History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume II, Page 364-372. Mary Sitts Captured.-- In the neighborhood of Daniel Olendorf, in the Geisenberg settlement resided Baltus Sitts. His house stood just back of the present farm house of Henry Sanders, about four miles from Fort Plain. At the great invasion of the enemy, August 2, 1780, it is believed that Sitts and his wife were at work in the field, and thus escaped the enemy. At the dwelling, which was plundered and burned, Mary Sitts, then nine years old, and her grandfather were taken by the enemy. Sophia Sitts, a little sister of Mary, then five years old, was captured by a squaw near a couple of apple trees a little distance from the house, which trees are believed to be still standing. After carrying her prisoner upon her back some distance, the squaw realized the task she had undertaken, and setting the child down unharmed, and pointed toward her house, she bade her go back. She did so, and found her friends. The grandfather was taken to Fallhill, where he was liberated, at the intercession of the squaw named, and he returned to Fort Plank. Probably this Sitts family had done this squaw some favor.
Mary Sitts was taken to Canada, adopted into an Indian family, and ever after remained there. A few years after, her father went after her. He found her, in everything but color, a veritable squaw, and no persuasion could induce her to return to the home of her childhood. It was known, subsequently, that she became the wife of an Indian, after whose death she married a white man and remained in Canada.
Sophia Sitts had three husbands: William Livingston, Joseph Pooler, and Jacob Wager, and, with a pretty good memory, is now (April 1, 1882,) living a mile or two from Hallsville, with Mrs. Thomas William, a daughter of hers, by Livingston. She distinctly remembers her own and her sister's capture, and says she was then aged five, placing her birth October 6, 1774, which would make her age 107, in the fall of 1881. Few women have done so much hard work in their lifetime as has this centenarian. For many years she was considered one of the best binders ever seen in a wheat field. The facts relating to this Sitts family were obtained at interviews with Mrs. Wager, for the writer, by the late Abram Walrath, in 1880, and by Douglas Ayres, M. D., in March, 1882. Where, in the wide world, is there another living person that was a prisoner so long ago to the foes of American liberty? P.S. Feb.. 1, 1883, Mrs. Wager is still living.
Captivity of Caty Bettinger.--Her is another case, similar to that of Mary Sitts. Among the prisoners made around Hallsville in the invasion of August, 1780, was Caty Bettinger, a daughter of Martin Bettinger, at the age of eight or 10 years. Her father had gone on the enterprise to Fort Stanwix, and her mother, with six children, was captured and taken some distance, but liberated, by Brant, with other female captives, as elsewhere shown. Susannah, an older daughter, was in a wheat field and escaped, but from there saw an Indian, with his tomahawk over her head, capture her mother. Caty, not at the house, was captured by another party and taken to Canada. She was not exchanged at the end of the war, and a few years later her father went after her. He found her domiciled among the Indians, just verging upon womanhood, and in everything but color, a squaw. She was identified by a scar on one arm from the bit of a dog. She could not be persuaded to return with him, choosing to remain in her isolated home. She was given a small cake, baked and sent her by her mother, which touched her sensibility, even to tears. It is believed she married and Indian, and uncouth and uncivilized as she was, remained in her isolated, wild-wood home.
A family of Ecklers residing near Bettinger's was captured at the same time, and the youngest boy did not return until several years after the war, but then remained in the State.--John Walrath, corroborated by John Smith, John H. Brookman and Solomon Norton.
Capture of the Shaulls and Others.-- At this period, three brothers, John Sebastian and Matthais Shaull, resided two miles from the present village of Van Hornesville. In the August invasion of 1780, they were all three made prisoners and taken to Canada. Frederick Bonner, who lived near the Shaulls, saw the enemy in time to hide himself under a untanned cowhide, and thus escaped observation. Two of the Shaull brothers were exchanged in due time and returned home, but for some cause, John remained in Canada for several years after the war, and until his friends when there and persuaded him to return. The women and children of this family are said to have been captured, and by Brant, allowed to return to the settlement. Isaac Shaull, in 1851, a grandson of Matthias Shaull.
I have somewhere seen it stated that, on this invasion of August 2d, 1780, Jacob Bronner aged 63, George Snouts aged 50, and Peter Casselman, were captured by the enemy near Fort Plank.
Providential Escape of the Lintner Family.-- George Lintner was among the pioneer residents of that part of the Canajoharie settlements known as Geisenberg, in the present town of Minden, four miles from Fort Plain. On the 2d day of August, 1780, Mr. Lintner went early in the day to perform some duty at Fort Plank, from one to tow miles distant. At the end of only a few hours, he learned from the signal guns of the neighboring forts, as also from the constant discharge of firearms, which he believed in the hands of the enemy, that the invaders of the territory were numerous, and would doubtless find every habitation in the district. The arrival of Rother and his niece, and probably other fugitives at this post, told him of the possible fate of his own family, but he dared not proceed thither alone, and Fort Plank was too feebly garrisoned to afford a sallying party. His family consisted a a wife and five children, their ages ranging at about 15, 11, 8 and 6 years, and an infant of a few months; and being now unable to afford them needed assistance caused him many an anxious thought and fearful foreboding. The names of those children in which their ages stand were, Albert, Elizabeth, John and Abram.
