History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Forts & Firesides of the Mohawk Country
by John J. Vrooman, 1951
Published by Baronet Litho Co., Inc., Johnstown, NY
FORT KLOCK ST. JOHNSVILLE
THIS unique house, less than a mile east of St. Johnsville, was erected by Johannes Klock in 1750, replacing his earlier abode on the same site. It is very strongly built with massive stone walls resting on a foundation of solid rock. Perhaps this exact location was selected with an eye to defense for within the walls a living spring of water trickles forth from the rock fissures. Just below, at the foot of the hill, passed the King's Highway, now the New York Central Railroad right-of-way. The house is easily visible from the car windows, standing as it does well up the slopes overlooking the Valley. Its roof is also seen from the State highway, alongside of which is an historical marker commemorating the house and the events which took place in this neighborhood.
The most important of these events was the "Battle of Klock's Field," fought October 19th, 1780. Sir John Johnson, with a combined force of 2500 Tories and Indians, was in retreat after pillaging the rich and fruitful Schoharie Valley. The enemy force was about equal to that which opposed General Herkimer at Oriskany, yet the Battle of Klock's Field was of minor importance because of Colonel Van Rensselaer's failure to follow up his advantage. The enemy had abandoned their baggage, brass field piece, wagons, hundreds of captured cattle and horses and should have been an easy prey for the Colonists. General Van Rensselaer was court-martialed for his failure to capture the enemy and it is said he escaped punishment through political influence. Brant, the Indian Chieftain, was wounded in the heel during this engagement but made good his escape.
In a letter from Governor Clinton, dated October 29th, at Poughkeepsie, reference is made to the destructiveness of the Johnson raid as follows:
"Almost the whole of the intermediate country on both sides of the Mohawk River from Fort Herkimer to Fort Rensselaer at the upper end of Canajoharie, including the settlement of Stone Arabia is burnt and laid waste. On a moderate computation we have lost at least a hundred and fifty thousand bushels of wheat, besides other grain and forage and two hundred dwellings. Schenectady may now be said to become the limits of our western frontier."
Another interesting letter was read before the Schenectady Committee of Safety on July 14th, 1775, which, of course, preceded the Johnson raid:
Canajoharie -July 13th, 1775. Gentlemen:
Mr. Ebenezer Cox, informed this board that Mr. Peter S. Dygert told this informant that he was informed by a person who we have reason to think has it from good authority that Colonel Johnson was ready with eight or nine hundred Indians to make an invasion of this County, that the same Indians were to be under the command of Joseph Brandt and Walter Butler and that they were to fall on the Inhabitants below the Little Falls in order to divide the people in two parts and were to march yesterday or the day before.
Captain Jacob Klock informed this Board that this morning, about an hour before day three Indians of Fort Hunter came to his house from Oswego on their way home, that he was informed by a free Negro man, a Servant of him, that they each had a bag of powder on their horses, that they stayed about an hour and then went off in great haste.
From these and other concomitant circumstances we have but too much reason to think it is true, and that all our enemies in this county will appear in arms against us, as soon as the Indians are nigh to us, which from the above information we must expect in a few days.
We have sent off a party of People by way of a scout, to find out if possible, the route of the Indians (176) and give us early intelligence.
Our ammunition is so scant that we cannot furnish Three hundred men, so as to be able to make a stand against so great a Number.
In these deplorable circumstances we look up to you for assistance both in men and ammunition to save this Country from Slaughter and Desolation which we beg you will not be backward to afford us as soon as possible.
We have ordered some of our Companies up toward the little Falls, who are to keep Scouting Parties out and we intend to keep sitting until such time as we can be Convinced of our Safety.
This is more alarming to us, as we shall in a few days be obliged to begin with our Harvest. Men are therefore absolutely necessary.
We beg of you to forward this by express to Albany and Copies from there to the Provincial Congress and to General Schuyler.
Mr. Dygert was obliged to promise not to disclose the Person's Name, who informed him of the above but be assured that the Person is well acquainted with the Indians, and therefore, if found out is in great danger. We are Gent.
Your most Obt. and Humble Servants
To the Committee of Schenectady and Albany
Christ. P. Yates
Christopher P. Yates was chairman of the Tryon County Committee of Safety which was formed in the spring, the first is full meeting being held but six weeks previous to the date of this letter. The opening paragraph of the letter sounds more like gossip than military intelligence, but in this case secrecy was absolutely necessary. It was only two months after the first shot had been fired at Lexington and in so short a space of time it was impossible to know for a certainty friend from foe. Then, too, this business of making war on one's own neighbors was strange to such men as composed these committees.
The east cellar door of Fort Klock opens into a stone walled chamber without windows and paved with stone. The cellar is partitioned into two nearly equal rooms by a heavy north and South stone wall. In a corner of the room to the west there is a pool fed by the spring previously spoken of which is capable of furnishing the occupants of the house a never failing supply of water. There is also an outside cellar door leading from this west room through the south wall. The entrance to the cellar from the floor above is by a narrow, steep stairway, into this west room. Here may be seen the huge floor timbers overhead while others equally large are seen in the northwest room on the ground floor. The interior of the house has been much altered through the years. Part of the south foundation wall is out of place, making it necessary to put props under the ground floor beams. Otherwise the building seems in condition to stand another 175 years. This old house has had the honor of sheltering Generals Schuyler and Clinton; also Alexander Hamilton, Brant, and John Jacob Astor, the latter's visit being on business in connection with his fur buying. Doubtless one of the Klocks was his agent. It is interesting to note that Mohawk Valley furs helped lay the foundation of one of America's greatest fortunes.
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