History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume II, Page 551
Some Account of Settlements Made North of the Mohawk, in Herkimer County, Prior to the Revolution, and Scenes Enacted There in the War.--In preparing this narrative I have depended very much upon facts obtained in August, 1850, from Col. -Daniel Henderson, of Norway, and conversations made the same season with John Windecker, 85, and Lodowick Moyer, 90 years of age, residents of Fairfield. Col. H. was a son of Edward Henderson, who was under the brave Stark, at Bennington ; and who located at Norway, in April, 1792, on which spot the son ever after resided. Among the early settlers, near Henderson, were Fisher and Philip Potter, brothers ; Thomas Manly and Maj. David Underhill. The Potters settled first.
Peter Hasenclever and 17 others, secured by patent, February 27, 1769, 18,000 acres of land lying northwest of the German Flats It was bounded north and east, by West Canada creek ; west, by Walton's patent, and south, by Crosby's Manor and Colden's patent, and was situated mostly in Herkimer and Newport. Lodowick Moyer assured the writer, that his father, Jacob Moyer, came from Germany and went upon Hasenclever's patent, when he was a small boy. This settlement, he believed, was in the present town of Schuyler.* Among the pioneers here, Mr. Moyer could remember the names of Mike, Raymond, Hilts, Barhay and Schlong, or Snake in English. The settlement extended a mile in length, and as an inducement to emigrate, the settlers besides having the passage of their families paid-the male head of each family was to have 25 acres of land in fee. At the stockade, Mike's dwelling, a little garrison, was kept for a time, but most of the citizens having left, and the remainder much exposed, the settlement was entirely abandoned until the war closed.
Northerly three miles from the village of Herkimer, and on the West Canada creek, located several years before the war, Christian Schell, at a place subsequently called Schell's Bush ; with a few hardy neighbors, of whom were David and John Moyer.
Sir William Johnson, having secured a title to the large tract of land between the Canada creeks-called Kingsland, or Royal Grant-held out liberal inducements to settle it, whereupon
* There was a settlement begun in this town called New Germantown, at quite as early a period. Was not this where Hasenclever located his colony, and was it not known as Fort Mike early in the war? There was a fortified dwelling in the Herkimer county settlements called Fort Mike In the war, on Hasenclever's patent.
Jacob Moyer sold out his interest where located, and went upon Johnson's Grant, near the now pretty village of Fairfleld, north-east of Schell's Bush. Under Sir William, he was to have a three-lives-lease title to 105 acres. Of the first settlers in Fairfield now remembered by Moyer and Windecker, were Honicle* Roan, Watts, Jacob Moyer-he was killed in the Oriskany battle-Conrad, Jacob, Adam and Joseph Klock, Mabus Forbush, Carl (Charles) Karn, Lawrence Kreuger, Cobus (James) Mabee, William Ames, Suffrenes Casselman, John McCaffrey, Henry Tabush (Davis in English), John, Philip and William Empie, Hillebrant, Haywiser, Hiller (he was killed at Oriskany), Multaner, a mason by trade; Robhold, Ough, Sheafe (was in the Continental army), Adam and Rudolph Farrie, Henry Shafer and John Keyser. There were over 30 families altogether, covering quite an area of ground ; and having been in several years were raising their own subsistence-some having framed dwellings.
For the want of a grist-mill nearer, and until one was erected at Snyder's Bush, they had to go to Little Falls, 10 miles distant, on horseback. Remembered as living at Little Falls before the war, were Adam Stauring, Henry Keller and John, Henry and Jacob Hoever, brothers.
Some two or three miles nearly north of Little Falls, settlements were made quite as early and important as were those in Fairfield. At a place called Snyder's Bush, an enterprising German named Reme Snyder had located, as supposed, 10 years before the war, and had erected a small grist-mill, much to the convenience of his pioneer brethren ; among whom Mr. Windecker remembered John Keyser, John Garter, who purchased Snyder's mill ; Schmidt, who erected a potash ; Adam Bellinger, George Ateel and John Eysler (he was killed at Oriskany), and his family removed to Stone Arabia. Reme Snyder's dwelling pallisaded, was called Fort Snyder.
