Page images
PDF
EPUB

Morning Scene near Cherry Valley. Light. Departure for Albany. woodworm, Bas

of the rock. At early dawn, the light not being sufficient to perceive the outline of distant objects, I stood upon the high ridge north of the village which divides the head waters of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna from the tributaries of the Mohawk. As the pale light in the east grew ruddy, a magnificent panorama was revealed on every side; and as the stars faded away, and trees, and fields, and hills, and the quiet village arose from the gloom; and the sun's first rays burst over the eastern hills into the valley, lighting it up with sud. den splendor, while the swelling chorus of birds and the hum of insects broke the stillness; and the perfumes of flowers arose from the dewy grass like sweet incense, the delighted spirit seemed to hear a voice in the quivering light, saying,

“From the quicken'd womb of the primal gloom

The sun roll'd black and bare,

Till I wove him a vest, for his Ethiop breast,
Of the threads of my golden hair;

And when the broad tent of the firmament
Arose on its airy spars,

I pencil'd the hue of its matchless blue,
And spangled it round with the stars.

I waken the flowers in their dew-spangled bowers, The birds in their chambers of green, And mountains and plain glow with beauty again As they bask in my matinal sheen. Oh, if such the glad worth of my presence to earth, Though fitful and fleeting the while, What glories must rest on the home of the blest, Ever bright with the Deity's smile.” WILLIAM Pitt PALMER. On the north the Valley of the Canajoharie stretches away to the Mohawk, twelve miles distant, whose course was marked by a white line of mist that skirted the more remote hills; and on the south Cherry Valley extends down among the mountains toward the Susquehanna proper, and formed the easy war-path to the settlement at its head, from Oghkwaga and Unadilla. From the bosom of the ridge whereon I stood spring the head waters of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna and those of Canajoharie. I had finished the sketch here given before the sun was fairly above the tree-tops, and, while the mist yet hovered over the Tehakawara, we were at Brant's Rock, within the sound of the tiny cascades. There we parted from Judge Campbell, and hastened on toward Fort Plain, where we arrived in time to breakfast, and to take the morning train for Albany. Before leaving, let us take a parting glance . at the Revolutionary history of the Mohawk Valley, for we may not have another opportunity. Soon after the irruption of Dockstader, or Doxstader, into the Currytown and New Dorlach settlements, a party of Tories and Indians made a descent upon Palatine, under the conduct of a son of Colonel Jacob Klock. They were betrayed by one of their number, and fled to the woods for safety, without accomplishing any mischief. At the German Flats and in that vicinity several spirited rencounters took place between the enemy and the patriot militia. One of them was marked by great bravery on the part of Captain Solomon Woodworth, and a small company of rangers which he had organized. He marched from Fort Dayton to the Royal Grant for the purpose of observation. On the way he fell in with an Indian ambush. Without warning, his little band was surrounded by savages, who made the forest ring with the war-whoop. One of the most desperate and bloody engagements of the war ensued. Woodworth and a large number of his rangers were slain, and the victorious Indians took several of them prisoners. Only fifteen escaped. Another affair occurred at a settlement called Shell's Bush, about five miles north of Herkimer village, which deserves a passing notice. A wealthy German named John Christian Shell, or Schell, had built a block-house of his own, two stories high, the upper one projecting so as to allow the inmates to fire perpendicularly upon the assailants." One sultry

* At that time there were no less than twenty forts, so called, between Schenectady and Fort Schuyler.

Descent of Tories upon “Shell's Bush.” Shell's Block-house. Furious Battle. Capture of M'Donald. Luther's Hymn.

