Schoharie County NYGenWeb Site
History of Schoharie County by William E. Roscoe
THE FOREGOING CHAPTER REVIEWED -
EXPENSE OF THE GERMANS - LOCATED AT SCHORIE - THEIR HARDSHIPS - JUDGE BROWN'S ACCOUNT - FIGHT - INDIANS OF WHAT TRIBE - HUNTING GROUNDS - KA-RIG-HON-DON-TEE THE CHIEF - SALE OF LANDS BY GOV. HUNTER - SCHUYLER AND COEYMANS' PURCHASE - GOV. HUNTER'S DEFENSE TO THE BOARD OF TRADE - BAYARD'S VISIT TO SCHOHARIE - RESUMED LANDS - SHERRIFF ADAMS - ADAM VROMAN - THE GERMANS TRESPASS UPON HIM - HIS LETTER TO GOV. HUNTER - WEISER IN ENGLAND - CONFINED IN THE TOWER - CLARK'S LETTER - JEREMY LONG'S COUNCIL FOR THE GERMANS - PURCHASE OF LANDS IN 1719 - LOCATION OF WEISER'S DORF - OTHER DORFS - SPREAD OF SETTLEMENTS - MODE OF LIVING - IMPLEMENTS - NEGRO SLAVES AND CUSTOMS - INDIANS - THEIR PETITION - NUMBER OF THEM IN SCHOHARIE - MILITARY AFFAIRS - DIVISION OF ALBANY COUNTY - EARLY OFFICIALS.
PERHAPS we have drawn too freely upon documentary history to be pleasing, as it is considered by the general reader to be uninteresting.
But we are aware that our County's history has been written - its life and character drawn, and long years ago its fac-simile impressed upon the minds of her people in a different light from that which the foregoing chapter casts, and to make such contrary assertions without proof, would be useless. Therefore, we produce these copies raked from dusty archives to prove the facts, and from them we glean much that must change the impressions that conjecture and tradition have made, however much we have been content with the well told and pleasing tale.
It will be seen that it was the intention of Gov. Hunter to settle the Germans at "Schorie " upon their landing at New York, as by his letter to the Board of Trade, he had sent the surveyors there to lay out their lots - also through the petition, that the Indians had given the land for that purpose.
It was so understood by the Palatines while in England, and we have not a doubt but they were made to believe that they were to have forty acres each with necessary utensils, immediately after landing, or they would not in their honest simplicity have so persistently petitioned to the Governor and King to that end.
But the officials required them to pay the expense their immigration had incurred, in pitch and tar, before any farther movements were made.
Hunter's sole excuse for not settling them in the "promised land Schorie," was that it "would incur too great expense to maintain a garrison for their protection from the invasion of ye French and French Indians" - while he kept them at the camps at an expense to the government of from eight to twelve hundred pounds each month. After they came to Schoharie they did not cost the government a single farthing for their subsistence. The fact was, as Lord Clarendon wrote, that "Gov. Hunter fell in very ill hands" when he concurred in Mr. Livingston's scheme to employ and subsist the Germans, and His Lordship's words proved true that Mr. Livingston and some others will get estates and the Palatines will not be the richer." There was a speculation in the labors and subsistence of the Germans, and they knew it, and for their persistent efforts to obtain a recompense for their labors in desirable homes for their families and a plentiful amount of eatables, they were stigmatized by the officials as ignorant and willfully obstinate. In reviewing the petition of 1720 and letters which we have copied, we learn that they landed in New York in June, 1710, and were taken to Livingston's manor in the fall of that year.
In the spring of 1711 they commenced making tar and pitch, and in June following, three hundred of them joined the Canadian expedition. Here we will state that John Conrad Weiser, Hartman Windecker and others, whom all writers agree were among the first settlers in the Schoharie valley - were on that expedition from June to October, which confutes the statement of the Schoharie settlements being made in 1711.
During the winter of 1711 and 1712 many were sent to Albany to strengthen the garrison, while others were working "in the pines," where they remained "nearly two years" from the spring of 1711. That "nearly two years" extended to the winter of 1712 and 1713, when Gov. Hunter's supplies gave out as seen by his letter to Mr. Cast, of September, 1712, granting them permission to work for farmers, and interpreted by the Germans in the petition to "shift for themselves."
The sending of their "chiefs" (List-masters,) to treat with the Indians, must have been in the fall, and the arrival of the first party in the Schoharie valley must have been after the 1st day of January, 1713, as we find, that "the same year in March, did the remainder of the 1st people proceed on their journey,"showing conclusively, that all arrived in the same year, and not at an earlier date, than between the fist of January and April, 1713. Then, we find the List-masters named here, at the Schoharie valley, where Middleburgh now stands, and then known as "Weisersdorf." The number that came is not known, but the fifty families that first sought the valley would number one hundred and seventy-five, according to the average of the whole, at the camps. But how many families came a short time after, or how many the "remainder that came in March numbered, we are unable to say.
In 1718 a census was taken to obtain the number of inhabitants in the province of New York, and Joshua Kicherthal and John Fredcrick Hager here commissioned to report the number found along the Hudson, Mohawk and Schoharie. They reported seven villages or `'dorfs " at Schoharie" consisting of 170 families, containing six hundred and eighty souls".1
Being located at "Schorie, the promised land," in the midst of winter, we cannot conceive the amount of hardships they were compelled to endure. Their petition expresses in a manner their deep troubles, but words, we know, were inadequate to tell the tale."Arriving, as they did when there were three feet of snow upon the ground, without shelter or food and undoubtedly with but little clothing, in a desolate and unknown wilderness; with none to aid but a few half-starved savages, we, who enjoy ourselves so luxuriantly upon the broad acres they regenerated from the wilderness, are unable to imagine their critical condition. But with determined purposes, they overcame all obstacles. They lived upon roots and herbs, found so plentifully near the Indian encampment. But when warm, and gentle spring came, melting the snow and ice from the hills and valleys, with what heart-felt gratitude they must have returned thanks to the Divine Head for their deliverance from the frosty chains of unmerciful winter!
