Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Orderly Book of Sir John Johnson
During the Oriskany Campaign
Annotated by Wm. L. Stone
With an Historical Introduction illustrating the Life of Johnson by J. Watts De Peyster, and Some Tracings from the Foot-Prints of the Tories, or Loyalists in America by T. R. Myers.
Joel Munsell, 1882


One of the sufferers by St. Leger's raid, was Jane Wemple Starin, the grandmother of Hon. John H. Starin, ex M. C., from the state of New York(2). The trials of this heroic and patriotic woman, if given in detail, would fill many pages. Hon. John H. Starin, writing to the author in regard to his (Mr. Starin's) grandmother, says : "My grandmother, Jane Wemple Starin, was of Dutch descent, her maiden name being Jane Wemple. She lived in the present village of Fultonville, Montgomery Co., N. Y., before there was any village there, her house, indeed, being the only one. It was on the south bank of the Mohawk river opposite Caughnawaga, and was kept as an inn. It was the headquarters of the mail route to the north and west, which crossed the river at this point by a ford. My grandfather was an Indian interpreter, and his brother, my great uncle, was the first judge in that part of the State.(3) The inn also was a kind of halting-place

(1) Her maiden name was Jane Wemple, one of the Wemple family who, together with the Fondas, Vroomans and Veeders, founded, in 1762, the Dutch church at Caughnawaga, the present village of Fonda, Montgomery Co., N. Y. The original church edifice is, I believe, still standing.

(2) It is probably due to this fact that Mr. Starin has always shown such interest in -the Saratoga Monument Association of which he is the president. Indeed, it is solely to his efforts that the trustees have been able to begin the erection of the monument now completing at Schuylerville, N. Y.

(3) Hon. Wm. J. Bacon gives the following account of Mr. Starin's great uncle in his exceedingly able and instructive address on "The Early Bar of Oneida," delivered in 1875 in Utica, N. Y. We quote:

"The first incumbents of the Herkimer Common Pleas, which then (1798) included Oneida county, were three fair-minded, intelligent and upright laymen, viz. Henry Starin, judge, and Jedediah Sanger and Amos , justices. Of the first of these men a very graphic, and, I am inclined to think, a very just sketch, is given by our former highly esteemed townsman, William Tracy, Esq., of New York,

for bands of western Indians who were on their way east to visit their Great Father at Washington ; and often at night the halls of the inn would be so thickly filled with sleeping red men that my grandfather could hardly pick his way among them. There was also a permanent encampment of Mohawks just beyond the inn , while directly in its front, there were several eel-wiers that the Indians had built in the river, one of which still (1882) is plainly to be seen.

"My grandmother, who died at Syracuse, N. Y., in 1841, at the age of nearly 85 years, was a very neat old lady; and I well recall the short gown (spun and woven by herself) that she wore, and the pocket fastened by a string around her waist, and worn underneath the gown, which had to be pulled up whenever she wanted to reach her pocket. She always carried in it some tidbit for the boys." Mrs. Starin's memory to the day of her death was remarkably retentive; and on a Winter's night, while the flames went roaring up the

in the two most valuable and entertaining lectures delivered by him in this city, more than thirty years ago. Starin was a plain, honest Dutch farmer, living at German Flats, of limited education, but with a large stock of common sense and sound judgment, and, above all, an incorruptible integrity. His sense of the inviolability of contracts and the duty of fulfilling them, is well illustrated in the amusing but well authenticated incident of his refusing a discharge to an applicant for the benefit of the insolvent act until he had paid all his debts, to be relieved from which, it need hardly be said, was the very object and purpose of the application.

"The first record we have of any court held within the territory of what is now the County of Oneida, is in October, 1793, when a Court of Common Pleas was held in a barn belonging to Judge Sanger, in the town of New Hartford, and over this court Judge Starin presided, assisted by Justices Sanger and Wetmore. An incident occurred at this session of the court, which is so amusing and illustrative, that I venture to reproduce it substantially as it is related by Tracy, in the lectures already alluded to. The day was cold and chilly, and the barn of course had no appliances for creating artificial warmth. In the absence of these, and with a view to keeping their faculties awake, some of the attending lawyers had induced the sheriff (an impulsive and obliging Irishman, named Colbraith), to procure a jug of ardent spirits, which was quietly circulated around the bar, and from which each one decanted (taking it like oysters raw from the shell) the quantity that would suffice to keep them up to concert pitch. While this was going on, the judges, who were

hugh (huge?) chimney, and the fire-light merrily played among the flitches of bacon hanging from the smoked rafters overhead, she would recount to her grandchildren gathered around, her many adventures in a newly settled country, and the sufferings endured by herself and kindred when forced to fly on the approach of the savage hordes of St. Leger.

