History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume II, Page 336
Lamentation of Dogs.-The following incident attended the invasion of the Mohawk valley by Sir Johnson in the summer as 1780, between Tribes' hill and Caughnawaga-now Fonda. Two days after the desolator had spread his curtain of destruction along this goodly heritage, the dogs of several families whose dwellings had been ravaged and burned-some of whose masters were among the slain or captives with the enemy-congregated on a hill north of the Albert Slingerland place several miles east of Fonda, and there set up such a howling as was probably never made by so great a number of dogs before, or since, in the Mohawk valley. They began their unearthly moaning just at sun-set, and continued it several hours ; to the great annoyance of a few houseless citizens still concealed in the surrounding forest. This was a canine mourning for their friends and their homes.-From Daniel Zielie, who heard this remarkable concert. He died at an advanced age, August 10, 1850, in the invaded district.
Some years after the Revolution, Judge Visscher, to whom the homestead reverted on the death of his brothers, erected a substantial brick dwelling over the ashes of his birth-place, where he spent the evening of His days, amid the associations of youthful pleasure and manly suffering. This desirable farm residence is pleasantly situated on a rise of ground in the town of Mohawk, several miles east of Fonda, Montgomery county. It is given the Indian name of the adjoining creek, in the hope of preserving that name. Between the house and the river, which it fronts, may be seen the Mohawk turnpike, and the track of the Utica and Schenectada railroad. The place is now owned and occupied by Mr. Alfred De Graff, a great grandson of its former patriotic proprietor, who has recently much improved its appearance.
From this digression we return to the war-path of the enemy. They captured three negroes and a wench belonging to the Visscher family ; burnt the barn, and in it, as supposed, their own dead, killed by the brothers ; from whence they proceeded to the dwelling of Barney Wemple, a little farther up the river, which was rifled and burned with the out-buildings attached. Wemple had sent a slave, before day-light, to catch horses, who, hearing the firing, and discovering the light of the burning buildings down the valley, ran to the house and gave intelligence that foes were near. Thus alarmed, the family fled, almost naked, into a small swamp, just in time to escape the tomahawk. Wemple erected a dwelling on the site of his former one, soon after it was burnt, which shared a similar fate during Johnson's invasion of the valley the following October. In their course up the river, the enemy also burnt the outbuildings of Peter Conyne, the dwelling of John Wemple, and possibly one or two others. Arriving at Caughnawaga, the destruction of property was renewed. Douw Fonda, who removed from Schenectada and settled at that place about the year 1751 (the same year in which Harman Visscher settled below), was an aged widower, and resided, with a few domestics, in a large stone dwelling with wings, which stood on the grounds of the County Agricultural Society. It had been the intention of the citizens to fortify this dwelling, and it was partially surrounded by strong pickets. Fonda's three sons, John, Jelles, and Adam, also good whigs, were living in the neighborhood.
Jelles Fonda resided a short distance below the Caughnawaga church, owning a large dwelling and store. At the time of this invasion, he was absent on public business. About a week previous, he sent part of his family and effects in a bateau to Schenectada, to which place they were accompanied by the wife and children of John Fonda. The wife of Major Fonda and her son Douw, were at home, however, on that morning. Hearing the tiring at Visscher's and discovering the light of the burning buildings below, Mrs. Fonda and her son fled to the river near, where there was a ferry. Remaining in the ferry-boat, she sent Douw to get two horses, and being gone some time, fears were excited lest he had been captured. As her apprehensions for her son's safety increased, she called him repeatedly by name. He returned with the horses and they began to cross the river, but had hardly reached its centre when several of the enemy, attracted to the spot by her voice, arrived on the bank they had left. A volley of balls passed over the boat without injuring its inmates, and leaving it upon the south shore, they mounted their horses and directed their course towards Schenectada, where they arrived in due time. Adam Fonda, at the time of Johnson's invasion, resided near the Cayadutta creek, where Douw Fonda resided in 1850. Arriving at Adam Fonda's, the enemy made him a prisoner, and fired his dwelling. Margaret, (Peggy, as she was called,) the widow of Barney Wemple, lived near Fonda, and where Mina Wemple formerly resided, on a knoll not far from the creek, at which place she then kept a public house. The enemy, making her son, Mina, a prisoner, locked her up in her own dwelling and set it on fire. From an upper window she made the valley echo to her cries of " murder " and " help," which brought some one to her relief. Her voice arrested the attention of John Fonda, who sent one of his slaves round the knoll which formerly stood west of the Fonda Hotel, to learn the cause of alarm ; but hardly had the slave returned, before the enemy's advance from both parties was there also, making Fonda a prisoner, and burning his dwelling.
The eastern party,
on arriving at the dwelling of Maj. Fonda, plundered and set it on fire. There
were then few goods in his store ; but his dwelling contained some rare furniture
for that period, among which was a musical clock, that, at certain hours,
performed three several tunes. The Indians would have saved this house for
the great respect they had for its owner, whom they had known as the warm
personal friend of Sir Wm. Johnson but then more than savage allies, the tories,
insisted on its destruction. As the devouring element was consuming the dwelling,
the clock began to perform, and the Indians, in numbers, gathered round in
mute astonishment, to listen to its melody. They supposed it the voice of
a spirit, which they may have thought was pleased with the manner in which
they were serving tyranny. Of the plunder made at this dwelling, was a large
circular mirror, which a citizen in concealment saw, first in the hands of
a squaw, but it being a source of envy it soon passed into the hands of a
stout Indian-not, however, without a severe struggle on her part. The Indians
were extravagantly fond of mirrors, and it is not unlikely this costly one
was broken in pieces and divided between them. Among the furniture destroyed
in the house, was a marble table on which stood the statue of an Indian, whose
head rested on a pivot, which, from the slightest motion was continually-
"Niding, nodding, and nid, nid, nodding."
"Neither the parsonage or the church at Caughnawaga, were harmed.* Dr. Romeyn, then its pastor, was from home. Mrs. Romeyn, as she was fleeing up the hill north of her house with her family, carrying two children, was seen by the Indians, who laughed heartily at the ludicrous figure she presented, without offering to molest her, except by giving an extra whoop.
Murder of Douw Fonda.-"When the alarm first reached the family of Douw Fonda, Penelope Grant, a Scotch girl living with him, to whom the old gentleman was much attached, urged him to accompany her to the hill whither the Romeyn family were fleeing ; but the old patriot had become childish, and seizing his gun, he exclaimed-"Penelope, do you stay here with me-I will fight for you to the last drop of blood !" Finding persuasion of no avail, she left him to his fate, which was indeed a lamentable one ; for soon the enemy arrived, and he was led out by a Mohawk Indian, known as " One armed Peter " (he having lost an arm), toward the bank of the river, where he was tomahawked and scalped. As he was led from the house, he was observed by John I. Hansen, a prisoner, to have some kind of a book and a cane in his hand. His murderer had often partaken of his hospitality, having lived for many years in his neighborhood. When afterwards reproved for this murder, he replied that as it was the intention of the enemy to kill him, " he thought he might as well get the bounty for his scalp as any one else !" Mr. Fonda had long been a warm personal friend of Sir William Johnson, and it is said that Sir John much regretted his death, and censured the murderer. This Indian, Peter, was the murderer of Capt. Hansen, on the same morning. With the plunder made at Douw Fonda's were four male slaves and one female, who were all taken to Canada. Several other slaves were of the plunder made in the neighborhood, and doubtless became incorporated with the Canada Indians.+
* It has been stated by some writer, that this church edifice was palisaded and other-wise fortified in the war; but such was not the fact, and the citizens fled past it to find safety in the woods north of it. I am very sorry to say this old land-mark of the past century was demolished about the year 1870, and its building material converted Into other uses, to the great regret of every one who would see historic buildings preserved.
+ The proceeding facts relating to this invasion were obtained from Daniel and John Visscher, sons of Col. Fr. Visscher; Mrs. Margaret Putman, a sister of Col. Visscher; Angelica, daughter of Henry Hansen, and widow of John Fonda; Catharine, daughter of John Fonda, late the wife of Evert Yates; Peter, a son of Cornelius Putman, Volkert Voorhees; Cornelius, son of Barney Wemple; David, son of Adam Zielie; and John S. Quackenboss.
An incident of no little interest is related by an eye witness from the hill, as having occurred in this vicinity on the morning of this invasion. A little distance in advance of the enemy, a * man was seen in a wagon which contained several barrels, urging his horses forward. Despairing of making his escape with the-wagon, he abandoned it, and mounting one of his horses, which he had loosened from the wagon, he drove to the river, into which they plunged and swam across with him in safety. On reaching the wagon, the barrels were soon found to contain rum which had been destined to one of the frontier forts. Knocking in the head of a cask, the Indians were beginning to drink and gather round with shouts of merriment, when a British officer dressed in green came up, and with a tomahawk hacked the barrels in pieces, causing the liquor to run upon the ground, to the mortification of his tawny associates, who dispersed with evident displeasure.-Mrs. Penelope Forbes. Her maiden name was Grant, mentioned as living with Mr. Douw Fonda.
