History From America's Most Famous Valleys
William Feeter History and Genealogy
Book loaned by Nancy Cioch. Many thanks Nancy!
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 Vetter Family
A Paper Read Before the Herkimer County Historical Society, at Herkimer, N. Y., October 8th, 1898.
The immigrants from Germany commonly known as the Palatines, and their early successors were of the same importance to New York state as the Puritans, Pilgrims and Huguenots to other American colonies. Driven from home by religious persecution by the disastrous consequences of religious wars, they all became the pioneers of civilization on this continent. The very outpost of white men innate country of the fiercest of the aborigines, the Iroquois confederation, were those pious and thrifty Germans, who, coming from the valleys of the Rhine and the Danube, from the Vosges and the Black Forest, from the Palatine, Baden, Wurertemberg and the Alsace, entered the wilderness, braved its dangers and settled right amongst the most warlike tribe of all, the Mohawks.
Is it not strange that many of the best works on American history hardly mention the early German Immigration? The influence of the German pioneers as a factor in the civilization of parts of this great country, and especially of the beautiful Mohawk Valley, is passed over, and the present generation knows little of their early struggles, of the hardships and privations they had to suffer, and of the many patriotic services which they rendered.
It is our aim to reclaim from oblivion the early history of this advance-guard of white man's supremacy and to collect all such data and traditions which can still be ascertained. Time has effaced too many of them!
Some time last winter a member of the Feeter family asked me about the correct German spelling of the family name. Making some investigations and corresponding with some members of the family, I because interested in the history of it, pursued it as far as I could, and I present to you now what I have been able to ascertain by diligent research. The name of the family was originally "Vetter," and I shall use that name in this paper until the actual change of the name occurs.
The Vetter family can be traced to one Lucas Vetter, whose death occurred in the year 1483 near Derdingen, in the present Kingdom of Wuertemberg, in the southwestern part of Germany. He evidently was the father of many children, nearly all of whom had descendants, and the name Vetter, (meaning cousin) appears not only frequently in his native land, but can be found in many parts of the present German empire. Many men of note and more than local fame trace their origin to this Lucas Vetter. The late prime minister of Wuertemberg, van Vetter, several well known artists, and the general of that name, famous during the Hungarian revolution of 1848, belong to the same family. The original Lucas Vetter was a blacksmith and freeholder. It was the custom in families to name the eldest son after the father, and he would generally follow the trade of his father. So we find that one Lucas Vetter, blacksmith, would succeed the other. Starting with the Roman Catholic church records, in which we find the first on of that name, we have to continue our searches after the end of the sixteenth century in the Lutheran church books. Numerous Vetters appear as "births" upon those ledgers of our existence, and again they disappear as "deaths," but through all this tangle of records runs steadily the name of the eldest son of the oldest branch, the Lucas Vetter, blacksmith and freeholder. Counting the Lucas Vetter who died in 1483 as the first, we find that Lucas Vetter the eighth was born in the year 1696, on November 23d, and was married in 1722 to Katharina Lenninger (name is indistinct in the original record). It is probable that he removed from his home in or near Derdingen to Schoenaich, because we find subsequent entries relating to this branch of the family in the records of the Lutheran church at Schoenaich, Kingdom of Wuertemberg. His eldest son was Lucas Vetter, the emigrant. It is certain that he had at least one brother, John, and possibly another, John Jost or Hanjost.
Lucas Vetter the eighth had one brother, William, who served all during the wars of that period under the great chieftain, Prince Eugene of Savoy. A prominent branch of this Better family in Germany descends from him, and I am to that branch indebted for great assistance in my research.
Lucas Vetter the eighth died prior to 1753. In the Lutheran church register of Schoenaich, we find under date of November 8, 1753, the following entry: "Married, Lucas Vetter, blacksmith, son of the late Lucas Vetter, freeholder and blacksmith, and Agnes, daughter of the late freeholder and farmer, Jacob Wacker. Text of my sermon, Psalms 128:5-6: 'The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yes, thou shalt see they children's children, and peace upon Israel.'"
