History of the Town of Manheim
From Nathaniel Benton's History of Herkimer County, 1856.

 

Contains that part of the county bounded easterly by the east bounds of the county; southerly, by the Mohawk river; and westerly, and northerly, by a line beginning at the east end of the easternmost lock of the old canal, on the north side of the Mohawk river, at the Little Falls, and running thence north as the needle pointed in 1772, until an east line strikes the northwest corner of a large lot, number fourteen, in a tract of land called Glen's purchase; then easterly to the east corner of Glen's purchase; and then east to the bounds of the county.

Six of the large lots in Glen's purchase, a part of the fourth allotment of the Royal grant; the whole of John Van Driesen's and Snell and Timmerman's patent, and part of Rev. Peter Van Dreisen's; a part of Vrooman's patent, and some other small grants made by the state, are situated in this town.

The grant of 3,600 acres made in 1755, to Jacob Timmerman and Johan Jost Schnell, commonly known as Snell and Timmerman's patent, in near the central part of the town on an east and west line, and south of the Royal grant. Manheim was settled by German emigrants before the revolution, and the date of this patent may be assumed as pretty near the period when that event took place. The Snells and Timmermans, descendants of these patentees, are still quite numerous in the town, owners of the soil through a long line of inheritance, granted to their own persecuted and always patient and toiling ancestors.

Suffrenus, Peter, Joseph and Jacob Snell, four sons of one of the patentees, made a donation of seven acres of land for a church lot and twelve acres for school purposes. But this was not all. They and their neighbors met upon the lands every Saturday afternoon, and worked at the sturdy forest until the lands were cleared and rendered fit for cultivation.

A church was erected on the lot designed for that purpose, and that ancient edifice was replaced by a new one in 1850-1. The school house in the district stands on the donated lot. Eleven and a half acres of the school lot were transferred by an act of the legislature to the church. How could this be done without the consent of the parties interested?

There were nine men of this Snell family, and among them were Peter, Joseph and Jacob, who went under Gen. Herkimer into the Oriskany battle, and only two of them returned, of whom Peter was one; the other seven were killed. An aged and respectable member of this family, now living, states that these three men were very active and zealous in urging Gen. Herkimer to a forward movement on the 6th of August, 1777. They had resolved to fight the enemy, and how fatal was the consequence!

Henry Remensneider, or Rhemensnyder, and Johannes Boyer were the first settlers on Glen's purchase, a few miles north of the Little Falls. They came on to the tract several years before the commencement of the revolutionary war. John Boyer was born near New York; his father emigrated from Elsos in Germany. John was in the Oriskany battle and lost his team of horses and wagon in that bloody affray. He was the immediate ancestor of the Boyer families, once so numerous in this town. His youngest son, Henry, now 75 years old, is still living, and several of his descendants are found in the county, although emigration has somewhat diminished their numbers. Among other German settlers who had seated themselves in this town before the revolution, were the Keysers, Van Slykes, Newmans, Shavers, Klocks, Adles and Garters, all of whom drank deeply of the bitter cup of the revolutionary struggle.

Palatine, Oppenheim and Manheim, are the names significant of the origin of the people who were the first settlers in these towns. Manheim constituted a part of the Palatine district in Tryon county, and the town of that name until 1797, when it was organized into a separate town. The town remains as it was when annexed to the county in the year 1817. The East Canada creek affords a large supply of water at most seasons of the year, and being intersected with many falls has been used to some extent for manufacturing and mechanical purposes. This water power has been brought into use at a village called Ingham's Mills where there is a tannery, recently erected, and mills and other machinery in operation. The most important village in the town has the post office designation of Brockett's Bridge, and is sometimes known as Wintonville. Mr. D.B. Winton erected a tannery at this place previous to 1840. This establishment was afterwards purchased by an eminent house in the city of New York, engaged in the leather business, by whom it was enlarged and improved, and is now the most extensive manufactory of the kind in the county or in this part of the country. The village is unincorporated. It contains two churches, two stores, several mechanics' shops, also a saw and grist mill, and a stave and barrel manufactory. There are five houses for religious worship in the town, but I am not able to classify the denominations to which they belong.

