A. D. (Amos Delos) Gridley.

History of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) online

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the chemical and philosophical apparatus, and the astro-
nomical instruments, filled him with wonder. As to the
orrery, which he called " the sun-moon-and-star machine,"
he feared he should not be able to describe it to his
nation, or that they would ridicule it as " some magic-
work." On leaving the town he " expressed great
delight and surprise that the wise men at Cambridge,
with their knowledge of everything about the works of
God, in creation and providence, could nevertheless turn
their attention to the interests and happiness of poor

Shortly after this tour in New England, Mr. Kirkland
transferred his residence from Oneida to his lands near


the village of Clinton. Here his children, five in num-
ber. gj*ew to maturity. Here, too, he was ruarr:
INIiss Mary Donnally, a respectable lady who had long
resided in his family, and had^cfearge of his children and
household in Stockbridge. It was his wont to ride on

->ack to his various preaching-places in the vicinity.
On one of these) tours through the woods, a small branch
of a tree, which lie was endeavoring to push aside, struck
him in the eye. The blow was n ere or painful

prevent his going forward and fulfilling his engage-
ments : but the injury proved to be serious and perma-
nent. For several months he was unable to read or
write, and his nervous system was much deranged. By
the advice of his physician, he went to Xew York and
Philadelphia to consult certain eminent oculists. He
was the more readily inclined to undertake this journey
because, in addition to the benefit to his health which he
hoped to gain, it would give him an opportunity to confer
with several leading men as to a further prosecution of
his educational scheme. This scheme contemplated the
providing, first, of schools for young native children, in
which they should be taught the rudiments of an English
education. Three such schools had already been estab-
lished. A second part of his plan involved the founding
of a high school, or academy, to be centrally situated,
and contiguous to some settlement of whites, to which
i; English youth were to be admitted, bearing the charges
of their own education." and a certain number of older
Indian boys, selected from the different tribes of the
confederacy. These latter were "to be instructed," we
now use Mr. Kirkland"s words, - in the principles of
human nature, in the history of civil society, so as to be
able - Q the difference between a state of nature


and a state of civilization, and know what it is that
makes one nation differ from another in wealth, power,
and happiness ; and in the principles of natural religion,
the moral precepts, and the more plain and express doc-
trines of Christianity." For the convenience of both
parties, he proposed to place this institution near what
was then the boundary-line between the white settle-
ments and the Indian territory. The scheme was well
approved everywhere, but perhaps it found its warmest
advocates among those intelligent families which had
recently emigrated from New England and settled in the
. adjoining towns ; for though they somewhat doubted its
success so far as the Indians were I concerned, they felt
sure that it would be beneficial to the white population.

On the journey of which we have spoken, he gave his
first thoughts to the Academy. He solicited and obtained
subscriptions to its funds. He visited the Governor of
the State, and the Regents of the University, and, with
their cooperation, took the first steps toward procuring
a charter, which was obtained the following year, 1793.
Alexander Hamilton afforded him invaluable aid, as did
also Colonel Pickering. At Philadelphia he called upon
General Washington, who expressed a warm interest in
the welfare of the institution. Mr. Hamilton was one
of the trustees mentioned in the petition for its incorpora-
tion, and after him it was named the " Hamilton Oneida
Academy." Mr. Kirkland's exertions did not end here.
In April, 1793, he conveyed to the institution a valuable
grant of land. This donation was made in connection
with a subscription for erecting the academy building.
On the table before us lies this original subscription-
paper, now yellow and torn, on which he entered his
first donation. It reads in this simple way: "Sam 1


Kirkland, £10.0.0. and 15 days' work. Also, 300 acres
of land, for the use and benefit of the Academy, to be
leased, and the product applied towards the support of
an able instructor."

This gift, with others from the friends of learning and
religion throughout the State, placed the Academy on a
substantial footing. A commodious building was erected
on the western hillside overlooking the infant settlement
of Clinton, on the spot designated by Mr. Kirkland ; an
able preceptor and an assistant were procured, and the
doors opened for pupils. Hamilton Oneida Academy
soon became widely known, and scholars flocked to it
from every quarter.

