Jeptha Root Simms.

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became a refugee officer in the famous corps of Gen.
De Lancey. Henry Stoner, who had been a kind of
trafficker or speculator in a small way since his arrival
in the colonies, after a second residence in New York
of a few years, resolved to become a pioneer settler,
and removed with his family to Fonda's Bush, a place
in the Johnstown settlements, so called after Major
Jelles Fonda, who took a patent for the lands. The
place is situated about ten miles north of east from
the village of Johnstown, and the same distance west
of north from Amsterdam*

Fonda's Bush signifies the same as if it were called
Fonda's Woods, a dense forest covering the soil at that
early period — bush being the usual term for woods on
the frontiers of New York. Indeed, the Sugar Bush
is the present appellation given to woods from which
maple sugar is made. A t the time of Stoner's arrival,
Johnstown, though but a small village, was becoming
known abroad, as it was the residence of the baronet,
Sir William Johnson (after whom it was called), whp



TKAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 19

as Indian agent for the Six Nations, and as a military
man of repute, was notorious in what was then
Western New York.

As Stoner was the first settler at Fonda's Bush, he
left his family in Philadelphia Bush, while he was
erecting a log dwelling four miles distant. The last
mentioned place, now in the town of Maryfield, ob-
tained its name from the fa^t, that one or more of its
first inhabitants were from Philadelphia, or the vicin-
ity of that city. Some tw^o years after Stoner fixed
his residence in the wilderness, Joseph Scott, and
about the same time Benjamin De Line, also located
in his neighborhood. I say neighborhood because
they were the nearest neighbors of the Stoner family,
although from one to two miles distant. His residence
was still on the wild-wood side of his pioneer brethren.
The next man w^ho fixed his residence in the vicinity
of Stoner, was Philip Helmer, who drove the wild
beasts from their haunts and broke ground two miles
to the eastward of him. Andrew Bowman, Herman
Salisbury, John Putnam, Charles Cady, and possibly
one or two others, also settled in and about Fonda's
Bush before the Revolution. Cady, w^ho married a
daughter of Philip Helmer, was one of the first settlers
at the west village. He is believed to have gone to
Canada with Sir John Johnson.

It must have been about the time of Stoner's loca-
tion in Fonda's Bush, that Godfrey Shew, a German,
made the first permanent location near Sir William



20 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

Johnson's fishing lodge, denominated the Fish House,
and situated on the Sacondaga river, eight miles
north-east of Stoner's dwelling. Before Shew planted
himself at the Fish House, several families of squatters
had been there, who had gone " to parts unknown,"
and desirous of getting a wholesome citizen to remain
there, the baronet held out liberal inducements to Mr.
Shew, of which he accepted.

In my History of Schoharie County, etc.,, I have
given some account of Sir William Johnson, with
several anecdotes of him — described his stately man-
sions, and told the manner of his death, &c., &c.; but
at the time of publishing that work, I was not aware
that he had a more celebrated summer residence in the
latter part of his life, than that denominated the Fish
House. From conversations held within the past year
( 1849) with the aged patriot Jacob Shew, who is a
son of Godfrey Shew named above, I am enabled to
garner up some more incidents in the life of this no-
bleman, and authentic memoranda of the classic
grounds under consideration, which can not fail to
prove interesting to future generations, even though
they are little appreciated by the present.

Sir William Johnson, after establishing himself at
his Hall in Johnstown, no doubt lived in greater
affluence, or more in the style of a European noble-
man of that day, than ever did any other citizen of
New York. His household was quite numerous at all
times, and not unfrequently was much increased by



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 21

distinguished guests. He had a secretary named
Lafferty, who was a good lawyer and did all his legal
business. He had a houw-master, an Irishman named
Flood. Bouw is a Low Dutch word signifying har-
vest — or as here used, an overseer or manager of the
laborers of the Hall farm. From ten to fifteen slaves
usually performed the labor on the farm, and they were
under the immediate direction of the bouw-master.
The slaves, some of whom had families, lived across
the Cayadutta creek from the Hall, in small dwell-
ings erected for them. They drest much as did their
Indian neighbors, except that a kind of coat was
made of their blankets by the Hall tailor.

