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


Its great angle-Name for Daly's creek how originated-Residence of Henry Wormwood-Sale of Fish house and its farm-Cost of Sacondaga, bridge-Summer-house point fortified-Fate of Johnson's cottage-Willie Boiles drowned-Sale of Summerhouse point-Mayfield settlement-Its first mill -First mill on the Kennyetto-Aneedotes of Sir William Johnson-Dunham family.

Sa-con-da-ga is an aboriginal word, which signifies, as the Indians assured Godfrey Shew, much water Capt. Gill, an Indian hunter, said it meant sunken or drowned lands. It no doubt has particular reference to the flooding of the vlaie. The Sacondaga shooting out from the mountains in Northampton, enters the semi-amphitheatre in a southeastern course, and continues that direction in what seems a great basin, until it gets to Fish House, where, receiving the Vlaie creek, and striking spurs of the Maxon mountain, its course is changed to a northeastern one, thus making two equal sides of a triangle some twenty miles in circuit. The vlaie is about as low as the bed of the river, and when the latter rises suddenly, it sets back up the creek with a heavy current, so as not unfrequently to carry bridges up stream, that were over the streams in the marsh. The Sacondaga, continues a northeasterly course, until it enters the Hudson some thirty miles from the Fish House. A small steam boat has been plying for two seasons between Fish House and Barber's Dam, a distance of about twenty miles. This dam is situated at the head of what is usually denominated the Horse race, or rapid water, which extends from thence to the Hudson. Conklinville, a small hamlet, with several mills and a leather manufactory, has recently grown up at the dam.

Daly's creek, a stream running into the Sacondaga on the east side, and near Barber's dam, got its name from the following circumstance. Dr. Daly, the family physician of Sir William Johnson, was at the mouth of this stream with the latter on a fishing excursion, as in days gone by it was a great place for trout. A little eddy in the water had caught up a bed of leaves, and the top ones were so curled and dry, as to lead the doctor to suppose they were quietly reposing on the top of a small sand bar. It is not unlikely that Sir William, to please himself or guests that may have been with them, humored the joke, if he did not set it on foot. Catching the painter, the doctor sprang out to draw the boat upon the bar-when lo! he went plum up to his arms in the water. This incident not only added a yam to the Baronet's long budget, which he often spun at the doctor's expense, but served to originate a name for the stream. Some few years after the above incident transpired, Godfrey Shew, his sons John and Jacob, and Edmund Pangburn, were fishing at the mouth of Daly's creek, when a similar little eddy of crisped leaves attracted the notice of young Jacob, and to get the wrinkles out of his legs, he concluded to step out of the boat on the bar. He did so, and down went the leaves, and still deeper down the boy to get a handsome ducking and be laughed at by his comrades when in the boat. Query: Should not this stream be called Shew's creek, some part of the time?

Near the mouth of Han's creek, and about halfway from Summerhouse point to Fish House, dwelt before the Revolution the family of Henry Wormwood. He had three daughters and two sons. The oldest daughter, whose name is now forgotten, married and went to Schoharie; the other two, Susannah and Elizabeth, lived at home. Susannah, the eldest of the two, was a beautiful girl, of middling stature, charmingly formed, with a complexion fair as a water lily---contrasting with which she had a melting dark eye and raven hair. Elizabeth much resembled her sister, but was not quite as fair. An Irishman named Robert Alexander Dunbar, a good looking fellow, paid his addresses to Susannah, and soon after married her. The match was in some manner brought about by the Baronet-was an unhappy one, and they soon after parted. She however retained as her stock in trade a young Dunbar. What became of Dunbar is unknown.

About the fish-house, Sir William Johnson reserved one hundred acres of land, which was confiscated with his son's estate in the Revolution. When sold by the sequestrating committee, it was purchased by Major Nicholas Fish (he was adjutant-general of militia after the war), for one hundred pounds. Maj. Fish sold it at the close of the war to Asahel Parkes, of Shaftsbury, Vermont who resided several years upon it. He built a dwelling upon the low ground a few rods from the mouth of Vlaie creek, and the following spring he was driven out of it by some four feet of water. Traces of this building are still to be seen west of the road, just above the river bridge. Parkes sold the Fish-house farm to Alexander St. John. The village has since been built upon it.

