History From America's Most Famous Valleys
of Tryon County;
Border Warfare of New York,
During the Revolution.
By William W. Campbell
New York; Printed and Published by J. & J. Harper 1831
"Time rolls his ceaseless course. The race of yore,
Who danced our infancy upon their knee,
And told our marvelling boyhood legend's store
Of their strange ventures happ'd by land or sea;
How they are blotted from the things that be!
How few, all weak, and withered of their force,
Wait on the verge of dark eternity,
Like stranded wrecks, the tide returning hoarse,
To sweep them from our sight; Time rolls his ceaseless course."
It is always a pleasing task to rescue from oblivion the names, and to record the deeds, of those individuals, however humble, who were the pioneers of our country, who purchased the wilderness from the savage, and afterward disputed the dominion over it with the wolf and the bear.
The pleasure is increased, and a deep and thrilling interest is awakened, as we trace out those individuals ardently engaged on the side of their country in that revolution which terminated in our entire independence; in the planting of that tree of liberty, whose beautiful foliage and wide spreading branches have excited universal admiration, and a scion from which may yet be engrafted into all the nations of the east.
This is the object of the following imperfect sketch, which, if it add little to the materials for the future history of our state, may be a source of some pleasure and satisfaction to those connected with the actors themselves; and to the survivors, those venerable relics of other times, a few of whom have come down to us, but who, one by one, are daily dropping into eternity.
In 1738 a patent for 8000 acres of land, lying about ten miles south of the Mohawk river, and fifty-two west from Albany, was granted by George Clark, then Lieutenant Governor, with the consent of the council of the then province of New York, to John Lindesay, Jacob Roseboom, Lendert Gansevoort, and Sybrant Van Schaick. This patent is situated in the extreme northeastern part of the now county of Otsego, embracing a part of the town and village of Cherry Valley. The face of the country generally, in this county is uneven; a great number of valleys run nearly north and south, in which are Otsego and Schuyler lakes, and through which flow several streams, forming the eastern branch of the Susquehanna. These valleys are bounded on the north by a ridge of table land, in which many of the smaller streams take their rise, and from whose northern declivity flow several unimportant tributaries of the Mohawk; there are indentations or passes at the northern extremities of all these valleys; differing, however, in their elevations and in the distances between the sources of the tributary waters of the two rivers. None of these valleys are very extensive, but the soil is fertile, and the rolling land between them produces all kinds of grain, and furnishes excellent pasturage in great abundance. The valley, through which runs Cherry Valley Creek, is about sixteen miles in length, and varies from one quarter, to a mile in breadth; at the village it is 1335 feet, and where it terminates in its pass about a mile north, 1418 feet, above tide water. Chains of high land stretch along both sides of this valley; that on the east may properly be considered a spur of the Catskill. It terminates abruptly about three miles northeast of the village, in Mount Independence, from whose top the land slopes gradually to the north; it summit is more than 2000 feet above tide water, and 1700 above the valley of the Mohawk; from hence a beautiful prospect opens in the same directions nearly on hundred miles in extent. The Mohawk valley, with a large portion of the northern part of the State, is spread out as a map; while far in the northeast are dimly seen the tops of the green Mountains, as they mingle with the horizon.
Early in the eighteenth century, nearly three thousand German Palatinates emigrated to this country under the patronage of Queen Ann; most of them settled in Pennsylvania; a few made their way, in 1713, from Albany, over the Helleberg, to Schoharie creek, and under the most discouraging circumstances succeeded in effecting a settlement upon the rich alluvial lands bordering upon that stream. Small colonies from her, and from Albany, and Schenectady, established themselves in various places along the Mohawk; and in 1722 had extended as far up as the German Flatts, near where stand the village of Herkimer; but all the inhabitants were found in the neighborhood of these streams; none had ventured out in that unbroken wilderness which lay to the south and west of these settlements.
