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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 33: Palatines Settle Schoharie — 1712.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 475-484 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Settlement on the Schoharie River and at Stone Arabia — Weiser's Dorf at present Middleburgh; Hartman's Dorf — Brunnen Dorf at present Schoharie — The Karighondonte tribe of Indians supply the starving settlers with corn — 1713, One hundred Palatine families from east camp on the Hudson, arrive — Early dwellings — The Schoharie Valley a part of the Mohawk watershed and connected both geographically and historically with the story of the Mohawk Valley — Palatine names.

The settlement of the Palatines in the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys took place in the fall of 1712, when the first exodus occurred from the banks of the Hudson to the pleasant flats along the Schoharie and the fertile uplands of Stone Arabia north of the Mohawk. The settlement of the Palatines in the watershed of the Mohawk in 1712, is an event of the first historical importance in the history of the Valley and second only to the location of Holland Dutch at Schenectady in 1661. The Palatines settled the upper Mohawk and a great part of the Schoharie valleys. Although at first there seems to have been considerable racial antipathy to these newcomers on the part of the Holland Dutch and British settlers, these Rhineland Germans were later accepted as good American citizens and there then followed many intermarriages of the Dutch, Palatine, Scotch, English and Irish settlers of the Valley. The Palatines formed a strong patriot element in the Mohawk Valley during the Revolution and it was an army composed mainly of men of this blood who fought under General Herkimer at the decisive and bloody battle of Oriskany, where the liberties of America and the destinies of the World were decided. The Palatine strain, frequently mixed with Dutch and British blood, forms one of the best elements of present-day American citizenship along the Mohawk and Schoharie. Its names are at the forefront in the lists of our intellectual and business leaders and they shine among the heroes who have fought for America, from the wilderness marches of the Great French war down to the great days when Americans of Palatine descent, who formed part of the 27th Division, broke through the greatest redoubt of all history — the Hindenburg Line — in the World war.

When Hunter's capital ran out, which had financed the great tar manufacturing enterprise at the East Camp of the Palatines on the Hudson, its people looked upon the order to cease work as a release from a condition approaching slavery. They at once sent seven of their principal men to Schoharie "to visit the valley, examine its land, deal with the Indians and find the best route for the people to take thither." This Palatine embassy was received in the most friendly manner by the Schoharie Indians.

Brown's "Sketch of Schoharie County" [i.e., John M. Brown, Brief Sketch of the First Settlement of the County of Schoharie by the Germans] says that the first settler of the Schoharie Valley was a Canadian Indian named Karighondonte, who was married to a Mohawk squaw. Here he gathered a tribe, three hundred Indians from the Mohawks, Mohicans, Tuscaroras, and Delawares. The Schoharie Valley was part of the Mohawk domain and Karighondonte and his people were doubtless vassals of the Mohawk nation. The Schoharies lived on the Schoharie flats, which they later turned over to the Palatines. Simms describes these flats, saying that they "began on the Little Schoharie Creek, in the present town of Middleburgh, at the high water mark of the Schoharie River, and at an oak stump burned hollow — which stump is said to have served the Mohawk and Stockbridge Indians as a corn-mill — and ran down the river to the north, on both sides, a distance of ten miles, and contained about twenty thousand acres. By the side of the stump was erected a pile of stones, still standing after 1800. Upon the stump were cut the figures of a turtle and a snake, the sign of Karighondonte tribe, as a seal of the contract."

The seven Palatines, headed by the elder Weiser, went to Albany and secured an Indian guide who led them over the Helderbergs and down the valley of Fox Creek to its junction with the Schoharie in one of the most beautiful and fertile parts of this picturesque valley. Cobb says:

"It is a deep valley, where the copious dews, from April to October, make a constant and luxurious verdure. The hills on either side, here sloping gently upward, and there standing in bold bulk of precipitous rock, seemed to promise bulwarks of defense and protection from further foes. The broad alluvial flats prophesied plenty on the farms that were to be, while the river, like a broad silver ribbon, wound its way among the level meadows, its full and quiet flood an image of contented peace." The Palatine delegates were most hospitably received by the Schoharies. When they asked for land that they might settle there, the Karighondontes readily granted their request, saying that "they had formerly given this land to Queen Anne for them."

