published by Caughnawaga Chapter D. A. R., Fonda, NY, 1923
Part 3 - the Third Day's Journey, pages 22-30
Third Day's Journey
(Read by Mrs. Lillian Dockstader Van DUSEN, January 19, 1922.)
Will you come with me this afternoon to a stage where the final curtain long ago descended and the actors departed?
High above the vale of the Mohawk, just west of the village of Fonda on the plateau between the Cayadutta creek and the Mohawk Turnpike stood the Castle of the Mohawks, completed about the year 1668. The traveler GREENHAIGH saw it in 1677 and writes of it as "double stockaded round with four parts and a bow shot from the river." Ellen H. WALWORTH in her story of Kateri Tekakwitha, written in 1891, speaks of unmistakable signs of Indian occupation found -- darkened patches of soil where burned the hearth fires of the Mohawks, glistening pearly mussel-shells brought up from the river, pipe stems strewn in fragments, beads and rusty scissors, in a wood near by, a row of hollow corn pits where the charred corn was stored. Over the brow of the hill a spring wells out that has not ceased to flow for centuries, furnishing an unfailing water supply. This has been named Tekakwitha spring for Kateri Tekakwitha a Mohawk maid who lived in this place, a high minded Christian girl known as the Lily of the Mohawks.
Of the five nations of the Longhouse or Iroquois Confederacy, it was the privilege of the Mohawks to guard the eastern gate and to furnish the great War Chief that should lead the tribes to battle. The tribe of Mohawks was divided into three clans the Turtle, the Bear and the Wolf, and the three castles occupied by the three clans were called the lower, the middle and upper castles. These three castles or palisaded strong-holds, and their outlying hamlets, made up the Mohawk Nation. The sites of the villages were changed often, seldom remaining in one spot more than ten years and more often no longer than six. But the castle sites were selected with great care and when once built were permanent until destroyed by fire or an enemy. And too, they were always built in the same order the Turtle first, then the Bear, and lastly the Wolf.
The removal from the west bank of Auries Creek was not made bodily, but gradually. Their villages had been destroyed in October 1666 by the French, and the tribe had passed a miserable winter, cold and hungry in their tents.
The next year, after the bark would peel, they commenced building their village on a new site, and clearing new fields for corn. It can their village on a new site, and hill afforded. A veritable watch tower for the valley of the Mohawk and the Cayadutta. Here were the fertile flats, stretching their broad acres to the river and here the tillers of the soil might work in safety being guarded by the eagle eye of the braves upon the hill.
Let us stop for a few minutes in this stronghold of a once brave people and see how their homes were built. They first took saplings and planted two rows of them firmly in the ground. Then they bent the tops of them over across the intervening space and tied them together. The shape of the house when finished was similar to an ambulance wagon. These arched ribs were supported and held in place by poles put in horizontally across the house, near the top. The whole was then neatly covered with square, overlapping pieces of bark, held in place by poles that were tied down over them. The holes in the roof for chimneys and windows were not forgotten, nor the loose pieces of bark to pull over them in case of rain. The Jesuits, who labored so faithfully among the Indians found the cabins smoky and dark, but for the Mohawks, they were good enough.
The dwelling was fitted up into compartments on either side, with spaces down the center for fires, alternating with spaces for family gathering at meal-time. The matrons were assigned to each compartment, every member of the household had certain lodge seats or mats of rushes on the bare earth and bunks covered with skins along the sides of the house for beds. Plenty of dried corn and smoked meat hung from the ridge poles ready for instant use, the heavy wooden mortar and pestle stood ready for pounding the corn, nice little dishes of bark and wood were at hand, while tucked away in the corners were baskets of wampum beads all ready to be strung into belts at the proper time.
The houses themselves to the number of twenty-four were surrounded by a double palisade twenty feet in height. The inner wall was not quite so high and had a platform near the top running all the way round. These platforms extended from the inner to the outer wall, sometimes they were covered at the top by a solid surface of thick bark. This protected the warriors when they fired their guns or aimed their arrows at the enemy. On the inner platforms were numerous bark tanks containing an abundant water supply in case of fire. Trenches were dug and the earth heaped up about the outer wall. At a short distance from the palisade was a low bark fence built for the purpose of breaking the force of an attack.
