Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The History of Montgomery Classis, R.C.A.
by W.N.P. Dailey,
Recorder Press, Amsterdam, NY 1916
To which is added sketches of Mohawk Valley men and events of early days, the Iroquois, Palatines, Indian Missions, Tryon County, committee of Safety, Sir Wm. Johnson, Joseph Brant, Arendt Van Curler, Gen. Herkimer, Reformed Church in America, Doctrine and Progress, Revolutionary Residences, Etc.

Committee of Safety of Tryon County

The occasion for the appointment of the Committee of Safety of Tryon County was dictated by the stirring events transpiring in those days just prior to the Revolutionary War. Among the colonies in the north there was no section where the Royal cause was so deeply entrenched or in which the loyalists were so numerous or of greater influence than in the Valley of the Mohawk. The only exception to this was in the Palatine section where Toryism was not healthy. Not only over the Iroquois but over the western Red men beyond, Sir William Johnson had absolute power, and was regarded by the Indians as the supreme arbiter in all their councils, and with whom also the white settlers knew they must reckon. Sir William Johnson died, suddenly and suspiciously, on June 24, 1774, at his baronial mansion in Johnstown, and the estate fell to his son, already a baronet, Sir John (child of his German housekeeper), of morose temperament and exceedingly irascible. Associated with him as the new Superintendent of the Indians was Col. Guy Johnson, an Irish nephew of Sir William, who had married his cousin Mary, one of John Johnson's sisters. He was an irresponsible character of uncontrollable temper, but with a great mental void. His secretary was Walter Butler, the fiend incarnate of all the Tories. At this time most of the settlers in the valley as far as Caughnawaga were the Dutchmen who had come from Manhattan and Fort Orange, while west almost as far as Utica, were the Palatines, who had begun to settle in the valley about 1720. Neither of these elements welcomed the change from the sagacious and politic Sir William, with his generous treatment of all, to the overbearing, aristocratic, and domineering attitude of Sir John and Col. Guy Johnson. Matters would have come to a crisis sooner than they did, had it not been for the influence of Mistress Molly and her big brother, Joseph Brant, who cautioned the Johnsons and indirectly ruled the Iroquois. Tryon county was ready to resent the tyrannical spirit of these men, and when word at last had come from Lexington and Concord, the first Independents in the North began to formulate their plans. After Sir John had removed Kirkland from his missionary work among the Indians, he went with the Butlers and Brants to a great Indian conference at Montreal, and came back to organize his Romanist Scotch Highlanders and fortify Johnson Hall. In his absence in Canada the patriots, or Whigs, as they were called, organized the Committee of Safety, deposed Sheriff White, the Tory, and put John Frey in his place. When, later, White arrested Jacob Fonda the committee went to the Johnstown jail and liberated the prisoner amid an exchange of shots, the first of the Revolutionary War fired west of the Hudson. Later, White was sent a prisoner to Albany.

