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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 79: 1784-1800 — Resettlement of Oneida County and Great Westward Emigration.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1175-1183 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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The following concerning the westward emigration and the settlement or resettlement of Oneida County is from [Daniel Elbridge] Wager's "History of Oneida County" [i.e., Our County and Its People; a Descriptive Work on Oneida County, New York]

The "Old French War", the travel up the Mohawk and through New York, the trade with the Indians, the early settlement around Fort Stanwix from 1760 to the summer of 1777, the siege of that fort, the battle of Oriskany, and the war of the Revolution, all gave Central New York a prominence in the history of the country not surpassed by that of any other section of the Thirteen Colonies. These historical facts made the territory of the Oneidas (now Oneida County), its streams, location, scenery, soil, its beauty and fertility, as familiar as "household words" to the people down the Valley of the Mohawk, but more especially to those of the New England States, whose men had been in trade, travel, and war through this section. The Revolutionary war had closed but a few months before men past middle life, with large families, broke up their old homes in New England and made their way on foot, in ox carts, and by canoes up the Mohawk, to found new homes and make permanent settlements in the region now marked by the boundaries of Oneida County. Overleaping the Mohawk settlements [of the Dutch and Palatines] and pushing their way into the wilderness thirty miles westward from the nearest neighbor and habitation, they commenced anew the battle of life, to fell the forest, clear up the land, till the soil, erect log cabins, and to eventually make the wilderness to blossom like the rose, and in place of the forest, the savage, and wild beasts, make it the abode of a civilized and an enlightened race and to be occupied by cultivated fields, by towns, villages and cities. Peace was concluded in September, 1783; the United States armies disbanded in December thereafter, and in March, 1784, emigration commenced its course from New England to flow towards the setting sun and to settle in the former territory of the Oneidas.

In April, 1783, Congress issued its proclamation announcing a cessation of hostilities. In the summer of that year Washington visited this locality. * * *

In the spring of 1784 emigration commenced. The first to start from New England was Hugh White. He had been selectman of Middletown, Connecticut, from 1779 to 1783, and was commissary in the army of the Revolution during a portion of the war. He became part owner of the Sadequahada patent, along with Zephaniah Platt (father of Judge Platt), Ezra L'Hommedieu, and Melancthon Smith, and by an arrangement between them, the owners were to meet on the patent in June, 1784, at the mouth of Sauquoit Creek (Whitesboro), and divide the land among themselves. Mr. White started from Middletown in April or May, 1784; at that time he was fifty-one years old and had eight children. Four sons, one daughter and a daughter-in-law, accompanied him on his journey up the Mohawk. One of the sons, with two yokes of oxen, preceded him by land to Albany, where they met, and thence with the teams, they kept even pace with the Batteau up the Mohawk. As the party proceeded they found on their way many farms which had been devastated and abandoned and the charred remains of buildings, all of which told a sad and fearful tale of the ravages of war and the sufferings of the inhabitants of the Mohawk Valley. At a vacant farm known as "Shoemaker's", near the present village of Mohawk, in Herkimer County, the party stopped to plant corn. It was a thoughtful measure, inasmuch as the pioneers were going to a region covered with a forest. This "Shoemaker's" was the same place where Walter N. Butler, Han Yost Schuyler and others were arrested just after the battle of Oriskany, as narrated in a former chapter. The time the party was thus engaged in planting corn was about May 20, 1784. While thus engaged, another party of pioneer emigrants on their way up the Mohawk from Connecticut passed the White family, and became in fact the first actual settlers in Oneida County. The names of those comprising the second party will be given later on. When the corn was planted, the White family moved on and arrived at Whitesboro June 4, 1784; another account says June 25. That summer Hugh White built a log house and a log barn, partitioned the land with the other owners, cleared off a few acres, and then returned to "Shoemaker's" in the fall, to gather the crop of corn planted in the spring. It was a good yield. In January, 1785, Mr. White returned to Middletown for his wife and other son and the two daughters and then came back to his new home in the wilderness. For years thereafter all of the state west of Utica was known as the "Whitestown Country". It is glory enough for all future generations to be thus honored, aside from other honors so nobly earned, so rightly deserved, and so worthily bestowed.

