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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 65: 1778 — Mohawk Valley Raids.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 885-901 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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1778 — Indian council at Johnstown, March 9 — Manheim, Garoga, Springfield, Andrustown, German Flats raids — Battle Cobleskill, May 30, 1778 — Cherry Valley Massacre, Nov. 11, 1778.

The Fairfield settlement, north of Little Falls was the first visited in the raids of 1778. A party of Indians and Tories, traveling with snowshoes, attacked the place in the middle of March, 1778. Cobus Mabee was then moving to the vicinity of Indian Castle with his family, consisting of his wife and four children. Because of their exposed situation, many Fairfield settlers were going to more protected localities, a movement which was on foot during the earlier years of the war. In the latter years, the settlers of the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys were mainly collected in or around the forts. Mabee had gone to the new home, with his wife and two younger children, leaving his older children, John and Polly, to take care of their Fairfield home. The raiders scattered over the Fairfield settlements and two Indians, who knew the Mabees, ran to their home to kill Mr. Mabee. They found John cutting potatoes for cattle. He called to his sister in Dutch, "Polly, take care of yourself, or —" and then he was struck down with a tomahawk and scalped. Polly hid herself in some cornstalks and escaped death and capture. Simms says:

"Returning to his former residence after the enemy left it, Mr. Mabee found his unfortunate son — then fifteen years of age — still alive and receiving the caresses of his sister, two years younger than himself. As stated, these children had been sent from home to school and had well improved their time. They were devotedly attached to each other and John was considered the most promising boy in the settlement. Placing his son upon the sled, where Polly again acted the nurse, he drove as carefully as possible to (his new home in) the Mohawk Valley, but soon after arriving at the Castle the boy was released from his suffering.

"Of the Fairfield settlers surprised and carried into captivity were Conrad, Jacob, Adam and Joseph Klock, Mabus Forbush, Robhold Ough, Adam and Rudolph Furrie, Henry Shafer and son, Henry Shafer, Junior. * * * No females, it is believed, were either killed or captured in this settlement at this time, and the father of Forbush, who was too old to make the journey and too bald to afford a bounty paying scalp was, by some freak of humanity or some other motive, left behind. On leaving Fairfield the enemy crossed over to the east Jerseyfield road and there captured John Keyser and his sons, Michael and John, burned his buildings and, from his sheep and cattle, they replenished their larder. The prisoners received their share of suffering on their way to Canada and probably all came back. Some of the dwellings of the settlement, from motives of policy, were not burned until a later invasion of the enemy."

* * * * *

Early in 1778 the alarming news came to the valley that the western Indian tribes were to unite with the Mohawks, Cayugas, Onondagas and Senecas in a war upon the frontier, instigated by the Johnsons, Claus and Butler. Congress thereupon ordered a council held with the Six Nations at Johnstown in February and appointed Gen. Schuyler and Volkert P. Douw to conduct it together with a commissioner named James Duane, appointed by Governor Clinton. The Indians showed little interest in the conference and delayed coming until March 9. There were then present more than seven hundred of them, mostly friendly Oneidas and Tuscaroras and hostile Onondagas, with a few Mohawks, three or four Cayugas and not one of the Senecas, whose warriors outnumbered those of all the other Iroquois. Instead of attending the council the Senecas sent a message expressing surprise that they were asked to come while the American "tomahawks were sticking in their heads, their wounds bleeding and their eyes streaming with tears for the loss of their friends," meaning at the battle of Oriskany, which shows the extent of the damage the patriots inflicted on that fateful day.

The Oneidas and Tuscaroras expressed their allegiance to the United States and predicted the extinction of the hostile tribes. The rest of the Indians had little to say, excepting an Onondaga chief who hypocritically lamented the course of his tribe, laying it to the young and headstrong warriors. Nothing was effected by the conference, except the satisfactory expression of allegiance on the part of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras. The commissioners closed the council by warning the hostile Iroquois to look to their behavior as the American cause was just or a terrible vengeance would overtake them. The Marquis de Lafayette, who was temporarily in command of the northern department was at the Johnstown council and considerably improved the frontier defences by ordering forts built at Cherry Valley and in the Oneida country, the three Schoharie forts garrisoned and armed and other border fortifications strengthened. Learning among other Tory activities, Col. Guy Carlton, nephew of the governor of Canada, was on a spying tour in the neighborhood, efforts were made for his capture, Lafayette himself offering a reward of fifty guineas for his arrest.

