History From America's Most Famous Valleys
FINCK,MAJOR IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR
Donated by Barbara Vosburgh
An Address by John B. Koetteritz, of Little Falls
Delivered before the Herkimer County Historical Society June 8, 1897
On the first gentle rise of hill from the flats of the Mohawk River where it leaves its rocky gorge east of the city of Little Falls and broadens into the rich Manheim River bottom lands north of the turnpike and of the New York Central Railroad, and nearly opposite the spot where General Herkimer's Monument marks the final resting place of that citizen-soldier, lies a small private burying ground known as the Finck-VanValkenburgh cemetery. Near the west end of it stands a simple marble slab containing this inscription:
In memory of
Major in the Revolutionary Wars.
Who died February 3rd, 1820,
Age 69 years, 3 days.
Benton, in his History of Herkimer County speaks briefly of the continuous and valuable services of Finck during the whole of the Revolutionary War, and states that nearly all the papers relating to his military and public life had to be brief and incomplete. The various histories of Montgomery County, of which Finck was a citizen for sixty-six years, contain only meager reference to his service as Member of Assembly.
It is one of the objects of our Society to preserve the memory of our brave and illustrious citizens, of those who were leaders in war, in the political arena, in commerce, science and law. Pride in local history is the foundation of true patriotism; love for the hearthstone, the family house and ancestors makes good citizens. If Major Finck has been somewhat neglected by historians, and my modest effort shall do him and his ancestors justice, I, as a German-born citizen, shall feel especially grateful. With the kind and able assistance of one of Major Finck's great grandsons, and by making personally exhaustive searches through the colonial and Revolutionary records in the State Departments, in church registers, County Clerks' offices and elsewhere, I have been able to gather the facts for the following sketch.
It is said that the Finck family came over with the second and large Palatine emigration of 1710.
The Reverend Joshua Kockerthal, aided by the English queen, led his small flock of Palatines, singing hymns and psalms, their small belongings in bundles, poor, destitute and illiterate, from their homes in the Palatinate, whence they had been driven by religious persecution to London and thence to America. They were the forerunners, and all being from the German Palatinate, the name "Palatines" because a generic term for those forming the large second and third immigrations, although, only a part of those composing these latter immigrations were original Palatines, the rest coming from all the different Principalities of Southwestern German, Alsace and the Netherlands. Desolated by the War of Thirty Years--the cruel effects of which can yet be traced in some parts of Germany--again ravaged by the war in the time of Louis the XIVth, who made religion a pretext for his wrongs, notably in 1674, when a French army, under the cruel Turenne, marked its progress by such acts of destruction, pillage and murder as have hardly a parallel in the history of the world; again reduced to ashes and ruin by the dauphin, after a few years of peace, the Palatinate had become a dismal desert and its once proud and happy people wretched and hopeless beyond the power of words to describe. Thousands had to seek homes elsewhere, homeless, destitute and objects of charity. Finally the English Queen came to their help, and provided for their maintenance in London and their passage to this country. The character of this immigration was, as Kapp says, humbleness, despair and silent suffering, and about all they brought over were their bodies emaciated by want. The once prosperous inhabitants had become paupers and wanderers on the face of the earth. Is it a wonder that we find so many of the early German immigrants illiterate and ignorant? They had no homes to sleep in, no bread to eat but that of pity, no schools to send their children to, and no hope in aught save God. We must consider these facts fully, and when you, descendants of these German pioneers, read now of the cruelties to which the Armenians are subjected, you can find the reason why your ancestors had fallen into the state of ignorance, illiteracy and destitution in which they had existed for more than twenty years before they came to this country. These facts also explain why so few of our Palatine families are able to trace their original home and connect their ancestors with the original stock. Families had become scattered. Not only homes, but towns and villages, including the churches and all records, had been destroyed long before the immigrations to this country, and many villages and hamlets have never been rebuilt. Only nameless ruins indicate the places where once your families had their homes.
The fate of the immigrants in their early days here was hardly better than their experience at home hoping to settle on lands of their own and become a free people, they found themselves reduced to a state of semi-slavery, and it was not until they disobeyed the orders of the Colonial Governor, and moved into the Schoharie Valley, that any improvements in their condition began.
The first mention of the name of Finck occurs among the volunteers of Colonel Nicholsons' expedition to Canada in 1711, when one Frantz Finck from Queensbury, is mentioned. While I have not seen the original documents, I have been informed that the name "Andreas" might be just as easily made out of the name as "Frantz."
Tradition in Stone Arabia claims that nearly all the original settlers of that patent came over in 1710, and that the Loucks, Finck and Eaker families came from near Itstein, of that part of Germany which was later part of the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Nassau and which now belongs to the Kingdom of Prussia. The frequent intermarriages between these three families make this story probable. A number of Palatine families had settled along the Mohawk River prior to the settling of the Stone Arabia patent attracted undoubtedly by the other German and Swiss settlers who had located there prior to the coming of the Palatines.
On March 7, 1722, John Christian Gerlach, Wm. York, Johann Lawyer, Johann and Hendrick Frey and Godfrey DeWulven petitioned for a tract of meadows and wood land in the Mohawk Country, between the Cayadutta and Canada Kill, and on March 8th, Rip Van Dam, Chairman of the Committee of Council, makes his report. The next day a warrant for a survey was issued, and on November 1, of the same year, John Christian Gerlach, in behalf of himself and other distressed Palatines, petitions for a license to purchase the same tract, which was granted the following day. On February 12th, 1723, the same parties obtained a deed from the Canajoharie Indians and finally, on the 19th of October, 1723, the patent was granted to twenty-seven patentees, amongst whom we find Andreas Feinck and Christian Feinck. Christian Feinck was a brother of Andreas, and as I can not find any evidence of his settling at Stone Arabia, it may be assumed that he remained in Schoharie, or died before the Stone Arabia patent was occupied by the patentees.