[The Baron von Steuben Statue]

[Whitesboro 1784 Settlement Monument]

The persons who passed the White family at "Shoemaker's" as before stated, were James Dean, Andrew Blanchard, and Jedediah Phelps. They started from Connecticut in April, 1784, and reached Schenectady May 3, and thence proceeded via Mohawk River, Fort Stanwix and down Wood Creek to a point near its junction with Fish Creek, where they arrived May 13, 1784. The Oneida Indians had the year before given to Mr. Dean a tract of land two miles square, with the right to make the selection anywhere in their territory. He selected the tract within what is now the town of Vienna, north side of Wood Creek, about a mile from its junction with Fish Creek. It was an unfortunate selection, as it turned out. Mr. Phelps was a silversmith and brass founder and he intended to manufacture rings and brooches for the Indians and Indian trade. Mr. Dean erected a log house close by Wood Creek, and Mr. Phelps built a log shop near by for his business; they made a small clearing and then and there commenced the first actual settlement of Oneida County, after the Revolution. At that time Mr. Dean was unmarried and not quite thirty-six years old. Mr. Phelps was thirty-one, had a wife and two children, the oldest six and the other four years of age. Andrew Blanchard eventually located in Kirkland, and in 1788 was married in that town to Anna Cook. In the same year that Hugh White located at Whitesboro, and Dean and Phelps in Vienna, the three families, Damooth or Damuth, Real, and Weaver, who had settled in Deerfield in 1773 and were driven out in 1776, came back to Deerfield Corners and located, bringing with them George Damuth.

All of these families had seen service in the War of the Revolution and all were true patriots. Mark Damuth (who came in 1773) was captain of a company; Mr. Weaver (or Weber) was taken prisoner near Herkimer by a band of Tories and Indians and taken to Canada, and for nine months was confined in prison in Quebec, and so closely that he did not for that time see the sun, moon, or stars. From Quebec he was taken to England and there detained two years. Descendants of those and other Weavers who came to Deerfield yet reside in Deerfield and in Utica and are prominent citizens; worthy sons of patriotic sires. Real Creek, which empties into the Mohawk opposite Utica, received its name from that Jan Christian Real whose house stood upon its bank when it was burned by the Indians in 1776.

The next thing of importance, in the order of time, which occurred within the present limits of Oneida County was a treaty with the Indians at Fort Stanwix. The state and national governments were not as yet in good working order, and the relations of each towards the various nations of the Iroquois Confederacy were not well defined or agreed upon. The Indian commissioners in behalf of the State of New York were trying most of the summer of 1784 to get a council of the Six Nations convened, with a view to treat with them. In the meantime Congress was moving in the same direction and for a similar purpose. The Indians kept aloof and were adverse to treating with a state, but generally disposed to meet "thirteen fires" and hold a treaty of peace jointly with them. The state and national authorities were seemingly but not actually in collision with each other. The 1st of September, 1784, the State Board of Commissioners met at Fort Stanwix deputies from the Mohawk, Cayugas, Onondagas, and Senecas. The Oneidas and Tuscaroras held back, but after a while deputies from those two nations came in. It was October 22, 1784, before a treaty was made, and then only as to giving up captives and regulating boundaries. Brant, Red Jacket (a Seneca chief), and Cornplanter, and Governor Clinton, La Fayette and others were present, and also other notable personages. Red Jacket made a fiery and eloquent speech against the Indians ceding any of their lands. Brant left before the session was concluded to go on business to Canada, and nothing particular was accomplished except to fix the western boundary of the Six Nations. No land was ceded. The United States commissioners were Oliver Wolcott, Richard Butler, and Arthur Lee. That treaty was made with the United States and not with the state, and it was the first treaty made by the Six Nations with the United States after the war.

