History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume II, Page 523
"Surprise of Lieut. Borst and Party in Sharon.—At the Keyes' place in Sharon,* dwelt in the Revolution, a Hanoverian named Christian Myndert, whose family was the only one in that part of Sharon. Having been alarmed several times in the
* The tavern stand of Zachariah Keyes, an inn-keeper, known to every one who traveled the western turnpike about the year 1820.
summer, he removed towards fall, in 1781, to Fort Duboise; leaving, at the time of his departure, several hogs running in a field, and a quantity of peas growing on the ground, In the latter part of October, Myndert, accompanied by Lieut. Jacob Borst, of Cobelskill, Sergeant William Kneiskern, and Jacob Kerker, proceeded to the dwelling of the former, in Myndert'a valley, to secure his peas, shut up his hogs, and take care of some other property. John Crounse, in 1845, lived on the Myndert farm. The day was cold and stormy, rain and snow alternately falling. The party were endeavoring to secure the hogs, when six Indians, commanded by Walradt, a tory from the Mohawk valley, who had been watching their motions for sometime, secreted themselves in Mydert's barn near his dwelling.
After Lieut. Borst and his compai.ions had been thus engaged, they repaired to the house, wet and cold, to warm themselves. On entering it, they set iheir guns in one corner of a room and gathered round the fire place, where was igniting a quantity of dry wood. At this time the enemy entered the dwelling, and so suddenly, that not one of the party could seize a gun in time to fire. Borst snatched up his, but in attempting to turn around to discharge it, he was prevented by an Indian who had anticipated his movement. Kneiskern seized a chair to strike one of the invaders, but the latter grappled it in the same instant. Seeing the foes nearly double their own number, with arms in their hands, the Americans surrendered themselves prisoners without further resistance. The latter were then bound, Borst and Kneiskern very tightly, some little plunder made, and all set forward on their journey to Canada. They proceeded to New Dorlach, a few miles distant, on their way toward the Susquehanna, and encamped for the night. Borst and Kneiskern, thinking their foes all asleep, were planning their destruction and their own escape, when an Indian, who had been watching their intimacy, approached and asked them what they were talking about; and whether they did not contemplate killing their captors? They replied that they were complaining of the cords being so tight they could not sleep. The Indians did not allow them an unguarded moment, and they found :it impossible to escape. It began to snow soon after they left Myndert's place, and he captives suffered very much on their journey from the severity of the weather, the want of proper food, and the cruelty of their masters. As they approached Indian settlements, they were compelled to run the gantlet, by which severe chastisement was inflicted on all, but the most severely on Borst, who fell into a decline soon after reaching Niagara, owing to his cruel treatment on the journey, and death soon after ended his miseries. Thus ignobly fell one of the most daring spirits Schoharie produced during the war. Kerker, who was confined with Borst, was a good nurse, and took care of the latter while lingering with consumption. Kneiskern, who was imprisoned on an island in the St. Lawrence, succeeded one night, in company with several other prisoners, in making their escape. They dug out beneath the pickets which inclosed the fort where they were contined, made a raft on which they floated down the river; and one of the party, from fear the raft might not be sufficient to carry them in safety, swain eight or nine miles with but little support, his clothes being upon it, to where they effected a landing on the American shore. After suffering incredible hardships in the forest, living on birch bark, roots, etc., they arrived in safety among friends, where their wants were supplied, and they reached their homes.—Henry France and John M. Brown.
An Invasion of the Schoharie Valley. About the lst of November, 1781, a party of the enemy under Joseph Brant, and Capt. Adam Crysler, a former resident of that vicinity, entered Vrooman's Land early in the morning, near the residence of Peter Isaac Vrooman, a little distance from the Upper Schoharie fort. Isaac Vrooman, father of Peter, who then lived on the now Philip B. Lawyer farm, had removed his family below the Helleberg some time before, and had, at the time of which I am writing, visited his son to. procure his aid in moving his family back to his old residence in Schoharie. A few days before the arrival of his father. Peter I., who lived nearly half a mile below, had removed from a hut he occupied at the fort, to his dwelling, which he intended should be his winter quarters, thinking the season so far advanced that the enemy would not reappear that fall.
