History From America's Most Famous Valleys
HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF THE STATE OF NEW
YORK; BEING A GENERAL COLLECTION OP THE MOST INTERESTING PACTS, BIOGRAPHICAL
SKETCHES, VARIED DESCRIPTIONS, &c. RELATING TO THE PAST AND PRESENT; WITH
GEOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTIONS of THE COUNTIES, CITIES, AND PRINCIPAL VILLAGES.
THROUGHOUT THE STATE.
Illustrated by numerous Engravings.
BY JOHN W. BARBER.
AUTHOR OF THE ELEMENTS 0F GENEBAL HISTORY, AND THE CONNECTICUT AND MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS.
PUBLISHED FOR THE AUTHOR,
BY CLARK, AUSTIN & CO. 205 BBOADWAY.
(Donated by Margaret Johnson)
HERKIMER. COUNTY was originally constituted in 1791. Greatest length N. and S. 90, greatest breadth E. and W. 23 miles. Centrally distant from New York 260, from Albany 115 miles. This county has a broken and diversified aspect. South of the Mohawk, within this county, is the great dividing ridge separating the waters of the Mohawk from those of the Susquehannah. A high range of hills extends across the valley of the Mohawk at the Little Falls, and the whole county north of the Mohawk is of a mountainous character. Most of the county south of the Mohawk, and for many miles north of it, is under cultivation, which the greater portion of the hills will admit of to their summits. There is a variety of soil, but the greater part of the county is better adapted for grass than grain. The extensive alluvial valley of the Mohawk, and those of some of the smaller streams, are among the finest grain lands in the state. The northern part of the county is elevated, and covered with extensive forests of evergreens and marshes, and is of a cold and sterile soil. The Mohawk river runs across its whole width.
The lands of this county were originally granted in large tracts;
such were the "Royal Grant," to Sir William Johnson, embracing the
country between the East and West Canada creeks ; the "Jerseyfield patent,"
covering a larger portion of the northern part of the county, made in 1770
; the "German Flats patent," granted in 1725, and others. The county
has 19 towns, viz. :
Columbia, Herkimer, Norway, Starks, Danube, Litchfield, Ohio, Warren, Fairfield, Little Falls, Russia, Wilmurt, Frankfort, Manheim, Salisbury, Winfield, German Flats, Newport, Schuyler.
The following shows the appearance of the village as seen from an elevation rising from the south bank of the Mohawk and the Erie View of Herkimer, from the Erie Canal, the canal, about a mile distant. The village was incorporated in 1807-1825, and is built on a gravelly plain elevated some 10 or 15 feet above the surrounding flats, occupying the site of the ancient Fort Dayton. The village consists of upwards of 100 dwellings, the county buildings, 1 Dutch Reformed and 1 Methodist church, a printing office, &c. The principal street runs N. and S., and is about half a mile in extent ; the railroad passes through the village at its southern extremity. Dist. from Albany 80, Little Falls 6 miles.
The following account of the destruction of this place by the Tories and Indians in 1778, is from Stone's Life of Brant.
"At the time of which we are writing, the settlement on the south side of the river numbered 34 dwelling-houses, and there were about an equal number upon the north side, together with as many barns and other outbuildings, and several mills. The population, for the number of houses, was numerous. The lands, rich by nature, and well cultivated, had that year brought forth by handfuls; so that the barns were amply stored with their products.
"It was at the close of August, or early in the month of September, that this fine district was laid waste by the Indians under the direction of Brant. Most providentially, however, the invasion was attended with the loss of but two lives-one man being killed outright, and another, named McGinnis, perished in the flames. The particulars of this hostile irruption were these:-Entertaining some suspicions of Brant, who was at Unadilla, a scout of four men had been dispatched into that vicinity for observation. Three of these men were killed at the Edmeston settlement. The fourth, John Helmer, succeeded in making his escape, and returned to the Flats at half an hour before sun-down, just in time to announce that Brant, with a large body of Indians, was advancing, and would, in a few hours, be upon them. All was, of course, terror and alarm through the settlement; and the inhabitants-men, women, and children-were gathered into forts Dayton and Herkimer for security. In flying to those defences, they gathered up the moat valuable of their stuff, and by means of boats and canoes upon the river, succeeded, m the course of the evening, in collecting a large portion of their best articles of furniture. But they had no time to look after their flocks and herds.
"Early in the evening Brant arrived at the edge of the settlement, but as the night came on excessively dark and rainy, he halted with his forces in a ravine, near the house of his Tory friend Shoemaker, where the younger Butler and his party were captured the preceding year. Here the chieftain lay with his warriors until the storm broke away towards morning-unconscious that his approach had been notified to the people by the scout in season to enable them to escape the blow of his uplifted arm. Before the dawn he was on foot, and his warriors were sweeping through the settlement; so that the torch might be almost simultaneously applied to every building it contained. Just as the day was breaking in the east, the fires were kindled, and the whole section of the valley was speedily illuminated by the flames of houses and barns, and all things else combustible. The spectacle, to the people in the forts, was one of melancholy grandeur. Every family saw the flames and smoke of its own domicile ascending to the skies, and every farmer the whole product of his labor for the season dissolving into ashes.
