Samuel W Durant.

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

. (page 101 of 192)
Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 101 of 192)
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a guinea who would get his sword, which hung not far



from a window where the ilame was just bursting out.
Pettit rescued the endangered blade at the risk of losing
his own life, and was considerably scorched in the opera-
tion, but received the thanks of the owner and his well-
earned guinea. The origin of the fire was by some
attributed to incendiarism. Mr. Pettit said, however, that
a pit of charcoal had very recently been burned close by
the fort, to be used in repairing some of the arms, and
thought the fire originated from brands still burning being
carried into the armory with the coal, as that was where it
was first discovered.

The following return of the forces in Fort Stanwix, be-
longing to Colonel Gansevoort's regiment, in April, 1779, is
from the original document now in the possession of Ed-
ward Huntington, Esq., of Rome: One colonel, Peter
Gansevoorfc ; one lieutenant-colonel ;* one major ; six cap-
tains, Aorsori, De Witt, Jansen, Bleeker, Gregg, Tiebout ;
one captain-lieutenant ; eight lieutenants ; nine ensigns ;
one adjutant; one paymaster ; one quartermaster ; one sur-
geon; one quartermaster-sergeant ; one fife-major ; twenty-
two sergeants ; sixteen drummers and fifers. Of the rank
and file, 246 were present fit for duty ; 19 were on the sick
list and present, and 7 sick and absent ; 98 were " on com-
mand ;'■ 9 on furloughs. Total, 379 rank and file. There
were wanting 127 men to complete the rolls. The docu-
ment is signed by " Peter Gansevoort, Colonel Third New
York Regiment." The Captain Gregg named was the same
who figured in the affair with the Indians and the " faith-
ful dog," related elsewhere in this work.

The following article, including extracts from the jour-
nal of Hon. Elkanah Watson, describing the condition of
Rome in 1788 and 1791, is taken from the issue of the
Rome Sentinel for Sept. 4, 1877, and will be found very
interesting to the citizens of the place to-day. Mr. Watson
was born near Plymouth Rock, in Massachusetts, and when
fifteen years of age commenced an apprenticeship in the
mercantile house of -John Brown, of Providence, R. I., the
founder of Brown University. He was an active partici-
pator in the War of the Revolution, and before its close
went abroad and traveled much in Europe. Benjamin
Franklin, John Adams, .General Washington, Lafayette,
and others of the time, were his personal acquaintances and
friends. He was abroad when the news of Cornwallis' sur-
render reached Europe, and had the good fortune (through
letters of Dr. Franklin) to be acquainted with Edmund
Burke, Fox, and Sheridan. He was present in the House
of Lords when King George III. read his speech acknowl-
edging American independence. This was the 5th of De-
cember, 1782. He was then not quite twenty-four years
old. His death occurred exactly sixty years from that day,
when he was nearly eighty-four. After the Revolution Mr.
Watson traveled much in this country, and kept a journal
of his travels. In 1856 his son, Winslow C. Watson, pub-
lished, in book form, memoirs of his father, giving extracts
from his journals of travel.

Mr. Watson was at Fort Stanwix in 1788, at the time of
the treaty with the Indians, and again, three years later, —
in September, 1791. In his first journey here, after men-

» Marinus Willett.

tioning Albany and Schenectady, and describing his stay
over night at Johnson Hall, in Johnstown, he speaks of
having reached a " miserable log tavern," six miles east of
old Fort Schuyler (now Utioa). After leaving that tavern
he describes his journey as follows :


" September, 1788. — From Colonel Sterliog's I began to traverse the
wilderness bordering upon tbe Indian territory. The road is almost
impassable ; I was upwards of three hours in reaching the Mohawk
opposite old Fort Schuyler, a distance of only six miles. Here I re-
luctantly forded tbe river, being alone and without a guide, and both
shores alive with savages. Having fasted 24 hours, in consequence
of a severe headache the day previous, I was by this time excessively
hungry and fatigued. As there was no tavern, and only a few scat-
tering houses, I proceeded to an old German log house, on tbe margin
of the river, and interceded for something to eat. At length, after
much difficulty, I prevailed on an ill-natured G-erman woman to spare
me two ears of green corn and some salt.

