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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 26: Schenectady and the Mohawk Valley — 1690-1693.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 400-408 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Biographies | Illustrations | Maps | Portraits

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Schenectady rebuilt after the massacre — Goods sent to the impoverished survivors — The Leisler rebellion and its turmoil in Albany and Schenectady — Fort Orange surrendered to Leisler by the Albany Convention, March 4, 1690 — Tahajadoris, the Mohawk chieftain, preaches American colonial union at Albany Council of May 3, 1690 — Expedition against Canada fails in 1690 — Schuyler strikes hard blow at New France in 1691 — Building of the Stevens house at Aal Plaats (Ael Place) in 1693 — Raids of King William's War about Albany and Schenectady, 1690-1693 — The frontier population much depleted.

Having decided not to abandon the settlement of Schenectady, the survivors of the massacre soon set to work to rebuild the town around the six houses left standing. By May 13, 1690, a new fort had been completed at the foot of present State Street. Another block house was constructed 100 feet north of St. George's Church and a guard house at the corner of Ferry and State streets. The settlement slowly recovered from the effects of the massacre and fire. Many people, however, removed to less exposed sections and it was over ten years before the Schenectady district had recovered its former population and prosperity. By 1695, there were 28 houses in the stockade and in 1698, there were 215 inhabitants in the whole Schenectady district, from the Alplaus Kill to present Cranesville. After 1700, the town and district grew rapidly in population.

On February 22, 1690, The Albany Convention passed resolutions inviting the Mohawks to leave their castles and to come and live at Schenectady so as to concentrate the military strength of the Mohawks and white settlers to more successfully combat another invasion from Canada. Very fortunately, nothing came of this unwise suggestion.

The Albany Convention, on February 27, sent delegates to New York City, Boston and Connecticut urging that they all unite with New York, attack Quebec and conquer Canada.

Brodhead writes of the Mohawk and Albany plan of Colonial union for action against a common enemy, as follows: "The idea of a confederation of British North American Plantations originated in New England in 1643. The policy of consolidating his Colonies to make them 'terrible to the French', was the thought of James the Second in 1688. The patriotic purpose of a union of all the English dependencies in North America, from Virginia to New England, against a common enemy, was inspired by the New York Iroquois and formally propounded by the Albany Convention in February, 1690. From Schuyler and his associates just praise should not be withheld." The New York Iroquois here referred to were the Mohawks, a chief of whom made a speech on the subject to Magistrate Dirk Wessels of Albany and "some oyr gent yt were sent from Albany to Dispatch ye Christians and Indians away in Pursute of ye french", as the old account has it. This oration of a Mohawk chieftain on the subject of union of the Colonies was therefore delivered to the members of the Albany Convention who were present at the start of the pursuit party from Schenectady about February 12, 1690. The main credit should go to the chieftains of the Mohawks and the place where the proposal for an offensive and defensive league of the American Colonies was made was amid the ruins of Schenectady in the Mohawk Valley, and it was the massacre of Schenectady which inspired the idea.

Although he originally represented a popular movement toward free democracy, Leisler now began to fully show his unfitness for rule as well as the character of a petty dictator. He arrested and imprisoned about forty officers commissioned by Andros. Former Governor Dongan and a number of Anti-Leislerites fled from New York to escape imprisonment. Leisler sent his lieutenant, Jacob Milborne, to Connecticut to scold the authorities for cooperation with the "rebels" at Albany. The Albany Convention sent Robert Livingston and several other delegates to Connecticut and Boston to advocate the plan of union and ask for help in holding the strategic posts of Albany and Schenectady. Their mission was unsuccessful and Captain Bull's company was withdrawn from Albany.

On March 4th, 1690, Leisler sent 160 men to Albany under command of Jacob Milborne, his son-in-law and lieutenant. The expedition carried clothing and supplies for Schenectady and presents for the Iroquois. Fort Orange was surrendered on March 17th, by the Albany Convention, whose rule came to an end after a period of eight months, during which Albany and Ulster counties (embracing the greater part of the province) had acted as a colony independent of New York city. The change was made without disturbance and the Albany City and County officials were mostly retained in office.