Peter was a self-taught blacksmith, and had a little shop near his house, where he usually did his own horse-shoeing. It was found necessary, previous to leaving home, to set several shoes; and the father rose before day-light, carried a shovel of coals from the house to the shop, and made a fire. As it began to get light, the old gentleman left the shop, as was supposed, to call his son. On his way two guns were fired at him—the one by the tory chieftain, and the other by an Indian warrior beside him. The door of Vrooman's dwelling was on the side opposite the shop, and the son, already up, hearing the report of two guns, and rightly conjecturing the cause, sprang out of his house and ran towards the fort a few hundred yards distant. lie had gone but a short distance when he was discovered, fired upon, and hotly pursued by several Indians, but reached the fort in safety. The wife of the younger Vrooman, on hearing the guns, ran up stairs, and from a chamber window saw an Indian in the act of tearing off the scalp of the elder Vrooman, who was then on his hands and knees, bellowing most piteously. After the scalp was torn off, the Indian, who was the reader's old acquaintance, Seth's Henry, dispatched his victim with a war club, cut his throat, and the bloody knife added another notch on the club, to the record of scalps he had taken in the war; after which he laid it upon the body of the murdered man and left him. The reader will remember that this Schoharie ehief left a war-club in the same neighborhood some time before, which recorded a most startling account of his prowess and cruelty ; the record was much larger at a later period, and I think it hardly possible that an equal number of scalps and prisoners were made during the war by any other individual Indian. When the enemy entered Vrooman's house for plunder, Mrs. Vrooman went below, and being known to several of the Indians, she addressed them in their own dialect, and they spared her life.
From motives of policy she had to receive the proffered hand of a foernan, although bloody from the act named. With two small children, one on her back and the other in her arms, she was allowed to flee to the fort, some 80 rods below. A negro lad belonging to the family some 10 years old, the Indians claimed as a prisoner. He caught hold of Mrs. Vrooman's dress and imploringly enquired if he could not go with mistress? Her sensibilities were severely tested ; but she knew it would be useless to importune a foe that had not a moment to waste, and she gently relaxed his hold and said to him : " Perhaps you'd better go with them !" He did, and she never saw him again. Hearing several guns after her husband left the house, she supposed him to have been slain ; but he had escaped their bullets ami they were happily reunited.
The invaders did not linger long in the vicinity of the fort, but advanced up the river, appropriating to their own use whatever was attainable. Soon after the arrival of Peter Vroooman, a party of 15 or 20 were dispatched from the fort in pursuit of the foe, of whose numbers they were totally ignorant. Who commanded this American scout is unknown, but Timothy Murphy had its principal direction. They proceeded with alacrity along the eastern shore of the Schoharie, and when on "Bouck's Island," a few rods above the residence of the late Gov. Bouck, they were tired upon by the enemy, who were concealed on the bank of the river above Panther mountain, and one of their number, Derrick (Richard) Haggidorn, mortally wounded. The Americans returned the fire and retreated. On this occasion, Murphy and Peter Hager were under cover of a large black oak tree, where, as Murphy made a shot, be dryly remarked : " Chaw that if you please !" As Haggidorn fell, he called to his companions not to leave him to a merciless foe ; whereupon Murphy addressed his brave comrades- nearly as follows : " My boys, every ball was not moulded to hit, let us save him.*" He was then taken between two of his friends and borne off in safety to the fort, where he died the next day, much lamented, as he had been a patriot and faithful soldier.
Whether the enemy received any injury from the return fire of Murphy and party was unknown; but not long after, Jacob Fremire, a soldier who was out on a hunt from the Upper fort, found the body of a white man sitting against a tree, with his
* The remark of Murphy, that " every bullet was not moulded to hit," was peculiarly applicable to his own case He was almost constantly exposed in border wars from the beginning to the close of the Revolution, ever seeking the post of danger— the front rank, if an enemy was near, and probably, at the lowest estimate, had several hundred bullets fired at him by good marksmen, without ever receiving the slightest wound. To look back on the multiplied dangers he passed through, without injury—but a lew of which have come down to the writer in a tangible form—it would almost seem as though fortune had her particular favorites After the above was published in 1845, Judge Hager assured the writer, that he was one of the pursuing party at this time, and that he made the remark accredited to Murphy—" that every bullet was not moulded to hit." Mr. Hagar was a man of truth.
gun and equipments by him ; supposed to have been a tory under Crysler, and to have been mortally wounded by the scout on Bouck's Island : the appearance of the body justifying the belief that he had been dead about that length of time. The dead man, who had been shot through the body, was found a mile or more from where the skirmish had taken place, near where a brook intersected the mill stream known as Bouck's saw-mill creek the brook was afterwards called "dead man's creek."
