The passages below are from the classic "The History of Montgomery County and Fulton Counties, N.Y." by F.W. Beers & Co., 1878. Included are "The Town of Florida", "The Lower Mohawk Castle", "Missions Among the Mohawks" and "Other Early Churches".
This town, the most south-easterly of Montgomery county, is bounded northerly and easterly by the Mohawk river, southerly by the line of Schenectady county, and westerly by the Schoharie creek. It contains about 29,436 acres of land, and but a few of these are untillable. It is the second town of the county in point of area - Root only being larger. It has a variety of soils, and possesses some of the richest lands of the county. It contains the highest table lands - Bean Hill - in the county; the same range is also called Shellstone. The town, while pleasantly undulating, has no savage bluffs nor barren ledges to mar its surface. The Mohawk river, with its varying band of rich flats, forms its entire northern bound; while its western is the famed Schoharie creek, a stream of quite respectable volume, affording numerous water privileges, several of which are fairly utilized and others waiting to be occupied. The stream takes its rise among the spurs of the Catskill range in Greene county; it traverses the whole length of the Schoharie and the southern part of Montgomery counties, till it debouches into the Mohawk river at Fort Hunter. It is a passionate giant, often, at spring-flood or sudden freshets, sweeping down a mighty volume, fiercely scorning its ordinary channel. It is crossed at Fort Hunter by a fine aqueduct of fourteen stone arches, bearing a wooden trunk for the channel of the Erie canal. A slight dam of the creek at this point makes it also, by means of a portion of the old canal, a valuable feeder for the present Erie canal. The town is also traversed by the Chuctenunda, a small but pretty stream that flows from a body of water called Maria's Pond; itself connected with a more secluded lakelet known as Featherstonehaugh's Lake, which is popularly supposed in places to be fathomless. Maria's Pond is about one by three miles in area, and furnishes a valuable water power, never yet fully employed. The Chuctenunda, after a course of about fifteen miles, empties into the Mohawk river at Port Jackson. A smaller and inconstant stream also falls into the river nearly opposite Cranesville. A quiet little mirror, known as Young's Lake, nestles in a dell on the margin of the Schoharie creek.
The town is mainly agricultural, and is well adapted to the varied range of products, well able to keep pace with varying markets. Wheat was formerly its staple and largely remunerative crop. Then barley became the monopolist, to be succeeded by oats and other cereals. A good deal of fine fruit is also yearly produced for market, and home consumption. Apples, pears and plums find a congenial home, while smaller fruits are not neglected. Most of the alluvial flats of the river and Schoharie creek are devoted to broom corn; a considerable amount of cheese is annually produced by several factories, which stands well in market, and which constitutes no mean item in the town's exchequer.
Within the borders of this town, at the confluence of the Schoharie with the Mohawk, was located the lower Mohawk castle, a centre for the tribal gatherings, discussions and decisions, and later attaining eminence as historic ground. The Mohocs, or Mohawks as the name is now written, are commonly regarded by historians as among the most powerful and intelligent of our savage aborigines; of good stature, and athletic frames, naturally warlike and brave, they possessed in large measure all the qualities making up the savage's highest type of man. The tribe held extensive hunting grounds, which they jealously guarded, and were not over particular in the matter of encroachment upon the territory of weaker neighbors. This lower castle, called by them Tiononderoga, written also Dyiondarogon, became early an important centre, radiating its influence for peace or war upon savage and civilized life over a wide extent. Wentworth Greenhalgh, describing the Mohawk villages in 1677, says of this one: "Tionondogue is double stockaded around; has four ports, four foot wide apiece; contains abt 30 houses; is situated on a hill a bow shott from y' River." This Indian village was destroyed by the French in 1667, and again in 1693; the inhabitants in each case escaping and returning to the spot.
