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


(1) "Stone Lying Flat in the Water." Interpreted by A. Cusick- Aboriginal Place Names by Beauchamp, page 81.

(2) John and Harmanus Fisher. They resided at that period where the Hon. Jesse D. DeGroff now resides, between the villages of Fonda and Amsterdam, and were both killed and scalped by the Indians and Tories in the summer of 1780; at which time the former was a captain and the latter a lieutenant of militia. Col. Frederick Fisher (or Visscher, as he wrote his name in the latter part of his life), a third brother, chanced to be there at the time, and was scalped and left for dead, but recovered and lived many years. For a more particular account of the Fisher family and their sufferings, see my Border Wars -of New York.

(3) This Han Yost (John Joseph) Schuyler and Walter Butler were fortunately made prisoners near Fort Dayton, about the time of Arnold's arrival at that post. Butler was sent down to Albany as a prisoner. Schuyler had entered the Mohawk valley as a spy-was tried by court-martial and sentenced to be hung, his coffin being made ready to receive his remains. Gen. Arnold thought to turn his life to more profitable account than his death, and agreed to spare him on condition that he would enter the camp of St. Ledger, and by an exaggerated account of the forces advancing under his command, thus contribute towards raising the siege of Fort Stanwix, then called Fort Schuyler. Schuyler accepted the terms for his life; and his brother Nicholas was retained as a hostage, to suffer in his stead in case of a noncompliance. Han Yost entered the enemy's lines, and his known fidelity to their cause gave his representation of Arnold's forces no little weight. Probably Schuyler had been sent below to learn whether American troops were approaching. The camp was thrown into confusion, and it was resolved to raise the siege. Several shrewd Oneidas friendly to the American cause were in the secret, and ere St. Ledger began his retrograde movement, one of them dropped into the camp as if by chance. He was interrogated as to his knowledge of the approaching Yankees, and replied mysteriously, but in a manner to inspire awe. "Are the Yankees numerous?" inquired a tory officer. The Indian pointing to the surrounding forest replied by asking-"Can Oneida count the leaves? Can white man count the stars?" The siege was precipitately abandoned, and agreeably to arrangement another and another Oneida entered the ranks of the foe to add their enigmatic testimony to that of the first. The strategem succeeded to a charm; and finding opportunity to return to the army of Arnold, and thence to Fort Dayton, Schuyler saw his brother set free and went back to Canada. Subsequent to the war*, Schuyler returned to Herkimer county where he died. Facts from John Roof, who was on duty at Fort Dayton, and saw the coffin made for Schuyler, and who was familiar with the circumstances which led to his arrest and novel liberation; corroborated by John Dockstader, of Herkimer. Says the latter, this Schuyler had a brother and two sisters who were carried captive to Canada in the French war, and were retained there until it closed. Herkimer, then called the Palatine's village, was invaded by the French -and Indians in November, 1757, its dwellings, grain, mills, etc., destroyed by fire, and its inhabitants mostly slain or carried into captivity; as we may show at some future day.

(4) A wounded Hessian fired on Arnold, and John Redman, a volunteer, ran up to bayonet him, but was prevented by his general, who exclaimed, "He's a fine fellow-don't hurt him!" The Hessians continued to fight after they were down, because they had been told by their employers that the Americans would give no quarters.--Stoner

(5) At the time Gen. Prescott's capture was noted, it had escaped the writer's recollection that an account of it had ever been published; and Stoner's narrative of the event was adopted in the first edition, making it a year later than its occurrence. It took place July 10, 1777-five miles from Newport. Col. Barton left Warwick Neck with 37 men in two boats, surprised the general in bed, and returned with him in safety (Holmes Annals.)

(6) Ca-ya-du-ta signifies muddy creek, says the Hon. John Dunham, of Hamilton county, who had the signification from Indian hunters. The creek courses in Johnstown through a soil which gives to the water at most seasons of the year a dirty appearance; hence the aboriginal name.

(7) Several errors have crept into history about this ceremony. The facts were as follows: In May, 1780, Gen. Lincoln, then in command at Charleston, S. C., was compelled to surrender his sword to Cornwallis. When his lordship found himself obliged to yield to the allied army, he knew that Lincoln, who was his equal in rank, was with the conquerors, and as the terms now meted to him were precisely like those dictated to Lincoln, he possibly may have conjectured that that officer would be designated by the great American commander to receive his own polished blade. Be that as it may, certain it is that instead of appearing on the occasion, as a man of real courage and generosity would have done (for that officer lacks moral courage who can not share defeat with his men), he feigned illness and sent Gen. O'Hara to do the disagreeable honors; and that officer very handsomely performed the ceremony of tendering his sword to Gen. Lincoln, who was appointed by Washington to receive it. Capt. Eben Williams (This hero died at his residence in Schoharie, July 1, 1847, aged nearly 98 years. He was beloved by all who knew him.) who was present assured the writer, that Lincoln received, reversed, and again restored the hilt of the weapon to its owner, with a dignity and grace of gesture he could never forget, for he had never seen it equalled. Several persons who witnessed this ceremony have corroborated what I have here stated, and an old soldier (James Williamson), who received half the British standards, to the question, why did not Cornwallis surrender his own sword? replied, "I guess he was a little sick at his stomach!"