Mr. Starin comes, indeed, of good old revolutionary stock. His grandfather, the Indian interpreter mentioned above, fought throughout the war for American Independence, and was one often of the Starin family who served in the Continental army directly under Washington. To Sampson Sammons, the great-great-uncle of Mr. Starin, belongs the honor of having had fired at him the first shot in the war of the Revolution west of the Hudson; while his son, Jacob Sammons, in attempting to erect

suffering from the cold without any such adventitious relief, consulted together, and concluded that rather than freeze in their seats they would adjourn the court until the ensuing day. Just as they were about to announce this conclusion, and to call on the sheriff to make the usual proclamation, the latter sprang up with the jug in his hand, and handing it up to the Bench, exclaimed, 'Oh, no, no, Judge, don't adjourn yet. Take a little gin; that will keep you warm. 'Taint time to adjourn yet.' Tradition says the court yielded to the soft persuasion, and in the language now common and familiar to our ears, ' smiled,' and proceeded with the business of the court. What sort of justice prevailed during the remainder of that day, the historian of the incident does not tell us, and cotemporary tradition is silent on the subject." Judge Bacon, (who is the best living authority on the subject) also kindly writes me the following additional particulars of Judge Starin. " Judge Starin was born about eleven miles below the city of Utica, in the county of Herkimer, which then included within its limits what are now the counties of Oneida, Madison, Oswego, Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence. He was a militia officer at the beginning of the Revolution, and is reputed as having been present at the battle of Oriskany; and from that time held the position of colonel of the Tryon County Militia during the remainder of the war. He had not only good common sense and great integrity (as I state in my lecture on the Oneida Bar^) but unflinching courage and loyalty and many attempts were made to capture him by the enemy, which, by his great shrewdness and presence of mind, he escaped ; but finally, on one occasion,. he was surprised by the Indians and shut up in a wigwam overnight, his captors proposing to burn him alive the next morning. But in the dead of night he escaped through an opening, and fleeing swiftly he eluded pursuit by taking to the water and following the bed, until fortunately, finding a canoe among the willows on the bank he unloosed it, and moving down the stream, reached his home safely by noon of that day."

a liberty-pole at Caughnawaga in 1775, was struck down by a loaded whip in the hands of Col. Guy Johnson, and returned to his father's house bearing upon his body the first scars of the Revolutionary contest in the county of Tryon. See Stone's Brant, Vol. I, pp. 52, 107. Jacob Sammon's grandson, the late Col. Simeon Sammons, of Fonda, N. Y., during our late civil war, equipped, put in marching order, and conducted to Harper's Ferry, eleven hundred men in twenty-nine days. When Sammons reached Washington and was asked the usual question what he had come for, instead of expressing, as many did, a desire for easy quarters near the capitol, he answered "to fight by --"; and as evidence of the sincerity of his purpose he brought home two bullets in his body. Again, at the springing of a mine in front of Petersburgh, he leaped over the parapet and, though his foot was shattered by a bullet, caught the standard and planted it in triumph on the works of the enemy. He was also, we believe, engaged at Fredericksburgh, and was near the late Col. Welcome B. Sayles of the 7th R. I. Vols. when that gallant and meritorious officer fell (mortally wounded by a shell) while waving his hand to encourage his men who were crossing the river on pontoon bridges in the face of a galling fire from the enemy stationed on the high bark in their front(1).

(1) Judge Hienrich Starin was the author of the celebrated "Yankee Pass," the story regarding which runs as follows; The early Dutch of the Mohawk Valley were very strict in keeping the Sabbath , and the legal penalties for such infringment were rigorously enforced. Now it chanced that one Sunday morning as Judge Starin was going to church, he met a Yankee peddler on horseback quietly jogging along on his way east. Straightway the judge arrested him, and having received from the offender the customary fine of four shillings, was asked by the latter if- now that the penalty had been paid - he would not give him a pass to travel the remainder of the day, especially as he was in a hurry to finish his journey, and did not wish to be delayed ? To this seemingly reasonable request the judge consented, and requested the Yankee (as he had not his glasses by him) to write it out himself and he would sign it. This having been done, the judge affixed his signature to the document and the peddler went on his way. Some weeks afterwards, the judge happening to be in Kane's store in Canajoharie, was presented with a sight note of hand for $25, which the storekeeper, knowing it to be first class paper, had purchased. Judge Starin at first was utterly astounded, yet confessed that the signature was his and no mistake. Finally, after puzzling his brains for several minutes and having had described to him the person who sold the note, he suddenly exclaimed, "Confound it! It's that d---- Yankee Pass!" However, the judge, enjoying the joke although at his expense, cheerfully took up the note, but ever more steered clear of Yankees--particularly those seeking passes on the Sabbath day!

In 1795, that amiable and philosophical traveler, the Duke de la Rochefoucault Liancourt on his way east from Niagara, tarried over night at the inn kept by Judge Starin's brother, the Indian interpreter. "The inn," says the Duke, "was full of people indisposed with the ague. The whole neighborhood was crowded with others in the same condition; and by his [Starin's] account, numbers of travelers are daily arriving, who have not escaped the influence of the tainted air, and of the contagion which prevails in the district of the Genessee."

Copyright 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.

Contents Introduction Links Home