Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY

Small Forts

Vol II, Page 381-385. There were many small military posts on the frontiers, usually private dwellings, fitted for defense; some of which were palisaded and others were not; but all such were called "forts." A stone house was used, if practicable, and such were not always palisaded,while wooden dwellings usually were. In not a few instances such defenses were at times strengthened, to guard laborers, etc., by troops from regulars forts; and often scouts of rangers tarried at such places overnight. Thus we had "Fort Ehle," the palisaded dwelling of John Ehle, a mile or two south of the present village of Canajohaire; "Fort Rensselaer," the old Van Alstine stone house, still standing in the village of Canajoharie, which was one of the better class and said to have been palisaded; next was "Fort failing," the stone dwelling erected by Nicholas Failing, for his son, Henry N., which stood a mile to the westward of Fort Rensselaer. This was a strong, new, stone house, the windows and doors of which, as I was assured by Jacob Failing, whose father, Henry N., occupied it, were secured with oak plant, bullet proof,while along its southern or hill side a staging was erected, to which access was gained from second story windows. This staging, with an oak floor, was planked breast high, so that a few men, posted there, could protect the house against a strong invasion. This house was not palisaded nor was it ever invaded. It unfortunately took fire and burnt down about the year 1833, and it was the writer's fortune, as a Canajoharie fireman, to see it burn. Crossing to the north side of the river, half a mile above Palatine Bridge, was the ancient stone house of Maj. John Frey, and as it was a fortified house in the French war, it is reasonable to conclude it was not without preparation for defense now. This house is still standing. Next came "Fort Wagner," the stone dwelling of Lieut,-Col. Peter Wagner, still standing on the dairy farm of J. Harvey Smith, two miles west of Nelliston. This house was palisaded, with a blockhouse in the enclosure for the accommodation of moving troops as also fugitives seeking shelter. Upon Fort Wager, some of Sir John Johnson's troops fired in passing it at the fall invasion of 1780.

A short mile west of Fort Wagner was Fort Fox, the stone dwelling of Philip Fox, who owned the mills near the Lutheran stone church. In Sir John Johnson's invasion whose mills were burned, but the enemy in force passed up on the flats near the river. Some of the Indians halted and were lying down near the creek, when John Finck, an inmate of the fort, with a long gun, fired among them, and away they went. Maj. Peter Schuyler became the owner of this place, and rebuilt the mills after the war, but changed their site. On the death of Schuyler, Charles Newkirk, who was an officer of some grade in the Revolution, and a Colonel of militia after the war, married Schuyler's widow.* At Fort Fox, Christopher Fox also resided, said Joseph I. Nellis. This has long been known as the Archibald Fox place. Christopher Fox owned a valuable stud horse, which was in the barn, which the enemy set on fire, in passing, and after they were on the flats, some one ran from the house and let the horse out of the barn. He soon ran down toward the river, and the Indians shot him.

*Miss Gertrude Schuyler was the only child of Gerardus Lansing, whose wife was Maria Schuyler. Mrs. Gertrude Schuyler and her husband, Peter Schuyler, were first cousins. Miss Lansing was born in Albany about the year 1749. She was educated at a French boarding school in the "Bowerie," New York. On the death of her husband, Mrs. Schuyler married Major Charles Newkirk, as above stated. Aged people pronounce Mrs. Newkirk the most remarkable and accomplished woman, of her day, residing in the Mohawk Valley.

Fort Hess, a mile west of Fort Fox, was a small fortified stone house of John Hess; long known as the Abram Smith place. Next above, and upon ascending ground, stood the stone dwelling of Johanes Bellinger, but his family, with some others found refuge in Fort Hess. One of the last occupants of this dwelling was Aaron Clark, who had married Miss Margaret Fox; and the writer recollects, in 1833, of having followed into into this old dwelling a pretty little feminine Fox. It was torn down in 1839, and was said to have been 101 years old; placing its erection in 1738. This Bellinger was a firm patriot, and at the beginning of the war had three sons and six daughters; the latter all grown to be buxom young women. Two of the sons fell in battle. The romance attending the courtship of Peggy, one of those daughters, which will appear in the events of 1781, will account for the special mention of this family. --Jacob P. Fox and others.

It is difficult to locate all the prominent citizens of this vicinity in their own little castles. Next to Fort Hess seems to have been Fort Klock, a palisaded stone house then owned and occupied by John Klock, a palisaded stone house then owned and occupied by John Klock, father of Adam Klock, which house is yet standing over a mile to the eastward of St. Johnsville. At a southeast upper window of this house, the widow of Peter Haner was standing on the day of Johnson's invasion, when a bullet, near spent, struck her head, and she sat down stunned but not seriously hurt. I am glad that this old landmark, which is a very ancient building, is allowed to remain. The dwelling of Old George Klock, as called to distinguish him from his son, I infer, stood not far above John Klock's and was perhaps best known as Fort Klock. He had two sons, Col. Jacob and George, and a daughter Margaret, who married Col. Ebenezer Cox--and after his death at Oriskany, married Hunter Quackenbush.* Col. Klock, who married a daughter of Christian Nellis, then a widow Helmer, lived where Jonas Snell now lives, three-fourths of a mile below the village. The place has never been out of the Klock family, and Mrs. Snell was a Klock. On the land of one of the Klocks' was erected at an early period, a Reformed Dutch** Church, a small edifice built of wood. It has neither steeple or bell, but had the sounding board of the times, over its one man pulpit. This church had some seats to accommodate Indian hearers. Domine Gros occasionally preached in this church before the Revolution. Rev. Henry Dyslin, reputed a good scholar, was one of its last pastors. George Bauder, a Stone Arabia boy of the revolution, assured the writer that the first Sabbath after his marriage in Kingsbush, he took his wife to this church. He thought the edifice was demolished about the year 1818. He died at Palatine Bridge, 1857 or 1858.--Henry Smith and others.

