The Letters of Joseph G. Klock

Compiled by

His Great-Great grandson

Earl Herbert Klock


The Letters of Joseph G. Klock resulted, in part, from two beautiful romances connected with the Mohawk Valley and arising out of the Revolution.

Romance No. 1

Judge Jacob G. Klock, born in the Mohawk Valley on March 9, 1738, practiced law at Kingston and was a member of the Assembly for Temporary Government of the Southern District of New York during the Revolution. Judge Klock met Martije Beekman, a girl of a fine colonial family of Kingston. She was the daughter of Lieut. Cornelius Beekman who had served honorably in the Revolution. Judge Klock and Martije were married September 30, 1784. The groom was 46 and the bride 26 years of age. Martije Beekman was Jacob G. Klock's seocnd wife. Their first child was a son, and Martije named him John Beekman Klock, for she was proud of her family name; and well she might be for had not her great-grandfather, William Beekman, come over to America with Peter Stuyvesant and helped settle New Amsterdam, now New York City? Two streets in lower Manhattan had been named after him, and still bear his name, William and Beekman streets.

Romance No. 2

At the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777, Lieutenant Henry Zimmerman, an officer in Col. Jacob Klock's regiment, was severely wounded at a time when the battle looked dubious for the brave yeoman who had been ambushed there. Some of the colonists seemed to be retreating and Lieutenant Zimmerman begged them to kill him before he fell into the hands of the Indians and Tories.

General Herkimer, who it seems had also been wounded and was directing the battle from the base of a tree, overheard the Lieutenant's pitiful petitions, and ordered a detail to remove Zimmerman to a place of safety. After the battle, General Herkimer and many of the other wounded, including Lieutenant Zimmerman, were carried to the home of the valiant old General down the Valley. There, after a long period of time, Lieutenant Zimmerman recovered. Now the lieutenant had a beautiful daugher, Dorthy.

A private in Colonel Klock's regiment was George G. Klock, a son of George Klock, or "Urie", and a brother of Judge Jacob G. Klock. George G. Klock had a son, Joseph G. Klock, who altho but a boy, was also a member of Colonel Klock's regiment. What more natural that the children of two veterans and comrades fall in love with each other? So we find Joseph G. Klock, born April 3, 1769, and Dorthy Zimmerman, born October 15, 173, getting married on January 3, 1792. Joseph was 23 and Dorthy 19, when they wed. On the 1st day of December, that year, a daughter was born to them, and they named her Margaret.

John Beekman Klock and his brother, David, grew up in the Mohawk while Margaret and her sister, Catherien, were growing to young womanhood in the Valley, it seems, in the St. Johnsville neighborhood. The two boys married their two cousins. John Beekman and Margaret Klock were wed on December 3, 1809. They were the parents of my father John Chandler Klock.

Land in western New York which had been saved to the Nation through the Clinton-Sullivan Campaigns, was settled somewhat by veterans and their children. So we find Grandfather and Grandmother Klock with their brother, David, and his wife, Catherien, migrating early in the 1800s to Chautauqua county, to a new country. The father of the two pioneer girls, Joseph G. Klock, wrote the letters which are to follow to his two daughters and their husbands out in Chautauqua county.


Joseph G. Klock, great-grandson of Henrick Klock, our first American progenerator, was my great grandfather on my grandmother's side. He was the father of my grandmother, Margaret Klock Klock. He had two daughters by his first wife, Dorthy Zimmerman Klock, and these two daughters as just stated married brothers, John Beekman Klock and David Klock, sons of Jacob G. Klock, the judge, who once resided at Kingston.

Margaret, the elder, and her sister, Catherine Klock, called affectionately by their father, "Peggy and Caty", and the two cousins they married, were all born, as far as I know, in the famous Mohawk Valley. John and Margaret, my grandfather and grandmother, were married February 3, John being 22 and Margaret 17 years of age. Thus grandmother's sister, who was the third child of Joseph G. and Dorthy Klock, must have been some younger and was not likely married at the same time that John and Margaret were. However, the two couples were eventually wed.