There is a tradition that several Palatines, at the same time, went westward along the Mohawk and examined the upland of Stone Arabia as a place of prospective Palatine settlement.

Following the return of the explorers to East Camp, a number of the Palatine settlers prepared to immediately depart for "Schorie", the promised land. The exodus to Schoharie was made in two companies at different times. The first party consisted of fifty families who went north to Albany, where they were cared for by the much maligned burghers of that, even then, ancient Dutch city. From there the Palatines made the toilsome journey through the wilderness over the Helderberg trail, to Schoharie. Hardly had they recovered from the fatigue of their journey, when they received orders from the governor "not to goe upon the land." The newcomers, however, could not obey this latest disheartening mandate as they were without any other place of refuge. They, therefore, decided to remain.

At the same time the Palatine Germans located along the Schoharie, tradition tells us that several Palatine families left the main body there and journeyed on to the Mohawk over the Canajoharie trail and located north of the river at Stone Arabia. This has been denied, because of lack of records covering the subject. All probabilities point to a settlement of Palatines at Stone Arabia coeval with that on the Schoharie. The traditions handed down by the old Palatine families of Stone Arabia indicate a settlement there about 1712, and the Stone Arabia Lutheran Church dates its organization from 1711. This latter date probably is derived from the date given by Simms, which is a year too early.

Regarding the settlement of Palatine Germans at Stone Arabia in 1712, Simms writes as follows regarding the scouts sent out by the Palatines from East Camp on the Hudson River. "On their arrival at that Dutch city [Albany] they sent several individuals of their number into the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys, to spy out a good location for their permanent settlement." Simms says that the report of the land scouts was for the Schoharie as against the Mohawk Valley, a decision which may have been influenced by the fact that the Schoharie flats, like most of those along the Mohawk were largely treeless while the Stone Arabia lands were wooded and necessitated the hard work of clearing the lands before they could be farmed. Another argument in favor of the Schoharie Valley probably was that it was unoccupied by white men, while the lower course of the Mohawk then was well settled for the year 1712. Simms further says: "As the German settlements along the Mohawk were commenced about the same time with those of Schoharie, it is not improbable that the relatives of the messengers sent up that river awaited their return at Albany and, on their bringing a favorable report of the country, removed thither." These Stone Arabia Palatine pioneers were "squatters," in the eyes of the law, as were also those of the Schoharie.

The Palatine migration from the Hudson River to the Schoharie took less than half the people there located. About 600 migrated while about 700 or more remained on the east and west banks of the Hudson. The main points of Palatine settlement in the Province of New York, were at the following present-day locations. New York City; Newburgh, Germantown, Rhinebeck, Saugerties and West Camp, on the Hudson; the Schoharie River section from Middleburgh north to the Cobleskill; along the Mohawk at Stone Arabia and German Flats (the western river section of Herkimer County). Palatine descendants are found at all these points and the men of Palatine as well as of Holland Dutch blood are found generally throughout the Mohawk Valley today.

Along the Schoharie, the Palatines located in several villages which were called "dorps" or "dorfs," the latter word being the one generally used along the Schoharie. The meaning of the Palatine German word "dorf" is a compact town of farmers, who till the adjacent lands. "Flekken" is a Palatine German word used to describe a larger village than a "dorf" but less than a "stadt" which stood for a city of varying size. The English words, "hamlet", "village" and "city" correspond in a general way to the meaning of these German words.

The Palatines first located along about ten miles of the Schoharie's course extending from Middleburgh, on the south, to the Cobleskill, on the north, the latter point being about fifteen miles, air line distance, south of the Mohawk River at Fort Hunter. The most southerly large village or "dorf", was Weiser's dorf, at present Middleburgh. The largest and middle village was Hartman's dorf, about two miles north. The third and most northerly village was Brunnen dorf on the site of present Schoharie village, or Schoharie Court House as it was formerly generally called. Besides these three main villages the German pioneers had four smaller dorfs, which made a total number of seven settlements within a limit of ten miles. Brunnen dorf, meaning "the village of springs", was later called Fountain town, when English began to be used in the Schoharie Valley. This name was finally superseded by the name Schoharie or Schoharie Court House, which became the central point of the Schoharie settlements.

