A. D. (Amos Delos) Gridley.

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Oneidas. At length the pale-faces came, and we sold
them a part of our land. A root of the tree which grew
in that land withered, for it had no soil. And the leaves
and branches withered along with the root. Then other
white men came, and we sold them another piece of land,
and forthwith another root and branch died, and the tree
lost more of its symmetry and beauty. The white man
came still again, and the tree failed more and more. It
now puts forth no new roots or branches, because it has so
little land. And now the white man is here again. He
wants more land, more land. He is hungry for land.
Shall we let this grand old tree, under which our fathers
sat, lose another and another root, and cause another
branch to fall and die ? "

The orator pursued his illustration still further, and
applied it with so much ingenuity and force that the
white man's overture was rejected, and, for the time
being, the hunting-grounds of the Oneidas were no
further reduced. That other counsels prevailed at a
later day, we all very well know. 1

1 Judge Jones wickedly surmises that Messrs. Dean and Kirkland kept these
orators supplied with materials for their speeches! See Tracy's Lect., p. 8.


In September, 1799, Dr. Timothy Dwight, President
of Yale College, accompanied by Tutor Jeremiah Day,
started on a tour of observation through this State, in-
tending to visit Niagara Falls and Buffalo. At Lairds-
ville, in this county, they turned aside to visit Rev. Mr.
Kirkland, missionary to the Oneidas. From Clinton the
President writes : —

" In the morning of September 26th, we made an ex-
cursion to Brothertown, an Indian settlement in the town
of Paris. I had a strong inclination to see Indian life in
the most advanced state of civilization found in this
country, and was informed that it might probably be
found here.

" Brothertown is a tract of land about six miles square,
which was given to these Indians by the Oneidas. . . .
Here forty families of these people have fixed themselves
in the business of agriculture. They have cleared the
land on both sides of the road, about a quarter of a mile
in breadth, and about four miles in length. Three of
them have framed houses ; the rest are of logs. Their
husbandry is generally much inferior to that of the white

" They are universally civil in their deportment. The
men and boys took off their hats, and the girls courtesied
as we passed by them. . . . These people receive an-
nually $2160 from the State, out of which their school-
master and their superintendent receive pay for their

" At this season of the year they unite with the
Oneidas in gathering ginseng, and collect a thousand
bushels annually. It brings them two dollars a bushel.
Most of it goes to Philadelphia, and thence to China. It
is, however, an unprofitable business for the Indians.


They are paid for it in cash, which many of them employ
as the means of intoxication. This is commonly followed
by quarreling and sometimes by murder ; but much less
commonly than among the Oneidas." 1

Another aboriginal name worthy of special mention
in this history is that of Samson Occum. He was born
at Mohegan, near Norwich, Conn., in the year 1723.
When quite young, he attended upon the ministrations of
Rev. Mr. Jewett, of New London, at which time he be-
came the subject of deep religious impressions, and made
a public profession of his faith. He now desired to ob-
tain an education, that he might become a teacher among
his own people. Having learned to read, he entered
Rev. Dr. Wheelock's school at New Lebanon, Conn.,
where he remained four years. In the year 1748, we
find him the teacher of a school in New London ; and
next he appears as master of an Indian school at Mon-
tauk, where he remained ten or eleven years, greatly
respected and beloved.

It would seem that during his preceptorship he found
time for theological studies, for it appears that before
leaving Montauk he frequently officiated as a licensed
preacher at Montauk, and among the Shinecock Indians,
thirty miles distant. In August, 1759, he received ordi-
nation from the Presbytery of Suffolk.

Dr. Wheelock continued to feel a paternal interest in
his dusky pupil and a pride in his success. Partly on
this account, as well as to show the world what his school
could do for the Indian, Occum was appointed to visit
England, with Rev. Mr. Whittaker, of Norwich, to
solicit aid for the seminary at Lebanon. His visit was
quite successful. For, being the first Indian preacher

1 Dwight's Travels, p. 182.


ever seen in a British pulpit, he attracted much atten-
tion and was greeted with large audiences. During the
year and a half which he spent in England, he preached
upwards of three hundred sermons. George Whitefield
invited him to officiate in his tabernacle in London.
King's Chapel opened its doors to him, and, while minis-
tering in that pulpit, George III. was one of his auditors.
He not only gained personal and professional considera-
tion, but received large* gifts in money, amounting to
nearly ten thousand pounds. The king gave him a
gold-mounted cane, which he carried, on great occa-
sions, the rest of his life. His Majesty also presented
him a library of books, and induced several of his nobles
and many persons of wealth to become patrons of the
Charity School.

