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



FOR a considerable period of time prior to its fulfillment, the Mohawk Indians had been making urgent requests through their friend and representative, William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Crown, that further fortifications be built in their country as a protection against the French and their allied Indians.

Possibly Peter Schuyler of Albany did more than any other white man to secure the building of the first of these posts at Fort Hunter. He appeared in London in 1710 with five of the chief sachems of the Indians. The Queen became interested in them and directed that each of them should sit individually for his portrait. This created at once a tremendous interest in Court circles and focused the attention of all London on the affairs of the Colony.

As a result a Fort was built at the mouth of the Schoharie Creek. Another, farther up the Mohawk, was considered but never begun. The contract for the building of the Fort on the Schoharie was signed October 11th, 1711, by Governor Hunter and the Fort named in his honor. The contract ran as follows:

"Ye said Garet Symonce, Barent Vrooman, Hendrick Vrooman, John Wemp and Arent Van Petten shall and will forthwith repare into the Moehoques country and there build a Fort one hundred and fifty foot square the curtains made with Loggs of a foot square laid one upon another and pined together till they reach a height of twelve foot; at each corner a block-house twenty four foot square. Two storyes high, duble loopholes the rofe to be covered with boards and then shingled, the under most part or ground room to be nine foot high the upper eight foot, both well floured with boards, the logs of ye block house to be nine inches square and bedsteads and benches in each blockhouse for twenty men and in each blockhouse a chemney towards ve inside of ye said fort with scaffolds five foot wide along each curtain from one blockhouse to another and also a chaple in middle of the fort of twenty four foot square one storye ten foot high with a garret over it well covered with boards shingled and well flowrd; a seller of fifteen foot square under it covered with loggs and then with earth. The whole chaple to be well floured."
Hendrick Vrooman of Schenectady was the architect and boss carpenter. He had been a prisoner in Canada and while there learned the trade under the eye of a distinguished French architect. The contract price was 1,000 pounds. The ruins of this old wooden fort were torn down at the opening of the Revolution, at which time the chapel was palisaded and served as the Fort.

The Chapel was named for Queen Anne, who furnished the communion set, altar cloth and other needful articles. It was built as per the contract at the same time as the Fort, occupying a central position within the palisades. It was of limestone, 24 x 24 feet, and remained standing until its site fell within the route of the first of the Erie canals. Contractors tore it down in 1826 and the stone from its walls went into the construction of the canal locks.

In this by-gone chapel of quaint arrangements and appointments a colored man served as chief usher and caretaker and during the days of worship wore a livery consisting in principal part of a gorgeous scarlet coat. He also manned the organ bellows. The organ was said to have been a very fine instrument, famed for its beautiful tone. It was later removed to the Episcopal Church at Johnstown, where it was destroyed when the building burned. This organ was said to have been a source of never-ending wonderment to the Indians.

One of the early ministers in the district was the Reverend Thomas Barclay of Fort Orange (Albany) whose zeal carried him out into the Indian country beyond Schenectady, where in the absence of a full time minister he conducted occasional services for a period of years. But the task at Fort Hunter required someone's entire attention.

In 1734 the manse was built and occupied by the Reverend William Andrews, who was assigned to the parish. Trinity Church in New York had supervision over the affairs of the little chapel, and strangely enough several of the ministers who occupied this pulpit later became rectors of Trinity.

The manse is very substantially constructed of stone, about 25 x 35 feet, and two stories high. A small frame addition has been placed at the east end in recent years. The thickness of the walls, the window arrangement, with their small 6 x 8 inch panes of glass, the loop-holes and the cellar arches are all of great interest as examples of early architecture. In the basement, on an arch at the east end of the building, the numerals 1712 are still visible. During the Revolution the building was barricaded, garrisoned and served as a fort.

<-Queen Anne's Indian Chapel, built in 1713.

Following the war the Mohawks, deprived of their former hunting grounds, took up their residence in Canada. Some of them settled around Brantford in 1788. Largely through the efforts of Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Chief, a grant of land was given them on March, 20th, 1795, which lay twelve miles wide along the course of the Grand River, from its source to its mouth at Lake Erie. It is here at Brantford that Joseph Brant lies buried. Another group settled on the Bay of Quinte, and strangely enough both settlements were served by one of their old ministers, the Reverend John Stuart, D.D., who had preached to them at Fort Hunter. The "Little Gentleman," as the Indians called Reverend Stuart, was a man well over six feet in height and of great strength.

When the war broke out, the Indians took the Communion Service from the chapel and buried it. They later recovered it and took it to Canada, where it was divided between their two settlements. It is to be hoped the Mohawks found some comfort in these pieces for they were all they had of their former possessions.

The old manse, all that remains of this early outpost, is the oldest building in the Valley west of the Mabie house at Rotterdam junction. The thorough overhauling that was given it in 1888 has destroyed much of its originality. The roof was covered with slate; a door cut through the opposite (south) wall to face the relocated roadway, and the old chimney, originally built of Holland brick, was taken down and reconstructed. Some of these old bricks were given to St. Anne's Church in Amsterdam.

Having survived the vicissitudes of more than two centuries, during which time it was unfortunate enough to have undergone "modernization," it seems in a fair way to stand indefinitely against the elements. But against the hand of man-who knows?


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