Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

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

Volume I, Page 236

" The French Topography of the country between Oswego and Albany," found in volume 10 of the Brod. Papers, gives the most reliable account of the condition of things between those posts, in 1757, ever published. And although I have said so much on this subject, it seems necessary to notice some things here recorded. The narrative gives a birds-eye view of both sides of the Mohawk, from Fort Williams, at the head of bateau navigation of the river to Schenectada. That fort and Fort Kouari, are both on the right bank, or south side of the river, 13 leagues apart. Between those forts was a road by which horses and cattle passed on their way from Fort Kouari to Chouagen-Oswego. Five leagues above Fort Kouari are the Forks, that is two roads, one of which leads to Palatine village by crossing the Mohawk at that point.

Fort Kouari is described as a large three story stone house on the south bank of the river, with port-holes at each story; as also in its basement, with some small cannon. It was built for a store and depot for military stores en route for Oswego. It was surrounded except on the side toward the river and approach to the main entrance, by a ditch six feet deep and seven feet wide, 30 feet from the building. Inside the ditch were palisades in oblique form. There was a gate toward the river, but the main entrance was on the south side by a folding ironed door. Opposite the fort in the river was a small cultivated island. The nearest dwelling to the fort was 150 paces. From this to the Cannatchocary, Canajoharie fort is four leagues. In the first mile and before reaching Fall Hill, some 20 dwellings are noted. Below the hill were two other houses some distance apart.

Fort Canajoharie-the Upper Mohawk Castle, also on the south side of the river, consists of a square of four bastions of upright pickets joined with lintels, 15 feet high and about one foot square, with port-holes and a stage all around to fire from. The fort was 100 paces on each side, had small cannon in its bastions, and houses to serve as a store and a barrack. Five or six families of Mohawks resided outside the pickets. From Fort Canajoharie to Fort Hunter-Lower Mohawk castle, is about twelve leagues, with a good carriage road along the bank of the river. In this distance are about 100 houses, some of which are back from the river.

Fort Hunter, situated on the borders of the " Moack" river, on the south side-in the estuary at the junction of the Schoharie; creek with the Mohawk, and known by the Indians as Tienonderoga-is of the same form as that of Canajoharie, except that it is twice as large. It likewise has a house at each curtain. The cannon at each bastion are seven and nine pounders. The pickets of this fort are higher than those at Canajoharie. There, is a church or temple in the middle of the Curt; while in its inclosure are also some 30 cabins of Mohawk Indians, which is their most considerable village. This fort, like that of Canajoharie, has no ditch, and has a large swing gate at the entrance. There are some houses outside, though tinder the protection of the fort, in which the country people seek shelter when an Indian or French war party is looked for. From Fort Hunter to Chenectedi-Schenectada is seven leagues. The public carriage way continues along the right bank of the river. About 20 or 30 houses are found within this distance, separated about one-quarter of a league from each other. The inhabitants of this section are Low Dutch. They, with some inhabitants on the left bank of the river, form a military company about 100 men strong. There were some half a dozen other companies on both sides of the river above Schenectada, of 100 men each, which composed Col. Johnson's regiment.

Schenectada, situated on the south side of the Mohawk, is a village of about 300 inhabitants. It is surrounded by upright pickets, flanked from distance to distance. Entering by the gate on the Fort Hunter side-west side-there is a fort to the right which forms a kind of citadel in the, interior of the village itself. It is a square, flanked with four demi-bastions, constructed half of masonry and half of timbers; and is capable of holding 200 or 300 men. Several pieces of cannon are mounted on the ramparts. It is not encircled by a ditch: the entrance is through a large swing-gate, which lifts up like a draw-bridge. By penetrating the village from another point, the fire from the fort can be avoided. The most of the inhabitants are Dutch.

From Schenectada to Orange-Albany, is estimated, at six or seven leagues, over a sandy road covered with open timber, with only a few hills. A league and a half from Schenectada, there was a tavern on the road; and at the end of the same distance, another tavern known as the half-way house; and for many years there were few, if any, other houses between those cities-the land being too poor for cultivation. Albany, on the west bank of the Hudson, was not then fortified on the forest side except by an inclosure of pickets without a ditch, which, was flanked at certain distances-the river being its defense on the other side. The inclosure was called smaller than that of Montreal. In the interior of the town was a fort capable of containing 300 men, defended by seven cannon.

