HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF MOHAWK
ANECDOTES OF CAUGHNAWAGA
The following anecdote, illustrative of "the good old times" of the Johnsons and earlier Fondas, is given by Mr. Simms as authentic:
"In the employ of Sir William Johnson, a few years before his death, was an Irishman named McCarthy, by reputation the most noted pugilist in western New York. The Baronet offered to pit his fellow-countryman against any man who could be produced for a fist fight. Major [Jelles] Fonda, tired of hearing the challenge, and learning that a very muscular Dutchman, named John Van Loan, was living near Brakabeen, in the Schoharie valley, made a journey of some forty or fifty miles to secure his professional services, for he, too, was reputed a bully. Van Loan readily agreed to flog the son of Erin for a ten pound note. At the time appointed numbers were assembled at Caughnawaga to witness the contest between the pugilists. After McCarthy had been swaggering about in the crowd for a while, and greatly excited public expectation by his boasting, inducing numbers to be bet on his head, his competitor appeared, ready for the contest, clad for the occasion in a shirt and breeches of dressed deerskin, fitted tight to the person. A ring was formed and the battle commenced. The bully did his best, but it was soon evident that he was not a match for his Dutch adversary, who slipped through his fingers like an eel, and parried his blows with the greatest ease. Completely exhausted, and almost bruised to a jelly, Sir William's gamester was removed, looking, if not expressing, `Peccavi.'"
We ought not to omit the once widely popular story of "the Yankee pass." The following is Lossing's version of it:
"A peddlar (who was of course a Yankee) was arrested for the offense of traveling on the Sabbath, contrary to law, and taken before a Dutch justice near Caughnawaga. The peddler pleaded the urgency of his business. At first the Dutchman was inexorable, but at length, on the payment to him of a small sum, agreed to furnish the Yankee with a written permit to travel on. The justice not being expert with the pen, requested the peddler to write the "pass." He wrote a draft upon the Kanes (the well known Canajoharie merchants) for fifty dollars, which the unsuspecting Dutchman signed. The draft was presented and duly honored, and the Yankee went on his way rejoicing. A few days afterward the justice was called upon to pay the amount of the draft. The thing was a mystery, and it was a long time before he could comprehend it. All at once light broke in upon the matter, and the victim exclaimed, vehemently, in broken English, "Eh, yah! I understhands it now. Tish mine writin, and dat ish de tam Yankee pass!"
THE SMALLER VILLAGES OF THE TOWN, ETC.
BERRYVILLE is a hamlet on the Cayaduta, about two miles north of west from Fonda. Here is situated the Berryville Paper-mill. The business was begun in 1860 by the firm of L.B. Thompson & Co. Then years later the present firm of Thompson & Richards was formed. The mill, which is run by both steam and water power, has a capacity of three thousand pounds per day, and manufactures drug, printing and tobacco paper to the value of about $75,000 annually.
TRIBES HILL is a village of much historic interest on the line between the towns of Mohawk and Amsterdam. It has been treated of in the history of the latter, and need not be further mentioned here.
Near the western border of the town stands the Mohawk cheese factory, incorporated in 1867; capital, $3,500; capacity, 70,000 lbs per year. The first board of directors consisted of John A. Dockstader, Peter Coolman and M. Van Deusen. Jacob J. Dockstader has succeeded Mr. Coolman, otherwise the board remains as at first.
The prospect of rapid increase of population and demand for real estate in the Mohawk valley, as a consequence of the construction of the Utica and Schenectady Railroad, led to much speculation in lands and building sites along the line. The village of Fonda dates its principal growth from this time. In 1835, a number of capitalists, including John B. Borst, John L. Graham, James Lorimer Graham, Judge S. W. Jones, Charles McVean (at his death surrogate of the county of New York) and James Porter organized the Fonda Land Assocation. They bought the ground on which the newer and larger part of the village stands, and had it surveyed, laid out and mapped. William C. Young, chief engineer of the new railroad in its construction, and its first superintendent, also interested himself largely in the project. John L. Graham, who was counsel for the Farmers' Loan and Trust Company of New York, obtained from that institution, in behalf of the association, a loan of $25,000 with which to make purchases and improvements. Among the latter was the building of the Fonda Hotel in 1836. John B. Borst was the man most heavily interested in the whole enterprise, and the titles to the real estate acquired were taken by him for himself and associates. Most of the parties to the investment suffered in the financial distress of 1837, and their embarassment enabled Mr. Borst to buy out their interests under a foreclosure of the mortgage held by the Farmers' Loand and Trust Company. Among other things he thus became sole proprietor of the hotel.