Perhaps a mile from Snyder and nearer Little Falls, settled Honicle Aucks, Conrad and Frederick Windecker, brothers-the last was father of informant-Bartholomew Pickert, John Keller, John Hadcock, John Garter, who removed to Snyder's Bush ; Joseph Newman, John Cypher, Helmer and Ritter, who
* A contraction of Hans Nichol.-John Nicholas.
was killed at Oriskany. The dwelling of Aucks was inclosed in pickets, and known as Fort Aucks, or Ox, as often spoken. This settlement was made upon Glen's patent in the present town of Manheim.
Beyond the settlements named and in the town of Salisbury, located William Williams, -- Lapham, -- Johnson; -- Streeter, in 1777 he went to Canada ; and possibly a few others. And still farther north upon the Jerseyfield patent,* and in the western part of the new town of Ohio, might have been seen smoke curling upward from the rude dwellings of some half a dozen pioneers ; the most enterprising of whom was one Mount, from New Jersey. At the beginning of the Revolution, he had been instrumental to the opening of two roads from his clearing to the Mohawk, called the Jerseyfield roads ; one a passable wagon road running through Fairfield and Snyder's Bush to the Little Falls, and the other passing through Salisbury and by a more easterly direction, striking the river at some point in Manheim, several miles below the falls. The latter has since been denominated the old Jerseyfield road. The settlers in Mount's neighborhood some of whom were miles apart, were mostly Scotch ; one of whom, a man named Gordon, erected a saw-mill on Black creek. Gordon, with a neighbor named Skinner, went to Little Falls early in the war, but the other settlers except Mount removed to Canada. Black creek, which courses through the town of Ohio to West Canada creek, receives two mill streams in its route-Mill creek, which carries the waters of Jerseyfield lake to the former, and Mount's creek. Black creek is the most southerly, and Mount's creek the most northerly of the three. Mount began a clearing in a bend on the north side of Mount's creek, and erected a saw-mill and small grist-mill on the stream called from that circumstance, Mill creek. The irons and mill-stones are now, or were recently to be seen there. To reach his clearing from Little Falls-distant some 20 miles-it was necessary to cross the three creeks mentioned. He was raising his own grain when the war began.
* This patent was granted April 12,1770, for 94,000 acres of land, situated mostly in Salisbury, lying northerly of the Royal Grant. It was originally divided into 95 lots. The names of 94 patentees were inserted In the document, who were residents of Schenectada and the Mohawk river settlements, with several Albany and perhaps a few New York names.
The settlers north of the falls, at and around Snyder's Bush, like their Fairfield neighbors, were not only raising their own grain in 1777, but some of them had planted apple orchards, and had erected good framed dwellings. And a still greater evidence of thrift, a comfortable school house bad been constructed of logs near Eysler's dwelling, and a flourishing school taught in it for several years, by a German named Sharrar, who taught only the German language. He espoused the American cause and sealed with his life his republican principles at Oriskany. Children came to this school from neighboring settlements. Among the scholars from Fairfield, were a son and daughter of Cobus (James) Mabee.
One after another of Mount's neighbors had quitted their forest homes, until for months his had been the only remaining family ; and from its retirement more exposed to violence than any other in the Herkimer settlements. Uniformly kind to the sons of the forest, Mount felt comparatively secure, and continued to prosecute his labors until some time in October, 1777, when he had occasion to go to Little Falls to mill, for some unexplained reason. He was accompanied by his wife, leaving at home three sons, their ages ranging from 10 to 15, and a little negro boy younger than they were.
