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SCHENECTADY DIGITAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 80: History of the Mohawk Valley from 1784 to 1825.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1184-1196 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]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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Great immigration and migration period through the Mohawk Valley, following the close of the revolution in 1783 — Settlement of Oneida County in 1784 — Resettlement and rebuilding of the Valley — Fort Stanwix Indian councils of 1784 and 1788 — Herkimer County formed, 1791-1795, Schoharie county formed — 1797, Western Inland Lock and Navigation Company improvements to Mohawk River navigation — 1795, Union College chartered — 1798, Schenectady made a city, Utica a village, Oneida county set off — 1800, Mohawk Turnpike, Seneca Road, Great Western Turnpike chartered — 1809, Schenectady County formed — 1812, Hamilton College chartered — 1812-1814, Great movement of troops through the Mohawk Valley in second war with England — 1817, Beginning of work on the Erie Canal at Rome — 1823-1825, Joseph C. Yates of Schenectady, Governor of New York — 1825, Erie Canal completed, Albany to Buffalo.

The following chapter covers the main historical events from the close of the War of the Revolution in 1783 until the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. Only the chief historical points in the Mohawk Valley, during this period are covered, because most of them are elaborated and given full description, together with secondary events, in the special chapters covering this important time. Such chapters are turnpike, bridge and canal building, War of 1812 and militia training, etc. The special events pertaining to the Mohawk River towns and villages are given in the chapters devoted to each town. Therefore the period chapters, from the close of the Revolution in 1783 to the present writing, in 1925, are briefly summarized. As covered in Chapter 79, the Mohawk Valley witnessed an immense tide of westward immigration during the period from 1784 to 1825, in which time the Valley itself was resettled by former pioneers and settled by near ones, largely from the New England States who located particularly in the great western county of Oneida, which was settled and resettled in 1784. This subject is treated in Chapter 79 on the Settlement of Oneida County and the Great Western Migration, as well as in the historical portions of the chapters on Utica, Whitesboro and Rome.

[Photos: Colonel Brown Monument / Stone Arabia Reformed Church, 1788.]

In 1784, James Deane and Jedediah Phelps located at Wood Creek. They were the first settlers of Oneida County after the Revolution. The Weaver, Reall and Damuth families resettled their old lands at Deerfield Corners, now Utica, and Hugh White and his family located at Whitesboro.

On April 2, 1784, the New York Legislature enacted a law by which the name of Tryon County was changed to Montgomery, in honor of Gen. Richard Montgomery, who fell in the attack on Quebec in 1775. The name of the British governor Tryon had been obnoxious to the patriot Americans of the Valley, all but a small part of which was comprised within this county, set apart from Albany, through the influence of Sir William Johnson, in 1772. Beginning with 1784, the settlers and newcomers repaired the ravages of the late war so that the Mohawk Valley soon began to resume its former opulent aspect of Colonial days, at least in many places. From a 1783 population of 3,000 west of Schenectady, Tryon County gained so rapidly in population that, by 1786, it had 15,000 people within its vast extent. In 1784, Judge James Duane became the first American mayor of New York. Following the British evacuation, Duane founded Duanesburgh and passed his last years in Schenectady.

The treaty of 1783, between the United States and Great Britain did not include the Indians of the Six Nations. A great peace council was here held at Fort Stanwix, December 2, 1784, at which a treaty was signed. The Six Nations ceded all their lands along the Ohio to the United States and arranged to give up their war captives.

In 1785, the Oneidas and Tuscaroras held a council with the state authorities at Fort Herkimer, by which all their territory, between the Chenango and Unadilla Rivers was ceded to New York State.

In 1785, Schenectady Academy was formed. Ten years later this had developed into Union College. The Reformed Dutch Church of Schenectady was chiefly instrumental in this important educational movement, the first in the Valley.

In 1785 the blockhouses and palisades of the Lower Schoharie Fort were razed and the Old Stone Fort became again the Schoharie Reformed Church. It continued as such until 1844, when a new Reformed Church was built in the village of Schoharie, some distance south of the first church.

