Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

CHAPTER III. Benton History of Herkimer County

1709 TO 1722.

The Immigration of the Palatines - Joshua Kockerthal and his Company -Arrive at New York in 1708-9 - Naturalized in England - Settle in Ulster County - Second Arrival in 1710 - Sickness and Deaths on the Passage - Governor Hunter - Board of Trade and Plantations - Lands on the Moltaks River and Skohare to be Surveyed - Hunter buys Lands of Livingston - Complaints of the People - Their Children taken from them and Bound Out - John Peter Zenger the Printer - They Volunteer to go to Canada under Col. Nicholson in 1711 - Refuse to Stay Longer on the Manor and Insist on going to Scohary - Party Migrate to Schoharie Creek in 171213 - Reason why placed on Frontiers - Character of Robert Livingston by a Minister of the Crown - Gov. Burnet's arrival - His Instructions - John Conrad Weiser -Third Arrival of Palatines, 1722 -Burnet to Board of Trade - Indian Deed to Palatines - Their Desire to Remove - Object of the Home Government - Results not foreseen.

The origin or cause of the first immigrations from the Lower Palatinate of the Rhine to America, as we have seen, was religious persecution, and the devastations of the country consequent upon the religious wars of Europe, of which Germany was the battlefield nearly one hundred years. The affinity existing between the sovereigns of England and the Palatinate, and the deep sympathy felt by Protestant Englishmen for their suffering brethren in Germany, produced the application to Queen Anne, in 1708, to send the Palatines to her then colony of New York.

Immigration of the Palatines.

In the first quarter of the eighteenth century, three bodies of these people arrived in New York, having been sent over at the expense of the British government. By an order in council made at Whitehall, England, May 10, 1708, it appears that Joshua Kockerthal, evangelical minister, and several poor Lutherans, had come to England from the Lower Palatinate in Germany, being forty-one persons, ten men, ten women and twenty-one children. They are described as having been reduced to want by the ravages of the French in their country, and are represented as being of good character. This paper states they would have been sent to Jamaica or Antigua, but it was feared the hot climate of those islands would prove injurious to their constitutions. It was finally concluded to send them to the colony of New York, where they could be employed in obtaining naval stores after being seated on the frontiers as a barrier against the French and their Indians ; and on the 10th of August following, the provincial governor was directed to provide subsistence for Joshua Kockerthal and fifty-two German Protestants, and " to grant him 500 acres of land for a glebe with liberty to sell a suitable portion thereof for his better maintenance till he shall be able to live by the produce of the remainder."

An order was made in the provincial council at New York, May 26, 1709, to continue the relief promised by the queen until the expiration of twelve months from the date of their arrival, and this relief was to include clothes, mechanical tools and materials to work with. This was the vanguard which was to be planted in advance of the population then in the province as a barrier against the common enemy. This company probably arrived at New York about the close of the year 1708, and did not leave England before the month of August of that year. They were naturalized by the crown before they started. In the year 1714, we find a Lutheran minister, Joshua Kockerthal, settled in Ulster county, and hence it will be inferred that most if not all of the first company which came over, followed their spiritual teacher and remained with him.

The second and more numerous company of Palatines arrived at New York, some of them in the ship Lyon, a short time before June 13, 1710, and in consequence of sickness during the voyage they were directed to remain at quarantine at Nutten island, now called Governor's island, where huts were erected for them and provisions furnished at the public expense. More than three thousand emigrants came over about this time. It was asserted by Governor Hunter that over four hundred and seventy died on the passage, and ten vessels were employed in bringing them to their future and long wished for homes.

