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Full text of "Trappers of New York : or, A biography of Nicholas Stoner & Nathaniel Foster ; together with anecdotes of other celebated hunters, and some account of Sir William Johnson, and his style of living"

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MAJOR NICHOLAS STONER, 

as accoutred for the forest. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK, 

OR A BIOGRAPHY OF 

NICHOLAS STONER & NATHANIEL POSTER; 

TOGETHER WITH 

ANECDOTES OE OTHER CELEBRATED HUNTERS, 

AND SOME ACCOUNT OF 

SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON, 

AND HIS STYLE OF LIVING. 

BY JEPTHA R. SIMMS, 



AUTHOR OF THE HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY, 
AND BORDES WARS OF NEW YORK. 



He lifts the tube, and levels with his eye ; 

Straight a short thunder breaks the frozen sky.— Pope. 



ALBANY: 
PRINTED BY J. MUNSELL. 

1857. 






J 

Checked \jy /v , — ->- ^ >> 

Kav 1913 



Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1850, by 

JEPTHA R. SIMMS, 

In the Clerk's Office for the Northern District of New York. 



MUNSELL, STEREOTYPER, 
ALBANY. 



TO THE 

YOUTH OF NEW YORK, 

THIS VOLUME 

IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED, 

BY THEIR FRIEND, 

THE AUTHOR. 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

TO THIRD EDITION. 

An impression seems to have stolen upon the credulity of many 
persons, that a full account of Maj. Stoner's eventful life had not 
been given in this work; but that after his death, the reader 
would be startled by the narrative of a score of tragic scenes, 
vieing with each other in horrid detail. Desirous of making the 
work as authentic as possible, before the first edition of it was 
published, the matter relating to Mr. Stoner was read over, not 
only to him, but to Jacob Shew, a compatriot in arms, and after 
as well as before the war, a resident of the same county. At its 
conclusion the latter observed that my Leathers tocking had been 
very candid with me, and as he believed, had told me of all the 
fatal rencounters he had ever had with Indian hunters, which 
were much talked of at the time of their occurrence. Mr. 
Blakeman, a hunter whose name appears in the book, thought 
Mr. Stoner had killed one Indian whose death I had not recorded, 
but the senior hunter at a later interview explained the whole 
matter. The Indian, as he said, did not wait to be killed, and 
the blood seen near the deserted cabin, which confirmed Blake- 
man's suspicions, was that of a deer. And here let me add, I 
never conversed with a more candid and seemingly conscientious 
man than Nicholas Stoner. He died Nov. 24th, 1853, and was 
buried at Kingsborough. As some credulous people are looking 
for what is never to appear, unless in a work of fiction, the real 
der is assured, that after each of the preceding editions of thi- 
work were issued, Mr. Stoner, who had read it himself, informs 
ed the writer in all candor, that although he had frightened very 
many Indians, this book contained a true account of all that he had 
actually killed. He good humoredly added, that some knowing 
ones told stories about him which had no foundation in truth, and 
appearing desirous to make him a very bad man. 

1857. J. R. S. 



PREFACE. 



"To be ignorant of all antiquity," says a popular 
writer,* " is a mutilation of the human mind; it is 
early associations and local circumstances which give 
bent to the mind of a people from their infancy, and 
insensibly constitute the nationality of genius." This 
is a truism which can not be contravened, and although 
the world is now full of books for good or ill, yet I 
venture to add another. Well, as this is only a duo- 
decimo, may I not bespeak for it a little share of 
public favor? For if it is but a small volume, it has 
nevertheless required considerable time and care to 
collect and arrange its minutiae. The author does not 
claim for it a place among classic works, which 
sparkle with literary gems; but he does claim for it 
the merit of candor. In a work purporting to be one 
of truth, he would not impose upon the credulity of 
others, what he could not believe himself. 

This book has been written with the view of giving 

*I. D 'Israeli. 



6 PREFACE. 

the reader some knowledge of the peril-environed life 
of a hunter; in connection with the early and topo- 
graphical history of a portion of northern New York. 
As the forests disappear, the country is settled and 
wild game exterminated; that hardy race of indi- 
viduals which followed the chase for a living will have 
become extinct: indeed, those who would have been 
called professional hunters, have now nearly or quite 
all left the remaining woods of New York, and most 
of them sleep with their fathers. Many of their 
names with their daring adventures are now forgotten. 

How important is it therefore, to place on record 
what can still be gathered respecting thern, to live in 
future story; when some American Scott shall have 
arisen to connect their names and deeds forever, with 
the rifle-mimicking mountains, the awe-inspiring 
glens, the hill-encompassed lakes, and the zigzag- 
coursing rivulets — upon, within, around, and along 
which they sought with noiseless footstep the bounty- 
paying wolf, the timid deer, and fur-clad beaver. 

I may remark, that one motive in producing this 
book has been, to contribute materials for the future 
history of the state. Says an American scholar, 

* William A. Whitehead. 



* 



PREFACE. / 

" The general historian must gather his facts from the 
details of local annals, and in proportion as they are 
wanting must his labors be imperfect." A small 
budget of antiquarian matter, and some interesting 
incidents of the American Revolution are here intro- 
duced; and in connection with this subject, I will 
take occasion to say, that I am collecting original 
matter of an historical character, with the intention 
of publishing it at a future, not distant day. There 
are yet unpublished, many reminiscences either of, or 
growing out of, our war for independence, both thrill- 
ing and instructive. Not a few such are now in the 
writer's possession. They are generally of a personal 
and anecdotal nature and many of them were noted 
down from the lips of men whose heads are whitened 
by the frosts of time, or are now laid beneath the 
valley-clods. 

If such an anecdote should still linger in the mind 
of a reader of this page, or any old paper of interest 
remain in his or her keeping, that individual would 
confer a favor by communicating the same to my ad- 
dress. Our Revolution is destined, in its fullness of 
benefit, to emancipate the world from tyranny; and 
every minute incident relating to that great struggle 



8 PREFACE. 

is not only worthy of record, but highly important, 
for the proper understanding of its cost to the young, 
to whose guardianship its principles and advantages 
must soon be confided. 

The difficulty of preparing a work for the press 
where much of the matter is to be obtained by con- 
versational notes, is only known to those w T ho have 
experienced the task; and such best know its liability 
to contain error. The biography of Major Stoner 
has nearly all been read over to him since it was 
written out, and corrected; I can with confidence, 
therefore, promise the reader, as few errors in this as 
he will find in any work similarly got up. In con- 
clusion, I would fain express my grateful thanks to 
those individuals who have in any manner contributed 
towards making this volume. 

J. R. SIMMS. 
Fultonville, N. Y. 



CONTENTS. 



Chapter I. 

Parentage of Nicholas Stoner — Description of his person — His 
trapper's dress — His schooling — First settlement of Fonda's 
Bush — Signification of the name — First settlement at Fish 
House — Some account of Sir William Johnson — His style 
of living at Johnson Hall — His household — First school- 
house in Johnstown — School children how treated — Manners 
taught — Anecdote of Jacob Shew at school — Schools of for- 
mer days in New England and New York — Johnson's Fish 
House when built — Its site — Fonda's Bush — Plank-roads and 
stage routes — Village of Northville — Its first settlers — First 
settlers at Denton's Corners - Page 17 



*o v 



Chapter II. 

Reasons for Sir Wm. Johnson's locating in Johnstown — Scenery 
between the Mohawk and Sacondaga rivers — The great Sa- 
condaga Vlaie — Vlaie Creek — Its source and Indian name — 
Origin of the marsh — Singular discovery of a lake — Stack- 
ing-ridges — Cranberries — Johnson's cottage on Summer- 
house point — His carriage road — Nine mile tree — Sacondaga 
Patent — Summer-house how built and painted — Its garden — 
Creek entering the Vlaie — Origin of their names — Summer- 
house point in freshets — Wild game — Visit to the Point in 
1849 30 



10 CONTENTS. 

Chapter III. 

Signification of Sacondaga — Its great angle — Name for Daly's 
creek how originated — Residence of Henry Wormwood — 
Intimacy of Sir William Johnson with his daughters — His 
signal for a housekeeper — Four in a bed at the Fish House — 
Disposal of Wormwood's family — Sale of Fish House and its 
farm — Cost of Sacondaga bridge — Summer House point for- 
tified — Fate of Johnson's cottage — Willie Boiles drowned — 
Sale of Summer House point — Mayfield settlement — Its first 
mill — First mill on the Kennyetto — Anecdotes of Sir Wm. 
Johnson — Dunham family 42 



Chapter IV. 

Nicholas Stoner's boyhood — He enters the army — Gen. Arnold's 
device to raise the siege of Fort Stanwix — Evidences of the 
Oriskany battle — Gen. Arnold in the battle of Saratoga — Sto- 
ner and Conyne how wounded — Three Stoners on duty in 
Rhode Island — Anecdote of a theft — Stoner a prisoner — 
Capture of Gen. Prescott — Attempt to capture Stoner and 
others near Johnson Hall — Signification of Cayadutta — A 
prisoner from necessity ------ 55 

Chapter V. 

Baker for Johnstown Fort — Singular incident at his house, and 
dangerous situation of Stoner — Residence of Jeremiah Mason 
— His daughter Anna — The Browse family — Stoner pigeon 
hunting — He takes his captain on a hunt — Hunters how 
Alarmed — Browse family remove to Canada — ZMaj. Andre's 
gallows how constructed — Stoner eats pie near it — How he 
got two floggings — How the British army surrendered at 
Yorktown — Errors in pictures — Stoner's first day at the 
siege — First fire on the British works — Nicholas Hill finds 
many friends — Henry Stoner leaves the army — Is mur- 



CONTENTS. 1 1 

dered by the Indians — Treachery of Andrew Bowman — 
His treatment at Johnstown fort — Prisoners made at Johnson 
Hall - - - 70 

Chapter VI. 

John Helmer in jail — Escapes from it three times — Stoner in 
New York at the close of the war — Is one of the band per- 
forms at Washington's leave taking — Stoner and his stool 
pigeon before Col. Cochrane — His return to Johnstown — 
First marriage of Anna Mason — Her husband how slain near 
Johnson Hall — Stoner's marriage — Is deputy sheriff — The 
Stoner brothers again in the army — British invasion of New 
York — Battle of Beekmantown — Anecdote of Maj. Wool — 
Battle of lake Champlain and death of Commodore Downie — 
Gen. Macomb fires a national salute — Burial of his remains 

— Mourners at his grave — Celebration at Plattsburg in 1842 
— Stoner again leaves the army 86 

Chapter VII. 

Maj. Stoner becomes a hunter — Hunter's law — How accoutred 
for the forest — Intemperance an attendant on war — De Fon- 
claiere keeps a tavern in Johnstown — How his horses ran 
awa y — Indian hunters at his house — Stoner obtains an ear- 
jewel — An Indian boasts of killing his father — Is branded 
with a fire-dog — The Indians leave the place — Stoner in jail 

— How liberated — His celebrity in Canada - - 111 

Chapter VIII. 

Stoner's bear-trap — Precaution in its use — Bait for beaver — 
Season for hunting — Accident to Capt. Jackson — Dunn in 
Jackson's place — Hunters' lodges how constructed — Their 
larder how supplied — Johnstown hunters meet Indian trap- 
pers — Fierce quarrel at Trout lake — An Indian falls up- 



12 CONTENTS. 

on the shore — Dunn transfixed to a canoe — Stoner in the 
enemy's camp — Trophies he there obtained — Hunters return 
home — Stoner and Mason hunt together — Mason discovers 
bear's tracks — Stoner seeks an interview with Bruin — Dis- 
covers him on a log over the Sacondaga — A rifle is heard and 
the bear falls into the river - 123 

Chapter IX. 

Stoner annoyed by a bear in his wheat and corn-fields — How he 
loses one leg of his pantaloons and kills the bear — A Deer 
hunt — Hunters swamped at Stoner's island — Have a gloomy 
night — Frederick's gratitude towards Stoner for saving his life 
— Stoner and Mason on a long hunt — Food how cooked — A 
peep at a hunter's camp — Out of provisions the hunters seek 
a settlement — Stoner almost shoots another blanketed bear — 
Mason arrested in Norway as a spy — Is liberated — Hunters 
return to the woods — They meet two Indians — Stoner mis- 
taken for the hunter White — A quarrel — An Indian's death 
yell — His comrade takes leg-bail — Johnstown hunters return 
home with three guns — Stoner suspected of smuggling mer- 
chandise — Anecdote of Green White - 134 

Chapter X. 

Hunter's Moccasons how made — Stoner hunts with Griswold — 
A dog eats a moccason for Griswold — The loss how repaired 
— Stoner hunts with Capt. Shew at the Sacondaga Vlaie and 
there shoots a wolf — Stoner and Forest on a hunt trap an 
eagle — Different trappers with whom Stoner is associated — 
With an Indian partner visits the head of Grass river — There 
met a white hunter with a squaw — Stoner makes a map for 
him to go to Johnstown — Hunts with the Indian Gill — Lat- 
ter spears the beaver — Stoner hunts with Obadiah Wilkins 
who encounters an Indian — Magic of Stoner's name — Stoner's 
last difficulty with Indian hunters — How he loses a trap and 



CONTENTS. 



13 



fur — How he gets his trap and pay for the fur — The Sabbath 
how regarded by hunters — Admonition of a young Indian — 
Stoner's dog in trouble — Spirit of Mary Stoner - - 146 

Chapter XI. 

Major Stoner a widower — His voluntary marriage — Again a 
widower — His last marriage — His present residence — Ga- 
roga and Fonda plank road — Chase's Patent — Foolish ex- 
pression of Capt. Chase — Stoner a pilot for surveyors — 
Signification of Piseco — Goes to a settlement for food — Has 
a warm job of it — Law students in the forest — Ice discover- 
ed — Fourth of July how celebrated — Stoner skins a hedge- 
hog — Description of the country — Prospective view of it — 
Newspaper notes of Lake Byrn — Sundry other lakes — 
Lake Good-luck, why so called — Water privileges of Hamil- 
ton county — Description of the country, by Dr. Emmons — 
Stoner and others discover a dead man near Jesup's river — 
Importance of preserving Indian names - 160 

Chapter XII. 

Birth place and marriage of Nathaniel Foster — Settles in Salis- 
bury — description of his person — His success the first year 
in hunting — Large game killed by him — Anecdotes of his 
wolf killing — Supplies museums with moose skins — Is near 
being shot — His rifles — A tussle with a deer — A wolf for 
a pet — Where Foster learned to write — Brown's tract of 
land — Source of Mill stream — Brown attempts to settle 
his lands — His death — Herreshoff goes there — His birth 
place and person — Clears up land — Builds a forge — Ex- 
pends large sums of money — Becomes discouraged and com- 
mits suicide — Time of his death — Inquest — Place of bu- 
rial — Inscription to his memory — Cost of his iron — His 
taxes — Brown's tract when and by whom surveyed — Its 
townships — Survey of roads — Moose lake — Indian clear- 

2 



14 CONTENTS. 

ing— Distance from Boonville to forge — Huckleberry lake — 
Surveyor kills a hedge-hog — Anecdotes of Herreshoff - 175 

Chapter XIII. 

Benchley's description of Brown's tract — Usual route to it — 
Use of drays — Size and power of Moose river — Present 
condition of early improvements on the tract — Its ore — 
Effect of erecting a dam — Lakes how numbered — First 
lake — Dog Island — Second lake — Foster's Observatory — 
Third lake — Grass island — Fourth lake — Line between 
Hamilton and Herkimer counties — Extent of tract — Re- 
spect for the Eagle — Description of the Indian Foster kill- 
ed — Effect of liquor — Foster's vision — Five echoes — North 
Branch lakes and outlet — Fifth and Sixth lakes — Carrying 
place — Foster at sixty — Prospective use of a lock — Seventh 
lake — Beautiful view — Character of Green White — His 
tragic fate — His success in hunting — The hunter Williams 
— Place for trout — Titch pine grove — How Foster shoots a 
deer — Why he would kill a doe — Eighth lake — Racket 
inlet — Grave of Foster's victim — Floating for deer — Jer- 
seyfield lake — Jock's lake — Little Salmon and Black River 
South lakes — Physical outline of this region of country, by 
Lardner Vanuxem - - - - - - - ]9l 

Chapter XIV. 

Brown's tract tenantless — Is a resort for hunters — Premises 
leased — Lease assigned to Foster who moves there — Indian 
Peter Waters or Drid — A debt — Drid threatens Foster's 
life — Goes to his door to shoot him — An interview — Indian 
attempts his life — Foster before a peace officer — Apprehen- 
sions of Foster's family — Last interview between Foster 
and his foe — Their threats of vengeance — Foster on Indian's 
point — Drid's approach — His death — Foster aids in getting 
his body home — Foster is arrested — Note explaining cut 20S 



CONTENTS. 15 

Chapter XV. 

Foster is arraigned before Judge Denio — Is tried and acquitted — 
How he receives the verdict, and leaves the court room — His 
acquittal how received by the public — Anecdote of Joseph 
Brant 218 



Chapter XVI. 

Foster's answer to Gen. Gray — S toner's opinion of Foster's 
and his own skill as marksmen — How Drid's friends received 
his death — Advice to Foster's family — Drid's wife returns 
to the St. Lawrence — Foster removes to Pennsylvania — 
Returns to Boonville and dies there — The Indian Hess — Im- 
portance of a country tavern — How Foster and Hess meet 
and part — Running fight with a moose bull — Sudden ap- 
pearance of Hess — He threatens to kill Foster — Falls from 
a log over his own grave — Mysterious sayings — How he 
shot eighteen otters — His eye-sight improved by venison — 
Signification of Oswegatchie — How Foster carried bullets — 
Anecdote of his rapid firing — How he made his camp in the 
woods — How he accoutred for the chase - 241 

Chapter XVII. 

Incidents in the life of Jock Wright — His birth, habits and ap- 
pearance — Is a soldier — Captures British officers — How he 
parts with one of them — He scalps a British ally — Visits 
his former prisoner in Boston — Again a hunter — The rattle 
snake hunter — A snake fight — Death of a panther — Wright 
removes to Norway --His family — How he lost and found 
his jug — The hunter Nicholas — His stock in trade — A rea- 
son wanted for his habits — He hunts with Wright — Finds 
lead ore — His death — Jock's lake — Crookneck the hunter 
— How he almost caught a deer, and got caught himself — 
How Uncle Jock kills two moose — His opinion of a certain 



16 CONTENTS. 

prayer — Gets sick and prays himself — Crookneck on snow 
shoes — Beaver's meat — Uncle Jock draws a pension — When 
he made huts — His death 253 

Chapter XVIII. 

Some account of the beaver — Peculiarity of its flesh — Its food 
— Bait used for its capture — Its social habits — Its dams and 
dwellings how constructed — A beaver community how fore- 
warned of danger — Habits of the otter — Its food — Form 
of its feet — Its sagacity in preparing its burrow — The 
musk-rat — Not easily exterminated — Its fate in freshets — 
Habits of the pine marten — Its size — The wolverine — How 
it annoys hunters — Its great strength ----- 272 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 



CHAPTER I. 

Incidents of greater or less interest occur in the lives 
of almost every member of the human family, which 
only need be known to be justly appreciated, or subserve 
some good and wise purpose; but occasionally an indi- 
vidual crosses the broad landscape of life, whose career 
may be said to consist of a bundle of incidents — the 
greater part of whose existence is in fact so full of 
novelty, as to claim, for at least a portion of it, a record 
for the benefit or amusement of mankind. Of the latter 
class is Major Nicholas Stoner, some of the most ro- 
mantic and daring of whose adventures are presented 
in the following pages. 

To say that a man lived through the American Revo- 
lution and participated in its perils, is alone a sufficient 
guaranty that he can, if at all intelligent, recount 
unique and thrilling scenes as yet untold in history; but 
when we meet with one who has not only been exposed 
to the perils of an eight years' war, but has shared in the 
dangers and hardships of a second war — one, in truth, 
whose life has been checkered with a thousand hazard- 



18 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

ons exposures between and subsequent to those wars; 
we may expect, almost as a matter of course, to learn 
from him not a little that will prove acceptable to the 
general reader, nourishing 

"The seeds of happiness, and powers of thought." 
The facts here given of this celebrated warrior, were 
noted down by the writer from his own lips at personal 
interviews; not a few of which have been corroborated 
by the testimony of others. It is the fortune of veiy 
few individuals to pass through a long life surrounded 
by such a variety of perils, without receiving more 
personal injury. 

Henry Stoner, the father of Nicholas, emigrated from 
Germany, to the American colonies, as is believed, 
nearly twenty years before their emancipation from 
British tyranny. He landed at New York, and after a 
short residence in that city removed to the colony of 
Maryland, where he married Catharine Barnes, by 
whom he had two sons, Nicholas and John. 

Nicholas Stoner, who was about a year the senior of 
his brother, was born Dec. 15, 1762 or '63: which year 
is not now known with certainty, the family record 
having been burned with his father's dwelling in the 
Revolution. He is Cive feet eleven inches high, of 
slender but sinewy form; and though his light brown 
hair is now (184S) silvered by the frosts of fourscore 
winters, and his body is a little bent, yet his step is still 
firm without a cane, and his intellect vigorous. He has 
from boyhood worn a pair of small rings in his ears. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 19 

His complexion, owing to his mode of life, is now 
swarthy. In his younger days he must have been a man 
of uncommonly prepossessing personal appearance; for 
his acquaintances of forty years' standing, speak of him 
" as one of the likeliest looking men they have ever 
known." His walk — indeed, almost every motion — 
betrays his forest life, for he moves with the caution 
of a trapper and the stillness of a panther: added to 
which he becomes impatient and vexed at restraint. 

The frontispiece, which gives a good likeness of him 
at the age of about eighty three, exhibits him accoutred 
as a tr.ipper. He usually wore a fur cap when hunting, 
and a short coat, or cloth roundabout. A belt encircled 
his waist, at the foot of which was fastened a bullet 
pouch, and beneath which upon the left side were thrust 
a hatchet and knife; while under his right arm swung 
a powder horn of no mean capacity. When trapping 
for beaver, he was often loaded with a bundle of double- 
spring steel traps; which were suspended beneath the 
left arm. The frontispiece was engraved from two 
daguerreotype likenesses, one of which w T as taken in the 
village of Johnstown, on the 10th of Sept., 1846; and 
as there was a militia general training in the village 
on that day, the old hero was not only accoutred with 
little trouble to visit the artist; but was greeted at 
every turn by numerous friends and acquaintances, all 
eager once more to grasp his hand and give him a 
friendly salutation. The other miniature, although it 
does not exhibit the old trapper in his forest garb, w T as 



20 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

taken subsequently at his place of residence, and is by 
far the best likeness. A borrowed cap seen in the pic- 
ture, conceals much of his intelligent brow. 

New York city again became the residence of Henry 
Stoner while his children were quite young, during 
which Nicholas went to school and learned to read. 
He was sent to school by John Binkus (if I have the 
orthography correct), a man of wealth, who had married 
Miss Hannah Stoner, a sister of the young student's 
father. During the Revolution, this Binkus became a 
refugee officer in the famous corps of Gen. De Lancey. 
Henry Stoner, who had been a kind of trafficker or 
speculator in a small w 7 ay since his arrival in the colo- 
nies, after a second residence in New York of a few 
years, resolved to become a pioneer settler,and removed 
with his family to Fonda's Bush, a place in the Johns- 
town settlements, so called after Maj. Jelles Fonda, who 
took a patent for the lands. The place is situated about 
ten miles north of east from the village of Johnstown, 
and the same distance west of north from Amsterdam. 

Fonda's Bush signifies the same as if it were called 
Fonda's Woods, a dense forest covering the soil at that 
early period — bush being the usual term for w r oods on 
the frontiers of New York. Indeed, the Sugar Bush 
is the present appellation given to woods from which 
maple sugar is made. At the time of Stoner's arrival, 
Johnstown, though but a small village, was becoming 
known abroad; as it was the residence of the baronet, 
Sir William Johnson (after whom it was called), who, 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 21 

as Indian agent for the Six Nations, and as a military 
man of repute, was notorious in what was then 
Western New York. 

As Stoner was the first settler at Fonda's Bush, he 
left his family in Philadelphia Bush, while he was 
erecting a log dwelling four miles distant. The last 
mentioned place, now in the town of May field, obtained 
its name from the fact, that one or more of its first 
inhabitants were from Philadelphia, or the vicinity of 
that city. Some two years after Stoner fixed his resi- 
dence in the wilderness, Joseph Scott, and about the 
same time Benjamin De Line, also located in his neigh- 
borhood, I say neighborhood because they were the 
nearest neighbors of the Stoner family; although from 
one to two miles distant. His residence was still on 
the wild-wood side of his pioneer brethren. The next 
man who fixed his residence in the vicinity of Stoner, 
was Philip Helmer, who drove the wild beasts from 
their haunts and broke ground two miles to the east- 
ward of him. Andrew Bowman, Herman Salisbury, 
John Putman, Charles Cady, and possibly one or two 
others, also settled in and about Fonda's Bush before 
the Revolution. Cady, who mairied a daughter of 
Philip Helmer, w r as one of the first settlers at the West 
village. He is believed to have gone to Canada with 
Sir John Johnson. 

It must have been about the time of Stoner's location 
in Fonda's Bush, that Godfrey Shew 7 , a German, made 
the first permanent location near Sir William Johnson's 



22 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

fishing lodge, denominated the Fish House; and situated 
on the Sacondaga river, eight miles north-east of 
Stoner's dwelling. Before Shew planted himself at 
the Fish House, several families of squatters had been 
there, who had gone " to parts unknown," and desirous 
of getting a wholesome citizen to remain there, the 
Baronet held out liberal inducements to Mr. Shew, of 
which he accepted. 

In my History of Schoharie County, etc., I have 
given some account of Sir William Johnson, with 
several anecdotes of him — described his stately man- 
sions, and told the manner of his death, &c, &c; but 
at the time of publishing that work, I was not aware 
that he had a more celebrated summer residence in the 
latter part of his life, than that denominated the Fish 
House. From conversations held within the past year 
(1849) with the aged patriot Jacob Shew, who is a son 
of Godfrey Shew named above, I am enabled to garner 
up some more incidents in the life of this nobleman, 
and authentic memoranda of the classic grounds under 
consideration, which can not fail to prove interesting 
to future generations, even though they are little ap- 
preciated by the present. 

Sir William Johnson, after establishing himself at 
his Hall, in Johnstown, no doubt lived in greater afflu- 
ence, or more in the style of a European nobleman 
of that day, than ever did any other citizen of New 
York. His household was quite numerous at all times, 
and not unfrequently was much increased by distin- 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 23 

guished guests. He had a secretary named LafFerty, 
who was a good lawyer and did all his legal business. 
He had a bouiv- master, an Irishman named Flood. 
Bouw is a Low Dutch word signifying harvest — or as 
here used, an overseer or manager of the laborers of 
the Hall farm. From ten to fifteen slaves unsually per- 
formed the labor on the farm, and they were under the 
immediate direction of the bouw-master. The slaves, 
some of whom had families, lived across the Cavadutta 
creek from the Hall, in small dwellings erected for them. 
They drest much as did their Indian neighbors, except 
that a kind of coat was made of their blankets by the 
Hall tailor. 

He had a family physician named Daly, who prac- 
ticed but little out of his own household. Doct. Daly 
was a very companionable man, and often accompanied 
Sir William in his pleasure excursions. He had a 
musician, a dwarf some thirty years old, who answered 
to the name of Billy. He played a violin well, and 
was always on hand to entertain guests. He had a 
gardener, who cultivated a large garden, and kept that 
and the grounds about the Hall as neat as a pin. He 
had a butler named Frank, an active young German, 
who was with him a number of years, and who made 
himself very useful to his master. Frank remained 
about the Hall until the Revolution began, when he 
went to Albany county. He had a waiter named 
Pontioch, a sprightly, well disposed lad of mixed blood, 
negro and Indian, who was generally with him when 



24 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

from home. He had a pair of white, dwarfish-looking 
waiters, who catered to his own and his guests' com- 
fort: their surname was Bartholomew, and they are 
believed to have been brothers. 

The secretary, physician, bouw-master, and all the 
waiters remained, after the death of Sir William, with 
his son, Sir John Johnson, until the Revolution began, 
and then followed his fortunes to Canada. The Baronet 
had also his own mechanics. His blacksmith, and his 
tailor, had each a shop just across the road from the 
Hall. They did very little work for any one out of 
the royal household. Sir William was a large, well- 
looking and full-favored man. " Laugh and grow fat," 
is an old maxim, of which his neighbors were reminded, 
when they beheld this fun-loving man. He was well 
read for the times, and uncommonly well versed in the 
study of human nature. Near the Hall he erected two 
detached wings of stone, the west one of which was 
used by his attorney Lafferty , for an office, and the other 
contained a philosophical apparatus, of which he died 
possessed. The room in which the apparatus was kept, 
was called his own private study. On seeing him enter 
it, Pontioch used to say — " JVow massa gone into his 
study to link ob somesin me know not what." 

Sir William erected a school-house in Johnstown 
soon after he located there. It was an oblong building 
with a desk atone end, and stood on the diagonal corner 
of the streets from the county clerk's office — on the 
present site of Lucus I. Smith's store. To begin a 




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TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 25 

village, he also erected at the same time six dwelling- 
houses in the vicinity of the school-house. They were 
each some 30 feet long fronting the street, by 18 or 20 
feet deep — were one and a half stories high, with two 
square rooms on the floor. Those dwellings, and the 
school-house were all painted yellow. One of the 
earliest if not in fact the first teacher of this school, 
was an arbitrary Irishman named Wall, who taught 
only the common English branches. An Episcopal 
church was also erected in Johnstown under the patron- 
age of Sir William, several years before his death. 

In the street in front of the school-house, public 
stocks and a whipping-post were placed, the former of 
which were a terror to truant boys,whose feet not unfre- 
quently graced them. Before Godfrey Shew removed 
to the Fish House, he resided a mile west of the Hall, 
at which time his children, with those of a neighbor or 
two, went to school. In the vicinity of the Hall were 
usually to be seen a dozen or more Indians, of whom 
the children were afraid; and the fact coming to the 
knowledge of Sir "William, he spoke to a chief in their 
behalf, and then assured the little urchins, with whom 
he liked to chat, that they need borrow no more trouble 
about their red neighbors. 

He had six children at that time by his handsome 
brown housekeeper, Molly Brant; and the three oldest, 
Peter, Betsey and Lana, went to school — George and 
two little girls being thought too young to send. 
Wall was very severe with most of his pupils, but the 
3 



26 TRAFPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Baronet's children were made an exception to his 
clemency — they ever being treated with kind partiality 
and pointed indulgence. He observed the most rigid 
formality in teaching his scholars manners; a very 
important branch of education, and quite too much 
neglected in modern times. He required his pupils, 
however, not so much to respect age and intellect in 
others as in himself. If a child wished to go out, it 
must go before him with a complaisant — please master 
may I go out? accompanied with a bow, a backward 
motion of the right hand, and drawing back upon the 
floor the right foot. On returning to the school-room, 
the pupil had again to parade before the master, with 
another three-motioned bow, and a very grateful — 
thank you sir! 

The lad Jacob Shew, on becoming initiated into the 
out-and-in ceremony, accompanied his first bow with a 
scrape of the left foot. Tak the other Jut, you rascal/ 
was roared with such a brogue and emphasis by old 
Pedagogue, as to confuse him, and he flourished the 
left foot again. Tak the other Jut, I tell ye! came 
louder than before, attended with a stamp that carried 
terror tot he boy's heart. Comprehending the require- 
ment, he shifted his balance — scraped with the right 
fut — heard a surly that HI doh ! and went on his way 
rejoicing though trembling. 

In nearly every school of New England and New 
York twenty-five years ago, the scholars on entering 
and on leaving the school-room during the hours of 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 27 

school, had to make their manners — the boys to bow — 
gracefully if they could, but at all events to bow, and 
the girls to courtesy, genteelly, of course. Nor were 
the manners of the children confined to the school- 
room; for on meeting any sober person in the streetj 
tht-y had to make their obeisance, and learned to take 
pleasure and pride in so doing. It was then a very 
pretty spectacle to pass a country school-house at 
noon, or when the children were out at play, and see 
them parade as if by military intuition, and give the 
traveler a united evidence of good breeding. This 
sight is occasionally seen at the present day, where 
female teachers are employed. 

Traversing the forest in the French war, from Ti- 
conderoga to Fort Johnson, his then residence, no 
doubt first made Sir William Johnson familiar with 
the make of the country adjoining the Sacondaga river; 
and soon after the close of that war he erected a lodge 
for his convenience, while hunting and fishing, on the 
south side of the river, nearly eighteen miles distant 
from his own dwelling. The lodge was ever after 
called The Fish House. It was an oblong square 
framed building, with two rooms below, and walls 
sufficiently high (one and a half stories) to have af- 
forded pleasant chambers. Its site was an a knoll 
within the present garden of Dr. Langdon I. Marvin } 
and about thirty rods from the river. It fronted the 
south. Only one room in the building was ever finished; 
that was in the west end, and had a chimney and 



28 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

fire-place. The house was never painted, and in the 
Revolution it was burnt down, but by whom or whose 
authority, is unknown. The ground from where the 
building stood, slopes very prettily to the river. No 
visible trace of this building remains. 

A village has grown up at this place, containing 
several hundred inhabitants, and bearing the historic 
name of Fish House, although the post-office is im- 
properly called Northampton, the village lying mostly 
in one corner of that town. The village is built upon 
gentle elevations, and a degree of neatness and thrift 
pervades it, that agreeably disappoints the visitor. 
Among its early influential inhabitants, were Asahel 
Parkes, John Trumbull, John Rosevelt, Alexander St. 
John, and John Fay. The last one named located 
here in 1803, and the others a few years before. 

Where the Stoner family settled in Fonda's Bush, 
a pretty village has also sprung up. It is built mostly 
upon level sandy land, and contains double the popu- 
lation of Fish House. It is situated in the town of 
Broadalbin, and like its sister village, has the misfor- 
tune to have its post-office called after the town in- 
stead of itself, a discrepancy that should never exist 
where it can be avoided. A plank road went into 
operation in 1849, from Fish House to Fonda's Bush, 
a distance of eight miles; and another from the latter 
place to Amsterdam, a further distance of ten miles, 
bringing the three places within a few hours' ride of 
each other. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 29 

The villages of Fish House and Fonda's Bush must 
grow in importance with their improved facilities for 
business — indeed, the travel to those places has been 
on the increase for several years. From Edinburgh, 
a little hamlet in Saratoga county, six miles down 
the river from Fish House, a stage runs twice a week 
to Ballston Spa, stopping at Fish House; and another 
runs through the place three times a w r eek, from 
Northville to Amsterdam. Both are mail routes. 
Northville deserves a passing notice in this place: it 
is a charming inland village in the town of Northamp- 
ton, containing two or three hundred inhabitants, 
romantically embowered among the hills on the north 
bank of the Sacondaga, six miles above the Fish 
House, and is fast increasing in importance. The first 
settlers at this place were Abraham Van Aernam, Paul 
Hammond, John Shoecraft, Daniel Lobdell and Daniel 
Bryant. It is now in contemplation to build a plank 
road from Northville, to connect at Johnstown with the 
one from that place to Fultonville, on the Erie canal. 

At a little place about equidistant between Fish 
House and Northville, on the south bank of the river, 
with a post-office called Denton's Corners, settled 
Garret Van Ness, Abel Scribner and John Brown. 
They located there soon after the war of the Revolu- 
tion closed; and as they had all three been participa- 
tors in its perils, they must often have met of a long 
winter evening and fought their battles over. There 
is, at this place, a bridge across the Sacondaga. 



CHAPTER II. 

Sir William Johnson was no doubt induced to locate 
in Johnstown, partly on account of the greater facili- 
ties it would afford him for hunting and fishing about 
the Sacondaga river, over a residence in the Mohawk 
valley, and partly to obtain more favorable grounds 
to accommodate the numerous Indians, who at times 
came to receive presents from the royal bounty. North 
of the Hall was a forest, in which those visitors were 
occasionally encamped in great numbers. 

The Sacondaga and Mohawk rivers are about twenty 
miles apart, from the Fish House westward, for some 
distance. The Mayfield mountain stretches across from 
the former river south-easterly to the latter, and there 
forms what is called The Nose, while on the north 
side of the Sacondaga, mountain ranges of hills tower- 
ing one above the other, bound the view. The lands, 
on gaining the summit level, a few miles north of the 
Mohawk, are not mountainous between the rivers, 
but gently rolling from the Mayfield mountain, some 
twenty miles to the eastward, until they strike what 
is denominated the Maxonhill; the northern termina- 
tion of which at the river the Indians called Scow-a- 
rock-a. The scenery, therefore, to the northward of 
Johnstown and Fonda's Bush, is very fine. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 



31 



From the residence of Col. John I. Shew, situated 
on an eminence one and a half miles from Fonda's 
Bush, and on the plank road to Fish House, is afforded 
the lover of natural science, in a clear day, one of the 
richest landscapes in this part of the state. Here the 
eye, looking north, seems to scan rather more than 
one-half of an amphitheatre, an hundred miles in cir- 
cuit, with rich and varied scenery. Within the view 
is overlooked the Sacondaga vlaie, a body of from 
ten to thirteen thousand acres of drowned lands. This 
immense marsh extends east and west about six miles. 
A strip at the west end, nearly two miles long, lies 
in Mayfield, and the eastern part extends into North- 
ampton; but the greatest proportion is in Broadablin, 
where it is the widest, being perhaps a mile or more 
in width. 

A fine mill stream, called Vlaie creek, because it 
courses through the great marsh, rises in Lake Desola- 
tion, near the Maxon mountain in Greenfield, Sara- 
toga county, and making a grand circuit of Broadal- 
bin, passing in its route through the village of Fonda's 
Bush, it enters the Sacondaga at Fish House, not 
more than two or three miles from its source; although 
some twenty by its sinuous route. The stream is some- 
times called the Little Sacondaga. The Indians called 
it Ken-ny-ett-o, says Isaac R. Rosa, of Fonda's Bush, 
who saw an intelligent Indian, many years ago, write 
the name with red chalk on the door of a grist mill. 
The signification of this pretty aboriginal name, after 



32 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

"which the village and post-office should have been 
called, is now unknown. 

The origin of this marsh is thus given by Lardner 
Vanuxem, in his volume of the Geology of New York. 
<c The vlie, or natural meadow and swamp which ex- 
tends along the creek of that name, to near the Fish 
House, are the remains of a lake, and show the pre- 
existent state of that country; the drainage of which 
happened at successive periods, as is beautifully shown, 
and the extent of alluvial action also, near where the 
upper and lower roads unite, which lead from Cran- 
berry post-office to the river, near the hill or mountain 
side. There four well defined alluvial banks exist, 
resembling great steps or benches ranging by the moun- 
tain side, which from a semi-amphitheatre, changing 
by a curve from a north-east to a south-south-east 
direction. The upper bank of alluvion rises about a 
hundred feet above the river; the next below, about 
eighty feet; the third, from thirty to forty feet; and 
the lowest, from ten to twelve feet. The upper one 
is of sand, the second of bluish clay covered with 
sand, and the two lower ones of sand and gravel. 

"The vlie, or natural meadows, are numerous in 
many parts of the [geological] district: they are the 
prairies of the west upon a small scale. Their soil, 
being composed of minutely divided parts or fine earth, 
is favorable for grass, the rapid growth of which 
smothers the germinating tree. This is the primary 
cause why trees do not exist where grass is rank; the 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 33 

others are but subordinate ones. One and all in the 
district show the same origin, having been ponds or 
lakes receiving the wash of the country which they 
drained, the finer particles of which being diffused 
through their waters, have by subsidence formed their 
level bottom, and their highly productive soil for 
grass." 

It is by no means an uncommon occurrence for a 
pond or lake to become filled up by alluvial deposits, 
so as to form dry and tillable land; and at times upon 
the surface of a body of water, a soil is formed that is 
cultivated without its ever being known to the hus- 
bandman, that he is toiling over the bosom of a lake. 
In confirmation of this I would instance a singular 
occurrence of recent date, On the Michigan Central 
Railway it became necessary to carry an embankment 
some fifteen feet thick across a piece of low ground, 
containing nearly one hundred acres dry enough to 
plow. The workmen had progressed with the grading 
some distance, when it became too heavy for the soil 
to support it, and sank down into seventy-nine feet 
of water. It then became apparent that the low 
ground had been a small lake, upon the surface of 
which, in process of time, a soil had collected, com- 
posed of roots, peat, muck, &c, to the depth of from 
ten to fifteen feet thick; the surface of which had 
become dry. Had it not been deemed necessary to 
carry so heavy an embankment over this miniature 
prairie of now rich arable land, it would probably 



34 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

never have been known that it rested on the bosom 
of a lake. 

On the northerly side of the vlaie and to the west- 
ward of the centre, are two strips of hard land bearing 
timber. They are called stacking-ridges, from the 
fact that many tons of hay cut annually on the low 
grounds contiguous, are stacked upon them to be 
drawn ofF in the winter. Blue-joint grass used to 
grow, and perhaps does to this day on the dryest bogs. 
Formerly, immense quantities of cranberries were 
gathered on the north side of the marsh east of the 
lower stacking-ridge; on what is called Cranberry 
point. A kind of shovel with fine teeth wai some- 
times used to scoop them up, and nearly a' quart could 
thus be gathered at once. This mode of picking in- 
jured the vines however. Cranberries are not as 
plenty here as formerly. Opposite Cranberry point 
the water in Vlaie creek is said to be very deep. 

One of the most interesting features about the vlaie 
is the fact, that a little knoll or table of hard land 
elevated some ten or twelve feet, extends into it 
toward the upper or western end. It is oblong in 
shape, level upon the top, and gently sloping all round. 
It lies about north-west and south-east; the summit 
being some 600 feet long by 150 in breadth; and con- 
taining in the whole say ten or fifteen acres of very 
good land. This tongue of land is called Summer- 
house point, from the fact that Sir Wm. Johnson 
erected a beautiful cottage in the centre of it in 1772, 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 35 

and there spent much of his time in the summer for 
several seasons. From Johnstown to this point, which 
is just fourteen miles, the Baronet opened a carriage 
road. While the road was surveying, a large tree 
was marked at the end of every mile, and numbered 
from the Hall. The one denominated Nine-mile tree, 
a large pine, was standing within twenty-five years, 
and was by the late Gen. Henry Fonda designated to 
several persons, who have kept vigilance of its locality. 
The stump of this tree which has for seventy years 
been a landmark, is still standing a little east of James 
Lasher's dwelling, in the town of May field. 

Summer-house point is approached from the west- 
erly end, upon a strip of arable land, which in very 
high water is covered, making an island of the point. 
The Sacondaga patent embraced all or very nearly all 
of the vlaie. The point which lies in Broadalbin, 
was embraced in the Sacondaga patent, which con- 
veyed 28,000 acres of land, Dec. 2, 1742, to Lendert 
Gansevoort, Cornelius Ten Broek, Douw Fonda, Anna 
J. Wendell and ten others. Of some of the original 
patentees or then owners, Sir William not only bought 
the point, but many of the lands in and contiguous to 
Fish House, in which village the Northampton and 
Sacondaga patents unite. 

The cottage erected on Summer-house point, stood 
precisely in its centre. It was a tasty one story build- 
ing, fronting the south, upon which side was its front 
entrance. The roof sloped north and south. A piazza 



36 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

supported by square columns extended around the sides 
and east end, with a promenade upon the top nearly 
as high as the eaves. It had a gable window at each 
end on the first floor, and two windows at each end 
on the second. A hall ran across the building in the 
centre, with a square room upon each side of it, hand- 
somely finished, w r ell furnished, and each room lighted 
by two front windows. It had a nice cellar kitchen, 
the entrance to which was on the west end, which 
room was always occupied in the summer season by 
Nicholas and Flora, a pair of the Baronet's slaves, 
who were there to keep every thing in order, and mi- 
nister to his comfort during his visits. The cottage 
was painted white, with the corners, doors, window- 
casings and columns painted green, as was the English 
taste of the times — the whole contrasting beautifully 
with the wild scenery around. 

A large garden was cultivated on the point, two 
cows kept there, and when the Baronet was there two 
horses also; as he usually rode there in a carriage. 
He planted fruit trees there, and two antiquated apple 
trees of a dozen or more are still standing. The stone 
of which the cellar and well were made, were brought 
from Fish House in a boat, and as stone were scarce 
on the sandy lands contiguous, early settlers with 
sacrilegious propensity have carried off and coverted 
them to other uses. The plow has removed all traces 
of the well, which was on the verge of the knoll south 
of the house, and has nearly filled the cellar, a small 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 37 

cavity only remaining. A log house and well were 
built on the south side of the point toward the west- 
ern end just after the revolution, but the dwelling is 
now gone, and most of the stone which were used in 
that cellar. The nearest house now to the point, is 
that known as the Brown place, where Samuel Brown, 
an old pensioner, lived and died. 

I have said that the Kennyetto coursed through the 
vlaie. It enters a narrow strip of it south-west of the 
point, and runs along the latter upon its southerly 
side, where it is some two rods wide, and usually 
three or four feet deep. The Mayfield creek, a mill- 
stream about two-thirds as large as the Kennyetto, 
runs through that part of the marsh in Mayfield, and 
sweeping its north margin, unites with the latter 
stream at the extremity of the point. The Brown farm 
lies between the two strips of the marsh named, and 
near where they approximate. Besides those named, 
several other streams enter the marsh. On the north 
side at Cranberry point, a mile from Summer-house 
point, Cranberry creek runs in, and nearly loses itself 
before reaching Vlaie creek, as the stream is called after 
it receives Mayfield creek. On the south side two mill 
streams run in, in Broadalbin, one nearly opposite 
Cranberry creek, called formerly Frenchman's creek, 
and the other a mile below called Hans's creek; and 
yet so great is the natural process of absorption and 
evaporation constantly going on here, that the creek, 
where it issues from the vlaie and enters the Sacon- 
4 



38 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

daga at Fish House, discharges but little if any more 
water than passes Summer-house point, in the Ken- 
nyetto: indeed, it is said by some of the observing 
citizens near its mouth, that less water issues from the 
marsh than did formerly. 

