refined in manners 
and associations. * * * Here Com- 
modore Charles Morris, one of the most 
gallant of our naval officers, who in 
1812 distinguished himself on board 
the United States Frigate 'Constitu- 
tion' in her engagement with the Brit- 
ish frigate 'Guerriere' passed his boy- 
hood. In 1841, when I visited him on 
board of the United States seventy- 
four gun ship 'Franklin,' lying off An- 
napolis, he informed me that among 



his earliest recollections, was the 
launching and sailing of miniature 
ships on the Mohawk river. On the 
opposite side of the river, in the town 
of Florida, is the residence of Dr. 
Alexander Sheldon, for twelve years a 
member of the legislature from Mont- 
gomery county, serving six years as 
speaker of the house of assembly. The 
last year Dr. S. was in the legislature, 
one of his sons, Milton Sheldon, was 
also a member from Monroe county. 
Another son. Smith Sheldon, who was 
educated for a dry goods merchant, 
drifted some years ago to the city of 
New York, and is now the head of the 
extensive publishing house of Sheldon 
& Co., Broadway. 

"The next points of attraction were 
of much historical interest. Sir Wil- 
liam and Guy Johnson built spacious 
and showy mansions a few miles west 
of the village of Amsterdam, long be- 
fore the Revolution, in passing which, 
interesting anecdotes relating to the 
English Baronet's connection with the 
Indians were remembered. A few 
miles west of Sir William -Johnson's, 
old stagers would look for an addition 
to our number of passengers in the 
person of Daniel Cady, a very eminent 
lawyer, who resided at Johnstown, and 
for more than fifty years was con- 
stantly passing to and from Albany. 
At Amsterdam, Marcus T. Reynolds, 
then a rising lawyer of that village, 
often took his seat in the stage, and 
was a most companionable traveler." 

Mr. Simms, commenting on this 
sketch, indorses the author's refer- 
ence to circumstances "which com- 
pelled the male passengers at times to 
get out into the mud, and with rails 
appropriated from the nearest fence, 
to pry the wheels up so that the horses 
could start anew. Two miles an hour 
was not unfrequently, in the spring 
and fall, good speed at certain locali- 
ties." 

Correcting Mr. Weed's errors, as to 
locality, Mr. Simms says: "Conyne's 
hotel was three miles east of Fonda 
(he says near the Nose; if so there 
may have been two keepers of the 
same name), and * * * Failing's 
tavern was at St. Johnsville, and some 



194 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



twelve miles to the westward of the 
Nose, and more than twenty miles to 
the westward of Conyne's. At Pala- 
tine Bridge was one of the most noted 
stage houses in the valley. It was 
built and first kept by Shepherd, and 
afterwards by the late Joshua Reed, 
and was as widely and favorably 
known as any other public house 
within fifty miles of it." 

For a clear and comprehensive de- 
scription of old turnpike days, travel 
and vehicles, the reader is advised to 
consult Alice Morse Earle's "Home 
Life in Colonial Days." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

1793-1913— First Bridges in Middle 
Mohawk Valley and Montgomery 
County — Celebration at Opening of 
Fort Plain Bridge, July 4, 1806 — Fort 
Plain Free Bridge, 1858. 

This is the third chapter on Mohawk 
valley transportation. The two prior 
ones were on river and turnpike traf- 
fic. Those to follow relate to Erie 
canal, railroads and Barge canal and 
Atwood's aeroplane flight. 

The increase of population in Tryon, 
now Montgomery county, following the 
Revolutionary war, and the increase 
in traffic along the Mohawk necessi- 
tated improvements in river naviga- 
tion and in the highways, as has been 
noted in preceding chapters. Great 
numbers of new settlers were journey- 
ing through the valley to points in the 
middle west, aside from those who 
were coming into the Mohawk valley 
and into western and northern New 
York to permanently locate. The fords 
and ferries on the Mohawk and its 
contributory creeks had been the 
only and diflicult means of cross- 
ing these streams, during the eigh- 
teenth century which was the per- 
iod of first settlement and devel- 
opment. The greatly increased 
traffic necessitated the construction of 
bridges and the building of these was 
one of the marked features of the life 
along the Mohawk at the beginning of 
the nineteenth century. 

A list of the important bridges and 
the dates of their construction in the 



eastern part of the Mohawk valley 
follows: 

East (Canada) creek, 1793; Scho- 
harie creek at Fort Hunter, 1798; 
Schoharie creek at Mill Point, 1800; 
Little Falls (prior to), 1802; 
across the Mohawk at Canajoharie, 
1803; Fort Plain (Sand Hill), 1806; 
Schenectady, 1810; Fonda (Caughna- 
waga), 1811; Amsterdam, 1823; Yosts. 
1825 (carried away by ice shortly 
after); Fort Hunter, 1852; St. Johns- 
ville, 1852. 

These cross-overs were all wooden 
structures and these picturesque 
bridges have all been replaced by 
those of modern iron construction. 
The last of the old-timers to go was 
that at St. Johnsville, and many of 
them had formerly been undermined 
and carried away by ice during the 
Mohawk spring freshets. Each had its 
toll-keeper and the quaint list of tolls, 
in well-painted characters, which • 
stood at the west side of the East 
Creek bridge was long of interest to 
later-day travelers. 

The first important structure span- 
ning a stream within the present lim- 
its of Montgomery and Fulton coun- 
ties was the bridge at East (Canada) 
creek. In April, 1790, the state legis- 
lature voted "one hundred pounds for 
the purpose of erecting a bridge across 
the East Canada creek, not exceeding 
three miles from the mouth thereof, 
upon the road from the Mohawk river 
to the Royal Grant." In 1793, com- 
missioners were appointed by the leg- 
islature to build "a bridge over the 
East Canada creek, nearly opposite 
Canajoharie Castle, on the public road 
leading from Tribes Hill to the Little 
Falls," also over West Canada creek. 

In 1798 a very important bridge was 
built on the south shore turnpike over 
the Schoharie creek at Fort Hunter. 
The improvement of the Mohawk 
(north shore) turnpike from Schenec- 
tady to Utica, about 1800, necessitated 
the erection of other structures across 
streams, which had formerly been 
forded by travelers. 

The first bridge across the Mohawk 
was probably the one at Little Falls 
noted by Rev. John Taylor in his diary 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



195 



of his valley tour of 1802. This was six- 
teen rods long, and it is mentioned in 
a former chapter of this work on Mo- 
hawk river traffic. 

The second bridge over the Mohawk 
river in the valley seems to have been 
the one erected at Canajoharie in 1803, 
by Theodore Burr of Jefferson county. 
This was popularly called a bow 
bridge and consisted of a single arch 
.330 feet long. It fell in 1807 with a 
crash that was heard foi» miles. In 
1808 a second bridge was built which 
was carried away in the spring freshet 
of 1822. David I. Zielley. a Palatine' 
farmer, built a third bridge which 
"went out" with the ice in 1833, and 
Simms says "its destruction was a 
most splendid sight from Canajoharie, 
as the writer well remembers." A 
new bridge was built by August, 1833, 
which remained in use in part up to 
recent years. The Canajoharie bridge 
was rebuilt in 1913. 

The third bridge to be completed 
and used across the Mohawk was that 
built at the lower end of "the Island," 
which lies in the Mohawk at the 
northern limits of Fort Plain. This 
structure consisted of two bridges 
with several rods of the roadway of 
the island intervening between them — 
the shorter one on the western shore 
and the longer one on the eastern side 
of the island. The Mohawk here runs 
north and south and the main channel 
was on the east side of the island. 
The Minden exit was near the store 
of James Oothout, the early Minden 
tradesman. 

This was officially called the 
"Montgomery bridge," but came to be 
called in the neighborhood, "Oot- 
hout's bridge." The commissioners 
for its erection were James Beardsley 
of East Creek, Col. Charles Newkirk 
and Col. Peter Wagner of Palatine 
Church, for the east side, and Messrs. 
Oothout, Gansevoort, Dygert, Arndt 
and Keller for the west side. Beards- 
ley, himself a millwright, was its con- 
tractor and Philip Washburn, who 
had worked under Burr, who built the 
Canajoharie bridge, was boss carpen- 
ter under Beardsley. These twin 
bridges, like many such early struc- 



tures were of wood, not covered and 
rested upon wooden piers or supports. 
The toll house was upon the Fort 
Plain side of the river. The timber 
for the "north bridge" (as generally 
called) came mostly from the Wag- 
ner farm, while that for the "south" 
bridge came from Snellsbush. Al- 
though the river runs north and south 
from Palatine Church to Canajoharie, 
the river sides are generally called 
north and south sides as in the rest of 
the valley where the course of the 
Mohawk is generally east and west. 
After the Canajoharie bridge fell in 
1807 it was the only bridge across the 
Mohawk in the present county until 
the new one at Canajoharie was built. 
James Beardsley of East Creek was 
one of the Fort Plain bridge commis- 
sioners because at that date (1806 and 
until 1817) Montgomery county ran 
west to Fall Hill. 

Simms says that the completion of 
Fort Plain bridge "was celebrated 
with no little pomp on the 4th of 
July, 1806, and took place on the north 
[east] bank of the river not far from 
the bridge. Gen. Peter C. Fox, in full 
uniform and mounted upon a splendid 
gray horse, was grand marshal on the 
occasion, and had at his command a 
company of artillery with a cannon, 
and Capt. Peter Young's well-mounted 
cavalry. The latter company is said 
to have trotted across the bridge to 
test its strength, and a severe one that 
would naturally be. Besides several 
yoke of oxen were driven over it to 
obtain a still further proof of its com- 
pleteness, while a cannon blazed away 
at one end of it. Some one delivered 
an oration on this occasion. A dinner 
was served at the public house of the 
elder George Wagner to the multi- 
tude, who looked upon the completion 
of this enterprise as a marked event — 
and, indeed, such it was, for the ser- 
vices of ferrymen who had pulled at 
the rope for years, a little below, were 
now at an end and the delay and dan- 
ger of crossing by ferriage was obvi- 
ated. 

"Methinks I can now see the table 
on which this dinner was served, 
groaning under the burden of good 



196 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



eatables; its head adorned with a 
good sized pig roasted whole — a sight 
yet common fifty years ago, but now 
seldom seenat the festive board. This 
Wagner place is the present [1882] 
homestead [now burned] of the old 
innkeeper's grandson, Chauncey Wag- 
ner. This remarkable bridge celebra- 
tion was kept up three successive days, 
the parties dancing each night at the 
Wagner tavern, where Washburn and 
his hands boarded. 

"When this bridge was erected, 
nearly all there was of Fort Plain — 
which took its name from the [former] 
military post nearby — was in the vi- 
cinity of this bridge. True, Isaac 
Paris had a few years before been 
trading at the now Bleecker residence 
in the present village, and Casper Lipe 
had another store for a time near the 
creek bridge; but besides the Oothout 
store, Conrad Gansevoort had one half 
a mile below at Abeel's; while on the 
hill near the meeting house, Robert 
McFarlan was then trading — besides 
there were several mechanics within 
the same distance, all of whom are 
said to have done a prosperous busi- 
ness. * * * The ice took off the 
northern or principal structure of the 
Island Bridge in April, 1825, after it 
had served the public for nineteen 
years." 

At that time a growing, lively little 
village was on the present site of Fort 
Plain and had entirely usurped in im- 
portance the old Sand Hill section. 
Consequently the next bridge was 
built at the present river bridge 
site and was opened for carriages, 
January 1, 1829. This was a sub- 
stantial covered bridge, like many 
similar structures in the valley at that 
day. The bridge stock of the Island 
Bridge company had not been a pro- 
fitable investment and stock in the 
new bridge company was riot greatly 
sought after. This bridge went out in 
the spring "high water" of 1842 and 
lodged on Ver Planck's (now Nellis) 
island and on the Gros flats. A new 
bridge was built in the summer of 
1842 and lasted until the spring of 
1887, when the ice broke down the 
abutments, during the spring flood 



and carried the bridge away. The 
present iron structure which replaced 
it is said to be the longest single span 
iron bridge of its type in Central New 
York. 

A free bridge, across the Mohawk at 
Fort Plain was projected in 1857 and 
work on an iron bridge, to stand just 
north of the present one, was begun 
in the same summer. Before the ma- 
sonry was completed the work was 
stopped by .an injunction, which de- 
layed its completion until the sum- 
mer of 1858 when the bridge was open- 
ed absolutely free to the public and the 
covered bridge company thereby ceas- 
ed taking toll. Litigation over the 
two bridges between the two com- 
panies finally resulted in the free 
bridge people obtaining possession of 
the old bridge at a serious loss to the 
stockholders interested in the latter. 
The iron bridge was finally disposed 
of and the proceeds used to raise and 
put into condition the covered bridge 
which continued to be free to the pub- 
lic. The late William Aplin says that, 
about the middle of the nineteenth 
century, the farmers of this neighbor- 
hood used to utilize a large door in the 
bridge for the purpose of dumping the 
manure from their farms into the Mo- 
hawk! Thus have farmers and farm- 
ing methods changed between that 
time and this. 

Says Simms: "The Fort Plain free 
bridge movement had a direct ten- 
dency to make nearly all the other 
bridges on the river free bridges; the 
time having arrived when the enter- 
prise of the country demanded the 
measure. In 1859 an act was passed 
to erect a free bridge at Canajoharie 
or compel the sale of the old one — to 
be made free — which result followed." 

In 1825, it has been previously noted 
a bridge across the Mohawk was 
erected between Yosts, at the western 
end of the town of Mohawk and Ran- 
dall, in the eastern end of the town of 
Root. This was shortly after swept 
away by ice. In 1852 a bridge was 
built across the Mohawk at St. Johns- 
ville, on the site of the present struc- 
ture, thus completing the three bridges 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



197 



which span the river in western 
Montgomery county. 

A feature of bridge building on the 
Mohawlv is today (1913) the bridges 
erected by the state in connection with 
the Barge canal locks. These may be 
utilized by the towns, on which they 
abut, constructing proper approaches. 
In western Montgomery county these 
locks and bridges are at Fort Plain, 
Canajoharie and Yosts (Randall). The 
Amsterdam bridge was rebuilt in 1913. 

It is difficult today to realize the im- 
portance of the erection of the first 
bridges to the valley people. It meant 
greater trade and intercourse among 
themselves and with the outside world 
and the construction of an important 
bridge was invariably followed by an 
increased population center at one or 
both ends of the structure. Commun- 
ities like Fort Plain and Canajoharie, 
which have been deprived of their 
bridges, can thoroughly realize the im- 
portance of such viaducts of traffic 
and transportation and the necessity 
for the permanence of their construc- 
tion and efficiency of their upkeep. 
Good roads and good bridges go to- 
gether as prime essentials for civilized 
agricultural regions. 



CHAPTER IX. 

1812 — The Militia System — Trainings — 
War With England — The Mohawk 
Valley Militia. 

After the Revolutionary war was 
crowned by peace, the men of America 
kept up their military training and the 
militia system arose, under which mar- 
tial exercise was regularly practised. 
The officers and men supplied them- 
selves with their necessary military 
arms and outfit, and this system con- 
tinued for over a half century after 
the close of the war for independence. 

Beers's History says: "This militia 
consisted of all the able-bodied white 
male population, between 18 and 45. 
State officers, clergymen and school 
teachers were exempt from such duty. 
Students in colleges and academies, 
employes on coasting vessels, and in 
certain factories, and members of fire 



companies were also exempt, except in 
case of insurrection or invasion. Per- 
sons (like Quakers) whose only bar to 
military service was religious scru- 
ples could purchase exemption for a 
set sum paid annually. The major- 
general, brigade-inspector and chief of 
the staff department, except the ad- 
jutant and commissary generals, were 
appointed by the Governor. Colonels 
were chosen by the captains and sub- 
alterns of the regiments, and these 
latter by the written ballots of their 
respective regiments and separate 
battalions. The commanding officers 
of regiments or battalions appointed 
their staff officers. Every non-com- 
missioned, officer and private was 
obliged to equip and uniform himself, 
and perform military duty for 15 
years from enrollment, after which he 
was exempt except in case of in- 
surrection or invasion. A non-com- 
missioned officer could get excused 
from duty in seven years, by fur- 
nishing himself with certain speci- 
fied equipment, other than those 
required by law. It was the duty 
of the commanding officer of each 
company to enroll all military sub- 
jects within the limits of his juris- 
diction, and they must equip them- 
selves within six months after being 
notified. 

"On the first September Monday of 
each year, every company of the mi- 
litia was obliged to assemble within 
its geographical limits for training. 
One day in each year, between Sept. 1 
and Oct. 15, at a place designated by 
the commander of the brigade, the 
regiment was directed to assemble for 
general training. All the officers of 
each regiment or battalion were re- 
quired to rendezvous two days in suc- 
cession, in June, July or August, for 
drill under the brigade inspector. A 
colonel also appointed a day for the 
commissioned officers and musicians 
of his regiment to meet for drill, the 
day after the last mentioned gathering 
being generally selected. Each mi- 
litiaman was personally notified of an 
approaching muster by a non-com- 
missioned officer bearing a warrant 
from the commandant of his company; 



198 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



or he might be summoned without a 
warrant by a commissioned officer, 
either by visit or letter. A failure to 
appear, or to bring the necessary 
equipment, resulted in a court-mar- 
tial and a fine, unless a good excuse 
could be given. Delinquents who 
could not pay were imprisoned in the 
county jail. When a draft was order- 
ed for public service it was made by 
lot in each company, which was or- 
dered out on parade for that purpose." 

"General training" was a great holi- 
day for everybody in the neighbor- 
hood where it was held. The militia- 
men and their wives and families (and 
particularly the small boys) together 
with the "exempts" turned out and 
made an enjoyable and festive day of 
it. The place of meeting and the ex- 
tent of the parade grounds were desig- 
nated by the commanding officer. The 
sale of liquor on the ground could only 
be carried on by the consent of the 
same official, but total abstinence sel- 
dom seems to have been the rule on 
this eventful day. The flats near Fort 
Plain were favorite places for "general 
training." 

The first company of cavalry or- 
ganized in this part of the Mohawk 
valley took in a large district of coun- 
try and was raised and commanded by 
Capt. Hudson (a merchant of Indian 
Castle, and probably the Capt. B. 
Hudson, who commanded Fort Plain 
in 1786) early in the nineteenth cen- 
tury. Peter Young of Fort Plain, be- 
came its second captain, and he was 
succeeded by Capt. Wemple (of Cana- 
joharie). At his death Jacob Eacker 
of Palatine, became captain, and on 
his resignation Nicholas N. Van Al- 
stine commanded. As he was not the 
unanimous choice of the company, 
which was then a large one, his se- 
lection led to a division into two com- 
panies, that on the north side of the 
Mohawk being commanded by Barent 
Getman. In 1836, the major general of 
the second division of militia was an 
Amsterdam man bearing the singular 
name of Benedict Arnold. Aaron C 
Whitlock of Ephratah was brigadier- 
general in the same division. 

At the time of the War of 1812, the 



state of New York, along the Canadian 
frontier, was largely a wilderness and 
transportation thence was slow and 
laborious. The slightly improved Mo- 
hawk river was the only route, except 
the valley highways, for the westward 
conveyance of cannon. This heavy or- 
dinance was loaded on Durham boats 
and so sent up the river. April 10, 
1812, congress authorized a draft of 
100,000 men from the militia of the 
country to prosecute the war with 
England; 13,500 of these were as- 
signed as the quota of New York. A 
few days later the detached militia of 
the state was arranged in two divis- 
ions and eight brigades. The fourth 
brigade comprised the 10th, 11th and 
13th regiments in the Mohawk valley 
and was under the command of Gen. 
Richard Dodge of Johnstown, a vet- 
eran of the Revolution (and a brother- 
in-law of Washington Irving). These 
troops went to the front and returned 
largely by the north and south shore 
turnpikes. 

Says Beers: "The embargo act was 
extensively violated and much illicit 
trade carried on along the Canadian 
frontier, smugglers sometimes being 
protected by armed forces from the 
Canadian side. To break up this state 
of things and protect the military 
stores collected at the outposts, a reg- 
iment of valley militia, under Col. 
Christopher P. Bellinger, was stationed 
in May, 1812, at Sackett's Harbor and 
other points in Northern New York. 
These on the declaration of war in the 
following month (June, 1812) were re- 
inforced by a draft on the militia not 
yet called into service. The Mont- 
gomery county militia responded 
promptly to the calls for troops to de- 
fend the frontier, and were noted for 
their valor and patriotic zeal, sub- 
mitting without complaint to the var- 
ious privations incident to the march 
and camp. A detachment of them un- 
der Gen. Dodge arrived at Sackett's 
Harbor, Sept. 21, 1812, and the gen- 
eral took command at the post. Dur- 
ing the two succeeding years, the mi- 
litia and volunteers from the Mohawk 
valley were on duty all along the fron- 
tier. When the term of service of any 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



199 



company or regiment expired it was 
succeeded by another. Many of the 
garrison of Sackett's Harbor, when it 
was attacked by the British, May 24, 
1813, were from this section. That 
place was an important depot of mili- 
tary stores, a large amount of which 
was destroyed by the garrison, in fear 
of its falling into the hands of the 
British, who, however, were finally re- 
pulsed. 

"The house in the town of Florida, 
later owned by Waterman Sweet, was 
kept as a hotel by one Van Derveer, 
during the war of 1812, and was a 
place of drafting militia into the ser- 
vice. 

"At Canajoharie, a recruiting ren- 
dezvous was opened by Lieut. Al- 
phonso Wetmore and Ensign Robert 
Morris of the Thirteenth regiment, 
both residents of Ames, who raised 
two companies which were ordered to 
the Niagara frontier in time to take 
part in the first events of importance 
in that quarter. The Thirteenth suf- 
fered severely at the battle of Queens- 
town Heights, Ensign Morris and 
Lieut. Valleau being among the killed 
and five other officers severely wound- 
ed. After that engagement operations 
were for some time confined to bom- 
bardment across the Niagara river 
from the fortifications at [Fort] Ni- 
agara and Black Rock [now part of 
Buffalo]. . At the latter point Lieut. 
Wetmore lost his right arm by a can- 
non shot. He was subsequently pro- 
moted to the offices of major and di- 
vision paymaster." 

