James H. (James Hadden) Smith.

History of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

. (page 46 of 125)
Online LibraryJames H. (James Hadden) SmithHistory of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 46 of 125)
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country, and being the first successful mission
established by the Moravians in North America,
the record of the missionary settlement here is
both important and interesting.

The name of the locality made famous by the
settlement and labors of the Moravian Christians,

* A family name now known as " Righter."

has, since 1859, been generally believed to be cor-
rectly given as " Checomeco," or " Shecomeco ; "
but after an investigation it is discovered to be in-
correctly spelled. The correct rendering would
appear to be that previously given — Sha-ca-me-co.*
The authority for such spelling is found in a col-
lection of names which the Lenni Lenape or
Delaware Indians gave to rivers, streams, and
localities within the States of Pennsylvania, New
Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, with [their signifi-
cations, prepared from a MS. of John Heckewel-
der, by William C. Reichel.f Mr. Reichel has also
drawn from an " Essay of a Delaware Indian, and
an English Spelling Book for the use of the Christian
Indians and the Muskingum,"J for the purpose of
confirming and illustrating Heckewelder's interpre-

In this collection Heckewelder gives the word
" Sha-cha-meek " — an eel.§ Zeisberger confirms it,
saying — " Scha-cha-meek, an eel, compounded of
Scha-chach-ge-u, straight, and na-mees, a fish — the
straight fish." Scha-chameki, or Shachameko, signi-
fies " where there are eels, or, the place of eels,"
the suffixes i, o, ink, or ing, not changing the sig-
nification, either one being correct. Putting the
word in our modern orthography, it would properly
be given as Ska-ca-tne-co, the place of eels, the
accent being given on the penult. The stream to
the east of the mission site, rising at the " Federal
Square," and emptying into the Roelaff Jansen
kill, is properly rendered Sha-ca-meek-hanne, the
eel stream. At the forks of the Susquehanna in
early times the place was called Schachameki, the
place of eels, and the creek was known as Scha-
chamekhan, the eel stream. It was afterwards
called Shamokin, and now Lunburg. That the
EngUsh settlers gave it this pronunciation appears
from the proceedings against the Moravians in
1744, as published in the Documentary History of
New York, Volume III : " His Excellency also
communicated to the Board a letter from Col.
Beekman, that there were four Moravian priests
and many Indians at Shacomico." Again. " Eight
other persons were at Shacomico." In the sheriff's
return, " he went on ye 17th to Shacomiko." And
again, "Budner [Biittner] is chief preacher at
Shacamico." The sHght variation of the orthog-
raphy from the original word, in these instances,
does not change the pronunciation materially, if at
all. Lavina Carter, of Scaticoke, near Kent, who

* From Isaac Huntling on Indian Words and their Significance.

t The full work from Heckewelder was published in i8z2.

X Published in Philadelphia, 1776.

§ Sch, according to the rule given, has the sound of Sk.


is now (1879) over seventy and nearly the last of
the race, learned the word from her grandmother,
Eunice Mawesema, the daughter of Choose, alias
Joseph, or Jo, the son of Capt. Gideon Choose,
who was living at the time the missions at Sha-ca-
me-co and Scaticoke were established, she, there-
fore, had the word as given by the Indians at the
time, through her grandmother. Her musical pro-
nunciation settles the origin of the word as given
by Heckewelder and Zeisberger. The topography
of the country embracing the site of the mission
also makes its name and signification singularly
appropriate. Within a mile northwesterly are three
lakes, and a mile further in the same direction is
the chain of Stissing lakes at the base of Stissing
mountain, all of which were noted for their eels, as
well as other kinds of fish. The outlet of the
Stissing lakes passed through the lowlands a mile
west of the mission town, on its way southward to
the valley of the Wappinger, and furnished eels in
abundance. East of the missionary site, within a
mile, is the Shacameek, or eel stream, noted even
in modern times for its numerous and excellent
eels. It would be impossible to find in any country
a locality more appropriate for the name — Sha-ca-

Here, on land thus defined and named, the
Moravian Missionaries made their first settlement.
There is scarcely any history which enlists the sym-
pathies of the reader more than that of the Mora-
vian Mission among the North American Indians.*
It relates to an unfortunate people; to a scat-
tered people whose deplorable national calami-
ties have, at last, excited the commiseration of
even their destroyers. There is, perhaps, no sad-
der history written ; for it is a continual recital of
hope and success, resulting in disappointment and
disaster; a quickly changing scene, in which noon-
day clouds inevitably darken the sky that was
serene and clear in the morning's dawn, and storms
sweep over fields white for the harvest, rudely
scattering the ripening grain to the winds of heaven.
And yet the zeal, the devotion, the patience and
christian love that mark the unobtrusive efforts of
those messengers of peace to the red man, could
not have been greater had the narrative of their
labors comedown to us an uninterrupted succession
of triumphs.!