As early as 1642, certain French Jesuits undertook missionary work among the Mohawks, but their efforts did not often result in their obtaining any permanent foothold among the swarthy natives. The Rev. Isaac Jogues, the first intrepid missionary of this society, fell a martyr to his zeal and devotion, as has been elsewhere related. Not daunted by his fate, through the following years there were found courageous men to take their lives in their hands for their Master's sake - Francois Joseph Bressaue, in 1644; Simon Le Moyne, 1655-7; Jacques Fremin, 1667-72; Jean Pierron, 1667-8; Francois Boniface, 1668-73; Francois Valliant De Gueslis, 1674; and Jacques De Lamberville, 1675-8.
Doubtless the prominence of this village as an Indian stronghold and centre of influence had weight in directing thither, also, English missionary zeal, and the pious anxiety of her Majesty Queen Anne to exert her divine prerogative as defender and propagator of the faith. An Episcopal society in England was incorporated by royal charter from King William III, June 16, 1701, known as the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts." It had as one of its objects the conversion of the Indians, and attracted the careful attention of "Good Queen Anne" from the first of her reign. In 1702, or 1703, the Rev. Mr. Talbot came as a missionary to the Mohawks. He was the first clergyman of the English Church in these parts. His stay was short, and he was succeeded by the Rev. Thoroughgood Moore, who arrived in New York in 1704, and proceeded thence to Albany to as a missionary to the Indians. Owing to the influence of the fur traders, or some others, he was unsuccessful and returned to New York.
Rev. Thomas Barclay was chaplain to the fort at Albany in 1708, and acted also as a missionary to the Mohawks until November, 1712, when the Rev. William Andrews was sent out by the society as a successor to Mr. Moore. By order of the Queen, a fort was built for his security in the discharge of his duty and as a protection for the Mohawks against the French. It was called Fort Hunter after the governor of the colony, and had a garrison of twenty men. The liberality of the Queen also caused the erection and endowment of a chapel and manse. The manse is still standing in sturdy strength. It is a two-story stone building, about 25 by 35 feet, and is, perhaps, the oldest structure in the Mohawk valley, west of Schenectady. A glebe of 300 acres was also attached to it. There are yet many undimmed eyes that might have seen the chapel destroyed in1820. Mr. David Cady, of Amsterdam, speaks of having heard with interest his grandmother, long a dweller near it, describe her attending Christmas services in that church; its quaint arrangement and appointments; and the wondrous dignity of an old colored man, in a sort of livery of scarlet coat, etc., who was the chief official, pew-opener and organ-blower. It is matter of great regret that this church, so vivid a memento of the past, was not spared, as it might well have been a slight and unimportant divergence of the line of the Erie Canal, which was cut directly through its site. It had a bell, which does service daily in the academy at Johnstown village. The entrance to the chapel was on the north side. The pulpit stood at the west end, and was provided with a sounding board. Directly opposite were two pews with elevated floors; one of which, with a wooden canopy, in later times was Sir William Johnson's; the other was for the minister's family. The rest of the congregation had movable benches for seats.
This chapel contained a veritable organ, the very Christopher Columbus of its kind; in all probability the first instrument of music of such dignity in all the wilderness west of Albany. It was over fifty years earlier than the erection of the Episcopal Church at Johnstown, which had an organ brought from England, of very respectable size and great sweetness of tone, which continued in use up to the destruction of the church by fire in 1836.
Queen Anne in 1712 sent as furniture for the chapel a communion table cloth, two damask napkins, a "carpet for the communion table," an altar cloth, a pulpit cloth, a large tasseled cushion for the pulpit, and a small one for the desk; a Holland surplice, a large Bible, two Common Prayer Books, one of them for the clerk; a Book of Homilies, a large silver salver, two large silver flaggons, a "Silver dish," a silver chalice, four paintings of her Majesty's arms on canvas, one for the chapel and three for the different Mohawk castles; twelve large octavo Bibles, very finely bound, for the use of the chapels among the Mohawks and Onondagas, with two painted tables containing the Lord's Prayer, Creed and Ten Commandments, "at more than 20 guineas expense." To which the society having charge of the mission added a table of their seal finely painted in proper colors, to be fixed likewise in the chapel of the Mohawks; all of which safely arrived with Mr. Andrews in the fall. On the 15th of Nov., 1712, Rev. Wm. Andrews was officially received at Albany by the Commissioners of Indian affairs and the Mohawk sachems. The commissioners promised to procure "men, slees, and horses for conveying the goods of the Rev. Wm. Andrews to the Mohawks country." Mr. Andrews was no more successful than his predecessors, and in 1719 abandoned his mission.
