History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Lou D. MacWethy was the owner of the St. Johnsville Enterprise & News for many years. His granddaughter, Peg Davis, has permitted articles from the Enterprise and News to be used on the Fort Klock web site. Our sincere thanks!
The Death of Lieutenant Matthew Wormuth (1778)
From "Johan Peter Wagner"
July 30, 1783 General Washington attended only by a servant crossed the Mohawk river at Van Alstyne's Ferry below Canajoharie, to proceed to Palatine and become the welcome guest of Peter W. Wormuth, whose son Martinus (Matthew) a patriotic young Lieutenant was killed by Brant in 1778, near cherry Valley, five months before the massacre, November 10, 1778. Thus was Washington ever seeking to honor by his presence those who had suffered during the war. Lieutenant Wormuth had married Gertrude, daughter of Captain Rudolph Shoemaker, whose wife was a sister of General Herkimer. After the Lieutenant's death, the widow married Major John Frey. (Beers' History of Montgomery County, page 124, Minden).
After killing Lieutenant Wormuth, a promising young officer from Palatine, who had left the Fort at Cherry Valley, but a few minutes before on horseback, and taking Peter Sitz, his comrade, prisoner, Brant directed his steps towards Cobleskill, (Simms' Border Warfare page 281, also Annals of Tryon County).
Lieutenant Sitz was captured the same day. This ambush occurred on Tuesday afternoon, June 2, 1778 as per Colonel Klock's dispatch to Governor Clinton, dated Friday, June 5, 1778. They were both of Captain William P. Fox's company, Colonel Klock's regiment. Captain Fox was a brother in law of Lieutenant Warmuth, having married his sister, Margaret Warmuth. Her sister, Nancy Warmuth, married Colonel Thomas Cassety (Cassidy), later of Oneida county. The family tradition, however is that the Colonel's wife was a daughter of the slain lieutenant. Whether he left any children is not know to us at present. But the tradition has been handed down that the colonel's wife was of Herkimer ancestry, and the daughter of Lieutenant Warmuth.
Here Brant lay in wait behind a large rock near the main road leading to the Mohawk River, about two miles north of Cherry Valley. A short distance from this the road wound along near the top of a ledge of rocks, forming a precipice one hundred and fifty feet high. It was shaded by evergreens and dark even in mid day. Its wildness was increased by the dashing of a small stream which fell over this precipice, called by the Indians the falls of the Tekaharawa. That day, Lieutenant Matthew Wormwood (Warmuth) came up from the Mohawk River and informed the garrison that Colonel Klock would arrive the next day with a part of his regiment of militia. It was almost night when he started to return, accompanied by Lieutenant Peter Sitz, the bearer of some dispatches. Throwing down his portmanteau he mounted his horse, saying he would not need it until his return on the morrow, with his company. The fine personal appearance of this young officer, who was clad in a rich suit of velvet, attracted much attention during his stay, and many persons remained at the door, looking at the horsemen until they were hid by the hill over which they passed. The clattering hoofs had scarcely died away when the report of a volley of musketry was heard. Soon after Wormwood's horse returned. The saddle was covered with blood, which excited fears for his fate but too well grounded. A party went out that evening but could make no discoveries. The next morning the body was found behind the rock before mentioned.
They had arrived near the rock, when they were hailed, and ordered to stop. Disregarding the order they put spurs to their horses, and endeavored to pass. The Indians immediately fired; Wormwood was wounded and fell from his horse, when Brant, rushing out, tomahawked him with his own hand. They had been personal friends before the war and Brant is said to have lamented his death; at the time he supposed him to be a Continental officer. Lieutenant Sitz's horse was killed and he himself taken prisoner. The dispatches which he carried were double. He had presence of mind to destroy the paper containing the true account of the garrison, and to give Brant the other. Brant retried without doing any other injury. The next day, Colonel Klock arrived. The father of Wormwood (Peter), who had been immediately apprised of the death of his son was a wealthy man, living in Palatine District opposite Fort Plain, and this was his only son. His feelings as he bent over the dead and mutilated body were excruciating and when in the agony of his soul, he cried out "Brant, cruel, cruel Brant," tears started in many an eye which scarcely knew how to weep.
(History of Tryon County W. W. Campbell, 1880, pages 109 and 110.)
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