It should be noticed here for reasons that will be sufficiently obvious by and by, that this company came over in special charge of Hunter, who had particular directions where to settle them, for in the report of the board of trade and plantations, dated December 5th, 1709, approved January 7th, 1710, on the settlement of an additional number of Palatines in New York, the commissioners assert that these settlements would be a protection against the French of Canada and the Indians scattered over the continent. In pointing out the place most suitable for seating the Palatines, the commissioners designate "a tract of land lying on the Mohaques river, containing about fifty miles in length, and four miles in breadth, and a tract of land lying upon a creek [evidently the Schoharie] which runs into said river, containing between twenty-four and thirty miles in length. This last mentioned land is claimed by the Mohaques, but that claim may be satisfied on very easy terms." They notice the obstruction to water navigation on the river by the Cohoes falls, but think this should be no hindrance, as there would be only a short land-carriage. In the spring of 1710, Hunter directed the survey of lands on the "Mohaks " river, and particularly in the " Skohare to which the Indians had no pretense." But these lands, although very good, he thought unfit for the design in hand, as they lay remote and there were no pines, and after admitting that pine lands were unfit for farming purposes, he says, " I am in terms with some who have lands on the Hudson's river fitted for that purpose which I intend to view next week." In October of the same year he says, "I have been obliged to purchase a tract of land on Hudson's river from Mr. Livingston, consisting of 6000 acres, for 400 pounds of this country money, for planting of the greatest division of the Palatines." He remarks that the soil is good, adjacent to pines which he had also purchased, and convenient to vessels of fifty foot water. He also informs the board of trade he had found an ungranted tract near by on the west side of the river where he had planted the remainder of the Palatines or intended to do so soon.

Mr. Robert Livingston, who sold the 6000 acres to Hunter, obtained a contract from the governor to victual the Palatines, and cheated them in the quantity of flour delivered, by marking the tare of the barrels less than the actual weight of them. The Palatines on Livingston's manor and on the opposite side of the Hudson river, in 1711, numbered about 1800 in all, according to the subsistance accounts rendered to the government by Livingston and his agents, and it is not probable they would make the number less than they should be. There appears to have been much complaint among these people in respect to their treatment by the government officials, and they no doubt felt themselves sorely aggrieved, and did not hesitate to present their case to the home government in strong but respectful language, boldly asserting that the conditions on which they agreed to come to New York had not been kept with them. A very, considerable number of their children were taken from them by the governor and bound out to the inhabitants of the colony, and among these were two sons of John Conrad Weiser, who afterwards became somewhat conspicious among the Schoharie settlers; and also John Peter Zenger, the son of a poor widow, who was bound to William Bradford, a printer in New York. Zenger, it is said, afterwards became the proprietor of a newspaper in that city, and having indulged rather freely in some strictures on the government, his paper was burned by the common hangman, and the patriotic and fearless Palatine was indicted for a libel in 1734. He was however acquitted on the traverse of the indictment, to the great gratification of the people assembled to hear the trial. Zenger was then about thirty years old.

In the year 1711, about three hundred Palatines accompanied Col. Nicholson in the expedition into Canada, and among these volunteers the following names are found: Hen. Hoffman, Warner Dirchest, Fred. Bellinger, Hen. Wederwachs, Frantz Finck, Martin Dillenback, Jacob Webber, William Nellis, George Dachstader, Christian Baucb, Mich. Ittick, Melch. Folts, Niclaus Loux, Hartman Windecker, Hans Hen. Zeller, Jno. Win. Finck, Jno. Hen. Arendorff, Johan Schneider, Henry Feling, Job. Jost Petry and Lud. W. Schmit, names familiar in the Mohawk valley, if they did not compose some of the first settlers at the German Flats.

Mr. Clark, the colonial secretary, under the date of May 30, 1711, informed the board of trade that the Palatines would not work at making pitch and tar, nor remain on the lands where they had been seated, on the Hudson river, but were intent on going to Schohary and settle on the lands the queen had ordered for them. In 1712 the insubordination had become so great that troops were called into the Palatine settlements to reduce the people to order. But Gov. Hunter failed in compelling an entire submission to his will for in the fall of that year some of their leading men were sent to the Indians on the Schoharie creek to crave permission to settle among them, and this being granted, a Palatine migration to the Schoharie valley took place in the winter of 1712-13, comprising some forty or fifty families. Others followed, no doubt, soon after. This seems to be the first offshoot of the first two emigrations in the direction of the Mohawk Valley. While the French retained Canada, it was no doubt a wise policy on the part of the mother country to strengthen the northern and western frontiers of this colony, and the Palatines, having tasted the bitter cup of persecution in their own country, and suffered all the horrors that savage and relentless war could inflict, but death, which to many would have been a blessing, were the fittest people on the European continent to be placed where the home government designed they should be. They had not forgotten the names of the nations, the armies and religionists which had sacked and burned their towns and hamlets and driven them from loved homes and revered fatherland, nor would they soon disremember them.