He had a family physician named Daly, who prac-
ticed but little out of his own household. Doct. Daly
was a very companionable man, and often accompa-
nied Sir William in his pleasure excursions. He had
a musician, a dwarf some thirty years old, w^ho an-
swered to the name of Billy. He played a violin
well, and was alw^ays on hand to entertain guests.
He had a gardener, who cultivated a large garden,
and kept that and the grounds about the Hall as neat
as a pin. He had a butler, named Frank, an active
young German, who was with him a number of years,
and who made himself very useful to his master.
Frank remained about the Hall until the Revolution
began, when he went to Albany county. He had a
waiter named Pontioch, a sprightly, well disposed lad
of mixed blood, negro and Indian, who was generally



22 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

with him when from home. He had a pair of white,
dwarfish-looking waiters, who catered to his own and
his guests' comfort: their surname was Bartholomew*
and they are believed to have been brothers.

The secretary, physician, bouw-master, and all the
waiters remained, after the death of Sir William, with
his son. Sir John Johnson, until the Revolution began,
and then followed his fortunes to Canada. The Ba-
ronet had also his own mechanics. His hlacksmith-
and his tailor, had each a shop just across the road
from the Hall. They did very little work for any one^
out of the royal household. Sir William was a large,
well-looking and full-favored man. *' Laugh and^
grow fat," is an old maxim, of which his neighbors
were reminded, when they beheld this fun-loving man-
He was well read for the times, and uncommonly well
versed in the study of human nature. Near the Hall-
he erected two detached wings of stone, the west one'
of which was used by his attorney Lafferty, for an
office, and the other contained ?i philosophical appara^
tus, of which he died possessed. The room in which
the apparatus was kept, was called his own private
study. On seeing him enter it,Pontioch used to say:
" JYow massa gone into his study to tink oh somesin
me know not what.''

Sir William erected a school-house in Johnstown
soon after he located there. It was an oblong building
with a desk at one end, and stood on the diagonal
corner of the streets from the county clerk's office — ^



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 25

on the present site of Lucus I. Smith's store. To
be^in a village, he also erected at the same time six
dwelling-houses in the vicinity of the school-house.
They were each some 30 feet long fronting the street,
by 18 or 20 feet deep, were one and a half stories high,
with two square rooms on the floor. Those dwellings
and the school-house were all painted yellow. One
of the earliest if not in fact the first teacher of this
school, was an arbitrary Irishman named Wall, who
taught only the common English branches. An Epis-
copal church was also erected in Johnstown under
the patronage of Sir William, several years before
his death.

In the street in front of the school-house, public
stocks and a whipping-post were placed, the former
of which were a terror to truant boys, whose feet not
unfrequently graced them. Before Godfrey Shew
removed to the Fish House, he resided a mile west of
the Hall, at which time his children, with those of a
neighbor or two, went to school. In the vicinity of
the Hall were usually to be seen a dozen or more In-
dians, of whom the children were afraid; and the fact
coming to the knowledge of Sir William, he spoke
to a chief in their behalf, and then assured the little
urchins, with whom he liked to chat, that they need
borrow no more trouble about their red neighbors.

He had six children at that time by his handsome

brown housekeeper, Molly Brant; and the three oldest,

Peter, Betsey and Lana, went to school — George and

two little girls being thought too young to send.

3



26 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

Wall was very severe with most of his pupils, but the
Baronet's children were made an exception to his
clemency — they ever being treated with kind partial-
ity and pointed indulgence. He observed the most
rigid formality in teaching his scholars manners ; a
very important branch of education, and quite too
much neglected in modern times. He required his
pupils, however, not so much to respect age and in-
tellect in others as in himself. If a child wished to go
out, it must go before him with a complaisant — 'please
master may 1 go out? accom.panied with a bow, a
backward motion of the right hand, and drawing back
upon the floor the right foot. On returning to the
school-room, the pupil had again to parade before the
master, with another three-motioned bow, and a very
grateful — thank you, sir!

The lad Jacob Shew, on becoming initiated into
the out-and-in ceremony, accompanied his first bow
with a scrape of the left foot. Tak the other fid, you
rascal ! was roared with such a brogue and emphasis
by old Pedagogue, as to confuse him, and he flour-
ished the left foot again. Tak the other fut, I tell ye!
came louder than before, attended with a stamp that
carried terror to the boy's heart. Comprehending the
requirement, he shifted his balance — scraped with the
right fut — heard a surly that'll doh ! and went on
his way rejoicing though trembling.