"Having no firearms larger than their rifles, the Indiana avoided even a demonstration against the forts, notwithstanding their chagrin that neither scalps nor prisoners were to grace their triumph. But as the light of day advanced, their warriors were seen singly, or in small groups, scouring the fields, and driving away all the horses, sheep, and black cattle that could be found. Nothing upon which they could lay their hands was left ; and the settlement, which, but the day before, for ten miles had smiled in plenty and in beauty, was now houseless and destitute. Happily, however, of human life there was no greater sacrifice than has already been mentioned. After the Indians had decamped with their booty, a force of between 300 and 400 militia-men collected, and went in pursuit-following as far as Edmeston's plantation on the Unadilla river, where the bodies of the three scouts were found and buried. But no other results attended this expedition."
Southern view of part of the Village of Little Falls.
The engraving shows a southern view of part of the village as seen from a point about 20 rods below the aqueduct over the Mohawk. The village consists of upwards of 300 dwellings, 5 churches -viz., 1 Presbyterian, 1 Baptist, 1 Episcopal, 1 Methodist, and 1 Catholic-a bank, an academy, 2 newspaper printing offices, and various manufacturing establishments. The village is supplied with water brought from a spring in the granite mountain, 300 feet above the tops of the houses. The singular building with a spire, seen in me engraving on the left, on elevated ground, is the oldest church in the village, formerly used by the Scotch Presbyterians, but now occupied by the Catholics.
"This spot is remarkable for the passage of the Mohawk river through the mountain barrier; for its wild and picturesque scenery; and for the difficulties which have been overcome in constructing the Erie canal through the pass. It receives the name of the Little Falls, in contradistinction to the Great Falls at Cahoes. The falls extend upon the river about three fourths of a mile, descending in that distance 42 feet, and consist of two long rapids, separated by a stretch of deep water, occupying each about the fourth of a mile. The upper rapids are most considerable. Above them a dam across the stream renders it placid, over which the waters, separated by a small island, form beautiful low cascades, falling into a deep pool beneath, whence the current rushes, murmuring and foaming, over ridges and amorphous masses of granite and gneiss rock, flowing with comparative gentleness beneath the overarching bridge and aqueduct, and thence hurrying, with new impetuosity, over the stony bed below.
"This waterfall would be beautiful anywhere; but it acquires grandeur here from the high hills which confine it, and which the slightest observation teaches us have been cut down by its ever enduring and irresistible force. The defile is two miles long, with a medial breadth of one hundred rods. On either bank, the hill, on which deciduous and evergreen trees are pleasingly intermingled, rises from 360 to 400 feet, and the fall, over which may have once poured the waters of Lake Ontario, may have had a very little inferior altitude. A mound, raised here to the height of 70 feet, would now cause the waters to overflow the Rome summit, and send them again by Wood creek and the Oneida lake to Ontario.
"The Erie canal descends this pass by 5 locks, 40 feet in the distance of one mile, and the time of the passage permits the traveller in boats to view, leisurely, the natural scenery and artificial improvements."
The village of Fairfield, 8 miles N. of Little Falls, has about 50 dwellings, 3 churches, the Fairfield Academy, one of the oldest in the state, and the Medical College of physicians and surgeons of the Western District. Newport village, about 10 miles N. of Herkimer, is a flourishing place, having upwards of 60 dwellings. About 2 miles eastward of Little Falls is the house of Gen. Herkimer, where he died after the battle of Oriskany : he was buried a few rods from his house, in a family burying-ground, without a monument to tell where he lies.
The battle of Oriskany was fought on the 6th of Aug., 1777 ; and Gen. Herkimer did not long survive his wound. The following account of his last moments, and his character, is taken from Col. Stone's interesting account in his Life of Brant, vol. I.
"He was conveyed to his own house near the Mohawk river, a few miles below the Little Falls ; where his leg, which had been shattered 5 or 6 inches below the knee, was amputated about ten days after the battle, by a young French surgeon in the army of Gen. Arnold, and contrary to the advice of the general's own medical adviser, the late Dr. Petrie. But the operation was unskilfully performed, and it was found impossible by his attendants to stanch the blood- Col. Willet called to see the general soon after the operation. He was sitting up in his bed, with a pipe in his mouth, smoking, and talking in excellent spirits. He died the night following that visit. His friend, Cot. John Roff, was present at the amputation, and affirmed that he bore the operation with uncommon fortitude. He was likewise with him at the time of his death. The blood continuing to flow-there being no physician in immediate attendance-and being himself satisfied that the time of his departure was nigh, the veteran directed the Holy Bible to be brought to him. He then opened it and read, in the presence of those who surrounded his bed, with all the composure which it was possible for any man to exhibit, the 38th psalm-applying' it to his own situation. He soon afterward expired ; and it may well be questioned whether the annals of man furnish a more striking example of Christian heroism-calm, deliberate, and firm in the hour of death-than is presented in this remarkable instance. Of the early history of Gen. Herkimer, but little is known. It has been already stated that his family was one of the first of the Germans who planted themselves in the Mohawk valley. And the massive stone mansion, yet standing at German Flatts, bespeaks its early opulence. He was an uneducated man-with, if possible, less skill in letters, even than Gen. Putnam, which is saying much. But he was, nevertheless, a man of strong and vigorous understanding- destitute of some of the essential requisites of generalship, but of the most cool and dauntless courage. These traits were all strikingly disclosed in the brief and bloody expedition to Oriskany. But he must have been well acquainted with that most important of all books- THE BIBLE. Nor could the most learned biblical scholar, lay or clerical, have selected a portion of the Sacred Scriptures more exactly appropriate to the situation of the dying soldier, than that to which he himself spontaneously turned. If Socrates died like a philosopher, and Rousseau like an unbelieving sentimentalist. Gen. Herkimer died like a CHRISTIAN HERO. Congress passed a resolution requesting the governor and council of New York to erect a monument, at the expense of the United States, to the memory of this brave man, of the value of five hundred dollars.