The late J. Howard Hanson of Amsterdam and S. L. Frey of Palatine Bridge, through the generosity of the late Stephen Sanford of Amsterdam, in 1905, reissued in printed form the correspondence and acts of the Tryon County Committee of Safety, originally written by Christopher P. Yates (b. 1750-d. 1815), the best educated member of said committee, Montgomery's first county clerk, assemblyman, member of Provincial Congress, Major in N. Y. State Militia, and Regent of N. Y. State. William W. Campbell, who wrote "The Annals of Tryon County," at a celebration at Cherry Valley, July 4, 1840, said that he had found the original correspondence many years before that date in the garret of Maj. John Frey, and had them removed and deposited with the New York State Historical Society. These original Minutes have for many years been in the possession of S. L. Frey of Palatine Bridge. Among the members of the committee from the Palatine District were, George Eker, Jr., Anthony V. Frechten, Harmon V. Slyke, John Frey, Christopher P. Yates, Peter Waggoner, Isaac Paris, Andrew Finck, Jr., Daniel McDougall, Andrew Reber, and John Klock. From the Canajoharie district there were, David Cox, John Rickert, Michel Heckimer, William Seeber, John Moore, and Ebenezer Cox. From the German Flatts district there were William Petry, Edward Wall, Jacob Weaver, Marcus Petry, Duncan McDougall, and John Petry. From Kingsland there were George Wents, John Frank, Augustinus Hess, Michel Ittig, George Herchheimer, Frederick Ahrendorf, and Frederick Fox. Adam Loucks was a Palatine at whose Stone Arabia Inn the committee was formed. Isaac Paris had a palisaded house (Fort Paris) on what is now the Cramps farm. His son Peter was killed at Oriskany and himself a prisoner, tortured to death. His youngest son married a sister of Washington Irving. John Frey was a grandson of the first settler in the Palatine section who bought land on the Mohawk in 1689. John Frey's second wife, Mrs. Gertrude Wormuth, was a niece of Gen. Herkimer. Frey served as Major under Herkimer at Oriskany, was an assemblyman and N. Y. State senator. Andrew Fink, whose grandfather was one of the Stone Arabia patentees, was an assembly man and, later, state senator. He was a captain in the N. Y. militia, and was in the Battle of Saratoga. Peter Waggoner was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Tryon county militia at Oriskany, with three sons. Webster Wagner, whose old home and workshop was at Ephratah, where the parlor and sleeping cars were planned, was a descendant of Peter Waggoner. Nicholas Herkimer, the general, son of John Jost, had twelve brothers and sisters (all married but one). Five Herkimers were in Col. Bellinger's regiment. Next to the Johnsons, the Herkimers were the most influential family in the Mohawk valley. Gen. Herkimer was a man of many parts, fairly well educated, a Bible student, a man of sterling character, and a high born patriot, who gave his all including his life to the cause of liberty. Ebenezer Cox and William Seeber were killed at Oriskany. Dr. William Petry was a surgeon in Col. Harper's regiment at Oriskany, and attended Gen. Herkimer after the battle. There were fifty Fondas, twelve Shoemakers, and seventy-five men by the name of Vedder or Veeder, who saw service in the Revolution. These Veeders and Vedders were descendants of both Lucas Vetter of Germany and of the Holland Vedder family. Rudolph Shoemaker was a Captain at Oriskany though only fifteen years old. Adam Bellinger, a lieutenant in Col. Klock's regiment, a grandson of Peter Bellinger, married Delia Herkimer. Major John Frey's brother, Bernard, was in the English army. Col. Hendrick Frey, the Tory, married a sister of Gen. Herkimer, while his patriot brother, Major John Frey, married the general's niece. Christopher P. Yates' wife was the youngest sister of Major John Frey. Among other patriots, German and Dutch, among whose families occurred many marriages, may be mentioned these-Feeter, Helmer, Nellis, Fox, Gros, Eisenlord, Nestell, Roof, Dievendorf, Visscher (Fisher), Quackenboss, Van Epps, Wemple, Hanson, Groat, et. al.

