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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 122: Fort Plain — Nelliston.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1700-1740 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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At the outlet of Otsquago Creek and the beginning of the Otsquago Trail to Otsego Lake — The Dutchtown Road and Garoga Trail — 1634, Mohawk Indian villages of Osquage and Canawoge; 1700-1755, Tarajorees on Prospect Hill — 1720-1725, First settlers, Jacob Crouse and Lipe and Seeber families — Sand Hill neighborhood center — 1727, Ehle house, Nelliston — 1738-1742, Sir George Clarke — 1750, Canajoharie district reformed Dutch church at Sand Hill — 1776, Fort Plain built, later Fort Rensselaer (1780), Mohawk Valley revolutionary American headquarters (1780-1783), Colonel Willett in command — circle of supporting fortifications, Forts Windecker, Willett, Planck, Clyde, Klock, Wagner, Paris, Snell, Kyser, Van Alstine, Ehle — 1779, Colonel Dubois' Fifth New York Line, artillery, and company of Morgan's Riflemen form Clinton's right wing, over Otsquago Trail from Fort Plain, during American army portage march to Otsego Lake — 1780, Fort Plain raid, Johnson's great Mohawk Valley raid — 1783, General Washington's visit here — 1786, Paris-Bleecker house — 1817-1825, Village center moved from Sand Hill to Prospect Hill, during Erie Canal construction — 1825-1875, Important canal and farmers' market town — Old brick mansions — 1853, Fort Plain Seminary; 1879, Clinton Liberal Institute; burned, 1900 — Present agricultural, industrial, commercial and banking center.

Fort Plain, on the west side of the Mohawk and Nelliston on the east bank, virtually form one community, although they are separate village corporations. The Mohawk here runs almost due north and south instead of following its generally west to east course. Fort Plain was incorporated as a village in 1832 and Nelliston in 1878.

Fort Plain takes its name from the Revolutionary fort here located (1776-1786). Nelliston was named for the pioneer Palatine Nellis family. Fort Plain and its sister village of Canajoharie, three miles east, have always had close social, commercial and industrial connections.

Nelliston and Palatine Bridge are approaching each other by building, only about one and a half miles separating the two towns along the Mohawk Turnpike. As two lines of busses now run between Fort Plain and Canajoharie, this stretch will probably be built up before many years. This particular inter-village section offers industrial sites and railroad sidings as it is on the freight track side of the New York Central Railroad, and is one of the few land sites so located in the eastern half of the Mohawk Valley. The only other one, in the region mentioned, is in the neighborhood of Palatine Church.

For various reasons noted in this chapter, Fort Plain offers tremendous site, regional and transportation advantages as a location for high-class industrial establishments. None other are wanted.

Fort Plain Industrial

Fort Plain has manufactures of silk knit goods, furniture, condensed milk, hose bands, broom bands, etc. Its furniture factory for a number of years made period furniture replicas of the highest class.

The Bailey Knitting Mills and the Fort Plain Knitting Company make knit goods, the Hix Furniture Company makes furniture and Amidon & O'Day spin silk.

The Duffy Silk Company was originally organized as Duffy Brothers, in 1892, with Charles, Bernard, John and George Duffy as the firm members. It has five factories in Buffalo. The company was incorporated in 1902, when Mr. A. F. Nellis, of St. Johnsville became interested and the company's secretary, Mr. John Duffy, died at Fort Plain in 1914. Mr. Nellis passed away in Rochester in 1923.

Here is Barge Canal Lock No. 15 and Dam No. 10, with a rise of 8 feet from sea level river surface elevation of 294 feet below, to 302 feet above the dam. The upper level runs about eight miles northwest to the Mindenville lock. A Barge Canal terminal dock is located at Fort Plain, midway between the river bridge and the dam. Fort Plain is a "canal town," in that its early growth was due to its location on the Erie Canal during its building (1817-1825).

Near the Barge Canal terminal dock is the dock and storage tanks of the Fort Plain Station of the Standard Oil Co., constructed in 1925.

Fort Plain east is in the Trenton limestone belt, as is Nelliston and Palatine. The Hudson River shale belt outcrops at the Western Fort Plain limits. Workable stone quarries exist in both Fort Plain and Nelliston, here practically ignored for building purposes.

The Mohawk Valley is a section where considerable fruit is raised — principally apples, plums, grapes and berries. Fort Plain is the center of a plum growing district, large shipments being made from here on good plum years.

Fort Plain is an important milk shipping center and a business center and market town for a very considerable region about it. It has about 70 retail stores. The town has all the elements of a city in miniature. In 1924 Fort Plain shipped over $1,250,000 worth of milk, one company doing a business of over $800,000.

[Painting: The Fort Plain National Bank]

Fort Plain is a banking center of importance with two banks, The Fort Plain National Bank (established 1838), which erected a handsome new bank building in 1924, and the Farmers and Mechanics Bank (established 1887). The Fort Plain National Bank had (1925) capital of $200,000, with surplus and undivided profits of $192,137, deposits of $2,407,176 and total resources of $2,912,522. The Farmers and Mechanics Bank had capital of $100,000, with surplus and undivided profits of $107,204, and total resources of $1,569,560. The total resources of the two Fort Plain banks amount to $4,482,082.

The New York Central station of Fort Plain is in the limits of Nelliston village. The West Shore station in Fort Plain is known as South Fort Plain.

Otsquago Creek and the Otsquago Trail, Gateway to Cooperstown, Otsego Lake and the Susquehanna Valley

Otsquago Creek enters the Mohawk River at Fort Plain. Otsquago is a Mohawk Indian word meaning "under the bridge," probably referring to an early bridge of felled trees, a savage way of making small bridges.

The source of the Otsquago is 12 m. west of south from its outlet, 1,360 feet above the sea and 1,000 above the Mohawk, in a section from which flows the headwater brook of Summit or Mud Lake, the central main headwater of Otsego Lake, the source of the great Susquehanna River, largest watercourse of the Atlantic seaboard of the United States.

For over a century (1750-1865) Fort Plain was a market town and a valley outlet for the great upper Susquehanna Valley, with which it had a large trade through the Otsquago Valley, prior to building of railroads and towns southward.

Fort Plain, by road to Otsego Lake, Cooperstown and Richfield Springs, is a natural Mohawk Valley outlet to this Susquehanna headwater region, much used (as well as the Canajoharie Road) in pioneer days. Cooperstown is noted as the home and burial place of James Fenimore Cooper, the early American novelist, who made Otsego Lake (Glimmerglass) famous in his romances. Cooperstown is equally famous as the scene of the invention of the modern game of baseball. Abner N. Doubleday, then a cadet at West Point, there created baseball for the boys of Green's school, who played the first game in Cooperstown in 1840. Young Doubleday was later a U. S. A. Major-General, holding the Union line on the first day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.

Automobile roads lead s. w. to Otsego Lake, 19 m.; Cooperstown, 28 m.; Richfield Springs on Canadarago Lake, 23 m.; s. e. to Cherry Valley, 12 m.; to Sharon Springs, 12 m. Cherry Valley is famous as the scene of a terrible Revolutionary massacre by Tories and Indians under Brant and Butler, November 11, 1778, when soldiers from Fort Plain arrived too late to prevent the slaughter. Various railroad projects, connecting the Susquehanna headwaters with the Mohawk Valley at Fort Plain, have failed to materialize in the century prior to 1921. One company constructed a considerable part of the roadbed necessary.

This historic automobile road running from Fort Plain, along the Otsquago, and thence over the divide to Otsego Lake is the famous Otsquago Trail, the most direct route from the Mohawk Valley to Cooperstown and Otsego Lake. It passes through the little villages of Hallsville, 4 m., Starkville, 8 m., Van Hornesville, 12 m., and Springfield Center, 17 m., to Otsego lake, 19 m., and Cooperstown, 28 m. The character of the landscape of the Otsquago Valley is like a miniature Mohawk Valley. The scenery at the Van Hornesville Gorge is very beautiful. In this gorge is a small cave and a burning spring — a vent of burning gas from a pocket of natural gas, which are not infrequent along the southern half of the Mohawk watershed. The original Otsquago Trail of the Mohawks ran from Fort Plain, over the plain of the high northern bank of the Otsquago Valley, to Hallsville. A road was later built along the creek. This route to Otsego Lake over the Otsquago Trail is a favorite automobile road and carries an enormous summer traffic.

Mr. Owen D. Young, chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Electric Company, and a member of the Paris Reparations Committee, which prepared the Dawes plan for German reparations in 1924, and the first Agent General of Reparations in 1924 is a native and a citizen of Van Hornesville on the Otsquago Trail, 12 miles west of Fort Plain.

