EARLY STONE ARABIA
By Andrew L. Dillenbeck
Paper read before the New York State Historical Association
Source: Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. XIII, 1932
The name itself, variously spelled and pronounced, has long been a matter of curiosity, conjecture and myth - and may always remain so.
In the Old Testament and later times, Arabia carried the idea of blessedness, happiness and security. This connotation has passed down the centuries in many lands and languages. The name Stone Arabia, in its Dutch spelling, is found in Dutch writings long before its use in America.
Thus it may be that Steen Rabi was the land of promise to various groups settling in America in the 17th and 18th centuries. At least we find the name applied to a region on the west side of the Hudson near Kingston, to the site of the present North Troy, and later to our Stone Arabia in the Mohawk Valley.
One story of the derivation of the name still current locally is the name "Steen Raby" came to be the name of the section when certain travelers passing through the territory saw a Dutch girl aiding in clearing the land from stone, and seeking to have sport with her, said, "What are you doing my pretty maid?" and received the reply, "Steen Raby, you fools," which being translated was "Picking stones." The words do not fit themselves very well into the Dutch dialect, and the story can hardly be harmonized with considerations already mentioned. Moreover, Stone Arabia is not particularly stony in the part first settled. The fact that the name is in use elsewhere 50 years before the Stone Arabia Patent is granted renders the old story highly improbable.
But perhaps we have a clue that comes from the Hudson Valley. Under patent dated 19 October 1668, Robert Sanders and Harmen Vedder bought of the Mahican Indians land called by the Indians "Taescameasich" lying on the east side of the North River and stretching along the River from the second to the third spring which runs over to the west side of the river straight into the woods up to the high hills. On 21 August 1670 Harmen Vedder conveyed his interest to Robert Sanders. Reference to this land is made in a lease given by Robert Sanders to Hendrick Meussen Vrooman, 3 May 1670, wherein it is described as "lying over against the long island" and named Steen Raby. In 1680 Robert Sanders sold his farm on the east side of the Hudson's river, obliquely over against the farm of Anthony van Shayk, commonly called Steen Arabia. Captain John Schuyler in his report of his journey to Canada in 1698, says, "we went from Albany and came to Stony Arabia 8 miles up the river, where we lodged that night". All these references are to Stony Arabia on the site of modern Lansingburg or North Troy. This is also the Stein Raby at which an outpost of 10 men was stationed as early as 1710.
It is possible that the name was transferred to the Mohawk Valley location through Robert Sanders, an Albany merchant who was interested in the Lansingburg Stone Arabia and acted as Indian interpreter for the governor, and who may have assisted the Stone Arabia patentees in their purchase from the Indians.
The name is still applied to the central and southeastern portion of the original patent. For a few years just before the Revolution, Stone Arabia was given as a name to that section later to be called the Palatine District extending from the Nose to the Falls and northward to Canada, but on March 8, 1773, it lost this wider application and from that time was confined to the patent.
It is probable that a number of families from the Hudson Valley Palatine Camps never settled in Schoharie at all but went directly to Stone Arabia in 1712-15. Some families drop out of the Kocherthal-Berkenmeyer Records of the Camp and Schoharie for about nine years appearing later in Stone Arabia. Research made in Switzerland recently by one of the Palatine families reveals relationship by marriage with the Frey family several generations before 1710. If Hendrick Frey was in this immediate section before 1712-13 it is fair to assume that the relationship established in Europe before coming to America would still hold and he probably was the cause of several families coming directly to Stone Arabia from the Hudson. Indeed Simms says some of the party had relatives or friends there [Stone Arabia] who located at the time the Schoharie settlements were begun, which induced them to remove thither. Frothingham says they were on the ground before 1723.
The original pateentees were, with one or two exceptions, of German ancestry coming from the Rhine Valley in Switzerland and Germany.
When in 1720, the colonial governor lent an open ear to the desire of about 60 Schoharie families in the Schoharie settlement to join the others who had gone to Stone Arabia without leave, a new era dawned for the distressed Palatines. They were now to find a more tolerant and kindly attitude even though that attitude was inspired by hope of protecting the Mohawk frontier by settling these sturdy and stubborn folk along the upper reaches of the river. So the Stone Arabia and the Burnetsfield settlements were given official countenance. The grants were permitted and bestowed "for their loyalty to government" - a belated return for their help in the Colonel Nicholson expedition of 1711.