Immediately they commenced planting,and the richness of the soil soon furnished them with an abundance of eatables. Brown, in his Pamphlet History, says that the first settlers came from the camps, by way of Albany, and upon arriving at the Helleberg. and enjoying ablutions by a creek, the lice washed off from their bodies floating down the stream, gave it the appellation of "Louse Creek." He also tells us of a free fight from some unknown cause between those pioneers. We do not wish to contradict so good an authority as Judge Brown nor will we deny that such proceedings were enacted; but it does not look reasonable, that the settlers whom we have followed from the camps in the depth of winter would have come by the way of Albany as at that time there was a road upon the east side of the river from New York to Albany, which would have made it useless for them to have cut a road through the woods as the petition states. Besides, at the time these settlers "proceeded on their journey, with snow three feet deep," and nearly starved, we cannot think they would stop to take an outdoor bath on the summit of the Helleberg. While we are perfectly willing, indeed anxious, to accord to every object, whether man, beast, or louse, all credit due for acts, especialy endurance, we cannot think that either the Germans or lice, could "stand the test" upon that mountain, in midwinter.
Without doubt, some of the Germans that were sent to Albany to strengthen the garrison, joined their countrymen at Weisers in the spring of 1713 or '14, and being disappointed in not having an opportunity of displaying their "martial spirits" at the garrison by a conflict with "ye French and French Indians," concluded to have a private rough and tumble upon the mountain, and leave a mark of their "inroads," if not upon trees, stones and earth - upon ribs, shins and noses.
There was an Indian path leading to the Schoharie valley from the Hudson river near
Catskill, over which the Stockbridge and Mohegan hunters and visitors travelled, that the first German settlers, no doubt, followed; as we believe they came direct from the camps, over hills and along valleys, without making the circuitous route by the way of Albany, and the "three weeks cutting a way through the wildemess," was in making a road to intersect the Indian path at the nearest point from the camps.
Upon the advent of the whites, a small tribe of Indians occupied the Schoharie valley, but at what particular time they congregated, as a distinct tribe, or branch of the Mohawks, is not known. We can only conjecture and indefinitely date their organization from the time those tribes from which they came began to disband by the progressive march of the whites upon their possessions, or through repeated wars.
The "Schoharie Tribe" was a mongrel one, made up of different tribes, and numbering, according to Brown, about three hundred warriors. The Mohegans, of the Thames and Yantic of Connecticut, were stationed in considerable numbers, near the present Middleburgh village.
The native tribe once numbered thousands, but by numerous wars with the Mohawks and Narragansetts, were reduced to a few hundreds. At the death of Uncas, their venerated chief, in 1683, quite a number left the tribe end without doubt sought a home among the Mohawks, and were placed by them in the Schoharie valley.
Oweneco, the son of Uncas, succeeded his father as chief and with a few followers remained near the graves of their fathers, living upon the charity of the English, to whom their camps and hunting grounds were sold. In 1710, Oweneco died, and another scattering was made, and perhaps another addition to the Schoharie tribe.
A band of Stockbridge Indians, also, was here but could not have come as early as the Mohegans, unless they were refugees from the native tribe for misconduct or crimes, from the fact that the tribe remained nearly intact up to, or near, the year 1700. A squad of Tuscaroras, too, united with them, but at what time, tradition does not tell. In 1712, the Tuscaroras united with the Five Nations, but by a letter we read several years ago, written by an Indian trader in 1711, the tribe was represented in the valley at that time. There being a few of the Delaware Indians here mingled with the whole, perhaps the Tuscaroras came with them, led by the fascinating hunting-grounds, unless they were refugees from the council fires.
When we look over the hills and valleys of Schoharie, we cannot imagine but that they were once noble hunting and fishing grounds that would excite the envy of any Nimrod or Walton whether he were savage or civilized; and previous to the formation of the Schoharie tribe, we believe they were trodden by the Mohawk and Delaware hunters in quest of the abundance of deer, bears, foxes and panthers that were found here. For lovers of such sports to have built their wigwams upon such grounds, would not seem strange, but on the contrary very consistent. These different squads, with different dialects and perhaps customs, settled separately, but were subjects of Ka-rig-hon-don-tee, whom the Mohawks placed here as their chief Tradition tells us that he was a captive Canadian Indian chief, and married a Mohawk squaw. Brown says, his "father-in-law sent him there, and gave him land, for fear that the Mohawks would kill him when they got drunk, as they bore a great enmity to the French." Allowing that the Mohegans came in 1683, the Stockbridges, in l700, and the Tuscaroras a few years later, we can but see that the "make up" of the tribe was but a few years previous to the settlement of the whites. Various places through the County bear the marks of Indian encampments and burial places, that would lead us to think were far back of those dates. Undoubtedly the whole territory of the present County, was occupied by the confederate tribes and the Delawares, Stockbridges, Mohegans, Narragansetts, and many others, as hunting-grounds as far back as any other portion of the country. When the whites settled along the Schoharie valley the Indians were marked as being a revengeful, murderous set, which gives us the impression that they were the scum, as it were, of the tribes from which they came.
The Mohegans, as a tribe, were everfriends to the whites, but much to the discredit of the whites they many times proved traitors to the Indians' confidence in them.
The Stockbridge tribe, also, were a quiet and friendly people when used by the English with any degree of kindness and fairness, and the friendship of the Tuscaroras towards our struggling forefathers, through the Revolution, should auffice for us to think well of them.
In comparing the general characters of each tribe with their representatives in the valley, we cannot but believe that they were the outcasts from each, or, as termed by the white man's code, criminals.
To follow up traditionary tales of noble Indian tribes is a pleasing and interesting task and to the competent, doubly pleasing it must be to reverberate, to after ages, their heroic deeds and valorous exploits. But to chronicle the characters and acts of the Schoharie tribe would prove to be no embellishment to the meagre history of the "untutored savage." We have before us a deed dated Oct. 7, 1722, given by Adam Vroman to his son John, conveying a piece of land upon a part of which the chief resided. The writing states that, "I (Adam Vroman,) promised to several scachams when I bought the land of them, that Ca-ree-ah-dun-kah should be allowed to live where he now lives, as long as he chooses, and reserve for his use, where he lives." The land was sold for "twenty morgans of land," and without doubt was that lying by the "Dovegatt," in Vromansland where the castle was built. The writer of the deed was an excellent penman,and to judge by the language used, a fair scholar, that would be apt to write the chief's name as pronounced by the Indians with whom he was conversant, with more accuracy than Judge Brown who came at a much later date, and wrote when at an advanced age.
After the Germans had been settled over one year and received many threatenings from the Governor and in fact had a few of their number imprisoned, Gov. Hunter sold to Myndert Schuyler and others the land upon each side of the river from a point above Middleburgh down the stream, to one on the same river between the old ferry opposite Sloansville and Esperance bridge.