At the time of the publication of 
Beers's History in 1878, a goodly num- 
ber of the Montgomery and Fulton 
veterans of 1812 still survived. They 
are therein mentioned as follows: 
Moses Winn, Minden, in his 88th year 
(his father was a captain in the Revo- 
lution and sheriff of the county after 
the war) ; George Bauder, 'Palatine, in 
his 92d year; John Walrath, Minden, 
nearly 82; William H. Seeber, Minden, 
about 86; Peter G. Dunckel, Minden, 
about 84; Henry Nellis, Palatine, about 



84; John Casler, Minden, nearly 86; 
Abram Moyer, Minden, about 84; 
Cornelius Clement Flint, Minden, about 
84; Benjamin Getman, Ephratah, 86; 
Henry Lasher, Palatine, 88; Pytha- 
goras Wetmore, Canajoharie, 80; John 
Eigabroadt, St. Johnsville, about 82. 
In the eastern part may be mentioned: 
J. Lout, Mohawk; David Ressiguie, 
94; Amasa Shippee, Capt. Reuben 
Willard, Northampton. It is only a 
few years ago (from the date of this 
writing, 1912) that the great public 
funeral occurred in New York of 
Hiram Cronk, the last survivor of the 
War of 1812, and a resident of the Mo- 
hawk valley throughout his life, his 
death occurring near Utica. At the 
time of the war of 1812, it should be 
remembered that Montgomery and 
Fulton were one county — Montgomery. 
Its western limit was a line running 
north and south from Fall Hill. 



One of the leading figures in the 
1812 militia of the old Canajoharie dis- 
trict was Major John Herkimer, son of 
Capt. George Herkimer and nephew of 
General Nicholas Herkimer. At that 
time the river section of the district 
was divided into the towns of Min- 
den and Canajoharie, and Major Her- 
kimer was a resident of that western 
portion of Minden which later, in 
1817, became Danube, when it was in- 
cluded in Herkimer county. He occu- 
pied the Herkimer homestead until 
1817. John Herkimer represented 
Montgomery county in 1799 in the state 
assembly. March 13, 1813, he was 
commissioned a major in Col. Mill's 
New York volunteer regiment. Major 
Herkimer was in the battle at Sack- 
ett's Harbor, when Col. Mills was kill- 
ed. Herkimer was a leading anti- 
Clintonian and was a member of con- 
gress in 1822, where he voted for John 
Quincy Adams in the electoral college 
deadlock which threw the election into 
congress. He was a Herkimer county 
judge and was generally known as 
Judge Herkimer. 



200 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



CHAPTER X. 

1817-1825 — Construction of Erie Canal 
— Clinton's Triumphal Trip — Fort 
Plain's Celebration. 

This chapter on the Erie canal is the 
fourth chapter describing transporta- 
tion in the Mohawk valley. Former 
ones dealt with Mohawk river traffic, 
valley highways and bridges. Those 
following the present one treating of 
the Erie canal concern railroad build- 
ing, the Barge canal and the first aero- 
plane flight by Atwood, in all seven 
chapters on Mohawk valley traffic con- 
ditions. The Erie canal is supplied 
with water from the Mohawk river 
and thus is closely connected with 
that stream.. This is therefore the 
fourth chapter relative to the Mo- 
hawk. The first described the Mo- 
hawk river and its valley, the second 
considered Mohawk river traffic, the 
third treated of river and other bridges, 
the present and fourth covers the Erie 
canal and the fifth will be on the 
Barge canal and the sixth will con- 
sider the geology of the middle Mo- 
hawk valley. 

Canal construction in the United 
States in the early nineteenth century 
was part of that great movement for 
the improvement of transportation 
which followed the war for independ- 
ence and began almost immediately at 
the conclusion of peace in 1783. As a 
general rule, turnpike and bridge 
building inaugurated this movement, 
followed by canal and railroad con- 
struction in the second and third de- 
cades of the nineteenth century. The 
first American canal of importance 
was the Lehigh, completed in 1821. 
running 108 miles from Coalport, Pa., 
to Easton, Pa. The second was the 
Champlain canal, completed in 1822, 
and running 81 miles from Whitehall, 
N. y., to Watervliet, N. Y. In dis- 
cussing the Erie canal we consider 
one of the most important trade routes 
and canals of the world. 

The construction of Erie canal from 
1817 to 1825 gave the greatest impetus 
to the development of population, trade 
and commerce in the Mohawk valley 
that it has ever experienced. Certain 



towns and villages owe their location 
and growth almost entirely to "Clin- 
ton's ditch" and are therefore Canal 
towns. In Montgomery county. Fort 
Plain, Canajoharie and Fultonville be- 
long to this class. In the heyday of 
canaling these were among the most 
important canal towns on the Erie be- 
tween Utica and Schenectady. Fort 
Plain was then as at present (1913) 
the largest town in the 40-mile strip 
between Little Falls and Amsterdam, 
and Canajoharie, with its dry dock and 
boat building works, was equally im- 
portant. 

The project of a continuous water- 
way from the Hudson to the Great 
Lakes had been agitated ever since 
the days of the earliest settlement of 
New York state and the Mohawk 
river-Wood creek-Oneida lake-Oswego 
river route is the parent of the Erie 
canal and was in use as the water 
route (with the carry at Wood creek) 
from the Hudson to Lake Ontario for 
two centuries before the completion 
of the Erie canal. Washington, on his 
tour of the valley in 1783, was greatly 
impressed by the water communica- 
tions of the regions, as is shown in a 
prior chapter. 

The incorporation of the Inland 
Lock Navigation Co. in 1792 was the 
first step toward canalizing this Mo- 
hawk river to the lakes route, which, 
had previously been traver.sed exclu- 
sively by canoes, dugouts and flat- 
boats. This company was not suc- 
cessful as has been shown and sold 
out to the state in 1820. 

Mrs. Earle, in her work, "Home Life 
in Colonial Days," states that the Hud- 
son-to-the-Great Lakes canal project 
was proposed in the New York pro- 
vincial assembly as early as 1768. 

While the Erie canal was doubtless 
the outcome of the public-spirited ef- 
forts of a number of the state's most 
progressive' and far-seeing citizens, it 
is true that particular credit for the 
inauguration of the enterprise is due a 
few moving spirits. The "Live Wire," 
a publication issued by the Buffalo 
Chamber of Commerce, devoted its is- 
sue of August, 1913, to the Barge 
canal with incidental allusion to its 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



201 



predecessor, the Erie. It stated that 
the Erie canal was generally called 
the "Grand Canal" during its period 
of construction. The periodical men- 
tioned gives great credit for New York 
state taking up the construction of the 
waterway to Jesse Hawley. a resident 
of Ontario county. On Jan. 14, 1807, 
he published an article in the Pitts- 
burgh "Commonwealth" urging the 
building of the Albany to Buffalo 
canal, under the signature "Hercules." 
He was at that time temporarily living 
in Pittsburgh. The "Live Wire" says 
that prior to this time no one had 
printed a word or spoken a word in 
pu)ilic in favor of this measure. On 
Hawley's return to his previous home 
in Ontario county. New York,' he pub- 
lished a series of fourteen articles in 
the "Ontario Messenger" (also known 
as the "Genesee Messenger"), a news- 
paper issued at Canandaigua. These 
papers constituted a complete exposi- 
tion of the whole subject, setting forth 
the advantages of the work, describing 
the canals of Europe, comparing the 
Erie canal scheme with them and es- 
timating the cost — which estimate 
closely approximated the actual ex- 
pense of the canal afterward built. It 
is interesting to note that the initial 
measure taking up the subject of 'the 
public work, was introduced into the 
state assembly by Judge Forman, from 
the then great county of Ontario, 
where Hawley resided and where his 
views were published. 

At Schenectady in 1803, Gouverneur 
Morris suggested to Simeon DeV/itt, 
state surveyor, a project for conveying 
the water of Lake Erie direct to the 
Hudson, by means of a canal so con- 
structed as to preserve a continuous 
fall to the high lands bordering on the 
river, which should be surmounted by 
• the use of locks. The surveyor-gen- 
eral, in common with most of those 
to whom the scheme was mentioned, 
regarded the project as visionary. He 
so represented it to James Geddes, a 
surveyor of Onondaga county. Geddes, 
on reflection, decided it practical. The 
proposition was first brought before 
the legislature by Joshua Forman, 
member from Onondaga, Feb. 4, 1808. 



A committee was appointed to inves- 
tigate the subject and reported in favor 
of an examination of the route (both 
from Oneida lake to Lake Ontario and 
from Lake Erie eastward to the Hud- 
son). This was made by the afore- 
mentioned James Geddes, who made a 
favorable report to the committee. A 
further survey was made in 1810 and 
the cost of the canal estimated at 
$5,000,000. The length of the canal 
was estimated at 350 miles and the 
cost of transportation at $6 per ton. 
Appeals for help from the national 
government having failed, the canal 
commissioners were, by the legisla- 
ture, authorized to obtain a loan of 
$5,000,000, and procure the right of 
way. 

Further progress was- prevented by 
the War of 1812, but toward the close 
of 1815 the project was revised. In 
spite of much opposition, the efforts of 
the canal champions both in and out 
of the legislature (especially Dewitt 
Clinton), procured the passage of an 
act Apr. 17, 1816, providing for the 
appointment of commissioners to take 
up the work. The following formed 
this board: Dewitt Clinton, Stephen 
Van Rensselaer, Samuel Young, Jo- 
seph Elliott and Myron Holies. Clin- 
ton was president. The plan of a con- 
tinuous slope from Lake Erie, first 
proposed, was abandoned by the com- 
mission, and that of following the un- 
dulations of the surface adopted. Five 
millions was again estimated as the 
full cost of construction. April 15, 
1817, an act prepared by Clinton was 
passed, in the face of great opposi- 
tion, authorizing the commencement 
of the actual work. The canal project 
had always been considered by many 
a ruinous experiment and "lamenta- 
tions were frequently heard on the 
miseries of an overtaxed people and 
their posterity." Says Beers: 

"The canal was divided into three 
sections, from Albany to Rome, Rome 
to the Seneca river, and thence to 
Lake Erie. Charles C. Broadhead was 
engineer in charge of the eastern di- 
vision, Benjamin Wright of the middle 
division and James Geddes of the 
western. The canal was planned to be 



202 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



40 feet wide at the surface, 28 at the 
bottom and the depth of water to be 
four feet. The locks were 90 feet long 
and 12 wide in the clear. The com- 
missioners were authorized to borrow, 
on the credit of the State, sums not 
exceeding $400,000 in any one year. 
Nearly $50,000 had been spent in ex- 
j^loration and surveys on the work be- 
fore ground was broken." These fig- 
ures seem insignificantly petty com- 
pared with the vast sums that have 
since been frequently wasted on so- 
called public improvements. 

Ground was broken at Rome, July 4, 
1817, in the presence of DeWitt Clin- 
ton, the canal's greatest champion, 
who was then governor of New York 
and the canal commissioners. John 
Richardson held the plow in opening 
the first furrow. "It was more than 
two years before any part of the line 
was ready for use. On the 22d of Oc- 
tober, 1819, the first boat was launched 
at Rome to run to Utica for passenger 
use. It was called the 'Chief Engi- 
neer;' was 61 feet long, seven and one- 
half feet wide; had two cabins, each 
14 feet long, with a flat deck between 
them., and was drawn by one horse. 
The next day [Oct. 23, 1819], the com- 
missioners and some of the most 
prominent citizens of Utica embarked 
there for the return trip to Rome and 
set off with a band playing, bells ring- 
ing, cannon thundering and thousands 
of spectators cheering from the banks. 

"On the 21st of July, 1820, tolls were 
first levied, the rates being fixed by 
the commissioners; the amount re- 
ceived that year [in the short stretch 
then in use] was over $5,000, taken by 
six collectors. The canal was used 
between Rome and Little Falls in the 
autumn of 1821, the contractor at the 
latter point availing himself of the 
unprofitable labors of the Inland Lock 
Navigation Co. (previously referred 
to) ; and the portion east to the Hud- 
son was under contract. Meanwhile 
the river floated the canal boats from 
Little Falls to Schenectady. The Mo- 
hawk valley, below the former point, 
was thoroughly explored under the su- 
pervision of Benjamin Wright, chief 
engineer, and the intended direct line. 



from Schenectady to the Hudson river 
near Albany, was abandoned in favor 
of the course of the Mohawk river 
[from Schenectady to Cohoes]. The 
accuracy of the engineering work on 
the line was considered wonderful, in 
view of the fact that the engineers, 
Wright and Geddes, had had no pre- 
vious experience of the kind, having 
been only land surveyors before their 
employment on this great work. 

"In the spring of 1823, the canal was 
open uninterruptedly from Sprakers 
[thus including most of the line 
through the five western towns of 
Montgomery county] to the western 
part of the state and in September 
following [Sept., 1823] the St. Johns- 
ville feeder was completed. The spot 
at the 'Nose,' however, was still un- 
finished, and, at that point, merchan- 
dise was transferred to river boats 
past the unfinished section. 

"In the latter stages of the great 
work unexpectedly rapid progress was 
made, its success being now assured, 
and on the 26th of October, 1825, the 
finishing touch had been given and 
the canal was thrown open to navi- 
gation throughout, by the admission 
of water from Lake Erie at Black 
Rock [Buffalo]. The length of the 
canS.1 was 363 miles, and its initial 
cost $7,143,780.86. Its completion was 
celebrated with unbounded joy which 
found expression in extraordinary 
civic and military ceremonies, and all 
the festivities that a proud and happy 
commonwealth could invent. 

"On the morning of Oct. 26 [1825], 
the first flotilla of boats, bound for 
New York from Lake Erie, entered the 
canal at Buffalo carrying the Governor 
and Canal Commissioners [in the 
packet, 'Seneca Chief']. Their de- 
parture was the signal for the firing 
of the first of a large number of can- 
non stationed within hearing distance 
of each other along the whole line of 
the canal and the Hudson river and 
at Sandy Hook,- by which the momen- 
tous news of the opening of through 
travel at Buffalo was announced at 
the Hook in an hour and twenty min- 
utes. One of the signal guns stationed 
at Sprakers Basin was fired by the 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



203 



Revolutionary veteran Goshen Van 
Alstine [living on Canajoharie creek 
during the war]. The official voyagers 
were everywhere greeted with enthus- 
iastic demonstrations." 

In New York harbor Clinton poured 
water, carried from Lake Erie, into 
the waters of the Atlantic commem- 
orating thereby the joining of the two 
bodies by way of the Erie canal, and 
the great voyage was over. Sketches 
of canal scenery were stamped upon 
earthenware and various implements 
in commemoration of the great 
achievement. Albany was reached 
Nov. 2, 1825, where a great celebration 
took place. The gubernatorial party 
arrived at New York, Nov. 4, where 
was held a great public demonstration 
in celebration of the event. The trip 
from Buffalo to Albany had occupied 
seven days. 

"As at first constructed, the canal 
passed through instead of over the 
streams which it had to cross, espec- 
ially in the Mohawk valley, their 
waters being raised to its level as near 
as possible by means of dams. This 
gave a surplus of water in certain lo- 
calities, and afforded some fine milling 
privileges. One of this sort was fur- 
nished below Canajoharie creek, where 
John A. Ehle built a sawmill to avail 
himself of it. To carry the water 
through a stream of any size required, 
upon both shores of the latter, guard 
locks with gates, which could be closed 
during freshets. Considerable diffi- 
culty was frequently experienced at 
such places by a long string of boats 
accumulating on each side of the 
stream where, at times, they were de- 
layed for several days, during which 
their crews came to be on familiar and 
not always friendly terms. Such de- 
lays were sometimes caused by a 
freshet in the creek injuring the dam. 
The passage of the- first boat across a 
creek, on the subsidence of high water, 
was a marked event, sometimes draw- 
ing a large crowd of people together 
to witness it. The first thing was to 
get the boat within the guard lock 
and close the gate behind it. Then 
with a strong team, sometimes dou- 
bled, the feat was undertaken [the 



horses traveling over on a towing 
bridge over the dam]. The greatest 
difi^culty was experienced at Scho- 
harie creek, that being so large; and 
on the parting of a towline midway of 
the stream, in several instances, boats 
were borne by an aggravated current 
over the dam and into the river, occa- 
sionally with loss of life. In such cases 
the boats had to go to Schenectady 
before they could get back into the 
canal. The passenger packet boats 
had the precedence in passing locks, 
and it was readily conceded at creek 
crossings in freshet times." Such 
crossings were located on the Ots- 
quago at Fort Plain, on the Canajo- 
harie at Canajoharie, on Flat creek at 
Sprakers, and on Yatesville creek at 
Yatesville (now Randall). 

At the outset the canal was the 
fashionable avenue of western travel, 
as well as a highway of commerce. 
The packets were elegantly furnished, 
set excellent tables and far outstripped 
the freight boats in speed, by their 
comparative lightness and their three- 
horse teams. The canal accordingly 
furnished the natural route of Lafay- 
ette in his grand tour of this part of 
the country in 1825. At the crossing 
at Schoharie creek, Lafayette's packet 
was delayed and it was there boarded 
by Thomas Sammons who was engaged 
in boating on the Erie canal. When 
Marquis de Lafayettte was on a mili- 
tary errand at Johnstown, during the 
Revolution, he was there entertained 
by Jacob Sammons, a brother of 
Thomas, who had leased Johnson Hall 
from the Committee of Sequestration. 
Here Thomas Sammons had repeatedly 
met the French nobleman. In his 
cabin the Marquis greeted Sammons 
most cordially, asking after his 
Johnstown host (who had died since 
that time). The eminent Frenchman 
held the boat until his interview was 
ended, when Sammons and his son 
(who told this anecdote) stepped 
ashore both proud and happy over 
their courteous reception. Lafayette's 
packet was decorated with streamers 
and evergreens, even the harness of 
the horses bristling with flags. At all 
stops, locks and crossings, he was 



204 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



greeted by cheering crowds and we 
may well assume that such were pres- 
ent at the locks and creek crossings of 
western Montgomery county afore- 
mentioned. 

The canal early became taxed be- 
yond its capacity, and its enlargement 
became a necessity. By legislative act 
of May, 1835, the canal commissioners 
were authorized to inake its enlarge- 
ment and to construct double locks as 
fast as they deemed advisable. Under 
this act the enlargement was begun 
and carried on, with more or less ac- 
tivity, for a quarter of a century be- 
fore it was completed throughout. In 
this reconstruction the canal was car- 
ried over the cross streams by aque- 
ducts. It was reduced in length to 350 
miles, and increased in breadth to 70 
feet at the surface and 52% feet at the 
bottom, while the depth of water was 
increased from four feet to seven feet. 
The cost of this enlargement was over 
$30,000,000. In 1896 and 1897, under 
an appropriation of $9,000,000, further 
enlargement was made. The water 
depth was increased (at least in part) 
to nine feet, and locks accommodating 
two boats were installed. From being 
the main central New York artery of 
freight traffic, commerce on the canal 
has dwindled to a small figure. 
Where formerly the docks of the canal 
towns were scenes of bustling activity 
they are now deserted. Such a state 
of affairs is due to the inability of the 
canal boats of 250 tons to suc- 
cessfully compete with the constantlj'^ 
increasing carrying capacity of the 
railroads. The railroads soon put the 
canal packets out of business but there 
are yet those who remember well this 
convenient, picturesque and pleasant 
(if somewhat slow) method of travel 
prior to the middle of the nineteenth 
century. Attention is called to Loss- 
ing's mention, in a later chapter of his 
trip by packet boat on the canal from 
Fort Plain to Fultonville in 1848. The 
Erie canal, particularly in its earlier 
years, was a favorite route of travel 
by emigrants going to the west. 

Down to 1866, the construction, en- 
largement and improvement of the 
Erie and Champlain canals (the latter 



requiring but a small part of the whole 
amount) had cost no less than $46,- 
018.234; the repairs and maintenance 
had cost $12,900,333, making a total 
expense of $58,918,567. On the other 
hand, the receipts for tolls on the Erie 
and Champlain canals had then 
amounted to $81,057,168, leaving a bal- 
ance in favor of these canals of $22,- 
138,601. The cost of other canals 
reduced the direct profit on the canal 
system of the state to a trifle, although 
the indirect profits have been enor- 
mous. 

Future readers will ask, "What was 
the motive power and manner of boat- 
ing on the old Erie canal?" The boats 
were at first drawn by one horse or 
mule. As they increased in size two 
or three horses or mules were used on 
one boat. The canal craft also went 
in pairs, threes and fours, sometimes 
two being lashed together and one or 
two others being in tow. These tows 
frequently had four horse or mule 
teams. Occasionally three or four 
boats went through towed by a tug. 
Steam canal boats have also been 
common. These generally formed the 
second boat of a pair, lashed bow and 
stern, and towed one or two others. 
Lake boats, which could journey from 
lake ports west of Buffalo through to 
New York, were seen in considerable 
numbers at time^. Their use made 
the expense of breaking bulk at Buf- 
falo unnecessary. All these double 
boats had to be unlashed before enter- 
ing the locks, prior to the lock en- 
largement of the canal improvement 
of 1898. From Albany down these 
craft made the trip to New York in 
great tows or lashed flotillas, towed 
by one or two tugs. 

Accidents of various sorts on the 
Erie have been common — leaks and 
banks giving way forming the princi- 
pal source of trouble. Horses or mules 
frequently feli into the water, but were 
generally rescued. The canal banks 
were of riprap on the tow path side, 
except in towns where they were of 
stone. Here was generally located an 
incline up which horses were taken 
who had tumbled into the canal. 
Drownings were frequent about the 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



205 



locks. One of the most remarkable ac- 
cidents on the canal occurred at Fort 
Plain in 1896, when an omnibus filled 
with passengers went through the 
River street bridge into the canal. All 
the people were rescued with great 
difficulty and the state was compelled 
to pay damages to a considerable 
amount. An iron lift bridge suceeded 
this weak structure, there being two 
located within the limits of Fort Plain. 