In 1769 James Win ans purchased lot number

* History of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Indians of
North America; by George Henry Loskiel, 1788. Translated from the
^erman by Christian Ignatus Latrobe : London, 1794.

t For a detailed account of their sufferings and persecutions, and the
final abandonment of their missions, see Chap, v, p. 1%.

twelve * of the Little Nine Partners, upon which
was located the grave of Gottlob Biittner, the most
prominent man of the Moravian Missionaries, and
who has been termed the Luther of Shacameco.
Biittner's grave was still there, and the owner of
the land enclosed the grave with a rude fence to
preserve it from destruction. Mr. Winans died
and Lot Twelve passed into other hands. Unable
to translate the German inscription on the tomb-
stone of Biittner, they took it to be the grave of
an Indian chief The fence was removed ; the
plow passed over the grave ; the stone was broken
by vandal hands, piece by piece, even to below the
surface of the ground, and not a vestige was left to
mark the spot where slumbered the Moravian
missionary. In 1829, Lot Twelve was again sold,
passing into the possession of Edward Huntling,
its present owner and occupant. Apple trees
which the Indians planted were still standing,
scattered here and there as faithful sentinels over
the departed dead. A century passed and nothing
remained to mark the site of that once prosperous
mission. Its precise locality had become a theme
of speculation. The tombstone which the mourn-
ing Indians erected to the memory of Biittner
had long before disappeared, and strange feet un-
wittingly trod on the forgotten grave. About 1855
a piece of the original stone, with a few letters en-
graved thereon, found its way into the museum at
Poughkeepsie. This was the first gleam of light
after the darkness of a century. Rev. W. J.
McCord and Rev. Sheldon Davis began about this
time to take a deep interest in the discovery of the
missing,. and the latter was confident that this was
a portion of the original stone erected at the grave
of Biittner. The original inscription had been
preserved by the Moravian Society at Bethlehem,
Penn., and by comparison this piece proved to be
a portion of the original stone. The next en-
deavor was to find the grave. Very few persons
could be found who had ever seen it when stand-
ing, and none could mark the spot. At length
Josiah Winans, a man of close observation and
remarkable locality, one of the former owners of
Lot Twelve, was asked to define the spot. When
a boy he had tried to pull out the stone, using two
teams for the purpose, but only succeeded in giving
it an angular position. Walking as near the spot
as possible, he pointed out the probable location

•In 1 744 Charles Clinton had made a map of the tract of land known
as the Little Nine Partners, which was purchased by Sampson Bough-
ton and others from the Crown, April lo, 1706. According to that map
the present monument stands on Lot iz, and Biittner's grave was also oa
this lot.



of the grave. A plow was brought by Edward
Huntling, and after a few furrows the stone was
struck. Digging commenced at once, when some
fragments of the original stone, with letters in-
scribed thereon, were found. At a depth of five
feet an arm bone and some pieces of a pitch-pine
coffin were found, as evidence conclusive that this
was the grave of Gottlob Biittner. Here, then, on
the land of Edward Huntling, south of his residence,
one hundred and forty-one years ago was situated
Sha-ca-me-co Moravian Mission and Indian Vil-
lage. Here, on what is now a cornfield, were lo-
cated the huts of the mission. Just below, a little
to the west, where now are a few scattering apple
trees, was the garden of the Moravians. South-
eastward, on a knoll, was their orchard, of which
not a vestige now remains. The village* proper
was composed of baptized Indians, each family
having a bark house. The number of dwellers
here in 1745 amounted to seventeen families.
Their names were John, Jacob, Boaz, Peter, Dav-
id, Joseph, Cornelius, Nicodemus, Solomon, Jonas,
Susanna, Jeptha, Philip, Isaac, Nathaniel, Zacche-
us and Ruth. In addition to these dwellings there
was a mission house, church, bake-oven, cellars, a
barrack and stable.

