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
HENDRICH FREY of Zurich, Switzerland, came to America in 1688 and located first along the Schoharie Creek in 1689 with a "location ticket" from Governor Dongan, entitling him to 100 acres. His stay in that valley was not for long; indeed it is probable he never actually settled there, for he is credited with owning 300 acres of land at Palatine Bridge at about this time where he did take up residence. This land has come down through the family to the present day. He secured it from the Indians who had evidently forgotten this transaction, for they granted the same land to Cornelius Van Slyke some twenty odd years later, as indicated by the following conveyance dated January 12th, 1713, which covered some 2000 acres:
"in consideration of ye love, good will and affection which we have and do bear toward our loving cozen and friend Capt. Harmon Van Slyke of Schenectady, aforesaid, whose grandmother was a right Mohaugh squaw and his father born with us in the above said Kanajoree ... it being his the said Harmon Van Slyke's by right of inheritance from his father."
and witnessed by "Lea Stevens interpreter to ye above deed."
This land included the Frey tract. However, there seems to have been no trouble over the error for Van Slyke deeded the land in question back to Frey.
The first building Hendrick Frey erected was a small log dwelling in part of which he conducted a trading post. This crude little hut, on the edge of the wilderness some forty miles west of Schenectady, was the only home in this part of the
Valley, and to it the English came in 1701 and occupied it as an outpost. They palisaded it and remained until 1713, the closing year of Queen Anne's War.
In 1739, his Indian trading business no doubt in a flourishing condition, Hendrick Frey replaced his log structure with a stone building on the identical site and there it stands today as pictured, two hundred years later. Being of stone, of simple quadrangular outline, there has been little need of alteration or repair, and beyond the replacement of wood trim, porches, and similar details, it is almost entirely in its original condition. The loopholes are still to be seen in its walls, but unlike its predecessor the log trading post, it was not palisaded. It was used again as a fort by the English during the French and Indian War of 1754-1760. Under the building, in the stone faced basement, are the old fireplaces, placed there for more security as well as physical comfort against the bitter cold of those long winter nights. Here Frey and his garrison of English soldiers must have sat many an evening, sipping hot grog and listening to the howling of wind and wolves. Later this basement was used as quarters for the family slaves.
Hendrick Frey, Jr. (1713-1763) was born in this house and it was he who became one of the original patentees of the Stone Arabia grant. It was also the early home of the patriot Major John Frey, the brother of Hendrick Jr. Both boys were educated under the tutelage of Reverend Dunlap at Cherry Valley, but how widely separated were their later lives! Hendrick married a daughter of General Herkimer and in the face of what must have been terrific pressure from both wife and family, he became a Tory while Major John became a prominent Colonial officer at the very outset of the war.
Major John Frey married Anne Shoemaker, a daughter of Gertrude Herkimer, a sister to the General, Major John had already seen active military service under General Bradstreet and later served as a Lieutenant with Sir William Johnson at Niagara when but 19 years old. At Oriskany, he fought beside General Herkimer and barely escaped with his life. He was wounded in the arm, taken prisoner, and carried to Canada, where he was held for the better part of two long years.
Major John was a member of the Tryon County Committee of Safety and served in many capacities and on numerous special committees during the war. The records of thirty-one of these meetings have been preserved, the last being dated November 24th, 1775. He was present at the meeting of this Committee held in the house of Gose Van Alstyne on October 26, 1775, when a motion was
"Moved and Resolved, unanimously, that three members of our Committee shall be sent to Sir John Johnson, to ask him, whether he will allow, that his Inhabitants of John'stown & King'sborough shall form themselves into companies according to the Regulations of our Continental Congress to the Defense of our Country's Cause Major John's loyalty to the cause of the Colonies was never questioned, but he was often interrogated regarding the politics of his brother Hendrick during those formulative days. In his brother's defense he had this to say: "As to my brother Hendrick it must be conceded he was in a trying position. He was an intimate friend of Sir William Johnson and an executor of his will, as well as the appointed guardian of Mollie Brant's children."
With this explanation in mind it is easy to understand there were powerful arguments on both sides, which must have made any decision of Hendrick's a difficult one.
The large stone residence on the crest of the hill overlooking primitive little "Fort" is the home of Henry Frey, 2nd. The building was erected in 1808 and commands a beautiful view of the river from its snug setting in a grove of characteristic old locusts. The ground about the house falls away on all sides save to the northward, where the road approaches it along a natural grade.
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