Canal grocery stores were a feature 
of the Erie in its prime, these being 
located near the locks. The Erie 
waterway has always provided occu- 
pation for a considerable number of 
people, along its route, they being em- 
ployed as lock and bridge tenders, bank 
watches, state (repair) scow hands, 
etc. 

In western Montgomery county locks 
on the Erie canal- are located at Min- 
denville, St. Johnsville, Fort Plain and 
Sprakers. At Mindenville also is lo- 
cated a feeder from the Mohawk river. 
On the northern limits of Fort Plain is 
what is generally called "the wide 
waters," a basin about a fifth of a mile 
long and over 100 feet wide. Bridges 
over the Erie canal average about one 
per mile. 

One of the features of Erie canal 
transportation, since the latter part of 
the nineteenth century, has been the 
transit, during the summer months, of 
pleasure boats running from the Hud- 
son river and southern and eastern 
points to the Thousand Islands and 
the Great Lakes. This has been a 
particularly large item of traffic since 
the introduction of the gasoline motor 
boat. The craft vary from a row-boat 
size to large yachts which test the ca- 
pacity of the locks. The trip through 
the Erie canal and the Mohawk valley 
has been a pleasing feature of summer 
outings to thousands of Americans 
from the country over. 

The Erie canal, after a life of al- 
most a century since its first boat ran 
from Rome to Utica, is soon to give 
way to the vastly more efficient Barge 
canal. What disposition will be made 
of its bed by the state of New York is 
not known. At this time it is inter- 
esting to recall the picture of the for- 



mer activity along its course, its pic- 
turesque packets and the bustle and 
life that it brought to the canal towns 
to which it gave birth. Those who love 
the scenery along the -valley will soon 
miss from the view the twin courses of 
the Mohawk and the Erie canal wind- 
ing their glittering way through the 
landscape. 



The State Engineer's department 
has furnished the following regarding 
the Erie canal: The boats used on 
the Erie canal between 1817 and 1830 
measured 61x7x3% feet and had a ca- 
pacity of 30 tons. Between 1830 and 
1850 boats of 75x12x3% feet were 
used. These had a capacity of 75 
tons. From 1850 to 1862 the boats 
were 90x15x3% feet in size and had a 
capacity of 100 tons. After 1862 the 
boats were increased to 98xl7%x6 
feet with a capacity of 240 tons. This 
is the boat still in use (1913). Until the 
Barge canal is completed boats of 
greater size cannot be used. 

The records of tonnage are not 
available prior to 1837. In that year 
the Erie canal carried 667,151 tons. In 
1850 the tonnage was 1,635,089. In 
1875 it was 2,787,226. Although the 
tonnage records do not go back of 1837 
the records of tolls collected are avail- 
able since 1820. In 1825 the amount 
collected on the Erie canal was $492,- 
664.23. In 1850 they were $2,933,125.93. 
In 1875 they were $1,428,078.25. Tolls 
were abolished on the canals in 1882. 
For several years prior to that date 
tolls had been decreased, although the 
amount of freight carried had increas- 
ed or remained about the same. The 
year 1880 was the season of greatest 
tonnage on the Erie canal, 4,608,651 
tons having been carried. In 1910 the 
tonnage was 2,023,185. 

The arbitrary selection of certain 
years does not give a very good idea 
of the growth of canal traffic. The 
records are contained in a convenient 
form for reference in a history of the 
canals which was published by the 
state a few years ago. It is entitled 
"History of the Canal System of the 
State of New York, together with 
Brief Histories of the Canals of the 



206 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



United States and Canada." At pages 
1062 and 1064 of the second volume of 
this work appears the tables from 
which the above is quoted. The reader 
is referred to this work for a fuller 
account of the state's waterways. 

In the foregoing paragraphs the 
tonnage of different years on the Erie 
is given among them that of 1910. The 
following gives the tonnage of the 
principal canals of the world for the 
year 1910, with the exception that the 
figures for the Kaiser Wilhelm canal 
are those for 1909: Sault Ste. Marie 
(between Lakes Superior and Huron), 
36, .395,687; Suez, Mediterranean and 
Red Seas, 23,054,901; Kaiser Wilhelm 
(Baltic and North Seas, Germany), 6,- 
267,805; Manchester (England), 5,- 
000,000; Erie, 2,023,185. The import- 
ance of our American inland water- 
ways is easily seen by reference to the 
figures for the Sault Ste. Marie and 
the fact that its tonnage is fifty per 
cent greater than that great waterway 
of all the nations — the Suez canal. The 
Sault Ste. Marie is one of the links in 
the great chain of waterways of which 
the Barge canal will form a part. 

Following are the principal canals 
of New York, in the order of their 
completion together with statistics 
pertaining to each. Attention is called 
to their general low cost of construc- 
tion: 

Champlain (Whitehall, N. Y., to 
Watervliet, N. Y.), built 1822; length 
81 miles; locks, 32; depth, 6 feet; cost, 
$4,044,000. This was the second im- 
portant canal completed in' the United 
States. 

Erie (Albany, N. Y., to Buffalo, N. 
Y.), built 1825; length, 387 miles; locks, 
72; depth, 7 feet; cost, $52,540,800. The 
Erie is and has always been the most 
important canal of its type (aside 
from ship canals) in the world. 

Oswego (Oswego, N. Y., to Syracuse, 
N. Y.), built 1828; length, 38 miles; 
locks, 18; depth, 7 feet; cost $5,239,- 
526. 

Cayuga and Seneca (Montezuma, N. 
Y., to Cayuga and Seneca lakes, N. Y.), 
built, 1839; length 25 miles; locks, 11; 
depth, 7 feet; cost, $2,232,632. 

Black River (Rome, N. Y., to Lyons 



Falls, N. Y. Formerly boats went from 
the latter point to Carthage, N. Y., on 
the Black River), built, 1849; length, 
35 miles; locks, 109; depth, 4 feet; cost, 
$3,581,954. 

These waterways have played a 
great part in the development of the 
country. Those of New York state 
were all part of one scheme of water 
transit and many of them are utilized 
in the Barge canal system. In this 
way they are and have been important 
to the dwellers in the Mohawk valley 
through which the Erie and the Barge 
canal flow. The future of transporta- 
tion lies largely in utilizing water- 
ways and the lines of the old canals 
hence deserve the attention of the 
reader. 



Following are statistics relative to 
some of the other important canals of 
North America, outside New York 
state. The general subject of water 
traffic is worthy of consideration as 
some of these old and abandoned 
canals may, in the future, form part of 
a North American great inland system 
of waterways, including those of New 
York state and the Mohawk valley. 

Lehigh (Coalport, Pa., to Easton, 
Pa.), built, 1821; length, 108 miles; 
first large American canal to be com- 
pleted. Schuylkill (Mill Creek, Pa., to 
Philadelphia, Pa.), built, 1826; length, 
108 miles. Welland (present ship 
canal from Lake Erie to Lake On- 
tario), first completed in 1833, since 
enlarged and further enlargement con- 
templated; length, 27 miles; locks, 26; 
depth, 14 feet; cost, $27,264,802. Miami 
and Erie (Cincinnati, O., to Toledo, 
O.), built, 1835; length, 274 miles. 
Ohio (Cleveland, O., to Portsmouth, 
O.), built, 1835; length, 317 miles. 
Pennsylvania (Columbia, Northum- 
berland, Wilkesbarre, Huntingdon, 
Pa.), built, 1839; length, 193 miles. 
Illinois and Michigan (Chicago, III., to 
LaSalle, 111.), built, 1848; length, 102 
miles. Chesapeake and Ohio (Cum- 
berland, Md., to Washington, D. C), 
built, 1850; length, 184 miles. Illinois 
and Mississippi (around rapids at 
Rock River, 111., connecting with Mis- 
sissippi), built, 1895; length, 75 miles. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



207 



Celebrations of the opening of the 
Erie canal were not alone confined to 
the villages along its banks but were 
held in many enterprising communi- 
ties all over the state. The New York 
authorities ordered all the artillery of 
the state to be out on Oct. 26, and Are 
a salute and where villages had mili- 
tary organizations there was gener- 
ally some celebration or parade. 

At Cooperstown a splendid celebra- 
tion took place with Col. G. S. Crafts 
as marshal. Major Benjamin's corps 
of artillery fired a salute from the 
summit of Mount Vision. A feu-de- 
joie by Capt. Comstock's company of 
light infantry followed the salute, 
which was succeeded by proceedings 
in the Episcopal church where an ad- 
dress was delivered by Samuel Stark- 
weather, Esq. A public dinner was 
served at Major Griffith's hotel, where 
patriotic toasts washed the dinner 
down. 



At Fort Plain (then a village of not 
more than 200, including Sand Hill) 
the event of the opening of the Erie 
canal was fittingly observed. Says 
Simms: 

"The substantial citizens of the 
neighborhood assembled on the day 
[Oct. 26, 1825] of general festivities on 
the canal and celebrated the marked 
event. A long procession headed by 
Dr. G. S. Spalding as marshal and led 
with martial music marched from the 
public house of mine host, Joseph 
Wagner, to Sand Hill where, near the 
church a six pound cannon heralded 
the event of the day [Clinton's enter- 
ing the canal at Buffalo] in thunder 
tones abroad. The patriotic crowd is 
said to have proceeded to the hill and 
back two and two, and it is probably 
well that some of them did so. A report 
of this celebration, published in the 
Johnstown 'Republican' soon after, 
says: 'An address with an appropri- 
ate prayer was pronounced in Wash- 
ington Hall [which was in an upper 
room of the Warner store] to a crowd- 
ed audience, by Rev. John Wack, who 
did much honor to his head and heart. 
After the address the company par- 
took of a collation prepared by Mr. 



Joseph Wagner. Dr. Joshua Webster 
acted as president and Robert Hall, 
Esq., as vice-president. The festivity 
of the day terminated with a ball in 
the evening.' 

"The sumptuous dinner at this first 
Wagner House (said Simeon Tingue, 
then its hotel clerk) was spread the 
entire length of the ball-room. This 
house stood on the north side of the 
guard lock, and is now owned by An- 
drew Dunn. After discussing the 
merits of a good dinner numerous 
toasts were washed down by good 
liquor, which as was soon apparent 
was freely used by all present. Re- 
membered among those at the table 
were several [by the name of] Fox, 
Gros, Wagner, Hackney, Marvin, Fer- 
guson, Adams, Cole, Belding, Mabee, 
Diefendorf, Crouse, Lipe, Dygert, Ehle, 
Nellis, Abeel, Seeber, Verplanck, Wash- 
burn, Moyer, Casler, Clum, Failing, 
Roof, Firman, Langdon, Warner, Cun- 
ning and others. A more jovial or 
free-from-care set of men were never 
assembled in Minden. Here is a glance 
at the toasts. First came thirteen 
regular toasts and the eleventh was 
as follows: "Constitution of the 
United States — 'And the rain descend- 
ed and the floods came and the winds 
blew and beat upon the house, and it 
fell not for it was founded upon a 
rock.' " Nine cheers. The twelfth was 
"Education" and drew out six cheers, 
while the thirteenth upon the "Canals 
of New York" was followed by twelve 
cheers. Of the nineteen good volun- 
teer toasts recorded, I think every 
mover but one has gone to his rest — 
the exception is Hon. Peter J. Wag- 
ner, now (1882) past 87; and here is 
his sentiment: "Liberty of the Press 
— The armed neutrality of a powerful 
Republic. Here no Harrington is de- 
nounced as a bloodstained ruffian — no 
Galileo doomed to languish and pine 
within the cells of an accursed Inqui- 
sition." Mr. Wagner had more to do 
with preparing the toasts than any 
other man. As the guests grew hilar- 
ious, W. P. M. Cole, a witty Yankee 
teacher, jumped upon the table, which 
was a temporary one resting upon 
sawhorses. Many dishes were yet 



208 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



upon the table when down it went and 
all on it upon the floor. And, after 
the guests left the hall, lucky was it 
if they all got home before dark. 

"It was expected that the boat 
[Seneca Chief, bearing Gov. Clinton 
and suite to tidewater] would arrive 
on the evening of Mondaj', October 31 
[1S25], possibly heralded by stages, 
anticipating which event a large con-  
course of people gathered from a dis- 
tance of several miles around. Prep- 
arations had- been made to proclaim 
the event by erecting two long poles 
on Prospect Hill, each with half a 
barrel of pitch on top with cords 'to 
hoist lighted shavings to ignite them. 
A cannon was also placed between 
them. To herald the event James A. 
Lee, a constable, was sent on horse- 
back to Countryman's lock, some miles 
above; and, to spread the tidings, two 
young men — Rugene Webster and Sol- 
omon Norton — were delegated to 
Abeel's tavern half a mile west, to 
'telegraph' with a musket from that 
point. Headquarters were at the new 
store of Warner, then directly above 
the guard lock, the windows of which 
were illuminated. It was eleven o'clock 
at night when the mounted express 
reached Abeel's, where was also a jolly 
crowd. Norton fired the overloaded 
musket and experienced its fearful re- 
bound, to be followed by the thunder 
of the 32 pound signal gun. 

"In a very few minutes the beacons 
were on fire and war's mouthpiece on 
the hill heralded the approach of the 
Seneca Chief. Gov. Clinton — with a 
waiter by his side holding a lamp — as 
the boat, towed by three horses, ran in 
by the store, came on deck. Limping 
a little, rubbing his eyes and looking 
up at the light, seeming in the clouds, 
he exclaimed in admiration of the 
view, "My God! what is that?" His 
wonder was how the light could be 
burning so far heavenward. The truth 
was the night was dark and foggy, 
obscuring the bold bluff on which the 
light was burning more than a hun- 
dred feet above his boat — a scene cal- 
culated to astonish any beholder not 
knowing the circumstances. But the 
visit must be brief, and every eye of 



the hundreds present (whether Clin- 
tonians or not) desired to see the pro- 
jector of 'Clinton's Ditch,' and some- 
body must say something. John Tay- 
lor, an Irish schoolmaster — sometimes 
witty and always garrulous — stepped 
upon the bow of the boat and said (not 
knowing what else to say) "Gov. Clin- 
ton, this is my^ friend, John Warner's 
store." Poor Taylor, in attempting to 
regain the shore, fell into the canal 
but * * * he was rescued without 
injury. Later in life it was his fate 
to be drowned in the canal. Law- 
rence Gros, who was just then com- 
mencing trade as a partner of War- 
ner in his new store, and Dr. Web- 
ster were possibly the only ones pres- 
ent who could claim a personal ac- 
quaintance with the Governor; and so 
desirous was Col. Crouse, and perhaps 
others, for an introduction to his Ex- 
cellency, that they stepped on board 
and, entering the cabin, rode down to 
the lock one-quarter of a mile below. 
It is presumed that the Governor dis- 
covered that some of his guests had, 
in waiting, kept their spirits up in a 
manner often resorted to at that per- 
iod. Martial music attended the boat 
down CO the lock and, as the Fort 
Plain guests stepped on shore, the 
band struck up 'Yankee Doodle,' when 
Gov. Clinton, from the deck, swung 
the crowd an adieu with his hat, en- 
tered the cabin with Canal Commis- 
sioner Bouck and others, and the Sen- 
eca Chief moved forward." 



DeWitt Clinton, the "father" of the 
Erie canal and the virtual builder of 
"Clinton's Ditch," was born in Deer 
"Park, Orange county, March 2, 1769. 
He was a son of Gen. James Clinton, 
of the Sullivan and Clinton expedi- 
tion to the Indian country in 1779, and 
who made Canajoharie his rendezvous 
in the Mohawk valley prior to his 
overland trip to join Sullivan. Gov. 
George Clinton (who was at least 
twice at Fort Plain) was his uncle. 
His mother's name was Mary DeWitt 
of the New York Dutch farhily of that 
name. He graduated at Columbia col- 
lege in New York city in 1786, studied 
law and in 1790 became private secre- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



209 



tary to his uncle, Gov. Clinton. He 
was "a man of ardent temperament, 
dignified manners, inclined to reserve 
and of noble personal appearance." 
He was elected as a Republican or 
Anti-Federalist to the New York as- 
sembly in 1797 and to the State Sen- 
ate in 1798, and soon became his 
party's most influential leader in New 
York. In 1801 he was elected to the 
United States Senate. In 1803 he was 
appointed by the Governor and coun- 
cil, Maj'or of New York, which office 
he held, by successive reappointments, 
until 1814. He served as Lieutenant- 
Governor from 1811-1813 and in 1810 
was chairman of the canal board. In 
1812 he was nominated for President 
of the United States by the party op- 
posed to President Madison's war pol- 
icy, receiving 89 electoral votes (in- 
cluding those of New York), but was 
not elected. In 1815 he framed and 
presented to the state legislature a 
memorial advocating the construction 
of the Erie canal (which was ordered 
in 1817). He was elected governor of 
New York almost unanimously in 1817 
and in 1820 re-elected (over Daniel 
D. Tompkins), during his terms being 
president of the board of canal com- 
missioners. He declined a renomina- 
tion in 1822 and in 1824 was removed 
as a canal commissioner. In the fall 
of 1824 he was again elected governor 
by a large majority, making the trium- 
phal tour of the Erie canal in celebra- 
tion of its opening, October, 1825. He 
was re-elected in 1826 and died in Al- 
bany before completing his term, Feb. 
11, 1828, aged 58 years. 



CHAPTER XI. 

1831-1836— First Valley Railroads — 
The Mohawk and Hudson (1831), 
Utica and Schenectady (1836), New 
York Central (1853), New York Cen- 
tral and Hudson River Railroad 
(1869), Fonda, Johnstown and Glov- 
ersville (1870), West Shore Railroad 
(1883) — First Freight Business — 
Trolley Lines. 

This description of railroad building 
in this locality is the fifth chapter on 
transportation in the Mohawk valley. 



Prior ones have covered the subjects 
of Mohawk river traffic, turnpike con- 
struction and travel, river and other 
bridges and Erie canal. Others to fol- 
low, handling the same subject, con- 
cern the Barge canal and Atwood's St. 
Louis to New York flight — seven chap- 
ters in all. Turnpike construction 
marked the flrst years of the nineteenth 
century, canal construction was a fea- 
ture of the opening years of that cen- 
tury's third decade and railroad build- 
ing marked the early years of the 
fourth decade — all of these improve- 
ments in national transportation and 
traffic being rendered necessary by the 
opening up of new country, the in- 
crease in population,) trade, manufac- 
tures and agriculture. 

A steam railway engine was patented 
by Richard Trevithick in 1802 and 
1804 in England. This was tried out 
flrst on the highways but later used 
on colliery railways with a speed no 
greater than that of horse hauling. In 
1814 Stephenson produced an engine 
with a speed of six miles an hour. 
Railroad rails came into use on col- 
liery horse railways in 1790. The flrst 
steam colliery railroad of any length 
(37 miles) was the Stockton and Dar- 
lington railway opened in England in 
1825. The first American railway was 
that from the granite quarries of 
Quincy, Mass., to tidewater (5 miles), 
built to supply the granite for Bunker 
Hill monument. This was completed 
in 1827. The Delaware and Hudson 
built 16 miles of coal mine railway, to 
the head of its canal of that name, in 
1828. By 1830, the Baltimore and Ohio 
had 60 miles of a 250 -mile railroad 
completed and the Mohawk and Hud- 
son had laid 12 miles of its 16-mile 
line from Albany to Schenectady. The 
South Carolina R. R., Camden and Am- 
boy, Ithaca and Owego and the Lex- 
ington and Ohio were all under con- 
struction in 1830. The Mohawk and 
Hudson was the first and the Utica and 
Schenectady the second link in the 
great railroad system operated at 
present (1913) by the New York Cen- 
tral railroad. Most of these early rail- 
roads used horse power at flrst. 

Within a decade or two after the 



210 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Erie canal was completed, and equip- 
ped with boats for passenger and 
freight traffic* it was threatened with 
eclipse by the building of railroads. 
The first of these in New York state, 
to be chartered by the legislature, was 
the Mohawk and Hudson River -Rail- 
road company, for a railroad to run 
from Albany to Schenectady. This was 
the pioneer railroad in the state and 
is said to have been the second of any 
importance in the country. It was fin- 
ished in 1831 and was rudely built and 
equipped. The rails were similar to 
those later used for horsecars, and at 
first horses furnished the only motive 
power, except that, at the summits of 
the higher hills, stationary engines 
were located to draw up and let down 
the cars by ropes. The passenger cars 
were modeled after the stage coach of 
the day, being hung on leather thor- 
ough-braces and having seats both in- 
side and out. A lever attached to the 
truck was operated by downward 
pressure as a brake. The first loco- 
motive (used in the first year of travel) 
was made at West Point, N. Y., and 
was named "Dewitt Clinton." This 
first engine used wood for fuel and, 
on its earlier trips, liberally besprinkled 
the outside passengers with live cin- 
ders, and thq^ were often busy beating 
out the incipient fires thus started on 
their clothing. 

The advantages of steam railroads 
being here practically seen, other 
lines were immediately projected and 
applications for charters made. 
Among them was the Utica and Sche- 
nectady, connecting those cities and 
covering a distance of about 80 miles. 
With its parent road, the Mohawk and 
Hudson, it made a line almost 100 miles 
long and so traversed the greater part 
of the Mohawk valley. 