* * * * *

Irruptions of scalping parties of Canadian Indians and Tories began in the Mohawk valley about 1778 and continued up to 1783, when a peace treaty was signed. It is impossible to tell of each of these because they were so numerous, and records of all have not been preserved. One of the first in the settlement of Manheim, occurred on April 3, 1778, under command of Captain Crawford, two weeks after the sacking of Fairfield, Herkimer county. About 50 Indians and Tories raided the Mohawk valley in the settlement of Manheim, near Little Falls. Among the Tories were L. Casselman, Countryman and Bowers, who had gone to join the British forces in Canada from the lower Mohawk. The marauders captured the miller, John Garter and his boy John and Joseph Newman and Bartholomew Pickert, who happened to be at the mill. At Windecker's place, James Van Slyck, his son-in-law, was sick in bed and, for a wonder, was unharmed by the savages. The prisoners made here and in the vicinity were John House, Forbush, John Windecker, a boy of 13; Ganet [Garrett?] Van Slyck, another boy; John Cypher, Helmer, Jacob Uher, George Attle. The two latter were rangers on a scout from Fort Snyder. Garter's mill was burned, but no other dwellings were destroyed and no one was killed. Four Whigs were captured in Salisbury, Herkimer county. The march to Canada was made through the snow and great hardships were suffered. Windecker's Indian captor proved very kind and carried him across several rapid streams on his back. Windecker said afterward, concerning their scarcity of food, that "An Indian would eat anything except crow." This raid was one of the earliest of the war and was not marked by the bloody ferocity which characterized the later ones.

* * * * *

The following, concerning the invasion of Ephratah in the Palatine district, in April, 1778, is abridged from Simm's "Frontiersmen of New York," Vol. II., pp. 146-151:

In 1773, 20 or more German families settled along Garoga creek in the present town of Ephratah and some at the present site of Kringsbush. These Germans were part of a shipload of immigrants, mostly from the district of Nassau near Frankfort-on-the-Main, which landed at Baltimore in 1773. Many of them settled in the Mohawk valley. The immigration from Germany, and even from Holland, into New York state was practically continuous from the time of first settlement up to the Revolution. On this voyage very rough weather was encountered on the Atlantic, the masts went by the board and the ship nearly foundered.

The settlement of Ephratah was so called after a place of that name in Germany. Prominent among these settlers was Nicholas Rechtor, whose father, Johannes Rechtor, came from Hesse in Germany and settled at Niskautau, six miles below Albany. These early Ephratah families all built log houses, except Rechtor, who put up a frame house and barn. Simms says this house was still standing (in 1882), "just back of a public house in Garoga, so called after the creek passing through it — the original name still attaching to the settlement." Rechtor was located about three miles west of the stone grist mill Sir William Johnson had built for the use of that region which was then known as Tilleborough. Within a radius of five or six miles from Nicholas Rechtor's house the following were located: Jacob Appley, Jacob Frey, John Hurtz, Conrad Hart, John Smith, Henry Smith, John Cool, Jacob Deusler, Leonard Kretzer, Henry Hynce, Flander, Phye, John Spankable (now Sponable), John Winkle.

Among the settlers in the Kringsbush section were Matthias Smith, Leonard Helmer, Joseph Davis and his brother-in-law, John Kring, after whom the settlement was named.

In 1775, a small company of militia was organized among these settlers along the Garoga. The officers were Nicholas Rechtor, Captain; John Williams, George Smith, lieutenants; John Sholl, ensign. This company was in the Oriskany battle where Capt. Rechtor was thrown from and stepped on by his horse disabling him.

About four in the afternoon of April 30, 1778, about 20 Indians and Tories invaded the Ephratah settlement. Most of the farmers were making maple sugar. Rechtor was drilling 20 men of his militia company about a mile from his home. Six of the enemy made their first appearance at the Harts' home and killed Conrad Hart, the father, and took captive his son Wilhelmus, a youth of 16. They plundered and burned Hart's building and from thence went to Jacob Appley's, where they destroyed all property. A daughter of Hart had, in the meantime escaped, at the time of the first attack, and ran to where the militia company was drilling. Instead of Rechtor and his men attacking the enemy in force they split up and ran singly or in small companies of three or four toward their homes. Jacob Appley, Daniel Hart and Peter Shyke went with Capt. Rechtor to his home.