With their cupidity sharpened by the influence of British gold, two Indians, formerly from the Mohawk, Cataroqua and Hess, who had received numerous favors from the Mount family, improved this opportunity to procure the sons' scalp-locks. The oldest boy was at work in a field and the two younger were threshing peas in a barn, when the Indians, attracted by the sound of their flails, appeared at the door and asked them for milk. They were honestly answered by the lads that they had none. This inability to comply with their wishes, the Indians made a pretext for anger, and instantly shot them down, " when," as the negro lad said afterwards, " they took little axes and struck them into their heads, and then took knives and skinned the top of their heads, and then ran into the woods." The boy engaged elsewhere, rightly conjecturing the import of the firing, became alarmed and fled to the nearest settlement. The reader would know why the colored boy was left unharmed : because his scalp would not command eight dollars in Canada. It is presumed that Mount met his son, and, learning his cause of alarm, was so anxious to learn the fate of his other children, that he left his wife with some settler and proceeded on over the rough road that evening, reaching his dwelling about midnight. Not finding his sons in bed he sought them anxiously at the barn. There they reposed, side by side, on the straw of the grain they had been threshing, in a slumber that knew no waking-while unharmed, the little negro was sleeping soundly between them.
News of the alarm reached the river settlements, and early on the following day Capt. Hoever went up with a small party of patriots and buried those innocent victims of war's rapacious maw.- This was among the earliest tragedies that crimsoned the border settlements of New York ; and were destined, ere peace was restored, to sunder the dearest ties and break the tender hearts of thousands of happy families. Mr. Mount immediately abandoned his frontier possessions-the fruit of years of hard toil-and with crushed hopes the surviving members of the family, taking their most valuable effects, left their forest abode and returned to New Jersey. A few weeks after they were abandoned, Mount's buildings were, by the enemy, reduced to ashes. Lodowick Moyer said that a son of Mount was in the American army. If so it must have been the one that escaped from the field when his brothers were murdered. John Terry, of Newport, assured the writer he saw peas that were burned in Mount's barn, dug from the ruins, and yet whole, in 1813, thirty six years after they were charred, which prevented their decomposition. I may here observe that Col. Henderson spared no pains to furnish the writer with a true account of the settler, Mount, and death of his boys ; as also with other interesting memoranda of that neighborhood.
I have shown, in my Trappers of New York, that the Indian, Hess, did not die of a lingering illness in the presence of Nat Foster ; and the reader would, perhaps, know more of his partner in crime. About nine years after the war, a Mr. Marcley, from Stone Arabia, was engaged, with several hands, in building a store in the north part of Fairfield, when two Indian hunters, one advanced in years and the other a fine looking young fellow, visited the spot. They had been to Little Falls (had a bottle of rum) and the old one had more sail than ballast : more egotism than prudence. Among his evil deeds, he boasted of killing the Mount boys, and flourished a knife to indicate the manner in which they had been scalped. An athletic young German present snatched up a broad-axe, and with a countenance blanched by rage, sprang forward to avenge the death of those innocent victims of savage cupidity.
On his way to the Indian, the young carpenter was caught by a by-stander, who prevented the execution of his purpose. Constant vigilance alone enabled the Indian to leave the young man's presence. Some days after this event transpired, the young Indian was seen alone, and inquired of where his companion was ? "Ah ! " he replied, " Cataroqua gone away ; he never come back again." The young hunter was about for some time, but, as he had predicted, old Cataroqua was never again seen in the Herkimer settlements. His fate is not positively known, but tradition, among the old people, says that death came upon him suddenly, and in a fearfully tragic manner.
The Fairfield Settlement.-The Fairfield settlers, like there in other exposed localities, were divided in opinion and action, and of course came to be called whigs and tories. Of the latter class were John and Philip Empie ; two sons of William Empie ; Henry Davis ; John McCaffrey ; Suffrenes Caselman ; a son of Hillebrandt; Lame Hans, Philip and two younger sons of Wm. Ames ; and a few others not remembered. An incident attendant upon their arrival in Canada, which shows that avarice had its influence in shaping their political bias, should be mentioned in this connection. Davis, who returned after the war, told his old neighbors that one thing which induced himself and others to adhere to royalty, was that they were promised by the Johnson family, or their agents, they should have their choice of the rebels' farms in the Mohawk valley. While discussing claims for prospective possession of certain desirable lands to be wrested from patriotic owners ; two of the Ames brothers, on arriving in Canada, fell into a dispute as to which of them should have Lieut.-Col. Peter Wagner's flats (choice lands near the river in the westerly part of the town of Palatine), and they waxed so warm that from angry words they came to blows. A severe fist-fight was the result, and the " warriors " were so badly bruised as to be laid up for a week. Those chickens never hatched, William Ames went to Schenectada early in the war, and returning at its close, he kept possession of his farm.