True to a certain native instinct of our family, and urged by that undescribable desire for conquest of new lands, these couples went "West". True to that same desire for a home of their own in a brand new country, which impelled our first generator to leave his native land in northern Germany and come to a new world, my grandfather and his wife, and his brother, David and his wife, forged their way into a new country. They migrated to the extreme western part of New York state. That section was then on the fringe of civilization and was part of the American frontier. Family tradition has it that their folks thought that they had gone to the end of the world.

These four brave young people established a home in Chautauqua county. Far removed, for those times, from the land of their nativity, and leaving their relatives and all that was near and dear to them "back east", these two couples built their nests in the then frontier west.

To them, first from that part of Oppenheim, that later became St. Johnsville, my great grandfather, Joseph G. Klock wrote the forthcoming letters. These were written on large, double sheets of paper, 8 x 12 1/4 inches in size; and the sheets were folded in such a way as to make both the letter and the envelope. The whole was fastened together with sealing wax, and the back used for the address. Envelopes had evidently not as yet been invented.

Most of the letters are addressed to grandfather, John B. Klock, at Ellery, Chautauqua county, New York. Some are "to be left at Fluvanna post office", and some at "Union Ellery post office". The series began April 20, 1817 and ended July 26, 1845, about a year before Great grandfather Joseph G. Klock died. There must have been more letters, for it seemed he wrote several times a year, informing his children in the west of family happenings, crop reports, neighborhood news, health conditions, and politics. How he did like politics, especially as he grew older. His letters are regular newspapers, reflecting the spirit, the religious, political and social conditions of the times. He always saluted the ones to whom he so affectionately wrote, "Dear Children"; and he placed at the bottom of each letter the names, "To John and Peggy; David and Caty"; and his own name was signed nearby. Later on he added, "and children" to the names of the ones addressed.

These letters, precious documents to all of the tribe, have come down to me; and for the sake of future generations, and the knowledge and information these missives contain is being transmitted herewith.

It seems to me that nothing could be more fitting than that these letters should first be published in the Enterprise and News, in the town where most of them were written, and where Joseph G. Klock seems to have played no small part in the early history of that locality. Then, in a booklet, these historical documents can be preserved by people from the state historical society down to descendants of the Klocks, Zimmermans, Nellises, Beekmans, Bellingers, Walraths, Snells, Failings, and others, yet to come. (Note: this apparently did not come to pass, although typewritten copies of this manuscript have circulated for years among "The Tribe" of descendants.)

Joseph G. Klock

Before entering into these letters, please allow me to present a brief history of their writer. For the information contained herein, I am indebted to my cousins, Sherman O. Klock, Ilion, N.Y., Bernice Younie, Independence, Mo., Elizabeth Normander, Philadelphia, N.Y.; Editor Lou D. Macwethy, St. Johnsville; Alexander C. Flick, State Historian, Albany, N.Y.; and to Joseph G. Klock's own letters.

Joseph G. Klock, according to my grandfather's bible record, was "born on the 3rd of April, 1769, on the Mohawk, and came to his natural death June 11, 1846". He was 77 years of age, and had been married four times. He was a noted character in and around St. Johnsville early in the 19th century; was Private in Colonel Klock's Regiment and a Captain in the War of 1812 (Council of Appointments, "Military Records from 1784-1821, Montgomery county, N.Y., 1811-1812" pages 865-1182-1327). These letters help prove that he was in the Revolution, altho nothing but a youngster. The American Army was disbanded in September, 1783, and Joseph G. Klock was then over 14. He was in the regiment of his Great uncle, Col. Jacob Klock.