Frenchman's creek is so called, because a French- 
man named Joseph DeGolier located at an early day 
upon its shores about two miles from its mouth. It 
has since been called McMartin's creek, after Duncan 
McMartin, Esq., who established himself and erected 
mills upon it many years ago. McMartin was a sur- 
veyor and laid out most of the roads in and around 
Broadalbin. He was a man of wealth and respect- 
ability, and was appointed a judge of the common 
pleas in 1818 — was a master in chancery, &c., &c; 
and as an evidence of his enterprise, erected a sub- 
stantial brick edifice upon his farm, some few years 
before his death. This same stream has also been 
called Factory creek, from the fact that a woolen 
manufactory was established upon it near the residence 
of Mr. McMartin, as early as 1812 or 1814. It is still 
in operation. Hans's creek got its name from the 
following circumstance: Some few T years before his 
death, Sir William Johnson and John Conyne were 
fishing for trout in the mouth of this stream, when as 
Conyne was standing up, an unexpected lurch of the 
boat sent him out floundering in the water. He ship- 
ped a sea or two, as the sailor would say, before he 
was rescued by the helping hand of his companion 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 39 

from a watery grave. My informant heard the Ba- 
ronet relate the circumstance at Johnson Hall to a 
large circle of friends soon after, with his usual gusto 
for such adventures. He not only had a hearty laugh 
over it then, but often afterwards when telling how 
Conyne plunged into the water to seek for trout. Hans 
being the Dutch of John, and the familiar name by 
which Sir William called his companion in relating 
the incident; hence the name for the stream. 

There is now along the sides and lower end of 
Summer-house point, a stunted growth of alder and 
swamp willow, but when occupied by Sir William 
Johnson, the bushes were all cut off, and the margin 
of the stream kept clean. He had a beautiful boat 
there, in which he used to go down to the Fish House, 
four miles distant, some times with company, for he 
entertained numerous distinguished guests, and at other 
times attended only by a few servants, or possibly by 
his faithful Pontioch, who rowed the boat while he 
sat in the stern and steered it. His greatest time for 
hunting and fishing, was in the spring and fall. When 
the marsh was flooded, a boat would pass over it any- 
where, the water raising at Summer-house point, 
from six to eight feet above low water mark. At 
such times the prospect was grand from the promenade 
of his cottage, access to which was gained by an out- 
side stairway, near the hall door. Thousands upon 
thousands of ducks and wild geese were then floating 



40 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

upon the waters, at which time his double-barreled 
gun was in almost constant requisition. Some twenty- 
five years ago, ducks used to breed about the vlaie. 
They are sometimes caught in nets there, and taken 
to market. 

In company with Dr. William Chambers, Marcellus 
Weston, Esq., my patriotic old friend Jacob Shew, 
Col. John I. Shew his son, and little Haydn Shew, I 
visited Summer-house point on the 29th day of Au- 
gust, 1849, and well was I compensated for the jour- 
ney. It is a most delightful place, divested of all 
historic associations, but clothed with them, it is one 
of the most interesting spots imaginable. Recreating 
in fancy the white cottage with green facings, I could 
almost hear the notes of Billy's old fiddle, as his 
greatest skill was taxed to please the ear of some fas- 
tidious city guest; and at some witticism of the happy 
host, I seemed to hear peal after peal of merry laughter, 
and now and then an Indian whoop, as in former 
days, they rang out upon the gentle breeze. The 
fairy craft of some forest son seemed once more to be 
gliding along the grass-hidden stream, with its blanket- 
clad navigator standing erect as of yore, and bound 
for Sacondaga. Imagination pictured Pontioch caress- 
ing his favorite steeds, and calling on Nicholas to 
aid a black driver in rubbing them dry; and as I 
passed the entrance to Flora's department, to look at 
the noble animals, I seemed to see upon one side of it 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 41 

scores of pigeons and wild ducks, with the saddle of 
a deer; and on the other a large heap of golden trout, 
to supply the cottage larder and fee*d its guests. 

But 1 find I am growing visionary, and will dismiss 
this subject, with my grateful thanks to the gentlemen 
who conducted me to Summer-house point, where I 
trust I may again light up " the council fires" of ima- 
gination — again be surrounded by intelligent friends — 
again see some little Haydn hooking perch or sun- 
fish — again see the happy hay makers near the upper 
stacking-ridge — and again seek for some relic of the 
point's first occupancy, if only to be rewarded by the 
limb of an old apple tree. 



CHAPTER III. 

Sa-con-da-ga is an aboriginal word, which signifies, 
as the Indians assured Godfrey Shew, much water, 
Capt. Gill, an Indian hunter, said it meant sunken or 
drowned lands. It no doubt has particular reference 
to the flooding of the vlaie. The Sacondaga shooting 
out from the mountains in Northampton, enters the 
semi-amphitheatre in a south-eastern course, and con- 
tinues that direction in what seems a great basin, 
until it gets to Fish House, where, receiving the Vlaie 
creek, and striking spurs of the Maxon mountain, its 
course is changed to a north-eastern one, thus making 
two equal sides of a triangle some twenty miles in 
circuit. The vlaie is about as low as the bed of the 
river, and when the latter rises suddenly, it sets back 
up the creek with a heavy current, so as not unfre- 
quently to carry bridges up stream, that were over the 
streams in the marsh. The Sacondaga continues a 
north-easterly course, until it enters the Hudson some 
thirty miles from the Fish House. A small steam boat 
has been plying for two seasons between Fish House 
and Barber's Dam, a distance of about twenty miles. 
This dam is situated at the head of what is usually 
denominated the Horse race, or rapid water, which 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 43 

extends from thence to the Hudson. Conklinville, a 
small hamlet, with several mills and a leather manu- 
factory, has recently grown up at the dam. 

Daly's creek, a stream running into the Sacondaga 
on the east side, and near Barber's dam, got its name 
from the following circumstance. Dr. Daly, the fa- 
mily physician of Sir William Johnson, was at the 
mouth of this stream with the latter on a fishing ex- 
cursion, as in days gone by it was a great place for 
trout. A little eddy in the water had caught up a 
bed of leaves, and the top ones were so curled and 
dry, as to lead the doctor to suppose they were quietly 
reposing on the top of a small sand bar. It is not 
unlikely that Sir William, to please himself or guests 
that may have been with them, humored the joke, if 
he did not set it on foot. Catching the painter, the 
doctor sprang out to draw the boat upon the bar — 
when lo! he went plump up to his arms in the water. 
This incident not only added a yarn to the Baronet's 
long budget, which he often spun at the doctor's ex- 
pense, but served to originate a name for the stream. 
Some few years after the above incident transpired, 
Godfrey Shew, his sons John and Jacob, and Edmund 
Pangburn, were fishing at the mouth of Daly's creek, 
when a similar little eddy of crisped leaves attracted 
the notice of young Jacob, and to get the wrinkles 
out of his legs, he concluded to step out of the boat on 
the bar. He did so, and down went the leaves, and 
still deeper down the boy to get a handsome ducking, 



44 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

and be laughed at by his comrades when again in the 
boat. Query: Should not this stream be called Shew's 
creek, some part of the time? 

Near the mouth of Hans's creek, and about half- 
way from Summer-house point to Fish House, dwelt 
before the Revolution the family of Henry Wormwood. 
He had three daughters and two sons. The oldest 
daughter, whose name is now forgotten, married and 
went to Schoharie; the other two, Susannah and Eli- 
zabeth, lived at home. Susannah, the eldest of the 
two, was a beautiful girl, of middling stature, charm- 
ingly formed, with a complexion fair as a water lily — 
contrasting with which she had a melting dark eye 
and raven hair. Elizabeth much resembled her sister, 
but was not quite as fair. An Irishman named Robert 
or Alexander Dunbar, a good looking fellow, paid his 
adresses to Susannah, and soon after married her. 
The match was in some manner brought about by the 
Baronet — was an unhappy one, and they soon after 
parted. She however retained as her stock in trade 
a young Dunbar. What became of Dunbar is un- 
known. 

Sir William was on very intimate terms with both 
the Wormwood girls, but the most so with Susannah, 
after she became a grass-widow — at which time she 
was about twenty years old. Those girls were often 
at the cottage on the point, and not unfrequently at 
the fish-house. As the latter place was not fur- 
nished, when Sir William went down there, intending 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 45 

to stay over night, he took down a bed from the point, 
which, "as the evening shades prevailed," was made 
up on (he floor. In passing Wormwood's dwelling, 
some half a mile distant from his boat at the nearest 
point, if he desired an agreeable companion for (he 
night, he discharged his double-barreled gun, and the 
two shots in quick succession, was a signal that never 
failed to bring him a temporary housekeeper. Su- 
sannah was his favorite, and so pleased was she with 
his attentions, that she often arrived on foot at the 
Fish House before he did, especially if he lingered to 
fish by the way. 

Wormwood and his wife sometimes accompanied 
one of their daughters to the fish-house, where they 
occasionally remained over night The old man had 
the misfortune to break an arm, and by imprudence 
he kept it lame for a long time. Early one morning 
he called in at Shew's dwelling, situated over a knoll 
and perhaps one-fourth of a mile from the fish-house. 
Rubbing his arm he began to give a sorry picture of 
its lameness, in which he was suddenly interrupted 
by Mrs. Shew. "Poh!" said she, " you have made 
it lame by sleeping on the floor again at the fish- 
house." 

" No I haven't," said he; " I slept on a good bed; 
for Sir William brought down from the point a very 
nice wide one, which was plenty large enough for 
four"— 

" Four ? quickly interrogated Mrs. Shew, greatly 



46 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

surprised at the reply of Wormwood, " pray how did 
you manage to sleep jour in a bed ?" 

" 0, easy enough. Susannah made it up very nicely 
on the floor, and then Sir William told us how to lay. 
He first directed the women to get in the middle, and 
now, said he to me, you get on that side and take 
care of your old woman next to you, and I'll get in on 
this side and try to take care of Susannah. No, I 
didn't make my arm lame by sleeping on the floor last 
night." It is unnecessary to add, Mrs. S. did not 
question her neighbor any farther. 

To dispose of this family in a few words, w T hich 
catered for years to pamper the baser passions of an 
influential man, liberally endowed with Solomondic 
lust; the two sons went to Canada with Sir John 
Johnson; Elizabeth married somebody and moved to — 
somewhere; and Susannah, with an heir to the Sacon- 
daga vlaie — sex unknown — remained about Johns- 
town with her parents until the Revolution was over, 
and then went to Canada. Old Wormwood was seen 
at Amsterdam after the war by a former neighbor, 
who enquired where he lived 1 "Any where," he re- 
plied, " where I can find a house." Poor weak man, 
he has beyond doubt parted with his ' mortal coil' 
long since; but his old bones, we hazard a conjecture, 
more than once felt the need of Sir William's 'wide 
bed,' or some other, before that solemn event. 

About the fish-house, Sir William Johnson re- 
served one hundred acres of land, which was confis- 



TRAPPERS OF REW YORK. 47 

cated with his son's estate in the Revolution. When 
sold by the sequestrating committee, it was purchased 
by Major Nicholas Fish (he was adjutant-general of 
militia after the war), for one hundred pounds. Maj. 
Fish sold it at the close of the war to Asahel Parkes, 
of Shaftsbury, Vermont, who resided several years 
upon it. He built a dwelling upon the low ground a 
few rods from the mouth of Vlaie creek; and the fol- 
lowing spring he was driven out of it by some four 
feet of water. Traces of this building are still to be 
seen west of the road, just above the river bridge. 
Parkes sold the Fish-house farm to Alexander St. 
John. The village has since been built upon it. 

The bridge just alluded to crosses the river where 
it makes its great angle, and only a few rods below 
the mouth of Vlaie creek. The Sacondaga at this 
place is about two-thirds as large as the Mohawk is 
at Fultonville. The cost of this bridge, a covered 
one, in Barber & Howe's Historical Collections of JVevj 
York, is erroneously stated to have been ' sixty thou- 
sand dollars.' It cost about six thousand dollars, and 
was built by the state's munificence in 1818; at which 
time Jacob Shew was in the legislature and advocated 
the measure with success. It was supposed the state 
would soon realize the funds again, by the sale of her 
lands on the north side of the river, a market for 
which would be more readily found by improving the 
way to them. How profitable the investment has 
proved for the state we are unable to say, but the 



48 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

convenience of a free bridge to the public is invalua- 
ble, 

Among the unwise measures adopted in the early 
part of our struggle for liberty, was that of fortifying 
Summer-house point; it being supposed by some that 
an enemy from the north, would be likely to approach 
the point by water. Part of a regiment of continental 
troops under Ccl. Nicholson was stationed here much 
of the summer of 1776. An intrenchment six feet 
wide and several feet deep was cut across the eastern 
end of the point; while the cottage in green livery, 
as we may suppose, assumed a warlike aspect. The 
point as a military post was abandoned at the end of 
the summer. The summer-house shared the same 
fate as the fish-house, in the Revolution; as they were 
both burnt about the year 1781. We suppose that, 
from the fact that this cottage had been occupied by 
the Americans as a military post, and that the repos- 
session of it by Sir John Johnson was now placed 
almost beyond a doubt among the impossibilities; he 
gave instructions to some hostile invaders to burn that 
and the fish-house, that they should fall to the own- 
ership and occupancy of no one else. AH traces of 
the fortifications on the point have disappeared, the 
ditch having become entirely filled up by deposits 
from the marsh. 

Just before Summer-house point was garrisoned, a 
scout of several men was sent from Johnstown to re- 
connoitre in its vicinity. From the point they crossed 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 49 

the marsh to the bank of the Sacondaga, and not find- 
ing any trace of an enemy's approach, they returned 
to the point. When ready to retrace their steps to 
Johnstown, they found the boat had been left by some 
person on the opposite shore of the Kennyetto. In 
attempting to cross the stream and get it, one of the 
men, named Willie Boiles, a continental soldier, was 
drowned. His body was recovered and buried on the 
northerly end of the point, a few rods southerly from 
the fence toward the road, and not far distant from the 
May field creek. No stone or stake indicates the spot. 

Summer-house point was sold by Jeremiah Van 
Rensselaer, one of the committee for sequestrations, 
to James Caldwell of Albany. Who now owns this 
delightful spot I am unable to say. Formerly, when 
it became the rallying spot for hay-makers, cranberry- 
pickers and fishermen, temporary bridges were made 
across the creeks upon its sides, by throwing over 
stringers and covering them with brush and hay. The 
timber was drawn upon the point in the winter, to be 
restored in the summer. 

A settlement was begun in Mayfield, some ten miles 
to the northward of Johnson Hall, under the patronage 
of Sir William Johnson, about as early as Stoner's 
location at Fonda's Bush. The first settlers who ob- 
tained a title from the Baronet to one hundred acres 
of land each, were two brothers named Solomon and 
Seely Woodworth, Simeon Christie, two brothers 

named Reynolds, Jacob Dunham, Cadman, Jona. 

5 



50 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Canfield, Capt. Flock, a captain when in New 

England; and possibly one or two others. Christie 
was a Scotchman ; the rest of the settlers, or nearly all 
of them were enterprising Yankees. The Wood- 
worths were from Salisbury, Connecticut; Seely set- 
tled near the present site of Mayfield Corners, and his 
brother about a mile to the westward of him. The 
rest of the pioneers w T ere scattered about the wood- 
man's neighborhood. Perhaps the only descendant of 
this early settlement now living upon the homestead, 
is Simon, a son of Simeon Christie, 

Solomon Woodworth was killed by the Indians in 
the Revolution, as I have elsewhere published. The 
circumstances attending his death, as related by an 
eye-witness, I design to give the public at some future 
day, as also the captivity of several of the settlers at 
Fish House and Fonda's Bush, and fate of Eikler and 
young Shew. Old Mr. Dunham was murdered by the 
Indians in the war, as related on page 294 of my His- 
tory of Schoharie County, etc., where the name is in- 
accurately printed Durham. His wife was not mur- 
dered at the time, as there stated. The house was 
plundered, but from motives of policy not then burned. 
Dunham had a son, a young officer under Capt. Solo- 
mon Woodworth, who shared the fate of his brave 
commander, as will be shown hereafter. 

After Shew located at Fish House, and before the 
Revolution, John Eikler, Lent and Nicholas Lewis, 
brothers, Robert Martin, Zebulon Algar, a family of 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 51 

Ketchums and one of Chadwicks, also settled in that 
neighborhood. All of them left at the beginning of 
difficulties, except Shew, Martin and Algar. These 
pioneers at first had to go to Johnstown for their mill- 
ing. To accommodate them and the Mayfield settle 
ment, Sir William Johnson erected a small grist mill 
at the latter place, in 1773 or '74, and had the avails 
of it during the remainder of his life. It was either 
burnt in the w r ar, or rendered nearly valueless by 
neglect. The mill property having been confiscated, 
it was purchased at the close of the war by Abraham 
Romeyn, the oldest son of the Rev. Dr. Romeyn, who 
had been an artificer in the Revolution. He rebuilt 
the mill again, and put it in operation. 

Soon after Romeyn got his mill in operation, 
Thomas Shankland — who had been a prisoner among 
the Indians — erected a grist mill on the Kennyetto, 
in the present town of Providence, to which the Fish 
House settlers repaired, as it was a mile or two nearer 
than the Mayfield mill, w T ith no intervening marsh. 
This mill is now owned by Jonathan Haggidorn. The 
bolts in those mills to separate the flour from the bran, 
were turned by hand. It was the usual practice for 
customers to turn the bolt for their own grist — a task 
they were by no means pleased w T ith. After the 
country became more settled, and probably as early as 
1800, one Van Hoesen erected a mill also in Provi- 
dence, situated about half a mile east of Fish House, 
on a stream which rises on the Maxon mountain. 



52 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Speaking of mills, we are reminded of the follow- 
ing anecdote of Sir William Johnson. While he was 
living at Fort Johnson, he made some alteration in 
his grist-mill near by — putting in a new pair of mill- 
stones. A German named Francis Salts, who w r as 
erecting a mill for Messrs. Philip and Jacob Frederick, 
situated on the Schoharie river, some five or six miles 
above its mouth, called on the Baronet to purchase 
the old grinders. The price was stipulated, and after 
some little conversation about the terms of payment, 
the quondam owner told his customer to take them 
home, get his mill in operation, and if he would sing 
a song when the debt was due, that pleased him, he 
would exact no other pay. 

It was not long ere the buzzing and clitter clatter 
evinced the new mill in successful motion. When 
pay day for the millstones arrived, Mr. Salts went to 
Fort Johnson to cancel the debt. He was quite a 
song singer, and had possibly prepared himself with 
something new, expressly for the fastidious ear of his 
creditor. In the presence of several of the Baronet's 
friends, who were, no doubt, invited in expressly to 
hear them, song after song w r as sung, to the evident 
amusement of all save the one he desired to please; 
but his features remained uncommonly rigid. Having 
exhausted his catalogue of German songs, without 
discovering any expression of delight on the counte- 
nance of his creditor, the millwright thrust his hands 
into a deep pocket, and drew forth a long pouch of 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 53 

the ready, singing in no very good humor as he did 
so: 

£)er Wlunn mill be$ablt Seuu* 

" That will do — now put up your money," said Sir 
William, at the end of a burst of laughter. 

"And are you paid? " asked Salts, with evident sur- 
prise, as he returned the purse to his pocket. 

" Yes, yes," said the now delighted lover of fun, 
" that will do — that's the best of the whole." The 
songster went home rejoicing, and left the Baronet 
and his guests to discuss the merit of his songs over 
a bottle of wine, when he was far away. — Col. Peter 
Young and Volkert Voorhees. 

If Sir William Johnson enjoyed a joke at the ex- 
pense of some friend, they occasionally got the rig 
upon him, as the following anecdote will show. Just 
after the close of the French war, in which he had 
acted so conspicuous a part, and for which he was 
placed on the baronial list, Sir William had occasion 
to go to Albany. At that period there were only two 
or three dwellings in the whole distance between 
Albany and Schenectada, and they were little if any 
better than squatter's lodges of more modern times. 
There were numerous little swamps and marshes along 
the road, and the Baronet returning to Schenectada 
on horseback, passed a little marsh, in which he heard, 

* Money bag ! money bag ! you must come out ! 

The man he will be paid ! 
5* 



54 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

as he believed, the voice of a new animal. Nearing 
a house just after, he inquired, What animals were 
making such a strange noise ? He was answered with 
a grin, that they were bullfrogs! He spurred up his 
horse, not a little mortified to think he had but just 
learned, as his countrymen would say, " what a toad a 
frog was" 

The family of which he inquired knew him (indeed 
that family which did not know him in Western New 
York, was behind the times), and soon the nature of 
his inquiry reached the ears of his most intimate 
friends, who bored him so unmercifully about it, that 
he was obliged to own up. He admitted that he 
never was so ashamed of having asked a question in 
his life, as he was of that about the new animals on 
the pine plains below Dorp. — James Frazier. 

After the preceding pages were stereotyped, I 
learned that the given name of Dunham, mentioned 
on page 49, was Jacob: that when he was murdered, 
as stated on page 50, which took place April 11, 1779, 
a son named Samuel met the same fate. Zebulon, 
another son, was made prisoner, but escaped from his 
captors while they were engaged in plundering the 
house. John, a third son of Jacob Dunham, fell with 
Capt. Woodworth, in Fairfield. — Hon. John Dunham, 
of Wells, N. Y., a son of Ebenezer Dunham, and 
grandson of Jacob Dunham, above named. 



CHAPTER IV. 

Very little is known of Nicholas Stoner's boyhood, 
but from his propensity in riper years we may suppose, 
that if he did not play off some wild pranks, it was 
only for the want of a butt. With perceptions na- 
turally quick, his city life afforded him a fine school 
for the study of human nature as developed in the 
actions of men; but the transition at so early an age 
to sylvan shades, where, instead of artificial objects 
he might behold nature by the pencil of God adorned, 
was genial to his untamed spirit, and he was soon 
fitted to enjoy to the fullest extent the life of a wood- 
man: finding music in the scream of the panther, 
growl of the bear and bay of the wolf. 

When a cry from the Boston Cr a die announced that 
the infant Liberty was about to be strangled by its 
pretended nurse; the Gray Forest Eagle, 

" An emblem of freedom, stern, haughty and high," 

having plumed his broad wing for a heliocentric 
flight, was up — 

" And away like a spirit wreathed in light," 

he fluttered over the land of his choice, until he aroused 
the patriotism not only of the indweller of city and 
village, but of him, who, though isolated his home, 
could appreciate untrammeled thought and act. 



56 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

The first two years of the war of Independence, the 
pioneer inhabitants of New York enjoyed comparative 
tranquillity; for the swift-footed Indian had not fully 
determined to raise the hatchet of death against un- 
offending innocence, in a quarrel that did not directly 
concern him, and crimson the altar of domestic hap- 
piness for the golden calf royalty had set up: but 
as the portending storm lowered, and it became known 
that the red man, having sharpened his scalping knife 
and participated in the war dance of his nation, was 
then on his way to the frontiers; exposed settlers who 
were inclined to look with favor on the acts of those 
who were raising an arm of rebellion along the sea- 
board, found it necessary to remove to thickly peopled 
neighborhoods. Accordingly, the families making up 
the small and scattered settlement of Fonda's Bush, 
except that of Helmer and Putman, removed early in 
the summer of 1777, to Johnstown : soon after which 
Nicholas Stoner went to reside with the Fisher bro- 
thers in the Mohawk valley.* Living with patriots, 

* John and Harmanus Fisher. They resided at that period 
where the Hon. Jesse D. DeGroff now resides, between the vil- 
lages of Fonda and Amsterdam, and were both killed and scalped 
by the Indians and tories in the summer of 1780; at which time 
the former was a captain and the latter a lieutenant of militia. 
Col. Frederick Fisher (or Visscher, as he wrote his name in the 
latter part of his life), a third brother, chanced to be there at the 
time, and was scalped and left for dead, but recovered and lived 
many years. For a more particular account of the Fisher family 
and their sufferings, see my Border Wars of New York. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 57 

although a lad of only 14 or 15 summers, it is not sur- 
prising that young Stoner, who had been properly 
schooled at home as the removal of the family indicates, 
should have imbibed the spirit which throbbed in older 
hearts, and been ready to stand or fall with the com- 
mon cause of his country. 

Visiting his friends in Johnstown in the summer of 
1777, at which time it had become a military post, 
Nicholas, for whose ear martial music had peculiar 
charms, needed but little persuasion to become a sol- 
dier, and enlisted as a lifer into a company of New 
York troops, commanded by captain Timothy Hughes. 
Not long after his brother John, a mere boy, enlisted 
under Capt. Wright. Captain W. had been a British 
drum-major previous to the Revolution, and being 
pleased with John, undertook to perfect him in the 
art of jlammadiddles and paddadiddles — in other words, 
in the ability to make a world of noise in a scientific 
manner. Henry Stoner, imitating the example of his 
boys, soon after enlisted under Capt. Robersham for a 
term of three years. The father and sons were all in 
the same regiment, so that they not only saw each 
other almost daily, but the former could to some little 
extent, still exercise the duties of a parent. The re- 
giment alluded to was commanded by Col. James 
Livingston, of which Richard Livingston was lieuten- 
ant-colonel, and Abraham Livingston captain; the 
three Livingstons being brothers. In August 1777, 
the troops under Col. Livingston joined the army of 



58 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Gen. Arnold, while on its way up the Mohawk valley, 
to succor Col. Gansevoort at Fort Stanwix. Among 
the patriotic rangers who left Johnstown at this time 
was Jacob Shew, who is still living. 

Nicholas Stoner saw the spy, Han Yost Schuyler, 
who was captured at Shoemaker's place (where Spen- 
cer now lives, at the upper end of Mohawk village), 
set out on his mission to excite the fears of the enemy, 
and thus save his own neck from a halter.* Boats 

* This Han Yost (John Joseph) Schuyler and Walter Butler 
were fortunately made prisoners near Fort Dayton, about the 
time of Arnold's arrival at that post. Butler was sent down to 
Albany as a prisoner. Schuyler had entered the Mohawk valley 
as a spy — was tried by court-martial and sentenced to be hung, his 
coffin being made ready to receive his remains. Gen. Arnold 
thought to turn his life to more profitable account than his death, 
and agreed to spare him on condition that he would enter the camp 
of St. Ledger, and by an exaggerated account of the forces ad- 
vancing under his command, thus contribute towards raising the 
siege of Fort Stanwix, then called Fort Schuyler. Schuyler 
accepted the terms for his life; and his brother Nicholas was 
retained as a hostage, to suffer in his stead in case of a noncompli- 
ance. Han Yost entered the enemy's lines, and his known fidelity 
to their cause gave his representation of Arnold's forces no little 
weight. Probably Schuyler had been sent below to learn whether 
American troops were approaching. The camp was thrown into 
confusion, and it was resolved to raise the siege. Several shrewd 
Oneidas friendly to the American cause were in the secret, and ere 
St. Ledger began his retrograde movement, one of them dropped 
into the camp as if by chance. He was interrogated as to his 
knowledge of the approaching Yankees, and replied mysteriously, 
but in a manner to inspire awe. " Are the Yankees numerous?" 
inquired a tory officer. The Indian pointing to the surrounding 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 59 

laden with provisions were taken up the Mohawk, 
guarded by troops along the shore. As they drew 
near the theatre of the brave Herkimer's disasters, 
evidences of the terrible onslaught at Oriskany met 
them. 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 putrefaction, lay their supposed owner. 
In the grass a little way from the shore, lay agenteely 
dressed man without coat or hat, who it was supposed 
had made his way there to obtain drink. A black 
silk handkerchief encircled his once aching head. 
John Clark, a sergeant, loosened it, but the hair ad- 
forest replied by asking — " Can Oneida count the leaves? Can 
white man count the stars? 11 The siege was precipitately aban- 
doned, and agreeably to arrangement another and another Oneida 
entered the ranks of the foe to add their enigmatic testimony to 
that of the first. The stratagem succeeded to a charm ; and find- 
ing opportunity to return to the army of Arnold, and thence to 
Fort Dayton, Schuyler saw his brother set free and went back to 
Canada. Subsequent to the war, Schuyler returned to Herkimer 
county where he died. Facts from John Roof, who was on duty 
at Fort Dayton, and saw the coffin made for Schuyler, and who 
was familiar with the circumstances which led to his arrest and 
novel liberation; corroborated by John Dockstader, of Herkimer, 
Says the latter, this Schuyler had a brother and two sisters, whc^ 
were carried captive to Canada in the French war, and were re- 
tained there until it closed. Herkimer, then called- the Palatine 1 **. 
village, was invaded by the French and Indians in November., 
1757, its dwellings, grain, mills, etc., destroyed by fire, and its 
inhabitants mostly slain or carried into captivity 5 as we may show, 
at some future day. 



60 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

hered to it on its removal, and he left the prize. He 
took from his feet a pair of silver shoe-buckles. His 
legs were so swollen, that his deer-skin breeches were 
rent from top to bottom. Nine dead bodies lay across 
the road, disposed in regular order, as was imagined, 
by the Indians after their death. The stench was so 
great that the Americans could not discharge the last 
debt due their heroic countrymen, and their bones 
were soon after bleaching upon the ground. A little 
farther on an Indian was seen hanging to the limb of 
a tree by the heels. He was suspended with the traces 
of a harness from a baggage w T agon by the Americans, 
as believed, after death. Col. St. Ledger having made 
a flying retreat towards Canada, Gen. Arnold, after 
giving his troops time to rest, left Fort Stanwix and 
returned with his command to the army of Gen. Gates 
near Stillwater. 

At some period subsequent to the action of September 
] 9th, in which Gen. Arnold was by many thought the 
master spirit of the American officers engaged, an 
altercation took place between him and Gen. Gates, 
supposed by some on account of envy entertained to- 
wards the former, either by Gen. Wilkinson or Gen. 
Gates, and possibly both,* which resulted in his being 
deprived of his command. Consequently, in the san- 
guinary battle which took place on Bemis's Heights, 
October 7th, Gen. Arnold had no authority for the 
glorious deeds he there performed. Towards evening 

* See Neilson's Burgoyne's Campaign, page 150. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 63 

of that day, that daring chief led a body o^ troops into 
the very heart of the Hessian camp; carrying dismay 
along the whole British line. In this impetuous onset 
he w r as shot through the leg,* and would to God the 
ball had passed through his heart; and that that fear- 
less and reckless leader, who, up to that hour had 
been one of Liberty's boldest champions, could have 
sealed with his life-blood his former deeds of glory! 
Yes, would to God that that brave general, who had 
faced his country's foes on the snow-clad plains of 
Abraham, and been a companion in peril of the gal- 
lant, warm-hearted Montgomery, could now have 
found a grave on those heights, where his own blood 
had mingled with that of the foeman ! But alas ! alas ! 
a sombre destiny awaited him. 

Among the death-daring spirits who followed Ar- 
nold to the Hessian camp, was Nicholas Stoner, and 
near the enemy's works he was wounded in a singular 
manner. A cannon shot from the breastwork killed a 
soldier near Stoner, named Tyrrell. The ball de- 
molished his head, sending: its fragments into the face 
of Stoner, which was literally covered with brains, 
hair and fragments of the skull. He fell senseless, 
with the right of his head about the ear severely cut 

* A wounded Hessian fired on Arnold, and John Redman, a vo- 
lunteer, ran up to bayonet him, but was prevented by his general, 
who exclaimed, " He's a fine fellow — don't hurt him! 11 The 
Hessians continued to fight after they were down, because they 
had been told by their employers that the Americans would give no 
quarters . — Stoner. 

6 



62 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

by portions of the skull bone, which injury still affects 
his hearing in that ear. Shortly after, as the young 
fifer was missing, one Sweeney, an Irish soldier, was 
sent to seek out and bear him from the field ; but a 
cannon shot whizzed so near his own head, that he 
soon returned without the object of his search. Col. 
Livingston asked Sweeney where the lad Stoner was? 
" Ja — s! colonel," replied the soldier, " a goose has 
laid an egg there, and you don't catch me to stay 
there !" Lieut. William Wallace then proceeded to the 
spot indicated by the Irishman, and found our hero 
with his head reclining upon Tyrrell's thigh, and taking 
him in his arms, bore him to the American camp. 
W T hen young Stoner was found, a portion of the brim 
of his hat, say about one-fourth the size of a nine-pound 
shot, was observed to have been cut off very smoothly, 
the rest of it was covered with the ruins of the head 
of Tyrrell, who, to use the words of Stoner, did not 
know what hurt him. 

Peter Graff, from Switzer Hill, and Peter Conyne 
also from the vicinity of Caughnawaga, were at the 
American camp as teamsters on the day of this bat- 
tle, and served as volunteers among the troops led on 
by Arnold. Conyne having raised a gun to fire on 
the enemy, received a bullet in his arm and breast. 
Young Stoner and Conyne were taken from Stillwater 
to Albany in a boat with other wounded Americans. 
Col. Frederick Fisher chanced to be in that city when 
they arrived, and took Stoner home with him, from 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 63 

whence he carried him to Johnstown. He was under 
the care of Dr. Thomas Reed, a surgeon in Livingston's 
regiment, and Avas cured. Conyne also recovered. 

In the summer of 1778, the three Stoners were all 
on duty in Rhode Island. In an engagement with 
the enemy while there, the father was wounded by a 
musket ball, which lodged in his head. He was sent 
to Providence, where he was trepanned, and recovered. 
A piece of silver placed over the w r ound, it was be- 
lieved, the Indians who afterwards killed and scalped 
him, obtained with their plunder. The relic (an 
ounce ball), was preserved by the wounded man, but 
was lost when his dwelling was burnt by the hirelings 
of Britain. 1 

While the Stoners were serving in Rhode Island, 
the following incident occurred in the American camp. 
Two soldiers, Williams a Yankee, and Cumming an 
Irishman, had a quarrel, in which the former gave the 
latter a severe flogging. To revenge his chagrin, the 
worsted combatant took a shirt from his own knap- 
sack, and placed it in that of Williams, to give it 
the appearance of having been stolen, in the hope of 
seeing the latter punished. The officers found it ne- 
cessary to use severe measures for petty theft, as it 
was of very frequent occurrence. The missing gar- 
ment of Cumming having been found in Williams's 
possession, the latter was tied up with his coat off to 
be. whipped. The son of Erin, conscience stricken, 
then advanced into the ring, and drew off his coat to 



64 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

take the lash. He said he had received one licking 
from Williams, and although he had used stratagem 
to get him publicly flogged, he would rather receive 
the scorpion-tailed cat himself, than see a man pun- 
ished for a crime of which he was not guilty. So 
manly a confession on the part of Cumming, excited 
the admiration of the Rev. John Greenough, a baptist 
minister, and chaplain of the regiment, who interceded 
with Col. Livingston, and he readily forgave them 
both. 

The Americans had several skirmishes with the 
enemy in Rhode Island, in the summer and autumn of 
1778, in two of which Nicholas Stoner was engaged. 
Capt. Hughes was out one night with his command 
as a piquet guard on Poppasquash point, opposite 
Bristol. The troops having been observed before dark 
by a British vessel in the vicinity, a body of marines 
and grenadiers landed and made them prisoners. The 
enemy having gained the beach in boats, came round 
a salt marsh which was separated from a corn field by 
a stone wall. Capt. Hughes and his men were on the 
marsh side of the wall, and fired on the marines as 
they approached. The latter called to them not to 
fire, saying, " we are your own men." As they drew 
near, their white belts betrayed them however, and 
the Americans attempted their retreat. In endeavoring 
to leap the wall, our hero missed his footing and fell 
back, at which instant he was seized by the collar by 
a British grenadier named John McGaffee. At this 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 65 

instant another soldier raised his musket to strike him 
down, but was prevented by McGafFee, who exclaimed, 
" Vast, shipmate, it is only a child." Daniel Basin, 
a Frenchman, who was leaping the wall near Stoner, 
was bayoneted and killed. Capt. Hughes and all his 
men were made prisoners, except the one killed, and 
two who were missing, supposed to have scaled the 
fence and escaped; and as the American army was 
near, they were hurried into the boats and taken to 
Conanicut island. While crossing the marsh to the 
boats, the young fifer thought it was best to secure 
the rum in his canteen, and accordingly took a long 
gurgling swig, which was broken off by McGaffee, 
w T ho claimed a share, as being his by the fortune of 
war, and he gave the finishing guzzle. As they 
neared the beach, Stoner threw the empty casket away. 
An officer hearing it strike the water, raised his sword 
to punish, as he supposed, an act of treachery, think- 
ing a prisoner had cast a cartridge-box from him, but 
McGaffee, with his tongue now oiled, again inter- 
posed, and observed that the boy had only thrown away 
an empty and valueless canteen. 

At daylight the prisoners were paraded and lodged 
in the enemy's prison on the island. When aroused 
by the morning roll-call, young Stoner, who had been 
wofully drunk, from his attempt to swallow the contents 
of his own flask the evening before, and whose brain 
w T as still broiling from the effects of the potation, started 

up, supposing at first he was required to play the re- 

6* 



66 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

veille in the American camp, but he was soon brought 
to his senses, and to a situation in which he could 
get sober at his leisure; in other words, he learned 
that others were to pipe while he danced. John Stoner 
was at this time a drummer in the American camp, 
not far distant from where his brother was a prisoner; 
indeed, the spangled banner was floating in sight* 

Gen. Prescott,* the British commander on that sta- 
tion, was captured the summer before Capt. Hughes 
was taken. He had gone to pay his devoirs to a 
buxom widow, at a little distance from his own camp, 
and a slave of the lady found means to communicate 
the fact to the Americans. Lieut-Col. Barton, of the 
Providence militia, an officer of spirit, &t once con- 
ceived the bold project of his capture. At dead of 
night, in a barge, w T ell manned by stout-hearted volun- 
teers with muffled oars, he landed and approached 
the house in which the general was so happily quar- 
tered. Feeling quite secure, he had accepted the kind 
lady's hospitality, and resolved to tarry all night. 
Possibly his arrest was set on foot by the fair hostess, 
for woman often proved the champion of freedom. 

The general was nabbed in a bed-chamber; and 
without allowing the drowsy hero time to collect his 

*At the time Gen. Prescott's capture was noted, it had escaped 
the writer's recollection that an account of it had ever been pub- 
lished; and Stoner's narrative of the event was adopted in the 
first edition, making it a year later than its occurrence. It took 
place July 10, 1777 — five miles from Newport. Col. Barton left 
Warwick Neck with 38 men in two boats, surprised the general 
in bed, and returned with him in safety (Holmes's Annals). 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORE. 67 

scattered thoughts, or the war-god to chase the dreams 
of lore from his mind — or, indeed, what was far more 
uncharitable, time to put on his breeches, he was 
hurried off to the rebel barge. Passing through a 
piece of standing barley, his legs were tickled, as we 
may suppose, not in the most agreeable manner. So 
silently had the Americans arrived, and so brief had 
been their stay, that they were even bending their 
oars for their own camp before the general's guard 
could be mustered. Great was the surprise among 
the British next day, when it became known that their 
general had been spirited away. On being apprised 
of the fact, some of the soldiers were heard to say, 
" The rebels have got the old rascal, and I hope they'll 
kill him! " He was a man some sixty years of age, 
w r as a severe disciplinarian, and not very popular. He 
was exchanged for Gen. Lee — for which object he was 
possibly captured — in April preceding the surprise of 
Capt. Hughes. After several months imprisonment, 
Capt. Hughes and his command were exchanged. 

In the fall of 1778, the several regiments of New 
York state troops having become much reduced, a 
new organization took place, their number being les- 
sened, at which time Nicholas Stoner joined the com- 
pany of Capt. Samuel T. Pell, attached to Col. Cort- 
landt's regiment, which marched to Schenectada. The 
state troops were sent, during the winter months, to 
different frontier stations, and Capt. Pell proceeded to 
Johnstown for winter quarters. 



68 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Small parties of the enemy kept the inhabitants 
along the frontier of New York, in a state of almost 
constant alarm. While stationed at Johnstown Nicho- 
las Stoner often went hunting and fishing with other 
lads, to provide a dainty morsel for some officer, who 
thought more of his palate than of his purse; and con- 
sequently paid liberally for their success. Young 
Stoner, in company with three others, one Charles- 
worth, Charles Darby and JohnFoliard, all nearly of 
the same age, went out with guns and fishing tackle, 
in the vicinity of Johnson Hall. After they had be- 
come busily engaged along the Cayadutta,* all at once 
Darby, without uttering a word, was seen to start as 
if terribly frightened, and run off in the direction of 
the Hall. His comrades soon learned the cause of his 
alarm, by seeing a small party of Indians emerge from 
a patch of hemp not far distant from them, and near 
the Hall barn. One of them fired on Charles worth, 
but the boys scattered, fled and all effected their 
escape. These Indians, or, as probably some of them 
were, tories disguised, had no doubt visited the settle- 
ment as spies, and were anxious to take back a pri- 
soner as a proof of having accomplished their mission. 
They were sure of their reward, if they could return 

* Ca-ya-dut-ta signifies muddy creek, says the Hon. John Dun- 
ham, of Hamilton county, who had the signification from Indian 
hunters. The creek courses in Johnstown through a soil which 
gives to the water at most seasons of the year a dirty appearance ; 
hence the aboriginal name. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 69 

with occular evidence of having visited the place de- 
signated by some British or refugee officer in Canada. 
Thomas Harter, an inoffensive man, nearly seventy 
years old, who resided in Scotch Bush, a few miles 
from Johnson Hall, went to his field, bridle in hand, 
to catch a horse, and was made prisoner and taken to 
Canada, by a small party of the enemy (in the fall of 
1778, or spring of 1779), that did not wish to harm 
him, but were anxious to prove they had been to 
Johnstown. His unaccountable absence from home 
greatly alarmed his family, but their apprehensions 
were softened by a tory neighbor, w 7 ho assured them 
he was alive, but had been taken prisoner as a matter 
of necessity, and would be kindly used. His treat- 
ment was not as cruel as that meted to most prisoners, 
and he lived to return home, to the great joy of his 
friends. 



CHAPTER V. 

Conrad Reed, a baker in New York city, married 
Miss Barbary Stoner, a second sister of Henry Stoner, 
and removed to Johnstown just before the Revolution. 
He dwelt some distance from the fort, but was em- 
ployed to bake for the garrison. When on duty at 
Johnstown, the Stoner boys not unfrequently took 
occasion to visit their uncle's family, but those visits 
were not approved by their father; who knew that 
his kinsman was tinctured with royalty, and he often 
cautioned them against going there. Nicholas called 
there one evening, and had been but a short time in 
the house, when he heard a slight tap upon a window. 
Mr. Reed instantly disappeared through a trap-door 
into the cellar without a candle, and his wife went 
out of the house. There seemed a sprinkling of mys- 
tery in the affair, but it did not excite Stoner's fears, 
and he awaited in silence the issue. After a few 
minutes' absence, his aunt came in having in her hand 
several gaudy handkerchiefs. She appeared rather 
more reserved after the singular interruption of the 
family, and he soon returned to the fort. 

Stoner learned subsequently, that a small party of 
the enemy, one of whom was John Howell, who dwelt 
between Johnstown and Sacondaga, had visited the 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 71 

settlement as spies: that they had seen him through 
the window, and by a tap on a pane of glass, a signal 
she well understood, had called out Mrs. Reed, to con- 
sult her about making him a prisoner. She told them 
that if he was captured there, it would be the ruin of 
their family; for her husband would certainly lose his 
employ as baker for the garrison, if in fact he was not 
imprisoned. They reluctantly withdrew, although 
Howell could hardly consent to let so favorable an 
opportunity pass for securing certain evidence of 
having accomplished their mission. The young fifer 
did not know until long after, how near he had been 
to a Canadian prison. The handkerchiefs left with 
Mrs. Reed were presents, to adorn the necks of several 
tory ladies, whose husbands or lovers were in Canada. 
About a mile from the Johnstown fort (the jail in- 
closed by strong palisades), dwelt Jeremiah Mason, 
whose family was numbered among those in the 
vicinity, as friendly to the cause of liberty. This 
Mason had a daughter named Anna, about the same 
ao-e as our hero; who was a maiden very fair to look 
upon. Nature had given her charming proportions; 
a stature seemly, gracefully jutting out where swell- 
ings were most becoming, and bewitchingly tapering 
where diminution is sought in female form. Her skin 
w r as clear and fair, and her hair and eyes black, the 
latter shaded by raven lashes under the control of 
muscle, that gave to the organs of love a most melting 
expression. 



72 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.' 

Some distance farther from the fort, and on the 
same road as Mason, dwelt a family named Browse; 
the male members of which were in the camp of the 
enemy. At home were Mrs. Browse and two beauti- 
ful daughters. They, too, were in their teens, and 
like Anna Mason, they had sparkling black eyes, ruby 
lips and cherry cheeks. The war of the Revolution 
soon rendered neighboring families distant and formal, 
where they looked with diverse favor upon the acts 
of the contending parties, even though they had been 
intimate before. The resolutions of vigilance com- 
mittees often tended to such a result. 

I have remarked elsewhere, that young Stoner, when 
on duty at Johnstown, went hunting in the proper 
season. His pigeon hunting often gave him an inter- 
view with the young ladies named, and not unfre- 
quently did Anna, as the hunter was about to proceed 
farther from the garrison, with some anxiety and a 
reproving look, cast a caution in his path from her 
father's door, such as " Nicholas, you'll be surprised 
yet at that tory house and taken off to Canada: you 
had better not go there." If the maiden had not con- 
ceived some attachment for the young fifer, the reader 
will agree with me, that she was possessed of sisterly 
feelings. He was then quite partial to Anna, as he 
admits, and we think he must have promised her to 
limit his future excursions to a nearer range, else why 
the caution observed in another visit. 