In 1785 there joined the "Whitesboro Colony" Amos Wetmore and Lemuel Leavenworth, from Middletown, and possibly Nathaniel Loomis and Roswell Goodrich in that same year. Mr. Wetmore had a large family and located east of Sauquoit Creek; he had been in the Revolutionary war. In the spring of 1785 Mr. Dean and Mr. Phelps found the waters of Wood Creek rose so high as "to drown them out". They were obliged to seek refuge in the garret of the house, on account of the rise of the water, and by means of a ladder placed on the outside descend into a boat and row to Mr. Phelps' shop to cook their meals. That would not answer their purpose, and so Mr. Dean that fall obtained consent of the Oneidas to make another selection. This time he selected a tract in what is now the town of Westmoreland, ever since known 'as "Dean Patent". He returned to Connecticut, and in 1786 married and came back in that year with his wife, both on horseback. In the meantime Mr. Phelps, in the spring or summer of 1785, also changed his location by moving up stream to Fort Stanwix and building a log house and shop on the banks of Wood Creek, near the site known thirty years later as "the United States Arsenal". When he came to Fort Stanwix, Mr. Phelps said there was but one other white man here (and he a Frenchman, living with the Indians). Mr. Phelps carried on his trade and business at that location for about fifteen years thereafter. July 4, 1786, a third child was born unto him; three other children were born unto him in this new home. About 1800 he moved to what is now the town of Verona, and in 1802 was elected its first supervisor, moved to Orleans County, and died there in 1849 at the age of ninety-six years, with a mind quite clear for one of his years. He was the first setler of what is now Rome after the Revolutionary war. A grandson of his married a sister of the mother of Mr. Harvey S. Bedell, a Roman.

In 1786 a survey of Cosby Manor and a map of it were made by John R. Bleecker, son of Rutger Bleecker, one of the owners. On that map appear two log houses located near the ford across the Mohawk on the east side of Genesee street and one house on the west side of that street. Improvements had also been made a little further westward, somewhere between the present lines of Broadway and State streets; and there were also improvements near the present eastern limits of Utica. The occupant of the house nearest the river, on the east side of Genesee Street, was John Cunningham, his neighbor beside him being George Damuth. Bagg's Pioneer [i.e., Moses Mear Bagg, The Pioneers of Utica] says: "The resident on the opposite side of Genesee Street was Jacob Chrisman. The settler towards the west was McNamee, and the clearings on the eastern borders of the city were designated as those of McNamee, and Abraham Boom." Moses Foot, who settled in Clinton in 1787, while on his way there, slept in the log house belonging to John Cunningham, one of these early settlers, who informed Foot that he (Cunningham) had half an acre cleared in 1785. Hendrich Salyea was another settler there in 1787. The father of Pomeroy Jones, who passed through Old Fort Schuyler (Utica) in January, 1787, to Dean Patent, says there were then three log houses at Old Fort Schuyler. The foregoing settlers around Fort Schuyler were not permanent; they were men mostly engaged in boating or in Indian trade. The house above mentioned as being occupied by Jacob Chrisman, west of Genesee Street, must have been occupied in March, 1788, when Whitestown was formed, by William Cunningham, for the line between that town and Herkimer "crosses Mohawk River at the fording place near the house of William Cunningham, leaving the same house to the west of that line"; so that act of 1788 says.

It is not possible at this late day, and with the scanty material at hand, to locate the exact date, nor the priority of their coming to Oneida County, of those who came along in 1785, 1786, and 1787. The United States census of 1790 * * * will tell very nearly who were here on the first Monday in August, 1790. It is pretty well established that those whose names have been already given were in this vicinity as stated. It is also pretty certain that about 1786 Gen. George Doolittle came from Middletown to Whitesboro, and there located; he was twenty-six years old, yet he had served in the Revolutionary army; he became a prominent personage in Oneida County.

Along about 1785 [Jones says 1784] there also came to Deerfield [present Utica] another colony of emigrants from down the valley, viz.: Peter, Nicholas, and George Weaver, George Damuth, Nicholas and Philip Harter. Nicholas Harter married a daughter of Capt. Mark Damuth. When Nicholas Harter was a lad he was perfectly familiar with all of the paths and Indian trails which led up the Mohawk, and across the country to Canada via Black River, or via Oneida Castle to Oswego. Both of the Harters and the Weavers were in the Revolutionary war, as were about all of the Mohawk Dutch. Nicholas died July 25, 1854, aged ninety-four years.

It will be borne in mind that in 1786 Cosby Manor was brought into market, and that Oriskany Patent was divided and parts sold, and many other patents had been granted; and that Baron Steuben, Colonel Willett, George Washington, Governor Clinton, and other notable personages were owners of land in Oneida County; and hence the foregoing were inducements for settlers to locate in this part of the state. Most of those lands were about that time offered to settlers.