The allotment maps of the patent are lost, and it is impossible to trace the original location of Andreas Finck's homestead. A branch of the Kangara Creek, which runs east of Sprakers into the Mohawk, is still called "Finck's Creek", and between that creek and where the churches are located, local tradition places the new home of the Fincks. From the fact that Andreas Finck was one of the original petitioners for, and the patentees of the land, it may be assumed that he enjoyed privileges in selecting his own share, and that his land would be in the very center of the new settlement and of fine quality.
Andreas Finck was married before he came to Stone Arabia; his wife was Margaret Acker, and their marriage had taken place at Schoharie. How many children he had cannot be ascertained as no church records for those early days can be found.
The elder Wilhelm Finck, who married in 1753 Margaret Snell, was one of his sons, and Lieutenant Johannes Finck, in Col. Jacob Klock's regiment, was his grandson, and the wife of Capt. Andrew Dillenbeck who was killed at Oriskany, was his granddaughter. His eldest son, judging by the custom of the Palatines of christening the oldest male child by the father's name, was Andreas, who was born on September 1st, 1721, before the removal to Stone Arabia. This is the Andrew Finck, Jr., who, according to Simms, appears on early maps as a owner of land. While we cannot ascertain the age of the patentee Andreas, it is certain that he lived until after 1744, when his name appears for the last time on a public record, and that he died before 1751, when the second Andreas settled on Michael Franck, his stepfather, a life lease on one half of Lot 10. No record of the death of the wife of the elder Andreas can be found.
The new settlement prospered, the lands were well adapted for the raising of wheat, for which there was an ever ready market in the east, the people were frugal, industrious and extremely saving. They provided themselves with none of the comforts of life, married early, raised large families and died old. Until 1729 the people considered themselves as members of the Schoharie church. Then some of their leading men, amongst them Andreas Finck, the patentee, bought of Wm. Coppernoll, of Schenectady, a glebe for church purposes of fifty acres. The original contract is still in possession of the Finck family and reads as follows:
Memerantum of agreement between William Coppernoll and Andreas Feink, Henerick Frey, Hans Diterick Casslemen, John York Miller and all the rest of the company of this said patent the said William Coppernoll hath sold to the above said Andreas Feink, Henerick Frey and all the rest the foresaid company, a certain lot of land number in our patent number twenty for a cheicht and other use of the same and no other and the said William Coppernoll is therefore paid and satisfeit and the said William Coppernoll binds himself his heirs and assigns in the sume of one hundred pounds good lawful money of Newyer to give a good lawful transport of the above said lot of land number twenty att or before the ninth day of April one thousand seven hundred and thirty one as witens my hand and seals this second day of June annoa: D1729. Sealed and delivered in the presence of
The original deed given by Coppernoll is also still in existence and was executed May 9th, 1732, and conveyed the same property to Andreas Finck and others. Finally, in 1744, the land was divided between the Calvinists and the Lutherans, deeds were given and taken, on which still appears the name of the elder Andreas, who was also one of the charter members of the Reformed Church and was instrumental in the erection of the church in 1744, as shown by bonds and contracts still existing. With the establishment of the churches and the intimate connection which existed between the mother settlement at Schoharie and the new ones at Stone Arabia and the German Flats became gradually severed--the holding of the lands became more stationary and the shifting forth and back between the new and the old locations ceased. Stone Arabia became the central place for all the Germans in the Mohawk Valley--its citizens were the most prosperous and the poor "distressed palatines of 1723" had become comfortably well off twenty years later. It must have been a life of toil and privation which those people led, only occasionally broken by family feasts and holidays, which were celebrated with eating, drinking and dancing in their native fashion. Such a day of feast was likely the 14th day of December, 1742, when the second Andreas married Catherine Elizabeth Loucks, daughter of Hendrick Loucks and sister of Adam Loucks, the Colonial Justice and the noted local leader during the Revolution. The Loucks family were not among the original patentees of the Stone Arabia patent, but they and the Eakers came over soon after the first settlement was made. Catherine E. Loucks was born on the 10th of March, 1720, at Skorrie (Schoharie). Six children were the result of this marriage, Anna Margaret (born 1746), who married Judge and Lieutenant Jacob Eacker; Major Andrew (born 1751); John Jost (1753) who was a private in Van Cortlands and Klock's regiments during the Revolution; Christian (born 1759), who served under Col. Klock and the Levies; Maria Magdalena, who married Captain Nicholas Coppernoll, and Catherine, who married Captain John Sealey, who had charge of Fort Keyser during the battle of Stone Arabia. Of the second Adreas little is known--grown up during those years of hardest pioneer life, he could have but little education, as there are papers in existence which he signed by making his mark. It is said that he took active part during the French-Indian War, and there served as Captain under Sir William Johnson. While I do not find his name as occupying such a position on the few existing records in regard to the Mohawk Militia under Sir William Johnson, an officer's sword, said to be worn by him during that war, was preserved for many years in the family of his son Christian, which sword bore his name and rank of Captain. During the War of the Revolution, although then over 54 years old, he served in Col. Jacob Klock's regiment. I have not been able to ascertain how long he served. He brought up his children in the Reformed Church, and we find the family well represented in the church records.