As the young musician usually hunted in the same 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 73 

direction, it was suspected by more than one at the 
station that he went sky-larking, and James Dunn, 
who was possibly in the secret of his destination, one 
day told Capt. Pell that " if he did not look out he 
would lose his fifer, as he not only went upon- danger- 
ous grounds, but hunted two kinds of pigeons" The 
captain, whose inclinations led him to follow all the 
fortunes of war, took occasion secretly to catechise 
the young hunter; and the latter, with his usual can- 
dor, owned up. The consequence was, the commander 
of the garrison concluded the hunting of pigeons must 
be rare sport, especially if they were not too lean, and 
soon obtained a promise from young Nimrod to take 
him where he could find one nestled. 

Arrangements having been made for a hunt, secretly 

of course, a garment was thrown over the back of an 

old w r hite mare belonging to the widow Shutting, 

which sought its living around the fort; and selecting 

a propitious evening, the hunter and his pupil — under 

cover of a cluster of trees a little distance from the 

garrison, mounted their Rozinante and set off. The 

reader may be surprised that they started on a pigeon 

hunt in the evening, and still more when informed 

that they left their shooting-irons behind; but this is 

all owing to his ignorance of the policy of war, for 

he should know that game is easier taken on the roost 

than on the wing. 

It was the wish of the master hunter to avoid pass- 
ing on their way the house of Jeremiah Mason, and 

7 



74 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

why, possibly the reader may infer; he says himself, 
however, it was from fear a watch-dog might betray 
the nature of their errand and thus startle the best 
game : consequently a blind and circuitous route was 
chosen, some distance from the public highway. 
Whether the animal was too heavily loaded or not, we 
can not judge any better than the reader (sin is said 
to be weighty), but sure it is that in threading an 
intricate footpath carpeted by a web of briars and un- 
derbrush along a ravine, the mare stumbled and wenf 
heels over head, sending her riders far from her, if not 
pell-mell, certainly Pell and Nick. Bestowing some 
harsh epithets upon the poor beast, which probably 
had the worst of the bargain, they did not attempt to 
remount; but leaving the old mare to her fate, they 
proceeded on foot. 

On arriving near the hunting-grounds, Stoner went 
forward to reconnoitre, and finding the coast clear, 
returned and conducted his captain into a neat little 
cottage, with two rooms below, and possibly as many 
above. The ceremony of an introduction once passed, 
the captain soon found himself quite at home. The 
time for retiring to rest at length arrived, and as the 
old hen roosted in the room they were in, it became 
necessary for the hunters to leave it: consequently the 
hunter most familiar with the premises, followed the 
pullet in its flight to a chamber. The other bird soon 
after fluttered past the captain into an adjoining room, 
whither he pursued possibly to capture it. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 75 

I do not consider it important to the present narra- 
tive to stop and inquire of an ornithologist, 

" If birds confabulate or no: 

'Tis clear that they were always able 

To hold discourse, at least in fable;" 

and that the genus columba, 

Soon are cooing when together 
If they meet in coolish weather, 

is a fact so well established, it must be obvious to the 
reader that pigeon hunting may be rare sport. Some 
time after the beautiful birds under consideration had 
flown to separate rooms, into which we can not think 
of introducing the reader, as the cooing w r as done 
agreeably to the most approved style then in vogue in 
western New T York, the loud barking of Mason's dog 
fell upon the ears of the hunter closeted above. His 
apprehension was in a moment on tiptoe; for to be 
surprised by a party of the enemy and either slain or 
captured with his captain in such a place and at such 
an hour, without their having the least means of de- 
fence, he readily saw must bring scandal if not dis- 
honor upon the American arms; and he descended 
(although his bird attempted with a delicate little 
claw to prevent) to take a midnight observation. 

It turned out that Mason's sentinel was barking at 
the old mare the hunters had abandoned. Having 
collected her scattered limbs, she too had concluded to 
go browsing, and was, as the reader will perceive, on 
the right track. On the return of his pioneer, the 



76 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

captain was gratified to learn that there was no real 
cause of alarm, and pigeon hunting soon prospered 
again. Towards the dawn of day the sportsmen re- 
turned to the garrison; Capt. Pell exacting from his 
musician the most solemn assurances of secresy re- 
specting his successful and only attempt at fowling 
among the Browse, until he should meet with me. 

The female and infant part of many families in the 
border settlements of New York, whose male members 
were foes of the country, removed about this period to 
Canada, among which was this Brow T se family; and 
such others as did not go voluntarily, w r ere compelled 
to by an act of the state legislature soon after. 

In the summer and autumn of 1780, Nicholas Stoner 
was on duty in the valley of the Hudson. He was a 
filer of the guard at Tappan, which attended Major 
Andre from his prison to his gallows; and witnessed 
the execution of that unfortunate man. The gallows 
was constructed, as he says, by the erection of two 
white oak crotches, w T ith a cross-piece of the same 
kind of timber, all w T ith the bark on. Not far from 
the gallows was an old woman selling pies, to w T hom 
Stoner directed his steps. He met at her stand Elijah 
Cheadle, then a stranger to him. They paid this 
huckstress $100 in continental money, for either an 
apple pie, or pumpkin pie, which at first she declined 
receiving: she finally concluded to take it, observing 
as she did so, " My children, the pie is w T orth more 
than the money, but I will take it that I may be able 



TRAPFERS OF NEW-YORK. 77 

to say, I sold a pie for one hundred dollars.' 9 '' Mr. 
Cheadle settled at Kingsborough after the war, where 
he resided at the time of his death, Sept. 23, 1849. 

While stationed at Snake Hill, near the Hudson, 
young Stoner's inclination to mischief procured for 
him a duplicate flogging. There was daily about the 
camp a boy named Albright, who had been so un- 
fortunate as to lose an eye. Stoner, inclined to be 
waggish with all, procured the eye of a beef butchered 
in the neighborhood, and offering it to Albright, said 
to him, " Here, take this and you will then have two 
eyes and be somebody." The boy complained to his 
mother, an Irish woman, who, stating the matter to 
the commanding officer, had the satisfaction of know- 
ing that he was punished for treating her son so un- 
kindly. Stoner did not relish the interference of the 
mother, as the boy was about his own age, and began 
to puzzle his wits for some method of retaliation. A 
soldier's agent is powder, although he may be a fifer, 
and loading an ugly looking bone with the dangerous 
dust, he watched a favorable opportunity when she 
was near his tent, and applied the match to it. The 
explosion was greater than he had anticipated, and 
the scattering fragments not only tore the old woman's 
petticoats, but severely wounded her arm. Although 
he had improved a most promising occasion to avoid 
detection, yet some trivial incident betrayed Stoner as 
the artillerist, and he was very severely whipped for 

the act. He was served rightly no doubt. 

7* 



78 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

In the fall of 1781, Nicholas Stoner was on duty at 
Yorktown, and when the seige of that place closed, he 
saw Gen. O'Hara surrender his sword to Gen. Lincoln.* 

A part of the time while at Yorktown, our hero 
was a fifer under the noble-hearted Lafayette. One 

* Several errors have crept into history about this ceremony. 
The facts were as follows: In May, 1780, Gen. Lincoln, then in 
command at Charleston, S. C, was compelled to surrender his 
sword to Cornwallis. When his lordship found himself obliged to 
yield to the allied army, he knew that Lincoln, who was his 
equal in rank, was with the conquerors, and as the terms now 
meted to him were precisely like those dictated to Lincoln, he 
possibly may have conjectured that that officer would be designated 
by the great American commander to receive his own polished 
blade. Be that as it may, certain it is that instead of appearing 
on the occasion, as a man of real courage and generosity would 
have done (for that officer lacks moral courage who can not share 
defeat with his men), he feigned illness and sent Gen. O'Hara to 
do the disagreeable honors ; and that officer very handsomely per- 
formed the ceremony of tendering his sword to Gen. Lincoln, who 
was appointed by Washington to receive it. Capt. Eben Wil- 
liams,* who was present assured the writer, that Lincoln received, 
reversed, and again restored the hilt of the weapon to its owner, 
with a dignity and grace of gesture he could never forget, for he 
had never seen it equalled. Several persons who witnessed this 
ceremony have corroborated what I have here stated, and an old 
soldier (James Williamson), who received half the British stand- 
ards, to the question, why did not Cornwallis surrender his own 
sword? replied, " / guess he was a little sick at his stomach!' 1 '' 

In a picture intended to represent this scene, and but recently 
got up, Gen. Washington erroneously appears in the act of re- 
ceiving the resignation from O'Hara, the latter being on foot. The 

* This hero died at his residence in Schoharie, July 1, 1847, aged nearly 98 
years. He was beloved by all who knew him. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 7& 

Darby, a fifer, having been killed, Stoner was sent as 
a substitute to Gen. Lafayette's troops. 

Mr. Nicholas Hill, a worthy and intelligent citizen 
of Florida, N. Y., was also at Yorktown during its 
seige, as a young musician. He informed the writer, 
at an interview in the summer of 1846, that the firing 
on the British works did not take place until the 
Americans had completed a line of redoubts and bomb 
batteries, so as to play on the greater part of the ene- 
my's fortifications at once. The allied army had raised 
a liberty pole, and the signal to commence an assault 
was given in the evening, by a hand-grenade sent up 
near the liberty pole, attached to a sky-rocket. The 
gunners stood ready with linstocks on fire, and as soon 
as the grenade exploded in the air, they were applied 
to the cannon. (Dr. Thatcher, in his Military Jour- 
nal, says Gen. Washington applied the first match.) 
The simultaneous discharge of such an array of ord- 
nance, was perhaps never heard before; and nothing 

general officers present, American, French and British, as several 
witnesses have assured the writer, were all mounted. The pic- 
ture of this scene by Trumbull, a beautiful steel copy of which is 
made the fontispiece of Howe's Historical Collections of Virginia, 
although painted soon after, presents the British general trudging 
along on foot, and without side arms*, while Dr. Thatcher, in his 
Military Journal, made at the time and published long since, 
stated that he was elegantly mounted. Col. Abercrombie, who 
commanded the left wing of the British army on this occasion, 
was also on horseback. It is to be regretted that more care is not 
taken in preparing historical pictures, lest truth be violated, and 
the young taught popular errors never to be corrected. 



80 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

could in the night exceed the sublimity of the con- 
cussion. To use the language of Mr. Hill, "It seemed 
as though the world was at an end — or that the heavens 
and the earth were coming together J" It must have 
been the most magnificent salute ever before given in 
America. After the first discharge the firing con- 
tinued as fast as the pieces could be loaded. 

At some period of this seige, Mr. Hill was so for- 
tunate as to obtain eleven guineas from the pocket of 
a dead Briton. " While this money lasted," says 
Stoner, " we who were so fortunate as to have the 
pleasure of his acquaintance, lived like fighting cocks." 

The British prisoners made at Yorktown, were sent 
to interior military posts; and Col. Cortlandt's regi- 
ment, to which Nicholas Stoner belonged, on its re- 
turn march took five hundred prisoners, destined for 
Fredericksburg, in charge for some distance. While 
the troops were crossing at a ferry, probably York or 
Rappahannoc river, Stoner saw a French officer drop 
his purse, and lost no time in restoring it to the owner. 
The officer grateful for its recovery, although he had 
not yet missed it, rewarded him with a half doubloon 
($8), numerous bows, and not a few expressions of re- 
gard, such as — " You pe a grand poy! You pe bon 
honest American ! You pe a ver fine soldier, be gar ! " 
and the like. The reception of this money, obtained 
through the generosity of a kind hearted stranger, for 
an evidence of commendable integrity, afforded young 
Stoner more pleasure, as he assured the writer, than 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 81 

could possibly the whole amount the purse contained, 
had he dishonestly kept it; for to retain that which we 
know another has lost, is almost as great a crime as 
to purloin it either by stealth or force; and a "con- 
science void of offence," allows its possessor to sleep 
soundly and have pleasant dreams. The young musi- 
cian had many friends while his eight dollars lasted, 
for come easy, go easy, was the soldier's motto. 

Henry Stoner, as elsewhere stated, enlisted for a 
term of three years, in the American army. At the 
expiration of that time he received his discharge at 
Verplanck's point, soon- after which he reenlisted at 
Groton, for three months, to fill another man's place. 
After the time of his second military engagement was 
up, he returned home. For about one year he lived 
on the farm of Col. John Butler, on Switzer hill, from 
which he went to reside near Tribe's hill, not far dis- 
tant from Fort Johnson. The farm to which he re- 
moved from Butler's, is now in the town of Amster- 
dam, and was long known as the Dr. Quilhott place: 
the late John Putman, if we mistake not, was residing 
on this farm at the time of his death. 

In the summer of 1782, a party of seven Indians 
traversed the forest from Canada to the Mohawk val- 
ley, the ostensible object of whose mission was to 
capture or destroy William Harper, afterwards judge 
(he resided for some years in Queen Anne's chapel 
parsonage), John Littel, afterwards sheriff, and such 
others as chance might throw in their way. Arriving 



82 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORE. 

at the house of Dries* Bowman, to the eastward of 
Johnstown, the hostile scout learned that Henry Stoner 
was a whig of the times; that he had two sons then 
in the American army, and that he was living in a 
situation from its retirement, exposed to their mercenary 
designs. Thwarted in their original plan, they direct- 
ed their steps, piloted by Bowman, to the dwelling of 
Stoner, and on their way captured a man by the name 
of Palmatier. 

Unsuspicious of danger, Mr, Stoner, accompanied 
by a nephew named Michael Reed (son of Conrad 
Reed), went early one morning to a field to hoe corn; 
it was the first hoeing for the season. Mrs. Stoner 
having prepared breakfast, blew a horn to call her 
friends, and they were about to leave the corn-field, 
as young Reed, a lad then in his teens, discovered 
two Indians armed with hatchets approaching them 
from adjoining woods, and directed the attention of 
his kinsman that way. The latter, w r ho kept a loaded 
gun in his house, attempted to gain it by flight, seeing 
which, one of his foes ran so as to cut off his retreat. 
While making an angle in the road, the savage headed 
him, by crossing a piece of growing flax. 

Whether the victim offered to surrender himself a 
prisoner to the British scalper, is not known; it is 
very probable he did; but the cry of mercy was un- 
heeded, and the assassin's keen edged tomahawk de- 
scended with a crash, through an old fashioned beaver 

* Dries is an abbreviation for Andreas, the German of Andrew. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 83 

hat and what resistance the skull offered, and pene- 
trated the brain. The scalping knife was quickly 
unsheathed, and several fingers of a hand the stricken 
patriot had laid imploringly upon his aching forehead, 
were nearly cut off with the scalp lock— the merchan- 
dise that would then most readily command British 
gold. Some of the Indians now ran to the dwelling, 
which was soon rifled of its most valuable contents, 
and set on fire. As they approached, Mrs. Stoner dis- 
covered them near the door, and snatching up a frock, 
threw it out of a back window which was open. The 
enemy lingered sufficiently long to secure what plun- 
der they desired, and see the house so effectually on 
fire as to ensure its destruction, and then directed 
their course towards Canada. No personal injury 
was offered Mrs. Stoner, and soon after the destructives 
had retired, she obtained the dress cast from the win- 
dow, the only article she was enabled to save, and 
went to the house of John Harman, a neighbor, sup- 
posing her husband and young Reed were prisoners. 

Bowman aided the prisoners in carrying their plun- 
der to a secret hiding place, near the Sacondaga, 
where, beside a log, they had concealed food. Pal- 
matier effected his escape on the first night after his 
capture, to the great joy of his friends; and the feigned 
prisoner, Bowman, was allowed to return home the 
night following, From their secret rendezvous, near 
the present village of Northville, the party journeyed 
with their captive Reed, by the northerly route to 



84 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Canada, where he became a drummer in Butler's Ran- 
gers and remained until the war closed. 

Harman, after the arrival of Mrs. Stoner at his 
house, suspected Bowman of treachery, and made 
known his suspicions to some of his neighbors, who 
went with him to Stoner's premises. Going from the 
ruins of his house to the corn field, they found him 
where he had been cut down, in or near the road. 
He was still alive, and although unable to speak, sig- 
nified by signs, his desire for water, which was pro- 
cured in a hat as soon as possible; but on drinking a 
draught he expired immediately. He was buried be- 
neath a hemlock tree, near which he had been slain. 
Thus ignobly perished a brave man, who with scores 
of other citizens on the frontiers, of all ages, sexes, 
and conditions, found an untimely grave, because the 
evidence of their destruction would command a liberal 
price in the camp of the enemy. English freemen, 
where is thy blush? Where is thy shame for the 
deeds of hellish cruelty inflicted by thy hirelings, not 
only on brave men, but on unoffending mothers and 
smiling infants? Liberty purchased at such a price, 
oh, with what jealousy should it be guarded! 

When Palmatier returned and made it known that 
Bowman had aided the Indians in carrying their stolen 
goods, the latter was arrested by patriots and confined 
in the Johnstown jail, then fortified. A party of 
whigs, among whom were Godfrey Shew and his son 
Henry, John Harman, James Dunn and Benjamin 



'trappers OF NEW YORK. 85 

DeLine,* assembled, fully determined to make Bowman 
confess his evil deeds. Among other devices resorted 
to, to make the tory disclose the information desired, 
a rope was thrown round some fastening overhead 
with a noose upon his neck; and he was required to 
mount a barrel. But he was interrogated and threat- 
ened in vain; and after the patience of his accusers 
was well nigh exhausted, Dunn, who partook largely 
of the patriotic spirit of the times, swore he should 
hang; and kicking the barrel from under him he did 
hang — or rather stood very uncomfortably upon air 
for a little time ; but was finally taken dow r n, and with 
various warnings about his future conduct, was again 
allowed his freedom. 

At the time of his father's death, Nicholas Stoner 
was on duty at King's Ferry. 

* At the time of Sir John Johnson's invasion of Johnstown and 
its vicinity in the summer of 17S0, DeLine and Joseph Scott were 
living in Johnson Hall. When Johnson visited there to procure 
his concealed property, DeLine and Scott were made prisoners 
and taken to Canada. From his having been a hunter and fa- 
miliar with the forest, DeLine was tightly hound. This was the 
second time they were taken to Canada during tne war, and how 
long they remained prisoners there at this time is unknown to 
the writer. James Jones of Florida composed the following 
distich, which was often sounded in their ears after the war : 

And when they came to the Hall, the house they did surround, 
And Ben De Line and Joseph Scott made prisoners on the ground 



8 



CHAPTER VI. 

John, a son of Philip Helmer, named as one of the 
pioneer settlers in Fonda's Bush, who remained there 
after his patriotic neighbors had removed to Johns- 
town, accompanied Sir John Johnson to Canada on 
his removal from Johnson Hall, early in the Revolu- 
tion. Returning to the settlement not long after, he 
became an object of suspicion; was arrested by the 
patriots, and confined at Johnstown. A sentinel was 
placed over him who was very green in the service, 
and improving a favorable opportunity, the prisoner 
took occasion to praise his gun; and closed his adula- 
tion by requesting permission to look at it, which was 
readily granted. The piece had hardly passed out of 
the young guard's possession, ere his authority was 
set at defiance, and its new owner took it to a place of 
retirement to inspect its merits; which were not fully 
decided upon until he had safely arrived in Canada. 

At a later period of the war, young Helmer again 
had the audacity to visit the Johnstown settlements. 
He returned late in the fall, and was concealed at his 
father's house for some time, intending on the return 
of spring, if possible, to take back some recruits with 
him for the British service. The nonintercourse so 
generally observed between whig and tory families 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YOKE. 87 

favored his design, but by some means his place of 
refuge became known to three patriotic neighbors, 
Benjamin DeLine, Solomon Wood worth and Henry 
Shew, who determined on his capture. Well armed, 
they proceeded one night to the vicinity of his father's 
dwelling, and concealed themselves at a place where 
they had reason to suppose he would pass. They had 
not been there long when, unsuspicious of danger, he 
approached the trio, who poised their fire-arms and he 
yielded to their authority, and was lodged in the Johns- 
town jail. The entrance to the fort through the pick- 
eted enclosure, was on the south side. 

Helmer had a sister named Magdalene, the Germans 
call the name Lana, by this name she was known. 
Miss Lana was on intimate terms with a soldier then 
on duty at the Johnstown fort; and at an interview 
with him after one of several visits to her brother, to 
whom she carried such little comforts as a sister can 
provide, she got a pledge from him, that when on 
sentinel duty he would unlock the prison door and set 
the prisoner free. It was in the night time and while 
his vigils lasted, that she had found access to the pri- 
soner. True to his promise, Lana's lover did set her 
brother at liberty, and, with another soldier, was se- 
duced from his duty by the prisoner, when both fled in 
his company. When she mills it, what can not wo- 
man do? A sergeant and five men, Amasa Stevens, 
Benjamin DeLine, before named, and three continental 
soldiers were soon upon their trail, which they were 



88 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

enabled to follow by the fall of a light snow, and taking 
with them a lantern that they might travel by night, 
they came up with and surprised them in the woods. 
The two soldiers were fired upon and killed, but Hel- 
mer, with a severe bayonet wound in his thigh es- 
caped: he was afterwards discovered nearly dead, in 
some bushes where he had concealed himself, and was 
taken to the fort: there he was cured of his wounds 
and again imprisoned. By some unaccountable means 
he succeeded the third time in effecting his enlarge- 
ment; fled to Canada, and there remained. He, too, 
had been a hunter before the war, and was familiar 
with the forest. A part of the preceding facts were 
from Jacob Shew. At an interview between Helmer 
and Nicholas Stoner, which took place in Canada 
subsequent to the war, he told the latter that he suf- 
fered almost incredible hardships in making his last 
journey to that country. 

In the last year of the Revolution, Nicholas Stoner 
belonged to a band of musicians, which marched into 
New York with troops under Col. Willett, on its 
evacuation by the enemy. He played the clarionet, 
as did also Nicholas Hill. During the stay of Gen. 
Washington in that city, an exhibition of fire-works 
took place, on which occasion the band alluded to 
performed. Stoner also saw Washington enter the 
barge at Whitehall on his leaving New York; and to 
use his own words, was one of the band that played 
him off. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 89 

Mischief lurked in the veins of young Stoner to the 
end of the war, and often brought him into difficulty, 
from which fortune sometimes extricated him quite as 
easily as he deserved to be. The summer of 1783, 
was one of comparative inactivity in the army, as 
hostilities had nearly ceased that spring. Stoner was 
with a body of troops which were encamped back of 
Newburgh, when a little incident occurred which 
afforded some momentary amusement. In the camp 
was a black soldier, who had frozen off his toes while 
under Col. Willett the preceding February, in his 
abortive attack on Fort Oswego. In consequence, the 
poor fellow experienced such difficulty in walking, 
that few could observe his peculiar gait, without 
having their risible faculties get the mastery. 

As he was waddling along near the young musician, 
the latter called him a stool-pigeon. The words were 
scarcely uttered, ere the sable patriot, who felt the in- 
sult sensibly, pursued the offender, armed with a bay- 
onet, threatening vengeance. A clarionet was a poor 
weapon with which to repel an attack, and its pos- 
sessor fled for dear life, and took refuge in the hut of 
Lieutenant-Col. Cochrane, who was then entertaining 
several friends. So abrupt an entrance started all to 
their feet, little doubting that the enemy from New 
York were upon them: but fears of an invasion were 
soon at an end, as close upon the heels of Stoner came 
tumbling in the infuriated, frost-bitten hero. What's 

the matter ? What has happened ? What means this 

8* 



90 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

intrusion? several voices were at once demanding as 
the last enterer, almost out of breath, stammered out — 
" Massa curnil ! dis deblish musiker, he 'suit me berry- 
bad; I'm lame, can't help it; froze my feet, like to 
froze my body too: all under Curnil Will't in de bush; 
snow knee deep: dis rascal call me tool pigeon ; I no 
stand it." 

" I comprehend," said Col. Cochrane: "you have 
been very unfortunate while in the service of your 
country, and it grieves you, as well it should, to have 
any one speak lightly of your misfortunes." 

"Eezzur!" 

" Well, my good fellow, leave the matter to me, 
and go to your quarters: I'll punish the impudent 
rascal." 

" Dat's wat I want," said the lame soldier, now re- 
stored to good humor; " he desarbs it, and I hope you 
whip him berry hard, massa curnil ; yah-yah-yah — " 

" That I will," interrupted the officer. 

"Tank you, curnil, cause you my friend;" con 
tinued the offended warrior, as he turned to go out, 
and restored a care worn drab and black hat to his 
bump of pugnacity. While closing the door to leave 
the presence of his umpire and friends, a smile of 
satisfaction was seen lurking about his under lip, and 
he was observed to close his fist and shake it at his 
offender, as much as to say — " Ha, de curnil gib it to 
you; you get your hide loosened dis time." 

While the dialogue lasted, a frown sat upon the 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 91 

brow of Col. Cochrane©, and the young culprit began 
to feel in imagination the whistling lash his unruly 
tongue had invoked; but no sooner had the complain- 
ant closed the rough door, than, in spite of all his 
efforts to the contrary, he found himself obliged to 
join his merry companions and laugh heartily. The 
figure of the limping negro, w r ho, if he did not wear 
cotton, was amazingly outward-bound, seemed still 
before him, and turning to the mischief-maker, he 
with no little effort gave him a sharp reproof for thus 
imprudently wounding the feelings of one who should 
exite his sympathy; and then, not daring to venture 
a longer speech, lest he should spoil it with a laugh, 
he ordered him from his presence with a threat of 
terrible vengeance at the end of a rawhide, if he ever 
did the like again. 

Bowing his thanks for the easy and unexpected 
terms meted to him, young Stoner promised to do bet- 
ter in future, and as he left the hut to seek his own, 
the walls of the rude dwelling behind him shook with 
the boisterous merriment of its inmates, at their very 
unique entertainment. 

When the war of the Revolution closed and the 
dove took the place of the eagle — when the prattling 
infant could nestle in its mother's bosom secure from 
midnight assassins — when the warrior once more laid 
aside his sword and musket to grasp the hoe and spade 
of thrift — when commerce again spread her white 
wings without fear of the foeman's fire — when art and 



92 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

science again smiled o'er hill and dale, enriched by 
the blood of freemen slain — when Liberty, with a 
home of her own, invited the oppressed of the earth 
to her embrace, extending to the penury-stricken the 
horn which needed only his industry to become one of 
plenty — then and not till then did our hero, grown to 
man's estate, return again to reside in the vicinity of 
Johnstown. 

"Where is the hoary-headed warrior that never felt 
the melting influence of woman's smiles? If any such 
there are, let them come forth while I tell them a brief 
love-story of their own time. I have already informed 
the reader, that there dwelt at Johnstown in the Re- 
volution, a soft haired, dark eyed maiden named Anna 
Mason; and have shadowed forth the fact, that a little 
intimacy existed between her and our hero in their 
youthful days. As no matrimonial engagement had 
passed between them, not having seen or heard from 
the young pigeon hunter for several long years ; and 
not informed whether the glory of a dead warrior or 
the triumph of a live one were his; in fact, not know- 
ing if he were alive in a distant colony, but what 
some other young heart then beat against his own; it 
is not surprising that she looked upon him as lost to 
her, however vividly fancy at times may have brought 
back his graceful figure. 

Among the Johnstown patriots was a young man 
named William Scarborough, who answered also to 
the name of Crowley. His mother, at the time she 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 93 

married Jeremiah Crowley, was a widow Scarborough, 
her husband having been killed in the batteau service, 
and w 7 as already possessed of little Willie, but people 
did not always stop to consider his true parentage, and 
after a while he almost ceased to be called Scarborough. 
On page 477 of my History of Schoharie County, etc., 
where his death is mentioned, he is called Crowley, as 
I w r as then ignorant of his true parentage. William 
Scarborough, w r ho was in some respects a very worthy 
young man, paid his addresses to the charming Anna 
Mason. Now William was a brave youth, and had 
been in the service of his country, w r hich Anna hap- 
pened to know, and on which account she the more 
highly respected him; for the women of that period 
could and did discriminate between right and w r rong; 
between liberty and oppression. To cut a long story 
short, for wooing is full of mazes and phases, and in- 
teresting filagree, William found himself enamored 
with the bewitching Anna, who, on his making tender 
advances, cast a long sigh on the war-path of a cer- 
tain hunter, blushed deeply and reciprocated ardently 
his attachment. 

Early in the year 178 J, but in what month we can 
not speak with certainty, Anna Mason was led to 
Hymen's altar, an altar on which have been offered 
many pure affections, but few more unsullied than 
hers, and became the bride of her heroic William. 
Days, weeks, even months passed, and still the young 
wife was happy; should she ever be otherwise? for 



94 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

she had a kind husband, and was surrounded by those 
who loved and respected her. 

The green summer flew past, and autumn with her 
russet-clad meadows and golden forests arrived, and 
still Anna Scarborough w r as cheerful and happy: but 
alas! a civil war that had raged for years and stained 
with life-blood the threshold of many dwellings within 
a few miles, was still devastating the land; and 
although the war-cry for a little season was removed 
to a distance, and no immediate danger was appre- 
hended, yet the midnight alarm might again break on 
the ear, and the most tender ties be sundered in a mo- 
ment: for 

Storms that have been again may be ! 

The battle-axe if yet on high, 

Stained with the blood of martyrs free — 

"When thought most, distant may be nearest by; 

And from it fondly cherished may not fly. 

On the morning of October 25, 1781, a large body 
of the enemy under Maj. Ross, entered Johnstown with 
several prisoners, and not a little plunder; among 
wdiich were a number of human scalps taken the after- 
noon and night previous, in settlements in and adjoin- 
ing the Mohawk valley; to which was added the 
scalp of Hugh McMonts, a constable, who was sur- 
prised and killed as they entered Johnstown. In the 
course of the day the troops from the garrisons near 
and the militia from the surrounding country, rallied 
under the active and daring Willett, and gave the 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORE. 95 

enemy battle on the Hall farm, in which the latter 
were finally defeated with loss, and made good their 
retreat to Canada. Young Scarborough was then in 
the nine months' service, and while the action was 
going on, himself and one Crosset left the Johnstown 
fort, where they were on garrison duty, to join in the 
fight, less than two miles distant. Between the Hall 
and woods they soon found themselves engaged. 
Crosset after shooting down one or two, received a 
bullet through one hand, but winding a handkerchief 
around it, he continued the fight under cover of a hem- 
lock stump. He was shot down and killed there, and 
his companion surrounded and made prisoner by a 
party of Scotch troops commanded by Capt. McDonald. 
"When Scarborough was captured, Capt. McDonald 
was not present, but the moment he saw him he or- 
dered his men to shoot him down. Several refused ; 
but three, shall I call them men? obeyed the dastardly 
order, and yet he possibly would have survived his 
wounds, had not the miscreant in authority cut him 
down with his own broadsword. The sword was 
caught in its first descent, and the valiant captain drew 
it out, cutting the hand nearly in two. 

Why this cold-blooded murder? Were those hostile 
warriors rivals in love? Had the epauletted hero, corn- 
missioned at the door of the infernal regions, sought 
the hand of the blooming Anna and been rejected be- 
cause his arm was raised against his suffering country? 
Or must the prisoner be destroyed because in arms 



96 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

with his countrymen? A more hellish and malignant 
act was not perpetrated, even by the sons of the forest, 
on the frontiers of New York.* Jeremiah Crowley, 
the step-father of Scarborough, was made a prisoner 
by the enemy and taken to Canada. Mrs. Scarborough, 
who was at her father's on the morning of the action, 
fled to the fort with her father, Mrs Mason choosing 
to brave the dangers of the day to save her effects. 
Mason's house stood a little north of the present site 
of John Yost's tavern, and on the edge of the Hall 
farm. The action was fought in its vicinity, and thir- 
teen balls were fired into it, which no doubt kept the 
old lady from falling asleep. One of McDonald's men, 

* Previous to the war, McDonald and Scarborough were neigh- 
bors, and in a political quarrel which took place soon after the 
commencement of national difficulties and ended in blows, the 
loyalist was rather roughly handled. A spirit of revenge no doubt 
prompted him to wreak his vengeance on an unarmed prisoner. — 
Sloner. 

Scarborough was overbearing and at times insolent towards those 
who differed with him in politics. On one occasion during the 
war, at the gristmill in Johnstown, Scarborough met an old man 
upon whom he heaped a deal of abuse. The young miller, a mere 
lad, offended at such unkind treatment, jumped into a sleigh then 
at the door, rode up to the fort, and informed the garrison of what 
he had witnessed. Several soldiers # determined to see fair play, 
returned with the miller; and on their reproving Scarborough for 
ill treating the poor old man, he turned upon and began a quarrel 
with them. The result was he received a severe castigation for 
his temerity, which cooled him down. From James Frazier^ 
then a boy, who, if I mistake not, witnessed the whole scene at 
the mill. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 97 

who had been ordered to fire on young Scarborough and 
refused to obey, was so disgusted with his captain for 
the act, that he deserted the same evening and joined 
the Americans. 

On the morning after their death, the remains of 
Scarborough and Crosset were taken to the fort on a 
wooden-shod sleigh drawn by horses.* Need I stop to 
tell the reader how the young bride, Anna Scarborough, 
was overwhelmed with sorrow on the day succeeding 
the Johnstown battle? How her keenest sensibilities 
were on fire, at beholding the mangled remains of her 
beloved William; and what mental agony she endured? 
But such sufferings are at all times the attendants of a 
civil war, in which neighbor is clad in armor against 
his fellow, and kinsman against those of his own blood. 
Some time after the death of her husband, and about 
eleven months after the sealing of the nuptial vow, 
Mrs. Scarborough was presented with a daughter as a 
pledge of her early love, which tended in no measured 
degree to reconcile her to the cruel fate war had meted 
her. This daughter grew up to woman's estate. 

Time and change of circumstances, with the bless- 
ings of social intercourse returning at the close of a 
protracted war, again restored the young widow, who 
possesed a buoyant disposition, or a spirit to wrestle 

*Yockum Folluck, a soldier killed in the Johnstown battle, 
was found with a piece of meat placed at his mouth, as supposed 
by the Indians in derision. Folluck resided in the vicinity of 
Johnstown. — David Zielie. 

9 



9S TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

successfully with trials, to the enjoyment of society 
and the shaded realities of life. 

One that has won, again may win; 

and soon after the return of Nicholas Stoner to Johns- 
town, he came within the pale of the young widow's 
charms, which in the military camp had often brought 
him to his senses, and shortly after sought and obtained 
her hand in marriage. Although her affections had 
been chastened by the blight of sorrow, her young 
heart was still susceptible of an ardent offering to the 
one w T ho had inspired the first budding of love there, 
and she proved a boon companion and cheerful wife. 
The fruit of this connection was four sons and two 
daughters. Three of the sons are still living. The 
daughters were Mary and Catharine: the former mar- 
ried William Mills, and now ( 1847) resides in Fulton 
county; and the latter died when a young woman. 

Nicholas Stoner, the first two years after his mar- 
riage, lived near Johnson Hall, and then settled at 
Scotch Bush, now known as McEwen's Corners, in 
the western part of Johnstown, where he resided many 
years. John Stoner, whose temperament did not bring 
him into trouble often, continued in the army to the 
close of the war; after which he w T as for several years 
employed by Col. Frederick Fisher, who built him a 
farm-house nearly on the site of his homestead, and 
where he had been scalped by the Indians. To the 
location of this dwelling, a substantial brick edifice, 
I have already alluded. After John Stoner left the 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 99 

employ of Col. Fisher, he married Miss Susan Philes, 
by whom he had a daughter, Catharine Ann, and four 
sons. 

Soon after the Revolution, Nicholas Stoner was for 
three years a deputy sheriff under John Littel, Esq. 
He was also a captain of militia, and filled several 
town offices at different periods. When we again 
came to blows with England, because of her insolence 
in searching our ships and impressing our seamen into 
her service, the Stoner brothers were once more en- 
rolled in the American army; John enlisting in 1812, 
and Nicholas in 18 13. John Stoner, who was a drum- 
major in this war, was taken sick at Sacket's Harbor 
and died there. Nicholas enlisted at Johnstown into 
the 29th New York regiment, of which Melancthon 
Smith was colonel, G. D. Young lieutenant-colonel,* 
and John E. Wool, major. He joined the company 
of Capt. A. P. Spencer, Lieut. Henry Van Antwerp 
being the recruiting officer under whom he enrolled 
his name. He proceeded to Utica, and from thence 
to Sacket's Harbor, where he remained until fall; at 
which time he went into winter quarters at Greenbush. 
Early the following spring he joined the army at 
Plattsburg, going from Whitehall by water. 

Lake Champlain and the territory adjoining it, in 
in September, 1814, became the theatre of some of 
the most important events which characterized the war 

* Lieut. -Col. Young was killed in 1817, in the abortive attempt 
of Gen. Mina to revolutionize Mexico. 



100 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

of that period. The withdrawal of troops from Platts- 
burg to succor Fort Erie, determined the governor 
general of Canada, Sir George Prevost, to attack it 
with a force he supposed irresistible; and for that pur- 
pose he invaded the territory of the States on the 3d 
day of September, with an army some fourteen thousand 
strong, well equipped and provided with a splendid 
train of artillery. About the same time, so as to make 
a clean sweep, Commodore Downie, with a naval 
force far superior in number of vessels, guns and men, 
made preparations to engage the American flotilla on 
Lake Champlain, then under the command of the gal- 
lant Commodore Thomas McDonnough, who, ten years 
before, had so distinguished himself under Decatur in 
a captured Turkish ketch before the walls, and under 
the very batteries of the bashaw of Tripoli. 

Gen. Macomb, at Plattsburg, had only about fifteen 
hundred men at his command when the invasion of 
Prevost began, but his call on the patriotic sons of 
New York and Vermont was promptly obeyed, and he 
was enabled to keep a vastly superior force at bay, 
until reinforced sufficiently to cope with his adversary. 
From the 3d until the 11th of September, repeated 
engagements took place contiguous to Plattsburg, in 
several of which Nicholas Stoner, then a fife-major, 
was engaged. He took a musket, however, and per- 
formed duty at this time as a sergeant, and as he was 
a good marksman, several must have fallen before his 
deadly aim. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 101 

There was not a little excitement in the American 
camp at Plattsburg as the British army was advancing 
on that post, and great exertions were made to put it 
in a fit state for the enemy's reception. The merit- 
orious young Trojan, Captain Wool, as a reward for 
his daring conduct in storming Queenston heights, in 
October, 1812, had been appointed major, of the 29th 
New York regiment, and in the absence of its colonels, 
the command of it devolved upon him in September, 
1814. 

As the enemy were approaching, Major Wool vo- 
lunteered his services, and repeatedly on the 5th of 
September, urged General Macomb to allow him to 
meet the enemy and make at least a show of resistance; 
as nothing more could be expected against such odds. 
The general met his earnest solicitations with some 
coolness, and expressed his apprehensions that if he 
went out he would be captured. On the evening of 
the 5th, the gallant Wool received a reluctant assent 
to meet the enemy, but was not allowed to do so until 
morning. So anxious was he for active service, how- 
ever, that long before day light on the 6th, the major 
had mustered his corps and was on the Beekmantown 
road. Gen. Macomb had assured him Capt. Leonard, 
with his company of artillery, should accompany him, 
but the latter declined marching without the express 
orders of the general, and he moved forward without 
him. His own regiment then numbered only 200 men, 
to which were added about 50 from other regiments, 

9* 



102 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

and some 30 volunteer militia: in all nearly 280 men. 
Gen. Mooers had been stationed on the Beekmantown 
road with a regiment of 700 militia, previous to Maj. 
Wool's going there, and the latter was commanded by 
Gen. Macomb to set the militia an example of firm- 
ness. 

The enemy on the morning of the 6th were ad- 
vancing by three roads, the eastern road running 
along the western shore of Lake Champlain; the west- 
ern leading from Chazy to Plattsburg, and called the 
Chazy road, and the centre known as the Beekman- 
town road. Maj. Appling with a body of riflemen 
was posted on the eastern or lake road, Maj. Wool on 
the centre; while the enemy were allowed to advance 
on the Chazy road without opposition. Maj. Appling 
directed his attention chiefly to obstructing the road 
by falling trees, and fell back in time to join Major 
W T ool near Plattsburg. 

On arriving, just at day light, at Gen. Mooers's camp, 
seven miles from Plattsburg, Maj. Wool found the 
enemy, 4000 strong, were not far distant on that road, 
and already moving. Gen. Mooers made several at- 
tempts as the enemy drew near, to form his men for 
action, but they broke and fled, most of them without 
firing. Maj. Wool told him he had better head his 
men if possible, and with them make a stand upon the 
road, so as to cover his own retreat. 

The unexpected flight of the militia, as may be sup- 
posed, created some confusion in the infantry, to re- 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 103 

cover from which and gain a little time, Maj. Wool 
ordered Capt Van Buren with his company to charge 
the enemy. The brave captain expressed a doubt 
about his ability to do it; fearing his men would de- 
sert him. " Shoot down the first man that attempts to 
run, or I will shoot you i" was the peremptory order 
of the enthusiastic major. Van Buren quickly moved 
forward to execute the command, but when within a 
few rods of the foe, satisfied his handful of men could 
hardly be trusted to charge such a billow of animated 
matter, he ordered them to halt and fire. The fire 
was well directed and told fearfully in the enemy's 
ranks, which were sufficiently retarded for Maj. Wool 
to dispose of his Spartan band to his mind. That 
Capt. Van Buren did good service in his morning sa- 
lute, is proven by the fact, that twenty of the enemy 
were carried into the house of a Mr. Howe, living 
near by. Maj. Wool formed his men in three several 
double platoons; one occupying the road, and the 
others the fields or woods a little in rear of the first, 
and on either side of the road with out-flankers. The 
British in column continued to advance, and in the 
order named the Americans kept up a street fight, 
firing and retreating before the enemy: the troops in 
the street again forming and deploying in the street 
after each fire, a little in the rear of the field troops; 
and those in turn forming and deploying in rear of the 
platoons occupying the street. Thus did this little 
detachment of brave men resist the invader's approach 



104 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

step by step for nearly six miles, doing at times fear- 
ful execution in his ranks, and setting truly an ex- 
ample of firmness that would have done credit to 
veteran troops, with a Buonaparte for a commander. 

On an eminence in the road, called Culver's hill, 
Lieut.-Col. Wellington, of the 3d regiment of British 
Buffs, an officer of gallant bearing, was slain, with a 
number of his men; while a little farther on, forty of 
the enemy, dead and wounded, were borne into the 
house of Maj. Piatt, among whom was Lieut. Kings- 
bury, and possibly some other officers. Learning in 
the morning that Capt. Leonard had not accompanied 
Maj. Wool, Gen. Macomb ordered him forward to his 
assistance. At the junction of the Chazy and Beek- 
mantown roads, called Halsey's corners, he joined the 
infantry with two six-pounders. At this place the 
militia, having recovered from their panic, were 
brought into action by Gen. Mooers. They were 
posted in woods on the right and also in the rear of 
the artillery; the infantry being mostly behind a stone 
wall along the Chazy road, to the left of the ordnance. 
A part of it was stationed so as to conceal the artillery, 
however, and as the British advanced, unsuspicious 
of receiving such a salute, the war-dogs were un- 
masked, and several round shot plowed their bloody 
furrows the entire length of the enemy's column. At 
this moment the Americans observed, says an eye- 
witness, " one of the finest specimens of discipline ever 
exhibited." The gaps in the British ranks were 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 105 

closed, as if by magic, and steadily onward was their 
march. 

As the enemy neared the field-pieces, they were 
greeted with grape shot, w T hich caused them to halt, 
but the British bugles soon sounded a charge, and the 
Americans were obliged to retreat, which they did in 
good order to Gallows hill,* at which place they 
made the last stand on the north side of the Saranac. 
Adjutant Boynton, a young officer of great merit, and 
whose services to Maj. Wool were invaluable on this 
stirring day, was sent by the latter with orders to 
Maj. Appling to join him. The order was heroically 
executed though one of great peril, as he was exposed 
to the fire of many scores of British muskets, and Maj. 
Appling joined the invincible 29th near Gallows hill. 
After a brief stand at the latter place, the Americans 
fell back across the Saranac, and taking up the bridge 
in their rear they kept the enemy upon the north 
side of the river. In removing the plank of this 
bridge, the Americans suffered considerably. Maj. 
Stoner assisted in taking up this bridge, and also the 
one over Dead creek. The enemy's loss in this long 
road fight with the troops under Maj. Wool, in killed 
and wounded, was about 240, a number nearly equal 
to his entire command during the greatest part of the 
action. The American loss was about 45 in killed 
and wounded. Maj. Wool had a horse shot under him 

• On this hill the Americans erected a gallows and hung a Bri- 
tish spy upon it. 



106 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

during the day. For the masterly manner in which he 
acquitted himself on this occasion, he was breveted 
lieutenant-colonel ; a promotion he could not that day 
have merited, had he not been surrounded by a band 
of iron-hearted warriors. 

In the action at Gallows hill the following incident 
took place. William Bosworth, aserjeant-major who 
had deserted from the British and entered the Ameri- 
can service, and on the day in question had greatly 
distinguished himself, received a musket ball through 
his thigh which brought him to the ground. It was 
impossible for the Americans to bring off all their 
wounded, so closely did the enemy press upon them. 
Apprised of the fact that Bosworth was down, Major 
Wool, addressing himself to Adjutant Boynton, ex- 
claimed, " See that the boys throw Bosworth on a 
horse and remove him to a place of safety, for if he 
falls into the hands of the enemy they will either 
hang or shoot him: he is too good a fellow to be used 
up in that manner; take him off?" A horse w r as 
quickly provided which Stoner held, while two soldiers 
placed the wounded sergeant upon his back, his blood 
running down the animal's side. The wounded man 
w T as taken to Plattsburg and afterwards to Burlington, 
Vermont, where he recovered. The reader may not 
be surprised to learn, that the generous-hearted major, 
who was not unmindful of the fate of a poor soldier, 
even in a fearful shower of iron and lead, is the illus- 
trious Major-General Wool, who has been one of the 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 107 

brightest stars of that heroic band, which has recently- 
covered itself with such a blaze of glory in Mexico. 

