Samuel W Durant.

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

. (page 157 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 157 of 192)
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shall bring you to the limits of the land of promise. I will not leave
you there, but, depend upon it, you will perceive how I am then
speeding, as a dart from the bow, towards my beloved family.

"Adio. Yours, &c."

"Kingston, 10th August, 1792.
"My DEAR Sin, — Two fortifications, commanding a considerable
extent of water and land, attracted our notice. That to the south,
constructed in former days by the British, was now chiefly demol-
ished j that to the north, fortified by the French, and conquered on
them by the British during the Seven Years' war, is yet garrisoned
by them, although within our lines. Its whole defence, however, is
but one company, which could not make any resistance, ns all the
fortifications are so decayed thjit it would not be a great achievement
to drive over ihtse ramparts with wagon and horses. Neither does it
seem the intention to make any repairs, from the consciousness, no
doubt, that their surrender is long since finally concluded, and only
delayed on account of some trifling formalilies at this or the other
side of the Atlantic. I saw, nevertheless, in this paltry, despicable
fortress seven barrels of salt, taken from an American bateau by an
American runaway, now a British custom-house ofiBcer. It is, for-
sooth, a port of entry, which a sturdy Yankee might pass without a
fee. This practice could not be continued if the whole country was
settled, even if the post was nut surrendered, as jimericans could not,
neither would, bear much longer such an indignity. Neither would
a large force be required to set this garrison at defiance. An act of
hostility, however, would in the present situation bo an act of impru-
dence, of nishness, as it might clog our government's negotiations;
and the day is now fast approaching that it shall be peacefully
surrendered, and the American stripes unfurled on this bulwark, —
when the British leopard may return with honor to his Canadian

"The commanding oSicer, a Rhode Island man by birth. Captain
Wiekham, treated us with a gieat deal of politeness, and regretted to
bo unable to offer us refreshments, as the Canadian sloop, which was
for these, was not yet returned, but every hour expected.

" This frank and fearless veteran was not at all alarmed at our ap-
pearance, or suspected that we might come to discover and betray the
nakedness of the country and fort entrusted to his charge. He en-
quired carelessly in the object of our expedition, and made us an offer
of his aid whenever he might be of any service to us; and he did so
effectually. It was through his management that the British inter-
preter, thoroughly acquainted with Lake Ontario and its shores,
agreed to conduct us to the Salmon Creek.

" This Mr. Price spent a part of his youth with Onourhtf/o Indians.
He was in the beginning discreet enough, and civil through the whole
of this excursion, but his society, otherwise far from indifferent, lost
a great part of its worth by his incessant swearing ; it was, indeed, if
ho deemed it an accomplishment. This was a pity, indeed, as he was
blessed by a bountiful God with various rare endowments, a sound
judgment", a lively imagination, undaunted courage, with a frame of
body so strong that it baffled all fatigues; so handsome that he did
not want to stoop whenever he wished to conquer. He was an in-
genious mechanic, indeed, excelling to whatever he bended his versa-
tile genius. He made an excellent violin for one Mr. Gordon, an
European, who was often pleased to say in its praise, ' that in Canada
it might be offered for a Cremonese.'

" This Mr. Price was our Palinurus as soon we had entered our
bateau, which was about four in the afternoon ; our raw hands rowed ;
Price was at the helm. We did sit on the middle bench ; ere long we
reached deep water. Lake Ontario resembles rather an open sea than
an inland reservoir of water. You look in vain for land to rest your
eye upon. We arrived with ii. fresh breeze at Four-Miles Point,
hoisted now our sail, passed it, and obtained then a view of a range
of perpendicular rocks, which rendered a landing impossible and
dangerous to approach them nearer. I cannot say that I was charmed

