This profile of Montgomery County and accompanying engravings comes from an original crumbling copy of the book "Historical Collections of the State of New York", owned by the coordinator. It was printed in 1841 by S. Tuttle, 194 Chatham Square, New York, Publisher. The authors were the well-known John W. Barber (author of the Connecticut and Massachusetts Historical Collections) and Henry Howe (author of 'The Memoirs of Eminent American Mechanics'). A later, more commonly found, edition of this work was published in 1845.
In their preface Mr. Barber and Mr. Howe credit earlier gazetteers as sources of some information - Spafford's Gazetteers of 1813 and 1824, and Gordon's Gazetteer of 1836. The engravings were "with few exceptions, copied from drawings taken on the spot by the compilers of the work."
From "Historical Collections of the State of New York"
Montgomery County was named after the lamented Gen. Montgomery, who fell at
the attack on Quebec, in the revolution. Its greatest length is 34 E. and
W., greatest breadth N. and S. 13 miles. It was originally taken from
Albany and named in honor of William Tryon, then governor of the province.
Its name was changed in 1784. It embraced all that part of the state lying
west of a line running north and south nearly through the centre of the
present county of Schoharie. It was divided into five districts -
subdivided into precincts. The Mohawk district included Fort Hunter,
Caugnawaga, Johnstown, and Kingsboro'; Canajoharie district embraced the
present town of that name, with all the country southward, comprehending
Cherry Valley of Otsego, and Harpersfield of Delaware counties; Palatine
district, north of the Mohawk, extended over the region so called, and
Stone Arabia, & German Flats district and Kingsland covered the most
western settlements. The Erie canal crosses the county on the south side of
the Mohawk, and the Schenectady and Utica railroad on the north side. The
Erie canal passes the Schoharie creek through a pond formed by a dam across
the stream below. Its fall within this county is 86 feet, by 12 locks. The
county is divided into ten towns. Pop. 35,801.
Southern view of Sir Guy Johnson's house, Amsterdam.
AMSTERDAM, taken from Caugnawaga in 1793. It has a rolling surface and fertile soil. Pop. 5,329. Amsterdam village, incorporated in 1830, upon the
Mohawk river and turnpike and Utica railroad, 16 miles W. of Schenectady,
contains several churches, an academy, and about 700 inhabitants. The Erie
canal is on the south side of the river, over which there is a commodious
The above shows the appearance of the mansion house of Colonel Guy Johnson,
as seen from the opposite side of the river. It is built of stone, on the
north bank of the Mohawk, about a mile from Amsterdam village. The western
railroad now passes a few rods north, and in front. It is a beautiful
situation, and was formerly called "Guy Park." The house occupied by Sir
John Johnson is further to the west, on the opposite side of the road.
These men lived here essentially in the rank and splendor of noblemen, till
their possessions were confiscated by the state for their adherence to the
British cause. Sir John was not as popular as his father, Sir William
Johnson, being less social and less acquainted with human nature. He
accompanied his father on some of his military expeditions, and probably
saw considerable service. After his flight from Johnstown to Canada, he in
the month of January, 1777, found his way into New York, then in possession
of the British troops. "From that period he became not only one of the most
active, but one of the bitterest foes of his own countrymen of any who were
engaged in the war, and repeatedly the scourge of his own former neighbors.
He was unquestionably a loyalist from principle, else he would scarcely
have hazarded, as he did, and ultimately lost, domains larger and fairer
than probably ever belonged to a single proprietor in America, William Penn
Facsimile of the signatures of the Johnsons, and of Colonel John Butler, and his son Walter.
After the flight of Sir John from Johnson Hall, [see Johnstown] lady
Johnson, his wife, was removed to Albany, where she was retained as a kind
of hostage for the good conduct of her husband. "She wrote to Gen.
Washington complaining of this detention, and asking his interference for
her release; but the commander-in-chief left the matter with Gen. Schuyler
and the Albany committee. After the confiscation of the property of Sir
John, the furniture of the hall was sold at auction at Fort Hunter. The
late lieutenant-governor of New York, John Taylor, purchased several
articles of the furniture; and among other things, the bible mentioned in
the text. Perceiving that it contained the family record, which might be of
great value to Sir John, Mr. Taylor wrote a civil note to Sir John,
offering its restoration. Some time afterward a messenger from the baronet
called for the bible, whose conduct was so rude as to give offence. 'I have
come for Sir William's bible,' said he, 'and there are four guineas which
it cost.' The bible was delivered, and the runner was asked what message
Sir John had sent. The reply was, 'Pay four guineas and take the book!' " -
Stone's Life of Brant.
"About a mile and a half above the village of Amsterdam under a jutting
rock, on the north side of the Mohawk river, are still to be seen the
remains of an Indian painting. It was the custom of the Mohawks, and
doubtless of all the different tribes of the Iroquois, when they
contemplated a military expedition, to make a representation thereof, by
painting on trees or rocks the figures of the warriors, with hieroglyphics
designating the design of the expedition. When they went by water, canoes
were painted, and as many figures placed in them as there were men
constituting the party - their faces looking towards the place whither they
were bound. The painting in question was executed to commemorate an
expedition undertaken by a party of Mohawks, against the French Indians,
about the year 1720. We know five or six individuals, who saw the painting
fifty years ago, when the outlines were very distinctly to be seen. It was
done with red chalk, and represented five or six canoes, with six or seven
men in each." - Schenectady Reflector, Oct. 9th, 1835.