In 1785 James Deane and Jedediah Phelps located at Fort Stanwix after making an unsuccessful settlement on Wood Creek westward in 1784, from which they were driven by high water. In 1786 Dominick Lynch, a New York merchant, bought what was known as the "Expense Lot" here of 397 acres. He later bought 2,000 acres for 2,250 pounds and laid out a village site in 1796, calling it Lynchville.

In 1786 there were three log houses at Old Fort Schuyler, on the site of present Utica, occupied by families by the names of Damuth, Christian and Cunningham. Settlers came gradually to this point and it did not begin to develop rapidly until about ten years later.

In 1787 the Reformed Dutch Church of Middleburg was built. The former church had been burned in Johnson's great raid of 1780. The Schoharie Valley was also beginning to recover from the terrific ravages of the Revolution.

In 1788 the Stone Arabia Reformed Dutch Stone Church was built and still stands as a reminder of those sturdy times.

In 1787 there were seven log cabins of pioneers at Fort Stanwix.

The great treaty of 1788 at Fort Stanwix between New York State and the Six Nations ended the power of the latter as a nation in the United States. The State Iroquois accepted State reservations and gave up title to their lands in New York State to the extent of over 4,000,000 acres. This territory was claimed by Massachusetts, which state sold the land. It was thus opened up to settlement and a great movement of immigration started to it, largely through the Mohawk Valley.

The proceedings ended with the distribution of presents to the Indians and a famous foot race, for which Governor Clinton hung up a buckskin bag containing $250 to a tree branch as a prize. The two-mile race was won by Paul, an Oneida boy, who beat the great Mohawk champion amid great excitement.

Lafayette and several other distinguished Frenchmen and Americans were present.

By three treaties at Fort Stanwix — 1768, 1784, 1788 — the Six Nations lost their once great empire. The majority of them removed to the Iroquois reservations in Canada given them by the English government.

Elkanah Watson attended this council, out of curiosity having heard of it in Albany. Incidentally he became interested in the navigation of the Mohawk River and a waterway connecting the Hudson with the Great Lakes by way of Wood Creek at Rome. This is covered in Chapter 81 on Mohawk River Navigation.

In 1789 occurred the first division of Montgomery, formerly Tryon County, when the county of Ontario was set off.

In 1790 the New York Legislature appropriated 100 pounds to erect a bridge over the East Canada Creek. On or before this date a bridge had been constructed over the Mohawk at Little Falls, which was the first built across our river at any point.

In 1790 mail stages began running from Albany to Schenectady to Johnstown to Canajoharie. This event, together with the building of bridges ushered in our present great era of transportation in the Mohawk Valley.

In 1790, John Post, Utica's first great merchant, settled at Old Fort Schuyler and the settlement seems to have boomed following his location there. Post established a line of Mohawk River freight and passenger packets running between Old Fort Schuyler and Schenectady.

In 1791 Herkimer County was set off from Montgomery. Present Oneida County then became part of Herkimer.

In 1792 the Western Inland Lock and Navigation Company was chartered, for the development of navigation on the Mohawk. Elkanah Watson was the promoter of this enterprise, having enlisted General Philip Schuyler in the project. In this year, the present Stone Arabia Lutheran (frame) Church was erected. In 1792 a bridge was built over the Mohawk River, near present First and Second streets in Utica. A stage route was established running from Albany to Schenectady to Old Fort Schuyler (Utica) and Whitesboro.

In 1792 Joseph Brant, the Mohawk chief and raider of the Revolution, went through the valley from Canada on his way to Washington. He narrowly escaped hanging by a band of infuriated Palatine farmers.

In 1793 bridges were built over both the East Canada and West Canada creeks and the development and use of the north shore highway increased thereafter. Up to this time, the south shore highway had been the one most generally used. The stretch along the high hill, on the north river bank in the present township of Manheim, Herkimer County, had been only a horse path up to about this time. Samuel Kirkland obtained a charter for his Hamilton Oneida Academy (later Hamilton College) on January 29, 1793.

In 1794 the Albany to Whitesboro stage was extended westward to Geneva. Already the "Genesee Road" was a rude but greatly traveled national highway. On the present Hamilton College campus, Baron Steuben laid the cornerstone of Hamilton Oneida Academy on July 1, 1794. Hamilton was one of the original trustees. (See Chapter 107 on Hamilton College.)