"Sixty years have since rolled away, and the journal of Congress is the only monument, and the resolution itself the only inscription, which as yet testify the gratitude of the republic to GENERAL NICHOLAS HERKIMER."
FULTON COUNTY was taken from the northern part of Montgomery county in 1838; NW. from Albany 40 miles; length E. and W. 33 miles, breadth N. and S. 17. The surface of the northern part of this county is hilly, with some ranges of a mountainous character. The Kayaderosseras range of mountains enters the county on the NE., but sinks to the general level in the town of Northampton. The county is well watered and contains several small lakes. It is divided into 9 towns.
Bleecker, Broadalbin, Ephratah, Johnstown, Mayfield, Northampton, Oppenheim, Perth, Stratford.
Southern view of Johnstown. JOHNSTOWN, originally named Caughnawaga, was founded about the year 1770, by Sir William Johnson, who resided here during the latter period of his life, essentially in the rank, and with much of the splendor of a nobleman. Sir William and his family, by various means, became possessed of vast tracts of valuable land in this section of the country, and had many tenants and retainers under them. Their great possessions, however, were confiscated during the revolutionary war, on account of their adherence to the British cause. The village of Johnstown is about 4 miles N. of Fonda, the seat of justice for Montgomery county, and 44 from Albany. The accompanying engraving shows the appearance of the village as viewed from the first elevation south, on the road to Caughnawaga or Fonda village. The courthouse is the first building seen on the left with a spire ; Mayfield mountains appear in the extreme distance. The village contains a bank, an academy, 4 churches-1 Presbyterian, 1 Episcopal, 1 Dutch Reformed, and 1 Methodist-and about 250 dwellings. It is situated on a handsome plain, skirted on the N. and W. by Cayadutta creek, and on the S. by a hill of moderate elevation. It was regularly laid out by Henry Oothoudt, Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, and Christopher P. Yates, state commissioners, in 1784, and was incorporated in 1807.
About three fourths of a mile from this village is a house built by Sir William Johnson, called " Johnson Hall." This was the place of resort for the sachems of the Six Nations, and all the Mohawks repaired thither to receive their presents from the British government. William Johnson was born in Ireland, about the year 1714; he was a nephew of Sir Peter Warren, the naval commander who distinguished himself at the siege of Louisburg in 1745. Sir Peter having married a sister of Chief-justice De Lancey of New York, purchased a large track of land on the Mohawk, and about the year 1734, sent for his nephew to come to America and superintend this estate. Young Johnson first established himself at the mouth of the Schoharie, afterward erected a house in the town of Amsterdam, and subsequently the hall at Johnstown. To fulfill the duties of his commission, he learned the language of the Indians, studied their manners and cultivated their acquaintance. His situation between Albany and Oswego, presented a fine opportunity for trade, and he carried on a large traffic with them, supplying them with goods, and receiving in return beaver and other skins. By a course of sagacious measures, he obtained an influence over the Indians greater than was ever possessed by any other white man.
"Sir William Johnson possessed considerable talents as an orator, and his influence over the Indians was not a little owing to the impression made upon them by means of his elocution. ... . He had wives and concubines, sons and daughters, of different colors." By Lady Johnson he had 3 children-1 son and 2 daughters. His son, Sir John Johnson, took side with the British, in the revolutionary war, and became the scourge of the Mohawk valley. One of the daughters married Col. Claus, and the other Sir Guy Johnson. Sir William died suddenly, at Johnson Hall, July 11th, 1774, aged 60 years ; and was succeeded by his son in his title, and also to his post as major-general of the militia.
The following anecdote respecting Sir William, seems to evince, that in his dealings with the Indians, who have a good reputation for cunning, he was not outwitted. Hendrick, the chief of the Mohawks, was at the house of Sir William when he received several rich suits of laced clothes. Soon after, the chief came to him and said, " I dream." " Well! what did you dream 1" o' I dream you give me one suit of clothes." This hint could not be mistaken or well avoided, and accordingly Hendrick received a suit. Some time afterward Sir William, meeting Hendrick, said to him, " I dreamed last night" "Did you ! What did you dream ?" " I dreamed you gave me a tract of land," describing it. Hendrick at first paused at the enormity of the demand, bat at length said, " You may have the land; but we no dream again, you dream too hard for me." The tract of land thus obtained, is stated to have been 12 miles square, in the present county of Herkimer; the title to it was confirmed by the king, and was called the "Royal Grant."
The power which Sir William Johnson acquired over the Indians descended to his son and to his nephew. Col. Guy Johnson, who succeeded him in the agency of Indian affairs. As the family had derived most of their wealth and consideration from the crown, they were, as might be supposed, devoted loyalists. In 1775, Gen. Schuyler prevailed upon the Indians to agree to be neutral in the coming conflict. It appeared, however, that the influence of the Johnson family prevailed with the Indians, and induced them to join the British cause. It also appeared that Sir John was fortifying his house and arming the Scotch Highlanders, his tenants and adherents. Congress having heard of these movements, sent Gen. Schuyler to disarm these persons, and take other measures to secure the tranquillity of Tryon county. Schuyler set out on this mission with 700 militia, but before he reached Caughnawaga his force had increased to three thousand. At Schenectady a deputation of Mohawks under the influence of the Johnsons met him, and with much artfulness endeavored to dissuade him from advancing. On the 16th of January, 1776, Gen. Schuyler dispatched a letter to Sir John, requesting him to meet him on the morrow ; they accordingly met, and after some subsequent delay, he and the Scotch gentlemen agreed to make a delivery of the arms of the inhabitants. Sir John likewise agreed that he would not go westward of German Flats and Kingsland district, and that six Scotch inhabitants might be taken as hostages. On the 19th, Schuyler marched into Johnstown and drew up his men in a line; the Highlanders were drawn up facing them, and grounded their arms. The military stores were surrendered : and this service being performed, Schuyler and the militia returned. It was found afterward that the Highlanders had not delivered up their broadswords or ammunition.
