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Dutch Magistrate and Yankee Peddler. Currytown. Jacob Dievendorff. Indian Method of Scalping.
pecting 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 detam Yankee pass!” He paid the money and resigned his office, feeling that it was safer to deal in corn and butter with honest neighbors, than in law with Yankee interlopers.
We reached Currytown, a small village nearly four miles south of Canajoharie, at about noon. The principal object of my visit there was to see the venerable Jacob Dievendorff, who, with his family, was among ing which was stockaded and used as a fort. the sufferers when that settle- - It is fast decaying, but the venerable owner ment was destroyed by Indians allows time alone to work its destruction, and Tories in July, 1781. Ac- and will not suffer a board to be taken from companied by his son-in-law it. The occurrences here have already (Dr. Snow, of Currytown), to been recorded, by Campbell and Simms, as we found the old patriot s related to them long ago by Mr. Dievenbusily engaged in his barn, *s dorff and others, and from these threshing grain; and, al- -so
details I gather the following though nearly eighty years facts, adding such matters of of age, he seemed almost V
interest as were communicated as vigorous and active as most men are to me by Mr. Dievendorff at sixty. His sight and hearing are some- himself and his near what defective, but his intellect, as exhibit- neighbor, the veneraed by his clear remembrance of the circum- o woos, ble John Keller. stances of his early life, had lost but little A-T \so On the 9th of July, of its strength. He is one o so 1781, nearly five hundof the largest land-holders - red Indians, and a few Loyalin Montgomery county, ists, commanded by a Tory owning one thousand named Doxstader, attacked fertile acres, lying in and destroyed the settlement a single tract where of Currytown, murdered sevthe scenes of his suf- eral of the inhabitants, and ferings in early life carried others away prisoners. occurred. In an or- The house of Henry Lewis chard, a short dis- - - (represented in the tance from his dwell- - ! , engraving) was August, ing, the house A.ZooZ_0 tuosos 49 (d. 7% picketed and used
* I here present a portrait of Mr. Dievendorff, which he kindly allowed me to make while he sat upon a half bushel in his barn. Also, a sketch of the back of his head, showing its appearance where the scalp was taken off. The building is a view of the one referred to in the text as the Currytown fort, now standing in Mr. Dievendorff's orchard. The method used by the Indians in scalping is probably not generally known. I was told by Mr. Dievendorff and others familiar with the horrid practice that the scalping-knife was a weapon not unlike, in appearance, the bowie-knife of the present day. . The victim was usually stunned or killed by a blow from the tomahawk. Sometimes only a portion of the scalp (as was the case with Mr. Dievendorff) was taken from the crown and back part of the head, but more frequently the whole scalp was removed. With the dexterity of a surgeon, the Indian placed the point of his knife at the roots of the hair on the forehead, and made a circular incision around the head. If the hair was short, he would raise a lappet of the skin, take hold with his teeth, and tear it instantly from the skull... If long, such as the hair of females, he would twist it around his hand, and, by a sudden jerk, bare the skull. The scalps were then tanned with the hair on, and often marked in such a manner that the owners could tell when and where they were severally obtained, and whether they belonged to men or women. When Major Rogers, in 1759, destroyed the chief village of the St. Francis Indians, he found there a vast quantity of scalps, many of them comically painted in hieroglyphics. They were all stretched on small hoops.
* Mr. Dievendorff told me that on one occasion the fort was attacked by a party of Indians. There were
Attack on Currytown. The Captives. Expedition under Captain Gross. Battle at New Dorlach, now Sharon Springs.
