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

Former Hunting Grounds of Nick Stoner, Now a Power Project, Foreseen by Simms Eighty Years Ago.
by H. Edmund Machold

Mr. Machold is Vice President of the Niagara Hudson and associated with other power companies. His public career dates from 1912-1924 as Member of Assembly of the State of New York and as Speaker of that body from 1921-24. He is a native of Amsterdam and later of Jefferson County. In his boyhood, he was familiar with the Sacandaga country and during his legislative career assisted in the erection of the flood control department which came into being shortly after the disastrous floods of 1913 and which brought about the water storage legislation in 1915 as part of the conservation law.

Mr. Machold and others are just as truly frontiersmen in the pathway to progress as were the original frontiersmen described by Simms and it is a coincidence that the sunken lands described by Simms as the stamping ground of Nick Stoner should become the project of flood control and power development in new endeavors which mark the advance of human progress.

In the article below, Mr. Machold writes of the engineering accomplishments now completed which turned the sunken land of the Sacandaga into an immense water storage and power project, creating a lake thirty miles long where once the red men lurked, and the red deer and wild game pursued their ways unscared by man.

The Sacandaga Reservoir, which has an area of 30,000 acres and is nearly 30 miles long, was created in 1930 following the construction by the Hudson River Regulating District of the Conklingville Dam, work on which began in 1927. This dam is located on the Sacandaga River at the village of Conklingville, about 5 miles above the confluence of the Sacandaga and Hudson Rivers, where the river narrowed at a preglacial gorge with ledge rock of the gneissic type at the north side of the dam site. The main dam is of the semi-hydraulic fill type, approximately 100 feet high and 1100 feet long and has a top width of 40 feet, -over which there is a highway, and a bottom width of 600 feet and contains over 700,000 cubic yards of earth. The spillway which is at elevation 771.0 feet above sea level is 400 feet long and also incorporated in the outlet structures are two siphon spillways 8 feet by 18 feet and three outlet valves, each 8 feet in diameter.

There were required in the construction of the works at Conklingville the placement of 20,000 cubic yards of concrete and the excavation of 200,000 yards of rock. In executing the Sacandaga Reservoir project there was necessitated the construction of 43 miles of new highways around the shores of the reservoir; the Batchellerville, Bridge consisting of 21 steel cantilever spans of 150 feet, the Northville Bridge consisting of 3 spans of 180 feet, the Mayfield Dam of the Ambursen type; 40 feet high; and several other minor structures. Also over 12,000 acres of timber growth were cleared and burned and another problem was the removal of the existing 26 cemeteries in the reservoir basin, in which there were over 3800 graves.

Immediately downstream from the Conklingville Dam, the New York Power and Light Corporation has constructed under a lease with the Board of Hudson River Regulating District the E. J. West Hydroelectric Station, which has an installation of two 12,500 K. V. A. generators and feeds into the Niagara-Hudson system. At times of high flow on the Hudson River, no water is released from the Sacandaga Reservoir and consequently no power generated at the E. J. West Plain, the primary purpose of the construction of the reservoir being the regulation of the flow of the Hudson River as required by the public welfare, including public health and safety.

The Sacandaga Reservoir has a total capacity of 37.8 billion cubic feet (870,000 acre feet), and was placed in operation by the closing of the gates at the Conklingville Dam on March 27, 1930, and in the five years that have elapsed since then the reservoir has many times demonstrated its ability to accomplish that for which it was constructed. For example, on April 18, 1933, there occurred the greatest flood on the river for over ten years, which gave the reservoir an opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to reduce such floods. During this flood, whereas the maximum discharge of the Hudson River at Glens Falls was 28,000 cubic feet per second, it would have been 56,000 cubic feet per second, had not the reservoir been constructed and the gates closed throughout this period. During the three days of April 17, 18 and 19, the flow to the reservoir was nearly six billion cubic feet, during which time the reservoir rose slightly over five feet. On the other hand, the flow of the Hudson River during July and August, 1934, would have been the lowest in its history if the Sacandaga Reservoir had not been in operation. This was evidenced by the fact that of the average flow of the river at Glens Falls during July of 3,000 c. f. s., over 2,600 c. f. s. was water released from the Sacandaga Reservoir. In other words, nearly ninety five per cent of the flow of the river at that point was spring flood water that had been stored in the Sacandaga Reservoir and released during the drought, thus maintaining ample water for the operation of the mills, which meant the employment of several thousands of men, who other wise would have been thrown out of work.


by Hon. Eberly Hutchinson

The following article by Mr. Hutchinson relates to the Statue of Nick Stoner dedicated Aug. 22, 1929. Mr. Hutchinson is a resident of Canada Lake and was a Member of the State Assembly from 1919-31. He has long been active in historical matters and is thoroughly familiar with the movement which led to the erection of this fine memorial.

