History From America's Most Famous Valleys
THE WINDECKERS AND RELATED FAMILIES
A Family History donated by: Harry Windecker
The immigrants were originally settled by the English about October 1710 in East Camp and West Camp (also known as Livingston Manor), along the Hudson River, living in log and earthen huts and working there for a few years, before moving on to Schoharie. The purpose of these camps was to process tar from pine pitch gathered from pine trees in the area. The trees, however, were primarily White Pines, rather than Pitch Pines, and did not produce sufficient pitch.
"The immigrants were restless" and wanted the land promised by the English. About ten acres were granted each family. This was not as promised, according the Germans, as they expected more land to raise crops and continue the agricultural practice that they had in Germany.
In 1714, Conrad Weiser departed the area and founded the first of seven German hamlets, Weiserdorp, along the Schoharie Creek in what is now Middleburgh, New York. The following year, Hartman Windecker settled with his group about two-miles downstream in what was called Hartman's dorf. The time can be traced with reasonable accuracy, as Georg is reported to have been born in October, 1715 in West Camp, but was christened in January, 1716 in Schoharie. Hartman was naturalized in 1715.
Schoharie Valley settlements. At one time Hartman's dorf consisted of 65 houses and the first apple trees planted in Schoharie County. At the time, it was the largest of the dorfs in Schoharie County and had a Z-shaped main street running though it. Another characteristic of this dorf was that Germans, of this period, built their stoves outside their homes, with 13 fireplaces or stoves serving the entire community. Little evidence remains as to the existence of this hamlet, as road engineers later demolished the z-shape of the road in favor of straightening it, thus destroying most evidence of past habitation. Two miles further downstream was a village now called Schoharie Center (originally Brunnen dorf, later Fountaintown), originally settled by another of the list groups. Hartman's dorf was probably located on the outskirts of Middleburgh, or in a rural area along State Highway 30 between Middleburgh and Schoharie. Other farm villages include Schmidt's dorf, Foxendorf, Gerbach's dorf and Kniskern's dorf.
Trouble in Schoharie.
The Queen sent an agent, Mr. Bayard, to Schoharie to grant deeds to the settlers. Herein came a problem for the less than wise, German settlers, as Mr. Bayard demanded that each settler approach with a description of their land such that he could provide a deed. The settlers surmised trickery in his dealings and accosted him, forcing him to Schenectady. He then went to Albany and sold all the German land to seven partners including Rut Van Dam, Lewis Morris, Myndert Schuyler, Peter Vanbur Livingston and others. These partners dispatched Sheriff Adams to collect rent and apprehend the ringleaders. Instead, he met a mob of women, led by Magdalena Zee. According to Judge John M. Brown (also of German ancestry), in his accounting of early German-American history in 1823, "He (Sheriff Adams) was knocked down, and dragged through every mud-pool in the street; then hung on a rail and carried four miles, thrown down a bridge, where the captain (Mrs. Zee) took a stake out of the fence, and struck him in the side that she broke two of his ribs, and (he) lost one eye; then she pissed in his face, let him lie and went off." With this series of events, the demise of German settlements in Schoharie County ensued.
Conrad Weiser, a "ringleader" did jail time in Albany and an additional year in an English jail. He and many others departed Schoharie and traveled down the Susquehanna for greener pastures and asylum under William Penn. Amongst these departees was possibly a Windecker, who later, may have changed his name to Decker, as this is suggested in at least one family history. Other possibilities exist for the name Decker, including Deckmann (another ancestor from Germany). Therefore, it is unlikely that all Deckers within the United States are related to the Windeckers. Although unlikely, Hartman was also reported amongst this group of Germans who arrived in a place called Tolpelrahen (Tulpehocken), located on the Muehlback (Mill Brook). Hartman may have traveled there, but no record was established that he settled there. Windecker surnames and Decker surnames can be found in Pennsylvania, and some may be related to Hartman's clan. At a later date, Hendrick Windecker, grandson of Hartman, son of Georg, was reported in Wyoming Pennsylvania. Later, it will be shown that Hendrick was a Loyalist who gained notoriety in a Revolutionary War battle at Wyoming. This could have been a reason for a name change from Windecker to Decker.
The Battle at Hartman's dorf.
A battle occurred at Hartman's dorf in 1716 between the Indians and German-American settlers. (Jeptha Simms, in his "History of Schoharie County", reports no particular year, but states that it was probably after the Bayard incident, above. Other reports indicate conflicting years (1714-1717).
In defense of Hartman's dorf against an uprising of Karighondontee Indians, Captain Hartman led the village against the Indians. Karighondontee was the leader of a tribe of Indians of mixed extraction (Huron, Oneida, Mohawk and possibly others). He amassed his forces in a swampy thicket of alders along the Schoharie River, just outside Hartman's dorf, with the apparent intent of destroying this settlement and its inhabitants.
Captain Hartman, in turn, rallied his village to defend it from the Indians. All the men of the village gathered weapons or whatever was available and followed Hartman into battle. It should be noted that the Indians were equipped with considerable firepower (relatively), whereas the villagers were equipped with axes, pitchforks and other farm implements, as few fire arms existed. (In an earlier uprising of the Palatines in East and/or West Camp, the English confiscated all weapons.) Two thirds of the way to the Indians encampment, Captain Hartman stopped his "army" and stood on a stump to address them about the impending battle. He raised his sword to command the attack and the corps responded with "Führet an!" (Lead on!). The German-American troops then charged the awaiting enemy.
The Indian's rifles clicked, but none discharged, and the German-Americans proceeded to kick their butt. Was it Providence, bad gunpowder, or just plain bad luck that caused the weapons to misfire? No one will know! Regardless, the Indians fled, with no loss of life reported to the German settlers. A story was told that in Captain Hartman's speech to his troops, he stated that the guns would not fire! [NOTE: There is a more detailed presentation of this event in Jeptha Simms history.]