It was intended to take in all the "flats" but the stream being very crooked below Jacob Vroman's - along the Lendrum farm and those adjoining, the lines ran over the hill, instead of keeping with the stream, (the points of compass not being changed.) The line bore considerably to the east of north and if continued on in the same course would have met the stream again below Esperance, but at a point upon the hill back of Lendrum's the course was changed nearly to the northwest, and ran to the river as before mentioned.
From the point the course was changed upon the hill to the Schoharie stream or confluence of the Cobleskill, a wide space was left unclaimed. Simms says: " Morris and Coeymans were sent to survey this tract, purchased by Schuyler and others, and finding this space not included in the grant, purchased the same themselves."But we find they did not take the whole of that space, but A. Van Cortlandt in 1753 upon a careful survey, found a tract lying between Schuyler's and Coeymans' not disposed of and purchased it.2
Hunter, knowing the fact of the promise of these lands in England to the Germans and that they were upon it and doing well - without cost to the government and it being unoccupied land, showed himself to be a very unjust and obstinate official.
In after years when questioned in regard to this act by the London Board of Trade, he wrote, "They went and took possession of the Lands, granted to several persons at New York and Albany, against repeated orders."While they "took possession of these lands against repeated orders," they were not sold to the New York and Albany gentlemen until the 3d of November, 1714; and he says - "in compassion to the innocent women and children, I prevailed with the proprietors of these lands to make them an offer of the lands free from all rent, or an acknowledgment for ten years, and ever after, at a very moderate quit rent." It was these gentlemen, of whom the petition speaks, as trying to induce them to become tenants here, as they were at home, in Germany. But the Germans were not to be moved by sweet songs of selfish sirens, or entrapped by quit-rents for all time to come.
It was a short time previous to the sale of these lands that the Bayard, of whom Brown and Simms speak, came to offer free titles to all who would appear before his august presence with an ear of corn. Had such an offer been made, we think Gov. Hunter would have so stated to the Board of Trade, when he so faintly defended himself against the accusations brought forward by his enemies, as he called them. If Bayard did appear in the valley offering free titles, we believe he came without Royal Authority.
In Hunter's letter of July 24, 1710, we find that the surveyors were sent upon lands in Schorie, they being "resumed lands of Col. Bayard's grant." To explain the last quoted paragraph, we shall be obliged to call the attention of the reader to the "Report of the Board of Trade to Her Majesty in Council,"as copied in Chapter I, which says: -
" Your Majesty was pleased by your orders in Council of the 26th of June, 1708, to confirm an act passed at New York the 2nd of March, 1693 and '9, for vacating several extravagant Grants, Whereby large tracts of Land have returned to your Majesty."
Farther on it speaks of lands "lying along the creek running into the Mohawk (Schoharie) which contains between 24 & 30 miles in length." This extravagant grant was given to Colonel Nicholas Bayard, and taken from him, regardless of his official services, and undoubtedly his feelings were not very charitable towards the Government for so doing, and thought that by giving the Palatines free titles they would cause the Government trouble in their removal. He must have come for himself and not the Govemment, and the shame that Judge Brown felt in writing the account of the affair might have been saved, had he searched records instead of listening to the plausible story of the Colonel's descendants. Many such family traditions are related to show the ancestor's prominence, which, when stripped of the probabilities with which they are enwrapped, prove to be mere magic skeletons, "without form and voice." Not long after the purchase of the lands by Schuyler and others, Sheriff
Adams of Albany was sent to dispossess the Germans and was rudely received and waited upon by the sturdy women of the settlements, as told by Brown in too plain English to be published here. In 1711, Adam Vroman, an Indian trader living at Schenectady, upon one of his expeditions purchased a tract of land of the natives now called "Vroman's Land." Not having the proper utensils for surveying it, he paced off the tract and called it four hundred acres, for which he gave one hundred and ten gallons of rum and a few blankets.
When the Germans came in 1713, they acquainted the Indians with the fact that the tract contained a larger number of acres, and that they had been cheated by Vroman. This caused them to possess an enmity towards him and to refuse to barter with him for his goods. For this act Vroman complained to the Governor in a very plaintive manner, and "desired him to attends to the seditious Palentines." He also applied for and obtained a grant of the land to him in 1714.
Instead of its being but four hundred acres, the grant gives the same tract an acreage of eleven hundred. In after years Vroman procured another title from the Indians, perhaps to satisfy them of his honest intentions. In 1715 Vroman commenced building a house upon his land, and the Germans being jealous of his purchase, or, in truth believing he was sent to "hem them in" as they stated in the petition, took the responsibility of trespassing upon his domains in a very riotous manner; as will be seen by Vroman's letter, written from Schenectady to Gov. Hunter bearing the date of " the 9th day of July; 1715."
"May it please Your Excellency -
"As in duty bound by my last to you, I give your Exc'y an acct How the Palintines
threatened In a Rebellious manner, If I should build or manure the land at .Schore
that your Excell'cy was pleased to Grant me a Patent for, and it Please your Excellency, I
have manured a great part of the land, and sowed considerable grain thereon; they still
drove their horses on it by night. I then hired my sons to go with me, and build me a
house. I was there and was making a stone house 23 foot squar, and had so high so that I
had Layd the Beames for the Chamber. I, having at the same time an Indian house about 200
yards off, for myself, workmen, and negroe to sleep in, but on the 4th day of this
Instant, In ye night, following, they had a contryvance to tie bells about horses necks,
and drive them too and fro, In which time they pulled my House, Stones and all to the
Ground the next day I spok with some of them, and they used such Rebellious Expressions,
that was never heard off; but they told me before now, when they done all they would nm
among the Indians. John Conradus Wiser has been the ring leader of all factions, for he
has had his son some time to Live among the Indians, and now he is turned their
Interpreter, so that this Wiser and his son talk with the Indians very often, and have
made treates for them, and have been busy to buy land at many places, which is Contrary to
your Excellency's Proclamation, and has made the Indians drunk to that degree to go and
mark off Land with them; and I am no wayse secure of my life their, for after I came away,
they went and pulled my son off of the waggon, and beat him, and said they would kill him,
or his father or any body else that came their; so that my son was forced to come away.