In 1836 the Mohawk and Hudson 
railroad, from Albany to Schenectady, 
covered 15 of the 100 miles of railroad 
then in operation in this state. A 
contemporary writes, in 1836, of it and 
its extension (the Utica and Schenec- 
tady road then nearly completed), as 
follows: "This road, the importance 
of which entitles it to a conspicuous 
station among the many improvements 



of the age, is designed to form no in- 
considerable link in the extensive 
chain of communication between the 
western world and the tide waters of 
the Hudson. Passing through a coun- 
try famed for its fertility of soil and 
its exuberance of agricultural produc- 
tions, the route can scarcely fail of 
presenting some features to the con- 
templation of the most fastidious trav- 
eler. With the Mohawk river almost 
constantly in view, as it majestically 
sweeps onward in its course, confined 
on either side by a succession of lofty 
and precipitous hills, the eye of the 
amateur may frequently discern land- 
scapes comprising almost every var- 
iety of picturesque and scenic beauty." 
Says Beers's History of 1878: "It 
was not to be supposed that Schenec- 
tady would long remain the terminus 
of a road pointing up the Mohawk 
valley toward the growing west. En- 
terprising men soon resolved on its 
extension among the thriving villages 
created by the tide of westward emi- 
gration, and in 1833, a charter was 
granted for the construction of the 
Utica and Schenectady Railroad. The 
original capital of the company, .$2,- 
000,000, more than sufficed for the 
building and equipment of the road, 
and the enterprise proved conspicuously 
successful. [It usurped the north 
shore Mohawk turnpike in places, 
which, in those sections, had to be re- 
constructed further away from the 
river.] The first board of directors 
consisted of Erastus Corning, John 
Townsend, Lewis Benedict, James 
Porter, Alonzo C. Page, Tobias A. 
Stoutenburgh, Nathaniel S. Benton, 
Nicholas Deveraux, Henry Seymour, 
Alfred Munson, James Hooker, John 
Mason and Churchill C. Cambreling. 
Erastus Corning was first president; 
James Porter, secretary; William C. 
Young, chief engineer, and on the 
completion of the road superintendent; 
Gideon Davidson, commissioner. One 
of the provisions of the charter was 
that each county through which the 
road passed must be represented 'by 
one or more of its citizens on the 
board of directors. Under this regu- 
lation, Tobias A. Stoutenburgh was 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



211 



chosen from Montgomery county. The 
original charter also fixed the maxi- 
mum fare at four cents a mile, and re- 
quired the company to sell out to the 
state after ten and within fifteen years 
if the state desired to purchase. 

"The work of construction went on 
with rapidity,! and, on the 1st of Au- 
gust, 1836, the road was opened for the 
conveyance of passengers. That Au- 
gust day was an event in the valley, 
both in itself and in its foreshadow- 
ings. The long excursion train was 
packed with delighted passengers, and 
each station furnished yet other 
crowds seeking places in the overflow- 
ing cars. The train made slow pro- 
gress, but eager and curious eyes 
watched the iron monster that puffed 
its murky breath and hissed through 
its brazen throat. 

"At this time the idea of carrying 
freight was not entertained. The 
charter forbade it, consequently no 
preparations for the transmission of 
merchandise had been made by the 
company. The desire of the superin- 
tendent seemed to be to confine the 
business of the road to the carrying 
of passengers. The occasion for 
handling freight, however, of course, 
arose on the closing of the canal in 
1836. On the very day that frost 
stopped navigation in that year, a 
German family, wishing to convey 
their effects from Palatine Bridge to 
Schenectady, were permitted to ship 
them on a car, and this, it may be said, 
was the beginning of the way freight 
business of the Central railroad. The 
conductor in this case, having no tar- 
iff of rates to guide him, made the 
rather exorbitant charge of $14. The 
legislature, in 1837^ authorized the 
company to carry freight and subse- 
quently made the regulation, allowing 
passengers to have a specified amount 
of baggage carried free of charge. The 
first freight cars were called 'stage 
wagons.' " [The modern T rail was 
invented by Col. Robert Stevens of 
New Jersey, in 1830. Steel rails were 
first used in 1857 in England. The first 
iron rails were but three feet long.] 

"Improvements were made in track 
and rolling stock at an early day in 



the history of the Utica and Schenec- 
tady road. We have said that the rails 
were originally like those of later 
street railroads — namely sficks of 
timber, with bands of iron, spiked 
upon them, called 'strap rails.' The 
irons had a tendency to work loose at 
the ends and turn up, forming .what 
were called 'snake heads,' which were 
ready, on catching the bottom of a car, 
to spear the passengers or throw the 
train from the track. [Solid iron rails 
accordingly superseded them.] The 
first improvement in passenger cars 
consisted in building frame bodies, 
somewhat ornamented, and placing 
them on four-wheeled trucks. Each 
car was divided by partitions into 
three compartments, seating eight per- 
sons apiece and entered by a door on 
either side. The conductor traversed 
a plank running along the side of the 
car, and, holding on to an iron over 
the door of each section, reached in 
for the fare. [This arrangement was 
somewhat on the style of passenger 
coaches on English roads. In 1831 the 
first American style passenger coach 
(with doors at each end) was used and 
this style soon supplanted the En- 
glish type in North America.] 

"At first no time tables governed the 
running of the trains. One would 
leave Utica at a specified hour, each 
week-day morning, and get to Sche- 
nectady when it could, returning on 
the same plan. For a long time, after 
the completion of the road, there were 
few station agents, and freight con- 
ductors had to hunt up patrons at 
each stopping place, where merchan- 
dise was to be left, and collect the 
charges. Freight trains ran about 
eight miles an hour, passenger trains 
about 20 or less. Time and experience 
gradually brought order and exactness 
into every department of the business 
on this line and it enjoyed unexampled 
prosperity. 

"In the spring of 1853, the legisla- 
ture passed an act for the consolida- 
tion of roads,! then in operation (and 
some only projected) between Albany 
and Buffalo, to form the New York 
Central. This was effected a few 
weeks later. The new company had a 



212 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



capital of $23,085,600. The Utica and 
Schenectady was, of course, one of 
the roads absorbed by it. One of the 
original directors, who remained as 
such up to the time of the consolida- 
tion, states that, at that time, 'the 
stock capital of the company was 
$4,500,000, on which the shareholders 
received 50 per cent premium in six 
per cent bonds of the consolidated 
company, equal at par to $2,475,000; 
and how much of the two-and-a-half 
millions increase was made up by 
extra dividends in the old company, 
and how much of the surplus has been 
and will be paid by the trustees to the 
shareholders of the company, I need 
not name to make good the assertion 
that the Utica and Schenectady Com- 
pany has turned out the most success- 
ful of modern railway enterprises.' 
The growth of business on this road is 
evidenced by the fact that its second 
track was laid before it became part 
of the New York Central. 

"The ambition of each railway mag- 
nate, as the actual and prospective 
greatness of the West became appar- 
ent, was the control of a through line 
from the seaboard which could make 
sure of its share of the transportation 
for the great grain regions and popu- 
lous cities so rapidly developing. Cor- 
nelius Vanderbilt's first step in this 
direction was the consolidation for 500 
years of the Hudson River Railroad 
with the New York Central, which 
took place under an act passed by the 
legislature in May, 1869, the line tak- 
ing the name of the New York Central 
and Hudson River Railroad. The im- 
mense business of the transportation 
of freight commanded by this road re- 
quired that its freight trains should 
have tracks to themselves, and made it 
at once necessary and profitable to 
double the already large capacity of 
the line from Buffalo to Albany, where 
much of its traffic was diverted to- 
ward New England. This was accom- 
plished by the construction of third 
and fourth tracks between those cities, 
which were completed in the autumn 
of 1874. 

"The almost incalculable advantages 
to be derived from railroad facilities 



are offered at their best to the inhab- 
itants of the Mohawk valley. The 
creation of points of sale knd ship- 
ment for agricultural products in- 
creases the value of farm property, and 
Montgomery county everywhere shows 
in its i-ich, well-cultivated farms and 
fine buildings, the benefits of home 
markets and the highest facilities for 
ti-ansportation. The villages, which 
by the Central Railroad are placed 
within an hour and a half of Albany 
and six or seven of New York, are far 
more nearly equal to those cities in 
their advantages as homes than they 
could be without it,- while possessing 
their own class of attractions and thus 
are assured of a solid growth and de- 
velopment. To arrest or seriously de- 
lay the conveyance of what now 
comes and goes so promptly by mail 
and express would be to take away 
much of what constitutes civilization, 
and remand the community thus af- 
fiicted to comparative barbarism." 

The first stations on the Mohawk 
and Schenectady Railroad, in the five 
western towns of Montgomery county, 
were located at Sprakers, Palatine 
Bridge -Canajoharie, Fort Plain, Pala- 
tine Church and St. Johnsville. That 
at Palatine Church was subsequently 
dropped. St. Johnsville was long an 
important station of the Central road, 
having a railroad restaurant and coal 
pockets. Little Falls was an import- 
ant point and Fonda also, as here con- 
nections were made north after 1870. 

The stations on the West Shore road 
in Montgomery county are in the east- 
ern part, Amsterdam, Fort Hunter, 
Fultonville, and in the five western 
towns are Randall, Sprakers, Canajo- 
harie, Fort Plain. St. Johnsville and 
Mindenville (flag station). The full 
list of stations on the Central in Mont- 
gomery county, from east to west, are 
Amsterdam, Fort Johnson, Tribes Hill, 
Fonda, Yosts, Sprakers, Palatine 
Bridge-Canajoharie, Fort Plain-Nel- 
liston, St. Johnsville. Some of the 
fastest trains in the world run over 
the Central. The passenger and freight 
service is enormous and a train is al- 
most always in sight from Prospect 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



213 



Hill, Fort Plain. The Central is one of 
the few four-track roads in the world. 

The building of the West Shore rail- 
road cut through and seriously in- 
jured the business section of Canajo- 
harie. Fort Plain was at first simi- 
larly threatened, as the original plans 
called for a railroad running along the 
east side of Canal street throughout 
the village. The most strenuous efforts 
of leading and influential Fort Plain 
citizens were required to bring about 
a change of plans in the early 80s, and 
the present course of the railroad, on 
the flats through the village limits a 
distance of a mile and a half, was 
adopted. The opening of the West 
Shore in 1883 was marked by a terri- 
ble collision of trains, with loss of life, 
at Diefendorf Hill, just west of Fort 
Plain. A local train, running west from 
Canajoharie to Syracuse in the morn- 
ing and returning in the evening, has 
been known as the Canajoharie local, 
almost since the inauguration of ser- 
vice over the road. 

The West Shore road and the Cen- 
tral entered into a fierce rate competi- 
tion, shortly before the West Shore's 
absorption by the Central, which 
brought the passenger rate down to a 
cent a mile for a short period. The 
passenger fare is now (1913) two cents 
per mile on both roads as it is gener- 
ally on most New York state railroads. 
Freight rates have shown a decline 
since the inauguration of freight ser- 
vice in the valley in 1836, as previously 
referred to. The average rate per ton 
per mile was 0.74 cents in 1891. The 
West Shore was bought by the Central 
about 1895 and is today (1913) used 
almost exclusively as a freight branch 
of the N. Y. C. & H. R. R.R. system. 
The passenger train service has been 
cut down to a few local and through 
trains daily, the north shore railroad, 
the Central, handling most of the 
passenger traffic. The West Shore 
takes its name from its occupancy of 
the west shore of the Hudson, the Cen- 
tral occupying the east shore. Through 
the Mohawk valley the West Shore 
R.R. follows the south shore of the 
Mohawk river and the Central the 
north bank. In the six miles from 



Canajoharie to Palatine Church the 
West Shore is truly on the west shore 
of the Mohawk, as the course of the 
river in that distance is generally 
northwest and southeast. The West 
Shore was built by Italian labor. As the 
Erie canal was largely dug by Irish- 
men, so it is probable that the Utica 
and Schenectady was constructed by 
that race as its construction followed 
the canal within fifteen years. 

The carrying capacity of both pas- 
senger coaches and freight cars has 
constantlj' increased together with the 
drawing power of the locomotives, 
since the first days of railroading. 
This was the cause of the gradual de- 
cline of canal business — the limited 
possibilities of transportation on this 
waterway finally being unable to meet 
railroad competition except on certain 
classes of freight. 

In the United States (1913) freight 
cars are 30 to 36 feet long, with two 
four-wheeled trucks, and weigh from 
20,000 lbs. to 30,000 lbs. and carry 40,- 
000 to 60 000 lbs., the combined weight 
of the larger cars and burden being 
45 tons. European freight cars are 
only 12 to 18 feet long, with four 
wheels, weigh 11,000 to 18,000 lbs., and 
carry 18,000 to 23,000 lbs. Steel is now 
(1913) supplanting wood in the con- 
struction of both passenger and freight 
cars in the United States. This has 
been true of trolley car construction 
for a number of years past. An in- 
teresting comparison is afforded by 
the fact that one 1,500 ton Barge canal 
barge will carry a load as large as 50 
l>iggest freight cars can haul. Tan- 
dem barges, or one 3,000 ton barge, 
will equal a 100-car train in carrying 
capacity. 

American locomotives and passen- 
ger cars are heavier and more power- 
ful than European types. European 
passenger cars are (1913) from 26 to 
56 feet long, while the American ones 
are 80 feet long, in the largest cars, 
and are wider, higher and of generally 
stronger and heavier construction. 
Nine to twelve car American express 
trains weigh from 350 to 500 tons, 
while in Great Britain ten to fifteen 
car express trains weigh 270 tons at 



214 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



the most. The heaviest New York 
Central locomotive (1913) weighs 135 
tons, with a "tractive effort" of 31,000 
pounds. The largest American loco- 
motive yet produced weighs 308 tons 
with a "tractive effort" of 111,000 
pounds. Passenger train speed on the 
Mohawk section of the Central has 
been registered exceeding 68 miles per 
hour. 

The railroad mileage of the United 
States was 2,816 in 1840, 30,600 in 1860 
and 177,753 in 1893, when the world's 
railroad mileage was 405,000. Half 
the railway mileage of the world is in 
North America, including the United 
States, Canada and Mexico. The 
United States's mileage was 240,000 in 
1910, of which 25,000 miles was in- 
cluded in the "Vanderbilt" or New 
York Central group of roads, the third 
largest system in the country. 

The building of the Fonda, Johns- 
town and Gloversville Railroad (1870) 
with extension to Northville (1875) 
and the construction of the West 
Shore railroad (finished 1883) com- 
pleted the construction of steam 
railroads at present operating within 
the limits of old (Fulton and) Mont- 
gomery county. The future usefulness 
of iron track railways, for local pas- 
senger and freight service, seems to lie 
in the electric trolley service and such 
a road is already in use between Sche- 
nectady, Amsterdam, Johnstown and 
Gloversville and Fonda, in the east end 
of the county, and one is projected, 
from Little Falls, via St. Johnsville, to 
Johnstown, with a spur connecting 
with Nelliston, Fort Plain and Cana- 
joharie, which will undoubtedly in 
time be continued down the valley 
making a connecting link in tKe elec- 
tric trolley line from Buffalo to New 
York city. Trolleys parallel the rail- 
roads in the Mohawk valley from Rome 
to Little Falls and from Fonda to Co- 
hoes. At Schenectady there are trol- 
ley connections with Albany and with 
the upper Hudson valley. 

A railroad through the Otsquago 
valley connecting the Mohawk valley 
at Fort Plain with the upper Susque- 
hanna valley at Richfield Springs and 
Cooperstown has long been projected. 



A meeting to promote this enterprise 
was held in Fort Plain as early as 
1828. The Fort Plain and Richfield 
Springs Railroad company was formed 
about 1885. Later Boston capitalists 
became interested, right of way was 
secured, and a roadbed was construct- 
ed over a large part of the line, begin- 
ning at the base of Prospect Hill, Fort 
Plain. The enterprise failed financially 
about 1895. At one time the project 
contemplated uniting the proposed 
railroads with the "dead ends" of rail- 
roads at Cooperstown, Cherry Valley 
and Richfield Springs. Connection be- 
tween the Mohawk and Susquehanna 
valleys was made about 1905 by the 
trolley line running from Herkimer 
through Mohawk and Richfield Springs 
to Oneonta with a branch to Coopers- 
town. 



One of the leading railroad men of 
the mid-nineteenth century was Web- 
ster Wagner of Palatine Bridge, whose 
name is closely associated with the 
early development of sleeping and 
drawing room railroad coaches. He 
was a member of the Palatine Wag- 
ner family which located about 1720 in 
Palatine township, on the farm now 
(1913) owned by Charles D. Smith, 
about two miles west of Fort Plain. 
Webster Wagner was born in 1817 at 
Palatine Bridge, where he became 
ticket and freight agent on the Schen- 
ectady and Utica railroad in 1843. He 
later handled grain and farm produce 
and while in this business, he con- 
ceived the idea of building sleeping 
cars. A company was formed and four 
cars were built at a cost of $3,200 each. 
Berths were provided for the sleep- 
ers, each having a pair of cheap blank- 
ets and a pillow. These cars began 
running on the New York Central, 
Sept. 1, 1858, during the presidency of 
Erastus Corning. Trouble with the 
ventilation of the cars hampered the 
success of the project at first. The 
ventilators, being opposite to the 
sleepers, made it dangerous to leave 
them open at night while, with them 
closed the air was suffocating. To ob- 
viate this trouble, in 1859, Mr. Wagner 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



215 



invented the elevated car roof, plac- 
ing ventilators in the elevation, which 
proved successful and greatly improv- 
ed the air in the coaches. This im- 
provement was shortly after generally 
adopted for all types of passenger rail- 
road cars. During the Civil war these 
sleeping coaches cost to produce from 
$18,000 to $24,000 each. In 1S67, Wag- 
ner invented and put in operation his 
first drawing rooin or palace car, the 
first ever seen in America, which at 
once became so popular as to secure 
him a fortune. Wagner palace and 
sleeping cars came into general use. 
Pullman introduced a similar type into 
Europe, and about 1890, the Wagner 
and Pullman companies were consoli- 
dated under the name of the Pullman 
company. In 1871, Webster Wagner 
was elected to the assembly and to the 
state senate in 1872, 1874, 1876, 1878. 
He met a tragic death in a terrible 
railroad accident on the Central road 
at Spuyten Duyvil in 1882, when he 
was burned to death in one of his own 
drawing room cars. Mr. Wagner's 
full name was John Webster Wagner, 
he being named after his father's 
physician, Dr. John Webster, accord- 
ing to Mason's History. 

The present chair, buffet, sleeping, 
combination, dining, and observation 
coaches of steel construction are all 
later developments of the original 
sleeping car first put in operation by 
Webster Wagner on the New York 
Central railroad in 1858. The first rude 
sleeping coach was run on the Cum- 
berland Valley Railroad (Pennsyl- 
vania) in 1836. 



CHAPTER XII. 

1836, Fonda Made County Seat of 
Montgomery County — New Court 
House Built at Fonda — Dissatisfac- 
tion in Northern Montgomery — 1838, 
Fulton County Created From North- 
ern Montgomery County. 
It must be remembered that in all 
the foregoing reference to Montgom- 
ery county (up to 1838), it included 
Fulton county as well. This was in- 
deed a noble county and it is to be 
regretted that it was thus cut in two. 



This final division of Montgomery took 
' place 222 years after LaCarnon, the 
French Canadian priest, first entered 
the Mohawk country, 149 years after 
Hendrick Frey made the first recorded 
white settlement in the county, and 
127 years after the Palatines located 
in Stone Arabia. The towns of the 
present county, including the five 
western ones of Minden, Canajoharie, 
Root, Palatine and St. Johnsville as- 
sumed their present territorial boun- 
daries (except Canajoharie and Min- 
den as later noted). A long period of 
development (from the ending of the 
Revolution) had been completed and 
the present day era was ushered in. 

Old Montgomery county (including 
its northern region, present Fulton 
county, and its southern section, pres- 
ent Montgomery county) was a natural 
division of territory. It largely em- 
braced the Mohawk watershed from 
East Creek to the Schenectady line, 
with the exception that it did not in- 
clude the Schoharie valley on the 
south. Prior to 1817, when the present 
towns of Danube and Manheim were 
taken fro:n it and added to Herkimer 
county, western Montgomery county 
included the old Canajoharie country 
and its succeeding districts of Palatine 
and Canajoharie. 

In 1836 when the county seat was 
moved to Fonda from Johnstown the 
latter place had been the Montgomery 
capital for a period of 64 years, dating 
from the establishment of Tryon 
county in 1772. So long in fact had 
these two artificial divisions, of what 
is naturally one region, been associated 
that we still speak of "Fulton and 
Montgomery county" as though they 
were yet one, and the two are often 
linked together in the consideration of 
history, politics, agriculture, industry 
and other phases of human life and 
society. 

This division was due to the fact 
that the county seat was removed to 
Caughnawaga (Fonda) in 1836 and the 
people of Fulton county, resenting this, 
obtained the erection of the then 
Montgomery county into two separate 
divisions (Fulton and Montgomery) 
by act of the legislature in 1838; and 



216 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Johnstown again became a county 
seat — that of the new county of Fulton. 
This removal was the result of the 
building of the Utica and Schenectady 
railroad, which made the central town 
of Fonda very accessible to the other 
river towns of the county, while it left 
Johnstown three miles away and with- 
out railroad communication until the 
completion of the Fonda, Johnstown 
and Gloversville railroad in 1870. 
Other causes conduced to this change, 
in the governing town of the county, 
which resulted in the unfortunate dis- 
memberment of old Montgomery. 
Fonda took its name from the Fonda 
family, which largely owned the land 
upon which it was built. It was not 
then an incorporated village and did 
not become one until 1851. Regarding 
this subject, the Mohawk Valley Dem- 
ocrat (Fonda) published in its issue 
of August 15, 1912, the following from 
the pen of Washington Frothingham of 
the county seat: 

"Fonda is the only village in the 
Mohawk valley which originated in a 
land speculation. In 183S, or a little 
later, John B. Borst of Schoharie, vis- 
ited this neighborhood and planned a 
new place to supersede Caughnawaga 
and to become the capital of Mont- 
gomery county. What is now Fonda 
consisted then of a tavern, a few 
houses, a fulling mill and a small store. 
The surrounding lands were owned by 
the Fonda family, which obtained a 
liberal price, [from Borst] The Cen- 
tral railroad (then only the Utica and 
Schenectady) was nearly finished and 
Borst gave it land for its station at 
his new village; but a bolder plan was 
to have the county seat removed from 
Johnstown. Only after a great effort 
he succeeded. He gave the plot 
known as 'the park' to the railroad 
company and also gave to the county 
the land occupied by the jail and court 
house, an area of four acres. Lots 
were offered at $50 to $100 and both 
houses and stores were built, and to 
boom the place, a grand hotel was 
erected. In this way Fonda, as they 
named the new settlement, was made 
the county capital and started with 
much promise. Yet, notwithstanding 



all their push, the scheme did not suc- 
ceed [financially] and Borst and his 
associates were bitterly disappointed. 
Johnstown was much distressed over 
the loss of the public buildings, but a 
new county [Fulton] was soon formed, 
and the records were all copied,' down 
to the creation of Fulton county, so 
the loss was not deeply felt. The hard 
feelings of its loss have now passed 
away and the two places are now on 
better terms than ever being connected 
by two railroads and a macadam road." 