In a letter written in March, 1711, by a member of the British government to one of his colleagues, the, writer says: "I think it unhappy that Col. Hunter at his first arrival in his government fell into ill hands, for this Livingston has been known many years in that province for a very ill man, he formerly victualled the forces at Albany, in which he was guilty of most notorious frauds by which he greatly improved his estate; he has a mill and a brew-house upon his land, and if he can get the victualling of those Palatines who are conveniently posted for his purpose, he will make a very good addition to his estate, and I am persuaded the hopes he has of such a subsistance to be allowed, were the chief, if not the only inducements that prevailed with him to propose to Colo. Hunter to settle them upon his land." Hunter was no doubt the willing dupe of, or sadly overreached by Livingston, and his folly or imbecility had come to the knowledge of his superiors. His bills were protested and the adjustment of his accounts suspended for further examination and vouchers.

A biographical notice of this Robert Livingston shows him to have been a native of Scotland-that he came to this country in 1674, settled at Albany, and filled several important offices in the course of a long and pretty successful life. That at one time he had some connection with the world-renowned and "most abandoned villain," Capt. Kidd, whom he had introduced to the notice of Lord Bellomont, when colonial governor, and that all three were in some way concerned in fitting out a privateer of which Kidd was to take charge on joint account. Livingston's biographer acquits him and Lord Bellomont of being cognizant of Kidd's felonies on the high seas, but thinks he was possessed of large acquisitiveness. He no doubt acquired a good deal of wealth from his connection with the Palatines, not alone by means of his contract with the government for victualing them, but in appropriating their labor to improving his lands.

Governor Burnet came out in the year 1720, and in consequence of the preceding troubles had with the Palatines and the difficulties attendant on the coercive efforts to retain them on the Hudson river, he was specially instructed to remove such of them as might desire it, to lands more suitable for them. The action of the home government was, no doubt, accelerated by the presentation of a strong memorial from the commissioners of the Palatines at Schoharie, who went to England in 1718 to present the condition, grievances and oppressions of the Germans in the province of New York to the proper authorities there. John Conrad Weiser, a captain of one of the companies in the expedition against Montreal in the year 1711, was at the head of this commission. Their petitions or memorials were presented to the board of trade only sixteen days before the above instructions were given.

The object has been, in this examination, to fix the date of the first settlement of the Palatines at German Flats, and since it is known that these people came over at different times, to ascertain which three bodies of immigrants, or what portions of them finally seated themselves in the wilderness frontier of the upper Mohawk valley.

The third company of Palatine immigrants arrived at New York from Holland in October, 1722, having touched at England on the passage; and the ship in which they came had lost many of its passengers during the voyage. The exodus of the Palatines from Schoharie to Pennsylvania and the lower valley of the Mohawk had not taken place before this period.

On the 21st November, 1722, Gov. Burnet informed the board of trade, &c., that he had expected when he was at Albany, to have fixed the Palatines in their new settlement which he had obtained of the Indians for them at a very easy purchase, but in consequence of the divisions among them, and their complaints about the quality of the lands in the new purchase, he concluded not to show any earnestness in pressing them to go on to the lands. But he says there were about sixty families who desired to have a distinct tract by themselves, and being those who had all along been most hearty for the government, he had given them leave to purchase lands from the Indians between the English settlements near fort Hunter and part of Canada, on a creek called Canada creek, where they will be more immediately a barrier against the sudden incursions of the French, who made this their road when they last attacked and burned the frontier town called Schonectady. The Indian deed for the lands at and west of Little Falls, covered in part by the so called Burnetsfield patent, is dated July 9th, 1722, anterior to the arrival of the third company of Palatine immigrants, and this fact forces the conclusion that the grantees of the patent were composed chiefly, if not entirely of those Palatines who arrived in 1710, and were first seated on the Hudson river; and this view seems to be strengthened by Gov. Burnet's remarks to the board of trade. It is quite certain that but few, if any, of the Schoharie people were among the first settlers of the German Flats, unless they straggled from below. But there is not such name as Erghemar, Herkemer or Herkimer in the lists of those who came over in the two first companies of immigrants, nor apparently any name from which Herkimer could be derived or coined without violating all known rules of etymology. The Erghemar family were not among the Palatines on Hudson river in 1711, nor of those who remained in New York. They probably arrived with the third company of immigrants in 1722, from Holland, where they had sojourned many years.