Likewise they say they care for nobody. John Conradus Wiser, and 2 or 3 more has made
their escape by way of Boston, and have said they would go for England, but has left his
Son, which is their Interpreter, to the Indians, and every day tells the Indians many
lies, whereby much mischeife may Ensue, more than we now think off, and is much to be
feared, for the time I have been their, I have made a diligent scrutiny into all their
actions, but I don't find a great many Concerned with this Wiser and his Son, in their
disobedient, unlawful and Rebellious Proceedings. I am well Informed who are their
cheifes; for those that are good subjects among them, and will not Joyn with them, are
afraid the others will.burn their houses down by their threatening words. And please you I
could Enlarge much more of their misdemeanors but for fear of trobling yr Excellency too
much, I shall beg your Execellency's pardon all this time, and Ever Remain your
Excellency's most Humble and Obedient Servant to Command.
Schenectady, July the 9th day 1715 In haste
By this letter of Vroman's, we find him accusing the Palatines of getting the Indians drunk, which was an accusation brought against Vroman in the petition.
Much obstinacy, as well as ignorance, is shown in such acts, for which we are not apt to have much compassion. But in their case we must remember, that they believed that the Queen had given "Schorie " to them, and that by machinations they had been deprived of their rights, anad that an attempt was being made by Vroman's settlement near by, to take advantage in some way of them, Vroman acting for others.
We have the story of both parties but we will let the reader decide for himself as to which was in the right. We know that Vroman had this advantage - any request of his to Gov. Hunter, would be granted while the Palatines petitioned to that dignitary in vain.
Knowing this they took the matter in their own hands, and upon the night of the ever memorable Fourth of July, "Rebelliously pulled the house down, and trampled upon the grain."
Some spirit of "Rebellion" partial to the glorious Fourth seems to have been implanted in the Anglo-Saxon heart, years and years ago, that with just or unjust cause has given to monarchy - whether individually or collectively - a paralytic stroke, that will, in a few more years, cause its whitened and brittle bones to be laid away in the seething pit which its avarice and cruelty have been constructing for ages to receive.
Living in these days of "official corruption, that stalks forth defiantly, even at noon's broad light,"fearless of condemnation, as in its numberless friends is its strength and security and knowing the conspiracies, formed by such, to control and obtain the "Almighty dollar," we can but think, that a speculation in the labors of the Palatines, at the camps, was fostered by the officials, and engendered by Robert Livingston; and when they could no longer hold them at that place, measures were taken to make them a poor tenantry at Schoharie. They believed this, and in order to avoid it, acted accordingly, and when the "Council of His Majesty " received the petition, they also believed it, as one of them had given his views to that effect, over six years before. Passing on to the 22nd of July, the same month in which the trespasses were committed, the Governor having had ample time to receive Vroman's letter, issued the following warrant to arrest Conrad Weiser: -
"Gentlemen:- I am informed that one John Conradus Wiser, Covenanted Servant of His Majesty, who has been Guilty of. Several Mutinous, Riotous, and other disobedient and Illegal practices, is now skulking in your county, to avoid punishment, you are therefore on sight, thereof, to issue your Warrant, for the Apprehending the said Wiser, and to cause him to be sent down in safe Custody, to the City of New York, that he may be proceeded against, as the nature of his Crimes shall require, hereof fail not.
"To the Justices of the Peace of the Co. of Albany, or any of them. To the Justices of the Peace of the Co. of Dutchess, or any of them."
Vroman thought Weiser had "gone for England`"but, expecting that his arrest would be made, he kept secreted, no doubt, and did not go there until the year 1718. As soon es he arrived and made himself known, they found he was just the man they wanted, "the ring-leader of all Rebellious and illegal practices," and of course locked him up in the town. We have no proof that he was caught and required to pay a fine, or imprisoned for trespasses before that time. We think he had escaped all. But what a long list of "Crimes" was brought against him, all at once! Wiser had time enough, now, to ponder, and be Wiser, still.
Sitting within those massive walls that had once held the great and mighty, his case was a lone one and perhaps it was well that he was uneducated, and ignorant of the fate of his predecessors, as headless ghosts of Kings, Queens and other high officials, would certainly have made his confinement hideous.
While Weiser was perhaps cogitating upon the ills of human life, and sighing for the "reunion of friends" around the Schoharie hearth-stone, though humble - the petition we have copied was laid before the council. Hunter was removed, and William Burnet appointed in his place as govemor. Hunter, to prove that he had subsisted the Palatines, pursuant to the Queen's orders, sent a certificate to Secretary Clarke, requesting him to get them to sign it. Clarke put it in the hands of the governor and others, who told them, that unless they signed it, they should not have the lands promised them. The majority of them refused, and as Secretary Clarke wrote to Mr. Walpole, Nov. 27,1722, "purchased land in Pennsylvania, and are determined to go thither, thus the Brigadier (Hunter) is baulked, and this province deprived of a good frontier of a hardy and Laborious people."
The petition was before "His Majesty's Commissioners for Trade and Plantations" on the 6th of September, 1720, and "Jeremy Long appeared in behalf of the Palatines " and examined General Nicholson in regard to the promises made the Germans. He stated that he only knew "that he had three hundred of them on the Expedition to Montreal" and were subsisted while there, and as to the arms then used "he knew of no direction" in regard to them. Mr. Long being unable to make proof of any of the particulars set forth in the Petition, he was made acquainted that copies of the several papers relating to them would be transmitted to Mr. Burnet, Governor of New York Province, and it was observed to Mr. Long that it seemed "that several of the Palatins had behaved themselves very undutifully to his Majesty and his late Govemor of that province "
Weiser was released, and as soon as he returned, sometime in 1722 or '23, with several of his followers he immigrated to Pennsylvania upon the lands referred to by Secretary Clarke.