In nearly every school of New England and New
Yoik twenty-five years ago, the scholars on entering
and on leaving the school-room during the hours of



TKAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 27

school, had to make their manners — the boys to bow,
gracefully if they could, but at all events to bow, and
the girls to courtesy, genteely, of course. Nor were
the manners of the children confined to the school-
room; for on meeting any sober person in the street,
they had to make their obeisance, and learned to take
pleasure and pride in so doing. It was then a very
pretty spectacle to pass a country school-house at
noon, or when the children were out at play, and see
them parade as if by military intuition, and give the
traveler a united evidence of good breeding. This
sight is occasionally seen at the present day, where
female teachers are employed.

Traversing the forest in the French war, from
Ticonderoga to Fort Johnson, his then residence, no
doubt first made Sir William Johnson familiar with
the make of the country adjoining the Sacondaga
river; and soon after the close of that war he erected a
lodge for his convenience, while hunting and fishing,
on the south side of the river, nearly eighteen miles
distant from his own dvrelling. The lodge was ever
after called The Fish House, It was an oblong square
framed building, with two rooms below, and walls
sufficiently high (one and a half stories) to have
afibrded pleasant chambers. Its site was on a knoll
within the present garden of Dr. Langdon I. Marvin,
and about thirty rods from the river. It fronted the
south. Only one room in the building was ever fin-
ished; that was in the west end, and had a chimney



28 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

and fire place. The house was never painted, and in
the Revolution it was burnt down, but by whom or
whose authority, is unknown. The ground from where
the building stood, slopes very prettily to the river.
No visible trace of this building remains.

A village has grown up at this place, containing
several hundred inhabitants, and bearing the historic
name of Fish House, although the post office is im-
properly called Northampton, the village lying mostly
in one corner of that town. The village is built upon
gentle elevations, and a degree of neatness and thrift
pervades it, that agreeably disappoints the visitor.
Among its early influential inhabitants, were Asahel
Parkes, John Trumbull, John Rosevelt, Alexander
St. John, and John Fay. The last one named located
here in ]803, and the others a few years before.

Where the Stoner family settled in Fonda's Bush,
a pretty village has also sprung up. It is built mostly
upon level sandy land, and contains double the popu-
lation of Fish House. It is situated in the town of
Broadalbin, and like its sister village, has the mis-
fortune to have its post-office called after the town
instead of itself, a discrepancy that should never exist
where it can be avoided. A plank road went into
operation in 1849, from Fish House to Fonda's Bush,
a distance of eight miles; and another from the latter
place to Amsterdam, a further distance often miles,
bringing the three places within a few hours' ride of
each other.



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 29

The villages of Fish House and Fonda's Bush must
grow in importance with their improved facilities for
business — indeed, the travel to those places has been
on the increase for several years. From Edinburgh,
a little hamlet in Saratoga county, six miles down
the river from Fish House, a stage runs twice week
to Ballston Spa, stopping at Fish House; and another
runs through the place three times a week, from
Northville to Amsterdam. Both are mail routes.
Northville deserves a passing notice in this place: it
is a charming inland village in the town of Northamp-
ton, containing two or three hundred inhabitants,
romantically embowered among the hills on the north
bank of the Sacondaga, six miles above the Fish
House, and is fast increasing in importance. The first
settlers at this place were Abraham Van Aernam, Paul
Hammond, John Shoecraft, Daniel Lobdell and Daniel
Bryant. It is now in contemplation to build a plank
road from Northville to connect at Johnstown with the
one from that place to Fultonville, on the Erie canal.

At a little place about equidistant between Fish
House and Northville, on the south bank of the river,
with a post-office called Denton's Corners, settled
Garret Van Ness, Abel Scribner and John Brown.
They located there soon after the war of the Revolu-
tion closed; and as they had all three been participa-
tors in its perils, they must often have met of a long
winter evening and fought their battles over. There
is at this place, a bridge across the Sacondaga.



CHAPTER II.

