of the Town of German Flatts
Now contains that part of the county bounded westerly by Frankfort; northerly, by the Mohawk river; easterly, by Danube and Stark; and southerly by a line beginning at the northeast corneer of Litchfield, and running thence easterly, along the southern line of the tract of land granted to Conerad Frank, and others, until it meets the southwest corner of a tract of land granted to Guy Johnson; and then easterly, along the southern bounds thereof to the town of Stark.
The eastern and southern bounds of this town, as above stated, have been changed. See sub. 7, Little Falls.
This town comprises a very considerable portion of Burnetsfield patent; nearly all of Staley's first tract; the whole of Frank's patent, and a part of Guy Johnson's tract.
This town when erected, in 1788, comprised all that part of Montgomery county, south of the Mohawk river, bounded easterly by Canajoharie, the westerly bounds of that town being the Susquehanna river, Otsego lake and a line from the head waters of the lake to the Little Falls; south, by the north line of the town of Otsego, running from the head waters of Otsego lake, in the patent granted to George Croghan and others, along the northerly bounds of that patent, to the northwest corner of it, and extending westerly to the river, then called Tienaderha, and along the northerly line of the Edminston patent, and westerly, by the west line of the town of Herkimer, continued south to the town of Otsego, or in other words, very nearly by the present eastern bounds of Oneida county. These limits not only embrace the present towns of Columbia, Frankfort, Litchfield, Warren and Winfield, a part of Little Falls, but extend considerably into Otsego county.
The town when erected comprehended only that part of the German Flats district of colonial organization, south of the Mohawk, east of the present west line of the county, and north of Otsego, as before noticed. That district extended much further south and west, until the erection of the Old England district, a short time before the revolution, which seems not to have been regarded as a municipal territorial division during the war.
After the peace of 1783, however, it was recognized, and local officers appointed for the district.
The church in this town, was the first erected in the county for the accommodation of European worshipers, and their descendants. An Indian mission church, at the place long known as the Indian Castle, in Danube, may have been built at an earlier date. It is said, the former was erected under the auspices of Sir William Johnson; this is very doubtful, although there may be no question whatever, that the Mission church was built under his agency, if it was erected subsequent to the church at German Flats. In the first place, Sir William was not in the country at the date of either of the deeds, mentioned below, and he was not appointed general superintendant of Indian affairs, by the crown, until 1757. He had, however, acted as Indian agent under a colonial appointment, from August, 1749; and in the second place, I am not aware that the colonial government were accustomed to build churches, disconnected from the Indian missions, when the people were able to bear that expense themselves.
On the 24th of September, 1730, Nicholas Wolever made a deed of trust, a part of lot number 30, in Burnetsfield, to several persons, to hold the same as a church and school lot; and on the 26th of April, 1733, the trustees conveyed the same lot to the church corporation, which had at that time been organized. Nicholas Wolever was one of the original grantees of the patent, and the above lot was awarded to him. I am not aware that there are now in existence, any records showing when the church was erected, on the spot dedicated to that use. Within the church yard, near the south side, there is a head stone with this inscription:
CAPT. JOHN RING
This church had been erected, and formed a part of the stockaded defense, since called Fort Herkimer, put up by Sir William Johnson, or by his directions, in 1756. At this time, the population of the German Flats, embracing the settlements on both sides of the river, had more than quadrupled in thirty-five years, and were quite wealthy. The inhabitants did not need, and probably did not require government aid to build a church. At any rate, the probabilities are against any such assumptions.
The first regularly settled minister, called by the congregation, was a Mr. Rosecrants, a German protestant, and probably a Lutheran. The time of his arrival and death are beyond the memory of any one now living, and there are no records or monuments now extant which show these dates.
The Rev. Abraham Rosecrants succeeded his brother. The year of his arrival from Germany can not now be fixed with certainty. His own records of marriages, births and deaths show that he was here in 1762. We have concurring traditional accounts of him as early as 1754, and that he was a German minister who was in a manner forced by the friendly Indians to cross to Fort Herkimer, when the settlements on the north side of the river were destroyed by the French and Indians under M. de Belletre in November, 1757. The field of his clerical labors was coextensive with the German settlements along the whole length and breadth of the Mohawk valley. Being a graduate of a German university, he was, of course, a finished scholar in all those branches of learning relating to his profession. I have stated in another place that Mr. Rosecrants was connected with the Herkimer family by marriage. This connection, and his position as the spiritual adviser of a people proverbial for their strong attachments and great respect for the ministerial office, afforded an opportunity for the exertion of a malign influence against the cause of the colonies during the revolution. To what extent any such influence was used is not now very material to inquire, since it is quite evident he committed no overt act of treason or aggression, as he remained unmolested during the whole war, by the provincial authorities, in discharge of his clerical duties, and left his estates to the inheritance of his children.
