Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

This is an interesting article. It has been passed down and copied many times. No idea of the origin. Donated by Louis Cuyler.

Arent Van Corlaer settled in White Creek in 1709 at the age of 19. He was not the first to locate within the town, but he was the first of the settlers whom we can call by name or know much about. At the time of his coming, the place names so familiar to us today, Cambridge, White Creek, Hossick, etc. were unheard of and the community center which gave its name to the locality was Sancroick. Van Corlaer settled in that part of the Saincroick neighborhood which fell in the Town of White Creek, Washington county toward the year 1800, when town and county lines were established.

Van Corlaer came to Sancroick to engage in the fur trade and brought with him Adam Vrooman, the experienced trader and son of Bartle Vrooman of Old Saratoga. In 1711 he built the trading post, standing today with little change, on a terrace just under the summit of Quaker Hill in White Creek and about two and one-half miles north of the Hoosick River.

He was born April 19, 1688 to Benoni and Elizabeth (widow of Sybrant Van Schaik) Van Corlaer. On September 23, 1743, he married Mary Lake of Middlesex County, New Jersey and was joined in his fur trading enterprise by his four brothers-in-law, John, Thomas, James and Nicholas Lake. He and his associates subsequently took title through and Indian deed and King's Grant to five thousand acres of the surrounding land including that on which the trading post stands.

The name of Van Corlaer is emblazoned upon the pages of the Colonial History of New Netherlands and New York. The grandfather of the White Creek settler was not only the founder of the city of Schenectady in 1661, but earlier (1630-42) was Commisary-General and Superintendent of the Colony of Rensselaerwyck as well as the agent for the Indian Affairs of that colony. He was the Indians' great friend and they were all his friends.

The following quotation from Cadwallader Colden's History of the Five Nations merit reiteration here: "He (Van Corlaer) had a mighty influence over the Indians; and it is from him, and in remembrance of his merit, that all Governors of New York are called Corlaer by the Indians to this day, (1738) though he himself was never Governor."

He rescued the Jesuit, Father Isaac Jogues, from the Mohawks on two separate occasions and he befriended a party of French under Courcelles; Governor General of Canada, who had set out to attack the Mohawks, but who, unused to snow shoes and severe cold, were nearly dead of cold and hunger when they appeared near Schenectady, so that had not VanCorlaer intervened and contrived their escape and supplied them with provisions they would have fallen victim to the Iroquois or perished from the elements.

To quote Colden further: "The French Governor, in order to reward so signal a service, invited Corlaer to Canada; but as he went through the great lake which lies to the Northward of Albany, his Canoe was overset, and he was drowned; and from this Accident that Lake has ever since been called Corlaer's Lake, by the people of New York. There is a Rock in this lake, on which the Waves dash and fly up to a great Height; when the Wind blows hard, the Indians believe, that an old Indian lives under this Rock, who has the power of the Winds; and therefore, as they pass it in their voyages over, they always throw a Pipe, or some other small Present to this old Indian, and pray a favourable Wind. The English that pass with them sometimes laugh at them, but they are sure to be told of Corlaer's Death. Your great Countryman Corlaer (say they) as he passed by this Rock, jested at our Fathers making presents to this old Indian, and in Derision turned up his Backside, but this Affront cost him his life."

The actual place of Corlaer's death in Lake Champlain was near Split Rock, now Perne Bay, Essex County, New York. The Lake was known by Corlaer's name until about the year 1760.

Benoni, father of the White Creek settler, was the only child of record of the illustrious grandfather. His mother was Ameke Schaets, daughter of the Dominie at Beaverwyck. The circumstances of Benoni's birth are set forth in the council minutes of the period. Benoni took his father's name and became more or less prominent at Albany during the years between 1688 and 1694.

From all this it should be clear to the reader that the Arent Van Corlaer who settled in White Creek was indeed the scion of a Colonial New York family of distinction. In his dealings with the Indians, his name alone won him spontaneous acceptance and brought him their confidence, trust and loyalty. The red men, be it remembered, were at this time calling the Colonial Governors "Brother Corlaer" out of respect to the memory of His illustrious grandfather. For a trader, located on the outermost fringe of a perilous frontier, such friendship was essential to survival.