There is something prophetic in those verses as if the new groom then contemplated the long trip to America. During the summer of 1754 he and his young bride left their native land and sailed on the good ship Neptune for the new world. On board of ship, as shown by the following certificate, a daughter was born: "September 19, 1754, was born on the high seas, in ship Neptune, of Christian and honorable parents, Anna Catharina: he father was Lucas Better, her mother Agnes (born) Wacker, from Schoenaich in the County of Wuertemberg. The witnesses to her baptism were Michael Nestel, blacksmith, and his wife Dorothea. May the Lord grant that this child may remain faithful to her God and its baptismal covenants. ---Extract from Church Register, S. W. Best, Chaplain of the Vessel."
While many of the immigrants became "white slaves" for their passage money, Lucas Vetter must have been blessed with the goods and riches of this world, as we find that within the first year of his residence in this country he purchased two farms. He settled to the north of Stone Arabia and probably devoted his time to farming and following his trade,which, always one of the most useful ones, was of great importance in a new country. It is stated that he became at an early time well acquainted with Sir William Johnson.
By Chapter 1089 of the Colonial Laws, passed on July 3, 1759, he became a naturalized citizen. In 1761 he appears in records as one of the original applicants for the Royal Grant, and in 1768 he became one of the three principal patentees of the Byrne Patent in Schoharie County. (See Landpapers, Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, N. Y)
From various records it appears that in 1762 one Johannis and Johannis Yost Vedder or Vetter lived near Lucas. Tradition in the family here says that all Feeters descended from Lucas, the immigrant. It is more than probable that John came to this country and had descendants, who changed their name to Veeder or Vedder and mistakenly are considered as part of the well-known Holland Dutch families of that name. John Jost of Hanyost came over here, but according to tradition preserved in the German branch, returned soon to his native country. John Jost's eldest son, Lucas, born in 1758, died in 1800 in Germany, and one of his sons died in the war of Napoleon against Russia in 1812, and a grandson died only last year at Schoenaich. The trade "smith" is still followed by that branch of the family, which is now represented by one single male descendant, Lucas Vetter, living at Musberg, Germany.
From the records of the Stone Arabia Lutheran Church we learn the following about the family of Lucas, the immigrant: Wilhelm, his eldest son, was born January 6, 1756. Consequently Lucas, the other son, must have been younger than William. The records do not state when he was born.
As the Canadian branches of the family claim that Lucas was the eldest son, the following dates are referred to:
Marriage of Lucas and Agnes, November 8, 1753.
Birth of Anna Catharine, September 19, 1754.
Birth of William, January 6, 1756.
This seems to dispose of this claim.
If heretofore Lucas was always the name of the eldest child, it must be borne in mind that William was named after Sir William Johnson, the patron and friend of the family.
Agnes Vetter died prior to 1765. In 1766 Lucas Better married again and his second wife was Maria Eva, the daughter of Captain Peter and Lena Serviss. By this intermarriage with the Serviss family, which was related to the first wife of Sir William Johnson, Lucas Vetter became sill more closely attached to the Johnson.
In 1767 a daughter, Anna, was born. Tradition says that the names of the next children were Philip, Elizabeth and Christine. The youngest child was John Vetter, born in 1779, who became the ancestor of the Hainsville branch of the family, now spelling the name Fader.
The elder Lucas, bound by many ties to the Johnson family and influenced by a Tory wife, followed the fortunes of Sir John and removed in 1780 to Montreal, where he died about 1785. His son Lucas had grown up at Johnson Hall as a favorite of the old baronet, and a playmate of the younger members of Sir William's household, and as soon as hostilities began he enlisted in the Johnson Greens and fought on the side of the British during the whole of the war. After the Revolution he settled on bounty lands near Matilda, Canada, which lands are still in possession of the family. He died in 1842, leaving many descendants living in many parts of Canada and the United States, respected and useful citizens of their respective communities. This branch of the family spells the name "Feader."