The first Palatine mill was built on Fox Creek, which saved the Palatine farmers of the Schoharie the long journey to the most accessible mill at Schenectady, which was the natural outlet to this region along the upper valley of the Normanskill, a stream which has had great historical importance. The Palatines gathered at Fox dorf, for Sunday church services. The Old Stone Church (Reformed) was built in 1772, on the sightly bluff dividing the courses of the Schoharie and Fox Creek.

The Palatine pioneers suffered great hardships during their first (1712-1713) winter along the Schoharie. The Karighondontes gave the newcomers maize from their scanty winter stores and, had it not been for these kindly Indians, probably many of the settlers would have died of starvation. Young Weiser wrote, concerning this period of privation: "They broke ground enough (in the Spring) to plant corn enough for the next year. But this year our hunger was hardly endurable. Many of our feasts were of wild potatoes (oehmanada) and ground beans (otagraquam)." Their Indian friends and neighbors showed the settlers how and where to find these and other edible roots.

About one hundred families of Palatines, from the East Camp on the Hudson, joined the first comers on the Schoharie in March, 1713. The old Palatine narrative says: "in March (1713) did the remainder of the people (tho treated by the Governor as Pharaoh treated the Israelites) proceed on their journey, and, by God's Assistance, travell'd in fourtnight with sledges thro the snow, which there covered the ground above 3 feet deep, cold and hunger, Joyn'd their friends and countrymen in the promised land of 'Schorie.'"

Simms describes, in detail, the Palatine settlements on the Schoharie as follows:

"Having arrived in safety, the Germans settled along the Schoharie on the land provided by the Queen, in several villages or dorfs, as they called them, under the direction of the seven individuals, who acted at the camps as their captains or commissaries. Prudence, no doubt, dictated the necessity of settling near together, that they might be the better prepared to anticipate any hostile movement of their Indian neighbors. Weiser's dorf (so called after Conrad Weiser the founder), was the most southern village and occupied part of the present site of the village of Middleburgh. The dorf contained some forty dwellings. They were small, rude huts, built of logs and earth and covered with bark, grass, etc. They were built on both sides of a street, which ran nearly east and west and may have been called Weiser Street.

"Hartman's dorf was the next settlement down the river, and about two miles north of Weiser's dorf. This was the only one of the settlements called after the Christian name of its founder or patron; his name having been Hartman Winteker [Windecker]. This flekken (if the largest village in seven merited the name), is said to have contained sixty-five dwellings, similar in construction to those spoken of in the dorf above. The Germans, as is the [1845] custom of their descendants, built their ovens detached from their dwellings, and thirteen are said to have answered all the good housewives of Hartman's dorf, the purposes of baking. Like the former, this village was built along one street." No trace of this original largest village of the Palatine Germans along the Schoharie now exists.

"The next village north was in the vicinity of the court house and was called Brunnen dorf or Bruna dorf, which signified 'the town of springs'. There are several springs in the vicinity and a living one, which [1845] issues from beneath the rocks a little distance southeast from the court house, supplies most of the villagers with excellent water. The principal or most influential man among the first settlers of this place was John Lawyer. Some of his descendants, as also those of some of the Shaeffers and Ingolds, who were among the first settlers, still reside near the location of their ancestors.

"The next settlement was in the vicinity of the present [1845] residence of Doctor C. H. Van Dyck, about a mile north of Bruna dorf and consisted of Johannes George Smidt (or Smith in English) with a few followers of the people, for whom he had acted as commissioner at the camps. Smith is said to have had the best house in Smith's dorf, which was thatched with straw [and which he conducted as a tavern]. I am not certain that any of his clan are now [1845] represented in that section. It is probable, however, that the Snyders who [1845] reside there may be descended from the first settlers.