In the year 1786, a few days before his death, he makes his will, by which he provides for his widow and devises to his three sons 700 acres of farm and wood land and to his three girls and three boys 600 acres more, also money and valuables, and leaves the residue of his estate and "his small arm or fowling piece" to his grandson, Andrew C. then a small boy. He kept slaves, and leaves on negro wench, Anna, to Catherine Sealey, and Anna's prospective issue to Mary Coppernoll. From his will it appears that his homestead was nearly opposite the churches, and extended west to the creek--on which a mill was operated. He died on the 22d day of August, 1786, nearly 65 years old, and was followed on the 31st day of March, 1790, by his wife, a little over 70 years old. Their gravestones stand in the Stone Arabia Cemetery, and are the oldest stones in that ground. They are a few feet from the grave of Colonel Brown, who fell at the battle of Stone Arabia.
Of the youth of Andrew Finck, the later Major, we know little. From general information about the condition of affairs at Stone Arabia, it is evident that these people were, during the years of his youth, in that transitory state between the crude life of the pioneer and the advancing of civilization and learning. School teachers were sometimes employed, and children obtained some instruction. Many of the families sent their children away to school, and it is probable that young Andrew thus obtained his education. There is a tradition in some branches of the Finck family that an English Captain, DuBois, who was drilling the militia companies organized by Sir William Johnson, noticed, while at Stone Arabia, a young lad who was repeating with great precision the motions of the drill. Finding him a handsome and bright boy, he took great liking to him and offered to his parents to provide for his education. The parents consenting, he took young Andrew to New York and kept him there for years. While all the children of the second Andreas were publicly admitted to the Church (confirmed), as shown by the church register, young Andrew's name does not appear, nor as a witness to any christening, and he must have been absent from home for a long period of years. Part of the original minutes of the Committee of Safety are in his handwriting and evidently of his composition, and they and the letters written by him show him to have been a man of superior and unusual education, considering the general state of instruction among the Palatines. Family tradition says that he was educated to be a lawyer and that he was reading law at Albany before the Revolution, a statement that is substantiated in part by the fact that he joined the Albany Lodge in about 1772. It is not until the early days of the Revolution that we have any authentic information about him. So from the day of his birth, the fist of February, 1751, we have to pass to the 27th day of August, 1774, when we find this young scion of the Palatine yeomanry in the very front rank of the patriotic leaders of the day, sitting in council with his elders and laboring henceforth incessantly for freedom's cause until he left his home for the army.
He attended the meeting of the Palatine Committee on August 27, 1774, which was held at the house of his brother-in-law, Justice Adam Loucks, at Stone Arabia, and acted as Clerk of the meeting, and he, with Christopher P. Yates, Isaac Paris and John Frey, were appointed a Committee of correspondence. Again, at the meeting of the Palatine District, on May 11, 1775, he was made a member of the Committee of Correspondence. The third committee meeting was held on May 19th 1775, and the original resolutions, in Finck's handwriting are still in existence. For patriotic language they are equal to the best productions of those stormy days, and breathe such sincere feeling that I have here the concluding sentences:
"We are determined, although few in numbers, t let the world see who are not attached to American Liberty, and to wipe off the indelible disgrace brought on us by the Declaration signed by our grand jury and some of the magistrates, who in general are considered by the majority of our county as enemies to their country. In a work, gentlemen, it is our fixed resolution to support and carry into execution everything recommended by the continental and Provincial Congress, and to be free or die."
He was also present at the District and County meetings of May 21st, 24th, 29th, June 2nd, 3rd. At the meeting of June 11th, 1775, held at Goose VanAlstine's house, Nicholas Herkimer acted as Chairman and Andrew Finck, Jr., as Secretary. We also find his name as present at the meetings of July 3, 13, 14, 15, 1775. At the latter meeting held at the house of Warner Tygert, Yates and Herkimer in the chair, a letter was ordered sent to the Provisional Congress, recommending for appointment the names of Christopher P. Yates as Captain and Andrew Finck, Jr., as First Lieutenant of a company which Mr. Yates was enlisting, and under the date of the 21st of October following, as the fourth company of Col. Goose Van Schaick's regiments of New York troops, we find their appointment confirmed. The organizer of meetings, the writer of fiery resolutions, changes into the office of the continental Army, who is ready to prove by acts the sincerity of the words spoken or written by him, at those gatherings of the friends of American liberty. Young Andrew Finck was the first one of the descendants of the Palatines to enlist in the services of the Colonies against oppression and tyranny, and, like his ancestors, he had to see the churches and schools, the houses and barns of his own family and neighbors destroyed by fire, the families scattered, the women and children slain or carried into captivity, until finally the just cause prevailed and his country became free. Instead of the fanatic Turenne and the soldiers of the most Christian king, Louis the Fourteenth, the Butlers and Johnsons, the hired Hessians and bloodthirsty Indians, played this work of carnage.
Andrew Finck was in the service of his country from the beginning to the very end of the Revolution, and his record shows that he was one of the most active and useful officers during the whole of the struggle. It is to be greatly regretted that most of his letters and documents have been lost, and that from existing sources it is impossible to give more than a mere sketch of his actual service.
