History From America's Most Famous Valleys
of the First Settlement
County of Schoharie
by the Germans.
Being an Asnwer to a Circular Letter, Addressed to the Author, by "The Historical and Philosophical Society of the State of New York"
by John M. Brown. Printed for the Author by L. Cuthbert 1823
May 18th. Since the above was finished, it is almost reduced to certainty that there is and must be, an inexhaustible bed of stone coal in this town, in the place called New Rhinebeck, where there is a very remarkable high and round hill separate from all strings of hills and can be seen over all our mountains, and by the Indians called Owelus Sowlus. The meaning I do not understand.
If any particulars of some heads should be desired, I shall have no objection to give the explanation that I am capable of, being alive and well. I shall continue now to relate the reason of some old occurrences -and names of the county of Schoharie. It must then be remarked that the Germans. when settling, settled all in towns, which in their language was called Dorff, and is no more but a compact farmers' settlement, distinguished from a village, which they call Flekken, in distinction from an incorporated city which they call a Stadt.
Now these towns were all named after their several list men, as they were by them called, to wit; Conradt Wiser, Hartman Wintekker, Johnannes Geo. Smidt, Wm. Fox, Elias Garlack, and John Henrich Kerterskern. These list men were each of them furnished with a list of a certain number of men, women and children, and were, in a manner, their commissioners from the Queen in order to draw provisions from her royal stores. These commissioners or rather list men, continue to draw provisions, each for their certain number, whilst they encamped and wintered in ground huts at East and West Camp; and continued so till in the Spring, when they arrived at Albany. But after they went to Schoharie, I did not learn that they ever drew any more; if they did it was probably no more than what they could carry on their backs to Schoharie.
As it is very natural to suppose, that these men, women and children would keep nigh to their list men, with those in particular, to whose list they did In particular belong and settle with them In a city form, so that they might be the better ready to assist each other against the unruly temper of their Indian neighbors, who had now after agreement and settlement with Queen Anne, surrendered two of their castles to the Germans and removed to a third, about a mile above little Schoharie creek, to the west side of the great Schoharie Creek, on a great flat, over which Adam Vrooman afterwards took a patent for six hundred acres, vested by certain unmoveable boundaries; and, when it was afterwards surveyed by the King's surveyor it proved to contain 1,400 acres of full the best lowland in all Schoharie., Here they now settled all together; the whole Karigh Ondonte tribe. Their chiefs, that remained in my time, were Seth, Hansyerry, Joseph Hanelie and Aggy Awner, together with their squaws of the direct line of Karigh Ondonte, namely: Lisiquet, Wawly and Catoline, who always pretended to have the exclusive title of the soil, in the very best of this tract they settled; and King George, I suppose, caused a Picquet Fort and some barracks to be built therein, which was done by one young Johanes Becker, for the sum of eight pounds. Here they gave names to three particular hills, namely; Onisto Graw, Conegena and Mohegan, by which they continue to be named this day.
Conradt Wiser, so often named, settled about two miles lower down than this Indian settlement, within a few hundred rods of the stamp block or boundary thereafter mentioned (or as the Indians called it, the high water mark, though it was never believed by white men that, the Indians had seen water there until the year 1784 and 1785, when they witnessed the flood, which had risen four or five feet above, the monument of the stump block) together with all those belonging to his list. Here now they built a farmer's town after the manner of a city, all in streets. This now was the very place where the abuse of Sheriff Adams aforesaid, first begun, and was called Wiserdorp now in the town of Middleburgh.
At or about two miles lower down to North, Hartman Wintekker and his company settled and built their town in the same fashion. And I have heard the old people say that this town consisted of sixty-five houses. Here were the first apple trees planted to an orchard in Schoharie by Hans Wilhelm Kemmer, and this was called Hartman's Dorff. Next down was Brunnendorff, in the English, the town of Springs or Springtown, settled chiefly by the men that belonged to Johans Yerry Smidt's list. Here is now the Court and Meeting House and a village by the name of Somerville in the town of Schoharie.