The enemy, led by Col. Johnson in person, on their way to Caughnawaga, plundered and burned the dwellings of James Davis, one Van Brochlin and Sampson Sammons.-Mrs John Fonda. Sammons with his sons, Jacob, Frederick and Thomas, were captured, but himself and youngest son Thomas, were set at liberty ; the other two were carried to Canada. For an account of their sufferings, see Life of Brant.
Cornelius and Harmanus Smith, lived two miles west of Maj. Fonda and Harmanus, on the morning of Johnson's invasion, was going to mill,* and called just after day-light at Johannes Veeder's. The latter was then at Schenectada, but his son, Simon (afterwards a judge of Montgomery county), who resided with him, was at home, and had arisen. On his way to Veeder's, Smith had discovered the smoke of the Sammons dwelling, but being unable to account for it, continued his journey, and was captured near the mill. Cornelius Smith, alarmed soon after his brother left home, escaped with his family in a boat to
* A small grist mill, which stood on the west bank of the creek near the turnpike road in Fonda. This mill was inclosed by palisades in the latter part of the war, to serve the purposes of a fort.
the south side of the river. Aaron Smith, father of my informant, William A. Smith, lived a short distance west of the brothers named. His house was burned at this time, and again in the fall, the family fleeing to the woods. Sir John Johnson liberated Harmanus Smith, at Johnson Hall, but kept a slave captured with him. The concealed family could hear the enemy break their china ware, and yell exultantly as they did so. A female slave of the Johnson family then living at Smith's, was left at the house to save what she could; with a bundle of effects in the woods, she saw her black husband Quack, came to him and insisted on going to Canada with him. She had crooked feet, and Johnson wanted to leave her, but go she would, and go she did. She made tracks like those of a bear. Matthew Van Deusen and Nicholas Van Brochlin, living together above Smith's, were also burned out in the spring and following fall. Mr. Veeder, who had accompanied Smith toward the road from hearing the discharge of musketry down the valley, soon after his neighbor was out of sight, beheld to his surprise a party of Indians approaching him from that direction ; upon which he ran to his house, a little distance above the present village of Fonda, pursued by them. He alarmed his family, which consisted of Gilbert Van Deusen, Henry Vrooman, a lame man, and James Terwilleger, a German ; and several women and slaves. The three men snatched each a gun and fled from the back door, Vrooman with his boots in his hand ; and as Veeder, minus a hat, was following them with a gun in each hand, the enemy opened the front door. They leveled their guns but did not fire, supposing, possibly, that he would be intimidated and surrender himself a prisoner. As Veeder left the house, the women fled down cellar for safety. The fugitives had to pass a board fence a few rods from the house, and as Veeder was leaping it, several of the enemy fired on him, three of their balls passing through the board beneath him. One of his comrades drew up to return the fire, but Veeder, fearing it might endanger the safety of the women, would not permit him to. The house was then plundered, and after removing the women from the cellar, the house was fired, and with it several out-buildings. The dwellings of Abraham Veeder, Col. Volkert Veeder, that of Smith already named, and those of two of the Vroomans, situated above, also shared a similar fate, and became a heap of ruins.- Volkert, a son of Simon Veeder.
Good Luck.-At this period, George Eacker resided just below the Noses. Having discovered the fire of the burning buildings down the valley, he sent his family into the woods on the adjoining mountain, but remained himself to secure some of his effects. While thus busily engaged, several of the enemy arrived and made him prisoner. As they began to plunder his house, they sent him into the cellar to procure food. On entering it, he discovered an outside door ajar ; passing which, he fled for the woods. As they thought his stay protracted, the Indians entered the cellar, and had the mortification to see their late prisoner climbing the hill, beyond the reach of their guns. Finding his family, he led them to a place of greater security in the forest, where they remained until the present danger was past, and their buildings reduced to ashes.-Judge David Eacker.
The enemy proceeded at this time as far west as the Nose, destroying a new dwelling, ashery, etc., just then erected by Major Jelles Fonda.-Mrs. John Fonda.
When Sir John Johnson removed from Johnstown to Canada, a faithful slave owned by him, buried, after he had left, his most valuable papers and a large quantity of silver coin, in an iron chest, in the garden at Johnson Hall. Among the confiscated property of Sir John sold at auction, was this very slave. He was bought by Col. Volkert Veeder, and no persuasion could induce him to reveal any secrets of his former master. This slave was recovered by Johnson on the morning of his invasion ; and returning to the Hall with his first owner, he disinterred the iron chest, and the contents were obtained. Some of the papers, from having been several years in the ground, were nearly destroyed. This slave, although well treated by Col. Veeder, was glad of an opportunity to join Col. Johnson, who had made him a confidant, and accompany him to Canada.- Mrs. Fonda.
Several boys were captured along the river, who were liberated at Johnson Hall, and returned home, among whom were James "Romeyn, and Mina, (a contraction of Myndert) Wemple. The latter, hearing the proposition made by Sir John, to allow the boys to return, who was rather larger than any of the others, stepped in among them saying, " me too ! me too !" and was finally permitted to accompany them off ; and returned to the ashes of her inn, to console his mother. Thomas Sammons, Abraham Veeder, and John Fonda (and possibly some others), were also permitted, on certain conditions, to return home ; the latter, and his brother Adam, casting lots to see which should be retained a prisoner. The captives thus liberated, were given a "pass," by Col. Johnson, lest they might meet some of the enemy, and be retaken. They bad not proceeded far when Veeder, who was a brother of Lieut.-Col. Volkert Veeder, halted to read his pass. " Well," said his companion, Fonda, in Low Dutch, " you may stop here to read your pass, if you choose, but I prefer reading mine when out of danger of them red devils of Sir John's."-Evert Yates.
Colonels Harper and Volkert Veeder, collected, as speedily as possible, the scattered militia of Tryon county, to pursue the invaders, but being too weak to successfully give them battle, they were permitted, almost unmolested, to escape with their booty to Canada. John J. Hanson, captured at Tribes' Hill, after journeying with the enemy two days, effected his escape, and arrived half-starved, at the dwelling of a German, living back of Stone Arabia, who supplied him with food, and he reached Fort Hunter in safety.-Mrs. Evert Yates.
Death of a Farmer.-In the summer of l780, as believed, Simon Groat was pursued from a field in which he was at work on the south side of the Mohawk, six or eight miles above Schenectada, by a party of Indians and tories. He ran down the river bank and called to John Clement, who was at work on the opposite side, to come with a canoe and take him across. He replied that he dared not do it. Attempting to ford the stream, Groat was shot and sank into the water and disappeared. Clement made his escape.-John S. Clement, in 1855.
How Jacob Enders Captures Two Armed Spies in the Schoharie Settlements.-Among the native yeomanry of the Schoharie valley who aided in defending its domestic altars, was Jacob Enders, a descendant of one of its earliest German settlers. Early in the summer of 1780, Enders and a soldier named Williams, who had been a settler near Harpersfield, were sent on a scout from the Schoharie forts to reconnoitre near the sources of the Charlotte and Delaware rivers. They had not proceeded far, when Williams feigning sickness, returned to Schoharie and left his companion to perform the remaining duty alone. Enders was gone three days, visited the places he was required to, and set his face homeward without seeing a human being. Out of provisions, he was journeying from Harpersfield through Jefferson, towards the upper (Schoharie) fort, by way of the Hager settlement (now North Blenheim) and still distant 10 or 12 miles from the fort, when he fell in with and captured two prisoners.
Near the foot-path of his route, he discovered two men seated upon a rock or log beside a little brook eating their dinner. He rightly conjectured they were not from Schoharie, and at once resolved to make them prisoners. To undertake the capture of two armed men in the wilderness without knowing they were unattended, was a bold project, but well suited to the spirit of the scout; but much of the war was a romance and many were the actors in its novel scenes. Advancing to within pistol shot distance, he gained the covert of a large sugar maple unobserved by the strangers. As though addressing scores of troops, Enders shouted in a voice of thunder : "My men, hold yourselves in readiness to fire ! " and turning toward the strangers, he bade them instantly to surrender themselves his prisoners, it they would have their lives spared ! So sudden and unexpected was their surprise, that they laid down their arms and ammunition at his command, and walked off as he bade them several rods ; supposing every rock and tree in their rear concealed a rebel rifle. Enders lost not a moment in securing the guns and ammunition of his prisoners. Hastily removing the locks from the guns, with a screw driver which he carried, he put them into his pocket, and then laying down the guns he bade his prisoners take them up and proceed before him in the direction of the fort. A more chop-fallen pair was not seen on the frontiers of New York in the whole war, than were the prisoners of Enders, when they discovered the ruse he had played on them. Although wearied and faint as the scout was but an hour before, the excitement created by the novelty of his position, enabled him to complete the rest of his journey before sunset, entering the Schoharie valley near Henry Mattice's mill. On the surrender of the prisoners bearing their own guns, to Capt. Hager, great were the plaudits of the garrison bestowed upon the brave Enders ; the muzzle of whose gun had kept the prisoners about two rods in advance of him.
