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In the spring of 1793, also, Mr. Scriba, though ho had
not yet received a patent, began a settlement on his land.
He selected as its site the mouth of the stream, which Van-
derkemp called Bruce's creek, but which has since been
called Scriba's creek. The swell of the lake there was
called Fisher's bay. He named the place New Botterdam,
after the celebrated city of that name in Holland, where
he was born. He immediately set his men to building a
saw-mill and making other improvements. He also sold
a hundred acres on c;Lsy term-, to Monsieur Desvatines, who


for some reason, was required to leave liis island, where he
had resided for ten years.

In the autumn the embryo city was visited by Pharoux
and Desjardines, the agents of the " Castorlaiid Company,"
before mentioned, who were on their way to examine the
Black river lands, which the company was about to pur-
chase from William Constable. They were accompanied
by Marc Isombard Brunei, then a young officer of the
French navy, afterwards one of the most celebrated engi-
neers in the world, and the constructor of the Thames
tunnel, who accompanied the expedition for the sake of
adventure. Baron De Zeng also went with them from his
residence at Rome.

Their journal, for the use of which, as before stated, we
are indebted to Dr. Hough, states that they arrived at New
Rotterdam on the loth of October. Scriba's saw-mill had
been erected during the summer, but the dam was poor,
and the travelers foretold its destruction when high-water
came. New Rotterdam at that time consisted of three log
houses, evidently occupied by Scriba's workmen, who were
all sick of fever, which was attributed partly to the shallow-
ness of the water and partly to the immense numbers of
fish thrown on shore to decay by the water's edge. Des-
vatines was living close by, but was absent hunting. The
travelers, however, were visited by Mr. Vanderkemp, who,
during that summer, had purchased a thousand acres of
Mr. Scriba four miles east of New Rotterdam, and was
preparing to make a permanent residence there.

Pharoux, Desjardines, Brunei, and De Zeng proceeded
to Fort Brewerton, where they found the outlet almost
filled up by piles of stone which Mr. Stevens had arranged
with an opening in which a willow basket or eel-weir was
fastened. They mention the cabins which the Indians
occupied there during the fishing-season, built of poles
supported by crotched sticks covered and sided with bark.
Below Three Rivers point they were accompanied by
Major Bingham, who had already left Fort Brewerton and
settled in Lysander, Onondaga county.

At Oswego falls they formed an arrangement by which
the boats were slid on rollers about sixty yards around the
falls, while the goods were laden on wagons and carried
down from the upper to the lower landing. The price of
portage was half a dollar per load.

On reaching Fort Ontario a British inspector came to
see if they were taking any merchandise to trade with
Canada. De Zeng then went to the fort alone, flattering
himself he could rapidly obtain a pass, as the new com-
mander. Captain Schroeder, was, like himself, a German.
The ruins of houses were so numerous as to convince the
Frenchmen that there had once been quite a town there.
So far back had the forest been felled that the firewood for
the garrison was procured out along the lake-shore and
brought to the fort on boats. The garrison is represented
as being composed of Germans and Scotch, and as being
relieved annually in May.

While the Frenchmen were investigating. Captain
Schroeder and Major De Zeng came out, and the former
expressed great indignation and astonishment at the pre-
sumption of the French, saying he could hardly restrain
himself from sending them as prisoners to Quebec. He

compelled them to encamp on the west side of the river.
After much negotiation he consented to grant a passport,
but only on condition that Brunei should remain as a hos-
tage, and that his companions should not go into Canada.
Brunei agreed to stay if Schroeder would take care of him
iu the fort, but would not give his parole and camp on the
west side of the river.

But the worthy commandant was horrified at the idea of
admitting a Frenchman within the sacred precincts of his
fortress. Monsieur Brunei might stay on the other side
and fire his gun when he wanted food, and the commandant
seemed to have no objections to the young man's returning
to Oswego falls to stay till his companions' return. Even
this privilege was not obtained without promising the com-
mandant a ease of gin and some powder and lead. Brunei,
however, disliked to remain behind ; so his companions hid
him under a tarpaulin, took him safely past the sentry, and
steered for the mouth of Black river.

When returning from their explorations, on the 28th of
October, the party came in sight of the fort before they
knew it. They landed Brunei some two miles from the
post, so that he could cut across through the woods to the
Oswego river, without his presence being discovered. The
two other Frenchmen and De Zeng proceeded on foot to
the fort. They were met by Lieutenant Holland, the
second in command, to whom they satisfactorily explained
their proceedings and whom they describe as a very gentle-
manly person. A year and a half later he was the hero of
an exciting adventure, ending in tragedy, of which mention
will be made farther on.