The Major preserved all of his correspondence and had stored up many memoranda relative to his own personal service in the army and for the State, to incidents of the war and of his own later life. Traditions says that he had thus accumulated quite a treasure for future historical research. His own statements about his military career, still existing, prove that he was entirely too modest, even where his interests would have been favored by stronger language and self-praise. These statements are so brief, so soldier-like, so very much to the point, and at the same time so very disappointing to the historian. From the time of his death in 1820, up to the time when Benton wrote his history, his papers had been wasted, relatives, friends, historians, autograph hunters and others had made away with them, and now only a small number of them, original papers, can be found, in the hands of some of his descendants--in New York city, at Utica, and at Osceola, Iowa. From these and searches in Sate archives, we glean the following:
The warrant by the provincial Congress was issued on August 11th, 1775, and received by James Holmes (see Calendar Hist., MSS. I., 108). He also had a commission as First Lieutenant in the Fourth company of the Second Regiment of the New York forces, dated Philadelphia, July 11th, 1775, and signed by John Hancock, President. It is probable that the appointment by the Colonial Congress preceded the recommendation by the County committee and the Provincial Commission. We have seen above that young Finck received the recommendation of the County committee for the appointment of First Lieutenant on July 15th 1775. Receiving the same, he and his brother, Honyost, started immediately for their regiment, as shown by the following letter:
Albany 16th August, 1775.
Honoured Father and Mother:
I hope these few lines will find you in a state of good health, as I and my brother are at present. I expected to see you once more before I marched from Stone Araby but was not able. I therefore acquaint you that we are incamped at the Patroons Mills in this town. I have slept in the camp last night for the first time, upon a borrowed bed. I can assure you that every article of the camp occupage is very scarce in town not be had for money. I have bought me a Gun at a high price and have a mattress a making, sword I am not supplied with yet.
As for news I can tell you for a certainty that Alexander White the Sheriff is taken prisoner and his two comrades from Tripes Hill. Give my best respects to my brother and sisters and to all inquiring friends in general, in my next I will be more particular in relating matters to you. Expect to march in a few days to Ticonderoga if no applicaiton from ??t committee.
From your affectionate son,
Excuse my bad writing had but 1 1/2 hours time to go to breakfast and return again.
To Mr. Andrew Finck.
The regiment that Finck had joined was then known as the Second New York. After February, 1776, it became known as the First New York. Its commander was the brave Colonel Gozen Van Schaick, a veteran of the French Indian War. This regiment did effectual service during the first five year of the Revolutionary War and took part in some of the most important events in the Mohawk Valley. Detachments of it served in Canada, at Saratoga on the Hudson, and probably in the New Jersey campaigns. With the exception of two or three instances, Finck served on detached duty while he was connected with the regiment, which shows that his superiors must have had confidence in his judgment and bravery.
Family tradition says that he took part in the campaign of Montgomery and Arnold at Quebec. I think this is wrong; young Finck stayed with the main body of the regiment at Albany. His name is not mentioned in any of the documents relating to that campaign and I find evidence that he drew his pay at Albany on January 1st, 1776, the day after Montgomery's death.
Lieutenant Finck accompanied General Schuyler in January, 1776, on his intended expedition against Sir John Johnson, and was then in command of a company. He was office of the guard when Little Abram and General Schuyler had their council at Schenectady (Schuyler's papers). Shortly afterward he was appointed recruiting office of the regiment, as shown by the following order:
Albany, February 25th, 1776.
Sir:--I herewith deliver you your recruiting orders and a number of enlistments the blanks of which are to be filled up and then subscribed by the person enlisted.
Such men as you may from time to time enlist are to be sent
to Col. Van Schaick at this place, that they may be equipped for their march
into Canada with all possible despatch. Every man that is able to furnish
himself with arms and blankets should do it. I am sir
Your humble Servant
P. E. Schuyler
To Capt. Andrew Finck.
We see by this order that he had received in the meantime his commission of Captain, which is dated February 16, 1776, and ranges him as 3rd Captain, which from 14th First Lieutenant eight months before shows sufficiently for his military worth. The commission is endorsed by Philip Schuyler, Major General, and also contains the name of Henry Diffendorf, First Lieutenant; Tobis Van Veghten, Second Lieutenant, and John Denny, Ensign. The above order shows that the General selected the young Captain for the arduous duty of recruiting officer of the regiment, at the same time leaving him in charge of his company and doing important frontier duty. The following order was received by Finck shortly afterwards:
Albany 23, 1776
Sir:--You are to proceed to Fort George with your company without delay, you are to begin your march early tomorrow for which six days provisions will be necessary. A bateaux will be ready at the lower dock to take in the baggage at Sunrise, you are to march by the same route which the troops have taken who marched before you. Great care is to be taken that your men commit no depredations on the inhabitants. I wish you a pleasant march and remain your well wisher.
Goose Van Schaick.
To Capt. Andrew Finck.
Pursuant to this order he proceeded to Fort George, where we find him on May 3rd, 1776, as President of a Court Martial appointed by General Schuyler, for the trial of a number of cases. The court ordered that John Smith, of General Arnold's regiment, and Adries G. Neal, of Capt. Benedict's company (Van Schaick's regiment), receive 15 lashes each with the cost of nine tails on their bare backs for thefts. Also, John McDonald, of the latter regiment, 39 lashes for desertion, and Reuben Wiley, of the Second Pennsylvania Regiment, 25 lashes for the same offense.