The attentions which he received abroad did not spoil
him for humbler work at home. On his return, he engaged
in missionary labors among his people at Montauk and
at other stations quite distant. In the year 1786, he
united with others in effecting the removal of several
broken and dismembered tribes of New England to
central New York. He took with him one hundred and
ninety-two Montauks and Shinecocks from Long Island,
several Mohegans from Connecticut, and a number of
Narragan setts from Rhode Island. These, as well as a
few representatives of some other half-decayed tribes, he
collected together on the banks of our Oriskany, within
the borders of this town and the town of Marshall.

Established in his new field, he addressed himself to
his chosen work with much assiduity. He labored not
only among his own people, but among the neighboring
Stockbridges, under the ministerial charge "of Rev. Mr.
Sergeant. Between him and Mr. Kirkland, also, there


grew up a warm friendship. He enjoyed the respect and
confidence of the white settlers in this region, being called
upon by them frequently to celebrate marriages and
attend funerals and preach sermons. He wrote an ac-
count of the Montauk Indians which is still preserved.
A discourse delivered by him at the execution of Moses
Paul, an Indian, was published at New Haven, Conn.,
September 2, 1772. On which of our hillsides he com-
posed the hymn beginning, — .

" Awaked by Sinai's awful sound,"

we do not know, but that it will long be sung on many
a hillside is evinced by its adoption into nearly all our
standard books for Sabbath worship. Dr. Timothy
Dwight says of him : " I heard Mr. Occum twice. His
sermons, though not proofs of superior talents, were
decent, and his utterance was in some degree eloquent."
He was no ordinary man, and, considering his origin and
his opportunities for improvement, his attainments were
respectable. Pleasing in his manners and address, his
life exemplified the spirit of the gospel. Even to this
day, the name of " Priest Occum " is revered by the
descendants of all who knew him. He died at New
Stockbridge, New York, July, 1792, aged sixty-nine

If the limits of this chapter permitted, I should like
to introduce here a sketch of the Oneida chief, Good
Peter, a convert to Christianity under the labors of Mr.
Kirkland. It is related of him that upon a certain Sun-
day, when Mr. Kirkland was too unwell to proceed with
his sermon, he asked Good Peter to speak a few words
of exhortation. Peter arose, and with much modesty
began to address his countrymen upon the great good-


ness and mercy of God in sending his only Son to take
upon Himself the form of sinful men, and to suffer and
die for their redemption. After depicting the human
life and character of Christ in various aspects, he said :
" And yet He was the great God who created all things.
He walked on earth with men, and had the form of a
man, but He was all the while the same Great Spirit ;
He had only thrown his blanket around Him.''''

In his address to the New York Historical Society in
1811, De Witt Clinton asserted that "one may search
in vain in the records and writings of the past, or in the
events of the present times, for a single model of elo-
quence among the Algonquins, the Abenaquis, the Dela-
wares, the Shawanese, or any other nations of Indians
except the Iroquois." We will not assume to affirm or
deny the truth of this statement, but surely the brief
specimens we have been able to give Avill show that the
Iroquois of this region were not lacking in eloquence,
and that for this, as well as for their bravery, they have
been well styled " the Romans of North America."

Without dwelling longer upon incidents connected
with the history of the aborigines in this town and its
vicinity, I pass to mention a few other items of general
interest to the inhabitants of Kirkland.