The enemy had already reached Rechtor's. Here the savages, both Tory and Indian, found considerable plunder as the captain was well provided with the worldly goods for that time and locality. They were some time in packing up and Mrs. Rechtor, objecting to the wholesale looting of her household, was struggling with a big Indian over a long-handled frying pan. The Americans came up on the run and fired at the Indian. The shot struck the pan handle, glanced down and wounded the woman in the ankle. A general melee took place. Appley shot an Indian and was himself shot down. Shyke was severely wounded and Captain Rechtor was hit in the right arm. Helmus Hart came up with his hands bound, he having been tied to a tree when the Hart house was attacked. The Americans released his hands and he joined in the fight, which soon ended in the enemy running away.

At this time few of the settlers had been killed as they were in the sugar bush distant from their dwellings. Rechtor gathered all of his family (of seven children) that he could find and set out for Fort Paris, which he reached at midnight. The two youngest girls and the youngest boy could not be found in the bush, as they evidently feared Indians and would not venture forth even in reply to the calls of their parents. Appley was so severely wounded that he had to be left and, at his request, was propped up against the oven with a gun in his hand. Rechtor's little four-year-old boy Henry now came home and got himself some bread and milk and began eating it. Just then the savages came back. Appley shot and killed one and was himself killed and scalped and left with a bayonet sticking through his heart. The little boy Henry was killed and scalped and thrown into the creek. Here the dead little body was found next day, one hand still clutching the spoon with which he had been eating. The enemy's stay was short as they were gone when, shortly after, the two youngest Rechtor girls came out of the bush. Seeing Appley's dead body they ran in fright to their neighbor Hart's house. This they found burned and Hart dead and mangled and, so in great fright, they ran back into the bush where they stayed all night. In the morning they found neighbors and were taken to Fort Paris, where they rejoined their family.

After leaving Rechtor's the enemy captured Peter Loucks, whom they took to Canada. A company of American soldiers, from Fort Paris, started in pursuit the next morning, May 1, 1778. They had Henry Flathead, a "friendly" Indian, for a guide. Coming upon the enemy's campfire this Indian gave a yell, probably to warn his red brethren. When the company came up meat was still cooking in the fire, but the enemy had vanished and could not be found.

At the time of the Ephratah invasion, two Indians of the raiding party shot and killed a girl named Rickard, as she was driving home cows near Fort Klock in the east end of the present town of St. Johnsville. Hearing the shot, George Klock came running out with his gun and as the Indians made for the girl's body to scalp it, he fired and they made for the woods and disappeared. Going north this pair of savages made John Smith a prisoner at Kringsbush and took him to Canada. He was a son of Matthias Smith, a veteran of Oriskany.

After the Ephratah raid most of the Whig families abandoned their homes, which were left standing by the Tories to afford themselves shelter on subsequent raids. Rechtor removed to his old home below Albany until after the war, when most of the surviving Ephratah settlers came back to their lands there. The raid along the Garoga was one of the first in the Mohawk valley attended with bloodshed.

On the day of the Ephratah raid a party of Senecas ravaged a portion of the Schoharie valley.

* * * * *

Joseph Brant and his warriors gathered at Oghkwaga early in 1778. This place is now Windsor, in Broome county.

Brant appeared at Unadilla in the spring of 1778 and Capt. McKean was sent by the people of Cherry Valley with a small force to reconnoitre the Indian position. McKean injudiciously wrote Brant a letter violently denouncing him and asking him to come to Cherry Valley, with the taunting remark that there he would be changed from a "brant" to a "goose." Brant was enraged by this letter and answered it later with the Cherry Valley massacre.

Brant's first hostile movement of consequence, after his return to Oghkwaga in the spring of 1778, was to fall upon the little settlement at Springfield, at the head of Otsego lake. This was in the month of May and every house was burned but one, into which the women and children were collected and kept unharmed. Several men were captured and much plunder was taken but no one was murdered, probably because of no Tories being present.

At this same time, in May, 1778, Brant started out to destroy the Cherry Valley settlement. While reconnoitering the village from a distant hill he saw a company of boys drilling on the open space in front of the fort. He mistook these young patriots for soldiers and, thinking this post was strongly garrisoned, he deferred his attack until a later time. Drawing off his warriors he repaired to the deep glen northwest of the village to see if he could intercept any travellers along the road to the Mohawk and so pick up any information. Lieut. Matthew Wormuth, with a companion, started from Cherry Valley that evening to Fort Plain. The same day he had left Fort Plain to tell the Cherry Valley people that the militia would come up the next day, as Brant was known to be in the neighborhood. While Wormuth and Peter Sitz, his companion, were riding along the edge of this glen on their return to Fort Plain, Brant's warriors fired upon them, mortally wounding Wormuth and capturing Sitz. Lieutenant Wormuth was of Col. Klock's Palatine battalion, and that officer came up the next day with the valley militia, but Brant had fled and all that could be done was to take back Wormuth's body to Fort Plain, and thence to his father's home across the river in Palatine. Wormuth had been a personal friend of Brant, who expressed regret at the young officer's death.