The Indian deed for the Stone Arabia land cost 300 pounds in Indian goods and bears date of 12 February 1723 and approved 9 March 1723. The warrant to grant was issued 14 September and the patent dated 19 October 1723. On the first division, most of the patentees took 100 acres, two lots of 50 acres each; in 1733 another division was made. The survey was made by Nicholas Schuyler. A third division is said to have been made but we have never seen any record of it. In 1793 the lines about the patent were re-run because of variation of compass in former surveys and disputes which had arisen with neighbors in other patents. The field books of both surveyor Schuyler of 1733 and of surveyor Beekman of 1793 are extant and were studied. The first is in the possession of Mr. Wyman of Fonda and the later and last survey is in the possession of Joseph H. Reaney of St. Johnsville.
The survey of 1793 recites the boundaries of the original patent and, coming 70 years after, indicates the outlines of the patent more clearly than any description of boundaries made earlier. We quote from Beekman's notes:
Beginning at a certain Black Oak tree standing in the South East corner of a Tract of Land granted to John Schuyler and in the line of the Lands granted to Col. Abraham De Peyster and Harmanus Van Slyck, which tree is 125 chains East from the Mohawk River, and runs from the said tree along the line of the aforesaid Lands granted to John Schuyler, north 19° 30' west 193 chains to the Tract granted to Francis Harrison, Esq. thence along his line North 16° West 65 Chains to a certain Bruck called by the Indians Garoga, then up the stream of the said Bruck to another Bruck which falls into it and is called by the Indians Cajadutta, thence up the stream of said Bruck called Cajadutta 96 Chains measured on a straight line, thence south 63° East 250 chains to a bruck called the Canada Kill, thence down the stream of said Bruck 80 chains measured on a straight line, then south 61° West 355 Chains, then south 6 chains to the above mentioned land of Abm De Peyster and Harrison [?] Van Slyck, then along their line 153 chains to the place where it begun containing 12 thousand 700 acres with allowance for Highways.
Beekman adds a note more definitely located the starting point of the original deed:
Black Oak Tree, which Tree being the North East corner of De Peyster's and Van Slyck's Patent, and the letters D P and its cyphers 1716 cut in the Bark of said tree, and appears that it had been done at the time of the first survey of the said De Peysters and Van Slycks Patent was made which said line runs to the place of beginning of said De Peysters and Van Slycks Patent opposite three small Islands in the Mohawk River.
This quite definitely fixes the "beginning point" of the patent, for one can be east of the Mohawk River only in the vicinity of Nelliston and the three small islands are there.
The 27 names which appeared in the patent were: Johan Christian Garlack, John Lawyer, Andries Feink, Hendrick Frey, Warnar Digart, Bartholomew Picart, Johannes Schnell, Johannes Cremse, Johannes Emigen, William Vocks, Mardan Dellinback, Adam Emigen, Teobald Garlack, Suffereinas Deigert, William Copernall, Hans Deterick Cassalman, John Joost Schnell, Christian Feink, Simon Erchart, Mardan Seibart, Elias Garlack, Johannes Ingolt, William Nellese, Andries Peiper, Lodowick Cassalman and Gerhart Scheffer. Of the patentees, the last two took no share in the first division; on the other hand such a share was granted to Bartholomew Picard, Jr.
In the second allotment, made in 1733, we find that 14 who took land in the first division took none in the second. Ten years had witnessed the death or removal of these or they were convinced they had enough land. 26 different titles were given in the 2nd allotment; 4 were titles in partnership. The 30 men who thus shared were as follows: Martynis Tillebagh, Johannis Lawyer, Andris Finck, Nicholas Pickard, Lodewyck Casselmann, Andreas Finck, Jr., Symon Erhart, Jacob Snell, Johannis Snell, Adam Emge, Wilhelmis Casselman, Dierik Loucks, Sutferynes Teyger, Johannis Myderse, William Brower, Johannis Crams, Hanes Erhart, Barhanadus Van Diere, War(ner) Teygor, Johannis Miller, Jacob Sible, Jurigh Houck, Piter Soots, Johannis Schulthuys, Johannis Wies, Van Schullne, Hendrick Six, William Nellis, Nicolas Stensoll, and Robert Garther. Deeds were given to all who shared in this allotment, a few of which are still in existence. Most of the new grantees were sons of the patentees, in several instances were men from Schoharie, and in some cases Dutchmen.
