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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 118: Fonda — Fultonville.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1624-1636 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]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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Fonda and Montgomery County — Cayadutta Creek and the sand plains — Caughnawaga — Fonda-Mohawk Indian history of Caughnawaga — Mohawk north shore castles — Mohican attack on Kahaniaga — Jesuit mission, 1667-1683 — French-Canadian invasion, 1693 — Caughnawaga settlement, 1713-1720 — First Valley Revolutionary clashes — Caughnawaga raid, 1780 — Major Fonda house — Home of the infamous Butlers — South shore Revolutionary raids.

Fonda-Fultonville form virtually one community.

Fultonville is named for Robert Fulton, the steamship inventor. The highest land near Fultonville is three miles south, near Glen, where the valley hills rise to a sea elevation of 1,200 feet. Fultonville is on the south shore, connected by bridge with Fonda on the north side of the river. Both of these sister villages are pleasantly situated. Both have elevations of about 140 feet above the Mohawk at their highest points.

The village of Fonda is situated in a rich agricultural region on the Mohawk River, Cayadutta Creek and the New York Central Railroad and is a terminus of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad. A trolley system connects with Johnstown, Gloversville and Schenectady.

The village has electric lighting and power service. Fonda is named from the Fonda family, early settlers here.

In 1922 the F., J. & G. R. R. ran its first railroad coach operated by gasoline power, and in 1923 installed gasoline engines as its motive power.

The terminus of the F., J. & G. R. R. is Northville, a summer resort on the Sacandaga River (a branch of the Hudson), twenty miles northeast of Fonda. Here entrance by auto is made into the Adirondacks, particularly the Lake Pleasant and Piseco Lake sections.

Knit glove linings, silk cloth, hosiery, etc., constitute the principal (1924) industries of Fonda.

In 1923 Fonda was made a distributing station of the Standard Oil Company.

[Map of Montgomery County, Showing Townships, Railroads and Electric Roads]

[Map of Montgomery County Showing Improved Highways]

Fonda and Montgomery County

Fonda is the county seat of Montgomery County, which takes its name from Gen. Richard Montgomery (1737-1775), the American general who fell in the disastrous American attack upon Quebec. The county was originally set off from Albany in 1772, with Johnstown as the county seat, and named Tryon, after the British governor. It embraced a great part of the state in 1783, when it was renamed Montgomery. In 1836 the county seat was moved to Fonda, and in 1838 Fulton County was set off. It lies entirely in the Mohawk watershed. The towns along the Mohawk are principally devoted to manufacturing and the farmlands to dairying. The annual county fair is held on the fair grounds in the Caughnawaga section of Fonda. In 1910 the population of Montgomery County was 57,567; 1920, 58,399.

Besides dairying, Montgomery County farms principally raise hay, corn, oats and buckwheat, vegetables and fruit, with considerable beekeeping. The county is one of the state's greatest hay counties. Its southern part formerly raised hops to a large extent (prior to 1900).

Cayadutta Creek and the Sand Plains

The western limits of Fonda are traversed by Cayadutta Creek. The Indian meaning is "rippling waters" or "shallow water running over stones". This stream has commercial and historical importance as the cities of Johnstown and Gloversville lie on its banks, four and eight miles northward. Probably the Cayadutta, or some similarly located stream, was one of the ancient watercourses which drained the southern Adirondack slopes. (See Garoga, East and West Canada creeks.)

The hills immediately adjacent to the Mohawk are of moderate heights (from 100 to 300 feet) from Amsterdam westward to the Noses, a distance of eighteen miles. The river flatlands in the same section are generally narrow, except at Fort Hunter. Running from Fonda to the Noses, six miles west, there is a triangular level plateau, lying between the North Nose and the Cayadutta and elevated about 100 feet above the Mohawk. This is called the Sand Plains and is the interesting location of early Mohawk life and Jesuit mission work mentioned later and of the Civil war camp, all of which sites doubtless will be eventually marked.

The location of Kahaniaga (Caughnawaga) on the Sand Plains is said to be marked by the "Jesuit Spring", near the F., J. & G. R. R., on the northwestern edge of Fonda.