When brought in, the captives each had an extra pair of shoes, which had been worn but little, and which they now put on, giving away their old ones. Their story was that they belonged to a Pennsylvania regiment, and were scouting on the frontiers of that State, when they became lost, and strayed to where they were taken. After an examination, the prisoners were sent by Capt. Hager to the middle fort; where a very rigid search of their persons and dress was made without finding anything to criminate them, and they were set at liberty: although not a few doubted the truth of their narrative-asking very properly why a scout should have an extra pair of shoes ? The reason assigned by the men for having them was, that they were taking them for soldiers at one of the Pennsylvania forts. It subsequently became known at Schoharie, that the prisoners made by Enders were what he had taken them to be, spies directly from Canada, and that on being released, they proceeded to the vicinity of Athens and delivered to some royalist near the former residence of Col. Huetson (who had been hung some time before), their Canadian letters, which were sewed between the soles of their shoes. This narrative was obtained from Jacob Enders, at Sloansville, in May 1847.
P. S. This old hero was found drowned in the Schoharie, on Tuesday, January 4, 1848. It was supposed that in passing along upon its bank in going to his home, he accidentally slipped and fell in, and being almost helpless-for he had been palsied for years-was soon chilled to death ; for the water was shallow where he was found. Such was the opinion of the coroner's inquest on this occasion. He was 91 years old on the 25th day of August, preceding his death. As there were no relatives near, the Schoharie Lodge of Odd Fellows took charge of his remains and buried them with laudable zeal and becoming respect. The funeral was attended in the Lutheran church, and a discourse adapted to the occasion was delivered by Rev. Dr. G. A. Lintner, after which the remains were interred in accordance with the deceased's request, in the cemetery of the ancient stone church or fort; which building, when invaded by the enemy in 1780, himself and kindred spirits stood ready to defend to the death.
Captivity of the Hynds Family.--The following facts were obtained, in 1837, from Henry Hynds, * a son of William Hynds, who was one of the few whigs living in New Dorlach, in the Revolution. On the evening of July 4th, 1780, a party of the
*He died at Hyndsville, N. Y., Jan. 9, 1852, aged 88 years.
enemy, consisting of seven Indians, a squaw, and one white man, Capt. Adam Crysler, arrived in the settlement and put up, as was afterwards learned, at the house of Michael Merckley. The ostensible object of their visit was, to capture Bastian France, as a son of the latter informed the author ; but as he chanced to be from home, at the suggestion of the Merckley family, they concluded to seize upon some other Whigs in the vicinity. As there was but little intercourse among distant neighbors in that busy season of the year, and William Hynds, was living in quite a retired place, it was suggested to Crysler, that if this family was carried into captivity, and the house not burned, they might be gone a week and no one else know of their absence. The suggestion was received with favor, and the next day, as the family of Hynds were at dinner, they were surprised and taken prisoners. As the captors approached the dwelling, they fired a gun in at an open door, to intimidate the family ; and entering secured Mr. Hynds, his wife, daughters Catharine, and Mary, who were older than my informant, and four children, younger, Elizabeth, William, Lana, and an infant. The Indians then plundered the house of whatever they desired to take along. Henry was compelled to catch four horses belonging to his father, obedience to which command several of the party stood with ready rifles to enforce, and prevent his escape. Upon the backs of three of the horses was placed the plunder made in the dwelling ; and upon the fourth, on a man's saddle, Mrs. Hynds, with several of her youngest children, was permitted to ride. The party moved forward about two o'clock, and traveled that afternoon to Lake Utsayantho, and encamped near the Champion place, seven miles distant from the dwelling of Hynds. The second night they encamped in an orchard near Collier's. Among the plunder taken from the dwelling of Hynds, was a quantity of ham and pork, which the Indians ate; giving the prisoners flour, which they made into pudding.
Mr. Hynds was bound nights, and a rope laid across his body, each end of which was tied to an Indian. The party were three weeks going to Niagara ; and killed on the route one deer, several muskrats, otters, etc., which served for food. In lieu of salt, they used ashes, and the family continued well until they reached Niagara. The large children went barefooted nearly all the way to Canada. Soon after they started, the squaw took from Henry, then 16 years old, his shoes, which, as she could not wear them, she threw away. While journeying, they built fires nights, around which they slept upon the ground. Soup was their usual supper. On passing Indian villages, the prisoners were much abused by squaws and children ; and on one occasion Mr. Hynds was knocked down by a blow upon the head with an empty bottle.
Soon after their arrival at Niagara, Mr. Hynds and all his family, except Henry, took the fever and ague, of which William, a promising lad, died. The prisoners were at Niagara when the troops under Sir John Johnson, destined to ravish the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys, set out on their journey. The tories from Schoharie and New Dorlach, who accompanied the army, often boasted to the prisoners that Albany would soon be taken by the British, when themselves were to possess certain choice sections of the Schoharie flats. Mary, then fourteen or fifteen years of age, was separated from the family at Niagara, and taken to supply a vacancy in an Indian family, occasioned by the death of one of its members. Some time in the fall, the prisoners were removed to Buck's Island, where Elizabeth, the child next older than William, also died. From the Island, they were removed to Montreal, where Lana, the youngest child but one, died. Mrs. Hynds, whose constitution was undermined by her mental and bodily sufferings, with her infant child, soon after followed her other three children to the grave ; reducing the family from nine to four. In the winter following his capture, Henry had a severe attack of fever and ague, and was removed from the guard-house to the hospital ; where he was properly treated and soon recovered.
About two years and a half after their capture, Mr. Hynds, his son Henry, and daughter Catharine, with nearly three hundred other prisoners, returned home by the usual route down the Hudson river. Mary was detained nearly three years longer in Canada, but finally returned. As was surmised, the wparthigs of New Dorlach knew nothing of the capture of Mr. Hynds and his family until they had been gone three or four days.
An Indian Visits the Upper Schoharie Fort.-The greater of the month of July, 1780, Seth's Henry, and a few other Indians, were secreted about the Schoharie settlements, in the hope of killing or surprising some of the principal settlers, as he stated after the war.
One dark night, this Indian, says Josias E. Vrooman, visited the upper fort, in the hope of surprising a sentinel. He commenced climbing up at one of the sentry-boxes, with a spear in his hand, but before he was within reach of the sentinel, who chanced on that night to be Frederick Quant, the latter heard his approach, and gave the usual challenge. The Indian then dropped down upon the ground and threw himself under one of the farm wagons which usually clustered around the outside of the pickets. A ball from the rifle of Quant, fired in the direction he ran, entered a wagon near his head, but the Indian made his escape.
Captivity of William Bouck and Others.-For the following particulars the author is indebted to the manuscript of Judge Hager to Col. J. W. Bouck, and the memory of Dick, a former slave belonging to the Bouck family.
About the 25 th of July, William Bouck, an elderly man, the one mentioned as the first white male child born in Schoharie, went from the upper fort to his dwelling, situated where Wilhelmus Bouck formerly resided (nearly two miles distant from said fort), to secure his crops, taking with him a girl named Nancy Lattimore, a female slave, and her three children, two sons and a daughter. As the family were making preparations in the evening to retire to rest, Seth's Henry and three other Indians entered the house and captured them, securing the little plunder it chanced to contain. The leader was disappointed in not finding either of Mr. Bouck's three sons at home.
Dick Bouck, the youngest of the slaves, as the enemy entered the house, sprang behind a door which stood open, and escaped their notice. The other prisoners were taken out, and as they were about to start on their journey, Master Dick, afraid of being left alone in the dark, made some noise on purpose to attract their attention, and one of the Indians re-entered the house and " hustled him out." Speaking of his capture, Dick said : "I made a noise, like a tam fool, and de Ingens took me dar prisoner." The party then set forward, and the captor of Dick (then eight years old) took him upon his back, and carried him as far as the residence of the late Gen. Patchin, a distance of seven or eight miles, where they encamped. The enemy expected to be pursued the following day, when it would undoubtedly become known that Mr. Bouck had been captured, and before daylight the march was resumed. After sunrise, Dick had to travel on foot with the other prisoners; and on the following night they encamped at Harpersfield. At this place lived a Scotch tory, named Hugh Rose, who made jonny-cake for the Indians, which the latter shared with their prisoners. " Dis," said Dick, " was de fus food de gabe us fore we lef home." While on their way from the Patchin place to Harpersfield, the party, for obvious reasons, avoided the beaten road, but Dick, who said " de bushes hurt him feet," embraced repeated opportunities to steal into it, and sometimes traveled several rods in it, before his violation of their commands was observed. He often was cunning enough to leave the road just in time to avoid detection, but repeatedly he was caught in "the forbidden path," when he was put upon a new trail, with a threat or a slap. Rose furnished provisions for the enemy to subsist on a part of the way to Canada, and they left his house about 8 o'clock the next morning.