Prior to the building of the Erie Canal (1817-1825) the Otsquago had its outlet into the Mohawk opposite old Fort Plain and the river boats probably came up the creek as far as the Governor Clarke (Fayant) and Paris (Bleecker) places. When the canal was built the straight artificial course was made along the north base of Prospect hill, with a river outlet over half a mile south of its former one near Sand Hill.

About four miles west on the Otsquago, is the mouth of the Ots-tun-go, on which is the famous Mohawk Indian village site, which has been dug into by collectors for a century, but relics are found there even today. One of the daughters of Cooper, the novelist, once wrote a romance about Otstungo, the Ms. of which was destroyed in a fire.

The Otsquago is also a fertile field for the collection of geological specimens and is well known to geologists. It has outcrops of building stone, one or two in the village of Fort Plain.

The upper Hallsville road (leaving Fort Plain by Upper Main Street) is the most picturesque Otsquago Trail route, giving fine views of the Cherry Valley Moutains and practicable in dry weather.

Dutchtown Road West

Westward from Fort Plain, the Dutchtown Road is a cross-cut State Road running north and west to Indian Castle 11m. and the General Herkimer home 14m., reaching the Turnpike at Finks Bridge, 15m. It is one of the many valley roads roughly paralleling the Turnpike which cut off river bends. This road (going westward over a fine upland plateau of farmlands, 500 feet above the Mohawk) has splendid wide views of the Cherry Valley mountains to the south, the Adirondacks to the north and, approaching it, Fall Hill and the valley to the west. In making a double tour (coming and going) of the Mohawk Valley this is a good road to take one way as it is one of the most picturesque along the Mohawk and gives a splendid outlook on the full width of the valley.

This route gives a splendid idea of the real Mohawk Valley, from 10 to 70 miles wide. The narrow inner valley, seen from the Mohawk turnpike, consists of the flats, which was the bed of the ancient great Iromohawk, the slopes which formed its banks and the adjoining valley hills. The actual Valley, or Watershed of the Mohawk, extends from the Adirondack Mountains divide southward to the Catskill Mountains divide. The broadest part of the Valley extends north and south, for seventy miles in the Middle Mohawk Valley, here bisecting the Dutchtown Road.

Fort Plain-Nelliston, Historical 1634-1925 — Mohawk Indian Villages

Fort Plain is an important historical center of the middle Mohawk Valley. Evidences of the occupation of the Mohawks are to be found at several points within the village limits, an Indian burial ground having been uncovered (1877) on Cemetery Hill. Three or four Mohawk villages were probably located, at different times, within the present Fort Plain limits.

In 1634 the Mohawk village of Os-qua-ge (9 houses) was located on present Prospect Hill, Fort Plain, and the Mohawk village of Ca-na-wo-ge (14 houses) probably was then on Fort Hill, or the adjacent spur northward across the Thakoikeeron, or Little Woods Brook — also known as Lipe's Creek.

In 1634, the Great Upper Mohawk Castle of Tenotoge was located on Oak Hill (on the Sponable and Moyer farms) with 55 houses. It was the most important town at that day in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. It was visited by Dutch traders in 1634. See Chapters 6 and 13 and "Chapter 7 — Notes on Mohawk Sites About Fort Plain," by Douglas Ayres, Jr.

Town Of Tarajorees, 1700-1755

In 1693 a strong French and Indian raiding party destroyed all the Mohawk castles, then situated on the north side of the river. Ti-on-on-do-gue, probably located at or near Wagners Hollow, fell only after a great battle. Following this terrible raid the Mohawks located in one tribal village known as Og-sada-ga, at present Tribes Hill, where they lived from 1693 until 1700, when they removed to castles on the south shore — the lower castle of Iconderoga, at present Fort Hunter, the middle village of Tarajorees at Fort Plain, and the upper or great castle of Canajoharie, at present Indian Castle.

Ta-ra-jo-rees, the middle Mohawk town of the Mohawks was located on present Prospect Hill, from about 1700 until about 1755. It was the village of the Turtle clan. Its chief and many of its warriors were killed in the Battle of Lake George, 1755, while serving in the British-American army under Sir William Johnson. Soon thereafter this village was abandoned and its people went to the upper Mohawk village at present Indian Castle. Tarajorees is said to mean "the hill of health." It stood at the southeastern point of Prospect Hill, while there were scattered Mohawk huts on the adjacent highlands. These Mohawks here cultivated the flats and the island and some attended Dominie Ehle's religious services at the Ehle house (1727-1752) opposite.

Fort Plain was a favorite dwelling place of the Mohawk Indians. Indeed some of them may have resided here or hereabouts from their earliest settlement in the valley (about 1580) until the outbreak of the Revolution — a period of 200 years. On the hills, which form a semi-circle about the flats on which the greater part of Fort Plain is located, are found many remains of Indian occupation. There are several very fine collections of Mohawk Indian relics in Fort Plain.

See "Chapter 7 — Notes on Mohawk Indian Sites About Fort Plain," by Douglas Ayres, Jr., Fort Plain.

The present village of Fort Plain lies between two small streams. The one on the north is known as Little Woods Brook or Lipe's Creek. Its Mohawk Indian name was Tha-koie-keer-on, the meaning of which is unknown. The Prospect Hill Brook, which bounds the village limits on the south, bore the Mohawk name of Tenck-sow-e-my, of which no translation has come down to us.

Jacob Crouse, the ancestor of the Crouse family in America, was the first settler of Fort Plain, of whom we have record. He was born in the Rhine Palatinate before 1700 and came to America in one of the Palatine migrations. About 1720 he settled at, or near, the Sand Hill neighborhood of present Fort Plain which was its earliest center. Here, Jacob Crouse married Catherine Elizabeth Nellis, June 24, 1724. Crouse was a natural landowner and on October 1, 1745, he made his first recorded purchase of lands covering present Fort Plain in part. He added to these purchases and, in 1760, bought the land covering the southern part of the village of Fort Plain and its business center. The ancient parchment deeds for these purchases are (1925) in the possession of Menzo Crouse of Fort Plain, fourth in descent from Jacob Crouse, who, together with his grand-nephew, Col. George Crouse Cook, occupies a house on ground which has been in possession of the Crouse family since 1745.

Among other first settlers were families by the name of Lipe and Seeber. At Sand Hill, several Indian trails met and here a neighborhood settlement soon grew up with a store, tavern, blacksmith shop and a river ferry. A log church was constructed at an early date and the frame "Reformed Church of Canajoharie" (District) was built here in 1750.

Ehle House, 1727-1752

In the village of Nelliston, about 400 yards south of the Fort Plain station, stands the stone Ehle House, now (1924) crumbling into ruins. The first settler in present Nelliston was Rev. John Jacob Ehle, who came into the valley in 1724. He built the small north end of the house in 1727, which served as his home and also as a mission for the Mohawks of the village of Tarajorees opposite on present Prospect Hill. Dominie Ehle was a missionary to both the white and red population of the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys. In 1752 his son, Peter Ehle, built the larger part of the house. It stands about 300 yards west of the Mohawk Turnpike, from which it is easily reached on foot. The older part is the oldest structure west of the Schoharie River.

Sir George Clarke House, 1738-1742

[Photo: The Fayant House]

Sir George Clarke, a British provincial governor, had a stone house built at Fort Plain in 1738 and, with his family, made this his summer home until 1742, in what was then a wilderness, with the exception of a few farms along the river. The cellar of this ancient gubernatorial mansion now forms part of the cellar of the Crouse-Wagner-Fayant house.

Governor Clarke was a "silent partner" in the great Corry patent of land located some miles southward and probably settled here on that account. This estate became the scene (1860-1880) of a tenant's war and was subsequently broken up. The stones of the old Clarke house went to the building of a mill about 1800.

The original cellar stonework, floor beams and cellar fireplace of the Governor Clarke house still stand in the present building. The early valley settlers lived much in their cellars around their cellar fireplaces during the coldest months of the winter.

When the Governor Clarke house was built the Otsquago skirted the low hill on which it stood and here the Governor had his boat landing, where the river craft were kept, with which the baronets' household navigated the Mohawk.

This is now the Fayant house, the site having been occupied by the Sir George Clarke house and the present house first built by Col. Robert Crouse, and later occupied by Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Wagner and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Fayant, and Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Fayant, the present owners.

Fort Plain, 1776-1780. Fort Rensselaer, 1780-1783.

The first full meeting of the Tryon County Committee of Safety was held at William Seeber's (on the site of the present old Adam Lipe place), May 24, 1775. Seeber and his sons were killed at Oriskany and the Seeber house and store were burned in Brant's Tory-Indian raid of 1780.