at first with this prospect, and yet it was imposing enough ; but I was
become too much accustomed to peaceful rural scenes to become at
once enamored with objects of grandeur, risen and protruded by the
woods, the waves, and the rocks. Not one of our argonauts or he
seemed pleased with the tiip; what signified rowing wheit we might
sail? Spread the canvas! How merrily glides our bateau over the
waves! Bernhard, one of our hands, boasted on his seamanship and
experience. He doubted not or he might bring a vessel in safety to
the harbor ; he had seen the narrows, between Long Island and Staten
Island. Price swore that he was tired with steering, and called, with
another curse, a pilot to take care of the helm. Now he placed him-
self between us and smoked his pipe. Our new steersman pointed every
time towards shore, which he as often was compelled by » general
command to steer more towards the middle, as we were now between
the tremendous rocks at Four- and Nine-Miles Point. The wind sud-
denly increased; our pilot turned again towards the shore, and was
anew, for a moment, by Price*s tremendous curses, overawed to steer
once more to deep water. But his increasing fear, — not longer within
his control, — a desultory, animated conversation between De Zeng,
Price, and myself, permitting to follow the bias of bis alarming
impulse, and a pretty rougb western wind, carried us, within a few
moments, at a distance of a few rods only towards these horrible,
perpendicular rocks, of which some seemed suspended over the
watery surface. We were now in an imminent danger; a shipwreck,
by which the bateau must have been dashed in pieces, seemed inevit-
able, and no lives might have been saved except, perhaps, that of Price.
At once a loud, pityful cry, 'Hold towards shore!' struck our ears.
Price did tear the oar from Barker's hand, commanded to lower the
sail and bring out the oars; but all in vain. The pilot wept and
cried, 'Hold towards shore, Mr. Price I good Mr. Price! push on
shore — I pray God Almighty — dear Mr. Price, set on shore !' Price's
reply was, *God damn you, rascal! down the sail ! out the oar! obey
or sink!* One of our boj's sat nearly lifeless in the bow; the other
near the mast, pale as death, with staring eyes and with opened mouth.
The danger increased to appearance ; the surge rose higher and
higher; our united strength and weight, viz., De Zeng's and mine,
were scarce suflficient to prevent the bateau turning upside-down;
twice did I actually see a great part of the bottom, twice I did see it
naked, — one-half inch more and we had been lost. At last the sail
was struck, the oar out, and we were only in part exposed to the first
shock, while Price, who remained calm and alert, succeeded in forcing
the prow into the waves, and bringing us again in safety in deep
water. When the danger was past the terror of our crew abated, and
I praised in my soul the Almighty, as I do at this instant, for our
hair-breadth escape.*

" Price remained now at the helm, and we proceeded on our course
with a steady breeze very pleasanrly, except that De Zeng and I were
thoroughly soaked over the right side from top to toe, while our three
hirelings grinned that they were yet dry. This was our reward for
our arduous struggle to avert a peril which threatened to overwhelm
us all.

"We entered, notwithstanding the foaming breakers, a creek of
the middle size, three miles to the south of the Little Salmon Creek,
towed our bateau in an inlet, and chose the heights for our encamp-
ment. Before our tent was i-itched and our fire in full blaze, Price
and Barker returned with a large eel and huge catfish, which were
more than sufficient for our supper.

"We arrived on Tuesday at the Little Salmon Creek. There was
fish in the greatest abundance: Oswego bass, perch, sunfish, catfish,
eel, sheepshead, similar, but superior in flavor to that species called
)ie»* bracH^ein by the Dutch, and sword-fish.-f- We speared a few of
these and cut off their heads, armed with swords of five and six inches
in length, without tasting the fish, as some of our crew protended
that it was of a poisonous nature, which I would doubt. It might bo
so in the sword; or it might be that this terrible weapon overawed
the first examiners, and roused their imagination to give birth to
similar dreams; the meat certainly appears good, being solid, white,
and lined with a milky substance. The salmon collects here and in
the Big Salmon Creek in nearly incredible numbers during the fall
and spring.

"The soil along the shore is generally indifferent, seldom, to ap-
pearance, above mediocrity. Sand and stone at various distances,
intersected by swamps, u, few pine, more hemlock, and sometimes a

■ He had much better have thanked Price.

f Gar-fish.


Photo, by Williams,



William J. Babcook was born in Petersburg, Kensselaer
Co., N. Y., June 23, 1812, the eldest child of Benjamin and
Hannah Babcock. Both father and mother were natives
of Petersburg ; died and are buried there. His grand-
fathers, Jason Babcock, and William Reynolds, on the
mother's side, both moved from Rensselaer County at an
early day. They were both of English descent. His
father served as colonel in the war of 1812. Their chil-
dren were William J., Nelson P., Minerva, Oliver R., Amy,
and Chester T. Oliver R. and Chester T. are deceased.
Nelson P. is the proprietor of Babcock's Hotel, in Hoosic.
Minerva has been twice married. Her first husband was
Porter E. Randall ; second, Harris Hopkins, both deceased.
She now lives at Holland Patent. Amy, wife of Porter E.
Jones, lives at Petersburg, Rensselaer Co.

