Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Trappers of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
A Reprint with New Supplementary Matter
Printed by Enterprise and News
St. Johnsville, N.Y. 1935

Albany: J. Munsell, 82 State Street. 1850


A.-(page 22).-What finally became of "Billy the Musician," on the breaking up of the Johnson family, is not known with certainty. Mr. Shew seems confident he did not remove to Canada with the Johnstown royalists. He probably went to New York.

B.-(page 21).-Sir William Johnson's Gardener who answered to the name of "Old Daddy Savage" was very old at the time of the Baronet's death. He had long been faithful to his trust, and doubtless deserved a better finale to mortality. He remained with Sir John Johnson until his flight to Canada, when he was left at the mercy of the winds, or If not, with a pittance that soon placed him there. He was for several years supported by the charity of the district until his death, which occurred back of Johnstown about the year 1780. He died at the age of nearly one hundred years.

C.-(page 23).-As suggested to the writer by an antiquarian friend, the name of Pontiac was probably given to his waiter by Sir William Johnson, as a compliment to the distinguished Ottawa chieftain of that name. At the termination of the French war in 1763, which ended in the conquest of Canada by Great Britain, several western tribes of Indians who had been in the French interest, and often engaged with the French against the English and Iroquois, were unreconciled to British dominion; and, instigated by Pontiac, their master spirit, they leagued "in a confederacy, the design of which was to expel the English, and restore French ascendancy." (22). Under the direction of Pontiac, the confederates captured several British posts on the western frontier, and by their bold and atrocious acts were filling the country with alarm, when Gen. Bradstreet was sent against them in 1765, with a force sufficient to subdue and bring them to terms. Sir William Johnson accompanied the expedition to Niagara, where he held a treaty, in July, "with the Shawanese, Delawares and Mingos;" as intimated in a letter from him to Commissary General Leake, under date of July 18, 1765 (23). Pontiac and other chiefs in his confidence, not present at the Niagara treaty, met Sir William Johnson on behalf of the British government at Ontario, in July, 1766; when the war hatchet was buried, and peace restored (24). This latter meeting is barely hinted at on page 861, Vol. 2 of the Documentary History of New York, in a letter from the Baronet to Gen. Gage; but what seems passing strange, the wary chieftain Pontiac is not named in the Broadhead papers.

D-(page 29).-Samuel Olmsted and Zadock Sherwood, natives of Ridgfield, Connecticut, located at Northville about the year 1786, going up the Sacondaga from Fish-House in a canoe, containing a few necessary articles; and after constructing a rude hut, they began to clear up the forest. Nearly four years after the two named took up their abode in the wilderness, Caleb and Daniel Labdell, brothers, removed thither from Danbury, Connecticut. Between the advent of the Lobdells, and the year 1794, the Sacondaga settlement had been increased by the arrival of Joseph Olmsted, Abraham Van Aernam, Paul Hammond, John Shoecraft, Aaron Olmsted, Samuel Price, and possibly one or two others. The settlers, who had gone through the hardships and experienced the thousand and one difficulties attending the settling of all new countries, were at this time living very comfortably on the lands, not a few acres of which, on both sides of the river, were under improvement; yielding in their virgin strength, a rich compensation to the husbandman. Indian hunters were very frequent guests among the pioneer settlers of Northville; and as the latter spared no pains to cultivate amity with them, the reader may judge their surprise, when, on some occasion in the summer of 1792-possibly on the eve of which intimations of savage invasion had been clandestinely put afloat, an alarm spread through the settlement, that a party of Indians hideously painted were in their vicinity, only waiting a favorable opportunity to kill the inhabitants and bear off their hard earnings. While all was bustle and confusion at the rude tenements of the settlers, peal after peal of firearms broke the stillness of night, interrupted occasionally with the whoops and shouts of the toe, approaching as they seemed to be on the west side of the river. Every preparation that could be made on the emergency to resist the invaders was quickly made; and the colonists, there being no chickenhearted among them, resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible. Hour after hour wore away until morning; the clangor of arms and lungs had ceased; still the foeman had not crossed the river.

Some of the settlers, whose mettle had been tried in the Revolution, crossed the river in the morning, when, lo! they found greater evidence of Indian invasion than did the Windhamites, on the morning after their alarm by the frogs of their neighborhood in olden time; for in a cornfield nearly opposite the Lobdell dwelling, there were numerous moccasined tracks, and not a few half consumed gun-wads. One peculiarity was observable, however; the footsteps did not turn in at the toes, as those of the red man invariably did. It was now recollected, that Price and Aaron Olmsted had not been among the excited inhabitants when counseling for defense; and from some impending circumstances, suspicion rested upon them of having played possum for some purpose.

It soon leaked out that the suspicion of the inhabitants was well founded; that the two had undertaken, as the menials of certain land speculators, to frighten away the earliest settlers, for which service they were to receive twenty-five dollars; the land sharks to get the improvements the hard-fisted yeomanry had made, for a very nominal sum. Accordingly they repaired to the cornfield with pistols and stentorian lungs, to practice the war dance. When the trick was discovered, the Achans, who had families, were obliged to make a hasty flight from the country, to escape the vengeance of their enraged neighbors; and so precipitate was their departure, that Olmsted forgot his own, and took along another man's wife. Thus terminated the only Indian alarm the pioneers of Northville ever experienced (Facts from Nathan P. Lobdell, a son of one of the pioneer settlers named above.)

E.-(page 199).-The solitary pine formerly standing on Elba island in Fourth lake, which was twelve or fifteen inches in diameter, says John Stilwell of Herkimer county, was cut down in the spring of 1831. In the preceding summer, he adds, the following thrilling incident occurred there.

A party of fishermen in several boats were engaged on the lake near the island catching trout, when their attention was arrested by an unusual noise upon the lake shore nearly a mile distant. Presently a noble deer was seen bounding along the beach, closely pursued by a monstrous panther. The timid animal plunged into the lake and swam for the opposite shore, followed by its bloodthirsty foe. One of the boats which chanced to be directly in the deer's course, was rowed farther out from the island, to give the panting animal sea-room; when it came into the allotted space, and not daring to trust itself upon the sterile island near which it passed, it swam off to the opposite shore-adding a second mile to its voyage-and safely disappearing in the forest. The deer could swim faster than its pursuer; and as the latter approached the fishermen, they closed in toward the island, upon which they compelled it to land.

The panther, for its better security, Jost no time in ascending the pine to its branches, where it crouched with lashing tall; evidently in no very good humor at being thwarted in its murderous design. The fishermen, some of whom were fortunately armed with rifles, then gave their boats positions affording a good view of the panther, yet far enough off to ensure their own safety, should it be wounded and resent the insult. A rifle was poised by a marksman, and the animal fell dead at the first fire. It was a very large one, and its skin, I am told, is now in the Utica Museum. If another effort in nature should produce a second pine or some other forest-tree on this western Elba, we hope it may be allowed to remain in its sentinel position, if only to afford a favorable place from which to shoot panthers.

Hunters and fishermen about the lakes on Brown's tract are usually much annoyed in warm weather by mosquitoes and punkies. It is a fact worthy of note, however, that they are not troublesome on this Elba of Fourth lake: hence a reason why it has long been a favorite place for sportsmen to take their lunch, or remain over night. For some years, the chips of the Elba pine served the temporary occupants of the island as substitutes for plates, from which not a few hearty meals have been eaten.

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