The Fairfield tories left their homes just before the Oriskany battle, and most of them were in it-opposed in arms to their former neighbors, of which, as elsewhere stated, were Jacob Moyer, Hiller and Ritter. Caselman afterwards boasted of having cut Ritter's throat. The throat of Moyer was also cut, as supposed, by a former neighbor. In the fall of 1777, about the time the Mount boys were killed, a lad named John Caselman was shot from a horse in Shellsbush.
Invasion of Fairfield.-About the middle of March, 1778, a party of the enemy, Indians and tories, made a sudden irruption upon and broke up the Fairfield settlement. A surprise thus unlooked for, was accomplished by journeying upon snow shoes, and just at a time when some of the settlers were endeavoring to find less exposed situations. Cobus Mabee was in the act of removing his family to the vicinity of Indian Castle. His children then were two sons and two daughters. He had, with most of his household effects, accompanied by his wife and two younger children, gone to the Mohawk valley, leaving John and Polly, his oldest children, to take care of the premises until his return, on the following day. As the invaders scattered about the settlement, Hess, who was at the murder of the Mount boys, and another Indian who was well known to the Mabee family-probably Cataroqua-visited the premises, expecting, as believed, to kill or capture Mr. Mabee.
As the two Indians came there, they saw John near the house in the act of cutting potatoes for cattle, and ran directly to him. Hess held out his left hand, with a salution of friendship, while the right hand grasped a sharpened tomahawk. As the lad took the proffered hand, he read his fate in the significant look, so peculiar to the defiant eye of the Indian, and discovering his sister at the moment a little distance off, his voice, in German, sounded the caution-" Polly, take care of yourself, or "-the sentence remained unfinished upon his lips. She saw the gleam of the weapon that, as it cut short his warning to herself, fell heavily upon the skull of her brother, fled and effectually concealed herself under some corn-stalks. Her brother's scalp was torn off, the dwelling which afforded little plunder was soon on fire, and the Indians were on their way to find other exposed victims.
Returning to his former residence after the enemy left it, Mr. Mabee found his unfortunate son-then 15 years of age still alive, and receiving the caresses of his sister, two years younger than himself. As stated, these children had been sent from home to school, and well had improved their time. They were devotedly attached to each other, and John was considered the most promising boy in the settlement. Placing his son upon the sled, where Polly again acted the nurse, he drove as carefully as possible to the Mohawk valley, but soon after arriving at the castle, the boy was released from his suffering.
Of the Fairfield settlers surprised and carried into captivity, were Conrad, Jacob,* Adam and Joseph Klock ; Mabus Forbush, Robhold Ough, Adam and Rudolph Furrie, Henry Shafer and son Henry. Shafer had married the widow of Jacob Moyer+ after his death, and at the time of his surprise, was preparing to move on the place Cobus Mabee was vacating. Indeed, his son Henry had been sent thither with a load of some kind, and was captured on his way. No females, it is believed, were either killed or captured in this settlement at this time ; and the father of Forbush, who was too old to make the journey, and too bald to afford a bounty-paying scalp, was, by a freak of humanity or some other motive, left behind. On leaving Fairfield the enemy crossed over to the East Jerseyfield road, and there captured John Keyser and his sons Michael and John, burned his buildings, and from his sheep and cattle they replenished their larder. Calvin Barnes, who married into the Keyser family after the war, was living on the Keyser place in 1850. The prisoners received their share of suffering on their way to Canada, and probably all came back. Some of
* They enlisted into the British service to embrace an opportunity to return home. Coming down with an invading party, they improved a favorable moment and joined their friends.