As the enemy were concealed, their number was still unknown on the return of Murphy and- party, but enough having been seen and heard to judge somewhat correctly of their strength, Col. Vrooman dispatched Capt. Hager with 15 or 20 Schoharie rangers, and a company of eastern troops, numbering about sixty men, under Capt. Hale. The command of the Americans was given to Capt. Hager, who, taking two or three days' provisions, moved up the river. The enemy, as was afterwards ascertained, numbered between 60 and 70 Indians and tories, under the command of Brant and Crysler. One of the principal objects of the invasion was the removal to Canada of Crysler's famiily, which, up to this time had remained in Brakabeen. Capt. Hager halted his men just at dark near the late Wm. Finck place, in Blenheim, where they encamped in a pine grove beside'the road. The night was a very cold one, and the troops suffered considerably, deeming it imprudent to build fires in the night near an enemy whose strength they did not know.* Three hours before the dawn of day, the pursuit was renewed : and near the residence of the late Gen. Patchin, the Americans ascended the mountain by a narrow and uneven road ; overhung by a heavy growth of hemlock. As the.night was cloudy and dark, the progress of the troops was necessarily slow. On arriving at the forks of the roads which led, one to Harperstield and the other to Lake Utsayantho, they halted, struck up fires and ate breakfast : it being then about daylight. It was discovered that the enemy had gone towards the lake, and a con-
* Johan Jost Dietz and Peter Vrooman, the former a Colonel and the latter a Major of militia after the war, were left at the place of encampment, in charge of a keg of rum anil a quantity of provisions, to await the return of the troops; and well did they perform their duty, as they assured the writer when together in 1837; being unable a part of the time to leave the trust if they would—or, lest others who liked "the striped pig " should fall in with them and bear off the keg, they had secured a liberal share of its contents within their own stomachs.
sultation now took place between the officers about the road to be pursued. Capt. Hager was in favor of making a rapid march on the Harpersfield route and, if possible, head the enemy at a favorable place for surprise ; but was overruled and the trail of the enemy followed.
Capt. Hager had pursued the enemy but a short distance onthe Lake road, before their approach was known to the latter, who made preparations to receive them. About a mile from the .place of breakfasting, they met two of Capt. Hager's horses hoppled together, which the enemy had taken the preceding day. The Captain who was walking in front of his men at the time, with the cautious Murphy beside him, slept up to the horses and cut the cord which fastened them together. They had proceeded but a little way farther, when they heard the whoop of several savages, whom they supposed were in search of the horses. A rapid march soon brought the Americans where the enemy had encamped the previous night; seven large fires being yet burning. Several horses laden with plunder and a number of cattle were abandoned by the Indians near this fire.
On arriving at the lake, the road, which was little more than an Indian foot path, ran along its margin. A ridge of land extended nearly to the lake where the Americans were approaching, and as they were rising the eminence, the enemy who were concealed near its summit, discharged upon them a volley of balls. The instant they fired, Capt Hager comma, ded Hale, who was marching in the rear to "flank to the right and march on!" Hager intended to bring the enemy between his command and the lake ; but Hale, instead of obeying the order, faced to the right about, and followed by his men with one noble exception, retreated in double-quick time. Brant and his destructives seeing the cowardly retreat of Hale and his men, advanced to meet Hager, who was left with less than 20 men to resist a force more than triple his own. The little band had taken trees, and were beginning to return the enemy's fire at the time Hale retreated ; but seeing that they must soon be entirely surrounded, if they attempted to maintain their position, their brave leader ordered a retreat. On leaving the ground, they were necessarily exposed to the fire of the enemy, and Sacket, a Bostonian (the exception of Hale's men), sealed his bravery with his blood, as did Joachim Van Valkenberg,* one of Capt. Hager's followers. Joseph, a brother of Capt. Hager was also wounded severly in the right shoulder, but the ball was extracted and he subsequently recovered. It was thought by the Americans at the time a most providential circumstance, that, exposed as they were in their retreat to the fire of so many good marksmen, only two should have been killed. Capt. Hager, with Murphy still at his side, then ran to overtake the cowardly Hale ; and after a chase of about 500 yards overtook him; as both of them gained his front, they placed the muzzles of their rifles at his breast, and the Captain in a voice of thunder exclaimed : "Attempt to run another step and you are a dead man ! "