The goods sent to Schenectady refugees were received by the deacons of Albany and Schenectady and consisted of "2,348 1/2 Dutch ells of Ossenburgh Linen, 3 ps. Serge, 13 prs. Stockings, 72 ells pennestont". These goods were a godsend to people who had lost their all. They were distributed to the Schenectady survivors at that place. Some of the linen supplies were distributed in the Bush or the "Woestyne" — wasteland or wilderness, — as the Dutch called that part of the township west of Schenectady. It is not evident why supplies were sent to the Woestyne, as that district had not been injured in the invasion. It is likely that the surviving Schenectady settlers had gone to the homes of relatives in the Woestyne as well as Albany, as nearly all the Holland Dutch of the Albany-Schenectady neighborhood were generally related. In the week following the massacre, the deacons of Albany had given to the Schenectady survivors goods to the value of 83 guilders.

The list of people to whom the goods sent by Leisler were given out, forms a roll of the surviving heads of families of Schenectady as well as those then resident in the Bush or the Woestyne — the Schenectady township section between Schenectady and westward to present Cranesville.

The Schenectady heads of families, who received these goods, were the following: Barent Wemp, Harmen Vedder, Symon Schermerhorn, Symen Groot, Arent Vedder, Anne, widow of Frans Van de Bogart, Willem Appel, Goosen Van Oort, Samuel Bradt, Johannes Dyckman, Geertruy Groot, Jacques Cornelise Van Slyck, Dirck Bradt, Isaac De Truax, Neices of Symon Volckertse Veeder, Johannes Dyckman, Jan Van Eps, Ludovicus Cobes, Pieter Van Olinda, Gerret Jansen, William Van Erde, Elias Swart, Jan Buys, Gysbert Gerrets Van Brakel, Hendrick Gardiniers, Dirck Hesselingh, Adam Vrooman, Teunis Carstensen, Gerrit Gysbertsen Van Brakel, Catalyn Barensen Van Ditmars, Susanne Tellers, Dieur Wemp, Tryntje Bosboom, Symon Volckertse Veeder, Jacob Van Laer, Cornelis Viele, Manus Haegedoorn, Jannetie Schermerhoorn, Cornelis Schermerhoorn, Citte Bradt, Cornelis Claesen, Tryntie Schaets, David Christoffelsen's children, Johannes Pootman's children, Claas Laurens Van der Volgen, Fytie Pietersen Borsboom. The note is made on the original distribution list that the above persons were given goods at "Schoonechtede", so that 44 heads of families and some "nieces" and children were then starting life anew and rebuilding the ruined town of Schenectady. These people were truly heroic in the face of the disaster, which had so recently overwhelmed them.

The following family heads were given supplies in the Woestyne: Binnonie Arentsen, David Marinus, Elias Van Gyseling, Jan Vrooman, Teunis Viele, Tryntie Verwy, Claes DeGraef, Jan Hilt, Cornelis Groat, Jan Luycessen Wyngaardt, Lysbet Cornelissen. Swart, Cobes, Truax, Buys, Carstensen, Arent Vedder, Van Olinda, Harmanus Vedder, Dyckman, who received goods at Schenectady, also were among those to whom they were given in the Woestyne. Besides the settlers to whom goods were there distributed, there were at least as many more who received nothing, such as Toll and Van Antwerpen, so that, in March only a little over a month after the massacre there are about sixty heads of families indicated as living in Schenectady and the Schenectady district, which would indicate a population of about 200 people. Population figures of the time are, however, very difficult to arrive at and these figures are merely an estimate. Nevertheless, it is certain that a number of intrepid people had already taken the brave course of rebuilding and resettling the ruined frontier town of the province. The settlement of Schenectady had never lost its continuity, for six houses had been spared by the invaders and around these surviving dwellings of old Schenectady the new town arose from the ashes.