+ Loadwick, son of Jacob Moyer; at the age of 15, enlisted into Capt. McKean's company of Rangers, and was for a time at Fort Mike, in Schuyler. He next enlisted under Capt. Bigbread for two years, serving at Fort Paris and other posts. For nearly two years he was under Capt. Putman, at Fort Hunter, Fort Plain and other stations. In the latter part of the war, for an enlistment, as a bounty, for nine months, he was offered, by a Johnstown officer, 100 skipples of wheat, 10 lbs. of wool, and a horse. Henry Crim, a fellow soldier, married a sister of Moyer near the close of the war. He rendered his country good service in the Johnstown battle and other localities, for which he received a pension. He died in the fall of 1880.
the dwellings in the settlement, from motives of policy, were not burned until a later invasion of the enemy.
The Invasion of Snyder's Bush.-On the third of April, 1778, and about two weeks after the sacking of Fairfield, another party of the enemy, 50 strong, consisting of Indians and tories-the latter outnumbering their allies, whose dress and character they emulated, led by Capt. Crawford, a royalist, visited Snyder's Bush and its neighborhood. Among the tory visitors were Suffrenes Casselman, one Countryman and several Bowens, who had gone from the Lower Mohawk settlements. Not long before this invasion, Frederick Windecker had removed to the vicinity of Fort Plain ; and James Van Slyck, who had married Gertrude, a daughter of Windecker was then living on the homestead.* As I have stated, the residence of Ft. Windecker was fortified at Mindenville. At the grist-mill, the enemy captured its proprietor, John Garter, and his son John, a lad entering his teens ; and Joseph Newman and Bartholomew Pickert, who chanced to be at the mill. The destructives arrived at the Windecker place as the family were at dinner, who were excused from finishing it. The family were threshing wheat, and John House, who was related to Van Slyck, had gone up from the north side of the Mohawk to assist him, taking with him a man named Forbush. Van Slyck was that day sick in bed, and what was unusual on similar occasions, he was suffered to remain there with his scalp on. The enemy captured at Windecker's, John House, Forbush, my informant, John Windecker, then in his 13th year, and Garret, a brother of James Van Slyck, about the same age as young Windecker. They also captured in and contiguous to this settlement, John Cypher, Mr. Helmer, Jacob Uher, and George Attle. The two latter, on a scout from Fort Snyder, were captured in the woods.
In the Salisbury settlement, Mr. Lapham and his sons, Joseph and Sidney, and a son of William Williams were added to the prisoners. Mr. W. Williams, after his capture-owing to his age and infirmities, was permitted to return home. A Mr. Johnson, who lived a mile or two from Williams-although a patriot, was not disturbed, as he was off from their departing
* John F. Windecker, a grandson of Frederick, resided on this place in 1852.
route, which led up the old Jerseyfield road. No citizens were killed at this time. Dwellings were plundered, but no buildings were burned except Garter's mill, which was destroyed. The dwellings of the captors were subsequently burned by the enemy. Crawford's party-as did the invaders of Fairfield-journeyed through the forest by the northerly route on snow-shoes, and imitating their example, they halted, when out of danger of pursuit, and made snow-shoes for the prisoners; as the snow was yet deep in the wilderness. For the boys, they made small shoes, but Sidney Lapham was too young to walk in them, and his father was obliged to carry him on his back a great part of the way.
As the Indians approached the Windecker dwelling, John attempted to escape by flight, but was discovered and overtaken by a Massassauga Indian, of which tribe there were three in the party. The Indian proved very kind to his captive, carrying him on his back across rapid streams and dangerous places. On their way to Canada, the party was straitened for food, eating whatever they could find. Mr. Windecker remarked, that an Indian would eat about everything except a crow, which, he said, they would hardly eat to keep from starving. The enemy passed Mount's clearing on their route at which they halted, and knowing that he had potatoes planted the summer before which had not been dug in the fall, they replenished their larder by obtaining quite a quantity, by digging through the snow. The buildings had been burned before the visit of this party. When scanted for food on their journey, the Indians taught the prisoners how to bear with hunger, or as Mr. Windecker expressed it, " how to starve ;" which was to fasten a belt firmly around the belly, tightening it as the chest grew empty.