In his Historical Discourse, President Fisher, having
remarked upon the time at which the corner-stone of the
Academy was laid, thus pictures also the occasion : —

" The occasion is one of special interest. The chief statesmen of
the nation, including the Father of his Country, have heard of and
anticipated it with that peculiar pleasure which belongs to far-seeing
and patriotic minds, intent upon the production of those forces which
were to mould the grand future of this young nation. It has gath-
ered together the leading minds from a large section of the State.
The men who moulded these communities into their present form,
with not a few of the earnest, stalwart workers whose hands were to
subdue the forests, are there. Steuben, the brave old warrior, who
came, in our hour of trial, to discipline our rude soldiery and organ-
ize them into the effective battalions that beat back the invading
hosts of England, has come to perform one of the last and most
notable and pregnant acts of his useful life, for the country of his
adoption, — to lay the corner-stone of an Institution which is to bear
down into the future the name of his old compatriot in arms, one of
the foremost statesmen of this or any other age. A troop of horse-
men, commanded by a son of Kirkland, among whom were some
■who had mingled in the fight of Oriskany, and seen Cornwallis sur-
render his sword at Yorktown, occupy the outer circle as his escort,
and symbolize the patriotism that is to be nourished here ; a patriot-


ism that in the hour of our country's need will not shrink, sword in
hand, from defending the nation's rights, be the assailants ambitious
foreign despots, or equally ambitious but more malignant traitors in
our own land. Reclining partly on the grass and standing around
is a company of the faithful Oneidas, among whom towers the ven-
erable form of their Christian chief, the brave Skenandoa : Sken-
andoa, the friend of Kirkland, whose counsels in peace and war
have kept them firm on one side through all the horrors of the
Revolution ; his head is now whitened by the snows of ninety
winters ; he looks in silence upon the scene, knowing that, whatever
may betide his people, his own ashes will mingle with those of his
Christian father, and his body ascend with his in the resurrection of
the just.

" But there is still another — the central figure of this company —
around whom clusters the chief interest ; one whose noble heart
prompted, whose intellect conceived, whose energy carried into ex-
ecution, the plan of founding this Institution. The name of Samuel
Kirkland, although as yet, like that of Calvin, no marble shaft
designates the spot where his dust reposes, will live while yonder
walls endure, and literature, science, and religion shall cherish the
memory of those whose lives have been associated with their ad-
vancement in this land." — Memorial, p. GO.

We cannot now pause to trace the history of this insti-
tution further than to record, that in the year 1812 it was
raised to the rank of a college, and that from that time
to the present it has enjoyed a fair measure of prosperity.
" The establishment of this seminary of learning, which
had occupied so many of Mr. Kirkland's thoughts for the
fifteen years previous, was the last important act of his
life. He continued his missionary labors, but they were
performed amid bodily infirmities and many increasing
sorrows. He never recovered entirely from the injury
of his eye. In the year 1795, he was thrown from
his horse, and received a blow which aggravated his
other disorders. In short, he had overtasked his ener-
gies by thirty years of toil and exposure, and it was


not strange that his health now broke clown. And
that he should slacken somewhat his labors among the
Indians is not surprising, nor yet that he should neglect
the details of some of the other interests committed
to his keeping. Accordingly, we find that, in the year
1797, the Board of Commissioners withdrew from him
their appointment and support. They did not present
full and satisfactory reasons for this summary procedure ;
but they doubtless felt that as he had become broken in
health and spirits, and was somewhat engrossed in the
care of his lands, a younger man could serve the society
better. It is gratifying to know that his integrity was
not impeached. Shortly after this, he became involved
in great pecuniary embarrassments through the failure
of one of his sons ; and close upon this calamity came
the death of two of his children, Samuel and George.
But the brave old man bore up under his heavy and
complicated trials, evincing a patience and submission
truly remarkable.