William J. Babcock lived with his parents till nineteen
years of age. He then bought his time of his father, and
took up the mason trade, and has followed it almost contin-
uously since. When twenty-one years of age he built a
large stone cotton-factory for General William Plunket, at
South Adams, Mass. ; also stone cotton-factory for Brayton
& Co., in North Adams, besides quite a number of the
prominent stone and brick residences in both those places.
In March, 1836, he moved to Utioa, and was employed six
months as foreman in the construction of the locks of the
Chenango Canal. April, 1837, he moved to Holland
Patent, where he has ever since resided. Built Ira Thomp-
son's and Ingham Townsend's stone houses, in Floyd ; Henry
Miller's stone residence, Joy's Hotel, and the cobble-stone
house now owned by Owen Evans, in Trenton ; two stone
poor-houses near Middleville, Herkimer Co. ; two large
residences in Newport for Perry & Sweezy ; in Canajoharie,
six stone dwelling-houses and three stores for Caldwell,

Louoks & G-ardinier ; the Baptist Church in Holland Pat-
ent, since burned ; in Schoharie, Schoharie Co., the brick
Dutch Reformed Church, the court-house and jail ; also the
stone school-house in Holland Patent. His last work was
the fine stone residence near Holland Patent, built for his
son-in-law, John G. Williams, which was commenced in
1872, and occupied by him Jan. 1, 1874, — one of the finest
residences in Oneida County.

Mr. Babcock was married, Sept. 12, 1833, to Anna
Hiscox, daughter of Gardner and Anna Hiscox. Her
father was a native of Connecticut, her mother of Rhode
Island. Her brothers and sisters were Pamelia, Susan,
Gardner, Roxanna, Amanda, and David W. All but
Amanda, who died at three years of age, are married and
living. Mrs. Babcock was born March 9, 1806.

Mr. and Mrs. Babcock have but one child, Fannie H.,
born Oct. 15, 1837. She received her education at Hobart
Hall Academy, Holland Patent, and at Fort Plain Semi-
nary; was married, Nov. 13, 1860, to John G. Williams,
of Utica, N. Y., son of the veteran teacher, John Williams,
deceased, who taught in Utica forty years. John G. re-
ceived his education at his father's school, and at the Wes-
leyan University, Middletown, Conn., where he graduated
in July, 1860. He has adopted the profession of a teacher.

Mr. and Mrs. Williams have one child, William J. B.,
born July 9, 1866.

In 1841, Mr. Babcock purchased of Joseph Stevens
thirty acres of land and residence, situated a half-mile west
of Holland Patent, which he occupied for many years, and
still owns. At the present time Mr. and Mrs. Babcock are
living with their daughter, Mrs. Williams. Mr. Babcock
is Republican in politics ; has served nine years as commis-
sioner of highways.



cedar brush. Aa soon as you penetrate somewhat deeper in the
country, its interior parts become more pleasing, the soil more fertile,
more valuable the timber; beech and maple reappear, intermixed
with oak and walnut. Several mill-seats are on these larger

" The wind was too vehement on Wednesday to proceed on our
journey with such nn ignorant and even cowardly crew; even the
daring Price advised us not to run the risk; but he could not on any
account be persuaded to remain longer with us. He grasped hia gun,
left his great-coat with us, and flew out of sight in the woods. We
heard the report of a gun, another, and there was Price returned; he
threw a couple of partridges at our feet and departed finally.

" We caught yellow perch which indeed was exquisite; large pick-
erel and pike, some two feet long. The lake became more and more
tempestuous ; the wind blew a gale, and our Typheus had left us. Now
I could not conquer a rising wish to be reunited to a beloved family,
dear to my heart by so many ties, and enjoy with them that placid
contentment in our peaceful abode in Ulster ; and when I felt that it
was vain it increased for a few moments to a painful anguish. The
thought that my presence would be more and more longed for every
day ; that it was actually required there ; the roughness of our bands,
with whose intimacy I became disgusted; the want of a number of
comforts and conveniences to which I was accustomed, and seemed
now for the first time to become sensible of; all this, with the uncer-
tainty when we might leave this spot with safety, subdued for a while
my sprightliness, and rendered me morose and sullen; but it was only
a. morning cloud, which passed by.