The church stood a' little south of west from
the present monument, very near the dividing line
between lots eleven and twelve, where there is now
a line fence. The barrack and stable were on the
flat below. All the land near by was under culti-
vation. There were "missionaries' fields,'' and
" Indian brethren's fields." They had all things in
common. Theirs was a colony united, and of one
faith, to which were added none but baptized Indi-
ans. This was their condition when the mission-
aries were ordered before the Court at " Pikipsi,
December 17, 1744."

North of this field of historic interest stands the
monument erected to the memory of Gottlob Biitt-
ner by the Moravian Historical Society in 1859.!

Probably the first house ever erected in the
town, was that known as the " Booth-Lasher
House," or " Dibblee " house, which stood on
land now owned by George Clarke, near the village
of Pine Plains. The original building was about
24 by 60 feet, but one story high, built of hewn pine
square timber, from ten to twelve inches thick,

* South of the knoll on which was the Moravian orchard, was situ-
ated, contemporaneous with the Moravian Mission, a small Indian village
of the Mohicans, whose chieftains were Wasamapa (Tschoop) and Sha-
oash, both converts to the Moravian faith.

t That society has been extinct for some twenty years. Of this society
Benson J. Lossing, the historian, was a conspicuous member.

erected in log cabin style, the ends of the timber
halved, and the whole fitting together as closely as
hewn timber ordinarily does. This house was
taken down in 1878, and in the jamb, or chimney,
was found a brick stamped 1728, which is supposed
to have been made in Holland and imported with
those used by the Dutch settlers on the Hudson.
Probably the date on this brick is very near the
time of the erection of the house. Doctor Lewis
occupied this dwelling as far as can be traced back,
which was about the time of the Revolution. He
was a Tory, and in consequence left during the
war, and is said to have resided in Nova Scotia.
After the war he returned but the reproaches of
the successful party, added, it is supposed, to re-
morse, were too much for him, and he hung him-
self in the garret. The next occupant was Eben-
ezer Dibblee, from Connecticut, and of French
origin. He kept a store in one part of this house
toward the close of the last century. In taking
down the building a coarse shell comb was found
with the letters "E. D." set in a scroll, and 1799
on the opposite side, both cut in apparently with
a knife. These initials were probably of some
member of the family, and the date is important as
showing the time of occupancy. Next Mr. Booth
and Mr. Lasher occupied the house in turn, until
near the time of its being torn down.

The very earliest settlers of Eastern Pine Plains,
and that portion of North East west of Winchell
Mountain, were drifts from the early Dutch colonists
who located on the Hudson, between Rhinebeckand
Catskill. The disappointment and failure of the
Palatines imported from England from 17 10 to 17 13
under the auspices of the land monopolists,— to
make a Uving in the manufacture of " Naval Stores,"
pitch tar, turpentine and resin, from the stinted
pitchless white pines on the six thousand acres
purchased for that purpose by Gov. Hunter of
Robert Livingston, — compelled these poor emi-
grants to seek other localities, and other sources
of labor for the sustenance of themselves and
families. Some chose the west side of the Hudson
and drifting into the valleys of Schoharie county,
and south to the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers,
located in Southern New York and Pennsylvania.
Others drifted east to the fertile flats of the Tacon-
ics, and south-east to the Little Nine Partners, in
the county of Duchess.

Adjoining the Little Nine Partners tract on the
east, and at the extreme north end of that tract,
was 'the Oblong, which the New England colonists
pushing west obtained and possessed, establishing



the villages of Spencer's Corners and Sichem, in
what is now the township of North East. Winchell
Mountain was a barrier to further immigration from
that direction, being then, as now, the natural com-
mercial boundary between the Connecticut and
Hudson river colonists.