During the summer of 1776 he was stationed at Fort George, and judging from the movements and orders given to the regiment, the troops were kept busy with drilling, scouting, conveying, transporting and watching the enemy and the tories. During this year a rearrangement of the officers in the New York Line was made, evidently for the main purpose of weeding out undesirable material, and we find in Calendar His. MSS, the return of col. Van Schaick, in which he classified Third Captain Andrew Finck as "good", while a number of others he designated as bad, middling, indifferent, and one even as "scoundrel." The name of the captain was consequently forwarded for reappointment by Major General Schuyler, on October 7th, 1776, and on November 21st of that year he was re-commissioned third Captain in the First Battalion of New York forces. At a meeting of the Provincial Military committee with General Schuyler and Lieutenant Colonel Gansevoort, at Saratoga, October 22, 1776, it was agreed to appoint Captain Finck to recruit for Colonel Van Schaick's regiment, with garrison at Fort George, and money was appropriated for this disbursements for this purpose. There was little encouragement to the patriots in the events of 1776 and the first half of 1777. Captain Finck was for nearly all of the time in command at Saratoga, while Captain Christopher P. Yates was staff officer of the regiment at Fort George, as shown by letter, dated Fort George, April 11th, 1777, in which Yates as senior officer, informs Finck of some movement of the enemy and orders him to send a large scouting party to the westward. The next day Colonel Van Schaick sends him the same intelligence and orders him to take personal command and march with all the force he can collect, including batteaux-men and secure all the disaffected persons. The return of the Captain is missing, but the regiment reports two weeks later that the scouting party had been successful and cleared the country west, of all the royalists. This raid completed, Finck returned to Saratoga, to which place in the meantime the larger part of Van Schaick's regiment had moved, and on the 19th day of May 1777, Captain Finck presided at the Court Martial held over Alexander Jennison, a soldier of his own company, for desertion, who received 100 lashes with the cat-of-nine tails at the public whipping post.
From his correspondence, we know that Captain Finck remained at Saratoga until June 25th, 1777, and possibly later. With the advance of Burgoyne the Americans retreated down the Hudson. In the meantime the victory at Bennington gave new hope to the army and so did the report of the bravery of the Mohawk Valley Militia at Oriskany and the final flight of St. Leger. All but two companies of Van Schaick's regiment had been ordered west, and Captain Finck, as senior officer, commanded the same. He took active part in the two battles of Saratoga, October 7th and 9th, 1777, and his two companies fought together with a small body of consolidated New York troops. They were present at the surrender of Burgoyne, and immediately afterward we find Captain Finck again in command at Saratoga. Van Schaick's regiment had in the meantime been ordered down the Hudson, with other troops, to reinforce Washington's army, but did not proceed from Albany until February 1778. Captain Finck joined the regiment at Albany. In March 1778, the regiment moved southward, and likely remained on the Hudson during that year. In 1779, at the beginning of Sullivan's campaign, we find Van Schaick's regiment at Fort Stanwix, from whence it sided the campaign by destroying the settlements of the Onondagas. Captain Finck took an active part in this expedition. He continued with the regiment until 1780, when it joined again the forces on the Hudson, and Captain Finck by right of rank became Brigade Major of General James Clinton's brigade, interrupted only in May, 1780, when he goes with his old regiment, under command of Col. Van Schaick, to pursue Sir John Johnson, who had come by the northern route to recover personal property of the Johnsons at Johnstown and elsewhere. It was at this time that many Stone Arabia dwellings and bars were destroyed by Johnson. In October of the same year the rest of the settlement was completely destroyed.
The depressed period of the Revolution reached its climax in 1780--the treasury empty, the regiments without soldiers, and the people without hope. Retrenchments had to be made, and with the end of the year 1780 it was decided to consolidate the five New York regiments into tow. Captain Finck, who was then the oldest captain in the line, retired on January 1st, 1781, from the Continental Army and returned to his parents, at Stone Arabia.
Thus closes a meritorious service of nearly five and on-half years in the line, in which he not only faithfully served as a field officer but did most useful work as a recruiting captain. He was during that time often absent on trips through the State, as shown by expense accounts. He enjoyed fully the confidence of the commander-in-chief and made during this time the acquaintance of many of the leading men of the period, LaFayette, the Clintons, and others. Returning home in March 1781, after settling his accounts, we may suppose that he resolved to stay home and let others fight the battles. But little rest from public duty was given him. The country needed then just such men as Finck was--brave, honest, straight-forward and modest fighters of the just cause, who could not be swerved from the path of duty nor be discouraged by adversity. On April 5th, 1781, Finck was appointed one of the Justices of the Peace of the county, and as such he took the affidavit of the tory, Nicholas Herkimer, on November 3rd, 1781.
On May 30th of the same year he was appointed Commissioner of the Conspiracies of Tryon County, and acted as such for several years. The appointment was made by Governor George Clinton. These commissioners were kept busy by the many acts of hostility on the part of the tories and by those people who had relatives who had been made prisoners by the enemy, as they had to recommend the exchange to the Governor. In the fall of 1781, a flag was despatched to Canada to negotiate the exchange of prisoners, with letters to the Governor of Quebec on the subject, Captain Finck furnished such a list and recommended quick action, as many of the families were great sufferers.
In 1781 the brave Lieutenant Colonel Marinus Willett, who had done before gallant service in the Mohawk Valley, and in whom the people had great confidence, was ordered to take the command of the levies which had been raised for the defense of the frontier, on the Mohawk River and elsewhere. The three-year men and the militia were also under his command. The condition of the country at that time was deplorable, and it required all the energy and influence of Willett to make his command a success. On July 6th 1781, he wrote to General Washington that while formerly the militia had numbered 2, 500, there were now not more than 800 men able to bear arms; of the rest, equal parts were prisoners, had gone to the enemy, or had abandoned for the present this part of the state. Those remaining were in dire distress, and all he had at that time under his command was 250 men. It is at this juncture that Willett prevails upon his friend, Andrew Finck, to assist him in his work, and with the consent of the state authorities he became Brigade-Major and Inspector. During the battle of Johnstown, in October 20th, 1781, Captain Finck took an active part.