In 1669, the village was attacked on a summer morn, before the dawn, by an army of Mohegans led by Chickatabutt, the great sachem of the Massachusetts, determined to crush the Mohawks and thus break through the eastern door of the Long House of the five Nations. The struggle continued with unabated fury for two hours and then the Mohegans retired. The Mohawks, after necessary preparations, gave chase and overtook them. The next day they met in battle at what is now known as Swarts Hill where the Mohegans were slain and scattered, among them their chief. This prov-
ed to be the last great battle between the Mohawks and Mohegans and its deeds of valor were told and retold for many days in the Turtle Village at Caughnawaga.
At the close of the 17th century the Mohawks were very much weakened; large numbers had been killed in their constant wars, many had been converted, the villages were all old and the palisades rotten. There was danger that in a sudden attack that the tribe would be exterminated. The English too, since the burning of Schenectady, were in constant fear of the French, who could enter the Mohawk Valley at both ends. So a plan was adopted which proved to be one of the most important events in the early history and development of the Mohawk Valley.
The plan was that the Mohawks were to abandon their villages on the north side, and establish three new ones directly on the river, on the south side, and at each one the English were to build a fort, for the protection of the Indians and settlers, and a defense against French invasion. This had all been carried out early in the 18th century and we find the Mohawks settled in their new castles at Fort Hunter, Prospect Hill and Indian Castle. During the last half century of tribal existence of Mohawks in the valley they had but two castles, the upper and lower. Finally these two gave way to the settlements of the white man.
I have, perhaps, lingered long in this Mohawk village but it has seemed to me that a little study of the brave tribe for whom this town and the beautiful river were named, was time well spent.
On the direct road from Fonda to Stone Arabia is the home of James BERGEN. During the Revolution this was an Inn occupied by a family named DOCKSTADER. This family was a Tory one which accounts for the fact that it was allowed to remain undemolished at the time of the raid through the valley.
On the Sand Flats during the early days was a celebrated race track, on land now partly owned by the Evergreen Cemetery Association and Geo. NELLIS. The story is told of a German minister residing at Stone Arabia, who, considering it his duty to protest against that species of gambling, rode there in his chaise with that intent. Hardly had he started his discourse, when a wag, who knew the horse of the dominie had once been a racer, mounted a fleet horse and whip in hand rode up saying "Dominie you have a fine horse there" and touching both horses with the whip, shouted "Go." Sure enough both horses did go. Several voices, as they started, were heard shouting "Go it, Dominie, we'll bet on your horse." The horses were headed toward the parson's home, and despite the efforts to restrain his horse, sped a long way ere he could stop him. The dominie never again appeared on the race course.
About the year 1750, came one Johannes VEEDER from Schenectady where he bought 1400 acres of land in one tract adjoining the village of Caughnawaga: He became not only an illustrious citizen of Tryon County but the father of a distinguished family, a family whose descendents may well be proud of. Johannes, himself, was a member of the State Legislature and of his sons, Volkert was a member of the Provincial Congress at the 3d and 4th Sessions, a member of Assembly at 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13 sessions, member of the 1788 Constitutional convention, Presidental elector in 1792, a member of the Tryon Co. Com. of Safety and Lieut. Col. of the 4th Regt. of Tryon Co. Militia during the Revolution. Abram the 2d son was a Capt. of Militia in the Revolution
and a Major Gen. subsequently. Simon , 3d son, a member of Assembly at 16, 17, 18, 20, 22 and 23 Sessions, elected County Judge in 1802. John, the 4th son, a State Senator at the 29, 30, 31 and 32 Sessions and a Presidental Elector in 1832.
The VEEDERS not only contributed their substance and services to the cause of liberty during the Revolution but suffered much loss from Johnson's two raids of the valley on May 22 and Oct. 18, 1780. The claim for losses sustained thereby as filed against the state and on record in the office of the State Comptroller at Albany, is by far the largest amount of any of the many claims which were filed for reimbursement.
It was at the home of Johannes VEEDER, now said to be the site of the old canning factory along the Mohawk Turnpike, that the first public meeting was held in the Caughnawaga Township May 1775 for the purpose of denouncing British Rule.