Historical — Caughnawaga, 1666-1851; Fonda, 1851

The site or immediate neighborhood of Fonda was known as Caughnawaga (with a great variety of spellings) up to 1836, or for a period of almost two centuries. The history of this section is most important, comprising as it does a great part of that of the Turtle clan of the Mohawks. Their castle (just west of Fonda) marked the important scene of the labors of French Jesuit missionaries for two decades (1666-1684); it was the beginning of the great Mohawk-Mohican conflict of 1669, and was burned in the great raid of Canadian French and Indians in 1693.

Caughnawaga means "at the rapids" or "at the rifts", in the Mohawk tongue. It seems to have been a neighborhood or sectional name as well as a locality word, as it was applied to the Osseruenon (Auriesville) castle in 1659. The Caughnawaga Mohawk Indians, whom the Jesuits converted, became known as the "praying Indians", and hence the name Caughnawaga came, in time, to signify praying or Christian Indians. Caughnawaga is also translated "At the Turtle Village", which seems the more likely meaning.

Mohawk Indian History of Caughnawaga

The Mohawk history relative to Caughnawaga and its neighborhood is important and is here summarized. When the Mohawks were driven (1570) by the Algonquins from their great castle of Hochelaga (at present Montreal), in Canada, they fled south and lived until about 1600 in present Vermont and finally came to the Mohawk forests, back from the river, where they built castles on the Cayadutta (near Sammonsville), on Briggs Run (near Big Nose) and south of Fort Plain and on the Garoga. Here they recovered from their defeat and later removed to the Mohawk's south shore.

From 1642 to 1666 the Mohawks lived at Osseruenon and Gandawague, Andagoron, a mile westward of Fultonville, and Tenontogere (near present Sprakers). These Mohawk villages were all burned and the tribe suffered great losses (from which they never recovered) from DeTracy's Canadian raiders in 1666.

Mohawk North Shore Castles, 1668-1693

The Mohawks made temporary villages near the old south sites and immediately started to build four strong castles on the north shore — Kahaniaga (a mile west of Fonda), Canagora, Canajora and Tionondogue — the last three probably between the Brigg's Run and Garoga Creek. To these new castles the Mohawks removed about 1668 and lived in them until 1693, when a raiding party of Canadian French and Indians attacked and burned them (see Palatine Church for the Tionondogue battle of 1693).

The years between 1661 and 1693, inclusive, form a vital period in Mohawk Indian and valley history. It marks Dutch settlement on the Mohawk (1662), English conquest (1664), the Schenectady massacre (1690) and two terrific Mohawk battles (1669 and 1693), as well as the location of a Jesuit mission near Fonda (1667-1684).

Mohican Attack on Kahaniaga, 1669

Knowing that the Mohawks had suffered greatly by the French-Canadian invasion of 1666, the Mohicans attacked Kahaniaga, in August, 1669, intent upon recovering their old lands. Chief Kryn and his Mohawk warriors successfully defended Kahaniaga against the Mohicans under Chicataubet. War parties came from the other three Mohawk villages and the Mohicans retreated down the valley to Touareuna (near present Hoffmans Ferry), where they were completely defeated with great losses in one of the bloodiest and most terrific Indian battles of the East. (See Hoffmans Ferry.) This conflict lasted two days.

Jesuit Mission, 1667-1683

Despite the tragic fate of Father Jogues and his brother captives at present Auriesville, in 1646, French Jesuits from Canada entered the lower Mohawk Valley and located at Kahaniaga. Here, in 1669, Jesuits erected the log chapel of St. Peter's. Here the French priests strove to convert the Mohawks to Christianity. In 1676 the Mohawk maiden, Te-gah-kwi-ta, the "lily of the Mohawks", was baptized here. A number of Mohawks were converted and removed to Canada. Among them was the Mohawk chief known as the "Great Kryn", who had defeated the Mohicans at Kahaniaga and Touareuna in 1669.

