History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Volume II Pg. 443--460, selections
Learning at this place that Fort Paris, in Stone Arabia, about 20 miles northwest from the American camp, was to be attacked the following morning, Gen. Van Rensselaer sent a note to Col. John Brown, its gallant commander, to turn out and head the enemy at nine o'clock and he would fall upon his rear. ........Col. Brown, a very brave man left his little fortress and led his men to attack the foe. Said George Bauder, who died at Palatine Bridge about 1857, who was a boy present and saw him start, Col. Brown paraded his men, mounted upon a small black horse, and thus led them from Fort Paris, and tradition says he was on horseback when he fell. After marching some distance from the fort, lest the letter of Gen. Van Rensselaer should fall into the hands of the enemy, he dispatched a messenger with it to the fort. As this letter could not afterwards be found at the fort, it was conjectured that possibly the bearer had acted the traitor, and borne it directly to the enemy, as the greater part of his forces united soon after the firing began between Brown and the advance. Jacob Becker.
Battle of Stone Arabia--Gen. Van Rensselaaer, who had an effective force, nearly double that of the enemy, put his army in motion at the moon's rising. Near Fort Hunter, where he arrived before daylight, he was joined by the Schoharie militia. The American commander arrived at Keator's rift soon after the enemy had passed it, but instead of crossing the river and seconding the movement of Col. Brown as he had agreed, he remained upon the south side, where news was brought him by a fugitive from Brown's command, that the latter officer, with many of his men, was slain. Fort Paris was three miles south of the Mohawk, and yet Brown met the enemy nearly two-thirds of the way to the river, where the contest began. Overpowered by numbers, he at length fell,and his blood, with that of more than 30 of his brave followers, dyed the fertile fields of Stone Arabia. What loss the enemy sustained in this engagement is unknown, but as they were better sheltered than were the Americans, and enabled to outflank, and had nearly surrounded them when Brown fell, it is supposed their loss was not as great. John Ostrom and Jacob Becker.
Further Progress of the Enemy in Palatine.--The following particulars, in addition to those above, were obtained in November, 1843, from Maj. Joseph Spraker, of Palatine. Col. Brown left Fort Paris, on the morning of his death, with a body of levies and militia; and as he passed Fort Keyser, a little stockade, at which a small stone dwelling was enclosed, perhaps a mile south of Fort Paris, and about two miles distant from the river--he was joined by a few militiamen there assembled, making his effective force from 150 to 200 men. He met the enemy nearly half way from Fort Keyser to the river. They were discovered on the opposite side of a field which contained some underbrush and which was partly skirted by a forest. As the Indians were observed behind a fence on the opposite side of the field, Capt. Casselman remonstrated with Brown against his leaving the covert of the fence; but the hero, less prudent on this occasion then usual, ordered his men into the field, and they had hardly begun to cross it, before a deadly fire was opened upon them; which was returned with spirit but far less effect, owing to the more exposed condition of the Americans. Brown maintained his position for a time, but seeing the Indians gaining his flank, he ordered a retreat; about which time (nearly 10 o'clock, A. M.), he received a musket ball through the heart, as I learned from Jacob I. Ecker. The enemy pressed on so as to render it impossible for his men to bear off his body, and the brave Colonel was left to his fate.
At the fall of their commander, some of the Americans fled toward the Mohawk, and others north into the forest. Two of them took refuge in the dwelling of the late Judge Jacob Ecker, in the hope of defending themselves, but the house was surrounded by a party of Indians, who set it on fire, and laughed at the shrieks of its inmates who perished in the flames.
None of the citizens who weere not in the battle it is believed, were either killed or captured, they having gained one of the two forts, or sought safety in the woods.
Here is an incident of the conflict: After Col. Brown fell, the Americans retreated. While the armies were engaged, Samuel Woolworth, one of Brown's men, unconsciously got several charges in his gun, not heeding the increasing length of the ramrod, supposing his gun discharged, as the priming burned, Retreating, he was pursued by three Indians, on whom he fired, when he became aware of the nature of the charge, as he was sprawling on the ground, his gun lying several feet from him. As he regained his piece, he saw one of the enemy supported by his fellows, evidently in a dying condition. He was again pursued by other foes who fired on him, whose fire he returned, having reloaded without halting. After hard running he eluded his foe and reached Fort Paris. After the enemy had left, a visit to the field of carnage disclosed to Woolworth a dead Indian across a log, near where he fired on his first pursuers, one of whom had no doubt received the contents of his overloaded gun. Woolworth, died at Fort Ann, N. Y. in 1811. David Woolworth, of Hamilton County, a son of Samuel I. Woolworth.