In the year 1798 he received a visit from President
Dwight of Yale College, and Jeremiah Day, then tutor
in the same institution. These gentlemen had started
from New Haven for a vacation tour on horseback to
Niagara Fails ; but on reaching Utica, they heard such
accounts of the difficulties and perils of the journey beyond
that they were constrained to abandon it. They, however,
rode out to Clinton, to visit the missionary Kirkland and
his infant seminary, and then returned to New England.
During the remainder of his life, Mr. Kirkland continued
to cherish a deep interest in the improvement of the
town where he resided, in the prosperity of the Academy,
and in the welfare of the Indians. He bestowed several
other gifts upon the. institution, and in his death did not


forget it. With or without official, appointment and
salary, he regarded himself as missionary and friend to
the natives, and he continued to serve them while he
lived. His death occurred in February, 1808, after a
short but severe illness. His remains were carried to
the village church in Clinton, where a sermon was
preached by the Rev. Dr. Norton. A large assemblage
of Indians, from far and near, convened on the occasion,
and poured out bitter lamentations over his grave. The
funeral address was interpreted to them by Judge James
Dean, then resident Agent of Indian Affairs. 1

Mr. Kirkland seems to have been well adapted phys-
ically for the life of labor which he chose. In stature
he was a little above the medium height, well propor-
tioned, robust, and in his mature manhood inclining to
stoutness. In manners he was simple, dignified, and
courteous, not without a dash of brusqueness at times,
yet thoroughly polite, — a true gentleman of the old
school. His urbanity came partly from native endow-
ment and partly from his frequent intercourse with emi-
nent and cultivated men. On all public occasions he wore
the clerical gown and bands, and, thus robed, presented
an imposing aspect. His portrait, prefixed to this chap-
ter, represents him as he appeared when about forty years
of age, — erect, vigorous, of commanding presence, with
a penetrating eye, and an animated, buoyant expression,
as if ready for adventure or the endurance of hardship.
Had he possessed a feeble constitution, he could never

1 Mention has already been made of his two sons, George Whitefield and
Samuel Thornton. Of his daughters, the eldest, Jerusha, was married to John
H. Lothrop, of Utica, N. Y.. and died about twelve years ago. The next,
Sarah, became the wife of Francis Amory, of Boston. Eliza, the youngest,
■was married to the late Edward Robinson, then Professor in Hamilton College,
and since a Biblical scholar of world-wide reputation.


have made those long and toilsome journeys, often on foot,
through mud and snow, and sometimes in open boats ;
nor could he have submitted to the hard fare of the
savages, and been brought, not seldom, to the verge of
starvation. Some of his survivors, who saw him in their
youth, tell us that, when he was about sixty years of age,
he looked like a hard-worn old man, — one who had gone
through the wars, and come out bronzed by exposure and
well marked with bruises and scars. Only a man of
great physical vigor could have endured so much and
held out so long.

It will not be claimed for him that he was endowed
with extraordinary mental powers. We find no brilliancy
of imagination, no exuberance of wit, no philosophical
profoundness. But we meet with what is of more value,
— good, plain strength of intellect, ability to grasp large
and small matters, solid judgment, rare executive talent,
and an unconquerable will. He was a careful observer
of men and of events. Early thrown upon his own
resources, and disciplined by adversity, he became inde-
pendent and self-sustained. His mind took on something
of the freedom and rough grandeur of the scenes amid
which, his life was passed. It was no slight advantage
for him to live in the stirring times of our Revolution,
to witness its first outbreak, to watch and help on its
progress, and to greet its successful termination. In such
scenes the mind often acquires a vigor and clearness
which do not come from simply poring over books.

He was by no' means wanting in tender sensibility and
generous enthusiasm, and in humor and wit, though this
latter trait was only a delicate vein running through his
nature, and not perceptible to every eye. It took the
form rather of airy sprightliness and genial pleasantry.


He possessed a large fund of memorabilia ; and the
recital of these in his downright, hearty manner gave
variety and raciness to his conversation.

