History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Its Legends and its History
by Max Reid
New York and London G. P. Putman's Sons
The Knickerbocker Press, 1901
with illustrations from photographs by J. Arthur Maney
Chapter XI, The Last Battle between the Mohawks and Mohicans. The Famous Butler Mansion
In 1669, when no white man was seen along the shores of the Mohawk, except a few adventurous Dutch and English traders,French coureurs-de-bois, and an occasional Jesuit priest, a large body of Mohican warriors passed through this valley en route to surprise and destroy their natural foes, the Mohawks, and their palisaded village Kanyeageh, which was situated on the Sand Flat Hill west of Fonda. Three days after, this body of warriors returned, repulsed, and practically defeated, as they had expended their ammunition, consumed their food, and failed to destroy the Indian stronghold, although defended by a very small body of Mohawks. Within twenty-four hours this small body of defenders, reinforced by friends from the upper Mohawk castles, passed down the river in hot pursuit of their enemies, the Mohicans.
At Hoffman's Ferry they found them entrenched on the hill west of the present ferry, now called Towereune of Kinaquarione. This hill formerly extended to the river, ending in a "Juchtanunda" at the water's edge and formed a strong natural barrier, which could not well be scaled. Quietly the pursuing warriors ascended this range, in the vicinity of what is known as Swart's Hill, fiercely and unexpectedly assailed the Mohicans in the rear and drove them into their entrenchments, which they stubbornly held until darkness put an end to the fight.
As the first streak of dawn on the following day the Mohawks again attacked their foes so fiercely that they drove them from their entrenchments and into the river, where the remnant of the tribe escaped in boats and by swimming. This engagement is spoken of as the last great battle between the Mohawks and the Mohicans. It is said that the latter tribe left their hunting-grounds on the Hudson River and migrated to Connecticut, from which place they did not return for more than half a century.
The hill was called Towereune or Ki-na-qua-ri-o-ne, which is generally understood to mean "The place of the last great battle." I am indebted to Mrs. Harriet Maxwell Converse for the following definition of words similar to the words written above, received from an intelligent aged Mohawk woman and an Abeniki woman, who speaks the Mohican.
|Sunset in the Mohawks Land, Tribes Hill|
The definitions are very interesting, as they all bear on the same subject:
are going to kill them.
Ke-na-kwa-di-io-he-ne--I was going to kill them.
Ka-qua-ri-on-ne--Why did you not kill me, too, with my people?
Ki-na-qua-ri-o-ne--We killed the bear, or a place of death.
The old Mohawk woman says that the word, correctly spelled, may mean a place of capture, or a hill where they killed their enemy. The other spellings of the above are thought by the Abeniki woman to be of Mohican origin.
The definition of Towereune is given as follows, and, you will notice, refers to the same subject:
wanted to kill them.
Ka-no-ron-que--Those I loved best have gone (been killed).
Tow-ire-en-ne--Place where Indians (or the enemy) were killed.
In 1689 and 1693 the French and Canadian Indians passed up the valley and raided and destroyed the Mohawk castle at Tiononderoga (Fort Hunter) and the castles above, returning to Canada by the trail along the Juchtanunda Creek. In 1738 Sir William Johnson settled in Warrensbush on the south side of the Mohawk, about half a mile below the mouth of the Juchtanunda Creek, or, as Philip Schuyler reported in his survey of the Mohawk in 1792, "one-half mile below the creek on which Vedder's grist mill stands."
As early as 1742 Johnson had succeeded in winning the confidence and affection of the Indians of the Six Nations, which finally led to his appointment as Indian Commissioner, and repeated conferences with the Indian tribes were held at Mount Johnson. During the old French War troops were repeatedly seen passing to and fro between Albany and Mount Johnson, sometimes on the south side, but generally on the north side of the Mohawk. War parties of Indians were frequently organized by Mr. Johnson to harass the French settlements in Canada. In June, 1779, fifteen hundred soldiers under General James Clinton passed up the Mohawk, in two hundred and ten bateaux, being part of General Sullivan's expedition against the Senecas.