The prisoners were taken directly to Buck's Island, nine miles below Lake Ontario, and some 10 days after, young Windecker was removed from thence to the hut of his Indian captor, and saw no more of his fellow captives until his return to New York. In this Indian family-where young Windecker remained for months-he was treated more kindly than by some Canadians to whose mercy he afterwards fell. Having been a prisoner for several years, to better his condition, he was induced by the liberal bounty of a pair of sleeve buttons, to enlist to perform certain kinds of military duty at Buck's Island --and on two occasions he was on guard.
Captivity of Jacob Stauring and his Children.—The Massassauga
Indian who captured young Windecker, joined another expedition in 1778, only
a few days after the latter was initiated into his family, where he
had to adopt the Indian custom, its destination being to the Herkimer settlements.
I do not know the strength of this party or the scenes it enacted, except
in the capture of a family of Staurings on the farm for many years known
as Judge Jacob Marcle's place, in Snell's Bush. Some time in the month of
May, Jacob Stauring, with his sons Jacob and George, and daughter Lana (Magdalena),
were engaged in planting corn, when they were surprised by the enemy
and taken to Canada. We suppose the house to have been pillaged, but
what else the party accomplished I am not informed. One of the captors was
the Massassauga previously mentioned, who claimed for his undivisible interest
in the captives, the person of Miss Lana, a beautiful girl of charming proportions,
then about 16 years of age.
In due time, the party reached Canada, and Stauring and his sons were surrendered for the accustomed reward to the authorities on Buck's Island. Not so with the bewitching Lana. She was taken to the home of her captor, where she was required to don Indian attire and become his wife. My informant, Windecker, was still in the family. Whether the unwonted charms of the maiden had disturbed the warrior's mind, or whether by his kind treatment while threading the forest he had won upon her esteem, so that affection had anything to do with the match we cannot say. But certain it is, she neither pined away or committed suicide. After she had been a month or more domesticated in her novel relationship, her detention among the Indians became known, and she was required at Montreal; and to remove her more effectually from the Indians, she was taken off among Canadians, where she soon after married, as her friends in captivity learned, and ever after remained in Canada. Her father and brothers lived to return to the Mohawk valley.
Many are the offences for which John Smith is indictable; among them is that of one John Smith for inducing certain prisoners at Montreal to enlist into the British service. Several of them enlisted, as is believed, to enhance their prospect for their escape. Of this number was John Garter, the Snyders Bush miller; Suffrenes Dygert, and one Hapley, of the Herkimer settlements ; the two latter from the south side of the river near Little Falls. In attempting a midnight escape, the fugitives were discovered by the water-guard not far from the fort, brought back and flogged as deserters. Garter, whose punishment was the most severe, received a thousand stripes save one. He was literally flayed, but survived to be transported for life, never again to see his family.
In the summer of 1782, at which time hostilities had nearly ceased, a party of American prisoners at Rebel Island resolved clandestinely to leave Canada. Their names were John Lour, Andrew Fine, an elderly man named Evertson, Dennis McGraw, one Poousock, and a German whose name is now forgotten. Initiated into their secret intent, Windecker determined to join them. With what preparations they could make by husbanding rations, etc., they crossed the river in the night in a canoe and trusted to fortune. Me Graw was the only one who could secure a gun and a few charges of ammunition. With this he shot two young bears, which, with a few fish caught at different times, kept their larder from barrenness. At Kingston— Caturoqua there was an old French fort there—the party got canoes, in which, after six days' ride, they floated to some point on Salmon creek, from whence they footed it home, arriving in the Mohawk valley, after a journey of 14 days. Windecker had been gone about four years and three months.
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