Mr. Lindesay, having obtained an assignment from the three other patentees to himself and Gov. Clark, in 1739 caused the patent to be surveyed and subdivided into lots, and chose for himself the farm afterward successively owned by Mr. John Wells and Judge Hudson, and give to it the name of Lindesay's Bush. In the following summer he left New York with his family, consisting of his wife, and father-in-law, Mr. Congreve, a Lieutenant in the British Army, and a few domestics, and settled upon his farm. He was a Scotch gentleman of some fortune and distinction having held several offices under government, and anticipated much pleasure from a residence in this high and rolling county, whose valley, and hills, and lakes, would constantly remind him of the wild and romantic scenery of his native land. A luxuriant growth of beech and maple, interspersed with the wild cherry, covered the valley, and extended along up the sides of the hills, whose tops were crowed with cluster of evergreen; elk and deer were found here in great numbers, as were bears, wolves, beavers, and foxes; it was a favorite hunting ground of the Mohawks, who erected their cabins near some little spring, and hunted their game upon the mountains. Mr. Lindesay, as well as all the early settlers, found it important to cultivate their friendship; he received them into his house, and treated them with such hospitality as circumstances would permit; this kindness was not lost upon the high-minded savages, one of whom gave proof of no ordinary friendship during the first winter after his removal to Lindesay's Bush. Whatever of happiness and independence Mr. Lindesay may have looked forward to, he knew little of the privations of the settlers of a new country, especially such a country as he had selected; his farm was fifteen miles from any settlement, difficult of access from that settlement which was on the Mohawk river, by reason of its elevation above it; and the intervening country was traversed only by an Indian footpath.
In the winter of 1740, the snow fell to a great depth; the paths were filled up; all communication with the settlers upon the Mohawk was stopped; Mr. Lindesay had not made sufficient preparation for such a winter; he had but a scanty supply of provisions; these were almost consumed long before spring; a wretched and lingering death was in prospect for him and his family. At this critical time, an Indian came to his house, having traveled upon the snow with snow shoes; when informed of their situation, he readily undertook to relieve them; he went to the settlements upon the Mohawk, and having procured provisions, returned with them upon his back, and during the remainder of the winter, this faithful child of the forest thus continued to relieve them,and thus preserved the lives of the first inhabitants of our town and country.
In New York, Mr. Lindesay became acquainted with the Rev. Samuel Dunlop, and prevailed upon him to visit his patent, offering him a tract of land of several hundred acres, on condition that he would settle upon it, and would use his influence with his friends, and persuade them to accompany him. Pleased with the situation, and the generous proprietor of the patent, he accepted the proposal; he was an Irishman by birth, but had been educated in Edinburgh; had spent several years in the provinces, having traveled over most of those at the south; and at the time of his first acquaintance with Mr. Lindesay, was on a tour through those at the north. He went to Londonderry in New Hampshire, where several of his countrymen were settled, whom he persuaded to remove, and in 1741, David Ramsay, William Gallt, James Campbell, William Dickson, and one or two others, with their families, in all about thirty persons, came and purchased farm,s and immediately commended making improvement upon them. They had emigrated from the north of Ireland several years anterior to their removal here; some of them were originally from Scotland; they were called Scotch Irish--a general name given to the inhabitants of the north of Ireland, many of whom are of Scotch descent; hardy and industrious, inured to toil from their infancy, they were well calculated to sustain the labors necessary in clearing the forest, and fitting it for the abode of civilized man.