John Zielie, a captain of militia, had charge of Fort Keyser on that day. George Spraker, father of informant, and John Waffle, elderly men; Joseph and Conrad Spraker, brothers; William Waffle, Warner Dygert, and possibly one or two other young men, were all who were ready to aid Capt. Z. in the defense of his little fortress, when the British regulars passed near it in column, soon after Brown's engagement. It might easily have fallen into their hands, had they known the number of its defenders. The few men in it were at the port holes, each with his gun and a hat full of cartridges by his side, but restrained their firing from motives of policy. Within hearing of this stockade, the enemy sounded a bugle to collect his forces, while several tin horns were also heard blown with the same intent. Informant had two older brothers under Col. Brown, who effected their escape after he fell.
The Body of Col. Brown, How Cared For. -- Soon after the enemy were out of sight, the four young men named, proceeded in the direction the firing had been heard, and leaping a fence into the fatal field, Joseph Spraker stood beside the remains of the ill-fated Brown. His scalp had been taken off so as to completely to remove all the hair on his head; this was unusual, as only the crown scalp was commonly taken, but knowing his distinction and prowess, we may justly infer the red man's motive. He was stripped of every article of his clothing, except a ruffled shirt. The four young militiamen, the Spraker brother, Waffle and Dygert, took the body of their fallen chief, and bore it in their arms to Fort Keyser. The remains of most of the soldiers who fell in this battle were buried in one pit, and Col. Brown with them; but a day or tow after, it was opened and his remains removed to a place of interment near the churches. Col. Brown was of middling stature, with dark eyes and a fine military countenance; he usually wore glasses. He was agreeable and urbane in his manners, but possessed a spirit when in danger, fearless as the dashing cataract. He fell deeply lamented by his numerous friends, and the few silver haired heroes of his acquaintance who survived for me to converse with, were enthusiastic in his praise.
(Col. Brown fell in battle on the 19th day of October, 1780; the very day he reached the age of 36, so that the anniversary of his birth was also the day of his death.)
Pg. 456 The Burial of col. Brown's Men. -- I learned from George M. Bauder, Esq.,* a son of Michael Bauder who was a Ranger in the Revolution, where this burial took place. His mother was Lana, a daughter of John Klock, the Bauders and Klocks were among the earliest German families in Palatine, where informant was born August 28, 1768, and where he has always resided, honored for his integrity. And I may add, he still holds a military 160 acre land warrant, for his won services at Sackett's Harbor in 1814. After the Stone Arabia battle, John Klock drew the bodies of Brown's men together on a sled, but there was no snow on the ground. They were brought near Fort Paris which stood between "The Corners" and interred, as now believed, a few rods southeast of the present schoolhouse.
*He assured the writer that he attended the funeral services observed at the death of Washington, in the church at Johnstown, late in December, 1799; he being then 15 years old. There was no snow, as he said, on the ground at that time.Hhe died in November, 1881, in his 97th year.
The pit dug was a trench some 12 by 15 feet, sufficiently wide to take in two lengths of bodies; and upon its brink stood Miss Land Klock and saw the remains deposited. They were laid in side by side in the clothes in which they fell, without coffins; but their number is unknown. It was probably 20 or 30. Some who fell in their flight from the battlefield were elsewhere interred. The general interment near the fort has been corroborated by Benj. Getman, Michael Wick and Henry Lasher, all three being octogenarians.
Just how many fell in the Stone Arabia battle is unknown. Col. Stone gave the number as from 40 to 45, which I think closely aggregates the number. The loss of the enemy that day was unknown, but having so greatly the advantage in numerical force, it probably did not exceed on half the American loss. Most of the Americans slain were New England men.
Incidents Growing out of the Battle.--After Col. Brown fell, many of his men borne down by numbers fled westward,and quite a number were overtaken and slain on the Judge Jacob Eacker * farm, a mile northerly from Palatine Bridge.
*This man was out of a good German family, was a prominent citizen of his day, and well known as Judge Eacker of the county courts. He died in 1823, at the age of 74. He was the father of Capt. George I. Eacker. a distinguished young lawyer of New York city, who was insulted by; challenged by, and fought a duel with Philip, a son of Alexander Hamilton; whom he killed at Hobokken in 180? as was shown in the first volume. So said Jacob I. EAcker, a younger brother of George, who married a daughter of George Herkimer, and resided on the paternal homestead. he died March 8, 1873, aged 87.
It has been stated that six men took shelter behind a large rock, from which they made several shots, but the enemy getting in their rear, they were all cut off. After hours of concealment with his family and the enemy had been called westward by tinhorns, Judge Eacker sallied out to survey the burned district on which his own buildings had stood in the morning. Al little back of the mansion which he erected in 1803, he found an American drummer boy still alive, who had been scalped by the Indians. He was conveyed to Fort Paris, properly cared for, and while convalescing he was sent to his Connecticut home, and was not again heard from.
