Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

From Forts & Firesides of the Mohawk Country
by John J. Vrooman, 1951
Published by Baronet Litho Co., Inc., Johnstown, NY


GENERAL NICHOLAS HERKIMER, the eldest son of John Jost and Catherine Herkimer, was born in 1728 in a log cabin built by his father about 1723, just east of the present Fort Herkimer Church. Later, in 1740, his father built a stone house which was destroyed when the Erie Canal was built.

In 1754 Nicholas, now twenty-six, moved below the Falls to land given him by his father, living probably in a log house while the "brick mansion" was being built. The architecture is credited to Samuel Fuller of Schenectady. It is typically Dutch Colonial with its gambrel roof, and remains almost in its original condition.

There is a broad central hall with four rooms on each floor. The basement is flagged wi h rough stone and its deeply recessed windows arc proof of the thickness of the foundation walls. The woodwork, paneling and the wide floor boards, as well as the hardware, are of great interest. The lock on the front door is a massive affair, its actual measurements being ten inches in height and sixteen inches across.

Outside toward the rear is an underground vault with arches of heavy stone. It is said to have been used as a storehouse by the Tryon County Militia. The slave quarters and barns have disappeared.

General Herkimer, wounded at the Battle of Oriskany, was brought to this home and died ten days later. The immediate cause of death resulted from an amputation of his leg. The operation was performed by a Dr. Robert Johnson, a man of ability, detailed to the case by General Arnold, on the morning of August 16th.The patient died the evening of the same day.

Dr. Johnson's report is in part as follows:
"Yesterday morning I amputated General Harcomer's leg, there not being left the prospect of recovery without it. But alas, the patriotic hero died in the evening the cause of his death, God only knows. About three hours before his departure he complained of pain. I gave him thirty drops of laudinum liquid, and went to dress Mr. Pettery. I left him in as good a way as I could, with Mr. Hastings to take care of him. When I returned, I found him taking his last gasp, free from spasm and sensible. Nothing more surprised me but we cannot always parry death so there is an end of it.

General Arnold left yesterday morning with positive orders to follow him this evening or tomorrow morning. I sent for Scull to take care of the General and Pettery. He is just now arrived. I propose to have Pettery removed to Palatine where Scull and two regimental mates will take care of him and the others wounded. This evening, I will pursue Gen. Arnold and I suppose will overtake him at Fort Dayton.

The place and the hour of glory draws nigh. No news from Fort Schuyler. I am, dear Doctor, your most obedient and humble servant."
(Signed) "Robert Johnson."

The "Pettery" referred to in the letter was Dr. Wm. Petry, born in Germany, who had served as surgeon and doctor at Ft. Dayton (Herkimer) 1776-79. He it was who dressed General Herkimer's leg on the battlefield. Dr. Petry's wound, received at Oriskany, was also in the leg, which explains the care to be administered by Scull.

General Herkimer was in the southeast corner room on the second floor at the time of the operation. After the leg was taken off, two boys buried it in the garden. Shortly after, the General said: "I guess you boys will have to take that leg up and bury it with me for I am going to follow it." In the meantime, Colonel Willett called to see the General and found him sitting up in bed, smoking his pipe. But his strength ebbed toward evening, and he called his family to him, read to them composedly from the thirty-eighth psalm, "Forsake me not, 0 Lord; 0 my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me, 0 Lord my salvation." He then closed his Bible, sank back upon his pillow and died.

He was buried in the family cemetery just to the rear of the house. In 1896 the State Legislature appropriated funds to erect the present monument over the grave. It was dedicated that year with appropriate Masonic ceremonies. An excellently executed figure of General Herkimer, cast in bronze, stands in the City Park at Herkimer, the work of Burr C. Miller. General Herkimer left no children. The house passed to his brother George, then to a son of George, the Hon. John Herkimer, who lived here until 1815, at which time it passed out of the Herkimer family. It was bought by the State of New York in 1914 and is open to the public and visited annually by thousands. The location is just east of Little Falls, south of the river, which it overlooks.

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