Brant's "regrets" and expressions of grief over the people he killed are ludicrous and merely the expression of a savage tendency to dramatize himself. Many other protestations of virtue like those of the savage Brant have fooled a lot of people.

* * * * *

The American valley forts, during the Revolution, constantly had scouting parties out over the main trails to observe the enemy. John Adam Helmer (the famous Revolutionary scout) was one of a party of four rangers riding near Little Lakes when Brant's scouts came on them, on August 31, 1778. Three of the Americans were killed but Helmer escaped and rode over the 15-mile trail back to the Mohawk, pursued by Indians, one of whom he shot. He reached Fort Herkimer at sunset and scouts were immediately sent out to warn the settlers who hurried to Forts Herkimer and Dayton for refuge.

Brant's savages camped near the Shoemaker place in Mohawk and on August 1 he started to plunder, burn and destroy. Owing to Helmer's heroic ride, all the settlers were saved except two, who were killed. The settlers fled to Forts Dayton and Herkimer, taking with them their most precious belongings. Brant and his red and white warriors devastated the country in the vicinity of these forts, early the next day, and the whole valley thereabouts was illuminated with the light of burning houses, barns and crops. Only two or three persons were killed in this foray, but 63 dwellings, 57 barns, three grist-mills and two saw-mills were burned, and 235 horses, 269 sheep, 229 cattle and 93 oxen were taken and driven off by Brant and his raiders. This happened on Sept. 1, 1778. No scalps or prisoners were taken and the enemy ventured no attack on the forts.

Outside of Helmer's truly heroic ride, there are very few available details concerning this raid which, in property loss, was one of the most severe ones that ravaged the Mohawk Valley during the Revolution.

The Upper Mohawk Valley did not have a Simms later residing there to describe its Revolutionary history in the great detail with which Jeptha R. Simms covered the story of the Middle Mohawk Valley during the War for Independence.

* * * * *

Brant's next attack was directed at the flourishing settlements of Whigs along the Cobleskill. He made this raid, after murdering Wormuth at Cherry Valley.

As the year 1778 brought threatening invasions, a small company from Albany under Capt. Patrick was retained at the Schoharie stone fort to defend the residents while they attended to their farm labors. Scarcely had the spring opened when the enemy's trail was detected in the upper Cobleskill valley. The dreaded Brant with 350 Indians and Tories entered the valley at where is now Richmondville, unnoticed, and threatened the desolation of that beautiful valley.