Van Corlaer's Trading Post was admirably situated along the trail to the Pompanac village of the Pequot, Mawwehu, and not far from the Schaghticoke Tioshoke village which lay along the Hoosick River a few miles to the south.

There was a period of several years during which many of the fur traders, including VanCorlaer and his associates, were handicapped in their operations by government interference. Claude Nelson McMillan says in A History of my People and Yours that "The governor of the Colony of New York would grant only a limited number of hunting and trapping licenses. It is quite apparent that he expected a part of the income from this trapping and hunting so that all furs must be sold either at Albany or in New York. There developed, as by necessity, a plan for outwitting such measurer. So these trappers would load their canoes just below Albany, paddle down along the west bank of the Hudson River, passing New York quietly in the dark, and go on to Jersey...which thus became a market for furs and where the trappers could secure a fair price for their labor without any kick back to the New York Governor. By 1760 the colonial government had restricted the fur trade to only three licenses. The Lakes and Van Corlaer were not licensed, but they appear to have carried on trade in spite of this from their New Jersey headquarters, as did many others. The practice was to come up river by boat and anchor just below Albany where in the cover of darkness the boats were loaded by faithful Indian helpers who conveyed the pelts from the Hoosac (St. Croix) post."

While Van Corlaer and his associates were busy lying their Indian trade the settlement of the Hoosick Patent to the south of them was proceeding apace. In the division of the lands of the Hoosick Grant, Cornelius Van Ness, his cousin Philip Van Ness and the heirs of Maria Van Rensselaer came into possession of that part of the patent contained in White Creek. The Van Nesses retained manorial rights and were called the Patroons of the lower Hoosick. Settlers came onto their lands as tenants, or sharecropper, after the Old World feudal fashion. Cornelius Van Ness's St. Croix Manor embraced the land along the Hoosick between the Owl Kill and the Little White Creek, while his cousin, Philip's Manor, known as Tioshoke followed the north bank of the river from the Owl Kill to Buskirk's and beyond.

The patroons encouraged a mixed tentancy and in the years immediately following Van Corlaer's coming, a considerable settlement sprang up with immigrants pushing up from Albany, Schenectady, Lansingburg and elsewhere. Tioshoke village, now Buskirk's became a center for trade and had its sawmill, blacksmith's shop, grist mill and church. The Saincroick settlement flourished also during this time, and it is said that by 1724 a quaint Dutch village had spring up around the Van Ness Mansion which consisted of a number of dwellings, houses for tenants and slaves, a schoolhouse, ashery, store, blacksmith shop, wagon shop and tannery. The leases between the Patroon and his tenants revealed that the crossroads of the Saincroick Manor connected with the "Great Road", since known as the Cambridge Turnpike.

A partial list of the tenants, by name, who located on the Tioshoke Manor during this time, some of who were within White Creek includes the following: Jonannes Quackenbush, Nicholas Grosbeck, Peter Viele, Johanes VanBuskirk, Walter VanVechten and Lewis Van Wirt.

Those who located in the White Creek portion of the Sancroick Manor were families by the name of DeFonda, Fort, Bovie, Van Rensselaer, Vandenburg and Searles.

The period between 1671 and 1744 was an interval of peace in the Hoosick Valley for white man and Indian alike. As a result, great progress had been made in settlement; the wilderness was tamed and the frontier extended.

The vicious assault on Schenectady in February 1690, when a party of French and Indians slew the inhabitants and burned the town, kept the Hoosick Valley settlers mindful of the ever-present menace of the French Provinces to the north, but that raid was the only really alarming incident during these years.

The English officials at Albany had employed a mixed band of Mohawk and Hoosac Indians to continually scout the war-trail leading to Canada. These scouts had taken it upon themselves to negotiate a pact with their kindred at St. Francis, under the Canadian Jesuits, not to molest each others' domains so that the scalping forays of the Canadian a during that time were directed toward the New England settlements in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.