The meeting was attended by about 300 people, who assembled unarmed, for the purpose of deliberation and also to erect a liberty pole -- the most hateful object of the day in the eyes of the loyalists. Among the leaders of the Patriots on that occasion was Sampson SAMMONS an opulent farmer of the county and two of his sons Jacob and Frederick. They were drawn there by love of country and family ties as well, Jacob SAMMONS having married a daughter of Johannes VEEDER. In appearance Jacob SAMMONS has been described as tall with red hair, and fair complexion, of wonderful strength and endurance, an athlete, excelling in feats of jumping, running and wrestling. His temper was as fiery as his hair. With these characteristics we need not wonder that he bore the part he did upon that eventful day.
Before the pole could be raised, the proceedings were interrupted by the arrival of Sir John JOHNSON accompanied by his brothers-in-law Cols. Claus and Guy JOHNSON, together with Col. John BUTLER and a large number of retainers armed with swords and pistols. Guy JOHNSON mounted a stoop and addressed the people at length, dwelling upon the strength and power of the king and attempted to show the folly of opposing his officers. He became so abusive, that Jacob SAMMONS, no longer able to restrain himself interrupted the discourse by pronouncing JOHNSON a liar and a villain. A scuffle ensued, during which SAMMONS was struck down with a loaded whip. On recovering from the blow he found one of JOHNSON's servants sitting astride his body. He knocked him aside and springing to his feet he threw off his coat and prepared to fight. Two pistols were presented to his breast but not discharged as he was again knocked down by clubs and severely beaten. On recovering his feet once more, he perceived that his Whig friends had left with the exception of the FONDAS, VEEDERS and VISCHERS, even the Loyalists had drawn off.
So occurred the first blood shed of the Revolution in the County of Tryon, a day which clearly and sharply defined the relations of Tory and Whig and set before the country a fine example of courage. Bravery is always determined by the degree of danger involved. Living as they did in a neighborhood strongly royalist, the acts of these patriots entitle them to be named among our nation's heroes.
If we think enough of the stand taken that day by the Patriots of Tryon County to choose May 12 as our chapter day, surely we should think enough of the spot to see that it is suitably marked. Who is there left to tell us the exact spot of the meeting? Historians disagree.
One historian tells that the meeting was held at the mill of Johannes VEEDER along the Cayadutta creek. This may be so as he did have a fortified mill there during the Revolution, but after a careful study of works of other writers and of some family papers now in the possession of the SAMMONS family I am led to believe that the home of Johannes VEEDER was the scene of the pole raising. Allow me to present the following statement of Mrs. Mary FOSTER, who was a daughter of Jacob SAMMONS and granddaughter of Johannes VEEDER.
Fonda, Mont. Co., N.Y.
I, Mary FOSTER, residing in Evanstown, State of Illinois, wife of William FOSTER and daughter of Jacob SAMMONS deceased, being aged seventy-five years, do well recollect and remember, that in the year eighteen hundred and twenty-one, (it being previous to my marriage) I was in company with my mother, and we were going from my Uncle John VEEDER's house to my Uncle Simon's (said John and Simon being brothers of my mother) and John's residence being on the west side of the Cayadutta at Caughnawaga, and about fifteen rods above the river road or turnpike as it is now called. My uncle Simon's house was upon the hill, above the turnpike, and as my mother and myself was on the way from uncle John's to uncle Simon's, my mother said to me as we reached the turnpike and as we turned to go up the same, pointing with her finger to the foundation of an old black house said "Mary there is the place where your father was assaulted by Sir John JOHNSON and his retainers at the time the Whigs was in the act of raising the first Liberty Pole, on that spot near the corner of that black house." All this gives me a distinct recollection at this late day of the place as then told me by my mother where the assault and the erection of the pole took place.
The place my mother designated as the spot was just as we reached the turnpike and as we turned to go up: the remains of the old Black house was south of the turnpike and near it at that point.
Dated Fonda, Sept. 8th, 1874.
If we do not know the exact spot could we not place some marker as near the site as we know it, and could not an inscription read "Near this spot was held a meeting which occasioned the first bloodshed of the Revolution in Tryon County" or words to that effect? Is it not better to mark the spot thus than to not mark it at all? Daughters of Caughnawaga chapter, I appeal to you, to make this thing possible, to make some start before the year passes. We are proud of what our ancestors did that day and we want the world to know it. The present CUDEBEC farm was once the home of Abram VEEDER the 2d son of Johannes VEEDER. Here he kept a tavern and operated a ferry across the river. Through the courtesy of Mrs. W. S. CARPENTER I was allowed to examine an old ledger of Abram VEEDER bearing date of 1796, now in her possession. I have copied a few of the entries as they were interesting.