The official appointment of Finck for Brigade-Major of Levies was from September 1, 1781 to January 1, 1782.
Again retiring to his civic duties for a few months,the dangerous condition of the western frontier made it necessary for Willett to conduct a vigorous watch and constant patrolling, and accordingly he again asked Captain Finck to serve as next in rank. Finck consented and he was appointed by the council of appointment to the rank of major by order of May 1st, 1782. As such he served during the remainder of the war, acting as Deputy Muster Master and Inspector. His talent for organizing, recruiting and drilling was well recognized by Willett and he left these matters entirely in Finck's hands. Out of the disorganized remnants and odds and ends of all sorts of troops, from the tories and Hessians, from black and white the faithful Finck recruited this frontier army, and in the summer of 1781 we find Willett in command of 1,100 men against 250 of the year before. The troops were kept busy by constant patrolling and when in garrison, Finck, the Steuben of the Mohawk Valley, drilled them until they became as efficient as the regulars. Both Willett and Finck were loved by the soldiers, both were men of democratic manners, of dash, pluck and energy such men as a soldier likes to follow the world over.
The treasury being empty,the troops were raised on bounties of unappropriated lands, and it required considerable persuasion to gain recruits. In the spring of 1782 Major Finck was elected a member of assembly from Tryon County. This assembly was in session from 11th to the 25th of July, 1782, at Poughkeepsie, and from January 27th, to March 23rd, 1783 at Kingston. Shortly before the latter session, on January 11th, 1783, Major Finck married Maria Market, daughter of Captain Henry Market. Although more than a century has passed, still faint traditions linger among old families of the great Finck-Market wedding. The old German families all united to make this event in the life of the young and brilliant officer a memorable affair, and following their customs they extended the celebration over many days. It is said that many high officers in the Army and some of the leading citizens of the state honored the Major and his bride by their attendance. Rev. Abraham Rosecrans officiated.
During part of the year 1782, and early in 1783, Major Finck was, at times, in command at Fort Herkimer and Fort Dayton, but mostly at Fort Plain. In January, 1783, the commander-in-Chief conceived the object of surprising and obtaining possession of the important fortress of Oswego. The expedition was intrusted to Col. Willett. His troops were assembled at Fort Herkimer on the 8th of February. The result was not a success, but no blame was case upon Willett, although he felt the failure very keenly. After his return he remained at Albany until spring, and the command of the forces devolved upon Major Finck who made his headquarters at Fort Plain. I do not think Major Finck took part in the expedition to Oswego. Returning from his duties at Kingston, before the close of the session, he assumed again his post of Inspector of Brigade. While in command of Fort Plain, and in general command of the troops in the Mohawk Valley, he received orders from General Washington on the 17th day of April, 1783, to send an officer with a flag of truce to Oswego, to announce to that garrison, from whence many of the Indians deprecators came, a general cessation of hostilities, and an impending peace. Major Finck sent one Captain Thompson and four men on this errand. He was busy all summer and fall with the mustering out of the militia and levies and attending all the different bodies raised at various times in the Mohawk Valley. The duty of the recruiting officer,who may induce men to join the army, by promises of glory and prizes, is vastly different from that of the discharging officer at whose side site a paymaster with empty coffers offering "Banker certificates and Morris notes" to the soldiers for their pay. Major Finck received his final discharge at Schenectady. The Finck family was certainly one of the most loyal during the whole Revolutionary period. Not a single member of the family is mentioned among the disaffected, and among the soldiers we find in the "Archives of The State of New York" and in "New York in The Revolution" the following names: Andrew, Two Christian, Two Hanyosts, Christopher, John, Peter, Two Williams, and Mattgred.
Major Finck was a State Senator during the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth sessions, being elected to represent the Western District. His father dying in 1786, he assumed the management of his farms, built a large and commodious brick house just south of the Stone Arabia Churches, where now is the orchard back of the stone house of Jacob Nellis, and after his return from his last term as senator he settled down to the life of a farmer, filling a few town offices and being for several years highway commissioner under an appointment of the Court of Sessions. The country becoming rapidly settled after the close of the war, many new roads were opened and the best men were required to fill the office of highway Commissioner. This was the reason for the act of 1787, which made this office appointive. He also acted as Justice of the Peace. In 1790 he received 1,800 acres of bounty lands in the townships of Dryden, Ovid and Cato for his services as Major. One of the intimate friends of the major was Major General Steuben, they often visited each other. At the solicitation of the General, Major Finck joined in 1786 the German society of New York, and continued a member thereof for many years. In the year 1784 thirteen noble hearted Germans had founded, after the pattern of the German Society of Pennsylvania, the above society, which has for its purposes to afford to the German emigrant advice, protection and, as far as in its power lay, assistance, allowing itself to be deterred by no obstacles or hostile actions from the fulfillment of its self chosen duty. Baron VanSteuben was several years president of the Society and among the early members were such men as Col. Frederick Van Weissenfets, Col. Von Lutterloh, Pastor Gross, henry and John Jacob Aster, Edward Livingston, Generals Peter Schuyler and Wm. Wilmerding. This society is still in existence.
In the year 1799 he was appointed by Governor John Jay, a commissioner of taxation of Montgomery County.