Leaving Fort Williams and passing down to Palatine village on the left bank, or north side of the Mohawk, it is called 12 leagues. Near this fort the river was fordable, from whence half a league from the shore a path leads down the river; the lands along which, some distance from the river, are marshy, producing nothing but hay. This path is hilly, and can be traveled only on foot or on horseback. This was, no doubt, the path pursued by Col. Willet and Lieut. Stockwell, when they left Fort Stanwix 20 years later, for aid to raise the siege of that place. It was eight leagues to the road, -which diverged from the south to the north side of the river. From this road crossing-which I have already supposed was near Utica*-is four leagues by a good carriage road to Palatine village. It required a day to descend in a. bateau from Fort Williams to the latter place, and three days in which to return. From Palatine village to Schenectada bateaux are said to have passed in a day: this was, no doubt, when the river was up and the current strong. It took a longer time, with very hard labor, to return, unless the wind was favorable for raising a sail. From Palatine village to Little Falls was estimated three leagues. In this distance, which was a mile or two less, there were eight houses, which were for a time abandoned by their occupants, on the destruction of the village above.

The Carrying Place at Little Falls was passed with carte, there being roads on both sides of the river; but the distance was less on the north side, where the portage was usually done. From the Little Falls eastward on the north shore there was only a foot path, difficult to travel on horseback. Three leagues is the estimated distance from the Falls to East Canada creek, where there was a ferry to put carts across to and from Fort Canajoharie. After fording the creek, a road passable for carts extended 12 leagues to Col. Johnson's mansion. In the whole distance the land is good, with about 500 houses. The greatest number of those on the bank of the river are of stone, while those farther inland (at Stone Arabia) are of wood. There is not a fort in the whole distance of this 12 leagues; and but one farmer's house built of stone, that is somewhat fortified and surrounded with pickets. It is situated on the bank of the river three leagues from the mouth of East Canada creek. This was, no doubt, the Capt. Frey place of that period, which house -erected in 1739-is still standing in very good condition, half a mile above Palatine Bridge. The inhabitants of this country are Germans, and are formed into military companies each of 100 men.

* It is said the Indians called this place Yah-nun-duh-sis, which signified the crossing by the old fort, which is the signet In the seal of the ONEIDA HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

Here is the French account of Sir William Johnson's place, copied entire. " Col. Johnson's mansion is situate on the border of the left bank of the River Moack : it is three stories high [two with an attic], built of stone, with port-holes (crenekes) and a parapet, and flanked with four bastions on which are some small guns. In the same yard, on both sides of the mansion are two small houses ; that on the right of the entrance is a store, and that on the left is designed for workmen, negroes and other domestics. The yard gate is a heavy swing-gate well ironed ; it is on the Moack river side; from this gate to the river is about 200 paces of level ground. The high road passes there. A small rivulet, coming from the north, empties into the Moack river, about 200 paces below the inclosure of the yard. On this stream is a mill, about 50 paces distance from the house; below the mill is the miller's house, where grain and flour are stored, and on the other side of the creek, 100 paces from the mill, is a barn in which cattle and fodder are kept. One hundred and fifty paces from Col. Johnson's mansion, at the north side, on the left bank of the little creek, is a rise of ground on which is a small house with portholes, where, ordinarily, is kept a guard of honor of some 20 men, which serves also as an advanced post."

The Mohawk could be forded during the summer a league and a quarter west of Sohenectada, while opposite the town the traverse was in a ferry-boat or bateaux. Between Schenectada and the mouth of the Mohawk, where it discharges into Orange -the Hudson, there is a great fall ; the Cohoes, which prevents the passage of bateaux, so that everything on the river going from Schenectada to Orange-Albany, passes over the high road that leads there direct. From Albany to New York it was counted 50 or 60 leagues; from Albany to Boston 60 leagues; and from Boston to New York, along the sea-side, the same distance, the league being three geographical miles.

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