When the first settlers on Dean's patent (embracing
the present town of Westmoreland) heard of the arrival
of the emigrants at Clinton, they started out to find
them. They knew only that their new neighbors were
several miles south upon the Oriskany, above an Indian
clearing on the site of the present village of Manchester.
They took the Indian trail, — which was also the army-
trail of General Armstrong in the French War, — crossed
the creek at the clearing, and took a southerly course up


the valley. When about a quarter of a mile this side
of Manchester, they fell in with a number of cows graz-
ing on the wild vegetation of the woods. One of the
cows wore a bell. Mr. Joseph Blackmer, a leading man
in this party, full of frolic, raised his coat-tails above his
head, shook his hat, and made a succession of such
hideous noises that the frightened cows started for home
on a run, and thus showed the company the way to the
settlement at Clinton. Many and hearty were the greet-
ings between the new neighbors ; and the good- will which
then sprang up continued to grow and flourish ever after-

It is often related by our older inhabitants that bears
were very annoying to the first settlers, destroying their
young pigs, and trampling down and devouring their
half-ripened corn. There is a tradition of a farmer in a
neighboring settlement who, while feeding his drove of
swine, discovered that Bruin had covertly joined himself
to the flock, and that when the hogs perceived it, with
porcine instinct they straightway formed themselves into
a circle, with noses outward, and thus made a sharp and
decisive resistance until the farmer's gun came to their
relief and dispatched the intruder. Judge Williams
records that in the fall of 1790, " as Mr. Jesse Curtiss
and three or four others were returning from meeting one
Sunday afternoon, — their path lying through a field near
the house now occupied by Mr. Gunn, — they heard an
unusual rustling in the corn ; and on searching for the
cause, soon discovered two bear-cubs busily engaged in
breaking down and destroying the ripening corn. Forth,
with they set upon them, and, despite their grunts and
cries, by dint of kicks and blows, soon dispatched them.
The same afternoon, Mr. Bronson (who lived in the


house now occupied by Samuel Brownell), on returning
from meeting, found the old mother-bear sitting quietly
on the steps of his door, little dreaming of the sad
calamity which had even then overtaken her children."
The streets and cross-roads of the town were early
designated by names. The street leading past the home-
stead of the late James D. Stebbins was called Brimfield
Street, because it was wholly settled by inhabitants from
Brimfield, Mass. The present borough of Franklin
was long styled Sodom, though we never knew that
it was noted for its depravity. Post Street, running
southeast from Franklin, was so called from Darius Post
and his three sons, Titus, Ethan, and Darius Post, Jr.,
who came from Vermont at an early day, and settled on
adjoining farms in that district. The street leading to
Utica once rejoiced in the name of Toggletown, because
the roadside fences were once "toggled " together at the
end of each section. That portion of the toAvn which
lies between one and two miles east of Clinton, hns long
been christened Chuckery. Judge Williams says, " The
story goes that in Massachusetts, according to established
custom, the governor's proclamation for Thanksgiving
was read in all the churches. Then, as now, he called
upon the people to render a tribute of gratitude for the
blessings of Providence upon their farms, their fisheries
and their merchandise. In Egremont, some mischievous
wag, possessing himself of the copy of the proclamation
which the clergyman had prepared to read to his congre-
gation the next Sabbath, changed the word fisheries to
chuekeHes, and so the unsuspecting pastor read it, to the
no small edification .of his audience ! Soon after this,
a company of colonists from Egremont came westward,
and settling on the hill east of this village, gave this odd


name to their resting-place." But the joke did hot end
here. For a colony of Kirkland people who removed,
many years ago, to the town of Fenner, in Madison
County, dubbed their little settlement New Chuckery.
Modern degeneracy has since corrupted it into Perry-

And now that we are in the story-telling vein, let us
record the first burglary known to have occurred in this
town. Judge Jones is my authority. It was in the
year 1801, when Ephraim Hart, one of the early mer-
chants of this town, and whose store stood on the site
now occupied for the same purpose by James Cook, had
collected about $1800 in silver coin, with which he
expected soon to start for New York to purchase goods.
One Samuel MacBride, an Irishman, learning of this
treasure, broke into the store by night and carried it off.
It would seem that he had not laid his plans very
adroitly, for within twenty-four hours he was captured
and brought back to Clinton with all his booty. While
lying in confinement awaiting his trial, he managed to
escape, and took to the woods. Steering northward, he
found, near what is now Middle Settlement, a hollow
stump about ten feet high, into which he climbed, and
let himself down, intending to remain there the next day,
and at night start anew on his travels. When night came,
he found that the inner sides of the stump were so smooth
that it was exceedingly difficult to climb them. He tried
repeatedly, but in vain, and had well nigh concluded that
he must he there and die of starvation. Just at day-
break, he made another despairing effort, and, as St.
Patrick would have it, he reached the top ! The world
was all before him where to choose. Down he 'leaped
from his covert, and bounded like a deer for the forest,