Fort Plain was built by Colonel Dayton of the American Army of the North (headquarters at Albany) in 1776 on present Fort Hill. It formed the American Revolutionary Army valley headquarters from 1780 until the close of hostilities in the fall of 1783. Four adjacent small forts formed outposts for the main defense. Fort Plain was a "rough quandrangle of palisades with earth and log embrasures, with blockhouses, mounting cannon, at opposite corners and barracks and a strong blockhouse in the center. It enclosed a half acre of ground." As in all valley forts, farmers drew the logs while the soldiers and militia built the fortifications.

The name Fort Plain is said to come from the "plain or unobstructed view" from this post, although the three-mile stretch of plain or flats, eastward to present Canajoharie, may have influenced its naming. In 1781 a blockhouse on the edge of the adjacent ravine was added. Markers show the site of fort and blockhouse. The garrisons of Fort Plain and its chief neighboring Army posts (Paris, Clyde, Plank, Windecker, Willett) were engaged in many valley Revolutionary military movements and battles, and the forts were neighborhood refuges during the many savage raids which devastated the valley in our War for Independence.

Fort Plain was surrounded by a circle of Army posts and fortified houses, which made it the strong defensive center of this exposed Revolutionary frontier, from 1776 to 1783. This ring of defenses consisted of (beginning on the west and swinging the circle to the south): Forts Windecker (near Mindenville), Willett (Oak Hill), Planck, Clyde (Freysbush), Ehle (near Canajoharie), Van Alstyne (Canajoharie Village), Van Alstyne House (Canajoharie), Frey (Palatine Bridge), Keyser (1 1/2 m. n. e. Palatine Bridge), Paris (Stone Arabia), Snell (south of Ephratah), Wagner (1 1/2 m. w. Nelliston), Klock (1 1/2 m. e. St. Johnsville), Timmerman (St. Johnsville). Nearly all these forts, and the events in which they figured, are covered in the historical chapters of this work.

Fifth New York from Fort Plain Forms Clinton's Army Right Wing on Otsquago Trail, 1779

In June 1779, General Clinton's army came up the Mohawk from Schenectady in 200 batteaux, containing army stores, amunition and ordnance, debarked at Canajoharie, made a famous overland portage to Otsego lake, with the 200 batteaux loaded on wagons, drawn by six horse teams and oxen, went down the Susquehanna, August 9, joined General Sullivan's army at Tioga August 22, defeated the Tories and Indians at present Elmira, August 29, 1777, and then ravaged the Seneca country. Colonel Dubois' Fifth New York Line Regiment with artillery, formed Clinton's right wing on this portage march, June 16 to July 2, and marched over the Otsquago Trail (which then ran through Little and Second Woods, on the line of the old Lipe farm road) to Starkville, camped June 18, at Camp Creek, Starkville; June 19, at Browns Hollow; June 19-26, built corduroy road through present Van Hornesville; June 26, camped south of Springfield; June 28, in camp at Lowe's Grove on the east side of the head of Otsego Lake. A guard of two companies of infantry and one of artillery was kept on scout and guard duty during Clinton's portage as it was expected Brant would attack over the Wiaontha Trail and June 19-26 entire regiment, except road building party, was deployed for a distance of three miles over road, one-half mile east of Summit (Mud) Lake expecting an attack. June 26, the Fifth established Camp Liberty at Lowe's Grove at the head of Otsego Lake. July 4 a grand celebration was held by entire army. See "Chapter 67 — 1779. Clinton's Portage March from the Mohawk to Otsego Lake."

Brant's Indian-Tory Raid, 1780 — When Women "Manned" Fort Plain

The Fort Plain section was devastated and 16 people were killed and 60 captured during a great raid of Tories and Indians under Joseph Brant (August 2, 1780). The story of this tragic occurrence may be read in Simms' "Frontiersmen of New York."

The local militia had gone up the river convoying supplies when the savages broke from the woods. A woman fired the signal gun at the fort warning the scattered settlers to take to the bush or woods or to run for the nearest blockhouse. Many gathered in Fort Plain and, fearing an attack, the women there donned men's hats and took poles and guns, showing themselves sufficiently above the palisades to give the impression of a large garrison. The ruse was successful as the savages avoided the fortification.

Several girls were captured and taken to Canada where they became the squaws of Indians and refused to return home when their parents went for them at the end of the Revolution. Many touching tales are told of the reunion of captives, made hereabout, with their families at the close of the war.

This raid ravaged the Otsquago valley from present Van Hornesville east to Fort Plain, with a total of 24 killed and 73 prisoners taken by Brant at all points. See "Chapter 68 — Johnstown and Fort Plain Raids, 1780."

Oct. 19, 1780. Johnson's Raid, Battles of Stone Arabia and Klock's Field.

In September, 1780, Gen. Robert Van Rensselaer of Albany was in command of the valley forts and made his headquarters at Fort Plain and then changed its official military designation to Fort Rensselaer. It also continued to be popularly known as Fort Plain throughout the Revolution, and these two names for the same fort have caused much historical confusion.

On the morning of October 19, 1780, Col. John Brown, at the head of 140 American soldiers met Sir John Johnson and 700 Tory, Indian, British and Hessian German raiders in the bloody battle of Stone Arabia. Brown and 50 of his men were slain, the rest of his little band escaping to Fort Paris, the chief Revolutionary fortification of present Palatine township. Johnson's red and white savages then murdered and burned all through the Stone Arabia settlements, following which they moved westward past Palatine Church.

Where Van Rensselaer's Revolutionary Army Crossed the Mohawk

Oct. 19, 1780, Gen. Van Rensselaer's American Army reached Prospect Hill, in its pursuit up the south shore highway, of Sir John Johnson's murderous raiders. Here the Americans came to Ehle's ford at Verplanck's (Nellis) Island. The traitor Van Rensselaer delayed his pursuit here for several hours, while he took dinner with Gov. Clinton at Fort Plain. In the late afternoon the Americans, enraged at their cowardly or traitorous leader, were allowed to cross on the baggage wagons which had been driven into the Mohawk to form a temporary bridge. The patriot militia routed the invaders at Klock's Field, five miles westward, the same evening. See "Chapter 69 — Johnson's Great Raid Through the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys."

[Photo: The Duffy Home, Fort Plain]

General Marinus Willett

From June, 1781, until the end of the Revolution in the fall of 1783, Col. Marinus Willett was in command of the American Revolutionary military forces along the Mohawk. He made Fort Plain his headquarters and lived in a log hut on the east slope of Fort Hill. Col. Willett was a New York City Son of Liberty, a famous patriot, a noted scout and one of the most efficient American Revolutionary officers. He was second in command at Fort Stanwix during its unsuccessful siege and on the day of the Oriskany battle he led the famous sortie which burned the British camp.

Col. Willett led the local garrisons and valley militia to the Revolutionary American victories of Sharon Springs (July 10, 1781), Johnstown (Oct. 25, 1781) and West Canada Creek (Oct. 29, 1781), the latter being the action in which the Tory murderer-villain Walter Butler was killed.

Willett was a grandson of Thomas Willett, the first mayor of New York City, following its charter granting in 1684. Col. Willett became a brigadier-general, serving until 1792. He was elected sheriff and later mayor (1807) of New York City and died in 1830, aged 90. Willett was a big, muscular, fearless fighter and so feared by the Indians that they called him "the Devil." He was beloved by his soldiers and the valley people of his bloody time for his valiant defense of this Mohawk River frontier. Even today the name of Willett is revered in the Mohawk Valley. See Willett's biography at the end of Chapter 62. [actually Chapter 61]

Under Washington's orders Col. Willett marched to Fort Oswego in February, 1783, in an unsuccessful attempt to capture that strong British post. The 300-mile round trip was made with great hardship. See "Chapter 73 — 1783. Willett Fails to Capture Fort Oswego."

On April 17, 1783, news of peace reached Fort Plain and Col. Willett sent a messenger to the British commander at Fort Oswego with the welcome news. See "Chapter 74 — 1783. Peace News Reaches Fort Plain."

Williams Memorial Library — Haslett Park — Duffy Fountain

The old south shore turnpike, running through the Greenbush section of Fort Plain is called Willett Street, after Fort Plain's Revolutionary commander. On it is the Williams Memorial Library (building erected 1835) and Haslett Park (gift of Frederick S. Haslett) and the Duffy electrical fountain (gift of John Duffy). The park would be a fitting site for a memorial to or statue of General Willett. Willett Street is here intersected by River Street, which is the northern beginning of the Otsquago Trail, which carries a great passenger, commercial, farming and touring traffic. Such a Willett statue, properly located in this park, would, therefore, be annually seen by thousands. Haslett Park is also a fine location for a World War memorial or statue.

