Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Brief Sketch of the First Settlement
of the
County of Schoharie
by the Germans.
Being an Asnwer to a Circular Letter, Addressed to the Author, by "The Historical and Philosophical Society of the State of New York"
by John M. Brown. Printed for the Author by L. Cuthbert 1823


Judge Brown was a half brother of Capt. Christian Brown, a gentleman who resided on the James Becker place, about 1 ½ miles northeast of Cobleskill on the Barnerville road, an officer in the Army who did noble service in the days when the bloodthirsty Brant and his followers scalped settlers and burned buildings in the early history of Cobleskill. In the year 1771 Judge Brown settled upon 300 acres of land located in what is now the Town of Carlisle, situated about five miles northward of Cobleskill. His lot as a farmer was similar to the conditions which surrounded his neighbors. It was only after many years of excessive toll and rigid economy that he cleared his land and his home of troublesome incumbrance of debt. His first wife was Gitty Hager, by whom he became the father of eight sons and one daughter. His first wife died in 1796. A few years thereafter he married Eljzabeth, daughter of Capt. VanArnein of the Continental Army. No children were born of this union.

Judge Brown manifested religious convictions and demonstrated deep piety. He was a member of the Reformed Church of Schoharie and for years served the organization as clerk and chorister. He was regular at attendance. He would journey afoot, of times of necessity bare-foot, a distance of 14 miles, following an Indian footpath, which he would strike just below his residence. Such evidences of religious devotions are now unknown.

People are yet living who remember Judge Brown in his old age. In person he was below rather than above medium height, but broad shouldered and stout. His eyes were blue and deep-set under overshadowing brows. There was a scar upon one cheek from a wound inflicted by a squaw. When a lad he was engaged wholloping an Indian boy, when the mother of the dusky contestant came up just in time to save her son. Pulling up a sapling she belted young Brown over the head, ending the contest and, leaving a scar from the wound which lasted until the grave claimed its own. In old age Judge Brown engaged in song and those living who listened remember that the infirmities of age had not so impaired the high strong voice as to make possible calculations of the power it possessed in the days of its greatest vigor.

Judge Brown had the benefit of only a few weeks schooling. He was self educated; he spoke English as well as low and high Dutch, and wrote both English and German. He was deprived of associations and surroundings which develop the mental faculties, yet he wielded a powerful influence, and wrote his name high on the scroll of local history. In the year 1795 he was appointed third Judge of the First Bench of the Common Pleas of the County of Schoharie, a position he resigned in 1820. He was a Justice of the Peace. He was three times a candidate for Member of Assembly, once failing of election by only two votes. He was Captain in the Militia. He was on a Commission to lay out public roads in the County of Schoharie and in like capacity helped locate 27 public thoroughfares in what is now the County of Otsego. He was the confidential counselor and advisor of a wide circle of neighbors.

A record of the "Early Settlement of Schoharie" must have been considered a matter of importance or else there would have been no formal request from high authority for publication. Judge Brown must have possessed intelligence, keen observation and good judgment or else the Governor of the State would not have asked him to write upon a subject of such moment to history as the"Early Settlement of Schoharie."

Judge Brown tells in his published work where he was born and when. He died upon the estate, which he purchased when a young man, in the year 1838, aged 93 years. He was buried a few rods from the dwelling where he died, across a brook, on an elevation, beside his wife and a number of neighbors and friends who preceded him. There he rested in perfect peace for 41 years, the chanticleer sounding a toscin over his remains at early morn and the patient ox plowing a requiem over his lonely grave at eventide. On the 4th of July, 1879, his remains, as well as those of his wife, were exhumed, and followed by long winding procession, were taken to the Carlisle Cemetery, where with song and patriotic speech, booming cannon and swelling notes from brazen instruments, they were tenderly lowered, there to remain until the Great Arch Angel shall "set his right foot upon the sea and his left on the earth,"and with a mighty blast shall summon every grave to open - the stone from the sepulchre to roll away and the vasty deep to uncomplainingly yield up its dead.

December, 1891.


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