From 1755 to 1765 repeated conferences were held with the Indians at Fort Johnson, as it was then called. As early as 1746 we find the name of John Butler connected with Sir W. Johnson and frequently a member of the board of commissioners, sometimes as an interpreter.
Necessarily we find many objects of interest scattered through this section of the Mohawk Valley, notably Queen Anne's Chapel, Fort Johnson, Guy Park, and other old buildings.
Recently an old building has been brought to my notice that has never received the attention that it deserves.
|The Butler House on Switzer Hill, 1743|
I refer to the old Butler house on Switzer Hill. The 17th of June was an ideal day for a drive in the country, being bright with sunlight and the air balmy with a western breeze, so gentle that it might well be termed a zephyr. Our road led us through Tribes Hill, whose original appellation was Trips Hill and not Tripes Hill, as erroneously stated. The name may be found on the Tryon map of 1779, and refers to the original grant of that section,t he northwest corner of which joins the northeast corner of the Butler grant. The Butler grant was conveyed December 1, 1735, to Walter Butler and three others. Passing by the many pleasant places in Tribes Hill, among which are the Striker and Shanahan places and the pleasant home of Dr. Suits, we reach the Young homestead. Turning north at the latter place our road winds over hill and ale and along the banks of the Danascara Creek until we come to the elegant home, and farm buildings of Mr. H. T. E. Brower. From this point the road takes a westerly direction with the Danascara ever insight, past pleasant farm houses and farms that present a thrifty appearance. About thirty rods south of the junction of the Tribes Hill road with a road leading from Fonda to Johnstown stands the old Butler house, the former home of Capt. Walter Butler, Senior, and later of his son, Col. John, of Wyoming notoriety, and grandson, Lieut. Walter Butler, Junior, who is remembered in connection with the Cherry Valley massacre. Located a short distance from the main road, it is approached by a driveway, between rows of locust hedges, to a wide, well-kept lawn on the west side of the house. At first sight the house presents rather an incongruous appearance by its mingling of the new with the old, but as we look closer we see that, while the old does not add to the attractiveness of the new building, the new emphasizes the antiquity of the old by contrast. In the center of the lawn is an old well with a modern pump, which has been substituted for the old weather-beaten well-box and sweep from which formerly depended a traditional and moss-covered oaken bucket. On the south edge of the lawn stands a large locust tree whose abbreviated dead branches extend in every direction. Near this tree a grape-vine grown, whose anaconda-like trunk has reached and enfolded this tree with its snaky coils. But is does not, like its reptilian counterpart, convey-poisonous death in its embrace, but beautiful life, in its bright green leaves and tendrils and promises of luscious fruit.
To the south of the locust is the fruit garden, filled with the thrifty fruit trees indigenous to our cold climate, and a suggestion of the south in the numerous fruitful peach-trees, clustered in the bright sunlight. Here and there we see the syringa, the rose, and the Joseph coat, with their green foliage almost hidden by the luxuriance of the brilliant flowers that cover their branches. And back of all this wealth of color stands the gray, wooden walls of the old house, fairly grotesque in its want of beauty of outline, and the poverty of its ornamentation.
But these thoughts all vanished as we entered the house and were greeted by the mistress, Miss Margaret Wilson, and were at ease at once, from the cordiality of her reception.
The house was built in 1743 by Walter Butler, Senior, the father of Col. John Butler, about the same time that Sir Wm. Johnson erected Fort Johnson, and from the known intimacy between the two families must have been the scene of many a revelry among those high livers.