Great credit is due the men of this Committee for the way in which they conducted the patriotic cause in the valley, and their work and the influence of their lives counted immensely in the final independence. Early in 1776 Sir John Johnson surrendered himself, his Hall and all his belongings to Gen. Schuyler, who gave him his parole under the care of Col. Herkimer. When this parole was broken by the Tory baronet, Col. Dayton was dispatched to arrest Sir. John, but loyalist friends apprised him of the danger, enabling him to escape to Montreal. His estate, the largest ever held by one man, with one exception, was sold at auction, while Lady Polly Watts Johnson was removed to Albany as a hostage for the peaceful conduct of her recreant husband. Sir John became the Colonel of the Royal Greens, and Brant and Butler were made Captains in the English army. A captain's commission was on Butler's person at his death. Swearing bloody vengeance against their former neighbors in the valley of the Mohawk, this triad of fiends incarnate, under the approval of the English and with the aid of the savage, wreaked their venomous hatred on the people of the valley, sparing neither age nor sex. The ancient British theory still held that all land acquired by settlement or conquest remained the property of the King, and the occupant must share its profits with the crown. Moreover the commerce and industry of the colonists must not compete with that of England. Trade restriction and taxation without representation were the rocks of offense on which the home government foundered in its dealings with the colonists. In a country but sparsely settled, separated from the Hudson river by a powerful Indian tribe, and surrounded by a large and influential body of well organized loyalists-the Tryon County Committee of Safety manifested a courage and determination unparalleled even in that day of self-sacrifice and heroic devotion to the cause of freedom. Almost two years before the Declaration of Independence was signed (July> 4, 1776), the Independents of Tryon County (August 27, 1774) calmly but bravely asserted their rights and bound themselves to abide by the regulations of the First Continental Congress. Unless we accept the Declaration of Independence formulated at Mendon, Mass., March 1 1773, the Tryon County Committee of Safety were the first organized body of Independents in the colonies.

The war lords of that day met in London and planned the battles for the extermination of the rebellious colonists. Burgoyne was to fall on northern New York and St. Leger was to scourge the valley of the Mohawk, the victorious commanders meeting in Albany, and go down the Hudson valley to enjoy the fruits of Arnold's treachery. Burgoyne was a successful leader, St. Leger had already proven his worth while Brant the savage leader, hired by England under the promise of eight dollars per scalp turned in, was the ablest strategist of all the Iroquois. But what irony of fate, that the Palatines, whom England had generously passaged over into this new land should be the battering ram that would turn aside St. Leger in the bloodiest battle of the Revolution, prevent his coalition with Burgoyne, and thus make sure the land of freedom. Some day the story of these Palatines will be written in such fast colors that this nation of ours will never willingly let their memory die out. In February, 1788, France formed its alliance with the colonies on the sole condition that never again would they acknowledge the supremacy of Great Britain. In 1779 Spain declared war against England with the hope of obtaining Gibralter. In 1780 Russia organized a neutrality league of the northern states to resist England's attempt to search the ships of neutral countries. Holland so opposed this attitude of the British that in 1790 England declared war against Holland. With the surrender of Cornwallis, October 21, 1781, the War of the Revolution ended with the colonies, while both France and Spain won in their struggle with England. It is a fact worthy of constant emphasis that the Revolution was fought by the classes- that the educated, conservative, elegant and well-to-do were practically all on the British side. Notable exceptions were Washington and Sullivan. In the case of the latter he so impoverished himself and Congress so neglected him, that when he died the sheriff attached his corpse for debt, which had to be released prior to burial. Many of the Dutch and Palatines could not write their names, though they had ingenious "marks" to verify the signatures made by others for them. It was these ignorant, oft-discouraged and broken hearted ones, the "rabble," who bought our liberty with the price of their blood. When the Revolution was over Parliament made terms with four thousand Tories who Were conspicuous in their alliance with England and distributed among them sixteen millions of dollars. Thus the Britons gave to the Tories vastly more than Congress gave to the ragged Continentals who had won the country's freedom.

But though Cornwallis surrendered and a Peace Treaty was signed September 3, 1783, England still controlled New York city, Charleston, and Savannah. The War meant a practical separation from England but Independence did not really and fully come till 1815. England broke the terms of the Treaty by retaining her military posts in the west which she promised to give up, and the new Treaty of 1795 she ignored by instructing her navy to capture American ships trading in French ports. England also trickily tried to use Napoleon as a pawn whereby she might forever destroy the possibility of American commerce. In the south Cornwallis, forgetful of the spirit of Washington shown at the surrender, burned and ravaged, especially venting his spite on the people of Presbyterian faith, whose churches and Bibles he burned. The Revolution cost $135,000,000 and 232,000 men were engaged. It cost England thirteen provinces, four islands, a hundred thousand men, and $350,000,000. In 1812 Congress declared war against England, protesting its claim of a half century that it owned the seas. In the conflict, which did not open auspiciously, the United States overwhelmingly defeated England. During through 1814 in several engagements, near and within Canada, England again resorted to the infamous use of the savages who were urged to carry on their atrocities. This war cost thirty thousand lives and a hundred million dollars.

