Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

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

Volume II, Page, Page 517

The Enemy in Palatine. In the events of 1780, I said that one of the daughters of Johannes Bellinger had some romance connected with her life. On the eve of hostilities, Philip Helmer, who was of a worthy family, decided to seek his fortune in the camp of the enemy. Before doing so, he had been paying his addresses to one of Bellinger's fair daughters: indeed, he had gone so far as to declare his passion; but his suit was rejected in consequence of his Tory proclivities, or adherence to royalty. Not a few of Cupid's drafts were dishonored in the war for the same justifiable reason. Indeed, Benedict Arnold probably made shipwreck of his future by marrying a "loyal" lady. Here is an affidavit of one of Helmer's associates, which shows his mission to Canada and back, as also the designs of a part of the enterprise, which I copied many years ago from the Maj. Finck papers. It read as follows:

"Examination of Nicholas Herkimer, taken 3d Nov., 1781.

"Nicholas Herkimer, being examined under oath, saith that he left Palatine district on Sunday evening, the first of July, in company with Jacob I. Klock, Adam Klock, John Anguish, Old Bangle and John Bangle, Henry Heiney, Matthias Wormwood, Philip Helmer and Nicholas Rosencrantz, and went to Swagachie [Oswegatchie], where they arrived in 11 days. After being there near two months, himself and six more of the company, viz: Jacob I. Klock, Philip Helmer, Matthias Wormwood, Nicholas Rosencrantz, John Anguish, and Henry Heiney, set out with a party consisting of nine white men, besides their party, and 14 Indians (in all 40), and in 11 days arrived in the neighborhood of Canajoharie and concealed themselves in a field behind Adam Nellis's. That in the night of the day of their arrival, himself, Rosencrantz and one Indian went to the house of Petrus Ehle. On their arrival near the house, Rosencrantz went ahead and after awaking up Ehle and his family, called to this examinant, who, together with the Indian, went into the house, where they found Ehle, his wife and a daughter, who expressed great joy in seeing them, and furnished them with provisions to replenish themselves, and gave them as much bread, smoked meat, butter and cheese as they could carry, for the use of the party.

"They then went back to the party, where they arrived about the dawning of the day. While they were at Ehle's, Ehle promised to send somebody to acquaint Thomas [this name was illegible in the manuscript], and Daniel Hess, to inform them that they [the Canadian party] were arrived, and the place where they lay. About 10 o'clock in the morning those two Hesses came to the party, and after some conssideration they removed to another place, and the Hesses went, in order to fetch some other men who were to have joined them. Some time early in the morning, Philip Helmer left the party, in order, as the said, to fetch a Negro belonging to Richard Failing. They continued in this position, without anything further taking place that this examinent recollects, until about three o'clock in the afternoon, when they were surprised by a party of men, upon which they ran off and scattered in the bush, having one Indian killed and one wounded (who died soon after), and one of their white men missing. They did not get together until they arrived at Canada creek; from which place they went, in five or six days, to Point-a-Lake, where he stayed three days, and returned again to Swagachie, where he got some provisions, and went to Carlton Island, where he tarried two days, and embarked on board a vessel and went to Niagara. Then Rosencrantz entered into the ranger service as a volunteer, and Wormwood as a private; and he himself stayed at Niagara till such time as Butler was ordered to join Maj. Ross, and then he came along as a volunteer and continued with the party until the evening of the action at Johnstown, and then he left them; and further this examinant saith not. "Nicholas Herkimer"
"Sworn before me the 3d Nov., 1781.
Andrew Finck, Jr., Justice."

When the party named in the preceding affidavit left Oswegatichie, they had no defined destination, intending, as they reached the frontiers, to be guided by fortuitous circumstances; but in plodding through the forest, it was resolved to strike a terrific blow around Fort Hess (the late Abram Smith's place), and as the destruction of the Bellinger family promised not only booty but beauty, it was agreed that that family should feel their power. Being out of provisions, they thought it better to replenish their larder from friends, than hazard the chances of war to do it. Hence the reason for sending a midnight scout directly to Ehle's, four miles or more to the eastward of Fort Hess; besides, they expected there to be put in the way of getting recruits, and of learning vulnerable points in the neighborhood.

One of the stimulating inducements which led the vicious and immoral Tory to desecrate the domestic altars of former neighbors, was the chance of violating captive women: and as Johannes Bellinger had six virgin daughters, all in the bloom of health and between the ages say of 15 and 25; hence the great inducement for these brave warriors to seek his dwelling. It was agreed among them that the parents should be killed, the house plundered, and the girls taken captive; and an allotment of the latter had actually taken place, designed to pamper the hellish lust of their captors. In the distribution of this prospective Shiloh plunder, Helmer had been left out; indeed, had not been counseled respecting it; and, as may be supposed, his mind revolted at the thought that the fair maiden, whose hand he had sought and for whose person his love was now returning in its strength, was by force to be compelled to a condition her tender sensibilities must recoil from with horror.

Love Triumphs.--When the destructives neared the settlement, the mind of Helmer became less and less at ease, as the curtain of danger settled around the footsteps of one he had tried in vain to banish from his thoughts, until he resolved to prove her deliverer, and test the winning merit of a chivalrous act. For several days he was occupied in devising plans to forewarn the Bellinger family of danger, to which in the end, circumstances would not bend; and with that intent he left the encampment of the enemy on the high lands north of Fort Hess early in the day, and as the affidavit says, under the pretense of getting a Negro slave of Richard Failing.