[Photo: General Cochran House, 1790.]

[Photo: Old Courthouse, Schenectady.]

In 1795 the first newspaper in the Mohawk Valley was established at Whitesboro. The Utica Observer-Dispatch is a descendant of this first valley journal.

In 1795 Schoharie County was formed. The greater part of this new division had formerly been included in Albany County. Union College, Schenectady, was created in 1795. This was the first important step in higher education made in the Mohawk Valley up to this time. The question of an academy at Schenectady had been agitated ten years prior to the Revolution. (See Chapter 106 on Union College.) In 1796 the "Mohawk Mercury", the second newspaper to be established in the Mohawk Valley, was first printed at Schenectady.

River, bridge and highway improvements of 1797 boomed Utica, which became a great travel center by both routes. In that year $2,200 was appropriated by the state for the improvement of the "great Genesee road" between "Old Fort Schuyler" and Geneva. From this great road, Utica's city section, Genesee Street takes its name. The same year a river bridge was erected at the foot of Genesee Street at a cost of $400.

The Inland Lock and Navigation Company had been working several years on its Mohawk River improvements. By 1797, locks and canals had been completed at Little Falls, Wolf's Rift and Rome. For twenty-eight years, or until the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, the Mohawk River was an important waterway transportation route. The larger Durham and Schenectady boats now superseded the batteaux of Colonial and Revolutionary days.

In 1797 Schenectady purchased two fire engines, which were the first in the valley. They were bought in London. In 1798 the city had two fire companies.

Schenectady became a city in 1798, with Joseph C. Yates (later Governor) as its first mayor. Schenectady was then considered an ancient city among American towns, being 137 years of age when it received its city charter. More time had elapsed, from the time of its settlement in 1661 to the year of its charter in 1798, than has passed since the latter year and the year of this writing, 1925.

In 1798 Oneida County was formed and, on April 3, 1798, Old Fort Schuyler was incorporated as a village with the name of Utica. Utica and Whitesboro were the county seats or "shire towns" until 1854, when Utica and Rome became the half shire towns with courts held at both places. There were 50 houses and over 300 people in Utica in 1798, the year of its incorporation as a village.

In 1798, Moses Bagg, a blacksmith, opened the original Baggs Hotel. The present south end of the Baggs was built (1813) around the first log structure without interruption to business and Baggs Hotel is probably the oldest large hotel, with a continuous existence, in the United States.

In 1798 a bridge was built over the Schoharie River at Fort Hunter, which was a great improvement in transportation by way of the south shore highway.

In 1800 the Mohawk Turnpike was incorporated and work began on the improvement of this great national highway, between Schenectady and Utica. In the same year the Seneca Road was chartered running westward from Utica and the Great Western Turnpike, running from Albany westward on the same route as the road of that name of today, which generally follows the Schoharie and Susquehanna side of the Mohawk divide ten or fifteen miles south of our river. These highway developments were a great step forward in valley transportation. The new improved roads were crowded with traffic and turnpike inns sprang up on an average of one in every mile.

By 1800 the population of the six Mohawk Valley Counties numbered 72,522, including 1,352 slaves.

In 1801 the name of Weiserdorf was changed to Middleburg.

In 1803 the first bridge over the Mohawk at Canajoharie was constructed.

Fairfield Academy opened its doors in 1803. Its founding was of equal importance with that of Union Academy in 1785, Union College in 1795, both at Schenectady, and Hamilton Oneida Academy at Clinton in 1794. Fairfield Academy later added a medical department which was the first medical school in the state west of Albany. Fairfield played a great part in educational work in the first half of the Nineteenth Century and educated many Mohawk Valley men and women who later occupied a high position in our valley life and history. Its passing was but the natural outcome of the development of the free school system and the passing of the academies and seminaries, which correspond somewhat, in a lesser way, to our present high schools.

About 1800, cheese making for the market developed north of Little Falls. Glove making began to assume the importance of an industry in Kingsborough (Gloversville) between 1805 and 1810.

