Three Rivers
Hudson~Mohawk~Schoharie
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Mohawk Valley
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

The Old Queen Anne Parsonage, Fort Hunter, 1712

Chapter VI: Queen Anne's Chapel

The delegation spoken of in the last chapter was in England in the year 1708. At an audience given them by Queen Anne, among other requests, they prayed that Her Majesty should build them a fort and erect a church at their castle at the junction of the Schoharie and Mohawk rivers, called Tiononderoga. This she promised to do, and when Governor Robert Hunter arrived in New York in 1710 he carried with him instructions to build forts and chapels for the Mohawks and Onondagas. These orders were carried out as far as the Mohawks were concerned and the fort named Fort Hunter, but the Onondaga Chapel was never built.

The contract for the construction of the fort was taken October 11, 1711, by Garret Symonce, Barant and Hendrick Vrooman, Jan Wemp, and Arent Van Patten, all of Schenectady.

The walls were formed of logs, well pinned together, twelve feet high, the enclosure being on hundred and fifty feet square. Surrounded by the palisades of the fort and in the centre of the enclosure stood the historic edifice known as Queen Anne's Chapel. It was erected by the builders of the fort, being, in fact, part of their contract. It was built of limestone, was twenty-four feet square, and had a belfry.

The ruins of the fort were torn down at the beginning of the Revolution, and the chapel surrounded by heavy palisades, block-houses being built at each corner, on which cannon were mounted.

It is said that soon after the erection of Queen Anne's Chapel the Dutch built a long "meeting-house" near what was afterwards known as Snook's Corners, but all trace of the building long ago disappeared. The first missionaries to the Mohawks of whom we can find any account, who, under, the auspices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, connected with the Church of England, sent out to teach the Indians, were the Rev. Mr. Talbot, in 1702, followed shortly afterwards by the Rev. Thoroughgood Moore, in 1704. It is said that the Rev. Mr. Moore was driven away from Tiononderoga by the Indian traders and went to New Brunswick, Connecticut. He was so scandalized at the conduct of Governor Cornby and the Lieutenant-Governor to approach the table of the Lord's Supper, for which act he was arrested and imprisoned in jail. He succeeded in escaping and took passage in a vessel sailing for England. As the vessel never reached its destination, it is supposed to have foundered in mid-ocean and all on board lost.

The Rev. Thomas Barclay, chaplain of Fort Orange, in the city of Albany, was then called. He labored among the Mohawks from 1708 to 1712, and was, in 1712, succeeded by the Rev. William Andrews. The parsonage or manse was built in 1712. The next record we find regarding Queen Anne's Chapel, is the purchase or grant from the Crown of a tract of land containing three hundred acres. This was called the Barclay tract and was granted to the Rev. Henry Barclay, November 27, 1741, presumably for the benefit of Queen Anne's Chapel, and was afterwards known as Queen Anne's Chapel, "glebe," the term glebe being used to denote lands belonging to, or yielding revenue to a parish church, an ecclesiastical benefice.

The records say that the Rev. Mr. Andrews was no more successful than his predecessors, and in 1719 abandoned his mission. The most cordial relations existed between the ministers of the Reformed Dutch church, who also sent missionaries from Albany to the Mohawk Indians, and the Episcopal Church in their Indian mission work. After the Rev. Mr. Andres abandoned his mission, the Church of England had no resident missionary among the Mohawks until the Rev. Henry Barclay came in 1735, being appointed catechist to the Indians at Fort Hunter. His stay with them was made very uncomfortable by the French war and the attitude of his neighbors. He had no interpreter and but poor support, and his life was frequently in danger. In 1745 he was obliged to leave Fort Hunter and in 1746 was appointed rector of Trinity Church, New York, where he died. The Rev. John Ogilvie was Dr. Barclay's successor. He commenced his work in March, 1749, and succeeded Dr. Barclay also at Trinity Church, New York, after the latter's death in 1764. Queen Anne's Chapel seems to have been a stepping-stone to the rectorship of Trinity Church.

Sir William Johnson and the Rev. Mr. Inglis, of New York, obtained from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in the year 1770, the Rev. John Stuart, as missionary for service at Queen Anne's Chapel and vicinity.

The Rev. John Stuart was a man of gigantic size and strength --over six feet high--called by the Mohawks "the little gentleman." He preached his first sermon at Indian Castle on Christmas Day, 1770. He had a congregation at the chapel of two hundred persons and upwards. In 1774 he was able to read the liturgy and the several offices of baptism, marriages, etc., to his flock in the language of the Mohawks.

This practically is the end of our knowledge of Queen Anne's Chapel as a church. When we hear from it again it will be as a ruin.