By inheritance, by good management of his farms and sale of his bounty lands, and by shrewd investments, the Major had become before the close of the century a wealthy man. His loyal and successful career entitled him to still larger honors on the part of the people. But he belonged to the unpopular political party. Major Finck was an ardent Federalist and could not have been elected to his terms in the assembly and senate if he had not been carried through by his military record and great personal popularity, but as time passed on the republican party grew stronger, especially among his own people, his chances of filling offices in the gift of the people grew less, and only once did he run again for public honors in 1798, when he was defeated for congress by a small adverse majority.
In about 1772 Andres Finck, Jr., joined the Union Lodge of Albany and his name appears as the 55th signer of the By-Laws of that society of which Peter W. Yates was then master, and Sir John Johnson Provincial Grand Master. Many of the later comrades in arms of the Major were members of this lodge, for instance, Peter Gansevoort, Christopher P. Yates, henry Dievendorf, Tobias Van Veghten, and others. The name of the lodge was changed in 1806 to Mount Vernon Lodge No. 3 of ancient New York masons, and is still occupying a prominent position in Masonic Ranks. In the year 1785 he was transferred to St. Patrick's Lodge of Johnstown, N. Y. to which he belonged to the time of his death. In a deed of Michael Rawlins and wife, given in 1702, we find his name among the members of the lodge who purchased a lodge site in that village.
In order to explain some of the future movements of the Major it is necessary to rely almost wholly on the family and local tradition. He was comfortably located, well connected with the most prominent families of the valley, had a sufficient income to maintain and educate his family, and to entertain in good style, and in the lavish way of the Palatines, his numerous friends, and political and military comrades. At the same time he grew less popular at home. Being of a pronounced aggressive temper and outspoken, he could not fail to make some enemies. Of superior education to his neighbors, having acquired different tastes during his youth, during his service in the army and in the legislature, he had become quite different from them. He was decidedly public spirited. He hoped that the war and the new condition of things would bring about a new era for his own people the Palatines. A great many of them fell back into the same rut in which they had traveled since their first arrival remaining unprogressive, excluding themselves from the touch of the world, failing to give their children proper instruction, and neglecting to occupy that position to which they were entitled,which condition lasted for several decades more. His efforts to bring about some improvement brought him little thanks. When he argued with them that they must have their children learn the English language, besides the German, they called him a "Yankee Dutchman." When he told them that it was a shame for people of their means to build long houses, they told him that he could live in a brick house like the "Gentry" but they were satisfied with log houses as their father had been. Among the lands at Stone Arabia owned by Major Finck was a five acre lot know as the dominie's lot and house. It was centrally located and well adapted for school purposes. The Major knowing that a better and modern school was badly needed in the country, rigged up the old building, hired some teachers and during the year 1796 a high school was kept there. The Major had interested some of his friends in New York and Albany and had promises from the state authorities to make this one of the new seats of learning to be established by the legislature. Everything was apparently on a promising basis. The Major told his neighbors about the plan, but they called a meeting at which it was resolved that too much learning would make bad farmers and his offer was positively declined. He kept on right along with his school, but most of them did not, not even his own brothers, send their youngsters, and only a few children and young people attended it. Finally some one found out that by flaw in Finck;s title the land belonged to the Reformed Church. In order to rid themselves of the school, they began a suit of ejectment against Finck and then a merry was begun. Numerous suits on old justices' dockets of 1796, in which Finck figures on one side or the other, doubtless refer to this exciting period. Apparently acting under advice of counsel, on December 19th, 1796, he gave up the land and an agreement to that effect was drawn up. It is said that the German minister of that day were at the bottom of this whole affair as they feared that the establishment of an English Academy would injure their own influence. For a year of so afterwards, Finck maintained the school in his own house, but finally got tired of it, as those, who he sincerely wanted to benefit, not only spurned his offer but misinterpreted his motives. He final result of this unpleasant occurrence was that the Major lost all interest in his native homes, and about 1800 he went with his wife and his younger children to the western part of the state, probably to some of his bounty lands, and seldom thereafter visited the old home. His efforts in regard to better education do not seem to have stopped however, as he afterwards gave, or sold for a nominal sum, the lands on which the Western College of Physicians and Surgeons, now the Fairfield Academy, stands.
In the meantime his oldest son, Andrew Ackler Finck, born in 1784, had grown up and settled, early in 1804, in the present town of Manheim, and married Delilah, the daughter of Captain Frederick Getman. The Mohawk turnpike had become the great western thoroughfare, and Andrew had wisely chosen a spot to locate a tavern where the southern and northern roads connected with the turnpike. Right on the banks of the Mohawk he built in 1805, the famous tavern, still standing. He induced the Major to move with his family to Manheim, where the later erected a comfortable wooden house, which stood a little east of the Morgan Biddleman residence. It was plain on the outside, but very comfortably furnished full of books and portraits of generals and pictures of battlefields, and a piano and objects of art showed the refined taste of the occupant. The door was double, so that the upper part could be opened, and this door was a favorite spot of the Major watching the passing world. It is said that the purchase of the land, known as the Andrew Finck farm was somewhat costly to the Major, as he first purchased it of some representatives of the heirs of Molly Brant and Peter Brant, to whom the 300 acres had been willed by Sir William Johnson. It seems that this land was sold, like the rest of the forfeited lands, by the Commissioners of Forfeitures, but they failed to make an entry of this sale, and the Major's attorney became convinced that the heirs of Sir William Johnson's dusky housekeeper and of his son Peter still held their title. As a matter of fact, it was the prevailing opinion of that time that the titles based upon the acts of attainder would prove valueless.