Captain Patrick and Captain Brown were dispatched, with a small company of volunteers, and arrived at the residence of Captain Brown on the 26th of May, where they remained until May 28th when they moved up to the dwelling of Lawrence Lawyer. Scouts were kept out constantly but nothing worthy of notice transpired until that day when Lieut. Borst, his brother Joseph, and one of the Freemires were on a scout some miles up the creek. The latter was several hundred yards from his companions, seated upon a pile of driftwood fishing, when two Schoharie Indians, Ones-Yaap and Han-Yerry (the latter chief) with a savage yell intended to intimidate, sprang upon the bank of the creek from a place of concealment, and approached them. After a friendly salutation, they began to reproach the brothers for being in the woods to shoot Indians who did them no harm. Joseph replied to the speaker, that they intended no harm to those who were friendly. Han-Yerry approached him, seized his gun in a playful manner threw open the pan, and gave the gun a sudden jerk to spill out the priming, exclaiming as he did so, "Yo yenery hatste" signifying "it is good if this be gone." Borst seeing the object of the Indian was to disarm him, instantly dropped his own gun and seized that of his adversary, and wrenching the flint from the lock, he replied in the Indian dialect "Yo yenery sagat," "it is good if this be served so." He then dropped his gun and clinched Borst, but the latter giving a loud whoop, closed manfully with his antagonist and soon brought him upon his knees. While they were each struggling for mastery, the other Indian approached the lieutenant and bade him surrender himself prisoner, but instead of doing so, he stepped back and sent a bullet through his body. Han-Yerry succeeded in freeing himself from the grasp of his adversary and, seeing his comrade upon the ground, instantly fled, leaving his gun. The lieutenant ran and caught up the gun of his brother, snapped it at the fleeing Indian but, as it was not primed, the latter escaped. On the same day George Warner and John Foster returned from Cherry Valley, where they had been the day before to carry a letter, doubtless to apprise that settlement of the proximity of the enemy. The day after Borst had the encounter with the Indian scout, the Cobleskill battle was fought, which occurred on May 29th. On the morning of that day, Capt. Miller, who was sent from the Schoharie Fort with part of a company to reconnoitre, arrived at Lawyer. Several of his men, one of whom was named Humphry, volunteered to remain with Capt. Patrick, and he returned to the Fort, before the enemy in force was discovered. After Capt. Miller left Lawyer's, the troops under Capt. Patrick marched up the creek to the residence of George Warner, who was one of the Schoharie Committee, and father of the namesake before mentioned. Warner's was the southernmost house of the settlement, and stood on a knoll at Cobleskill Centre. An orchard at this time covers the site. The troops had been at Warner's but a short time when 15 or 20 Indians showed themselves a little distance above the house, and the whole force was marched in pursuit of them. Brown was opposed to the pursuit and told Patrick he was afraid they would be ambushed. The latter ridiculed the idea, and was disposed to assign another motive than that of caution to the militia Captain who, stung by the imputation, then yielded to the wishes of Patrick, notwithstanding the misgiving of his own better judgment. The enemy who kept up a running fight had not been pursued for a mile, before it was evident theirr numbers were increasing. A halt was made by the Americans near the present residence of Lambert Lawyer with the militia on the right toward the creek, and a sharp engagement followed. Both parties fought in the Indian style, under the cover of trees. It soon became manifest from the first, that the enemy was very great. After several of his men had fallen around him, Capt. Patrick received a shot which broke his thigh. Two of his brave soldiers, in an, attempt to bear him from the field, were surrounded by a party of the enemy and shared his unhappy fate. A lieutenant under Capt. Patrick is said to have been spared by giving a Masonic sign to Brant. When Patrick fell, Brown ordered a retreat, which was most timely for had it been delayed a few minutes until the enemy could have extended his flanks, so as to surround the little band of patriots, few if any, would have survived that day. The families in that settlement, hearing the firing, very properly sought safety in the depths of the forest, or by rapid flight to Schoharie ten miles distant. On arriving at the house from which they had been so artfully drawn into an ambush designedly laid, three of Patrick's men and two of Brown's took refuge within it, which providentially favored the escape of their fugitive friends. Being fired on from the house, the Indians halted to dislodge its inmates, by which the rest of the party gained time sufficient to make good their retreat. The house was set on fire and three of its inmates were burned in its ruins. The Continental soldiers in attempting to make their escape from the burning building were slain. One was evidently shot, but was supposed to have been taken alive and tortured to death. The party who first visited the scene of blood after the battle, found this soldier not far from where the house had stood, with his body cut open, his intestines fastened around a tree several feet distant. In one hand was a roll of Continental bills, placed there by the enemy in derision of our country's almost valueless "promise to pay". It was subsequently known that the enemy fired at least 87 balls into one window of this house, at its inmates.

The names of the men under Capt. Brown in this engagement were: Lieut. Jacob Borst, Nicholas Warner, George Warner, Jr., George Freemire, John Schaeffer and Lawrence Lawyer who escaped uninjured. Six — John Zeh, Martinus and Jim Fester, Jacob and John Freemire and Jacob Schaeffer, killed. Peter and Henry Schaeffer, and Leonard King wounded. The whole number killed in the engagement, including Capt. Patrick, was about twenty-two. Five or six of his men were wounded and two made prisoners. More than half the Americans engaged were either killed or wounded. The enemy, as was afterward ascertained, consisting of Indians (mostly Senecas, Schoharies and Oquagos) and Tories, numbered over three hundred and fifty, and were commanded by Joseph Brant. Service, a noted Tory, who lived near the Charlotte River, and the Schoharie chief, Seth's Henry, acted a conspicuous part in the engagement. The loss of the enemy was never known, but was supposed to equal, if it did not exceed that of the Americans. A mulatto who was with the enemy at this time and returned after the war, stated that twenty-five of their number, mostly Indians, were buried in a mudhole near David Zeh's. He also stated that seven of the enemy who were wounded in battle died on the way to Canada. George Warner's house was the first one burned in the Schoharie settlement in the Revolution. The enemy after the engagement, plundered and burned all the dwellings in Cobleskill as far down as the Church, except an old log house, formerly occupied by George Warner, which stood near the present residence of his son David. This house was left, as was afterwards supposed, with a belief that its owner might return and occupy it, after losing his frame dwelling, which would give an opportunity to capture a Committee man. The dwellings burned at this time were those of George Warner and his son, Nicholas, George Fester, Adam Schaeffer, William Snyder, John Freemire, Lawrence Lawyer, John Zeh, John Bouck and John Shell (the latter owned by Lawrence Lawyer), in all, ten with the barns and other outhouses, making as stated in the record of the Lutheran Church at Schoharie, "Twenty buildings burned."