Wilhelm, the elder son, and the ancestor of all the United States branch of that family, was brought up on the home farm and enjoyed such education as the Stone Arabia schools afforded. The great majority of the citizens of that vicinity were, like the Vetters, of sturdy German stock and many of them descendants of the Palatine forefathers. They objected to the feudal manor which Sir William tried to create, they feared and they detested especially the foppish and arrogant manners of Sir John and his set. When the storm between the mother country and the colonies began to rise, there were no more patriotic and loyal Americans in the colony than the Germans in Stone Arabia. With them Wilhelm had grown up, and likely as a boy had listened to their discussions and complaints. Possibly home life with a Tory stepmother had separated him early from home influences and she may have prejudiced his father against the boy who associated with the so-called rebels.
In 1776 the Vetter family lived at Johnstown village and removed that same year to where now the city of Amsterdam is. William's affiliations did not suit the rest of the family and he left home. The tradition among his descendants is that he alone of the family embraced the cause of the Colonies, and that finally he alone remained in the United States. The Canadian branch believes that several of the children remained here. I have not been able to verify this tradition.
In the latter days of his life Mr. Feeter dictated to one George Heller, a school teacher, a short narrative of his experiences during the Revolution, which has since been arranged by Jacob, W. Feeter, esq., of New York, his grandson, and from which I quote freely and partly verbatim: During the spring of 1776 William enlisted in the company of Captain Emmanuel DeGraff at Amsterdam, Tryon county, and took part in scouting expeditions to Johnstown, Caughnawaga and the Sacandaga river. In June, 1777, he was drafted into the militia and joined the company commanded by Captain Abraham Yates,which went up to Fort Stanwix, and from there to the Wood Creek, to obstruct the passage of that river by felling trees across. From there he returned to Amsterdam. His parents and brothers were enraged at him for taking up arms against the king, and he was ordered to leave his home forever, and outcast. He left Amsterdam and went to his former home at Stone Arabia, staying sometimes at the old homestead, but more often at the home of the patriotic Gray family living in his neighborhood. At Stone Arabia he enlisted in the company of Captain Suffrenus Cook in Col. Klock's regiment. Whether or not he took part in the battle of Oriskany is uncertain, but he mentions in his memoirs that he took part in numerous scouting expeditions of that time. In the spring of 1778 he was drafted for three months and went with Captain Samuel Gray's company to Unadilla to look for Tories and Indians. When the company reached Fort Herkimer, William was sent with an Indian prisoner back to Stone Arabia. After he returned from there the fort was attacked by Indians and Tories. The company did not go to Unadilla, but was finally ordered to the Geisenberg, near Fort Plain, in the present locality known as Dutchtown, and remained there until the massacre of Cherry Valley, to which place it marched after that affair with the rest of the regiment. Feeter and another man were sent ahead as scouts to locate the enemy. The militia buried the dead and returned to the Geisenberg.
An Indian band had made five prisoners at Stone Arabia and the company to which Feeter belonged was sent in pursuit, but the redskins escaped.
In February, 1779, Feeter enlisted again in Samuel Gray's company which was to convoy and protect thirty bateaux of provisions and ammunition from Schenectady to Fort Stanwix. The opening of the river did not occur until April and the company was furloughed. While on furlough Feeter went with Captain Gray and others in pursuit of some Indians to Tillaborough. The transports arrived at Fort Stanwix on April 18, 1779,and Col. Van Schaick of the Continental Army took his command and the boating party to Fort Brainington on Oneida Lake, from whence he set out to destroy the Onondaga Castle, leaving the boatmen as a rear guard. The whole party returned to Fort Stanwix on April 25, after complete destruction of the Indian villages. The Gray company returned with the boats and thirty Indian prisoners to Schenectady. Twice more that spring they brought such transports to Fort Stanwix. In June, 1779, the whole of Captain Gray's company volunteered to join the division of Gen. James Clinton and took part in Sullivan's famous campaign. History records the valiant services of the boatmen who moved this big body of troops from Cooperstown down to Tioga and Wyoming, and during this campaign carried provisions, ammunition, prisoners and the wounded. The company finally reached Easton, Pa., and from there marched home to Stone Arabia,which they reached in November, 1779. During the battle of Newton, so family tradition says, the two brothers met, Lucas being there as a soldier in the Johnson Greens. Verily, not the only instance during the Revolution when brother met brother face to fact as foes.