After the Major and Andrew A. had been settled for several years,the agents of the Ellice estate, the same estate which so mysteriously obtained title to some of the forfeited lands claimed title and threatened suit. The outcome was that the Major declined to buy, but he loaned the necessary funds to his sons, Andrew A. and henry,and finally, in 1813, they got a deed for the land from the Ellices. His Stone Arabia land he gave to his son Christian A. Here, from 1805 on, he spent the declining years of his life, surrounded by his family, once more witnessing the clearing of a homestead out of a virgin forest, but living right by that great artery of commerce, the turnpike, and not a day passing when he would not meet some old comrades in arms or some friend of younger years. In his new town he held only minor offices. We know nothing about him except for the few surviving people who still remember him. He was a man of medium height, solid but not fat, of very quick and sharp movements, with clear cut and clean shaven face and dark complexion. Erect like a soldier to the last, his eyes clear and sharp and somewhat stern, children were not at first attracted to him, but rather afraid of him. His voice was still like that of an officer in the field, and in argument apt to rise to a battle pitch. Especially on one subject he was very irritable, which was that the tories and the wavering of Revolutionary times were then enjoying equal rights with the loyal, and that many of them held offices of public trust. That was the great unpardonable sin, and woe to him who crossed him on this subject.
In his dress he was extremely neat and spruce. He attended church when he could find English speaking minister, but he got through with the German dominies.
From children he expected obedience and salute. Says one of the oldest inhabitants of Stratford:
"I drove as a boy a few times my father's team to Little Falls. We used to water the horses at a trough near the Major's residence. One day I drove up and I saw the old Major. I stared at him, but did not speak. He thundered out: "What manners have you got, why don't you speak to an old gentlemen?" I was almost scared enough to fall from my seat. The next day I came again, only to see the Major in the same place. I stammered out: "Good day, Major." He answered me in the most pleasant way, and we were ever afterwards the best of friends, he giving me often apples and sweets."
The same strictness as to manners he maintained in his own family,and everything was regulated in true military order. He kept four slaves, one of whom he gave to each of his four children. His daughter Mary, born in 1793, later Mrs. Chatfield, was educated at Albany, and like all the female members of the Finck family, a strikingly beautiful girl.
In the family only German was spoken and he and his wife conversed both well and fluently in English and German, but did not use the so called "Mohawk Dutch."
He was a inveterate smoker but only a moderate drinker. Simm's peculiar remarks notwithstanding. On the contrary, while the Major enjoyed his toddy and his bitters, he would drink just so much each day and under no consideration more. His son Andrew A. followed the same rule and said that his father abhorred the immoderate drinking of many of his own people. From Simms' report it would appear that the fatal accident to the Major was caused in the first place by imbibing too much. It was the Major's stubbornness, which had grown with his years. He met on a narrow place of the turnpike, near his house, a four horse stage going at full speed. Instead of turning clear out of the way he was trying to exact half of the road. The team was going at full speed and the driver could not possibly stop them in time to prevent the serious accident. Horses and stage went over the old man and his right leg was badly broken and splintered and a few months later, on the 3rd of February, 1820, he passed away, never leaving his bed after receiving the injury. He left no will as he had disposed of all his real and personal estate some years before his death to his wife and children, saying that he wanted no quarrels after his death. His wife, described as an amiable, tall and good looking woman, followed him about three years later, on the 28th of January, 1823. The Major and his wife were survived by four children, Andrew A., Henry, Christian and Mary (Mrs. Chatfield.) This ended the active life of an earnest patriot, a brave soldier and one of the most prominent personages in this valley in the war of the revolution.
Many of his descendants have become well known and respected members of the commonwealth. His oldest son, Andrew A. was perhaps one of the best known men of his day in Herkimer County.
In the glorious days of coaching and staging on the great Mohawk turnpike, the tavern which he had built in 1805 became widely known in the valley. All the best stages stopped there, and as many as a hundred guests could be entertained there at a time. Many noted men of the time stopped in that inn, Jerome Bonaparte on his trips to the Black River and the Marquis de LaFayette on his visit in 1825. Andrew A. Finck told often how LaFayette inquired if he was a relative of that brave and fiery Major Finck whom he met on the Hudson in 1780. Hearing that he was dead, he had Andrew A. show him and his suite his grave and spoke there of him in feeling and praising words.
In the course of years Andrew A. Finck became a very prosperous man, he gave up keeping his tavern, rented it and built a handsome brick house on one of his farms, where he and his family for many years kept open house for their many friends up and down the river; the old Palatine hospitality was till continued and all the old families of the valley were numbered among their intimate friends. Engaged in many enterprises, public spirited and successful, Andrew was a man far in advance of his time. He undertook a project to cross the Adirondack wilderness by railroad and canal, a scheme which at a later day took the brains and money of Dr. Webb to accomplish, by building the Adirondack R.R. After investing good sums of money the project failed on account of bad times and was abandoned.
Hospitable and generous to his friends and family,he was as trusting to his business associates. In independence position, owning large and fine farms, and other numerous other investment, he likely never dreamed of reverses. But they came. Allowing the use of his name on endorsements his whole fortune was swept away and he spent the last years of his life in straightened circumstances. His grave is in the same cemetery as his Father's and Mother's and he rests by the side of his first wife.
Thus have I told what little is known of four generations of Andrew Finck, all of clear Palatine stock, honest and useful citizens of their respective times, without a stain on their name, whose descendants are justly proud of them and whom we are pleased to honor as citizens of our present County of Herkimer and of our mother County of Montgomery.
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