Probably fearing the political influence of the French Jesuit priests in the Mohawk Valley, the English colonial government of New York ordered all Roman Catholic priests from the colony in 1700. The penalty was death if they remained. The Mohawks were considerably disrupted by Jesuit influence and many of the "praying Indians" of Caughnawaga left the valley for Canada with the French priests on or before 1683, when the Jesuits abandoned their missions among the Mohawks.

[Photo: Broadway, Fonda — The Road to Johnstown]

French-Canadian Invasion, 1693

In 1689 the Mohawks took part in an expedition against Canada, which defeated the French and Indians in front of Montreal. In sight of the garrison, the Mohawks tortured, cooked and ate their captives. The French retaliated on February 8, 1690, when a war party burned Schenectady and massacred its people (see Schenectady). Chief Kryn and some "praying Mohawks" were among the invaders. In 1693 Count Frontenac sent a Canadian war party to invade the Mohawk country, defeated the Mohawk warriors in battle, burned all their villages, including Kahaniaga, and took some 300 prisoners back to Canada. Following this disaster the Mohawks removed to present Tribes Hill, where they built the tribal village of Og-sa-da-go, remaining there until they removed about 1700 to their three final locations on the south side.

This closes the early (1540-1693) period of Mohawk Indian history. Depleted in strength and numbers, the tribe entered upon the next period (1693-1775). In this they sided with the English and lost considerably in the French and Indian war. In 1775 the Mohawks followed Col. Guy Johnson to Canada and fought with the British Tories and Hessians in Revolutionary battles and raids into the valley. Mohawk Indian history of this later period will be found under the headings of all the valley towns westward to Rome. Today the Mohawk tribe, located in Canada, forms a strong and thriving community.

All of the foregoing summarized historical subjects, which relate to present Fonda and its neighborhood, are covered at length in the early chapters of this work relative to the history of the Mohawk Indians.

Caughnawaga Settlement, 1713-1720

Caughnawaga and its neighborhood was first settled by Holland Dutch pioneers, mostly from along the Schenectady section of the Mohawk. The Hansen brothers, of Low Dutch ancestry, located just west of Tribes Hill in 1713. The Fonda, Wemple and Vrooman families soon followed. Other settlers soon came and a little Dutch village grew up here prior to the Revolution. It had a store kept by Douw Fonda, an early settler; a mill built by Johannes Veeder, and a mill and tavern built by Barent Wemple. After his death and during the Revolution, the Wemple inn and mill were conducted by Wemple's widow, Peggy Wemple (formerly Margaret Fonda). The famous Caughnawaga Reformed Dutch stone church was erected here in 1763 and unfortunately demolished in 1868. Caughnawaga was a popular valley gathering place for sports, races and social and political gatherings. The Tory Sheriff White lived on the site of the old court house.

Douw Fonda settled on what is now the fair grounds about 1750. Here he had an important trading post, the cellar of which may be seen near the middle of the race course. The village of Fonda is named in honor of this pioneer. Major Jelles Fonda was his son.

First Valley Revolutionary Clashes, 1775

Here at Caughnawaga, in the early spring of 1775, occurred the first clash between the Whigs or patriots and the Tories or loyalists of the Mohawk Valley. About 300 patriots (or "rebels") gathered at Veeder's house to raise a liberty pole. An armed company of Tories arrived and broke up the meeting.

Abraham Veeder's house was south of the turnpike west of the Cayadutta, about on the site of the old canning factory.

Later in the spring of 1775 Col. Frederick Visscher (a prominent and efficient American officer) paraded his regiment of Tryon County Militia at Caughnawaga for training. Sir John Johnson and Lady Johnson were riding through the village in their coach. The Tory baronet alighted and attempted to stop the drill. The baronet and the militia colonel clinched, when a militiaman threatened Sir John with his gun and he withdrew.

On January 18, 1776, General Schuyler, in command of 2,000 American soldiers, met Colonel Herkimer and the Tryon County (Mohawk Valley west of Hoffmans Ferry) regiment of 1,000 militiamen at Caughnawaga, prior to their movement on Johnstown the next day, where they disarmed Johnson and his Tory force of 400. On this day (January 18) a review of this brigade of 3,000 men was held here on the ice of the river. This was the largest American Revolutionary force ever gathered in the valley.