The bridge just alluded to crosses the river where it makes its great angle, and only a few rods below the mouth of Vlaie creek. The Sacondaga at this place is about two-thirds as large as the Mohawk is at Fultonville. The cost of this bridge, a covered one, in Berber & Towe's Historical Collections of New York, is erroneously stated to have been sixty thousand dollars. It cost about six thousand dollars, and was built by the state's munificence in 1818, at which time Jacob Shew was in the legislature and advocated the measure with success. It was supposed the state would soon realize the funds again, by the sale of her lands on the north side of the river, a market for which would be more readily found by improving the way to them. How profitable the investment has proved for the state we are unable to say, but the convenience of a free bridge to the public is invaluable,

Among the unwise measures adopted in the early part of our struggle for liberty, was that of fortifying Summerhouse point; it being supposed by some that an enemy from the north, would be likely to approach the point by water. Part of a regiment of continental troops under Col. Nicholson was stationed here much of the summer of 1776. An entrenchment six feet wide and several feet deep was cut across the eastern end of the point; while the cottage in green livery, as we may suppose, assumed a warlike aspect. The point as a military post was abandoned at the end of the summer. The summerhouse shared the same fate as the fish-house, in the Revolution; as they were both burnt about the year 1781. We suppose that, from the fact that this cottage had been occupied by the Americans as a military post, and that the repossession of it by Sir John Johnson was now placed almost beyond a doubt among the impossibilities, he gave instructions to some hostile invaders to bum that and the fishhouse, that they should fall to the ownership and occupancy of no one else. All traces of the fortifications on the point have disappeared, the ditch having become entirely filled up by deposits from the marsh.

Just before Summerhouse point was garrisoned, a scout of several men was sent from Johnstown to reconnoiter in its vicinity. From the point they crossed the marsh to the bank of the Sacondaga, and not finding any trace of an enemy's approach, they returned to the point. When ready to retrace their steps to Johnstown, they found the boat had been left by some person on the opposite shore of the Kennyetto. In attempting to cross the stream and get it, one of the men, named Willie Boiles, a continental soldier, was drowned. His body was recovered and buried on the northerly end of the point, a few rods southerly from the fence toward the road, and not far distant from the Mayfield creek. No stone or stake indicates the spot.

Summerhouse point was sold by Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, one of the committee for sequestrations, to James Caldwell of Albany. Who now owns this delightful spot I am unable to say. Formerly, when it became the rallying spot for hay-makers, cranberrypickers and fishermen, temporary bridges were made across the creeks upon its sides, by throwing over stringers and covering them with brush and hay. The timber was drawn upon the point in the winter, to be restored in the summer.

A settlement was begun in Mayfield, some ten miles to the northward of Johnson Hall, under the patronage of Sir William Johnson, about as early as Stoner's location at Fonda's Bush. The first settlers who obtained a title from the Baronet to one hundred acres of land each, were two brothers named Solomon and Seely Woodworth, Simeon Christie, two brothers named Reynolds, Jacob Dunham,----Cadman, Jona. Canfield, Capt. -Flock, a captain when in New England; and possibly one of two others. Christie was a Scotchman; the rest of the settlers, or nearly all of them were enterprising Yankees. The Woodworths were from Salisbury, Connecticut; Seely settled near the present site of Mayfield Corners, and his brother about a mile to the westward of him. The rest of the pioneers were scattered about the woodman's neighborhood. Perhaps the only descendant of this early settlement now living upon the homestead, is Simon, a son of Simeon Christie.

Solomon Woodworth was killed by the Indians in the Revolution, as I have elsewhere published. The circumstances attending his death, as related by an eyewitness, I design to give the public at some future day, as also the captivity of several of the settlers at Fish House and Fonda's Bush, and fate of Eikler and young Shew. Old Mr. Dunham was murdered by the Indians in the war, as related on page 294 of my History of Schoharie County, etc., where the name is inaccurately printed Durham. His wife was not murdered at the time, as there stated. The house was plundered, but from motives of policy not then burned. Dunham had a son, a young officer under Capt. Solomon Woodworth, who shared the fate of his brave commander, as will be shown hereafter.

After Shew located at Fish House, and before the Revolution, John Eikler, Lent and Nicholas Lewis, brothers, Robert Martin, Zebulon Algar, a family of Ketchums and one of Chadwicks, also settled in that neighborhood. All of them left at the beginning of difficulties, except Shew, Martin and Algar. These pioneers at first had to go to Johnstown for their milling. To accommodate them and the Mayfield settlement, Sir William Johnson erected a small grist mill at the latter place, in 1773 or '74, and had the avails of it during the remainder of his life. It was either burnt in the war, or rendered nearly valueless by neglect. The mill property having been confiscated, it was purchased at the dose of the war by Abraham Romeyn, the oldest son of the Rev. Dr. Romeyn, who had been an artificer in the Revolution. He rebuilt the mill again, and put it in operation.