Border Wars

General Sullivan's Campaign or raid into the Iroquois country (1779), which resulted in the destruction of their villages, was the immediate result of the Wyoming and Cherry Valley massacres. Washington's orders to Sullivan were strictly carried out-the devastation of the Indian settlements, but the expedition failed in its main purpose which was to suppress the Indian raids, since most of the injury done in the Mohawk valley was subsequent to the Sullivan campaign. In no other part of the country was so great damage inflicted on the noncombatants. In Tryon county twelve thousand farms were idle, two thirds of the population had either been killed or fled, and of the remaining one-third three hundred were widows and two thousand were orphans. The Province of New York at the time of the Revolution was wholly governed by Loyalists, appointed through London. But not in any less measure was the Mohawk valley dominated by the Johnsons. Sir William's loyalty was made keen through generous and continuous gifts of the crown, while that of his successors wrought itself out in satanic savagery. And this was all ably abetted by the English government. Gen. Burgoyne (a noted playwright in England) in June, 1777, in his Crown Point proclamation threatened the "outcast" rebels with Indian butchery if their "frenzied hostility continued" and believed he said, that "God would approve the execution of such vengeance." Indeed to prevent desertion from his English ranks he announced orders to each regiment that he had enjoined the savages to scalp any runaway British soldiers.

Oriskany can hardly be classed among the Border Wars, though it often is. We may more reasonably regard it as one of the causes, if not the chief cause, leading up to these wars. About the middle of July (1777) St. Leger landed at Oswego where he was joined by the Johnsons, and Brants, and Butlers. His plan was to devastate the Mohawk, join Burgoyne at Albany, to which place Gen. Clinton was expected to come after subduing the Hudson valley. Burgoyne had a numerous body of the savages with him when he started out from the north but all had deserted before the Saratoga battle. Barry St. Leger had more and these were in charge of Brant and Butler. The Indians were promised that rum would be as plentiful as the waters of Lake Ontario, presents were bestowed and the English government offered a reward for prisoners or scalps at eight dollars each. For years England sought to enlist the services of the Iroquois against the colonists, while the latter urged the Indians to remain neutral, well knowing the true type of their aid. In July, 1775, Sir Frederick Haldemand in the presence of Col. Guy Johnson, the Indian agent for England, said to the gathered savages, "now is the time for you to help the king * * * whatever you lose the King will make up to you when peace returns." And the Earl of Dartmouth in the same month wrote Col. Johnson from London that it was King George's pleasure "that he lose no time in taking such steps as may induce the Indians to take up the hatchet against his majesty's rebellious subjects in America." Before Oriskany St. Leger offered the Indians twenty dollars for every American scalp.