" The road from thence to Whitesboro* continued as bad as possible,
obstructed by broken bridges, logs, and stumps, and my horse, at
every step, sinking knee-deep in the mud. I remained one day re-
cruiting at Judge "White's log bouse, the founder of the settlement,
and slept in his log barn, with horses and other animals.

" Wbitesboro' is a promising new settlement, situated on the south
side of tbe Mohawk Kiver, in the heart of a fine tract of land, and
is just in its transition from a state of nature into civilization. The
settlement commenced only three years since. It is astonishing what
efforts are making to subdue the dense and murky forest. Log houses
are already sea' tered in the midst of stumps, half-burnt logs, and
girdled trees. I observed, however, with pleasure, that their log
barns were well filled. A few years ago land might have been bought
for a trifle J at present the lots bordering upon the river have ad-
vanced to three dollars per acre, and those lying a few miles back, to
one dollar per acre.

"Settlers are continually pouring in from the Connecticut hive,
which throws off its annual swarms of intelligent, industrious, and
enterprising emigrants,— the best qualified of any men in tbe world
to overcome and civilize the wilderness. They already estimate 300
brother Yankees on their muster list, and in a few years hence they
will undoubtedly be able to raise a formidable barrier to oppose the
incursions of the savages in the event of another war.

"At Oriskany I passed a small tribe of two hundred Indians, the
remnant of that once powerful MohawJcf nation, which was the former
terror and dread of the New England frontier. On ascending a hill, I
approached the place where tbe intrepid General Herkimer was drawn
into a fatal ambush, and miserably defeated, in 1777. J Herkimer
was a gallant but inexperienced leader, and here perished, with nearly
half his army, formed of tbe patriotic yeomanry of tbe Mohawk Valley.
Just before reaching this sanguinary battle-field, I met two Germans
familiar with its incidents. They conducted me over the whole ground,
and in corroboration of the fact, of which they assured me, that many
of tbe slain, who were scattered through the woods, were never in-
terred, I noticed numerous human bones strewn upon the surface of
the earth. This movement was intended to succor Fort Stanwix, then
besieged by St. Leger.

" I found myself, soon after leaving this consecrated spot, alone in
the woods, in the midst of a band of Indians, ' as drunk ae lords/
They looked like so many evil spirits broken loose from Pande-
monium. Wild, frantic, almost naked, and frightfully painted, they
whooped, yelled, and danced around me in such hideous attitudes,
that I was seriously apprehensive they would end the farce by taking
off my scalp by way of a joke. I bad luckily picked up the word
Sago, the salute of friendship, of which I made copious application,
constantly extending my hand to the most active of them, by whom
it was cordially accepted.

" On my arrival at Fort Stanwix, I found the whole plain around the
fort covered with Indians of various tribes, male and female. Many of
the latter were fantastically dressed in their best attire, — in the richest

t These were tbe Oneida instead of the UoJiatnk Indians,
t The writer falls into the current error of the day that Herkimer
was defeated. See general history of the county.



silks, fine scarlet clotheSj bordered with gold fringe, a profusion of
brooches, rings in their noses, their ears slit, and their heads deco-
rated with feathers. Among them I noticed some very handsome
countenanoes and fine figures.

" I luckily procured a sleeping-place in the garret of the house in
which Governor Cliaton-and the eight other commissioners, also John
Taylor, Esq., of Albany, Indian Agent, Egbert Benson, Esq., of New
York, and a man with a large white wig, by the name of Dr. Taylor,
were quartered. The sight of this wig fixed the attention and ex-
cited the mirth of many of the Indians, one of whom I noticed
making strong eflForts to smother a laugh in the doctor's face, since
nothing could appear more ludicrous and grotesque to an Indian than
a bushy white wig.

"I continued several days at the Treaty, passing my time most
agreeably in associating with the Commissioners, and much diverted
by the novel and amusing scenes exhibited in the Indian camp. The
plain in the vicinity of the fort has already been laid out into a town
plot; a few houses have been erected, and also saw-mills and other
improvements, at a distance of a mile on Wood Creek."