In a picture intended to represent this scene, and but recently got up, Gen. Washington erroneously appears in the act of receiving the resignation from O'Hara, the latter being on foot. The general officers present, American, French and British, as several witnesses have assured the writer, were all mounted. The picture of this scene by Trumbull, a beautiful steel copy of which Is made the frontispiece of Howe's Historical Collections of Virginia, although painted soon after, presents the British general trudging along on foot, and without side arms; while Dr. Thatcher, in his Military Journal, made at the time and published long since, stated that he was elegantly mounted. Col. Abercrombie, who commanded the left wing of the British army on this occasion was also on horseback. It is to be regretted that more care is not taken in preparing historical pictures, lest truth be violated, and the young taught popular errors never to be corrected.

(8) Dries is an abbreviation for Andreas, the German of Andrew.

(9) At the time of Sir John Johnson's invasion of Johnstown and its vicinity in the summer of 1780, DeLine and Joseph Scott were living in Johnson Hall. When Johnson visited there to procure his concealed property, DeLine and Scott were made prisoners and taken to Canada. From his having been a hunter and familiar with the forest, DeLine was tightly bound. This was the second time they were taken to Canada during the war, and how long they remained prisoners there at this time is unknown to, the writer. James Jones of Florida composed the following distich, which was often sounded in their ears after the war:

And when they came to the Hall, the house they did surround,

And Ben De Line and Joseph Scott made prisoners on the ground.

(10) Previous to the war, McDonald and Scarborough were neighbors, and in a political quarrel which took place soon after the commencement of national difficulties and ended in blows, the loyalist was rather roughly handled. A spirit of revenge no doubt prompted him to wreak his vengeance on an unarmed prisoner.- Stoner.

Scarborough was overbearing and at times insolent towards those who differed with him in politics. On one occasion during the war, at the gristmill in Johnstown, Scarborough met an -old man upon whom he heaped a deal of abuse. The young miller, a mere lad, offended at such unkind treatment, jumped into a sleigh then at the door, rode up to the fort, and informed the garrison of what he had witnessed. Several soldiers, determined to see fair play, returned with the miller; and on their reproving Scarborough for ill treating the poor old man, he turned upon and began a quarrel with them. The result was he received a severe castigation for his temerity, which cooled him down. From James Frazier, then a boy, who, if I mistake not, witnessed the whole scene at the mill.

(11) Jockurn Folluck, a soldier killed in the Johnstown battle, was found with a piece of meat placed at his mouth, as supposed by the Indians in derision. Folluck resided in the vicinity of Jobnstown.-David Zielie.

(12) Lieut. Col. Young was killed in 1817, in the abortive attempt of Gen. Mina to revolutionize Mexico.

(13) On this hill the Americans erected a gallows and hung a British spy upon it.

(14) In 1796, De Fonclalere erected a tavern stand at Johnstown, in the forks of the Fonda's Bush and Tribe's Hill roads, which stand was known for many years as Union Hall, and in which as "mine host," he spent the remainder of his days. This Hall building is now owned and occupied by Mr. V. Balch, as a private dwelling. The following anecdote of the old Frenchman, who is still remembered around Johnstown for his extra bows and especial regard for the comfort of his customers, was witnessed by the Hon. Aaron Haring.

There stands in Johnstown, on the east side of the street, a few rods to the southward of the first inn kept by De Fonclaiere, an antiquated building with a gambrel roof, owned and occupied before the Revolution by Maj. Gilbert Tice. The latter building after the war, was occupied as a tavern stand by Michael Rollins, a son of the emerald isle. De Fonclaiere kept a span of mettlesome horses, and when a deep snow had spread her white mantle over the bosom of the earth, and the bells and belles began to jingle and smile, the restless steeds harnessed to a sleigh to give his ladies an airing, were brought before the door, with their nostrils snuffing up the wind in the direction of the Mohawk.

