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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

A History of Schenectady During the Revolution:
Chapter I: The Valley of the Mohawk

Go back to: Prefatory Note and Introduction | ahead to: Chapter II

[This information is from pp. 1-3 of A History of Schenectady During the Revolution by Willis T. Hanson, Jr. (Brattleboro, VT: E. L. Hildreth & Co., 1916). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 H25, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

Due to its unique geographical position, New York, in those early times when the rivers and lakes afforded practically the only highways of importance, was rightly felt to be the key to the American continent, and from its infancy hostile nations contested its possession.

Among those factors which gave New York her strategical prominence the Mohawk River played no small part, for by its means alike were accessible the lands to the westward, through the only valley pass piercing the Appalachian Range; the Great Lakes, through the all but intermingling of its headwaters with the streams flowing northward into them, and the Atlantic seacoast, through the Hudson River.

It was the early realization of the importance of the Mohawk River that led the Iroquois Confederacy to stretch its dominion throughout the Valley, thus enabling its warriors to maintain that supremacy over far distant tribes (1) which for so many years they enjoyed.

With the coming of the white man in greater numbers, to the importance of the Mohawk River from a military standpoint was added a commercial value increasing with the demands upon it until the opening of the Erie Canal transferred the traffic to that channel. The Old Iroquois Trail (2) in its turn gave way to the stage road, and this in its turn to the railroad; the successors in each case, however, following the well-defined line of early travel.

Along these lines of communication the early pioneers, for the most part, established their homes, until on the eve of the Revolution the population of the Mohawk Valley may be roughly estimated as totaling ten thousand souls.

To the westward the settlements extended in a narrow belt as far as the present town of German Flats, settled and owned as far as Canajoharie in the main by the Dutch, many of them descendants of the first settlers of Schenectady or emigrants from it, and beyond Canajoharie by the Palatines; (3) northward to a short distance beyond Johnstown, where had settled many Irish and Scotch-Highlanders (4) following Sir William Johnson; (5) southward to the headwaters of the Susquehanna, settled mainly by Scotch-Irish, (6) and in the valley of the Schoharie to some seven miles beyond Middleburg, settled also by Palatine Germans. (7)

From among the English, Irish and Scotch-Highlanders mainly were recruited the Tories, while from the ranks of the Dutch and Palatines and from the Scotch-Irish came the men to whom we owe Oriskany and upon whom fell the burdens of resisting the repeated raids of Indian and Tory that swept the Valley with a fury that was paralleled in no other section of the Colonies during the whole war.


  1. At the era of their highest military supremacy, about the year 1660, the Iroquois, in their warlike expeditions, ranged unresisted from New England to the Mississippi, and from the St. Lawrence to the Tennessee. Lewis H. Morgan.
  2. Proceeding from the site of Albany, the central trail entered the lands now covered by the city of Schenectady by the ravine through which the railroad now passes and crossed the Mohawk at a ford where now stands the Scotia bridge. From this fording place two trails passed up the river one on either side. Lewis H. Morgan.
  3. In 1723 a large tract of land was purchased from the Indians to be later confirmed by letters patent from the King. To this tract soon came many of those Palatine Germans who had in 1711 settled at Schoharie and who had been led to change their place of residence because of difficulties arising over their titles. Accessions to the settlement were made from time to time until at the period of the Revolution it embraced one of the most prosperous sections of Tryon County.
  4. They had been induced to immigrate by Sir William Johnson and were settled as tenants on his estates in various parts of the Kingsboro Tract.
  5. Sir William Johnson came to the Mohawk Valley in 1738, as the agent of his uncle, Sir Peter Warren. He founded a settlement which he called Warren's Bush and remained there five years. He then removed to a tract of land near Amsterdam which he had acquired in 1741 and upon which he had already erected the stone house, still standing, known as Fort Johnson. He removed to Johnson Hall, Johnstown, in 1763.
  6. In 1741 several families, induced to emigrate from Londonderry, N. H., settled on the Lindesay Patent.
  7. This was the original Palatine settlement, dating back to 1711, from which those who had settled at Stone Arabia had removed.

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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War updated March 30, 2015

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