Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Turtle Tribe Castle, 1565-1626

This is a continuation of the Red Man article

Now as the sites of the Castles of the Tribes of the Turtle, the bear and the Wolf of the Ganniege which they occupied from the time of their entry into the valley of the Mohawk about 1565, are all reasonably and convincingly known to us, with but one exception, it surely would be most interesting to locate the excepted castle.

Of course it is my contention that the Otstungo and its companion site, as well as Camp Cayadutta and the two sites on the Garoga Creek, all prehistoric sites, are not sites that were inhabited by the Tribes of the Ganniege.

It is generally known that it is my contention that the villages and castles visited by Van der Bogaert in 1634 were all located upon the northerly side of the river and that the First Castle which he called 'Onekagoncka' was located on the westerly bank of the Cayadutta Creek, just westerly of the village of Fonda and which site is now designated with an historic marker as, Gandawage.

Van der Bogaert's notes in his journal of his departure from the First Castle on the morning of January 20, 1635, on his return journey to Fort Orange, discloses: "We set forth at one hour before daylight and after marching by guess two leagues the savages pointed to a high mountain where their Castle stood nine years before. They had been driven out by the Mohicans and after that time they did not want to live there."

It has been my opinion for some time past that this castle was located at or in the vicinity of Tribes Hill, but as I have unable to locate such a site, after numerous attempts, the question was, How can I prove my claim?

Of course I could qualify my statements with the usual "probably" or "some people say" or "I assume" or "I suppose" or one of the many other similar terms whereby the writer, is always right, whether right or wrong-merely a display of knowledge, but nothing established-Thus my conclusions upon the location of this castle were withheld until sufficient facts or records were obtainable.

However in my continuous search for historical records and facts pertaining to the history of our valley, I recently discovered an interesting account written by an enthusiastic searcher for Indian remains which was published in the Amsterdam Evening Recorder of November 14, 1910, wherein are sufficient convincing facts upon which to firmly and conclusively establish my claim as to the site of this Castle of 1626and for many years prior thereto, and from which account I excerpt:

"One day in the early spring of 1890 it was proposed to explore the high hill opposite the mouth of the Schoharie Creek. On reaching the top, to our great astonishment, was to us a new and unknown village site. The site itself covered perhaps three quarters of an acre and the other parts of the field contained scattered relics.

The ground seemed literally full of pottery fragments, bones and mussel shells. I do not remember that we made that day any important find, excepting a great quantity of broken pottery, perhaps a half of a bushel of fragments, good, poor and worthless.

Five or six trips were made to this camp before the growing oats hid the ground and on each trip more of the precious pottery was secured, also numerous arrow points, scrapers, hammer stones, a few axes, several broken pestles, pottery pipe stems and fragments of pipe bowls.

The hill has been known among collectors and many residents of that locality as "Pottery Hill" ever since.

"While the encampment appears to have been one of importance as much pottery and many of the common relics have been found yet there has been but a limited number of the rarer and highly prized articles discovered.

"The Devendorf collection contained from this site, two pestles, several celts, a fine large gauge, a green stone tube, several ornaments and forgets, two banner stones and many arrow heads, knives, scrapers and drills.

"However, I have a burner and a fractured forget, one half of a soap stone, a small mortar, several celts, a number of pieces of broken pottery, pipe bowls and stems, besides a quantity of arrowheads and other chipped stone articles and a fine stealite or soapstone pipe.

"The residents of Pottery Hill should never suffer a water famine as there are three copious springs near.

"Pottery Hill is not so large as Garoga, Otstungo, Cayadutta and some of the town of Palatine sites; neither does it have the great depth of camp debris, yet it probably was of considerable importance and like the other named is prehistoric.

"The date of its occupancy varies in the minds of different authorities, Gen. John S. Clark indicates, on his map of the Mohawk castles from 1642 to 1700, a site named 'Ogsadaga,' at the exact location of Pottery Hill and gives the date of occupation as late as 1700. Those of us who are familiar with the debris and general run of relics found upon the sites occupied by the Mohawks from 1600 to 1700, know that he is certainly mistaken regarding the date of the occupancy of Ogsadaga, if that site is what we today call Pottery Hill."

"During the twenty years I have been familiar with it, I have never known to be found upon all that hill so much as a single glass bead, the smallest snippet of sheet brass or the ever present white clay pipe stems, which are most common upon Indian sites occupied at the time Gen. Clark says it was.