To supper and lodging 2 S; to 1 meal victuals 2 S; to 1 ferrying afoot 3d; ferrying wagon 4 S. 1 gill rum 6d; 1/2 gill bitters 6d; 1/2 gill brandy 6d; a pint of beer 6d; mug of cider 6d; a nip of grog 1 S; repairing watch 4 S; to making 1 pr. shoes 6S; to making trousers 2 S; 1 bu. oats 12 S; 4 bu. apples 6 S; 160 hickory logs 3 pounds 4 s.
Among other things, I found a formula for "Rumattisum" which might be of benefit today. It reads:
"Take half pound of wite pitch, 3 quarters black do, half a pound of rosin, half a pound of franchincense one quarter of a pound of Bees Waks, 5 drams of Venus tirpentine 2 drams of camphire, half a nounce of salt oile. Boil them all together and strain them through a clean cloth into clean water."
The next farm, the present Schenck MARTIN farm was owned by Volkert VEEDER a brother of Abram. Between the two farms was a toll gate. The home of Simon VEEDER was the house now occupied by the LUND and FOX families, just out of the village and the home of John VEEDER, the 4th son, was the present Oliver NELLIS home.
Going further up the Mohawk turnpike we come to the home of Cornelius LOTRIDGE. This was the home of Frederick DOCKSTADER, known as "Bully Fritz," who kept a tavern there. It is said that the title was earned through DOCKSTADER's zealousness in keeping a high class tavern. Here was a favorite place for changing horses. I am told that the front yard is still paved and one has to dig down but a short distance to find the stones.
The home of the founder of this chapter was also said to have been an Inn built by another DOCKSTADER. The story goes that when the barn on this place was once being shingled, an eclipse of the sun occurred so terrorizing the workmen that they believed the end of the world at hand. As it grew so dark, they left their work and sought their homes in great fear.
SIMMS, in his "Frontiersman of New York," says of the tavern below the Nose: Frederick DOCKSTADER kept many large wagons and Frederick DOCKSTADER 2d had a run of double teams. I rather think the two I have spoken of are the two referred to especially the Frederick 2d, because that was known as a place of changing horses.
Marks DOCKSTADER, a pioneer, settled in Mohawk at an early date on what is today called the BRIGGS farm.
Near the Delevan BRIGGS farm was once a tavern and toll gate kept by one GRAFF, also a saw mill at this place, where parts of the dam in the creek may still be seen. The GRAFFs made brooms here at one time. The road leading from the turnpike at this point was known as the mill road.
The CONNOLYS kept a tavern near Yosts at an early date and were a prominent Irish Catholic family. Their burial ground was uncovered last summer by a descendant who persevered in her efforts to locate it and finally found the stones in a woods nearby covered with moss and leaves. There are a number of graves, among them that of a Catholic priest. There was said to be a toll gate on the turnpike at this tavern.
Yosts was named from the pioneer YOST family, and the hamlet of Randall across the river was once known as Yatesville. In 1863 when a post office was established, the name was changed to Randall.
It is said that Gen. WASHINGTON stayed overnight during his trip through the valley in the house now owned by Volkert VROOMAN, formerly by his father Borent.
Back of Randall is the hamlet of Currytown. This must not be passed by, as it played too important a part in the early history of the valley. The first white settler was Jacob DIEVENDORF. Currytown suffered during the Revolution from a raid of tories and Indians under the lead of a Tory named DOXTADER.
Mary BRIGGS DIEVENDORF in her "Historic Mohawk" writes of Conines Hotel as follows: Among the passengers of the stages, when
they passed this place, would be related the fate of a beautiful young lady, who loved not wisely, but too well, ending in an exciting breach of promise suit. Further east, was Failings tavern. Though but an ordinary tavern in summer, all travelers cherished a pleasant remembrance of the winter fare, and of the rousing fires. This tavern was famed for buckwheat cakes and sausages. Some miles further east on the south side of the Mohawk was a building, the peculiar architecture of which attracted attention. It was the store of the brothers KANE, five of whom were distinguished merchants. They were all gentlemen of education, commanding in person, accomplished and refined in manners and associates.