At what time these people actually settled upon the lands patented to them by the crown, in the spring of 1725, is perhaps problematical, and rests in tradition. They were very urgent to remove to a part of the country where they could pursue their avocations and indulge in their own peculiar customs, unmolested by strangers and uncontrolled by colonial task masters; where the lands they tilled were secured to them by all the sanctions of a public grant emanating from the king. They had long felt and known that "patience and hope made fools of those who fill their hands with them." They and their ancestors, for three quarters of a century nearly, had been afflicted with all the worldly evils and miseries that an intolerant and tyrannical hierarchy, supported by absolute despotic governments, could bring upon them; and they had looked to the future with patient and hopeful emotions for a day of deliverance. After twelve years of trial and privation incident to a new climate and a wilderness country, during which time they saw that strangers, and not their families after them, were to be benefited by their labors, no lands had yet been set out to them, by grant from the crown, well might they exclaim that those who endure patiently present wrongs and take no other means of relief only to hope for it, were unwise and improvident.

The Dutch recaptured New York in 1673, but it was restored to the English by treaty in 1674. At this time and to the close of the seventeenth century, a very great majority of the people of the province were Low Dutch or Hollanders, and the French of Canada exerted much interest with all the Iroquois Indians, through the agency of the Jesuits and the control of the fur trade, except the Maquaes, Mohocks or Mohawks. The whole country from Albany north to Lake Champlain, and from Schenectady west to Lakes Ontario and Erie was an unbroken wilderness, and it was therefore important that England should strengthen her colony of New York in both directions by planting settlements as barriers, against hostile approaches, but she had no people to spare; the continental wars in which she had been long engaged and was then involved, more than decimated her population, and she eagerly embraced the opportunity of sending over the Palatines at the public expense. Gov. Burnet, whose talents, learning and kindness commended him to the well disposed colonists, seconded this policy of his government with zeal and success. Little did the governor or the home government then believe they were planting a barrier of stout hearts and sinewy arms on this frontier, which was soon to aid in obstructing the designs of the mother country in one of her most deliberate and best planned campaigns of the revolution. Nor could these then homeless exiles put aside the curtain of futurity and behold the terrific and tragic scenes which were so effectively and relentlessly enacted upon the soil they had chosen for their homes, and by the power through whose agency they had obtained their promised land.

The precise time when the Palatines made their first lodgment in the county is not ascertained. It was not later than 1725. Some who have speculated upon the subject suppose they came up the Mohawk valley as far as the Little Falls and to the Stone Ridge as early as the year 1720. Their agents, sent to spy out the lands, may have traversed the valley to the western bounds of the territory claimed by the Mohawk Indians as early as 1720, and perhaps before that period; but Gov. Burnet had not fixed them in the new settlement he had obtained for them of the Indians, at a very easy purchase, as late as November, 1722, and he that year permitted some of them to purchase lands of the Indians "on a creek called Canada creek." They secured the carrying place at the lesser falls as well as a long extent of wilderness country above, by their Indian deed; and the license of the colonial government to make the purchase, may have been considered by both parties, an authorization for them to remove before the patent was made out, as it no doubt was a solemn, irrevocable public pledge that the lands would be granted by the crown as soon as they should be surveyed. On this hypothesis it may be conjectured that settlements were made at or near the present site of the Stone Church in the town of German Flats, and at Herkimer village as early as the years 1723-24, if not before. Owning the lands at the carrying place, it is not likely that point was long neglected or unimproved.