Fort Plain is admirably and centrally located for a historical museum. The surrounding country is rich in material, much being annually destroyed which would be placed in such a local institution, if it existed.

Fort Plain is also well situated as a location of a company of the New York National Guard, with Canajoharie at [sic] St. Johnsville included in the personnel.

Washington at Fort Plain, 1783

July 30, 1783, General Washington and staff stopped at Fort Plain, on their return from their journey up the Mohawk to Fort Stanwix, on the site of present Rome. The following day General Washington journeyed to Cherry Valley and Otsego Lake, returning to Canajoharie over Clinton's route.

General Washington spent the night of July 30, at the stone house (destroyed in 1865) of Peter Wormuth, on the Palatine shore of the Mohawk. Washington crossed the Mohawk by Walrath's ferry to Fort Plain on the morning of July 31. Beside the road to the fort, Mrs. Gross (wife of Dominie Gross) had paraded a bevy of school boys. At a signal they took off their hats and cheered and then made their best bow to the Father of their Country. The General smiled, returned a cheerful "Good morning, boys," to their greeting and then rode up the hill to the fort. The garrison of Fort Plain was paraded and the Commander was given a military salute. General Washington dined with Col. Clyde in the fort, after which, accompanied by his escort, he rode to Cherry Valley, where he spent the night of July 31. On August 1 Washington and his party rode to Otsego Lake and returned to Canajoharie over Gen. Clinton's road of 1779. It is only at Fort Plain and Canajoharie that we have many details of this famous Mohawk Valley journey of Washington. (See Canajoharie.) See "Chapter 75 — 1783. Washington's Journey Through the Mohawk Valley."

Bleecker House — Paris Store, 1786

[Photo: Bleecker House, Fort Plain]

Shortly after the Revolution Isaac Paris, Jr., of Stone Arabia, moved to Fort Plain and here, in 1786, built a large storehouse and trading post on a low hill rising from the Otsquago, a mile from its outlet (but probably navigable). He died within a few years. The town of Paris, Oneida County (just south of Utica) was named for Isaac Paris, Jr., in appreciation of his aiding its starving inhabitants with gifts of grain during a season of failing crops. The father of Paris (Isaac Paris, Sr.) was murdered by Indians, who captured him in the Oriskany battle. The Paris store has been occupied by the Bleecker family since 1835.


Fort Plain is a "canal town," that is its early development was caused by its location on the old Erie Canal, constructed in 1817-1825. The new creek channel was then made along Prospect Hill and the lock and guard gates were placed here, which changed the village center from Sand Hill to Prospect Hill, and brought the creek outlet a half mile south of its former one. When Sand Hill was the center, the few houses, tavern and store, on the present town's business center, were called "Totoville." The neighborhood negro slaves used to gather at the tavern here where they performed a peculiar dance called the "Toto dance," and hence the locality was called "Totoville."

Fort Plain — Nelliston, 1825 to 1925

Some Fort Plain events and dates follow: 1806, river bridge built at upper island; present center plotted and town boomed during building of Erie Canal (1817-1825), when new outlet of Otsquago to river was dug along Prospect Hill; Fort Plain incorporated, 1832; Fort Plain Seminary built 1853 (enrollment 513), succeeded 1879 by Clinton Liberal Institute, burned 1900, village high school (1916) occupying site; furniture making started 1865, spring and axles 1870 (removed to Chicago Heights 1894), silk 1880, knit goods 1887. Nelliston village was incorporated in 1878. The Fort Plain and Richfield Springs R. R. (projected first in 1828) constructed considerable roadbed, 1895-6, but project failed.

The following, regarding the early history of the village of Fort Plain is from the author's "[The Story of] Old Fort Plain and the Middle Mohawk Valley." It covers practically the same period (1825-1925) of village development as the sketch by Mr. H. V. Bush — "One Hundred Years of Canajoharie," contained in the chapter on Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge.

The story of the village of Fort Plain, since its incorporation as a village in 1832, is typical of the development of Mohawk Valley towns during the nineteenth century. It has also been the growth of the canal and market town of 1830 into the manufacturing village and farming community center of the twentieth century. Because of the Barge Canal it will undoubtedly regain its place as an "inland port," which it held before the decline of traffic on the Erie Canal, due to railroad competition. Fort Plain was incorporated as a village in 1832. Like its sister village, Canajoharie (incorporated 1829), Fort Plain is a "canal town" — that is, its early growth was largely the result of the great impetus to trade and commerce in the valley given by the construction of the Erie Canal. The founding and development of industries, except on a small scale, came later. Through all the changes of the nineteenth century, it has remained a trading center for an important agricultural and dairying section. Situated at the mouth of the Otsquago Valley and practically (by road) at the outlet of the Garoga Valley, it has formed a center of trade for these two extensive natural thoroughfares and their adjacent country. With the present rapid improvement of the highways, its advantageous location will continue to be of marked aid to the trade centering about the town, and its projected Barge Canal terminal will give it a position of prominence in the traffic of that great waterway. The Garoga Valley road, a mile and a half north of Nelliston, leads north up the Garoga Valley into the lakeland of northern Fulton County. The Otsquago Valley roads, south into the Susquehanna Valley, lead to Richfield Springs, Springfield Centre, Cooperstown, Cherry Valley and other points.

Village Center Moved from Sand Hill to Prospect Hill

Fort Plain originally was a hamlet of a few houses, a hotel, store and mill, which grew up at the foot of Prospect Hill and along the south shore turnpike (now Willett Street) and the Otsquago Creek, which then ran along the flats to the foot of Fort Hill (or the eminence on which the fortification of Fort Plain stood), a half mile north of the business center of present Fort Plain. As we have seen, during the building of the Erie Canal, the business concerns at Sand Hill, on the northern end of the present village, moved to the present site. Fort Plain, as a hamlet, dates from about the building of the Canajoharie Reformed Dutch Church on Sand Hill in 1750, when the nucleus of a little settlement was established there at the river ferry and the beginning of the Dutchtown Road. Both Sand Hill and the Prospect Hill hamlets formed parts of the present Fort Plain village limits — about a square mile of territory.

Fort Plain and Nelliston Form One Mohawk River Community

Fort Plain and Nelliston form what is virtually one town as before stated. They are separated by the Mohawk River, Nelliston being on the north shore and Fort Plain on the south. Nelliston dates its growth from about 1840. The original river bridge connecting the present villages was built in 1829. The first Mohawk River bridge at Fort Plain was built across the island in 1806. Nelliston is a beautiful residential section and is more adapted to the site of future residential growth of the two villages than Fort Plain itself. For articles relative to Fort Plain, in connection with the building of bridges, highways, canals and railroads, turn to the separate chapters on these subjects.

Fort Plain lies partly on the flats and partly on the high ground rising to Prospect Hill on the east and to Institute and Cemetery Hill and Fort Hill on the west and north. It also extends up the Otsquago Valley nearly a mile. Nelliston lies on a tableland on a small hill rising directly from the river.

Trade and business houses rapidly sprang up in Fort Plain, both before and immediately after the Erie was completed in 1825, and for a number of years it shared in the commerce of what was then a great water route of passenger and freight traffic. For years the Fort Plain canal docks were lively and busy places and continued as such up to about 1880, when the competition of the railroads began to be seriously felt.

Crouse Brick Yard, 1825, and Fort Plain's Brick Buildings

George Crouse, the Revolutionary soldier and son of Jacob Crouse, the pioneer, built a house (on the site of the present George Duffy home) about 1790. This house descended to his son Henry Crouse, who started a brickyard on present West Street, Fort Plain, about 1825. The clay was taken from the hill sloping back to the cemetery and the water came from a pond on the site of the present Reformed Church parsonage. Many of the fine old-time brick residences, which lend an air of distinction to Fort Plain, were built of brick from the Crouse brickyard, as were all of the early brick business buildings. Among these was the first Reformed Church and the first Fort Plain Bank building, the Fort Plain Seminary and many others. A number of members of the Crouse family moved to points west of Fort Plain, about the time of the operation of the Crouse brickyard. Among these was John Crouse (son of Jacob Crouse and Katherine Nellis) who removed to Syracuse, where he started a large wholesale grocery house and founded Crouse College of Syracuse University.

Fort Plain started out to be a "brick town." It is to be hoped that brick residential construction may be resumed along the lines of the many fine old brick mansions which give Fort Plain such a distinctive and substantial character. Fort Plain and Nelliston also have a large and easily quarried supply of limestone for building purposes, which used, as it naturally quarries, in houses of a Colonial type would make picturesque and enduring houses. The Lipe, Nellis, Sponable, Berthond and Ehle houses show the possibility of the use of this local stone for buildings and houses.