On their arrival at the fort Captain Schroeder declared
he must hold them prisoners till the return of his hostage,
but was pacified by the presentation of the gifts which had
been promised him. The travelers pushed up the river,
but were very anxious about Brunei. Pharoux went to
seek him, but got lost himself, and had to sleep in the
woods. Brunei, meantime, had met a patrol in the forest
seeking deserters, but had evaded suspicion and got away,
and the whole party was united the next day at the portage.
They found families there, emigrating westward, probably
to the Genesee. There appear to have been several resi-
dents about the falls engaged in spearing salmon, which
they packed in Onondaga salt (costing a dollar and a half a
hundred) and sold for from two to three dollars per barrel.
The Frenchmen say that this facility of living by hunting
and fishing made the people indolent, and that they saw
men sitting in the sun while their log houses were not yet
covered with bark, at the last of October.

Od the thirty-first of that month they arrived at New
Rotterdam, where they supped and lodged " at the log
house of Mr. Scriba." They visited Desvatines, whose new
house was not covered and was " as open as a cage ;" yet
the Frenchmen say, — •

'' We found his wife and three little children as jovial as
Cupids. They made the most they could of their poor
barrack, where they would be obliged to spend the winter,
as from all appearances it could not be finished this

He had at that time a coujile of cows which had been
obtained by the sale of fine embroidered clothing, and liis


poultry-yard contained a few fowls ; these were his sole' pos-
sessions, except his " chance" on the land.

The travelers mention Mr. Scriba's intention to open a
road from New Rotterdam to the mouth of Salmon creek,
and expri'.ss their expectation that that will boconii; the
main route of trade between the lakes, — the same idea
which led Mr. Scriba to his ruin. The party left for the
east, attended for some distance by the indefatigable Des-
vatines in a dilapidated canoe, and soon passed beyond the
limits of Oswego County. We may mention, however,
that the Castorland Company bought the lauds for which
they were negotiating, but their proposed colony was a com-
plete faihire.

On the 5th of March, 1794, the county of Onondaga
was set off from Herkimer, embracing all of the present
counties of Onondaga, Cortland, and Cayuga, and that part
of Oswego west of the Oswego river. On the same day
that part of the town of Mexico situated in the new county
was organized into four new towns. Of these, Lysander
embraced all of the present Oswego County west of the
river, and a large part of Onondaga. The others were
farther south. This left Mexico " out in the cold." All
the territory remaining to it was north of Oneida lake and
river, in which, so far as known, the only white men living
were Mr. Stevens, at Fort Brewerton, and Mr. Masters, and
possibly one or two more, at Fulton. The town organiza-
tion, of course, fell through, and this solves the mystery as
to how it happened that Mexico was twice created by law,
as will appear a little farther on.

For several years, about the time now under con.sideration,
there was great alarm felt all along the frontier regarding
the Indians. Tlie western savages broke out into open
war, and those in this State were still sore and angry over
the chastisement inflicted on them during the Revolution.
The three or four settlers at Oswego falls felt themselves in
especial danger on account of the fatal affray already

Another event of far more importance, but tending to
the same result, and occurring about the same time, is re-
lated in Clark's " Onondaga.'' The British, as has been
said, levied duties on all American boats passing by Oswego.
The hardy boatmen, chafing at this exaction on what they
considered their own territory, frequently attempted to run
by in the night, and sometimes succeeded. The British
commander hired some Americans to give notice of the
approach of boats. When these spies were discovered, they
were mercilessly punished by Judge Lynch, several being
whipped at "Salt Point," now Syracuse, where there was
already a considerable settlement. The bitter feeling against
the English which had come down from the Revolution
(especially on the New Y'ork frontier, so long ravaged by
tomahawk and scalping-knife) w:i3 intensified by the ex-
tortion practiced at Oswego, and many were disposed to
sanction the most desperate reprisals.