Jack, a valuable slave owned by Judge Eacker, was coaxed to go along with the slaves of Bernard Frey, in his early flight to Canada. In Sullivan's expedition this slave was captured and returned to his former master, a circumstance not mated in my investigations. Judge E. gave Jack 25 cents each, to bring together and bury all the dead soldiers he could find scattered upon his farm, and thus was he supplied with pocket money for sometime. Eacker had a stack of wheat in William Ehle's woods adjoining his own which escaped the torch, and this still supplied his family with food; but the rest of his property shared the general fate of his patriotic neighbors. Jacob I. Eacker.
Two Dwellings Escape the Torch. --Nearly two miles westward of the Eacker place, on the northerly part of the Dominie Ehle lands, resided at this period William Ehle. Seeing the Oswegatchie fires in the morning and hearing the alarm guns, Ehle, harnessed a team to a sled, took his family into it and drove to a secreted place in the woods, where he had concealed a barrack of wheat. With his gun he took a position to shoot a foeman, should an attempt be made to burn the wheat; but it remained standing, as also did his dwelling.
The house of Jacob Walrath, not far from Ehle's, was plundered and set on fire, and a hole burned through the floor; but as chance would have it, a bag containing flax seed was ignited and running freely into the hole smothered the fire. From Harman Ehle, a son of William Ehle, and in his 81st year at our interview in 1862. He was a soldier in the war of 1812. He married Lana, a daughter of Nicholas Weiser, whose wife was a daughter of Jacob Walrath above named.
Abner Pier, a soldier in this battle, was knocked down and scalped by an Indian, and as the enemy moved on one of them looked back, and, seeing him move, drew up and fired at him, inflicting a severe flesh wound. Without going back to his victim he proceeded forward. When the Americans returned to the field of carnage, Pier was found alive, taken to the fort and recovered. After the war, this Pier settled on the west side of Otsego lake nearly four miles from Cooperstown, the locality came to be called Pier's town. Some 60 years ago there were dwelling at this place the families of Philip Van Horne, Isaac and John Williams, brothers, and also a family of Watermans. This Pier family became celebrated in Otsego county for its musical talent, especially in playing the fife and key-bugle at military parades.--Hiraam Pier, corroborated.
I have said that most of the men slain with Col. Brown were New England troops; there were, however, a number of local militiamen killed, and remembered among them were Peter House and John Cook, the latter being a son of Casper Cook, the Cook family having been numbered among the earliest and best families of Stone Arabia. -- Benjamin Getman, and Mrs. Andrew Nellis, a descendent of the Cook family.
After the battle, one Louks, a militiaman, was found dead near the John Eaker place, who, as he had no wounds, was supposed to have run himself to death. The John Acre house, a stone edifice, was not disturbed; the enemy probably thinking it fortified, hence dare not approach it. Col. Andrew Gray's house was the only one in its neighborhood that escaped burning. It was set on fire and extinguished by his brother with milk from the cellar. An Indian was running with a firebrand toward the barn, when Gray raised a window to fire upon him and he scampered off. This family saved several stacks of hay by a timely sally of Americans from the fort, who fired on the barn burners and they decamped. --Jacob I. Eacker.
The First Shot fired by Brown's men after leaving the fort, was by George Getman, who saw an Indian pursuing two women who were fleeing with bundles, supposed of clothing, from their own home. The Indian fired, one of them fell, and as he was running up to scalp her, Getman's rifle brought him down. The other woman escaped.--George Bauder, then a boy at Fort Paris.
Escape of Snell and German.--Fleeing from the battleground, George Getman, a militia man, overtook a Young Yankee soldier, who seized hold of his bayonet belt, much assisting him but retarding the flight of the former. After proceeding in this manner awhile, the belt broke and the lad feel behind, soon to be tomahawked and scalped. Getman was running east and came to a barway in a fence, the middle bar was down, and as he stooped to pass through he heard a bullet strike the board over his head. His gun was loaded, but unluckily the flint had fallen from the lock. He was not pursued any farther, and in passing a fallen tree in a little copse he heard a voice saying, "Come here, brother!" Concealed under this tree he found Jacob Snell (afterwards a county judge), a brother militiaman, with a wounded shoulder. They both adjusted their gunlocks, soon after which a single Indian came within gunshot and stepped upon a stump for observation. The fugitives had a deadly aim upon him, but not knowing how near other savages might be, they did not fire; but had he discovered them he would no doubt have fallen. Giving a few whoops, he disappeared.
Getman, with his hat off, was in the act of examining Snell's wound, when a hawk flew down and struck its talons into his bald scalp, lacerating it and causing the blood to flow freely. Not seeing the bird, he thought an Indian had struck him, but turning round and seeing no third person, he knew not what hurt him, until Snell informed him. His wound bled more freely than did his companion's. On hearing his cause for alarm, Getman exclaimed--"Blitz, that's a warning." After hearing the signals to call the Indians westward, they passed up a raving and reached Fort Paris in safety. Casper Getman, Jacob I. Eacker and others.
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