We have herein laid before the reader the circumstances connected with the first settlement of Schoharie, and given such facts as are of interest, relating to the difficulties the Germans experienced from their landing in America, to Weiser's grand retirement from the "promised land." Their troubles have been accorded to their ignorance, but we think too well of them and believe they knew too much for the scheming officials that were placed over them, to be trapped by their snares. The lands were purchased for a nominal sum in 1719 and '20, and a "spreading out" was made, and by the year 1730 they were settled in seven different hamlets, called "dorfs;" an appellation given in Germany to farm villages. Upon locating in the valley in the winter of 1713, it cannot fairly be supposed that they settled each of the seven dorfs during the same season, as tradition has intimated, as they were too destitute and uncertain of their lands. The first settlement was made where the beautiful village of Middleburgh now stands, and was named after the "ringleader of Rebellious practices," and known as " Weiser's Dorf"
The time from their arrival to the opening of spring undoubtedly, was occupied in building huts, and while they were being constructed they and their families were the "guests" of their Indian friends. If they had been located byGovernmental agents or had been acquainted with the country we should not consider it strange if all of the seven dorfs had been established in one season, but being fugitives, unacquainted with the valley and destitute of the necessaries of life, each depending on the other for protection from the Savages and assistance to build etc., we cannot think that they did otherwise than to begin at Weiser's, clear up building spots, erect huts, and all turn in to make a surety of raising eatables the season following and guard against another winter of "root diet." The fear of French Indian invasions, which had been an argument brought up by the Governor and his friends after peace had been proclaimed between France and England, to influence them not to think of settling here, would naturally have caused them to keep together for mutual protection. Possibly those that came over in March were the followers of Hartman Windecker, and there being too many to live comfortably together established " Hartman's dorf" in the spring and obliged them to "solicit more lands of the Indian Kings." Another settlement was made about the year 1717 or'18 where Schoharie village now stands and was called "Brunnen dorf" also "Fountaintown." All records of this dorf with the exception of a bond and a few deeds are lost, or are in the dusty tills of distant families yet to be discovered.
They were more of a business class taken as a whole, especially the lawyer and Schaefer families, and to judge by their qualification as business men in after years, we do not believe they would have settled upon the disputed territory upon uncertainties. There were seven settlers at this dorf within a distance of three fourths of a mile whose enterprise made the "dorf" the business centre of all others and laid the foundation of the county seat. A short distance below seven other German families formed a settlement which was distinguished as "Smith's Dorf," but at what time the settlement was made we are unable to tell. Undoubtedly as the Germans came from time to time from the Camps, New York City and the Mohawk they established "dorfs " or settlements and this, with the three below, Fox's and Gerlach or Garlock and Kneiskern were made or formed in that way. The papers relating to both Smith's and Fox's dorf are not to be found. We only know when Fox sold his possessions and moved away, but at what time he purchased or settled we cannot tell.
Fox's dorf was pleasantly situated upon the low ground east and north of the Stone fort and was in existence in 1728, as then the High dutch Reformed church" was here formed. It was the first church organization in the County, whose history is interesting in the extreme, and may be found in Chapter XVIII. The Germans were a very religious people, and it cannot be supposed that they lived very long at this place without religious ceremonies. We may place Fox's and Garlock's settlements in the year 1718, and have them full early enough, to correspond with their individual members' presence at other places.
"Kneiskern's dorf" was the most northerly settlement, and was at the confluence of the Cobleskill creek with the Schoharie river.
While the three last settlements' history is wrapped somewhat in darkness, the papers relating to this, are in a good state of preservation. John Peter Kneiskern, a list-master at The Camps and Captain in the Canadian Expedition of 1711, was the head man, and after whom the "dorf" was named.
In 1728, an article of agreement was executed by Myndert Schuyler, attorney for George Clarke, Secretary of the Province of New York, Philip Livingston and others for the lands, and in the year following (1729) a deed was given to, and received by the seven settlers; namely, John Peter Kneiskern, Godfrit Kneiskern, Philip Berg, Hendrick Houck, Hendrick Strubrach, Johannes Merkle, and Lambert Sternberger, (at present Sternbergh).
A map and description of the lots was drawn in 1728, and signed by "Ed. Collins, Dept. Sup."
The deed describes seven homestead or building lots ranging from forty to fifty acres each; seven wood lots and an equal number of "low land or meadow lots." Thus, each homestead had a wood and meadow lot. The whole extended from the original Sternbergh farm (William Hallenbeck's) on the south, down to and taking in a portion of the island below the old Ferry, including the rich flats and some of the high land upon each side of the river. If this land had been settled by those purchasers at a previous date and a final settlement had just been made, instead of the homestead lots being marked with numbers and "Homestead " written, the names of those living upon each lot would have been put upon the map, as we have found it invariably to be in other localities.
In 1753 an article was executed by each of the seven settlers agreeing to "divide with and release each other of their possessions."
Up to that date the whole was owned in.common, and as they made the division, each one received a deed from the rest of that which they occupied and designated the same by the number upon the map and occupant, and as "one-seventh of the Kneiskern dorf."
In 1759, in the presence of Johannes Lawyer and John Newberger, an agreement was made "to stand together and make satisfaction in land, or otherwise, to him or her, that shall lose any part of their land by law, - which gives us the idea of their anticipating troubles in regard to titles.
A farther history of this dorf and the descendants of the first settlers, with incidents connected, may be seen in Chapter XII.
The seven "dorfs" of which we have made mention, were the first German settlements in the present territory of the County. Additions were made from time to time by immigration from Germany and other German settlements in America.
In 1722, the third immigration of Palatines was made to our shores, and from it were some of the settlers of Stone Arabia, German Flats, and Schoharie. Owing to some unknown cause, for several years, they were not allowed to land at New York City, and were obliged to sail to Philadelphia, from whence many traveled to the Camps, Schoharie and Mohawk valleys, on foot, to seek friends and relatives who had preceded them to the new world, and found a land of plenty but much "droubble." Thus, in a few years, various other settlements were made, and from each an increase by births, as is very common among the Dutch, both high and low, and they "spread out" to rear homes for themselves, and ere many years we find that the "woodman's axe" had made several inroads upon the wilderness, principally along the valleys. The southeastern part of the County along the Schoharie river, was settled about 1750, while the valley of the Cobleskill and its branch the Westkill, was first settled in 1752 and 1754. The higher lands each side of the valleys were taken soon after; but those in the central part of the County not until after the close of the Revolution.
During the land troubles from 1713 to 1722 but little was done to improve their possessions, and after they were settled the Germans must have labored hard, as at the commencement of the Revolution the whole valley from above Breakabeen down to and below " Kneiskern's dorf," beside a goodly portion along Fox's creek and Cobleskill was cleared and dotted here and there with large barns and commodious houses. Even the hills of Sharon, Carlisle, and Blenheim teemed with luxuriant growths of grain and grasses. A vast amount of labor it required to make all of those improvements, and when we consider the diffculties under which they labored for the want of utensils and many common necessaries of life, we must give them praise for possessing the most indomitable wills and energies, such as had but few equals.