The adjoining Hansyerry Smith, settled together with the remainder of the people remaining of his list. He had the best house in the town, which was thatched with straw, and at the time when the mob rose against Mr. Bayard, whereof particular mention has been made before. Here is nothing more to observe, but on the lowland was an Indian village and burying ground, of which I never saw anything worthy of remark. This was called Schmit's Dorff.
Next did William Fox settle together with the men of his list. Here a creek comes down from the town of Berne and runs West till it here falls in the Schoharie creek, and takes his name Foxenkill, and is a stream on which a good deal of business is done by water; together called Foxendorff.
Then next did Elias Garlock settle together with the men of his list. Here was an Indian castle, though on the West side of the Schoharie creek, in which Lambert Sternbergh raised the first wheat that was ever raised in Schoharie. The mighty increase as mentioned before, will be doubtful perhaps, to every reader; yet by informers were many and of the most credible characters in Schoharie; and here it was called Gerbach's Dorff.
And lastly, did John Peter Kniskern settle together with the men of his list; and he is the only one of all the list men whose offspring remained in his town to this day. And this was called Kniskern's Dorff. Opposite to this town Cobleskill creek falls in the great Schoharie creek, so called after the name of a certain man who cleared a spot at the outlet, under pretence of building a mill thereon, but never was brought to pass; but by the Indians was called Ostgavawge. Up this creek are found veins of brimstone ore running through the rocks in the bottom of the creek. Further up lies the town called by the same name. This creek first springs in the highest ground in the town of Wooster, between Schoharie and the Susquehanna. At this same place where the Scenevers creek before made mention of springs and runs to the southwest and empties into the Susquehanna river.
This Cobleskill creek in the town of the same name is fed by another stream or creek, springing at East Hill in the town of Cherry Valley and runs the whole length through the town of New Dorlach, formerly so called from the name of the place, the first four settlers came from in Wertenberg, Germany, who settled there in the last French war. Their names were Earnest Fitz, Michael Merkele, Christopher Merkele and Sebastian Frantz, who came from Germany in the year 1752; but it is altered by a law of this state to the name of Sharon. This creek is by us called West Creek, but by the Indians was called Anuntodawse. The stream is very useful to the town and a good deal of business now done thereon. These towns are also very productive, yet somewhat more frosty than Schoharie. In this last town toward the northeast corner, is a strong spring of brimstone waters, so that it maybe smelt at miles distant.
Toward the north of Cobleskill and east of Sharon is the town of Carlisle, in which I now live, first called New Rhinebeck after the name of the place one of the first settlers came from. Here is a noted Skeel or Hill, by the Indians called Owevus Sownes, a name known by all the western Indian nations, and is by us supposed to contain stone coal. This town contains also Turf and Marl swamps together with samples of plasters.
None occurred in my time. One relation I shall, however, simply mention; and that is of the last battle between the Mohegan and Mohawk nations, namely; they were afighting which nation of them should have the king, or rather, which nation should have the preference as will more fully appear by the relation, to wit; Both nations had collected all their strength and met for a deciding battle at or near Wanton Island in Hudson river, immediately opposite to East Camp, where they fought a pitched battle for a whole day. The Mohawks, finding the Mohegans rather too tough for them, thought on a strategem before night; so took a sudden flight and went up the river till they came to an Island to which they could wade; and when they were on, they kindled a great number of fires; cut brushes and laid them all around their fires covering them with their blankets.