Left only "un lettle moment" to their own wills, the gay animals of Mons. De Fonclaiere, either of which would have served a Ringgold or a May for a charger, abused the confidence of their master, and dashed off at the top of their speed. In front of the rival inn stood a cow directly in the beaten path, which belonged on the premises. Strange as it may seem, as the sleigh passed the cow, she was thrown upon her haunches, and, as chance would have it, rolled on her back plump into it. The party intending to occupy the seat instead of the kine, came to the door in time to see the latter drive off in triumph, urging on the horses by a most doleful bellowing. The horses started in William street and ran south to Clinton street, thence east through Clinton to Johnson (now Market) street, south up Market to Montgomery street, west through Montgomery to William street, and down the latter to the place of starting. The best part of the joke was that on turning into William street from Montgomery, at the next corner above, and only a few rods from where the cow was taken in, she was, sans ceremony, thrown out again. A war.of words instantly followed this adventure, between the rival landlords. Said De Fonclaiere, greatly excited-"Keep you tam Irish cow 'out von my sleigh!" "You French booger," retorted Rollings with an oath, "do you kape the like of yeer fancy horses away frorn me cow!" This novel incident afforded a fine subject for village gossip, as the reader may suppose, long after the excitement it awakened had died away.

Inscriptions from tombstones in Johnstown "In memory of John Baptiste Vaumanee De Fonclaiere, formerly a captain in the Martinique regiment, in the service of His Most Christian Majesty Louis XVI, and for thirty years past a citizen of the United States, who departed this life 5th January 1811, in the 71st year of his age." "In memory of Achsah, wife of Vaumane De Fonclaiere, who died Aug. 15, 1831, in the 73d year of her age."

(15) The wood work of this old stone building, which served as a fort in the Revolution, was burned in Sept. 1849. The building has since been repaired, and restored to its former appearance.

(16) Pi-se-co is an aboriginal word, and in their pronunciation, the Indians speak it as though spelled Pe-sic-co; giving a hissing sound to the second syllable. It is derived from pisco, a fish, and therefore signifies fish lake. --John Dunham.

Piseco, says Spafford in his Gazeteer of New York and which he spells Pezeeko, is so called after an old Indian hermit who dwelt upon its shores.

(17) The road from Boonville surveyed by Smith, in the employ of Gov. Francis, I suppose to be one of the roads here alluded to.

(18) That much of this tract In an agricultural point of view has a most forbidding aspect, there can be but little doubt. Judge Stow, of Lewis county, once observed of it, "that it was so poor It would make a crow shed tears of blood to fly over it."

(19) White was rather under the middling stature, with a dark complexion, and possessing a very keen, dark eye. He was a man - of few words, but celebrated for his shrewdness. He learned the blacksmith's trade at Schenectada in his early life, and always made his own hunting-knives and hatchets. He was a very successful hunter, was extensively known, and by Indian hunters he was universally feared. The Indians, he said to his friends, never stole his fur but once. He occasionally crossed the track of Maj. Stoner, to whom he was well known, but as he hunted to the westward of Stoner, they did riot often meet.

Says Henry Graves, of Boonville, "I was well acquainted with Green White, who was a great trapper on and about Brown's tract. He hunted some in connection with Foster, but they generally had the separate interest. White, however, was much the most successful trapper. He would sometimes bring in a hundred dollars worth of beaver at a time-lay drunk until he had spent it all, and then back to the woods. Not so with Foster: he liked a glass, but would be called a temperate man.

"I should think White had been dead some fifteen years. He with another man was coming in from the tract; they halted by the way- side, built them a brush shantee and stopped for the night. During the night, a small stub of a tree fell across the shantee and broke White's leg. Early in the morning the man with him came to Boonville about seventeen miles for help. He was brought in on a litter; but before a surgeon could be obtained to amputate it, the limb mortified and he died."

In the fall of 1815, said the surveyor Smith, White came in from Brown's tract with three hundred dollars worth of fur, and as usual on such occasions, he trained until it was all gone. While hunting, after the provisions were gone he had taken in from the settlement, he lived on wild game and fish. This was the usual fare of hunters in the forest. White is said to have been about the same age of Poster, and is believed to have followed trapping about the Fulton lakes a few years earlier than did Foster. There was a hunter named Williams, on and about Brown's tract in 1815.

(20) The celebrated Joseph Brant, once found it necessary to kill his own son. The latter had taken umbrage at his parent for some cause, and on an occasion, pursued him with a knife, bent on his destruction. Brant retreated to the corner of a room, armed with a tomahawk; and satisfied the s.on would execute his threats, as he rushed upon him, the father sunk the fatal tomahawk in his head.-Isaac H. Tiffany.

(21) Os-we-gatchie or Ogh-swa-gatchie, an Indian name, the historian James MacCauley, informed the author, which signifies going or coming round a hill. The great bend in the Oswegatche river (or the necessity of it), on the borders of Lewis county, originated its significant name. An Indian tribe, bearing the name of the river, once lived upon its banks; but its fate, like that of many sister tribes, has been, to melt away before the progressive step of the Anglo-Saxon.

(22) Turner's History of the Holland Purchase in Western N. Y.

(23) Documentary History, Vol. 2, p. 820.

(24) Correspondence of Lyman C. Draper, of Leverington, Pa.

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