Prior to Borst's land scheme the vil- 
lage had existed in the Dutch hamlet 
of Caughnawaga, on the site of an 
Indian village. It is not improbable, 
prior to the boom of Johnstown 
caused by Sir William Johnson's re- 
moval there in 1762, that Caughna- 
waga may have been the largest center 
of white population in present Fulton- 
Montgomery county, little hamlet 
though it was. Prior to the Revolu- 
tion it was a center for public gath- 
erings, for social intercourse, politics 
and sports — such as horse racing, a 
track being there located. Caughna- 
waga still exists as the eastern end of 
Fonda. 

Says Beers: "The projectors of the 
village of Fonda conceived that the 
prospects of their enterprise would 
be brightened by making the embryo 
city the capital of Montgomery county. 
A petition for the removal of the 
county buildings was accordingly pre- 
sented to the legislature in 1836. The 
immediate vicinity of the Mohawk was 
by this time so thickly inhabited that 
the old county seat was not central to 
the population of the county, and it 
was left comparatively out of the 
world by the construction of the Utica 
and Schenectady railroad. The peti- 
tion made a persuasive showing, on a 
statistical liasis, of what proportion of 
the inhabitants would be accommo- 
dated by the proposed change; and an 
act authorizing the erection of a court 
house and jail at Fonda was passed 
during the session in which it was 
presented. The commissioners ap- 
pointed to locate the buildings and 
superintend construction were Aaron 
C. Wheelock, Henry Adams and How- 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



217 



land Fish. The act required them to 
raise and pay into the treasury of the 
county $4,500, as a preliminary step, 
and procure a site of at least three 
acres for the new county buildmgs. 
The comptroller was authorized, on 
receiving a bond from the county 
treasurer, to loan the county the sum 
required [for the erection of the build- 
ings] from the common school fund, 
to be repaid at any time, or times 
(within five years), that the supervis- 
ors might decide upon. Under these 
arrangements, the court house and 
jail were built in 1836. The removal 
of the county seat from Johnstown 
was naturally very unsatisfactory to 
the northern portion of the county, and 
resulted in the division of Montgom- 
ery two years later." The old court 
house still stands and is a building 
possessed of a simple and pleasing 
exterior, in a somewhat classic style 
of architecture. A new court "house 
has been erected in a locality removed 
from the noise of the Central trains 
which pass immediately in front of the 
older building. It is interesting to 
note in the foregoing that the change 
to Fonda and the building of the origi- 
nal Central railroad are coincident in 
point of time — 1836. 

In 1836, Montgomery county (then 
including Fulton) contained 585,000 
acres of land; the value of its real es- 
tate was $3,753,506 and the personal 
estate $647,899. The county taxes 
were $19,289.66 and the town taxes 
$13,023.00. 

There were then four academies in 
the county, located at Amsterdam, 
Kingsborough, Johnstown and Cana- 
joharie. The county contained 8 
woolen factories, 13 iron works, 5 
paper mills, 62 tanneries, 8 breweries, 
274 saw mills, 74 grist mills, 31 fulling 
mills, 29 carding machines, 4 bil mills. 

The following newspapers were is- 
sued: The Johnstown Herald, The 
Montgomery Republican, at Johns- 
town; The Northern Banner, at 
Broadalbin; The Intelligencer and 
Mohawk Advertiser, at Amsterdam; 
The Montgomery Argus, at Canajo- 
harie; The Fort Plain Journal, at Fort 
Plain; The Garland (semi-monthly) 



and the Christian Palladium (semi- 
monthly), at Union Mills. 

The following are some of the of- 
ficials of Montgomery (including Ful- 
ton) county, in 1836, before its divi- 
sion: Elijah Wilcox, collector of canal 
tolls at Fultonville; John Livermore, 
one of the canal superintendents of 
repairs; David Spraker of Canajo- 
harie, one of the four senators from 
this, the fourth, district, embracing 
Saratoga, Washington, St. Lawrence 
and Montgomery counties; Henry V. 
Berry of Caughnawaga (Fonda), Jo- 
seph Blair of Mills' Corners, Jacob 
Johnson of Minaville, members of as- 
sembly; Abraham Morrell, David 
Spraker, masters and examiners in 
chancery; Abram Morrell, first judge 
of the court of common pleas; Samuel 
A. Gilbert, John Hand, Henry J. Diev- 
endorff, David F. Sacia, judges of the 
court of common pleas; Michael Ket- 
tle, Johnstown, sheriff; Tobias A. 
Stoutenburgh, Johnstown, surrogate; 
Charles McVean, Johnstown, district 
attorney; Joseph Farmer, Johnstown, 
county treasurer; Matthias Bovee, 
Amsterdam, member of congress. Ben- 
edict Arnold of Amsterdam, was major 
general of the second division of cav- 
alry and Aaron C. Whitlock of Ephra- 
tah, brigadier general in the same di- 
vision of this branch of the state mi- 
litia. 

In the county there were 40 lawyers, 
44 physicians and 28 clergymen, not 
including the Methodists (for some 
reason not enumerated in the list from 
which this is taken). 

Since this division of 1838, the pres- 
ent ten towns of Montgomery have 
retained boundaries given them then, 
with the exception of the subtraction 
of the Freysbush district from Cana- 
joharie and its addition to Minden in 
1849. This county dismemberment 
made the towns of Amsterdam, Mo- 
hawk and St. Johnsville very narrow 
in width from north to south, in some 
places their northern boundaries be- 
ing within two miles of the river and 
even a trifle less. The southside town- 
ships were, of course, in nowise af- 
fected. 

At this important period there were, 



218 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



in the county four villages — Johns- 
town, incorporated 1808; Canajoharie, 
incorporated 1829; Amsterdam, incor- 
porated 1830; Fort Plain, incorporated 
1832. The population of Johnstown 
was (1836) 1200 to 1500 and of Fort 
Plain about 400. No data exists on 
the population of the other two. 
Johnstown had 600 in 1802 and in 1844 
had 250 dwellings. In 1804 Amster- 
dam had 100, about equally divided 
between Dutch and other elements, 
and in 1813 it had 150. Its growth 
thereafter was very rapid, outstrip- 
ping the other villages in a few de- 
cades. Glover sville had a dozen houses 
in 1830. It was incorporated in 1851. 
Fultonville was incorporated in 1848; 
Fonda, in 1850 (probable population, 
400); St. Johnsville, 1857 (with a pop- 
ulation of 720). 

In 1836 the population of Montgom- 
ery county was almost entirely rural, 
as will be seen from the figures of vil- 
lage population then. Most of its peo- 
ple were located on the farms, and en- 
gaged in agriculture. 

So much for the noble old county of 
Montgomery, which had had an event- 
ful existence with Fulton as part of it 
for two-thirds of a century. From 
the Montgomery county of 1784, em- 
bracing half the state, it finally as- 
sumed territorial borders which make 
it one of the smallest in area of New 
York's 62 counties. 



Mr. Frothingham, who wrote the 
foregoing concerning Fonda, is the 
well-known clergyman and writer of 
Fonda, now (1913) 92 years of age. He 
was a boy of four when flatboats, on 
the Mohawk, and huge freight wagons, 
on the Mohawk turnpike, still carried 
the bulk of the through freight 
through the valley, prior to the open- 



ing of the Erie canal in the fall of 
1825. He was a youth of fifteen when 
the first railroad train ran in the val- 
ley and was a young man of seventeen 
when Fulton was sundered from 
Montgomery county. Mr. Frothing- 
ham has seen most of the changes 
which have taken place, in customs, 
life and transportation in this section 
from the early pioneer days. He 
edited Mason's History of Montgom- 
ery County, published in 1892, and has 
written much concerning valley his- 
torical matters. 



Fulton county was named from Rob- 
ert Fulton, whose success in promot- 
ing steam navigation was at that time 
(1838) still fresh in the public mem- 
ory. Robert Fulton was born at Little 
Britain, Lancaster county, Pennsyl- 
vania, in 1765. He became a minia- 
ture and portrait painter and practised 
his art in Philadelphia, New York and 
London. In England he turned his at- 
tention to inventing, prodvicing sev- 
eral mechanical contrivances. At this 
time he became interested in canal 
navigation and improvement. Later 
in Paris he brought out a submarine 
torpedo boat, which was rejected for 
use by the French, British and United 
States governments. In 1803 Fulton 
built a steamboat on the Seine in 
Paris. In 1807 he launched the steam- 
boat Clermont on the Hudson in New 
York, which made a successful trip to 
Albany, and which may be said to 
have solved the problem of steam nav- 
igation. Fulton built many steam- 
boats, ferryboats, etc., and in 1814 con- 
structed the U. S. steamer, "Demolo- 
gos" (later called Fulton the First), 
which was the first war steamer built. 
Robert Fvilton died in New York in 
1815, aged 50 years. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 

(THIRD SERIES 1838-1913) 



CHAPTER I. 

1838-1913 — Montgomery County, To- 
pography, Population and History — 
Farm Statistics and Amsterdam In- 
dustrial Statistics — Fulton County, 
Herkimer County and Mohawk Val- 
ley Statistics. 

The following or third series of 
chapters treats of Montgomery county 
and the middle Mohawk valley during 
the years from 1838 (the date of separ- 
ation of Fulton  from Montgomery 
county) until the present day (1913): 

Montgomery county of todaj'^ con- 
sists of the ten townships of Amster- 
dam, Mohawk, Palatine, St. Johnsville, 
Minden, Canajoharie, Root, Glen, 
Charleston, Florida. The towns along 
the north side of the Mohawk river 
from east to west are Amsterdam, 
Mohawk, Palatine, St. Johnsville, while 
the south shore towns from east 
to west are Florida, Glen, Root, Cana- 
joharie, Minden. The town of 
Charleston is the only one in the 
county whifh does not abut on the 
river as it lies directly south of the 
town of Glen. Glen and Charleston 
lie on the west shore of the Schoharie 
creek while Florida is on the east side, 
these three towns being the ones in 
Montgomery along which this pictur- 
esque stream flows, finally emptying 
into the Mohawk at Fort Hunter be- 
tween the towns of Florida and Glen. 
The Schoharie is the chief tributary of 
the Mohawk. 

The important creeks in the county 
flowing into the Mohawk are, on the 
north shore beginning at the west: 
East Canada, at Bast Creek; Crum 
creek, one-half mile east of East 
Creek; Timmerman, at Upper St. 
johnsville; Zimmerman's, at St. Johns- 



ville; Caroga, at Palatine Church; 
Knauderack, flowing through Schenck's 
Hollow, past the county home; Caya- 
dutta, at Fonda; Danoscara, at Tribes 
Hill; Kayaderosseras, at Fort John- 
son; Chuctanunda, at Amsterdam; 
Evaskill, at Cranesville. 

From west to east, on the south 
shore, are the Otsquago, at Fort 
Plain; Canajoharie, at Canajoharie; 
Flat creek, at Sprakers; Yatesville 
creek, at Randall; Allston, at Stone 
Ridge; Auries, or Ochraqua, at Auries- 
ville; Schoharie, at Fort Hunter; 
South Chuctanunda, at Amsterdam 
(south side); Cowilla, opposite Cranes- 
ville. Persons interested in Montgom- 
ery, its life and history would do well 
to procure a map of the county. 

The boundaries of Montgomery 
county are north, Fulton; east, Sara- 
toga and Schenectady; south, Schenec- 
tady, Schoharie, Otsego; west, Herki- 
mer. 

In reference to its geology the fol- 
lowing is briefly summarized from 
Mason's: Gneiss is found in patches, 
its principal locality being near the 
Nose on the river. Resting upon it 
are heavy masses of calciferous sand- 
stone, mostly on the north side and 
trending northward into Fulton coun- 
ty. Next above the sandstone are the 
Black River and Trenton limestone, 
not important as surface rocks but 
furnishing valuable quarries of build- 
ing stone. Hudson river group slates 
and shales extend along the south side 
of the county and are found in a few 
places north of the river. Drift and 
boulders abound. A deep, rich, vege- 
table mould forms the soil of the 
alluvial plains or "flats" along the 
river. On the uplands is mostly a 
highly productive, sandy and gravelly 



220 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



loam. The land is generally adapted 
to agriculture and especially dairying, 
which forms a leading feature of 
Montgomery farm activities. Traces 
of coal, lead and silver are found in 
Montgomery county rocks. 

The country is one of rolling hills 
for the most part, although in some 
parts, back from the river, it is only 
gently undulating. Much of it is 
broken and somewhat precipitous in 
parts, particularly along the banks of 
the streams. The picturesque Cana- 
joharie creek gorge is a miniature can- 
yon with walls 100 feet high in places. 
There is much natural beauty through- 
out the county, which is to be ex- 
pected of a county 33 miles long and 
lying along the Mohawk, famed as 
traversing a most picturesque valley. 
There are beautiful falls on the Can- 
ajoharie, a mile south of the village of 
that name and on Flat creek, a mile 
south of Sprakers. There are sulphur 
springs in almost every township. 

The views from some of the hilltops 
are always extensive and often inspir- 
ing. From some heights foothills may 
be seen which lie at the edge of the 
great Adirondack forest, which also, 
at one time, covered Montgomery 
county extensively, with the exception 
of the vlaies or natural meadows. The 
following are the elevations of the 
highest points of land, above sea level 
as given on the map issued by S. Con- 
over of Amsterdam: Minden, at 
Salt Springville, 986; Canajoharie, at 
Mapletown, 1213; Root, two miles 
southeast of Lykers, 1310; Glen, two 
miles south of Glen village, 1200; 
Charleston, Oak Ridge, near Oak 
Ridge settlement, 1446; Florida, two 
miles southwest of Minaville, 1203; 
Amsterdam, in the east central part, 
700; Mohawk, Van Deusen Hill, 1029; 
Palatine, Rickard's Hill in north part, 
1029; St. Johnsville, Getman hill on 
the north line in the east end, 1140. 
Oak Ridge, 1446 feet, in Charleston, is 
the highest point on the south side and 
also in Montgomery county. It is 11 
miles from the Mohawk. Getman Hill, 
1140 feet, in St. Johnsville township, is 
the highest northside point and is less 
than three miles from the river. Sub- 



tracting the river bed sea elevations 
(302 feet at Fort Plain, 278 feet at 
Fonda and 267 feet at Amsterdam), 
will give the height of the hills above 
the Mohawk. The best and most char- 
acteristic valley views are to be ob- 
tained on the hills, back from the Mo- 
hawk river. 

The area of Montgomery county is 
about 385 square miles and the soil is 
in general fertile, that on the "flats" 
being a particularly rich loam. The 
43d parallel of north latitude cuts di- 
rectly through the center of St. Johns- 
ville and the county lies between the 
74th and 75th degree meridians west- 
ward from Greenwich, England, and 
2 and 3 degrees east of Washington. 
It is bounded on the north by Fulton, 
on the east by Saratoga and Schenec- 
tady, on the south by Schoharie and 
Otsego and on the west by Herkimer 
county. It is 33 miles long and 15 
miles wide at the point of the great- 
est breadth at Randall. Yosts is al- 
most exactly in its center lengthways. 

Aside from the ten towns, it con- 
tains the city of Amsterdam and the 
villages of Hagaman and Fort Johnson 
in Amsterdam town and the villages 
of Fonda in Mohawk town, Palatine 
Bridge and Nelliston in Palatine town, 
St. Johnsville in St. Johnsville town, 
Fort Plain in Minden town, Canajo- 
harie in Canajoharie town, Fultonville 
in Glen town. It also has the follow- 
ing unincorporated places or neighbor- 
hood centers: • 

In Minden: — Mindenville, Minden, 
Hallsville, Brookmans Corners, Salt 
Springville, Freysbush. 

In Canajoharie: — Sprout Brook, Van 
Deusenville, Buel, Marshville, Ames, 
Waterville, Mapletown. 

In Root: — Sprakers, Randall, Flat 
Creek, Browns Hollow, Lykers, Cur- 
rytown, Rural Grove, Stone Ridge. 

In Glen: — Glen, Auriesville, Mill 
Point. 

In Charleston: — Charleston Four 
Corners, Charleston, Oak Ridge, Cary- 
town, Burtonsville. 

In Florida: — Fort Hunter, Minaville, 
Miller Corners, Scotch Bush, Scotch 
Church. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



221 



In Amsterdam: — Cranesville, Manny- 
Corners. 

In Mohawk: — Tribes Hill, Berryville, 
Yosts. 

In Palatine: — McKinley, Stone Ara- 
bia Four Corners, Stone Arabia, Three 
Points, Wagners Hollow, Palatine 
Church. 

In St. Johnsville: — Upper St. Johns- 
ville. 

The following regards the civil gov- 
ernment of Montgomery, the same as 
that of other New York counties. It 
forms, of course, part of a state sena- 
torial and part of a national congres- 
sional district, their boundaries vary- 
ing at different times. It is an as- 
sembly district and is represented by 
one assemblyman at Albany. 

The strictly county officers, with 
their terms of office in years, are: 
Sheriff, 3; county judge, 6; surrogate, 
6; county clerk, 3; treasurer, 3; district 
attorney, 3; four coroners, 4; superin- 
tendent of poor, 3; two district school 
commissioners (one for five west towns 
and one for five east towns, exclusive 
of the city of Amsterdam), 3. A county 
highway superintendent, two commis- 
sioners of elections and a sealer of 
weights and measures are appointed 
by the board of supervisors. For lists 
of Montgomery county officers see 
Beer's History of Montgomery and 
Fulton Counties (1878) and Mason's 
History of Montgomery County (1892). 

The town officers are with their 
terms of office in years: Supervisor, 
2; town clerk, 2; four justices of peace, 
4; three assessors, 4; one or three 
highway superintendents, 2; overseer 
of poor, 2; collector, 2; three auditors, 
2; not more than five constables, 2; a 
board of health composed of the town 
board and a health officer (appointed). 

The usual village officers are presi- 
dent, board of trustees, boards of sewer 
and water commissioners, clerk, treas- 
urer, collector, police officers and street 
commissioner. 

The history of Montgomery county 
from 1838, the date of separation of 
Fulton "and Montgomery counties, 
covers the Civil war period and is one 
of agricultural development and 



change, of the great increase and de- 
velopment of the villages and the 
county's city, Amsterdam, and the re- 
markable growth of manufacturing in- 
dustries in all the population centers 
of importance. Hops, which were long 
raised in the southern section of the 
Montgomery, are but little cultivated on 
account of the lack of reliability as to 
crop and because of the competition of 
the Pacific slope. The same is true of 
broom corn which was so long a prin- 
cipal crop on the river flatlands and 
which stimulated the building of 
broom factories in almost all the river 
towns. The county has also largely 
become a dairying section instead of 
one where general crops (and wheat 
largely) were raised 75 years ago. 
There is but little lumbering done as 
the available timber is largely gone 
and areas must be replanted to pro- 
tect the soil and the flow of the water- 
courses. Fruit growing is of increas- 
ing importance and much fine poultry 
is raised both for market and for 
breeding. Hay, oats and corn are the 
three most important crops. 

A large and interesting volume could 
be made of the present industries of 
old Montgomery (including present 
Fulton) county. To the north of us in 
Fulton there is lumbering and Glov- 
ersville (with Johnstown) is the glove 
manufacturing center of the United 
States. Amsterdam has carpet works 
of great size and capacity and "Am- 
sterdam rugs" are sold everywhere in 
enormous quantities. The same is true 
of many other county manufactures. 
Barkley's Geography of Montgomery 
County, published in 1892, gives the 
following as the natural and manu- 
factured products of Montgomery, to 
which additions have been made to 
bring the list up to date. 

Agricultural: — Cattle, horses, sheep, 
swine, wool, hides, lumber, butter, 
cheese, wheat, corn, oats, hay, rye, 
buckwheat, potatoes, flax, hops, beans, 
apples, pears, plums, grapes, honey, 
alfalfa, eggs, poultry, vegetables and 
garden truck. 

Mineral: — Limestone, clay and sand. 
Lead ore in small quantities has been 
found on the banks of Flat creek in 



222 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



Root, and gold, copper, zinc and lead 
had been obtained in non-payable 
amounts from the banks of East Can- 
ada creek in the town of St. Johnsville. 
Limestone is found in abundance in 
the towns or Amsterdam, Florida, Mo- 
hawk, Root, Canajoharie, Palatine and 
St. Johnsville. It was largely used for 
building in the earlier days and made 
handsome houses. 

The manufactures of 1913 by towns 
are as follows: 

Amsterdam town and city: — Carpets, 
rugs, knit goods, brooms, springs, lin- 
seed oil, boilers, paper boxes, silk, beer, 
malt, waterwheels, caskets, paper, 
cigars, clothing, soda water, bricks, 
wooden building material (sash, doors, 
blinds, etc.), lumber. 

Canajoharie: — Paper bags, food pro- 
ducts, beer, flour, feed, cider, wagons. 

Charleston: — Wagons, sleighs, flour, 
feed, cotton yarn, lumber, cider, wine. 

Florida: — Brooms, wagons, sleighs, 
cultivators, wine. 

Glen: — Silk goods, poultry coops, 
brooms, stoves, lumber, cider, water- 
wheels, castings, flour, feed. 

Minden: — Knit goods, paper boxes, 
furniture, broom machinery, flour, 
feed, cider, pickles, hose bands, wag- 
ons, silk goods, toy wagons, cabinets, 
corn buskers, milk products, broom- 
bands, cigars. 