The army of Prevost was kept on the north side of 
the Saranac by Macomb until the 11th of September, 
at which time Downie prepared to engage with Mc- 
Donough. Undaunted by the superior naval force of 
his adversary, the latter met him with a firmness and 
coolness characteristic of the man. It is stated in a 
newspaper account of his death, that he engaged the 
enemy at this time with a confident trust in the God 
of battles for his success. Calling his brave tars 
around him on the quarter-deck, as the enemy hove in 
sight, upon his knees he commended his cause to Him 
who governs the universe. This engagement was 
witnessed by both armies, it is reasonable to suppose, 
with intense excitement; as upon its result w T as sus- 
pended the probable fortune of the land forces. At 9 
o'clock the contest began, and in less than two hours 
the Confiance, the enemy's flag-ship, had, with two 
other vessels, struck her colors to the Americans, and 
several British galleys had been sunk: the rest of the 
fleet escaped by flight, the victors being unable to 
pursue them, as there was not a mast standing in 
either squadron to which a sail could be raised. Com- 
modore Downie was among the slain. 

A pleasing incident attendant on this battle should 
be given in its connection. In the midst of the fiery 
contest, a hencoop on the Saratoga, McDonough's flag- 
ship, was shot away, and a liberated rooster flew into 



108 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

the rigging overhead and began to crow. The cir- 
cumstance was ominous, and contributed in no little 
degree to inspire the hardy tars with confidence, and 
they responded with a round of cheers and renewed 
exertions to his Yankee-doodle-do ! 

The artillery of the land forces was almost con- 
stantly in play during the naval engagement, but when 
the Confiance struck her colors, the army of Macomb 
took time to give a huzzaing, that fell on the ears of 
Prevost like the knell of death. The army of the lat- 
ter was in full retreat, early in the evening, for Canada. 
That they might have something to remember their 
Yankee neighbors by, as they were about to strike 
their tents, Macomb fired a national salute, with ball 
cartridges, into their camp. 

The remains of Commodore Downie, with those of 
five of his fellow officers, and the remains of five offi- 
cers of Commodore McDonough's squadron, were 
brought on shore and buried by Gen. Macomb with 
the honors of war; on which occasion Maj. Wool was 
master of ceremonies and selected the place of burial. 
The music which led the procession consisted of some 
fifteen fifes and as many drums, the latter all muffled, 
and was commanded by Maj. Stoner: the tunes Logan 
Water and Roslin Castle, were played during the 
ceremony. The bodies were taken to a grove of pines 
and arranged side by side in three several rows. Two 
stately pines are still standing, one on each side of 
Downie's grave. While on that station Maj. Wool 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 109 

had the remains of the officers which fell on the Beek- 
mantown road, removed and deposited beside those 
which fell in the naval service. After the war Mrs. 
Mary Downie, a sister-in-law, erected a tablet to the 
memory of her gallant kinsman. 

Some weeks after the above incidents transpired, 
Major Stoner conducted several British officers to the 
grave of Commodore Downie, where some of them 
manifested much feeling, mingling their tears of sym- 
pathy with the dew-drops of heaven. 

When Great Britain became satisfied that her 
claims to oceanic rule were not well founded, and the 
American army was disbanded, Gen. Macomb offered 
Maj. Stoner strong inducements to join the national 
army, which he declined. 

On the 11th of September, 1842, twenty-nine years 
after the event, the Clinton County Military Associa- 
tion celebrated the anniversary of the battle of Platts- 
burg at that place, in a very commendable manner, 
on which occasion monuments were erected to the 
memory of all the officers which had been buried near 
Commodore Downie. Gen. Wool and his suite were 
present by special invitation, to take part in the in- 
teresting proceedings. Appropriate addresses were 
delivered by General Skinner, Col. McNeil and Gen. 
Wool. The ceremony of placing a monument at Col. 
Wellington's grave, was very properly assigned to 
Gen. W T ool, before whose prowess he had fallen in 

battle. 

10 



110 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

How creditable to the enterprise and magnanimity 
of the citizens of Plattsburg, in so just and appropri- 
ate a manner to meet and mingle their sympathies 
over the remains, not only of their illustrious friends 
who had fallen in the service of their country, but 
also over those of their gallant and unfortunate foes, 
who found a final resting place beneath the pines of a 
foreign land. Warrior foes, there gently slumber. 



CHAPTER VIL 

I have chosen, in this narrative, to present Major 
Stoner's military life connectedly, although some of 
the incidents which follow, transpired between the 
wars. 

Fond of novelty and adventure, and inured to pri- 
vations and hardships in the Revolution, which pecu- 
liarly fitted him for a life so full of excitement and 
peril, Maj. Stoner became a celebrated hunter. Nor 
was he the only gamester who traversed the then wil- 
derness of North-Eastern New York: several of his 
companions in arms were often by his side, threading 
their own intricate foot-paths along a score of crystal 
lakes, the greater part of which are now situated in 
the present counties of Fulton and Hamilton. There 
were other Nimrods, or master spirits, in this particular 
avocation, two of whom were Nathaniel Foster and 
Green White. The former lived in Salisbury, Herki- 
mer county, and the latter in Wooster, Otsego county. 
The Johnstown sportsmen not only met Foster, White 
and other sportsmen associated with them — as they 
usually went in pairs for the greater security in case 
of sickness, accident or difficulties with individuals of 
the craft — but white men and Indians from the shores 
of the St. Lawrence. 



112 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Difficulties sometimes arose between these strangers 
of like avocation, and in the absence of any other tri- 
bunal, might made right. Trouble seldom originated 
between the white hunters, however, as the more 
noted were not only known to each other, but their 
traps readily recognized by some peculiar mark, were 
not molested, unless it were to take out game in dan- 
ger of being lost; in which case some token was left 
to apprise the owner who had it, and that it would 
be accounted for at a subsequent meeting. Over- 
jealous of their rights, the New York and Canadian 
trappers did not at all times scruple to avenge an in- 
jury done them, with the life-blood of the offender, as 
I shall have on several occasions to show. 

The class of men of whom I am speaking, not only 
entered the forest with their traps, their rifles, and a 
good supply of ammunition, their hatchet and knife, 
and often a jug of rum; but what was all important, 
a pocket compass and some sure means of kindling a 
fire. Friction matches were then unknown, but fire 
was soon enkindled with flint, steel and tinder, or 
touch-wood; and now and then when they became 
wet, by a flash in the pan of a gun. If trappers 
chanced to visit the water courses alone, they almost 
invariably took with them a well trained dog. Pack 
horses were often employed to carry provisions to the 
hunters' canoes, which were usually moored in some 
little eddy, contiguous to which the trapping began. 
One of the evils if not entailed upon us, at least 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 133 

greatly augmented by war, is that of wide-spread In- 
temperance; and few who had been served for years 
with a daily ration of rum or whiskey, could refrain 
from its use in after life: indeed soldiers had not only 
to drink with each other after the Revolution, as a 
matter of courtesy, but every one esteemed it a privi- 
lege, nay a duty, to treat a hero who had periled his 
life for his fellows: hence many of them who could 
not say no when invited to drink, had to become a 
walking slop-bowl, and receive flip, kill devil, punch, 
or the raw material divested of its lure. Many a 
scar-honored veteran filled a drunkard's grave, because 
custom compelled him, of all others, to drink; and 
not a few more of the same band would have found 
such a grave, had not temperance hung her rainbow 
along Heaven's blue arch, inscribed — My worthy, it 
shall not only be your privilege, but creditable for you 
to refrain from the use of that which sets the brain 
on fire, destroys domestic happiness, and causes pre- 
mature death. 

Vaumane Jean Baptiste De Fonclaiere, a French- 
man who had emigrated to this country in the Revo- 
lution, married in New England, and after the close 
of the war kept a public house in Johnstown for many 
years. The first house he occupied is still an inn, and 
is yet standing, a few doorssouthof the court house* 

* In 1796, De Fonclaiere erected a tavern stand at Johnstown, 

in the forks of the Fonda's Bush and Tribe's Hill roads, which 

stand was known for many years as Union Hall, and in which as 

10* 



114 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

The Canadian hunters, who were familiar with the 
forest between Montreal and Johnstown, from having 
traversed it repeatedl) r to obtain American scalps, not 
unfrequently visited the latter place when peace re- 
turned, to sell their furs, where they found a ready 
market. A party of seven arrived there in the spring 
of the year soon after the Revolution, with a large 
quantity of fur, and put up at the inn mentioned; dis- 
posing of their wealth to John Grant, then a village 
merchant. He was enabled to carry on the traffic, 
through the agency of Lieut. Wallace, who could 
speak the Indian tongue. 

"mine host," he spent the remainder of his days. This Hall 
building is now owned and occupied by Mr. V. Balch as a private 
dwelling. The following anecdote of the old Frenchman, who is 
still remembered around Johnstown for his extra bows and es- 
pecial regard for the comfort of his customers, was witnessed by 
the Hon. Aaron Haring. 

There stands in Johnstown, on the east side of the street; a 
few rods to the southward of the first inn keot by De Fonclaiere, 
an antiquated building with a gambrel roof, owned and occupied 
before the Revolution by Maj. Gilbert Tice. The latter building 
after the war, was occupied as a tavern stand by Michael Rollins, 
a son of the emerald isle. De Fonclaiere kept a span of mettle- 
some horses, and when a deep snow had spread her white mantle 
over the bosom of the earth, and the bells ?nd feslles began to jin- 
gle and smile, the restless steads harnessed to a sleigh to give hia 
ladies an airing, were brought before the door, with their nostrils 
snuffing up the wind in the direction of the Mohawk. 

Left only un leetle moment to their own wills, the gay animals 
of Mons. De Fonclaiere, either of which would have served a 
Ringgold or a May for a charger, abused the confidence of their 



TKAPPERS OF NEW-YORK. 115 

During the stay of these northern hunters in Johns- 
town, Maj. Stoner, then a deputy sheriff under Littel, 
w r as there on professional business. A constable whom 
he desired to see, he found seated in De Fonclaiere's 
kitchen, near a table, on which stood several flasks of 
liquor, furnished at the expense of the Indians. About 

master, and dashed off at the top of their speed. In front of the 
rival inn stood a cow directly in the beaten path, which belonged 
on the premises. Strange as it may seem, as the sleigh passed 
the cow, she was thrown upon her haunches, and, as chance 
would have it, rolled on her back plump into it. The party in- 
tending to occupy the seat instead of the kine, came to the door 
in time to see the latter drive off in triumph, urging on the horses 
by a most doleful bellowing. The horses started in William- 
street and ran south to Clinton-street, thence east through Clinton 
to Johnson (now Market) street, south up Market to Montgomery 
street, west through Montgomery to William street, and down 
the latter to the place of starting. The best part of the joke was, 
that on turning into William street from Montgomery, at the 
next corner above, and only a few rods from where the cow was 
taken in, she was, sans ceremony, thrown out again. A war of 
words instantly followed this adventure, between the rival land- 
lords. Said De Fonclaiere, greatly excited — " Keep you tarn 
Irish cow out von my sleigh ! " " You French booger^" 1 retorted 
Rollings with an oath, " do you kape the like of yeer fancy horses 
away from me' cow J" This novel incident afforded a fine subject 
for village gossip, as the reader may suppose, long after the 
excitement it awakened had died away. 

Inscriptions from tombstones in Johnstown. — " In memory of 
John Baptiste Vaumane De Fonclaiere, formerly a captain in the 
Martinique regiment, in the service of His Most Christian Ma- 
jesty Louis XVI, and for thirty years past a citizen of the United 
States, who departed this life 5th January 1811, in the 71st year 
of his age." " In memory of Achsah, wife of Vaumane De 
Fonclaiere, who died Aug. 15, 1831, in the 73d year of her age," 



116 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

the room were several Indians, and perhaps some fe- 
male members of the family, as they were preparing 
dinner for their red customers. Maj. Stoner, who was 
not then altogether free from the maddening influence 
of those flasks or some others, observing one of the 
strangers near Thompson to be of light complexion, 
addressed him in a friendly, perhaps playful manner, 
about his origin; and the Indian, not appearing of- 
fended in the least, replied that he was part white. 
At this juncture, up came another of the party; and in 
an insolent manner demanded of Stoner in broken 
English, Indian and French, what business he had to 
interrogate his comrade. "Out, you black booger!" 
said the major, who never would take an insult from 
an Indian with impunity; rolling together threaten- 
ingly at the moment the" bones of his right hand. 

Liquor is brought forward to cement friendship, yet 
it often produces an adverse result, for men influenced 
by it need little provocation to fight. Face to face 
the two, now foes, grappled to test their physical 
powers. The major was too much for his antagonist, 
and in the scuffle which followed, threw him head- 
long upon the table, oversetting it and dashing its 
quadrangular, half-filled bottles into scores of angles 
never heard of in geometry. Quick as thought, the 
red man was upon his feet and leaping the table 
had again clenched with his adversary. Cooking 
stoves are an invention of the last forty years, and in 
the kitchen where this scuffle took place, yawned a 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 117 

huge fire-place filled with blazing faggots; while upon 
the hearth before it stood a platter of fried pork swim- 
ming in hot fat, and a dish of wilted sallad, just taken 
from a bed of coals by some member of the family, 
who was providing dinner for the fur-sellers. Stoner 
attempted to cast the Indian into the fire, but falling a 
little short of the aim, the latter fell plump into the 
dish of gravy, burning his back adown in a most 
frightful manner. 

The fracas had occupied but a few moments, yet 
the whoops and loud threats of the combattants, with 
the whys and wherefores of spectators, and screams of 
women, had been sufficient to throw the whole house 
into one of uproar and confusion. The honest land- 
lord entered the kitchen trembling between contend- 
ing emotions of fear and passion, believing that the 
character and business of his house would be ruined; 
and with numerous threats against sheriff Stoner, 
uttered in broken English, as soon as the storm began 
to subside, ran off to get a writ of Amaziah Rust, 
Esq., then a lawyer of the place. Now Squire Rust, as 
it happened, was a particular friend of our hero, and 
knowing what an untamed spirit he possessed, and 
withal how he felt toward the race who had murdered 
his father, he was probably not much surprised to 
hear that the major had worsted an Indian; and lay- 
ing down his pen and assuming a thoughtful mood he 
gravely inquired, " Do you not know, sir, that Cap- 
tain Stoner is apt to be deranged with the changes of 



118 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

the moon?" " No, monsieur," replied Fonclaiere, " me 
did not know that. 0! le diable, vat shall I does 
then? me ruined sartain!" With kind assurances 
from Mr. Rust (who was less anxious for business 
than are some professional men), that all would soon 
be forgotten — that Stoner would no doubt make full 
reparation for the property destroyed, and that the re- 
putation of his house would not receive any lasting 
injury on account of the morning's frolic; the landlord 
was persuaded to go home and overlook the matter. 

On returning to his dwelling, how provokingly 
wrong did the poor Frenchman find things had gone 
in his absence. Leaving the kitchen after his second 
encounter with the intrusive Indian, Major Stoner 
entered the hall where he almost stumbled upon an 
Indian called Captain John, who was lying upon the 
floor in a state of beastly drunkenness. Excited by 
the strong waters of death, and impassioned by what 
had already transpired, he halted beside the inebriate, 
in whose ear as it lay up, was suspended a heavy 
leaden jewel; the weight of which had caused the 
boring to become much elongated. Placing one foot 
upon his neck, and thrusting a finger into the slit in 
the ear, the unpolished ornament was torn out in an 
instant, and fell upon the floor. Unconscious of the 
injury done him, the poor Indian turned over with a 
grunt, and Stoner passed into the bar-room: the place 
at that period least calculated of all others, to quiet a 
raging mind. 



V 







STONER AVENGING HIS FATHER'S MURDER. 

See page 119. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 119 

The name of Stoner had doubtless fallen upon the 
ear of a half-drunk Indian in the bar-room, while the 
kitchen scene was enacting, and reminded him cf his 
former acts; for he had drawn his scalping-knife to 
boast to several by-standers (one of whom was Abra- 
ham Van t Skiver), of the deeds of blood recorded upon 
its handle. Nine marks indicated the number of 
American scalps he had taken in the late war; " and 
this" said he, pointing to a notch cut deeper than the 
rest to indicate a warrior, " was the scalp of old Stoner!" 
Major Stoner entered the room just in time to hear the 
savage boast of scalping his father, and as the brag- 
gart was dancing before the bar with yells and athletic 
gestures, cutting the air with the blade which had so 
many times been stained with the crimson torrent of 
life: stung to madness by the thought of being in the 
presence of his father's murderer, he sprang to the 
fire-place, seized an old-fashioned wrought andiron, 
and with the exclamation, " You never will scalp 
another one!" he hurled it, red-hot as it was, at the 
head of the warrior. His own hand was burned to a 
blister, even by the top of the iron, which, striking 
the object of its aim in the hottest part across the 
neck with an indellible brand, laid him out at full 
length upon the floor; the register of death dropping 
from his hand. 

The quarrel having arrived at so dangerous a crisis, 
some of the friends of Major Stoner succeeded in get- 
ting hira out of the house; while other individuals ran 



120 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

for a physician, restoratives and the like. The In- 
dians of the party who were not disabled or too drunk 
to stand up, were boisterous in their threats of re- 
venge; but being advised to leave town, and possibly 
not feeling very secure in their own persons after what 
had already happened, they lost no time in preparing 
for a departure to the wilderness. A German, named 
Samuel Copeland, was employed to carry them in a 
wagon to the Sacondaga river, near the fish-house, 
where they had left most of their rifles, their squaws 
and canoes. It was the opinion of the physician and 
others, that the Indian with seared jugular, could not 
possibly survive; but he was, with his fried compan- 
ion, taken along by his fellows. It was never satis- 
factorily known in Johnstown whether this party of 
hunters all reached Canada alive or not, but it was 
supposed that at least one of the number died on the 
way. 

Fearing this party of red men might return and re- 
venge the injuries done them on the settlement, if no 
notice was taken of the affair, a person in Johnstown 
lodged a complaint against him for the part he had 
acted at De Fonclaiere's, and he was arrested and 
put in jail.* As soon as it became known abroad that 
he had been incarcerated, and only a day or two was 
sufficient to spread the news, a large number of men 

* The wood work of this old stone building, which served as a 
fort in the Revolution, was burned in Sept. 1849. The building 
nas since been repaired, and restored to its former appearance. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 121 

of Revolutionary memory, many of whom had been 
sufferers in person, property, or friends, by the midnight 
assaults of their country's foes, and who were now 
disposed to justify the conduct of their former com- 
panion in arms, in his attempt to slay the murderer of 
his father, assembled around the prison and demanded 
his enlargement. Of those congregated were several 
of the Sammonses, Fishers, Putmans, Wemples, Fon- 
das, Vroomans, Veeders, Gardiniers, Quackenbosses, 
and a host of others, whose names can not now be re- 
membered. The jailer was unwilling to liberate the 
prisoner without a formal demand, and the mob, pro- 
vided with a piece of scantling, stove in the door and 
brought him out. 

At this period one Thro op kept a tavern near the 
centre of the village, w T ith whom sheriff Littel was 
then boarding; and thither the party in triumph di- 
rected their steps to drink with the liberated hero. 
After allowing the mob some time to jollify, the jailer 
went down, and getting Stoner one side, asked him 
if he was ready to return! " Yes," he replid, and at 
once set out with the turnkey for the jail, some forty 
or fifty rods distant. He was soon missed, and the 
liberators, learning that he was again on his way to pri- 
son, once more set the law at defiance, and rescued him 
from the custody of the officer; when, to comply with 
their wishes, he went home to his anxious family, and 
there quietly remained. Thus ended an eventful scene 

in the old hero's life. 

11 



122 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

After the incidents above narrated had transpired, 
and the Indian trappers returned to their wigwams, 
the prowess and fearless acts of the Johnstown warrior 
gave him no little celebrity along the water-courses 
of Canada; and many a red pappoos was taught in 
swaddles, to lisp with dread the name of Stoner. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

u Dark green was the spot, mid the brown mountain-heather, 
"Where the pilgrim of nature lay stretched in decay, 

Like the corpse of an outcast abandoned to weather, 
Till the mountain-winds wasted the tenantless clay. 1 ' 

Walter Scott 

We are now to consider a peculiarly exciting por- 
tion of our hero's life, and may fail to give the reader 
but a faint idea of the countless novel incidents fol- 
lowing the footsteps of a master hunter, although in 
fancy full 

"Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn, 
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away, 
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn," 

and thus followed him on to the wood-entangled glen ; 
where the growl of an animal caused a startle and 
placed the thumb on the fire-lock; the rustle of a leaf 
fevered the blood, and the snap of a forest-twig sent 
it tino-linp; to his brain. 

In trapping, Major Stoner used heavy steel-traps 
with two springs for beaver and otter, and occasion- 
ally single spring traps for muskrat, when their fur 
would pay. He had one trap four feet long made like 
the former, and designed expressly for bears. The 
jaws of this ugly looking customer, are crossed on the 
under side by spikes, which, when an animal is en- 



124 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

trapped, are driven through the leg and render its 
escape impossible, unless it gnaw its own limb off 
above the fastening, and thus gain its liberty. To 
this trap is attached a chain five feet long, with 
two grappling hooks at the end, so shaped as to fasten 
either to a tree or the ground, and bring up the game. 
The trap and chain weigh nearly forty pounds. It 
required two hand-spikes with this trap beside a log, 
or in some other favorable position, to set it; on which 
account the wary hunter, when the jaws parted, used 
the precaution to place a billet of wood between them 
while adjusting the pan, lest through accident he 
might find the spikes boring his own limbs. Nearly 
thirty bears have been taken in this trap, one-third 
of them by its owner. On one occasion a bear left its 
toes in the trap and escaped. For a view of this trap, 
doing execution, see cover of the book. 

If hunting with a partner, each carried three beaver 
traps, and when traces of game were observed the 
traps w T ere set in the water, and to them the animals 
were lured by a peculiar kind of bait called castoreum, 
or beaver-castor, remarkably odorous and attractive 
even in the water. That taken from one beaver was 
often the agent for exterminating several of its fel- 
lows. The usual time of hunting began with cool 
weather in the latter part of September, and lasted 
about two months, or until the streams and lakes be- 
came frost-bound and the hunter's paths obstructed by 
snow. The avocation was often renewed for several 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK, 125 

weeks with the breaking up of winter, the hunters at 
times starting upon snow-shoes. 

One of the individuals with whom Major Stoner 
sometimes hunted, was Capt. William Jackson, a man 
of courage and great muscular strength. On one oc- 
casion they set out for a hunt towards spring, travel- 
ing on snow-shoes. Arriving at a place where they 
had to cross a field of ice, Jackson took off his snow- 
shoes. With other indispensables he was carrying a 
sharp axe, and by some misstep he slipped and fell 
upon it, cutting himself under his chin in a shocking 
manner. His companion was two days in getting him 
back to the nearest settlement; which was in Chase's 
patent, now Bleeker, and about eighteen miles from 
where the accident happened. Leaving his wounded 
friend well cared for, Stoner retraced his steps to the 
wilderness; and Jackson sent James Dunn a few days 
after, to supply his place. 

Finding an inviting prospect for their business on 
the Sacondaga, they began to set their traps. Hunters 
erected lodges for their accommodation at suitable 
distances from each other. They were small huts 
made of bark, peeled for the purpose, hence the ne- 
cessity for an axe; besides, it was needed in preparing 
fuel, and also in making canoes; which they con- 
structed by digging out a suitable log. Stoner and 
Dunn, after building huts, preparing for each a tree- 
canoe, and securing the pelts of some six or eight 

beavers, left their traps set and came out to the settle- 

11* 



126 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

ment on Chase's patent for provisions. They left 
their canoes in their absence, in a stream running from 
Trout lake into the Sacondaga. Their journey to ob- 
tain food, principally bread, as hunters could generally 
supply their larder with fish and wild-game, occupied 
only a few days; yet on their return they soon dis- 
covered that all was not right. The first trap they 
looked for was one that had been set by Dunn, on the 
outlet a little distance from the lake; it was gone. 

Leaving their canoe in an eddy made by a deposit 
of drift-wood, they landed and proceeded with caution 
up the creek. Arriving near the lake they heard a 
loud halloo ! to which Stoner responded, although his 
companion thought it a loon. They now halted and 
awaited in silence, to learn what human voices be- 
sides their own, broke the general solitude of the forest. 
Soon the light dash of a paddle was heard, and im- 
mediately after an Indian in a bark canoe rounded a 
point of land, and a few strokes from his brawny arm 
sent his fairy craft into the outlet of the lake, beside, 
and very near the white hunters. Scarcely had the 
shoal navigator gained the point named, when another 
Indian, on foot, rounded the point also, and stood 
within a few paces of the pale-faced strangers. At 
the feet of the Indian in the canoe lay a rifle and one 
of Stoner's traps. The hunter on shore was armed 
with a tomahawk, carrying in one hand the shell of 
an immense turtle, which the water had drifted upon 
the beach. Both parties evinced surprise at the meet- 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 127 

ing; but the Canadian trappers, who proved to be St. 
Regis Indians, appeared least at ease. 

Hunters, as a class, are very tenacious of their 
rights, and priority of occupancy usually establishes 
a claim to hunting grounds. Some of their traps 
had been left along the shore of the lake, in the di- 
rection from whence the Indians made their appear- 
ance ; and after a most formal meeting, the Johnstown 
hunters charged the strangers not only with appro- 
priating their fur to their own use, but also their traps 
in which it had been taken. This was denied on the 
part of the accused, notwithstanding one of the traps 
was in their possession, and a fierce quarrel of words 
followed, graced by an exchange of harsh epithets, 

until 

"Revenge impatient rose." 

The Indian on shore, w T ho was nearest to Stoner, 
and on wmorn the latter vented not a few wicked say- 
ings, declared that he had seen the traps alluded to at 
some distance above, and that they had not been 
molested. The wmite hunters insisted upon having the 
accused go back w T ith them to see if the traps were 
as they had been left; this the other party attempted 
with sundry excuses to evade doing. The one on land 
then endeavored to gain a little distance under some 
pretext, and the other, saying he would go back as 
desired after gathering some bark, was observed to 
grasp his rifle, abandon his canoe and leap from it to 
the shore opposite Dunn, 



128 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

At this instant the sharp crack of a rifle was heard, 
and in the echo sent back by the hills came a yell 
from the quivering lips of the Indian on the lake 
shore, not unlike that of a savage in his last mo- 
ments — the tortoise-shell falling unreclaimed from his 
hand. Indeed, human bones might have been seen 
on this spot long after the incident here related had 
transpired. Dunn was a man of small stature, but 
made up in nerve and agility what he lacked in 
physical strength; and seeing the Indian leap from 
his canoe, he sprung into it in his pursuit, thinking thus 
to cross the creek dry-shod and detain him. But the 
frail barque would not withstand his weight, aug- 
mented with his descent from the shore, and he went 
through it plump up to his waist in the water. Ob- 
serving that his antagonist was fleeing, without 
waiting to extricate himself from his unpleasant 
dilemma, he raised his gun and snapped it, but as the 
priming had been wet by his fall, (percussion locks 
are an invention of a later date,) the trapper escaped. 
Had he looked back and observed the plight of his 
pursuer, he would no doubt have halted long enough 
to have sent a bullet through his head. Whether 
these two Canadians were alone on this hunt is not 
known, but their loud halloo would seem to indicate 
that they were not. 

It was conjectured that the hunter who had just 
escaped from Dunn had fled directly to the Indians' 
camp ; and with his trusty piece well loaded, Stoner 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 129 

left his companion at their own canoe to get dry as 
best he could, and being set on the opposite shore, 
proceeded in search of said camp. To seek this wil* 
derness lodge alone, without knowing its whereabouts 
or how it might be guarded, w r as, after what had 
transpired, one of the most presumptuous and daring 
feats any individual could perform, as a concealed foe 
might have detected an approaching footstep and 
speedily revenged the fall of a friend; but the mission 
was just suited to the spirit of the trapper who had 
undertaken it, and onward he went, regardless of 
peril. In a secluded spot some half a mile or more 
from its outlet and not far distant from the lake shore, 
he arrived at the object of search. It w r as a well 
built cabin for comfort, constructed principally of bark 
and set against a bold rock, so as to make that subserve 
the purpose of one wall. It had evidently been aban- 
doned with precipitation, for it w^as not only cheered 
by a blazing fire, but in it had been left a beautiful 
bark canoe, finished and decorated in the most tasteful 
Indian style, a trap with one spring, a spear, and a 
scalp ing-knife. The latter instrument had no doubt 
been forgotten in the hot haste, attendant on removing 
fur, eatables, etc., as so indispensable an article to an 
Indian's full equipment for the chase would not have 
been left intentionally, unless it were a duplicate. The 
articles found in this camp became a lawful prize, 
according to the custom prevailing at that period 
among trappers, predicated on the rule of might and 



130 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

right. The Indians' canoe at the outlet of the lake 
was constructed of spruce bark, and made near there, 
but the one at their wigwam was of birch or some very 
light bark, and had doubtless been transported from 
Canada. Launching his trophied craft on the bosom 
of the sheen lake, this white forest son returned in it 
to his anxious companion. 

The Johnstown hunters, reclaiming all their own 
traps but one, after continuing their avocation a while 
longer with some success undisturbed, indeed 

Sole monarchs of those crystal streams, 

set their faces towards home, to relieve the solicitude 
of their families and engage in cultivating the soil. 

After another seed-time and harvest had gone by, 
Maj. Stoner, accompanied by William Mason, his 
brother-in-law, returned to the same hunting grounds 
that himself and Dunn had visited the preceding 
spring. Expecting again to renew the exciting avo- 
cation of a trapper, Stoner concealed his traps in the 
spring in some safe place near Trout lake, after 
greasing them thoroughly to prevent injury by rust. 
Loaded with provisions and Mason's traps, having 
said the necessary good-byes, the trappers buried them- 
selves in the dark forest, the one familiar with the 
destination acting as pilot, 

" Their clock the sun in his unbounded tower." 

The Johnstown trappers struck the Sacondaga, 
where, discovering signs of a beaver, they set one of 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 131 

Mason's traps, and with a vigilant look-out for other 
evidences of the desired game, they proceeded on in 
the direction of Stoner's traps. Next day Stoner sent 
Mason down several miles, to see if the first trap set 
did not contain a beaver. He returned with an 
assurance that the trap was not sprung, and whether 
it had been or not he could not determine; but that 
on a log which crossed the river near it, he had noticed 
the tracks of a bear. Stonor thought it strange that 
a beaver had not sprung that trap, and still more won- 
derful that a bear should prowl around it; and the 
morning after Mason's return they visited it together. 
The instant the practiced eye of the senior hunter 
caught a glimpse of the foot-print pointed out by his 
partner, provoked at his stupidity in not determining 
more readily what animal had made it, he demanded 
with a look of surprise, in rather ill humor and possi- 
bly at the end of an oath, if bears wore moccasons ? 
Mason, who now rightly divined how the tracks came 
there, was almost as much surprised at his dullness of 
perception as his companion had been. On examining 
the trap, the discriminating eye of the master hunter 
also discovered that it was not in the position in which 
it had been left two days before, and it was conjec- 
tured that a beaver had been taken from it and the 
trap again set.  

Stoner now proposed to Mason that he should re- 
main concealed and await Bruin's return to obtain an 
interview; but the latter, who was a very strong man. 



132 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

though timid, refused to remain alone. " Well," said 
the former, " then I will lay near the trap and see 
what kind of a bear comes to it." He secreted him- 
self, with the young trapper in his rear, and had been 
there about half an hour, when he heard on the oppo- 
site side of the stream the muffled and cautious tread 
of the anticipated bear. At this most exciting mo- 
ment might have been heard a noise in the morning 
stillness, resembling that of one iron slipping suddenly 
against another. The delicate ear of the visitant 
caught the sound, and listening, with head bent for- 
ward, surveyed with scrutiny every surrounding object. 
All was again silent as death, save the murmur of the 
rippling rivulet; and reassured that he was alone, and 
that the click which fell upon his acute organs was 
made by the leap of a squirrel, or some small animal 
that had suddenly broken a dry twig, Mason's bear, 
with an eye oft scanning the direction of the trap 
under consideration, stealthily approached the fallen 
tree, which served as a bridge to cross the limpid river. 
The bear, - which, as we have already seen, wore 
moccasons, was tall, very erect, with long, black 
straight hair, and was clad in a smutty blanket, 
strongly girdled at the waist. In one of its huge paws 
it carried a dangerous weapon sometimes called a 
tomahawk, and beneath the bosom of the blanket 
above the girdle, peered out the hairless tail and pos- 
sibly hind legs of a muskrat. A rifle that seldom 
required a second poise at the same object, was steadily 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 133 

aimed at this old bear from the time of his appearance 
until he reached the centre of the log over the stream, 
when it suddenly exploded, and unable longer to re- 
tain an upright position, Bruin reeled and fell off with 
a death-groan, his life-blood crimsoning the pure 
waters of the Sacondaga. 

The traps of the Johnstown hunters were not again 
disturbed this fall, and at the close of the trapping 
season they returned home bearing a valuable lot of 
fur, among which there was at least one muskrat's 
pelt. The junior trapper, notwithstanding his bear 
had met with a fate " which," to use the words of 
his partner, " would let the succotash out of his 
stomach and the eels in," could not be induced to 
visit his traps alone in this excursion after the second 
day. 



CHAPTER IX. 

While Maj. Stoner was living in Johnstown, and 
not long after he commenced housekeeping, a large 
bear came into his wheat-field, doing no little mis- 
chief. To destroy this grain destroyer he erected a 
staging and watched repeatedly for him, but his vigi- 
lance was all in vain, and the wheat, when ripe, was 
harvested. As the corn began to fill in the ear, Bruin 
again thrust himself upon the hospitality of the major. 
His bearship soon found, however, as have some more 
worthy though less courageous, that the charities of 
the world are granted grudgingly to strangers. For 
several evenings after his first entrance, the husband- 
man vainly sought an interview with his unwelcome 
guest, with malice aforethought rankling in his breast, 
death intent absorbing all his thoughts, and a rifle 
loaded with two balls resting in his arms. 

At length, in one of his nightly watchings, he heard 
his dusky visitant testing the quality of the tender 
ears, and although the night was dark, he approached 
sufficiently near to gain an indistinct view of him, and 
instantly leveled and fired. At the report of his rifle, 
agreeably to concert, a large watch-dog confined in 
the house was let out by Mrs. Stoner, and as the 
interloper retreated from the :orn, was soon yelling 



TEAPPERS OF NEW YORE. 135 

at his heels. He leaped a fence into a field where a 
lot of flax had been spread, and after pursuing some 
distance the dog returned home. In the morning, 
blood was observed on the fence where the anima? 
had crossed, and it was conjectured that if w T ounded 
he would not return. Imagine Stoner's surprise, 
therefore, the very next day, when a neighboring 
woman came running to his house, near which he 
chanced to be at work, to tell him that the bear had 
come back, and was then in their orchard, but a short 
distance off. 

Leaving the dog confined in his dwelling, to be let 
out if he fired, armed with his rifle, he ran to the 
orchard. He was not long in getting a shot, and soon 
the dog was at his side. The bear, badly wounded, 
was overtaken by Growler at the roots of a dry tree, 
and several times, as the former attempted to ascend, 
the latter pulled him back. Without leaving his 
tracks after he fired, the sportsman, as was his cus- 
tom, lodged another charge in his rifle. To his 
chagrin he found that the stopple to his powder-horn 
was broken off, and he was obliged to cut a hole in 
the horn to obtain a charge of powder. This occa- 
sioned some delay in loading, and by the time he had 
finished, his dog was crying most piteously. Not 
pleased with being so unceremoniously drawn back, 
the bear turned upon his adversary, and succeeded in 
getting a paw of the latter in his mouth. 

A dog in distress never fails to bring down the 



136 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

vengeance of its owner upon the object causing it; 
and hurrying to the tree where was enacting the tug 
of war, he thrust the muzzle of the piece into Bruin's 
mouth to pry open his jaws and liberate his canine 
friend. Not altogether pleased with the interference, 
the grain and apple-eater struck a blow at the intruder 
with one of his monstrous paws, tearing off one leg 
of his pantaloons, and leaving the prints of his nails 
on the flesh. The end of the gun being still in the 
animal's mouth, he discharged it and blew out his 
brains. The yell of the dog attracted the attention 
of several neighbors, and just as Stoner fired a second 
time, Lieut. Wallace and his hired man, Hulster, ar- 
rived at the scene of action, armed with pitchforks. 

The bear proved to be very large, and had one 
white paw. On examining, to learn the cause, it was 
found that one of the bullets fired at him in the corn- 
field, had passed through the centre of a forefoot while 
in an erect position, and the animal had sucked it 
until the inner part was white as snow. 

Major Stoner was not only a trapper, but in the 
proper season he indulged frequently in a deer or a 
fox hunt; in which he was generally successful. On 
a certain occasion many years ago, accompanied by 
Benjamin DeLine and Jacob Frederick, he went to hunt 
deer around the shores of the Canada lake, since by 
some called Fish lake, and by others Byrn lake. 
They succeeded in killing two noble deer, and started 
toward night to cross the lake in the direction of 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 13? 

home. Their water-craft, a tree canoe, when they 
were all in with their game, was loaded almost as 
heavily as she could float; and the wind causing the 
waves to roll, made the voyage a dangerous one. 
Stoner managed the canoe, while his companions, 
seated on its bottom, used the utmost caution to pre- 
serve its equilibrium: but long before the little barque 
neared her destined landing, she began to dip water. 
Safety required that his comrades, whose seat became 
uncomfortable as the water ran round them, should 
keep quiet, while Stoner renewed his exertions at the 
paddle to gain the opposite shore. As it became doubt- 
ful whether the destined haven could be gained, Stoner 
steered for the nearest land, which proved to be a pro- 
jecting point of a small rocky island, which, in the 
absence of a better name, I shall call Stoner's island. 
The farther they sailed, the more the gale increased, 
and as wave after wave left a portion of its crest in 
the overloaded canoe; the situation of its inmates be- 
came one of the greatest peril. DeLine and Frederick, 
substituting their hats for basins, used their utmost 
exertions to keep the boat afloat by bailing, while 
Stoner, urging upon his friends the necessity of cool- 
ness and a uniform position, sent her forward rapidly. 
Still several rods from the land, and already up to his 
knees in water, as the canoe was nearly full; DeLine 
sprang out and found bottom, although the water was 
several feet deep. Fearing that if their craft found- 
ered they would lose their guns and game, and ob- 

12* 



138 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

serving that DeLine got on so well, Frederick also 
jumped into the lake; hut a little distance made quite 
a difference in the depth of water, for he found no 
bottom. He was unable to swim, and seeing him 
sinking below the surface, Stoner leaped out to his 
rescue. His hair fortunately was done up in a cue, 
wound with an eel-skin, and at this his deliverer made 
a successful grab and swam to the shore. All having 
gained the land, the canoe, which had been guided 
along by DeLine, was drawn up on the beach, its 
valuables removed to a place of safety, and its water 
emptied out. Frederick, whose powers of suction had 
gained him one swell too much, soon disgorged the 
contents of his stomach; and when he could again 
speak, he broke out with an oath in imperfect English, 
" J cross de ocean all safe from Sharmany, and O, 
musht 1 pe troum in dish tarn vrog-pont ! n 

Stoner's island, although preferable to the bottom 
of the lake, was far from affording the weary hunters 
a very comfortable night's rest. It had indeed some 
trees and wild-wood vines, but nothing like a human 
habitation; still, as the gale continued with unabated 
violence, and it was now almost night, it was out of 
the question to think of proceeding farther that eve- 
ning: they therefore set about making themselves as 
comfortable as circumstances would permit. As not 
only their guns and ammunition w r ere wet, but their 
materials for kindling a torch, they were obliged to 
camp down with their clothes saturated and their 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 139 

bodies shivering, without one blazing faggot to dry 
their garments or cheer the midnight hour. 

The Sun once more came peering o'er the Earth, 
sending his light in golden streams through the pri- 
mitive forest which covered the surrounding hills, to 
reflect their mellowed rays on the glassy waters of 
Lake Byrn; in the bosom of which Stoner's island 
lay reposing, as calmly and as quietly as an infant 
nestled to sleep in its mother's arms. The deer-hunters 
rose betimes, and although their study of cause and 
effect, as we may suppose, had been somewhat limited, 
still the contrast of nature's dramatic scenes since the 
previous evening had been so great, that they could 
not fail to mark the change, and look with an ad- 
miring eye on the rich and varied scene Heaven had 
spread before them. Once more embarked with their 
treasures, they gained the lake shore in safety, and 
proceeded home without further adventure. For the 
kind services rendered him at the lake, said Frederick, 
on his arriving at his own dwelling, " J\ r ow, Nick, 
schurst so long ash I has von cent in de vorld, so long 
you shall never wants for any ting, for bulling me out 
from dat tarn vrog-pont mit mine eel-shkin dailP 

For saving his life in the manner here related, this 
worthy German proved the sincere and grateful friend 
of our hero to the hour of his death, just before which 
event he urged upon his children as a debt due to 
himself, that they should never see his lake savior 
want the comforts of life. It is gratifying to observe 



140 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

that the Fredericks (a very respectable name in Ful- 
ton county) have honored their father, even in death, 
by remaining the warm friends of the old trapper, 
their father's friend \ having ever held themselves re- 
sponsible for the proper fulfilment, if needs be, of their 
parent's unostentatious wish. 

On the eve of our last war with Great Britain, 
Major Stoner and William Mason entered the wilder- 
ness with their traps, and w T ere gone over two months. 
Their stay was protracted several weeks beyond the 
time intended, and their anxious friends, who had heard 
nothing from them, began to consider them as lost 
forever. 

Hunters usually carried fishing tackle, and although 
they often had to do without bread in long hunts, they 
could generally procure a supply of fish or wild game. 
Their food frequently consisted of either deer's or 
bear's meat, and not unfrequently of squirrels, rabbits, 
ducks, partridges, and possibly the flesh of beaver. 
Meats were usually roasted before the fire on a spit of 
wood, one end of which was planted in the ground. 

If the reader will just peep in at the entrance of a 
well regulated hunter's camp, he will see at a glance 
how the disciples of Nimrod live in their wilderness, 
womenless home. He will observe that excitement 
renders them not only contented but comparatively 
happy, in a little hut, destitute of a chair, table, or 
bed. Should the visitor accept an invitation to step 
in and dine, he may expect to receive a liberal slice 



TRAPFERS OF NEW YORE 141 

of meat, scorched upon one side and nearly raw on 
the other, with a reasonable allowance of salt and a 
morsel of stale bread, if not too late in the hunt, served 
with a hearty welcome upon the inner side of a clean 
piece of bark; while he is seated upon a large stone, 
or block of wood. If he tarried over night, for an 
evening's entertainment, he would listen to not a few 
perilous adventures in unexpected encounters with 
wild animals, or novelties attending the chase; and 
at early bed-time, he would find himself stretched upon 
a hurdle of hemlock boughs in one corner of the lodge, 
gathering himself into as small a heap as possible; 
with a secret prayer that no hungry wolf would thrust 
its nose beneath the blanket or pelt that covered him, 
while midnight visions of squaws and beaver-skins 
haunted his brain. 

Out of provisions and almost out of their reckoning, 
Stoner and his friend, having hung up their fur in some 
safe place which they could again find, were making 
their way to one of the nearest white settlements, when 
suddenly they came upon an Indian in the forest, whom 
the major mistaking for some other animal, possibly a 
bear, was about to fire upon. The Indian, whose name 
was Anderly, proved to be one of the Caughnawaga 
tribe, from Grand river in Canada. He had with him 
a little daughter, his wife having died in the forest. 
The sudden appearance of two white men greatly ter- 
rified this little forest flower; but her fears were quieted 
with an assurance of friendship, and the white hunters 



142 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

shared the hospitality of their dusky friends over night. 
This Indian first communicated to the Johnstown 
trappers the fact, that hostilities had commenced be- 
tween England and the United States. Knowing this 
fact, and thinking that possibly the whites were either 
spies or foes, was what at first caused the fear of the 
young wood-nymph. Parting with their new friends, 
with whom they were much pleased, Stoner and Ma- 
son journeyed on, and finally came out in Norway, 
Herkimer county; where they obtained provisions, 
and where too, they saw several families that were 
removing from the Black river country to the Mohawk 
valley. They also came in contact with a body of 
United States drafts marching to the line between New 
York and Canada. 

Trappers in their excursions seldom take shaving 
utensils with them, and not unfrequently on their re- 
turn home, they might have been mistaken for the 
prototype of Lorenzo Dow, of long-beard memory. 
The Johnstown friends had wandered so long in the 
forest, that their clothes were much worn; and Mason, 
whose appearance was perhaps the most ragged, was 
arrested on suspicion of being a spy, and his gun taken 
from him. Stoner having been a hero of the preceding 
war, was fortunately known to some of the soldiery, 
and succeeded in effecting;; the liberation of his com- 
rade and the restoration of his gun; and after liberally 
replenishing their larder, they again buried themselves 
in the moaning wilderness. In this hunt, Stoner car- 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 143 

ried his rifle and Mason a fowling-gun with which to 
shoot small game for food. On their way back to the 
place where they had secreted their fur, and when in 
a gloomy, mountain-encompassed dell, they accident- 
all)' fell in with two Indians, who were there on the 
same errand as themselves. It seems to be a pretty 
true, though stale maxim, that two of a trade can not 
agree. The strangers were Canadian hunters, having 
very little fur, one of whom was armed with a rifle. 
Scarcely had the parties met, when the one last alluded 
to commenced a fierce quarrel with Stoner. He took 
the latter for Green White, another bold trapper, and 
accused him of plundering and then burning their 
camp some two years before. Stoner, enraged at the 
false charge, retorting the harsh epithets of his accuser, 
denied being White; or having stolen the fur of any 
one. The other Indian, who said he had seen White, 
told his companion that he was not the hunter before 
them, but this the passionate savage would not admit, 
and the dispute continued. 