A "lean-to" has been built on the west side of the house, extending the already long angle of the old roof and at the same time preserving the west side of the original building from the ravages of time and the elements. This shows that the original clapboards were each about twelve inches wide, planed by hand and with beaded edges. Between the upright timbers, inside of the clapboards, were placed adobe or sun-baked brick of the usual length and about one and one-half inches thick. These brick were evidently laid in clay, instead of mortar, and finished on the inside with whitewash. In later years this rude finish was covered with lath and plaster.
The ceiling of the first story shows the heavy oak timbers exposed, and between them is seen the wooden ceiling, which also constitutes the floor of the second story. The house itself is about thirty by forty feet with the front to the east. The main floor was formerly divided by a wide hall in the center with two rooms on each side and a stairway at the end of the hall. We were shown a trap door in the lower floor and another, directly over it, in the second floor, and evidences of an enclosure that connected the two, making a secret passageway from the second story to the cellar. The main timbers of the lower floor are very strong, being made of white oak trees about fifteen inches in diameter and thirty feet long, roughly hewn. The stone foundation is of the most primitive character, and looks as if the stones had been gathered from the fields or wherever they could be easily loosened with a bar. In fact, the old house made me think that it was erected in the same manner that King Solomon's temple was built,---that is, without the sound of axe, hammer, or other metal tools---except perhaps an axe. My attention was called to the outside doors, which all opened outward. In the bottom of each door was evidence of an opening, the shape of a half-moon, which was formerly closed with tarred tow of felt. It was explained that where a house was haunted this opening was made for the ghost to retire if it wanted to. But if it went out,f or a few minutes, it could not get back on account of the tar.
Know not what the truth may be,
I say the tale as 't was said to me."
This property has been in the hands of the Wilson family for nearly seventy years, having been bought in 1830 by Henry Wilson, the father of the present owners, Mr. Henry Wilson and Miss Margaret Wilson.
They deserve great credit for having preserved this old building from destruction and decay.
Leaving the old Butler house, we were told that there was a very pretty view of the valley at the junction of roads above, but we were not prepared for the exquisite view that burst upon the sight as we turned the bend of the road.
|Caughnawaga Church, Fonda, 1763-1868|
Imagine if you will, standing upon a hill about tow hundred feet high, "green and of mild declivity," and the valley below abbreviated by a range of rugged hills that, bending to the south, and a few miles to the west at the river bank in the "Nose." A heavy rainfall of a number of days had cleared the air and foliage of all impurities, a gentle breeze had dissipated all mist and fog and even the purple haze of the distant mountain, leaving all nature bright and fresh and green. Before and below us were the manifold shades of green, of which nature is so lavish in those "rare days in June." In the center of this emerald field lay the Mohawk, that by a bend in the river above and the dense foliage of trees before us seemed to have no beginning or ending, but spread out before us like a small lake whose surface was free from ripple or riff and shone like burnished silver in the bright midday sun. Around this liquid mirror extended a fringe of low bushes, whose darker shade of green made beautiful contrast tot he bright shades of the fields of grain beyond. A little to the north of this lake a short section of the New York Central Railroad stretches out in geometrical precision looking like a gridiron of huge dimensions. Along its side at short intervals rise blue spirals of smoke, which change to a bluish-white cloud as they mingle and float away against the dark green of the trees that cover the hill slopes, while on the sides of the southern hills dwellings of red and white, each with its little cluster of trees or shrubbery, mark the abodes of men.
Nearly in the center of this picture and from out a cluster of oak and ample and elms emerges the dome of the old court house, and from its summit springs a tall staff with Old Glory floating lazily against its side, giving a charming bit of color to this picture of emerald hues. Suddenly, and seemingly from out a cluster of trees at the base of the hill, there comes a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, supplemented by a shriek and roar and rumble, and a form completely enveloped in it own black smoke, appears and disappears along the iron rails below, leaving a trail of smoke to mark its flight like the path of a shrieking shell from a monster gun. And over all this beauty the golden sunlight and the celestial blue of the heavens flecked here and there with clouds of fleecy white and somber gray.
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