Mohawk: — Knit goods, paper, wag- 
ons, soda water, flour, feed, tile, cider. 

Palatine: — Condensed milk, candy, 
milk products, straw board, vinegar, 
cider. 

Root: — Wagons, lumber, cider. 

St. Johnsville: — Agricultural ma- 
chinery, threshing machines, pianos, 
piano actions, flfth wheels, wagons, 
sleighs, knit goods, condensed milk, 
carriage forgings, cider, flour, feed, 
lumber, bricks, piano players. 

The chief events in the history of 
Montgomery county of the period be- 
ing considered are: 1838, division of 
Montgomery and Fulton counties; en- 
largement of the Erie canal, begun in 
1835; formation of Montgomery County 
Agricultural society, 1844; Civil war 
and enlistment of Montgomery county 
men, 1861-5; completion Fonda, Johns- 
town and Gloversville railroad, 1870; 



West Shore railroad completed, 1883; 
Amsterdam becomes a city, 1885; elec- 
tric road connects Schenectady, Am- 
sterdam, Fonda, Johnstown and Glov- 
ersville, 1905; commencement of Barge 
canal work, 1905; electric power plant 
established at Ephratah, using waters 
of Pecks Pond and Garoga lakes and 
transmission line run to Fort Plain, 
1911; 1911, Atwood's aeroplane flight 
through the Mohawk valley on his St. 
Louis to New York air trip. He landed 
at Nelliston and remained over night 
at Fort Plain. 

An agricultural fair was held in old 
Montgomery county at Johnstown, as 
early as Oct. 12, 1819, by a society or- 
ganized in that year. Fairs have been 
held in most of the years succeeding 
this date. In 1865, the Fulton County 
Agricultural society bought 18 acres 
near Johnstown for a permanent fair 
ground. In recent years the fair has 
been discontinued and the grounds 
sold for building lots. 

The growth of agricultural societies, 
as relating to Montgom.ery, finds a 
fitting place here. There are two of 
these in the county, the Montgomery 
County Agricultural society, holding 
annual fall exhibitions and races at 
Fonda on its fair grounds, and the 
Port Plain Street Fair association 
(mentioned elsewhere) holding an an- 
nual September fair on the brick pave- 
ments of Fort Plain. 

In 1793 the Society for the Promo- 
tion of Agriculture, Arts and Manu- 
factures was established, and in 1801 
this body, for convenience of action, 
divided the state into agricultural dis- 
tricts, each consisting of a county. A 
secretary was appointed in each dis- 
trict, whose duties were to convene the 
members of the society within the 
county, learn the state of agriculture 
and manufactures therein and report 
to the president of the society. Shortly 
after this time, premiums were offered 
for the best specimens of home made 
cloth, and were awarded partly by the 
general authority of the society and 
partly by county judges appointed by 
it. By an act of legislature, in 1819, 
for the improvement of agriculture, a 
board of officers was created and an 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



223 



appropriation made for two years, 
which was to be distributed among 
the different counties of the state for 
the advancement of agriculture and 
domestic manufactures, on the condi- 
tion that the counties themselves sub- 
scribed an equal sum, but this was 
carried out but little by the counties 
and no permanent result came of it. 
The present State Agricultural society 
was formed in 1832. No state appro- 
priation was made for it until 1841, 
when measures were taken for raising 
funds and holding annual fairs. In the 
spring of 1841, $40,000 was appropri- 
ated, partly to the state society and 
partly for division among the counties 
in proportion to their representation 
in the assembly. 

It was under this act that the Mont- 
gomery County Agricultural society 
was organized. Pursuant to a notice 
by the county clerk, a meeting was 
held Sept. 20, 1844, at the Fonda court 
house. The committee on nominations 
reported the following, which were 
adopted: President, Tunis I. Van De- 
veer; vice-presidents, Joshua Reed, 
Peter H. Fonda; secretary, John Frey; 
treasurer, John Nellis; board of direc- 
tors, Amsterdam, Benedict Arnold; 
Charleston, Robert Baird; Canajoharie, 
Jeremiah Gardner; Florida, Lawrence 
Servoss; Glen, Richard Hudson; Min- 
den, Barney Becker; Mohawk, Lyndes 
Jones; Palatine, William Snell; Root, 
George Spraker; St. Johnsville, John 
Y. Edwards. A committee was ap- 
pointed to draft a constitution and re- 
port it at a subsequent meeting, which 
all desirous to promote the interests of 
agriculture, manufactures and rural 
arts, were earnestly invited to attend. 

Oct. 13, 1844, the organization was 
completed and arrangements made for 
the first fair which was held at the 
court house, Nov. 11, 12, 1844. The re- 
xieipts came to $471,50 and the expenses 
$462. The fair was held at the court 
house for the three following years 
(1844, 1845, 1846), the annual receipts 
averaging about $250. In 1847 the fair 
was held in Canajoharie. The next 
four were held at the court house in 
Fonda, the tenth (in 1853) at Fort 
Plain, in St. Johnsville in 1854 and at 



Canajoharie in 1855. Since then it has 
been held annually at Fonda, that 
place having been fixed upon as the 
permanent locality in 1863. In 1860 
the constitution and by-laws were 
adopted, the officers to be a president, 
two vice-presidents, a secretary and a 
treasurer, an executive committee of 
three, a board of directors consisting 
of three members from each town of 
the county. All of the officials' terms 
were one year. Membership for one 
year was put at 50 cents and persons 
could become life members on pay- 
ment of $10. The annual meeting is 
held on the evening of the first day of 
the fair and officers are then elected to 
become active the following New Year. 

In 1863 the society purchased its 
present grounds in Fonda, a field of 
13 acres, formerly belonging to the 
Van Home family. The fair of 1864 
was held on these new grounds and 
proved the most successful up to that 
date, the receipts being over $2,000 — 
double those of any previous year. In 
1872 further buildings were put up and 
other improvements effected. In 1876, 
the grandstand was built, and, as it 
was centennial year, an unusually at- 
tractive show was made in all depart- 
ments and a great variety of sports 
and races took place. The receipts 
were $3,800. A street carnival feature 
has since been added to the "Fonda 
fair." There are many other agricul- 
tural societies in the county, formed 
for social or business purposes. 

Montgomery county, like every other 
section of the country, suffered terribly 
from the Civil war. Its men responded 
in numbers to the call to arms and 
hundreds lie buried on southern battle- 
fields or in the burial grounds of their 
home neighborhoods. A dreadful sor- 
row filled the valley and houses were 
numberless where a father, husband or 
son had gone to the front never to re- 
turn alive. 

The completion of the Fonda, Johns- 
town and Gloversville railroad in 1870 
was a county event of importance. In 
1875 it was extended to Northville. 

The construction of the West Shore 
railroad (completed 1883) proved a 
great stimulus to Montgomery towns 



224 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



on the south shore. It has stations at 
Amsterdam, Fort Hunter, Auriesville, 
Fultonville, Randall, Sprakers, Cana- 
joharie, Fort Plain, Mindenville. For 
a time there was great competition be- 
tween the two roads and the new 
West Shore (so named from running 
on the west side of the Hudson) made 
business very lively. The competition 
resulted in a cut rate of one cent a 
mile which prevailed for awhile 
through the valley. The West Shore 
finally failed and was absorbed by the 
New York Central and is now used 
principally as a freight route. 

The following newspapers are pub- 
lished in Montgomery county: Am- 
sterdam Recorder, Amsterdam Sentinel, 
Mohawk Valley (Fonda) Democrat, 
Montgomery County Republican (Ful- 
tonville), Canajoharie Radii, Canajo- 
harie Courier, Hay Trade Journal 
(Canajoharie), Fort Plain Standard, 
Mohawk Valley Register (Fort Plain), 
Fort Plain Free Press, St. Johnsville 
News, St. Johnsville Enterprise. 

The following newspapers are pub- 
lished in Fulton county: Gloversville 
Herald, Gloversville Leader, Johns- 
town Democrat. 

The Mohawk valley has been the 
scene of considerable change in its 
population, although not to the same 
extent as other parts of the United 
States of America. The rural popula- 
tion of Montgomery and parts of Ful- 
ton is probably largely identical with, 
that of a century ago and it is prob- 
able that much of this farm population 
is no greater in certain localities than 
in 1812, and in some sections even less. 
It is in the cities and towns that the 
greatest population changes have oc- 
curred and these largely coincide with 
the conglomerate urban people of the 
rest of the United States. In the val- 
ley, however, there is generally a sub- 
stratum of the original white popula- 
tion in the cities and larger villages. 
With the exception of the city of Am- 
sterdam the county of Montgomery has 
a population throughout very similar to 
that here present in the early part of 
the nineteenth century or before the 
division of Montgomery and Fulton 
counties in 1838. This is largely due 



to the fact that there has been no 
great incentive to immigration into 
the county since then, with the excep- 
tion of the industrial opportunities of- 
fered by the east end city. It is prob- 
able that certain early elements which 
came into the valley after the Revolu- 
tion have largely decreased — such as 
the New England, which we read of so 
largely at that time and whose rest- 
lessness (its greatest weakness) in- 
duced these Yankees to again take up 
a western hegira. The early men of 
this region not only largely developed 
it but have themselves scattered all 
over the country and Mohawk valley 
names may now be found from the Mo- 
hawk river to San Francisco bay. New 
York city had, for a number of years, 
a Montgomery County society, which 
numbered 200 members and held an- 
nual dinners. 

The valley has witnessed and partic- 
ipated in that great urban growth and 
development which was a leading 
characteristic of national life in the 
nineteenth century. This has not only 
brought in un-American peoples but 
has, by its indoor life and sedentary 
work, markedly depreciated the vigor 
of the original Mohawk valley stock. 

Recent years in Montgomery county 
have been marked principally by the 
great development of manufactures, 
highway improvements, electric trolley 
road building, utilization and trans- 
mission of electric power, free rural 
mail delivery, city and village improve- 
ment, and the construction of the 
Barge canal which is to replace the 
Erie. 

It has been a peaceful time, broken 
only by the Spanish war of 1898 which 
called to the service a few men of 
Montgomery. In a general way, it is 
the industrial development, the solu- 
tion of social and economic problems, 
the improvement of rural communica- 
tion, the development of rural life and 
the improvement in agriculture which 
immediately concern the people of 
Montgomery county. 

The towns along the Mohawk, in- 
cluding those in Montgomery county, 
are so situated that it is probable they 
will experience a gradual but sure 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



225 



growth into cities, some of consider- 
able size. Their location on the Barge 
canal and two lines of railroad is the 
main cause of this development, com- 
bined with their situation in a rich 
agricultural territory with foodstuffs 
raised at their very doors and serving 
as markets for the farming country for 
miles around. The gradual growth of 
these Mohawk river centers has been 
largely composed of the original pop- 
ulation and without a great access of 
an undesirable foreign element. There 
have been exceptions to this rule, but 
it is to be hoped that such conditions 
will prevail, thereby avoiding many of 
the evils which have followed the un- 
desirable and rapid growth of cities 
in other sections of the country. The 
development of Schenectady, from the 
quiet Dutch town of 1880, with a popu- 
lation of less than 15,000, to the great 
manufacturing center of 1910 with 
72,000 people, has been the one marked 
exception to the gradual growth of 
the other river towns. In a lesser way 
the building up of Amsterdam in the 
same period, is also noteworthy. Its 
population of 31,267 in 1910 made it the 
third city, in point of size in the Mo- 
hawk valley and was more than half 
of the Montgomery county population 
of 57,567. Amsterdam's growth is en- 
tirely rest)onsible for the increase of 
the county's population in recent 
years and it is probable that the rest 
of Montgomery's population has de- 
creased in the past fifty years. "With 
the growing demand for foodstuffs 
and their increasing price, a growth 
in the agricultural population can be 
looked for, particularly in sections so 
favorably situated as to markets and 
transportation as the townships im- 
mediately adjacent to the Mohawk 
river. So that with growing towns and 
demand for agricultural products, com- 
bined with the good land available, it 
is reasonable to suppose the already 
large Mohawk valley population will 
be much greater in the years to come 
— a population which may easily com- 
prise a million people in time. This is, 
of course, provided that the water sup- 
ply of the valley is conserved by refor- 
estation, dams, etc. No section can 



grow beyond its water supply. The 
rainfall of the Mohawk basin has been 
steadily decreasing for a century. 



The area of Montgomery county is 
254,720 acres. That of Fulton county 
is 330,240 acres. The area of old Mont- 
gomery county, which included these 
divisions prior to 1838, was 584,960 
acres. Root is the largest town of 
Montgomery county and St. Johnsville 
is the smallest. With the figures at 
hand it is impossible to give the area 
of each township. Root, Florida and 
Minden are the three largest towns. 
However the size of townships or 
cpunties means little as they are only 
imaginary divisions. 

The census department at Washing- 
ton has kindly furnished figures for 
this work relative to the population of 
Montgomery county. In 1790 the pop- 
ulation of Montgomery was 18,261. In 
1850 (after the detachment of Fulton 
county) the population was 31,992; 
1860, 30,866; 1870, 34,457; 1880, 38,315; 
1890, 45,699; 1900, 47,488; 1910, 57,567. 

The 1910 population by towns is as 
follows: Amsterdam, including Am- 
sterdam city, 34,341; Canajoharie, 3,- 
889; Charleston, 900; Florida, 1,904; 
Glen, 2,002; Minden, 4,645; Mohawk, 
2,488; Palatine, 2,517; Root, 1,512; St. 
Johnsville, 3,369. 

The populations of the villages and 
city are as follows: Amsterdam city, 
31,267; Fort Plain, 2,762; St. Johnsville, 
2,536; Canajoharie, 2,273; Fonda, 1,100; 
Hagaman, 875; Fultonville, 812; Nel- 
liston, 737; Fort Johnson (incorporated 
1909, formerly Akin), 600; Palatine 
Bridge, 392. 

The incorporation of the villages of 
Montgomery county took place as fol- 
lows: Canajoharie, 1829; Amsterdam, 
1830; Fort Plain, 1832; Fultonville, 
1848; Fonda, 1850; St. Johnsville, 1857. 
Since the latter date the villages of 
Hagaman, Palatine Bridge, Nelliston 
and Fort Johnson have been incor- 
porated. 

There are several population centers 
in the county which include two or 
more incorporated or unincorporated 
places. With the best census figures 
and estimates at hand the total popu- 



226 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



lation of these centers, which virtually 
form single communities, are as fol- 
lows: Amsterdam - Hagaman - Fort 
Johnson-Rockton, 33,792; Fort Hunter- 
Tribes Hill, 1,000; Fonda-Fultonville, 
1,912; Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge, 
2,665; Fort Plain-Nelliston, 3,499 

The variation of population in the 
different townships is shown in the 
following figures. From a study of 
these it is shown that the rural popu- 
lation has steadily declined since 1850 
while the towns have increased. While 
the decline of the number of people in 
the agricultural sections seems to be 
still going on, it is not probable that 
it will long continue. On the other 
hand an increase of the farming popu- 
lation may be looked for in the future. 
The town populations by censuses fol- 
low: 

Amsterdam, 1850, 4,128; 1880, 11,170; 
1910 (including Amsterdam city, ex- 
cept the south side fifth ward in the 
town of Florida, formerly Port Jack- 
son), 31,962. 

Canajoharie, 1850, 4,097; 1880, 4,294; 
1910, 3,889. 

Charleston, 1850, 2,216; 1880, 1,334; 
1910, 900. 

Florida, 1850, 3,571; 1880, 3,249; 1910, 
(including former Port Jackson village, 
or Amsterdam city fifth ward), 4,283. 

Glen, 1850, 3,043; 1880, 2,622; 1910, 
2,002. 

Minden, 1850, 4,623; 1880, 5,100; 1910, 
4,645. 

Mohawk, 1850, 3,095; 1880, 2,943; 
1910, 2,488. 

Palatine, 1850, 2,856; 1880, 2,786; 
1910, 2,517. 

Root, 1850, 2,736; 1880, 2,275; 1910, 
1,512. 

St. Johnsville, 1850, 1,627; 1880, 2,002; 
1910, 3,369. 

According to the foregoing every 
town in the county has lost in popula- 
tion, from 1850 to 1910, except Amster- 
dam and St. Johnsville. 

The census of 1910 places the popu- 
lation of Montgomery county at 57,567 
and that of Fulton county at 44,534. 
The combined population of Fulton 
and Montgomery counties is 102,091. 
The total number of farms in the two 
counties is 4,221, with a total agricul- 



tural production valued at $6,707,681 in 
1909. The combined value of goods 
manufactured in Montgomery and 
Fulton counties in 1909 is roughly es- 
timated at $50,000,000. 



For this work it is impossible to ob- 
tain figures of manufactures, as relat- 
ing to New York state, by counties so 
details regarding such production is 
lacking for Montgomery and Fulton 
counties. The number of all farms in 
Montgomery county in 1910 was 2,189 
as against 2,407 in 1900. In Fulton 
county there were 1,932 farms in 1910 
and 2,234 in 1900. 

The following interesting informa- 
tion regarding the condition of agri- 
culture in Montgomery county is fur- 
nished by the census of 1910: 

Population (1910), 57,567; population 
in 1900, 47,488. 

Number of all farms, 2,189; number 
bf all farms in 1900, 2,407. 

Color and nativity of farmers — Na- 
tive white, 1,883; foreign-born white, 
306. 

Number of farms, classified by size — 
Under 3 acres, 17; 3 to 9 acres, 148; 10 
to 19 acres, 126; 20 to 49 acres, 191; 50 
to 99 acres, 514; 100 to 174 acres, 888; 
175 to 259 acres, 249; 260 to 499 acres, 
52; 500 to 999 acres, 3; 1,000 acres and 
over, 1. 

Land and farm area — Approximate 
land area, 254,720 acres; land in farms, 
234.041 acres; land in farms in 1900, 
236,934 acres; improved land in farms, 
195,262 acres; improved land in farms 
in 1900, 202,394 acres; woodland in 
farms, 25,002 acres; other unimproved 
land in farms, 13,777 acres; per cent of 
land area in farms, 91.9; per cent of 
farm land improved, 83.4; average 
acres per farm, 106.9; average improv- 
ed acres per farm, 89.2. 

Value of farm property — All farm 
property, $15,460,547; all farm property 
in 1900, $12,929,081; per cent increase, 
1900-1910, 19.6; land, $6,303,804; land 
in 1900, $5,941,600; buildings, $5,517,979; 
buildings in 1900, $4,608,840; imple- 
ments and machinery, $1,120,835; im- 
plements, etc., in 1900, $769,990; do- 
mestic animals, poultry and bees, $2,- 
517,929; domestic animals, etc., in 
1900. $1,608,651. 

Per cent of value of all property in — 
Land, 40.8; buildings, 35.7; imple- 
ments and machinery, 7.2; domestic 
animals, poultry and bees, 16.3. 

Average values — All property per 
farm, $7,063; land and buildings per 
farm, $5,401; land per acre, $26.93; 
land per acre in 1900, $25.08. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



227 



Domestic animals (farms and 
ranges) — Farms reporting domestic 
animals, 2,099; value of domestic ani- 
mais, $2,399,736. 

Cattle — Total number, 36,537; dairy 
cows, 22,S04; other cows, 1,640; year- 
ling heifers, 3,629; calves, 6,725; year- 
ling steers and bulls 1,134; other steers 
and bulls, 605; value, $1,234,434. 

Horses — Total number, 7,639; ma- 
ture horses, 7,221; yearling colts, 327; 
spring colts, 91; value, $1,065,093. 

Mules — -Total number, 5; mature 
mules, 4; yearling colts, 1; value, $655. 

Swine — Total number, 9,098; mature 
hogs, 4,944; spring pigs, 4,154; value, 
$74,709. 

Sheep — Total number, 3,902; rams, 
ewes and wethers, 2,108; spring lambs, 
1,794; value, $24,746. 

Goats — Number, 21; value, $99. 

Poultry and Bees — Number of poul- 
try of all kinds, 143,302; value, $102,- 
959; number of colonies of bees, 3,615; 
value, $15,234. 

Number, acreage and value of farms 
classified by tenure, color and nativity 
of farmers and mortgage debt by coun- 
ties: April 15, 1910: 

Farms operated by owners — Number 
of farms, 1,446; number of farms in 
1900, 1,550; per cent of all farms, 66.1; 
per cent of all farms in 1900, 64.4; land 
in farms, 139,760 acres; improved land 
in farms, 115,923 acres; value of land 
and buildings, $7,117,522. Degree of 
ownership: Farms consisting of own- 
ed land only, 1,341; farms consisting of 
owned and hired land, 105. Color and 
nativity of owners: Native white, 1,- 
226; foreign-born white, 220. 

Farms operated by tenants — Number 
of farms, 719; number of farms in 
1900, 819; per cent of all farms, 32.8; 
per cent of all farms in 1900, 34.0; land 
in farms, 89,673 acres; improved land 
in farms, 75,378 acres; value of land 
and buildings, $4..347,361. Form of ten- 
ancy: Share tenants, 458; share-cash 
tenants, 12; cash tenants, 241; tenure 
not specified, 8. Color and nativity of 
tenants: Native white, 635; foreign- 
born white, 84. 

Farms operated by managers — Num- 
ber of farms, 24; number of farms in 
1900, 38; land in farms, 4,608 acres; 
improved land in farms, 3,961 acres; 
value of land and buildings, $356,900. 

Mortgage debt reports — For all 
farms operated by owners: Number 
free from mortgage debt, 849; number 
with mortgage debt, 588; number with 
no mortgage report, 9. For farms 
consisting of owned land only: Num- 
ber reporting debt and amount, 506; 
value of their land and buildings, $2,- 
268,987; amount of mortgage debt, 
$878,719; per cent of value of land and 
buildings, 38.7. 