Right here it may be well to give a description of the same, as a church. We already know that it was built of limestone, was twenty-four feet square, and had a belfry. It also had a bell which was afterward placed in an institution of learning at Johnstown and did good service for a number of years until the building and the bell were destroyed by fire a few years ago.

The entrance to the chapel was in the north side. The pulpit stood at the west and was provided with a sounding-board. There was also a reading desk. Directly opposite the pulpit were two pews with elevated floors, one of which, with a wooden canopy, in later times was Sir William Johnson's; the other was for the minister's family. The rest of the congregation had movable benches for seats. The chapel had a veritable organ, the very Christopher Columbus of its kind, in all probability the first instrument of music of such dignity in all the wilderness west of Albany. It was over fifty years earlier than the erection of the Episcopal church at Johnstown, which had an organ brought from England, of very respectable size and great sweetness of tone, which continued in use up to the destruction of the church by fire in 1836. Queen Anne sent as furniture for the chapel:

In 1877 the Manse was still standing and in a fair state of preservation, though parts of the woodwork shoed signs of decay. At the present time it has the appearance of a very durable stone building with main entrance to the south. It is two stories high and about twenty-five by thirty-five feet in size. The walls are thick, making the recesses of the quaint old windows very deep, the glass being six by eight and the sash in one piece. The glass for the windows and the bricks for the single large chimney were brought from Holland. On the east end of the building and over the cellar arch the characters "1712" are still legible.

In 1888 the late owner, Mr. DeWitt Devendorf, repaired the old parsonage and tore down the old chimney and very thoughtfully presented about fifty of the old Dutch brick to St. Ann's Church, Amsterdam, N. Y., the lineal descendant of Queen Anne's Chapel and the principal recipient of the fund derived from the sale of the old glebe farms.

On June 8, 1790, Rev. Mr. Ellison preached at Fort Hunter. He says: "The church is in a wretched condition, the pulpit, reading-desk, and two of the pews only being left, the windows being destroyed, the floor demolished, and the walls cracked."

Except on a few occasions by the Rev. Mr. Dempster, the chapel had not been used for a number of years, when it was demolished about the year 1820, to give place to the Erie Canal. The roof was burned off to get its stone walls, the stone being used in constructing guard-locks for the canal near its site. It is said that the beginning of the Revolution the silver service, curtains, fringes, gold lace, and other fixtures of the chapel were put in a hogshead by the Mohawks and buried on the side of the hill south of the Boyd Hudson Place near Auriesville, N. Y. At the close of the war, when found by sounding with irons rods, it was discovered that the silver service had been removed and the cask reburied, but by whom or when it was never known. Most of the articles were so damaged by moisture as to be unfit for use.

The question is often asked why was not the old canal constructed in the same straight line that the new canal follows in passing through Fort Hunter? At the time the old canal was built, about 1820, there was a bridge across the Schoharie just above the chapel, and the channel was diverted from a straight line, passed through the site of the chapel, and the building destroyed in order to make use of the bridge in towing the boats across the stream at this point, as it was deemed more economical to destroy this historic landmark than go to the expense of building a new bridge.

Commenting upon this act at the present time we call it vandalism, but you must remember that in those days there were no churchmen in that locality, locality, and that its roof had been a "refuge from the storm" for the sheep and cattle that were pastured on the land near by. For years the voice of prayer and thanksgiving had been hushed, and instead of the solemn notes of the deep-toned organ within walls that had echoed alike to the song of praise and the war cry of the Mohawks, naught was heard but the lowing of cattle and the plaintive call of the sheep for its young. We condemn this act of vandalism, but are we in our day any more careful to preserve the old landmarks around which cling so many sweet and tender memories.

With the assistance of Trinity Church, New York, an Episcopal church was erected in 1835 at Port Jackson, (the present fifth ward of Amsterdam, N. Y.), and maintained with the assistance of funds derived from the sale of Queen Anne Chapel glebe farms. This church was named St. Ann.

The church of Port Jackson seems to have had a hard struggle for existence, probably on account of its locality. During the rectorship of Rev. A. N. Littlejohn (the lately deceased Bishop of Long Island) the edifice was sold and steps taken to erect a stone building on Division Street, Amsterdam, N. Y.

The building of this little stone church marked an era in church building in Amsterdam, which previous to its erection were of the plain, unpretentious style of the fore part of the nineteenth century. Even in its unfinished state, no one could look at its gray walls and the Gothic arches without seeing its possibilities for beauty when completed. The building of 1851 was of Gothic style, the nave only being constructed. A wide aisle in the center led up to the narrow chancel in the north end. The chancel rail enclosed the altar-table with a modest reredos behind it and the reading-desk on the west side of it. Outside of the rail, and a little in advance from it on the east side, stood a small octagonal elevated pulpit. In the rear, or south end, of the church and over the vestibule, the choir was located. The first organ, purchased in 1841, was bought in New York City, was second hand, and the name of the maker has been forgotten. A new organ was purchased in 1874 of Johnson and Co., Westfield, Mass., for $1500. This organ is still in use in the new church.