But now the storm clouds were gathering anew. In 1744 war broke out in Europe between England and France, and as we turn to our next chapter we shall see how this conflict involved America and those early White Creek and Hoosick Valley settlers.

The Indians Sell Their Lands Along The Little White Creek; A village On The White Creek Flats; Border Wars, Turmoil and Strife (1713-1759).

From an historical address by the Hon. G. W. Jermain of Albany and White Creek delivered at Cambridge on the 29th of August, 1873, the writer excerpts the following:

"In the division of New York (when a British Province,) into counties, in 1683, Albany County was established, and extended north to Canada and included Vermont, then claimed to be within the jurisdiction of New York, and several counties west of this. At a very early day grants and patents of wild lands were sought by speculators from the British government, and in 1688 a patent was obtained for a tract along the Hoosick river, called the Hoosic Patent, a portion of which became included in the towns of White Creek and Cambridge. Soon afterward another patent, adjacent to it on the east, was procured, extending northerly and easterly about a mile in width, called the VanCorlaer and Lakes Patent."

"In 1731 a purchase was made of the Indians of land contiguous to and east of the VanCorlaer patent, but as 'Lo, the poor Indian, was not supposed to have any rights which the white man was bound to respect,' a patent for this same land was afterwards, in 1739, procured from the British government by Stephen Van Renssealer and others, called the Walloomsac Patent, of about 12,000 acres, extending north and east along the Walloomsac river and to the Green Mountains, covering the White Creek valley."

On the strength of their Indian deed to these lands, and without waiting for the King's confirmation by letters patent to VanRensselaer and his associates, a number of families of French Waloon extraction from the towns along the lower Hudson valley emigrated to the banks of the stream which they named Walloon's Creek, and soon other Walloon families pushed northward to the banks of the Little White Creek, where they subdued the wilderness and built new homes. During the decade 1730-40 a frontier village sprang up on the flats along the Little White Creek, mostly on what is now the Gordon and Harriet Byars farm (The Ebenezer Allen homestead). The settlement failed to survive the period of the French and Indian Wars that terminated with the English conquest of Canada in 1759, and although no contemporary records exist to show when it was destroyed, it was doubtless during the August 1746 invasion of General Rigaud and his Indian Allies from Canada.

Col. Harold F. Andrews, who was in charge of the field work for the New York Sate Conservation Department through which the data was obtained for the preparation of the bronze relief map which Col. Andrews designed for the Bennington Battlefield Park Monument, told the writes that his field crews found positive evidence that the former village was on this site.

From 1744 through 1759 the inhabitants of the then settled portions of the Hoosick Valley and White Creek were sorely tried. With the exception of the brief six year truce from 1748 to 1754 the border warfare raged continually. England and France were at war in Europe and in America were locked in a bitter struggle for supremacy on the continent.

The Hoosac Valley was encompassed during this time by three of the most powerful strongholds of New York, New England and New France: Fort Frederick at Albany, Fort Massachusetts on the upper Hoosick and Fort St. Frederick at Crown Point on Lake Champlain. And a cordon of not less than forty stockaded forts were garrisoned from time to time within a range of seventy miles of the Hoosick Valley.

The scalping forays of the French, headed by Mohawks and Algonquin praying warriors, (Indians baptized by Jesuits), followed the old Ticonderoga trail along the Owl Kill, thence along the Hoosick River to Northfield, Deerfield, and Colerain villages of the New England frontier. Lying in the path of these objectives were the White Creek settlements, and both Tioshoke and Little White Creek village met the torch as did also Sancroick. Many a settler's home was laid in ashes; many of them took to their flat bottom boats and sought the protection of the garrisoned towns along the Hudson. Those off the beaten path sometimes stood their ground and either were miraculously overlooked or perished at the hands of the Red Men or were led captive back to Quebec there to languish for months and perhaps to die in the squalor of prison pens.