At the period of the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, and until the time railroads entered the country to the south of us, Fort Plain as a market and canal town and later a railroad town as well, drew a great amount of trade to itself from what is now Otsego County and the Susquehanna Valley even farther south. Teams loaded with merchandise arrived from and departed for towns and settlements as far south as Oneonta and even beyond.

Following the building of the Erie Canal, a hotel and sanitarium was built on the site of the present Yordon box factory. It was an important institution for several years, fronting, as it did, on the then lively Erie Canal. The hotel barns were across Canal street, where the tannery formerly stood. Stages for Cooperstown, Cherry Valley, etc., arrived and departed from this point. A short distance above the hotel (just north of former Clark's bridge) were the canal "wide waters," where a canal boat could be turned around. In 1840 President Martin Van Buren visited Fort Plain and spoke from the balcony of the old brick building on the north side of Main street.

A public school was already located in the village when incorporated in 1832. The old wooden building, a veritable firetrap, was replaced in 1879 by the present brick structure which has been remodeled into the handsome Fort Plain Masonic Temple.

Utica And Schenectady Railroad, 1836

The building of the Utica and Schenectady Railroad (present New York Central) in 1836, stimulated the growth of Fort Plain. Both Nelliston (opposite Fort Plain) and Palatine Bridge (opposite Canajoharie) owe their first growth to the establishment of the railroad stations and freight houses within the present limits of these villages.

[Engraving: Front Page of Fort Plain Seminary Circular of 1860]

[Photo: Clinton Liberal Institute, Fort Plain]

The Fort Plain Seminary and Collegiate Institute was erected in 1853, by a stock company with a capital of $32,000 and chartered by the regents of the university, October 20 of that year. The first scholastic year of the institution began November 7, 1853, with 513 students. In 1879 this large brick structure was remodeled into a still larger building of five stories and occupied by Clinton Liberal Institute, which removed here from Clinton. This was a school under the patronage of the Universalist denomination and continued to fill an important educational mission until it was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1900. Instruction was given in academical, college preparatory and commercial courses and there was an important and largely attended fine arts department which schooled in music, elocution, and drawing and painting. In its latter years a military department was added and plans were on foot to make it exclusively a boys' military school when it was destroyed. It occupied a beautiful site of about ten acres on high ground and had, beside the main building, a gymnasium, a large armory and athletic field. Crowds came to witness the field sports and the baseball and football matches in which this preparatory school frequently competed successfully with college teams. "C. L. I." was a center of culture for all the people of the middle Mohawk Valley and its destruction was a great educational loss to not only Fort Plain, but a great area of country about it. Its park-like site was known first as "Seminary Hill" and later as "Institute Hill." An effort was made to have it converted into a public park and site for the high school, but this unfortunately failed of a majority in a village election held in 1909. Over 200 students were in attendance at C. L. I. during some years.

The Fort Plain School now occupies the site of C. L. I. It includes kindergarten, grammar school and high, and is located in a fine large brick building, erected in 1915. The school has a commanding site with beautiful views of the Mohawk and Otsquago valleys.

The town of Minden, including Fort Plain, bore its full share of the terrible cost, in lives and treasure, of the War of the Rebellion. Minden as a whole furnished 518 men at an expense, beside the county bounty of $154,143. This is according to Beers' 1878 History. The Grand Army of the Republic is (1925) represented in Fort Plain by Klock Post, G. A. R., named after Captain Klock of St. Johnsville.

1874 — Spring and Axle Works — Beginning of Fort Plain's Industrial Development

In 1874 the Shipmans moved their spring and axle works from Springfield Center to Fort Plain. The business had started in the old stone Van Horne mill, still standing by the Otsquago Creek, in the glen at Van Hornesville, where the first factory made springs and axles manufactured in America were turned out. The Fort Plain Spring and Axle Works developed into the largest factory of its kind in America. In the course of a business combination, the factory was removed to Chicago Heights, Illinois, in 1894. The loss of this industry to Fort Plain was keenly felt.

1883 — Building West Shore Railroad

The construction of the West Shore Railroad in 1883 made Fort Plain a station on the new line, which has lately been denominated South Fort Plain to differentiate it from the New York Central Station and to avoid confusion among shippers. The completion of the West Shore Railroad in 1883 was marked by a disastrous wreck on that road at Diefendorf Hill to the north of Fort Plain. Two passenger trains, scheduled to pass each other at the Fort Plain Station at noon, collided through some misunderstanding of orders. Several lives were lost and the wreck was most spectacular, one of the engines being shoved upright into an almost perpendicular position. What was to have been a day of celebration was changed into one of gloom at Fort Plain. The wreck was viewed by large crowds of people.

Shortly before the completion of the West Shore, occurred a riot of Italian laborers and several of them were wounded by townspeople who broke up the gathering in front of the Zoller House, which they beseiged, as in it was hidden the contractor who owed them their wages. The day was one of great excitement for Fort Plain.

Two important silk mills were located in Fort Plain in a period between about 1880 and 1884. The largest, located on Willett Street, was burned in 1884 and this was an event temporarily disastrous to the town.

One of the largest Canal Street firms doing business had its grain elevator and mill burned in a spectacular fire in 1883. After this date the canal business fell off rapidly.

1912 — Hydro Electric Power Introduced

Fort Plain has electric light and electric power furnished by the Fulton County Gas and Electric Company. The concern has rights to the use of the water in the Garoga lakes and is one of the water power companies that has a dependable water supply, particularly during the summer months. The introduction of this power into Fort Plain in 1912 undoubtedly means much to the future industrial growth of this town, as it is claimed that power can be developed here as cheaply as anywhere in the east.

Williams Memorial Library

In 1884 a Woman's Literary Society was organized in Fort Plain with a membership of about forty. Shortly after this organization was effected it was decided that the efforts of its members should be directed toward the establishment of a public library. With this idea in view a "book reception" was held at the home of one of its members, and a number of books and some contributions of money were received. It was resolved to work under the name of the Women's Library Association of Fort Plain and the constantly growing collection of books was housed at a number of places, until 1909, when the children of the late James H. Williams, in conjunction with Miss Sadie J. Williams, all of Brooklyn, gave the use of the house at the corner of River and Willett streets to the Fort Plain Public Library, which had been incorporated under that name. This was presented as a memorial to one of Fort Plain's first merchants, Harvey E. Williams, and his son, James H. Williams, who was born here. The library was also willed $1,000 by the late John Winning and $2,000 by the late Homer N. Lockwood, and $5,000 by the late James A. Wendell of Fort Plain, comptroller of the State of New York. The Catherine Nellis Memorial Chapel, a drinking fountain presented by the late Charles Tanner, the Failing Cemetery rest house, Haslett Park and the Duffy electric fountain are notable public gifts of the past.

[Engraving: Masonic Temple, Fort Plain]

Fort Plain has many fraternal, social and church organizations. The Old Fort Plain Band has been a high-class musical organization for about seventy-five years. At one time the town had two bands. The volunteer fire department has generally maintained a high degree of efficiency. The Fort Plain Club was originally organized as an athletic and social club of young men in 1891. It took in business men as members the same year and became a business men's social organization. Fort Plain Lodge No. 433, F. and A. M., was organized June 17, 1858. It occupies a handsome Masonic Temple. The Fort Plain Exchange Club was organized in 1925. The Knights of Pythias have a temple.

A railroad, from Fort Plain to Richfield Springs and Cooperstown, has been agitated ever since an initial meeting of townspeople, to further that object, in 1828. In 1894 work was actually begun, a right of way having been obtained. Much of the roadbed was constructed but the contractors failed and the project fell through.

The Bailey Knitting Mills

In 1898, Squire and Thomas Bailey came to Fort Plain from Little Falls, purchased the spring and axle works buildings and started the knit goods business, which has been such an important factor in the industrial, commercial and business life of Fort Plain. Mr. Charles Bailey, the veteran knit goods manufacturer of Little Falls (who died in 1924), was associated with his sons, though he continued his Little Falls residence. The Bailey Mills employ about 500 people and make a varied line of knit goods. In the summer of 1924, when most of the valley knit goods concerns were operating only about 20 per cent. of their capacity, the Bailey Mills were running to their usual capacity. The capital stock of the Bailey Knitting Mills is $400,000, and the officers are: President, Squire Bailey; Vice-President, Charles Bailey; Secretary and Treasurer, Thomas Bailey.