In April, Niskayuna (Conestiogone) was raided by Canadian Indians and eight people were killed. April 30th, Leisler wrote a letter to the Albany magistrates which shows the lack of education in this despotic German. It reads in part, as follows:

* * * "mest riars desired som guns with iff you seemeth most be taken from sloop or petrares for Schonectede with Wee Desiers ma not be deserted doo It shuld kost 50 soldiers to maentain * * *."

The attack on Niskayuna, following the terrible experience of Schenectady, caused general alarm throughout the Albany-Schenectady district. To allay this fear and to protect what was then the frontier, the magistrates of Albany on May 12, 1690 "Ordered that the Posts of Schenechtade, Connestigioone and half-moone be forthwith supplyed with the proper number of men to defend the same — and that none doe presume to post any other forces saving at the 3 places aforesaid at their uttmost peril.

"Whereas it is judged necessary for to defend Schanechtede and to that purpose it is likewise found requisite that a fort be built to defend ye Inhabitants and oppugn the Enemy if he should attack the same." Captain Johannes Sanders Glen and others were ordered to build a "substantiall Fort on that lot of ground called by ye name of Cleyn Isaacs." This was a lot belonging to Isaac Swits, known as Kleyn (little) Isaak. Swits and his eldest son Cornelis were carried captive to Canada, following the Schenectady massacre. They returned the following summer, when Swits found that the Governor of the Province had taken his village land for the site of a fort which stood then on his old lot. Swits petitioned for 30 pounds in money ($75) or its equivalent in land. It was not until seventeen years later that he received reimbursement for his village lot by a deed for 1,000 acres of land lying between the east bounds of the Schenectady Patent and Conestiogone (Niskayuna) on the south side of the Mohawk River, which parcel of land seems to have been unoccupied prior to this grant. It is said that the fort mentioned above was completed by May 30th, 1690, as previously mentioned.

Because of the destruction of the crops and goods at the burning of Schenectady and the consequent drain upon the remaining supplies and provisions, both Albany and Schenectady were so impoverished that they called upon Connecticut for aid "fournishing the souldiers with provisions, Shennectady being destroyed and most of the out plantations deserted, that your honrs would be pleased to send a supply of an hundred barrels of porks or beefe equivalent for maintaining their Majes. Forces."

On April 8, 1690, a general election for members of Assembly was held in the Province of New York, under a writ issued by Leisler on February 20. New York, Albany, Ulster, Kings and Westchester were represented, while a number of the counties were not. Albany County elected Jan Jansen Bleecker of Albany and Ryer Schermerhorn of Schenectady. In spite of the severe blow suffered at Schenectady, the Mohawk Valley was thus early taking part in New York politics.

Following out the speech of the Mohawk chieftain at Schenectady to delegates from the Albany Convention, the latter body had adopted the idea of Colonial union so aptly set forth by one of our Valley redmen and had given it wide publicity. Before Leisler had ended their power the Albany Convention had invited several Colonies to join with it in an attempted conquest of the French in Canada. Leisler, seeing the advantages to his own power in the plan now adopted it and the first North American Colonial Congress met at New York on May 1, 1690, at Leisler's call. Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New York were represented, while Rhode Island and Maryland agreed to cooperate and send men for the Canadian expedition. The quota of troops to be raised for this purpose by the different Colonies was as follows: New York, 400; Massachusetts, 160; Connecticut, 135; Maryland, 100; Plymouth, 60; 855 men in all. To cooperate with Massachusetts on the sea, Leisler sent five vessels to add to the strength of this early American navy. This Congress is interesting and important as showing that these Colonies, rightfully or wrongfully, were already raising military and naval forces and carrying on warfare without orders from the English Crown.

Four of the people who were captured in the Schenectady massacre escaped from Canada and reached Albany on June 9th, 1690. They were Kleyn Isack Swits and his son Symon, both of Schenectady, Ryck Claessen Van Vranken of Niskayuna and one of Captain Bull's soldiers.