Throughout the Hoosick Valley probably not more than a dozen houses of the settlers of those days stand today. They include the Van Vechten house of Old Schaghticoke, rebuilt recently after a damaging fire near Stillwater, The Van Corlaer Trading Post at White Creek, The Center house in White Creek. Others are being discovered anew as historical interest grown and research proceeds.

Certain frontier communities suffered more than others during these times. Knickerbocker's Schaghticoke settlement on the lower Hoosick was struck but once wile the Sancroick neighborhood, Dutch Hoosac and the Kreigger settlement near Pownal suffered repeatedly from these avenging forays by former friendly Indians who had been won to the side of the French. One French writer noted that within a certain period of short duration the French partisans led not less than twenty-seven detachments of St. Francis warriors against the settlements of the Dutch and English Protestants. The reader can picture what the frontier settler endured, his constant state of alarm. That they persevered through these harassing times is a tribute to the steadfast, unflinching character of these pioneers.

In August of 1746 a detachment of more than nine hundred French and Indians passed through White Creek, following the old trail along the Owl Kill, thence along the Hoosick through Sancroick neighborhood, bent on the destruction of Fort Massachusetts, east of the present city of Williamstown. On the mission they not only destroyed the fort and took captive the garrison and their families, but put Sancroick and Tioshoke to the torch and inflicted great harm to the New England settlements.

One of the captives was the Rev. John Norton, chaplain of Fort Massachusetts, in whose Journal of Captivity a detailed account of this unhappy incident has been preserved. Poorly coordinated military plans had resulted in the fort's being inadequately garrisoned, and this with a delay in arrival of reinforcements, left them an easy target. They were doubly afflicted with an epidemic of the bloody-flux. On the 15th of August, fresh moccasin tracks had been observed a few miles from the fort, and a scout was dispatched to Deerfield requesting help.

Before the help came, however, the French struck. Of the garrison of twenty soldiers, ten were very ill. But Sergeant Hawks, the commandant, resisted a twenty-seven hour siege, in the hope that help would come and capitulated only when it was evident the fort would be burnt and they within it, if he did not.

They were outnumbered one to one hundred in that equal contest. On the morning of the 19th, the resistance ended. The French burned Massachusetts and Chaplain Norton was permitted to leave a note on the old well to give a brief account of their plight to those who had been expected to relieve them.

The captive band numbered thirty-one, including the wives and children of the garrison. The march to Quebec began on the morning of the 21st and that evening, while they were not far from the present village of Petersburg, John Smead's wife gave birth to a baby girl, who, considering the circumstances of her birth was named "Captivity."

The following day, a White Creek settler, concealed in the hills along the Owl Kill, might have seen that pitiful band plodding wearily northward under the guard of the pained warriors. The chivalrous French, however, had made a litter for Mary Smead and Little "Captivity," and they were borne along thus until the mother's strength was recovered. Being so ordered by General Rigaud, several of the powerful warriors improvised seats for carrying the sick and ailing during a part of the journey. These incidents to show that the French did at times feel a degree of compassion for their victims.

The Indians preserved a friendship for some of the settlers, and these were purposely passed by or given advance warning to take cover as the following letter from Perry's Origins of Williamstown proves. Among this number was undoubtedly Arent Van Corlaer, who was greatly respected out of the memory of his famous father, and his property went untouched throughout this dark and bloody period.

Fort Massachusetts
August 25, 1754
This day there came a man from the Dutch and informs me that four days past there came 5 Indians from Crownpoint and informs them that there is eight hundred Indians desine, in destroy Hosuck and care new town and this fort, and desine to be upon us this night. I sent a man right down to Hosuck and care new town and this fort, and desine to be upon us this night. I sent a man right down to Hosuck to hear farther about the affair, but the people was all moved off but two or 3 that was coming to the fort and they tell him the same account. The Indians that brought the account was sent in order to have some parsons move from Sencroick that they had regard for, but if they come I hope we are well fixt for them.

In hast from
Your's etc.
Command, Elisha Chapin

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