Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

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

Volume I, Page 345

Early Tradesmen.-- I have previously named another early tradesman of the valley, who was contemporary with Robert Adams, of Fort Hunter and Johnstown, and William Seeber, of the present town of Minden, which was Maj. Jelles Fonda, a son of Douw Fonda, a pioneer settler of Caughnawaga, who was there murdered by the Indians in 1780, at which place the son traded for many years, doing a far more extensive business than did Seeber, 15 miles above him; but Fonda's greatest trade was just prior to the Revolution. The Fonda family were of Low Dutch origin, and like that of the Seebers developed into a strong and influential one, in the times which tried both soul and pluck. Maj. Fonda was not only an intimate friend of Sir. William Johnson, and an officer under him, but an officer of the American army and Commissary of Subsistence. As his papers show, he had much to do with the navigation of the Mohawk, prior to, during, and subsequent to the Revolution. He was an active justice of the peace before and after that period, and was ever a prominent and influential citizen, and might well be characterized as one of the solid men, in his day, of Central New York; nor has the name, which has mingled with many others of good repute, yet died out. The village of Fonda was named for this family.

There must have been some small traders in the Herkimer county settlements before the Revolution, but, if so, their names and location have not been traced. Mr. Benton said there was a store on Cosby's Manor, present town of Schuyler in 1766, but did not give the tradesman's name. As that was only nine years after the destruction of that small settlement, his business must have been limited. It is not improbably that a small dealer may have been on the German Flats, but it is believed that not a few of Maj. Fonda's customers dwelt thereabouts, and Gen. Herkimer was among them.

Another pioneer Merchant, was Isaac Paris, who, tradition says, came from Strasburgh and settled at Stone Arabia, some four or five miles from Seeber, at a little later period, and about the time the latter went out of business. He was a man of intelligence and enterprise, and a few years before the Revolution, we find him engaged somewhat extensively in trade. He was a member of the Tryon County Committee of Safety, was a delegate to the State Provincial Congress, and was a member of the first State Senate of New York; which latter position he held at his death. He has been called a Colonel of militia, but this is an error: he was not a military man. He was an influential member of the Reformed Dutch church of Stone Arabia, He, with his oldest son Peter, then aged 18, was in the Oriskany battle, where the latter was killed and the former made a prisoner, to be murdered after he left the battlefield. The second son, and name-sake of Isaac Paris, at the death of his father, was not yet quite 16; but a few years later, he erected a dwelling and store in the present village of Fort Plain, where he established himself in the mercantile trade, about the year 1787, in which he continued for several years, and long enough to win a reputation for integrity and humanity. The latter was so manifested in his treatment of the pioneer settlers in the town of Paris, Oneida county; that in gratitude to his memory when the town was organized, they gave it his name. He was for several years a member of Assembly for Montgomery county. He died in 1790, at the age of 29. On the first day of October, 1880, at the end of 90 years, his remains were removed from Fort Plain to the town of Paris, and re-interred with becoming ceremony by the present inhabitants of that town, under the auspices of the Oneida Historical Society; thus showing to the world their just estimation of his benevolence. On this occasion memorable addresses were delivered by C. W. Hutchinson, Lorenzo Rouse, Professor North and others. Some interesting letters from invited guests were also collected on the occasion, a part of which were published with the proceedings.

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