Live stock products (1909) — Dairy 
products: Dairy cows on farms re- 



porting dairy products, 22,128; dairy 
cows on farms reporting milk produc- 
ed, 19,314; milk produced, 11,123,057 
gallons; milk sold, 10,288,208 gallons; 
cream sold, 3,377 gallons; butter fat 
sold, 449,839 pounds; butter produced, 
236.592 pounds; butter sold, 155,301 
pounds; cheese produced, 950 pounds; 
cheese sold, 900 pounds; value of dairy 
products, excluding home use of milk 
and cream, $1,299,769; receipts from 
sale of dairy products, $1,277,634. 
Poultry products: Number of poultry 
raised, 159,955; number of poultry 
sold, 64,106; eggs produced, 916,984 
dozens; eggs sold, 651,515 dozens; 
value of poultry and eggs produced, 
$315,758; receipts from sale of poultry 
and eggs, $199,250. Honey and wax: 
Honey produced, 123,366 pounds; wax 
produced, 1,478 pounds; value of honey 
and wax produced, $13,759. Wool, 
mohair and goat hair: Wool, number 
fleeces shorn, 1,685; mohair and goat 
hair, number fleeces shorn, 8; value of 
wool and mohair produced, $3,185. 

Domestic animals sold or slaughter- 
ed (1909) — Calves, number sold or 
slaughtered, 16,515; other cattle, num- 
ber sold or slaughtered, 4.442; number 
horses, mules and asses and burros 
sold, 352; number swine sold or 
slaughtered, 1,582; receipts from sale 
of animals, $265,270; value of animals 
slaughtered, $156,419. 

Value of all crops and principal 
classes thereof and acreage and pro- 
duction of principal crops, 1909: 

Value of all crops, $2,673,527; cer- 
eals, $756,512; other grains and seeds, 
$3,078; hay and forage, $1,433,171; veg- 
etables, $204,201; fruits and nuts, $101,- 
027; all other crops, $175,538. 

Selected crops — Cereals: Total, 42,- 
071 acres; 1,282,282 bushels. Corn, 10,- 
003 acres; 398,357 bushels. Oats, 25,- 
507 acres; 726,120 bushels. Wheat, 312 
acres; 7,893 bushels. Barley, 284 
acres; 7,233 bushels. Buckwheat. 5,470 
acres; 133,434 bushels. Rye, 486 acres; 
8,967 bushels. Other grains: Dry 
peas, 21 acres; 422 bushels. Dry edi- 
ble beans, 103 acres; 875 bushels. Hay 
and forage, 86,409 acres; 130,173 tons. 
All tame or cultivated grasses, 82,109 
acres; 94,i777 tons. Timothy alone, 
23,867 acres; 26,937 tons. Timothy 
and clover, mixed. 51,322 acres; 58,529 
tons. Clover alone, 5,411 acres; 6,951 
tons. Alfalfa, 201 acres; 490 tons. 
Millet or Hungarian grass, 289 acres; 
572 tons. Other tame or cultivated 
grasses, 1,019 acres; 1,298 tons. Wild, 
salt or prairie grasses, 10 acres; 10 
tons. Grains cut green, 92 acres; 131 
tons. Coarse forage, 4,198 acres; 35,- 
253 tons. Root forage, 2 tons. Special 
crops: Potatoes, 2,007 acres; 193,644 
bushels. All other vegetables, 1,021 
acres. Hops, 209 acres; 148,329 
pounds. Number maple trees, 9,470; 



228 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



maple sugar made, 294 pounds; maple 
syrup made, 2,941 gallons. 

Fruits and Nuts — Orchard fruits: 
Total number trees, 97,906; 140,105 
bushels. Apples, 77,804 trees; 131,264 
bushels. Peaches and nectarines, 309 
trees; 226 bushels. Pears. 5,159 trees; 
2,742 bushels. Plums and prunes, 9,001 
trees; 4,411 bushels. Cherries, 5,561 
trees; 1,447 bushels. Quinces, 37 trees; 
4 bushels. Grapes 8,612 vines; 81,787 
pounds. Small fruits: Total, 89 
acres; 117,489 quarts. Strawberries, 21 
acres; 45,515 quarts. Raspberries and 
loganberries, 38 acres; 45,454 quarts. 
Nuts, 2,700 trees; 42.530 pounds. 

Selected farm expenses and receipts, 

1909: 

Labor: Farms reporting, 1,659; cash 
expended, $372,973; rent and board 
furnished, $153,487. Fertilizer: Farms 
reporting, 868; amount expended, $32,- 
960. Feed: Farms reporting, 1,378; 
amount expended, $184,083. Receipts 
from sale of feedable crops, $411,442. 

Number and value of domestic ani- 
mals not on farms April 15, 1910: 

Inclosures reporting domestic ani- 
mals, 1,182; value of domestic animals, 
$387,155. Cattle: Total number, 210; 
value, $8,999; number of dairy cows, 
154. Horses: Total number, 2,103; 
value, $371,169; number of mature 
horses, 2,089. Mules and asses and 
burros: Total number, 19; value, $4,- 
420; number of mature mules, 18. 
Swine: Total number, 241; value, 
$2,409. Sheep and goats: Total num- 
ber, 19; value, $158. 

The total value of all the products 
of Montgomery county farms, includ- 
ing dairy, poultry, eggs, honey and 
wax, wool, domestic animals sold and 
slaughtered, and all crops (exclusive 
of lumber) was $4,727,687 in 1909. 

While the census statistics of manu- 
factures for the counties of New York 
state are not available, those for its 
cities of over 10,000 population are 
given. Of the class of (41) cities, be- 
tween ten and fifty thousand inhabi- 
tants, Amsterdam leads in the number 
of its people engaged in industry — 
10,776. It has 97 industrial establish- 
ments and produced $22,449,000 worth 
of manufactures in 1909 against $10,- 
643,000 in 1899, or an increase of over 
100 per cent in ten years. 

It is probable that the t^tal manu- 
factures of Montgomery county exceed 
$28,000,000 annually. 



The following figures are given rela- 
tive to Fulton county's agricultural in- 
terests. They will form an interesting 
table in comparison with the first one 
published relative to Montgomery, 
whose farming statistics are given in 
full. It has been the aim, in this work, 
to still consider Fulton and Montgom- 
ery counties (old Montgomery county) 
as one civil section. The Fulton county 
farming figures follow: 

Population, 44,534; population in 
1900, 42,842. 

Number of all farms, 1,932; number 
ofall farms in 1900, 2,234. 

Color and nativity of farmers: Na- 
tive white, 1,795; foreign-born white, 
134; negro and other non-white, 3. 

Number of farms, classified by size: 
Under 3 acres, 12; 3 to 9 acres, 101; 10 
to 19 acres, 122; 20 to 49 acres, 305; 50 
to 99 acres, 514; 100 to 174 acres, 628; 
175 to 259 acres, 179; 260 to 499 acres, 
60; 500 to 999 acres, 3; 1,000 acres and 
over, 8. 

Land and farm area — Approximate 
land area, 330,240 acres; land in farms, 
205,845 acres; land in farms in 1900, 
208.687 acres; improved land in farms, 
98,781 acres; improved land in farms 
in 1900, 115,213 acres; woodland in 
farms, 69,219 acres; other unimproved 
land in farms, 37,845 acres; per cent 
of land area in farms, 62.3; per cent of 
farm land improved. 48.0; average 
acres per farm, 106.5; average im- 
proved acres per farm, 51.1. 

Value of farm property — All farm 
property, $6,808,265; all farm property 
in 1900, $5,834,750; per cent increase. 
1900-1910, 16.7; land, $2,659,010; land 
in 1900, $2,603,800; buildings, $2,549,- 
545; buildings in 1900, $2,066,850; im- 
plements and machinery $465,742; im- 
plements, etc., in 1900, $331,420; do- 
mestic animals, poultry and bees, $1,- 
133,968; domestic animals, etc., in 1900, 
$832,680. 

Per cent of value of all property in — 
Land, 39.1; buildings, 37.4; imple- 
ments and machinery, 6.8; domestic 
animals, poultry and bees, 16.7. 

Average values — All property per 
farm, $3,524; land and buildings per 
farm, $2,696; land per acre, $12.92; 
land per acre in 1900, $12.48. 

Domestic animals (farms and 
ranges) — Farms reporting domestic 
animals. 1,741; value of domestic ani- 
mals, $1,079,357. 

Cattle — Total number, 16,096; dairy 
cows, 9,835; other cows, 990; yearling 
heifers, 1608; calves, 2,896; yearling 
steers and bulls, 385; other steers and 
bulls, 382; value $486,396. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



229 



Horses — Total number, 4,064; ma- 
ture horses, 3,851; yearling colts. 198; 
spring colts, 15; value, $543,860. 

Mules — Total number, 8; mature 
mules, 7; yearling co!ts, 1; value, 
$1,735. 

Asses and burros — Number, 2; value, 
$425. 

Svi'ine — Total number, 4,344; ma- 
ture hogs, 2,519; spring pigs, 1.825; 
value, $38,471. 

Sheep — Total number, 2,027; rams, 
ewes and wethers. 1,290; spring lambs, 
737; value, $8,413. 

Goats — Number, 15; value, $57. 

Poultry and Bees: Number of poul- 
try of all kinds. 67,193; value, $49,239; 
number of colonies of bees. 1,265; 
value, $5,372. 

Fulton county's farms produced in 
1909, products of the following value: 
Dairy products, $437,818; poultry and 
eggs, $150,387; honey and wax, $3,169; 
wool and mohair, $1,542; domestic ani- 
mals sold, $96,404; domestic animals 
slaughtered, $89,873; all crops, $1,200,- 
801. Total valu^ of Fulton county 
farm production for 1909 (exclusive of 
lumber), $1,979,994. 

Fulton county has the city of Glov- 
ersville (first incorporated as a village 
in 1851), with a population (1910) of 
20,642, and the city of Johnstown (first 
incorporated as a village in 1808), with 
a population (1910) of 10,447. They 
are so closely joined that they may 
justly be considered one population 
center of over 31,000. Northville (pop- 
ulation, 1,130) and Mayfield (popula- 
tion, 509) are the two other incorpor- 
ated places of Fulton county. 

Gloversville has 6,604 persons en- 
gaged in industry (mostly glovemak- 
ing), 187 establishments, with products 
of a value, for 1909, of $14,171,000, a 
great increase over 1899 when ap- 
proximately $9,000,000 of manufactures 
were produced. Johnstown has 3.009 
persons engaged in industry (largely 
glovemaking), 138 establishments and 
a manufactured product, for 1909, of 
$6,574,000 against approximately $5,- 
000,000 in 1899. Johnstown and Glov- 
ersville together, produced $20,745,000 
worth of goods in 1909, which included 
practically all the manufactures of 
Fulton county. 



Population, 56,356. Number of 
farms, 1910, 3,092. Number of farms, 
1900, 3,227. Native white farmers, 
2,769. Foreign born farmers, 322. 

Land area, 933,760 acres, farm lands 
(acres), 371,969. Improved farm lands, 
258,595. Farm woodland, 76,385. Other 
unimproved farm land, 36,989. 

Value of domestic animals, $3,631,- 
865. Cattle, 64,914. Dairy cows, 40,423. 
Horses, 8,213. Swine, 9,754. Sheep, 
2,957. Poultry, 134,528. Colonies of 
bees, 2,179. 

Value of dairy products, $2,199,633. 
Value of poultry and eggs, $290,047. 
Value of honey and wax, $8,976. Value 
of cut of wool and mohair, $2,825. Re- 
ceipts from sale of animals, $467,399. 
Value of animals slaughtered, $176,655. 
Value of all crops produced, $2,847,042. 
Total 1909 farm production of Herki- 
mer county (lumber excluded), $5,992,- 
577. 

Herkimer county is the leading dairy 
county of the Mohawk valley in pro- 
portion to its improved farm acreage, 
although Oneida county with an acre- 
age of 800,000 and 6,929 farms, leads in 
total value of all dairy and other farm 
products, and is therefore the first (in 
1910) agricultural county of the six 
Mohawk valley counties. 

Herkimer county has one city, Little 
Falls (incorporated 1895), with a pop- 
ulation of 12,273. It has 4,211 persons 
engaged in industry in 55 establish- 
ments and in 1909 produced $8,460,000 
worth of manufactures. Herkimer 
county has the important sister villages 
of Herkimer, Mohawk, Ilion and 
Frankfort (virtually one community, 
with a population of about 20,000) and 
the lively village of Dolgeville, in the 
town of Manheim on East creek. The 
total manufacturing product value 
yearly for Herkimer county may ex- 
ceed $25,000,000. 



Following is a brief resume of 1909 
agricultural statistics for Herkimer 
county: 



Let us turn from the dry bones of 
these statistics to a charming view of 
the farming country of Montgomery 
and the valley of the Mohawk. It is 
from the pen of Mrs. A. D. Smith and 
formed part of a sketch published in 
the Fultonville Republican, Dec. 5, 
1912, entitled "A Ramble — Visit to a 
Colonial House." The building de- 



230 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



scribed is. the frame house erected in 
1743 by John Butler, father of the no- 
torious Walter Butler of Revolutionary 
infamy, located about a mile north- 
east of Fonda. The prelude to the 
sketch mentioned is here reproduced: 
"On one of the recent Indian sum- 
mer days we chanced to walk over 
Switzer hill, turning our glances back- 
ward now and then to take in the re- 
markable panorama to the south — the 
distant hills, bathed in azure, the broad 
meadows, the populous settlements, the 
cattle grazing, the husbandman bend- 
ing over his plow, the historic Mo- 
hawk moving, in its sinuous pathway, 
on toward the ocean, the mystical au- 
tumn light over the rare scene. Close 
at one side was the ravine with bab- 
bling brook; the great pines to our 
right, sighing and moaning, making 
music all the day. Charmed with the 
beauties of the scene, in our heart we 
uttered a silent prayer and thereby 
were refreshed from within as well as 
from without. We saw on every hand 
preparations for the winter season, the 
golden risks of corn, the barrels of 
ruddy apples, great piles of cabbages, 
golden pumpkins, casks of sweet cider, 
fresh from the mill, flocks of chickens, 
broods of turkeys ready to be sacri- 
ficed for the national feast. And we 
said, fortunate the man who lives 
much in the open, close to nature, 
breathes the pure air and works with 
the mystical forces of the earth with 
God as an ally. The farmer learns a 
powerful lesson in faith and strength." 



According to the United States cen- 
sus of 1910, the six Mohawk valley 
counties comprise an area of 2,861,440 
acres divided as follows: Oneida, 
800,000; Herkimer, 933,760; Montgom- 
ery, 254,720; Fulton, 330,240; Schenec- 
tady, 131,840; Schoharie, 410,880. It 
is estimated that this area of the Mo- 
hawk valley counties was divided in 
1910, about as follows: Improved farm 
land, 1,350,000 acres; unimproved farm 
land, 260,000 acres; town sites, 100,- 
000 acres; waste land or land occupied 
by industries, railroads, etc., outside 
towns, 100,000 acres; forest and farm 



woodland, 1,050,000 acres. In these six 
counties were 18,457 farms, on which 
there were 14,034 operating owners, the 
remainder being leased. There was a 
marked decrease in farms in all these 
six Mohawk counties from 1900 to 
1910, and there was a similar decrease 
in acreage of improved farm land in all 
the six counties except Oneida. In the 
six counties combined the improved 
farm land acreage decreased from 
1,515,745 acres in 1900 to 1,351,461 
acres in 1910, showing that much land 
is reverting to widerness. Most of 
the farm lands are fertile — the Mo- 
hawk flats being reputed to be among 
the richest lands of the world. Dairy- 
ing is the leading agricultural indus- 
try. Hops are grown to a lessening 
extent in the southern watershed and 
poultry, fruits and market gardening 
are increasingly important farm fea- 
tures of the valley. 

The six Mohawk valley counties 
have the following population: One- 
ida, 154,157; Herkimer, 56,356; Mont- 
gomery, 57,567; Fulton, 44,534; Schen- 
ectady, 88,235; Schoharie, 23,855. To- 
tal, 424,704 (census, 1910). That of 
New York state (1910), was 9,113,614, 
so that the population of the Mohawk 
watershed counties was, in 1910, .0467 
of that of the state or a little less than 
one-twentieth. 

The towns are located almost ex- 
clusively on the Mohawk river; 310,- 
000 of the 425,000 population of the 
watershed being so located in centers 
of 1,000 and over; in centers of from 
250 to 1,000, 35,000; farm population, 
80,000. A large part of this population 
is descended from the pre-Revolution- 
ary Dutch, German and British set- 
tlers of the Mohawk basin. At the 
beginning of the Revolution the popu- 
lation of the Mohawk valley was about 
20,000 whites and 1,000 or more Iro- 
quois. • 

Seventeen towns, of over 1,000 pop- 
ulation, line the Mohawk, from its 
■Bouce to its outlet into the Hudson. On 
its tributary streams are seven more, 
making twenty-four in the Mohawk 
watershed. From the source of the 
Mohawk to Rome (a distance of 
twenty miles), the largest town is 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



231 



West Leyden with 600 population. 
According to the censns of 1910, the 
population of the towns mentioned, 
from Rome eastward, was as follows: 
Rome, 20,497; Oriskany, 1,200; Water- 
ville on Oriskany creek, 1,410; Clinton, 
on Oriskany creek, 1,236, Whitesboro, 
2,375; New Hartford, 1,195, and New 
York Mills, on Saquoit creek, 2,600; 
Utica, 74,419; Frankfort, 3,303; Ilion, 
6,588; Mohawk, 2,079; Herkimer, 7,520; 
Little Falls, 12,273; Dolgeville, on East 
Canada creek, 2,685; St. Johnsville, 
2,536; Fort Plain, 2,762; Canajoharie, 
2,273; Fonda, 1,100; on the Cayadutta, 
Johnstown, 10,447; Gloversville, 20,642; 
on the Schoharie, Cobleskill, 2,086; 
Middleburg, 1,114; Amsterdam, 31,267; 
Scotia, 2,957; Schenectady, 72,826; Co- 
hoes, 24,709. A great variety of manu- 
factures is produced in these centers, 
most of which are strictly manufac- 
turing towns, although all are more or 
less, centers of trade for their tributary 
agriculture districts. 

Manufacturing was generally begun 
in the valley population centers from 
50 to 100 years ago. Their industries 
comprise a great range of goods, some 
of which have long been made in the 
valley and are identified with its 
growth. The knit goods industry is 
the leading one. Some of the other 
Mohawk valley manufactures are white 
goods, arms, typewriters, woodwork, 
house and office furniture, dairy ma- 
chinery and goods, agricultural ma- 
chinery, piano actions, paper bags, 
broom machinery and articles, food 
products, milk products, gloves, car- 
pets and rugs, locomotives, electrical 
machinery and manufactured goods, 
paints, oils, varnishes, wagons, flour, 
feed, lumber, paper. 



CHAPTER II. 

1848 — Trip of Benson J. Lossing from 
Currytown to Sharon Springs, to 
Cherry Valley, to Fort Plain — Revo- 
lutionary Scenes and People Then 
Living. 

Benson J. Lossing has the following 
account of a trip in 1848 around about 
Fort Plain, published in his "Pictorial 
Field Book of the Revolution" (1850), 



in which he covers thoroughly the 
Revolutionary news, happenings and 
personages of the Mohawk valley. 
Much of this volume was gathered 
while the author was visiting around 
and in Fort Plain, which he made his 
headquarters for gathering data. The 
condensed Revolutionary biographies 
in this work were largely compiled or 
taken from the Field Book. It covers 
a journey from Currytown to Cherry 
Valley, by way of Sharon Springs, and 
from Cherry Valley to Fort Plain. 

After referring to the Currytown raid 
and massacre of 1781, Lossing says that 
after Lieut. McKean was buried near 
the Fort Plain blockhouse, it was af- 
terward called Fort McKean in his 
honor. Referring to the massacre by 
the Indians of the prisoners taken at 
Currytown, he says: 

"At the time of the attack the In- 
dians had placed most of their pris- 
oners on the horses which they had 
stolen from Currytown and each was 
well guarded. When they were about 
to retreat before Willett, fearing the 
recapture of the prisoners and the con- 
sequent loss of scalps, the savages be- 
gan to murder and scalp them. Young 
Dievendorff (my informant) leaped 
from his horse and, running toward 
the swamp, was pursued, knocked 
down by a blow of a tomahawk upon 
his shoulder, scalped and left for dead. 
Willett did not bury his slain but a de- 
tachment of militia, under Col. Veeder, 
who repaired to the field after the bat- 
tle, entombed them, and fortunately 
discovered and proceeded to bury the 
bodies of the prisoners who were mur- 
dered and scalped near the camp. 
Young Dievendorff, who was stunned 
and insensible, was seen struggling 
among the leaves and his bloody face 
being mistaken for that of an Indian, 
one of the soldiers leveled his musket 
to shoot him. A fellow soldier, per- 
ceiving his mistake, knocked up his 
piece and saved the lad's life. He was 
taken to Fort Plain, and, being placed 
under the care of Dr. Faugh t, a Ger- 
man physician of Stone Arabia, was 
restored to health. It was five years, 
however, before his head was perfectly 
healed; and when I saw him (August, 



232 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



1848), it had the tender appearance and 
feeling of a wound recently healed. He 
is still living- (1849) and, in the midst 
of the settlement of Currytown, which 
soon arose from its ashes, and is a liv- 
ing monument of savage cruelty and 
the sufferings of the martyrs for 
American liberty. 