It is doubtful whether there would be any memorial of Caroga's ancestral hero other than Simms' pages and Stoner's tombstone had it not been for the interest in local antiquity of the late Cyrus Durey, and his desire to add historic appeal to the natural charms of our region. It was Mr. Durey who, rechristened the charming little lakes about four miles north of us, which had always been known as Stink Lakes with the more euphonious name of Stoner. It was Mr. Durey who insisted that the pretty islet in this lake, long known by vague and varied appellations, should be called Stoner's Island.

Mr. Durey first conceived the memorial in the golf grounds between Caroga and Canada lakes. He was the committee of one who secured from the State Department of Education an allotment of the funds, provided by legislative appropriation for state wide memorials, to erect the bronze statue. It may have been the State Historian, Dr. A. C. Flick or one of his associates who made the happy suggestion of entrusting the modeling of the statue to Joseph Pollia, a talented and well known sculptor of New York City. Mr. Pollia won recent distinction by his bronze memorial figure of John Brown at Lake Placid. Our Caroga statue is also a distinguished work of art. It would perhaps be more obviously impressive if in larger proportions it more distinctly dominated the huge cairn of boulders on which it stands. It is the figure of a stalwart young man, clad in deerskins; quiet, earnest, and resolute as he looks on the mountain wilderness about him. In the pose, in proportions, there is something vaguely reminiscent of classic art, a suggestion of a figure modeled in Phidian days or in that tradition of the Greek reborn in fifteenth century Italy. And if you took longer with an eye familiar with renaissance statues, you will see that, divested of his deer skin raiment, the young man before you is Michael Angelo's David as he stands in the Academia at Florence or in larger replica on the height of San Miniato above the city. I spoke of this resemblance to Pollia and he was pleased by my observation, and we agreed that the mood expressed in David, as he faces, sling in hand, his giant opponent, is properly that of the young pioneer staring on the wilderness which he must conquer.

The statue was procured and erected by the joint expense of the state funds and money voted by the Board of Supervisors of Fulton County.

EBERLY HUTCHINSON, Canada Lake, 1935.

author of
Rome Haul, Erie Water, etc. Rome Haul
has been Dramatized under Title of "The Farmer Takes a Wif

For generations, instinctively, most of the people of this country have thought of the Revolution as a sort of Costume Romance. I don't know why. Perhaps our school histories started us. Perhaps our romances have helped: Winston Churchill, Robert Chambers, Mitchell, Kenneth Roberts, have done their part. Roberts indeed has come nearer than the others to showing us what the people were like who muddled through one campaign; but he leaves the taste of the grand and glorious thing we want to believe the revolution was. And most of us still think of the war in black and white, good and bad, patriotism and treason.

But when one really begins digging into letters and family records one begins to see dimly that the whole thing was a muddle. There were only two strategists in the war, Washington and Greene. There were numberless tacticians, able, courageous, clever as men are clever selling horses or dealing in automobiles. Such men as Arnold, Marion, Wayne, whom we know from our histories. But there were many others as able in their own small sphere. Plenty of them in the Mohawk Valley wars. Such men as Walter and John Butler for the British side, also McDonald and Ross; and for the American, Herkimer, Willet, Gansevoort, Brown, and the pioneers themselves, though as often as not their objectives were a single house, a single stockade, or a church with stone walls and an alarm gun, perhaps a grasshopper, in the belfry. These men had the woods for their terrain, all the way from Niagara to the Schoharie Valley, Montreal to the Sacandaga flows. Their armies might amount to twenty men on either side. The histories call them raids. As a matter of fact, better historians than I shall ever be, have said that the Revolution was won in the Mohawk Country.

St. Ledger was licked at Oriskany and had to retreat from Stanwix, a small campaign which saved the wheatfields of America from Burg-Dyne and held him helpless at Saratoga. Again and again Carleton sent down British expeditions to destroy the wheat, again and again they left a swathe of desolation, but again and again the local militia, after the inevitable running away, rallied, and put them out of the countryside.

Amid all their inaccuracies, local historians have described these men, the way they lived, more or less the way they thought. The inaccuracies were due to an ancient prejudice, and I imagine that that prejudice was largely inherited, and should therefore be considered, if we wish to know what the war was really like. As we read their heavy handed tomes, we begin to understand why the Palatines could be beaten down in this country as they had been beaten down in the Rhine Valley, and yet stick to their land and take another beating. We begin to see why no raid could make an effect that would be nationally telling.

Jeptha Simms, as much as any man, has done this for us. He has shown us the stuff of the people, and whatever he says about the larger issues, his books must be considered for their source material. A serious minded, rather stodgy person, his books are exciting in their moments, interesting, humorous by virtue of the people he seriously wrote about. He did not want them to be forgotten. It is probable that he would have failed in his purpose, except for this new edition of the Trappers, perhaps his most valuable book.