Sir William Johnson was no doubt induced to locate
in Johnstown, partly on account of the greater facili-
ties it would aiford him for hunting and fishing about
the Sacondaga river, over a residence in the Mohawk
valley, and partly to obtain more favorable grounds
to accommodate the numerous Indians, who at times
came to receive presents from the royal bounty.
North of the Hall was a forest in which those visitors
were occasionally encamped in great numbers.

The Sacondaga and Mohawk rivers are about
twenty miles apart, from the Fish House westward,
for some distance. The Mayfield mountain stretches
across from the former river south-easterly to the
latter, and there forms what is called The Nose, while
on the north side of the Sacondaga, mountain ranges
of hills towering one above the other, bound the view.
The lands, on gaining the summit level, a few miles
north of the Mohawk, are not mountainous between
the rivers, but gently rolling from the Mayfield
mountain, some twenty miles to the eastw^ard, until
they strike what is denominated the Maxon hill; the
northern termination of which at the river the In-
dians called Scow-a-rock-a. The scenery, therefore,
to the northward of Johnstown and Fonda's Bush, is
verv fine.



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 31

From the residence of Col. John I Shew, situated
on an eminence one and a half miles from Fonda's
Bush, and on the plank road to Fish House, is afforded
the lover of natural science, in a clear day, one of
the richest landscapes in this part of the state. Here
the eye, looking north, seems to scan rather more
than one-half of an amphitheatre, an hundred miles
iu circuit, with rich and varied scenery. Within the
view is overlooked the Sacondaga vlaie, a body of
from ten to thirteen thousand acres of drowned lands.
This immense marsh extends east and west about six
miles. A strip at the west end, nearly two miles
long, lies in Mayfield, and the eastern part extends
into Northampton; but the greatest proportion is in
Broadalbin, where it is the widest, being perhaps a
mile or more in width.

A fine mill stream, called Vlaie creek, because it
courses through the great marsh, rises in Lake Desola-
tion, near the Maxon mountain in Greenfield, Sara-
toga county, and making a grand circuit of Broad-
albin, passing in its route through the village of
Fonda's Bush, it enters the Sacondaga at Fish House,
not more than two or three miles from its source;
although some twenty by its sinuous route. The
stream is sometimes called the Little Sacondaga.
The Indians called it Ken-ny-ett-o^ says Isaac R. Rosa,
of Fonda's Bush, w^ho saw an intelligent Indian, many
years ago, write the name with red chalk on the door
of a grist mill. The signification of this pretty abo-



32 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

riginal name, after which the village and post-office
should have been called, is now unknown.

The origin of this marsh is thus given by Lardner
Vanuxem, in his volume of the Geology of New York:
" The vlie, or natural meadow and swamp which ex-
tends along the creek of that name, to near the Fish
House, are the remains of a lake, and show the pre-
existent state of that country; the drainage of which
happened at successive periods, as is Deautifully
shown, and the extent of alluvial action also, near
where the irpper and lower roads unite, which lead
from Cranberry post-office to the river, near the hill
or mountain side. There four well defined alluvial
banks exist, resembling great steps or benches
ranging by the mountain side, which form a semi-
amphitheatre, changing by a curve from a north-east
to a south-south-east direction. The upper bank of
alluvion rises about a hundred feet above the river;
the next below, about eighty feet; the third, from
thirty to forty feet; and the lowest, from ten to twelve
feet. The upper one is of sand, the second of bluish
clay covered with sand, and the two lower ones of
sand and gravel.

" The vlie, or natural meadows, are numerous in
many parts of the [geological] district: they are the
prairies of the west upon a small scale. Their soil,
being composed of minutely divided parts of fine
earth, is favorable for grass, the rapid growth of which
smothers the germinating tree. This is the primary



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 33

cause why trees do not exist where grass is rank; the
others are but subordinate ones. One and all in the
district show the same origin, having been ponds or
lakes receiving the wash of the country which they
drained, the finer particles of which being diffused
through their waters, have by subsidence formed
their level bottom, and their highly productive soil
for grass."