During the forenoon, Mrs. Lintner and her children had heard the frequent discharge of guns in the neighborhood, but did not suspect it proceeded from the enemy until noon, when they had seated themselves at the dinner table. The mother then began to feel disquieted and said: "My children, we are eating our dinner here, and the Indians might come and murder us before we were aware of it." As she said this she arose from the table and opened the door; and instantly she saw a sight that almost curdled the blood in her veins. Scarcely a mile distant she saw a thick cloud of smoke, and at once recognized it as coming from the roof of Rother's gristmill, and while in the next moment she heard the discharge of several guns,which the enemy had fired into a flock of sheep near the mill. Such omens could not be misconstrued, and snatching her infant child she fled from the house followed by the other children, down a steep bank into the woods, just beyond. Scarcely had they gained this covert, when the Indians entered the house and found the table ready for dinner; and not finding the family in the house, they fired into and then searched the bushes through which the family had passed but a few minutes before. Their firing told the fugitives they had not fled one moment too soon. Dispatching the dinner so opportunely provided for them, they plundered and set fire to the house, and only remaining long enough to be sure it would burn, they left it to pay a similar visit to some other dwelling.
After Mrs. Lintner had found a favorable place of concealment, she discovered that Abram, her six year old boy, had become separated from the party, and although she felt a mother's anxiety for his safety, she dared not make a search for him. The lad found his way back to the house well on fire, evidently soon after the Indians left it, and had sufficient presence of mind to draw the cradle out of doors. He remained about there all the afternoon, and as night came on he dragged the cradle into a pigsty still standing on the premises, in which he slept that night, too young to apprehend danger. The three oldest children, two boys and a girl, wended their way late in the day to Fort Clyde, which as "The evening shades prevailed," they reached in safety. Mrs. Lintner, with her infant child, remained that night under a hollow tree not far from her late home. The family dog was with her and several times in the evening its bark was answered by another which she supposed belonged to the enemy, and which she feared might betray her hiding place. After a night of fearful solicitude, she made her way in safety to Fort Clyde, to find the children who had gained it the evening before.
On the morning after he left his home of cheerful contentment, Mr. Lintner, having heard no alarm guns, ventured, as early as he dared to go, to learn the fate of his family. Finding his dwelling down, he approached its site with dreadful apprehension, but after a careful examination of the debris, in which he could discover no charred remains, he became satisfied that the family had not been murdered in the house; and while still searching his premises, if possible to learn their fate, he discovered his little boy, in an adjoining field, following some cattle, evidently not knowing what else to do. He asked him where his mother and the other children were, when he began to cry, being unable to give any account of them, except that they ran into the bushes back of the house. The father, having become satisfied that if the remainder of his family were not prisoners on the route to Canada, they might have reached Fort Clyde. Taking the hand of his little boy, thither he directed his steps; where, to their great joy, the family were again united; when Mrs. Lintner, in German, expressed her gratitude as follows: "Obwhol wir nun Alles verboren haben ansser den Kleidern die wir auf den Leibe tragen, so fuhl ich mich doch reicher als jezuvor in meinem Leben!" "Now, although we have lost everything but the clothes we have on, I feel richer than I ever did before in all my life!"
I have named the principal events, crowded into the life of this family in 24 hours, with minuteness; not only because the details were before, me, but because, in tracing them, I should paint a picture of scenes in scores of other families at that period, too many of which, alas! were tinged with blood and darkened by suffering. Of the many similar scenes happening in and along this valley, comparatively but here and there one has found a writers' pen, the greater number of them having gone with the removal and extinction of families, into the vortex of vague tradition or irretrievable forgetfulness.
This Lintner farm is now owned by Peter Moyer, of Fort Plain.--Facts from Rev. Dr. G. A. Lintner, a son of Albert Lintner one of the children who escaped with their mother to Fort Clyde, obtained in Nov., 1857. Elizabeth, Albert Lintner's sister married John G. Walrath, and after a long and useful life, died in November, 1857 at age of 88 years.