In 1804 General William Floyd, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, settled at Westernville, Oneida County, where he died in 1821.

In 1806 the first bridge across the Mohawk at Fort Plain was built. A woolen factory was established at Frankfort in 1807. Herkimer became a village in 1807.

The year 1808 witnessed the establishment of the great cotton cloth (white goods) industry of Utica when the first New York Mills factory was established. Johnstown became a village in 1808. In 1808 the celebrated wooden suspension bridge was built across the Mohawk River at Schenectady. This was a most important step in highway transportation in the Mohawk Valley. It is described in Chapter 83 on Mohawk River Bridges. In 1808, the preliminary survey for the Erie Canal was made over its later route, including that through the Mohawk Valley. Rev. Samuel Kirkland, the noted missionary to the Oneidas and founder of Hamilton College, died at his home which he had built, in 1794, on the east side of College Hill, Clinton.

In 1809, Schenectady County was formed from Albany County with Schenectady City as the county seat. In the same year James Burr and Talmadge Edwards started glove making in Kingsboro (Gloversville).

In 1810, a second survey of the Erie Canal was made. The project then lapsed because of the War of 1812, and was not resumed until 1816.

In 1811, Little Falls was chartered as a village. A bridge was built across the Mohawk, connecting Caughnawaga (Fonda) with present Fultonville, in 1811.

In 1812, Hamilton Oneida Academy at Clinton, became Hamilton College and this famous educational institution of the Upper Mohawk Valley started on its important collegiate career.

Cherry Valley received a village charter, in 1812. In 1813, the village of Whitehall Landing was incorporated, the name being later changed to Whitesboro.

In 1812, George W. Featherstonaugh [i.e., Featherstonhaugh] began agitation for a railroad which subsequently resulted in the chartering of the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad in 1826, and its completion from Albany to Schenectady in 1831. Featherstonhaugh, in 1808, built a fine mansion and established a model stock and general farm on the shores of Featherstonhaugh Lake in Duanesburgh township, Schenectady County. Featherstonhaugh is one of the pioneers of railroading in America. (See Chapter 87 on the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad and the biography of Featherstonhaugh in the Biographical section.)

In 1813, the southern section of Baggs Hotel, Utica, was built. It is the oldest hotel in the Mohawk Valley and probably the oldest large hotel in the United States.

The years 1812, 1813 and 1814 covered the War of 1812 and they were busy and important ones for the Mohawk Valley which was again the great warpath of the nation, as it had been during all of America's wars, from the outbreak of King William's War in 1689 to 1814, a period of 125 years. Although our school histories give much attention to the capture of Washington and the battle of New Orleans, the main fighting of the War of 1812 was done on the Niagara, St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain frontiers. As in our Colonial wars and the Revolution, the Mohawk-St. Lawrence-Champlain triangle became the defensive military key position of the United States. Troops for the New York frontiers were constantly passing over the Mohawk turnpikes while military supplies and ordnance went westward over the river. The Scotia campground was used by American troops during the War of 1812, just as it had been previously during the Revolution and the Colonial wars. The Mohawk Valley militia, in large numbers, was actively engaged in this war generally on the Niagara and St. Lawrence frontiers.

In 1814, a drummer boy of Frankfort enlisted at the age of 14 years. He was Hiram Cronk, who died in 1904 at the great age of 104 years and was given a great military funeral in New York City, as the last surviving soldier of the War of 1812.

In 1814, after his great victory on Lake Erie, Commodore Perry journeyed eastward, his progress being a series of triumphant ovations. At Utica, Perry embarked on a Mohawk packet boat, gaily decorated for the occasion, and sailed down the river to Schenectady. Here he was met by a committee of patriotic city burghers, one of whom made an address in Holland Dutch, which was then still largely spoken in Old Dorp. (See Chapter 85 on the War of 1812.)

In 1815, the Cohoes Power Company was formed for manufacturing purposes, using a dam already constructed across the Mohawk. Both Little Falls and Cohoes, at about this time, began the development of water power for manufacturing purposes in the Mohawk Valley. In 1815, a girl baby was born at Johnstown, who was to have a great influence on the history of the world. She was named Elizabeth, the daughter of Judge Daniel Cady, and is now generally known by her married name of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the pioneer suffragist of America.