Gen. Herkimer was left by Gen. Schuyler to complete the disarming of the hostile inhabitants. Sir John, notwithstanding his word of honor, continued his hostile intrigues with the Indians, and otherwise forfeited his promises. It was found necessary to secure him, and in May, 1776, Col. Dayton was sent on this duty. The Tories in Albany gave notice to Sir John of his approach, and the knight and his followers fled to the woods, and escaped to Canada, arriving at Montreal after nineteen days of suffering and starvation. He left his residence in much haste: an iron chest with the family Bible and papers were buried in the garden. On arriving in Canada, the baronet was commissioned a British colonel, and raised the regiment of Tories called the Royal Greens. By his adherence to the British, his immense estate was forfeited, and this appears to have inspired him with implacable revenge. On Sunday, the 21st of May, 1780, at dead of night. Sir John Johnson, with a force of about 500 men, part of whom were Indians, made an incursion into Johnstown. He had penetrated the country by way of Lake Champlain to Crown Point, and thence through the woods to the Sacondaga river. The following account of this incursion is from a newspaper published June 15th, 1780.
"By the latest intelligence from Schenectady, we are informed that Sir John Johnson, (who styles himself Lieut. colonel commanding the King's Royal Yorkers, in the parcels given to some of the prisoners,) on Lord's day evening, the 21st ulfc, made his first appearance at Johnson Hall, undiscovered by any but his friends, who no doubt were in the secret. On Monday, about daybreak, they began to burn all the houses except those of the Tories, beginning at Aaron Putnam's, below Tripe's Hill, and continued burning to Anthony's Nose, or Acker's house, except a few which by the vigilance of the people were put out after the enemy had set them on fire. There have been burnt 33 houses and out-houses and a mill; many cattle were killed in the field, and 60 or 70 sheep burnt in a barn. Eleven persons were killed. Col. Fisher [Visscher] and his two brothers fought with great bravery, when the two brothers were killed and scalped ; the colonel went up stairs and there defended himself, but being overpowered, was knocked down and scalped, on which they plundered the house, set it on fire, and then went off. The colonel recovering a little, though he was left by the enemy for dead, he pulled one of his dead brothers out of the house then in flames; the other was consumed in the house. It is said that the doctors have hopes that Col. Fisher will recover. His mother had a narrow escape for her life, being knocked on her head by an Indian; but she is like to do well. Cap't Hansen was killed by an Indian, who had formerly been used by him with kindness, and professed much gratitude. Old Mr. Fonda was cut in several parts of his head with a tomahawk. Had it not been for the alertness of Mr. Van Vrank, probably more would have been butchered by their savage hands; ha alarmed the people along the way to Caughnawaga, who by crossing the river saved their lives. Having done all the mischief to the distressed inhabitants they possibly could, they returned to Johnson Hall in the afternoon ; when Johnson dug up his plate, and about sundown marched for the Scotch Bush, about four miles that evening. He has 15 or 20 of his Negroes who had been sold; several of his tenants and others have gone with him. He has permitted some of his prisoners to return on parole. His whole force when he landed at Crown Point, is said to be about 500 men, 200 of them British, part of his own regiment, and Indians. Capt. Putnam and four men followed them in their retreat four days, on their way to Lake Champlain. He saw him 24 miles from Johnson Hall. Some think they will take their route to Oswagatehie ; but this seems improbable, as they have not provisions sufficient with them. His excellency the governor has collected a, body of militia to intercept their way to Lake Champlain ; a number have also marched from the New Hampshire grants for the same purpose : Col. Van Schaick, with 800 men, is in pursuit of him by the way of Johnstown. We hear that the enemy bad their feet much swelled by their long march ; and being greatly fatigued, it is hoped our people may come up with and give a good account of the Lieut, colonel and his murdering banditti."
In the summer of 1781, another expedition was sent against Johnstown. This was conducted with so much secrecy, that on the 24th of Oct., the enemy, about one thousand in number, under Majors Ross and Butler, were upon the settlement at Warrensbush before their approach was suspected. Col. Willet, who was at Fort Rensselaer about twenty miles distant, on hearing the news, immediately marched for Fort Hunter, which he reached early on the following morning with all the forces he could muster, being but 416 men in all. When he arrived here, he learned that Ross and Butler had the preceding day crossed the river some distance below Tripe's Hill, and arrived at Johnstown about the middle of the day, killing and taking the people prisoners, destroying buildings and cattle on their way. Having effected the passage of the river. Col. Willet pushed on in pursuit of the enemy. Having ascertained their position, he detached Major Rowley, of Massachusetts, with part of his force, by a circuitous march, to fall upon the rear of the enemy while he attacked them in front, a short distance above the Hall. The battle became spirited and general, but the militia under Col. Willet gave way, and ran in the utmost confusion to the stone church in the village. Here the colonel succeeded in bringing them to a halt. But the defeat would have been complete, had not Major Rowley, at this period of the action, emerged from the woods and fell upon the enemy's rear in the very moment of their exultation at their easy victory. The fight was now maintained on both sides with obstinacy till near sunset, when Willet was enabled to collect a respectable force, with which he returned to the field, and again mingled in the fight. The battle was kept up till dark, when the enemy, pressed on all sides, fled in disorder to the woods-nor stopped short of a mountain, six miles distant. The loss of the Americans in this conflict was about, forty. The enemy lost about the same number killed, and about fifty prisoners.