afternoon in August, while the people were generally in their fields, Donald M-Donald, one of the Scotch refugees from Johnstown, with a party of sixty Indians and Tories, made a descent upon Shell's Bush. The inhabitants mostly fled to Fort Dayton, but Shell and his family took refuge in his block-house. He and two of his sons (he had eight in all) were at work in the field. The two sons were captured, but the father and his other boys, who were near, reached the block-house in safety. It was finally besieged, but the assailants were kept at a respectful distance by the garrison. Shell's wife loaded the muskets, while her husband and sons discharged them with sure aim. MDonald tried to burn the blockhouse, but was unsuccessful. He at length procured a crow-bar, ran up to the door, and attempted to force it. Shell fired upon him, and so wounded him in the leg that he fell. Instantly the beleaguered patriot opened the door and pulled the Scotchman within, a prisoner. He was well supplied with cartridges, and these he was obliged to surrender to his captors. The battle ceased for a time. Shell knew the enemy would not attempt to burn his castle while their leader was a prisoner within it, and, taking advantage of the lull in the battle, he went into the second story, and composedly sang the favorite hymn of Luther amid the perils that surrounded him in his controversies with the pope." But the respite was short. The enemy, maddened at the loss of several of their number killed, and their commander a prisoner, rushed up to the block-house, and five of them thrust the muzzles of their pieces through the loop-holes. Mrs. Shell seized an ax, and, with well-directed blows, ruined every musket by bending the barrels. At the same time Shell and his sons kept up a brisk fire, which drove the enemy off. At twilight he went to the upper story and called out to his wife, in a loud voice, informing her that Captain Small was approaching from Fort Dayton with succor. In a few minutes, with louder voice, he exclaimed, “Captain Small, march your company round upon this side of the house. Captain Getman, you had better wheel your men off to the left, and come upon that side.” This was a successful stratagem. There were no troops approaching, but the enemy, deceived by the trick, fled to the woods. M-Donald was taken to Fort Dayton the next day, where his leg was amputated, but the blood flowed so freely that he died in a few hours.” The two sons of Shell

They were generally strong dwellings stockaded, and so arranged that fifteen or twenty families might find protection in each.

* The following is a literal translation of the hymn, made for the author of the Life of Brant by Professor Bokum, of Harvard University. It is from a German hymn book published in 1741.

1.

A FIRM fortress is our God, a good defense and weapon;
He helps us free from all our troubles which have now befallen us.
The old evil enemy, he is now seriously going to work;
Great power and much cunning are his cruel equipments,
There is none like him on the earth.

* 2
With our own strength nothing can be done, we are very soon lost:
For us the right man is fighting, whom God himself has chosen.
Do you ask, Who is he 7. His name is Jesus Christ,
The Lord Jehovah, and there is no other God;
He must hold the field.

3.
And if the world were full of devils, ready to devour us,
We are by no means much afraid, for finally we must overcome
The prince of this world, however badly he may behave,
He can not injure us, and the reason is, because he is the judge;
A little word can lay him low.

4.
That word they shall suffer to remain, and not to be thanked for either;
He is with us in the field, with his spirit and his gifts.
If they take from us body, property, honor, child, and wife,
Let them all be taken away, they have yet no gain from it,
The kingdom of heaven must remain to us.

*M*Donald wore a silver-mounted tomahawk, which Shell took from him. Its handle exhibited thirtytwo scalp notches, the tally of horrid deeds in imitation of his Indian associates.

Death of Shell and his Son. Cessation of Hostilities. Departure from Fort Plain. Albany. Hendrick Hudson.

were carried into Canada, and they asserted that nine of the wounded enemy died on the way. Their loss on the ground was eleven killed and six wounded, while not one of the defenders of the block-house was injured. Soon after this event Shell was fired upon by some Indians, while at work in his field with his boys. He was severely wounded, and one of his boys was killed. The old man was taken to the fort, where he died of his wound.' During this summer the Tories and Indians went down upon Warwasing and other portions of the frontier settlements of Ulster and Orange counties. These expeditions will be elsewhere considered. The irruption of Ross and Butler into the Johnstown settle. ment in October, and their repulse by Colonel Willett, have been related. With that trans. action closed the hostilities in Tryon county for the year, and the surrender of Cornwallis october 19, and his whole army at Yorktown, in Virginia, so dispirited the Loyalists that 1781. they made no further demonstrations, by armed parties, against the settlements. Attempts, some of them successful, were made to carry off prominent citizens.” The Indians still hung around the borders of the settlements in small parties during 1782, but they accomplished little beyond producing alarms and causing general uneasiness. Peace ensued, the hostile savages retired to the wilderness, a few of the refugee Tories, tame and submissive, returned, and the Mohawk Valley soon smiled with the abundance produced by peace. ful industry. We left Fort Plain toward noon, and reached Albany in time to depart for New York the same evening. Columns of smoke were yet rising from the smouldering ruins of a large portion of the business part of the city lying near the river, south of State Street; and the piers along the basin, black and bare, exhibited a mournful contrast to the air of busy activity that enlivened them when we passed through the place a few weeks before. I have been in Albany many times; let us take a seat upon the promenade deck of the Isaac Newton, for the evening is pleasant, and, as we glide down the Hudson, chat a while about the Dutch city and its associations, and its sister settlement Schenectady, and thus close our FIRST Tour AMong The scenes of THE REvolution. The site of Albany was an Indian settlement, chiefly of the Mohawk tribes, long before Hendrick Hudson sailed up the North River. It was called Scagh-negh-ta-da, a word signifying the end of the pine woods, or beyond the pine woods. Such, and equally appropriate, was also the name of a settlement on the Mohawk, at the lower end of the valley, which still retains the appellation, though a little Anglicised in orthography, being spelled Schenec. tady. From the account given in Juet's Journal, published in the third volume of Purchas's Pilgrimages, of Hudson's voyage up the river, it is supposed that he proceeded in his vessel (the Half Moon) as far as the present site of Albany, and perhaps as high as Troy.’ But he left no colony there, and the principal fruit of his voyage, which he carried back to the Old World, was intelligence of the discovery of a noble river, navigable one hundred and sixty miles, and passing through the most fertile and romantic region imaginable. This