"The object of this great treaty is to procure a cession from the
Indians of territory lying west of Fort Stanwix, in this State, and
extending to the great lakes. Fort Stanwix was built in 1758, by
the British government, at a cost of £60,000, and is situated on an
artificial eminence, near the river ; a large area around it is entirely
cleared. Here Colonel Gansevoort, in 1777, sustained a terrible
siege, until relieved by Arnold, when St. Leger made a precipitate
retreat, abandoning most of his camp equipage and munitions.
The French ambassador. Count Moutier, and the Marchioness be
Biron, are now encamped within the fort, under a marquee formerly
used by Lord Cornwallia. This euterprising and courageous lady
has exposed herself to the greatest fatigues and privations to gratify
her unbounded curiosity, by coming all the way from the city of
New York to witness this great and unusual assemblage of savage

" In contemplating the position of Fort Stanwix, at the head of
bateau navigatiou on the Mohawk River, within one mile of Wood
Creek, which runs west towards Lake Ontario, I am led to think it
will in time become the emporium of commerce between Albany and
the vast Western world. Wood Creek is indeed small, but it is the
only water communication with the great lakes; it empties into the
Oneida Lake, the outlet of which unites with the Onondaga and
Oswego, and . discharges into Lake Ontario at Fort Oswego, where
the British have a garrison. Should the Little Falls be ever locked,
the obstructions in the Mohawk River removed, and a canal between
that river and Wood Creek at this place be formed, so as to unite the
waters flowing east with those running west, and other canals made,
and obstructions removed to Fort Oswego, — who can reasonably
doubt that by such bold operations the State of New York has within
her power, by a grand measure of policy, to divert the future trade
of Lake Ontario, and the great lakes above, from Alexandria and
Quebec to Albany and New York ?

"The object of the present treaty is the purchase of an immense
territory, estimated at eight millions of acres, and now owned and
chiefly inhabited by the Six Nations of Indians. The sovereignty
of this tract has been in dispute between Massachusetts and New
York. These States have at length made an amicable division,
assiguing four millions of acres to each.^ The former has since sold
her right of domain to a company of adventurers, who have pur-
chased pre-emption from the Indians. New York, by this treaty,
has accomplished the same result. This vast territory, therefore,
is now opened, without any impediments, to the flood of emigration
which will pour into it from the East. Many hardy pioneers have
already planted themselves among the savages ; and it is probable
that the enthusiasm for the occupation of new territory, which now
prevails, will in the period of the next twenty years spread over this
fertile region a prosperous and vigorous population.

"I left Fort Stanwix with the intention of passiii"- down Wood
Creek to Lake Ontario, indulging the idea of extending my tour to
Detroit. Under the strong presentiment that a canal communication
will be opened, sooner or later, between the great lakes and the Hudson
I was anxious to explore its probable course. A hard rain com-
mencing, and the obstacles I found to exist in the creek, induced me
however, to abandon the arduous enterprise and return to Fort Stau-

* Many of these statements are somewhat ambiguous.

wix. The attempt afibrded me the gratification of sailing west for
the first time in the interior of America."

On the 1st of September, 1791, Mr. Watson left Albany,
m company with Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, and again vis-
ited this locality. They traversed nearly the same route
pursued by Mr. Watson in 1788, to the German settle-
ments on the Mohawk. The object of this journey was
partly of a business character, but principally to gratify
Mr. Watson's previously-awakened curiosity regarding the
country, and to scrutinize the opinions on the subject of
inland navigation, which had been suggested by his former

From Schenectady they dispatched two bateaux, with six
men and ample provisions for six weeks, and proceeded by
land to meet their fellow-voyagers, Van Cortlandt and Bay-
ard, with the boats at Herkimer. The journal of Mr.
Watson describes this journey as follows:

" September 4. — We proceeded on our journey with a miserably-
covered wagon, and in a constant rain, till night, which brought us
to Major Schuyler's mills, in Palatine, settled by the descendants of
German emigrants, intermixing on all sides with the euterprising
sons of the East, between whom mutual prejudices ran high. These
feelings will gradually be overcome by intermarriages, and other
modes of intercourse. Thus far the German and Dutch farmers have
been, in a manner, totally remiss in cultivating the first rudiments of
literature, while the descendants of the English in New England have
cherished it as a primary duty. Hence the characteristics of each
people are distinctly variant. ■ When literature shall begin to shed
its benign rays over this benighted race, then, and not till then, the
Germans, the Dutch, the Yankees, will dismiss all local illiberal preju-
dices and distinctions, and in twenty or thirty years the shades of
discordance will be hardly perceptible. The whole will amalgamate,
and all be dignified by the general name of American ; speaking the
same language, and possessing the same genius and education,

"I have noticed with pleasure that the German farmers begin to
use oxen in agriculture instead of horses. For this salutary improve-
ment they are indebted to the example of the New England men.