Helmer left the camp on Sunday morning, as believed, on the 9th day of September, attended by an Indian, to reconnoiter. He had not then fully determined to abandon his associates, and with the ostensible object of finding the most exposed settlers, but the real on of communicating, in some manner, a warning to his sweetheart. In the neighborhood of Fort Hess, he directed his companion to climb a tree, so as to overlook the settlement and descry the occupation of the inhabitants, while he made a circuit for observation. He had hoped to avoid the espionage of the Indian, but his keen eye detected him rashly advancing toward the settlement, and descending from his sycamore perch in haste, he overtook and remonstrated with him in a manner and with an ominous look, such as a forest on only can give, that Helmer readily knew he was suspected of treachery. He instantly turned back, and dissembled unconscious of his danger; but before reaching the destructive' camp he resolved finally to leave them, and under the pretense of obtaining a Negro recruit, as intimated in the affidavit, he left the Indian, and once freed from the ken of his snakish surveillance, he went directly to Fort Hess, on his way to which he stopped at a brook and washed the rouge from his face, thus doffing forever the Indian character. Col. Klock and Christian Nellis were credited with the capture of Helmer in his Indian dress, but he surrendered willingly.

The settlers around Fort Hess were soon gathered there and ready to defend it, and an express sent immediately to Fort Paris, eight miles distant. The messenger reached Stone Arabia about 11 o'clock, A.M., and found most of the inhabitants assembled in church for divine worship. The services were arrested, as the men flew to arms, and the militia, with a handful of State troops, marshaled over 40 strong, and were soon on the march. "This American party," said the late Col. William Feeter in an affidavit made in relation to some matters connected with this expedition long after it transpired, "was commanded by Capt. Sammons." No doubt Capt. Frederick Sammons and Lieut. Samuel Gray. The celerity of these troops is known by the fact that they struck their trail and came up with the enemy on a ridge of land two and a half miles northwest of Fort Hess, near the premises of one Lampman, about four o'clock P.M.

Lampman's Battle.--The suspicions of Helmer's Indian comrade of the morning, must have induced a change of position in the enemy's camp, for one selected with a view not only to avoid but communicate surprise. Rightly divining that if followed from their late encampment it would be upon their trail, they passed along one side of the ridge some distance and then crossing the summit returned on the opposite side to a place favorable for concealment, and commanding from the top of the ridge their own trail. They must have betrayed their own position before the American were enfiladed, else a different result would have followed. The parties took trees and a skirmish ensued, in which one of the Indians was killed and another wounded who died soon after. The Americans soon charged upon their foes, who, without waiting to be killed, fled like frightened sheep down the opposite side of the ridge and escaped. None of the Americans were injured. The enemy reassembled at East Creek, and from their fruitless expedition returned from thence to the St. Lawrence. This little brush with the enemy has since been honored with the title of "Lampman's battle," and in its vicinity, for many years, tradition says, people out late at night were spooked by a headless Indian.

*This Indians was shot by Andrew Gray, as stated in an affidavit made subsequent to the war by Col. William Feeter, John L. Nellis and Peter Sitts; volunteers in the enterprise. Early in the war, the father and an older brother of this Feeter declared for royalty, and as he resolutely for the patriotic movement of his countrymen. The consequence was a family quarrel, ending in his denouncement as an outcast from the paternal dwelling. From thence, in the now town of Amsterdam, he went to Stone Arabia, became intimate with the Gray brothers; a platoon of six Whigs, from whom he received the accouterments of war, and at all times afterwards he was ready, with them and their neighbors, to defend his principles. --Hon. Charles Gray.

But the reader is ready to ask, "What more of Helmer?" Well, the stream in which he washed off the Indian, proved the pool of Siloam to his principles. He never returned to Canada, but from the Sabbath day in question he turned over a new leaf in the ledger of his life, upon which I find inscribed--

My bleeding country now to free,
My every effort hence shall be;
And in the record of her fame,
Fain would I merit there a name!

Toward the close of the war he again offered his hand to Miss Bellinger. It was a far different offering, so the fair maiden viewed it, from what it was a few years before. Then it was raised, like that of Joab, to strike down its former neighbor; now it was nerved to strike the heart of him who would pluck a feather from the young eagle of liberty: then it was lifted in defiance against her own kin; it had been raised for their deliverance. Miss Bellinger was not a heartless, ungrateful girl, and she knew he had possibly saved her from a fate, than which death itself were a blessing. Neither was she a prude, indeed, few women of her generation were ambitious of such a name. Therefore, with such proofs of constancy as he of late had given her, she no longer feared to entrust herself in his keeping, but gave him in wedlock the first tender gushing of an amiable and virtuous heart. I have said that Philip Helmer's mother, a daughter of Christian Nellis, becoming a widow, married Col. Jacob Klock. Philip Helmer left, at his death, five daughters: Maria, who married a Scouton; Catharine, who married Christian Shepperman; Anne, who married James Gremps; Lana, who married George Lambert; and Delia, who married John C. Ehle. After Helmer's death his widow married Leonard Helmer of Kringsbush; who, said Henry Smith, was not a relative of Philip. Thus we see that the fruit of this romantic marriage became a large and respected one in the Mohawk Valley, to bless the day on which Philip Helmer forever cut his Tory alliance. Facts from Gen. Charles Gray, of Herkimer.

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