1781.

* Stone's Life of Brant.

* The most prominent Tories engaged in this business were Bettys and Waltermeyer. We have noticed in another chapter the attempt of the latter to abduct General Schuyler. Among the prisoners thus made by these two miscreants, from Ballston, were Samuel Nash, Joseph Chaird, Uri Tracy, Samuel Patchin, Epenetus White, John Fulmer, and two brothers named Bontas. They were all taken to Canada, and, after being roughly treated, were either exchanged, or became free at the conclusion of the war.

* Henry or Hendrick Hudson was a native of England. While seeking a northwest passage to Japan and China, he explored the coasts of Greenland and Labrador in 1607–8. After returning to England from a second voyage, he went to Holland and entered the service of the Dutch East India Company, who fitted out the Half Moon for him to pursue his discoveries. It was during this voyage that he sailed up the river which bears his name. The next year (1610) he was sent out by an association of gentlemen, and in that voyage discovered the great bay at the north called Hudson's Bay, where he wintered. In the spring of 1611 he endeavored to complete his discoveries, but, his provisions failing, he was obliged to relinquish the attempt and make his way homeward. Going out of the straits from the bay, he threatened to set one or two of his mutinous crew on shore. These, joined by others, entered his cabin at night, pinioned his arms behind him, and with his sons, and seven of the sick and most infirm on board, he was put into a shallop and set adrift. He was never heard of afterward.

Early History of Albany.

Fort Orange. First Stone House.

The Portrait of Hudson.

discovery was made early in the autumn of 1609. As soon as the intelligence reached the

1510.
These traders

[merged small][ocr errors]

Dutch East India Company, they sent out men to establish trading posts in the country.

ed in 1614, and the place was named, by the Dutch, Beaverwyck, or Beaver town, from the circumstance that great numbers of beavers were found there. A fortification, called Fort Orange, was built in 1623." The town retained its original name until 1664, when the New Netherlands (as the country upon the Hudson was called) passed into the hands of the English. It then re

ceived the name of Albany, one of the titles of James, duke of York, the brother of Charles II., afterward King James II. of England.

The first permanent settlement that was made at Albany (the traders resorting thither only in the autumn and winter) was in 1626, and from that time until 1736 many respectable Dutch families came over and established themselves there and in the vicinity. Among them occur the names of Quackenboss, Lansing, Bleecker, Van Ness, Pruyn, Van Wart, Wendell, Van Eps, and Van Rensselaer, names familiar to the readers of our history, and

their descendants are numerous among us.

The first stone building, except the fort, was

erected at Albany in 1647, on which occasion “eight ankers” (one hundred and twenty

eight gallons) of brandy were consumed.”

About this time the little village of Beaverwyck

was stockaded with strong wooden pickets or palisades, the remains of which were visible until 1812. The government was a military despotism, and so rigorous were the laws that quite a number of settlers left it and established themselves upon the present site of Schenec

tady, about one hundred years since.

A small church was erected in 1655, and the Dutch

East India Company sent a bell and a pulpit for it, about the time when its first pastor,

Rev. Gideon Schaats, sailed for Beaverwyck.
tion, and in 1715 a new and larger edifice was erected on its site.

It became too small for the congrega-
This stood about ninety-

two years, in the open area formed by the angle of State, Market, and Court Streets. Albany had become a considerable town when Kalm visited it in 1749. He says the

people all spoke Dutch. The houses stood with the gable ends toward the streets, and the

water gutters at the eaves, projecting far over the streets, were a great annoyance to the

people. The cattle, having free range, kept the streets dirty.