Observing that his partner would not be appeased, 
and that the quarrel must prove a serious one, the In- 
dian without a rifle approached Mason, who, as we 
have seen, was a little timorous in such an emergency, 
and desired to look at his gun. His object undoubt- 
edly was to arm himself. This seemingly small favor 
would possibly have been indulged, had not a caution 
from Stoner, in the Low Dutch tongue, reached his 
friend, to beware of a treacherous design. The master- 



144 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

hunter could not only understand, but spoke the Indian 
dialect very well. Determined to possess himself of 
Mason's gun, his antagonist grappled with him to 
wrest it from his hands. A shrill rifle-shot now rang 
among the towering hemlocks, followed by a yell so 
loud and death-like, as to startle the wolf and panther 
in their mountain lair. A moment after and the figure 
of an Indian was seen receding in the forest with the 
fleetness of an antelope, and the click of a gun-lock 
fell on the ear; but its priming having been lost in 
his scuffle with Mason, it missed fire, and the dark form 
vanished in safety and alone. 

After this adventure, the Johnstown trappers pur- 
sued their way, without further molestation, to their fur 
and their traps, and ere long they returned home, to 
the great joy of their friends; bearing a most valuable 
lot of fur, and a spare rifle. It is not improbable that 
their store of fur was augmented some in that lone 
spot, where they had left a human carcass to return to 
its earthly affinity. 

Major Stoner was gone so long that a rumor pre- 
judicial to his character was put in circulation in 
Johnstown just before his return. It was reported, 
and perhaps by some believed, that he had been en- 
gaged in the contraband trade of smuggling goods 
from Canada to that village, for Cornelius Herring 
and Amaziah Rust. He says the accusation was false, 
and although he saw goods carrying in the wilderness 
at this time, which may have been destined for Johns- 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 145 

town; they were in the hands of individuals who were 
strangers to him. Squaws generally started with the 
k merchandise from Canada, and at some designated 
place they met and gave it over to men employed to 
run it through. 

It is not unlikely that Green White, to whom allu- 
sion is cnade in these pages, who was a celebrated 
and successful trapper, traversing the wilderness from 
Otsego county to the shores of the St. Lawrence, had 
num'erous and sometimes fatal quarrels with rival 
hunters. John G. Seely informed the writer that he 
once playfully, though ironically, remarked to White, 
" he did not like it that he was killing off all his na- 
tion" The hunter replied, " D — n them, they must 
not search my traps then. The last one I saw was 
peeking over the bushes to look into one of my traps, and 
soon after my dog was shaking his old blanket /" Some 
further account of this hunter, w T ith his melancholy 
fate, is given in another part of this volume. 



Yi 



CHAPTER X. 

White hunters as well as Indians wore moccasons 
on their long hunts; usually making their own from 
the pelts of wild animals. Aaron Griswold hunted 
with Maj. Stoner on one occasion, and having killed 
a bear, as his boots chafed his ancles, he was not long 
in making himself moccasons from the raw hide, 
with the fur inside; and hanging up his boots in some 
secure place, they journeyed on some fifteen miles. 
Stoner had a favorite dog with him at the time, and 
in the night the animal ate up one of the newly made 
moccasons. Griswold was very angry next morning, 
and swore he would shoot the dog; but Stoner ap- 
peased his wrath by cutting the needed garment from 
his own blanket, which lasted until the return of 
Griswold to his boots; about which time the major 
shot a deer, and the breach in his companion's ward- 
robe was repaired from its skin. 

Maj. Stoner was on a deer-hunt many years ago to 
the Sacondaga vlaie, in company with Captain Henry 
Shew. At a suitable place to camp out, he collected 
some dry wood and struck up a fire for their comfort, 
his companion in the meanwhile, visiting a favorite 
crossing place of the deer. Having started his fire, 
he crossed the low ground to the bank of the creek 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 147 

"which courses through it. He had scarcely reached 
the stream, when he saw the tall grass covering the 
bog on the opposite shore bending towards him. He 
at once recognized in the undulatory motion of the 
grass, the probable presence of some wild animal ; 
which he thought hardly lofty enough in its carriage 
for a deer. He remained quiet, and soon the object 
made its appearance near the creek. At first sight 
he thought it a hunter's dog, but its wild appearance 
undeceived him, and he shot it. This was near night, 
and the following morning they made a raft of drift- 
wood, on which Capt. Shew crossed the stream to see 
what Stoner had killed. It proved to be a large she 
wolf, and a young cub which had just been trying to 
obtain nourishment from it, fled on the hunter's ap- 
proach, (as he had not taken his gun along,) and se- 
creted its famishing form in the rank grass. Shew 
skinned the wolf, and Judge Simon Veeder paid them 
twenty shillings, the then legal bounty, for its scalp. 

Maj. Stoner shot but one other w r olf while hunting, 
although he trapped them often. He never killed a 
panther, as none were so reckless of life as to cross 
his path; but he very often heard their startling 
scream from their mountain haunts. He killed no 
less than seventeen bears in two seasons. 

The celebrated Nathaniel Foster and Maj. Stoner 
were hunting together one fall, when they trapped a 
large eagle. They set the trap beside the carcase 
of a deer the wolves had killed on the ice upon 



148 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK". 

Round lake ; and the national bird, as a reward for the 
low company it kept, was caught in a wolf-trap, and 
flew off with it; a heavy clog being attached to its 
chain. The following spring one Barrington visited 
the place with Stoner, and in searching they found 
the trap in the bush beside the lake, where the clog 
had become entangled, else the majestic bird w r ould 
possibly have soared away to its eyry with its vast 
load. It was dead when discovered, and the trap, 
which was Foster's, was restored to him. 

During the time he was a hunter, a period of forty 
or fifty years, Maj. Stoner hunted with very many in- 
dividuals; among whom were several Indians. He 
was out some time with a man named Flagg, of 
whom we can say nothing, except that he w T ore a cu- 
rious cap, made from the skin of a loon with its 
downy coat on. He hunted one season with a St. 
Regis Indian, named Powlus, and his acquaintances 
wondered that he dared to do it. With this Indian 
he explored the head wsters of Grass river, which 
empties into the St. Lawrence. At this place they 
met with a small area of land with a fine growth of 
hickory and oak timber. Persons going from Canada 
to Johnstown in the summer season, either had to go 
by way of the Sacondaga river, or else far to the w r est 
of it, on account of a large territory of drowned lands 
in the vicinity of Grass river. The latter district was 
traversed with ease in the winter, however, by hunt- 
ers on snow shoes, when the low lands were frozen. 



TRAPPERS OP NEW YORK. 149 

Near the head of Grass river, the Johnstown trappers 
met a French Canadian hunter, who had a squaw for 
a wife. He was desirous of going as far south as 
Johnstown, and Stoner traced a map of the most feasi- 
ble route for him, upon a piece of birch bark, to en- 
able him to accomplish the journey. Whether he 
ever reached the designated point is not known. 

Subsequent to Maj. Stoner's hunting with Mason, 
Dunn, and Jackson, who were most frequently his 
companions; he hunted two seasons with another St. 
Regis Indian, called Capt. Gill; with whom he was 
very successful. They caught twenty-six beavers and 
five otters, beside considerable other game, in one 
spring. Beaver usually sold for about one dollar a 
pound; and good skins would weigh about four pounds 
each. Otter skins sold from five to seven dollars the 
pelt. Stoner has received one hundred dollars for 
peltries taken in a single season. 

Gill had his squaw Molly with him while hunting, 
and a daughter, or a Molly junior, who, the Indian said, 
was not his papoose. Indian women usually remained 
at the camp, and did the cooking for the hunters. 
Beavers generally built their dams across the outlets 
of the lakes. Gill was very successful in spearing 
those sagacious animals in their houses. While to- 
gether, they once trapped no less than four beavers in 
a single night. This Indian was a catholic, and in 
a thunder shower would cross himself repeatedly. He 

was in the English service in the war of the Revolu- 

13* 



150 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

tion, and was present at the destruction of Stone 
Arabia; but in the last w r ar he took protection under 
the authorities of New York. He entertained no lit- 
tle fear, and possibly harbored not much love for his 
fellow countrymen; and on an emergency, would per- 
haps have scrupled as little as did his fearless com- 
panion, to punish their aggressions. 

Eben Blakeman, who several times hunted with our 
hero, was once on a hunt when the Indians disturbed 
his traps; but being joined by Stoner, they left the 
hunting grounds sans ceremonie. Obadiah Wilkins, 
another lover of the chase, was more than once asso- 
ciated with Major Stoner in trapping excursions. 
Their wives were cousins. On one occasion when 
they were hunting in Bleeker, Wilkins, to replenish 
their larder, took fishing tackle and seated himself on 
a rock in West Stoney creek, a tributary of the Sa- 
condaga. He had barely gained the position, when 
a stout Indian came to him and inquired rather insult- 
ingly, " What doing here ?" He replied, " I am fish- 
ing." " Have got gun ?" interrogated the visitor. 
" Yes, at the camp," said Wilkins, a little disconcert- 
ed at the fierce manner of his inquirer. Observing 
the advantage he had gained, the red hunter continued, 
" This Indian's hunting ground — Yankees no business 
here — you must leave him /" As Wilkins made but 
little reply to the last remark, the speaker continued, 
" Has white man got partner V* " Yes, at the camp. 
" What his name ?" " Nick Stoner." 



55 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 151 

Had the witch of Endor risen before him, the 
forest-son would not have been more disagreeably 
taken a-back, and he gave a loud guttural " Umph! " 
Observing the magic wrought by the utterance of a 
single name, Wilkins became reassured, and invited 
the blanketed hunter to go with him to the camp. 
" Nol Indian go to his own camp !" he responded, 
and soon after disappeared in the wilderness. This 
Indian had frightened a hunter, named Wheeler, from 
these grounds not long before ; but when he heard 
that Stoner was in the neighborhood, the air seemed 
to oppress his lungs; and hastily collecting his traps, 
he broke up his camp and sought afar off a new forest- 
home. The reason assigned by Wilkins to his part- 
ner for being disconcerted at the interrogatories of 
this savage hunter was, that the latter was armed with 
a hatchet, and himself only w T ith a fishing-rod. 

The last difficulty Stoner had with the Indians while 
trapping, occurred at Lake Pleasant. Dunning, who 
then lived at the Ox-Bow, four miles from Lake 
Pleasant, had left his traps in the wilderness where he 
had previously hunted, and was afraid to go after thera 
alone at the return of the hunting season. Obadiah 
Wilkins left home with Stoner on this enterprise, and 
leaving him to hunt with Dunning's father nearer 
home, Stoner and Dunning set out to find and use the 
hidden traps. Before reaching them, and about thirty 
miles from the settlement, Stoner set two of his own 
traps for beaver, one in the stream and the other on 



152 TRAPrERS OF NEW YORK. 

the shore of a small lake; a little distance further he 
set another trap for an otter. Arriving at a pond 
which lay in their route, not far from where the last 
trap was set, they found a large moose in it fighting 
flies, which Stoner, with some twinges of conscience, 
drew up and shot. They skinned it and sunk the hide 
beneath the water, to get the hair off; and two musk- 
rat skins they had already secured they hung up in 
the vicinity. Not more than one-fourth of a mile far- 
ther on, they came to a deserted camp, with the 
appearance of having been recently occupied. Much 
wearied and the day far spent, they tarried over night 
at this hunter's lodge. 

On the following morning, as the distance was not 
very great, Dunning went back to the place where 
the nearest trap was set, but could not find it; and 
before renewing the journey for his traps, they returned 
together, if possible to learn the fate of the one, and 
recover the other two traps. The trap set for an otter 
was indeed clear gone, and about it were Indians' 
tracks, but the other two were safe. In the one left 
in the creek a beaver had been caught that proved 
wise enough to gnaw its own leg off, and escape by 
leaving its foot in the trap; and in the other they 
found an otter. 

While on their way to obtain their traps, they heard 
the report of a gun fired in the distance, w r hich they 
thought might possibly tell what direction the lost 
property had taken. Recovering Dunning's traps, 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 153 

they now went to another stream to hunt, where they 
had some success. Visiting their haunts one day, they 
found one trap had been robbed of its game; and as 
it was a very heavy one, the robber not caring to take 
it along had left it suspended by the jaws upon a 
stump. On their route home, the hunters halted where 
the moose had been slain; and here they found fresh 
evidence of intrusion upon their rights. Well was it 
for the evil doer that he had not lingered there, else 
he might have been mistaken for another of Mason's 
bears. The moose-skin had been pulled up and some 
of it cut off, and the muskrat-skins had found a new 
owner. 

Arriving at Dunning's Saturday afternoon, they 
learned that two Indian trappers had just come in at 
the lake settlement, four miles distant, with fur; at 
which place there was a tavern, a small grocery, 
store, &c. Capt. Wright kept the tavern, and one 
Williams the grocery; the latter dealing principally 
in such articles as ammunition, blankets, rum, &c, to 
sell to trappers and adventurers. Stoner wished to 
visit Lake Pleasant to see whether the hunters had 
not got his lost trap and stolen fur; but Wilkins de- 
clined going with him, and the younger Dunning 
became his companion. 

On their arrival at Wright's they learned that the 
Indian hunters were Capt. Benedict and Francis, a 
large yellow-skin, and that they were encamped in 
the woods about one hundred yards from the inn. As 



154 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

it was nearly dark, they concluded to defer a visit to 
their place of rest until morning. Some time in the 
night, a sister's son of Wright awoke his uncle to 
inform him that the dogs of the Indian hunters were 
killing their sheep. Stoner got up and accompanied 
the young man to the field to drive the dogs from the 
sheep, one of which they had already slain. In the 
morning Stoner visited the Indians at their fire in the 
woods. Near it lay the dogs, and at hand were two 
rifles, a basket of potatoes, and a piece of pork. The 
rifles were resting one on each side of the basket, while 
between his knees Francis held a jug of whiskey, over 
which he was singing a huntsman's chorus. 

Capt. Benedict, who was a pretty likely Indian, 
w r as well known to Maj. Stoner, and as the latter ap- 
proached, told his companion who he was. In the 
group lay a bundle of traps tied together with thongs 
of Stoner's moose-hide, and conspicuously among them 
appeared his lost trap. It was known the previous 
evening in the neighborhood what the object was of 
Stoner's visit to the lakes, and when he went to the 
hunter's lodge early in the morning, Wright, Wil- 
liams, one Peck, and perhaps others who may have 
taken a nap the less to enable them to, stole up 
behind trees as near as they could without being ob- 
served, on purpose, as they afterwards said, to witness 
the fun they anticipated would follow the interview. 

After friendly salutations had passed between Stoner 
and Benedict, the former walked to the traps and 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 155 

jerked his up from the rest, enquiring sharply how it 
came there ? He would have recognized the trap 
among a thousand others : it was made by William 
Mann, of Johnstown, and had on it Stoner's private 
hunter's mark. When blacksmiths made traps for 
hunters, they generally put some peculiar mark on 
them their own fancy suggested, never placing the 
same device upon the traps of different hunters. Seeing 
Stoner about to cut it loose, Francis exclaimed, "JVb 
cut him! No cut him!" extending his hand to pre- 
vent the act, at which interference the claimant 
raised the whole bundle and knocked the intruder 
down with it. Regaining his feet and seeing the 
trap already in the possession of its owner, the con- 
science-stricken trapper said gruffly, " If trap yours, 
take him!" 

Pay w T as next demanded for the lost fur, and epi- 
thets were bandied between Stoner and Francis, 
of which passion was the parent. Benedict, who w T as 
evidently ashamed of his company, now interfered, 
and to some extent pacified his old acquaintance, who 
accepted the jvg of friendship, and drank of its sup- 
posed healing and cooling, though very fiery waters. 
As readily would oil put out a flame, as alcohol have 
quieted the storm of human passion. After a little 
further conversation with Benedict, not wishing to be 
outdone in generosity, Stoner asked the Indians to go 
to the tavern and drink with him. The invitation 
was readily accepted, and Francis, as the partner of 



156 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Benedict, went along, although at first he pretended 
he would not go. 

The two friends before the bar soon held each a 
tumbler of liquid fire, and Stoner asked Francis to 
pour out and drink with them. He declined in a very 
insolent manner, whereupon the former smashed the 
tumbler he held, liquor and all, against his head. The 
Indian, as soon as he could regain a standing posi- 
tion, enraged at the act, closed with his adversary, 
and in the short scuffle which followed, the latter 
proved too smart for his yellow antagonist, and pitched 
him neck and heels out of the bar-room door upon 
the ground. He had a hard fall, and when he rose 
up several gravel stones remained half buried in his 
cheek and temples. The fight would no doubt have 
become a deadly one, had it not been arrested at this 
point by the by-standers, who held the parties asunder 
until their ardor and passion had a little time to cool 
down. 

When reason began to assume her throne, Stoner 
demanded of Francis either the furs stolen from his 
traps or the money for them. The parties now went 
to Williams's store, where they found the green bea- 
ver-skin stolen from the heavy trap, which the Indian 
had there sold the previous afternoon. He finally 
admitted having taken that skin from the trap men- 
tioned, but denied having taken the two muskrat 
pelts, although several were among the fur he had 
sold Williams, saying that probably some young 



TRAPPERS OF NEW l'ORK. 157 

Indians who were then hunting in the woods had 
taken them. A compromise was now made, and 
Francis paid Stoner a certain sum to settle their diffi- 
culties, a receipt for which was drawn up by Williams, 
as dictated by Stoner. About this time the young In- 
dians referred to, five in number, came in. They had 
several marten-skins, but more fully to establish the 
guilt of the accused they had not the pelt of a single 
muskrat. One of the boys, a likely young Indian, 
who answered to the name of Lige Ell, and who was 
a son of Benedict, when told that he had been accused 
by Francis of having taken Stoner's fur, seemed highly 
offended by the insult. The truth was, the traps of 
Francis being fastened together by strips of the moose- 
skin, near which the lost pelts had been left, if it did 
not prove his guilt, was at least strong evidence 
against him. 

Lige Ell went to the store to buy a pocket-knife, 
but did not like any there. He said of all Williams 
had, " there wasn't no more fire in 'em than there was 
in his nose." Hunters wanted a heavy knife, with 
which they could not only skin large game, but one, 
the back of which would elicit from flint the spark of 
comfort in the wilderness. Stoner handed the lad his 
own knife, with which he seemed delighted, and as 
the old trapper was rather partial to the boy, he made 
him a present of it. The young Indian then, to cap 
the climax of his happiness, bought a quart of the 

red man's exterminator, rum, and a cake of maple 

14 



158 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

sugar, got pretty drunk, and with his no less tipsy 
companions went to shooting at a mark. 

Here is no doubt given a true picture of the manner 
in which the Sabbath is too often kept, or rather, 
broken, on the outskirts of civilization. Benedict's 
son told Francis, after a knowledge of all that had 
transpired between him and " Old Stoner," with whom 
by repute he was no stranger, that if he desired to 
live, he must never show his head in that region again; 
as, if he did return, he would certainly be killed. It 
is believed he never afterwards intruded on the hunt^ 
ing grounds of the Johnstown trappers; if he did, he 
certainly was cautious not to disturb either their traps 
or their furs. 

It was customary some twenty years ago, in the 
summer season, for Indian families to come down from 
the north and locate themselves for weeks, and some- 
times for months, in the neighborhood of the Mohawk 
river settlements and make baskets, which they ex- 
changed at the nearest villages for trinkets, gay 
calicoes, liquor, tobacco, scarlet cloth, &c. Three 
of a party that had taken up their residence one sum- 
mer to make baskets in Stoner's neighborhood, lodged 
in his barn. The major had a large dog at the time, 
and his guests a small one. One day when he was 
gone from home, his dog, not pleased with the In- 
dians' canine friend, which he considered intruding 
upon his rights, took him by the neck and gave him 
a hard shaking. The owner of the little yelper, armed 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORE. 159 

with a knife, set out to revenge the insult with the 
death of the offender. 

This incident happened when Mary Stoner was in 
her teens, and at the time, she and her mother were 
at home alone. Hearing an unusual noise, Mary 
opened the door, and seeing the Indian in pursuit of 
their dog, she called it into the house and fastened 
it in. Arrested at the door, he uttered numerous 
threats, and several times stuck his knife into it, at 
which moment Stoner approached. Seeing an Indian 
armed with a long knife, attempting to enter his 
dwelling, he ran up and knocked him down, and was 
giving him a few hasty kicks, when the other two 
Indians came to the rescue of their comrade. Hearing 
her father's voice, Miss Stoner looked out, and seeing 
two Indians hold of him, she feared they w T ould kill 
him, and hastened to place in his hand a heavy fire- 
shovel for his defence. The act proved the girl " a 
chip of the old block," but he told her to carry back 
the weapon, that the Indians would not hurt him. 
They did not seek his injury, but to rescue their friend. 
The day after this dog difficulty the Indians in the 
neighborhood all disappeared, and one of the party 
who had borrowed a blanket of Stoner to go deer- 
hunting, forgot to return it. 

Maj. Stoner was a very successful trapper, and 
frequently brought in such large quantities of fur that 
many suspected he had obtained it unfairly from other 
hunters, but such he declares was never the case. 



CHAPTER XL 

Maj. Stoner became a widower when he had been 
married over forty years; after which he lived be- 
tween fifteen and twenty years with Mrs. Polly Phye, 
and until her death. Her husband, Daniel Phye, 
abandoned her, for what reason is unknown. He 
died many years ago at the westward. 

After Phye had been gone several years, and dark 
mystery had drawn her curtain of uncertainty around 
his fate; gossip sometimes made Mrs. Phye a grass, 
and at others, a hay-widow. At this period Maj. 
Stoner paid his addresses successfully, to the supposed 
widow; and although she considered herself absolved 
from all farther connection with Phye; still, as he 
might be alive and possibly return, prudence prevent- 
ed a ceremonial marriage, which could by law con- 
sign her to the inner walls of a prison; and they re- 
solved to unite their stock in trade, and move along 
cheerfully if they could, in the great wake of the 
human family. Thus they did pass on quietly and 
happily until separated by death. They had no chil- 
dren by this voluntary marriage. Let the stickler for 
a rigid adherence at all times to established laws 
without reference to their operation, imagine this 
case wholly their own, before they feel prepared to 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 161 

condemn the course of this couple, or brand their con- 
duct with the title of crime. 

On the 23d day of April, 1840, having been a 
second time a widower for several years, Maj. Stoner 
married his present wife; who is considerably young- 
er than himself. Her maiden name was Hannah 
Houghtaling, but at the time of their marriage she 
was the widow Frank. 

At the present time (1846), the old trapper resides 
in the town of Garoga, Fulton county; at a settle- 
ment which has recently sprung up, called Newkirk's 
Mills. He owns a comfortable dwelling in which he 
lives, draws a pension from the general government, 
and from keeping several boarders, who work in the 
mills, which the industry of a smart wife enables 
him to do, he passes down the evening of his life 
very comfortably. Garret Newkirk, the proprietor 
here, has an extensive tannery, and a saw-mill in 
which two saws are almost constantly rending asun- 
der the trunks of the surrounding forest. The place 
has some fifteen or twenty dwellings, a school- 
house, a post-office, (called Newkirk's Mills) &c, 
and is situated pleasantly on the outlet of the Garoga 
lakes, two crystal sheets of water, each several miles 
in circuit, located some twelve or fifteen miles to the 
westward of Johnstown. Since the above was writ- 
ten, a public-house has been opened at this place, 
several new dwellings erected, and a plank-road con- 
structed from thence to Fonda, sixteen miles distant 

14* 



162 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

I have somewhere alluded to Chase's Patent. Wm. 
Chase, the patentee, was in early life a sea-captain, 
and in the Revolution became an American privateer. 
He was captured and taken to Europe, and while 
there visited France. After the war he removed 
from Providence, Rhode Island, to Hoosick, New 
York. At the latter place he built a bridge, by con- 
structing which, ne was enabled to purchase some 
12,000 acres of land in the western part of Fulton 
county. A large tract of land adjoining his, and 
which Chase intended to buy, was subsequently sold 
in Albany by auction, and was purchased by Barent 
Bleeker, Cornelius Glen, and Abraham G. Lansing. 
It was known as Bleeker and Lansing's patent. Fail- 
ing to secure this tract of land, on which he seems to 
have set his affections, Capt. Chase was heard to ex- 
claim with an oath, " 1 would rather have lost my 
right in Heaven, than a title to this soil ! " People 
w T hen excited often utter expressions devoid of wit 
and common sense, if not, in fact, foolishly wicked. 

In most of the surveys of wild land in and adjoin- 
ing Fulton county, made since the Revolution, Maj. 
Stoner, who was peculiarly fitted for the task by his 
familiarity with the forest, and his ability to endure 
fatigue, acted as pilot for the parties. At one time 
while engaged in exploring lands with Capt. Chase, 
the latter lost a gold snuff-box which had been a pre- 
sent in France, a gift he prized far above its real 
Talue. Stoner, fortunately for the old privateer's 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 163 

peace of mind, for he was not a little vexed at the 
misfortune, seeing it glitter in the leaves, picked it 
up aud restored it to tbe owner, who almost waltzed 
for joy. This same Capt. Chase was not a little ec- 
centric, and usually got up at least once in the night, 
to drink and take a pinch of snuff. 

When the lands contiguous to Piseco* lake, known 
as the Ox Bow tract, were surveyed, a road, " begin- 
ning eight miles northerly from Johnstown," was laid 
out from thence to Ox Bow lake, a distance of 26 miles 
and 9 chains. Major Stoner attended the surveyor and 
commissioners as pilot, and was thus engaged for two 
seasons. Lawrence Vrooman of Schenectada was the 
surveyor, and Stephen Owen and James McLalin were 
the commissioners on the road, as appears by a map 
of the survey, which was filed in the county clerk's 
office April 1, 1811. Not a "few pleasing incidents 
transpired in the wilderness during this time, to 
keep the party, which sometimes numbered nearly 
twenty, in good spirits. Of the number while laying 
out the road, who thus enjoyed a portion of the 
novelty attending a trapper's life, and learned how 
large mosquitoes will grow in the woods if well fed, 
were J. Watts Cady, and Marcus T. Reynolds. At 

* Pi-se-co is an aboriginal word, and in their pronunciation, 
the Indians speak it as though spelled Pe-sic-o ; giving a hissing 
sound to the second syllable. It is derived from pisco, a fish, 
and therefore signifies fish lake.— John Dunham. 

Piseco, says Spafford in his Gazetteer of New York, and which 
he spells Pezeeko, is so called after an old Indian hermit who 
dwelt upon its shores. 



164 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORE. 

that time they were young men, possibly with some 
" wild oats," but since then they have become legal 
gentlemen of no little notoriety. 

At one time when the surveying party were near 
the Ox Bow, a name significant of the shape of one 
of the lakes, and far removed from any human habi- 
tation; they got out of provisions, and the pack-men, 
whose duty it was to go after a supply, were unwil- 
ling to start, entertaining some doubts about ever 
finding their way back. In this emergency Stoner 
volunteered to proceed with as little delay as possible 
to the nearest settlement, which was Lake Pleasant, 
and relieve the necessities of his comrades. Arriving 
just at evening at the house of a pioneer, named 
Denny, the family baked nearly all night; and early 
in the morning, with a sack upon his back, contain- 
ing nearly a dozen large loaves of bread, and a good 
sized cheese to balance, he set out on his return. 
Knowing the necessities of his forest friends he did 
not tarry to let the bread get cold, and as the 
weather was warm, his back was almost blistered on 
his arrival. Before he reached the place of destina- 
tion, he met a messenger despatched by Vrooman to 
assist him; bringing a junk-bottle of rum. 

Speaking of his experience in surveying in the Pi- 
seco country, Cady observed of Stoner, that he would 
kindle a fire — climb a tree — cook a dinner — empty a 
bottle — shoot a deer — hook a trout — or scent an In- 
dian, quicker than any other man he ever knew. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 165 

The old trapper, as he informed the writer, took some 
pains to show the young men named, (who were law 
students at the time,) how to catch trout, and in the 
north branch of the Sacondaga, Cady, under his 
teaching, caught a bouncing one ; of which exploit 
he was very proud, as in fact he had a right to be; 
for it made a meal for the whole surveying corps. 

Anxious to get through as soon as possible, the party 
laying out a road, continued their labors in some in- 
stances on the Sabbath. Stoner usually carried a 
small flag, and while crossing a mountain in advance 
of the men on Sunday, he discovered a mass of ice 
between the rocks, and gave a shout that at first ex- 
cited the anxiety of his comrades, lest some wild 
beast lingered in their path. The next day they cap- 
tured a large turtle on the shore of Piseco lake, and 
from it took one hundred and seventy-two eggs, of 
which they made egg nogg; cooled before being 
served round by ice obtained by letting one of the 
corps down between the rocks. About twenty indi- 
viduals partook of the beverage, among whom were 
Seth Wetmore, the state's agent for opening an 
intersecting road, and Obadiah Wilkins. The last 
named gentleman acted as master of ceremonies in 
dressing and cooking the turtle's meat, which afford- 
ed the party a fine repast. This was on the 4th 
day of July, 1810. 

At some period of the survey, Stoner shot a hedge- 
hog, which Vrooman wanted skinned; and besought 



166 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

several to do it, but in vain: they did not dare to 
handle it. The old trapper volunteered and took off 
the bristly pelt; which the surveyor, on his return, 
carried home with him. 

The southerly portion of country under considera- 
tion is hilly and in many places mountainous. The 
soil is generally stony, though in many instances, 
fertile; but far better adapted to grazing, than the 
production of grain. The prevailing rock is of the 
primitive order, consequently the shores of the lakes 
which sparkle here and there in the glens, abound in 
deposites of beautiful sand; which often afford good 
writing sand. The timber is principally beech, birch, 
maple, hemlock and spruce. Much of the hemlock is 
sawed into fence-boards, and acres of the spruce 
annually wrought into shingles or sawed into floor- 
plank; all of which find a ready market at the nearest 
accessible point on the Erie canal: and since the 
Garoga and Fonda plank road is favorable to its re- 
moval, not a little will find its way to Fultonville, 
where considerable quantities were landed before the 
plank road was laid out. 

Much of this country still has a primeval look, but 
its majestic forest lords and advantageous water powers, 
must in time invite in the thrifty artisan and hard- 
fisted yeoman, to subdue and cultivate it: indeed, the 
time may not be distant when this new country shall 
not only " bud and blossom as the rose," but with the 
rose. It certainly must be a healthy district; for it 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 167 

abounds in waters the most limpid, and breezes the 
most invigorating. The lakes and their tributaries 
are stored with an abundance of delicious trout; and 
if not walled castles, stately mansions may yet rear 
their imposing fronts in those glens; to be known 
in future ages as the rivals of the far-famed glens of 
Scotland; when some Scott or Burns shall rise up, to 
picture their Indian legends in story and in song. 

The outlets to some of the lakes around which Maj. 
Stoner used to trap the sagacious, though too often 
confiding beaver, run off in a northerly course to swell 
the Hudson, while other lakes send their tribute in a 
southerly direction to the Mohawk. The most east- 
ern of the latter class are the Garoga lakes, discharg- 
ing in a creek of the same name, which runs into the 
Mohawk in the western part of Palatine. Some 
two or three miles to the westward of the Garogas is 
a larger lake, known among the early hunters as Fish 
lake, though often called Canada lake, because it pays 
tribute to the East Canada creek. 

An anonymous writer in the Geneva Courier, over 
the signature of Harold, has thus pertinently described 
this sheet of water and its locality, in that paper, 
bearing date, Oct. 28, 1845. " Two and a half miles 
from Caroga [Garoga must be the aboriginal word] is 
a larger lake, about four miles in length, to which I 
gave the name of Lake Byrn. It takes exactly the 
form of the letter S. I think this is the most romantic 
spot 1 ever visited. The surface of the ground rising 



168 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

"back from the shore, is covered with large irregularly- 
shaped rocks, from five to forty feet in diameter, lying 
entirely above ground, and often tumbling together 
in mountain masses, lodged and wedged in like drift- 
wood. Many of these rocks are riven asunder and 
the base of each portion thrown outward from the line 
of separation, the superior parts resting against each 
other, thus forming apartments with a solid stone roof 
large enough to shelter a dozen or twenty men. This 
I think must have been the work of fire. Strange as 
it may seem, all this is in quite a dense forest, and 
almost infinite are the shapes taken by the trees in 
their turnings and twistings to avoid the numerous 
rocks. In some instances the roots of a single tree 
have grown astride a huge rock, the base of the trunk 
resting on its apex, six or eight feet from the ground. 
The appearance is the same as if the rock were forced 
up from the ground beneath, elevating the tree with it, 
but not a particle of earth attaches to either; and these 
are all living, healthy trees. It is in this neighbor- 
hood that tradition says large sums of money were 
buried by certain Spaniards, in the time of the Ameri- 
can Revolution; but ' iVs sure never a bate o' it did I 
find at all, at all V So said a hard-fisted son of Erin, 
relating the story. Near the centre of Lake Byrn, is 
a small rocky island, covered with evergreens, birch 
and flowering shrubs." This island, the reader will 
remember, I have named Stoner's island. The writer 
above quoted called on Major Stoner, at the time of 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 169 

his visit, and his Chips of Travel contained a brief 
summary of the old warrior's military life. 

A few miles distant from Lake Byrn is a body of 
water of nearly the same size called Pine lake, on ac- 
count of the lordly pines about its shores: it empties 
into the former. Two small crystal sheets above Pine 
Jake are called Stink lakes. Their unpoetic name at- 
tached from the following incident. Stoner and De 
Line were there on a hunt, and discovered many 
bushels of dead fish, principally suckers, which had 
got over a beaver's dam in a freshet; and which, be- 
ing unable to return, had died on the recession of the 
water, to the great annoyance of those hunters, who 
thus named the lakes. Their outlet runs into that of 
Pine lake. Several small lakes in the southerly part 
of Hamilton county, unite their waters to form the head 
of West Canada creek. Lake Good Luck, some ten 
or twelve miles in circumference, which lies only a 
few miles to the northward of Stink lakes, empties 
into the west branch of the Sacondaga, one and a half 
miles below Devereux's mills. This lake derived its 
name from the following incident. While Vrooman 
was surveying near it, and several of his party were 
making a large canoe from the trunk of a tree, John 
Burgess, his son-in-law, discharged his gun at a loon, 
off on the water. The piece burst and scattered its 
fragments harmlessly in every direction. The acci- 
dent terminated so fortunately, that the name the lake 
now bears, was entered on the surveyor's field-book. 

id 



170 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

About two miles below the mouth of the outlet from 
Gook Luck, is a small lake called Trout lake. It 
abounds in trout, which circumstance originated its 
name; and not a few anglers visit it to replenish their 
larder. On the shore of this lake, the reader will re- 
member, a poor Indian once lost a turtle's and his own 
shell. Stoner at different times, killed two moose in the 
edge of this lake, while the animals were fighting flies. 
Satterlee's mills are located on West Sacondaga, at a 
rapid some two miles below the outlet of Trout lake. 
From those mills to the outlet of Piseco lake, the 
stream is rapid, affording fine mill-seats. At this 
rapid was also a carrying place, where the Indian and 
other hunters carried their canoes over land to get into 
Piseco lake. It is some twelve miles from the inlet of 
Piseco lake, to where the east and west branches of 
the Sacondaga unite. 

The Piseco is the largest of a cluster of lakes in 
Hamilton county, which empty into the west branch 
of the Sacondaga, and is some nine miles long, and in, 
places, nearly three broad, or twenty miles in circum- 
ference. (X the lakes in the neighborhood of Piseco, 
are Mud lake, so called because its shores are muddy; 
Spy lake, so named by the surveyors, because ap- 
proached so unexpectedly by them; Round lake, the 
name indicating its form; and Ox-Bow lake. The 
last mentioned is three or four miles long, though not 
very wide, and shaped like the bow of an ox-yoke. 
In the territory adjoining, and known as the Ox-bow 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 171 

tract, Seth Wetmore, a former sheriff of Montgomery 
county, owned some thousands of acres, a consider- 
able portion of which was received from the state 
as compensation for opening a road, the survey of 
which I have alluded to, from the shore of Piseco lake 
to the Bleeker settlements. Lake Pleasant,- another 
large and beautiful sheet of water, lies off to the north- 
east of the Piseco; and its outlet, with other streams, 
forms the eastern branch of the Sacondaga: to the 
westward of Lake Pleasant, some ten or twelve miles, 
is a pretty lake, called Louis's lake, after a Canadian 
Indian, who formerly hunted upon its shores. 

The land in the Piseco country, though hilly and 
often mountainous, is said to be less stony and more 
fertile than that of the Garoga and Bleeker territory; 
and when New England gets her telescope upon it, it 
will beyond all doubt, be thickly peopled by enter- 
prising inhabitants. Many acres of the soil are covered 
w r ith a heavy growth of pine and spruce timber, which 
only needs an avenue to market richly to reward the 
pioneer for the blows of his axe and saw. 

From the lakes of Hamilton county, streams run off 
in almost every point of compass. Besides the lakes 
named, there are numerous others in different parts of 
this county; among which are Lake Janet, named 
after the accomplished wife of Professor James E. De 
Kay, zoologist of the state in her late scientific survey; 
Lake Catharine, named after a multitude of good 
Dutch women, and one in particular; Racket and Long 



172 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORE. 

lakes. The two last named are the largest in the 
county, being one fourteen and the other eighteen 
miles in length. Hamilton county, from her isolated 
situation w T ith regard to the export of her products; 
being too far removed to warrant a transport by land 
to a good market, is mostly in a wild and unsettled 
condition; she having only one legal voter to every 
twenty -six hundred square acres of her territory; but 
could a communication by rail road or canal be opened 
to some good market place, it would soon teem with 
a busy population. That a connected water commu- 
nication is feasible, is thus hinted at by Professor 
Emmons, in his volume of the New York Geology. 
He observes, speaking of the waters of Hamilton 
county: " These lakes, together with their bays, inlets 
and outlets, and other waters which may be connected 
with them, are capable of forming an extended line 
of water communication, by which a large portion of 
this section of country may be traversed; and proba- 
bly the time may not be far distant, w T hen it will be 
thought expedient to form and perfect some of the 
natural channels of communication which intersect 
this part of the state." 

In one of his annual reports during the geological 
survey, Dr. Emmons thus describes this region of 
country. " I have the pleasure of stating that it is 
far from being the wet, cold, swampy, and barren dis- 
trict which it has been represented to be. The soil is 
generally strong and productive; the mountains are 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 11 J 

not so elevated and steep, but that the soil is preserved 
of sufficient thickness to their tops to secure their 
cultivation, and most of the marshy lands may be re- 
claimed by ditching; by this means they will become 
more valuable than the uplands for producing hay. In 
fine, it will be found an excellent country for grazing, 
raising stock, and producing butter and cheese. The 
strength of the soil is sufficiently tested by the heavy 
growth of timber, which is principally of hard wood, 
as beech, maple, yellow-birch, butternut and elm. The 
evergreens or pines, are confined mostly to the lower 
ranges of mountains. Some of them are of the largest 
growth of any in the state, and are suitable for the 
main shafts of the largest of the cotton mills. In the 
main, the county resembles the mountainous districts 
of New England, and like these produces the same 
intermixture of forest trees, and has about the same 
adaptation for the production of the different kinds of 
grain, as wheat, rye, oats, peas, barley, together with 
fine crops of potatoes." 

Comparatively little is yet known of northern New 
York, indeed, a great part of what has heretofore been 
known, was only so in error; this is my apology, for 
saying so much about it. 

In a hunting excursion accompanied by Lieut. Wal- 
lace and one Coffin, Major Stoner went down to 
Jessup's river, some fifteen miles below Fish House; 
and in the woods between that river and the Sacondaga, 

they found the body of a white man they supposed 

15* 



174 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

had possibly been insane; and had strayed into the 
wilderness and there died: but he may have been a 
hunter and crossed the track of one of like craft, who 
revenged with death a real or supposed injury. 

The local Indian names Garoga, and Kennyetto, I 
have sought in vain to get the English definition of. 
If any individual can give the signification of either 
of them, they will confer a favor by communicating 
the same to my address. It is not only important that 
Indian names be preserved, but that their true mean- 
ing be handed down to future generations, which, 
divested of the prejudices that influence the present, 
will drop a tear of pity over the wrongs and injuries 
done this brave, indeed once noble but now degraded 
race; and cherish the significant and purely American 
names they once gave to our lakes, rivers, and moun- 
tains, as they would their household gods. 



CHAPTER XII. 

Nathaniel Foster, justly celebrated as a hunter and 
trapper of northern New York, was a native of Hins- 
dale, Windham county, Vermont; the town is now 
called Vernon. He was named after his father, and 
was born about the year 1767. At the age of three 
or four and twenty he married Miss Jemima, daughter 
of Amos Streeter, of New Hampshire ; a year or two 
after which, and nine or ten years subsequent to the 
close of the Revolution, he removed to the town of 
Salisbury, Herkimer county, New York; at which 
time the country around his new home was mostly a 
wilderness. 

In person he was nearly six feet high, erect and 
strongly built, with a large muscular frame that seem- 
ed well fitted for fatigue. His features were com- 
manding, though not finely marked, and when cheer- 
fulness lit up his countenance through his keen dark 
eye, they were rather prepossessing. His complexion 
was sallow, his hair was a sandy brown, but not very 
gray to the hour of his death, although he grew bald 
in the latter part of his life. 

At the time of Foster's emigration to New York, 
wild game was so abundant in the northerly part of 
Herkimer county, that.with his fondness for the ex- 



176 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

citement attending a hunter's life, circumstances com- 
bined to make him a perfect Nimrod. To adopt the 
language of a correspondent, " He was a Leather stock- 
ing of an original stamp, and devoted to a wild-wood 
life." He began his pioneer residence in the winter, 
and the following spring he took a sufficient quantity 
of fur, principally beaver, to purchase a cow and 
many articles necessary in housekeeping. He after- 
wards obtained yearly large quantities of valuable 
fur, such as beaver, otter, musk-rat, marten, &c. He 
has been known to have three or four hundred musk- 
rat traps set in a single season, employing at times 
several men to help him tend them. 

Deer, bears and wolves were so numerous for years 
after Foster made his home on the borders of the 
forest, that he slaughtered them in great numbers. 
Indeed, it is believed, that he has killed more of 
those animals collectively, than any other individual 
in the state during the same period ; having slain no 
less than seventy-six deer in one season, and ninety- 
six bears in three seasons. He has also been known 
to kill twenty-five wolves in one year; having a line 
of traps set for them from Salisbury to the St. Law- 
rence. These animals were so great a pest among 
the sheep-folds when the country was new, that a 
liberal bounty was paid for their destruction by the 
state; increased at times by the liberality of certain 
counties and towns in which they were the most nu- 
merous. The avails of his hunting and trapping 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 177 

amounted in one year, when a liberal price was set 
upon wolves, to the sum of twelve hundred and fifty 
dollars. He occasionally killed a panther. 

The bounties paid for the destruction of wild ani- 
mals, often made the taxes of frontier towns a bur- 
then; and a wealthy farmer in the neighborhood of 
Foster, took a stand one season which prevented the 
paying of such a reward for the destruction of wolves 
as hunters thought they deserved. The consequence 
was, that all the old and young Nimrods in the vi- 
cinity turned their attention to other game, and pur- 
posely let the wolves alone; which in a year or two 
more were greatly on the increase. Foster told his 
farmer friend at the election, he would be sorry for 
the manner in which he had voted, and after the 
animals had had time to increase, he w r as not much 
surprised, one morning, to hear a most pitiful story 
from him, about the injuries he had sustained the 
night before by wolves ; they had been into his sheep- 
fold and destroyed more property in a single night, 
than his tax, when the highest bounty was paid for 
their scalps, had amounted to in several years. He 
soon found, to use a hunter's phrase, he was barking 
up the wrong tree for sympathy. " Well," said 
Leatherstocking, with not a little manifest indiffer- 
. ence, " I don't know as I can pity you much. If you 
are unwilling to pay me for protecting your sheep, 
you must buy traps and take care of them yourself." 
It is perhaps unnecessary to add, the penurious far- 



178 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

mer was ready to vote a more liberal bounty than 
ever for the destruction of wolves, at the next proper 
election. 

Some winters Foster turned his attention almost 
wholly to the killing of deer, disposing of their sad- 
dles and skins for the eastern market. The visitor to 
the Albany Museum w T ill there see the skin of a large 
moose which was shot by this hunter, and for which he 
received from the proprietor some fifty dollars. There 
is the skin of another large moose in a New York or 
Philadelphia museum, also killed by this hunter. 
The following incident attended the death of one of 
those animals. Foster had a favorite dog, as fond of 
hunting as was his master. The bay of this saga- 
cious animal one day called its owner to a retired 
spot in the forest, where he discovered Watch 
holding a moose by the nose; keeping his own body 
between the fore-legs of his adversary, to avoid the 
heavy blows aimed at him with the antlers of the 
enraged animal, which formidable weapons weighed 
together nearly thirty pounds. 

On nearing the spot Foster sent a bullet through 
the heart of the moose, which in its death-struggle 
dashed the dog off with a terrible blow. The print 
of the dog's teeth remained upon the nose of the 
moose, but both inimals appeared to be dead. Foster 
took off his coat and laid his canine friend upon it, 
at which time a partner in the hunt arrived upon the 
ground. With a heavy heart Foster prepared to skin 



TRAPPERS OP NEW YORK. 179 

the game, when his comrade observed a moving of 
the muscles about the dog's neck, and told the former 
it would recover, but the old hunter shook his head 
doubtingly. After a while Watch raised his head 
slowly from the ground to receive the caress of his 
master; but as soon as his eye rested upon his fallen 
antagonist, he sprang to his feet and seized the life- 
less moose by the throat, from w T hich he was with no 
little difficulty removed. The restoration of his favor- 
ite dog to life, caused Foster more real joy than could 
possibly the killing of a dozen moose. 