I should not do justice to the subject in hand, if I omitted all reference to the name of Major Andrew Fink, who settled in this town soon after the close of the war. He was of German descent, and a native of the lower Mohawk valley. He was well educated, and at the commencement of the revolution, although then a young man, had acquired a very considerable knowledge of military science, unusual for a mere provincial of that day.

Mr. Fink was appointed first lieutenant of Capt. Christopher P. Yate's company, raised for special service. The warrants bear date July 15th, 1775. This was the commencement of a military career to which he was attached during the whole revolutionary contest. His constitution was firm, resolution indomitable, and courage undoubted. Major Fink died at a pretty advanced age, and the stone that marks his final resting place may be seen upon a rising ground a little north of the Mohawk turnpike, in full view of the spot where rest the remains of the brave and patriotic Herkimer. I should take great pleasure in noting down the particulars of Major fink's services in the great struggle for colonial rights and Anglo-Saxon freedon, but on inquiring of the surviving members of his family whether he had left any papers, I was told he once had many letters and papers relating to revolutionary transactions, but they were now all gone. The family say, sometimes one person and then another would desire to look them over to ascertain some fact or indulge an idle curiosity, and in the end all the papers of any consequence were gone before they were fully aware of it.

All that portion of the town lying between the south end of lots number 17, 18 and 19, Glen's purchase, and the southerly bounds of the first allotment, Royal grant, and the river, except the Snell and Timmerman and a small point of the Peter Van Driesen patents, was ungranted by the crown at the revolution. The state sold small parcels of this tract to Isaac Vrooman, John Van Driesen and others, soon after the close of the war. So late as 1777, Capt. Joseph Brant, the Mohawk chief, claimed the lands more recently known as the Christy place, long occupied by Nathan Christy, Esq., and the lands adjacent, which lay nearly opposite to the Indian castle church, on the south side of the river. The Christy place was an improved farm before the revolution, and Brant rented it to a German for one hundred dollars a year. It is not an idle speculation to assume that these lands had never been sold by the Indians, but were held appurtenant to the upper Mohawk castle.

John Beardslee was born in Sharon, Connecticut, in November, 1759, and died in Manheim, October 3d, 1825, where he had resided more than thirty years. His father, John Beardslee, Senior, was a native of Norwalk, Conn., born about the year 1725, and married Deborah Knickerbacker, in 1748, who numbered among her family connections the Hoffmans and Rosevelts of Dutchess county and New York city. The subject of this notice married Lavinia Pardee, of Sharon, Conn., in 1795, who survived her husband a quarter of a century, and died in Manheim, in 1854, aged 85 years. Miss Pardee was connected with the Brewsters, Goulds, Waldos, Ripleys and Bradfords, of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Mr. Beardslee left his father's residence in Connecticut, in 1781, not like Coelebs in search of a wife, but a young New Englander in search of a fortune, which he aimed to accomplish. He was a practical mechanic, architexct and civil engineer. He stopped at Sheffield, Mass., worked one year on a farm, and then went to Vermont, commenced working at his trade, and bought and paid for a small farm, but soon lost it by a defect in the title. Soon after he went to Vermont, he spent a fall and winter on Lakes George and Champlain, fishing and hunting, in company with Jonathan Wright, who afterwards came into the north part of this county, and was known as old Jack Wright, the trapper. Mr. Beardslee then turned his face westward, built a bridge at Schaticoke, and a meeting house in Schoharie. In 1787, he went to Whitestown, then being settled by eastern emigrants, and engaged with White & Whitmore to build mills on shares. He afterwards sold his half at a good advance. He remained at Whitestown till 1792, having been employed by the state to build a set of mills for the Oneida Indians. He completed his contract without returning to the white settlements, after he had commenced it. By humoring the Indians, joining in their sports of hunting and fishing, and exciting their curiosity to see the result of his labors, they cheerfully assistd him in his enterprise, which contributed to make the job quite profitable.

At this time there resided in the neighborhood of the Indians, two well educated, gentlemanly Frenchmen, but perfect recluses, the relic of French colonists, and of that splendid colonial French empire, already struck from the French crown, and which had cost so much of blood and treasure to establish and uphold. Between 1790 and 1796, he built the first bridge across the Mohawk river at Little Falls, the old red grist mill at that place, the first bridge over the gulf, east of the academy, mills for Richard Van Horne, at Van Hornesville, and for Col. Freye, at Canajoharie, a bridge over the West Canada creek, and the court house and jail, which were burned up in 1833 or 1834, a bridge across the Mohawk river, at Fort Plain, and a bridge over the East Canada creek, a grist and saw mill and fulling works, about half a mile north of the present Mohawk turnpike bridge.