When the poor Germans first came to Schoharie their milling was done at Schenectady, and the grain carried upon their backs. It being a wearisome task, they devised the Indian mode of pounding the grain. A large stump was concaved to hold a peck or one-half bushel, into which the corn was placed, and a large stone or heavy wooden pestle fastened to the top of a bent sapling,was churned up and down to crack the kernels. The grain thus treated was mostly Indian corn, for the production of which the Schoharie valley cannot be excelled. It was the Germans' chief article of food, and by drying it thoroughly, this mode would pulverize it nearly as fine as the grinding process of more modern times. It is not to be supposed that they desired to make it the fineness of our bolted meal, for sugared Johnny-cakes and spiced puddings, but simply to crack the kernel in three or four pieces and boil until soft, as we do "samp."
Many of the " children" that commenced house-keeping in Cobleskill, Sharon and Carlisle, did so with very limited means. One family that we have in mind, built a log house, leaving a large mall stump in the center for a table. The top was made as smooth as possible with an axe, and the sides hewn down so the base could allow a near approach, and a large round dish was cut out, similar to a butter-bowl, in the center of it. There was but the man and wife, and it was only necessary to make a similar dish for each, only smaller, from which they ate their food with which consisted of Indian pudding in the morning, potatoes at noon, and pudding and potatoes for supper. In that case the individual dishes or cavities, in the course of time and high Dutch dexterity numbered thirteen forming a circle around the center dish, before the rude table was dispensed with for a movable one and a new house built. The improved tables were usually round tops, having hinges near the center upon the under side, attached to a square box serving for a base. When not in use, this piece of furniture was moved to the sides of the room and turned up upon the hinges against the wall, thereby taking but little room. The box base was used for table linen, needle work;, or odds and ends usually found in a careful housekeeper's workbasket at the present day. All.cooking was done by a fireplace, the dimensions of which were, in most cases, large enough to use wood four feet in length and deep enough to receive a large log and one quarter of a cord of wood. The first bread was baked in a "bake kettle " having a cover, which was placed in the fire and covered with ashes and coals. The bread thus baked far excelled any of the modern baking, as all the virtue of the material of which such food was composed, was retained.
The "improvement" upon the mode of baking, was in building stone and mud ovens, in which a fire was kept until a bed of coals was made, upon which the "baking" was placed in stone or iron dishes.
While the house-wife's ingenuity was taxed to devise modes and means to do her work, and add to the comfort of her laboring family, for the want of proper culinary and other domestic utensils, the husband also was embarrassed to perform his work for the want of proper implements. Ease was a stranger to him, as everything must be done by hard manual labor.
The writer has a plow that was used nearly seventy years ago, and made as all were at and before that time. A wooden block hewn smooth, two feet in length and five inches in width, was taken as a base, to form the point of mouldboard, attach a share and handle. One end of the block was brought to a point and sharp edge by cutting from the upper right hand edge, diagonally, and somewhat concaved. A hard wood stick was flattened and fitted to the concave, to form the mouldboard, and ran in line with the diagonal cut,with a spread of ten inches from the handle. A wrought-iron share with a steel point was fitted to the point of the block with bolts An "improvement" was made by covering the arm or mouldboard also, with sheet iron. Ten inches from the point, a standard, fifteen inches in length, was placed to support the beam, and six inches back of the standard, a single handle was mortised into the block, and run up four feet, to which the end of the beam was attached, fifteen inches from the block. The implement cannot do much better work than a single cultivator tooth of the present day.
Many young married couples started in life upon a heavy timbered farm, with nothing but an axe, bake-kettle and bed, and whatever was added to the stock in furniture or utensils, for many years following, was such only as they rudely manufactured themselves.
It may seem incredulous, but nevertheless it is true, the Indian corn was planted by making a hole in the ground that had been previously burnt over, with an axe or sharp stick, in which the kernels were dropped, or the wheat was sown broadcast, and in the place of a harrow, brush was drawn over the ground to bury the grain. When the grains were to be harvested, a sickle was used to cut them, a flail to thresh, and winnowing was the only mode to separate the grain from the chaff. Soon horses and cattle were used to thresh, and fanning-mills manufactured to clean the grain. We saw one that was used a short time after the Revolution, which was in itself a curiosity, and was capable of cleaning twenty bushels per day. The grain cradle soon took the place of the sickle, and in a few years, that will be laid aside to give place to our life-like reapers, as the flail and horse threshing have, to our modern threshers and cleaners.
At an early day negro slavery was introduced into the Schoharie settlements by the Vroman family, and slaves were kept by the Low Dutch for sometime before the Germans were able to purchase them. While we are loth to admit that the curse of slavery ever polluted our honored soil, yet we rejoice that its stain was not deepened by acts of brutality towards the enslaved, as is usually represented, but quite to the contrary. The Negroes of both sexes were admitted into the family to which they belonged, upon equal footing with the white members They were chiefly the true African blood, "black and shiny," and appreciated the kindness shown to them by their masters.
It was the custom of the farmers to send them to market with grain, and away upon other business, regardless of the amount of money entrusted to them.
When the act for the abolition of slavery was passed by the legislature of New York in 1818, many of the slaves refused to be freed, and were kept by their masters, as long as they lived, receiving the same treatment as the rest of the "boys and girls." The act liberated only the children of slaves as they became of age, but in 1828, a final abolition act was passed, which released all from bondage, and threw them upon their own exertions for support, which proved very meagre in most cases as they possessed a natural dislike to labor. Many of the former owners of the negroes, purchased lots and built small houses for the aged, especially at and near Schoharie, upon which their children may be found to-day. We are unable to give the number of slaves in the County when the "institution" was in full "blast," but by the census of 1820, there were three hundred and two slaves, and two hundred and sixty-four free blacks. At present a greater number we believe of Negroes may be found in the towns of Schoharie and Middleburgh than those figures show. To give an idea of the value of a slave in early times, we will copy a "bill of sale" now in the possession of Henry Cady: -
"Huntersfield, July the fifteent Day, one Thousent, Seven hundred and Tharty sex. Then Bouth of Storm Becker a negor man, and the said Storm Becker Grant the Said negor unto Peter Vroman for his one lawful saruant fore forty two pount Corrant Lawful money of the provance of new York. Wetness my hand and the present of
STORM BECKER CORNELIUS VROMAN, MARTINES VROMAN. July 15, 1736.
then Received of Peter Vroman the Just and ful sum of twenty pounds one shilling, Corrant Lawful money was received by me.