"Major Ross retreated up the north side
of the Mohawk, marching ail night, after the battle. In the morning he was
pursued by Col. Willet, but was not overtaken. The region of country over
which Ross retreated, after he had passed the settlements, lies twenty or
thirty miles north of Fort Schuyler, and at that time was uncultivated and
desolate. His army suffered much from hunger.-It was on this retreat that
Walter Butler was killed: he was pursued by a small party of Oneida Indians
; when he arrived at West Canada creek, about 15 miles above Herkimer, he
swam his horse across the stream, and. then turning round, defied his pursuers,
who were on the opposite side. An Oneida immediately discharged his rifle
and wounded him; he fell. Throwing down his rifle and his blanket, the Indian
plunged into the creek and swam across ; as soon as he had gained the opposite
bank, lie raised his tomahawk, and with a yell, sprang like a tiger upon his
fallen foe. Butler supplicated, though in vain, for mercy ; the Oneida, with
his uplifted axe, shouted in his broken English, 'Sherry Valley ! remember
Sherry Valley .'' and then buried it in his brains: he tore the scalp from
the head of his victim still quivering in. the agonies of death, and ere the
remainder of the Oneidas had joined him, the spirit of Walter Butler had gone
to give up its account. The place where he crossed is called Butlers Ford
to this day."-Campbells Annals of Tryon County.
The above is a copy of a kind of diploma, in possession of the New York Historical Society, which it would seem the Johnson family were in the habit of giving to those Indians in whom they confided. In the vignette, a British officer is seen presenting a medal, or something resembling it, to an Indian dressed in the aboriginal style,-- the council fire, the pipe of peace, the chain of friendship, &c., are all represented.
"By the Honorable Sir William Johnson, Bart., His Majesty's sole Agent and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern Department of North America, Colonel of the Six United Nations, their Allies and Dependants, &c. &c. " To WHEREAS, I have received repeated proofs of your attachment to his Britannic Majesty's Interests and Zeal for his service upon sundry occasions, more particularly I do therefore give you this public Testimonial thereof, as a proof of his Majesty's Esteem and Approbation, Declaring you, the said to be a of your and recommending' it to all his Majesty's Subjects and faithful Indian Allies to Treat and consider you upon all occasions agreeable to your character. Station and services. GIVEN under my hand and seal at Arms at Johnson Hall the day of 17
By Command of Sir W. Johnson.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY was named after the lamented Gen. Montgomery, who fell at the attack on Quebec, in the revolution. Its greatest length is 34 E. and W., greatest breadth N. and S. 13 miles. It was originally taken from Albany, and named in honor of William Tryon, then governor of the province. Its name was changed in 1784. 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-subdivided into precincts. The Mohawk district included Fort Hunter, Caughnawaga, Johnstown, and Kingsboro; Canajoharie district embraced the present town of that name, with all the country southward, comprehending Cherry Valley, of Otsego, and Harpersfield of Delaware counties; Palatine district, north of the Mohawk, extended over the region so called, and Stone Arabia, &c. ; German Flats district and Kingsland covered the most western settlements. The Erie canal crosses the county on the south side of the Mohawk, and the Schenectady and Utica railroad on the north side. The Erie canal passes the Schoharie creek through a pond formed by a dam across the stream below. Its fall within this county is 86 feet, by 12 locks. The county is divided into ten towns; Amsterdam, Canajoharie, Charleston, Florida, Glenn, Mohawk, Minden, Palatine, Root, St. Johnsville.
East view of the Courthouse and Hotel in Fonda. The above is an engraving of the courthouse and hotel recently erected in the new village of Fonda. The railroad passes between these two buildings. The central part of the village of Caughnawaga is about half a mile eastward of the courthouse, and consists of about 30 dwelling-houses, on the north side of the Mohawk, 40 miles from Albany, and 4 miles S. from Johnstown. The village occupies the site of an ancient Indian village, one of the principal towns of the Mohawk tribe.
The annexed is a representation of the ancient Dutch church in Caughnawaga. It is a massive stone structure, and is believed to have been erected in 1763. The following is a copy of the inscription on the stone tablet which was formerly placed over the door:
"Komt laett ons op gaen tot den Bergh des Heeren, to den huyse Des Godes Jacobs, op dat hy ons leere van syne wegen, en dat wy wandele in syne paden."
[" Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord;
to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we will
walk in his paths."]
Ancient Church, Mohawk.
Amsterdam village, incorporated in 1830, upon the Mohawk river and turnpike and Utica railroad, 16 miles W, of Schenectady, contains 4 churches, an academy, a female seminary, a banking-house, and many manufacturing establishments, and about 1700 inhabitants. The Erie canal is on the south side of the river, over which there is a commodious bridge.