Mr. Rosecrants died at his residence on Fall hill, in the present town of Little Falls, at the close of the last century, and was interred by the side of his brother, the former minister, within the walls of the church, nearly under the pulpit.
One of those cold-blooded and not unusual murders occurred in this town during the revolution, at a farm-house near the site of Rankin's lock on the canal. The heart sickens at the recital of such deeds of horror and the pen becomes wearied in recording them.
Mr. John Eysaman, with his wife, aged people, his son and his wife and an infant child, were living together in one house on the south side of the river, about two miles directly east of Fort Herkimer, on the Mohawk river.
An alarm had been fired at the fort to notify the inhabitants who were at their farms or out on business, that danger was apprehended, or a lurking enemy had been discovered; the family packed up their portable goods, and loaded them in a cart, and were about ready to start for shelter and protection at the fort, when the house was surrounded by a party of Indians and tories. Old Mr. Eysaman and his wife were killed; the wife of the younger Mr. Eysaman, whose name was Stephen, was also killed. Some one of the assailants wrenched the infant from its mother's arms, and holding it by the feet, dashed its head against a tree, and its little limbs quivered in the agonies of death after it was rudely and barbarously thrown upon the ground and scalped. The mother was compelled to witness this horrid scene; and Stephen, who was doomed to captivity, being pinioned and driven a short distance heard the screams of his wife, struck down by a war club.
The enemy having taken four scalps, were content to spare the wearer of the fifth to grace their triumph on their return to Canada. This event took place on the 9th day of June, and as Mr. Eysaman returned from captivity at the close of the war, after an absence of three years and nine months, 1779 may be fixed as the year. He said on his return, the Indians and tories, among other of his stock driven away, took three horses, one of them a fine stud, often rode on parade by a British officer, who noticed that Eysaman had always regarded the horse when he was mounted, asked him if he had ever seen the horse before. Eysaman said he had, and that the horse was his. The reply was, "Be off, you d__d rebel, you never owned a horse," and this was all he ever had for him.
Mr. Eysaman married again after his return from captivity, and raised a family of children, one of whom, Mr. Joseph Eysaman, now lives on the farm he inherited from his father, the spot where the murders were committed. Stephen Eysaman died at the age of ninety-four years. A remarkable case of longevity is presented by this family. Stephen had one brother and four sisters, one of whom lived to the age of 97 years; none of them died under the age of 85 years. The aggreagte of the lives of these six persons, all of one family, was five hundred and forty-one years.
The destruction of the German settlements, on the south side of the river, in sight of Fort Herkimer, in July, 1782, by a party of about 600 Indians and tories, has not been heretofore noticed by any of the writers upon our border wars, or if it has, my attention has not reached it.
The enemy was first discovered by Peter Wolever, who, with Augustinus Hess, lived about fifty rods from the fort. Both families were aroused, and finally succeeded in reaching the fort without any casualty, except the death of Hess, who was killed just as he was entering the picket gate. There were at this time only a few troops stationed at the fort. The Americans were not strong enough to act offensively. Valentine Starring was taken prisoner in a field, not far from the stockade, and was put to torture with a view of drawing the provincials to his rescue, when they heard, at the fort, his cries for help and lamentations under his tortures; not succeeding in this, poor Starring was tomahawked and scalped. There was a good deal of desultory firing between the assailants and assailed.
The provincials lost four men, two soldiers and two of the inhabitants, killed. It was supposed the enemy's loss in killed and wounded was much greater, as they could not approach the stockade within musket shot, uncovered. All the buildings in the settlement, except George Herkimer's house, were burned by the invaders, and the cattle driven away. This relation was given by Nicholas Wolever, now living, who was at Fort Herkimer at the time, who also says it was reported that Capt. Brant was not in this action. I will here notice, not an isolated case of human endurance and the tenacity of life, although not of frequent occurrence during the revolution. The wife of Mr. Henry Wetherstone, who had incautiously gone into the field for some domestic object, was set upon by a party of Indians, tomahawked, scalped and, as supposed, her dead body left to be looked after and cared for by her friends. She recovered, and lived many years after her long tress of hair had been exhibited as a trophy of Indian courage and inhuman butchery.
The flourishing villages of Mohawk and Ilion are located in this town, about two miles apart, on the canal. Mr. Remington's extensive rifle factory and armory, where thousands and tens of thousands of death-dealing weapons have been fabricated, was first established where Ilion now is. This establishment was the nucleus around which this village took its start, and being favorably located in respect to proximity to the canal and the central rail road; and having roads of easy grade to the southwestern part of this county, and the northwestern portion of Otsego, and the southeastern parts of Madison counties, the village has become the center of a very considerable business and active trade.