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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 117: Tribes Hill — Fort Hunter.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1618-1623 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Twin villages at the junction of the Schoharie and Mohawk Rivers, Tribes Hill on the north shore, Fort Hunter on the south — Ogsadaga, the Mohawk tribal village, at Tribes Hill, 1693-1700 — Iconderoga, the lower Mohawk castle of the Wolf Clan, at Fort Hunter, 1700-1779 — Fort Hunter and Queen Anne's chapel, built in 1711 — Queen Anne's parsonage, built in 1712.

Tribes Hill lies on the north side connected by bridge over the Mohawk with Fort Hunter on the south shore of the river. Neither village is (1921) incorporated. They have an estimated combined population of about 1,000.

Og-sa-da-ga, 1693-1700 — Mohawk Tribal Village

In 1693 a French-Indian raiding party came down from Canada, burned the four Mohawk castles and defeated the Mohawks in a bloody battle at the upper castle. The shattered tribe then built, here at present Tribes Hill, a single tribal village, known as Og-sa-da-ga, which they occupied from 1693 until 1700, when they built three castles on the south shore at present Fort Hunter, Fort Plain and Indian Castle, which were their final valley locations and which they occupied from about 1700 until 1775. From the tribal village of Ogsadaga, the village of Tribes Hill takes its name.

Fort Hunter was named from the British governor, Hunter, who here (1711) built a fort to protect the frontier and the Lower Castle of the Mohawks, occupied by the Wolf clan (1693-1775). It was also the Revolutionary fortification of Fort Hunter (1776-1783).

There are several old houses at Tribes Hill, which is an old settlement, among them being the brick Fonda-Striker home. Vaccination was first practised in the Mohawk Valley at Tribes Hill by Dr. Cushney.

Lock No. 12, Dam No. 8 — Barge Canal 12-Mile Level to Yosts

Lock No. 12, Dam No. 8, Erie section Barge Canal, on the Mohawk at Tribes Hill-Fort Hunter, is also known as the Tribes Hill lock and dam. There is a 11-foot rise from the river water level of 267 feet sea level elevation below to 278 feet above the dam. The river level westward to Yosts is 12 miles long, the longest east of the summit level (from Whitesboro to New London) on the Mohawk River section of the Barge Canal.

The Schoharie River — Howe's Cave

It has a course of some seventy miles from the Catskills in the south through Schoharie County. It flows through the beautiful agricultural valley of the Schoharie, which is also exceedingly wild in sections. This region has retained much of its old-time character. The Schoharie River is the third minor stream of the Hudson, the Mohawk and Walkill outranking it. The Schoharie rises in the Catskills, less than ten miles from the Hudson near Catskill. A number of Catskill Mountain resorts are located on the upper Schoharie River. In the Schoharie Valley (on its main branch, the Cobleskill) is located Howe's Cave, an underground cavern of very considerable size and interest. The Schoharie Valley lies mostly in Schoharie County (beginning some ten miles south of here) and is a rich agricultural and one-time hop growing section of much beauty. It is famed as the only county of New York State which, up to 1914, had always given Democratic majorities in every election. Through the Schoharie Valley to the mouth of the Mohawk came the great Tory-British-Indian raid of October, 1780, under Sir John Johnson and the Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, details of which are given at different points along your route. The headwaters of the Schoharie in the Catskill are impounded, by a dam at Gilboa, for the Catskill water system of New York City and flow into the Ashokan reservoir west of Kingston, showing that the world metropolis reaches out and affects the territory of New York State many miles from the city itself. Palatine Germans settled on the Schoharie in 1712 and some removed to Stone Arabia and other Mohawk Valley points.

The area of the Schoharie watershed is 920 square miles, of the 3,485 square miles in the whole Mohawk River watershed, of which the Schoharie Valley is a part.

The Schoharie Valley therefore forms about 27 per cent of the total area of the Mohawk Valley, or a little more than one-quarter of its watershed.

At Gilboa, on the Upper Schoharie, in 1869, a freshet unearthed fossil tree stumps of the Devonian age — the most ancient and wonderful fossil forest remains ever uncovered. Specimens are in the State Museum, Education Building, Albany, where a very wonderful re-creation of this ancient Devonian forest was unveiled in 1925.

Fort Hunter, 1711

Here, at Fort Hunter, Gov. Hunter built the first fort west of Schenectady, in 1711. From 1700 here was located one of the two leading villages or "castles" of the Mohawk tribe of the great Iroquois confederacy. Schenectady was the New York colony British frontier post until Fort Hunter was built in 1711, after which Fort Hunter was the western frontier post till 1722, when Fort Oswego was built. When Fort Hunter was built in 1711, the settled portion of New York State comprised only the Hudson Valley and the eastern Mohawk Valley.

Queen Anne's Parsonage — 1712

At Fort Hunter an Episcopal Chapel was built about 1712. Queen Anne furnished a great part of it as it was to be an Indian mission and it was called Queen Anne's Chapel. It was destroyed by the building of the Erie Canal in 1825. This famous little stone church in the wilderness boasted the first church organ west of Albany, which was the wonderment of the valley red men. The chapel's stone parsonage, erected about 1712, is still standing at Fort Hunter. When this house was built the Mohawk Valley was practically a virgin forest west of present Amsterdam. The parsonage is located about a mile from the site of chapel and fort.

Queen Anne's parsonage is the sole remaining one of the many structures comprising Fort Hunter (1711-1783) and the Lower Mohawk Castle (1700-1775). As one gazes on its ancient walls one can see the silent Mohawk in "an old bear skin," squatted by the roadside watching the white settlers in their Sunday best riding gaily by on their way to service in Queen Anne's Chapel with its church bell, its wonderful organ and its silver communion service presented by Queen Anne herself.