(Graphic omitted) The above shows the appearance of the mansion house of Colonel Guy Johnson as seen from the opposite side of the river. It is built of stone, on the north bank of the Mohawk, about a mile from Amsterdam village. The western railroad now passes a few rods north, and in front. It is a beautiful situation, and was formerly called "Guy Park." The house occupied by Sir John Johnson is further to the west, on the opposite side of the road, These men lived here essentially in the rank and splendor of noblemen, till their possessions were confiscated by the state for their adherence to the British cause. Sir John was not as popular as his father, Sir William Johnson, being less social and less acquainted with human nature. He accompanied his father on some of his military expeditions, and probably saw considerable service.
After his flight from Johnstown to Canada, he, in the month of January, 1777, found his way into New York, then in possession of the British troops. " From that period he became not only one of the most active, but one of the bitterest foes of his own countrymen of any who were engaged in the war, and repeatedly the scourge of his own former neighbors. He was unquestionably a loyalist from principle,, else he would scarcely have hazarded, as he did, and ultimately lost, domains larger and fairer than probably ever belonged to a single proprietor in America, William Penn only excepted."
After the flight of Sir John from Johnson Hall, [see Fulton
co.,] Lady Johnson, his wife, was removed to Albany, where she was retained
as a kind of hostage for the good conduct of her husband. " She wrote
to Gen. Washington complaining of this detention, and asking his interference
for her relief; but the commander-in-chief left the matter with Gen. Schuyler
and the Albany committee. After the confiscation of the property of Sir John,
the furniture of the hall was sold at auction at Fort Hunter. The late lieutenant-governor
of New York, John Taylor, purchased several articles of the furniture; and
among other things, the Bible mentioned in the text. Perceiving that it contained
the family record, which might be of great value to Sir John; Mr. Taylor wrote
a civil note to Sir John, offering its restoration, Some time afterward a
messenger from the baronet called for the Bible, whose conduct was so rude
as to give offence. 'I have come for Sir William's Bible,' said he, 'and there
are four guineas which it cost.' The Bible was delivered, and the runner was
asked what message Sir John had sent. The reply was, 'Pay four guineas and
take the book!' "Stone's Life of Brant.
Eastern view of Canajoharie. The village of Canajoharie was incorporated in 1829. It is situated at the confluence of Bowman's creek with the Mohawk, and on the Erie canal, 55 miles from Albany. It consists of about 100 houses, a Lutheran church, and an academy. The Radii, a newspaper, edited and printed by Mr. L. S. Backus, a deaf and dumb person, is published in this place. " The Canajoharie and Palatine manufacturing company" was incorporated in 1833. The accompanying engraving shows the appearance of the village as viewed from the elevated bank of the Mohawk, a few rods from the bridge seen passing over the river, connecting the village of Palatine Bridge with Canajoharie.
In the spring of 1780, the Indians again made their appearance in the Mohawk valley. Gen. Clinton hearing of their movements, sent orders to Col. Gansevoort, on the 6th of June, to repair to Fort Plank with his regiment, to take charge of a quantity of stores destined for Fort Schuyler. These stores were to be transported in bateaux, and carefully guarded the whole distance. Joseph Brant, the celebrated chieftain, at the head of four or five hundred Indians, was in the vicinity, and he artfully caused a rumor to be circulated that he intended to capture the bateaux, in order to divert attention from other points of attack. This artifice proved too successful; the militia of the lower section of the county were drawn off to guard the convoy. Brant now made a circuit through the woods, and coming in the rear of them, laid waste the whole country around Canajoharie. On the first approach of Brant in Canajoharie a few miles eastwardly of the fort, the alarm was given by a woman, who fired a cannon for that purpose. The following account of this incursion is given by Col. Samuel Clyde, in a letter to Gov. George Clinton, dated at Canajoharie, Aug. 6,1780:-
"I here send you an account of the fate of our district. On the second day of this instant, Joseph Brant, at the head of about four or five hundred Indians and Tories, broke in upon the settlements, and laid the best part of the district in ashes, and killed sixteen of the inhabitants that we have found ; took between fifty and sixty prisoners, mostly women and children, twelve of whom they have sent back. They have killed and drove away with them upwards of three hundred head of cattle and horses ; have burnt fifty-three dwelling-houses, besides some outhouses, and as many barns, one very elegant church, and one gristmill, and two small forts that the women fled out of. They have burnt all the inhabitants' weapons and implements for husbandry, so that they are left in a miserable condition. They have nothing left to support themselves but what grain they have growing-, and that they cannot get saved for want of tools to work with, and very few to be got here.
"This affair happened at a very unfortunate hour, when all the militia of the county were called up to Fort Schuyler to guard nine bateaux about half laden. It was said the enemy intended to take them on their passing to Fort Schuyler. There was scarce a man left that was able to go. It seems that every thing conspired for our destruction in this quarter ; one whole district almost destroyed, and the best regiment of militia in the county rendered unable to help themselves or the public. This I refer you to Gen. Rensselaer for the truth of.
"This spring, when we found that we were not likely to get any assistance, and knew that we were not able to withstand the enemy, we were obliged to work and build ourselves forts for our defence, which we had nearly completed, and could have had our lives; and effects secure, had we got liberty to have made use of them. But that must not be, we must turn out of them ; not that we have any thing against assisting the general to open the communication to Fort Schuyler, but still doubted what has happened while we were gone. But it was still insisted on, that there was no danger when we were all out; that in my opinion there never has been such a blunder committed in the county since the war commenced, nor the militia so much put out; and to send generals here without men, is like sending a man to the woods to chop without an axe. I am sensible had the general had sufficient men, that he would have been able to have given satisfaction both to the public and inhabitants here."