It is by no means an uncommon occurrence for a
pond or lake to become filled up by alluvial deposits,
so as to form dry and tillable land; and at times upon
the surface of a body of water, a soil is formed that is
cultivated without its ever being known to the hus-
bandman, that he is toiling over the bosom of a lake.
In confirmation of this I would instance a singular
occurrence of recent date. On the Michigan Central
Railway it became necessary to carry an embankment
some fifteen feet thick across a piece of low ground,
containing nearly one hundred acres dry enough to
plow. The workmen had progressed with the grading
some distance, when it became too heavy for the soil
to support it, and it sank down into seventy -nine feet
of water. It then became apparent that the low
ground had been a small lake, upon the surface of
which, in process of time, a soil had collected, com-
posed of roots, peat, muck, &c., to the depth of from
ten to fifteen feet thick; the surface of which had
become dry. Had it not been deemed necessary to
carry so heavy an embankment over this miniature



34 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

prairie of now rich arable land, it would probably
never have been known that it rested on the bosom
of a lake.

On the northerly side of the vlaie and to the west-
ward of the centre, are two strips of hard land bearing
timber. They are called stacking-ridges, from the
fact that many tons of hay cut annually on the low
giounds contiguous, are stacked upon them to be
drawn off in the winter. Blue-joint grass used to
grow, and perhaps does to this day on the dry est bogs.
Formerly immense quantities of cranberries were
gathered on the north side of the marsh east of the
lower stacking-ridge, on what is called Cranberry
point. A kind of shovel with fine teeth was some-
times used to scoop them up, and nearly a quart could
thus be gathered at once. This mode of picking in-
jured the vines however. Cranberries are not as
plenty here as formerly. Opposite Cranberry point
the water in Vlaie creek is said to be very deep.

One of the most interesting features about the vlaie
is the fact, that a little knoll or table of hard land
elevated some ten or twelve feet, extends into it
toward the upper or western end. It is oblong in
shape, level upon the top and gently sloping all round.
It lies about north-west and south-east, the summit
being some 600 feet long by 150 in breadth; and
containing in the whole say ten or fifteen acres of very
good land This tongue of land is called Summer'
house point, from the fact that Sir William Johnson



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 35

erected a beautiful cottage in the centre of it in 1772,
and there spent much of his time in the summer for
several seasons. From Johnstown to this point, which
is just fourteen miles, the Baronet opened a carriage
road. While the road was surveying, a large tree
was marked at the end of every mile, and numbered
from the Hall. The one denominated JYine-mile tree,
a large pine, was standing within twenty-five years,
and was by the late Gen. Henry Fonda designated
to several persons, who have kept vigilance of its
locality. The stump of this tree, which has for seventy
years been a landmark, is still standing a little east of
James Lasher's dwelling in the town of Mayfield.

Summer-house point is af)pro ached from the west-
erly end, upon a strip of arable land, which in very
high water is covered, making an island of the point.
The Sacondaga patent embraced all or very nearly
all of the vlaie. The point which lies in Broadalbin,
was embraced in the Sacondaga patent, which con-
veyed 28,000 acres of land, Dec. 2, 1742, to Lendert
Gansevoort, Cornelius Ten Broek, Douw Fonda, Anna
J. Wendell and ten others. Of some of the original
patentees or then owners, Sir William not only bought
the point, but many of the lands in and contiguous
to Fish House, in which village the Northampton
and Sacondaga patents unite.

The cottage erected on Summer-house point stood
precisely in ils centre. It was a tasty one story build-
ing, fronting the south, upon which side was its front



36 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

entrance. The roof sloped north and south. A piazza
supported by square columns extended around the
sides and east end, with a promenade upon the top
nearly as high as the eaves. It had a gable window
at each end on the first floor, and two windows at
each end on the second. A hall ran across the build-
ing in the centre, with a square room upon each side
of it, handsomely finished, well furnished, and each
room lighted by two front w^indows. It had a nice
cellar kitchen, the entrance to which was on the west
end which room was always occupied in the summer
season by JYicholas and Flora, a pair of the Baronet's
slaves, who were there to keep every thing in order,
and minister to his comfort during his visits. The
cottage was painted white, with the corners, doors,
widow casings and columns painted green, as was
the English taste of the times — the whole contrast-
ing beautifully with the wild scenery around.

A large garden was cultivated on the point, two
cows kept there, and when the Baronet was there two
horses also; as he usually rode there in a carriage.


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