Thus unexpectedly brought to a stand, Hale, at the order of Capt. 1 lager, which he was not in the situation a second time to misunderstand, faced about and began to retrace his steps. But the golden moment to punish the invaders of Schoharie and avenge the murder of Vrooman was past. Brant, to whom possibly the actual force under Capt. Hager was known, having, as before remarked, a French war acquaintance with the latter, and knowing what resistance he might expect if a stand was effected by him, chose, encumbered as he was with Crysler's family, to make a rapid march to the Susquehanna. The two soldiers who fell near the lake were scalped by the foe. V Having restored order and infused a share of his own fearless spirit into his ranks, Capt. Hager was about to renew the pursuit as Col. Vrooman arrived upon the ground, with 40 men drawn from the Lower fort. After a short consultation, the chase was continued, but still in ignorance as to the enemy's numbers ; after proceeding about two miles and losing all trace
* The following anecdote was related to the author by Lydla Kline, a slater of Van-Valkenberg. Among the Indians who returned to Schoharie, alter the war, was one who called at the house of Henry, a brother of Van Valkenberg abnve named, having with him a gun. Henry Instantly recognized the gun as that of his deceased brother,, and taking it up he asked the Indian where he got it He replied that he had killed a man at the ' Little lake,' and thus obtained it. Said Henry, "This is my gun, and I shall keep it." The red man was unwilling to concede that point, It being as he believed a lawful prize from the fortune of war. Henry however retained the gun, and told the Indian to take it from his grasp and he should have It. Mortified at thus losing his gun, the Indian left the house and went into a swamp near by. Not long after this event the body of a dead Indian was discovered in this swamp, but the cause of his death, or by whose hand he had fallen, remained among tbe mysteries of the times.
of their footsteps, they having left the usual path for some unknown route, the pursuit was abandoned, and the troops returned to Schoharie.—Manuscript of Judge Hager, one of the pursuing party.
In the latter part of the war, supposed in the year 1781, six tories, who had threaded the forests from Niagara to Schoharie in the hope of milking a profitable adventure, were concealed in and around the settlements for a week or more. They were led by Nicholas Snyder, a former resident of the valley and neighbor of my informant Jacob Enders, whose person they thought to secure. The party were secreted in a small swamp several days, near the dwelling of William Enders, his father, on Foxescreek. After waiting in vain nearly a week for a sight of Jacob's person, two of the number dressed in Continental clothes, went to the house of Enders, and supposed to be patriots, were very kindly treated ; they enquired of Mr. Enders, while partaking of his hospitality, if he had no sons to aid him in his farming ? He replied that he had a son, who was then in the nine month's service at the Middle fort. Mortified at being thus foiled in their attempts, the tories then sought to surprise and capture Capt. Stubrach, to effect which they laid in wait for him sometime under a bridge in Kneiskern's dorf ; but the Captain was not to be caught napping, and the enterprise proved abortive.
Destruction of Warwarsing.—" Early in the morning of Sept. 22, 1781, a party of Indians and lories, consisting of about 400, entered the beautiful selllemenl of Warwarsing, situated onthe great road leading from Minisink lo Esopus, aboul 35 miles from the former. At their first coming to the place they were hailed by a sentinel, who was at the gate of a piquet fort, where a Sergeant's guard was kept (which were the only soldiers in that quarter) ; they not making any answer, induced the sentinel to fire and run within the fort, which alarmed the garrison. The enemy kept up a constanl fire upon the fort for some time, but without effect, and at last retired in confusion, with the loss of three killed and two wounded. They then proceeded to burning and plundering the place. The inhabitants being alarmed by the firing at the fort, all made Iheir escape except John Kittle, whom they killed. The loss of these poor people was very great ; the fate of an hour reduced them from a state of ease and affluence to want and beggary. Thirteen elegant dwelling houses, with all their out-buildings and furniture ; 14 spacious barns, filled with wheat; besides barracks, stables, stacks of hay and grain, were all consumed. Between 00 and 70 horses, mostly very fine ; a great number of cattle, sheep and hogs, were driven off. Col. Pawling, getting intelligence of the above, immediately collected about 200 New York levies and militia, and pursued about 40 miles, but was not able to overtake them. It appeared that they fled in confusion, as they left a considerable quantity of plunder behind them in many places. By a white man who has been with them three years, and made his escape while Warwarsing was in flames, we learn that this party was from Niagara, and that they were four weeks and three days on their way ; that they were exceedingly distressed for want of provisions, insomuch that they ate up their pack-horses and dogs. He adds that the garrison of Niagara was in a melancholly situation for the want of provisions and the necessaries of life, and that the tovies there most bitterly execrate the day they were deluded by the tyrant's emissaries to take up arms against their native country." From the Connecticut Journal of Oct. 11, 1781. See His. Coll. of N. Y., p. 560.
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