Oriskany ("Nettles") is a tragic story of haste, insubordination, cowardice, but a wondrous story also of more than human bravery and of splendid victory, though dearly hot. The Palatine Germans, the English white slaves, became a human barrier against the rising tides of feudal aristocracy in this new soil of America. The plan of Herkimer, the man of the hour in this contingency, was to crush the forces of St. Leger with a front and rear attack, the latter to be made by Col. Gansevoort of Fort Stanwix. But his impetuous officers, big with bluster and ignorant of conditions nagged their general, taunted him with cowardice, and against his better judgment he moved his forces on to what became the bloodiest battle of the Revolution, if not the pivotal struggle of the war, Hearing of the coming of Herkimer through Sir William Johnson's pale faced mistress widow-Molly Brant (who on the baronet's death was sent back to the tribe of her birth). St. Leger dispatched Sir John Johnson with his royal Yorkers, and Capt. Walter Butter with his Rangers, Col. Claus and his Canadian troops, and Lieut. Bird with a force of Regulars, to ambush the Tryon county militia if possible. For five hours the battle raged, three hundred were killed, as many taken prisoners. Major Stephen Watts, Johnson's brother-in-law was killed, and Col. Paris of Stone Arabia, taken prisoner, was later slowly tortured to death. John Frey was a prisoner, whose brother, a Tory, tried hard to kill him. Jacob Gardinier and a few men annihilated a whole platoon of the British, Gardinier receiving thirteen wounds, but crawling into the hollow trunk of an old tree, and sending a German lad out on the field for the weapons of the fallen, he kept up the fight till exhausted. He lived to a good old age. During the battle Col. Willett led a sortie from Fort Stanwix, and captured twenty-one wagon loads of the British camp duffle, including all of Johnson's and Leger's papers, etc. This sortie had the effect of ending the back woods fight, and left Herkimer, propped against a tree directing the battle, the victor. Lieut. Col. Gansevoort ran the captured British standards aloft, and over them he placed for the first time the Stars and Stripes, adopted by congress a short time previously, the emblem being made from the white of a shirt, the blue of a soldier's jacket, and the red from the petticoat of one of the women in the garrison.

The civilian population suffered no less than the actual combatants. Fields were devastated, homes and provisions ruthlessly burned, mothers murdered and daughters outraged by a villainous, licentious soldiery. Led captives into a howling wilderness women had their babes snatched from their breasts while the savages scalped them for gold, and later tomahawked the mothers. In other parts of the great colony of New York settlers pursued their work unmolested, while here in the valleys of the Mohawk and Schoharie rapine ran riot for a half a century. The major blame for this treatment of the colonists of these valleys must rest on the shoulders of England, whose emissaries, the Johnsons, and Butlers, and Brants, out- Heroded Herod in their cruel carriage, while most of the other Tories were scarcely less savage than the savages. All but about half of the Oneidas of the entire Iroquois Confederacy were allied with the British army in the Revolution, and many of the Indians were later used along the Canadian border against the Americans in the War of 1812. Under date f Albany, Mar. 7, 1782, Capt. Gerrish of the New England Militia writes to his commander of the spoil taken in an expedition into the Indian country. In the booty were eight packages of scalps consigned to Col. Haldiman, the British Governor of Canada, accompanied by a letter written from Tioga by one Capt. Jas. Craufurd, giving the detailed history of these scalps which were to be forwarded to England for the Crown's reward. In these packages were the scalps of three hundred and fifty-nine farmers, two hundred and eleven girls, a hundred and ninety-three boys, a hundred and five women, forty-three soldiers, twenty-nine infants, one minister, and a hundred and twenty-two mixed. Each was definitely marked by Indian signs and rings, etc., to denote the sex, age, occupation, manner of death, etc. It is singular that after the Battles of Oriskany and of Saratoga that these Border Wars should have occurred. New York Province ought to have settled down to peace and prosperity and industry. The main issues of the war had been transferred to Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina. And it is worth noting that most of the province did settle down and the people quietly pursued their agricultural and other work. But here in the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys rapine and bloodshed ran riot for several years. The sequel of it in part may be traced to Oriskany where the duped Indians got a thirst for bloody revenge which took years to assuage. To the English government must also be given the credit for setting in motion those forces which ensued in such satanic savagery toward the settlers in the new world. But conspicuous among the agencies that wrought a diabolism that was *never known before in so-called Christian lands, are the lives and the deeds of the Johnsons, and Brants, and Butlers.