*Perhaps there is confusion between Colonel Jacob Klock and Jacob G. Klock who was the son of George Klock. ajb

**The church history says the church was a German Reformed and remained so until 1829 when it merged with the Dutch denomination. Follow this link St. John's for W.N.P. Dailey's History of Montgomery Classis, Reformed Church in America. You can find the records of the church at St. John's Records, and they are from 1788 and written in GERMAN. ajb

Not far from George Klock, Sen., dwelt Christian Nellis, whose house was strengthened and called Fort Nellis. Nellis had six sons, Henry who dwelt with his father; Christian, Robert, Adam, George and Theobold This was one of the wealthiest and best families in Palatine district. After the war the elder Christian Nellis went to Timmerman's Mill where his horses took fright, ran away and he was killed. He left a good memory, but like all good man of the day he was very sectarian, being Lutheran; and it is said that his sons Henry and George acknowledged their faith in the Lutheran creed to possess lands, which their father would not given them as disciples of Calvin. Col. Jeremiah Nellis now resides upon the site of Fort Nellis. Between the Nellis place and St. Johnsville, perhaps one-third of a mile below the village, dwelt in the Revolution, John Richard Failing. Whether his house was fortified I am not informed, but it was on his lands that an encounter took place between the American under Van Rensselaer, and troops under Sir. John Johnson, in the fall of 1780.--Henry Smith, Jacob P. Fox and others.

Fort Timmerman, about a mile above Fort Nellis, settled at an early period, David and Conrad Timmerman or Zimmerman as sometimes written--brothers, who there erected a small gristmill which took on their name. Indeed, the locality was known as "Timmerman's" or "Timmerman's Creek", for many years and until a post office was established there about the year 1815, which was named St. Johnsville.*

*In Child's Gazeteer and Business Directory, for Montgomery and Fulton counties published in 1870, it is stated on some persons iipse dixit, that this place was so named from St. John's church, erected in the village at an early day. Nothing could be wider of the mark. If there was a St. John's church there, what denomination built it, when was it erected, and where did it stand? (See History of St. John's). The first church edifice in the neighborhood, for there was then no village, was the Reformed Dutch church, which stood a mile out of the village, and which was standing, as believed,w hen the post office was established. Rev. David Devoe was preaching in it in 1815. April 4, 1811, the Legislature passed an act to lay out a road, know at that period as the "New Turnpike" (it still is known as the New Turnpike ajb) from the house of Henry Gros, in Johnstown, to the house of John C. Nellis, in the town of Oppenheim, Montgomery county. The western terminus was at the Mohawk Turnpike, nearly two miles east of St. Johnsville. The commissioners named in the act were John McIntyre, Alexander St. John and William Newton. How long the road was in building is unknown, but it is well remembered, that St. John (of Northampton) was a surveyor of repute, and that he took almost the entire direction of the enterprise; making his head quarters when near its westerly end, at Timmerman's. At this period Messrs. Lloyd and Groff, Henry J. Lloyd and Christian Groff, were merchandising at this place. The senior member of the firm was the first postmaster there. When the people met to select a name for the post office, it was concluded to compliment Surveyor St. John with the name. Mr. Enoch Snell, a life long resident of this town remembers, though then a boy, hearing some one day on returning from the meeting to name the office: "We are going to call it St. Johnsville." He never heard that a church was connected with the name Jacob P. Fox and Daniel Groff a brother of the early merchant named), both of whom were born on the same day within a few miles of St. Johnsville, and were in their teens when the office was established; say that it was named after the Surveyor St. John; neither of whom ever heard that the name and the least reference to a church. Mr. Fox survives, but Mr. Groff died in1879, at the age of 82. The Reformed church was the only one erected in the town of St. Johnsville, until the methodist church was built, probably 25 years after the post office was established, and we think neither of them ever took on the name of a Saint. (It is the German tradition to use saint's names for their churches, not Dutch ajb.)

The fortified dwelling of Conrad Timmerman, who was wounded at Oriskany, is supposed to have stood not far from the mill. At some period, believed in 1780, when a large number of Indians and Tories were in the woods on the hill northward making demonstrations of an attack on the feebly defended post; Conrad Timmerman, who had a long gun, seeing a large Indian in an exposed condition, although so far off he felt secure, fired at him. Instantly a stampede of the whole party followed. It became known subsequently that the long shot was a fatal one to the worst savage on the ground. I am not certain that the residence of Col. Klock in Upper St. Johnsville was fortified; but a mile more above lived Capt. Christian House, whose dwelling was known as Fort House. This was a little below East Creek. Events transpiring at Fort House are all lost. George Timmerman and Conrad P. Snell.

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