The Reformed Dutch Church at Albany had sent its ministers occasionally to instruct the Indians in the Christian faith, the Rev. Godefridus Dellius being the first, who was succeeded by the Rev. Johannis Lydius. A petition to "his Excellency, Edward Lord Viscount Cornbury, her Maje's. Cap'n Gen'l and Gov'r in Chief, &c., &c.," dated Albany, Dec. 30, 1703, signed Johannis Lydius, asks for an order on the Collector or Receiver General for 60 pounds, "one year's salary in ye service as aforesaid, which is expired November 1st, 1703." Mr. Lydius continued his missionary labors until his death, March 1, 1710. His successor, representing the same church, was the Rev. Petrus Van Driesen, who was still with the mission in 1722. The most cordial relations existed between the ministers of the Reformed Dutch and Episcopal churches in their Indian mission work. After the Rev. Wm. Andrews had abandoned his mission, the Church of England had no resident missionary among the Mohawks until the Rev. Henry Barclay came in 1735, being appointed catechist to the Indians at Fort Hunter. His stay with them was made very uncomfortable by the French war and the attitude of his neighbors. He had no interpreter, and but a poor support, and his life was frequently in danger. In 1745 he was obliged to leave Fort Hunter, and in 1746 was appointed rector of Trinity Church, New York, where he died.
Lieutenant Governor Clarke, in 1736, directed the attention of the Assembly to the dilapidated condition of the military works at Fort Hunter, and suggested that a new fort be built at the carrying place between the Mohawk river and Wood creek, afterwards the site of Fort Stanwix, and the garrison transferred from Fort Hunter to this new position. The carrying out of this project was not acceptable to the Mohawks, for in 1739 they demanded that the defences of Fort Hunter be rebuilt and a garrison continued there, under the threat that they would leave their own country and remove to Canada. The post had become an important one to them. The historian Colden says: "An officer of the regular troops told me that while he was commandant of Fort Hunter, the Mohawks on one of these occasions [a war dance] told him that they expected the usual military honors as they passed the garrison. The men presented their pieces as the Indians passed, and the drum beat a march; and with less respect the officer said they would have been dissatisfied. the Indians passed in single row, one after the other, with great gravity and profound silence, and every one of them, as he passed the officer, took his gun from his shoulder, and fired into the ground near the officer's foot. They marched in this manner three or four miles from their castle. The women, on these occasions, follow them with their old clothes, and they send back by them their finery in which they marched from the castle."
Sir Wm. Johnson, writing to Lieutenant-Governor De Lancey, under date of "Mount Johnson, 6 June, 1755," speaks as follows:
"I returned last night from the Conogohery Indian Castle, having first been at the Mohock Castle. At both Settlements I have fixt on Places to build them Forts. At the hither Castle I propose it to be nearly on a Line with Fort Hunter, to take in the Church as a Bastion & to have a communication Pallisado between the two Forts, which will be a small expence & in case of an Attack may be of great Service by mutually assisting each other, and if drove to the necessity of quiting the One they may still maintain the other."
Eleven days later Johnson writes De Lancey: "I have last Night with much Difficulty agreed with three Men, to build the two Forts at the Mohawk Castles; As wood fitt for that Purpose is very scarse thereabouts, I could hardly get them to undertake the work for yt. Sum."