Caughnawaga Raid, 1780

Caughnawaga suffered terribly in the Tory-Indian raid, under Sir John Johnson, on May 21, 1780, when the enemy war party raided the valley from Tribes Hill west to the settlement of Major Jelles Fonda (at present Schenck's Hollow). Nearly all the buildings on this twelve-mile stretch were burned and many people were murdered and captured. Colonel Visscher fought the Indians but was tomahawked, scalped and left for dead in his house, which was set on fire. Survivors put out the fire and the sturdy patriot recovered and lived for years. Douw Fonda and four other old farmers, over eighty years old, were murdered. Douw Fonda had been an intimate friend of Sir William, father of Sir John Johnson. The savages locked Peggy Wemple in her tavern and set it on fire. She was rescued after the band went westward. The little town was gradually rebuilt, after Johnson's great raid of October 18-19, 1780. Major Jelles Fonda (1725-1791), son of Douw Fonda, was the chief figure hereabouts during the Revolutionary period. His house, built 1791, stands on Montgomery Terrace, in Fonda.

In Sir John Johnson's great valley raid of October 18 and 19, 1780, which terminated in the battle of Klock's Field, a part of the enemy crossed from the main body at Fort Hunter and came up the present turnpike, raiding, burning and killing as they came. They were joined by the main body above Sprakers.

Caughnawaga After the Revolution

Following the Revolution (1783) Caughnawaga and Herkimer were the most important towns, on the north shore highway, west of Schenectady. Taverns and a toll-gate were located here on the Old Mohawk turnpike.

In 1836 the Schenectady & Utica Railroad was built. When the railroad was projected a land company was formed and lands were bought covering the present village (on which there were then a number of houses, etc.). Owing to the increase of population along the Mohawk, the Montgomery County seat was changed from Johnstown to Caughnawaga, and in 1838 Fulton County was set off from Montgomery, with Johnstown again the county seat. In 1843 the present Reformed Dutch Church was built. In 1851 the village was incorporated as Fonda, and the historic name of Caughnawaga was discarded after nearly two centuries of use with reference to this locality.

In 1870 the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad was built, and in 1876 extended to Northville, twenty miles north.

Major Fonda House, 1791

[Photo: Major Fonda House, Fonda, 1791]

The Jelles Fonda house (1791) and the old Montgomery County brick court house (built in 1836 and directly south and opposite the Central Station and close to the turnpike) are the most interesting historic buildings in Fonda.

The Fonda house was for many years the home of Washington Frothingham, journalist and historian, who contributed important matter to our Mohawk Valley records. He saw the growth of the valley, from Revolutionary to modern conditions, and died in 1918 at the age of ninety-four.

A marker shows the site of the famous old Caughnawaga Dutch Church.

[Photo: Drumm House, 1763]

[Photo: The Black Horse Tavern, 1796]

Home of the Infamous Butlers, 1743

Near Fonda is the Butler house (frame, 1743), the home of the infamous Tory, Col. John Butler, and his son, Walter Butler, of Revolutionary history. Col. John Butler perpetrated the Wyoming, Pennsylvania, massacre, while his son, the bloodthirsty paranoiac, Walter Butler, commanded the Tory and Indian force at Cherry Valley, New York, 1778, massacre. These and similar villainies were blots on England's Revolutionary war history. The Butler house is on Switzer Hill (700 feet sea elevation), about one mile north of Fonda on a road to Johnstown.