1898 — Fort Plain Street Fair Started

[Photo: Constitution Day, Fort Plain Street Fair]

In the Fall of 1898 a number of Main Street merchants got up, on the spur of the moment, a display of farm fruits and produce on the sidewalks in front of their stores, and this was the nucleus of the Fort Plain Street Fair, famed throughout Central New York. Great crowds come by horse and automobile conveyances and by trains from up and down the valley to this September carnival. Excellent displays of fruit, farm produce, field crops and poultry were held under canvas covered booths on the brick pavement of Canal and Main streets. As many as 50,000 visitors are estimated to have attended the fair, during the week in which it is held, and 15,000 are said to have been present on a single day. Free attractions are annually offered and the crowds, while full of the fair and carnival spirit and addicted to much noise, are invariably orderly and arrests and petty crimes are almost unknown.

This fair was discontinued for a number of years but was revived by the Fort Plain Post, American Legion, in 1922 and is continuing its former successful career.

[Photo: Park at Van Hornesville]

In the years from 1880 to 1910, Fort Plain established water, electric light and sewage systems. The water system was originally owned by a private company, with reservoir in Freysbush. The village instituted its own plant in 1895, with reservoir in Palatine, a mile northeast of the town. Its water is taken from North Creek, a branch of the Garoga. In 1903 parts of Canal and Main streets were paved with brick and since that time the main thoroughfares have been so paved. About 1885 occurred the development of Prospect Hill as a residential section.

The original enterprise, from which the Beech-Nut Packing Company of Canajoharie developed, has had an important bearing on Fort Plain. The sister villages of Fort Plain-Nelliston and Canajoharie and Palatine Bridge have their business centers only three miles apart while the outskirts of Palatine Bridge and Nelliston are but one and one-half miles distant from each other on the Old Mohawk Turnpike and are rapidly building together. About 200 employes of the Beech-Nut Packing Company live in Fort Plain and Nelliston and daily "commute" to their work in Canajoharie in big Beech-Nut busses. This fact has done much to unite the two towns in a bond of unity and a number of marriages between the young people of the adjoining communities has resulted from this Beech-Nut bond of fellowship.

1911 — Atwood's Aeroplane Flight, First Through the Valley. — Stop at Fort Plain.

In 1911, Atwood, the aviator, made his epoch-making trip by aeroplane from St. Louis to New York. He landed in a field on the E. I. Nellis farm in Nelliston. This was his only overnight stop in the Mohawk Valley which he used in his route from Syracuse to Castleton on the Hudson. He landed near Glen village, Montgomery County, on the day following his stop in Nelliston. The history of Nelliston it might be here remarked, is practically coincident with that of Fort Plain, since about 1840, when Nelliston began to grow into the pleasant and attractive town it now is. The date of Atwood's landing at Nelliston was August 22, 1911. Atwood slept that night in Fort Plain, where he was accorded, as he said, the best reception of his whole journey. See "Chapter 96 — Atwood's Aeroplane Flight Through the Mohawk Valley, 1911."

In 1911 the Fritcher Opera House was burned and the Fort Plain Theatre was erected in the same year. This is now Smalley's Fort Plain Theatre, under the management (1925) of H. L. Richardson. Smalley's Fort Plain Theatre shows pictures, plays and vaudeville and is one of the houses of the Smalley Circuit, a rapidly growing theatrical and cinema chain.

Fort Plain's Million Dollar Milk Business

[Photo: Mohawk River, Central R. R. and Nelliston [Milk Processing Station]

One of the noteworthy features of business life in Fort Plain has been the great development of the milk business. In 1925 there were three large milk companies doing business in the town — the Fort Plain Milk Company, the Van Son Company, and the Dairymen's League. The total amount of money paid farmers for milk in 1924 by these companies totaled $1,250,000. Milk is Fort Plain's largest industry. Fort Plain is one of the important milk shipping stations on the New York Central Railroad.

In the cold wave of January 28, 1925, Freysbush, just southwest of Fort Plain, recorded 43 degrees below zero, the lowest in the Mohawk Valley. Fort Plain's lowest was 42 degrees below. On January 29, 1925, 26 inches of snow fell in Fort Plain, the greatest fall on record since the blizzard of 1888.

Fort Plain Population Figures

The following gives the known figures of the population of Fort Plain: 1825, 200; 1832, 400; 1860, 1,592; 1870, 1,797; 1880, 2,443; 1890, 2,864; 1900, 2,444; 1910, 2,762; 1920, 2,747. Fort Plain and Nelliston, combined, population figures: 1880, 3,001; 1890, 3,585; 1900, 3,078; 1910, 3,499; 1920, 3,411. The estimated 1925 population of Fort Plain-Nelliston is 3,700. Fort Plain and Nelliston are virtually one community, on opposite sides of the Mohawk.

The following are the population figures for the town of Minden: 1850, 4,623; 1860, 4,412; 1870, 4,600; 1880, 5,100; 1890, 5,198; 1900, 4,541; 1910, 4,645.

Fort Plain Church History

The Reformed society moved from Sand Hill to Fort Plain and built a church in 1834 on its present site. This burned and in 1835 a structure, long known as "the brick church," was built which was repaired in 1872. While these were building, the congregation used the church at Sand Hill, but upon the completion of the brick one the old structure to the west of the village, was demolished. The ecclesiastical relations of this church are with the classis of Montgomery and through it with the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America. In 1887 a new and architecturally important brick church was built by the Reformed society. The town clock, now in the tower of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank building, was formerly in the Reformed Church steeple for half a century. It has struck the hours for Fort Plain for nearly a century.

The first Methodist class in Fort Plain was formed, June 24, 1832. In early times the Methodist services were occasionally held in the Sand Hill Church, but more frequently in the second story of a building that stood near the Clark place on Upper Canal Street. When this building was moved to a spot near the present Shinaman drug store, the Methodists continued its use as a meeting place. Then for several years before 1842, services were held in what was at that time the district school house, which occupied the former Mohawk Street School site. The first Methodist Church was dedicated February 20, 1845. In 1854 it was enlarged and re-dedicated. In 1879 a large new brick structure was erected on the old site. A Methodist church (of frame construction) was built in Nelliston in 1895.

The first Universalist society of Minden was organized April 6, 1833, and the first church was dedicated December 25, 1833. It was remodeled in 1855 and 1874. In 1896 the old frame structure was torn down and a large, brick church was erected on the site.

The (German) Lutheran Church society held its first meetings in 1842 in private houses. The first church building was built in 1853. The present brick structure was completed in 1874.

A Baptist society was formed in 1891 and a brick church was built in 1892.

An Episcopal Church (Holy Cross) was erected on Prospect Hill in 1887 and in 1899 was removed to the corner of Lydius and Washington streets.

The Catholic Church, standing close to the Fort Plain Cemetery, was built about 1887.

The association managing the cemetery of Fort Plain was organized March 4, 1864. It occupies, on the heights of the northwest corner of the village territory, a large and beautiful location. The view of the valley obtained from it is very fine and this park-like burial place is one of the most important in Central New York. The stone Catherine Nellis Memorial chapel of much beauty and architectural merit, was the gift of Mrs. H. H. Benedict of New York, in memory of her mother, and was erected in 1907. Here are also the Failing Rest House and several memorial gates.

Minden Township of Montgomery County, in which Fort Plain is located, today is a prosperous dairying and farming section and it is famed for the beauty of its rolling hills and wooded valleys.

Prospect Hill, A Middle Mohawk Valley Viewpoint

[Photo: Fort Plain from Prospect Hill]

Fort Plain has many advantages, and some disadvantages of location. In Prospect Hill, it has a sightly viewpoint, the equal of which is not possessed by any valley town excepting Little Falls. The vistas opened up to a spectator on this hill are wide and exceedingly pleasing in their variety of river, canal, fertile fields and distant wooded hills. It is a valley section and a village with a situation and a setting, which offers unusual opportunities for the factory, for the dwellers in the town or on the fertile farms round about it.

Prospect Hill is a valley eminence and a little hill of the world — a place of today and of yesterday; though but of comparatively low elevation it has the breath of the far uplands and the clear upper summits of the Mohawk Valley. Along its margins yet remain a few vestiges of the ancient forest, which covered this viewpoint and stretched away in every direction to the summits of the distant high hills in the days of the Mohawks. Here are oaks, elms, a few pines, and other of our noble native trees. To the southward Prospect Hill rises to a noble height of two hundred feet above the river. This portion of this upland was the Tarahjohrees, or "the hill of health" of the Mohawks, and its summit would be easily accessible, from Tencksowemy valley and brook (which marks the southern limits of the village of Fort Plain and enters the Mohawk at the upper end of Nellis Island) were it not for many barbed-wire fences intervening. From Prospect Hill one can easily imagine the valley as it was — perhaps as it will be — and view it as it is. Its aloofness suggests pictures of the past while its close proximity to village, railroads and canal, gives an intimate insight into the valley and village life of today. Its triangular bluff point abutting on Otsquago Creek should become a village park, to prevent its use for other purposes.