"Toward evening we left Currytown 
for Cherry Valley, by way of Sharon 
Springs. The road lay through a beau- 
tiful though very hilly country. From 
the summits of some of the eminences 
which we passed the views were truly 
magnificent. Looking down into Can- 
ajoharie valley, from the top of its 
eastern slope, it appeared like a vast 
enameled basin, having its concavity 
garnished with pictures of rolling in- 
tervales, broad cultivated fields, green 
groves, bright streams, villages and 
neat farm houses in abundance; and 
its distant rim on its northern verge 
seemed beautifully embossed with 
wooded hills, rising one above another 
in profuse outlines far away beyond 
the Mohawk. We reached the Springs 
toward sunset, passing the Pavilion on 
the way. The Pavilion is a very large 
hotel, situated upon one of the loftiest 
summits in the neighborhood, and 
commanding a magnificent view of the 
country. It was erected in 1836 by a 
New York company and is filled with 
invalids and other visitors during the 
summer. The springs are in a broad 
ravine, and along the margin of a hill, 
and near them the little village of 
Sharon has grown up. Our stay was 
brief — just long enough to have a lost 
shoe replaced by another upon our 
horse, and to visit the famous foun- 
tains — for, having none of the 'ills 
which flesh is heir to' of sufficient 
malignity to require the infliction of 
sulphereted or chalybeate draughts, we 
were glad to escape to the hills and 
vales less suggestive of Tophet and 
the Valley of Hinnom. How any but 
invalids, who find the waters less nau- 
seous than the allopathic doses of the 
shops, and, consequently are happier 
than at home, can spend a 'season' 
there, within smelling distance of the 
gaseous fountains, and call the so- 
journ 'pleasure,' is a question that can 



only be solved by Fashion, the shrewd 
alchemist, in whose alembic common 
miseries are transmuted into conven- 
tional happiness. The sulphereted hy- 
drogen does not infect the Pavilion, I 
believe, and a summer residence there 
secures enjoyment of pure air and de- 
lightful drives and walks in the midst 
of a lovely hill country. 

"It was quite dark when we reached 
Cherry Valley, eight miles west of 
Sharon Springs. Cherry Valley de- 
rived its name from the following cir- 
cumstance: Mr. Dunlap, [the vener- 
able pastor whose family suffered at 
the time of the massacre of 1778], en- 
gaged in writing some letters, inquired 
of Mr. Lindesay [the original proprie- 
tor of the soil] where he should date 
them, who proposed the name of a 
town in Scotland. Mr. Dunlop, point- 
ing to the fine wild cherry trees and to 
the valley, replied 'Let us give our 
place an appropriate name and call it 
Cherry Valley,' which was readily 
agreed to. This village lies imbosomed 
within lofty hills, open only on the 
south vvest, in the direction of the Sus- 
quehanna, and, as we approached it 
along the margin of the mountain on 
its eastern border, the lights sparkling 
below us like stars reflected from a 
lake, gave us the first indication of its 
presence. In the course of the even- 
ing we called upon the Honorable 
James Campbell, who at the time of 
the destruction of the settlement in 
1778, was a child six years of age. He 
is the son of Col. Samuel Campbell, al- 
ready mentioned [colonel of the Can- 
ajoharie district battalion at Oriskany] 
and father of the Honorable William 
W. Campbell of New York city, the 
author of the 'Annals of Tryon Coun- 
ty,' so frequently cited. With his 
mother and family, he was carried into 
captivity. He has a clear recollection 
of events in the Indian country while 
he was a captive, his arrival and stay 
at Niagara, his subsequent sojourn in 
Canada, and the final reunion of the 
family after an absence and separa- 
tion of two years. The children of 
Mrs. Campbell were all restored to her 
at Niagara, except this one. In June, 
1780, she was sent to Montreal, and 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



233 



there she was joined by her missing 
boy. He had been with a tribe of the 
Mohawks and had forgotten his own 
language, but remembered his mother 
and expressed his joy at seeing her, in 
the Indian tongue. Honorable Wil- 
liam Campbell, late surveyor general 
of New York, was her son. She lived 
until 1836, being then 93 years of age. 
She was the last survivor of the Revo- 
lutionary women in the region of the 
headwaters of the Susquehanna. The 
residence of Hon. James S. Campbell, 
a handsome modern structure, is upon 
the site of the old family mansion, 
which was stockaded and used as a 
fort at the time of the invasion. The 
doors and window shutters were made 
bullet proof, and the two barns, that 
were included within the ramparts, 
were strengthened. The present pleas- 
ant dwelling is upon the northern 
verge of the town, on the road leading 
from Cherry Valley to the Mohawk 
[at Port Pla'n]. 

"In a former chapter we have noticed 
that Brant's first hostile movement af- 
ter his return from Canada and estab- 
lishment of his headquarters at Oghk- 
wana [in 1778] was an attempt to cut 
off the settlement of Cherry Valley, or 
at least to make captive the members 
of the active Committee of Correspon- 
dence. It was a sunny morning, to- 
ward the close of May [1778] when 
Brant and his warriors cautiously 
moved up to the brow of a lofty hill 
on .the east side of the town to recon- 
noitre the settlement at their feet. 
He was astonished and chagrined on 
seeing a fortification, where he sup- 
posed all was weak and defenceless, 
and greater was his disappointment 
wher; quite a large and well-armed 
garrison appeared upon the esplanade 
in front of Col. Campbell's house. 
These soldiers were not as formidable 
as the sachem supposed, for they were 
only half grown boys, who, full of the 
martial spirit of the times, had formed 
themselves into companies, and, armed 
with wooden guns and swords, had 
regular drills each day. It was such 
display on the morning in question 
that attract ed Brant's attention. His 



vision being somewhat obstructed by 
the trees and shrubs in which he was 
concealed, he mistook the boys for full 
grown soldiers and, considering an at- 
tack dangerous, moved his party to a 
hiding place at the foot of the Teka- 
harawa Falls, in a deep ravine north 
of the village, near the road leading to 
the Mohawk. The Tekaharawa is the 
western branch of Canajoharie or 
Bowman's Creek, which falls into the 
Mohawk at Canajoharie, opposite Pal- 
atine. In that deep, rocky glen, 'where 
the whole scene was shadowy and dark 
even at mid-day,' his warriors were 
concealed, while Brant and two or 
three followers hid themselves in am- 
bush behind a large rock by the road- 
side, for the purpose of obtaining such 
information as might fall in his way. 

"On the morning of the day, Lieut. 
Wormuth, a promising young officer 
of Palatine, had been sent from Fort 
Plain to Cherry Valley with the infor- 
mation, for the committee at the latter 
place, that a military force might be 
expected there the next day. His no- 
ble bearing and rich velvet dress at- 
tracted a great deal of attention at the 
village; and, when toward evening, he 
started to return accompanied by 
Peter Sitz, the bearer of some dis- 
patches, the people in admiration 
looked after him until he disappeared 
beyond the hill. On leaving he cast 
down his portmanteau, saying, 'I shall 
be back for it in the morning.' But he 
never returned. As the two patriots 
galloped along the margin of the Tek- 
aharawa Glen, they were hailed, but, 
instead of answering, they put spurs to 
their horses. The warriors in ambush 
arose and flred a volley upon them. 
The lieute^iant fell and Brant, rushing 
out from his concealment, scalped him 
with his own hands. Sitz was cap- 
tured and his dispatches fell into the 
hands of Brant. Fortunately they 
were double, and Sitz had the pres- 
ence of mind to destroy the genuine 
and deliver the fictitious to the sa- 
chem. Deceived by these dispatches 
concerning the strength of Cherry 
Valley, Brant withdrew to Cobleskill 
and thence to Oghkawaga, and the set- 



234 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



tlement was saved from destruction at 
that time. Its subsequent fate is re- 
corded in a previous chapter. 

"Judge Campbell kindly offered to 
accomparty us in the morning to 
'Brant's rock.' This rock which is 
abovit four feet high, lies in a field on 
the left of the road leading from 
Cherry Valley to the Mohawk, about a 
mile and a half north of the residence 
of Judge Campbell. It is a fossiliferous 
mass, composed chiefly of shells. Be- 
hind this rock, the body of Lieut. Wor-' 
muth, lifeless and the head scalped, 
was found by the villagers, who heard 
the firing on the previous evening. 
Judge Campbell pointed out the stump 
of a large tree by the roadside, as the 
place where Lieutenant Wormuth fell. 
The tree was pierced by many bul- 
lets, and Judge Campbell had extracted 
several of them when a boy. 

"Having engaged to be back at Fort 
Plain in time next day to catch the 
cars for Albany at 2 o'clock, and the 
distance from the 'rock' being twelve 
miles over a rough and hilly road, an 
early start was necessary, for I wished 
to make a sketch of the village and 
valley, as also of the rock. 

"At early dawn, the light not 
being sufficient to perceive the 
outline of distant objects, I stood 
upon the high ridge north of the vil- 
lage, which divides the headwaters of 
the eastern branch of the Susque-. 
hanna from the tributaries of the Mo- 
hawk. As the pale light in the east 
grew . ruddj% a magnificent panorama 
was revealed on every side. As the 
stars faded away, trees and fields, and 
hills and the quiet village arose from 
the gloom. The sun's first rays burst 
over the eastern hills into the valley, 
lighting it up with sudden splendor, 
while the swelling chorus of birds and 
the hum of insects broke the stillness; 
and the perfumes of flowers arose from 
the dewy grass like sweet incense. 

"On the north the valley of the Cana- 
joharie stretches away to the Mohawk 
twelve miles distant, whose course was 
the mountain toward the Susquehanna 
marked by a white line of mist that 
skirted the more remote hills; and on 
the south Cherry Valley extends down 



proper, and formed the easy warpath 
to the settlement at its head from 
Oghkwaga and Unadilla. From the 
bosom of the ridge whereon I stood, 
spring the headwaters of the eastern 
branch of Susquehanna and those of 
Canajoharie. I had finished the sketch 
here given [in the Field Book] before 
the sun was fairly above the treetops 
and, while the mist yet hovered over 
the Tekaharawa we were at Brant's 
rock, within the sound of the tiny cas- 
cades. There we parted from Judge 
Campbell and hastened on toward Fort 
Plain, where we arrived in time to 
breakfast and to take the morning 
train for Albany." 



CHAPTER III. 

1861-1865 — Montgomery and Fulton 
County Men in the Civil War — 115th, 
153d and Other Regiments and 
Companies With Montgomery and 
Fulton County Representation — 1912, 
115th and 153d Celebrate 50th Anni- 
versary of Mustering in at Fonda. 

The part the men ot Montgomery 
and Fulton counties played in the 
great and lamentable war of the re- 
bellion was one of honor and the rec- 
ord of those men who went to the 
front from the valley deserves a full 
and complete narrative which the 
present work will not allow. It is to 
be hoped that the soldiers of '61-'65 of 
Montgomery and Fulton will some day 
have their story told at length in a 
suitable publication. Their deeds de- 
serve such a narrative and it should 
be written now while the veterans of 
that terrible struggle are still with us 
and can supply that personal note in 
such a story which is so essential to 
such a tale. 

Included in this suggested record 
should be noble work the union women 
of America performed in the service of 
their country during the Rebellion. 
The women of Montgomery and Fulton 
counties were well to the forefront in 
this regard, not only making supplies 
and clothing for the union soldiers and 
hospital supplies, but serving, at the 
front and elsewhere, as nurses, ex- 
posed to danger and disease. The part 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



235 



these noble women played should be 
included in every comprehensive 
chronicle of the Civil war. 

From Montgomery and Fulton coun- 
ties 1930 men are known to have gone 
into the Union armies. These are the 
soldiers whose names are given in the 
works mentioned. There were prob- 
ably others from these counties who 
engaged in the service of their coun- 
try but of whose county address no 
record was made. It is probable that the 
quota of the two counties was fully 
2,000 fighters in the federal forces — 
undoubtedly the figure was greatly in 
excess of this. Montgomery county 
was represented in twenty Civil war 
organizations. Montgomery and Ful- 
ton counties furnished over fifty men 
to each of nine regiments. 

For a somewhat detailed account of 
Montgomery and Fulton Civil war his- 
tory the reader is referred to Beers's 
History of Montgomery and Fulton 
Counties (1878), under the headings 
"Montgomery County in the Civil War 
— History of the 115th New York Vol- 
unteer Infantry;" History of Mont- 
gomery County, Chap. XXV; and 
"Fulton County's Record in the War 
for the Union, History of the 153d 
New York Volunteers," History of 
Fulton County, Chap. Ill; also to 
"History of Montgomery County" 
(Mason, 1892) edited by Washington 
Frothingham, under the heading 
"Montgomery County during the Re- 
bellion" (Chap. XV.). Beers's History 
gives the known names of the Civil 
war soldiers who went to the front 
from the two counties and their home 
addresses when known. Mason's has 
a similar list. 

The Civil war history of Montgom- 
ery is very closely associated with that 
of Fulton county. Two regiments of 
New York volunteer infantry were 
largely raised in these two counties — 
the 115th and 153d. In the 115th, 583 
men came from the two counties com- 
bined and, in the 153d. 598 soldiers rep- 
resented Montgomery and Fulton 
counties. Following is a list of the 
Civil war organizations in which these 
two divisions (comprising old Mont- 
gomery county) were principally rep- 



resented, together with the number of 
men from each and their combined 
totals for the two counties: 

115th N. Y. Vols., Montgomery, 421; 
Fulton, 162. Total, 583. 

153d N. Y. Vols., Montgomery, 329; 
Fulton, 269. Total, 598. 

13th Regiment Artillery, Montgom- 
ery, 33; Fulton, 71. Total, 104. 

16th Regiment Artillery, Montgom- 
ery, 36; Fulton, 8. Total, 44. 

2d Regular Cavalry, Montgomery, 6; 
Fulton, 31. Total, 37. 

Other Civil war military organiza- 
tions receiving recruits from Mont- 
gomery were as follows, together with 
the number of men enlisted from the 
county: Co. K, 1st Artillery ("Fort 
Plain Battery"), 65; Co. E, 43d in- 
fantry, 69; Cos. B and D, 32d regiment, 
130. 

Commands other than the above to 
which Fulton contributed, with the 
number of recruits from that county, 
follow: 77th Infantry, 101; Co. I, 10th 
Cavalry, 92; 97th N. Y. volunteers, 53; 
Co. D, 93d regiment, 51. 

The known men enlisted in all union 
Civil war commands from Montgomery 
county came from the towns of Mont- 
gomery county in the following pro- 
portion: Amsterdam, 115; Canajo- 
harie, 93; Charleston, 34; Florida, 66; 
Glen, 101; Minden, 103; Mohawk, 122; 
Palatine, 75; Root, 42; St. Johnsville, 
72. This list gives the addresses of 
oniy 810 of the 1,095 men known to 
have gone to the Civil war from Mont- 
gomery county. Hence it does not 
pretend to show the total number 
from each town. 

Of the 810 soldiers whose town ad- 
dresses are given in Beers's (1878) and 
Mason's (1892) histories, as coming 
from Montgomery county, 365 came 
from the five western towns and 445 
from the five eastern towns. This is 
in no way an attempt to give an esti- 
mate of the number of union soldiers 
of Fulton and Montgomery counties 
and only recapitulates the figures 
given in Beers's and Mason's histories. 
The staff ofRcers of the 115th regi- 
ment were as follows: Colonel, Sim- 
eon Sammons, Mohawk; Lieut. Col., E. 
I. Walrath, Syracuse; Lieut. Col., Geo. 



236 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



S. Batcheller, Saratoga; N. J. John- 
son, Ballston (commancled regiment in 
May, 1864); major, Patrick H. Cowan, 
Saratoga; surgeon, C. McFarland; 
surgeon, R. E. Sutton, Saratoga; as- 
sistant surgeon, Samuel W. Peters; 
2d assistant surgeon, Pliram W. In- 
gerson, Fonda; adjutant, Thomas R. 
Horton, Fultonville; quartermaster, 
Martin McMartin, Johnstown; chap- 
lain, S. W. Clemens; captains, Co. A, 
Garret Van Deveer, Fonda; Co. B, John 
P. Kneeskern, Minden; Co. D, Sidney 

D. Lingenfelter, Amsterdam; Co. E, 
William H. Shaw, Mayfield; Co. I, Ezra 

E. Walrath, Syracuse; Co. K, William 
Smith, Amsterdam. 

The staff officers of the 153d 
New York volunteer regiment were 
as follows (no addresses are given 
in Beers's) : Colonel, Duncan Mc- 
Martin, resigned April 25, 1863; 
colonel, Edwin P. Davis, muster- 
ed out with regiment, Oct. 2, 1865; 
Lieut. Col., Thomas A. Armstrong, re- 
signed, Feb. 18, 1863; Lieut. Col., W. 
H. Printup, resigned Nov. 17, 1863; 
Lieut. Col., Alexander Stram, discharg- 
ed Jan. 4, 1865; major, Edwin P. Davis, 
promoted to colonel Mar. 26, 1863; 
major, Alexander; Strain, promoted to 
Lieut. Col., Dec. 1, 1863; major, 
Stephen Sammons, resigned Aug. 27, 
1864; major, George H. McLaughlin, 
promoted to Lieut. Col., Jan. 26, 1865; 
major, C. F. Putnam, died. Sa- 
vannah, Ga., Sept. 9. 1865; adjutant, 
Stephen Sammons, promoted to major 
Dec. 2, 1863; adjutant, Abram V. Davis, 
mustered out with regiment Oct. 2, 
1865; quartermaster, D. C. Livingston, 
resigned Aug. 22, 1863; quartermaster, 
John D. Blanchard, mustered out with 
regiment; surgeon, H. S. Hendee, re- 
signed Feb. 8, 1864; assistant surgeon, 
J. L. Alexander, resigned Aug. 19, 1863; 
assistant surgeon, N. L. Snow, pro- 
moted to surgeon Apr. 14, 1864; assist- 
ant surgeon, J. Sweeney, mustered out 
with regiment; chaplain. J. Henry 
Enders, mustered out with regiment; 
captains: Co. A, David Spaulding, 
Johnstown; Co. B, Robert R. Mere- 
dith, Mohawk; Co. C, W. H. Printup; 
Co. D, J. J. Buchanan; Co. E, Jacob C. 
Klock, Fonda; Co. F, Isaac S. Van 



Woerts, Fonda; Co. G, George H. Mc- 
Laughlin, Fonda. 

Company K, 1st Artillery. Enrolled 
at Fort Plain. Officers: Captain, 
Lorenzo Crounse; 1st lieutenant, S. 
Walter Stocking; 2d lieutenant, Angell 
Matthewson; 1st sergeant, George W. 
Fox; quartermaster sergeant, William 
J. Canfield; sergeant, Mosher Marion; 
1st corporal, Phelps Conover; 3d cor- 
poral, Aden G. Voorhees; 4th corporal, 
Gottlieb Ludwig; 6th corporaK William 
E. Smith; 7tli corporal, Horatio Fox; 
8th corporal, Henry Tabor; bugler, 
George W. Beardsley; artificer. Clark 
Burtiss; wagoner, Martin Sitts. 

Company E, 43d Infantry. Enrolled 
at Canajoharie: Captain, Jacob Wil- 
son; 1st lieutenant, Hiram A. Wins- 
low; 2d sergeant, Thomas Avery; 3d 
sergeant, Frank Shurburt; 4th ser- 
geant, J. W. Hagadorn; 5th sergeant, 
Jackson Davis; 1st corporal, John D. 
Dain; 2d corporal, William F. Ward; 
3d corporals Cornelius Van Alstyne; 
5th corporal, Christopher Richards; 
6th corporal, Martin O'Brien; music- 
ians, Charles Marcy, William Flint. 

Officers Co. F, 97th Regiment, N. Y. 
Vols.: Captain, Stephen G. Hutchin- 
son, Lassellsville; 1st lieutenant, E. 
Gray Spencer, Brocketts Bridge; cor- 
poral, Olaf Peterson, Lassellsville; 
corporal, Augustus Johnson, Brocketts 
Bridge; corporal, Wallace McLaugh- 
lin, Lassellsville; corporal, Henry 
Fical, Lassellisville; corporal, William 
B. Judd, Brocketts Bridge; musician, 
Henry F. Butler, Lassellsville; mu- 
sician, George F. Dempster, Lassells- 
ville. 

Co. I, 10th Cavalry, was recruited 
principally from Mayfield and Broad- 
alibin, in Fulton Co. David Getman, 
Mayfield, was captain and Stephen 
Dennie was 1st lieutenant and Charles 
H. Hill, 2d lieutenant. 

Co. K, 77th N. Y. Infantry, was re- 
cruited almost exclusively from Glov- 
ersville. Captain, Nathan S. Babcock; 
1st lieutenant, John W. McGregor; 2d 
lieutenant, Philander A. Cobb. 

Co. D, 93d Regiment Infantry was 
recruited Largely from Northampton, 
Fulton county. Captain, George M. 
Voorhees; 1st lieutenant, Henry P. 



THE STORY OF OLD FORT PLAIN 



237 



Smith; 2d lieutenant, Philemon B. 
Marvin, all of Northampton. 

A goodly proportion of Co. F, 2d 
Regiment Cavalry, came from May- 
field, Fulton county. Captain, W. H. 
Shaw; 1st lieutenant, D. Getman; 2d 
lieutenant, J. L.. Haines, all of May- 
field. 



The following, from Beers's (1878) 
History of Montgomery and Fulton 
Counties, gives a sketch of the 115th 
New York Volunteer Regiment: 583 
men from Fulton and Montgomery 
county were enrolled in the 115th: 

In writing the history of the 115th 
N. Y. Volunteer Infantry, we record 
the* acts of a noble body of men, whose 
deeds are already written in blood and 
inscribed high up in the roll of Fame. 
This regiment was raised in the coun- 
ties of Saratoga, Montgomery, Fulton 
and Hamilton, and mustered into the 
United States service on the 26th day 
of August, 1862, by Capt. Edgerton, U. 
S. A., at Fonda, the place of rendez- 
vous of the regiment. 

With ten hundred and forty en- 
listed men, the regiment broke camp 
at Fonda on the 29th day of August, 
1862, and was forwarded to the seat of 
war as soon as possible, arriving at 
Sandy Hook, Md., on the Baltimore 
and Ohio R.R., on the 1st of Sept., 
where the regiment was furnished 
with arms, but very little ammunition. 
It then moved to Harper's Ferry, Va., 
where it was assigned to guard duty 
along the Shenandoah Valley R.R., 
with headquarters at Charlestown, Va. 

The regiment performed guard duty 
faithfully, until a few days before the 
surrender of Harper's Ferry, when it 
and others were ordered to concen- 
trate at that place. On the way to the 
Ferry James English, a member of 
Co. D, was wounded in the hand, by 
the accidental discharge of a musket, 
necessitating amputation at the wrist; 
he was the first man wounded in the 
regiment. On arriving at, or near 
Harper's Ferry, the regi