" I am induced to believe, should the Western canals be ever made,
and the Mohawk Riv«r become in one sense a continuation of the
Hudson River by means of canals and locks, that it will most clearly
obviate the necessity of sending produce to market in winter by
sleighs. On the contrary, it would be stored on the margin of the
Mohawk in winter, and be sent in the summer months by bateaux, to
be unloaded aboard of vessels in the Hudson.

"The bottoms or lowlands along the Mohawk are laid off into rich
inclosures, highly cultivated, principally by industrious Germans.
Narrow roads and contracted bridges still exist,

"On the south side of the river the country is thicker settled, and
many pleasant situations, old farms, and wealthy farmers appear ; but
these evidently are far behind those of Germany or England in the
profitable science of agriculture. We crossed a new wooden bridge
near Schuyler's mills, seventy-five feet long, with a single arch sup-
ported by framed work above. I was glad to notice this, as an enter-
ing wedge to more extended improvements.

" September *I. — This morning we ascended Fall Hill, over a craggy
road of one mile. From its summit we commanded an extensive and
picturesque view of the surrounding country in the north, partly set-
tled, but generally in nature's original brown livery, spotted here and
there by an opening.

" We left the Little Falls on our right, and descended into the rich
settlements of the German Flats. At Eldridge's tavern, near Fort Her-
kimer, we overtook our bateaux, all well, and embarked the same
evening, stemming fourteen miles against a strong current, with an
awning spread over our heads. Each boat was manned by three men,
two in the bow and one in the stern to steer. They oocasionally
■ rowed in still water, setting with short poles, at the rapids, with sur-
prising dexterity. In this mode their average progress is three miles
an hour, equal to truckshute traveling in Holland; but it is ex-
tremely laborious and fatiguing to the men. At night we encamped
in a log hut on the margin of the river.



" Septrmber 8. — A pleasant sail of ten miles this fine. morning
brought UB to Old Fort Schuyler. Here we were joined by General
Van Cortlandt and Mr. Bayard, who were waiting for us, which com-
pletes our number to thirteen.

" From Little Falls, thus far, the river is nearly competent to inland
navigation, with the exception of a serious rapid, and a great bend
at the German Flats, called Wolf-riff, which must be subdued either
by a cut across the neck of land, upwards of one mile, or by removing
the obstructions.

"An Indian road being opened from this place (now Utica) to the
Genesee country, it is probable the position at Fort Stanwix and this
spot will become rivals as to the site of a town, in connection with
the interior, when It shall become a settled country.

"If, however, the canals should be constructed, I think Fort Stan-
wix will take the lead at a future day. Such was my impression when
there in 1788. Since that only a few houses and stores have been
erected here, also a tolerable tavern to administer comfort to the
weary traveler, which I experienced the want of three years past.
In the afternoon we progressed thirteen miles, meeting many obstruc-
tions in consequence of the cruel conduct of the new settlers (who are
wonderfully increased since I was here), filling the river with fallen
trees cut on its margin, narrowing it in many places, producing shoals
where the deepest waters bad been accustomed to flow, and impeding
the progress of our boats. We pitched our camp on the right bank
of the river, in the midst of woods. All hands fell to work, soldier-
like. We soon had a roaring fire and our tents pitched, — open on
one side to the fire, and closed at each end with canvas. We found
an excellent substitute for feathers, laying our bufTaloes on hemlock
twigs; although the ground was extremely moist, we were effectually
protected from any inconvenience. We enjoyed a pleasant night,
with ten times more comfort than we could in the miserable log huts
along the banks of the river.

"September 9, — At noon we reached Fort Stanwix, to which place,
with some aid of art, the river continues adapted to inland naviga-
tion for boats of five tons burthen. Emigrants are swarming into
these fertile regions in shoals, like the ancient Israelites, seeking the
land of promise.