Soon after Romeyn got his mill in operation, Thomas Shankland-who had been a prisoner among the Indians-erected a grist mill on the Kennyetto, in the present town of Providence, to which the Fish House settlers repaired, as it was a mile or two nearer than the Mayfield mill, with no intervening marsh. This mill is now owned by Jonathan Haggidorn. The bolts in those mills to separate the flour from the bran, were turned by hand. It was the usual practice for customers to turn the bolt for their own grist-a task they were by no means pleased with. After the country became more settled, and probably as early as 1800, one Van Hoesen erected a mill also in Providence, situated about half a mile east of Fish House, on a stream which rises on the Maxon mountain.

Speaking of mills, we are reminded of the following anecdote of Sir William Johnson. While he was living at Fort Johnson, he made some alteration in his gristmill near by-putting in a new pair of millstones. A German named Francis Salts, who was erecting a mill for Messrs. Philip and Jacob Frederick, situated on the Schoharie river, some five or six miles above its mouth, called on the Baronet to purchase the old grinders. The price was stipulated, and after some little conversation about the terms of payment, the quondam owner told his customer to take them home, get his mill in operation, and if he would sing a song when the debt was due, that pleased him, he would exact no other pay.

It was not long ere the buzzing and clitter clatter evinced the new mill in successful operation. When pay day for the millstones arrived, Mr. Salts went to Fort Johnson to cancel the debt. He was quite a song singer, and had possibly prepared himself with something new, expressly for the fastidious ear of his creditor. In the presence of several of the Baronet's friends, who were, no doubt, invited in expressly to hear them, song after song was sung, to the evident amusement of all save the one he desired to please; but his features remained uncommonly rigid. Having exhausted his catalogue of German songs, without discovering any expression of delight on the countenance of his creditor, the millwright thrust his hands into a deep pocket, and drew forth a long pouch of the ready, singing in no very good humor as he did so:

Money bag! money bag! you must come out!
The man he will be paid!

"That will do-now put up your money," said Sir William, at the end of a burst of laughter.

"And are you paid?" asked Salts, with evident surprise, as he returned the purse to his pocket.

"Yes, yes," said the now delighted lover of fun, "that will do-that's the best of the whole." The songster went home rejoicing, and left the Baronet and his guests to discuss the merit of his songs over a bottle of wine, when he was far away.-Col. Peter Young and Volkert Voorhees.

If Sir William Johnson enjoyed a joke at the expense of some friend, they occasionally got the rig upon him, as the following anecdote will show. Just after the close of the French war, in which he had acted so conspicuous a part, and for which he was placed on the baronial list, Sir William had occasion to go to Albany. At that period there were only two or three dwellings in the whole distance between Albany and Schenectada, and they were little if any better than squatter's lodges of more modem times. There were numerous little swamps and marshes along the road, and the Baronet returning to Schenectada on horseback, passed a little marsh, in which he heard, as he believed, the voice of a new animal. Nearing a house just after, he inquired, What animals were making such a strange noise? He was answered with a grin, that they were bull frogs! He spurred up his horse, not a little mortified to think he had but just learned, as his countrymen would say, "what a toad a frog was."

The family of which he inquired knew him (indeed that family which did not know him in Western New York, was behind the times), and soon the nature of his inquiry reached the ears of his most intimate friends, who bored him so unmercifully about it, that he was obliged to own up. He admitted that he never was so ashamed of having asked a question in his life, as he was of that about the new animals on the pine plains below Dory.-James Frazier.

After the preceding pages were stereotyped, I learned that the given name of Dunham, mentioned on page 48, was Jacob: that when he was murdered as stated on page 49, which took place April 11, 1779, a son named Samuel met the same fate. Zebulon, another son, was made prisoner, but escaped from his captors while they were engaged in plundering the house. John, a third son of Jacob Dunham, fell with Capt. Woodworth, in Fairfield. Hon. John Dunham, of Wells, N. Y., a son of Ebenezer Dunham, and grandson of Jacob Dunham, above named.

Copyright 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.

Contents Introduction Links Home