This county was formed from Albany and Otsego, April 6, 1795. A small part of Greene was annexed in 1836. It is an interior co., lying S.E. of the center of the State, is centrally distant 35 mi. from Albany, and contains 675 sq. mi. Its surface is an upland, broken by mountains in the S. and by hills in the center adn N. A northerly branch of the Catskill Mts. lies along the S. border, the highest summits of which are 3,000 ft. above tide. From them irregular spurs extend northward, occupying the greater part of the co. Many of the summits along the E. and W. borders are 800 to 1,000 ft. above the valleys and about 2,000 ft. above tide. In the N. the hills are generally rounded and are arable to their summits; but in the center and S. the declivities are steep and in many places precipitous. The high ridge along the E. border, and extending into Albany co., is known as the Hellebark Mts.
The hills derive their general features from the rocks that underlie them. The extreme N. part of the co. is terraced like the limestore region farther W. Toward the S. the hills become more steep; and in the shaly region they are broken by deep, irregular ravines. In many places the hills bordering upon the streams are 1,000 ft. high and in places very steep. Schoharie Creek flows N.E. through the co., a little E. of the center. It receives as tributaries Foxes Creek, Stony Brook, Little Schoharie Creek, Keysers, Platter, and Manor Kils from the E. and Cripplebush, Cobles, Line, Panther, West, and Mine Kils from the W. West and Punch Kils are tributaries of Cobles Kil. Charlotte River, a branch of the Susquehanna, takes its rise in the W. part, and Catskill Creek in the S.E. part, having its source in a marsh called the Vlaie. Utsyanthia and Summit Lakes, two small ponds, are the only bodies of water in the co. The former is 1,900 ft. and the latter 2,150 ft. above tide.
The rocks in the co., commencing upon the N. border and appearing successively toward the S., are those belonging to the Hudson River group. Clinton group, Onondaga salt group, Helderbergh series, Hamiton group, Portage and Chemung group, and the Catskill group. The limestones are cavernous; and the minerals which they afford are particularly interesting to mineralogists. Drift is scattered over the co. to a limited extent. Waterlime is found but is not now manufactured. The soils are principally derived from the disintegration of the underlying rocks. In the N. the soil is a productive, clay loam, and in the center and S., it is a clay and sandy loam, the latter predominating upon the S. hills. The alluvial flats along Schoharie Creek are unusually fertile.
The co. is eminently an agricultural region. Spring grains are largely produced. Hops are cultivated in the W. part, and broomcorn upon the Schoharie Flats. Dairying is the princpal business in the S. part. Very little manufacturing is done, except such as is customary in an agricultural region.
The county seat is located at the village of Schoharie. The courthouse is a fine edifice built of blue limestone, located near the center of the village. The jail is a stone building, situated in rear of the courthouse. The clerk's office is a small, fireproof building, upon the courthouse lot, nearly in front. The poorhouse is located upon a farm of 160 acres in Middleburgh, 5 mi.S.W. of the courthouse. The average number of inmates is 60, supported at a weekly cost of 75 cents each. This institution seems to be well managed and much above the average of similar institutions in the State.
The Albany & Susquehanna R.R. is located along the valleys of Schoharie Creek and Cobles Kill, through Esperance, Schoharie, Cobleskill, and Richmondville. Several turnpikes and lines of plank road extend across the co.
About thirty years previous to the advent of the whites, a number of Indians belonging to the Mohawks, Mohicans Delawares, Tuscaroras, and Oneidas united together, formed the Schoharie tribe, and took up their abode along Schoharie Creek. Their principal chief was Ka-righ-on-don-tee, who had been a prisoner of the French in Canada and had married a Mohawk woman. This tribe was subordinate to Six Nations. They could bring into the field about 600 warriors, and in the wars that ensued they steadily espoused the cause of the British. At an early period, and with the aid of the Colonial Government, they erected several strongholds to protect themselves from the attacks of the Canada Indians. A band of 200 Indians remained in the valley, at peace with the settlers, until the commencement of the Revolution. Efforts were made to induce them to remain neutral during the war; but the offers of the British, were so tempting that at last they took up arms against their neighbors. Previous to this a pestilence had swept off the greater part of the tribe, though the whites were not in the least affected by it.
The first white settlement was made by a colony of German Palatinates, in 1711. These people had previously settled at East and West Camp, on the Hudson. Their number is estimated at 600 to 700. They settled in 7 clusters, or villages, each under a leader or head man, from whom the dorf, or village, was usually named. The Dutch soon after began a settlement at "Vroomansland," on the W. side of the creek, 2 or 3 mi. above the German settlement. Adam Vrooman, from Schenectady, obtained a patent for 1,100 acres, Aug. 26, 1714. His tract was afterward found to contain 1,400 acres. It embraced the flats along the creek in the present town of Fulton, except Wilder Hook, (Image 47K) at which place was an Indian castle and settlement. The Palatinates at first did not secure a patent for the lands they occupied, and a short time after their settlement Nicholas Bayard appeared as agent of the British Government, and offered to give the settlers deeds for their lands; but he was assailed by a mob and was obliged to flee for his life. Upon reaching Schenectady he sent back word that for an ear of corn each he would give a clear title to the lands occupied by each; but this offer was rejected. He returned to Albany and sold the tract to 5 persons at that place. A sheriff, named Adams, was sent to arrest some of the trespassers; but no sooner was his business known than he was assailed by a mob and ridden upon a rail. For considerable time after this outrage none of the German settlers dared visit Albany; but after a time they ventured to do so, and were at once arrested and thrown into jail. They were at length released on making a written acknowledgment of the outrage they had perpetrated. The settlers at length sent an embassy, consisting of Conrad Weiser, ___ Casselman, and another, to England to petition the king for redress. The ship that took them out carried also a statement of the outrages, and the ambassadors were at once imprisioned; but after a time they were set at liberty and permitted to return. Weiser was so chagrined at the result of the controversy that soon after, with about 60 families, he emigrated to Tulpehocton, Berks co., Penn.
Other families removed to German Flats and others to Stone Arabia. Peter Vrooman, with several Dutch families, permanently located upon his patent in 1727. The German and Dutch races long remained distinct. The Dutch were generally wealthier than the more hardy and laborious Germans, and preferred to contract marriages with their own class in the older Dutch settlements. They often kept slaves, while the Germans seldom had further assistance than such as their own households, of both sexes, might afford. The Germans, by intermarriage, became a "family of cousins," and they were united by many ties of common interest. Industry and frugality gradually brought them to a level, and long acquaintance has almost entirely obliterated these hereditary distinctions of society. Upon the approach of the Revolution, a part of the people espoused the cause of the British; but the majority were ardent patriots. In many cases members of the same family were engaged on opposite sides, and the struggle assumed all the horrors of a civil war, aggravated by Indian barbarities. A Council of Safety was organized in 1774, of which Johannes Ball was chairman. During the war several conflicts took place within the limits of the co., and the people were continually exposed to the attacks of small scalping parties of the Indians.
At the close of the war a large number of families removed to Canada, and their property was confiscated. Several tories and Indians who had been active during the war returned at its close and were waylaid and shot. Others, warned by these examples, fled the country. Since that period little of especial interest has occurred in the history of the co. In 1845 and '46, in common with the surrounding regions, this co. partook largely in the anti-rent excitement, - though no actual violence took place within its limits. Within the last ten years, a mania for speculation has proved a ruinous one, and the entire amount of capital invested in the enterprises has been sunk. Three weekly newspapers are now published in the co.
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