The Mohegans in fresh pursuit, after seeing these fires, concluded to give them a night attack; and after midnight, waded over also and with the greatest care and silence, beset their fires; and at a certain signal given poured all the contents of their artillery into the blankets and brushes around the fires. They perceiving very little motion of this effect, concluded they had killed every Mohawk around the fires; then run up with tomahawks and scalping knives in hand accompanied with their Indian yells, fell a cutting and slashing on the blankets and bushes. The Mohawks all this time lay flat on the ground, a small distance from their fires; then arose and threw all their murdering contents in upon the Mohegans, killed the most of them and took all the rest of them prisoners, with whom they concluded a treaty. This battle and the treaty forever subjected the Mohegans to the Mohawks and the Mohawks got the king of their nation whose name was Henry. This Indian King lived to a great age; and if my memory be correct, he lost his life in DeDemus Maginness battle at Lake George, in the French war. He was on the British side when the French attempted to take Fort George of Sir William Johnson.
The articles of this treaty were this; That the Mohawks should have the king that the Mohegans should not have the honour of men by wearing breeches, and that the oldest Mohegans should reverence the Mohawks, from the oldest down to the first born baby, by calling it aunt or uncle. Of this article, I am myself full positive, as having seen the operations in a good manner thereof.
In the year 1765, or there abouts, the first piece for fulling was made in Schoharie by George Conrad Richtmeyer and carried to Esopus on horseback to John Dubois' fulling mill to be fulled. Then many began to follow his example, till after the Revolutionary war, fulling mills were erected on the Mohawk river. But at this time we have manufactories in the county, full as much as we want.
Common schools have been, and are still greatly neglected; though by the description of schools I have given in the first page they are very much improved, so that by this time it is owing more to parents in the bad or evil bringing up of their children than in the want of schools, on which I shall give comment.
This year, 1816, was the most uncommon season for cold, and even snow on the 6th of June. Ice froze in almost every month of the year; wheat, peas, and oats, however, done very well; corn totally cut off, and buckwheat, very slim. The year 1756, was the same year when Oswego was taken from the French from the English, and came up the nighest to this year I ever saw. However, corn was saved that year and we had very fruitful seasons following. The years 1784 and '85, were the most remarkable for overflowing.
Schoharie in general is more a grain than a grass country. It is, however, in a great measure declined. The pea bug bad made its appearance, as I have been told, eighty or ninety years ago but did depart again. About nineteen years ago, they made us another visit, and troubled us for several years, so that we despaired of raising peas; but now seem entirely to have left us and we raise them again about as good as ever. The Hessian fly or insect, also has been here but never done a general damage, and now for two years have done us no damage at all.
FOOTPATHS, HIGHWAYS, and TURNPIKES
In the year 1712, there were no other roads to Schoharie but five Indian footpaths, the first beginning at Catskill, leading up that stream to large swams or flye, where it springs about seven miles southeast from the stamp block, or boundary monument of Queen Anne's patent before mentioned, the Lonenburg turnpike now following that same route. The Lonenburg turnpike continues on to Wiserdorff through Schoharie, Cobleskill and Sharon, until it intersects the Great Western turnpike in the town of Cherry Valley, in the county of Otsego.
The second, beginning at Albany, led over the Helleberg, which is the most northerly point, or the end of that notable hill called the Blue Mountains. Thence on westerly until it struck Foxenkill, and thence down the stream into Schoharie at Foxendorff. This was the road which the first settlers travelled when they moved up into Schoharie. On this route with but very little variation, went the first Schoharie road to Albany. I did not however, learn that any wagon went through that way before the year 1750, or thereabouts, when the farmers began, six, eight or ten together, and made one trip to Albany, with a wagon, in order to get their rum, pepper, and tea for harvest. They had no other road for market until the year 1762, when a new road was opened from Foxendorff through Duanesburgh, intersecting the old Schenectady road at the half-way house at Truax's. The third Indian footpath beginning at Gerlachdorff, leading through Duanesburgh to Schenectady lowland, whereof before is made mention of. So with that, they some times went twenty men, women and children in a drove, each a grist on his head or on his back to Schenectady, lowland to get ground.