On the petition of Chester S. Brumley, John S. Haggart and Richard H. Cushney, the Court of Sessions which sat at the Montgomery county court-house, September 30, 1850, consisting of County Judge Belding and Justices F.P. Moulton and Obadiah Davis, granted an order for the incorporation of the village under the name of Fonda, subject to a vote of its citizens, for which provision was made. The vote resulted almost unanimously in favor of the measure. In the spring of 1851, the Legislature passed an act authorizing the village of Fonda to elect officers. Pursuant to this act an election was held May 13, and the following were chose: Trustees - R.H. Cushney, R. Van Housen, P.H. Fonda, Charles Timmerman and Douw Van O'Linda; assessors - John Everson, William R. Housen and Gilbert S. Van Deusen; collector, Henry W. Staats; clerk, Henry Van O'Linda. The population of the territory incorporated was 875.
Thus the ancient name of Caughnawaga was formally superseded by that of the family which had been so prominent in the annals of the neighborhhod for a hundred years, and the old village of the Indians and the Dutch was overshadowed by the flourishing new town growing up on its western border. The present village has been steadily progressing since its incorporation, its population having increased to about thirteen hundred, and all its interests correspondingly developed. Its position on a well equipped trunk railroad gives it ready communication with the world at large, of which it can the better avail itself, since it is the stopping-place for most of Fulton county, and this a very important station, which hardly any trains pass without stopping. Its main street was paved in 1868. Communication with its neighbor across the river is facilitated by the Fonda and Fultonville street railroad, built in 1875, by Nicholas H. Decker of New York and Johnstown, and of whose $10,000 capital he is the principal owner. The growth and development of the village, in its various departments, are shown under the appropriate heads below.
St. CECELIA'S ROMAN CATHOLIC
The Roman Catholics, as represented by the Jesuit missionaries, whose privations and sufferings have already been recounted, were, of course, the first christian denomination by whose servants religious exercises were held at this point. The last Jesuit missionary left Caughnawaga two hundred years ago, and from his departure no services of the church which he represented were held here until quite a recent date. Up to December, 1874, the Roman Catholics of Fonda had no house of worship, but assembled, to hear mass, at private houses. The present neat chapel was begun in 1875, and finished, free from debt, in December of the next year. It has a seating capacity of two hundred fifty, and is built of brick, with cut-stone trimmings. Rev. John F. Lowery, the pastor of St. Patrick's Church, Johnstown, was the builder of this edifice. The altar is of marble and surrounded by ten pieces of white statuary.
The Sunday-school is attended by forty-five children, and is superintended by Patrick Fitzsimmons.
THE REFORMED CHURCH
This venerable society, originally the Reformed Dutch Church of Caughnawaga, is believed to have been organized from five to ten years before the building of its historic house of worship in 1763. For nine years after that event there was no pastor here, services being held, it is supposed, by the minister at Schenectady, which place was the out-post of the denomination in this direction, until the building of the Caughnawaga church. In 1772, Rev. Thomas Romeyn became pastor of this frontier congregation, whose members were scattered among all the settlements west of what is now Amsterdam. He was a college graduate, of nineteen years' ministerial experience. At his accession the roll of the consistory comprised the following well known names: Elders - Peter Coyne, Johannes Kilts, Johannes Veeder, and Frederick Dockstader. Deacons - Adam Fonda, Louis Clement, Sampson Sammons, and Charles Van Epps. Mr. Romeyn held the pastorate of the church for twenty-two most eventful years, dying at his post in 1794, aged sixty-five. The territory over which he originally had charge was reduced very early in his administration by the organization of the church at Minaville, in the town of Florida, and further, toward the close of his term of service, by the formation of the Stone Arabia church.
Mr. Romeyn was succeeded, in 1795, by Rev. Abraham Van Horne. The consistory, at that date, was composed of Elders John Fonda, Garret Van Vrakelin, Joseph Prentup, and Frederick Starin, and Deacons James Lansing, Abram Vosburgh, Johannes Van Antwerp and Peter Quackenbush. Domine Van Horne was, like his predecessor, a New Jersey man, and a college graduate, and is spoken of as "a man of great ability and extensive knowledge." During his pastorate occurred the transition from the Dutch to the English, as the language of the church services, Mr. Van Horne officiating in both tongues. He served this church in a pastoral relation thirty-eight years, during which many events, important to the denomination, occurred within his jurisdiction.