Each member of the family was allowed one pair of shoes in a year, the leather of which was usually tanned by the people themselves in a large trough filled with pounded oak and hemlock bark with a sufficient quantity of water to cover the hides. During the boy and girlhood of many now living the process was practiced and a clear recollection is had of being compelled to soak their bruised and chapped feet each night before retiring in the liquid thus made, to heal and harden them. Upon attending church, old and young, male and female, usually carried their shoes to within a short distance of the church or place of holding meetings and then stop to put them on, regardless we presume of the ankle showing a variety of colors that the different kinds of dirt upon them would give; the daily wearing of stockings, to use the word of an old patriot, being of "modern invention" among the Dutch and (German settlers, particularly the male portion. Cider, butter and loppered milk were unsparingly used, especially at logging and stone bees. A large quantity of maple sugar was manufactured by the farmers, and by grating or shaving it fine and sprinkling it over the surface of loppered milk, a desirable dish was produced which was greedily devoured by three or four that would surround the pan or wooden bowl with pewter and wooden spoons and skim the sugar off with such a quantity of thick milk as the taste desired. When all of the sugar had disappeared more was sprinkled on until the contents of the dish were annihilated. Much sport was enjoyed by the hardy settlers through the deprivations which they were forced to endure, and it is questionable whether we of to-day with all our modern conveniences enjoy life any better than did they. Many ludicrous incidents might be repeated that actually occurred which shows their simplicity and ignorance and which caused a vast amount of amusement.
As we before stated the number of Indians that were in the valley of Schoharie when the Germans came is not known, but they were considered by the white settlers as being the true owners of the soil and a brisk trade was kept up between them and traders from Schenectady and Albany. Blankets, trinkets and rum were the chief articles of trade on the part of the whites, and land, fur and roots on that of the Indians.
The rum trade became very annoying to the Provincial officials as well as to the head sachems of the different tribes. Sir William Johnson's attention was drawn to the subject at various times by the Indians themselves and he referred the matter to Lieutenant.Governor Delancey in June of 1755. He says: -
"Sir Seth the head sachem of the Indians living near Shohary, and the leading sachems of the upper and lower Mohock Castles have made heavy complaints to me of the white people in those parts selling Rum to the Indians, represented the ill consequences thereof, and prayed that it may be prevented. Your honor I persuade myself is sensible, this Selling of Rum to the Indians has been ever attended with fatal consequences to the publick Interest with them and at this Juncture, must be more than commonly detrimental. If an act of the Legislature cannot be obtained to prohibit this Sale of Rum to the Indians without any Limitation of Time, I do in the most earnest manner request your Honor, that you will apply to the assembly to form an act, with such Pains & penalties, against this Sale of Rum to the Indians, during the present situation of publick affairs, as may be (so far as possible) effectual to prevent it. Unless such a law is made, and the observance of it secured in the strongest manner, the (general Interest in my humble opinion, will infallibly suffer, and those measures now in agitation for the Honor of his Majesty's Crown, ans the Security & Welfare of his Subjects in these parts, be greatly embarrassed.
"P. S. There should be a clause in the act to prevent Peoples buying their Arms Amunition Cloathing &c or Exchanging."3
"Those measures now in agitation "referred to, were in gaining the Indians' consent to assist in opposing the invasion of a French army that was threatened upon the Mohawk. Ever since the white man set his foot upon the American soil, every advantage has been taken of the Indians by them in trafficing worthless trash for such commodities as were peculiar to the race, and which sold readily at high prices in the civilized world.
When the Indian could not be persuaded to bargain with the tradesman, rum was freely given him and while under its potent influence, whatever he possessed was easily obtained. Many of the finest tracts of land upon the Mohawk and Schoharie rivers were obtained from them for a mere trifle in that way and by the commencement of the Revolution, scarcely sixty years after his acquaintance with the whites, his hunting-grounds and even the soil upon which stood his wigwam were in possession of the white man. The same treatment we find meted to them to-day, throughout the West, even under the knowledge of the government to which they look up as their Father. When they resist in their weakness, the encroachments upon their promised rights, the glittering bayonets of an army of annihilation, drive them to submit to every imposition that traders and agents feel disposed to inflict upon them. Allowing that the majority of the Schoharie tribe were refugees from the council fires of old tribes, it was no excuse for taking undue advantage of them. After the Mohawks learned a few of the white man's tricks, they often proved themselves equal to like emergencies and as often showed a disposition to do right. We found a petition in the Secretary's office that was forwarded to Gov.Hardy in September, 1755, to aright a transaction in which they were interested as business men, without the power to settle the matter themselves. It is as follows: -
"To his Excellency The Honorable Sir Charles Hardy Esq., Captain-General & Governor in Chief in, and over his Majesties Province of New York &: Territories Thereunto belonging Vice Admiral & Chancellor of the same.
"The Humble petition of the Mohawk Indians Living in Schobare his Majesties Loyal Subjects & Soldiers Whose names are hereunto subscribed most Submissively Sheweth That your Honors ree Sold some pasture Land to Johannes Lawyer of Schoharry That lay Contigus to two farms he had, one of said farms bounded with the land of Nickolas Mattice & the pasture and wood land Joining to said Mattice farm ye petes Excepted out of the sale made to Lawyer, having covenanted with Nickolus Mattise for that part that lay convenient to him.& when said Lawyer brought the Surveyor General's Deputy to lay out the land ye Excellency's pets by noe means suffer the Surveyor to lay out that land covenanted with Mattice, for a song with Lawyer. Except for Mattice use & then agreed upon, it should be for the use of Mattice. The Land was laid out, under one which made the coarse the easier for the Surveyor to run, all this very well known to the Surveyor and some of the principle men of Scoharry who are men of credit & veracity.
