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Mohawk Valley to the End



Palatine, now known as Palatine Bridge, on the north side of the Mohawk and opposite Canajoharie, was one of the homes of the Palatines, as its name would indicate. The first settler in this town, and possibly the first west of Schenectady, was Heinrich Prey, a native of Switzerland, who occupied and laid claim to a tract of land there about 1690. The old homestead is still in possession of the family. The present house was erected in 1739, having been preceded by a log cabin.

The Frey house is built of stone and is on the right hand side of the Central road in going west, just a little to the west of Palatine Bridge. 

The Old Frey House at Palatine

Fort Plain

Fort Plain was situated upon high ground at the rear of the present village of the same name. It was of some importance in the early days, affording protection to the inhabitants of that vicinity. The cut of the old blockhouse there will give some idea of the means of defense on the frontier at that time. During the Revolution the government erected at this place a fort that was stronger than any other in that section of the country. It was used as a place of deposit for military stores for some years after the close of the war.

The Palatine Church

Three miles to the east of the village of St. Johnsville is the old Lutheran meeting-house known as the Palatine Church. It is a little to the north of the track of the Central Railroad and in plain sight to all who pass.

The church was built of stone and is in perfect condition to-day. It was dedicated August 18, 1770, and from that time till the present has been in constant use for religious purposes. On the 1 8th of August. 1870. The centenary anniversary of the dedication of this church was appropriately observed. More than five thousand people were present. Addresses were made by Reverend Charles A. Smith, who had been a pastor of the church more than half a century before; Prof. Geortner, of Hamilton College, and Governor Horatio Seymour.

Ancient Blockhouse, Fort Plain

The cost of erecting the church was borne by a small number of people. The lot was given by Hendrick W. Nellis, and Henry Nellis paid for building the steeple. The cost of the church exclusive of the gift of these two men was about six hundred seventy pounds, a very large sum for those times. William, Andrew, Johannes, Henry, Christian, and David Nellis, sons of the before mentioned Hendrick and Henry Nellis, gave sixty pounds each toward the erection of the church, and Johannes Hess gave a like sum. The remainder of the expense, about two hundred pounds, was borne equally by Peter Waggoner and Andrew Reber.

In the spire was one of three noted triangles which was used to call the people together for service. One of the others was in the old Canajoharie Academy, and the third is still in use in the Court House in Johnstown.


The Indian Castle Church was situated in the town of Danube. Herkimer County, on the site of an early Indian mission. King Hendrick lived near here. The home of General Herkimer was in Danube and his house is still standing, an illustration showing the same being given elsewhere in this volume. The Indian Castle Church was built for the Indians before the Revolution, chiefly through the efforts of Sir William Johnson. There is still a small church on the old site which bears the name of Indian Castle Church.

The Palatine Church


The town of Steuben in Oneida county was settled principally by the Welsh. The greater part of the town was given to Baron Steuben by the State of New York in recognition of his services during the Revolution. Congress gave him an annuity of $2,500 a year. He lived on his estate in the town of Steuben till his death on the 28th of November, 1794.

Steuben served many years in the army of Frederick the Great. He was one of the aids of the great general and held the rank of lieutenant-general. He came to this country in 1777, and offered his services to Congress, not asking any rank. He was made inspector general with the rank of major-general.

On the walls of a German Lutheran church in the city of New York is the following inscription:

"Sacred to the memory of Frederick William Augustus Baron Steuben, a German; knight of the order of Fidelity; aide-de-camp to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia; major-general and inspector-general in the Revolutionary War; esteemed, respected, and supported by Washington. Fie gave military skill and discipline to the citizen soldiers, who, fulfilling the decrees of heaven, achieved the independence of the United States. The highly polished manners of the baron were graced by the noblest feelings of the heart. His hand, open as the day for melting charity, closed only in the strong hand of death. This memorial is inscribed by an American, who had the honor to be his aide-de-camp, and the happiness to be his friend." The place where Steuben lived is now known as Steubenville.

Indian Castle Church

German Flatts

German Flatts, now Herkimer, was settled almost wholly by the Palatines. By 175 1 there had grown up a settlement of sixty dwellings and three hundred inhabitants. For many years the Palatines prospered, but on the 12th of November, 1757. M. de Belletre, with a party of marines, Canadians and Indians numbering about three hundred, destroyed the Palatine settlement. At this time the village contained sixty-five houses and five blockhouses, all of which were burned. Though the inhabitants surrendered without resistance a considerable number was killed and about one hundred carried into captivity. Their property was destroyed and their stock killed or driven off. The following spring the Palatines south of the river were attacked by the French and Indians and several were killed, but the enemy was finally driven off. The year following brought another period of peace. The captured Palatines returned to their friends, rebuilt their homes, restocked their farms, and began another period of prosperity which lasted till the outbreak of the Revolution.