The following circumstances gave rise to its name: Mr. Dunlop, engaged in writing some letters, inquired of Mr. Lindesay where he should date them, who proposed the name of a town in Scotland; Mr. Dunlop, pointing to some fine wild cherry trees, and to the valley, replied, "let us give our place an appropriate name, and call it Cherry Valley," which was readily agreed to; it was for a long time the distinguishing name of a large section of the country, south and west. Soon after the arrival of these settlers, measures were taken for the erection of a grist mill and saw mill, and a building for a schoolhouse and church. Mr. Dunlop left Ireland under and engagement of marriage with a young lady of that country, and having made the necessary arrangements for his future residence in Cherry Valley, returned to fulfill it. This engagement was conditional; if he did not return in seven years from the time of his departure, it should be optional with her to abide by or put an end to the contract; the time had almost expired; she had heard nothing from him for some time, and supposed him either dead or unfaithful; another offered, was accepted, and the day appointed for the marriage. In the meantime Mr. Dunlop had been driven off the coast of Scotland by a storm; after a detention of several days, he finally made port in Ireland, and hastening on his journey, arrived the day previous; his arrival was as joyful as it was unexpected; he was married, and returned immediately with his wife to Cherry Valley,and entered upon his duties as the first pastor of its little church. A log house had been erected to the north of Mr. Lindesay's, on the declivity of the little hill upon which his house was situated; where, through possessing little of this world's wealth, they offered up the homage of devout and grateful hearts. Most of the adult inhabitants were members of the church; the clergyman was to receive ten shillings on the hundred acres of land; a mere pittance, by reason of the small number of inhabitants; but he lived frugally; they made presents to him of the productions of their farms, which, with the avails of his own, afforded him a competent support. In these early days, an excellent state of feeling toward each other prevailed; common danger, and common interest, united them. In their worship and observances they were very strict. During the ten subsequent years, not more than three or four families had come into the settlement. Among them was Mr. John Wells, grandfather of the late John Wells of New York City. He also was an Irishman, and became a resident in 1743 and in '44, purchased the farm, which Mr. Lindesay had selected for himself and upon which he resided.
Mr. Lindesay was unacquainted with practical farming, and his property had been expended to little advantage; after struggling several year,s he was compelled to abandon his enterprise. The war between France and Great Britain had been, in part transferred to America, and in 1744 our northern frontier was threatened with an attack by the French and Indians. Reinforcements were ordered to Oswego, and among them, the company of Independent Greens, in which Mr. Congreve was a Lieutenant; eh resigned his commission in favor of his son-in-law Mr. Lindesay, who, having spent several years in the service, died in New York, leaving no children. Mr. Wells, a man of amiable disposition, and of great integrity, before there was any officer of justice, was frequently appealed to as the arbiter of any little difference; he was afterwards appointed the first Justice of the Peace for the town, and one of the Judges of Tryon county, which offices he continued to exercise until the time of his death, a little before the breaking out of the revolution.
Mr. Dunlop, having received a classical education, opened a school for the instruction of boys, who came from the settlements upon the Mohawk, and from Schenectady, and Albany. It is worthy of remark, that this was the first grammar school in the state west of Albany. The boys were received into his house, and constituted a part of his family. The extreme simplicity of the times may be learned from the fact that they often went into the fields, and there recited their lessons as they followed their instructor about, while engaged in his usual avocations upon his farm; several individuals along the Mohawk, who were afterwards conspicuous in the revolution, thus received the first rudiments of their education.