Eastern view of Canajoharie.
CANAJOHARIE* was organized in 1788. The surface of the township is considerably uneven, but the hills are generally arable and have a strong
soil. The early inhabitants were Germans. Pop. 5,150. The village of
Canajoharie was incorporated in 1829. It is situated at the confluence of
Bowman's creek with the Mohawk, and on the Erie canal, 55 miles from
Albany. It consists of about 100 houses, a Lutheran church, and an academy.
The Radii, a newspaper, edited and printed by Mr. L. S. Backus, a deaf and
dumb person, is published in this place. "The Canajoharie and Palatine
manufacturing company" was incorporated in 1833. The accompanying engraving
shows the appearance of the village as viewed from the elevated bank of the
Mohawk, a few rods from the bridge seen passing over the river, connecting
the village of Palatine Bridge with Canajoharie. Central Canajoharie, Ames,
and Freysbush, are post-offices in this town.
"* This name is of Indian origin; and Cana-jo-harie, as spoken by the
Mohawks, signifies the pot or kettle that washes itself. This name was
given by the Mohawk Indians to a deep hole of foaming water, at he foot of
one of the falls of Canajoharie creek; from which it became the common name
of that stream, and an extensive tract of country around it." - Spafford's
In the spring of 1780, the Indians again made their appearance in the
Mohawk valley. Gen. Clinton hearing of their movements, sent orders to Col.
Gansevoort on the 6th of June, to repair to Fort Plank with his regiment,
to take charge of a quantity of stores destined for Fort Schuyler. These
stores were to be transported in batteaux, and carefully guarded the whole
distance. Joseph Brant, the celebrated chieftain, at the head of four or
five hundred Indians, was in the vicinity, and he artfully caused a rumor
to be circulated that he intended to capture the batteaux, in order to
divert attention from other points of attack. This artifice proved too
successful; the militia of the lower section of the county were drawn off
to guard the convoy. Brant now made a circuit through the woods, and coming
in the rear of them, laid waste the whole country around Canajoharie. On
the first approach of Brant in Canajoharie a few miles eastwardly of the
fort, the alarm was given by a woman, who fired a cannon for that purpose.
The following account of this incursion is given by Col. Samuel Clyde, in a
letter to Gov. George Clinton, dated at Canajoharie, Aug. 6, 1780: -
"I here send you an account of the fate of our district. On the second day
of this instant, Joseph Brant, at the head of about four or five hundred
Indians and tories, broke in upon the settlements, and laid the best part
of the district in ashes, and killed sixteen of the inhabitants that we
have found; took between fifty and sixty prisoners, mostly women and
children, twelve of whom they have sent back. They have killed and drove
away with them upwards of three hundred head of cattle and horses; have
burnt fifty-three dwelling-houses, besides some out-houses, and as many
barns, one very elegant church, and one grist-mill, and two small forts
that the women fled out of. They have burnt all the inhabitants' weapons
and implements for husbandry, so that they are let in a miserable
condition. They have nothing left to support themselves but what grain they
have growing, and that they cannot get saved for want of tools to work
with, and very few to be got here.
"This affair happened at a very unfortunate hour, when all the militia of
the county were called up to Fort Schuyler to guard nine batteaux about
half laden. It was said the enemy intended to take them on their passing to
Fort Schuyler. There was scarce a man left that was able to go. It seems
that every thing conspired for our destruction in this quarter; one whole
district almost completely destroyed, and the best regiment of militia in
the county rendered unable to help themselves or the public. This I refer
you to Gen. Rensselaer for the truth of.
"This spring, when we found that we were not likely to get any assistance,
and knew that we were not able to withstand the enemy, we were obliged to
work and build ourselves forts for our defence, which we had nearly
completed, and could have had our lives and effects secure, had we got
liberty to have made use of them. But that must not be, we must turn out of
them; not that we have any thing against assisting the general to open the
communication to Fort Schuyler, but still doubted what has happened while
we were gone. But it was still insisted on, that there was no danger when
we were all out; that in my opinion there never has been such a blunder
committed in the county since the war commenced, nor the militia so much
put out; and to send generals here without men, is like sending a man to
the woods to chop without an axe. I am sensible had the general had
sufficient men, that he would have been able to give satisfaction both to
the public and inhabitants here."
Facsimile of Brant's signature.