Again, in January, 1780, Feeter enlisted in Gray's company, and all summer they were busy navigating the river to Fort Stanwix, Fort Schuyler, Fort Dayton, Fort Herkimer and Fort Plain. On one of their trips they were warned by friendly Indians that Brant with a large force laid in ambush for them above Fort Schuyler, and they quickly sent for reinforcements. The company "being soldiers and sailors too," to quote Kipling, had only a small fighting force. Gen. Van Rensselaer with some quickly collected militia came to their assistance and convoyed the party safely to Fort Stanwix. During October, 1780, William spent a furlough at Stone Arabia,and while there the battle of Stone Arabia took place. He joined immediately the pursuing party and went with them to Fort Herkimer. Until ice stopped navigation the continued in the boating service. Early in 1781 he enlisted in the levies commanded by Marinus Willett and took part in many scouting parties. In July of that year he helped in the surprise and pursuit of Jacob Klock, a former militia officer who had turned Tory. Feeter was one of the scouts; they routed Klock's party completely, captured arms and one scalp, which Andrew Gray took with him to Stone Arabia.
Another Tory party attacked early in September the fortified house of Jacob Timmerman in St. Johnsville. A troop of levies, among which was Feeter, followed the Tories to the northern part of the Jerseyfield, but they escaped.
It would be too lengthy to enumerate all the different scouting parties of which Feeter was a member. Willett kept his soldiers constantly moving and the service was very hard; long marches, lack of shelter and proper food and many false alarms proved great hardships to the troops. Feeter was variously stationed at Fort Plain, Fort Plank and Fort Herkimer during the years 1781-82.
In October, 1781, a large force composed of British troops, Indians and Tories under Butler and Ross appeared in the Mohawk valley. Feeter and the two other young men started from Stone Arabia and traveled twelve miles to join Willett at Anthony's Nose, on the Mohawk river. He moved toward Caughnawaga along the south side of the river, when he was informed that the enemy was marching towards Johnstown by way of Tribes Hill. Willett sent from Caughnawaga William Feeter and William Wallace as scouts to find the enemy, which they located at Johnstown, near Johnson Hall. Wallace returned and Feeter stayed at the jail with Captain Liddle and his guard of six men. When Willett arrived in advance of his troops, Feeter guided him within sight of the British, and he and the Captain Liddle observed the enemy until Major Finck arrived with succor. Finck and Feeter were in advance of the troops who pursued the British until they checked by superior numbers and until Finck gave orders to retreat, which was done. Soon Col. Willett came up with some militia and drove the enemy from the field. Many of Feeter's friends and neighbors from Stone Arabia had been wounded and he was ordered to proceed there to bring help and assistance for was wounded. Without rest or food he started for that place and wounded. Without rest or food he started for that place and returned early next morning, but, to his regret, too late to join in the pursuit.
Before the end of the war many Tories had returned and occupied their old homes again. This enraged the loyal party, and parties similar to the white caps of today would visit the homes of the Tories at night and flog them within an inch of their lives. Proceedings were begun against some of the Whigs and a number were cast into jail, but liberated soon afterwards by their friends, under the leadership of Wilhelm Feeter, who opened the jail with bars and sledges. That was the end of it.
With the ending of the war Feeter returned to peaceful pursuits. All the lands owned by his father had been confiscated under the acts of attainder, and he had no property of his own. He had to make a hard fight for the recovery of his own share. He sold, soon after the war, all his interests in Stone Arabia and elsewhere and purchased his homestead farm near Little Falls, northwest of the Revolutionary Fort Riemensnyder, on Glen's Purchase. It is the farm now in possession of the Goodell family, pleasantly located and being fine dairy land. Of course only a small part of the land had been cultivated before the Revolution, and the young soldier-farmer had to clear the forest and break the virgin soil.