He was the son of George G. Klock, born Nov. 12, 1742, died July 26, 1834, and Catherien Bellinger, born Sept. 16, 1748, died July 11, 1827, who were married July 10, 1766. Catherien Bellinger was the daughter of John Jost Bellinger, born Feb. 4, 1712, and Sophia Lawyer, the daughter of Johannes Lawyer, the surveyor and proprietor of Lawyer's Patent. George G. Klock was the son of George Klock, born 1714 and died 1789, and Catherien Walrod (Walrath). George Klock, known as "Old George" or "Urie", was the son of our first ancestor in America, the venerable Henrick Klock and wife __ Jacomynite. According to my grandfather's bible, "Heinrick Klock was born in Germany, 1663, and came to America from Hessle Kessle, Germany, in 1710*; and settled on the Mohawk River. He came to his natural death in 1760, aged 97; and had his fourth wife, and was yet a widower 15 years."

*Note: Joseph G. Klock's bible record says Hendrick Klock came to this country in 1708.

Thus Joseph G. Klock's great grandfather was married four times; and my great grandfather, Joseph G. Klock, was also married four times, and he was yet a widower nearly ten years.

Joseph G. Klock first married Dorthy Zimmerman, daughter of Lieut. Henry Zimmerman, born Jan. 10, 1738, died May 18, 1807, and Margaret Bellinger, born in 1752 and died in 1815. Joseph and Dorthy were married June 11, 1792. To this union were born: Margaret, married John Beekman Klock (my grandfather); Daniel, married Anna Devendorf; Catherien, married David Klock; Eva, born June 6, 1799, died Dec. 12, 1802; Elizabeth, born Feb. 24, 1804, no record.

Joseph G. Klock married second, Elizabeth Moyer, born April 12, 1771, died Aug. 14, 1809. No record of any children.

Joseph G. Klock, married third, Christina Borst, born May 18, 1777, died May 14, 1817. to this union were born: Nancy, born Jan. 15, 1810, died Aug. 7, 1824; Maria, married Edwin E. Snell; James C., died young; William, died in infancy; Christina, married Isaac Finehaut, or "Finehart", and resided in Detroit, Mich. They had four children.

Joseph G. Klock married 4th, May 14, 1818, Elizabeth Devendorf Fox, born Sept. 3, 1772, died Oct. 1, 1836. She was the widow of John C. Fox, a woman of rare beauty, and was locally known as the "Pride of the Mohawk". With her union with John C. Fox, a child, Elizabeth, was born who married Nicholas Klock. Elizabeth died on her wedding day, and her husband later married Lucinda Foster, the niece of the celebrated hunter and trapper, "Nat Foster" of whom much has been written.

Many of the people in this record are mentioned in the letters which are about to follow, especially Maria, and the fourth wife whom Joseph G. calls "Mother" and with whom he lived 18 years.

Perhaps we can secure a clearer mental picture of Joseph G. Klock and gain a better understanding of him by studying a moment his marital life.

He married my great grandmother, Dorthy Zimmerman, when Dorthy was 18 years and three months old, and Joseph was not quite 23. Their marriage took place close to New Year's day, January 3, 1792. (Corrected above to June 11, 1792. Nearly a year later, or on Dec. 1, 1792, their first child, my grandmother, Margaret Klock, was born. During their 13 years of married life, five children came into their home.

There is no date, in my records, of his marriage to Elizabeth Moyer. But she died about four years after Dorthy, the first wife, lacking a month.

By Christina Borst, his third wife, he had five more children, three of whom died young. Maria, their second child and second daughter, seems to have been an invalid for some time according to these letters. After she married Edwin E. Snell, and had a baby daughter of her own, we do not read so much about her illness. Christina Borst Klock died May 14 1817; so she and Joseph G. Klock must have been married about eight years.