" The recollection that He who rules and directs all for the best re-
stored my wonted equanimity, while De Zeng's insinuating address
and entertaining conversation soon again brought my feelings in
union with his. The violence of the tempest increased with the
falling night, and did not abate till the morning, when we compelled
our pilot and crew to enter once more in the bateau.

" When we perceived that Barker brought us nearly in the same
situation as before, we listened to prudence' advice, and considered it
our duty to land in the same creek which we had entered on Monday.
We took here, after we had rowed up this creek for two miles, a large
quantity of trout of various sizes, to regale us at dinner.

" Nothing, my dear sir, resembles nearer the small rivulets and
canals in South Holland than these creeks, as far as these are naviga-
ble. Tou see the same water-plants and flowers, — in some parts the
como-va^ covering a part of the surface, — the same insects, the same
serpentine windiogs. We took a walk after dinner a few miles in the
country, following the course of the creek at some distance, where we
found a rich soil, and here and there a mill-seat. A variety of huts
scattered along the creek, with a sort of sheds to dry eels, was a full
proof that neither here was a want of fish. The small river-lobster
was here plentiful. The soil was full of stones near the creek, which
diminished in proportion that we receded from it. This fertile soil
was covered with some oak, beech, and maple, in some parts mixed
with walnut, chestnut, and butternut. We returned about six o'clock
to our encampment, but our pilot and one of our hands were uDwilling
to embark that evening; to-morrow morning — this night they would
start — the lake wa^ yet too high; at last, however, having prevailed
on one of our lads, we got them all — willing, unwilling — in the boat.
We placed him whose good will I had secured at the helm ; the pilot
with his mate in mutiny at the oars, and pushed forward deep enough
in the lake, while De Zeng and I took a pagay in the hand to prosper
our course.

"Here we met with the bateau from which the British had secured
a part of the cargo of salt, permitting it to depart after the remainder
had been redeemed. It proceeded to Cadaraghkui. A fresh westerly
breeze with the falling evening induced us to look out for a landing-
spot, in which we sooner and better succeeded than we could have ex-
pected. It was about two miles above Nine-MiJes' Point; the wiud
suddenly increased again ; we hauled our bateau on dry land so that
we might not lose her during the night.

"It was now about 8 o'clock; the evening beautifully charming
beyond expression ; the bank on which we had pitched our tent was
about four feet above the level of the shore ; before our tent was a
large fire in full blaze; the sky remarkably clear; a- double colonnade
of stately, broad-branched beech- and birch-trees surrounding our
encampment, planted, as it seemed by our warming imagination, in
a regular symmetry, without intercepting from our eyes the sight of
the lake, which was illumed by the moon. The soil appeared tolerably

good, the bank continued to rise above us, but it was too late now for
a more accurate examination. I was indeed charmed with this beau-
tiful spot; the supper was welcome; we chatted away a part of the
evening before we perceived from the snoring of our crew that it was
late, and high time to lie down. My sleep was refreshing. I awoke
with a renewed ardor, and roused at breakday every soul in the tent
by my uninterrupted halloos.

"At 6 o'clock we rowed already with all our might, and arrived
about ten at the fort, to our great satisfaction and joy. As there re-
mained nothing in the place to keep our curiosity alive, we had soon
our dinner prepared and dispatched; when ready to start Cai)tain
Wicham, returning from the woods with half a dozen pigeons in his
hand, giveth us a friendly call. We left the fort at 1 o'clock, and made
our encampment that night three miles from the falls, after having
walked one mile to lessen the freight of the bateau ; and now, my
dear sir, you will enjoy with us that we accomplish this journey with-
out any real misfortune. The remainder must be, of course, riding
post over the same ground, become now to us less interesting, and yet
I wish to reserve the conclusion for my next.

** Yours."

"Kingston, 15 August, 1792.
"My dear Sir, — Our breakfast was in readiness at an early hour,
neither did we tarry lung; nil hands to the bateau! speed, boys,
speed ! and the command was promptly executed. Our boat seemed
to acquire a new vigor, either that he was satisfied fully with the
length of this trip, or that he actually longed for his home. We
arrived at Three-River Point about seven, discharged Mr. Barker,
and pitched our teot in the vicinity of his house, crowded with trav-
elers from several bateaux and canoes, which tarried there since yes-
terday. Barker had caught, by throwing a line behind the bateau,
four large Oswego bass, the smallest of a foot long, which was the best
part of our supper.