William Bouck, Jr., was out on a scout from the upper fort at the time his father's family was captured. This scout consisted of Bouck, John Haggidorn, Bartholomew C. Vrooman (the first husband of Mrs. Van Slyck before mentioned), and Bartholomew Haggidorn. They were sent on the errand which had led so many scouts in that direction-to anticipate, if possible, any hostile movement of the enemy. The Indians, with their prisoners, had been gone but a very short time from the house of Rose, before the scout named entered it. They enquired of Rose if there were any Indians in that vicinity. " Yes," he replied, " the woods are full of them." They desired to know in what direction they were from his house, when, instead of sending them from, he directed them towards the enemy. The footsteps of the scout arrested the attention of the Indians, who halted, leveled their rifles, and waited the approach of the former. The Indians were on a rise of ground, and as Bouck looked up he saw Nancy, waving her bonnet, with fear depicted in her countenance, which signal he rightly conjectured was intended to warn him of danger, and direct his flight in another course. He instantly divined the reason of her being there, and appraising his comrades of their peril, he turned and fled in an opposite direction. At that instant the Indians fired, and John Hagidorn was wounded in the hip, and a ball passed through the cravat of Bouck, which was tied around his neck. Haggidorn fell, but instantly sprang up and followed his companions. Had they known that there were but four of the enemy, they would no doubt have turned upon them and rescued the prisoners. The scout returned to the house of Rose, and as Haggidorn was too severely wounded to proceed, he was left by his friends, who assured the tory that if harm befell their wounded friend, or he was not well taken care of, his own life should be the forfeit.
As was anticipated, Bouck was missing in the morning, and as soon as information of the fact reached the fort, Capt. Hager despatched about twenty men, under the command of Lieutenants Ephraim Vrooman and Joseph Harper, in pursuit of the captors. They rightly conjectured the enemy would take the usual route towards Harpersfield, and after proceeding in uncertainty until they discovered the track of Dick in the path, which they at once supposed left the impression of his heel, they pushed forward rapidly. The scout bad gone but a few miles towards the fort, when they fortunately fell in with the pursuing party, and instantly joined it. After arriving at the place where Haggidorn had been wounded, they soon struck upon the trail of the enemy, which ascended the high grounds near. The Indians had gone but a mile or two beyond where the scout saw them, and halted to rest upon a narrow plain near the top of mountain, where three of them remained with the prisoners, while Seth's Henry ascended to the summit, which afforded a most extended prospect, to reconnoitre. The Indians left with the prisoners, feeling themselves secure, had laid down their packs, and were in the act of mending their moccasins, as the Americans were cautiously winding their way up the acclivity.
Seth's Henry, from his elevated position, had completely overlooked his approaching foes, and feeling satisfied that they were now safe, he had just returned to his companions and told them they were out of danger from pursuit, as the Americans gained a view of them within rifle-shot distance. The lives of the prisoners being endangered, several of whom were nearest the Americans, prevented the instant discharge of a volley of balls, but as Leek had a fair aim upon an Indian, he snapped and his rifle unfortunately missed fire. Hearing the click, the Indians instantly sprang to their feet, seized their weapons, and leaving their prisoners and packs, giving a whoop and exclaiming " Yankees," fled barefooted down the mountain in an opposite direction. The prisoners were then unbound, grateful for so unexpected a deliverance, and the party descended the hill and proceeded to the dwelling of Rose. A litter was there prepared, on which Haggidorn was carried by his friends to the fort, where, under proper treatment, he recovered.
If Seth's Henry was foiled in taking Mr. Bouck and his family to Canada, it did not discourage him from making other attempts to surprise some of the Schoharie citizens. Familiar as he was with every hill, dale, ravine, and cluster of shrubbery along the river, he was enabled often to approach the very dwellings of the settlers, without being observed.
He told Mrs. Van Slyck, after the war, that on Tuesday, one week before the destruction of Vrooman's Land, and about a week after his capture of William Bouck, himself and two other Indians, one of whom was called William, his sister's son, lay concealed near a spring, in an angle of a fence, by the thick shade of a sassafras tree, not far from her father's dwelling, when she, with a pail, went to the spring for water-that William wanted to shoot her, but he would not let him.
Close Quarters.-Mrs. Van Slyck stated that on the day referred to, her father, Samuel Vrooman, was at work, with several others, in a field of grain not far from his house, where a small party of riflemen were in attendance to guard them ; and that she was at home alone to prepare their dinner. When she had it about ready, she went, with a pail, to the spring for water. As she approached it she saw the moccasined track of an Indian, which she at once recognized as such, but recently made. In an instant she was seized with lively apprehension ; and the first thought-as she felt her hair move on her head-was that she would turn and run ; but this would betray to the enemy her knowledge of their supposed proximity ; whereas, if she did not pretend to notice the track, if her scalp was not what the foe sought, she would doubtless escape. She therefore walked boldly up to the spring, dipped her pail, and walked back to the house. She expected, at every step, to hear the crack of a rifle discharged at herself, and passing several stumps on the way, this, and this, thought she, will shield me for the moment. On arriving at the house, she set down her pail and ran to the field (leaving several gates open) to tell her friends what she had seen at the spring. The soldiers visited it and saw the Indian foot-marks, but the makers, observing their approach, had fled.
Seth's Henry pretended after the war, that nothing but his friendship for her saved informant's life at the spring, but the fear of pursuit from the riflemen near, was, perhaps, the real cause of her escape. William, who leveled his rifle at her, and was prevented firing by the caution of his leader, had, for many years, held a grudge against her. Being often at her father's house before the war, she one day accused him of stealing geese eggs, which he resented, although perhaps guilty, drew his knife and struck a blow at her, the blade of which entered the right thigh upon the outside, leaving an indelible evidence of his resentment. This ugly looking scar she carried to her grave.
The same day that those Indians were concealed at Vrooman's spring, they were discovered elsewhere by some person in the settlement. Seth's Henry told Mrs. Van Slyck, that the night preceding his visit to the spring, he, with his companions, had entered the kitchen of Ephraim Vrooman's dwelling, and finding a kettle of supawn, made use of it for their suppers. Two Germans lodged in the house that night; a fact unknown to the Indians, as was to the former the visit of the latter. After procuring food at this house, they went to the barn of Samue Vrooman, where they tarried over night. Thus were an armed and savage foe often prowling about the very dwellings of the frontier settlers of New York, without their knowledge.
Colored Men Take the Responsibility.-Seth's Henry, at his interview, also stated to Mrs. Van Slyck, that some time in the summer of 1780, seven Indians (of which number, was the Schoharie Indian, William), went into the vicinity of Catskill to capture prisoners. That they visited a small settlement where the whites were from home, and soon succeeded in capturing seven lusty negroes. The latter generally went so willingly into captivity that they were seldom bound in the day-time. After traveling some distance, the party halted upon the bank of a spring to rest, when the Indians, leaving their guns behind them, descended to drink. The favorable moment was seized by the prisoners to liberate themselves, and snatching up the guns, they -fired upon their captors, four of whom were killed; the other three fled, and William was the only one who recovered his trusty rifle. The Negroes, with the six guns, returned home in due time, without further molestation.
Capt. Richtmyer, who resided near the Middle fort, was told by Joseph Ecker (a Tory, who returned to Schoharie after the war), that on a certain day, four tories, a Shafer, a Winne, a Miller and another person he would not name, (supposed by Capt. R., to have been Ecker himself), were secreted all day near his meadow, not far from the present site of the county poor house, in the hope of making him their prisoner. The grass was cut, and they expected the Captain would be there to cure it, but fortunately Col. Zelie ordered him to superintend the making of cartridges at the fort, and next day several soldiers were sent from the fort to guard the workmen. Thus was the design of the enemy frustrated. Four places of concealment were made and occupied by the Tories near the field, by setting up green twigs, which were afterwards noticed by the citizens. - George, a son of Capt. Richtmyer.
the Canajoharie District.-I come now to one of the most important invasions,
because one of the most destructive made by the enemy in Tryon county during
the war. When the militia of the vicinity had been drawn from their homes
to guard bateaux on their way up the Mohawk with stores for Fort Stanwix ;
Brant, with whom were associated Cornplanter and other distinguished chiefs,
with a large body of warriors and tories desolated the settlement. Here is
part of a letter from Col. Samuel Clyde to Gov. George Clinton, written three
days after the event, which shows the success of the destructives :
"CANAJOHARIE, August 6, 1780.
" SIR-I here send you an account of the fate of our district:
On the 2d day of this inst., Joseph Brant, at the head of four or five hundred Indians and Tories, broke in upon the settlements, and laid the best part of the district in ashes, and killed 16 of the inhabitants, that we have found, took between 50 and 60 prisoners-mostly women and children-12 of whom they have sent back. They have killed or drove away with them, upwards of 300 head of cattle and horses ; have burned 53 dwelling houses, besides some out-houses, and as many barns ; one very elegant church, and one grist-mill, and two small forts that the women fled out of. They have burned 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- Stanwix-to guard nine bateaux half laden. It was said the enemy intended to take them on their passage to Fort Schuyler. There was scarce a man left that was able to go. It seems that everything 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."
Brant, apprised in some manner of the intended movement of supplies, threw out a hint that he would cut them off in their transit to Fort Stanwix ; consequently the militia were drawn from the defense of their own homes, and suffered in human life and property, a disaster next to that of Oriskany. I have gathered some interesting details of the invasion, which will find a place here.
As I have elsewhere shown, it was at this visit of the enemy that the old Indian trader, John Abeel, became the captive of his own son, the Seneca warrior Cornplanter, who kindly sent him back to the ashes of his own home and the bosom of his family.