but had run only a few rods, when an officer of justice
sprang upon him and took him prisoner. He was sen-
tenced to the States Prison for fourteen years. This was
an event of no great consequence, surely, but in those
early times, it produced a sensation in the quiet little
town of Kirkland.

We were just about closing this chapter of events not
unmixed with romance and adventure, when we caught
sight of flowers. It was " Squire Foot's flower-bed," so
called, a large border of cultivated ground on the south
side of his house, which stood on the north side of College
Street at its junction with the village Park. The stern-
faced Puritan, who had fought in the battles of the Revo-
lution and afterwards led a company of pioneers into this
wilderness, had brought with him to Clinton some pack-
ages of flower-seeds and a few perennial plants and shrubs,
with which he sought to grace the patch of soil near his
door-step. Here were marigolds and pinks, morning-
glories, lilacs and roses. Hither came the bees, attracted
by the mellifluous fragrance. Hither came the wind from
the sweet south, giving and receiving odor. Hither flocked
the children from a school just opened in Squire Foot's
new barn, a few rods away. . As a special favor, the old
gentleman now and then gave them bouquets, which they
carried home with pride and rejoicing. Some of these chil-
dren had doubtless gathered the hepatica and violet and
blood-root in the adjoining woods, but these brilliant flow-
ers from old Connecticut, if they did not surpass the former
in beauty, were at least a greater novelty. The Indians,
as they canie to the village for trading, sometimes loitered,
and leaned over the white man's fence, wondering of what
use such a garden could be. Some of the children of
Moses Foot are with us unto this day, and the de-


scendancs of his flowers are still blooming in the gardens
of Kirkland. Among the children in the school just re-
ferred to, and whose eyes rejoiced in those flowers, was
Elizabeth Bristol, now Mrs. Lucas, still a resident of
Clinton, and rounding out her life in a serene and beau-
tiful old age of ninety-two years.



Few personages figure more prominently in the early
history of this region, than the Rev. Samuel Kirkland. It
would seem that the first inhabitants of this place held
him in high honor, since they gave his name to their
town. It will not be inappropriate, therefore, to devote
a chapter of this history to a sketch of this good man's

Mr. Kirkland was born in Norwich, Conn., Decem-
ber 1, 1741. His earliest ancestor of whom any trace
remains, was one John Kirkland, of Silver Street, Lon-
don. The family, for several generations, held influ-
ential posts in society and in the church. Miles Standish
was one of his progenitors. Particular mention is also
made of Daniel, his father, who was pastor of a church
in Norwich, and is recorded as being " a devoted minis-
ter, an accomplished scholar, a man of fine talents, of a
ready wit, and an amiable disposition." Of the incidents
of Samuel's childhood and youth little is known. It may
be supposed, however, that he was trained, like other
Puritan boys of the time, to habits of industry and
self-dependence. As Cotton Mather wrote of Thomas
Hooker, so it may be said of him, that " he was born of
parents that were neither unable nor unwilling to bestow

1 The substance of this chapter was contributed to the North American Re-
view, for July, 1863.



upon him a liberal education ; whereunto the early, lively
sparkles of wit observed in him did very much encourage
them. His natural temper was cheerful and courteous ;
but it was accompanied with such a sensible grandeur of
mind as caused his friends, without the help of astrology,
to prognosticate that he was born to be considerable."

When about twenty years of age, we find him at the
academy of Rev. Dr. Wheelock, at Lebanon, Conn., pre-
paring for college. Among his companions here were
several Indian youth, with one of whom he studied the
Mohawk dialect, and made a good degree of proficiency
in it. He entered the sophomore class at Princeton,
where he maintained a high rank as a scholar. Here, if
not at Lebanon, he entered upon the christian life. At
some time during his college course, he determined to
spend his days in missionary service among the Indian
tribes of the West ; and when this purpose was once
formed, it gave a new impulse to his mind and inspired
him with fresh ardor in study.