settlers, unsuspicious of danger, were generally at work in their fields when the enemy fell upon them. It was toward noon when they emerged stealthily from the forest, and with torch and tomahawk commenced the work of destruction. Among the sufferers were the Dievendorffs, Kellers, Myerses, Bellingers, Tanners, and Lewises. On the first alarm, those nearest the fort fled thitherward, and those more remote sought shelter in the woods. Jacob Dievendorff, the father of the subject of our sketch, escaped. His son Frederic was overtaken, tomahawked, and scalped, on his way to the fort," and Frederic's brother Jacob, then a lad eleven years old, was made prisoner. A negro named Jacob, two lads named Bellinger, Mary Miller, a little girl ten or twelve years old, Jacob Myers and his son, and two others, were captured. The Indians then plundered and burned all the dwellings but the fort and one belonging to a Tory, in all about twelve, and either killed or drove away most of the cattle and horses in the neighborhood. When the work of destruction was finished, the enemy started off in the direction of New Dorlach, or Turlock (now Sharon) with their prisoners and booty. Colonel Willett was at Fort Plain when Currytown was attacked. On the previous day he had sent out a scout of thirty or forty men, under Captain Gross, to patrol the country for the two-fold purpose of procuring forage and watching the movements of the enemy. They went in the direction of New Dorlach, and, when near the present Sharon Springs, discovered a portion of the camp of the enemy in a cedar swamp.” Intelligence of this fact reached Willett at the moment when a dense smoke, indicating the firing of a village, was seen from Fort Plain, in the direction of Currytown. Captain Robert M'Kean, with sixteen levies, was ordered to that place, with instructions to assemble as many of the militia on the way as possible. With his usual celerity, that officer arrived at the settlement in time to assist in extinguishing the flames of some of the buildings yet unconsumed. Colonel Willett, in the mean time, was active in collecting the militia. Presuming that the enemy would occupy the same encampment that night, and being joined during the day by the forces under M.Kean and Gross, he determined to make an attack upon them at midnight, while they were asleep. His whole strength did not exceed one hundred and fifty effective men, while the enemy's force, as he afterward learned, consisted of more than double that number. The night was dark and lowering, and the dense forest that surrounded the swamp encampment of the enemy was penetrated only by a bridle path. His guide became bewildered, and it was six o'clock in the morning before he came in sight of the enemy, who, warned of his approach, had taken a more advantageous position. From this position it was desirable to draw them, and for that purpose Willett sent forward a detachment from the main body, which he had stationed in crescent form on a ridge now seen on the south side of the turnpike, opposite the swamp, who fired upon the Indians and then retreated. The stratagem succeeded, for the Indians pursued them, and were met by Willett, advancing with one hundred men. M'Kean was left with a reserve in the rear, and fell furiously upon the flank of the enemy. A desperate fight for a short time ensued, when the Indians broke and fled, but kept up a fire from behind trees and rocks. Willett and his men, understanding their desultory warfare, pursued them with bullet and bayonet, until they relinquished the fight, and fled precipitately down their war-path toward the Susquehanna, leaving their camp and all their plunder behind. They left forty dead upon the field. The American loss was five killed, and nine wounded and missing. The brave M'Kean was
several women, but only one man, in the fort. The savages approached stealthily along a ravine, a little north of the fort, and were about to make an assault upon the frail fortification, when they were saluted with a warm fire from it. There were several muskets in it, which the women loaded as fast as the man could fire; and so rapid were the discharges, that the Indians, supposing quite a large garrison to be present, fled to the woods. The remains of the building are still scarred by many bullet marks.
He was not killed, but lay several hours insensible, when he was picked up by his uncle, Mr. Keller, who carried him into the fort. He recovered, and lived several years, when he was killed by the falling of a tree.
* A part of this swamp may still be seen on the north side of the western turnpike, about two miles east of the springs.
Death of Captain M'Kean. The Currytown Prisoners. Dievendorff. Sharon Springs. Analysis of the Waters.