The present Big Nose Inn is a very old building, and was an Inn kept by DOCKSTADERs. As late as 1878 there was still to be seen the name Maria DOCKSTADER 1780, which together with other initials and later dates had been cut with a diamond into a window pane.
The abrupt and lofty hills on both sides of the Mohawk were called the Noses. They were frequently used to mark boundaries in the early division of Tryon County. We read of places spoken of as above the Noses or below the Noses.
The site of the County Home was once the home of Jelles FONDA, who kept a store there doing business on a large scale. He also had a mill in Schenck Hollow which was burned by the Indians.
Sprakers was named from the pioneer SPRAKER family. The house at Central station was the famous Spraker River and Turnpike Inn. The upper Mohawk Castle was located here from 1640 to 1666, when it was destroyed by French and Indians. Its hill site forms the scene of the "Return of the Warriors," life-size Mohawk Indian group in Educational Building, Albany. The name of this castle was Te-non-to-ge-re and it is said to mean two noses.
Washington FROTHINGHAM writes of a cave located in the woods of the Nose about one and one half miles east of Sprakers. It was explored in 1837 as far as the 13th room which was very large being about 40 feet wide and 25 feet high. The great danger attached to a survey of this cave, the passages being very wet, narrow and slippery, has prevented more extended explorations.
The navigation of the interior waters of the state engaged the attention of Gen. SCHUYLER at a very early period. Even before DeWitt CLINTON had planned the Erie Canal. Gen. SCHUYLER proposed a scheme of navigation up the Mohawk to Wood Creek, thence to Oneida Lake and so through the Oswego River to Lake Ontario. But to complete the system a chain of locks would be necessary at Little Falls. The success of this project depended very much upon the favor with which it should meet from the Dutch settlers on the Mohawk. In 1792, by arrangement Gen. SCHUYLER met these settlers at Sprakers Tavern later known as Sprakers Basin, and explained to them his plans. They perceived the advantage and were pleased with the prospect of the state's commerce passing their doors, but they could not understand how boats could ascend Little Falls. The General explained that this could be done by locks, but while they liked him and would take his word for any thing, they could not believe water would run up hill. So they parted -- the General much worried over his failure. After much thought he rose from his bed and lighting his candle, took a knife and few shingles out into the yard. Here he dug two miniature canals of different levels which he connected by a lock of shingles. He then called the
Dutchmen from their beds and filling the ditch with a pail of water locked a chip through from the lower to the higher level.
"Vell! Vell! General," the Dutchmen cried, "We now understands and we all goes mit you and de canal." The canal was dug and the locks built at Little Falls where they can still be seen (1897). Such was the policy which afterward shaped the Erie Canal and such its origin with Gen. SCHUYLER.
The story is told of a merchant at Sprakers who kept his accounts by means of symbols instead of words and figures. When an article was sold he would put down some symbol to represent the article. One of his customers, coming in to settle his account found that a cheese had been charged to him. This he knew to be incorrect as he had purchased his cheese that year, from another merchant. So he said to the proprietor "You think it over and I will come in again." He went in again later to inquire and the merchant said to him "You were right, it was not a cheese you bought but a grind stone and when I set it down I forgot to put the hole in it."
Although Stone Arabia is not in the valley, about it have occurred some of the most tragic events of the Valley of the Mohawk. To it the nation is indebted for a large share of those human forces that gave independence and liberty to the republic.
The old stone church was erected in 1788 by Philip SCHUYLER, the sixth son of the first recorded pastor of the church. This church is among the most remarkable and rarest ecclesastical buildings to be found in the United States. The elements of time have not changed its form but rather softened the gray of the stones and made the building more beautiful. The same simple but substantial lines of craftmanship that the builders wrought into this stone House of God abides to this day.
The battle of Stone Arabia occurred near the church Oct. 19, 1780. In the church cemetery is a monument erected in 1836 to the memory of Col. John BROWN, who lost his life in this battle. In fact all the dead from the battlefield are said to be buried in this cemetery. In front of the church is a marker erected to Col. BROWN by Fort Rensselaer chapter D. A. R.