About the time of this invasion a party of the enemy appeared in the vicinity of Fort Dayton. Two Indians had the temerity to approach a barn, in which two men were threshing, on whom they fired. The flail-stick in the hands of one was nearly severed by a bullet, but the young farmers escaped to the fort. It was well garrisoned, and a party of Americans being then mounted, pursued and killed both the Indians. The enemy succeeded, however, in capturing the wife of Jacob Shoemaker, and her son, a lad some 10 years old, who were in a field picking green peas. On their arrival in Canada, Sir John Johnson, paid seven dollars to ransom the mother, who, leaving her son in captivity, arrived at Albany sometime after, from whence she was carried to Schenectada in a wagon, by Isaac Covenhoven, and from thence she accompanied one Waldradt, a former neighbor, to Herkimer.-Isaac Covenhoven, who was at Fort Dayton during the invasion.
A Bear Story.-One of the earliest German settlers in Dutchtown, was a man named Lively, who, when out hunting, shot a bear, which turned upon him and scratched out one of his eyes. He would probably have lost his life, had not his little dog, Penny, attacked bruin in the rear and caused him to relax his hold on the master to meet his new foe ; when Mr. Lively made " lively " tracks and got away. Some of his neighbors went in pursuit of the bear and found him dead, from the gun-shot wound. The hunter was told that he must thank Providence for his life. "No," he replied, "I must thank Penny for it." Wolves were so numerous in this settlement, that sheep had to be folded nights as late as 1773.-George Countryman.
Col. Ebenezer Cox, who fell at Oriskany, resided, at the time of his death, on the south side of the Mohawk, not far from the present residence of Jacob Sanders, in Minden, perhaps a mile from St. Johnsville. The Cox farm is now owned by Samuel F. Smith, whose wife is a grand-daughter of Colonel Cox. The farm has always been in the possession of his descendants.- Dewit C. Cox, a grand-son of Colonel Cox.
More of Brant's Invasion.-Jacob Nellis, a man of family in Dutchtown, set out to go to Indian Castle, and was shot in the road opposite the mouth of East Canada creek. His father, Henry Nellis, who was called the oldest man of the name, and supposed to have been living with his son ; seeing the enemy approaching, adopted a ruse which saved himself and the rest of the family. He shouted at the top of his voice, " Here they are boys ! March up ! march up !" The Indians, hearing and fearing the order, skedaddled into the bushes and disappeared-no doubt supposing the house fortified. In their hot haste to get away, they abandoned some plunder made elsewhere. A German doctor, named Frank, and his wife were also killed in Dutchtown, and, where she fell, her blood killed the grass, so that the spot was identified for a long time. Frederick Countryman was also surprised and slain.* He was found to have been stabbed with a spear 19 times, as was said by a tory from Fort Hunter. An elderly man, named House, was slain in the Geisenberg settlement. He was first captured, and proceeded a little distance between two Indians, who, thinking he would be a trouble to them, tomahawked and scalped him. A girl, named Martha House, supposed of the same family, was taken to Canada thinly clad, and was almost naked on arriving there. Her Indian captor treated her kindly. She dreamed, the night before, that she was a prisoner. After her return she married a man named Staley, who had also been in a Canadian prison.- Henry Smith and George Countryman.
The First Scholar in Dutchtown.-The first schoolmaster there, said my informant who attended it, was John Pickard, a self educated German. He taught before the war in a log building erected for the purpose, which the enemy did not burn; for the reason, probably, that it afforded no plunder. After Fort Willet was built he kept a school in a hut within the inclosure, until near the close of the war, when he sickened from some disease prevailing in the fort and died within it. What this sickness was is unknown, but the Indians' remedy was resorted to for its correction. A lad named Owen, living in the Henry Sanders family, caught a live skunk, which was set at liberty in the fort and the disease was stayed; one would think that it ought to have been. After the war, a Hessian named Glazier, who came into the State under Burgoyne, kept the Dutchtown school, instructing in both German and English. -George Countryman.
The last victims of a savage death in the westerly part of
* Brant came up just after the event and expressed his regret that Countryman had been killed. Said he, " It is as it is, but if it had not been it should not happen."
Minden, were Frederick Young and a man named House. They had gone to a field to look at a colt, when a small party of the enemy supposed all to have been Indians concealed behind a stone heap shot them down. Young, a man very highly esteemed was not killed, and as an Indian approached to scalp him, he caught the knife blade in his hand, which was drawn through it nearly severing the fingers. Both were scalped, but Young was found alive and taken to the fort, where he died before night. They were shot within sight of the fort, but the enemy escaped with their bloody booty. This event happened eight days after the inhabitants had news that peace had been ratified, which gave it a saddening hue. It is not probable that these forest-sons had heard the peace news.
After Brant's invasion of August 1780, nine citizens without coffins were buried in one grave at Fort Plank.- George Countryman.
Christian Pease, with a son seven or eight years old, was taken prisoner in Dutchtown at some period of the war. On their way to Canada, the party was much straitened for food, and Pease discovering a dead fish in a pond, waded in and got it. It fell apart on reaching the shore, when the Indians gathered it up, put it into a pot with wild onions making of it a kind of soup. Pease told his friends that for three or four days his breath was almost intolerable. He lived to come back, and after many years died in Dutchtown.- George Countryman.
Generosity of Brant.-Among the prisoners made in Dutchtown, Geisenbergh and Freysbush, were a dozen or more young women who were brought together at the main encampment of the enemy, who had gone some distance from the valley to elude pursuit, many of whom were personally known to the chieftain, Brant. In an address delivered before a Fort Plain audience by the late Rev. Dr. G. A. Lintner, who was born in the invaded district and had the opportunity of learning from, the lips of those female prisoners the facts in the case, here are his words corroborated by George Countryman, who lived at that eventful period, of Brant's conduct at the time.
" He occasionally exhibited traits of humanity, which were redeeming qualities of his character. On the evening of the day when the Canajoharie settlement was destroyed by the Indians under his command, some 12 or 15 women were brought, in as prisoners. Brant saw their distress and his heart was touched with compassion. While the Indians were regaling themselves over their plunder-dancing and yelling around their camp fires, Brant approached the little company of terror-stricken prisoners and said : " Follow me ! " They expected to be led to instant death, but he conducted them through the darkness of that dreadful night to a place in the woods some distance from the Indian camp, where he ordered them to sit down and keep still until the next day, when the sun should have reached a mark which he made on a tree, and then they might return home. He then left them. The next morning a little before break of day, he came again and made another mark higher on the tree and told them they must not set out till the sun had reached that mark ; for some of his Indians were still back, and if they met them they would be killed. They remained according to his directions, and then they safely returned to the settlement."
I have elsewhere mentioned Mr. Lintner's statement of the grief manifested by Brant over the fall of Lieut. Wormuth near Cherry Valley, whose life, when recognized, he would have spared, but on the assurance of the fallen hero that he could not survive, Brant turned with a look of sadness and a signal to one of his followers, that soon placed him beyond suffering.
Why a House was not Burned.-In the general destruction of the Dutchtown settlements in Minden, by Indians and tories, in the summer of 1780, to the surprise of every one, the house of George Countryman remained unharmed ; since it was well known that there was not a more staunch whig in the neighborhood. This circumstance remained a mystery, however, until the close of the war. He had a brother who had followed the Johnsons and Butlers to Canada, who was with the horde of invaders on the occasion named. He was a married man, and, supposing his wife was at the house of his brother, his entreaties to have it spared prevailed ; and it stood a seeming monument of savage mercy. After the war this brother sent word, from Canada, to George, informing him why his house had been spared the incendiary torch, assuring him also that, had he known at the time that his own wife was not in it, he would have seen that smoke with the rest. George was so angered by this message that he at once wrote to his brother never to darken his door again, "since," he added, "you have not only been false to your country, but a traitor to your king." He never returned to the home of his childhood, but sent for his wife, who joined him in Canada, where they remained. -George Countryman, Jr.
Express Messengers.-It has been the wonder of many people, how, in the absence of agents of the present day, such as telegraphs, railroads, and stage and mail conveyances, intelligence in the military service was communicated from one point to another. On short distances, footmen took express messages, and Oneida Indians were often entrusted with forest messages; while constables and privates or non-commissioned soldiers were sent on foot or on horseback from one frontier point to another to discharge such duties; speed, shrewdness and caution being the characteristics of success. Here is a message from Gen. Washington, which is introduced to show how important information was communicated between distant points. This letter, which I find in the October number of Dawson's Historical Magazine for 1866, was dated where Benedict Arnold held his treasonable correspondence with Sir Henry Clinton, for the surrender of West Point, and was directed to Nathaniel Shaw, Esq., a wealthy and influential merchant of New London, Connecticut ; a man whose judgment and patriotism were at all times to be trusted.
QUARTERS, ROBINSON HOUSE, 31st July, 1780.
"SIR-In the present situation of Affairs, it is indispensably necessary that we should have the most instantaneous advices of the movements of the enemy at Rhode Island. For this purpose I have posted relays of dragoons at every 15 miles distance between New London and the head quarters of the army. Thus taking as many as we can consistently spare, I shall be exceedingly obliged to you to hire as many trusty men with their horses as will continue the chain from New London to Tower Hill, posting three at every 15 miles, with orders to ride by night or by day whenever dispatches arrive at their quarters. I will be answerable for their pay while in service, which will be as long as the British fleet and army are at or off Rhode Island. Should you not be able to accomplish this business, you will inform the officer, the bearer of this, who must, in that case, carry the dragoons the whole way through, however inconvenient it may be. I shall also be obliged to you to have a constant look out kept upon the sound, and if the fleet appear standing from the Eastward toward New York, to give me instant intelligence of it by the chain of express.