Prospect Hill's Ancient Elm

Prospect Hill has a huge, ancient elm on its northern brow, probably over 200 years old, which dates from the first settlement of white men at present Fort Plain. It grew as a young sapling, when the Indian village of Tarajorees stood on Prospect Hill from 1700 to 1755. This ancient and historic sentinel should always be preserved.

Old Brick Mansions — Typical Mohawk Valley Architecture

A handsome, dignified and substantial character is given to the villages of Fort Plain and Nelliston by the considerable number of well-built, attractive brick buildings (numbering about 100) erected between 1820 and 1875. They vary from the Schenectady Dutch style, exemplified in the Groff House on Willett Street, to the square, cupalo-topped, large, brick structures erected before and after the Civil war. Many of these handsome big, brick houses were formerly surrounded by extensive grounds and beautiful gardens. This house style, seen here to good advantage, constitutes the only typical Mohawk Valley architectural style yet produced.

The Garoga Trail

East of Fort Plain is the Stone Arabia district of the Township of Palatine, the latter division lying on the east shore of the river for a distance of ten miles. The Mohawk here runs north and south. Palatine Township forms the tiny remains of a division of Tryon County which once extended northward to the St. Lawrence River, just as Canajoharie Township is a remnant of a similarly great district which stretched southward to the Pennsylvania line. Northward, through Stone Arabia to Ephratah, Rockwood and Garoga, the Garoga Trail stretches northward to the Garoga and Canada Lakes and onward to Lake Piseco. This is a main trail capable of development northward to Malone and the St. Lawrence just as the Otsquago Trail will eventually be a trunk line motor road extending southward to Binghamton, Philadelphia and Washington. Together the Otsquago-Garoga Trail may eventually become a mighty highway running from the St. Lawrence to the banks of the Potomac, passing by two parallel routes, through Fort Plain and Canajoharie.

At Stone Arabia, four miles east of Fort Plain are the historic Stone Arabia churches. The stone Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1788 and the frame Lutheran was erected in 1792. The grave of Colonel John Brown, hero of the battle of Stone Arabia, lies in the neglected graveyard of the Stone Arabia Reformed Church, where some fifty other Revolutionary veterans repose, mostly in unmarked graves. The Stone Arabia section forms a fertile farming and dairying region.

To the westward in the Fort Plain-Nelliston neighborhood are historically important Fort Wagner, Palatine Church and the General Cochran house. At Palatine Church, on the Mohawk Turnpike, three miles west of Fort Plain, is Garoga Creek and its outlet into the Mohawk.

Fort Wagner, 1750

About 1 1/2 miles west of Nelliston stands Fort Wagner (1750) on the east side of the highway, the old stone fort forming the north end of a picturesque farmhouse, reached through an avenue of trees, from the turnpike. This was the home of Lieut-Col. Peter Wagner of the Palatine Regiment of Tryon County Militia (1775-1783), and this old Wagner farm has always been noted for its fertility.

During the Revolution two Tory soldiers in Canada nearly killed each other over the question as to which one should be allotted this rich farmland when the "rebels" were licked. The Tories (Americans siding with the loyalists) were promised their patriot neighbors' farms as the spoils of war.

Col. Wagner erected a palisade (log wall) around his stone house early in the Revolution, when it became known as Fort Wagner, and it formed a neighborhood refuge during the savage raids of that time, when the local militia formed its defense.

Running westward over the old Mohawk Turnpike the motorist sights the ancient stone walls and spire of Palatine Church, on the north side of Garoga Creek. Palatine Church is an old landmark which dominates this entire valley section.

In the early part of the nineteenth century there were probably fifteen or twenty houses hereabout and Palatine Church was an original station (long abandoned) of the Utica and Schenectady railroad, opened in 1836. This immediate picturesque and fertile valley section probably (1924) has much the same general appearance as in the Colonial days of erection of the stone church in 1770.

In the early nineteenth century Palatine Church was a busy turnpike place. Here were the Fox tavern, a famous turnpike inn and stage house, the Fox grist, saw and fulling mills, all being the property of Gen. Peter C. Fox of the War of 1812. Here were two stores and a Masonic Lodge and the wide flats were the site of "general training" of the militia and the tavern the scene of old Montgomery County political conventions.

Garoga Creek

The name of this dark Adirondack stream is fittingly said to mean "dark or savage waters." The Garoga rises in the lake section of the Mayfield Mountains, north of Gloversville. It has Peck Pond, Garoga and East Garoga lakes and a number of ponds as its main headwaters in a region popular as a summer resort section. The Garoga headwater stream rises (at Bleecker Center), 19 miles airline distance from its outlet, in a swamp from which also issues a brook flowing northeast into the Sacandaga.

In 1924 Garoga Creek was a considerable producer of hydroelectric power. With a plant at Ephratah and one projected the Fulton County Gas and Electric Co. (of Gloversville) will have a 1930 production of 15,500 h. p.

The Garoga's State Public Park Possibilities

Garoga Creek, from its outlet into the Mohawk to its gorge through the hill to the east of the Turnpike bridge, has all the essentials of a fine state public water park. Its value, in this regard, is accentuated by its location on the Old Mohawk Turnpike, with its thousands of tourists and Valley residents passing during the summer months. There is no other water park site available, on the great New York-Buffalo Highway, in the 200-mile stretch between Albany and the Finger lakes. Public golf links, tennis courts, picnic grounds, and other recreational features, as well as camp sites, are here practicable and would add to the public value of such a possible Garoga State park site.

Tionnontogen, 1668-1693 — Jesuit Mission of St. Mary's, 1670-1684

It is probable that the great Mohawk Indian castle of Ti-onon-do-gue was located on the banks of the Garoga, over the low hill east of the church, near present Wagners Hollow, a mile east of Palatine Church, from 1668 until 1693, when it was destroyed by French-Canadian invaders in a surprise attack and battle during New York's Colonial period. At Wagners Hollow there exist the remains of a great Mohawk village.

At Tionondogue (or Tionnontogen) was the Jesuit Mission of St. Mary's, where Father Bruyas labored and prepared his famous dictionary of the Iroquois tongue from about 1668 to 1684, when most of the Roman Catholic missionaries left the Iroquois country.

Destruction and Battle of Tionnontogen, 1693

To subdue the Mohawks, who constantly raided Canada, Count Frontenac, in 1693, sent out an expedition of 625 French and Indians which destroyed the three lower Mohawk castles without difficulty, as the Mohawks abandoned them and made their stand at the upper castle of Tionondogue, where a hot battle took place. The Canadian French and Indians attacked at night and took the fort in a bloody fight, the French alone losing thirty men in the assault. The Mohawks were outnumbered and attempted to cut their way out, but many were killed and 300 were captured, while some survivors escaped into the forest. The village was burned and the invaders set off, with their captives, on the return, march to Canada in the dead of winter.

Col. Peter Schuyler and the Albany militia pursued the enemy and fought and won a severe battle with them; retaking fifty Mohawk prisoners. Provisions ran low and the Mohawk warriors cooked and ate some of their enemies. The unsuspecting Schuyler was invited to the feast, but upon fishing out a Frenchman's hand from the pot, his appetite left him and he departed with it.

The exact location of the second Tionnontogen is not known. The Mohawks removed from the first Tionnontogen at Wagner's Hllow, one mile north, in 1689, where they remained until the second Tionnontogen was destroyed in 1693, as related above.

The Mohawks never fully recovered from this bloody invasion of 1693. After it the survivors, few in numbers, built the tribal village of Og-sa-da-ga, at present Tribes Hill, where they lived from 1693 until 1700, when they removed to their final locations on the south side at Fort Hunter, Fort Plain and Indian Castle.

Palatine Church, 1770, the Mohawk Turnpike's Most Famous Landmark

The Palatine Evangelical Lutheran Church was built of stone in 1770, through the generous donations of a few Palatine-German pioneers of the Wagner, Reber, Hess and Nellis families. The Nellis family paid for the original spire and its weathercock, which was regilded for the first time in 1920.

Palatine Church was built by the neighboring settlers, the pioneer farmers of that day being, of necessity, both carpenters and masons as well as knowing something of other trades. The neighborhood women furnished meals for the workmen during the erection of the church.

Prior to the Revolution, Fox's Mill was here located on the Garoga, the site being the old paper mill which was rebuilt into a turnpike hotel in 1921. Here also was a Colonial tavern and this was a Colonial neighborhood center.

