Three Rivers
Hudson~Mohawk~Schoharie
History From America's Most Famous Valleys


William Feeter History and Genealogy

Book loaned by Nancy Cioch. Many thanks Nancy!


This History of William Feeter, A Soldier in the War of American Independence
and of His Father, Lucas Vetter, the ancestor of the Feeter-Feder-Feader-Fader families
IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, with genealogy of the family compiled at the request of
JAMES D. FEETER, by John B. Koetteritz, MEMBER HERKIMER COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Little Falls, N.Y. Press of Stebbins & Burney, 1901
Copyright by James D. Feeter, 1901

THE FIRST MAIL CARRIER WEST OF ALBANY.
(From an Old Newspaper Clipping)

What Energy and Industry has Accomplished in the Mohawk Valley Within Eighty Years Past.

Eighty years ago there was not a post office west of Schenectady, and no regular postal route even as far as that. What little mail business there was transacted at that point was carried between Albany and Schenectady as chance occurred.

In 1797, Col. William Feeter, who was then living three miles north of the village of Little Falls, Herkimer County, established the first mail facilities through the Mohawk Valley, as a private enterprise. The entire mail that then went west of Albany was carried on horseback. Perhaps it will not be amiss here to state that Col. William Feeter was born at Stone Arabia, in this county, February 2d, 1756. His father, Lucas Feeter, who was a native of Wuertemberg, Germany, stood high in the confidence of Sir William Johnson. At the commencement of the Revolution, and after the death of Sir William, the Feeter family were so much under the influence of the Johnsons that all of them, excepting William, followed the fortunes of Sir John Johnson, and went with him to Canada. William Feeter remained and took an active part in the Revolutionary War. He was frequently entrusted with hazardous and important duties, which he never failed to discharge with promptness. After the war he settled upon his farm in Herkimer County, and cultivated the same for upwards of fifty years. He reared a highly respected family of twelve children, and died at Little Falls, May 5th, 1844, at the ripe age of eighty-eight years, lamented by a large concourse of friends. During his life he was an active member of the Fairfield Lodge of F. & A. M.

Mr. Feeter being a man of marked intelligence and feeling the disadvantage that the people were laboring under through being deprived of facilities of getting letters, and more particularly newspapers, of which there was none printed west of Albany of that early day, conceived the idea of establishing a mail route on private account. Thus, as stated above, in 1797 he fitted out his sons, Adam, who was then a lad of sixteen years, with a good horse, well equipped with saddle and bridle, and large saddle bags, and sent him forth upon his mission. Young Adam's duty was to procure subscribers for newspapers and carry all the letters entrusted to him between Albany and Little Falls on both sides of the river, and at Johnstown and vicinity, through the Royal Grant north of Little Falls, and at German Flatts, and nearly to Utica, which was then the border of civilization, or nearly so. Adam met with signal success in procuring a large number of subscribers which he had to supply at their doors, and also was entrusted with all the letters sent and received by private individuals along his route, and also had the business of what few merchants then were trading in the valley. At that time there was only one store at Little Falls, kept by John Porteous, who did a thriving business, both with the white settlers and Indians, there being at this time a considerable number of the latter in this vicinity. The only other store of any importance west of Schenectady was kept by one Kane just east of the village of Canajoharie, on the bank of the Mohawk River. The stone dwelling occupied by him, with its antiquated roof, is still standing as an ancient landmark, but is in dilapidated condition. These two merchants were his best patrons, and Adam in his older days remarked to us, the merchants, Porteous and Kane, frequently gave me much encouragement when I was "desperately tired and sore of riding and cold and wet."

The writer has listened more than once to accounts of Adam's hardships and narrow escapes in various ways during the three years of his mail service. His customers being on both sides of the river it was necessary to effect a crossing quite frequently. This generally had to be done by fording, for at that day there were no bridges and very few ferries. Frequently the stream was much swollen, which would compel him to swim his horse to the great danger of losing his life. In such instances he would get completely wet, in which condition he would be compelled to ride the remainder of the day. The trip would generally occupy from four to five days, and was performed by him during three years without interruption. The writer has frequently conversed with him in his old age about Mohawk Valley matters in his younger days and gained much valuable information from him. At the time he was occupied in the mail service there was not a white family in the valley which he did not know, and I have frequently heard him refer to many of them as among the most prominent, such as the Yates, Clutes, Barhyghts, Schermerhorns, Tolls, Mabies, Van Antwerps, Myers, Swarts, Truaxes, DeGraffs, Marcelluses, VanSlykes, Putmans, Vosburghs, Conynes, Fishers, Fondas, Dockstaders, Veeders, Sprakers, Wagoners, Klocks and an host of others. During his visits to Albany he became acquainted with the Governor and all the State officials, who entrusted him with the transmission of State papers for Schenectady and points in the valley,and occasionally they presented him with an extra fee for promptness of delivery and close attention to duty. It was his pride to mention that in three years he had never missed a trip, lost single letter or paper, and had always delivered all monies and valuable securities to the perfect satisfaction of every one.

In 1800 a government mail route was established, which was offered to him, but he declined, choosing to pursue a more domestic life. Shortly after this he married, and commenced the milling business at a place now called Ingham's Mills, in Herkimer County,which business he followed for a few years, but not finding it to agree with his health he disposed of it and purchased a farm in Manheim, where he spent the remainder of his days. He died in 1865, at the advanced age of eighty-three years. His memory will long be cherished by a large number of relatives and admiring friends. He lived to see the valley changed from a sparsely settled country to beautiful and well-cultivated farms, with numerous thriving villages, large and extensive manufacturing, turnpike, plank and railroads, and telegraph lines; verily, wonderful improvements and inventions. And this was the man that carried the first mail in the Mohawk Valley! This was the pioneer in the mail service west of Albany, which now stretches to the Pacific coast, with its thousands of branches.

We have been informed lately that the weight of mail matter now carried and distributed west of Albany will not come much short of one hundred tons per day. All this has been accomplished within the space of eighty years. And now as we are chronicling the above the New York papers come to hand with the astonishing news that arrangements are about completed between the Postmaster-General and the H. R. & N. Y. C., Lake Shore and Northern Indiana Railroads to establish a daily mail line between New York and Chicago, (*) which will consist of four cars, each sixty feet long, and will not occupy more than twenty-four hours in running from one of the last named places to the other. It is calculated that the weight of mail matter by this daily line will not be less than forty or fifty tons a day. We are a progressive people, and no one dares to venture a prediction as to what advance will be made in the eighty years to come. We can only say in regard to mail matters, that the small beginning commended by the sixteen year old land, Adam Feeter, now employs thousands of men, many horses and wagons, and a large amount of steam transportation to accomplish the needed service. --Fonda Democrat.

*This article was written probably in 1870.

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