The parents of Joseph Brant, the celebrated Mohawk chieftain, resided at the Canajoharie castle, the central of the three castles of the Mohawks, in their native valley. He appears to have been born in the year 1742, on the banks of the Ohio, while his parents were on a hunting excursion in that part of the country.* In July, 1761, he was sent, by Sir William Johnson, to the "Moor's Charity school," at Lebanon, Connecticut, established by the Rev. Dr. Wheelock, which was afterward removed to Dartmouth,and became the foundation of Dartmouth College. The following mention of him is made in the memoirs of that gentleman:-
"Sir William Johnson, superintendent of Indian affairs in North America, was very friendly to the design of Mr. Wheelock, and, at his request, sent to the school, at various times, several boys of the Mohawks to be instructed. One of them was the since celebrated Joseph Brant; who, after receiving his education, was particularly noticed by Sir William Johnson, and employed by him in public business. He has been very useful in advancing the civilization of his countrymen, and for a long time past has been a military officer of extensive influence among the Indians in Upper Canada."
In confirmation of these statements it may be added, that he translated into the Mohawk language the gospel of St. Mark, and assisted the Rev. Mr. Stewart, the Episcopal missionary, in translating a number of religious works into the Indian tongue. Brant being a neighbor, and under the influence of the Johnson family, he took up arms against the Americans in the revolutionary contest. " Combining the natural sagacity of the Indian with the skill and science of the civilized man, he was a formidable foe. He was a dreadful terror to the frontiers. His passions were strong. In his intercourse he was affable and polite, and communicated freely relative to his conduct. He often said that during the war he had killed but one man in cold blood, and that act he ever after regretted. He said, he had taken a man prisoner, and was examining him; the prisoner hesitated, and as he thought, equivocated. Enraged at what he considered obstinacy, he struck him down. It turned out that the man's apparent obstinacy arose from a natural hesitancy of speech.
"In person, Brant was about the middling size, of a square, stout build, fitted rather for enduring hardships than for quick movements.
* The Indian name of Brant was Thayendanegea, a word signifying, it is said, two sticks-of-wood-bound-together, denoting strength. The life of Brant, in two octavo volumes, has been recently written by the late William L. Stone, Esq., editor of the Commercial Advertiser, New York. This valuable and highly interesting work is one of great research, and embraces a full history of the border wars of the revolution, and much other matter connected with Indian history.
His complexion was lighter than that of most of the Indians, which resulted, perhaps, from his less exposed manner of living. This circumstance, probably, gave rise to a statement, which has been often repeated, that he was of mixed origin. He was married in the winter of 1779 to a daughter of Col. Croghan by an Indian woman. The circumstances of his marriage are somewhat singular. He was present at the wedding of Miss Moore from Cherry Valley, who had been carried away a prisoner, and who married an officer of the garrison at Fort Niagara.
"Brant had lived with his wife for some time previous, according to the Indian custom, without marriage; but now insisted that the marriage ceremony should be performed. This was accordingly done by Col. Butler, who was still considered a magistrate. After the war he removed, with his nation, to Canada. There he was employed in transacting important business for his tribe. He went out to England after the war, and was honorably received there. He died about ten or fifteen years since, at Brantford, Haldiman county, Upper Canada, where his family now reside. One of his sons, a very intelligent man, has been returned to the Colonial Assembly."
The following is an account of the taking of the three Mohawk castles, which were situated in this vicinity, by the French and Indians, in the early settlement of the country. It is drawn from Colden's History of the Six Nations.
In January, 1692-3, a large body of French and Indians, amounting to six or seven hundred, started on an expedition from Canada, for the purpose of punishing the Five Nations, who had the previous summer carried the war into Canada, and in small parties had ravaged the whole country. Count de Frontenac chose the winter season for this incursion, when the enemy could not, without great hardship, keep scouts abroad to discover them, or their allies, the English, give assistance.
On the 15th of January, they set out from la Prairie de Magdaleine, and endured innumerable hardships. The ground was at that time covered with a deep snow, and the foremost, marching on snowshoes, beat a track for those which followed. At night the army was accustomed to divide itself into small groups, and each party to dig a hole in the snow, throwing up the snow all around, but highest towards that side from whence the wind blew. The ground was then covered with the small branches of fir-trees, and each man, wrapped in his cloak, with his feet pointed towards a fire in the center, would thus pass the night.
They passed by Schenectady on the 8th of February. The two first forts of the Mohawks being in the neighborhood of the English settlements, were not fortified, and were therefore easily taken. At the last Mohawk fort, "which was strongly garrisoned, they met with considerable resistance, and the French lost thirty men before the Indians submitted. The Indians at Schenectady having obtained information of the capture of their castles, sent to Albany for assistance to pursue the enemy. Col. Peter Schuyler, with a body of militia, regulars, and Indians, pursued the enemy on their retreat, and had a severe skirmish with them. On the 20th, Col. Schuyler was obliged to give up the pursuit, the weather being very cold, and provisions scarce. Schuyler lost only 8 men killed and 14 wounded. The French lost 59 men in killed and wounded, besides several by desertion. The French arrived at their settlements in a state of starvation, having been obliged to eat their shoes on their march.
The village of Fort Plain is situated on the Mohawk river and
Erie canal, 15 miles from Fonda, 12 miles from Cherry Valley, 22 from Cooperstown,
and 60 from Albany: it consists of about 80 houses, 2 churches, a banking
house, printing office, and a number of mills.