Battle of Stone Arabia

The Battle of Stone Arabia occurred October 19, 1780. It was a fierce conflict between a large part of the forces of Sir John Johnson's "Royal Greens" and Indians, and a detachment from the stockaded garrison known as Fort Paris, near the Stone Arabia cross roads. Sir John with his hired savages had appeared in the late Spring quite suddenly at sunset on May 21 at Johnson Hall, Johnstown, evidently seeking the silver plate, papers, etc., which he had left behind some months previously in his hurried flight into Canada when Gen. Schuyler had dispatched Col. Dayton to arrest him for having broken his parole, given in the early part of 1776 when he surrendered to Gen. Schuyler. On the following morning he attacked Caughnawaga and Tribes Hill, 500 Indians and Tories being in his company. All Summer long the settlements were harassed and devastated by the foe whose commanders, or leaders, were Sir John Johnson, Col. Guy Johnson, the Tory Captain, Walter Butler, Cornplanter the Seneca chief, Joseph Brant the Mohawk, and others. The force totaled about 2,000. In February German Flatts was attacked, and in March Palatine was visited. In April Harpersfield was burned, and further depredations were committed in Ulster county. Then came Johnson by way of Lake Champlain to Johnstown, harassing the north side while Brant and Butler were busy on the south side of the river. In July Brant and 600 Indians cut off intercourse between Fort Stanwix and German Flatts. On August 2 Brant attacked Canajoharie with 450 Indians, killing fourteen and taking half a hundred captives. In September Brant visited the Schoharie valley with Sir John Johnson and Cornplanter, the entire force numbering 1,500. They attacked the Middleburgh Fort, but were unable to take it. On both sides of the Mohawk they ravaged the country. The home of Jelles Fonda at Palatine worth $65,000 was burned. Fonda was absent and his wife made her way to Schenectady on foot, twenty six miles.

On October 19, 1780, Sir John sent a force to attack Fort Paris, a stockkaded store at Stone Arabia. Because of the ravages of the Indians and Tories Gen. Robt. Van Rensselear was dispatched with companies from Claverack, Albany, and Schenectady, to the relief of the settlers. Gov. Clinton was with the expedition. Capt. Robt. McKean, having joined the Van Rensselaer force, urged the commander to hasten up the valley, but the general seemed bound to delay his march. On the evening before the battle Van Rensselaer's force, with two hundred Oneidas encamped on a hill near the Stanton place in the present town of Florida, less than fifteen miles of Johnson's camp (Sprakers). Van Rensselaer had sent word to Col. John Brown stationed at Fort Paris to engage the enemy at the front and he would fall on their rear. In the Burgoyne campaign Col. Brown had liberated a hundred American soldiers and made prisoners of three hundred of the enemy. Van Rensselaer's forces (1,500) twice that of the enemy, reached Sprakers just after Johnson's forces had crossed. Col. Brown, relying on Van Rensselaer's word, started out to engage the foe. He brought along the message sent him by Van Rensselaer, but before entering the battle sent it back to the fort. This message was not found after the battle. So sure was he of the rear attack that he had covered two-thirds of the distance to the river before he met the enemy. Van Rensselaer could see the smoke and hear the noise of the battle, yet he refused to cross. McKean (who had challenged Brant to fight alone or with an equal number of men, and was refused by the Mohawk) begged Van Rensselaer to let him and Lt. Louis the Indian commander of the Oneidas under McKean to cross, but they were refused.