That he has found an editor after all these years like Lou D. MacWethy is a great good fortune to all scholars who really wish to understand the makings of the war. No man I know of is better qualified to do the job. For years he has done research into the old Palatine families. It is probable that he knows the Trappers themselves as well as Simms did when he had interviewed those that were still alive, or their sons and daughters who had heard at first hand what life between 1775 and 1781 was like. If Simms had not lived at all, I believe that MacWethy could have written his books as well, without their prejudice. But what Simms has given us is the sense of actuality and the closeness to the time of war. The combination should make a valuable contribution to American History.

Northlands, Boonville, N. Y.
July, 1935.

by N. Berton Alter, District Superintendent of Schools, Montgomery County.

Sometimes on Sunday when I attend the Reformed Church at Fort Plain, I sit in the rear seat and like many others in the congregation I let my mind wander away from the sermon and frequently I look towards my right and read "Jeptha R. Simms, Historian of the Mohawk Valley" on One of the stained glass windows and then the minister has to be mighty eloquent to get me back in his congregation. The train of thought thus awakened carries me back to the times when this historian lived and gathered his fragments of history and later pieced them together in his various historical works. His was no easy task, no one subsidized him in his historical work and many times he was hard pressed for ready money to carry on, but the history of the common people was his hobby and well has he done the work. Even his contemporaries did not approve of his style or of his use of words. I have a copy of the "Trappers" which once was owned by W. L, Stone the second, a splendid writer of local history, and in several instances he has taken the liberty of criticizing the use of certain words. I notice, however, that he, too, used materials that Simms gathered. Other writers, and later writers rather like to speak slightingly of Simms, but in the end they must turn to him. The later so-called historians classify Simms as the "gossip of the Mohawk Valley." If only a few of the others had listened to the same Mrs. Grundys and given us something along the same lines as Simms' works! Others may tell of the busy life lived by Mr. Simms and his efforts in various lines of endeavor. What I wish to do is to express a deep appreciation of the work done by this real historian of long ago and with this I wish to express the wish that this new and popular edition of the "Trappers of New York" will meet with the reception that it deserves and that the boys and girls of this country may live again in the past with Nick Stoner as he roams the woods of this grand old State.


Nelliston, N. Y. 1935.

by Harry V. Bush, President of the Mohawk
Valley Historical Association, Mayor of
Canajoharie, N. Y.

Jeptha R. Simms was born at Canterbury, Conn. December 31, 1807 and died at Fort Plain, May 31, 1883.

In 1824 his father Capt. Joseph Simms moved to Plainfield,Otsego County, N. Y. Simms was 17 years old at this time and took a position as teacher in the schools at Bridgewater. He had apparently a trying experience for he soon gave it up and went to Canajoharie where he entered the employ of Herman Ehle as a clerk. Here he remained for three years when he went to New York City for a brief period. He returned to Canajoharie in 1832 and became a partner of his former employer which partnership lasted but a short time and Simms went to Schoharie County where he was employed.

While in Schoharie he became interested in local history and began the collecting of material for his first books, History of Schoharie County and Border Wars of New York, published in 1845, after he removed to Fultonville, N. Y., where he lived for many years.

During his residence in Schoharie and Fultonville he had made a very fine collection of relies and documents relating to the two valleys. Many of these articles had been given him by men and women with whom he had been associated. Later the state of New York purchased the collection for $5,000 and placed it in the old museum on State Street in Albany.

While in Fultonville he built the home known as Cobblestone Hall, all the stones being gathered by himself and sorted as to size by rolling them over a board perforated with different size holes. This house is still standing. In 1846 he published a tale of the Revolution, "The American Spy," a very interesting story. In 1850 he published Trappers of New York.

Later he moved to Fort Plain where he spent the remainder of his days and where he wrote The Frontiersmen of New York.

Simms was employed as agent for the New York Central R. R. during his later years.

Mr. Simms had the opportunity of living at a time removed only a generation from the Revolution and many of his anecdotes and stories had been handed down to the younger members of the families.

To the student of Mohawk and Schoharie Valley history his writings have been invaluable, both in a general way and in tracing family history.

Besides the many books, Mr. Simms has left many newspaper articles, a great number of which were published in local papers.

The Canajoharie Radii printed several and I remember one very interesting article dealing with the canal packets which carried passengers on the old Erie. The second volume of Frontiersmen had not been published when he died in 1883 and Mr. Peter G. Webster, representing the estate took charge of the work of printing and distributing during 1883 and 1894.

Jeptha R. Simms, like all local historians, got little recognition and still less pecuniary reward, but the results of his years of labor will be available to all future historians.

In his social relations he was a gentleman above reproach, and beloved by all who had become acquainted with him during his long life in our beloved Mohawk Valley.

Canajoharie, N. Y. 1935.

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