The people were very social,

*Eight curious pieces of ordnance were mounted upon the ramparts of Fort Orange, called by the Dutch, according to Wander Kempt, stien-gestucken, or stone pieces, because they were loaded with stone instead of iron balls. These cannon were formed of long stout iron bars laid longitudinally, and bound with iron

- hoops. Their caliber was immense.

The fort does not seem to have been a very strong work, for in 1639

a complaint was made to the Dutch governor that the fort was in a state of miserable decay, and that the “hogs had destroyed a part of it.” * This picture is copied from a painting said to be from life, now in the possession of the Corporation of

the city of New York, and hanging in the “Governor's Room,” in the City Hall.

House, and was in existence in Governor Stuyvesant's time. * Letter of the commissary, De la Montagnie, to the Dutch governor of New Amsterdam (New York).

It was in the old Stadt Kalm's Description of Albany. Its Incorporation. Destruction of Schenectady. Colonial Convention. Walter Wille.

[graphic]

and the spacious stoops, or porches, were always filled at evening, in summer, with neighbors mingling in chit-chat. They knew nothing of stoves; their chimneys were almost as broad as their houses; and the people made wanpum, a kind of shell on strings, used as money, to sell to Indians and traders." They were very cleanly in their houses; were frugal in their diet, and integrity was a prevailing virtue. Their servants were chiefly negroes. In 1777, according to Dr. Thatcher (Military Journal, p. 91), Albany contained “three hund. red houses, chiefly in the Gothic style, the gable ends to the streets.” He mentions the “ancient stone church,” and also “a decent edifice called City Hall, which accommodates generally their assembly and courts of justice.” It also had “a spacious hospital,” erected during the French war. It was incorporated a city in 1686, and was made the capital of the state soon after the Revolution. Albany was an important place, in a military point of view, from the close of the seventeenth century until the hostilities, then begun between the English and French colonies, ceased in 1763. It was the place where councils with the Indians were held, and whence expeditions took their departure for the wilderness beyond. It never became a prey to French conquest, though often threatened. In the depth of the winter of 1690 a party of two hundred Frenchmen and Canadians, and fifty Indians, chiefly Caughnawaga Mohawks, sent out retrary s by Frontenac, menaced Albany. They sell upon Schenectady at midnight, mas. 1691. sacred and made captive the inhabitants, and laid the town in ashes. Sixtythree persons were murdered and twenty-seven carried into captivity. The church and sixty-three houses were burned. A few persons escaped to Albany, traveling almost twenty miles in the snow, with no other covering than their night-clothes. Twenty-five of them lost their limbs in consequence of their being frozen on the way. Schenectady, like Albany, was stockaded, having two entrance gates. These were forced open by the enemy, and the first intimation the inhabitants had of danger was the bursting in of their doors.” Informed that Albany was strongly garrisoned, the marauders, thinking it not prudent to attack it, turned their faces toward Canada with their prisoners and booty. The settlement suffered some during the French and Indian war, but it was rather too near the strong post of Albany to invite frequent visits from the enemy. It is said that Schenectady was the principal seat of the Mohawks before the confederacy of the five Iroquois nations was formed. One of the most prominent events that occurred at Albany, which has a remote connection with our Revolution, was the convention of colonial delegates held there in 1754. For a long time the necessity for a closer political union on the part of the English colonies had been felt. They had a common enemy in the French, who were making encroachments upon every interior frontier, but the sectional feelings of the several colonies often prevented that harmony of action in the raising of money and troops for the general service which proper efficiency required. It was also evident that the Indians, particularly the Six Nations of New York, were becoming alienated from the English, by the influence of French emissaries among them, and a grand council, in which the several English colonies might be represented, was thought not only expedient, but highly necessary. Lord Holderness,

Wampum is made of the thick and blue part of sea clam-shells. The thin covering of this part being split off, a hole is drilled in it, and the form is produced and the pieces made smooth by a grindstone. The form is that of the cylindrical glass beads called bugles. When finished, they are strung upon small hempen cords about a foot long. In the manufacture of wampum, from six to ten strings are considered a day's work. A considerable quantity is manufactured at the present day in Bergen county, New Jersey.

*Walter Wilie, who was one of a party sent from Albany to Schenectady as soon as the intelligence reached that place of the destruction of the town, wrote a ballad, in the style of Chevy Chase, in which the circumstances are related in detail. He says of his ballad, “The which I did compose last night in the space of one hour, and am now writing, the morning of Friday, June 12th, 1690.” He closes it with,

“And here I end the long ballad,
The which you just have redde;
I wish that it may stay on earth
Long after I am dead."

It will be found in the Appendix.

« PreviousContinue »