"Now Lawyer have gott a patent by which, he says takes all the land as well as Mattice as what we sold him & if so it is by false & Injust Insinuation to the Secretary. Lawyer absolutely refuses to let Mattice have the land we reserved to him Except he bot it at a Extravagant prise, he also sent for us the other day to pay for the land and desired we should give him a Receit in full in order to have to Shew he had a right for Mattice as well as his own in order to cloak his Injust dealings, which we refused, Either to take the money or give a receit, May it therefore please your Excellency to Consider the premises, with the many agrivating Circumstances & that your wonted Probity & Justice may be herein manifested by Rectifying the Injury done to ye Excelly pets. & that Nicholas Mattice have his part of the land according to our Covenant & for ye Excellency long life & prosperity yr Pets as in duty bound will Ever pray
LOWES CAREKE DUMTE SETH CAREKE DUMTE SETH CAREKE DUMTE Junior HANS VRE CAREKE DUMTE MARGRET CAREKE DUMTE MARY CAREKE DUMTE CATHREN CAREKE DUMTE "
The above were Mohawk Indians, and a like exhibition of fairness in their dealings, was made at Johnson Hall on the 8th of April, 1767, as published in the Documentary History of New York, in a speech by Abraham, one of the Sachems, before Sir William Johnson.
He said: -
"Brother GORAH WARRAGHIIYAGEY " We are come to acquaint you with a very extraordinary affair which we were yesterday made acquainted with by some of our Neighbors of Scoharee, and as it concerns us, We would be glad to hear from you the reason of such doings.
"It is concerning the Lands we sold when the Governor was at your house last fall, for the use of Hannis lawyer & his associates, from whom we then received the full consideration for which we agreed, and now we understand that lawyer and his friends, are to have but half of it - To us such doings appear strange, and I believe You would think hard of us were we to act so.
"We cannot therefore in Justice to these people (who have been long about that Tract, and at a good deal of expense beside the purchase money) allow the Land to be Surveyed for People with whom we are not acquainted neither did we hear of the least intention they had in purchasing them Lands, and if they had applied, we could not think of leting them, or any other sett of People have the Land which we had so long ago promised to the purchasers, which you may remember Brother, we declared to the Governor at the time the Deed lay on your Table ready to be signed, & gave our reason then for it, which together with the carefull manner everything was then done, we imagined there never could be any the least squabble about it hereafter, but in short Brother, we are sorry to see that the White People (who have more sense than we) will for the sake of getting land wrong one another, since that is the case, what are we Indians to expect from you.
"Brother We have no more to say to the subject but to request you will let us know if you can, the reason for such doings. If you cannot. we would beg of you to Enquire of the Govenor, who no doubt is acquainted with every thing relative to the affair, as it was transacted in his presence."
Writers variously, estimate the number of Indians supposed to be residents of the valley from time to time, ranging from three to six hundred, but we do not think they ever numbered over the former, if as many.
The "Memorial Concerning the Iriquois," by the Rev. Chas. Inglis, written in 1770, and dictated by Sir Wm. Johnson, says at that date, "The Mohawks have three villages, Schoare, Fort Hunter, and Canajoharie, they are all within the English settlement and contain 420 souls." The Schoharie tribe being much the smaller of the three, quite probably their numbers would not at that time number one hundred. The settlers of Schoharie were chiefly engaged in agricultural pursuits. Yet every able-bodied male over eighteen and under forty-five, was enroleld as a soldier. Sir Wm. Johnson was in command over all regiments north of the highlands, as Major General.
Schoharie furnished a regiment that numbered, as far as we can learn, nearly three hundred, over which Jacob Sternbergh was colonel. Peter B. Vroman and Jacob Hager, were captains of companies several years, and did service under the Crown at Oswego, Niagara and Fort George. It appears that the former captain was a military man, and did but little else than perform military duty. Sir Wm. Johnson must have thought highly of him, as when a vacancy of a major in the regiment occurred in 1769, he repeatedly insisted to Governor Colden, upon his promotion to that position, and Vroman was honored by the appointment in 1770.
Previous to March 12, 1772, the whole territory of Schoharie was in Albany county, and at that date a line was established which gave the western part of the present county to Tryon, and the eastern to Albany.
A line was drawn from St. Regis upon the St. Lawrence river to a point upon the south bank of the Mohawk, some distance west of Schenectady, it being the northeast corner of a lot of land granted to William Crosby, Jr., in 1735, running from thence to the Indian stone heap upon Bowen's tract, (near Sloansville,) and from thence to a pine tree, now a stump, in the Bear Swamp of Carlisle, which is the northeast corner of the "Dorlach" purchase, thence to Lake Utsayantho, in the town of Jefferson, and from thence following the Delaware river to the south bounds of the Province. All west of this line was Tryon county. The present towns of Sharon, Seward, Richmondville, and a greater portion of Summit and Jefferson, were in Tryon, and continued so up to the year 1784, when Tryon was changed to Montgomery, in honor of the patriot who fell at Quebec.
Previous to 1765 all civil officers of authority over th Schoharie district were chosen from Albany, and the supervisor was to be chosen from the corporation. The people had no redress except by petitions which were frequently indited to the Governor, for his influence in their behalf. Who was the scribe we are unale to say. Each writing denotes a fair scholar, and nearly all seems to have been written by the same person.
The Lawyer family were usiness men, but there was a resemblance in their hand-writing, which was unlike the documents to which we refer. The omission of words by wear and fading of ink, renders all, with but one exception, useless to copy. After the year above mentione, the Supervisor and Justices were chosed from Schoharie. Marcus Bellinger was Supervisor for several years but who, if any, officiated beside, we have been unable to learn.
End of Chapter II FOOTNOTES
"NEW YORK, Sept. 23d, 1722.
Mr. Van Dam informs us that you want our accounts concerning Schohare, it may be so, but is it not as reasonable that we should have yours. We are of the opinion with you that the affair should be brot to a conclusion. And the Lands Divided. We know no better way to do it, than for you to come down and bring all your accounts, yours --- interchangably delivered we may then finish that affair if there be Power from you all so to do. We consent to a division of the Lands in 14 Equal shares that James Livingston to be surveyor appointed to that work on the terms already agreed on with him, that he or you may hire chain Bearers but that if any of you think to be present it must be at his or your own expense. That when the Survey to be made and the place of division be furnished, it to be sent to us and when any of you come to York on your Private affairs we will then draw lots for we are desirous to Save Expense as much as possible. Let the Chain bearers be some of the Inhabitants of Schohare of good understanding whom you may hire cheaper than it will be to cary them from Albany
To We are Gentleman W. WASSENERS ) Your Humble Serv MYNDERT SCHUYLER ) RIP VAN DAM ROBT LIVINGSTON ) GEORGE CLARK P. O. BENYAR ) PHIL LIVINGSTON" JOHN SCHUYLER )
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