Burnetsfield patent, so called in popular parlance, is a curious document, and well worthy of some special notice. It was granted on the 30th of April, 1725. It recites that "whereas our loving subjects, John Joost Patri and Coenradt Rickert, in behalf of themselves and other distressed Palatines, by their humble petition presented the 17th day of January, 1722, to our trusty and well beloved William Burnet, Esq., Captain General and Governor in chief of the province of New York, in council have set forth that in "accordance with the governor's license they had purchased of the native Indians in the Mohawks country the tract of land on both sides of the "Mohawks river" commencing at the first carrying place [Little Falls], being the easternmost bounds called by the natives Astourogon, running along on both sides of the said river westerly unto a place called Gauondagaraon, or the upper end of it," being " about twenty-four English miles along on both sides of the said river." The Indian deed is dated July 9th, 1722. That the council advised the governor to "grant to each of the said persons, man, woman and child, as are desirous to settle within the limits of the said tract of land the quantity of one hundred acres."

The grantees were to hold the lands of the crown in free and common socage, that being the usual tenure named in the colonial grants at this time, as of the manor of East Greenwich, in the county of Kent, in Great Britain, subject to an annual quitrent of two shillings and sixpence per hundred acres, and on condition that the grantees, their heirs and assigns, should within three years from the date, plant, settle and effectually cultivate at least three acres of land of every fifty acres" granted to them. This patent also contains the usual reservation of gold and silver mines, timber fit for the royal navy, and the right to enter upon on the lands and take and carry away the same.

Of the ninety-two persons named in the patent to whom lands were granted, twenty-two appear to be females, by the description, married, single or widowed. The paper does not disclose the number of families or the heads families represented by males who settled on the tract, or how many one hundred acre lots went to any one family, husband, wife and children. There are several Pellingers, Starings, Wevers, Smiths, Edicks, Beermans, to whom grants were made. Jurgh Erghemer, Johan Jost, Madalana and Catharina Erghemar are separately named, but Nicholas Herkimer afterwards the General, was not a patentee.

One design of this work is to rescue the names of those martyrs to posterity from the oblivion of old parchments and musty records, and place them on the historic page, from which, humble as their pretensions may be considered by some, they have been too long excluded. Some of those names will hardly be recognized, at this day, by their descendants.

NOTE--The emigration of the Palatines to the province of New York in 1701), was an interesting event in the history of the colony. John Conrad Weiser, a man of note and influence among these people, and who went to England to solicit relief for them, in his memorial to the government, of August 2d, 1720, states their numbers when they left England, near the close of 1709, at about 4000, and that 170C of them died on the passage or at their landing in New York. His son Conrad Weiser, as appears from the Collections of the historical Society of Pennsylvania, states that the number at leaving was 4000. They came over with Gov. Hunter and under his charge. They were sent out at the expense of the British government, not only for their passage but for their subsistence one year after they arrived. In all published documents, colonial and imperial, the numbers are stated at 3000 and no more.

Mr. Cast, who was placed over them as a superintendent, reported the whole number on both sides of the Hudson river, May 1, 1711, at 1761, and Secretary Clark, to the lords of trade, states there were 1803 in June 1711, still remaining on Livingston manor, and on the west side of the river where they had been planted by Gov. Hunter. And again, the number reported for subsistence in the seven towns on the 24th of June, 1711, is 1874. A six months' voyage across the Atlantic at that early day was a severe task upon human endurance, but a loss of more than 2100 lives in eighteen months, or about 1100 out of 3000, shows a want of care on their part, or excessive remissness on the part of those who had charge of them.

Gov. Hunter, as late as 1713, reported that all the Palatines were within the province, and for the most part on the lands where he had planted them; and in May following, that "many have gone of their own heads to settle at Scoharie and on the frontiers." In October, 1712, the governor told the managers of the Palatines they must of themselves seek employment for the winter, and upon this intimation some hundreds went to Scoharie, and that he was the more easy under it because he could not prevent it. In 1715, he says these people were dispersed by his orders.

It is quite evident the Earl of Clarendon, formerly Lord Corribury, colonial governor, understood his subject when he told Lord Dartmouth that Livingston was an " ill man," who would peculate upon the public by his subsistence contract, and that Hunter should have planted the Palatines on the Mohacks river.