When, however, they heard of Col. Brown's death, and knowing the enemy were exhausted by their long march and fiendish labors, Capt. McKean with his eighty Oneidas and Lt. Col. Louis, the Oneida chief, rushed their forces in pursuit across the river, only to be recalled by Van Rensselaer, who ordered a halt while he went off to Fort Plain to have dinner with Gov. Clinton. He did not return until four in the afternoon and then began a tedious crossing of the river by means of wagons. Col. William Harper remonstrated with the general and Lt. Louis shook his sword in his face and denounced him as a Tory. It was later discovered that the forces of Sir John were utterly fatigued and were expecting to surrender to the fresh troops of Gen. Van Rensselaer, whose relationship to Sir John Johnson was said to be the reason for the cowardice if not treachery displayed. Col. Brown and some thirty of his men lost their lives. Capt. Casselman urged the Colonel to keep his force under cover as the Indians were, but Brown was impetuous and relied on the rear attack and pushed forward. After the enemy had left the field Joseph and Conrad Spraker, Warner Dygert and William Waffles returned to the scene and found Col. Brown's body and those of his soldiers, naked and scalped. They were buried in a trench beside an immense boulder (now suitably marked) behind which they had fought. Later the body of the Colonel was reinterred in the Reformed church burying ground, and on October 19, 1836, the fifty-sixth anniversary of the battle, a monument was erected by his son over the spot. Rev. Abram Van Horne of Caughnawaga preached the sermon, and an address was given by Attorney Garret L. Roof of Canajoharie. In October, 1915, the Fort Rensselaer Chapter D. A. R. of Canajoharie, aided by some of Col. Brown's descendants, repaired the monument and encircled it with an iron fence. Col. Brown is also remembered as the brave accuser of Benedict Arnold, against whom he had repeatedly made charges, both to the commander of the American army as well as to Congress. Three years before the West Point affair Brown had publicly posted fresh charges against him, among them this-"Money is this man's God, and to get it he would even sacrifice his country." After the battle the enemy scattered, devastating the country on all sides. Van Rensselaer crossed the river at Fort Plain and overtook the enemy on the north side above St. Johnsville near Klock's block house. Johnson retreated to a point of land jutting out into the river. Col. Harper and Col. Du Boise urged an immediate attack but Van Rensselaer refused and the enemy moved out during the night at their leisure. Capt. Duncan of Johnson's forces, after the war, while visiting at Schenectady, said that the officers under Johnson had made all preparations for surrender, but Gen. Van Rensselaer gave them no chance to capitulate. Gen. Van Rensselaer was court-martialed in March, 1781, for his action but was acquitted because of conflicting testimony. Washington wrote the Continental Congress that this raid was planned by the Johnsons and Brants in the belief that Arnold would succeed at West Point, of whose plans the enemy probably knew. The wonder is if either Johnson knew at the time that Arnold had failed or if Brown knew of the treachery of his former commander and consistent enemy.

Revolutionary Residences Now in the Mohawk Valley

The primitive homes in the Valley of the Mohawk were the conventional log structures, made from the woods of the virgin forests, in which they were built and barren of the comforts or conveniences of the modern house. Once the land was cleared and a bit of prosperity had come through trade the settlers began to build better houses, of brick, or frame, or stone, and usually patterned them after the homeland dwellings. This note deals very briefly with those residences built before or during the Revolution that are still extant.

Mount Johnson, called Fort Johnson after it was stockaded in 1775, was built by William Johnson in 1742. In its day it was a magnificent building, and the years since have but added to its solid dignity and grandeur. Constructed of stone, with broad and straight architectural lines, and of massive material, it is today the proud possession of the Montgomery Historical Society. About a mile east of Fort Johnson Sir William built in 1766 what is now known as Guy Park Mansion, a home for his daughter, Mary, the wife of his nephew, Guy Johnson. The land attached to it, a mile square, was part of the Hoofe Patent, granted in 1727. It was built of wood, originally, but rebuilt, after a fire, of stone. In construction it is similar to the baronial hall at Fort Johnson, with its irregular blocks of limestone, massive walls and timbers, deep recessed windows, wide halls, spacious rooms and broad staircases.

The General Herkimer home in the town of Danube was built about 1760. It has lately been purchased by New York State and thoroughly renovated and in the repair strict accuracy has been maintained of the original dwelling. It is characteristically colonial. There are five fireplaces of Holland brick, quaint mahogany stair rails and newel posts, floors of wide boards that have been trod for a century and a half, deep window-seats, broad piazzas, stately halls and rooms, spacious attic and large stone-floored cellars.