"We transported our boats and baggages across the carrying-
place, a distance of two miles, over a dead flat, and launched tbem
into Wood Creek, running west. It is a mere brook at this place,
which a man can easily jump across. In contemplating this im-
portant creek, as the only water communication with the immense
regions in the West, which are destined to bless millions of freemen
in the approaching century, I am deeply impressed with a belief,
considering the great resources of this State, that the improvement
of our internal navigation cannot much longer escape the decided
attention of our law-makers, and more especially as it is obviously
practicable. When effected, it will open an uninterrupted water
communication from the immense fertile regions in the West to the
Atlantic. But more of this as I advance in my travels.

"The situation of Fort Stanwix appears destined to bepome a,
great city. It lies in an open plain, — healthy, and exactly at the
point where the eastern and western waters unite. There is a large
clearing about the old fort, with two or three scattering houses. No
progress has, however, been made since I attended the treaty here
in 1788, although the plan of a city is now contemplated.

"September 10, — This morning our bateaux began to descend
Wood Creek, with the aid of a mill-dam which had been filled just
above. Some of our party at the same time descended by laud on a
tolerable wagon road to Canada Creek six miles.

"Although aided by the sluice, we progressed with infinite difl5-
culty. In many places the windings arc so sudden and so short, that
while the bow of the boat was plowing in the bank on one side, her
stern was rubbing hard against the opposite shore. In some places
our men were obliged to drag the boats by main strength, and in
others the boughs and limbs were so closely interwoven and so low
as to arch the creek completely over, and oblige all hands to lie fiat.
These obstacles, together with the sunken logs and trees, rendered
our progress extremely difiicult, often almost impracticable.

"From a superficial view of this important creek, it appears to
me the great difficulties may be surmounted, — First, by cutting
away all the bushes and trees on its banks; second, by cutting
across the necks, and removing all sunken logs and trees ; and, lastly,
by erecting substantial sluices or inclined planes at given distances,
so as to continue a head of water from sluice to sluice. This

creek in its present state may be considered a natural canal, from
ten to twenty feet wide.

"Bateaux which ascend the creek, and frequently the descending
boats, at this season, are dragged by horses traveling in the water.
This is a work of incredible fatigue and difficulty.

"The accession of Canada Creek more than 'doubles the size of
Wood Creek.

" September 11. — Last night and this day we were inundated by
heavy rains, which our tent was unable to repel j in consequence we
were all exposed in the most uncomfortable manner. In the inter-
vals of showers we amused ourselves by catching fish. Salmon, Os-
wego bass, catfish, chubs, trout, pike, are the fish common in this river.
Salmon are sometimes caught at the mill-dams, near Fort Stanwix.

"September 12. — At 3 o'clock we reached the royal block-house, at
the east end of the Oneida Lake. The innumerable crooks and
turns in Wood Creek carried us to every point of the compass.
Should the Western canals be ever attempted, I am persuaded this
creek may be shortened at least one-third. The lands on each side
of Wood Creek are low, and heavily timbered with beech, maple,
oak, elm, linden, and, near the lake, some white pine. Bears are
plenty, and deer scarce. At two miles from the lake the river sud-
denly widened, and we took to our oars. Fish Creek, one mile nearer
the lake, falls into Wood Creek from the north, and is about one hun-
dred feet wide. Thence to the lake the stream is bold and spacious.
We caught a catfish as large as a common-sized cod, measuring five
inches between the eyes.

"September 13. — This morning we wrote home by a boat coming
from the West loaded with hemp, raised at the south end of Cayuga
Lake. What a glorious acquisition to agriculture and commerce do
these fertile and extensive regions in the West present, in anticipation !
And what a pity, since the partial hand of nature has nearly com-
pleted the water communication from our utmost borders to the At-
lantic Ocean, that art should not be made subservient to her to com-
plete the great work !

" Immediately after breakfast we embarked, doubled a point of
land; and entered the Oneida Lake with our sails filled to a light
easterly breeze. The lake opened to our view, spreading before us
like a sea. We glided smoothly over its surface, and were delighted
with a charming day. On the south is the Oneida Reservation, at
present inhabited by the Oneida nation of Indians. The country
lies flat for eight or ten miles, and then swells into waving hills. On
the north it is generally low, but heavily timbered.

" This lake is thirty miles long, and from five to eight broad. We
are now sailing parallel with the Ontario Ocean, which I hope to see,
and at least enjoy in delightful anticipation the prospect of a free
and open water communication from thence to the Atlantic, via Albany

Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 101 of 192)