The two militiamen who took shelter in the house of Warner were Martinus Fester and John Freemire. The remains of Fester fell into a tub of soap in the cellar and were known by his tobacco box, and those of Freemire were known by his kneebuckles and gun barrel. Jacob Schaeffer was wounded in one leg early in the battle and was carried by his neighbor, George Warner, Jr., to a place of temporary safety, who agreed to take him to the Fort on a horse. After the battle terminated unfavorably, he was left to his fate, and was discovered by the enemy the next morning and was killed. The remains of George Fester were not discovered until a piece of wheat was harvested, into which he had fallen. Jonas Belknap, one of Patrick's men, received a ball in his right hip and was borne out of the battle by Lawrence Lawyer. After having been carried to one side, Belknap discovered a hollow log into which he crept. The next day he backed out of his hiding place cold and stiff, and while seated upon a fence, reflecting on the events of the last twenty-four hours, he discovered two Indians laden with plunder approaching him, having two dogs. Unobserved by them, he let himself fall into a bunch of briars. They halted near him and the dogs placed their paws on the fence and growled. He supposed himself discovered, but soon one of them took out a bottle, from which both drank, and he had the satisfaction of seeing them resume their march, without noticing the irritation of their canine friends. Casting his eyes along the beautiful valley and surveying the ruins of the preceding day, he discovered the old house of Warner, on the west side of the creek still standing, to which he made his way. He found it unoccupied, but victuals were on the table and after eating, he laid down, faint and sad, upon a bed which the house also afforded. In the afternoon, two men came and conveyed him to the Schoharie Fort, where his wound was properly dressed and he recovered.

Henry Schaeffer, mentioned as being wounded in this engagement, received a ball in his thigh which brought him to the ground. The bone was not fractured, but the limbs were benumbed. He regained his feet but the instant his weight came upon the wounded limb he fell. Disencumbering himself of his gun and powder horn, after several unsuccessful attempts to run, action returned to the limb and he fled. He directed his steps toward Schoharie, and on the way fell in with Peter Snyder, his brother-in-law. They traveled nearly to Punchkill together, when Schaeffer, too weak to proceed, concealed himself and requested his comrade to inform his friends at the Fort where he might be found, desiring them to come after him. His fellow traveler went to the Fort, but instead of doing the errand as desired by his wounded relative, reported him dead. Schaeffer waited beneath the shelving rock until Monday morning when, by great exertion he arrived at the house of a friend at Kneiskerndorf. As he was so exhausted, he was prudently fed gruel until he revived, when he was taken to the Fort and cured of his wound.

After the engagement, the Indians burned ten houses and as many barns. The residents of the valley together with the remnant of the militia became panic-stricken and fled to the Stone Fort. The scenes witnessed within the fortress during the night and the following day after the battle were beyond the imagination to conceive. The struggle ended late in the afternoon and as the torch was applied to the homes and the life blood flowed from patriotic hearts night cast her sable pall over the earth as if to hide the scene of suffering and desolation; the lurid flames cast their reflection upon the heavens telling the inmates of the Fort the result of the contest. From the belfry anxious ones peered along the border of the forest to welcome friends, and, as the hours rolled by, they brought weeping and frightened fugitives to recount the horrors of the day, and their own sad experience.

Frantic appeals were made by heart-broken mothers, wives and sisters, to equally helpless actors as themselves, for the restoration of dear ones who had given their lives for home and freedom or were wandering in the trackless forest or captives of the mercyless foe — sighs, groans, prayers of the Godly, and curses of the frantic and wounded all intermingled and echoed along the walls of the Fort, once consecrated to the worship of a living God; thus was liberty's garland woven, such was our liberty's price.

The night after the battle of Cobleskill it rained and a dreary one it must have been to the surviving citizens of Cobleskill Valley, many of whom were in the forests to which they had fled from their burning dwellings, exposed to the mercy of wild beasts — foes less to be dreaded than those left behind. The wife of Lawrence Lawyer, with several other persons, was in the woods for three days, and finally came out near the mouth of the Cobleskill. Scouts were sent out to reconnoitre and look after the wounded and absent members of families, but it was several days before the dead were buried. Col. Vrooman with part of the Schoharie troops and Colonel Yates with a detachment of Schenectady militia went to perform the last sad duties for those martyrs to the cause of Liberty. As the weather had been wet and cool the bodies were found to have suffered but little change. A pit was dug near the place where the George Warner house had stood into which several boards were laid. The charred remains of the three soldiers taken from the cellar and the mutilated remains of those near were then buried within it. Pits were also dug, so as to require as little moving of the bodies as possible, in which Capt. Patrick and the other soldiers were deposited. None can realize, after a period of one hundred and fifty years has transpired, the solemnities of that burial. Several of the deceased left wives and children, to mourn their untimely fate, while all had left friends who had centered on them hopes of future usefulness and aggrandizement. This blow was a most severe one for the little settlement of Cobleskill.