At this juncture it was learned that Colonel Guy Johnson,
still superintendent of Indian affairs in Canada, had pur-
chased in Albany a valuable boat-load of stores for the
Mohawhs in that province, and that it was coming through
by the usual route to Oswego. Thirty or forty reckless
men, incited alike by greed and hatred, determined to rob

it. A report was set afloat that the government had begun
granting letters of reprisal against Great Britain for injuries
to our commerce. The marauders were very ready to be-
lieve it, and equally ready to waive the formality of a com-
mission. They posted themselves on Oneida river, near
Three Rivers point, seized on the boat as its crew unsus-
pectingly steered it down the stream, divided its contents
among themselves, and ipiickly scattered to their respective

They were condemned by a majority even of the fron-
tiersmen, were it only for prudential reasons. Nothing
could possibly have been more dangerous to the infant set-
tlement than the seizure of goods intended for the Indians.
Guy Johnson came to Oswego. Many Indians gathered
there and at Niagara, threatening revenge. It is believed
that a plan was fully arranged by which, jf AVayne was
defeated in the west, a body of Indians under the terrible
Brant should make a descent on the Onondaga settlement.
The robbers, learning too late what a storm they had raised,
endeavored to keep themselves and their plunder concealed.
By diligent efforts, however, on the part of the better class
of citizens and the ofiicials, a large part of the stolen goods
was obtained and restored to the owners, and other means
taken to placate them.

It was while matters were in this excited condition that,
on the 3d of June, 1794, the few settlers at the falls, and
those scattered through Lysander, and even still farther
south, distinctly heard the sounds of cannon borne on a
gentle northern breeze from the direction of Oswego. Two
or three shots might have been easily accounted for, but
when the reverberations continued for a quarter of an hour
— twenty minutes — half an hour — and still showed no signs
of cessation, a feeling of dismay spread rapidly among the
settlers. Not knowing what could have happened, they
imagined everything. Perhaps Guy Johnson, John Butler,
and the terrible Thayendanegea were even then ascending
the Oswego with a horde of rangers and Seiiecos, though
it was hard to imagine why they should be wasting so much
powder. Some became almost distracted. Jlen, women,
and children ran about among their neighbors, though
neighbors were then a long way apart, inquiring if they
had seen any Indians coming. Some began to bury their
most valuable effects, and others hastily yoked up the oxen,
which were their only teams, half disposed to leave the
country at once.

At length, aft«r what seemed an intolerable number of
shots had been fired, the sounds cea.sed, and, as no enemy
could be heard of, peace was gradually restored to the heaits
of the dismayed people. Had they counted the number of
shots they would have found that just a hundred had been
fired, and the next comers from Oswego informed them that
the commandant was merely celebrating the birthday of
King George the Third.

General Wayne's great victory over the western Indians
in the summer of 1794 had a ver}' soothing effect on those
in the east, and thenceforward they showed very little dis-
position to raise the tomahawk against their white neighbors.

During this period of excitement, and not later than
1794, as narrated in Clark's "Onondaga," Mr. Oliver
Stevens obtained authority from Governor Clinton to erect



a block; house, at the expense of the State, at Fort Brewer-
ton, the fort itself not being in a situation for defense by
any garrison which could be rallied there. Mr. S. built
the block- house but a few steps south of the old fort, and
exactly on the site of the present Fort Brewerton hotel.

In 1794, also, Benjamin Wright, of Rome, afterwards a
celebrated surveyor and engineer, made an outline survey
of the Roosevelt tract for the purpose of ascertaining the
area for Mr. Seriba. He had the usual trouble about passing
Fort Ontario, and was fired on by the garrison. No damage
was done, but it was only by making a wide " offset" that
the surveyors ran that part of the line. Pursuing their
way, they completed the outline of the tract, which Wright
reported to Seriba as containing five hundred and twenty-
five thousand and sixty-three acres. There were a few
more log houses built in New Rotterdam that year, and a
road was probably opened from that point to the mouth of
Salmon creek, though possibly not till the next spring. Mr.
S. also spent a great deal of money in repairing his mill and
dam, which occasioned him a great deal of trouble. In the
mean time, genial Major Van Valkenburgh and the English
officers at Fort Ontario had become excellent friends. In
the fall of 1794, the prospect of the long cold winter was
so disheartening, and the disposition of the Indians was
still so uncertain, that the major accepted an invitation
given him by Captain Sohroeder, whose name American
tradition has converted into " Shade," to take his family
down and spend the winter there with the captain and his
wife. Comfortable quarters were accordingly fitted up, and
the major and his family remained at the post until spring.