The next settlers in what is now Oneida County came from Connecticut in 1785 or 1786, and located in the shadow of Fort Stanwix. They were all related to each other by blood, or connected by marriage. Their names were as follows: Willett Ranney, Sr., with a family of eleven children, all grown to maturity, and the most if not all married; Seth Ranney, one of the sons, with wife and children, located northeast of the present Rome Court House on or near the site of the late residence of G. N. Bissell. Willett Ranney, Jr., another son, and his family; also Nathaniel Gilbert and David I. Andrus, both of whom had married in the Ranney family, and had been in the War of the Revolution. In January, 1787, there came Capt. Nehemiah Jones, father of Pomeroy Jones, and also Ephraim Blackmer, at the same time, from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and located in Oneida County. Mr. Blackmer came in advance with a horse team, bringing the families; Mr. Jones followed with an ox team, with beds, provisions, and clothing. Mr. Blackmer had a wife and two children; Mr. Jones had a wife and one child, They settled upon Dean's Patent in Westmoreland. Both had rendered service in the Revolutionary war. That same winter and in the spring of 1787 Joseph Jones and Joseph Blackmer, Jr., came from Berkshire County and settled on Dean's Patent, and perhaps also William Dean, brother of James.

Isaac Johns, a soldier of the Revolution, came from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, in 1787, and for a short time located in Clinton, in this county, and then moved to Westmoreland from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1787 and located near Lairdsville. In the same year [1787] there located in Kirkland [township] Moses Foot and family, Barnabas Pond, James Bronson, Lewis Sherman, and Solomon Hovey; and possibly the same year Ludlim Blodgett, Timothy Tuttle, Samuel Hubbard, Randall Lewis, Cordial Storrs, John Bullens, and Captain Cassety.

Before Whitestown was organized as a town (March 7, 1788) there was living therein, and near Fort Stanwix, William Colbraith (or Colbreath). The year he came cannot now be stated. He was captain of a company under Peter Gansevoort, in the Sullivan expedition of 1779 against the Indians in the western part of New York. He was the first sheriff of Herkimer County in 1791, and then resided near Fort Stanwix as above stated. He was also first sheriff of Oneida County, in 1798. He cannot be traced further. [He wrote the famous diary of the siege of Fort Stanwix, published in Chapter 64.]

In the spring of 1787 Gen. Oliver Collins, with his wife and two children, came from Connecticut and settled upon the Middle Settlement road, leading from Whitesboro to Middle Settlement, While in his teens he enlisted in the Continental army and rendered faithful service during the war; he was at the battle of Saratoga under General Gates. He came from the war a sergeant.

There was another settler in what is now Oneida County prior to the time Whitestown was organized into a town, named Archibald Armstrong. He located at the junction of Wood and Canada creeks, in what is now the town of Rome. He was great-grandfather of Jonas W. Armstrong of Rome, and of William C. and David Armstrong of Annsville; he was twice married; his first wife was a sister of Heinrich Starring, a prominent personage in the Mohawk Valley in the Revolution, and the first judge of Herkimer County when that county was formed in 1791. That Armstrong came originally from Pennsylvania, later from down the Hudson, and still later from the Mohawk Valley. On the 26th of August, 1775, the Tryon County Militia was organized into four battalions, and that Archibald Armstrong was second lieutenant in the Eighth Company of the Fourth Battalion, of which George Herkimer (brother of the general) was captain, and Han Yost Herkimer (another brother of General Herkimer) was colonel. This was in the German Flats and Kingsland district. On the 25th of June, 1778, new appointments were made and the nine companies organized in August, 1775, were reduced to seven in about eighteen months of active war. The name of Herkimer entirely disappeared from the rolls after the battle of Oriskany. The most of the loss was sustained in this battle. [Several Herkimers appear in Willett's regiment of levies, 1781-1783.]

It is traditionary in the family that Archibald Armstrong served in the army during that war, down the valley. The military records at Albany show that a man by the name of Archibald Armstrong was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, in Captain Telford's company, in a regiment belonging to Orange County, under command of Col. John Hallern; also, that a person of the same name was in Capt. Abraham Westfall's company belonging to a regiment in Dutchess County, under command of Col. Albert Pawling; also in Capt. James McBride's company belonging to the Second Regiment of Ulster County, under command of Lieut.-Col. Jacob Newkirk; also in Capt. Richard Bailey's company of the Orange County regiment under command of Lieut.-Col. Henry Wisner, or Col. John Hathern, and that those persons were employed in actual service.

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