The parents of Joseph Brant, the celebrated Mohawk chieftain, resided at
the Canajoharie castle, the central of the three castles of the Mohawks, in
their native valley. He appears to have been born in the year 1742, on the
banks of the Ohio, while his parents were on a hunting excursion in that
part of the country.* "In July, 1761, he was sent, by Sir William Johnson,
to the 'Moor's Charity school,' at Lebanon, Connecticut, established by the
Rev. Dr. Wheelock, which was afterward removed to Dartmouth, and became the
foundation of Dartmouth College. The following mention of him is made in
the memoirs of that gentlemen: -
*The Indian name of Brant was Thayendanegea, a word signifying, it is said,
two-sticks-of-wood-bound-together, denoting strength. The life of Brant, in
two octavo volumes, has been recently written by William L. Stone, Esq.,
editor of the Commercial Advertiser, New York. This valuable and highly
interesting work is one of great research, and embraces a full history of
the border wars of the revolution, and much other matter connected with
"Sir William Johnson, superintendent of Indian Affairs in North America,
was very friendly to the design of Mr. Wheelock, and, at his request, sent
to the school, at various times, several boys of the Mohawks to be
instructed. One of them was the since celebrated Joseph Brant; who, after
receiving his education, was particularly noticed by Sir William Johnson,
and employed by him in public business. He has been very useful in
advancing the civilization of his countrymen, and for a long time past has
been a military officer of extensive influence among the Indians in Upper
In confirmation of these statements it may be added, that he translated
into the Mohawk language the gospel of St. Mark, and assisted the Rev. Mr.
Stewart, the episcopal missionary, in translating a number of religious
works into the Indian tongue. Brant being a neighbor, and under the
influence of the Johnson family, he took up arms against the Americans in
the revolutionary contest. "Combining the natural sagacity of the Indian,
with the skill and science of the civilized man, he was a formidable foe.
He was a dreadful terror to the frontiers. His passions were strong. In his
intercourse he was affable and polite, and communicated freely relative to
his conduct. He often said that during the war he had killed but one man in
cold blood, and that act he ever after regretted. He said, he had taken a
man prisoner, and was examining him; the prisoner hesitated, and as he
through equivocated. Enraged at what he considered obstinacy, he struck him
down. It turned out that the man's apparent obstinacy arose from a natural
hesitancy of speech.
"In person, Brant was about the middling size, of a square, stout build,
fitted rather for enduring hardships than for quick movements. His
complexion was lighter than that of most of the Indians, which resulted,
perhaps, from his less exposed manner of living. This circumstance,
probably, gave rise to a statement which has been often repeated, that he
was of mixed origin. He was married in the winter of 1779 to a daughter of
Col. Croghan by an Indian woman. The circumstances of his marriage are
somewhat singular. He was present at the wedding of Miss Moore from Cherry
Valley, who had been carried away a prisoner, and who married an officer of
the garrison at Fort Niagara.
Brant had lived with his wife for some time previous, according to the
Indian custom, without marriage; but now insisted that the marriage
ceremony should be performed. This was accordingly done by Col. Butler, who
was still considered a magistrate. After the war he removed, with his
nation, to Canada. There he was employed in transacting important business
for his tribe. He went out to England after the war, and was honorably
received there. He died about ten or fifteen years since, at Brantford,
Haldiman county, Upper Canada, where his family now reside. One of his
sons, a very intelligent man, has been returned to the Colonial Assembly."
The following is an account of the taking of the three Mohawk castles,
which were situated in this vicinity, by the French and Indians, in the
early settlement of the country. It is drawn from Colden's History of the
In January, 1692-3, a large body of French and Indians, amounting to six or
seven hundred, started on an expedition from Canada, for the purpose of
punishing the Five Nations, who had the previous summer carried the war
into Canada, and in small parties had ravaged the whole country. Count de
Frontenac chose the winter season for this incursion, when the enemy could
not, without great hardship, keep scouts abroad to discover them, or their
allies, the English, give assistance.
On the 15th of January, they set out from la Prairie de Magdaleine, and
endured innumerable hardships. The ground was at that time covered with a
deep snow, and the foremost, marching on snowshoes, beat a track for those
which followed. At night the army was accustomed to divide itself into
small groups, and each party to dig a hole in the snow, throwing up the
snow all around, but highest towards that side from whence the wind blew.
The ground was then covered with the small branches of fir-trees, and each
man wrapped in his cloak with his feet pointed towards a fire in the
centre, would thus pass the night.
They passed by Schenectady on the 8th of February. The two first forts of
the Mohawks being in the neighborhood of the English settlements, were not
fortified, and were therefore easily taken. At the last Mohawk fort, which
was strongly garrisoned, they met with considerable resistance, and the
French lost thirty men before the Indians submitted. The Indians at
Schenectady having obtained information of the capture of their castles,
sent to Albany for assistance to pursue the enemy. Col. Peter Schuyler,
with a body of militia, regulars, and Indians, pursued the enemy on their
retreat, and had a severe skirmish with them. On the 20th, Col. Schuyler
was obliged to give up the pursuit, the weather being very cold and
provisions scarce. Schuyler lost only 8 men killed and 14 wounded. The
French lost 59 men in killed and wounded, besides several by desertion.
Schuyler's Indians ate the bodies of the French whom they found. The
colonel was invited to partake of broth with them: he ate quite hearty
until, putting the ladle into the kettle to draw out more, he brought up a
Frenchman's hand, which put an end to his appetite.
The French arrived at their settlements in a state of starvation, having
been obliged to eat their shoes on the march.
Continue on to Part 2
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Digital interpretations of engravings Copyright © 1998 M. Magill
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