The fourth took its start from Kniskerndorff leading down the Schoharie creek to Fort Hunter. This was for the most part travelled but by the Indians, for relationship of the Karighondonte family. They also sometimes travelled through Schoharie to the Susquehanna, to a place called by the Indians, Awquawge, where the first Gospel was taught unto the Indians by one Elisha Gan.
The last also took its beginning at Kniskerndorff and led farther up the river into Canajoharie, and struck just above Anthony's Nose in order to have a higher cut to the upper castle, at or near the Little Falls. This footpath has been much travelled by the Germans; in the summers for most part on barefoot; yet in my time, by the people of Schoharie and the people of the German Flats on account of connections, friends and relations. This foot path continued in full use in the year 1762 at a time when Sir William Johnson held a general review of the Schenedady Brigade of Militia at the upper castle and had there an ox roasted whole, the first I ever heard or saw.
1817. Now we have sufficient turnpikes in lieu of Indian roads going through the county of Schoharie, and very likely more of them than will be able to maintain themselves from the toll they will raise these many years.
THE COMMENT and CONCLUSION
For this, I shall now for the first, remark that there never was a philosophic institution, but for the sole purpose of making men wiser, better and, consequently, more happy. A great argument that mankind is, and always was corrupt, and that there is a probability of mending; so far this is all very right, and a duty on all to pursue. But none brought to it anything like perfection; neither did any ever find perfect satisfaction therein, even for himself at all, as the writings of them, yea the very best of them, when considered, prove to a demonstration. But the philosophy of Jesus Christ, if I may so call it, or the religion of the Son of God, has infinitely far over went them all. His Gospel plan has proved the only one wherein perfect satisfaction ever was found. That word of the great I AM, his revealed will in the Gospel, has brought this to pass like a wonder, so that all the world Is indebted that there is any such thing in it, as perfect satisfaction at all.
The wise man Solomon has given us one rule, among a great many others, which, if well attended to, would gain us a very great march towards this perfect satisfaction. The rule is simply this; Teach a child in the way he must go, and rule. For the neglect and inattention of this rule, children grow up in raw nature, totally uncultivated, and from the next society as surely they must. Well if Solomon be correct, as we have no doubt but he is, from whence have we to expect, or ever have reason to expect, that future generations shall be better, or become more happy than the present? Perhaps I might here get the answer of one of their blind philosophers, who wrote and said that the common law of the land was the perfect rule of happiness. Ay, but if the way the law should go or rather those that execute it, has never been brought to their sight, you will certainly fail.
Well, say you then, we will go to the Gospel. Very right, Messrs. But do you know what the Gospel is, or where to find it, since, you never learned nor cared about it? Well, say you then, we shall go to our Gospel ministers, teachers, and school masters. Truly, very well, again; but should it prove true what the same wise man slays in another place, to wit; The labour of the fool tired everybody, for he knoweth not himself the way to the city. Then it will be up with you again; up, say they, up, It is all over, up with you. I say no, no, go on; don't despair, you may yet mend your matter in your own way. You can neither read nor write, nor fit or useful for civil society, but just fit for a soldier, the machine of murder, and to follow drum and fife to victory. After victory perchance, take the cat on your naked back once in a while, be shot perhaps for a villain, then you have complete full satisfaction in your own way at last.
This altogether can proceed, and I have no doubt, but very often proceeds from the want and neglect of teaching a child the way he should go; just as much, and as many as similar instances occur, so many witnesses we have, that the position is true.
Well, if all this be in any way correct, how great must not then the obligation be, of all those whose duty it is in particular to see to it, that youth may be taught that wisdom which is after Godliness, and is profitable in this life, and the life to come;-and shocking must be the judgment that will fall on every head guilty of this neglect. A general evil cannot be averted, but must break in like a mighty flood, no aim to save nor eye to pity; for then there will be no Peace to him that goeth out, nor to him that cometh in; but great vexations upon all the inhabitants of the countries, and nation will be destroyed of nation, and city of city, for the Lord will vex them with all adversity-says the prophet, by the word of the Lord our God.
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