* * * * *

On the occasion of his visit to Johnstown to attend the Indian Council, in March, 1778, Lafayette gave orders for the erection of a strong fort at Cherry Valley and that a garrison be sent for its protection. "The fort was accordingly built during the summer. It was situated in the (present) Cemetery, near the Church, and a stockade enclosed the two buildings. A regiment, under the command of Col. Ichabod Alden, was sent from Connecticut and took possession of the fort in the summer of 1778. Unfortunately, Col. Alden had no experience in Indian warfare and underestimated the courage and ferocity of the Indian. The mere presence of the troops he judged sufficient to intimidate the redmen and refused to allow the settlers to move into the stockade, even after reports were brought to him that the Indians under Brant were rendezvousing on the Susquehanna, where they had been joined by a body of Tories under Captain Walter Butler, son of that Col. John Butler, who gained such an infamous notoriety from his participation in the Wyoming massacre."

Alden named the fort at Cherry Valley, Fort Alden. The subsequent raid and massacre and attack on Fort Alden by Butler and Brant, with 700 Tories and Indians is told in the next chapter.

* * * * *

Late in the fall of 1778, at the request of Sir John Johnson, the Canadian Governor-General Haldimand, sent fifty men to recover his and his father's papers which had been buried in an iron chest on the premises at Johnson Hall. They recovered the papers which were found to be practically worthless from dampness. A Tory, named John Helmer was captured by American scouts at this time.

John Helmer was a son of Philip Helmer, who lived at Fonda's Bush; when he was captured he was imprisoned at Johnstown. The sentinel at the jail one day allowed Helmer to take his gun in hand to look at it, as the prisoner expressed admiration for it. Helmer, with the weapon, intimidated the guard and escaped again to Canada. With characteristic recklessness, he returned later to recruit British soldiers among his Tory neighbors and was again captured and jailed at Johnstown. Fortunately for the venturesome Tory, a sister of his had a lover among the garrison stationed at the jail, which was then also a fort; and he not only released Helmer but with another soldier set out with him for Canada. The two deserters were shot dead by a pursuing party and Helmer, although severely wounded by a bayonet thrust, escaped to the woods. Later he was found half dead and was returned to the jail for the third time. His wound, having healed, he again escaped and reached Canada after almost incredible sufferings. Here he remained and made his home after the war. Among the Tory fighters seem to have been many of reckless valor.

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The Saratoga and Oriskany campaigns have been summarized in the Oriskany chapter. The national events from the fall of 1777 through 1778 are summarized as follows: 1777, Oct. 4, American defeat at Germantown; winter 1777-8, American army in winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pa.; 1778, February, French recognize American independence and become allies of the colonies; 1778, June, British evacuate Philadelphia and indecisive battle of Monmouth follows; 1778, July, Wyoming, Pa., massacre of settlers by British and Indians under Col. Butler; 1778, Dec., Savannah, Ga., captured by British. In addition to the foregoing, Washington won the brilliant victory at Trenton in December 1777, which so heartened the Americans.

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The following gives some details regarding the building of the Lower, Middle and Upper Schoharie Forts and some Schoharie Valley blockhouses which were erected near it.