Fonda, Military (1861-5, 1917-8)

Fonda was an important Civil war camp and training ground. The One Hundred and Fifteenth New York Volunteers was raised in Montgomery, Fulton, Hamilton and Saratoga counties; 421 men were enlisted from Montgomery County, 162 from Fulton County, and the regiment was formed on the camp northwest of Fonda and here mustered into service August 29, 1862. Col. Simeon Sammons (of Fonda and son of a Revolutionary veteran) was its commanding officer. The One Hundred and Fifty-third New York Volunteers was a Montgomery-Fulton regiment, recruited mainly from Montgomery and Fulton counties, which furnished 598 men. It was formed and mustered into service at Fonda October 18, 1863. Col. Edwin P. Davis was its commanding officer, 1863-1865. Fonda was the scene of other Civil war military activities and organizations. As the county seat it received the draft men during the World war (1917-1918), who were sent forward from here to training camps. The Civil war camp grounds near Fonda should be appropriately marked.

The Teaburg

At Fonda, on the Cayadutta road to Johnstown, is the conical hill called the Teaburg (Dutch for "tea hill"), because here, during the Revolution, the women of old Caughnawaga are said to have gathered for summer afternoon tea parties, particularly as its summit gave a view of approaching hostile Indian war parties. It has the shape of a miniature mountain and rises 100 feet above the Mohawk. The Mohawk Indians called this hill "Ta-he-ka-nun-da", meaning "hill of berries". They are said to have run their boys up its steep incline to test their metal [i.e., mettle] as warriors.

Fonda, Gateway to the Adirondacks Over Sacandaga Trail

Fonda is a gateway to the Adirondacks, running north over the Sacandaga trail through Johnstown and Gloversville to Northville, on the Sacandaga. Branches run from Johnstown to the Garoga and Canada lakes group, the most southerly in the Adirondacks.

* * * * *

Settlement of John Evart Van Epps at Fultonville, 1750

In 1750 John Evart Van Epps settled at present Fultonville, which then became known as Van Epps Swamp, from the marshy land hereabout. Van Epps bought 900 acres of Johannes Visger and this particular part of the Visger patent comprised all of what is now Fultonville. The Van Eppses were patriot soldiers and their house was burned twice during the Revolution. The sixth generation of the Van Epps family (in 1924) now occupies this Van Epps homestead which has been in the family 175 years.

South Shore Revolutionary Raids, 1780, 1781

The south shore Mohawk turnpike was raided along its course from Fort Hunter to above Sprakers (fifteen miles) in Sir John Johnson's Tory-Indian-British raid of October 18-19, 1780. The main body went west on the south shore and another detachment followed the present Old Mohawk turnpike westward, the two bodies joining at Keator's Rift, above Sprakers. The whole valley in this distance was ravaged and burned. On October 19, 1780, General Van Rensselaer's American army of 1,500 militia came up the south shore in pursuit of Johnson. (See Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge and Fort Plain-Nelliston.)

October 24, 1781, the Tory-Indian raid under Major Ross and the Tory captain, Walter Butler, reached the Mohawk at the Noses and ravaged the south shore road to below present Amsterdam (eighteen miles), the next day being defeated on the battlefield of Johnstown. (See Johnstown.) As the enemy came down the south side John Van Epps mounted a horse and galloped east over the highway to Amsterdam. He warned all the settlers, who escaped to the woods, and there were no fatalities east of present Fultonville.

John Starin settled here in 1783, and built a tavern and later opened a store about 1810. A bridge was built across the Mohawk in 1814. When the Erie Canal was completed, in 1825, Fultonville, Canajoharie, Fort Plain and Little Falls were the largest "canal towns" between Schenectady and Utica (eighty miles). The village was incorporated in 1848.

During the life of John H. Starin (grandson of John) "Prospect Place" or "Starin Place" was one of the "show places" of the valley.

Starin Place was a model farm with stock barns and race course, as well as conservatories, menagerie, deer park, ponds, etc. Hon. John H. Starin became connected with the towing business in New York harbor. During the Civil war he there superintended all the harbor towage of the U. S. government. Cobblestone Hall here is a cobblestone house built by Simms, the historian.

Mop wringers and silk goods and machinery are (1924) the manufactures of Fultonville.

A direct road to the Schoharie Valley runs southward from Fultonville through Glen and Sloansville to Central Bridge.

Fultonville has a handsome Masonic Temple, dedicated in 1923, and a new high school.

[Photo: The Races, Fonda Fair]

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