Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Surprise of Peter Geortner and John Folkert

Vol II, Page 350--352 Surprise of Peter Geortner and John Folkert. Among the many captives made by the enemy near the Mohawk in the war, were Geortner and Folkert. Just in what year I am not positive, but I think it safe to place it among the events of July 1780. Geortner was living at the time on the farm below Fort Plain, known for years as the VerPlanck farm (now owned by Jacob C. Nellis), and Folkert was a farm hand in his employ. These two men were mowing grass about a half a mile east of the house. Thirsty, they went to a spring on the hillside of the meadow in which they were engaged. This spring still bubbles its cold waters for the traveler near the old Firman place; now near the gate on the road from Canajoharie to Fort Plain. The road and canal now occupy the site of the ancient meadow. Geortner was just climbing the fence which shut in the meadow a little distance from the spring to renew his labor, when four hideously painted Indians from concealment near, as if by magic, were upon them. One of them seized Folkert by the shoulder and shouted: "My prisoner!" at which moment Geortner raised his scythe in a menacing attitude. One of the Indians cocked and poised his rifle upon the yeoman, as another told Folkert in the Indian dialect, which the latter understood, to direct his comrade to lay down his weapon instantly to save his life. He dropped his scythe and with his fellow was quickly hurried into the woods south of the spring.

As soon as a retired spot was gained, a halt was made to search the persons of the prisoners, which resulted in finding upon Geortner a small hammer and pocket knife, of which he was quickly relieved. The party proceeded directly to Bowman's creek some eight or ten miles southwest of Fort Plain; where a mare and a colt were stolen from a citizen named Flint, and from thence they sought the southern route of war parties to Canada. It became known in a few hours at the fort, that the mowers had been spirited away, by finding their implements still in the field, but in what manner or whence taken was a mystery. The feeling of Mrs. Geortner may be more easily imagined that described. Folkert is believed to have been a single man. The prisoners endured the usual privations their neighbors did in like circumstances on their way to Canada, and at one time the party were so straitened for food, that the colt was killed and feasted upon. This meat, the almost famished captives likened to that of chickens. When the party prepared for slumber, Geortner, with his arms drawn back and firmly bound above the elbows, was seated on the ground with his back against a tree to which he was fastened; thus every night found him securely pinioned. Their captors manifested less anxiety about their other prisoner who was seldom bound, not being very apprehensive, as they read his courage, of his leaving them.

Geortner often told his fellow captive after the war, that they might have escaped had the latter dared to untie his arms. On arriving in Canada, the prisoners were confined upon Rebel Island. After a while they were exchanged, and with other homeward bound captives returned by way of Boston. In Albany, they, with several others who were anticipating a joyful reunion with surviving friends, were taken to the house of a patriotic family, and not only well fed, but kindly supplied with food for the remainder of the journey,which terminated about nine months after their surprise at the well known spring. The Indians who captured Geortner and Folkert, told them on their forest march, that the object of their visits had been to surprise Lieut. William Seeber and Adam Countryman; which circumstances did not warrant, and imposed an oath upon the prisoners that they should not divulge the nature of their errand, as they hoped at some subsequent period to realize their first intent.

Near the residence of Peter Geortner when made a captive, is an island of several acres in the middle of the Mohawk, now called VerPlanck's Island. Often in the summer season did Geortner with his family in a canoe kept for the purpose, repair to the island at nightfall with a few blankets, and there sleep in the bushes, being too much fatigued to go to the fort to ledge, or anxious to be early at the farm for morning's work, fearing a nocturnal visit from wild beasts and hissing serpents, or warring elements, less than a visit from painted man. Facts from Adolph Seeber, a nephew of Lieut. William Seeber, and George Geortner, a son of Peter Geortner, who was a boy 10 or 12 years old when his father was captured, and who was going to school at Fort Plain at that period. I had interviews with these old gentlemen about the year 1846. Geortner died at Canajoharie January 14, 1851, aged 84 years. He had a son George who also died at Canajoharie in 1849, aged about 80.

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