Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Thanks to Judy Dolanski, typing volunteer.
From an old newspaper of unknown origin


As the site of Fort William, of the Mohawk Valley, has been definitely established to have been located at Mount Johnson, now the village of Fort Johnson, it may not be amiss to present some further historic records and conclusions thereon upon the early days of this village.

It appears that Sir Peter Warren was somewhat displeased upon learning from his nephew (Sir) William Johnson that he had purchased the lands on the northerly side of the river and Johnson, on May 10, 1739, wrote him: "As to my moving over where I made the purchase to live there I never had the least notion in the world of it, but what I meant was that it would be the properest place on the whole river for a Store House and Shop in the winter, by reason of all the high Germans passing by that way in the winter, and all the upper Nation of Indians, whose trade is pritty valuable."

"The chief thing is a fine creek to build a saw mill on having loggs enough on hand, half of which creek belongs to me."

On February 19th, 1740, Johnson wrote his attorney, Edward Collins, "as to the affair concerning the creek, I desired a copy of Clements writings which he told me I should freely have, but he thought better of it, and now tells me the key of his trunk is lost."

As Johnson was the owner of only a half of the creek, and his troublesome neighbor Clement of the other half, including the easterly bank, Johnson was prevented from constructing a dam without his consent, and this apparently was not forthcoming--accordingly Johnson sought the advice of his attorney, with the result that Johnson was obliged to construct the dam on his own lands, and then conduct the water from the westerly side of the creek to this dam, somewhat similar, if not precisely, as it is maintained to this day. Thus it appears that the historic facts as to the time and construction of this dam is somewhat disclosed.

From Johnson's letter to his uncle it appears that the Nations of the Upper Iroquois journeyed to Albany on their trading expeditions by way of the northerly side of the Mohawk river; and we also have records upwards of one hundred years earlier that disclose this fact. Thus it becomes conclusively established that the original Iroquois Trail through the Mohawk Valley was upon the northerly bank of the Mohawk river; and it would not be hazardous to good judgment to advance a conclusion that the greater part of our present route No. 5 follows this trail sufficiently to maintain the same as route of the Iroquois Trail.

On June 28th, 1726 Governor Burnett reported that the Colonial Assembly passed: "an act for laying out and clearing of the Highway from the east side of the Kaghnawage Creek where it falls into the Mohauk's river, so far as the Christian settlements do extend."

Thus it appears that the present highway through the village of Fort Johnson was extended and cleared out at a much earlier date.

The next record of interest we find at a meeting held at Albany with the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, in September, 1720: "Hendrick the Maquase, stood up and said he spoke in the name of their Nation and complained that Capt. Scott had bought land of the Maquase in a clandestin way in the night time and not in the regular way."

"That it was impossible they could exercise devotion as long as rum was sold so publicly in their country, that Johannes Harmense, Capt. Scott, Joseph Clement and Thomas Wilemane sold rum so plentiful as if it were water out of a fountain, and if that cannot be prevented they cannot live peaceably in their castle."

Capt. Scott was an early commandant at the fort at the Schoharie creek, and his lands were next westerly of the lands of the Mohawks along the river and a patent was granted to him for said lands in 1722.

It is disclosed by the above record that Clements Tavern was established at an early date and its location is reasonably determined by the letter of Sir William Johnson to Gov. Clinton, dated May 7th, 1747: "The worst of it is, one Joseph Clement who sells liquor within twenty yards of my house, and as soon as they (the Indians) get their Bounty money, etc."

The 'bounty money' was ten pounds, New York currency, for each French scalp.

Clement's Tavern apparently was banished from the roadside, for we find a letter to Johnson from his business associate, James A. Ross dated September 25th, 1749, in part: "I wish you a great deal of joy of the purchase from Jos. Clement and I am glad that you've got rid of so bad a neighbor and hope you'll take a little to drive all of his sort out of that place and plant Christians in their places."

The French Spy in 1757, described Mount Johnson in part: "Colonel Johnson's mansion is situate on the border of the left bank of the River Moack; it is three stories high, with port holes and a parquet and flanked with four bastions on which are some small guns. In the same yard, on both sides of the mansion, are two small houses; that on the right of the entrance is a store, and that on the left is designed for workmen, negroes and domestics. The yard gate is a heavy swing gate well ironed. The road passes there. A small rivulet, coming from the north, empties into the Moack river about two hundred paces below the enclosure of the yard. On this stream is a mill about fifty paces distance from the house; below the mill is the miller's house where grain and flour is stored, and on the other side of the creek, one hundred paces from the mill is a barn in which cattle and (this line is cut off of the page--2001 typist) of the little creek is a rise of ground on which is a small house with port holes where ordinarily is kept a guard of honor or some twenty men which serves also as an advanced post."

Thus it appears that Johnson's Trading Post as well as his Fort in earlier days, was located just northerly of the highway and near the westerly bank of the creek and Clement's Tavern directly easterly and within fifty feet of the easterly bank of said creek.

Apparently the earliest historic facts of the village of Fort Johnson are reasonably and sufficiently established, to be conclusively accepted and maintained.

There is as yet one important historic record still missing and that is the record of sale made by the Commissioners of Forfeiture of Fort Johnson on March 18th, 1780, this original record we have and from which we quote: To Cornelius Cuyler, Consideration, 2500 pounds. "All that certain tract of land situate on the north side of the Mohawk river in the County of Tryon, beginning at the division line on the river between Sir John Johnson and Colonel Daniel Clause at the mouth of a small creek and from thence running up along the banks of the said river to a Butter Nut tree marked on one side with a blaze and stands sixty-three chains from the mouth of said creek on a N. seventy one degree W. course; and from thence northerly with a line parallel to the division line aforesaid to the north bounds of a patent of Wilson and Abeel about one mile from the river aforesaid; thence along the rear line last aforesaid easterly to the division line of the said John Johnson and Daniel Clause; thence along the said division line to the Mohawk river and place of beginning, containing Five Hundred acres of land."

Johnstown, N. Y.

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