On August 24, 1774, was held the first meeting of the Tyron County Committee of Safety, in the tavern of Adam LOUCKS at Stone Arabia.
Fort Paris was located about a half mile north of the church. It was a palisaded enclosure of stone and block houses for a garrison of from two to three hundred men. It was built under the direction of Isaac PARIS in the spring of 1777, and was said to be 1000 feet above sea level.
After the raid through the valley in 1780, Sir John JOHNSON continued his work through Stone Arabia and the devastation was inhumanly brutal.
From 1772 to 1836 Johnstown was the county seat. Here we find many old buildings in a fine state of preservation. Johnson Hall, the home of Sir William JOHNSON, and the place of his death, later the home of Sir John. There are many interesting things to be seen there today. The mahogany stair rail that was hacked by the tomahawk of Joseph BRANT after a heated discussion in an upper room with Sir John and the ring of lilac bushes on the lawn where Sir William was wont to confer with the great sachems.
Both jail and court house were built in 1772, upon lands owned by Sir William. John FONDA was once confined in jail there by Alexander WHITE, the first sheriff, of Montgomery county, for a quarrel with the
sheriff's servant. A score or two of FONDA's friends, hearing of this, went to the jail one night and set him at liberty. Sheriff WHITE was stopping at an Inn kept by one MATICE, and there being high feeling, the mob went thither to arrest him. WHITE, armed with a double barrelled gun, discovered Sampson SAMMONS, and fired at him from an upper window. The shot was returned and the sheriff slightly wounded. The Whigs forced an entrance to the house, but WHITE had disappeared. It was afterward learned that he had hidden himself in a chimney. This was said to be the first shot of the Revolution west of the Hudson river.
There is also in Johnstown the DRUMM house built in 1763: Black Horse tavern, 1770; old Masonic building, 1794; Union Hall and Academy building, in 1798. In St. John's church yard is to be seen the grave of Sir William JOHNSON. A boulder marks the site of the battle of Johnstown in 1781 which was the last battle of the Revolution. Johnstown is on an old Mohawk trail leading to Canada. This same trail follows the Cayadutta to Sammonsville, and there turns to Stone Arabia, coming out on the Mohawk Turnpike near St. Johnsville.
Coming from Johnstown to Fonda, there is a place that deserves mention because of the family's loyalty and courage -- the home of SAMMONS family, who took a leading part in everything pertaining to the advancement of the cause. The home was burned, in 1780, during Sir John JOHNSON's raid, and Sampson SAMMONS and his three sons, Jacob, Frederick and Thomas were taken prisoners. It is said the women were left with no shelter except the friendly stars. During this raid, so the story goes, the mother of the family was taken into the home of a Tory neighbor for shelter. As she sat by the fireplace, she happened to glance to one side and there saw a pile of chickens with their necks wrung. She recognized them as her own chickens which she had tended all summer. The thought of accepting shelter under such conditions was most hateful to her. History contains lengthy accounts of the suffering and miraculous escape of the SAMMONS prisoners, which I have not the time nor space to tell.
Enough could be written about the Mohawk Turnpike to fill a book, about the toll houses, the stage coaches, the great freight wagons, carrying 5 or 6 tons, and drawn by 4, 6, and 8 horses, their wonderful harness covered with brass buckles and musical bells, about the many taverns, each famous for some special kind of food or drink.
There has been some confusion over the name "Mohawk Turnpike," some seeking to name it the "Onondaga Trail." Then too, the Mohawk River is too often spoken of as the "Barge Canal."
To the people of the Mohawk Valley, who know its legends, history, traditions and story, the name "Mohawk Turnpike" is the only proper designation, making as it does a road over which, for 200 years, the millions have passed.
The shadows lengthen along the "Old Mohawk Turnpike." Here and there the lights twinkle through the gathering dusk. We are weary with the day's journey and must find shelter for the night. We ride into Canajoharie, horses agallop, the driver tugging at the reins. A blast from the horn resounds through the town, the dogs bark and every one runs out to see the stage come in. We alight at the tavern of Johannes ROOF, there to refresh ourselves for the next day's journey.
Go back to part 2
Continue to part 4
Back to Montgomery County NYGenWeb