The building of this bridge led to his seating himself at Manheim permanently in this wise. The bridge was erected at the expense of Montgomery county, or paid for by it. In order to obtain the necessary timber, he purchased a one hundred acre lot west of the creek, and adjoining the site of the bridge, for which he paid 300 pounds, New York currency, in March, 1794. After the bridge was completed, he erected the mills, which were finished and in operation in 1795. This was at the flood tide of emigration to the Royal grant and Western New York; the mills attracted attention, and population gathered to his place: by the year 1800, quite a little village, dignified by the name of the City, had sprung up, counting two stores, two taverns, a blacksmith shop, nail factory, a cooperage and a brewery, afterwards came the lawyers, doctors, school masters, and the distillery.

It could also boast having one man drink himself to death on a bet, and the presence of a state prison graduate, frequent performances of Punch and the Babes in the Woods, by Sickles, and daily amusements in the way of turkey shooting, pitched battles with fists, clubs and teeth, and launching batteaux, for the Mohawk river service. At this time there was more business done at Beardsley's Mills, than at Little Falls. In 1801 and 1802, the Mohawk turnpike was completed, and being located south half a mile of the little village, by diverting the travel on this then great thoroughfare, completely used up the City, to the serious loss of the founder. With the view of making good his losses, and fixing himself on the line of travel, where business could be done, he purchased, in 1810, 350 acres of land, laying on both sides of the creek, and between his first purchase and the river, for which he paid $11,500, a high price, it would seem, at that day. The prospects of business on the turnpike justified this purchase. But our increasing commercial difficulties with great Britain and France, followed by the war of 1812, caused him to postpone carrying out his intentions, when this new purchase was made.

When the peace was proclaimed, in 1815, the project of the Erie canal on the south side of the river was brought forward, and finally consummated. The immediate local effect of opening the canal, was a great depreciation of agricultural lands in the Mohawk valley, the almost certain destruction of such small business places as the East Creek, Palatine and Caughnawaga, on the north side of the river, and the building up of villages on the line of the canal. A greater change than that effected by the canal in the Mohawk valley, has seldom been witnessed in any country. Nearly the whole business was transferred from the north to the south side of the river. The turnpike became almost a solitude, and the villages through which it run, as a desert waste of waters.

It has been claimed, and with much apparent reason, that Mr. Beardslee was seriously injured in consequence of the construction, by the state, of the Minden dam across the Mohawk, at St. Johnsville. The ordinary flow of the river is from three to five miles an hour. This dam was made and used as an auxiliary to the canal, and the top line was so high as to overcome all the natural descent between it and the mouth of the East creek, about three and a half miles, and hence the river surface was nearly a level the whole distance, presenting, as was claimed, an effectual obstruction to the free flow and discharge of the ice from the creek and river above, during the winter and spring floods.

Mr. Beardslee, by strict attention to business, hard hand work and the supplication of a sound, inventive mind, twenty-seven years, had acumulated a handsome estate, and which, but for the adversities and losses he met with, in no respect attributable to misconduct or want of sound, discriminating judgment, would have been almost princely in this country and in his day.

He was a tall man, free from obesity, with large black eyes, which he inherited from his father, and a fine figure, bestowed on him by his low Dutch mother. Natural and easy in his address, pleasant and companionable in his intercourse with others, generous and hospitable. He used to say, with much satisfaction, that in all the heavy and difficult structures he had raised, or superintended the construction of, not a man in his employment, or of the motley crowds of people collected on such occasions, as was the custom of that early day, was killed or injured in the least. In the decline of life, he indulged himself a good deal in reading, a gratification he did not enjoy in his youthful days. He died of a scirrhous stomach, from which he had suffered many years. This sketch has been considerably elaborated, because it shows, not only how much a young man of indomitable perseverance and firm resolution can achieve, single handed and alone, but what young Americans have heretofore been in the habit of performing.