"Fox's dorf was next to Smith's north and took its name from William Fox, its leading man. He settled about a mile from Smith, in the vicinity of Fox's Creek, so called after him. The Snyders, Beckers, Zimmers, Balls and Weidmans, now [1845] residing along and near that stream, are regular descendants of the first settlers.

"Elias Garlock, with a few faithful followers who, doubtless, adhered to him on account of his great wisdom, which remains to be shown, located about two miles farther down the river, near the present [1845] residence of Jacob Vrooman. This was called Garlock's dorf. The Deitzes, Manns, and Sternberghs were among the first settlers at Garlock's dorf, whose descendants still [1845] occupy the grounds.

"The last and most northerly settlement was called Kneiskern's dorf, after John Peter Kneiskern, its leading man. It was two or three miles from the last mentioned settlement, and was made along the east side of the river opposite the mouth of the Cobel's kill. The Kneiskerns, Stubrachs, Enderses, Sidneys, Berghs and Houcks, residing in that vicinity, are descendants of the original settlers. This and Bruna dorf are the only ones of the seven settlements in which the descendants of the earliest men or founders dwell at the present [1845] day. The sectional names of Kneiskern's and Hartman's dorf are still in use, while the other five have sunk into oblivion.

"Among the first settlers at these seven dorfs, were some whose descendants still [1845] reside in the county, their first location, in but few instances, being now traceable. It is presumed many of them settled at the two most important and southern villages. The Keysers, Boucks, Rickards, Rightmyers, Warners, Weavers, Zimmers, Mattices, Zehs, Bellingers, Borsts, Schoolcrafts, Kryslers, Casselmans, Newkirks, Earharts, Browns, Settles and Merckleys, were doubtless among the first settlers."

Simms gives the date of German immigration into the Schoharie Valley as 1711, which has been widely copied, but Cobb's date of 1712 is doubtless the correct one. Simms estimates the number of the Palatines who first settled along the Schoharie at between five and seven hundred.

The succeeding chapter relates to the history and life of the Palatine Germans along the Schoharie, from their settlement in 1712 until the dispersal of about two-thirds of their number and exodus of these Palatines to sections along the Mohawk River, at Stone Arabia and German Flats, 1720-1725, as well as to Berks County, Pennsylvania. These latter emigrants formed the original Pennsylvania Dutch, which have always, since that time, been such a large and influential element in the Commonwealth founded by William Penn.

* * *

The following lists of Palatine names will be of interest to all who cherish the history of the Mohawk Valley and that of the Schoharie, the chief tributary of the Mohawk. Like the earlier lists herein given of the first Holland Dutch settlers along the Mohawk. the following names will be found to be generally represented in the old American families resident in many parts of the watershed of the Mohawk River.

The names are those listed in the Stone Arabia and German Flats (Burnetsfield) patents, in "Simms' Schoharie County" and in [Sanford Hoadley] Cobb's "Story of the Palatines[: An Episode in Colonial History]". A few of these names were never represented in the Mohawk Valley, but belong to other centers of Palatine immigration in America. Some were once represented here but have since disappeared from our Valley. It is interesting to note how many of the names of these early pioneers are still numerous among us. Together with the early Holland Dutch and British stocks they still form a large element of the population of the Mohawk Valley. As all our pioneer American stock has generally intermarried, the older families of the Valley form one large family, which should certainly help to give the Mohawk Valley a community of interests.

Among the names listed are a number which have the same forms in Holland Dutch names. This may be due to listing Hollanders, who dwelt in Palatine neighborhoods as Palatines or such names may exist in both languages, as they probably do. It is impossible at this late date to "unscramble" them and give each its national identity. Such Dutch examples are Banker, Brink, Snyder, Swart, Keyser, etc. Several names of typical English form are also present among these Palatine names.

In these lists of Palatine names, the modern form is given with the older style in parentheses. It must be remembered that there was much laxity in the spelling of names two centuries ago, the same individual often spelling his name in various ways. General Nicholas Herkimer, the son of a Palatine, was a great offender in this regard. Clerks, officials, muster roll clerks, official secretaries and others are also responsible for many of the old misspellings of names. These old-time clerks frequently took the names down as they heard them, without any undue care as to their exact spelling. The same thing is true of Indian names, which were variously spelled by various spellers. The reader of today, when all these matters are more exactly covered, frequently wonders at the wide variety of name spellings. The foregoing offers something of an explanation of the cause, which has always been a source of misery to the historian.

