Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Captivity of David Olendorf and his Wife.

Vol II, Page 362-364.

This couple who had then been married about a year were also among the prisoners made August 2, 1780, near the Geisenberg. Olendorf was John Rother's miller at this period, and when surprised they, himself and wife, were engaged in a barn, he in pitching wheat from a wagon, and she in mowing it away; a duty that often devolved on women during the war. When he, before the muzzle of a gun, was ordered down from the wagon, she was not insight, and on being asked if anyone else was in the barn, he replied in the negative, thinking thus to save his wife from captivity. One of the enemy suspicious he was not alone, said to him; "If anyone else is in the barn, call them out, for we are going to burn it." True to their word, they did burn it, and after it was set on fire she was called down from the loft. They also burned their dwelling after plundering it of all they desired.

The little settlement at the Geisenberg, usually pronounced Gaasaberg, called after the war Hallsville (after Robert Hall, an early merchant there), was ravaged and burned; and with other prisoners, the Olendorfs were hurried off to Canada; suffering in common with their captive neighbors on the way, from privations and excessive fatigue. Soon after this long journey began, the Indians asked Olendorf if he could run pretty well, and he replied in the affirmative. He was then required to take a foot race with an athletic Indians, being assured that if he could beat his competitor, he should be set at liberty. He easily won the race to be rewarded by treachery, and found when too late shy his pedestrian powers had been tested; for instead of being liberated, he was securely bound every night after the race, until the arrived at the end of his journey. During the long and dreary march he once came near losing his life, by incurring the displeasure of his red masters in a frolic, and a tomahawk hurled at his head, sunk deep into a tree behind which he sprang for shelter; when an old Indian interfered and saved his life.

On reaching Canada, Olendorf and his wife were separated, he being imprisoned with many others. After some weeks imprisonment, not finding an opportunity to escape, he agreed to enlist into the British service, resolving to embrace the first opportunity, to desert. He was of German descent. While on his way with the enemy in force to the frontier settlements of New York, under Sir John Johnson, two prisoners were brought in by a party of the enemy. Being near them, Olendorf overheard one ask the other in German, if he had any tobacco? he replied in the negative. The former chanced to have a small bank of pigtail, and unwinding a coil or two, he found opportunity unobserved to place it in the hand of its seeker. The latter turning to his fellow prisoner with an expression of joy, said of the donor: "Ar is an Dutchman!" ( Probably this was Deutsch, German. ajb) Olendorf shook his head significantly, saying in effect, caution, you may be overheard.

When encamped in the evening, Olendorf, who was a sergeant in his new position, found opportunity to speak with the prisoners. He inquired if they dared to attempt their escape, and being answered in the affirmative, and also that they could find their way back to the place of their capture, he told them to be in readiness that very night, and he would fly with them, for he was determined not to war against his friends. It became his official duty that night to post sentinels, which favored the design; and after stationing the most distant one, he took occasion while returning to log several twigs, that he might pass the outer watchman unobserved. Securing what provisions he could, he went to those prisoners about midnight, and conducted them in silence without the camp; when, by observing great caution, a part of the time crawling upon their hands and feet, the trio found the broken boughs and passed all the sentinels in safety. "Now," said the sergeant, "If you know the way to the settlements, lead on, for we have not a moment to lose." One of the liberated captives became pilot, and in f few days the trio reached Fort Plain in safety, where they were joyously welcomed by their friends, whom they forewarned of the invader's approach.

Mrs. Olendorf, then most delicately situated, feared longer to remain in an Indian family, to whom she had been taken, and, watching her opportunity, when the family were all drunk; to which condition so far as possible, she had contributed by freely passing them liquor, she fled for refuge to the residence of an English officer for protection. The family were at first afraid to conceal her, fearing the revenge of the savages, who they rightly inferred would seek for her there; but her condition excited their pity, and when the Indians approached, she was concealed in a closet, and they left without finding her; and soon after they were paid a ransom for her. On the birth of her little son, two English gentlemen acted as sponsors; from whom she had a certificate of his birth, etc. She was finally taken to Halifax, exchanged with other prisoners, and reached Fort Plain some 13 or 14 months after her captivity; presenting her husband, on her return, with a little namesake about nine months old. This Daniel Olendorf, Sr., was one of a scout that shot Walter Butler subsequent to his return from captivity, in the manner elsewhere described. Daniel Olendorf, named as having been born among the Indians, long known as an innkeeper at Cooperstown, died at his residence in Hartwick, NY in March, 1847. He also had a brother, Peter, once an innkeeper at Fort Plain. It was the writers fortune to be well acquainted with the Olendorf brothers, from whom these facts were obtained.

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