Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883

Volume II, Page 616 Burning of the Gristmill at Little Falls.--The enemy, several hundred strong, entered the Herkimer settlement in the latter part of June, 1782; one of its chief aims being to destroy the gristmill on the south side of the river at the falls, the only one remaining in the upper Mohawk valley. Col. Stone placed this transaction in 1780, but Mr. Benton gave its true date. Gen. Washington, who visited Schenectada, June 30, 1782, in a letter to Congress quoted a little further along, says this mill was burned just before his visit. Tradition says that when the invaders stole into the settlement, they did so with the preparation and intentions of capturing Fort Herkimer; no doubt posted as to its weakness by the Shoemaker family or some other on the "neutral ground." On that day, several families had taken grain to the Little Falls mill, six miles below, and nearly all of the little garrison at the fort, had gone along as an escort; a fact which it is supposed the enemy knew. As it chanced on that day, Frederick Smith had been married, and with his bride was at the garrison. Very few armed men were left with the scores of women and children, still inmates of the fort.

The kind of celebrations we now term hornings, were then in vogue in celebrating weddings, and on this occasion it was resolved to have a jolly one. As the curtain of night was falling, such a din of the blowing of tin horns, the thumping of tin pans, brass kettles and the like, was never before heard in the Mohawk valley. Every woman and child had an instrument, while a man named Fulmer played a fiddle in the concert. The enemy approached near enough to hear this wonderful hubbub, and unable to divine its cause unless to celebrate the arrival of fresh troops, they at once abandoned the attack on the fort and moved down to the mill. Never, we believe, did a similar marriage serenade ever result so propitiously. Benton makes the whole number of men at the mill 19, seven of them were soldiers. Surprised by so large a force, they fled from the mill as best they could, leaving Daniel Petrie, one of the citizens slain. Gershom Skinner and F. Fox, the millers, both gained concealment under the water wheel, where they were concealed from their foes, and protected from falling fire brands. Christian Edick and Frederick Getman, were concealed in the race way, until the light of the burning mill disclosed them and they were made prisoners, with, as supposed, eight or ten others.

Benton says that the enemy invaded the vicinity of Fort Herkimer in July, 1782, an event not before noticed, in great numbers, at which time they pursued from their homes to the fort, the families of Peter Wolever and Augustinus Hess, all escaping but Mr. Hess, who was shot as he was entering the picket gate. In this invasion, said the writer, Valentine Staring was captured and tortured within hearing of the fort, that his cries might draw out the troops to weaken the garrison for his rescue, so that it might be captured. Shots were freely exchanged by the Americans and their invaders,and two soldiers besides the two citizens were killed, and it was supposed the loss of the enemy was still greater. Many dwellings were burned at this time, and not a few cattle and horses were added to the plunder made by the enemy. These destructives, I have no doubt, were the ones which burned the mill at the falls the night preceding the scenes here described; as it is not at all probable that two invasions in such large numbers, took place in the same locality only a few weeks apart, especially so near the close of the war.

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