The Albany magistrates held a council with the Five Nations at Albany, May 3rd to the 13th, 1690. The Iroquois speaker, Tahajadoris exhorted the brethren to maintain peace among themselves and to "join together the several colonies of New England and Virginia, likewise those of Albany, who have always sat under the green tree; otherwise we shall destroy one another." Such constant preaching of Colonial unity by the Iroquois and the Mohawks in particular must have had its effect on the American people during the eighty-five years ensuing before the Declaration of Independence. The Iroquois also recommended that Montreal be attacked by land and Quebec by sea; that Schenectady should be fortified anew, as their own castles had been and promised 1,800 warriors from the Five Nations to help the Colonies conquer Canada. In June a party of "praying Indians" (as the Christian converts of the French Jesuit priests were called) went out from Montreal against the Americans. On their return with some prisoners, they were attacked by a war party of Algonquin and Abenaki Indians, who mistook them for English. In the fight Kryn, the Great Mohawk, was killed, which was a hard blow for New France.

Although Leisler wanted his tool Milborne to be commander of the expedition against Canada, he was forced to accept Winthrop of Connecticut. The army got to the head of Lake Champlain when smallpox, lack of provisions and the smallness of the force compelled it to return to Greenbush, opposite Albany. It was the beginning of a long series of failures in the attempted invasions of Canada, which ended only with Amherst's successful expedition in 1760. Captain John Schuyler, a brother of Mayor and Major Peter Schuyler of Albany, made a successful raid into Canada with 40 militiamen and 120 Mohawks. Phipps' naval expedition was repulsed at Quebec and 1690 ended ingloriously for America in its attempts to conquer Canada by land and sea.

On October 10, 1690, Leisler appointed Staats, Wendell, Bogardus and Schermerhorn (of Schenectady) "to superintend, direct, order and control all matters and things relating to the city and county of Albany," etc. Wendell was commissioned mayor of Albany in place of Major Peter Schuyler, the great leader of Albany who was opposed to Leisler.

Lieutenant-Governor Ingoldsby reached New York, January 29, 1691, and Leisler started an actual civil war in New York by firing on Ingoldsby with the cannon and musketry of the fort, killing two and wounding several others of Ingoldsby men. Leisler's demagoguery and despotism had become insupportable. On Governor Sloughter's arrival, Leisler surrendered the fort on March 20, 1691, and the German despot's "popular government" came to an end after a sway of two years. On April 9th, the first New York Assembly convened under the direct authority of the English Crown, met in New York city. It was a unanimous Anti-Leisler body, and Leisler was, among other things, blamed for the Schenectady disaster. Milborne and Leisler had been condemned to death and, on May 14, 1691, they were executed. This was a grave political mistake, as well as a brutal injustice, as it perpetuated the Leisler-Bayard political feud for many years to come and made a martyr for liberty out of a rather mean, despotic character.

While this political conflict was exciting the whole Province, including the Mohawks and the sparse white population of the lower Mohawk Valley, four prisoners, taken by the French at the Schenectady massacre, in 1690, were brought back to Schenectady by a war party of militiamen and Mohawks, in March, 1691.

In 1691, Major Peter Schuyler gathered a force at Albany to strike Canada. It consisted of 260 men, half of them militiamen and half Mohawks and Mohicans. At La Prairie, opposite Montreal, Schuyler's war party attacked and defeated a French force three times as great as that of the Americans. Schuyler's men later drove off another French party, under Valrenne near Chambly, and retired down Lake Champlain after having inflicted two hard blows upon the Canadians with a small force. In this foray, Schuyler displayed the great military ability which he exhibited on other occasions, notably in the pursuit of the French-Indian raiders who burned the Mohawk castles in 1693 and in the subsequent bloody battle of Saratoga.