In religion the Connecticut border settlers were
Episcopal or Presbyterian, and they early organized
societies and built churches, as denominational
views and ability gave interest and opportunity.
Different from these, the Hudson river colonists
were generally Lutherans, and to the churches of
this denomination on the Hudson and at Clermont
and Churchtown, they rightfully claimed and owed
allegiance. To these, twenty miles or more, they
went to church in the primitive pioneer manner
on horseback, holding a child on the horse in front
and one or more behind. Once on such a journey
a settler from near Carman's mill, in fording the
Shacameco, near what is now the Risedorf farm,
met with some difficulty, and a child intended for
baptism in the parish church fell into the stream
and was drowned. But, despite accidents and in-
conveniences, they kept up these church relations
until about 1744 or 1746, when an effort was made
to build a church at the village of Bethel, in Pine
Plains. This was one of the earliest of the ham-
lets and was in those early days a business centre
of no inconsiderable pretensions. It has the oldest
cemetery in the town, in which, undisturbed by the
clangor and changes of modern times, " the rude
forefathers of the hamlet * sleep." The place is
now almost deserted. Its past greatness in the
life of the town has departed. Its mechanics, and
merchants, and schools, and quaint churches are
numbered am.ong the names and things that were,
and the hamlet Uves only in history.

In the ancient cemetery are seen the moss-
grown tombstones of those who early peopled this
section and made possible the present prosperity
of the town. One of the oldest of these tablets
is: —

"In memory of Sarah, wife to Henry Yonk-
honce, died April 25, 1770."

And another, —

" In memory of Hendrick Hoffman, who de-
parted this life Feb. 4, 1789, in the 70th yr of his

Beside him rests

" Sibel M., wife to Hendrick Hoffman, who died
July 26, 1805, aged 83."

• Hendrick Hoffman and Matthias Hoffman were
among the earhest settlers in the town. Previous

to 1740 there were but few inhabitants in this
section, and not until after the Revolutionary war,
probably not until 1 784, did the influx of settlers

The cemetery mentioned is known as the Round
Top Cemetery, which name was derived from the
first church built in the town, and at this place,
the effort to erect which, in 17.44 or '46, has
already been noticed.

Previous to that date an imperfect title, or,
more properly, no title to the lands, was a serious
impediment to their settlement and to the parties
living upon them. The Little Nine Partners
Patent, comprising Milan, Pine Plains and North
East, was granted in 1706, but failing to apportion
the lands among the grantees, about 1744, or
shortly previous, the assembly of the province of
New York passed an act " for the more easy par-
tition of lands, a part of tract of land called the
second Nine Partner tract." In conformance to
this act a survey was made by Charles Clinton,
and a map also made bearing date May 7, 1744.
This made sixty-three lots of the whole tract. By
the above act Commissioners were appointed to
apportion this tract according to this survey,
among the owners who were not now the original
grantees, as some of them had sold their interest
in whole or in part, and one or two that were

The apportionment duly made settled the title
to the Little Nine Partners Tract, and the settlers
began to make homes and permanent improve-
ments. They were no longer squatters and tenants,
but sovereigns and lords, and under their labors
the forest and cabin disappeared, and were suc-
ceeded by thrift and a higher civilization.

The deed that conveyed the Round Top Church
property and Cemetery bears date May 15, 1769,
and is from Peter Van Brugh Livingston,* " mer-
chant, of the City of New York, of the first part,
and John Tise Smith and Michael Raugh of the
North Precinct in the County of Duchess, in the
colony of New York, yeomen, of the second parts."
In the apportionment of the Little Nine Partners
Tract, about 1744, James Alexander, of New York
city, received several lots, among which was a
portion of Lot No. 30. He in his lifetime made
a verbal promise to the people of the Lutheran
denomination in this section that he would donate
to their congregation about one acre of his part of
Lot No. 30 for the erection of a churclf and for

• Peter Van Brugh Livingston was President of the First Provincial
Congi-ess, 177s.



burial purposes. He died soon afterward, before
the promise was fulfilled, and the property passed
into the hands of his son-in-law, Peter Van Brugh
Livingston, who, in honor of the memory of James
Alexander, carried that promise into execution.
The considerations were five shillings, lawful
money of New York, and the yearly payment on
the first of each May of one ear of Indian corn to
him or his heirs'if lawfully demanded.

The conditions of ownership were that the con-
gregation should, within two years of the date of
the deed, inclose the said piece of ground by a
good and sufiicient fence, to keep it forever after
in good repair, "and erect a new edifice or church
thereon, or keep the old church in repair, for the
worship of Almighty God as practiced by the
Lutheran Evangelical Churches, or use the same
for a cemetery or church-yard for the burial or
interment of the dead, and shall not appropriate,
apply or convert the same at any time forever
after to private secular uses." In the event that
these conditions were not complied with, the
property was to revert to the donator or his heirs.