Ancient Blockhouse, Fort Plain.
The above is said to be a correct representation of Fort Plain, from which the village derives its name.
"The fort was situated on the brow of the hill, about half a mile northwest of the village, so as to command a full view of the valley, and the rise of the ground, for several miles in any direction ; and hence it doubtless derived its name, because its beautiful location commanded a 'plain' view of the surrounding country. It was erected by the government, as a fortress, and place of retreat and safety for the inhabitants and families in case of incursions from the Indians, who were then, and, indeed, more or less during the whole revolutionary war, infesting the settlements of this whole region. Its form was an octagon, having portholes for heavy ordnance and muskets on every side. It contained three stories or apartments. The first story was thirty feet in diameter; the second, forty feet; the third, fifty feet; the last two stories projecting five feet, as represented by the drawing aforesaid. It was constructed throughout of hewn timber about fifteen inches square ; and, besides the portholes aforesaid, the second and third stories had perpendicular portholes through those parts that projected, so as to afford the regulars and militia, or settlers garrisoned in the fort, annoying facilities of defence for themselves, wives, and children, in case of close assault from the relentless savage. Whenever scouts came in with tidings that a hostile party was approaching, a cannon was fired from the fort as a signal to flee to it for safety.
" In the early part of the war there was built, by the inhabitants probably, at or near the site of the one above described, a fortification, of materials and construction that ill comported with the use and purposes for which it was intended. This induced government to erect another, (Fort Plain,) under the superintendence of an experienced French engineer. As a piece of architecture, it was well wrought and neatly finished, and surpassed all the forts in that region. After the termination of the revolutionary war. Fort Plain was used for some years as a deposit of military stores, under the direction of Captain B. Hudson These stores were finally ordered by the United States government to be removed to Albany. The fort is demolished. Nothing of it remains except a circumvallation or trench, which, although nearly obliterated by the plough, still indicates to the curious traveller sufficient evidence of a fortification in days by-gone."-Fort Plain Journal, Dec. 26,1837.
Hendrick, a celebrated Indian chieftain, lived in this town. He is sometimes called old King Hendrick, and the great Hendrick. "
" 'The site of his house,' says Dr. Dwight, 'is a handsome elevation, commanding a considerable prospect of the neighboring country. It will be sufficient to observe here, that for capacity, bravery, vigor of mind, and immoveable integrity united, he excelled all the aboriginal inhabitants of the United States of whom any knowledge has come down to the present time. A gentleman of very respectable character, who was present at a council held with the Six Nations, by the governor of New York, and several agents of distinction from New England, informed me that his figure and countenance were singularly impressive and commanding; that his eloquence was of the same superior character, and that he appeared as if born to control other men, and possessed an air of majesty unrivalled within his knowledge.' In the French wars he led forth his Mohawk warriors and fought side by side with Sir William Johnson. Through all the intrigues of the French he remained faithful to his alliance."
Fultonville, on the canal, 1 mile S. from Fonda, 57 miles from Albany, is a village of about 60 dwellings. St. Johnsville, 77 miles from Albany, on the line of the railroad, has about 40 dwellings. Stone Arabia, a small village 3 miles N. of Canajoharie, is the place where a small stockade was erected during the revolutionary war, called Fort Paris. When. Sir John Johnson was ravaging the valley of the Mohawk, in 1780, this fort was in command of Col. Brown, with a garrison of one hundred and thirty men. Gen. Van Rensselaer, who was pursuing Sir John up the valley, having received information that he intended to attack Fort Paris on the 19th of Oct., despatched orders to Col. Brown to march out and check his advance, while he fell upon his rear. Col. Brown accordingly sallied forth, and gave Sir John battle near the site of a former work, called Fort Keyser. Van Rensselaer having failed to advance at the appointed time, Brown's force was too feeble to check the progress of the enemy. Col. Brown fell gallantly at the head of his little division, of which from forty to forty-five were also slain, and the remainder sought safety in flight.*
* Colonel Brown was a brave soldier of high moral worth. He was early in the service, and was engaged in the disastrous campaign in Canada. Col. Stone, in his Life of Brant, states that Col. Brown detected, or believed he detected, a design on the part of Gen. Arnold to play the traitor when the American army was at Sorel, by an attempt to run off with the American flotilla and sell out to Sir Guy Carleton. During the winter of 1776-7, while Arnold and many other officers were quartered in Albany, a difficulty arose between him and Col. Brown. The latter published a handbill severely reflecting on Arnold, and concluded with these remarkable words-" Money is this man's God, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his country." This publication produced quite a sensation among the officers. Arnold was greatly excited ; he applied a variety of coarse and harsh epithets to Col. Brown, calling him a scoundrel, and threatened to kick him wherever he should meet him. This coming to the ears of the latter, he proceeded to the dining place of Arnold, where a company of officers were assembled ; going directly up to Arnold, he stopped, and looked him in the eye. After a pause of a moment, he observed: " I understand, sir, that you have said you would kick me so I now present myself to give you an opportunity to put your threat into execution.'" Another brief pause ensued. Arnold opened not his lips. Brown then said to him-" Sir, you are a dirty scoundrel !" Arnold still remained silent. Col. Brown, after apologizing to the gentlemen present for his intrusion, left the room. Arnold appears to have kept an unbroken silence on this occasion, which can only be accounted for on the supposition that he feared to provoke inquiry on the charges of Col. Brown. A monument to the memory of Col. Brown has recently been erected by his son, at Stone Arabia.
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