Rev. John Ogilvie was Dr. Barclay's successor in this mission. He commenced his work in March, 1749, and succeeded Dr. Barclay also at Trinity Church, New York, after the latter's death in 1764. An effort was next made to introduce converted Indians as missionaries and school teachers, to reclaim the natives from their savage life. In August, 1769, there was an Indian school in operation at Fort Hunter, and a list of the scholars may be found in the Documentary History of New York.
Sir Wm. Johnson, writing to Lord Hillsborough from Johnson Hall, August 14, 1770, says: "The Mohocks have had Missionaries of the Church of England amongst them from the Reign of Queen Anne till within these few years, they are now without any, & from the scarcity of Clergymen or some other cause, the Society cannot procure them on the Sallary which their small funds have limitted them to, whilst at the same time the Ind(s). find that their Brothers in Canada &(es), who were our Enemies, are regularly supplied, & one lately appointed in Nova Scotia at the Expence of Government as tis said, I therefore cannot help at the Intreaty of the Ind(s). humbly recommend(g) to his Majestys consideration the afford(g) some allowances for the Mohock Mission which has always been under the immediate protection of the Crown, declaring it as my belief that if any farther provision could be made to employ others in so good a work it would increase their reverence for the Crown, and their attachment to the British Interest."
Pursuant to this appeal, the last missionary to the Mohawks was appointed, namely, the Rev. John Stuart, who arrived at Fort Hunter Dec. 2, 1770. He prepared, with the assistance of the celebrated Joseph Brant, a Mohawk translation of the Gospel of St. Mark. At the breaking out of the Revolution he made himself obnoxious to the yeomanry of the Mohawk valley by his relations to the Johnson family and the Indians, and his uncompromising loyalty to the crown. It is said his house was attacked and plundered, his church turned into a tavern, and, in ridicule and contempt, a barrel of rum placed on the reading desk. Mr. Stuart was thus necessitated to remove, and in June, 1778, was reported to be in Schenectady.
At the opening of the Revolution Fort Hunter was in a state of delapidation. The remains of its walls were then pulled down and a palisade thrown about the chapel, which was also defended by the block houses mounting cannon. A garrison was stationed here toward the close of the war.
Next to Queen Anne's Chapel, so historic, the first house of worship in Warrenbush appears to have been a log church standing near what is known as Snook's Corner. All trace of it is now gone. Faithful itinerant ministers occasionally held services in barns and dwellings. At one such service a lad of eight or ten years was to receive the ordinance of baptism, but when the time for the rite arrived the frightened and truant candidate had to be pursued among the rafters of the barn, where he had sought refuge. In the log church Rev. James Dempster officiated some time; no record of his ministry can now be found. He left a character for sterling piety, coupled with activity and no little eccentricity.
In 1769 a German named Lawrence Shuler, originally from Wurtemburgh, but for some years a resident of Catskill, located upon a fertile farm of three hundred acres, now one mile east of Minaville. He reared a family of sixteen children. "A man distinguished for good sense, tempered by a spirit of piety and benevolence, and diffusing an influence of goodness and liberality through his family circle as well as in the neighborhood. The first Reformed Dutch church in the town was erected upon his lands, as was also the neighborhood school-house, he contributing liberally towards the erection and support of both." To this church the Rev. Thomas Romeyn, of Caughnawaga, was called to minister in 1784, and he served it acceptably some years. This church continued in use until 1808, when another was erected at the "street," one mile west, and only occasionally was service held in the old church thereafter, until the frame was old and removed from its site. The burial ground had become populous, and it now contains many ancient head-stones, with quaint inscriptions.
The above four passages were prepared by Michelle Bartels of Florida, from pages provided to us by Jane Dieffenbacher, Fairfield Town Historian. Michelle's spell checker went wild with this one. Thank you, Michelle! "I'm a descendent of many of the big families in early New York: Vedder, du Traux, Van der Bogart, Glen, etc. I've recently traced many roots back to Montgomery Co., to the Arnot and McMichael families, between 1800 and 1850."
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