"This evidence is the strongest that can be given and proves that Pottery Hill was occupied long before 1700 and even before 1600. Gen Clark is mistaken either on the location of Ogsadada or the date of the occupation for our Pottery Hill has proved to be prehistoric in all the relics the site has given up. "I have always thought of old Tienonderoga as on the eastern end of Tribes Hill, some 200 or more yards west of the present F.J. and G. electric power house. Traces of an Indian site may be observed and relics such as are usually present on sites of that date have been found.

"The material evidence left on Pottery Hill is read Prehistoric."

An that most interesting and instructive account, which speaks so convincingly for itself and which will ever appear among our historical records, was written by our local and respected antiquarian and historian, Mr. Robert M. Hartley who needs no introduction whatever to our readers, only expressions of appreciation for his untiring efforts in our behalf.

Now, from a point on the frozen river, opposite "Pottery Hill," or the "high mountain" where the castle of the Mohawks stood in 1626 as reported by Van der Bogaert to the site of the First Castle on the westerly bank of the Cayadutta Creek, is precisely two leagues or five and one half miles.

Accordingly we can positively and conclusively determine that the castle from which the Mohawks were driven out in 1626, was located on Pottery Hill or on the northerly side of the river directly opposite the outlet of the Schoharie Creek.

In addition thereto, we can also conclude, until another similar site is discovered in this or near vicinity, that this is the site of the original castle that the Tribe of the Turtle of the Ganniege, established upon their entry into the valley of the Mohawk about 1565.

Of course I anticipate that it will be said that my conclusions are erroneous, for sties of Indian villages occupied up to 1626 "should disclose some remains of European make."

Well, I am inclined to the same opinion but opinions are not facts, for the two villages on the Garoga creek near the present village of Ephratah were established about 1615 and also Camp Cayadutta about 1598, and all three villages were abandoned about 1626 owing to the war with the Mohicans and all three of these sites disclose remains identical with the site on Pottery Hill and the sites of the six villages established about 1626 do not disclose stone implements.

Thus it is clearly evident that each and every location disclosing aboriginal occupation should be carefully examined and seriously studied in order to determine its correct period of occupancy; but apparently this fact, in many cases, has been utterly disregarded as if the paramount purpose was to present a plausible outline on a chain of Indian villages described in an historical narrative, for instance:

It is claimed that "Senatsycrosy," the second village consisting of 12 houses as reported by Van der Bogaert in 1634 was located on the hillside southerly of the now hamlet of Sprakers.

Our State Archeologists with the aid of their assistants in the field as well as those in the Department of Archeology, and the records in said Department have reported:

By Mr. Beauchamp:

"A small site at Sprakers on a hill south of the river. Gen Clark thought this Theonodiogo, the western castle of 1642. This would correspond with the writer's estimate for 1634."

Cy A. C. Parker:

Site and stronghold near Sprakers. The site covers a small plateau on the hillside above the Mohawk River and lies along the Flat Creek, on the east. A few Colonial Trade articles have been found. The site is that of Tionontoguen, described by Van der Bogaert.

Thus it does appear that our eminent authorities do not agree for some claim that this location was occupied by a small village of twelve houses, prior and subsequent to 1634, while others claim that it was the site of the large castle of Teontoge, consisting of "fifty five houses, some 100, other more or fewer paces long" as reported by Va der Bogaert, which castle would require an area of at least nine acres of land and the cabins would accommodate a population of at least 7500, but the claim is that this large village was on a small site and that it was occupied for some unknown years prior to 1634 to 1666, and yet after this numerous inhabitants had occupied this site for upwards of 32 years, they report that only a few colonial trade articles have been found."

Surely the remains recovered from this site clearly and convincingly disclose that it was only a location for temporary shelters where a band of Mohawks remained for the winter of 1666-67 as their castles and villages were destroyed by the French the previous month of October and new castles could not be completed until the bark peeled the following spring.

Time and space does not permit the enumeration of other locations that have been outlined somewhat similar for this account is already extended beyond reasonable limits and we must respect and appreciate the kindly and obliging disposition of the publisher of this progressive and interesting paper who is ever ready to contribute the greater burden in bringing our accounts before his historical minded readers. The End.

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