The senior year in college seems to have been a little
too long for his fervent zeal ; since we find him starting
off, several months before its close, on a tour of explora-
tion and inquiry among the Seneca Indians in western
New York. Though not present to graduate with his
class, he received the usual bachelor's degree at Com-
mencement. Young Kirkland was now twenty -three
years of age. The Senecas were the most remote of the
Six Nations, if not the most powerful and warlike of
them all. His undertaking was regarded by his friends
as bold and hazardous. The journey thither was toilsome
and difficult. No Protestant missionary had ever dwelt
among this tribe ; indeed, all proposals to enlighten and
convert them had hitherto been scornfully rejected.


Nothing daunted, our young apostle resolved to visit these
savages, and, if he could persuade them to receive him,
he meant to live among them as their teacher and spirit-
ual guide. This enterprise was doubtless undertaken by
the advice of his patron and friend, Dr. Wheelock, and
its expenses were defrayed out of funds deposited with
him by certain benevolent gentlemen in Scotland. The
journey thither, in view of all its circumstances, is worthy
of detailed recital.

He started early in November, 1764, attended by a
young Mohawk Indian, and arrived on the 16th at John-
son Hall, the residence of Sir William Johnson, his
Majesty's Agent for Indian Affairs, near the present
village of Johnstown, N. Y. Much to his regret, he was
obliged to remain here until, January, for want of a suit-
able guide through the wilderness. But he did not spend
his time in idleness or vain repining. Every day he
gained some new information from his host touching the
manners and customs of the Senecas, and soon acquired
a good general knowledge of all the leading characters in
the Six Nations. At length, two friendly Senecas, pass-
ing westward, offered to conduct him to their country.
On the 17th of January, the party set out. The weather
was severely cold, and the snow so deep that it was
necessary to walk with snow-shoes. Besides this, each
traveller had to carry a pack of clothes and provisions
weighing upwards of forty pounds.

" It would have been a fine study for a painter," says Dr. Lothrop,
his grandson and biographer, " to watch his countenance, and trace
its lines of high thought and holy purpose, as he turned his back
upon Johnson Hall, the last vestige of civilization, and, amid the
dreary desolation of winter, in company with two savages, . . . with
whom he could hdrdly exchange a word, struck off into the forest on
a journey of nearly two hundred miles." — Memoir, p. 24.


He did not suffer as much hardship on this journey as
he had expected. His companions opened with their
hatchets the path before him whenever it was obstructed ;
they halted to rest when he became weary ; they chafed
his limbs when they were swollen by the friction and
weight of the snow-shoes ; and at night they made for
him soft and fragrant beds of evergreen boughs. At
Kanonwarohale, the chief village of the Oneidas, and at
Onondaga, they were kindly treated and invited to tarry ;
but, after a day's rest at each place, they pressed forward
until they reached Kanadasegea, the principal village of
the Senecas. The day after their arrival, a council was
called to receive and hear a letter brought by Mr. Kirk-
land from Sir William, in which, among other things,
he commended the missionary to their confidence, and
enjoined it upon them to treat him with kindness and
respect. The head-chief and a majority of his people
received him with frank cordiality, though a few were
silent and sullen. The sachem even adopted him into
his family ; of which ceremony the graceful forms and
courtesies, were truly remarkable, as the acts of sav-
ages who had learned little from the usages of civilized
life. A Dutch trader, happening to stroll into the settle-
ment the next day, acted as interpreter between the par-
ties. It is remarkable that nearly every one who' ad-
dressed the missionary began with this inquiry : " What
put it into your mind to leave your father's house and
country, to come so many hundred miles to see Indians,
and live among them ? " Did they suspect some sinister
design, or were the poor creatures unable to appreciate
his christian philanthropy ?

Having been domiciled in a small family near the
wigwam of the sachem, Mr. Kirkland applied himself to


learning the language, and acquainting himself with the

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amos Delos) GridleyHistory of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 17)