Just a year after the death of Christina Borst, to a day, great grandfather married his fourth wife, Elizabeth Devendorf Fox, and with her spent the greater part of his married life with any one wife, or 18 years. She was about 46 and he about 49 years of age when they married. "Mother" as he affectionately called her, was afflicted with some serious stomach disorder, probably ulcers; and considerable is said about her complaint, and the remedies he tried to supply for her, in his vain attempt to cure her malady and ease her pain. After years of severe suffering, she passed to her reward, Oct. 1, 1836. Most of his letters were written during his life with her; and it is evident that she went with him on a few trips to Chautauqua county; and that after her death, he seems to have been very lonesome.

Joseph G. Klock and his four wives are buried in the Klock church burying ground just east of St. Johnsville, adjacent to where the first church in that vicinity was built long before the Revolution. The markers of Joseph G., his wives and some of their children have been personally examined by Cousin Sherman O. Klock, who had to dig the dirt away in some instances to read the inscriptions. All are of rough, uncut native limestone, into which the lettering had been cut with a chisel. None of the given names of the wives are inscribed in full, but are greatly and quaintly abbreviated. Dorthy is inscribed "DO. 1st wife of J.G.K." Christiana is "Cno (or CNA) 3rd wife", and the two Elizabeths are "Eth" 2nd and 4th wives of " J.G.K.".

Great grandfather Joseph G. was greatly interested in the Church and its work, as his letters will disclose. In one of them, he relates a great revivial, and he mentions ministers who preached there in that early day. He was elected trustee of St. John's church Dec. 26, 1804, and became treasurer Aug. 22, 1807, and was Senior Elder when the church was incorporated July 6, 1816. As I understand it, this church was a much later and entirely different one than the one named after my family east of St. Johnsville.

While he was treasurer of his church, I wonder how he would have felt if he could have looked into the future some 116 years and seen his great grandson way out here in the Black Hills as treasurer of the Hot Springs United churches - Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist. Had it not been for faithful old scouts like Joseph G. Klock perhaps we would not have our churches today.

Joseph G. Klock was active in all events of his day; in his early days being intensely interested in the history then in the making; in his later days being earnestly and sincerely concerned in the politics of the day. He took a part in all important happenings of his times, was in touch with neighborhood doings, was a peace maker, a home lover, and was greatly endeared to his children. He was also a good dresser and wore a stove-pipe hat. He must have been good looking too.

It is with great pride that this writer is able to say that both of his direct great grandfathers, Joseph G. Klock and Jacob G. Klock, were witnesses to the last will of Col. Jacob Klock. One was a great nephew and the other a nephew of the Colonel. Jacob G. Klock, my grandfather's father, drew up the will of the Colonel, and he and great grandfather Joseph G. Klock, signed as witnesses. The will was written May 8, 1798; ad a few days later, or on May 11, I think, the grand old Colonel died. One hundred years later, or on May 11, 1898, the great great nephew of the colonel, and great grandson of both of his witnesses, your humble servant, was mustered into the United States army to serve in the War with Spain.

But to get back to the letters. As stated before, they were written to my grandfather and his wife, and to grandfather's brother and wife. My grandfather moved later to Springfield, Illinois, David and Caty remained in Chautauqua county and are both buried in the Flavana graveyard. My grandfather died at Sheffield, Oct. 12, 1860; and his wife, my grandmother, Margaret, died at Sheffield March 1, 1872, a little less than two years before I was born. Thus, I never saw either grandfather or grandmother Klock, altho I have their pictures at my old boyhood home at Sheffield. But I had two grand old aunts, Anna Liza, who was born Oct. 13, 1811, and died April 18, 1887; and Dorthy McBain, born March 11, 1813, and died July 15, 1883. They lived in the house that my grandfather owned in an early day at Sheffield, and both have told me much of my grandparents.

In this old Klock house in which was built mostly of black walnut, at Sheffield, Ill., some eighty years ago, Aunt Liza and Aunt Dorthy lived for a number of years. Their parents had brought many things with them from Chautauqua county, including these precious letters.