The pertinent facts brought out by this deed
are, that this church was built by the Lutherans,
and designed for the worship of God as practiced
by that denomination. Tradition is in accord
with this fact, but it is not known if there was ever
an organized membership, and if there was, it is
unknown when the organization took place and
who were its members.* It is not known who
were the Lutheran ministers who ministered here.

Ministers of that denomination came with the
Palatine emigrants, and a Lutheran church was
founded at Germantown, Columbia County, co-
eval with the founding of the colony in 1710,
but even of this church no record is known earlier
than 1746. It is a reasonable supposition that the
earliest Lutheran ministers who officiated among
the Palatines either occasionally or periodically
ministered here in the Round Top Church from
175010 1815.

Of one man who preached here in 1753 there is
a well authenticated record. This was the Rev.
Abraham Reinke, who, four years after the death
of David Bruce the Moravian missionary, was s^nt
from Bethlehem, Penn., by the United Brethren to
minister to the white people in Sharon and in this
vicinity. In his diary f he states that during his
sojourn of eight weeks he preached twenty times to

* As late as i8j6 one person, at least, was living who claimed identity
with this church — Hendrick Keifer.
tSee Prof. Reichel's "Moravians in New York and Connecticut."

large audiences, his appointments being at Salisbury
and Sharon, Conn., in the Oblong, in Nine Partners,
and at Livingston Manor. The " Oblong" to which
he refers was probably the old church at Amenia
Union, and " Nine Partners" must have been this
Round Top Church, as this was the only church in
this section everywhere known and called Nine

Another pertinent exhibit in the deed has
reference to the date or time of the erection of the
building, found in the phrase — " and erect a new
edifice or church thereon or keep the old church in
repair." There is nothing to establish the precise
date of the erection of the building. It was thought
by some that its erection occurred in 1746; by
others it was placed at an earUer date, 1740. The
inferential evidence is rather in favor of the former,
if not even of a later date. From the promise of
James Alexander as mentioned in the deed, the
inference is plain that the building was not erected
previous to 1744. If he had purchased an undi-
vided interest in the Little Nine Partners tract,
which in all probability he had, previous to the
award of the commissioners in 1744 he could not
have known where his interest would be located,
and therefore could make no promise of one acre
on lot No. 30. It did not become his property
until after the award. The presumption that it
was built earUer than this award would be to illy
judge the close, practical business natures of these
Dutch descendants. It is quite improbable that
they would locate a burial ground and build a
church, without definite knowledge as to who was
the owner of the land selected for that purpose.
Contemporaneous with these years— 1742 to 1746 —
existed the Shacameco Moravian mission to the
Indians, whose location was less than a mile dis-
tant, where a church was built or finished in 1743.
These missionaries were famiUar with the Dutch
language, and in religious belief were closely allied
to the Lutherans. From their diaries, with whose
exhibit tradition harmonizes, it is learned that they
visited and were famiUar with the settlers, who, in
turn, attended their meetings and heard them
preach. It is inferred from these facts that 1745
or '46, certainly not later than 1750, is the proba-
ble date of the building of Round Top Church. It
would hardly be probable that there was a neces-
sity for its erection during the life of the mission,
which lasted until 1746. Nothing more than has
been stated is positively known of its occupancy
during the last century, and but little more is known
of the present up to its demoUtion.



In 1816 the present Presbyterian church at Pine
Plains, two and a half miles distant, was completed,
which in its then four denominational unity ab-
sorbed the Lutheran element throughout what is
now the limits of the town. All the early Palatine
settlers were dead, and their descendants drifted
naturally to this growing business center. The
Quaker Church, built here in 1806, also had an
organization which more or less divided the neigh-
borhood in church attendance. These and other
natural causes gradually drew away all interest in
the Round Top church. The building began to
decay. The clapboards became loose and were
soon gone. What were left nailed to the frame
were -torn off in 1837, when the frame was taken
down and the timber sold a,t auction. A portion
of the timber was bought by Henry Hoysrodt and
subsequently used in building a barn. The church

Online LibraryJames H. (James Hadden) SmithHistory of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 46 of 125)