Early in 1782 he married Elizabeth Bellinger, daughter of Adam Bellinger and Marie Elizabeth Petrie, born March 23d, 1765, who for 49 years was his loving wife and helpmeet. Twelve children were born to them, five sons and seven daughters; Adam, Ova, wife of Jacob Scott, William, Jr., George Henry, Elizabeth, wife of Daniel Timmerman, Mary, wife of John C. Bellinger, Catharine, (Katy), wife of Peter Staring, Nancy, wife of William Himes, Dorothea, (Dolly), wife of Abram Eysaman, Delis, wife of Jacob Small, Johannes (John) Feeter and Peter Feeter. Nine of these had many children and the number of his descendants is large.
His new home was located in a German neighborhood, all the friends were descendants of the early immigrants and there, at the Riemensnyderbush, around that old Lutheran Church, and the old burying ground, existed in those early days a larger settlement than at the site of the present city of Little Falls, William Feeter soon occupied a leading position; his earthly goods increased from year to year, and he became the owner of many good and broad acres of land, and when his children started in life he had given them a fair education, and was able to give them a good start for the future.
Mr. Feeter was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1791, and held that position for many years. Soon after the war he joined the militia and rose gradually to the rank of Colonel of the Herkimer regiment of infantry (the later 27th), which he commanded until and during the beginning of the second war with Great Britain.
Colonel Feeter was not only prosperous but public spirited, and contributed liberally to all worthy enterprises. He was one of the original contributors to the Octagon Church at Little Falls; he continued his association with the Stone Arabia Church during his life and was the main support of his own, the Yellow Church, near his home. One of his granddaughters, who remembers him well, describes him as a man not above medium size, of dark hair and complexion, quick in motion and quicker in temper, but kind of heart. He loved sociability and liked to enjoy the good things of life in wise moderation. His greatest enjoyment seemed to be the social gatherings on German holidays, Easter, Christmas, and New Years, and in the fall a harvest festival for all his numerous family, help and neighbors, and at each time he offered plenty of good cheer and a hearty welcome. Another of his granddaughters, still living, described the celebration of a New Year's evening to me. The large and commodious house was thrown open, fires blazed in all the fireplaces, many candles lighted the rooms, the tables were set in nearly every room of the house, and turkeys, chickens, roast pigs, hams and numerous "Mohawk Dutch" dishes loaded the tables and in the middle of each stood a steaming bowl of punch. After the meal was disposed of the Colonel arose and sang a German hymn and then said a prayer of thanks. Then he would wish them all a Happy New Year, usually adding for each a separate teasing remark which set them all in the best of humor. Later on the tables would be cleared away and the dancing began. Abram Eysaman and Peter Staring, two of his sons-in-law,would play the fiddle, and everybody, old and young, would join in the fun. In the intervals, the Colonel, who was a fine singer, would sing to their great delight patriotic and German folk lore songs, and often he would call on Katy Staring and Dolly Eysaman and have them perform some solo dances, as they both were graceful and skilled dancers.
He became a communicant of the Lutheran Church on Nov. 1st, 1778, at Stone Arabia. He was a regular attendant at church and insisted that all his family and help join him, which was not always agreeable to the younger set on account of the length of the sermons.
In politics he was always a Federalist.
In later years he suffered greatly from his wounds and the burdens of age made his quick temper still more fiery. Like many of the heroes of the great struggle for freedom he felt somewhat disappointed in the results. The favors shown to many of the notoriously disloyal families would make the old soldier very angry, and it was best at such times not to go near him. But there was no man more highly respected in the community than the Colonel, and no father more beloved than he, and it is not the idle word of a chronicler that with his death, which occurred in 1844, in his 89th year, there passed away one of the sterling characters of his time.
It would extend this paper too far if I attempted to mention many of his numerous offspring. There was George Henry, well known as an attorney, as a public speaker and as the agent of the great Ellice estate; Johannes, the last to depart of all; Adam, a soldier of 1812, the eldest son, and the father of James and grandfather of James D. Feeter, who is not the eldest male descendant of the oldest branch of all the Feeters, Feaders and the Faders in North America and Germany.
A number of his descendants enlisted during the present war and several fought during the war of the rebellion in the Union Army.
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