A Fatal Horserace. It may be well, in this connection, to speak of the sad fate of the little boy, Abram Lintner, who, alone, of his father's family, saw their house burn down. The facts were obtained several year ago from Mr. and Mrs. William H. Seeber, former neighbors of the Lintner family. For many years after the Revolution, there was much horse racing in and contiguous to the Mohawk Valley. One of the favorite courses was in "Seeber's lane," as a straight portion of the road was called, running from Freysbush toward Canajoharie village. On Saturday afternoon, August 24, 1799, a race came off on this road, the rendezvous being at the public house of Conrad Seeber. From the race, Henry Hurdick and Abram Lintner started, on horseback, to go home, when H. said to L., "Let us try your young horse with this one." Hurdick was on a large stock horse, owned by the Lintner family, which he had just rode in competition with a horse of the landlord, the latter winning. They started to run, but had not gone far, and when about opposite the old Christopher P. Yates (now Daniel A. Devoe) place, Lintner's horse stumbled and, falling, threw him over its head. As soon as Hurdick could rein up his horse and catch the other, he hastened back to find his comrade, dead. He was a heavy man, and was thrown with such force as to be instantly killed. Nearly opposite to Yates, then lived John Knouts (the present Charles Wagner place), and in his house Lintner's body was kept over night. Word was sent to the family, and his brother, Albert took home the remains, the next morning, to the weeping mother, who was dreadfully agitated and was long in becoming reconciled to the blow. He was an unmarried man and had always lived with his parents, which fact will show one good reason for his mother's grief. He was 25 years, two moths, and one day old. George and Elizabeth Lintner, his parents, died: the latter, July 11, 1818, aged 78 years, and the former, January 27, 1826, aged 87 years.
A few years before this event, say between 1790 and '95, Capt. Hudson, a merchant at Indian Castle, got up a company of cavalry, the first one organized in this vicinity. Peter Young, Esq., was his successor in its command, and it is believed was its commandant at the period considered. To this company Lintner belonged, and on the Tuesday following his death, his funeral took place at the Geisenberg church, the Rev. John C. Weiting officiating. The company of Captain Young buried their comrade, with military honors; and in the procession, next to the remains, his own horse was led, with his boots fastened upon the saddle. At the burial the soldiers dismounted and stood in a circle around the grave, holding their horses behind them, while the last funeral rites were being performed. Every company of cavalry, at that period, had a trumpeter, and one for this troop, for a long time, was John, Geesler, who entered the country as a Hessian soldier, under Gen. Burgoyne. Although but few tunes could be played upon such an instrument, I remember how inspiring, 50 or 60 years ago, were their strains. This company of light horse never performed another duty so sad in all its bearing; and seldom has so large an audience been seen at a country funeral.
Fate of the Knouts Family.-- In the destruction of the Canajoharie District, August 2, 1780, by the Indians, under Brant as their general leader, although they were pitted in numerous small bands; they visited the dwelling of John Knouts, who resided on the farm now owned by Josiah Roof, in Freysbush. The site of the Knouts dwelling may still be seen in Roof's apple orchard, in which, also, are the graves of Mrs. K. and her children, who were slain by the Indians. Mr. Knouts was made a prisoner on his premises, but was afterwards killed, by the enemy after they left the settlement. When several of the invaders centered her dwelling, Mrs. Knouts was engaged in some duty outside of it, and hearing the outcries of her children, four in number, she ran in just in time to see one of them stricken down with the fatal tomahawk; and hardly had she began to supplicate for the lives of some of the dear ones, when she was felled by a similar blow and scalped, with three of her children in the house. Henry, the fourth child, still unharmed, was a boy, eight or 10 years of age, who was taken from the room by one of the party, supposed a Tory neighbor, who led him round the corner of the house and told him to run for his life. He had gone only a few rods when he met an Indian, whose tomahawk felled him to the ground, where he was quickly scalped and left for dead.
On the following day a party went from Fort Clyde to bury this murdered family, when they found the boy who had fallen while fleeing from the house, still alive and able to give the details of the horrible scene of the day before. "I should have escaped," said the intelligent little fellow, who was running to get back of the barn and thus flee unobserved to the woods, "but an Indian met me, between the house and the barn, who knocked me on the head with his hatchet and pulled out my hair." He was ignorant of the savage custom of scalping. He was taken to Fort Clyde and carefully treated, and after his wounds had nearly healed, he took cold, which caused an inflammation of the brain and he died.
The mother was found lying in the door yard, with the three children murdered with her, in her arms. Thus they sometimes disposed of their slain before firing a dwelling, as supposed to strike the greater terror to living witnesses of their hellish cruelty. Her scalp was hanging to a stake in the fence near by, where the Indians in their great haste to surprise other families, seemed to have forgotten it, and it was buried with her remains. There is a tradition that the Indian who slew her took from her hand a ring having on it a Masonic emblem, discovering which, he said: "Had I known that the squaw had on such a ring, I would not have harmed her." After securing what plunder they cared for, the enemy set fire to the house and as soon as its destruction was insured, they hurried away to find another; and as woods concealed the scattered dwellings from each other, families that had not heard or heeded signal guns that day, were but too liable to be surprised. John Abeel, the father of Cornplanter, an Indian trader who settled in this town, married a Miss Knouts, who was no doubt a relative of this family. Thus we see that an entire family, if not the very name, were stricken from life.--Rev. Dr. G. A. Lintner, and Peter F. Dunckel.
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