" I am, with great respect, sir,
" Your most obt. svt.,
" GEO. WASHINGTON."
Schoharie Valley Invaded.-It is probable the Schoharie settlers had been notified of the misfortunes of their friends in the Mohawk valley, and were anxious to guard against any surprise. The Schoharie forts were feebly garrisoned at the lime, but small parties of soldiers were constantly engaged during the day, to guard the more exposed inhabitants while harvesting an unusual growth of wheat.
Early on the morning of August 9th, three days after the destruction of the Canajoharie settlements, a scout, consisting of Conradt Winnie, Leek, and Hoever, was sent by Captain Hager, from the Upper fort, to reconnoitre in the western part of the present town of Fulton. The scout was instructed to return immediately to the fort, without firing, if they saw any of the enemy, and were not themselves discovered. In that part of Fulton now called Byrnville, or Sap Bush Hollow, some five or six miles distant from the Upper fort ; the scout seated themselves upon a fallen tree, near the late residence of Edwin M. Dexter, to eat their breakfast; and while eating, a white man, painted as in Indian, made his appearance within some 50 yards of them. Stooping down as nature prompted, he became so good a mark that Leek, who was a dead shot, not seeing any one else, could not resist the temptation to fire, and levelling his rifle, the tory was instantly weltering in his gore. As surgical instruments were afterwards found upon his person, he was supposed to have been a surgeon, in the employ of Brant. A small stream of water near, which took its name from the killing of this man, whose carcass rotted by it, has been called Dead Man's creek, ever since.
Leek had not time to reload his piece, before the enemy appeared in sight. The scout tied, hotly pursued by a party of Indians, who passed their dying comrade without halting. Hoover had to drop his knapsack, containing some valuable articles, to outrun his pursuers, which he afterwards recovered, the enemy supposing it contained nothing more than a soldier's luncheon. They were so closely followed that they were separated ; Leek flying towards the fort, while Hoever and Winne were driven into the woods, in an opposite direction. The two latter afterwards saw, from a place of concealment near the Schoharie, in the present town of Blenheim, their prisoners and plunder. Leek reached the fort in safely, after a race of nine or 10 miles, but not enough in advance of his pursuers, to have a seasonable alarm given to warn citizens of impending danger. The single discharge of a cannon was hte usual signal; if the discharge was repeated, it was considered hazardous to approach the fort, while a third successive discharge served to assure the citizen that he could not possibly reach the fort without encountering the enemy. Indeed, the signals were the same at all the frontier posts.
The invaders, consisting of 73 Indians, almost naked, and five tories-Benjamin Beacraft, Frederick Sager, Walter Allot, one Thompson, and a mulatto, commanded by Captain Brant, approached Vrooman's Land in the vicinity of the Upper fort, about 10 o'clock in the morning. They entered the valley on the west side of the river, above the Onistagrawa in three places: one party coming down from the mountain near the late residence of Charles Watson ; another near the Jacob Haines place, then the residence of Capt. Tunis Vrooman ; and the third near the dwelling of the late Harmanus Vrooman, at that time the residence of Col. Peter Vrooman, who chanced to be with his family in the Middle fort.
Captain Hager had gone, on the morning of that day, to his farm attended by a small guard, to draw in some hay, nearly seven miles distant from the Upper fort, the command of which then devolved on Tunis Vrooman, captain of the "Associated Exempts." Although the citizens of Schoharie had huts at the several forts where they usually lodged nights, and where their clothing and most valuable effects were kept during the summer, the female part of many families were in the daily habit of visiting their dwellings to do certain kinds of work, while their husbands were engaged in securing their crops. On the morning of the day in question, Captain Vrooman also returned home to secure wheat, accompanied by his family-his wife to do her washing. The command of the garrison next belonged to Ephraim Vrooman, a Lieutenant under Captain Hager, but as he went to his farm soon after Captain Vrooman left, it finally devolved on Lieut. William Harper, who had not a dozen men with him in the fort. The wife of Lieutenant Vrooman also returned home to do her washing.*
Captain Vrooman, who had drawn one load of wheat to a barrack before breakfast, arose on that morning with a presentiment that some disastrous event was about to happen, which he could not drive from his mind ; and he expressed his forebodings at the breakfast table. Four rifle-men called at his house in the morning and took breakfast with him, but returned to the
* Mrs. Vrooman said to her friends as she left the fort, " This is the last morning I intend to go to my house to work." Her words were truly prophetic.- Andrew Loucks.
fort soon after, to attend the roll-call. Captain Vrooman's family consisted of himself, wife, four sons (John, Barney, Tunis and Peter), and two slaves, a male and female. After breakfast, Captain Vrooman and his sons drew another load of wheat to the barrack : and while it was unloading, he stopped repeatedly to look out towards the surrounding hills. The grain had not all been pitched from the wagon, before his worst fears were realized, and he beheld, descending upon the fiats near, a party of hostile savages. He descended from the barrack, not far from which he was tomahawked, scalped, and had his throat cut by a Schoharie Indian, named John ; who stood upon his shoulders while tearing off his scalp.
Many of the old Dutch dwellings in Schoharie (the outside doors of which were usually made in two parts, so that the lower half of the passage could be closed while the upper remained open), had a kitchen detached from them, and such was that of Capt. Vrooman. His wife was washing in a narrow passage between the buildings, when she was surprised and stricken down. After the first blow from the tomahawk, she remained standing, but a second blow laid her dead at the feet of an Indian, who also scalped her. The house was then plundered and set on fire, as was the barn, barracks of grain, hay, etc., and the three oldest boys, with the blacks, made captives, Peter, who fled on the first alarm and concealed himself in some bushes, would probably have escaped the notice of the enemy, had not one of the blacks made known his place of concealment ; he was then captured and taken along a short distance, but crying to return, he ran to a fence, to which he was pursued by the Tory Beacraft, who caught him, and placing his legs between his own, bent him back and cut his throat ; after which, he scalped and hung him across the fence.* Vrooman's horses
* Of the murder of this Vrooman boy, Beacralt took occasion repeatedly to boast, in the presence of the prisoners, while on his way to Canada; as also he did on several subsequent occasions; and yet he had the impudence to return, after the war closed, to Schoharie His wants becoming known, a party of about a dozen whigs one evening surrounded the house he was in. near where the bridge in Blenheim now stands, and leading him from it into a grove near, they stripped and bound him to a sapling, and then inflicted 50 lashes, with hickory gads, upon his bare back, telling him, at intervals of every 10, for what particular offense they were given, he was then unbound, and given his life on condition that he would instantly leave that valley, and never more polute its soil with his presence. He expressed his gratitude that his life was spared, left the settlement and was never afterwards heard from by the citizens of Schoharie - Captivity of Patchin, corroborated.
and given to the boys to hold, as were several
more, when the Indians were plundering, killing cattle and other
animals, and burning other buildings. While the Indians were
shooting hogs in the pen, a ball went through it and lodged in
the calf of John's leg ; which instantly brought him to the
ground ; the horses then ran towards the river, and two of them
were not recaptured.
The party which entered the valley at the dwelling of Col. Vrooman, were led by Brant in person, who hoped to surprise a rebel Colonel; but the services of that brave man were to be spared to his country. His family were also at the Middle fort.* From the dwelling of Col. Vrooman, which was a good brick tenement, and to which was applied the torch of destruction, teeth's Henry (with whom the reader has some acquaintance), led several of the enemy to" the dwelling of Lieut. Vrooman, which stood where Peter Kneiskern formerly lived. His family consisted of himself, wife Christina, sons Bartholomew and Josias E., and daughters Janett (four years old), and Christina (an infant), two Germans, Creshiboom and Hoffman, (captured at Burgoyne's surrender), and several slaves ; the latter, however, were at work near the river and escaped. On hearing the alarm, Vrooman ran to the house, caught up his infant child and fled into the corn-field, between his dwelling and the Onistagrawa, followed by his wife leading her little daughter ; said to have had long and beautiful hair for a child. He seated himself against the trunk of a large apple tree, and his wife was concealed a few rods from him in the thrifty corn. The road is now laid between the orchard and the mountain, but at the period of which I speak, it passed over the flats east of the dwelling. His family would, no doubt, have remained undiscovered, had Mrs. Vrooman continued silent; but not knowing where her husband was, and becoming alarmed, she rose up and called to him in Low Dutch : " Ephraim, Ephriam, where are you ; have you got the child ?" The words were scarcely uttered, when a bullet from the rifle of Seth's Henry pierced her body. When struggling upon the ground, he addressed her in
* From what has appeared in several publications, a belief has gone abroad that Col. Vrooman was a cowardly, weak man. The impression is very erroneous, he was far otherwise, as the author has had indubitable and repeated evidence.
the Dutch tongue, as follows : " Now say-what these Indian dogs do here " * He then tomahawked and scalped her.