Mr. John Cast wrote Gov. Hunter in March, 1711, that five of the Palatiries said to him, " We came to America to establish our families --to secure lands for our children on which they will support themselves after we die; and that we cannot do here." In December, 1709, the board of trade reported to queen Anne in favor of settling 3000 Palatines on the Hudsons or Mohaques rivers, or on the Score creek, each family to have forty acres of land as a reward; to be employed in making naval stores for a limited time, and to be naturalized in the province free of charge; and the attorney-general in England reported a contract which was executed by them and by which they were to have granted to them forty acres of land for each person forever, free from taxes and quit rents for seven years. It was the non-fulffilment of this contract, and planting them on lands where they were employed in improving other men's estates, that caused their disquiet, and what was called unruly conduct.

It was not until 1724, after Governor Burnett's arrival, that the 6000 acres purchased by Gov. Hunter of Mr. Livingston fourteen years before, was secured by patent to the Palatines remaining on Livingston's Manor. Justice, though slow, came with a liberal hand at last, for each of the sixty-three families took what they had in possession improved, and the residue of the 6000 acres in common.

Johannus Wilhelm Schess, one of the agents of the Palatines in London, on the 1st November, 1720, presented a petition to the lords commissioners of trade and plantations, in which he asks to have the lands possessed by the Palatines in Schorie confirmed to them, and also that grants may be made to those people residing in other parts of the province. He asks to have Weiser's petition, presented the previous August, for a grant of land in Pennsylvania dismissed, as being contrary to the wishes of the people who sent them to England. Weiser stated there were 3000 Germans in the Schoharie valley. Schess rated them at about 1000 souls and 3000 more dispersed in different parts of the province.

As all the colonial governments surrounding New York and New Jersey were at this time proprietary and not royal, these agents understood very well the policy of placing their numbers at a high figure. The whole number reported to be in the province in 1718, exclusive of widows and orphans, was only 1601. It was the object of the crown, as expressed by Gov. Hunter, to retain these people in New York or New Jersey. Apprehending a failure on this head by a further effort to carry out Hunter's plans, the whole policy was changed when Governor Burnet came out. Although several of the Schoharie settlers, and among them Captain Weiser, were parties to the petition to the governor and council in 1721, for a license to purchase the Indian title, and also grantees named in the Indian deed made in 1722, they were not, it seems, parties to the act of confirmation which took place January 17, 1723. Captain Weiser went to England in 1718, and did not return until 1723, and in the spring of that year he, with most of the Germans at Schoharie, went to Pennsylvania. Some of them remained at Schoharie and others came over to the Mohawk river.

Governor Burnet at one time contemplated removing the whole mass of the German population then under his government to the center of the state, for in his letter of October 16, 1721, to the lords of trade, he says : " I did intend to settle the Palatines as far as I could in the middle of our Indians, but finding they could not be brought to that I have granted their own request, which was to have a license to purchase of the nearest Indians which are on the Mohocks, which I have granted them with this condition, that they be not nearer than a fall in Mohocks river, which is forty miles from Fort Hunter, and four score from Albany, by which the frontier will be so much extended, and those people seem very well pleased and satisfied with what I have done".

The governor's first idea was, in conformity with instructions from the home government, to plant all the Palatines together on one large tract, the Indians title to which he had then obtained at a late purchase, but he found them divided into parties, the cunningest among them fomenting divisions in order to induce the most of them to leave the province, and they expressed an unwillingness to take these lands, he abandoned that project also; and in his letter to the lords of trade, of November 21, 1722, "as about sixty families desired to be in a distinct tract from the rest," he gave them leave to purchase from the Indians on the Canada creek, where they would be more immediately a barrier against the sudden incursions of the French.

The act of confirmation, January 17, 1723, as may be seen, required that the names and number of all the persons to be concerned in the grant should be certified to the surveyor-general before the survey was made, and as appears by the patent issued, there were only thirty-nine families and ninety-four persons reported, or who came forward and accepted the bounty of the government.

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