One or two years after Nathaniel Foster settled in 
Salisbury, his father removed from the east with his 
family, and located in the same town. He, too, was 
something of a sportsman. Nathaniel had two bro- 
thers younger than himself, who, as they attained 
sufficient age, indulged occasionally in hunting deer. 
The following incident will show how providentially 
the elder brother was once saved from harm. His 
brother Elisha having on some occasion borrowed his 
gun, sent it home by a young son. The lad as he 
neared the dwelling saw his uncle going in at the 
door, and to be very smart, as boys sometimes are, he 
drew up the piece and snapped it at him. On enter- 
ing the house he told his kinsman what he had done; 
when the old hunter took the piece from the hand of 
his nephew, walked to the door and snapped it, 
and a bullet whizzed through the air from its muzzle. 
He remarked as he went to set it away, that he had 



180 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

shot seventy-six deer with his rifle that season, and it 
had not before missed fire in a single instance during 
the whole time. 

The rifle with which Foster usually hunted would 
carry two balls as well as one; and when he desired 
to render the death of large game doubly sure, he 
loaded with two bullets. Foster and Stoner had each 
a rifle at one time made after the same pattern, by 
Willis Avery, of Salisbury, and called double shotters. 
They were made with a single barrel with two locks, 
one placed above the other far enough to admit of two 
charges, and have the upper charge of powder rest 
upon the lower bullet. The locks were made for 
percussion pills, and when the pick which crushed 
the pill at the first lock was down, there was no dan- 
ger to be apprehended in firing the lower charge. 
These rifles cost about seventy dollars each. That of 
Stoner was borne by a soldier into the late Florida 
war. 

The following incident will serve to show one of 
the numberless perils to which hunters are exposed 
in the forest. Nathaniel Foster and his brother, 
Shubael, were on a deer hunt many years ago in St. 
Lawrence county, when the former came suddenly 
upon two noble bucks trying titles to the soil. To end 
the dispute, he drew up and shot one, and as it fell 
the other bounded off a few rods, and halted to wit- 
ness a more novel engagement than its own recent 
one. The fallen deer was not killed, but was badly 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 181 

stunned by the ball striking it near the back-bone, 
and as the hunter ran up to cut its throat, the animal 
sprang upon its haunches, and in its own defence 
struck furiously at him w T ith its antlers. Quick as 
thought, this modern Leatherstocking placed the knife 
between his teeth, and grappled the weapons of his 
unexpected foe. The struggle for the mastery was 
long and fierce, the hunter not daring to let go his 
hold; but, as good luck would have it, he got the 
head of the deer between two trees, against one of 
which a horn was broken, and the worried animal 
thrown down. Before it could recover, the hunter 
dealt it a blow upon the head with a club fortune had 
placed at his command, when he succeeded in cutting 
its throat. The tussle lasted more than thirty minutes; 
and when his brother arrived upon the ground, he 
found the grass and bushes trampled down for several 
rods around. The strength of the hunter was nearly 
exhausted in the engagement; while his tattered gar- 
ments gave evidence, that a visit to his w r ardrobe 
would alone restore his outward man to the condition 
it was in an hour before 

On a certain occasion, Shubael Foster visited a 
wolf-trap, in company with his brother, Nathaniel, 
in which a w r olf was caught by one of its hind 
legs. It crawled under a log on their approach; 
and the senior hunter conceiving it would make him 
a fine pet, resolved to take the snarler home alive. 

With a forked stick he fixed a kind of halter upon its 

16 



182 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

nose, and loosening it from the trap, he thus led the 
captive home. It would go ten or fifteen rods as 
quietly as a dog, and then spring at their faces with 
all its might. He kept it muzzled and fasting about 
the house for several days, much of which time it 
concealed itself under a bed. It was finally slain and 
a bounty taken for its scalp. 

Nathaniel Foster was familiarly called Uncle Nat, 
among his intimate friends. His early advantages at 
school were limited, as were those of many of the 
hardy pioneers of western and northern New York, 
who chanced to be boys in the great American con- 
test for liberty. When he settled in Salisbury, he 
could neither read nor write; but, about the year 
IS 10, William Waterman, then a merchant in Salis- 
bury, learned him to write at his store, as he informed 
the author. 

The northerly part of Herkimer county was not only 
a wilderness when Foster began the life of a hunter, 
but much of it is still in a state of nature. It is dotted 
with numerous crystal lakes and rivulets, to the shores 
of which Foster was invited in his hunting excursions, 
as wild game grew scarce nearer his home. About 
the year 1793, or 1794, John Brown, a capitalist of 
Rhode Island, purchased a tract of two hundred and 
ten thousand acres of wild lands about the head waters 
of Moose river, a tributary to the Black river. Lying 
in the north-east part of Herkimer and the western 
part of Hamilton counties, is a connected chain of 



Trappers of new York. 183 

eight small lakes, and their outlet forms one branch of 
Moose river. It is known there, however, as the Mill 
stream. These lakes, which lie in a line running 
nearly east and west, are called in Gordon's Gazetteer, 
the Fulton lakes, hut why they are so called, does not 
appear. 

Brown did not purchase this land of the govern- 
ment, as I # am informed, but got it of some individual 
in payment for a debt, and soon after opened a road 
from Remsen to it. It is said to have cost Brown 
some thirty cents an acre. He visited the tract in the 
winter of 1798 and 1 7 99, and had then, or previously, 
several log dwellings, a grist-mill and a saw -mill erect- 
ed upon it, with the view of bringing it into market 
He spent very little time upon the tract, however, and 
had not accomplished much in the way of subduing 
those wild lands at the time of his death, which took 
place in 1S06. 

Charles F. HerreshofT having married the widow 
Francis, a daughter of John Brown, resolved upon 
making a permanent settlement upon Brown's tract 
(so called since his purchase), and went on to it with 
that intent about the year 1812. He has generally 
been regarded as a German, but in answer to an in- 
quiry, he assured Darius Hawkins, he was a Prussian 
by birth. He had a commanding appearance, being 
over six feet high and well formed. He was very 
gentlemanly in his deportment, though extremely 
proud and aristocratic. He is said to have been a 



184 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

finished scholar. On entering the forest he declared 
with an oath, that he would settle the tract, or settle 
himself. 

Herreshoff spent the greater part of his time on the 
tract for several years, but his w r ife, it is believed, was 
aever there: she disapproved of his seemingly vision- 
ary operations. Although he was not as well calcu- 
lated as some men of a less enterprising spirit are to 
settle a new country, still, considering the great diffi- 
culties he had to encounter, which are of a magnitude 
people living at ease in cities can hardly conceive, he 
had accomplished much towards the fulfilment of his 
purpose. He repaired the mills Brown had erected, 
and in the course of a few years he had cleared up 
nearly two thousand acres of land, the greater part of 
which had been heavily timbered, and erected thereon 
some thirty or forty buildings. The mills were nearly 
three miles from the most westerly lake of the Fulton 
chain, and at that place he built a forge for the smelt- 
ing of iron ore. He also opened several roads to the 
nearest settlements. 

He had expended, it is said, more than fifteen thou- 
sand dollars (some persons have named a much larger 
sum), with as yet the prospect of its paying little or 
no interest, and made a call on his Providence friends 
for more money. But alas! for his peace of mind — 
the draft was dishonored. Unwilling to survive the 
mortification attendant on a failure of his schemes, 
and unable to prosecute them any further for the want 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 185 

of means, he became disheartened, loaded a pistol, went 
into the yard in front of his dwelling, and blew out 
his brains; thus effectually settling himself. The re- 
port of the pistol instantly brought out the inmates of 
the house, who found the victim of ambition sitting 
upon the ground, where, in a few moments he lay a 
gory corpse. 

Such was the melancholy and tragic fate of one of 
the most enterprising men that ever entered the wild 
lands of New York, to subdue them. It would almost 
seem as though he had lived before his time. Large 
sums of the money he had expended, were exhausted 
in searching for iro7i, where it is very possible, with 
the knowledge modern science has at her beck, little 
or no expense would have been incurred. That iron 
and perhaps other valuable ores abound in that part 
of the state in large quantities, is not unlikely; and 
some more fortunate, though less enterprising man 
than the first active settler upon Brown's tract, may 
yet reap a rich harvest there for his labors. 

The death of HerreshoiT took place December 19, 
1819, at which time he was boarding with Gardner 
Vincent, whose family resided on the tract. Herre- 
shoff took three hundred merino sheep on to his clear- 
ing, where he also kept a span of horses. The body 
of Herreshoff, after his death, was carried out to Rus- 
sia Corners, a distance of nearly fifty miles, where an 
inquest was held upon it by Henry S. Whiting as 

coroner. Several citizens of Boonville were there at 

16* 



186 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

the time, who requested to take the body to that place, 
after the inquest, for burial, and they were permitted 
to take it. Says Mr. Henry Graves of Boonville,N.Y., 
in a communication to the writer: " At this place I 
examined the wound of Herreshoff. The ball entered 
the right temple and passed through the head." A 
few years after his death Herreshoff 's friends placed 
at his grave, which is near one corner of the village 
grave-yard in Boonville, a marble slab with the fol- 
lowing inscription: 

CHARLES 

FRED ERICK 

HERRESHOFF, 

Obiit Dec. 19th, 

1819, 

.flEtat 50. 

Herreshoff is said, on good authority, to have manu- 
factured just a ton of iron at his forge, from ore ob- 
tained on Brown's tract. It was of the very best 
quality, and cost, when ready for use, just one dollar a 
pound. Says a correspondent, " Black sand found 
upon the lake shore, and separated by magnets, was 
principally used in making his iron. He, however, 
expected to find mountain or rock ore, and in one case 
he followed a small vein in the rocks some 200 feet, 
at an enormous expense." Some have stated that the 
quantity of iron made by Herreshoff was less than is 
named above, and a friend writes that " every pound 
of iron he made cost him more than an ounce of gold." 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 187 

The cost of his iron gives a principal reason why he 
committed suicide. The taxes upon the tract were 
also heavy for unproductive property. The assessor's 
valuation was one shilling an acre. Samuel Giles 
went in from Russia two seasons (believed in 1813 
and 1814), and collected the tax, which was sixty 
dollars each year. 

Stephen Smith, 2d, of Russia, was engaged as a 
surveyor on Brown's tract, in the years 1815, 16 and 
17. He was employed by John Brown Francis, a 
step-son of HerreshofF, who has since been governor 
of Rhode Island. The tract was divided into eight 
townships, numbering from one to eight. Names are 
said to have been given to those paper towns, two of 
which are believed to have been Economy and Fru- 
gality: names very proper for any of those town- 
ships, and indicative of the virtues it would be 
necessary to practice, in order to live there. 

In 1817, Smith was engaged in laying out a public 
road through the tract. It began two miles east of 
Boonville, and striking the tract it ran through town- 
ships number 1, 2, part of 3, and all of 7. From 
HerreshofF 's mills it ran up on the north side of the 
lakes, terminating at the Sacondaga state road, lead- 
ing from Russel, St. Lawrence county, to Lake Plea- 
sant, in Hamilton county, then being surveyed by 
Judge Atwater, of St. Lawrence county, and located 
by John Fay, Esq., of Fish House, as commissioner. 
This road extended southerly to the town of Wells, 



188 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

as I have elsewhere shown. The greater part of it 
is now overgrown with trees. The road opened by 
Smith was forty miles long, and intersected the Sacon- 
daga road twenty-seven miles from Lake Pleasant. 
Smith was engaged on his road, of which he was also 
a commissioner, sixty days, with nine hands. Bridges 
and cross-ways were not made by the surveying party. 

Moose lake, after which Moose river is called, is 
one of the largest and purest lakes on the tract, being 
several miles in extent, and very deep. It lies a few 
miles south of the western end of the Fulton chain. 
Southerly from Moose lake, and farther to the east- 
ward, heads what is called the South branch of Moose 
river. It is three miles from Moose lake to the South 
branch; on which stream, and nearly opposite Moose 
lake is a small clearing of several acres, called Cana- 
shagala, an Indian name. Some suppose this clearing 
was made by the Indians, and others that the timber 
was destroyed by fire. The stream at this point is a 
remarkable spot for fishermen. 

The survey for the road was first extended up on 
the south side of the Fulton chain, and north side of 
Moose lake, to Fifth lake; but as the route was found 
impracticable for a good road, on account of the diffi- 
culties to be overcome in the make of the land, it was 
located on the opposite side of the lakes. The road 
laid out by Smith, struck the Black river ten miles 
from the starting point: from thence to Moose river, 
was six and a half miles; from which place to the 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 189 

middle settlement, or the Herreshoff dwelling, it was 
nearly five miles more, making the whole distance 
from Boonville nearly twenty-four miles. The land 
on each side of the road was taxed to defray the ex- 
penses of its survey. Going in from the Remsen 
road, Moose river is crossed about one mile south of 
the clearing. Near the road from the middle settle- 
ment (on the right in entering), is a little lake of 
several acres, called Huckleberry lake, those berries 
growing on its shore The outlet of this pond runs 
into the Mill stream. 

Few incidents attending the survey of Brown's 
tract are now remembered. A porcupine, one day, 
claimed a preemption right to the soil, and evinced 
a disposition to dispute the surveyor's title, planting 
itself in a bristling posture directly in the road. It 
was an ugly customer to handle without mittens, or 
rather tongs, and surveyor Smith, acting upon the 
forest hunter's rule, that might makes right, wilfully 
and maliciously slew the varmint with his compass 
staff. 

Herreshoff was a good feeling man, and at times 
rather jovial, liking a little fun withal. On some 
occasion, Smith, accompanied by Herreshoff, Vincent 
and Silas Thomas, went in a boat to the head of 
Fourth lake, to select some pine timber. Passing one 
of the islands in the lake, probably Bear island, Her- 
reshoff desired to be set ashore on a bluff extending 
some rods into the lake. As is generally the case 



190 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

with foreigners, who find tobacco very cheap in this 
country, he was a great smoker, and having lit his 
pipe, he concluded to increase the fumigation by also 
lighting the grass and dry brush around him. A few 
minutes only sufficed, with the breeze then puffing, to 
spread the flame over the bluff. The wind drove the 
heat toward him, and calling for the boat to come to 
his assistance, he gained the extreme point of land, 
in the hope of escaping the fire. Before the boat 
could get to him, however, the flame drove him out 
upon a tree which extended horizontally over the 
water. 

The craft seemed to him to move like a snail, as the 
heat and smoke — of w T hich latter commodity he for 
once had enough — became more and more insufferable. 
He held on to his footing until he saw a sheet of flame 
coming directly in his face, when he sprang off into 
the water, among the trout. He did not glide along 
as noiselessly though as they did in that element, for 
he floundered like a porpoise; and for once, if we 
mistake not, quit smoking with tobacco still in his 
pipe. He w T as finally rescued by his companions, 
though half drowned and half frozen, as he took the 
unexpected bath in September, and shivered for hours 
to pay for it. This, it is said, was not the only time 
he came near being scorched by his great passion for 
fire and smoke. 



CHAPTER Xm. 

Mr. W. S. Benchley, of Newport, N. Y., who was 
well acquainted with Uncle Nat, and who has often 
been on Brown's tract with Foster and since his day; 
has at my request kindly furnished me by letter w T ith 
several incidents in the old trapper's life, and a de- 
scription of the tract, or a portion of it, which letter I 
shall do my readers a favor to present in his own 
words; notwithstanding he tells me at the outset he 
is " entirely unused to writing other than common 
business transactions." I trust he will pardon me for 
the liberty I have taken with his name and letter. 

" I have long been acquainted with a part of that 
region of country called Brown's Tract. At an enor- 
mous expense, Brown has opened three roads on to 
his tract.* The route now taken to approach it from 
this direction is, to leave the northern turnpike at 
Boonville, Oneida county. Taking a north-easterly 
direction, you pass the last improvement some eight 
miles from Boonville, beyond which the road is im- 
passable for carriages. Pack-horses, or what we call 
drays are used for carrying our provisions, &c, in our 

* The road from Boonville surveyed by Smith, in the employ 
of Gov. Francis, I suppose to be one of the roads here alluded to. 



192 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

hunting and fishing excursions; last September 
[1848] I went in with a dray. 

" On reaching Moose river, about five miles from 
the last settlement, we have to scow our lu^Q-afre 
over; and frequently to swim our horses. Moose 
river at this point is twice as large as the West Ca- 
nada creek, and quite rapid. In fact, the entire length 
of the river is one continued fall, or succession of 
rapids; making sufficient water-power, if improved, 
for the use of the whole state of New York. From 
Moose river to the first clearing we reach on Brown's 
tract, is eleven miles, over a most horribly rocky, 
stony, cold region; though very well covered with 
timber, such as spruce, balsam, beech, birch, some 
maple and hemlock.* 

" The first clearing you enter is called Coal hill, 
from the fact, I believe, that most of the timber from 
this clearing was made into coal for the use of the 
iron-works erected by HerreshofF, son-in-law to 
Brown. A short distance from this you enter a laro-e 
improvement with one framed house, where Herres- 
hofF used to live. [This is in township number 7.] 
In this clearing he expended a large amount of money 
in searching for iron ore; blasting and digging at the 
base of a rocky hill or mountain running through this 

* That much of this tract in an agricultural point of view has 
a most forbidding aspect, there can be but little doubt. Judge 
Stow, of Lewis county, once observed of it, "that it was so poor 
it would make a crow she J tears of blood to fly over it." 



TRAFPEPvS OF NEW YORK. 193 

improvement. Failing to accomplish what he ex- 
pected, he became discouraged: his friends at the 
same time refusing to advance him any more funds, 
and left alone as he was, to bear the blame of a fail- 
ure; disheartened and spirit-broken, he died, e as the 
fool dieth,' by blowing out his brains with a pistol. 

"Since HerreshorPs death, the improvements made 
by him have been mostly abandoned, except by hunt- 
ers and fishermen. There is still one settler residing 
there, however, a Mr. Arnold, who has a large family. 
He accommodates fishermen with boats. He keeps 
several cows, horses, &c, and raises a large quantity 
of oats yearly, which he draws to market in the win- 
ter. On leaving this clearing you cross one branch 
of Moose river, which is the outlet of eight small 
lakes, of w T hich I shall speak hereafter. Passing 
through several improvements for two and a half 
miles, you reach the spot where once stood the forge, 
a saw-mill and grist-mill, with several dwellings; but 
now entirely gone with the exception of one barn- 
frame w r ith the roof on, otherwise entirely stripped of 
covering. 

" All the improvements at one time must have cov- 
ered some two thousand acres, with about forty fami- 
lies upon them. All the buildings now remaining 
are two dwellings, one barn, and two frames of barns 
divested of covering. When Foster left the tract 
[1833], some remains of the forge, mills, &c, were 

still standing. Iron was manufactured at this forge 

17 



194 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

of a good quality, though said to be at a cost of one 
dollar per pound. I have no doubt iron ore abounds 
in this region, in inexhaustible quantities, with other 
valuable ores, waiting for enterprise to dev elope them, 
after the gold fever has subsided. Where Herreshoff 
erected his mills, is one of the best w r ater powers in 
the world. A dam some forty feet long is still stand- 
ing, and when first constructed, raised the water in 
the Fourth lake about two feet. This dam is about 
three miles below the First lake. [The lake usually 
denominated the First lake in this chain, is, in truth, 
the last, or Eighth lake; but approached as they 
generally are from Moose river, the last is recognized 
as the first, and the reader will understand when the 
relative numbers of those lakes are given, that they 
number upward, or from west to east.] After this 
dam was built, it was three months before the water 
flowed over it; in fact, search was made supposing 
the water had found some other outlet. 

" At HerreshofF's dam we take boats for fishing 
excursions, and three miles up the stream we enter 
the First lake, a beautiful pond, say one mile by one 
and-a-half miles in extent, containing one small is- 
land, called Dog island; a dog having been found 
upon it by an early visitor. About half a mile down 
the outlet, and near a point of land now called In- 
dian's point, Uncle Nat shot the Indian. Leaving 
this lake you pass into the Second lake, separated 
from the First by sand-bars, with a narrow channel 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. * 195 

some twenty feet wide. This lake is some longer 
than the First, but is not as wide, and has no islands. 
Along the north shore of Second lake, rises a most 
grand and sublime mountain, presenting a front of 
naked rock for nearly one mile, at a height of several 
hundred feet. On its summit Uncle Nat told me he 
had often been, ' that from it he could see numbers of 
lakes; and that there he could enjoy himself, and not 
be troubled by the d — d Indians.' [This bold pro- 
montory I shall take the liberty to call Foster's Ob' 
servatory.] 

"From the Second you enter the Third lake by 
passing through a strait of some ten rods. It is a 
pretty, pure, deep pond, about the size of the First 
and Second. In this lake is a small island, called 
Grass island, because it is well covered with grass, 
and has few trees or bushes upon it. Leaving the 
Third you pass up a stream some fifty or sixty rods, 
and enter the Fourth lake, which is seven miles long, 
and from one to two miles wide. It has four islands, 
the first of which in ascending is called Deer island, 
containing about 100 acres of well timbered land." 

Desirous of permanently fastening the names of 
the most celebrated Nimrods of this region upon its 
scenery, I shall take the liberty to call this island 
Benchley's island, after George Benchley; who 
shantied at the head of Third lake, but a short dis- 
tance from the island, and who perished in the wil- 
derness while following the fortunes of a trapper. 



196 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

George and Joseph Benehley (brothers of my cor- 
respondent), were engaged in trapping in the fall of 
1819, in the region of country under consideration. 
George, w T ho was the oldest, possessed a roving and 
very romantic disposition. For a while he was en- 
gaged in a sea-faring life, but tiring of its monotony, 
he severed the halliards which bound him to the " roll- 
ing deep," and returned to the home of his childhood, 
The pursuit of a forest-hunter seemed well suited, 
from its excitement, to his danger-daring tempera- 
ment. 

The brothers had a line of marten traps, extending 
from the Fulton lakes to some point on the State road, 
running from Wells to Russel, not far from Racket 
lake, where they had a shantee. The line of traps 
extended thirty or forty miles, with several hunters' 
cabins on the route. They were engaged in their 
pursuits until the last of November, having two men 
employed to assist them. They took turns in travers- 
ing the route, and George was alone on the eastern 
end of it, when a heavy fall of snow suspended their 
operations. Joseph and the assistants were at the 
main shantee, at the head of Third lake, where they 
remained several days anxiously awaiting the return 
of the senior hunter. As he did not come in, two 
unsuccessful attempts were made to seek for him; but 
the great depth of snow in that direction prevented 
the possibility of reaching him without snow-shoes, 
and they had not a pair with them. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 197 

While in a feverish state of anxiety about their 
absent friend, not caring or perhaps not daring to 
return home without some tidings of him, an old 
hunter, named Morgan, arrived at their lodge on 
snow T -shoes. He had come, he said, directly from 
their eastern shantee on the State road, and assured 
Joseph that his brother was well, and had gone out to 
Lake Pleasant to obtain food. Giving full credit to 
Morgan's statement, Joseph and his men returned 
home. 

The winter wore away, and nothing further was 
heard from the absent hunter by his friends at New- 
port; but, as he was a single man, and well weaned 
from home, little anxiety was felt about him, as they 
supposed him safe at the house of some back-woods- 
man in Hamilton county. In the spring a message 
reached Newport, that the body of a man had been 
found by Indian hunters, in a shantee near Racket 
lake. The probability was, that Benchley's shantee 
was indicated, and his brothers Jenks and William, 
anxious to know his fate, made a journey out there, 
in company with two other persons. The body, which 
had been buried, was exhumed, and their worst fears 
were realized — the remains were those of their kins- 
man. 

Dark mystery has ever hung over the last moments 
of this unfortunate hunter, and suspicion over the 
character of Morgan, who was doubtless the last indi- 
vidual who saw him alive. That hunter was not very 

j 7* 



198 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

scrupulous of his acts, as was well known, and it has 
ever since been surmised that he seriously injured 
Benchley in some manner, took his fur, if he had any, 
and left him to perish. The Indians found his gun in 
the shantee, but no fur; and, as he had gone over the 
whole line of traps, it seemed impossible that he 
should have taken none. Morgan had considerable 
fur when he left the forest. That Benchley suffered 
most acutely in his last hours, there can be no doubt. 
He had, w T ith his hunter's knife, evidently cut small 
pieces of wood to feed his fire, from the logs of which 
part of the hut was built, while he had strength to do 
so; but, how long he hungered — how keenly he suf- 
fered, in body and mind — how many cold, dark and 
dreary nights he lay shivering, without an earthly 
" eye to pity, or arm to relieve," is only known to 
Him to whom no mortal's fate is a mystery. 

Joseph Benchley was a musician; and the fall he 
was hunting with his brother, he had his violin with 
him, and often played it, " to drive dull care away," 
and afford a pastime for the w T ild animals within its 
hearing. Orpheus, a celebrated Greek musician of 
lang-syne, is said to have called down the mountains 
to listen to the melody he discoursed in the valleys. 
It would have troubled him, we opine, to have started 
any of those on Brown's tract, as their roots w T ere too 
long; and Benchley, aware of the fact, very properly 
chose his position, not at their base, but upon their 
summit 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 199 

The hunter Morgan, was a morose and rather petu- 
lent fellow, and not very popular among the craft. 
He traversed the forest for several years, on and about 
Brown's tract, but finally went off to Canada and died 
there. He was pretty successful in taking fur, and at 
times was accused of getting it unjustly. He was 
one of those devil-daring woodsmen of whom the 
Indians stood in awe. From this digression I return 
to Benchley's description of the country. 

" The next island in Fourth lake [above Benchley's 
island], contains about one quarter of an acre, is a 
pile of bare rocks, and is known by the name of Elba; 
which name can not fail to remind the reader of the 
ambitious and unfortunate Buonaparte. It produced a 
solitary pine, which for many years was its only object 
of attraction. A Vandal hand has lately cut it, to 
the deep regret of all sentimental hunters. (App. E.) 

" The third island in Fourth lake contains ten or 
fifteen acres of land, and is called Bear island, an early 
hunter having killed one of those animals upon it. 
Near the head of this lake, and some fifty or sixty 
rods from Bear island, is a small island called Dollar 
island, from its rotundity of shape. There is, in shoal 
w T ater, between Elba and Bear island, and about a 
mile distant from the former a bare rock, called Gull 
rock. This rock is said to be on the line between 
Herkimer and Hamilton counties. Brown's tract ex- 
tends across Herkimer, and into the counties of Lewis 
on the west, and Hamilton on the east. 



200 TKAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

" On the forest-bound Elba of Fourth lake, I have 
shantied several times with Foster. On one occasion, 
when there, the Indian (whom he afterwards killed) 
and his squaw, came and spent the night with us, 
taking from the lake their bark canoe and dried moose- 
skin for a shelter. I have spent several days upon 
this lake with Foster. He conversed but little, and 
his restless, roving eye was never still. With his rifle 
beside him, he seemed ever anxious to discover some- 
thing on shore, worthy of his never erring aim. 

" The bald-eagle, which frequents this region, he 
would never disturb, for he thought those noble birds 
were made to live unmolested by man, ' although,' as 
he said, * thee — d Indians killed them.' He seemed 
to feel as though he was lord of Brown's tract, and 
that no one else, especially an Indian, had as good a 
right there. With the Indian he shot, I was well ac- 
quainted. He was indeed a noble looking fellow in 
appearance. He was of the St. Regis tribe, with a 
cross of French blood. [Says Mr. Graves, in a com- 
munication to the author, " I have often seen the In- 
dian Foster killed. He was a very friendly, intelli- 
gent man, and belonged to the St. Regis tribe on the 
St. Lawrence."] His wife was slender and very 
feminine. She was under the most perfect subjection 
to her husband, and was no doubt often ill treated by 
him when tipsy: in fact, I believe that his and Foster's 
difficulties first commenced when they had both been 
drinking. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 201 

" Frequently, when on these waters, Foster would 
direct my attention to an object on some distant, grassy 
beach, saying, e See! there is a deer: watch, and you 
will see it move.' He was never mistaken; still a man 
unacquainted with the wood, would very seldom sup- 
pose that any thing of the kind was in sight. 

" At the head of Fourth lake was formerly a grove 
of white pine. [To this grove HerreshofF was going 
when he was compelled to take a cold bath.] Five 
distinct echoes to the human voice may be heard at 
this place, and here I have repeatedly discharged a 
gun, to hear mountain after mountain send back its 
tardy response, until my rifle's shrill note had been 
mimicked by five (as I suppose) mermaid hunters. 

" Lying parallel to the Fulton chain, and mostly op- 
posite Fourth lake, say two miles to the north of it, is 
a chain of three small lakes, several miles in extent, 
which also discharge their waters into Moose river. 
The stream is called the North branch, and the lakes 
are known in the forest by the name of North Branch 
lakes. 

" Leaving the Fourth, you pass up the inlet some 
half a mile, into the Fifth lake, a small pond of eight 
or ten acres. From the Fifth to the Sixth lake, is a 
continued fall of three-fourths of a mile. Here is a 
carrying place; and Foster, at the age of sixty, would 
take his skiff upon his head and shoulders and carry 
it from one lake to the other, with but one stop. In 
fact, at that age, Foster was known to carry a deer 



202 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK* 

three miles on his back. With a single lock between 
Fifth and Sixth lakes, a water communication might 
easily be obtained the whole extent of the eight lakes. 
" The Sixth lake is quite small, and after wading 
and pushing up a narrow, rapid stream, say one and a 
half miles, you enter the l Noble Seventh,' as Uncle 
Nat called it. The visitor on entering this lake, meets 
w T ith a grand and beautiful view. The lake is about 
four miles long and two wide, with a nameless island 
near its centre, of some fifty acres, covered with rocks 
and pine timber. [I have mentioned in these pages a 
forest-trapper named Green White, who was often on 
the island under consideration. W T ith the reader's 
permission, I will call this island White's island.*] 
Near this island, on its south shore, we frequently get 

* White was rather under the middling stature, with a dark 
complexion, and possessing a very keen, dark eye. He was a 
man of few words, but celebrated for his shrewdness. He learned 
the blacksmith's trade at Schenectada in his early life, and always 
made his own hunting-knives and hatchets. He was a very suc- 
cessful hunter, was extensively known, and by Indian hunters he 
was universally feared. The Indians, he said to his friends, never 
stole his fur but once. He occasionally crossed the track of Maj. 
Stoner, to whom he was well known, but as he hunted to the 
westward of Stoner, they did not often meet. 

Says Henry Graves, of Boonville, "I was well acquainted 
with Green White, who was a great trapper on and about Brown's 
tract. He hunted some in connection with Foster, but they 
generally had the separate interest. White, however, was much 
the most successful trapper. He would sometimes bring in a 
hundred dollars worth of beaver at a time — lay drunk until he 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 203 

the salmon trout in 100 feet depth of water. [Another 
informant says they are caught here weighing fifteen 
or twenty pounds.] 

" At the head of Seventh lake is a grove of pitch- 
pine timber, which timber is not elsewhere seen in 
the district. On entering this lake at one time with 
Foster, he discovered a deer feeding upon a grassy 
beach, nearly half a mile distant. Said he, ' B., put 
me on shore and I will give you some venison for din- 
ner.' I did so, and then rowed out into the lake, far 
enough to see the deer. After remaining some time, 
I saw Foster step suddenly from the bushes upon the 
beach, some distance from the deer. Almost the very 

had spent it all, and then back to the woods. Not so with Fos- 
ter: he liked a glass, but would be called a temperate man. 

" I should think "White had been dead some fifteen years. He 
with another man was coming in from the tract ; they halted by 
the way-side, built them a brush shantee and stopped for the night. 
During the night, a small stub of a tree fell across the shantee 
and broke White's leg. Early in the morning the man with him 
came to Boonville about seventeen miles for help. He was brought 
in on a litter ; but before a surgeon could be obtained to amputate 
it, the limb mortified and he died." 

In the fall of 1815, said the surveyor Smith, White came in 
from Brown's tract with three hundred dollars worth of fur, and 
as usual on such ocasions, he trained until it was all gone. While 
hunting, after the provisions were gone he had taken in from the 
settlement, he lived on wild game and fish. This was the usual 
fare of hunters in the forest. White is said to have been about 
the same age of Foster, and is believed to have followed trapping 
about the Fulton lakes a few years earlier than did Foster. There 
was a hunter named Williams, on and about Brown's tract in 1810, 



£Q4 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. - 

instant the deer raised its head from feeding, I saw 
the flash of his rifle and the deer fall. At Foster's 
call I went ashore, he not knowing that I had seen 
the deer fall. Well, Uncle Nat, said I, have you 
killed him? He straightened up like a soldier, with 
his head erect, and eyes glistening; and grasping his 
rifle in his right hand and holding it above his head, 
he said, e B., he never told a lie. When you hear 
him speak, he always tells the truth.' I stepped on 
shore and found he had put his ball precisely in the 
centre of the deer's forehead. He must have been 
full twenty-five rods from the animal, and fired the 
instant it raised its head. In a very few minutes he 
had a fine piece of venison roasting before a good fire, 
and ere long we had a sweet morsel to dine upon. 

"At another time, while we sat fishing from our boat, 
he discovered an old doe with two fawns, the latter 
about as large as lambs at two months old. They 
were feeding and playing upon the beach, perhaps a 
quarter of a mile distant. Foster was on fire imme- 
diately. If he could kill the old doe, he said, he could 
kill the fawns, and their runnets would bring him fifty 
cents each. I remonstrated against killing the little 
fellows for so small a gain, and proposed to pay him 
the dollar and let them go. But no; nothing would 
satisfy him short of a shot. I then rather refused to 
row him within shot; but one look from him satisfied 
me that I might as well comply. However, I managed 
in the operation to make noise enough to frighten the 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 205 

old doe; but not without strong suspicions on his part, 
that it was done intentionally. 

" From the Seventh to the Eighth lake is three or 
four miles, and the lake is some four or five miles 
long. From these eight lakes runs the stream on 
which the mills on Brown's tract were erected. A 
carrying place from the Eighth lake, some two miles, 
brings you to what is called the Racket inlet, running 
easterly, down which you can go in a skiff into Racket 
lake, and from thence down Racket river to the St. 
Lawrence. 

" The poor Indian Foster killed, w r as buried on a 
point near where the mill dam now stands, and a rude 
cross was erected at his head by his friends. Last 
September [1848], I looked for the grave, but it was 
so overgrown with grass and bushes I could not find 
it. When he shot the Indian, he went about five 
miles to gain Indian Point before his victim arrived." 

The Indian here alluded to, is said to have been 
quite successful in killing deer. He often floated for 
them. This was done in the night time. In his bark 
canoe, behind a few green boughs, he w T ould proceed 
as .silently as possible along the shore of a lake, and 
shoot the timid deer there feeding on grass, or stand- 
ing in the water's edge to cool, as they gazed in won- 
der at the torch light in the bow of the craft, which 
seemed at times to fascinate them. This mode of kill- 
ing: deer much displeased Foster, and is believed to 

have been one cause of difficulty between them. 

18 



506 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Besides the lakes already named in the region of 
country under consideration, there are several others 
of greater or less importance. The Jerseyfield lake, 
a handsome sheet of water some two miles long, and 
around the shores of which Foster, in his earlier days, 
used to hunt, lies in the easterly part of Salisbury. 
Black creek, w T hich is one of the tributaries of West 
Canada creek, has its source in the Jerseyfield lake. 

Jock's lake, so called after Jock (Jonathan) Wright, 
an early trapper upon its shores, is a very pretty lake, 
five or six miles long, though not very wide; and is 
situated in the north-eastern or wilderness portion of 
Herkimer county, some ten miles from a place called 
Noblesborough. Its outlet is one of the sources of 
the west branch of West Canada creek. Some four 
miles south of Jock's lake is a small sheet of water 
called Little Salmon lake, and about two miles to the 
westward of Jock's lake, is another trout inhabiting 
pond, called Black River South lake. Around those 
lakes, and along their streams, were favorite haunts 
of the trapper Wright. 

Of the physical outline of "Hamilton county and the 
northerly part of Herkimer, Prof. Lardner Vanuxem, 
thus remarks in his volume of the Geology of New 
York. " The most interesting feature of the wilder- 
ness region is its chain of lakes, placed so nearly 
upon a level that but little labor from man is required 
to connect those of three counties together. The 
lakes of Herkimer and Hamilton are arranged upon 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 207 

a line which is parallel with the St. Lawrence river 
and Ontario lake, and w T ith the Ohio, &c; appearing 
not to be accident merely, but the result of a law 
whose operations were in their direction, and on 
several parallels. These lakes, were a communica- 
tion opened from east to west, would be much resorted 
to. The beauty of their waters, their elevation, and 
the wild scenery which surrounds them, would not 
fail to attract visitors." 



CHAPTER XIV. 

With. the death of its proprietor, the HerreshofF 
settlement on Brown's tract became tenantless, and in 
a short time all the improvements were going to 
waste and destruction. Hunters occasionally visited 
the place, and when there, camped in the deserted 
dwellings. In May, 1830, the premises were leased 
for a small sum, and in February 1832, Nathaniel 
Foster, who had for years traversed this region, pur- 
chased an assignment of the lease and moved his 
family there; that he might with greater convenience 
follow his favorite avocation of a wilderness trapper. 
His family, consisting of himself and wife and his 
son David and wife, occupied the HerreshofF dwelling 
nearest the forge. In a hut not far from Foster dwelt 
an Indian hunter named Peter Waters, familiarly 
known in the forest by the name of Drid; and in an- 
other house erected by the original proprietor, resided 
three old bachelors, William S. Wood, David Chase, 
and Willard Johnson. Johnson first entered the forest 
with HerreshofF, to work at his forge. Some part of 
the time there were three or four other persons on the 
clearing, increasing the population to some fifteen in- 
habitants, all of whom depended principally upon 
hunting and fishing for their support. Johnson, who 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 209 

was a man somewhat advanced in life, often hunted 
with Foster; and Wood, of whom we know but little 
else, would have frozen to death on one occasion, but 
for the attentions of Foster. 

The condition of the other settlers at this period on 
Brown's tract, was rendered the more comfortable by 
the family of Foster, whose women were able and 
ready to dispense the numerous little comforts the sex 
can command. A difficulty arose between Foster and 
his Indian neighbor, which, from one of a trifling na- 
ture, assumed a most serious aspect. A feeling not 
the most friendly began to gain a place between 
them, and some person, either from motives of mis- 
chief or terror, took occasion to tell Drid that Foster 
was unfriendly to him — that he did not like other 
hunters — was a dead shot, and the like. It was a per- 
son or persons, no doubt, who had had some misun- 
derstanding with the Indian, and adopted this method 
to excite his fears without intending Foster any in- 
jury; possibly the informer was merely desirous of 
intimidating him, by making him feel conscious that 
one man, at least, who did not fear him, had the 
ability to punish him; whatever the motive was is 
unknown, but the red hunter's worst passions were 
now aroused, and ere long he resolved to destroy a 
supposed foe, at whatever hazard. On several occa- 
sions, when intoxicated, he threatened the life of 
Foster, and to such a state of feverish excitement had 

he arrived, that he only seemed desirous of an oppor- 

18* 



210 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

tunity for executing his diabolical threat. The hunter 
Johnson, on several occasions, accompanied Foster to 
prevent a surprise from his avowed enemy. 

The Foster family had always been very kind to 
that of Drid, and when the latter was gone on a long 
hunt, his squaw depended almost entirely upon the 
former for the support of herself and children. As 
Foster kept a cow, the family of the Indian neighbor 
was supplied with milk free of charge; while not a 
few necessaries dealt out to them when Drid was from 
home, had been carried into the clearing by Foster, 
upon his back. Of the latter articles he made a 
charge, and embracing some favorable opportunity, 
he asked the Indian to pay the account, in amount 
about seventeen shillings; the latter promised to pay 
a part of it. Foster now told the Indian that he had 
heard of his having threatened his life; this he ad- 
mitted, said they lived there retired from any settle- 
ment, where there was no law, and added, "If I kill 
you, I kill you ; and if you kill me, you kill me ! " 
Foster told him he would make no such agreement, 
that he did not wish or design to injure him, and he 
must not harbor such feelings. 

One of the earliest causes of difficulty between these 
hunters originated as follows; nearly a year before 
his death, Drid took Foster's boat without permission 
and left it in the river a mile below where he had 
taken it. He was admonished that he must not re- 
peat such an act if he would not be punished for his 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 211 

temerity, at which just reproof he was very indignant; 
and soon after was heard by several persons to say, 
*"Me got a bad heart, me pat a bullet through old Fos- 
ter." It was about the time of the boat disturbance, 
that certain individuals attempted to terrify Drid by 
threats of Foster's vengeance. 

In July, and about two months before his death, 
Drid was returning to the tract in company with a 
man named John Carpenter, when, as he drew near 
his home, he fired ofF his rifle, reloaded and carefully 
primed it. His companion inquired why he did it 1 
saying they would then find no game. The Indian 
replied, " Me going to old Foster's, me shoot him else 
he shoot me ! " He did go to Foster's dwelling, and 
standing at a little distance from the door, he hailed 
several times, to draw the object of search to an ex- 
posed situation. Mrs. Foster came to the door, and 
was alarmed to see the threatening attitude of her 
neighbor. He inquired for her husband, and being 
told that he was not at home, he exclaimed as he 
turned to go away, " Me shoot him if he had been ! " 
Next morning the family of Drid being out of pro- 
visions, applied as usual to Foster's family for food. 
Informed of the Indian's conduct by his wife and 
Carpenter, Foster took some flour and in company 
with Carpenter, sought the red man's cabin to relieve 
the wants of the family. In the presence of the wit- 
ness he asked Drid if he had not called at his door 
intending to shoot him 7 He admitted that he had, 



212 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

and assigned as a reason, that he had been told that 
Foster had threatened to kill him for taking his boat. 
" / made no such threat" said the old trapper, " / 
said it would not be well for you or any one else, to 
take my boat a second time and fasten it a mile from 
my landing." 

In August following the above incident, Drid re- 
turned from Racket lake with furs, and halted at 
Foster's door, at which were several neighbors; when 
the old trapper very civilly asked him to pay his ac- 
count. " You are d — d liar!" said the Indian, " me 
don't owe you cent ! " He raised his tomahawk to 
strike the old man, who sprang into the house. He 
opened the door with his rifle in hand, when his foe 
sullenly fell back and exclaimed, " If you ever go to 
Seventh lake, or to Racket lake, me kill you ! " Fos- 
ter threatened to complain of him before a justice of 
the peace, and he replied, " Til get there soon as you 
do — haint no law in woods here ! " The Indian with 
many threats then went off to his cabin. 

Soon after this encounter with his adversary, Fos- 
ter went before Joshua Harris, a justice of the peace 
in Brantingham, Lewis county, twenty miles from his 
own residence, although the nearest one, and com- 
plained that this Indian had then a third time sought 
his life, on which account he demanded his arrest. 
The magistrate declined issuing a process against 
Drid, saying that if he proceeded against him, the 
latter would be as likely to kill him as complainant. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 213 

Failing to get a precept against his dusky antago- 
nist, some of his acquaintances advised Foster to re- 
move his family from the forest, but he declared " he 
would not be frightened off by an Indian" He was 
very malicious, so much so that Aleck Thompson, an 
Indian hunter, w r ho had a shantee near his, would have 
nothing to do with him, at least, so say the friends of 
Foster. The apprehensions of the Foster family were 
such all the latter part of the summer, that they sel- 
dom lit a candle in the evening, from fear that Drid 
would fire in at their windows. Indeed, he had threat- 
ened to enter the house in the night time, and stab 
him in his bed. He had even inquired on which 
side of the bed Foster slept, that he might make 
sure of his victim. When told that so rash an act 
would endanger the life of Mrs. Foster, he replied, 
" She good woman — me no care to hurt her — but ra- 
ther kill 'em both, than not kill him / " 

On the morning of Drid's death, Foster was, agree- 
ably to an arrangement made the evening before, to 
accompany Wood and Chase on a hunting excursion 
to Fourth lake. The Indian had left his traps and 
rifle at Racket lake, some twelve miles beyond the 
intended destination of the party, but concluded to 
go up with them as far as they went. Foster called 
in the morning to see if the bachelors were ready for 
a start, and the Indian being present, renewed his 
quarrel with the former and attempted his life. He 
was a stout young man 3 between twenty-five and 



214 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

thirty years of age, and Foster was upwards of sixty. 
He succeeded in getting the old man down. upon the 
floor, but was foiled in taking his life by the inter- 
cession of the by-standers, who drew them apart, not 
however until the Indian had cut his arm, in the 
attempt to thrust a knife into his heart. Thwarted 
when he thought his victim sure, he threatened ven- 
geance, and declared at the end of a horrid oath, 
" you no live till Christmas /" Foster, whose worst 

passions were now excited, retorted, " you'll do d 

well if you see another moon /" 

Foster retired after the difficulty with the Indian, 
and did not join the party, increased on its setting 
out by several others, who were going a few miles on 
a fishing excursion; but well satisfied that his foe 
would return and lurk about his dwelling to shoot 
him, as soon as he had obtained his rifle, he at once 
resolved to destroy the Indian, and thus prevent the 
possibility of a future surprise. He accordingly pro- 
ceeded up the river nearly to the First lake, where, 
upon its northern shore, a point of land projected into 
the river, now known among hunters and fishermen 
as Indian's point. With his rifle carefully loaded 
with two balls, Foster obtained a commanding posi- 
tion on the point, to await the arrival of the party. 
After some delay in getting ready they left the dam 
at the forge, Drid in a light bark canoe, Wood and 
Chase in a large bark canoe, and the fishing party, 
consisting of four persons, in a boat. 



THt 
to*****- ^ 




DEATH OF THE INDIAN TRAPPER. 