mortally wounded, and died at Fort Plain a few days after the return of the expedition to that post. I was informed by Mr. Lipe, at Fort Plain, that the body of the captain was buried near the block-house, and that the fort was afterward called Fort M'Kean, in honor of the deceased soldier. At the time of the attack, the Indians had placed most of their prisoners on the horses which they had stolen from Currytown, and each was well guarded. When they were about to retreat before Willett, fearing the recapture of the prisoners, and the consequent loss of scalps, the savages began to murder and scalp them. Young Dievendorff (my informant) leaped from his horse, and, running toward the swamp, was pursued, knocked down by a blow of a tomahawk upon his shoulder, scalped, and left for dead. Willett did not bury his slain, but a detachment of militia, under Colonel Veeder, who repaired to the field after the battle, entombed them, and fortunately discovered and proceeded to bury the bodies of the prisoners who were murdered and scalped near the camp. Young Dievendorff, who was stunned and insensible, was seen struggling among the leaves; and his bloody face being mistaken for that of an Indian, one of the soldiers leveled his musket to shoot him. A fellow-soldier, perceiving his mistake, knocked up his piece and saved the lad's life. He was taken to Fort Plain, and, being placed under the care of Dr. Faught, a German physician, of Stone Arabia, was restored to health. It was five years, however, before his head was perfectly healed; and when I saw him (August, 1848), it had the tender appearance and feeling of a wound recently healed. He is still living (1849), in the midst of the settlement of Currytown, which soon arose from its ashes, and is a living monument of savage cruelty and the sufferings of the martyrs for American liberty." Toward evening we left Currytown for Cherry Valley, by the way of Sharon Springs. The road lay through a beautiful, though very hilly, country. From the summits of some of the eminences over which we passed the views were truly magnificent. Looking down into the Canajoharie Valley from the top of its eastern slope, it appeared like a vast enameled basin, having its concavity garnished with pictures of rolling intervales, broad cultivated fields, green groves, bright streams, villages, and neat farm-houses in abundance; and its distant rim on its northern verge seemed beautifully embossed with wooded hills, rising one above another in profuse outlines far away beyond the Mohawk. We reached the Springs toward sunset, passing the Pavilion on the way.” They are in a broad ravine, and along the margin of a hill; and near them the little village of Sharon has grown up.” Our stay was brief—just long enough to have a lost shoe replaced by another upon our horse, and to visit the famous fountains—for, having none of the “ills which flesh is heir to" of sufficient malignity to require the infliction of sulphureted or chalybeate draughts, we were glad to escape to the hills and vales less suggestive of Tophet and the Valley of Hinnom. How any but invalids, who find the waters less nauseous than the allopathic doses of the shops,
The little girl (Mary Miller) was found scalped, but alive, and was taken, with the lad Dievendorff, toward Fort Plain. She was very weak when found, and on taking a draught of cold water, just before reaching the fort, instantly expired.
* The Pavilion is a very large hotel, situated upon one of the loftiest summits in the neighborhood, and commanding a magnificent view of the country. It was erected in 1836 by a New York company, and is filled with invalids and other visitors during the summer.
* The Sharon Sulphur Springs have been celebrated for their medical properties many years, and are said to be equal in efficacy to those in Virginia. An analysis of the waters, made by Dr. Chilton, of New York, gives the following result:
Sulphate of magnesia . . . 42.40 grains.
Hydro-sulphate of sodium ; 2.28 “
There is a chalybeate spring in the neighborhood. The whole region abounds in fossils, and is an interesting place for the geologist.
Arrival at Cherry Valley. Judge Campbell and his Residence. His Captivity. Movements of Brant
and, consequently, are happier than at home, can spend a “season” there, within smelling distance of the gaseous fountains, and call the sojourn pleasure, is a question that can only be solved by Fashion, the shrewd alchemist in whose alembic common miseries are trans. muted into conventional happiness. The sulphureted hydrogen does not infect the Pavilion, I believe, and a summer residence there secures the enjoyment of pure air and delightful drives and walks in the midst of a lovely hill country. It was quite dark when we reached Cherry Valley, eight miles west of Sharon Springs." This village lies imbosomed within lofty hills, open only on the southwest, in the direction of the Susquehanna, and as we approached it along the margin of the mountain on its eastern border, the lights sparkling below us, like stars reflected from a lake, gave us the first indication of its presence. In the course of the evening we called upon the Honorable James S. Campbell, who, at the time of the destruction of the settlement in 1778, was a child six years of age. He is the son of Colonel Samuel Campbell, already mentioned, and father of the Honorable William W. Campbell, of New York city, the author of the Annals of Tryon County, so frequently cited. With his mother and family, he was carried into captivity. He has a clear recollection of events in the Indian country while he was a captive, his arrival and stay at Niagara, his subsequent sojourn in Canada, and the final reunion of the family after an absence and separation of two years.” His residence, a handsome modern structure, is upon the site of the old family mansion, which was stockaded and used as a fort at the time of the invasion. The doors and window-shutters were made bullet-proof,
the ramparts were strengthened. In a former chapter we have noticed that Brant's first hostile movement, after his return from Canada and establishment of his head-quarters at Oghkwaga, was an attempt to cut off the settlement of Cherry Valley, or, at least, to make captive the members of the active Committee of Correspondence. It was a sunny morning, toward the close of May, when Brant and his warriors cautiously moved up to the brow of the lofty hill on the east side of the town, to reconnoiter the settlement at their feet. He was astonished and chagrined on seeing a fortification where he supposed all was weak and defenseless, and greater was his disappointment when quite a large and well-armed garrison appeared upon the esplanade in front of Colonel Campbell's house. These soldiers were not as formidable as the sachem supposed, for they were only half-grown boys, who, full of the martial spirit of the times, had formed themselves into companies, and, armed with wooden guns and swords, had regular drills each day. It was such a display, on the morning in question, that attracted Brant's attention. His vision being somewhat obstructed by the trees and
MANsion of Judge CAMPBELL.”