In 1816, a young farmer named Eliphalet Remington made his first rifle on his father's farm at Crane's Corners, Herkimer County. In 1831, he removed to present Ilion and started a gun factory and iron works which was the progenitor of the great industries now located at Ilion.

In 1817, the line dividing Herkimer and Montgomery Counties was moved eastward from Little Falls to a line running north along East Canada Creek and southwardly from the mouth of that stream to Otsego County. The township of present Danube, Herkimer County, was then formed from what had previously been Minden Township.

On July 4, 1817, the first work on the Erie Canal was started at Rome, with appropriate ceremonies.

In 1819, Schenectady suffered from a disastrous fire, which destroyed the greater part of its business section and a number of residences. Fort Stanwix was incorporated in 1819 as the village of Rome.

On October 22, 1819, the first Erie Canal boat was launched at Rome to run to Utica as a passenger boat. It was called the "Chief Engineer" and was 61 feet long and 7 1/2 feet wide. On October 23, the first trip between the two towns was made the occasion of a great celebration. In 1820 the Western Inland Lock and Navigation Company sold out to the state, because of the approaching completion of the Erie Canal.

The first bridge over the Mohawk at Amsterdam, was built in 1821.

In 1821, General William Floyd, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, died at Westernville, eight miles north of Rome in Oneida County, where he had lived since 1804.

[Painting: Governor Joseph C. Yates]

In 1822, Joseph C. Yates, of Schenectady, was elected Governor of New York, serving during the years 1823 and 1824. He was a first trustee of Union College on its foundation in 1795, first mayor of Schenectady in 1798, and the first Governor of New York to be elected from the Mohawk Valley.

In 1823, the Erie Canal was completed eastward to Sprakers Basin, where the boats left the canal and proceeded by river to Schenectady. The village of Bridgewater, Oneida County, was incorporated in 1825. In the same year, a bridge was built over the Mohawk at Yosts, subsequently swept away by high water.

In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed throughout its course, from Buffalo to Albany. On October 26, Governor DeWitt Clinton started east from Buffalo, aboard the "Seneca Chief," for a triumphal tour of the new waterway, then generally called the "Grand Canal". Clinton's trip ended at New York City. This trip was the occasion for great celebrations in all the towns along the line, and none were more enthusiastic in their demonstrations than the towns of the Mohawk Valley, with the exception of Schenectady. The people of Old Dorp keenly felt the loss of their river trade and the ending of Schenectady as the Mohawk River eastern terminal port. Had it not been for the enthusiastic greeting of the Union College cadet company, Clinton's reception would have been a decided frost.

The building of the Erie Canal and its effects are described in Chapter 86 on the Erie Canal. The construction of this great waterway had a tremendous effect in stimulating the growth of New York City and State and particularly the towns on its New York to Buffalo highway and waterway. New York's present position as the world's greatest city is largely because of the Erie Canal, which was only made possible by the Mohawk Valley — Gateway to the West.

The Mohawk Valley towns grew rapidly after the completion of the Erie, and this was particularly true of the "canal towns", located on its banks. The canal brought unforseen changes in agricultural conditions in the Mohawk Valley. The Erie gave the western farmers easy access to the eastern market and the Mohawk Valley farmers found that they could not meet this competition in the raising of wheat. The Mohawk Valley then ceased to be the wheat granary of the United States. Its farmers turned to the raising of general crops, hay, broom corn, and hops and to dairy farming and cheese-making. A new American industrial and commercial era dawned with the completion of the Erie Canal through our Valley.

This period of our Valley history marked the passing of those Revolutionary soldiers and mighty hunters of whom Tim Murphy, of Schoharie, and Nick Stoner, of Johnstown, are the most noteworthy. Both were picturesque characters whose deeds form most entertaining reading. Simms' "Trappers of New York" is, in reality, a biography of the famous Stoner, while Paul B. Mattice's "Life and Adventures of Timothy Murphy," tells of the Schoharie hero.

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