While Seth's Henry was killing and scalping Mrs. Vrooman, the tory Bercraft, dressed as an Indian, killed her little daughter with a stone, and drew off her scalp ; in the meantime a powerful Indian directed by her call to her husband's place of concealment, approached him and thrust a spear at his body; which he parried, and the infant in his arms smiled. Another pass was made, and parried, and the child again smiled. At the third blow of the spear, which was also warded off, the little innocent, then only five months old, laughed aloud at the supposed sport; which awakened the sympathy of the savage, and he made Vrooman a prisoner. His sons and the Germans named, were also captured.
* This Indian had held a grudge against Mrs. Vrooman for many years. She was a Swart before marriage ; at which time, and just after the ceremony was performed, she entered the kitchen of her father's dwelling and seeing several young Indians there, she imprudently asked a by stander, in Dutch, " what do these Indian dogs do here ? " He remembered the expression, and his resentment led him directly to her residence, to revenge the insult -Mrs. Van Slyck.
Upon the top of this mountain (called by some Vrooman's Nose) which afforded a fine prospect of the valley, the enemy were often secreted to watch for exposed citizens.
John Vrooman, who dwelt where Bartholomew Vrooman afterwards lived, was captured, as were his wife and five children. His house was set on tire bat was put out. Adam A. Vrooman, who lived where Josias Vrooman did in 1845, fled to the Upper fort, three fourths of a mile distant, after being twice fired upon by the enemy. He had a pistol, and when the Indians gained upon him he presented it and they would fall back, but renewed the chase when he set forward. He was pursued until protected by the fort. On his arrival he was asked how he had escaped: his answer was, " I pulled foot." From that day to his death he was called " Pull Foot Vrooman." His wife was made a prisoner.
Simon Vrooman, who resided where Adam P. Vrooman formerly did, was taken prisoner, as were his wife and son, Jacob, a boy three years old. John Daly, aged over sixty ; Thomas Meriness, and James Turner, young men ; Abbey Eliza Stowits, a girl of seventeen summers ; the wife of Philip Hoover; the widow of Cornelius Vrooman, and several slaves, not mentioned, were also captured in Vrooman's Land, making the number of prisoners, in all, about 30. The five persons mentioned, were all that were killed at this time. Brant might easily have taken the Upper fort, had he known how feebly it was garrisoned.
Abraham Vrooman, who happened to be in Vrooman's Land with his wagon, on which was a hay-rack, when the alarm was given, drove down through the valley and picked up several of the citizens. On arriving at the residence of Judge Swart, who lived in the lower end of the settlement, he reined up and called to Swart's wife, then at an oven a little distance from the house, " Cornelia, jump into my wagon, the Indians are upon us! " She ran into the house, snatched her infant child* from its cradle, returned, and, with her husband, bounded into the wagon, which started forward just before the enemy, tomahawk in hand, reached their dwelling. Vrooman had a powerful team, and did not stop to open the gates, which then obstructed the highway, but drove directly against them, forcing them open. Passing
* The child thus seasonably rescued, became the wife of David Swart, of Shelb, Orleans county. New York.
under an apple tree, the rack on his wagon struck a limb, which sent it back against his head, causing the blood to flow freely. He drove to the Middle fort, which was also feebly garrisoned.
The destructives burnt, at this place, nine dwellings and the furniture they contained, with their barns and barracks, which were mostly tilled with an abundant harvest. Ninety good horses were also driven, with their owners, into captivity. Large slices of meat were cut from the carcases of the cattle and hogs, strewed along the valley, and hung across the backs of some of the horses, to serve as provisions for the party on their way to Canada. Among the plunder was a noble stud-horse, belonging to Judge Swart, and as the Indians were afraid of him, he was given young Tunis Vrooman to ride, who rode him all the way to Canada. His having the care of this horse caused the enemy to treat him kindly, and he was not compelled to run the gantlet.
Before Seth's Henry left the settlement, he placed his war club, which he believed was known to some of the citizens, in a conspicuous place and purposely left it. Notched upon it were the evidences, as traced by the Indians on similar weapons, of 35 scalps and 40 prisoners. No very pleasing record, as we may suppose, for the people of Schoharie, who knew that several of their own valuable citizens helped to swell the startling, though no doubt authentic record of the deeds of this crafty warrior.
On the arrival of Leek at the Upper fort, after being so hotly pursued, John Hagar (then at work on his father's place) hearing the alarm gun of the fort, mounted a horse, and rode up and informed Capt. Hager that the buildings were on fire in the valley below. The hay on his wagon, which was unloading in the barn, was quickly thrown off, and the few inhabitants of that vicinity were taken into it, driven into the woods, and concealed near Keyser's kill. Henry Hager started with the wagon, when a favorite dog, that began to bark, was caught by him, and fearing it would betray the fugitives, he cut its throat with his pocket knife. After proceeding some distance from his house, having forgotten some article he intended to have taken with him, he returned and found it already occupied by the enemy, who made him their prisoner. He was nearly 80 years old, and as he was known to the enemy to be a firm whig-his sons (one a Captain) and several of his grandsons all being in the rebel army-he was treated with marked severity.
The enemy, on leaving Vrooman's Land, proceeded with their booty and prisoners directly up the river. A grist-mill, owned by Adam Crysler, a tory Captain, and standing on the Lower Brakabeen creek, as called in old conveyances, which runs into the Schoharie near the residence of the late Samuel Lawyer, was sacked of the little flour it chanced to contain, and then set on fire-the tories, with the enemy, declaring that the whigs of Vrooman's Land should not be longer benefited by said mill. Several fragments of the mill-stone used in this mill, which was an Esopus conglomerate, have been recovered from the creek since 1841, and deposited in the cabinets of geologists. The Indians, on their arrival in that part of Brakabeen, burned all of Captain Hager's buildings, and Henry Hager's barn. Henry Mattice and Adam Brown, tories, accompanied the enemy from Brakabeen of their own accord.
I have said that the families of Capt. Hager and his father were concealed at Keyser's kill. The wagon which carried them from their homes was left in one place, the horses in another, and the women and children were sheltered beneath a rock in a ravine of the mountain stream before named. After the women and children were disposed of, Capt. Hager, taking with him his brother, Lawrence Bouck, Jacob Thomas, and several others who composed the guard mentioned, proceeded from Keyser's kill with due caution, to ascertain if the Upper fort had been captured. It was nearly noon when Brant left the vicinity of that fort, and nearly night when its commandant and his men reached it. On the following day the party concealed near Keyser's kill, were conveyed to the fort.
The 10th day of August, 1780, was one of sadness and mourning for the citizens of Vrooman's Land, some of whom had lost near relatives among the slain, and all, among the captives, either relatives or valued friends ; while the destruction of property to individuals was a loss, especially at that season of the year, when too late to grow sustenance for their families, to be most keenly felt and deplored. The burial of the dead took place the day after their massacre, on the farm of John Feeck, near the fort. The bodies of Captain Vrooman, his wife and son, were deposited in one grave, and that of Mrs. Ephraim Vrooman and her daughter, in another. The remains of the former woman presented a most horrible appearance. Left by her murderers between the burning "buildings, her flesh was partly consumed, exposing her entrails.
A presentiment.--When the dead body of Mrs. Ephraim Vrooman was first discovered in the corn-field, it was evident that she had partially recovered, and had vainly endeavored to staunch the flowing blood from the wound in her breast, first with her cap or some portion of her dress, and afterwards with earth, having dug quite, a hole in the ground. This woman, as one of her sons assured the writer, had had a presentiment for nearly three years that she was to be shot. She fancied she felt a cold substance passing through her body, from the back to the breast, and often the same sensation returned. She frequently expressed her fears in the family that she was to be shot, and singular as the coincidence may appear, when she was shot, the ball passed through her body where she had so long imagined it would. Nearly three years before her death, in the month of November, several of their apple trees were observed to be in blossom, which freak of nature the superstitious also considered an unfavorable omen.
Humanity of Brant.-The destroyers of Vrooman's Land proceeded in the afternoon about 15 miles, and encamped for the night. The scalps of the slain were stretched upon hoops, and dried in the presence of the relative prisoners, the oldest of whom were all bound nights. As the party was proceeding along the east shore of the Schoharie, in the afternoon, after journeying some six miles, Brant permitted the wife of John Vrooman, with her own infant, and that taken with Ephraim Vrooman, to return back to the settlement. From the late Daniel Hager place, another evidence of Brant's humanity, was still better exemplified the following day. The reader may desire to know the fate of this child, whose infant smiles had saved its father's life. Its mother being already dead, it was necessarily weaned, but at too tender an age, and three months after, it sickened and died. On the morning after the massacre, the line of march was again resumed, and when about half way from the Patchin place to Harpersfield, Brant yielded to the repeated importunities of several of his female captives, and perhaps the seasonable interference of several tory friends near, and permitted all of them (except Mrs. Simon Vrooman), with several male children-nearly one-half the whole number of prisoners-to return to Schoharie. Brant led the liberated captives aside nearly half a mile to a place of concealment, where he required them to remain until night. Among the liberated captives at this place, where my informant, Maria, a daughter of John Vrooman, afterwards the wife of Frederick Mattice, and her sister Susanna, subsequently the wife of Hoover, and their brother Bartholomew. These ladies knew Brant who yielded to their importunities and sent them and other captives back. The female prisoners, when captured, were plundered of their bonnets, neckerchiefs, beads, ear rings, etc., which articles, of course, they did not recover. Word having been sent to Schoharie that those prisoners had been liberated, Maj. Thomas Ecker, Lieut. Harper, and Schoharie John, a friendly Indian, who lived at Middleburgh during the war, was then not far from where Mrs. Vrooman had been left the preceding afternoon, with several horses ; and placing three persons on a horse, they conveyed them to the Upper fort, where they arrived just at dusk.