The growth of the population in the valley is indicated by the formation of four new churches from parts of the district over which his congregation was at first scattered. The fact (which appears from the church records) that the pastor performed here fifteen hundred marriages, and over two thousand three hundred baptisms, has a similar bearing. During part of his ministry at Caughnawaga he owned and managed a farm, which is now owned by Robert Wemple. After retiring from the pastorate in 1833, he continued to live at Caughnawaga until his death, in 1840, at the ripe age of seventy-five. He was buried in the old grave-yard on the flats, which was disturbed by the laying out of the fair ground. During the last two years of Dominie Van Horne's pastorate, Rev. J. S. Ketchum, of the Stone Arabia Church, assisted him by conducting the Sunday afternoon services.
The third pastor was Rev. Robert Quinn, a man of thirty, who had just finished his theological studies, and who began his pastorate by his ordination in the church where he was called to minister. He remained but two years, and on his resignation, Rev. Jacob D. Fonda took pastoral charge of the society in 1835. He held the position seven years, during which two more churches were formed from the original parish. Several revivals occurred in his pastorate, in one of which thirty-one members were added to the church. No pastor was immediately called to succeed Mr. Fonda on his retirement in 1842, but services were held for about two years by Prof. Andrew Yates, D.D., of Union College.
During this time a new church was built, at an expense of about $3,500, at the southwest corner of Railroad avenue and Centre street, which was dedicated in October, 1843. Rev. Douw Van O'Linda, the first pastor to officiate in the new church, began a fourteen-years pastorate in 1844, his ministry here being ended by his death. During his pastorate the bounds of this charge became about what they are now. "Few surpassed him in those qualities which go to make the acceptable preacher and pastor."
His successor, Rev. Phillip Furbeck, settled here in 1859, this being his first charge and the place of his ordination. He resigned in 1862, and the church had no settled pastor for the next three years. During most of this interval, Rev. Washington Frothingham occupied the pulpit. In the spring of 1863, the organization of the church was so far modified as to place the management of its temporal affairs in the hands of nine trustees. The first board, elected March 3, of that year, consisted of John Campbell, Jr., Barney J. Martin, Hamilton Schuyler, Geo F. Mills, Douw A. Fonda, Samuel H. Conklin, John I. Davis, Henry Veeder and Charles Yound. In 1865, the church once more had a pastor, in the person of Rev. John C. Boyd, who remained until 1870, when ill health compelled him to resign.
In 1868 the church was removed from its original to its present site, and to a considerable extent rebuilt, at an expense of $10,600, $947 of which was raised by the Ladies' Aid Society. On the completion of the improvements, the building was re-dedicated in August, 1869. In 1872, the word "Caughnawaga" in the title of the church was changed to Fonda. The word "Dutch" had been dropped five years before the name of the denomination by order of the General Synod.
The present pastor, Rev. Thos. Walker Jones, was installed in November, 1870. Within the first three years of his pastorate, the society secured a parsonage at an expense of $4,000, and over $6,500 was expended in the improvement of the church and the purchase of an organ. When these investments had been made, the value of the church property was estimated to be $30,000. The membership was then about two hundred and fifty. It has now risen to four hundred; over three hundred members have been received into the church by the present pastor. The membership of the Sabbath-school is about the same as that of the church. Jacob Hees is the superintendent. Members of the church assist in carrying on a half a dozen union schools in town, including those at Berryville and Sammonsville.
The Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1842 with a very small membership, which has had an encouraging growth. Belonging to the Fonda rather than the Caughnawaga period, it has not the historic associations of the older churches in the village, but like them is in its present operation a power for good. The society, shortly after its organization - in 1844 - provided itself with a house of worship at a cost of $4,000.
ZION PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL
This congregation was organized November 19, 1864, by Rev. Robert G. Howard. There were then but ten or twelve communicants; there are now about forty. The clergymen who have successively had charge of the station since Mr. Howard, have been Revs. James H. Brown, Hobart Cook, Chas. F.A. Bielby, _____ Poole, Wm. Lusk, Lewis Schuyler and Chas. H. Van Dyne.
Ground was broken for the construction of a church in 1866, but the building was not consecrated until May 29, 1869. It is a neat stone structure, costing some $6,000 and seating two hundred.
The whole of this was typed by volunteer Thomas MacEntee Thomas MacEntee, who is researching the surnames Putman and Dence in the Montgomery county area.