The first allotment had given title to 2550 acres, the second to 9169 acres, a total of 11719 acres. There was but little left. Another survey and allotment was made in 1793. Variations and errors in lines previously run called for corrections. By order of court in 1792 Jacob Eacker, Abraham Coopman and Jacob G. Klock were appointed commissioners; Cornelius Beekman was employed as surveyor. As a result six different narrow wedgeshaped parcels of land were added to the patent and divided. These pieces contained over 1000 acres making the total acreage of the patent nearly 13,000 acres.
Peace prevailed in the Valley until 1757. Sir William's influence with both whites and Indians made for peace and harmony. How busy he was in keeping order, in restraining certain settlers, in pacifying the red men when their pride and sense of justice were violated, is a matter set down in his correspondence.
People were land-mad apparently. Sir William declared in 1769 that all land worth patenting had been taken. Stone Arabians were over-zealous in possessing land. King Hendrick and three other Indians appeared before the council in New York City June 12, 1753, declaring their intentions of driving out of the country a certain Barclay and a Mrs. Pickard because of their selling liquor to the Indians and taking more land than they were given. They "intend to take a little Rod and whip" to Arent Stevens and Conradt Gunterman for taking more land than was sold to them. A like complaint was lodged against "Peter Wagenaer over against Canajohary Castle north side of the River" and Hannes Clock.
Within this period there was a large increase in the population of the section and throughout the Valley; the first generation born here came to maturity, married, made homes for themselves, and the second generation of native-born arrived. New immigrants of many nationalities came. A French spy reports in 1737 that there was not a fort between Ft. Johnson and the Falls. He says there were 500 houses on the north side road east of the Falls, most of them stone and some a half-league back from the river.
There was probably a more rapid growth in the period following the close of the French and Indian War, and the opening of the Revolution found the Stone Arabia section well occupied. Churches, schools, stores, mills, blacksmith shops, lime kilns, taverns and boatyards were plentiful along the Mohawk. Each farm had an orchard, which was generally the family burial-ground. Wheat, flax, potatoes, corn, fruit, hemp, hay, peas, and oats were grown, with wheat the leading crop. The wheat flour of the Valley was worth more in New York City than any other. The first houses were log; the next frame or stone. Dwight observed in 1799 that the houses were of the Dutch style with few windows, and many doors with windowless sheds over the doors. Lean-tos and other awkward additions often joined the main building which was generally a one and a half story structure and "frequently looked like a collection of kitchens."
Those of the first generation that came could write their names, but of the first and second generation born here few could. The language became a sad mixture of German, Dutch, English and Indian - the Mohawk Dutch.
A few years previous to his death, Sir William brought the remnant of the Oswegatchie tribe from northern New York where they had been ravaged by a plague and located them about the headwaters of the Knaderock on the southeastern edge of the Stone Arabia Patent. Although they soon returned to their northern home, this section named McKinley has since been called Oswegatchie or Swegatchie.
The Stone Arabia settlers were found, with the settlers in the other districts, in the Valley militia of the colony which in pre-Revolutionary days met regularly for training and was subject to call to arms when emergencies arose. One familiar with the Stone Arabia family names may readily see the part they took in the military preparations in the Valley, by perusing the roster of the company commanded by Capt. Soffrinus Deychert from 1757-1762. This was the Stone Arabia company in the 2d battalion of Palatine militia. Still living in the Valley are found many of the descendants of these Stone Arabia colonial soldiers, e.g., Keyser, Louck, Markell, Swits, Coppernoll, Finck, Cook, Roller, Dillenbeck, Brower, Roof, Kilts, Becker, Snell, Getman, Empie, Nestell, Lasher, Nellis, Dygert, Davy, Walrath, Saltsman, Shults, Baum, Frank, Christman, Wick, Duesler, Fox, Dockstader, Edick, Wert, and others.
And then came the struggle for independence. The Stone Arabia settlers were signally American on their stand. Nearly two years before the Philadelphia Liberty bell rang out independence, the Stone Arabia farmers had drafted their declaration of American Principles. This took place 27 Aug. 1774 in the tavern of Adam Loucks, known as the White Tavern and identified by some as the upper tavern, which for generations has now been called the Red Tavern, while the White Tavern or Corners is a few rods above the churches.