In November, 1777, Colonel Dubois and a detachment of Continental troops were sent to the Schoharie, where they wintered at the Lower Fort, now called the Old Stone Fort, at present Schoharie Court House. Adjutant Dodge, Major Rosecrans, Captain Stewart and Ensign Johnson were quartered in the kitchen of the chairman of the committee of safety. In addition to the stockade, built of pickets that were erected around the fort, two blockhouses were built, one in the southwest corner of the enclosure, directly opposite the window, and the other in the southeast corner. The grounds enclosed were about 150 feet square. The palisades or pickets were logs ten feet long and ten inches in thickness. In the northeast corner, where the cemetery gate is now located, there was a sentry box and beside it, to the south, was a small gate. To the west of it was a small hut built by Captain Snyder, to which his family resorted in time of danger and, during the winter months, he kept it as an inn for the entertainment of the soldiers. Rum and whiskey were generally used in those days and Snyder's hut was a favorite drinking and tippling place for the soldiers. Along the west and north pickets were small rude huts for the accommodation of the settlers when they came here for refuge from the enemy. The large gate was on the north of the southeast blockhouse. Each blockhouse had a floor nearly level with the top of the pickets and a roof and shed connected each one with the main building. The sentinels in the cupola were protected by oak timbers laid breast high outside of the pillars. It was an actual sentry box, as, from its height, a large area of country could be seen and an enemy could not approach on either side of the enclosure without being seen, as the cupola was high above the palisade. The fort was often too small to accommodate both its garrison and the settlers who took refuge there in time of danger. The several buildings then standing to the east were then occupied. This fortification had the old Stone (Reformed) Church in the center, which made it an exceptionally strong post. It was known, during the Revolution, as the Lower Fort. It is now generally called the Old Stone Fort.

During Col. Dubois' command in the Schoharie Valley, in 1777 and 1778, several blockhouses were built along the Schoharie River for the protection of this exposed frontier. One was at Hartman's dorf, about midway between Middleburgh and the Lower Fort. One was at Kneiskerndorf, near the outlet of the Cobleskill into the Schoharie. A blockhouse was also built at present Central Bridge. In 1781 a fort was erected near present Cobleskill called Fort Dubois, which is mentioned under the chapter covering that year of the Revolution.

The Middle Schoharie Fort consisted of a palisade surrounding the stone house of Johannes Becker, on the farm owned in 1912 by William J. Pindar. The usual huts for use by the settlers were built within the enclosure. The Middle Fort was the headquarters of the Schoharie military district. It was built in the fall of 1777 and was somewhat larger than the Lower Fort. The Middle Fort had blockhouses on the northeast and southwest corners, where cannon were mounted.

The Upper Schoharie Fort consisted of a palisade and earthwork around the John Feeck house with blockhouses in two corners. It was generally commanded by Captain Jacob Hager, a noted Revolutionary fighter. It was near Fultonham. Near the original Feeck family burial plot stood the house of Johannes or John Feeck. It was begun in the fall of 1777 and finished in the following summer. The Upper Fort stood at the upper end of Vrooman's land. One side of enclosure was palisaded and, on the other three sides, a breastwork was thrown up consisting of logs and earth, which was ten feet high. This earthwork was wide enough to draw a wagon on its top. A ditch surrounded the earthwork. Military barracks and small log huts were erected inside for both the garrison and for the settlers. Blockhouses and sentry boxes were built in the northwest and southeast corners, each mounting a small cannon to guard its sides. The Feeck house and farm were later owned by the celebrated Revolutionary fighter, Tim Murphy.

The Revolutionary forts of the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys were not built for defensive purposes only. Toward the close of the struggle many of the surviving farmers and their families came into the forts and lived inside the palisades or in huts erected in the immediate vicinity of the posts. From here the farmers went forth and cultivated the fields and, in spite of the constant raids, managed to produce a considerable quantity of supplies.

Drawings have been made supposed to represent the Schoharie forts which represent them as vast enclosures. These pictures are very misleading. Revolutionary Mohawk Valley and Schoharie forts generally averaged from 150 to 300 feet on each side of the square.

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In July, 1778, Colonel William Butler, commanding the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment and three companies of Morgan's Riflemen, was placed in command of the Middle Schoharie Fort. Among them were some of the most distinguished marksmen of the war, including Lieut. Thomas Boyd, Sergt. John Wilbur, Joseph Evans, Timothy Murphy, David Elerson, William Leck, William Boyd, Philip Hoever, Elijah Hendricks, John Caraway, Derrick Hagadorn. Early in October, 1778, Col. Butler proceeded with the troops under his command to Unadilla and Oquago, Indian towns on the Susquehanna, which he destroyed together with large quantities of provisions. The troops suffered greatly on this expedition, being obliged to carry their provisions on their backs, to ford creeks and cross rivers and, at night, to lie down to sleep without blankets or the means of keeping their arms dry. The expedition was out sixteen days.

Col. Butler had a well deserved reputation as a valiant, aggressive and capable fighter. Upon news of the Cherry Valley massacre he marched to the relief of that fort. Being over thirty-five miles away, he could not reach the place before the enemy had decamped. A messenger from Fort Alden met him on his way, telling that the enemy had fled and Col. Butler returned to the Middle Fort. Col. Butler and his command took part in Gen. Clinton's campaign in 1779.

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