See page 2 15. 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 215 

The Indian, fearing no doubt from the morning's 
encounter and Foster's threat, that his personal safety- 
was in jeopardy, kept his little craft near that of 
Wood and Chase. At length the party neared the 
point, at which its present occupant knew the white 
hunters must land to get some concealed traps. The 
fishing party rowed on as the canoes put in for the 
shore, and passing the point they discovered the old 
trapper in the bushes, and pointing in the direction 
of the bushes, they said to the hunters, " there's old 
Foster /" This announcement caused the Indian, who 
was then between the other canoe and the shore, to 
change his position, and take the lake side of his 
companions. The object of Foster's visiting the 
point was rightly divined by the white trappers, who 
landed and obtained their traps without loss of time, 
and put off from the shore, when Drid placed his 
canoe along side of theirs, so as to bring himself 
about midway between them, if possible to endanger 
their lives should a shot be attempted at himself. 

Although Foster was several rods distant from the 
canoes, still the position of his foe did not secure his 
safety. The Indian's eye caught a glimpse of the 
fearful figure in the bushes just as the rifle was poised, 
and he threw up his arms in terror at the moment of 
the explosion. Both bullets entered his left side near 
the arm pit, passed through his heart and went out 
just below the right arm. They entered in the same 
spot, but left two places of egress opposite. The 



216 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Indian fell backwards, with his head and shoulders in 
the water, his feet and legs remaining in the canoe. 
He fell so dead that his position continued unchanged, 
the fairy craft preserving the cradling motion com- 
municated to it by his fall, for some length of time 
after the spirit of its owner had winged its flight, 

" To range the circuit of the sky." 

The party in company w T ith the Indian at the time 
of his death, either from fear or some other motive, 
did not offer to touch the body, but returned as 
speedily as possible to the place of starting. Leaving 
their boats, several proceeded directly to Foster's 
house, where they found him lying on a bed. The 
distance from the dam to Indian's point by water is 
greater than by land, and the old trapper having 
finished his morning's work, had gained his own 
dwelling, wiped out his rifle and prepared it for other 
game, ere the messengers arrived there. Foster ex- 
pressed some surprise at seeing the party return so 
soon, and enquired what brought them back. He 
was answered, that a dead man was up the lake, the 
Indian Drid, and they desired him to go up and aid 
in getting him down. Agreeably to the request, 
Foster went up w r ith the party to get the body, and 
himself took it into the boat, as the rest seemed afraid 
to touch it. He also aided in burying it, near the 
Indian's former residence. For killing this Indian, 
Foster was arrested soon after, by the authorities of 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 217 

Lewis county; but when it was ascertained that the 
scene of blood was not within the jurisdiction of that 
county, he was removed from Martinsburg to Herki- 
mer, where he gave bail for his appearance when 
required, and returned to his family. 

Note, explanatory of the engraving. A friend who 
made a little drawing of the Fulton chain of lakes, 
to give the writer an idea of the position of the 
parties, inadvertently placed the point on the south 
side of the lake, which led to an error in the cut 
representing this scene, as the point is on the north 
side. The cut, though an ideal one, is said (by per- 
sons who have been on the ground) to give a very 
striking representation of the point, as Foster came 
out between two trees. A row of fir trees are seen 
in the distance, said to be more numerous than are 
here represented. The cut is rather a spirited one, 
and if the reader will imagine the point transposed 
to the opposite shore, and the position of the parties 
changed accordingly, he will get a good idea of the 
tragic scene. 



19 



CHAPTER XV. 

Having been indicted for murder, at a court of 
general sessions, in Herkimer county, on the third day 
of February, 1834, for killing the Indian Drid, or, as 
called in the indictment, Peter Waters; Nathaniel 
Foster was arraigned for trial at the circuit court held 
in that county on the fifteenth day of September fol- 
lowing. The trial, which lasted nearly two days, was 
one of very great interest, and drew together an im- 
mense crowd of anxious spectators. Several indi- 
viduals, some of whom were hunters, were subpoenaed 
to prove the quarrelsome disposition of the Indian killed 
by Foster; but they were not called upon the stand. 

The court consisted of his honor, Hiram Denio, cir- 
cuit judge, and Jonas Cleland, John B. Dygert, Abijah 
Osborn, and Richard Herendeen, judges of the bench 
of common pleas. After setting aside eleven jurors, 
who were challenged on the ground of having pre- 
judged the cause, the following jurors were impan- 
neled: Jacob Davis, John Harder, Henry Ostrander, 
James F. Fox, William Bouck, Peter Rickert, Wil- 
liam Shoemaker, James Shoemaker, Lester Green, 
Nicholas A. Staring, Earl Trumbull, and Peter Bell. 
From the fact that so great a number of jurors were 
disqualified for the reason assigned, we may properly 



TS.AiTEilS OF K'EW YORK; 219 

infer that the circumstances which induced Foster to 
take the Indian's life, were generally known; and it 
may be questioned whether any twelve freeholders, 
called promiscuously from the county, would have ren- 
dered a different verdict from that given by the jury 
impanneled. 

James B. Hunt (district attorney), and Simeon 
Ford, were counsel for the prosecution. The prisoner 
w r as defended by E. P. Hurlbut, with whom were 
associated J. A. Spencer, A. Hackley and Lauren Ford 
Mr. Hunt opened the cause by observing that the pri- 
soner was arraigned for murder, a rare crime in that 
county; stating in a brief and pertinent manner, the 
facts he expected to show in the progress of the trial. 
Having cited from the statute laws what would and 
what would not be justifiable homicide, he adduced 
the following testimony: 

David Chase, sworn. — Was at West Brunswick on 
the 17th of September last; there saw Peter Waters; 
knows the prisoner; saw him also that morning. Jona- 
than Tyler, William Tyler, Hiram Thomas, and Nelson 
Stimpson, started together in one boat to go up the 
lake; Wood and witness were in a bark canoe; Wa- 
ters was in a canoe [of bark] alone; they started from 
the forge in company, and kept up the pond, east, 
until they came to a point of land about two miles 
from the forge, when they stopped to get their traps; 
witness and Wood were going to trap with the Indian 
in partnership; Waters's boat was six feet from wit- 



220 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

ness and along side; the other boat was opposite four 
or five rods. At this point of land, First lake com- 
menced; as Wood stepped out to get the traps, wit- 
ness heard a rattling in the bushes and looked up the 
lake, thinking it was birds; turned his head and kept 
watch; saw Foster, he was bent over a little, ap- 
parently, going sideways; saw him while passing, a 
distance of six or eight feet; had no doubt as to the 
person. Wood took up a load of traps and brought 
them to the canoe; does not know but he went again; 
thinks he brought them in two loads; went back out 
of sight half a minute; came out very quick; clenched 
up the traps and threw them in the boat in a hurry, 
and then moved off; Indian, as he heard a rattling in 
the bushes, shoved his boat close up to witness; they 
shoved off from shore and brought the Indian between 
witness and Wood, in his own canoe; the gun then 
w r as heard to go off upon the shore on the point; wit- 
ness turned and Indian was falling backwards from 
his canoe; made two motions with his hands; his 
legs stuck in canoe and thus he died. Witness turned 
to shore and saw Foster on shore in the direction of 
the report, and where he saw him before ; witness and 
Wood had each a rifle; neither of their rifles were 
discharged. Witness called to his companions and 
said ' here is a dead man' Waters had no fire-arms; 
an hour from leaving forge to that time, he thinks, 
but is not certain. Witness examined the body; un- 
der the left arm, about two inches, the balls entered, 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 221 

and came out about six inches below the right arm; 
these killed him; gun was very heavily loaded; saw 
no other person on shore but Foster; Wood was in 
the boat before gun was fired. 

Cross-examined. — It was two or three rods from 
their boat to where Foster stood; after report saw him 
in the same open spot again; did not see any gun in 
his hand either way he passed; did not notice any 
smoke; was pretty badly frightened. 

Nelson Stimpson sw T orn. — Was present 17th Sept. 
last; saw Waters and prisoner; mentions same party 
In boat named by previous witness ; Wood and Chase 
were in one canoe and the Indian in another alone; 
went up two miles; is not acquainted there; thinks it 
may have been an hour before the catastrophe; saw a 
wake in the bushes; boat passed along but Wood's 
boat had stopped; witness saw Foster pass ten feet 
partly bent over (lurking) in the bushes; witness and 
his party were hallooed to at a distance of thirty rods 
from this, and after the report of a gun, came back 
and found Indian's head and part of his body lying in 
the water, and his legs in the canoe; did not see any 
gun in Foster's hands; did not examine body; Chase 
fired off his gun two charges; it was a double shotter, 
and appeared to have been loaded sometime; Wood 
discharged his gun; did not see Foster after report of 
gun; saw no smoke there. 

Williston Tyler, sworn. — Saw Foster on the 17th 

of Sept. last at Foster's house; saw Waters at the 

19* 



222 TRAILERS OF NEW YORK. 

forge same day; went up from forge with party 
spoken of; they went up to the point (say two miles) 
in company; Wood and Chase together; Waters 
alone; all making to this point of land; W. and C. 
went a-shore; Stimpson spoke "There goes Foster;" 
witness looked and saw a man there that he (witness) 
called Foster; they rowed round the point out of 
sight of the rest; Foster was walking a little stooped 
and sideways; rowed thirty yards, heard report of a 
gun; heard Wood or Chase hallo " come back as 
quick as you can; " they went back, and Chase said 
they had a dead man there; Waters's head and 
shoulders were in the water and his legs in the canoe; 
did not examine his body; two holes in the shirt un- 
der one arm; examined guns of the others and found 
them charged as stated by the other witnesses; saw 
no gun in Foster's hands; bushes two feet high; was 
five or six rods distant when he saw him; witness 
and Wood went to Foster's house; found Johnson on 
the hill after this in a house occupied by Wood and 
Chase carrying in some hay; Johnson lived with 
Foster; this was four miles from the place of exe- 
cution; did not see Foster after report of gun until 
at Foster's house same day, four miles from point. 

Cross-examined. — Went to Foster's house on the 
way from point; found him there lying on the bed; 
did not know T Foster until the night before; he was a 
stranger until then; Foster may have passed eight or 
ten feet in witness's sight while they were going 



Trappers of new york. 223 

along in the boat; there were bushes there but not 
so high as elsewhere; some were ten feet high; saw 
side of his face; judge of him partly from his gene- 
ral appearance; he was without a hat; was bald- 
headed; he was leaning the same way they were 
passing; stooped; did not see his hands; Foster was 
between two and three rods from the point w T hich was 
to the left; when they found Foster he was lying on 
a bed; saw his gun in a corner of the room; does 
not know whether it was loaded or not; was nothing 
peculiar in Foster's dress; witness was not rowing 
when he saw Foster in the space; neither saw him 
before nor after he was at that point. 

Direct testimony resumed. — Foster discharged and 
reloaded his gun before he started; this was about 
one quarter of a mile from Wood's house; Foster's 
house is on the right-hand side of outlet; and he 
saw him at the other side of the outlet; the nearest 
way to get to that place from Foster's house was to 
cross the bridge at the forge; had a conversation with 
Foster after he fired the gun and reloaded; witness 
inquired " have you shot the deer? " " No, that d — d 
Indian," showing on his wrist a scratch and blood; 
" have had a squabble with the Indian and he cut this 
spot; and if it had not been for Mr. Wood and Chase 
the Indian would have killed me; go either forward 
or behind; I shall not go fishing." 

Cross-examined. — The place called the forge has 
not been used in many years; this is about eighteen 



224 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

miles from any settlers; the outlet is from ten to fif- 
teen rods wide ; they talked of going to the Fourth 
lake; lives in Leyden, Lewis county; the houses were 
dwelling-houses erected by some past settlers. 

William S. Wood sworn. — Knows the prisoner; 
knew the Indian killed; was with Chase; did not see 
Foster there [on the point] that day; went ashore to 
get traps; heard the report of a gun; the Indian was 
killed; saw no person in the bushes; heard no noise; 
was very busy; got into the boat about as quick as 
usual; was about three or four yards from Waters 
when shot; Waters's boat lying still; witness was in 
his boat when the gun was fired; did not see Foster 
at all up there; saw him at home lying on his bed 
after the killing; also before that at my house in the 
morning; it was three fourths of an hour from the 
time Foster left my house in the morning to the gun 
report; not far from 9 a.m. when gun was fired; 
about four miles from my house to the point. 

For the prisoner. — The counsel for the defence here 
offered to show that the premises where the Indian 
was killed, were leased on the 4th of May, 1830, by 
Caleb Lyon, for himself and as agent, to David and 
Solomon Maybee; that the Maybee's went in and oc- 
cupied under the lease, until the 26th of February, 
1832; at which time David Maybee assigned the lease 
for the sum of ten dollars, to the defendant, w T ho took 
possession and occupied under said lease until the 
alleged murder was committed; at which time his 



TRAPPEKS OF NEW YORK. 225 

right had not expired. Judge Denio said that the 
defendant was presumed to occupy in his own right; 
and rejected the evidence offered as conventional. 

William S. Wood recalled. — Has known the In- 
dian eighteen months; was twenty-eight years old as 
he said; was a short able-bodied Indian; have hunted 
with him. 

Counsel. — Did you ever hear this Indian threaten 
to kill Foster? 

Counsel for 'prosecution, — Objected to, on the 
ground of irrelevancy. 

Counsel for defence. — We urge the evidence, be- 
cause it is competent, and goes to establish the fact 
of " imminent danger," to the life of Foster; and 
whether it sufficently establishes that fact is for the 
jury to determine. 

Judge Denio said the testimony was inadmissible, 
and Judge Dygert was of his opinion; but when the 
whole Bench was appealed to, behold ! the other three 
judges were for admitting it; and for the first time 
and probably the last time in his official station, his 
Honor found himself over-ruled by the Common Pleas 
judges. 

Witness. — Has heard Indian at different times 
threaten to kill Foster. " He said -Foster was calk- 
ing his boat (this was in July) and he had a mind to 
go up and tomahawk Foster and throw him into the 
the river; but his squaw took hold of his coat and 
persuaded him to go to his shantee;" he said he had 



£26 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK* 

a notion to go back; " If I can not do it now," said 
he, " the first time I catch him alone I '11 be the death 
of him." This was a year ago last July; Foster 
came to witness's house the morning of Sept. 17, to 
see how long before witness would be ready to start 
up the lakes; witness lives on south side of outlet, 
and Foster on the north side; a mile from witness's 
to Foster's; one and three-fourths miles from witness's 
house to the forge; Foster came to the door, (Chase 
and witness were eating breakfast). " How long be- 
fore you will be ready to go? " asked Foster. " In an 
hour or perhaps less," we answered. Foster turned 
round to go out; Indian was standing at the fire-place 
and said, " What you call me d — m rascal, d — m 
Indian, so much for ? " " Because I am a mind to," 
he answered; the Indian sprung upon Foster, took 
him by the neck and drew his knife upon him, which 
Foster knocked out of his hand upon the floor; Indian 
said, " You old devil, I got you now, I kill you;" 
witness then sprang and grabbed the Indian, and 
Chase secured Foster's rifle; then witness relieved 
Foster, who stepped to the door, saying, " Where 's 
my rifle." Indian said, " W T here 's my tomahawk ? 
d — m old cuss! " Witness said, " You want no toma- 
hawk; be peaceable;" said Indian after Foster went 
out, " Now Foster wont live to see another Christmas ! 
I'll kill him, d — m old cuss!" It was an Indian 
hunting knife which he carried by his side; in a 
Bbeath in his belt; knife looked as if it had been a 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 227 

case-knife, ground off to a peak and pointed; Foster 
was cut across his wrist and face in the flesh; Indian 
belonged to the St. Regis tribe, a Canada Indian; 
British Indian stout and athletic; after Foster went 
out Indian said, " I should have killed him then if it 
had not been for Chase and witness;" three-fourths 
of an hour after this, Indian was killed; witness was 
with Indian about six weeks, and left him. 

Cross-examined. — Did not tell Foster the last threat 
at witness's house; about a quarter of an hour after 
this they started; were about half an hour in walking 
up to forge; Waters w r ent with witness and Chase; 
were not long at forge; found others at forge; about 
twenty or thirty minutes at forge, can't say precisely; 
took perhaps twenty or thirty minutes to go to point; 
never told Foster of any of the threats; witness and 
Chase and Indian were going trapping together; 
Chase was not in first partnership of witness and 
Indian. 

Counsel for defence. — Object to evidence of de- 
fendant's confessions, as opening the case anew after 
the prosecution had rested; overruled; witness went 
to Foster's house, and Foster went back with them 
[to the lake to get the body] ; did not hear Foster 
say any thing. 

Judah C. Marsh sworn. — Was at Foster's between 
the 15th and 20th of August, a year ago; Foster 
asked Indian for seventeen shillings, pay for sundry 
articles; Indian offered to pay a part but not all; 



228 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

Foster said, " I 've let you have articles to keep you 
from starving; Indian meal and potatoes which I 
have carried on my back seventeen miles; " Indian 
offered to pay a part; " why not pay the whole? I've 
dealt with you like a brother; I 've heard you threat- 
ened to take my life; you came once where I was 
fixing a boat (I 've been informed) on purpose to kill 
me; you came once to my house with your rifle load- 
ed and called me to the door to kill me; " "yes; " 
" why do you want to hurt me ? I never wanted to 
hurt you; I would as soon kill a white man as an In- 
dian; I would not kill you for a million of worlds; " 
Indian asked how soon he would come to the Seventh 
lake; said " You must never come there; if you do 
you never come hack again alive; we're now on 
Brown's tract and out of the way of all law; if you 
kill me you kill me; if I kill you I kill you; " Foster 
said, "I agree to no such thing; am afraid of your 
sly Indian way of fighting; I have heard that you 
threatened to kill several at Lake Pleasant; and a 
man by the name of Lyon; I shall complain of you 
and have you taken care of; I am afraid of my life;" 
Indian said, " Complain and be d — d, me meet you; " 
Indian threatened to kill David Foster (son of defend- 
ant) if he came to the Racket lake; Indian started to 
the door, took up his tomahawk; prisoner stepped 
into the house, and Indian let his tomahawk drop 
after prisoner was out of sight. 

Cross-examined. — Is a son-in-law of defendant; 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 229 

resides at Auburn; went there last July; don't recol- 
lect the amount of flour, &c, that Foster called over; 
when items were mentioned once he said it was cheap 
enough; Indian spoke tolerably good English; some- 
broken; witness staid but eight or ten days on tract 
after this; David left after October; witness advised 
defendant to come away; he said he should come as 
soon as he possibly could; for he considered his life 
in danger every moment; Seventh lake is some fifteen 
miles from Foster's; Indian had a squaw and two 
children: squaw went back to St. Regis; defendant 
and wife, son and son's wife, witness and his wife, 
and Johnson were in the house, and three children, 
two of David's and one of witness's. 

Direct testimony resumed. — Foster said, " as soon 
as I can get the old lady away, I shall go;" she was 
rather feeble; she w r as not able to go with witness; 
wanted to wait till sleighing; David's wife was un- 
well; a numb palsy affection. 

Abner Blackman, sworn. — Knew the Indian named 
and Foster; Foster was narrating a story about In- 
dian's coming to his house; he said the " Indian had 
loaded his rifle and come to his door to shoot him; 
Indian said it was well for him that he was not at 
home, as he came to shoot him; he would have put a 
bullet through him; he (Foster) would have seen his 
God in two minutes;" witness told him that the In- 
dian had told him the same thing, as to his coming 

20 



230 TRAPPERS' OF NEW YORK. 

to his house to shoot him; has heard the Indian 
threaten the life of Foster. 

Cross examined. — Had a conversation with Foster; 
he said the Indian had threatened to kill him a good 
many times; and indifferent ways; he had spoke of 
not being afraid of Indian, but he was really afraid, 
and looked behind every old log and bush expecting 
the Indian ready to kill him; he trembled as he 
walked; said he would have been glad to have got 
away, if he could conveniently; but his property and 
family were there; his son's wife unwell, and could 
not be moved then; he said like this, " he had a gun 
that had always told him the truth, and he had pushed 
a bull off the bridge;" he said they came down to his 
house for him to go up; he went, and found Waters 
in the canoe; no one dared to take hold of him; he 
took hold of him and pulled him up; did not tell him 
how the Indian got killed, nor that he killed him; 
was talking about hunting and killing deer when he 
said he pushed the bull off the bridge; and, perhaps, 
about the Indian also; w T ere not talking about the 
Indian when he said his gun always told the truth; 
has seen Indian at witness's house; heard Indian say 
he belonged to St. Regis tribe; witness lives in Greig, 
Lewis county; conversation in that town on witness's 
way to and from Herreshoff 's; Greig is nineteen or 
twenty miles from Herreshoff place. 

Joshua Harris, sworn. — Lives in Grieg, Lewis 
county; was a magistrate in September last. The 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORE. 231 

defence offered to prove by this witness that Foster 
applied to him to get a warrant, and complained that 
he was in fear of losing his life; that the Indian had 
threatened to kill him repeatedly; had intimated 
several times that Indian had threatened to kill him. 

Witness* — Has conversed with Indian; has heard 
him say repeatedly, he would kill Foster; " if Foster 
goes up to Fourth, Fifth, Sixth or Seventh lake again, 
he will never return alive if I can catch him there;" 
the Indian roused up, " Foster, how many deer you 
kill ?" " Don't know." " D— m him, HI pile him up 
with my deer by-and-by;" at another time in harvest, 

he said, " I'll serve Foster, d d old cuss, as I have 

a number of the d d Yankees, I will take his life, 

or butcher him;" the threats were often repeated; he 
would rave against Foster. 

Cross examined. — Indian was there a year ago last 
October, and often, until killed, shantied [lived in a 
shantee or hut] on witness's farm, forty rods from 
house, about two months; was about twenty-eight 
years of age; has conversed with Foster since the 
death; he intimated as much as though he had killed 
the Indian; said " he was not guilty of shedding inno- 
cent blood; what he had done was done in his own 
defence;" he was talking about his being taken for 
killing the Indian, and his trial. 

Asa Brown, sworn. — Knows Foster; knew Indian; 
has heard the Indian threaten the life of Foster; In- 
dian came to witness's house in Greig, Lewis county, 



232 TRACERS OF NEW YORK. 

in the fore part of August, a year ago; between the 
first and twentieth; he said he did not want to say 

much about old Foster; he d d old cuss; Mrs. 

Foster good old woman; he went on and stated how 
well she had used him, and squaw, and little pap- 
pooses; then he said, after the favors, " old Foster, 
d — m old cuss, want to make me pay for it;" he said 
he should not; he meant to kill old Foster; " me get 
good rifle; me shoot straight; me put ball right 
through the heart." I said, " Peter, you must not talk 
such language as that, for you are liable to be had ur. 
and confined." " Me care not a d — m for that ; no 
law on Brown's tract." Said I, if there is no law on 
the tract, there is here, and will put you where the 
dogs wont bite you. "Me no care for dat; me kill 
d — m old cuss." Witness advised him to peace with 
Foster. "Mrs. Foster use me w T ell; good woman; 
Foster d — m old cuss; put ball through his heart." 
Never saw him alive after that. 

Cross examined. — Saw Foster about two weeks 
after this, and told him what the Indian said; Foster 
replied, " If the Indian would come in sight, and 
shoot quicker than he did, then he (Foster) would be 
killed; if not, not; he had a rifle that never told a lie; 
and said he had heard a great many such threats from 
the Indian, and felt in danger of losing his life when 
traversing the forest for his traps: he said his eyes 
were continually on the watch, for fear the Indian 
was skulking about to shoot him;" has seen Foster 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 233 

but once since the Indian's death; heard no confession 

of killing. 

Willard Johnson, sworn. — Knew Foster and In- 
dian; resided on Brown's tract; has heard Indian 
threaten Foster to kill him; the first difficulty was 
about a boat; Foster said, " you should not do so; if 
you want a boat, ask for it." Indian said, " d — m 
old Foster, I'll put the ball there," pointing his finger 
in center of his forehead. The next, Foster had let 
him have things, and Peter refused to pay; about two 
or three months after, can't say exactly, Foster said, 
" this is the usage I get, I backed in these things and 
paid my money for them." Waters flourished his 
hatchet; Foster went in quick, and if he had not, he 
would have struck the hatchet between Foster's 
shoulders. Again, the morning before Waters was 
shot, witness was at his own place, a mile from Fos- 
ter's, when he saw Waters; talked with him; said 
"go along with me and make peace with Foster;" 
" old Foster I will kill, if I can get him out to shoot 
him. I'll butcher him in his bed; I know which side 
of the bed he lays;, and if you hear anything there, 
don't you come nigh, you may get hurt; old woman 
is good; I wont hurt her; but you must not come nigh 
me." [The Indian requested Johnson to tell Mrs. 
Foster to keep her own side in the bed.] 

Cross examined. — Thinks he told it to Foster the 
night before the killing; every time witness saw Wa- 
ters, he would enquire when he was going home; and 

90* 



234 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

witness did not know what to make of it; an Indian 
is an Indian; Foster went to swear the peace; Indian 
was a crabbed sort of a fellow; had no conversation 
with Foster since Indian was killed. 

The counsel for the prisoner offered to prove threats 
of the Indian to kill Foster, by several other persons, 
but was overruled, and the defence rested. 

For the prosecution. 

Williston Tyler, sworn. — Was at Foster's the 
evening before killing; he said the Indian had threat- 
ened his life; but he was not afraid of the d d 

black blood, unless it were by secret revenge ; he said 
if he could catch him out any where, he would put 
him where the dogs would not bite him; they were 
talking about his complaining against Indian; he said 
it would be of no use: he would go into the woods 
before they could take him; but if he should catch 
him out, he would put him where the dogs wouldn't 
bite him; in going back up to the point where killed, 
witness asked the question whether he was standing 
or sitting the moment he was shot; Foster replied, 
" Sitting down; why I say he was sitting down is, 
that they always did sit down, and never stand up in 
a bark canoe;" Foster went to the place where In- 
dian was killed; they covered up Indian; went back 
next morning and re-covered it [the grave]; might 
have been four hours from time witness saw Foster 
last to killing:. 

Cross examined. — Wood told Foster, "I've bad 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 235 

news to tell you; Peter's dead;" Foster asked, " Did 
he die in a fit V Wood informed Foster that he was 
shot and at what place, in answer to his inquiry; pre- 
sumes they generally sit in a bark canoe. 

David Chase, sworn. — Don't remember every item 
of the scuffle; they were fixing to go away that morn- 
ing; Foster came in his house; said " Good morning;" 
witness was busy packing up things to go away; 
Foster was eight feet from a small fire place; witness 
about ten feet away, packing; Indian spoke, but don't 
know what he said; Foster answered, but don't re- 
member what; Indian pitched upon him and grabbed 
Foster; witness rose up and took Foster's rifle and 
set it up side of the house, about twelve feet from 
where they clenched; got back and Indian had thrown 
Foster; witness got his right hand, and Wood his 
left hand, and told Indian to let loose; Indian rose up; 
one called for his tomahawk and the other for his 
rifle; Foster went out, and witness said stay and get 
your things; he did so; witness went into the house, 
got his hat and rifle, and gave them to him; after this 
Foster said, " How long before you will be along ?" 
As witness turned to go back, he saw blood on his 
own hand; this was pretty early in the morning; it 
was near noon when the shooting happened; between 
three and four hours; Indian, Wood and witness were 
going trapping. 

Cross examined. — Did not see a knife; as they took 
them apart, Indian was talking fast; and when he 



236 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

came back he was cooled down; Wood got to Indian 
and Foster first; had no conversation with Foster 

since. 

Nelson Stimpson, sworn. — Saw the Indian clench 
Foster; Foster went into the house and spoke to Chase 
and Wood; asked them what time they would be up 
the lake; Indian " How many times more will you 

call me d d liar?' Foster, "Do you want to 

pick a quarrel with me this morning, you black son 
of a bitch ?" The Indian sprang and clenched him, 
and jammed the door too, and witness saw no more of 
it; saw Foster as he came out; he told witness to go 
down to the forge; four hours from time of scuffle to 
killing; had some conversation with Foster coming 
from tract next day. 

Francis E. Spinner, sworn. There was some con- 
versation when Foster came down from Martinsburg; 
he said something; don't think he said he killed him; 
witness advised him to say nothing; he said there 
would probably be no dispute about the facts; there 
would be proof enough; thinks he said the Indian 
suspected something, and put up his hands; he said 
he examined the body, and in examination found he 
was shot with two balls; he said his rifle never told 
a lie; don't know whether this latter observation was 
in that conversation; he said they were afraid to take 
care of the body, and he went up; found it was a 
centre shot; a hole under one arm, close up, and two 
on the opposite side; is not clear, but he may have 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 237 

said that his arm must have been thrown up, or the 
ball could not have entered there. 

The testimony having closed, Mr. Hurlbut opened 
the defence to the jury, and his associates, Spencer 
and Hackley, summed up. The cause is said, by spec- 
tators, to have been very ably conducted on both sides. 

Judge Denio, who was from another county, a 
stranger to the parties and unbiased by the prejudices 
which made either for or against the prisoner, deter- 
mined to try him fairly and impartially. There can be 
no greater virtue in any tribunal, than that of impar- 
tiality in the administration of justice. Indeed, when 
other motives influence judicial decisions than those 
of equity, and power is warped to favor, rapine and 
anarchy stalk the earth unbridled, honesty w r ears 
weeds, and disinterested benevolence folds herself up 
in a garment of sackcloth. 

The following is a brief memorandum made by Mr. 
Hurlbut, of Judge Denio's charge to the jury. 

" The court advise the jury, that the law applies to 
the region of country where the offence was com- 
mitted. The law pervades every section of the coun- 
try. There is no place where crime is not cognizable. 

" In regard to the race of men to which the de- 
ceased belonged, when the question is, what will 
authorize, the taking of the life of such an one ? we 
answer, no one can take such life without such rea- 
sons as would authorize the taking of the life of any 
other human being. 



238 TRArPERS OF NEW YORK. 

" There are two cases of killing which is not mur- 
der. First, when there is killing in a sudden affray: 
it is manslaughter. If, at the time of the rencontre 
in the morning, before his passion cooled, the prisoner 
had shot the Indian, it would have been manslaughter 
only. But if his passion cooled, and contrivance or 
malice w T as aroused, it would have been murder. 
Second, a man has a right to kill another in self de- 
fence. The court would not abridge that privilege. 
If Wood's account be true, if the Indian came with 
his knife drawn and offered a fatal blow, and Foster 
had not time to retreat, he would have been author- 
ized to shoot him dead. That would have been a 
legitimate case of self defence. The law of this 
country is not, when a man is out of immediate dan- 
ger, but has a secret enemy, that he has a right to 
kill him. This would not be a good code of laws if 
that were so. In a state of nature, it would have 
been morally right to have taken the Indian's life in 
this case. The principle of self defence applies only 
to the case of present attack upon the accused. If 
Foster seriously believed he was right and justified, 
it makes no difference in law, morally it does. 

" These views you have a right to overlook. You 
are not bound to pay any further regard to this 
opinion, than the superior means of the court of pos- 
sessing information may entitle it to." 

The jury retired. 

Before the trial commenced, Mr. Kurlburt received 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 239 

from Foster the most urgent instructions to convict 
him of murder or acquit him altogether. He pro- 
tested against being found guilty of manslaughter, as 
he dreaded imprisonment, even for the shortest term, 
worse than death. 

The jury, after a deliberation of two hours, returned 
into court with a verdict of acquittal. As they entered 
and took their seats, the " cloud of witnesses " be- 
came hushed; the moment was one of intense interest; 
and to so great a tension had the feelings of the old 
gentleman been drawn by the excitement his preca- 
rious fate had invoked, that his spirit seemed hovering 
between life and death. Says Mr. Hurlbut, " When 
the jury came in with their verdict, he was insensible; 
and it was with some difficulty he was roused to con- 
sciousness, so as to understand the verdict. When 
the words not guilty, after being two or three times 
repeated to him by his counsel, struck his senses 
fairly, he rose up, stretched out both hands wide over 
the heads of the spectators, and exclaiming, ' God 
bless you all ! God bless the people ! ' rushed out of 
the court room, and strode home his well known hun- 
ter's pony." 

A murmur of applause ran through the crowd, the 
sympathies of which were nearly all enlisted in his 
favor, as the old trapper left the court room for the 
street, to which he was followed by scores of people 
of all ages, anxious to offer their congratulations. 
At Little Falls, great was the rejoicing and clapping 



240 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

of hands, when the news reached that place that 
Foster was free; indeed his enlargement met with 
one universal burst of approbation throughout the 
county. Not because he had killed a poor Indian, 
and been acquitted; but because he w T as not to be 
hung for having killed a man in his own defense, as 
they viewed it. There can remain little doubt, when 
it is known as a characteristic of the red man that 
he never forgives a known or imagined injury, and 
seldom a grudge, especially one he has determined to 
punish with death, but that he would have killed 
Foster "before Christmas," if Foster had not slain 
him.* But we leave this case to Him who set his 
own mark on the first murderer, Cain; and to whose 
mercy Moses was subjected, when he slew and con- 
cealed his man in the sands of Egypt. 

*The celebrated Joseph Brant, once found it necessary to kill 
his own son. The latter had taken umbrage at his parent for 
some cause, and on an occasion, pursued him with a knife, bent 
on his destruction. Brant retreated to the corner of a room, 
armed with a tomahawk; and satisfied the son would execute his 
threats, as he rushed upon him, the father sunk the fatal toma- 
hawk in his head. — Isaac H. Tiffany. 



CHAPTER XVL 

About the time of Foster's trial, to an interrogatory 
from the Hon. Charles Gray, whether he did not con- 
sider the lives of the white hunters as greatly endan- 
gered, when he directed the balls between them only 
a few feet apart, w T hich penetrated the heart of his 
victim? he replied, " No, not at all ! my old rifle 
never made so great a miss as that! " 

Remarking to Maj. Stoner my surprise, that Foster 
should have dared to fire between two white men in 
a changing position at a third person, the old Natty 
Bumpo replied, a Poh! Foster would have shot the 
Indian's eye out had he desired to! The truth is, 
either of us could send a bullet just about where we 
chose to." At an inanimate and fixed target they 
were not so remarkably celebrated as marksmen, 
but give them game moving sufficiently to excite 
their anxiety, and these two modern Nimrods may be 
said to have been a dead shot. At a reasonable dis- 
tance they would have driven an apple every time 
from the head of some young Tell, and scarcely dis- 
placed a hair, provided the head was moving. 

When a sufficient length of time had transpired 

after this Indian's death for intelligence of it to go to 

his friends near the river St. Lawrence, a brother-in- 

21 



242 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.' 

law of his, who was a chief of the St. Regis tribe, 
and a very likely man, came down to Brown's tract 
to remove his sister. He said the deceased w r as at 
times a bad fellow, and had been expelled from their 
tribe for some misdemeanor. He had even threatened 
the life of this chief more than once; and he did not 
express any regret that he was killed; on the con- 
trary, he said he thought Foster w T as justifiable in 
taking his life under the peculiar circumstances. 
Drid's squaw was present when the body was brought 
down, but instead of manifesting sorrow she smiled, 
and with a pair of scissors she cut out a piece of his 
blanket or shirt, having in it a ball hole, and placed 
it carefully away in a work-pocket. Her brother had 
the body taken up and interred in Indian style; and 
before its reburial he cut out that part of the 
blanket having the remaining bullet holes in it; 
which he carried home with him. Foster had been 
sent to Martinsburg before this Indian arrived; but 
previous to leaving the tract, he advised the members 
of the Foster family still living there, to leave the 
place, as they were innocent of Drid's death; and it 
was possible some of his blood might attempt to re- 
venge his death. He took his sister and her children 
back with him, that he might provide for their wants. 
After the death of Drid, Foster visited Brown's 
tract but once. He feared the Indians might catch 
him napping; indeed it was said that several were 
there in wait for him, but a correspondent who says 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 243 

he was there the next season, saw no Indians. Fos- 
ter removed with his family to Boonville, Oneida 
county. From thence he went to reside for several 
years in the north part of Pennsylvania, where he 
again followed his favorite pursuits. His mind seemed 
never at rest after killing this Indian, says a friend, 
and he would not, after his return to Boonville from 
Pennsylvania, '• enture out of doors in the dark. He 
died at the house of Mr. Edgerton, his son-in-law, in 
the western part of Boonville (now Ava), Oneida 
county, in March, 1841; at the age of about 74 years. 
His widow died at the residence of her son, Amos 
Foster, in Palatine (near Stone Arabia), Montgomery 
county, in December, 1844. 

It is the belief of very many of Foster's acquaint- 
ances, that Drid was not the only Indian with whom 
he had had a fatal rencontre. The following story 
furnished the author by Mr. Frederick Petrie, comes 
so well authenticated and corroborated, that there can 
be very little doubt of its truth. 

Before the American Revolution there dwelt about 
two miles from the present village of Little Falls, an 
Indian named Hess, who took an active part in that 
contest as a hireling of Britain; and who undoubted- 
ly was one of the most cruel and blood thirsty of his 
race. Some ten or twelve years after the war, this 
Indian returned to his former hunting grounds, to pro- 
secute his favorite employment. A country inn at 
this period was, for the spread of knowledge to be 



244 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

smoked in and watered, a kind of " circulating me- 
dium," a place where in the absence of our now 
thousands of newspapers, the people of the surround- 
ing country met to learn news from quidnuncs; and 
as Little Falls, with possibly her dozen (much scat- 
tered) insignificant dwellings, w r as then a place of 
some notoriety, on account of her new inland locks, 
and old moss-clad rocks, the bar-roon . of the village 
one-story tavern became the place where all the clas- 
sic events of olden time, and all the improvements of 
modern days, particularly those which aided the river 
sailor in navigating the far famed Mohawk, were, 
sans parliamentary forms, freely discussed. 

On a certain occasion Foster met the Indian Hess 
in the bar-room of the Little Falls tavern, and observ- 
ing that his dress a-la-mode was that of a hunter, he 
attempted to engage him in a conversation. He 
feigned ignorance of the English language, however, 
until his white competitor in beaver skins oiled his 
tongue freely at the bar, when lo! the seal upon his 
lips was broken, and he spoke English tolerably well. 
The two hunters soon after left the village and tra- 
veled some distance together, when the conversation 
turned upon Revolutionary scenes: boasting of his 
individual exploits on the frontiers of New York, 
the Indian exhibited a tobacco pouch. "This," 
said the crafty warrior, " me got in the war. Me 
kill white woman; rip open belly; find young pap- 
poose; skin him some; make pouch!" He also 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 245 

opened the box in the breech of his rifle, and exhibit- 
ed some evidence he there carried of the number of 
prisoners and human scalps taken by him in the war; 
the tally ran up to the almost incredible number of 
forty-two. Just before parting, the Indian inquired 
of Foster his name, and on hearing it he exclaimed, 
" Ha ! Nat Foster ! y ou bad man; you kill Indians /" 

On the Indian's making the recognition of him, 
Foster thought he detected in his look and manner a 
lurking devil that seemed to say, " if ever you fall in 
my power you will feel it;" and hearing himself 
called an Indian killer, he believed the old hunter, if 
opportunity presented, would not scruple to take his 
life. The boast of murdered innocence drew a frown 
across the sunburnt brow and stern features of the 
young hunter, that seemed to send back defiance to 
the red man's look of meditated death. They parted 
soon after, and if not as friends, certainly not as 
avowed enemies ; but each no doubt felt apprehensive, 
that a second interview might not terminate so for- 
tunately for them both ; and certain it is, that one at 
least resolved not to be over-reached by the other. 

Not long after the above incidents transpired, Fos- 
ter was threading the forest alone, in the northerly 
part of Herkimer county, in the pursuit of game. In 
a secluded spot, he came unexpectedly upon and shot 
a moose cow. While securing the noble game, its 
mate, a most ferocious bull, attracted to the spot by 

the bellowing of the dam, attacked him with great 

21* 



246 TRArPEES OF .NEW YORK. 

fury. In a dodging fight, the hunter was obliged to 
make some half a dozen shots in rapid succession. 
Foster reloaded his rifle before he ventured to ap- 
proach an animal that had been so tenacious of life, 
although dying (he seldom changed his position in 
the woods without a charge in his gun); and while 
advancing to it, he was startled to hear a footstep 
within pistol shot distance of him, and was possibly 
not less surprised to find in the person of his new 
visitant, the muscular form of the Indian Hess. 

Supposing, as is presumed, that Foster's rifle was 
unloaded, his recent acquaintance, who now experi- 
enced no difficulty in " murdering the King's Eng- 
lish," at the end of a w^hoop that told credibly for his 
luno-s and the absence of balsams, shouted aloud, 
" Now Foster me got you ! me kill you now ! " Be- 
tween Hess and his intended victim there was a 
marsh, over which was a fallen tree. Mounting the 
log to approach the white hunter, with uplifted toma- 
hawk and death-boding mien, the report of a rifle 
again echoed amid the fir-tops of the forest, and up 
sprang the Indian high in air from the log. A bullet 
had plowed its way through his heart, and with a 
guttural groan, the dark warrior fell dead upon the 
marsh. Lest Hess might not be unattended in the 
forest, the eagle-eyed marksman, wmose rifle had not 
only been quickly loaded but quickly discharged, 
stamped the carcase of his victim deep into the mud. 
Dark mystery hung over the fate of this lone hunter 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 247 

for years. Many remembered that his disappearance 
was sudden and unexpected; and others that they had 
heard Foster say, shortly after his interview with him 
at Little Falls, that he had met him once, and only 
once after that time. He confidentially communicated, 
many years after, to Jacob I. Christman, with whom 
he was hunting, the fate of this unfortunate savage, 
for whom 

No solemn belPs metallic tongue 
E'er toll'd its death note on the breeze •. 

Zephyrs alone his requiem rung-, 

Where ivy green her mantle hung 
Mid plumed and bowing trees. 

Foster, although a man of undoubted veracity, 
when speaking of his own exploits, made use of 
Aphorisms, or such unexplained expressions, as left 
them a mystery to his auditors. This was particu- 
larly the case where legal advantage could be taken 
of his sayings and doings; hence, it is impossible to 
arrive with positive certainty, as is believed, at some 
of the most interesting incidents in his life. On this 
point, says a correspondent, " Foster would occasion- 
ally tell some of his exploits, but in such a way you 
could hardly guess his meaning. For instance, " The 
best shot I ever made, I got two beaver, one otter, 
and fifteen martin skins; but I took the filling out of 
a blanket to do it !' And again, ' I was once in the 
woods, and saw an Indian lay down to drink at a 
brook; something was the matter; he dropped his face 



248 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

into the water and drowned; I thought I might as 
well take his fur, gun, blanket, &c, as leave them 
there to spoil.' " 

Says the same correspondent, " On his way to jail, 
I saw Foster; he said to me, < Brother B., I am the 
man that pushed the bull off the bridge ; I never liked 
Indians /' While confined at Herkimer, he was ask- 
ed how he fared? He replied, " 0, very well, only I 
don't like to be stall fed among gentlemen ! " 

About the time of Foster's trial, while some friends 
were speaking of his success as a hunter and extra- 
ordinary skill as a marksman, he said the greatest 
shot he ever made w r as at otters, securing eighteen of 
their valuable pelts at a single shot. Although the 
fame of the (then) old hunter was very great, this 
story seemed to stagger the faith of his most confi- 
dential auditors; and when one ventured to express a 
doubt as to the truth of the assertion, he explained as 
follows. In a hunting excursion he had once fallen 
in with an Indian, who carried upon his back eigh- 
teen otter skins; that he had no intention of harming 
the Indian; did not know that he had killed him; but 
that he never let an otter skin escape him alive. He 
fired ; they all fell ; he picked them up and came away. 

In the latter part of his life, Foster's sight began 
to fail him. His brother, Shubael Foster, who is 
many years younger than Nathaniel, says he was deer 
hunting with the latter, not many years before his 
death, in St. Lawrence county, on the Oswegat- 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 249 

chie,* in which excursion they killed twenty. Informant 
shot several before his brother got any; when they 
came together, the latter procured a good slice of 
venison, saying that if he could get a piece of deer into 
him, he could see to shoot them. During this hunt, 
they one day cornered a flock between them and a 
ledge, exposing the innocent creatures to their cross- 
fire. They drove the terrified animals from one to 
the other until they secured five of their number, four 
of which fell before the old rifle of the senior hunter. 
So much for eating a good steak of venison. 

Foster and Stoner were both remarkably expert at 
loading their rifles, but the former most so, at least if 
it became necessary to make several shots in hot 
haste, and at a short distance. Foster has been known 
repeatedly, upon a wager, to commence with his rifle 
unloaded and fire it off six times in one minute. This, 
to the reader, if a modern marksman and unaccus- 
tomed to taking game upon foot, seems incredible, 
but it is nevertheless true. While hunting he usually 
wore three rifle balls between the fingers of each 
hand, and invariably thus in the left hand, if he had 

* 

* Os -we- gat chie or Ogh-swa-gatchie, an Indian name, the his- 
torian James Macauley, informed the author, which signifies 
going or coming round a hill. The great bend in the Oswegat- 
chie river (or the necessity of it), on the borders of Lewis county, 
originated its significant name. An Indian tribe, bearing the 
name of the river, once lived upon its banks; but its fate, like 
that of many sister tribes, has been, to melt away before the pro- 
gressive step of the Anglo-Saxon, 



250 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

that number of balls with him. He had a large bony 
hand, and having worn such jewels a long time, they 
had made for themselves cavities in the flesh, which 
concealed them almost as effectually as they were, 
when hid in the moulds in which they were run from 
the fused lead. The superficial observer would not 
have noticed them. 

Foster's quick shooting was in the days of flint 
locks. He had a powder flask with a charger, and 
with six well pared balls between his fingers, he 
would pour in the powder, drop in a ball that would 
just roll down without a patch, and striking the 
breech of his gun with his hand, it was primed ; soon 
after which the bullet was speeding to its mark. 
These rapid discharges could only be made at a short 
distance, as to make long shots it became necessary 
to patch the balls and drive them down with a rod, 
the latter being dispensed with in the former case. 