Altho but a boy, I was at the bedside of both these fine old aunts when they passed away. I was nine years old when Aunt Dorthy died and 13 when Aunt Liza left us. Both died happy in the faith of our fathers.

After Aunt Liza died, relatives gathered and took possession of the family keep-sakes which had come from "back east", some taking Grandmother's pretty old blue china, and some taking this and some that. I rescued an old box of letters. It was like a wooden shoe or soap box, on which a lid had been fastened with leather hinges. No one else seemed to care about this box of papers and letters; so I took them. Now I am very proud to be in possession of most of them; and happy for the opportunity of now passing them on down to future generations. It might be said that for a long number of years, some 23 years to be exact, it was thought they were lost.

Being true to the Klock instinct for adventure into new lands, and to pioneering, this writer took up a soldier's homestead in the Black Hills area a number of years ago. On Oct. 4, 1920, his home and all its contents were burned to the ground. I thought the old box of letters went with the house; but this past year, it was discovered thta the letters were still at a place where I had once boarded, while a newspaper reporter and editor, at Lewistown, Ill. The people who had them very kindly mailed to me when I requested that this be done. So here they are; for I am sending very nearly true copies of them on to you.

The Letters

Letter No. 1 must have been written a short time after Grandfather and Grandmother Klock, and David and Caty, had left for their new home on their great western adventure. It appears that these young folks had encountered a big snow storm somewhere along the line; and Great grandfather Joseph had discovered that Chautauqua county was "frosty", and, of course, must tell them of the fact.

It will be noticed the first of these letters were written from Oppenheim. Just where this town was is uncertain to me, but I imagine it was close to St. Johnsville. Great grandfather tells of the change in name of counties several years later on, and he then had his mailed directed to St. Johnsville.*

*Note: At that time the above letter was written, 1817, the Town of St. Johnsville was not in existence, it, at that time being the town of Oppenheim, Fulton County. To clarify the place named in the letters to follow, these facts should be observed. Montgomery County was taken off from Albany County, 1772. Albany County was formerly Tryon County, during the Colonial period and was changed to Albany County in 1784.

Montgomery County was Tryon County till the outbreak of the Revolutionary War when resentment of Gov. Tryon and the Adventures of General Montgomery changed the name. Montgomery County was set up in 1772 which embraced practically all of the State west of Schenectady and from this several counties were set up. It is, thus, that Montgomery County was known as the Mother of Counties. Note the following: Ontario was set up from Montgomery in 1789, Herkimer, Otsego, and Tioga in 1791, Hamilton in 1816, and Fulton in 1838.

St. Johnsville was a part of Oppenheim township until 1838 when Fulton County was taken off and the Town of Oppenheim divided, the South part of which Jos. G. Klock resided became the town of St. Johnsville, while the north portion of Oppenheim remained a township in Fulton County, and is a township to this day.

The village of St. Johnsville was not incorporated until 1857 but the hamlet had been known as Zimmerman's Mills taking its name from the pioneer settler who erected a grist mill at this point on Zimmerman Creek which still retains the name. Prior to 1808, the Township of St. Johnsville was a portion of the Town of Palatine. Therefore, through geographical name changes the locality has functioned under three geographic names, first, Palatine; then Oppenheim; and now St. Johnsville.

The letters to follow will appear under date lines which might appear to indicate change of residence but merely indicate the change of names of the same locality. -- Editor

*Beer's History of Montgomery County
Page 149: Palatine formed March 7, 1788 - Montgomery County organized into townships at that time.
Page 237: Town of Oppenheim set off from Palatine March 18, 1808; St. Johnsville P.O. established in 1819; Town of St. Johnsville found at division of Montgomery County in April 18, 1838
*See March 30, 1929 Enterprise - Jacob G. Klock Article

Our appreciation to one of the larger Klock Family descendants, Benny Klock, for sharing this gem from his personal collection.

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Last Updated: 9/3/97
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