In June, 1691, Governor Sloughter visited Albany and Schenectady and inspected their defenses. He wrote that he had "found our plantations and Schenectady almost ruined. I have garrisoned Schenectady and Halfe Moon with some of the 100 fusileers raised by our Assembly." Under date of August 6th, he wrote: "I found Albany full of disorder, the people about to desert it; about 150 farms deserted & destroyed by the French." The Governor seems to have had the defense of Schenectady as a military key position of the Colony, constantly in mind. Late in 1691, another Schenectady massacre prisoner was brought in from Canada, by an Oneida warrior, who received a reward of £2, 2s. in "Duffels and Rom." Duffel was a kind of coarse woolen cloth, having a thick nap, in much use in Colonial days. This made nine captives who had escaped from Canada to Schenectady since the massacre in 1690.

Albany and Schenectady were much alarmed, throughout 1692, by reports of invasion from Canada. On June 16, 1692, Major Ingoldsby reported to the Governor's Council, in New York, that he had found Albany in great disorder from false alarms occasioned by small bands of Canadian savages. He said that the fortifications were out of repair and that he had confirmed the chain of friendship with the Five Nations and the River Indians. He had also sent 30 men of the Albany garrison to Schenectady and 30 to Half Moon, and that 50 more were needed for Cannestgioenna (Niskayuna), which could not be spared from Albany.

At the council in 1692 of the Five Nations with Major Ingoldsby, an Iroquois chief spoke as follows: "We return you Thanks for the Powder and Lead given us; but what shall we do without Guns, shall we throw them at the Enemy? We doubt they will not hurt them so. Before this we always had Guns given us. It is no Wonder the Governor of Canada gains upon us, for he supplies his Indians with Guns as well as Powder; he supplies them plentifully with every Thing that can hurt us." With minds frequently so much more logical than the English and the Dutch, it is difficult to consider the Iroquois mentally inferior by comparison.

During August, 1692, an expedition of 350 Iroquois Indians (including Mohawks) was fitted out at Schenectady to go against Canada. It was under the command of Canachkorie. The Iroquois raiding parties did much damage in Canada in 1692 and kept the French there constantly on the defensive. The Mohawks were among the most active in this savage warfare. In 1689, they had had 220 warriors, but were now reduced to 130 braves, having lost 90 of their fierce warriors in two years of fighting. In fact, during King William's war, most of the fighting against the French was done by the Iroquois, although they numbered less than one-tenth the total of the white inhabitants of the English Colonies.

In September, 1692, three French prisoners were examined at New York who testified that, during the summer, the French of Canada "had a design to fall upon Albany & Schenectady & the Mohac country, but first to take Schenectady where they resolved to build a fort * * * but their design failed" — probably because of the constant attacks upon Canada by war parties of Iroquois.

Governor Henry Sloughter died January 16th, 1692, and Governor Benjamin Fletcher succeeded him. In October, 1692, Governor Fletcher visited Schenectady and made its defenses as strong as possible for the coming winter.

So far King William's war had proved a terrible scourge both to the English Colonies and New France. The constant menace of Iroquois invasion prevented Frontenac from striking at the Colonies. The Mohawks were the most bitter foes of the French among the Confederates and the Old Man of Canada now planned a vital blow at his worst enemies.

In 1693, Jonathan Stevens, a Yankee from New England, married Leah, wife of Claas Willemse Van Coppernoll. The Stevens farm lay in the present town of Glenville, Schenectady County, along the Mohawk, being bounded on the east by the Aal Plaats kill. Leah was the daughter of Cornelis Antonisen Van Slyck by his French-Mohawk wife, and she was a famous interpreter. In 1693, Stevens built a house at the Aal Plaats (Ael Place) which is the second oldest house within the limits of the Mohawk Valley, being antedated only by the dwelling at Rotterdam, known as the Mabie house, which was built by Daniel Janse Van Antwerpen in 1670. Stevens' son Arent (also called Arnout), became a famous Indian interpreter, so acting for Sir William Johnson for a period of twenty years and his name appears a number of times in later chapters. The erections of these early Mohawk River houses are most important historically as they formed virtual outposts of civilization on the border of a vast wilderness. The Stevens house is also a material evidence and reminder of the interesting Dutch-Mohawk Van Slyck family, which was bound by ties of blood to the first Hollanders who settled at Schenectady and to their red brethren, the Mohawks.

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