* Cherry Valley derived its name, according to Campbell, from the following circumstance: “Mr. Dun. lop [the venerable pastor whose family suffered at the time of the massacre in 1778], engaged in writing some letters, inquired of Mr. Lindesay [the original proprietor of the soil] where he should date them, who proposed the name of a town in Scotland. Mr. Dunlop, pointing to the fine wild cherry-trees and to the valley, replied, ‘Let us give our place an appropriate name, and call it Cherry Valley, which was readily agreed to.”—Annals of Tryon County.
* The children of Mrs. Campbell were all restored to her at Niagara, except this one. In June, 1780, she was sent to Montreal, and there she was joined by her missing boy. He had been with a tribe of the Mohawks, and had forgotten his own language; but he remembered his mother, and expressed his joy at seeing her, in the Indian language. Honorable William Campbell, late surveyor general of New York, was her son. She lived until 1836, being then 93 years of age. She was the last survivor of the Revolutionary women in the region of the head waters of the Susquehanna.
* This pleasant dwelling is upon the northern verge of the town, on the road leading from Cherry Walley to the Mohawk. The sketch was taken from the road.
and the two barns that were included within
Brant deceived by Boys. Death of Lieutenant Wormwood. Shrewdness of Sitz. “Brant's Rock.”
shrubs in which he was concealed, he mistook the boys for full-grown soldiers, and, considering an attack dangerous, moved his party to a hiding-place at the foot of the Tekaharawa Falls, in a deep ravine north of the village, near the road leading to the Mohawk." In that deep, rocky glen, “where the whole scene was shadowy and almost dark even at mid-day,” his warriors were concealed, while Brant and two or three followers hid themselves in ambush behind a large rock by the road side, for the purpose of obtaining such information as might fall in his way. On the morning of that day, Lieutenant Wormwood, a promising young officer of Palatine, had been sent from Fort Plain to Cherry Valley with the information, for the committee at the latter place, that a military force might be expected there the next day. His noble bearing and rich velvet dress attracted a good deal of attention at the village; and when, toward evening, he started to return, accompanied by Peter Sitz, the bearer of some dispatches, the people, in admiration, looked after him until he disappeared beyond the hill. On leaving, he had cast down his portmanteau, saying, “I shall be back for it in the morning.” But he never returned. As the two patriots galloped along the margin of the Tekaharawa Glen, they were hailed, but, instead of answering, they put spurs to their horses. The warriors in ambush arose and fired a volley upon them. The lieutenant fell, and Brant, rushing out from his concealment, scalped him with his own hands. Sitz was captured, and his dispatches fell into the hands of Brant. Fortunately they were double, and Sitz had the presence of mind to destroy the genuine and deliver the fictitious to the sachem. Deceived by these dispatches concerning the strength of Cherry Valley, Brant withdrew to Cobelskill, and thence to Oghkawaga, and the settlement was saved from destruction at that time.” Its subsequent fate is recorded in a previous chapter.
Judge Campbell kindly offered to accompany us in the morning to “Brant's Rock.” Having engaged to be back at Fort Plain in time the next day to take the cars for Albany at two o'clock, and the distance from the “rock” being twelve miles, over a rough and hilly road, an early start was necessary, for I wished to make a sketch of the village and valley, as also
* The Tekaharawa is the western branch of the Canajoharie or Bowman's Creek, which falls into the Mohawk at Canajoharie, opposite Palatine.
* Campbell's Annals.
* This rock, which is about four feet high, lies in a field on the left of the road leading from Cherry Valley to the Mohawk, about a mile and a half north of the residence of Judge Campbell. It is a fossiliferous mass, composed chiefly of shells. Behind this rock the body of Lieutenant Wormwood, lifeless and the head scalped, was found by the villagers, who had heard the firing on the previous evening. Judge Campbell, who accompanied us to the spot, point- - - - ed out the stump of a large tree by the road side, as the place where - - - Lieutenant Wormwood fell. The tree was pierced by many bul- lets, and Judge Campbell had extracted several of them when a boy. BRANT's Rock.