The present edifice was repaired and enlarged in 1888 to accommodate a largely increased congregation. The interior is spacious, the whole depth being about one hundred and thirty feet, and width sixty-five feet, with name, north and south aisles, and choir. It is lighted with numerous windows painted to represent scenes in the life of Christ and emblems of Christianity. All, or nearly all, of the windows are in memoriam and are beautifully executed.

Approaching the church from the east the eye rests on the green, well-kept law, with here and there a tall maple of elm springing from it surface in pleasing irregularity. Through their branches we catch a glimpse of the little stone church and tower, which partially hides from view the main body of the edifice. Then we see a portion of the stone pillars of a Grecian porch with its iron railings and gateway. A few steps more and the panorama is complete and the whole south front of the church is in view. The gray walls of the older portion when compared to the completed church is "as moonlight unto sunlight and as water unto wine."

The dull red of the superstructure, the rough ashler of the gray stone walls peeping through the dense foliage of the Japanese ivy, the green carpet of the lawn, dotted here and there with trees of venerable age, whose branches "half conceal yet half reveal" the grandeur of the completed edifice, make a picture that no artist can ever reproduce.

As the visitor enters the church at the western or main entrance, the heavy oaken doors and bare stone walls of the vestibule impress one with the idea of solidity, and the view of the interior after passing the swinging baize doors, is in a degree a surprise. The low aisles on each side with slender pillars, and the lofty name with its graceful arches, with colors of gray and brown, and blue and brilliant tints of the beautiful windows, give a feeling of rest to the beholder; and as the eye wanders and is finally held by the graceful choir, a little somber perhaps, in the distance, relieved somewhat by the glitter of lectern and pulpit, its churchliness impresses one,and the thought of the visitor might well be, "truly this is the house of God."

From Oronhyatekha, the Supreme Chief Ranger of the Foresters of Canada and descendant from the Mohawks of Tiononderoga, and from Rev. R. Ashton, the present incumbent of the Mohawk Church at Brantford, Ontario, Canada, I have received the following information:

It appears that the communion service that Queen Anne sent to the Mohawks was buried on their old reservation at Fort Hunter during the Revolution, and remained there some years or until the Mohawks became settled in the reservation near Brantford (1785), and on the Bay of Quinte; then a party was sent back, resurrected the plate, and brought it back to Canada. For a period of twenty-two years prior to July, 1897, the plate was safely kept by Mrs. J. M. Hill, the granddaughter of the celebrated chief, Capt. Joseph Brant, whose mother was the original custodian, having kept it from the time of its arrival in Canada till her death.

Of course the custodian was required to take the communion plate to the church on communion days.

Later the Mohawks were presented with a communion days, after which Queen Anne plate was only used on state occasions.

In 1785 some of the Mohawks settled at the Bay of Quinte and the larger body on Grand River, Brantford. The Rev. John Stuart, D.D., who had been their missionary at Fort Hunter and fled to Canada with the Indians and Tories, was appointed to the charge of both bands, and a church was built at both places by King George III. The plate was then divided; it consisted of seven pieces, two flagons, two chalices, two patens, and one alms basin.

To the Grand River band was given the alms basin and one each of the other pieces, also a large Bible.

The Indians at the Bay of Quinte have a flagon, paten, and chalice in the hands of Mrs. John Hill, at Deseronto, Canada. The chalice at Grand River is much bent, the other pieces are in good order, as is also the Bible. Each piece of plate is inscribed: "The Gift of Her Majesty Ann, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland and Her Plantations in North American, Queen, to Her Indian Chappel of the Mohawks." The Bible, printed in 1701, is in good condition and bears on the cover, "For Her Majesty's Church of the Mohawks, 1712."

This plate has a value aside from its intrinsic value, as explained by Rev. R. Ashton:

You are probably aware that all pure silver plate manufactured in England is stamped by the government, which stamp is called the "hall mark," which indicates that the article is of standard silver or standard gold. From March, 1696, to June 1720, Britannia and the lion's head erased, were substituted for leopard's head crowned and the lion passant on silver, which both before and since have been in use as the "hall mark." All silver bearing the former mark (and it is plainly seen on every piece of the Mohawk and Onondaga silver), is greatly prized, and is termed Queen Anne silver.

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