"I had now an opportunity of examining and witnessing the
truth of what the baron had told me before of the curious manner
by which the chubs (triobs) hide their eggs. They deposit these
along the rivers of Oswego and Onondago on shallow spots, and
cover these afterwards with small pebbles, heaped in a conical form,
somewhat below the surface of the water, while others were prominent
above it.

"Need I tell you, my dear sir, that Fort Brewerton, which we
reached at four in the afternoon, was to us a delightful sight? Cap-
tain Bingham was from home on the salmon fishery, and Captain
Simonds, wiib the women, on a visit to the island. His eldest daugh-
ter, nevertheless, a, smart young girl, prepared us a good supper, — a
bass of two pounds, a dish with stewed eel, with fresh bread and but-
ter. Our breakfast was congenial, having secured two capital eels,
with a pot of milk and rice. We hurried to the island, and compli-
mented Mr. and Madame Des Wattines, on Monday morning between
nine and ten. We were again congratulated with a hearty welcome,
and a new zest was added to our gratification when Des Wattines
proposed to conduct us to the Fish Creek, or Oneida River, as he was
compelled to go the Oneidna for Indian corn. His garden was yet
more pleasant; its value unquestionably had increased. Head-
lettuce, parsley [purslane], string-pease, and kidney-beans were in
full perfection.

" They would not be refused, and seemed not satisfied before we were
provided with some store of their plenty, as ihey were pleased to call
it ; and then yet they, as it were, compelled us by their kind, although
nearly importune entreaties, to accept a mess of new potatoes, with a
lart^e catfish. Madame walked with us to the shore; there we slept
in the bateau; one of his dogs had taken early a place in our canoe,
the other did swim behind it. Madame Des Wattines, with her
Camille to her bosom, her eldest boy between her, and his sister at her
side, motionless, staring at us, with an expressive countenance, with
features portraying what her soul so keenly seemed to feel in that
distressing moment of separation, — aditu, JJea Wattines ! was all
which we could distinguish. There stood that lovely, deserted fair
one ! Not deserted as Ariadne, but nevertheless left alone with three
helpless children — alone ! on an island in Oneida Lake. I turned
my head from this mournful object and conquered, with some reluc-
tance, these painful sentiments which tortured my bosom. His dog
followed our bateau, swimming, and landed at length at the second
island, where he continued a while barking, and then returned, as we
supposed, and Des Wattines assured us, to his mistress.



" We saw before we reached the creek a summer sliower, refreshing
the islaDd, on wbich no drop of rata had fallen since three weeks.
So takes a bountiful Father care of those of His children who are
destitute of evevy other assistance; so He waters the wilderness,
refreshes the herba in the desert, and fills the hearts of those that
are languishing, with faod and gladness.

" We took our dinner by Bruce, where our milk and rice, which we
purchased at Fort Brewerton, was to all a palatable dish ; then we bid
ahcarty farewell to our recluse, — presumptively a farewell forever, — and
returned towards evening to the mouth of the Fish Creek or Oneida
Uiver, from which we started for our expedition. Des Wattines pre-
pared our Hoit])^ of eel and catfish, while we superintended the pitch-
ing of our tent and making a good fire. This was a truly social
entertainment; our hearts were flushed with success, and the prospect
before us of meeting ere long with our wives and children, and having
passed some of the great waters of the western lakes, it rendered our
feelings exquisitely delightful.

" Here we were gratified with a visit, — if it is not presumptuous to
make use of such a familiar term when I speak of a casual, meeting
of such great folks as the first Judge Lansing, and Colonel Lewis, the
attorney-general of the State, and Major Farley, who all went to attend
the circuit; and yet we considered it a visit, as we, too, had been con-
sidered as great folks by some who wanted our cash, as we were the
first occupants of the soil, and this, according with the gift of, I know
not of what ancient or modern pontiff, if it was not St. George or St.
Francis, the proprietors of the soil exclusively. We separated after
conversation; they doomed to remain there till it pleased the westerly
breeze to abate; Des Wattines parting from us in his bateau to the
Oneida Creek, and we proceeding with our canoe to the Fish Creek or
Oneida River. Here we met with one of our old acquaintance, Mr.
Abraham Lansing, who, with one Mr. Fonda, went to Niagara. AVe
stopped at the mouth of the Wood Creek. I concluded, while De
Zeng with one of our lads was preparing our dinner, to take with the
other a view of the Fish Creek. Before we started Captain Bingham
returned with five barrels salmon, and sold us a fresh one.

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 157 of 192)