Iconderoga — Lower Mohawk Castle, 1700-1775

The lower castle of the Mohawks was located at Gandawague (at present Auriesville, two miles west of Fort Hunter) from 1659 until 1666, when it was burned by a Canadian war party (see Auriesville). From 1666 until 1693, the lower castle was at Caugnawaga, near present Fonda. In 1693 Count Frontenac's Canadian army destroyed Caughnawaga and the lower castle was later located at Fort Hunter, where it remained until the Mohawks left for Canada to join the British forces in 1775.

All their villages were built in the river section between the Schoharie and the Nowadaga (at Indian Castle) with the exception of one small village near Rome (1666-1693), and one or more small ones on the Schoharie.

Castles of the Wolf, the Tortoise and the Bear

The Mohawks, after 1700, rebuilt their three "castles" at the following locations: Iconderoga, castle of the Wolf Clan, also called the Lower castle, at Fort Hunter; Tarajorees, castle of the Tortoise Clan, at Fort Plain; Canajoharie, castle of the Bear Clan, at Indian Castle, also called the Upper or Great Castle of the Mohawks.

Besides these they had occasional small settlements of a few cabins and temporary hunting, fishing and harvesting villages.

One of their chief fishing villages was at the junction of the Hudson and the Normanskill below Albany. This was a temporary village used only during the fishing. The favorite hunting grounds of the Mohawks were in present Saratoga County.

I-con-der-o-ga is a Mohawk word meaning "two streams coming together," referring to the junction here of the Schoharie with the Mohawk. The name is also spelled Tionderoga and Ticonderoga, as the famous Fort Ticonderoga, situated at the Lake George outlet into Lake Champlain. Nearly all Indian names have had various spellings and many are interpreted differently by different historical authorities. Other spellings are Teondeloga, Tiononderoga, Dyondarogon, etc.

Figures of the wolf, tortoise and the bear were the totems of these clans and the chieftains of these families signed all documents with the figures of their particular clans. Other Iroquois tribes, besides the Mohawks, had other clans as well as these chief three. The Bear, the Turtle and the Wolf were the three clans into which the Mohawks were divided. Members of all clans generally lived in each castle. The clan, however, had jurisdiction, in its clan village.

Lower Castle of the Mohawks

Here at Fort Hunter was one of the strongholds of the powerful Six Nations and the traveler going west is now well within their one-time country. Here many important Indian councils were held and here came Sir William Johnson to confer with his red "brethren" on many occasions.

The Six Nations occupied land along the Albany-Buffalo route, from the Schoharie to beyond the Genesee. Their order from east to west was Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas. Of these the Mohawks were the most warlike and are said to have been the highest type, physically and mentally, of the red aborigines of North America. They gave their name to the Mohawk River, the Hudson's greatest tributary, whose valley carries for a hundred miles westward the great tide of traffic and transportation which goes over the New York to Buffalo route. Prior to the Revolution the Iroquois or Six Nations had conquered a great part of the Indian country of eastern North America. The Mohawks were important allies of the English through the French and Indian wars and the Revolution.

The successful example of this famous Indian confederacy is said to have had a great influence on the formation of the United States of America. It must be remembered that the Mohawks were the firm friends and allies in arms of the white settlers on the Mohawk for over one hundred years prior to the Revolution.

In 1775 the Mohawks left the valley and went to Canada to fight with the British army. The tribe (over 3,000 strong) is now (1924) located on Grand River, Ont., Caughnawaga and Lake of Two Mountains, Que., with some Mohawks also on New York State Indian reservations.

In 1779 Col. Van Schaick removed the last of the neutral Mohawks from the Fort Hunter Castle, that date marking the end of Mohawk occupation in the valley. From Fort Hunter the motorist can run two miles westward to the Auriesville shrine, site of the Mohawk Castle of Osseruenon, were Father Jogues was slain in 1646.

* * * * *

The Antlers Club is located on a picturesque bluff at the eastern end of Tribes Hill. It has fine golf links and a large membership, composed of Amsterdam, Johnstown and Gloversville people. It is an interesting and attractive social center of the Lower Mohawk Valley.

There is a very good route to Johnstown and Gloversville running northwest from Tribes Hill, in the general direction of the Schenectady Street Railways line to these two cities.

About a mile west of Tribes Hill near the Turnpike is the glen of Dadanoscara Creek, where the Wolf Clan is said to have had its mystic circle where it worshipped the wolf spirit.

The Fisher-DeGraff House, 1795 — Dadanoscara

The Fisher home stood near the outlet of the Dadanoscara, and close to the present DeGraff house. In Sir John Johnson's raid of May 22, 1780, an enemy party attacked the Fisher house. The three Fisher brothers (Harman, John and Frederick) and their mother were in the house and the men made a desperate fight against odds. All four were finally overcome and tomahawked and scalped and Indians set the house on fire. Harman and John were killed but Col. Fisher recovered and heroically managed to remove his mother, still alive, from the burning building and then returned and dragged out his brothers' corpses.

After the Revolution, Col. Fisher here built a house which was later remodeled into the present DeGraff mansion, known as "Dadanoscara." The latter name is said to mean "trees bearing fungi" — mushroom growths.

In 1924 the Fisher-DeGraff homestead had been in the ownership of the family for more than 175 years and the house for 130 years.

The name Fisher is also written Visscher, the original Dutch form, but Colonel Fisher wrote his name with the latter spelling.

This is the supposed site of the house of "Mr. Stuart" in Harold Frederic's historical novel, "In the Valley," and the supposititous home of its hero, "Douw Mauverensen." Much of the action of this famous story takes place in and around this Dadanoscara site and picturesque glen.

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