We do not hear that the Indians ever said of him, as
the natives once did of a bookish Puritan, that " he could
whistle Greek ; " yet he was learned enough to be an
oracle to them, and his learning was practical, and ever
at their service. To use an ancient figure, he was a tree
of knowledge which carried its heavily-laden boughs so
low that even children might pluck the golden fruit.
He did not, like Jonathan Edwards, while missionary to
the Stockbridge Indians, spend his leisure in compos-
ing theological treatises, but he gave all his time and
thoughts to the 'well-being of his humble charge. He
was made for a pioneer and for a worker in the common
ways of life, and he used his talents wisely and effectively.

His moral and religious character gave tone and direc-
tion to his whole career. While yet a youth, at Dr.
Wheelock's school, his true spiritual life began, and he
evinced the earnestness of his zeal by resolving at once to
spend his days in missionary service among the Indians.
He consorts with the dusky Seneca boys, that he may
learn their manners and their strange tongue. From
college halls his eyes look abroad with longing upon the
western wilderness, and he cannot wait for his bachelor's
diploma before he starts upon his first adventurous jour
ney among the Iroquois. Nor does he sink under rough
toil, or quail before persecution and threatened death.
He does not, like David Brainerd, spend his time and
exhaust his strength in torturing self-scrutiny and self-
upbraiding and melancholy forebodings. No : he' wisely
holds that the best proof of love to God is to be found
in hearty, joyous service for him. He suffers himself to


be adopted into the family of an Indian, sleeps and eats in
their smoky, squalid wigwams, becomes all things to them,
if by any means he may save some. He imbues their chil-
dren with the rudiments of education and religion, and
to their sages he opens the higher wisdom of the Bible.
He teaches agriculture and mechanics. He mediates
between men at variance. He goes on long journeys to
negotiate their affairs with the whites, and to keep them
at peace with those who would embroil them in war.

And does he not serve his country, too ? Indeed, as
we review the history of his life during the Revolutionary
War, — holding in friendly relations two savage tribes,
and keeping close watch upon the movements of others,
— now acting as chaplain in the army, and at the con-
clusion of the war managing several difficult embassies
between the natives and the whites for their mutual
benefit, — he seems to us deserving of no less honor from
his countrymen than many a military hero crowned with
blood-bought laurels.

His plan for the education of the Indians is creditable
alike to his head and his heart. He doubtless foresaw
that missionary labors among them would be of little
permanent value without education. The half-regener-
ated savage would relapse into barbarism as soon as the
living preacher should be withdrawn. Desirous that his
work should outlast his own life, he resolved to lay a
solid basis in education. He wanted, moreover, to pro-
mote the social culture of the natives by bringing their
children into daily association with those of white men.
In this way he hoped to overcome the prejudices exist-
ing between the two races, and to bind them together in
bonds of perpetual brotherhood. The conception of this
plan must have been the fruit of those frequent and


touching interviews with Indian chiefs concerning the
prospects of their race. These men saw that their de-
cline was inevitable, unless something were done to pre-
vent it ; and they came with sad hearts to their friend
and teacher, imploring his help to save them from utter
extinction. It seems as if his scheme were formed in
fulfillment of some secret, holy vow to make one grand
and mighty effort to stay their fall, and, if possible, to
restore them to prosperity. Was it not a worthy en-
deavor? Had he done nothing more than this, he would
be entitled to a high place among christian philanthro-

It matters little that his plan did not accomplish all
that he had hoped. No rnitives ever became members of
his Academy. The careless freedom of life in the woods
and the excitements of the hunting-ground were more
attractive than the confinement and dull routine of the
school-room. Yet of the large number trained in his
primary schools, a goodly proportion became intelligent
and virtuous men. To this clay, their descendants, living
in a Western State, revere and bless no name so much as
that of Kirkland. But his scheme, so far as it related
to the whites, was abundantly successful. The Academy
flourished, and, as he had contemplated from the first,
was soon raised to the rank of a College. He saw our
day afar off, and was glad. The old landmark known as
" the boundary line of property " between the whites and
Indians has been almost swept away with the removal
of the natives ; but the College founded by his wisdom
and benevolence still stands, diffusing its light far be-
yond the territory occupied by the Six Nations. It has
trained its thousand youths for professional and com-
mercial life, and will doubtless continue to send forth
streams of healthful influence in all time to come.