There were two forts in the Palatine settlement, Fort Dayton on the north side of the river within the boundaries of the present village of Herkimer, and Fort Herkimer on the south side of the river and near its bank. There were about seventy dwellings within the vicinity of these two forts.

On the 1st of September, 1778, Brant with a force of about four hundred fifty Tories and Indians attacked the place. The people escaped to the forts, but their property was destroyed. Houses, barns, grist and saw-mills, horses, cattle and sheep, all the fruits of their industry for many years, vanished in a few hours.

The Palatines bore much to maintain a principle. Twice their ancestors had suffered the extreme horrors of war on another continent in the last half of the seventeenth century, and twice in the last half of the eighteenth the homes of these people had been destroyed, and their farms laid waste in the new world.

Johnson held several councils with the Indians at German Flatts, one very important one in 1770 at which more than two thousand Indians, representing the Six Nations and the Cherokees, were present.

The first liberty pole erected in the Mohawk valley was raised at Fort Herkimer in 1775. At an early day a church was erected at German Flatts for the use of white people. There had been an earlier mission church for the Indians.

Little Falls

The grist mill at this place was of much importance to the early settlers of the upper valley, and also to the people at Forts Herkimer and Dayton after the destruction of German Flatts; and the burning of the mill by the Indians and Tories in June, 1782, was a serious misfortune.

Octagon Church, Little Falls

A church was erected at Little Falls as early as 1796. It was of no historical importance, but is of interest as illustrating church construction of the time on the frontier, not that this type was common, but it shows how simply the people built then.

The first building erected within the limits of the present city of Utica was a mud fort, situated between Main Street and the river. It was known as Fort Schuyler and is of interest now chiefly because it is sometimes confounded with the fort built at Rome, which was at first called Fort Stanwix, but during the Revolution was known as Fort Schuyler.

Fort Stanwix

Fort Stanwix was situated within the heart of the present city of Rome. It was built by General Stanwix after the defeat of Abercrombie at Ticonderoga, and was given the name of its builder. It was a square fortification of considerable strength and so placed as to command the portage between the Mohawk and Wood Creek, the latter being a stream flowing into Oneida Lake. There were several smaller works in the vicinity, the most important being Fort Newport on Wood Creek, and Fort Bull about midway between Forts Stanwix and Newport. At the time of the beginning of the Revolution Fort Stanwix, upon which more than a quarter of a million of dollars had been expended, an immense sum for those times, was in ruins. It was repaired and named Fort Schuyler. The first American flag floated from this fort, it being made from materials at hand. The importance of this fort has been shown in the account given of the battle of Oriskany.

A treaty of peace and amnesty was concluded between the Six Nations and the United States at Fort Stanwix in 1784. This resulted in setting at liberty many prisoners that had been held by the Indians.

In 1768 an important council was held here, in which representatives of Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey met thirty-two hundred Indians of the Six Nations. The treaty concluded at that time was known as the "Treaty of Fort Stanwix."

During the Revolution

The Dutch and Germans were ardent Whigs, while the Highlanders and other retainers of the Johnsons formed the bulk of the Tories. Johnson organized his followers into a body known as "Johnson's Greens," who were the bitterest and cruelest of all the foes of the patriots, not even excepting the Indians. Most of the Six Nations cast their lot with the British, though the Oneidas and a few others remained neutral or sided with the patriots. Among the most active and efficient of the patriots were General Herkimer and the missionary Samuel Kirkland. Jacob Klock, Ebenezer Cox, Samuel Campbell, and many others were untiring in their efforts.

The colonists of the Upper Mohawk, who, almost to a man, were patriots, were cut off from ready communication with other Whigs by the intervening district of Mohawk, which was completely under the domination of the Johnsons.

In no other part of our country were the Tories so active and so malignant, or the Whigs so loyal and faithful, as in the valley of the Mohawk. In no other section did the Whigs suffer so severely in the cause of liberty. The story of the long struggle in the valley is one of intense interest. It has been briefly sketched in these pages, but the reader should not be content without fuller knowledge. He should read such works as "The Life of Sir William Johnson" and "The Life of Brant," by Stone; "The Annals of Tryon County," by Campbell; "The Old New York Frontier," by Halsey; "The History of Herkimer County," by Benton; "The History of Schoharie County," by Simms, and the many other volumes which the reading of these will suggest.

Mohawk Valley | AHGP New York

Source: Stories from Early New York History, by Sherman Williams, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906


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