In the spring the stay of the visitors was cut short by
an explosion at the fort, — but not of gunpowder. In April,
1795, Captain Schroeder and one of his lieutenants went
hunting wild fowl at Sodus bay. Lieutenant Holland,
the good-looking young officer so cordially mentioned by
Pharoux and Desjardines, remained in command of the
fort. Mrs. Schroeder was also young and handsome, while
her husband was somewhat older. While at Sodus the
captain was notified of the misconduct of his wife and
Lieutenant Holland. He came back raving with fury.
Lieutenant Holland was secreted to save his life, while the
other officers and the soldiers restrained and guarded the
captain. At night Lieutenant H. came and tapped at Major
Van Valkenburgh's window, begging him to protect Mrs.
Schroeder from her husband's wrath. He then embarked
in an open boat and made his way to Kingston, Canada.

The next day the captain contracted with Major Van
Valkenburgh to take his wife to Schenectady, on the way
to her father, who was a Georgian, and had been a Tory in
the Revolution. Schroeder threw a handful of money in
his wife's lap, but she flung it on the floor, saying, " I don't
thank him for it. I can draw for what I want." That
afternoon young Abram Van Valkenburgh, with a boat-
man, took her and her woman servant in a boat, and started
for Schenectady. Not long afterwards Schroeder went to
Montreal and challenged Holland. A duel ensued, in which
both were wounded, Holland mortally. So it seems there
were some bad people in the " good old times," eighty years

In the spring of 1795, Mr. Seriba, having now a complete

title to his domain, began operations on a larger scale. He
had some buildings erected at the mouth of Salmon creek,
where he contemplated the founding of a city to be called
Vera Cruz. He employed Mr. Wright to survey out the
tract into townships, — a task of no slight magnitude. A
base-line was established running southeast from Fort On-
tario to Fort Stanwix (Rome), and nearly all the township
lines were made parallel to, or at right angles with, that
base. The townships averaged about forty square miles
each, but there was no definite size established. Those in
Oswego County were named by Seriba as follows :

Township No. 5 was called Franklin (now the town of
Williamstown) ; No. 6 was Middleburgh (now Amboy) ;
No. 11, Rotterdam (now Constantiaj ; No. 12, Delft (now
West Monroe) ; No. 13, Breda (now Hastings) ; No. 14
was Brugen (comprising all of Palermo except about a fifth
on the west side) ; No. 1 5 was Mentz (now embracing the
west part of Palermo and the northeast part of Volney) ;
No. 16 was named Georgia (comprising the west third of
Schroeppel and the south part of Volney). The east two-
thirds of Schroeppel was then township 24, and was named
Erlang. No. 17 was called Fredericksburg, after Mr. Scriba's
son, Frederick, and comprised the northwest part of Volney,
the south part of i3criba, and a portion of Oswego city ; No.
18 was called Oswego, but only a very little of it has gone
into the city of that name ; the rest forms the north part of
the present town of Seriba ; No. 19 was Vera Cruz; it em-
braced the present town of New Haven, and a narrow strip
on the lake-shore now belonging to Mexico ; No. 20 was called
Mexico, and corresponded to the present Mexico, except that
the strip just mentioned has been taken off from Vera Cruz,
and a small triangle, in which Union Square is situated,
which has been taken from Richland ; No. 2 1 was Rich-
land, and comprised about three-fifths of the town of that
name south of Salmon river; No. 22 was Alkmaer, now
the town of Albion ; No. 23 was Strasburg, which corre-
sponded exactly with the present town of Parish.

These townships were laid out with lines mostly parallel,
and perpendicular to the base-line running from Fort
Stanwix to Fort Ontario. None of them lay on both sides
of that line. Soon after receiving his patent, Mr. Seriba
conveyed many large tracts to other parties. Several town-
ships went to the Roosevelts, in payment for their original
contract for the land. A large part of their interest was
soon sold under a decree in chancery, and the town of
Richland, a large part of Volney, and half of Seriba (as
well as Vienna, Oneida county), were bought by General
Alexander Hamilton, John Lawrence, and John B. Church,
and is still known as Hamilton's Gore. The township of
Vera Cruz (now New Haven) was transferred to William
Henderson, who in the next year resold it to Seriba. In
fact, there was in those days a constant trafficking back and
foi-th, between adventurous men, in great tracts of land
in northern and central New York, very much as there
is between sporting men in horses at the present time.
They traded, apparently, as much for the sake of trading
as for anything else. For two or three years after Mr.
Seriba bought the tract it was still described in deeds as
the Roosevelt purchase, but afterwards it was termed
Scriba's patent.


Online LibraryCrisfield. cn Johnson... History of Oswego County, New York → online text (page 12 of 120)