History From America's Most Famous Valleys
of New York
or a BIOGRAPHY of NICHOLAS STONER & NATHANIEL FOSTER;
TOGETHER WITH ANECDOTES OF OTHER CELEBRATED HUNTERS,
AND SOME ACCOUNT OF SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON AND HIS STYLE OF LIVING
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
Introductory Notes (To Third Edition)
An impression seems to have stolen upon the credulity of many persons, that a full account of Maj. Stoner's eventful life had not been given in this work; but that after his death, the reader would be startled by the narrative of a score of tragic scenes, vieing with each other in horrid detail. Desirous of making the work as authentic as possible, before the first edition of it was published, the matter relating to Mr. Stoner was read over, not only to him, but to Jacob Shew, a compatriot in arms, and after as well as before the war, a resident of the same county. At its conclusion the latter observed that my Leatherstocking had been very candid with me, and as he believed, had told me of all the fatal recontres he had ever had with Indian hunters, which were much talked of at the time of their occurrence. Mr. Blakeman, a hunter whose name appears in the book, thought Mr. Stoner had killed one Indian whose death I had not recorded, but the senior hunter at a later interview explained the whole matter. The Indians, as he said, did not wait to be killed, and the blood seen near the deserted cabin, which confirmed Blakeman's suspicions, was that of a deer. And here let me add, I never conversed with a more candid and seemingly conscientious man than Nicholas Stoner. He died Nov. 24th, 1853, and was buried in Kingsborough. As some credulous people are looking for what is never to appear, unless in a work of fiction, the reader is assured, that after each of the preceding editions of this work were issued, Mr. Stoner, who had read it himself, informed the writer in all candor, that although he had frightened very many Indians, this book contained a true account of all that he had actually killed. He good-humoredly added, that some knowing ones told stories about him which had no foundation in truth, and appearing desirous to make him a very bad man. 1857. J. R. S.
Introductory Notes, 1935 Reprint Edition
The Trappers of New York by Jeptha R. Simms contains so much New York history that it seems worth while that it should be reproduced. That is the purpose of this undertaking. Jeptha R. Simms wrote The Trappers of New York between the years 1848-50. He had previous to that brought out a pamphlet, fiction, entitled The Spy, and in 1845, his fine work on Schoharie County called Schoharie County and Border Wars of New York had been offered an approving public. Then came The Trappers of New York which ran through several editions beginning in 1850 and ending in 1871. This last work was the most ambitious of all, Frontiersmen of New York, two volumes, brought out in 1882-3, the last volume being brought out the year of his death.
Simms, in 1850, occupied a unique position in American life. He stood at the cross roads between the Revolution and the present time. In 1850 and a few years prior, he was enabled to interview a great many veterans of the Revolutionary War, thereby obtaining first hand information for his writings. This was true of Nick Stoner, to whom, as he explains in his foreword, he read his biography as written and received his approval, a rare privilege for a historian.
The picture painted by Simms of New York scenes as then known, which constituted the Mohawk Valley and the mountainous region north of it, is one that should be preserved. Visiting the scenes as he did, traveling through the country on snow shoes and associating with individuals who had first hand information, one readily recognizes the value of these services.
Place names, such as streams, lakes, and rivers, some of them named by Simms for the first time, and others carefully described and the name origins given, results in a record of historical value which New York State can ill afford to lose.
The Trappers of New York has long since been out of print and only a few copies are extant, largely among collectors. Few libraries possess this item. Collectors prize the book so highly that the first edition has sold as high as $25 and even higher.
This issue of The Trappers follows the original very closely. No change in the style nor even the orthography has been attempted. The foot notes have been transferred to the back of the book as a matter of convenience. The new material will be found in the added notes in the appendix and appreciations. Even the style of binding of the 1850 edition is preserved here, the cover being an exact facsimile. The cuts are reproductions from the original wood cuts, which are extant, and part of the private collection of Professor N. Berton Alter.
The additional material is intended to throw light on the character of Jeptha R. Simms and will establish to some extent the achievement of men in developing some of the projects which Simms seems to vision, but which he never saw. It should be borne in mind that when Simms wrote The Trappers of New York, the Erie Canal was but twenty-five years old; the Railroad, but twenty; the great flood control and power projects, electrical development, gas engine, automobile, and present day transportation were all undreamed of.
He gave his life to the task of recording the annals and episodes of the Mohawk Valley and its people. It was a self-imposed task, carried out to the end with a devotion to detail not fully appreciated, and it is only in the fullness of time that the real worth of Jeptha R. Simms has received its true evaluation. Today, every writer, historian, and educator who has to do with this part of the state is fervently thankful that Simms once lived and devoted himself to the history of this section. Therefore, this little work has been reproduced and rededicated and sent on its way. If appreciation and honor results, it all belongs to a man long since passed away but whose work in the cause of history still remains one of the monuments of the Mohawk Valley.
LOU D. MacWETHY.
St. Johnsville, N. Y., 1935.
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