On the evening of the second day, the journeying party reached the Susquehanna. The prisoners were obliged to travel on foot, with the exception of Mrs. Vrooman, and the lad, Tunis Vrooman. The provisions on the journey were fresh meat after the first day, as they obtained but little flour, which was boiled into a pudding the first night. The meat taken from Schoharie was soon fly-blown, but when roasted in the coals it was feasted upon by the hungry prisoners. They progressed slowly, because they were obliged to hunt deer, and catch fish for food on their way, generally having enough to cat, such as it was. Fish they usually roasted whole in the coals. The parties that had been led by Brant and Quakok, a chief second in command in the Schoharie settlements, assembled at Oquago, when several hundred of the enemy, with their prisoners from the Mohawk valley, came together. *
The prisoners were separated at Oquago, and proceeded by different routes to Canada. Josias E. Vrooman, who was among those, claimed by Seneca warriors, went with a party up the Chemung. In the Genesee valley he saw a stake planted in the ground, some five or six feet high, which was painted red and sharpened at the top, on which was resting a fleshless skull. The Indians told the prisoners it was the skull of Lieut. Boyd, who was killed in that vicinity the year before, and each of them was compelled to hold it. Whether the skull shown was that of Lieut. Boyd, or some other prisoner who had shared a similar fate, cannot be known ; but as several teeth were found with Boyd's and Parker's bones, when removed, there can remain no doubt but that the head of Parker, which was identified by an old scar, was buried by his comrades.-C. Metcalf.
While on their journey, Lieutenant Vrooman was once led out between two Indians-one armed with a tomahawk and the other a knife-to be murdered. Standing on a log which lay across a marsh or mire between the Indians, he addressed them in their own dialect, and finally made his peace with them for some trifling offense, and his life was spared. The old patriot, Hager, was cruelly treated all the way, and was several times struck upon the head with the flat side of a tomahawk.
I have said that John, a son of Capt. Vrooman, was wounded by the enemy while holding his father's horses. He was compelled to travel on fool, and as no attention had been paid to the wound, it was soon filled with maggots, becoming exceedingly painful. The Indians began to talk of killing him, if he failed to keep up with them. His namesake, who was his uncle, then assumed the care of him, and dressed his wound with tobacco leaves ; when it gained a healthy appearance, and he was greatly relieved. While going through the Tonawanda swamp, the ball worked out and the wound soon healed.
On arriving in the Genesee valley, Mrs. Vrooman, then quite ill, was left there. Adam Vrooman, a brother of hers, from below the Helleberg, on hearing of her captivity, paid her ransom. Some of the prisoners were 22 days on their journey. On arriving at the Indian settlements, they were compelled to run the gantlet ; when some of them were seriously injured. A girl 12 or 14 years old, who was among the prisoners made in the Mohawk valley, was nearly killed ; and Simon Vrooman and John Daly were so badly hurt, that they both died soon after arriving at their journey's end. Vrooman's widow afterwards married a man named Markell, in Canada, and remained there. Meriness was taken to Quebec, and while there, attempted, with several other prisoners, to blow up the magazine. The design was discovered, and the conspirators were nearly whipped to death-two of them did die ; but Meriness finally recovered. Negro captives were seldom bound while on their way to Canada, nor were they compelled to run the gantlet. They hardly ever returned to the States to remain, generally adopting the Indian's life.* A negro belonging to Isaac Vrooman, usually called Tom Vrooman, who was taken to Canada at this time, became a waiter to Sir John Johnson, and in that capacity, passed through the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys in the following October. He was, however, captured by Joseph Naylor, an American soldier, near Fort Plain, and with him an elegant horse belonging to his new master, with saddle, holsters and valise.
The greater part of the Schoharie prisoners were taken to Niagara, where they remained until November, when they proceeded in a vessel down Lake Ontario. A new ship, called the " Seneca," left Niagara at the same time with the commandant of that garrison, and 360 soldiers on board. Not long after they sailed, a terrible storm arose, and in the following night, the " Seneca" foundered and all on board were lost. The vessel contained a large quantity of provisions destined for Montreal, which were also lost. The prisoners were conveyed down the St. Lawrence in bateaus; and some of them suffered much for the want of suitable clothing, being barefooted, although the ground was covered with snow where they encamped on shore over night. They arrived at Montreal about the 1st of December; from which place, after a few weeks stay, they were removed nine miles farther, to an old French post, called South Rakela, where they were confined until the summer following, and then exchanged for other prisoners. While confined at the latter place, their provisions consisted, for the most part, of salt beef-not always of the best kind-and oat meal; the latter being boiled into puddings and eaten with molasses. When an exchange was effected, most of the Schoharie prisoners, with others, were sent on board a vessel to the head of Lake Champlain, where they were landed, and from which place they returned home on foot, via Saratoga. They arrived at Schoharie on the 30th day of August, after an absence of little more than a year. Mr. Hager was gone about 18 months.+
* They were not recognized in the exchanges of prisoners, nor were they permitted to return from choice.
+ The particulars of the destruction of Vrooman's Land, and the captivlty of the citizens, here detailed, were obtained from Tunis. a son of Capt. Tunis Vrooman; Josias E. and Bartholomew E., sons of Lieut. Ephraim Vrooman; Maria, daughter of John Vrooman, and afterwards the wife of Frederick Mattice, all captives at the time; the manuscript of Henry Hager; Mrs. Susannah Van Slyck, daughter of Samuel Vrooman; Angelica, daughter of Col. Peter Vrooman, afterwards the wife of Major Peter Vrooman; Lawrence Bouck and Lawrence Mattice.
A bout at midnight sent alone
To drift upon the moonless sea ;
A lute, whose lending chord is gone,
A wounded bird that that but one
Imperfect wing to soar upon,
Are like what I am without thee!
-Moore's Loves of the Angels
Timothy Murphy,* who escaped from the enemy in Sullivan's campaign, returned to Schoharie in the summer of 1780. While on duty there in the fall and winter of 1778 and spring of 1779, Murphy became acquainted with-yes, enamored with- Miss Margaret, daughter of John Feeck, whose house was inclosed at the upper fort. She was an only child, and at that period was considered, in prospective wealth, the richest girl in the Schoharie settlements.
Perhaps the reader would be gratified with a description of the young lady, whose artless smiles could, at the age of 15 or 16, win the affections of a rough soldier, and cause him, at the earliest opportunity, to transfer the services due his country, to the valley in which she dwelt. The writer has conversed with not a few who were well acquainted with her, several of whom were numbered among her most intimate friends, all of whom ascribe to her, the character of a virtuous and amiable girl.
At the period of which I am writing, she had just passed " sweet seventeen," and was entering her eighteenth year : a period in the life of woman peculiarly calculated to convey and receive lender impressions. She was rather tall and slim, possessing a genteel form, with a full bust ; and features, if not handsome, at least pretty and very insinuating. Her hair was a rich auburn ; her eyes a dark hazel, peering from beneath beautiful eye-lashes ; her teeth clean and well set ; her "nose-but alas ! that was large, and altogether too prominent a nasal organ to grace the visage of a perfect beauty. Her ruby lips and peach-colored cheeks, however, contrasted charmingly with her clear white skin, besides, nature had given her, what all men like to see, a neatly-turned ankle. Miss Feeck's literary acquirements were limited. She had not been sent to a fashionable boarding-school, and instructed in the genteel and desirable arts, to the exclusion, indeed, abhorrence, of a practical knowledge of domestic household duties, as is too often the case at the present day. She, however, possessed a good share of common sense, was not too vain to be instructed, and practically understood housekeeping. Uniting, as she did, a very amiable disposition with her other good qualities, it is not surprising that she won the soldiers affections, and proved to him an agreeable and happy companion.
* Thomas Murphy, the father of Timothy, was born in Ireland, and married the widow of Thomas Simms, whose maiden name was Mary Oliver, but whether married in Europe or New Jersey is not certain She had by her first husband, who was an Englishman, a son named George. Thomas Murphy emigrated to Minisink, N. J., where Timothy and two brothers, John and David and a sister Mary, were born. The latter died young; and the history of those brothers cannot now be traced. From New Jersey the family went to reside at Shamokin Flats, Penn., where it is believed the parents died. About the year 1815, George Simms, Jr , a son of Tim. Murphy's half-brother, visited the family of the latter in Schoharie county, since which nothing had been heard of this branch of the family. The visitor then resided at Olean Point.- Mrs. Foster and Mrs. Best, daughters of Timothy Murphy.
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