In the town of Palatine is the stone house built by John Peter Wagner, to whose family reference is made in the Ephratah church history. Not far away is Fort House, built about the same time (1750) by Christian House. Fort Ehle, near Fort Plain, was built in two parts, first the small stone wing on the west, then the larger addition on the east. The west end was built by Peter Ehle. It is still owned by the Ehles. Before the Revolution an old-fashioned square house within sight of the Lutheran Stone church was built, which became the home of Dr. John Cochran, a surgeon general in the Revolutionary War. Much of the fine mahogany furniture that once adorned this home was given to Dr. Cochran by General Washington who had used it in his Newburgh headquarters. On the Sand Flats beyond Fonda is the old Dockstader house, first built as an inn. It is on the Indian trail leading to Stone Arabia, and has the double Dutch doors and beamed ceilings. Dockstader was a Tory.

Johnson Hall in Johnstown was built by Sir William Johnson in 1763 and was the baronet's home for the last decade of his life. Two stone block houses were built nearby. The Hall is of frame construction, rooms wainscoted with much decoration, mahogany balustrades, one rail of which is scarified by hatchet-marks, signs of safety in that day to the Indian, broad halls and large rooms, and great cellars where, originally, the horses were stabled. The building is owned by New York State. Another old house in Johnstown is the Drumm home, built for the schoolmaster by Sir William Johnson. It was not, however, the first public school in the province, as some assert, since some years before Rev. Jonas Michaelius came to New Amsterdam (1628), a school system was established, which has been continuous through three centuries and is now known as the Collegiate Institute of New York City. An old house not far from Johnstown is called the "Black Horse Tavern." For a great many years the Yauncy's conducted a tavern here. It is referred to in the Ephratah church history.

The square gambrel roofed Glen-Sanders house was built in 1713, its predecessor of 1659, the first house built north of the Mohawk west of Schenectady, having been rendered untenable by the encroaching Mohawk. The present house is well preserved and contains many relics of the past, and is visited by hosts of people every year. Lofty ceilings, large rooms, spacious attic and cellar, extra thick stone walls, massive dovetailed timbers, and many other reminders of olden days are present. The Abraham Yates house, Schenectady, on Union street near the First Dutch church, dates back to about 1730. Probably at first of frame construction it was later brick fronted, and additions built on. There are several other houses in and about Schenectady, built prior to and during the Revolution which have been modernized, as the old home of Gov. Yates, at 26 Front street, now occupied by Alonzo P. Walton.

The Mabie house was built on the south bank of the Mohawk, seven miles above Schenectady, sometime before 1706-perhaps as early as 1670. Constructed of heavy stones taken from the neighboring hillside from which rose the peaked roof of Dutch architecture. The heavy floor of the attic forms a planed ceiling for the second story. The Brant house, near the Schenectady Pumping Station is given the date of 1736, but is probably older, and is built of brick, the latter being laid in characteristically Dutch style. The Schermerhorn house in Rotterdam has been occupied by the same family and their descendants for two hundred and fifty years. The Van Guysling frame house in Rotterdam dates back to 1664, making it the oldest house in the Valley, while the Johannes Peek house was built in 1711. The Queen Anne parsonage goes back to 1712 and is built of rough stone two stories high. The Butler house on Switzer Hill, a mile from Fonda, was built in 1743 by Walter Butler, father of Col. John Butler, father of Walter Butler. It is built of oak and has the usual broad dimensions.

The General William North residence at Duanesburgh was built in 1784. His wife was Mary Duane, daughter of Judge Duane, who gave her a thousand acres. Hereon a splendid mansion was built, the native woods, pine and maple and birch being used. Here noted men frequently met among whom were Baron Steuben, whose aide General North was. The later Duane Mansion, built at the close of the eighteenth century, was the meeting place of Lafayette, Webster, Madison, Jay, Jackson, Calhoun, Joseph the King of Spain, and his brother, Jerome Bonaparte. The Duanesburgh Episcopal church, built by judge Duane, is the oldest church edifice of that denomination in New York state. The old stone house near Palatine Bridge, where Major John Frey was born, was built in 1740 and later palisaded and garrisoned.

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