These resolves read in part as follows:
III [in part]. That We think it is our undeniable Privilege to be taxed only with our own Consent given by ourselves (or by our Representative). That Taxes otherwise laid and exacted are unjust and unconstitutional....
IV. That the Act for blocking up the Port of Boston is oppressive and arbitrary, injurious in its principles and particularly oppressive to the Inhabitants of Boston, who we consider as Brethren suffering in the Common Cause.
V (in part). ...that we will join and unite with our Brethren of the Rest of this Colony in anything tending to support and defend our Rights and Liberties.
As indicative of the attitude of mind of Loucks, the tavern keeper, to current conditions, which of course reflected the mind of the Stone Arabia settlers, there was to be found on the walls of the tavern the portraits of Martin Luther, Frederick the Great, George III, and Louis XIV, visible tokens of a loyalty to religion, to the old home land and the new home in America and of a lasting and intense hatred to the one who drove them from their Palatinate homes on the Rhine, for the picture of the French King was inserted in its frame upside down and under it- these lines-
This is the man we all should hate,
Major Zielly and Andrew Dillenback (later killed at Oriskany) were early appointed on a committee to secure material for war. The people of Stone Arabia were alert and informed. The fertile Mohawk Valley and the fields, particularly of Stone Arabia, were sources of supply for the Continental Army throughout the long struggle. Especially in 1780 did Washington look to the wheat and oats of Stone Arabia. Hence the Raid of 1780, with its intensive destruction, was a telling blow to the cause. It should be noted that there was more unanimity among the Palatine farmers in opposition to the British policy than in some other districts in the Valley. There was scarcely a family, however, that was not divided between loyalty to the crown and loyalty to the cause. Canadian records reveal the extent to which the Valley population contributed to the British interest.
Two forts, Keiser and Paris, were reared on Stone Arabia soil. Twice the enemies ravaged Stone Arabia, in the Ephratah-Dillenburgh raid in 1778 and the direful raid of 1780. Oriskany took its sanguinary toll. And yet showing the spirit of the Stone Arabia settlers, we find Governor Clinton saying of them in 1781, "Most of Tryon and Schoharie have been destroyed. They are not however abandoned; the inhabitants having recovered themselves, continue to improve their farms and assist in the general defense." Truly Stone Arabia played a telling and significant part in the early life of New York and America.
Of great interest in Stone Arabia's development and showing the opposing desires of the inhabitants is the history of the "Union Academy of palatine," incorporated March 31, 1795. The Reformed Dutch church of Stone Arabia gave land to the institution and also permission to use the school house of the church (apparently a part of the parsonage) for one year. John Nifher was probably the first principal. The two-story frame academy building was erected by subscription and completed in 1799 opposite the Reformed church. It was burned in 1806 or 1807 and not rebuilt. To the above data from Beers' History of Montgomery County, Dr. W. N. P. Dailey adds, in his History of Montgomery Classis, that the principal mover in the project was Major Andrew Finck and that his neighbors objected on the ground that "too much learning made bad farmers." The title to the land was questioned, the administration was sued and Finck was forced to yield.
ANDREW L. DILLENBECK
Johnstown, N. Y.
Some of the finer points brought up in this article have been debated for years, before and since Mr. Dillenbeck's address, with interpretations as diverse as the spellings herein. Topics, locations and events mentioned in the article can be further explored on the Ft. Klock Historical Restoration site and the Tryon County NYGenWeb, as well as by visiting the Montgomery County Dept. of History and Archives in Fonda, N.Y. In July 2000 we'll be presenting material from Canadian records that "reveal the extent to which the Valley population contributed to the British interest."
Stone Arabia's history was prepared by Lori Whitmer Mosher. Lori is researching Moshers in the Town of
Oppenheim, now part of Fulton County. Lori's brick wall is Peter Mosher, last seen listed on the census in 1870. If you can help Lori out with area Moshers or have ideas about late 19th century Oppenheim sources,
she'd love to hear from you.
Copyright © 1931 Andrew L. Dillenbeck
Copyright © 2000 Lori Whitmer/ M. Magill
All Rights Reserved.