The tranquility which had hitherto prevailed in the settlement was not always to continue; the French by their intrigues, had succeeded in alienating the affections of the Indians, who instead of regarding the inhabitants as friends, in many cases looked upon them as intrudes. A war colony had been sent out by the Six Nations, which had settled at a place called Oquago, in the now county of Broome, situated on the eastern branch of the Susquehanna. During the revolution this was a place of general rendezvous for the Six Nations. In the French wars it was composed principally of Mohawks, who remained attached to the English, and who paid their annual visits to Sir William Johnson, to receive their presents. Those who violated the laws, were not permitted to share with the others; a few such fearing to present themselves before Sir William, stayed behind and concerted a plan for destroying this infant settlement. They were discovered on a Sabbath morning, before their arrival at the settlement. The inhabitants fearing some hostile intention, prepared themselves for defense, taking care to exhibit their arms to the Indians as they approached, who not wishing to hazard an attack upon them armed, withdrew. But during the last French war, the danger of Indian incursions having become great from the defection of the four western of the Six Nations,and from threatenings of the more distant tribes, a body of eight hundred rangers (so called from their chiefly employed in ranging the woods) was ordered to be raised for the defense of the county of Tryon, and a company of them under the command of Capt. McKean, stationed at Cherry Valley; some rude fortifications were erected, and during their continuance, the settlement was comparatively secure. But previous, and indeed during all the French wars, the inhabitants of this, as of all the other settlements, were frequently called out to repel the French and Indians upon our northern frontier. This service was not only extremely hazardous but burdensome, as they were obliged oftentimes to furnish in addition mans of transportation for their own baggage, and also for that of the English. In accordance with the will of the Government they entered upon this service cheerfully. The militia from the northern and western part of the Province, lay under Sir William Johnson at Fort Edward, when Fort William Henry was besieged by the French General Montcalm in 1757. The whole force of Gen. Webb, who was commander at Fort Edward, was about 4000; 3000 were in Fort William Henry under Col. Munro, while the force of Montcalm, was little over 8000 French and Indians. The troops of the former were more efficient,and better disciplined than the French and Indians under Montcalm. During the siege and bombardment of Fort William Henry, the Provincials at Fort Edward, a distance of only fifteen miles, earnestly demanded to be led to its relief. Gen. Webb after having given permission to Sir William Johnson to lead the men in case they would volunteer, on seeing them all express their willingness and ready to march, broke his promise and ordered them to return to the Fort. Indignation was depicted upon every countenance but indignation and remonstrance were alike unavailing. Fort William Henry, after a vigorous defense by Col. Monro was surrendered, he having in vain expected that some movement would be made in his favor by Gen. Webb. The terms of surrender were, that the garrison would march out with their arms but without ammunition and that a body of the French should guard them to Fort Edward. Montcalm, contrary to stipulation neglected to send the guard and thus suffered the Indians to fall upon the garrison, many of whom were barbarously killed, while others stripped of their arms and clothes fled to Fort Edward. Their sufferings deepened that feeling of indignation which the cowardly or treacherous conduct of Webb had created. The interest excited by the subsequent revolution absorbed for a time their thoughts and feelings; but there were individuals in that army under Sir William Johnson, from the little settlements of Cherry Valley, who when age had furrowed their cheeks and whitened their locks, could scarcely repress their feelings as they recounted the events of that siege.
Col. Monro died soon after very suddenly at Albany, not without suspicions however that, unfair means had been used to prevent his preferring a complaint against Gen. Webb, to the English government.
During these harassing wars the population of the western part of the Province continued to increase. Small settlements had been made in various directions around Cherry Valley. A family of Harpers, who were afterward distinguished for their courage and ardent attachment to the cause of American liberty, removed from Cherry Valley some years before the revolution and established themselves at Harpersfield in the now county of Delaware. The Rev. Williams Johnstone had succeeded in planting a flourishing little colony on the east side of the Susquehanna a short distance below the forks of the Unadilla, and several families were scattered through Springfield, Middlefield, then called New-Town-Martin, and Laurens and Otego called Old England district. The population of Cherry Valley was short of three hundred and that of the whole county of Tryon but a few thousand when the revolution commenced. This County was taken from Albany County in 1772, and named in honor of William Tryon then governor of the Province. In 1784 it was changed to that of Montgomery. When formed, it embraced all that part of the State lying west of a line running North and South nearly through the center of the present County of Schoharie. It was divided into five districts, which were again subdivided into smaller districts or precincts. The first, beginning at the East, was the Mohawk district embracing Fort Hunter, Caughnawaga, Johnstown, and Kingsborough; Canajoharie district embracing the present town of that name with all the country south, including Cherry Valley and Harpersfield, Palatine district north of the river and including the country know by the same name with Stone Arabia &c., and German Flatts and Kingsland Districts being then the most western settlements and the former now known by the same name. The county buildings were at Johnstown where as before mentioned was the residence of Sir William Johnson.
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