Haying turned aside from the direct course of our
narrative to gather up the somewhat miscellaneous facts
and incidents of the two last chapters, I now proceed to
consider other important events in their chronological
order. And this brings me to sketch the history of the
several churches in Kirkland.

" Go walke about all Syon hill, yea, round about her go;
And tell the towres that thereupon are builded on a roe ;
And mark ye well her bulwarks all, behold her towres there;
That ye may tell thereof to them that after shall be here.
For this God is our God, forever more is He;
Yea, and unto the death also, our guider shall He be."

Steknhold and HoriviNs.


As I have already mentioned, this town was first
settled in the spring of the year 1787. The original
inhabitants, though not all of them in the communion of
any church, felt that their society would be wholly in-
complete without its institutions of religion and morality.
Accordingly we find that on Sunday, the 8th of April,
soon after their arrival, they assembled for public wor-
ship. The place of meeting was an unfinished building
of Captain Foot, which stood on the corner of the present
Park and Williams Street. The services consisted of
prayer, singing, and the reading of a printed sermon.


Religious meetings of this kind continued to be held
until a church was regularly organized and a minister
installed over it.

At the time of which we now speak, there were but
few opportunities for the inhabitants to enjoy the stated,
public ministrations of religion. The neighboring towns,
some of which had just commenced their settlements,
were all without ministers. The Congregational church
of New Hartford was organized August 27, 1791, and its
first pastor installed in February, 1792. The united
congregations of Whitesborough and Fort Schuyler,
received their first ordained minister August 21, 1794.
The Rev. Mr. Kirkland, Indian missionary at Oneida,
held occasional services here at a very early period. Rev.
Mr. Sergeant and Rev. Mr. Occum also came here, now
and then, for the same purpose. At wide intervals, also,
ministers travelling from the East, stopped at this settle-
ment and preached to attentive hearers. These meetings
were held sometimes in the log-houses of the inhabitants,
and often in their more spacious barns.

In November, 1788, Rev. Samuel Eells, of Branford,
Conn., an appointed missionary to several feeble churches
in this State, visited Clinton, at which time he held
religious services and performed a number of baptisms.
During his sojourn, he prepared a Covenant, or decla-
ration of belief, by accepting which, any baptized person
of good morals and a speculative believer in Christi-
anity, could be admitted to religious fellowship, though
not to the communion, and could receive for his house-
hold the rite of baptism. This was, for substance, the
"Half- Way Covenant" then in vogue in some parts
of New England. It contained a brief and general recog-
nition of certain religious truths and duties, and was


adopted in the present case simply as a bond of union
between religiously-disposed persons, until a church with
its Creed and Covenant should be regularly constituted.
This compact was signed by seventeen persons, some of
whom had held the Half- Way Covenant relation to
churches in New England.

Several of the more intelligent and thoroughly religious
members of the Society refused to sign this declaration ;
and of those who did, quite a number soon became dis-
satisfied with it. They desired a regularly organized
church, around which their christian regards could
gather and fasten, and Articles of Faith strictly Calvin-
istic, and definite and full in their statement. They ac-
cordingly consulted with the Rev. Dan Bradley, who had
lately commenced preaching at New Hartford, and by his
advice they opened a correspondence with Rev. Dr.
Edwards, then pastor of the North Church in New
Haven, 'Conn. By their urgent request, this gentleman
visited Clinton in August, 1791, and organized a church
with the Congregational form of government, and con-
sisting of thirty members. In place of the compact,
adopted by several persons three years before, he recom-
mended the Articles of Faith and the Covenant of his
own church in New Haven. The members of this church
were so well pleased with these symbols that they
adopted them as an appropriate expression of their own
belief and of their desires and purposes in the christian
life. These have continued, with very slight alterations,

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amos Delos) GridleyHistory of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 17)