Foster would make his six shots, so as to kill so 
many men, within one minute, at a distance not ex- 
ceeding ten rods. A regiment of such riflemen, in 
close action, would soon decide the fate of a battle. 

In the second American war with Great Britain, 
the following incident, says Shubael Foster, took 
place in Manheim, Herkimer county. A company 
of riflemen* under Capt. Forsyth, passed through that 
town on their way from the Mohawk valley to the 
military lines between New- York and Canada, and 
encamped there over night to wash their clothes. 



TRAPPEES OF NEW YORK. 251 

The celebrity of Foster, as a marksman, coming to 
the ears of Capt. Forsyth, as the hunter was in the 
vicinity, he had him called to the camp. The most 
expert rifleman in the company w T as a man named 
Robinson, from South Carolina. The Captain was 
desirous of seeing whether Foster or Robinson could 
make the most effective shots in a minute, at a tar- 
get ten rods off, each commencing with unloaded 
rifles. They began to load at a given signal, and 
Foster sent six bullets into the target within the 
minute; his competitor putting the sixth bullet into 
his piece, as that of his own rifle sped to the mark. 
The whole company was astonished to see their fellow 
member — able, as was supposed, to make the most 
shots in a given time of any man in the world — fairly 
beaten by a New-York trapper. A murmur of ap- 
plause ran through the ranks, and Foster at once 
became a lion in the camp. Surprised at the unex- 
pected skill of a New-York woodsman, and anxious 
to secure his services, Capt. Forsyth offered Foster 
thirty dollars a month to join his company with the 
complimentary assurance that he should eat at his own 
table; but as Foster did not approve of the war, he 
could not be prevailed upon to adopt the life of a 
soldier. 

When hunting, Foster would make his camp in 
forty-five minutes, where the snow was a foot deep. 
He usually set up two crotches, laid a pole across 
them, and others from thence to the ground upon the 



252 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORE. 

sides and one end; covering the whole with hemlock 
boughs. In front of the open end, for his own com- 
fort and security against wild beasts, he built a good 
fire. Provisions placed under his head for a pillow 
at night, w r ere often frozen hard in the morning. In 
cold weather, he carried a blanket, strapped upon his 
shoulders as a knapsack. He usually wore a hat, but 
at times a cap, and uniformly a coat when hunting; 
over his shoulders were strapped a powder horn and 
bullet pouch, of sufficient dimensions to warrant a 
lengthy hunt. He was always very careful to have 
a pocket compass w T ith him when in the forest. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Since the preceding chapters were written, Col. 
Daniel C. Henderson, of Norway, has kindly furnish- 
ed me with some interesting; memoranda in the life of 
Jonathan Wright, a hunter previously named; and 
several incidents worthy of notice, of several others of 
like craft, who followed trapping many years ago on 
and contiguous to Brown's tract. From Henderson's 
manuscript I glean the following facts. 

Jonathan Wright, or Jock, as he was called in the 
wilderness, was a native of Hinsdale, Cheshire coun- 
ty, New Hampshire; and of respectable parentage. 
He was about five feet ten inches in height, rather 
stoutly built, with a sallow complexion. In the latter 
part of his life, and when known to my correspond- 
ent, he had a very stooping gait, and a walk pecu- 
liarly his own; lifting his feet high as though 
treading upon something light. His peculiarity of 
motion was no doubt acquired by carrying, as silently 
as possible, heavy burthens upon his shoulders in the 
forest, such as traps, wild game, provisions, canoes, 
&c. He had a keen eye shaded by heavy brows; and 
upon the whole was rather good looking. He was a 
man of few words, but they were pithy and uttered 
with energy. His education was such as the com- 



254 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

mon schools of New England afforded at that early 
day, he being a school-boy just before the Revolu- 
tion. 

But little is known of Wright's youthful days, ex- 
cept that he was rather eccentric; and early evinced 
a disposition to be alone in the woods, with his dog 
and gun. At the age of eighteen he had, in the pur- 
suit of wild game and fur, reconnoitred the northerly 
part of his native state, knowing more, doubtless, of 
its topography than of its improvements. When our 
Revolutionary difficulties began, he was found among 
the champions of liberty; and five days before the 
Bunker Hill battle he arrived at the American camp 
near Boston, accompanied by a neighbor named 
Moffatt; both armed cap-a-pie for action. He was 
a volunteer under the brave Prescott, to aid in forti- 
fying Bunker hill the night before the battle, in which 
he took an active part. When Wright got back to 
his quarters in the evening, almost exhausted, he 
heard a call for a guard to prevent surprise from the 
enemy, " There 's no danger of that," he exclaimed, 
" the rascals have enough to do to dress their shins 
and wrap up their fingers for the next twelve hours, 
without beating up our quarters. I shall sleep for the 
next ten hours without fear." 

The reveille and tattoo savored too much of re- 
straint for the tameless spirit of a hunter, and tiring 
of camp monotony Wright returned home, and did 
not again join the army until Arnold's retreat from 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 255 

Quebec to Ticonderoga; when he there enlisted under 
Capt. Whitcomb; preferring to perform scouting or 
other hazardous duty. Capt. W. had been accused 
of shooting Major Gordon, a Btitish officer, and rifling 
his pockets; of which act General Carlton complain- 
ed, and demanded his trial for murder. The Ameri- 
can officer in command did not think the act, which 
was one of daring, demanded such a title; but viewed 
it as a consequence of war, and soon the matter was 
hushed. 

While on duty at Fort Ticonderoga, Wright and 
his captain went on a scout toward the lower end of 
lake Champlain, where they unexpectedly fell in with 
and captured two British officers well mounted. They 
proved to be a pay-master and lieutenant; who, not 
expecting a foe so far from the American camp, were 
off their guard, and easily secured by their rifle-poised 
captors. The horses could not be taken along, and 
they were set free in the road, to return to their mas- 
ters' former quarters. After the prisoners were dis- 
mounted and disarmed, they inquired the names of 
their more fortunate companions. At hearing the 
name of Whitcomb the pay-master turned deadly 
pale, and inquired with evident agitation, " Are you 
the man who shot Major Gordon? " 

" I suppose that I am; " replied the captain. 
Wright, who witnessed the effect of this announce- 
ment, divined that a desperate effort might be made 
by the prisoners to escape, and advanced with a 



556 TKAPPERS OF NEW YORE* 

ready rifle to a commanding position; when he as* 
sured them they should have good quarters, and not 
be injured unless they tried to escape; in which event 
they would be sent to oblivion in a hurry ! This assu- 
rance tended to quiet their fears, and soon the party 
were threading a circuitous route for Ticonderoga. 
The pay-master chanced to have no funds on his per- 
son, on which account he may have felt the more 
secure. When the captures were made, the scout 
w r ere just out of provisions, and early the next morn- 
ing, as Wright was the best runner, it was settled 
that he should proceed to the fort with all possible 
dispatch; obtain food, and return to succor the party, 
which was to proceed up the lake shore. The adven- 
ture was carried out as anticipated, and in a few days 
all arrived safely at Ticonderoga. Soon after, the 
captives were exchanged. 

Wright ever spoke highly of this lieutenant, whose 
name is now forgotten. Just before they parted, the 
latter addressed him as follows, " Wright, you have 
been kind to us, and I shall always retain grateful 
feelings toward you. We shall be down the next 
campaign, and then you may rely on my friendship, 
as you must and will be subjugated ! " 

" You go to the devil! " replied Wright. " If you 
come again, death is your portion. You talk of sub- 
duing the States; when you come again, you fetch 
your coffins with you, for you HI surely want them! " 

He continued with the northern army, acting much 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 257 

of the time either as a scout or a spy, until after the 
surrender of Burgoyne. Some few days before that 
event, being on a scout in the vicinity of the British 
army, a violent rain-storm came on, and he sought a 
temporary shelter beneath the trunk of a leaning tree; 
with his blanket over his shoulders, and his rifle in a 
position to be kept dry. While thus situated, his 
quick ear detected amid the roaring elements, an ap- 
proaching footstep; and looking up, he saw a large 
wolf just ready to spring upon him. He carefully 
raised his piece, and without bringing it to his shoul- 
der, discharged it, the muzzle being within a few 
feet of the animal's head, which w r as literally blown 
off. Thus did he scalp one English ally. 

Recollecting his former friend, the British lieuten- 
ant, Wright sought for him among the vanquished, 
and found him an object of commiseration. He had 
been wounded, and what with his sufferings and pri- 
vations, had grown dejected; sick in body and mind; 
and did not readily recognize his former captor. 
When he did he saluted him with great emotion. In- 
deed, the meeting was such as caused the better feelings 
of both to mingle in a flow of tears. Wright was the 
first to regain his self-possession, and broke forth in 
a strain between seriousness and jesting much as fol- 
lows: — " By ! you are a lucky devil though. I 

supposed you long since dead, as I told you you would 
be at the end of this campaign; but I rejoice to find 

you still alive, and hope you may live to repent of 

22* 



258 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

your sins; but by the heavens, if I ever find you ift 
arms against the States again, I will surely blow 
your brains to the four winds! " 

Wright with no little trouble got his friend in a 
wagon and conveyed him to a place of security, 
where he was well cared for, and soon after they 
parted, as they supposed, for ever. The winter fol- 
lowing, the lieutenant was retained with many other 
prisoners in Boston; and having occasion to visit 
that city in the mean time, Wright and his British 
friend again met; the latter then in good health and 
fine spirits. After several days of social intercourse 
the friends finally parted, but not until the lieutenant 
had pressed upon the acceptance of his guest numer- 
ous presents; with an assurance that no consideration 
would ever induce him to be found in arms again, 
against so brave and generous a people. Wright 
said in the latter part of his life, that of all the friends 
he ever met, this military foeman gave him the 
heartiest welcome." 

Wright took no active part in the war after 1777, 
but followed his favorite avocation of a hunter in the 
northerly part of New Hampshire and Vermont; 
which the neutrality of the latter state, then a terri- 
tory in dispute, enabled him to do. Soon after the 
war, he, and a cousin of his, named Belden, who was 
usually called the Rattlesnake hunter, began to fre- 
quent the shores of lakes Champlain and George, and 
their inlets; as also the sources of the Hudson, in 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 259 

quest of fur. Belden bore a deadly hatred to rattle- 
snakes, and when near their haunts was continually 
warring with them; hence his significant appellation. 
The following incident attending his snake-killing, I 
shall give very nearly in my correspondent's own 
words. 

" One day in early spring, as they were on the 
w r est shore of the lake near fort Ty., and upon a ledge 
of rocks; they came to a den just as the snakes had 
crawled from their winter slumber, and lay basking 
in the warm noon-day sun. Belden was dressed for 
hunting, having on a loose woolen frock retiring be- 
low the knee, with shoes and leggins to match. 
Armed with a long stick in one hand, and a short 
one in the other, Belden led the way to the snakes; 
and Wright followed with his < ompanion's dog and 
gun. Belden's eyes flashed fire at the sight before 
him, and a smile on his lips betrayed that their 
snakeships' quarters would surely be beaten up. He 
began the onset striking and dealing death at every 
blow, jumping and springing from one to the other, 
in fear that some might take shelter in the rocks. 

" In his eagerness, his foot slipped as he was aim- 
ing a blow at a monster that lay in a fighting atti- 
tude, and he fell forward. He tried to keep himself 
off from the dangerous reptile, but without effect, and 
it struck his frock near his chin, and hung fast by its 
fangs. Both fell down together, rolled off the ledge 
and down a declivity, some twelve feet, tumbling 



260 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

over and over; the snake coming up at the last rolL. 
Belden bounded up, seized the snake round the neck, 
loosened its fangs, and whipped it to death against 
the rocks; as his sticks had been lost in the fight. 
Wright often said this was the only time he ever saw 
Belden either scared or even started by danger; but 
the snakes had rest the remainder of the day." 

The two friends followed trapping for several sea- 
sons in the region of country under consideration, 
and until beaver began to grow scarce; for the reader 
must not suppose that they were sole monarchs there; 
Indian hunters were continually crossing their tracks. 
As game grew scarce, however, they occasionally 
hunted for a season as far eastward as the present 
state of Maine. While hunting in the neighborhood 
of lake Champlain they u ,ed a light skiff to coast 
with, and navigate streams. On one occasion when 
they had moored their little barque in some safe nook, 
they set off to visit their traps in different directions; 
to meet at night at the starting point. Wright re- 
turned just at sunset much fatigued, and as his com- 
rade was not there, he deposited his game, laid down 
in the boat, and was soon in a sound slumber; from 
which he did not awake until it was quite dark. 

He w T as then aroused by what he supposed the 
halloo of his companion, and while listening to hear 
the voice again, Belden made his appearance, loaded 
down with a deer and other game, which he deposited 
in the boat. Wright asked him if he had heard a 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 261 

human voice, or any thing resembling it, and was 
answered in the negative. Wright stepped to the 
bow of the boat to loosen it, when he was met by a 
loud scream and the glaring eye-balls of a monstrous 
panther directly before him. " Well Belden," he ex- 
claimed starting back, you have brought a fine friend to 
supper! " " Yes," replied the latter, " and just wait 
until I give him a polite reception." Snatching up 
his rifle he discharged it, almost scorching the ani- 
mal's head; still it was not hurt or frightened from 
its purpose; but stood at the bow and prevented them 
from untying. Wright then fired also without effect. 
Belden had soon reloaded, and with a piece of chalk 
carried for the purpose, he whitened the barrel of his 
rifle, took a more deliberate aim at the glaring target 
and fired again; when a scream and a few scratches 
followed, and all was still. Belden then hauled the 
animal into the boat, cast it off; and away they 
steered for their camp. The panther proved an ex- 
ceedingly large and old one; its teeth were mostly 
gone, and it appeared to have been in the last stage 
of starvation. 

When the hunting of fur in his former haunts 
would no longer pay, Wright removed to the westward. 
About the year 1796, he settled in the present town 
of Norway, N. Y., at which time he was some forty- 
five or fifty years of age. He then had a family, 
which consisted of his wife, whom he invariably 
called Nabby, a son 3 named Jonathan, and three 



262 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

daughters. He wore, when hunting, a coat, called 
at that time a French coat, which fastened tightly 
round the waist, and moccasons, or shoe packs, as 
then denominated. He was never known to wear 
boots or shoes in hunting. When he left home on 
a hunt, he was laden with his traps, about fifty pounds 
of corn-meal, and his gun; with possibly some few 
other fixins. Thus provided he would enter the 
forest, and at times be gone for months, subsisting on 
his meal and what his gun and traps could provide 
him; w T ith the addition of now and then a trout. He 
had, as all men of his craft have, to eat many scanty 
meals; but on returning to the settlements he made 
ample amends for all privations in eating and drink- 
ing. He became known soon after his arrival in 
Norway, by the familiar title of Uncle Jock. Most 
people at that day were fond of liquor, and our hero 
among the rest. 

" Uncle Jock," said a friend one day, " has 

stolen your jug ! " A man who could scent a beaver 
in the water, could easily find the course his jug had 
taken, and soon he overtook the thief; not, however, 
until he had secreted the stolen treasure. He refused 
to disclose where it was, and old Nimrod clenched 
and threw him upon the ground, where he struggled 
manfully, but to little purpose; as his hands were 
soon secured, and his conqueror had one to spare. 
With an uplifted fist shouted the victor, " Now tell 
me what you have done with the rum, or to heaven 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 263 

or hell in a moment!" The brief time alloted for 
repentance, instantly disclosed the whereabouts of the 
jug, and a promise to pay all demands. 

Some four or five years before Uncle Jock pitched 
his tent in Norway, a singular individual named Ni- 
chols began the life of a hunter in the forests contig- 
uous to Norway. He was from some place in New 
Hampshire, upon the Connecticut river. He was to 
appearance some forty years of age, of middling sta- 
ture, mild disposition; and in his deportment was 
simple, honest and obliging. He lived the most of 
his time in the wilderness by hunting and trapping. 
He was something of a musician, and kept a fiddle in 
his camp, with which to cheer his hermitage. The 
only living object of his care was a favorite hound, 
imported by Arthur Noble, from Ireland; "Which," 
as my correspondent observes, " was one of no vulgar 
blood; but a real Johnny Bull pup!" His fiddle, 
hound, rifle and traps, constituted the principal stock 
in trade of this secluded hunter. 

Nichols was at first an unpracticed hunter, took 
but little fur, and as supposed made a poor living; 
for which reason it was thought by the few who now 
and then saw him; that he must have some resources 
to lean upon, besides the avails of his avocation; as 
he was always in funds to pay down for his plain 
wearing apparel, and things needed in his isolated 
camp. For a long time he avoided society, and was 
disinclined to speak of his former residence or puF- 



264 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

suits; but before his death it became known that he 
was a good mathematician, and a raill-wright of the 
first order. From him the carpenters in that part of 
Herkimer county first learned to frame by the square 
rule, casting aside for ever their scribe rule. He was 
looked upon as a man of superior abilities, and what 
could have induced him to adopt a wilderness life 
was a mystery then, indeed, is to the present day. 

When Uncle Jock moved into his neighborhood, 
Nichols, to whom he was previously known, became 
his partner in the chase, and under his teaching after- 
wards proved a very successful trapper. It was not 
known in Norway until Uncle Jock settled there, that 
Nichols had left a good property in land and mills on 
the Connecticut river, to which he never returned, or 
even looked after. Although it was never satisfac- 
torily known what induced Nichols to abandon his 
property and friends, still it was believed to be solely 
attributable to disappointment in love. But whether 
some fair daughter of Yankeedom sighed her gentle 
spirit away with " hope deferred," or whether Ni- 
chols plodded his weary way through the wilderness 
in fruitless attempts to forget some maiden, 

With raven locks and lily skin, 

And cheeks with dimples deep within, 

can not be told, as the secret died with him. 

Uncle Jock and Nichols, together in their trapping 
excursions for beaver and other game, became fami- 
liar with nearly every source of the East and West 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 265 

Canada creeks, Black, Racket, and Sacondaga rivers. 
They were as familiar with the lakes and water- 
courses on and contiguous to Brown's tract, as is a hen 
with her own chickens. Nichols, in tracing a small 
stream that is tributary to the West Canada creek, 
obtained upon or near it, a fine specimen of lead ore; 
but its locality has been sought for since, as yet in 
vain. In the latter part of his life Nichols renewed 
his avocation of a mill-wright, and only hunted in the 
fall and winter. He was drowned while repairing a 
mill, in 1803 

In one of his rambles after his partner's death, Uncle 
Jock discovered a lake that is now called Jock's lake, 
to which I have elsewhere alluded. It has for years 
been a great resort for trout fishing. He said that 
when he first visited it, it appeared to be alive with 
fish, and for several years it became known to him 
alone. From it he would take loads of trout at al- 
most any season of the year to the settlements. 

Many individuals not hunters, but who were anx- 
ious to have a hunt, if it were only to be able to say 
that they had been in the woods and camped out with 
a master hunter; used to urge their company upon 
Uncle Jock; indeed, not a few of this sort received 
the tuition of Stoner and Foster. In a few of his 
trapping seasons Uncle Jock was accompanied by a 
stout j ble-bodied man, named Simmons, who was 
usually called Crookneck, probably from some pecu- 
liar inclination of his head. They were on snow- 

23 



266 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

shoes in the month of March, hunting marten; or as 
called by hunters wan-pur-noc-er. The bait used for 
those animals, which are a variety of weasel, is fresh 
meat; and as the hunters had taken no gun along, 
they had to depend on a dog to run down deer for 
marten-bait and their own food; which the crusted 
snow enabled them to do. 

Their dog one day got a large buck at bay, and 
the hunters approached to kill it. Crookneck came 
up first, and hurried on thinking to seize the animal 
by its antlers and throw it down. As he approached 
the worried deer, it made a furious plunge at him. 
Falling short of its aim, it drove a hoof through one 
of his snow-shoes as Crookneck fell backwards ! and 
not being familiar with the use of such broad " un- 
derstandings," it turned a somerset and fell upon the 
top of its antagonist. The newly initiated hunter, 
by his loud yells for help, gave evidence that his 
lungs were in good condition; and soon the master 
huntor was on hand, who drew his hunting knife, cut 
the deer's hamstrings, and then easily dispatched him. 
As the liberated hunter regained his feet, Uncle Jock 
dryly remarked, " Well Simmons, you are older than 
you might have been! If the buck had not fallen a 
little short, you would have been in oblivion now! " 

At another time during the hunt, the dog started a 
large moose, and as the crust cut its legs, it stopped 
and kept the dog at bay until the hunters approached. 
Uncle Jock wanted his companion to kill it, but 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 267 

nothing could induce him to approach very near it. 
The senior hunter then initiated Crookneck into a 
new degree in game killing. He cut a pole, tied his 
knife to the end of it, and gaining the cover of a tree 
sufficiently near, he very dexterously wielded his pole 
and hamstrung the animal, when it was easily de- 
stroyed. To give his comrade a third degree in the 
mysterious art of slaughtering large animals in the 
forest, without a gun; when the dog called them to 
another moose, Uncle Jock fastened his knife to a 
long pole, stole up behind a large tree, and plunged 
the blade into the heart of his victim. 

Uncle Jock was ever a firm believer in a Supreme 
Being, and also that earnest and sincere prayer, if 
consistent with our circumstances, would readily be 
answered by Divine Providence. One day after hear- 
ing an over-zealous, ignorant preacher pray at great 
length, a friend inquired how he liked the prayer? 
" How fortunate it was for him," he replied, " that 
he was addressing a Being that knew better than he 
did what he wanted, or he would have been in h — in 
a minute ! and at all events if he told the truth, he 
is deserving of a halter or state prison for life ! But 
though &fool, I think he is not quite as wicked as he 
represents himself." 

His own prayers were remarkably brief, and de- 
livered with great earnestness. They could hardly be 
repeated by another, however, without seeming very 
profane; and yet there w T as so much apparent sincerity 



268 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

in their utterance by him, as to divest them of the 
levity they might create when repeated by another. 
One of them, which tradition has preserved entire, I 
will insert. He was trapping marten in the month 
of March, with Crookneck Simmons again for a part- 
ner, and was severely attacked with pleurisy. Crook- 
neck soon became alarmed and wanted to go to the 
nearest settlement, some twenty miles off, for assist- 
ance; much of which distance it would be necessary 
to travel upon snow-shoes; but to this proposition 
Uncle Jock would not consent. It was in vain for 
him to remonstrate, however. In vain he told Crook- 
neck, that it would take him two days to accomplish 
the journey, in which time he must perish with cold, 
if not by disease, as he could not keep his own fire 
going; but go he would, and start he did. 

Simmons had been gone but a few minutes, when 
the invalid, conscious that he must soon die, unless 
relieved immediately, uttered with great earnestness 
the following prayer. " Great God, Jehovah, Jesus 
Christ, our Lord ! if it is expedient that I should come 
in and see Nobby and Jonathan again, let it be brought 
to a crisis d quick !! " 

After the utterance of this laconic and eccentric 
petition, the sick man said he not only felt greatly 
relieved in mind, but also a consciousness that it would 
be answered; and in about half an hour Crookneck 
returned. " The more haste the less speed," is an 
old adage, was verified in his case; for in attempting 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 269 

to proceed as fast as possible, he got an improper 
angle into his neck, and down he went, breaking one 
of his snow-shoes; and not having ingenuity enough 
to repair it, he returned to their wigwam, w T here his 
sick friend was still lying upon a hurdle of hemlock 
boughs. The latter got him to sharpen his hunting 
knife, and also to cord his arm; when he took the 
knife and hied himself. Simmons fainted and fell, 

and Uncle Jock said " he really thought the d 

fool would die first!" 

After a copious flow of blood, the invalid stopped 
it by thrusting a pin through tfie orifice, and winding 
it with a lock of his own hair. In a little while 
Simmons got about again, and in their camp-kettle 
made a strong decoction of hemlock boughs, of which 
Uncle Jock drank freely and laid down, when he ex- 
perienced, as he said, the greatest relief he ever did 
in so short a space of time. He fell into a slumber 
which lasted several hours, and when he awoke he 
was entirely free from pain. The third day after he 
reached a settlement, and the fourth his prayer was 
answered, by again embracing his dear Nabby and 
little Jonathan. 

Uncle Jock, it is believed, never had any serious 
difficulty with either Indian or white hunters. He 
often spoke of the hind quarters of a beaver, as afford- 
ing the most dainty morsel an epicure could obtain; 
being preferable, as he said, to any other meat or fish, 

because it possessed the virtues of both. This wilder- 

23* 



270 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

ness-explorer seldom said bitter things of any one; 
but if insulted, the offender was pretty sure sooner or 
later, to feel his dry sarcasm. He received a pension 
from our government for Revolutionary services, under 
the first pension act; which might with proper econo- 
my have kept him and his Nabby from want, without 
the necessity of his hunting, as his children were 
grown up and married; but it only tended to make 
him the more independent of the settlements, and 
bury himself still deeper among the ever-greens of 
the forest, from which he could not be weaned. 

It was his usual custom to look up suitable loca- 
tions for fall hunting in June, wdien trees would peel 
the best; at w T hich time he w r ould build himself com- 
fortable bark huts for fall and winter use. Hunting 
seemed to have become with him a second nature, 
and he followed it to the last. When his eye grew 
dim and his arm unsteady, so that he could no longer 
use his trusty rifle, he would still venture, unattended 
even by a dog into the far-off wilderness; and there, 
armed only w T ith a hatchet, follow his avocation for 
weeks. He often said, that " the howling of the wolf, 
growling of the bear, screaming of the panther, and 
nightly concert of owls, kept him from being lonesome, 
and was music to his ears." Such is man of the 
woods ! The comforts of social life afford no enjoy- 
ment for him. 

After a hunt, he came into the settlement with beaver 
and other furs, took them to market, returned home, 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 271 

sat down at the table to eat, and fell dead upon the 
floor without a struggle or groan, we believe in the 
seventy-fifth year of his age. He died about the 
year 1826. 

The following brief notice of a hunter of northern 
New York, appeared in the newspapers, in January, 

1850. 
Death of a Nimrod. — The St. Lawrence Mercury 

says that Mr. Thomas Meacham, of the town of 
Hopkinton, St. Lawrence county, who died a few 
weeks ago, and who, for several years, was a resi- 
dent of the North West Bay road, of what they then 
called township No. 10, in Franklin county, on East- 
brook, near the bounds of Hopkinton, was something 
of a hunter. He kept an exact account of the game 
killed by him, which amounts to the following: num- 
ber of wolves, 2 14 ; panthers 77 ; bears 219; deer 
2,550. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

Believing that the reader who has followed the 
footsteps of our trappers, would be interested in 
knowing something more of the animals they sought 
for fur, and of their habits, I here insert a portion of 
their history. The full grown Beaver will weigh 
from fifty to sixty pounds, and is about four feet in 
length from the snout to the end of the tail. The 
tail is a foot long, five or six inches wide, by one 
inch in thickness; and what is peculiar, although the 
body of the animal is so well covered with fur and 
hair, the tail is without either, except at its insertion, 
and is covered with scales. The fore part of the 
beaver has the taste and consistency of land animals, 
while the hind legs and tail have not only the smell, 
but the savor and nearly all the qualities of fish. 

This peculiarity is thought by some to be accounted 
for by the habits of the animal, as when in the water 
its hind legs and tail are submerged and never seen; 
but it appears rather to be a connecting link between 
the inhabitants of land and water, its singularity in 
this respect being placed by nature beyond the con- 
trol of mere circumstance. The beaver, when cap- 
tured young, may easily be domesticated, and when 
hungry will ask by a plaintive cry for food. It is not 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 273 

very particular about its food, if of some green vege* 
table kind; but it generally refuses meat. 

The bait used to entice beaver to a hunter's trap is 
castoreum, as I have elsewhere remarked. This sub- 
stance is obtained from the glandulous pouches of the 
male animal, and is often called by hunters barkstone. 
It is squeezed by hand into some vessel such as a cup 
or bottle; a full grown animal affording several 
ounces. Beaver castor is sometimes used by physi- 
cians in medical practice. Oil, extracted from the 
tail of the beaver, is used medicinally by the Indians. 
The beaver is found only in cold or northern latitudes. 
Its senses are acute. In its habits it is very neat, and 
w r ill allow no filth near its habitation. 

In its natural or forest life, where undisturbed by 
man, the beaver is social in its habits, often number- 
ing twenty or more habitations in a single commu- 
nity, containing from two to twenty members each at 
some seasons of the year, as circumstances warrant. 
The following account of the manner in which those 
sagacious animals construct their dams and dwellings, 
is from Godman's Natural History. 

" They are not particular in the site they select for 
the establishment of their dwellings, but if in a lake 
or pond, where a dam is not required, they are care- 
ful to build w T here the water is sufficiently deep. In 
standing waters, however, they have not the advan- 
tage afforded by a current for the transportation of 
their supplies of wood; which, when they build on a 



274 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

running stream, is always cut higher up than the 
place of their residence, and floated down. 

" The material used for the construction of their 
dams, are the trunks and branches of small birch, 
mulberry, willow, poplar, &c. They begin to cut 
down their timber for building, early in the summer, 
but their edifices are not commenced until about the 
middle or latter part of August, and are not com- 
pleted until the beginning of the cold season. The 
strength of their teeth, and their perseverance in this 
work, may be fairly estimated, by the size of the 
trees they cut down. These are cut in such a man- 
ner as to fall into the water, and then floated towards 
the site of the dam or dwelling. Small shrubs, &c, 
cut at a distance from the water, they drag with their 
teeth to the stream, and then launch and tow them to 
the place of deposit. At a short distance above a 
beaver dam, the number of trees which have been 
cut down, appears truly surprising, and the regularity 
of the stumps which are left, might lead persons un- 
acquainted with the habits of the animals to believe, 
that the clearing was the result of human industry. 

" The figure of the dam varies according to cir- 
cumstances. Should the current be very gentle, the 
dam is carried nearly straight across; but when the 
stream is swiftly flowing, it is uniformly made with a 
considerable curve, having the convex part opposed 
to the current. Along with the trunks and branches 
of trees, they intermingle mud and stones, to give 



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 275 

greater security ; and when dams have been long un- 
disturbed and frequently repaired, they acquire great 
solidity, and their power of resisting the pressure of 
water and ice, is greatly increased by the willow, 
birch, &c, occasionally taking root, and eventually 
growing up into something of a regular hedge. The 
materials used in constructing the dams, are secured 
solely by the resting of the branches, &c, against the 
bottom, and the subsequent accumulation of mud and 
stones, by the force of the stream, or by the industry 
of the beavers. 

"The dwellings of the beaver are formed of the 
same materials as their dams, and are very rude, 
though strong, and adapted in size to the number of 
their inhabitants. There are seldom more than four 
old, and six or eight young ones. Double of that 
number have been occasionally found in one of the 
lodges, though it is by no means a very common 
occurrence. 

" When building their houses, they place most of 
the wood cross-wise, and nearly horizontally, observ- 
ing no other order than that of leaving a cavity in 
the middle. Branches, which project inward, are cut 
off with their teeth and thrown among the rest. The 
houses are by no means built of sticks first, and then 
plastered, but all the materials, sticks, mud and stones, 
if the latter can be procured, are mixed up together, 
and this composition is employed from the foundation 
to the summit. The mud is obtained from the adja- 



276 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

cent banks or bottom of the stream or pond, near the 
door of the hut. Mud and stones, the beaver always 
carries by holding them between his fore paws and 
throat. 

" Their work is all performed at night, and with 
much expedition. When straw or grass is mingled 
with the mud used by them in building, it is an acci- 
dental circumstance, owing to the nature of the spot 
whence the latter was taken. As soon as any part 
of the material is placed where it is intended to re- 
main, they turn round and give it a smart blow with 
the tail. The same sort of blow is struck by them, 
on the surface of the water when they are in the act 
of diving. 

" The outside of the hut is covered or plastered 
with mud, late in the autumn, and after frost has be- 
gun to appear. By freezing it soon becomes almost 
as hard as stone, effectually excluding their great 
enemy, the wolverine, during the winter. Their habit 
of walking over the work frequently during its pro- 
gress, has led to the absurd idea of their using their 
tail as a trowel. The habit of flapping with the 
tail is retained by them in a state of captivity, and, 
unless it be the acts already mentioned, appears de- 
signed to effect no particular purpose. The houses, 
when they have stood for some time, and been kept 
in repair, become so firm from the consolidation of all 
the materials, as to require great exertion, and the 
ice chisel, or other iron instruments, to be broken 



TRAITERS OF XEW 3TOBE. 277 

open. The laborious nature of such an undertaking 
may easily be conceived, when it is known that the 
tops of the houses are generally from four to six feet 
thick at the apex of the cone." 

The tail of the beaver when swimming, serves for 
a rudder to aid the animal in its changing and often 
rapid movement in the water. Near their habitations, 
beavers establish magazines of green bark and soft 
wood for food, keeping them well replenished; and 
never do the members of one family plunder from the 
larder of another. A community of beavers, although 
it may consist of several hundred members, is seldom 
disturbed by domestic difficulties; peace and harmony 
being the bond which cements their union. If an 
individual is threatened with danger, it immediately 
takes measures to forewarn the whole village; which 
is done by striking the water furiously with its tail. 
Thus apprised of an enemy's proximity, the animals 
take shelter either in the water or their strong dwell- 
ings, which are very tidily kept in order. The en- 
trance to a beaver's dwelling is by a small open door 
towards the water. The legs of a beaver are short, 
the foot has four toes, and what is remarkable, the 
hind feet have membranes between the toes to aid the 
animal in swimming. 

The Otter, which is also hunted for its valuable fur, 

resembles the beaver somewhat in size, but very little 

in its general habits. It lives a more solitary life, 

often changing its habitation, especially in the winter, 

24 ' 



27S TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

when seeking to find unfrozen water. It often travels 
a great distance at such times, and if threatened by 
danger on the snow, it slides on its belly rapidly, 
leaving a furrow behind it. Some suppose it is done 
by the animal in an attempt to bury itself in the 
snow. This is not the case, but rather a necessity 
arising from the shortness of its legs, as proportioned 
to its body. The animal has been known, not unfre- 
quently, to get upon a hill near its own residence, 
when covered with snow, and with its fore feet bent 
back, slide down the hill for several rods, with great 
rapidity. This feat is evidently performed for a pas- 
time. 

The otter usually feeds upon fish, frogs, and other 
small animals; and when they can not be obtained, it 
will eat the tender branches and bark growing in or 
near the water, and sometimes grass. They are bad 
economists of food, and often annoy a community of 
beavers, by destroying their husbanded store of grow- 
ing eatables. The otter is less numerous than the 
beaver, and its fur more valuable. The foot of the 
otter has five toes, connected by webs, like the toes 
of a duck. It displays considerable sagacity in pre- 
paring its burrow, which it makes upward under a 
bank, the entrance being beneath the water, and that 
in a freshet it shall not be drowned, it opens a small 
vent to the surface, often concealed by leaves and 
bushes. The otter taken young has been tamed, and 
taught to fish for its master. 



TEATrESfi OF NEW YORK. 279 

The Musk-rat in its habits much resembles the 
beaver, but is small as compared with that animal, 
being scarcely one-third as large. It is called the 
musk-rat, because it is furnished with a peculiar 
matter, of a strong musky odor. The entrance to its 
burrow like that of the beaver, is usually made under 
a bank beneath the water. Its food, which is similar 
to that of the beaver, is usually sought in the night. 
Although the latter animal entirely disappears as the 
country becomes settled, it is not so with the musk- 
rat, it continues its proximity to man's abode, occu- 
pying marshy lands along the shore of some river or 
pond, long after the lands are cleared up and culti- 
vated to the water's edge. It is an excellent swim- 
mer, and dives with great celerity. The flesh of the 
musk-rat is seldom eaten unless in cases of great 
hunger, because of its powerful odor. It is still quite 
numerous in and about the Mohawk river, where the 
country has been settled for more than a century, and 
is destroyed every spring in great numbers, when 
driven from its burrows by heavy freshets, at the 
breaking up of winter. On such occasions the banks 
of the Mohawk are lined with men and boys, watch- 
ing with eagle-eye to shoot the terrified animals, 
which are often slain in the very villages contiguous 
to the river. Not unfrequently they are, by freshets, 
driven up drains into cellars, where they make great 
havoc among cabbage and other vegetables there 
stored. 



280 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 

The Pine Marten, or forest weasel, is so called, be- 
cause of its preference to forests of pine, in the lofty 
tops of which it resides. It lives upon small quadru- 
peds and birds, obtained in the forest, and seldom 
approaches the habitation of man. It sometimes 
lives in the hollow of a tree, and not unfrequently 
takes forcible possession of a squirrel's nest, which it 
enlarges and occupies to rear its young. The fur of 
the marten is often used in the manufacture of hats, 
and in ornamenting winter dresses. The animal is 
about eighteen inches in length to the tail, the latter 
appendage being about ten inches long. The male 
is nearly one-third larger than the female. Trappers 
have often found the taking of the marten profitable. 

The Wolverine, which annoys the hunter by steal- 
ing game from his traps, resembles the skunk some- 
what in appearance. It is about two feet two inches 
long from the end of the nose to the origin of the tail, 
and the latter, which is quite bushy, is some eight 
inches long to the end of the hair. The animal is 
very strong for its, size, having very sharp claws and 
teeth. It is covered with fur, but not of fine quality. 
It is said to be able to defend itself against the at- 
tacks of much larger animals, not unfrequently over- 
powering and destroying them. 



APPENDIX. 



A. — ( page 23). — What finally became of "Billy the 
Musician," on the breaking up of the Johnson family, 
is not known with certainty. Mr. Shew seems confident 
he did not remove to Canada with the Johnstown 
royalists. He probably went to New York city. 



B. — ( page 23). — Sir William Johnson's Gardener, 
who answered to the name of " Old Daddy Savage," 
was very old at the time of the Baronet's death. He 
had long been faithful to his trust, and doubtless de- 
served a better finale to mortality. He remained with 
Sir John Johnson until his flight to Canada, when he 
was left at the mercy of the winds, or if not, with a 
pittance that soon placed him there. He was for se- 
veral years supported by the charity of the district 
until his death, which occurred back of Johnstown 
about the year 1780. He died at the age of nearly one 
hundred years. 



282 TRAPPERS OF NEW-YORK 

C. — (page 23). — As suggested to the writer by an 
antiquarian friend, the name of Pontiac was probably 
given to his waiter by Sir William Johnson, as a com- 
pliment to the distinguished Ottawa chieftain of that 
name. At the termination of the French war in 1763, 
which ended in the conquest of Canada by Great Bri- 
tain, several western tribes of Indians who had been in 
the French interest, and often engaged with the French 
against the English and Iroquois, were unreconciled to 
British dominion ; and, instigated by Pontiac, their 
master spirit, they leagued " in a confederacy, the de- 
sign of which was to expel the English, and restore 
French ascendency."* Under the direction of Pontiac, 
the confederates captured several British posts on the 
western frontier, and by their bold and atrocious acts 
were filling the country with alarm, when Gen. Brad- 
street was sent against them in 1765, with a force suf- 
ficient to subdue and bring them to terms. Sir William 
Johnson accompanied the expedition to Niagara, where 
he held a treaty, in July, " with the Shawanese, Dela- 
wares and Mingos ;" as intimated in a letter from him 
to Commissary General Leake, under date of July 18, 
1765. j Pontiac and other chiefs in his confidence, not 
present at the Niagara treaty, met Sir William Johnson 
on behalf of the British government at Ontario, in July 
1766 ; when the war hatchet was buried, and peace 
restored. J This latter meeting is barely hinted at on 
page 861, Vol. 2 of the Documentary History of New- 

* Turner's History of the Holland Purchase in Western N. Y. 

f Documentary History, Vol. 2, p. 820. 

J Correspondence of Lyman C. Draper, of Leverington, Pa. 



APPENDIX. 283 

York, in a letter from the Baronet to Gen. Gage ; but 
what seems passing strange, the wary chieftain Pontiac 
is not named in the Broadhead papers. 



D. — ( page 29). — Samuel Olmsted and Zadock 
Sherwood, natives of Ridgfield, Connecticut, located at 
Northville about the year 1786, going up the Sacondaga 
from Fish-House in a canoe, containing a few necessary 
articles ; and after constructing a rude hut, they began 
to clear up the forest. Nearly four years after the two 
named took up their abode in the wilderness, Caleb and 
Daniel Lobdell, brothers, removed thither from Dan- 
bury, Connecticut. Between the advent of the Lob- 
dells, and the year 1794, the Sacondaga settlement had 
been increased by the arrival of Joseph Olmsted, 
Abraham Van Aernam, Paul Hammond, John Shoe- 
craft, Aaron Olmsted, Samuel Price, and possibly one 
or two others. The settlers, who had gone through the 
hardships and experienced the thousand and one dif- 
ficulties attending the settling of all new countries, were 
at this time living very comfortably on the lands, not a 
few acres of which, on both sides of the river, were 
under improvement ; yielding, in their virgin strength, 
a rich compensation to the husbandman. 

Indian hunters were very frequent guests among the 
pioneer settlers of Northville ; and as the latter spared 
no pains to cultivate amity with them, the reader may 
judge their surprise, when, on some occasion in the sum- 
mer of 1794 — possibly on the eve of which intimations 



284 TRAPPERS OF NEW-YORK. 

of savage invasion had been clandestinely put afloat, an 
alarm spread through the settlement, that a party of 
Indians hideously painted were in their vicinity, only 
waiting a favorable opportunity to kill the inhabitants 
and bear off their hard earnings. While all was bustle 
and confusion at the rude tenements of the settlers, 
peal after peal of fire-arms broke the stillness of night, 
interrupted occasionally with the whoops and shouts of 
the foe, approaching as they seemed to be on the west 
side of the river. Every preparation that could be 
made on the emergency to resist the invaders was 
quickly made ; and the colonists, there being no chicken- 
hearted among them, resolved to sell their lives as 
dearly as possible. Hour after hour wore away until 
morning : the clangor of arms and lungs had ceased ; 
still the foeman had not crossed the river. 

Some of the settlers, whose mettle had been tried in 
the Revolution, crossed the river in the morning, when, 
lo ! they found greater evidence of Indian invasion than 
did the Windhamites, on the morning after their alarm 
by the frogs of their neighborhood in olden time ; for 
in a cornfield nearly opposite the Lobdell dwelling, 
there were numerous mocasined tracks, and not a few 
half consumed gun-wads. One peculiarity was ob- 
servable, however ; the footsteps did not turn in at the 
toes, as those of the red man invariably did. It was 
now recollected, that Price and Aaron Olmsted had not 
been among the excited inhabitants when counseling for 
defense ; and from some impending circumstances, sus- 
picion rested upon them of having played possum for 
some purpose. 



APPENDIX. 285 

It soon leaked out that the suspicion of the inhabit- 
ants was well founded ; that the two had undertaken, 
as the menials of certain land speculators, to frighten 
away the earliest settlers, for which service they were 
to receive twenty-Jive dollars ; the land sharks to get 
the improvements the hard-fisted yeomanry had made, 
for a very nominal sum. Accordingly they repaired to 
the cornfield with pistols and stentorian lungs, to prac- 
tice the war dance. When the trick was discovered, 
the Achans, who had families, were obliged to make a 
hasty flight from the country, to escape the vengeance 
of their enraged neighbors ; and so precipitate was their 
departure, that Olmsted forgot his own, and took along 
another man's wife. Thus terminated the only Indian 
alarm the pioneers of Northville ever experienced. 

(Facts from Nathan P. Lobdell, a son of one of the pioneer 
settlers named above.) 



E. — (page 199). — The solitary pine formerly stand- 
ing on Elba island in Fourth lake, which was twelve 
or fifteen inches in diameter, says John Stilwell of 
Herkimer county, was cut down in the spring of 1831. 
In the preceding summer, he adds, the following thrilling 
incident occurred there. 

A party of fishermen in several boats were engaged 
on the lake near the island catching trout, when their 
attention was arrested by an unusual noise upon the 



286 TRAPPERS OF NEW-YORK. 

lake shore nearly a mile distant. Presently a noble 
deer was seen bounding along the beach, closely pursued 
by a monstrous panther. The timid animal plunged 
into the lake and swam for the opposite shore, followed 
by its bloodthirsty foe. One of the boats which 
chanced to be directly in the deer's course, was rowed 
farther out from the island, to give the panting animal 
sea-room ; when it came into the allotted space, and 
not daring to trust itself upon the sterile island near 
which it passed, it swam off to the opposite shore — 
adding a second mile to its voyage — and safely dis- 
appeared in the forest. The deer could swim faster 
than its pursuer ; and as the latter approached the 
fishermen, they closed in toward the island, upon which 
they compelled it to land. 

The panther, for its better security, lost no time in 
ascending the pine to its branches, where it crouched 
with lashing tail ; evidently in no very good humor at 
being thwarted in its murderous design. The fisher- 
men, some of whom were fortunately armed with rifles, 
then gave their boats positions affording a good view 
of the panther, yet far enough off to ensure their own 
safety, should it be wounded and resent the insult. A 
rifle was poised by a marksman, and the animal fell 
dead at the first fire. It was a very large one, and its 
skin, I am told, is now in the Utica Museum. If an- 
other effort in nature should produce a second pine or 
some other forest-tree on this western Elba, we hope 
it may be allowed to remain in its sentinel position, if 
only to afford a favorable place from which to shoot 
panthers. 



APPENDIX. 287 

Hunters and fishermen about the lakes on Brown's 
tract are usually much annoyed in warm weather by 
musketoes and punkies. It is a fact worthy of note, 
however, that they are not troublesome on this Elba of 
Fourth lake : hence a reason why it has long been a 
favorite place for sportsmen to take their lunch, or re- 
main over night. For some years, the chips of the Elba 
pine served the temporary occupants of the island as 
substitutes for plates, from which not a few hearty 
meals have been eaten. 



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