All German names in the Mohawk Valley are not necessarily names derived from the Palatine immigration, even of families resident here from before the Revolution. The same is true of Holland Dutch names. A number of Hollanders came here from overseas, between the Schenectady settlement and the beginning of the Revolution, and so all Low Dutch names do not necessarily date back to the first Dutch settlement of the Mohawk Valley.

These lists do not pretend to include all names of Palatine pioneers in the Mohawk Valley, including its subdivision, the Schoharie.

Among the Palatine names of Schoharie County are the following:

Lawyer, Hartman, Weiser, Smith (Smidt, Schmit), Fox (Fuchs), Snyder, Becker, Zimmer, Ball, Weiden, Dietz, Mann, Sternberg, Kneiskern, Stubrach, Enders, Sidney, Bergh, Houck, Keyser, Bouck, Rickard, Rightmyer, Warner, Weaver, Mattice, Zeh, Bellinger, Borst, Schoolcraft, Krysler, Casselman, Newkirk, Earhart, Brown, Settle, Merckley, Garlock, Windecker (Winteker), Moore, Walrath, Young (Jung), Scheff.

The Palatine names in the Stone Arabia Patent of 1723, are as follows:

Shaul (Schell), Gremps (Cremse) Garlock (Garlack), Dillenbeck, Emiger, Fox (Vocks), Lawyer, Fink, Feink, Dygert (Diegert), Piper, (Peiper), Seeber (Seibert), Casselman, England (Ingolt), Erhart (Erchart), Nellis (Nelse).

The Palatine names, in the Burnetsfield (German Flats) Patent of 1725, follow:

Beerman, Bowman, Dacksteder, Edick (Edich, Edigh), Herkimer, (Erghemar), Fuller (Feller), Filmer (Felmore), Folts (Fols), Fox, Heger, Helmer, Harter (Herter), Hess, Casler (Keslaer), Kast, Koons, Korsing, Koues, Lant, Moyer (Mayor), Miller, Orendorf, Pearce (Pears), Bell (Pell), Bellinger (Pellinger), Petrie (Petri), Poenradt, Real (Reele), Rickard (Rickert), Shoemaker, Smith, Speis, Spoon, Starin (Staring), Demuth (Temouth), Veldelent, Weaver (Wever), Woolever (Welleven).

Palatine names now found in the Mohawk Valley are here appended, together with some once here which have died out and a few others. The great majority of these names, however, are characteristic of the Mohawk Valley and are numerously represented among us today.

Hoffman, Weber, Bush, Bauch, Weatherwax (Wederwachs), Loucks (Loux), Zoller (Zeller), Arendorf, Alter, Diefendorf, Devendorf, Snyder (Schneider), Failing (Feling), Becker, Fralick, Eckert, Emerick, Conrad, Christian, Hartranft, Snell (Schnell), Myers, Myer, Meyer, Dedrick, Dunckel, Wortman, Bronner, Lintner (Lichtner), Allbright (Albrecht), Appell, Acker, Bower, Decker, Ehle (Ehl, Uhl), Young (Jung), Neahr, Hager, Bergman, Angell (Angle), Shaver, Schaeffer, Schaffer, Coon (Kuhn), Winter, Link, Bouck, Bernard, Allendorf, Christler, Wagner, Neff, Funk, Stickler, Gertner, Shults (Schultz), Wolf, Wolfe, Shoemaker, Schoonmaker, Baer, Wanamaker (Wannermaker), Newkirk, Cline, Klein, Plank, Signer, Bronk, Bronck, Brink, Dill, Gentner, Genter, Shufelt, Keim, Dillinger, Benker, Sellinger, Swartz, Swart, Michaels, Keener, Timmerman, Zimmerman, Siegler, Zollicoffer, Heister, Muhlenberg, Keller.

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