On Oct. 19, 1780, Sir John Johnson passed westward over the King's Highway at the head of his bloody band of red and white raiders. Their course, from the battle of Stone Arabia, was marked with the smoke of the burning homesteads of valley patriots. Here they burned Fox's Mills as well as other "rebel's" buildings.

A painted savage raider attached a burning firebrand arrow to his bow and was about to shoot it onto the shingle roof of the church, when a red-coated British officer rode up and commanded him to stop. The officer had been requested by a Tory Nellis in Canada from this section, to spare the church and it thus escaped destruction.

This ancient church has never had an independent pastorate. Its pulpit has always been supplied by pastors from other churches — in the early days from the Stone Arabia Lutheran Church.

The general exterior appearance of the church, with the exception of the spire, is the same as when originally built. The original spire was conical, like most early Dutch churches, and was changed to its present beautiful shape early in the nineteenth century. In the craze to tear down and remodel everything old the church interior was disfigured by the removal of its handsome old sounding board pulpit and its gallery and the removal of its entrance from the east side to the south end. This was done prior to 1870, against the protests of some of the older residents. The ugly interior of Palatine Church should be restored to its handsome ancient form, as it is one of the most visited and one of the most historically interesting of the few Colonial churches, on the New York to Buffalo highway. The church is probably the Turnpike's most famous landmark.

Services are held here on Sundays, to which turnpike motorists are invited. It is generally open, during the motoring season, for the benefit of tourists, who are requested to sign the visitors' book.

[Photo: Monument to the Soldiers of Old Fort Plain]

In 1870 the centennial celebration of the church was held, at which Gov. Horatio Seymour here made a brilliant historical address. In 1910, at the 140th anniversary exercises the D. A. R. unveiled the memorial tablet located here. In 1920 the church's 150th anniversary was observed with appropriate exercises.

Revolutionary American Army Camp, Oct. 19, 1780

As mentioned elsewhere, the traitorous Revolutionary American General Van Rensselaer made a premeditated failure of his pursuit of Sir John Johnson's valley raiders, on October 19, 1780. On that afternoon Van Rensselaer's American Army marched west, past Palatine Church, and defeated the enemy in the battle of Klock's Field, two miles west. The American commander refused to pursue but ordered his 1,500 men to fall back to Palatine Church, where camp was pitched for the night, the American officers probably occupying the church. Van Rensselaer allowed a small party to go out from Palatine Church in pursuit, the following day. Gen. Van Rensselaer was later court martialed at Albany for his conduct in this campaign but was acquitted. (See "Chapter 69. 1780 — Johnson's Great Raid Through the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys.")

General Cochran House, 1790

Just west of Palatine Church stands the General Cochran (frame) house on a rise of ground about 100 yards east of the Turnpike (on the right hand side going west). It is noticeable for its four great corner chimneys.

The General Cochran house was built for the General by his son, Major James Cochran, about 1790. Dr. John Cochran was surgeon general of the Middle Department, United States Army, in the Revolution from 1776 until 1781, when he was appointed director-general of U. S. A. hospitals, with the rank of general, serving thus until the close of the war in 1783. Dr. Cochran was a close friend of Washington and the latter gave him several pieces of his furniture when the army broke quarters at Newburg in 1783, and this Washington furniture later graced the Cochran house in Palatine. Many of the most notable Americans of the time were guests at the Cochran house as they passed through the valley, and the establishment was maintained in the lavish style of a Colonial gentleman. When the Mohawk chieftain, Joseph Brant, visited the valley in 1792 on his way to Washington, the Cochrans here secreted him from the angry Valley farmers who swore to have his life. General Cochran died in 1807 and the Cochrans, in 1817, removed to Utica. The two sons of General Cochran, Major James and Captain Walter Cochran, both Revolutionary officers, lived here with their parents.

General John Cochran married Gertrude Schuyler, sister of General Philip Schuyler, the famous American Revolutionary general, of Albany, who was often a visitor here during his frequent valley trips. General Cochran's son, Major James Cochran, married in 1822, Catherine Van Rensselaer, daughter of General Schuyler. General and Mrs. Washington were her god parents at her christening. Another daughter of General Schuyler married Alexander Hamilton, who doubtless also visited here during some of his Mohawk Valley trips to court at Johnstown.

General Schuyler was a U. S. Senator from New York and a most progressive American of his day, being the president of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Co., which improved the Mohawk, 1792-97, and which was the predecessor of the present State Barge Canal. Schuyler was a man of vision who saw the possibilities of Mohawk River and valley transportation and he, with Elkanah Watson (the first practical waterway projector) took the first material development steps. Schuyler was much in the valley for several years, a considerable part of which he probably spent here with his sister. General Schuyler and Governor Clinton were, for forty years following the Revolution, the creators of the New York State canal policy, which culminated in the original Erie canal (1817-1825) and our present Barge canal.

General Schuyler and his son-in-law, Col. Alexander Hamilton, were instrumental in securing the passage of a resolution by the New York State Legislature, in session at Poughkeepsie in 1782, which first advocated the Constitutional convention of 1788, which gave being to the United States of America.

Major General Cronkhite

General Adelbert Cronkhite, major-general commanding the Eightieth Division, A. E. F., in the World war, was a boyhood resident of Fort Plain. (See his biography in the Biographical Section of this history.)

Fort Plain was the home of George W. Elliott and Jeptha R. Simms, both known through their literary labors.

Jeptha R. Simms, 1807-1883, the Mohawk Valley Historian

Jeptha R. Simms was born in Canterbury, Conn., December 31, 1807. His father, Captain Joseph Simms, removed to Plainfield, N. Y., in 1824. Beginning 1826, J. R. Simms was a clerk in Canajoharie, for three years, going from there to New York City. In the fall of 1832 he returned to Canajoharie and went into business with Herman I. Ehle, a former employer. After a clerkship for a time in Schoharie, Mr. Simms set about collecting the scattered materials for his "History of Schoharie County and Border Wars of New York," published in 1845. In 1846 he published a Revolutionary tale entitled the "American Spy" and, in 1850, the "Trappers of New York." In 1882 was issued his "Frontiersmen of New York," in two volumes, dealing with Mohawk Valley history, principally of the Revolution and particularly with that of the neighborhood immediately adjacent to Fort Plain. It is largely owing to his labors that so much of local record has been preserved. Mr. Simms died in Fort Plain in 1883, aged 76 years.

Simms lived in Fultonville for a number of years and while there published his "Border Wars" in 1845; and also erected a very unique residence built of cobblestones, every one of which he gathered in the vicinity and for the outside course he sized them through a hole in a board to have them uniform. This dwelling, still in fine condition stands in Fultonville.

George W. Elliot, Author Of Bonny Eloise

George W. Elliott was a resident of Fort Plain in the sixties and married Mary Bowen, daughter of Solomon Bowen, who for years conducted Montgomery Hall (later the Lipe House), which was remodeled into the present building of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank. Elliott was editor of the (Fort Plain) "Mohawk Valley Register" for a time and wrote much pleasing poetry. His best known production is "Bonny Eloise, the Belle of the Mohawk Vale," which has become the song of the Valley. It is said he composed the words to this popular melody while on a railroad journey from New York to Fort Plain, addressing his song to his sweetheart, Mary Bowen (with a change of name). The work bears copyright date of 1858 and J. R. Thomas was the composer of the plaintively sweet melody to which Mr. Elliott's words are sung. "Bonny Eloise" was a favorite air played by the military bands of both the North an South during the Civil war. The lyric follows:

Bonny Eloise

Oh, sweet is the vale where the Mohawk gently glides
On its clear winding way to the sea,
And dearer than all storied streams on earth besides
Is the bright rolling river to me.


But sweeter, dearer, yes dearer far than these,
Who charms where others all fail,
Is blue-eyed, bonny, bonny Eloise,
The belle of the Mohawk vale.

Oh, sweet are the scenes of my boyhood's sunny years,
That bespangle the gay valley o'er.
And dear are the friends seen through memory's fond tears
That have lived in the blest days of yore.


Oh, sweet are the moments when dreaming I roam
Thro' my loved haunts now mossy and grey,
And dearer than all is my childhood's hallowed home,
That is crumbling now slowly away.


* * * * *

Fort Plain and its neighborhood is one of the most historically important sections in the Mohawk Valley. The many interesting features comprised in this area merit the attention of the people of our valley and historical students of our local, state and national annals.

The officers of the Fort Plain National Bank are: President, F. S. Haslett; vice-president, George Duffy; vice-president, Joseph L. Moore; cashier, John Kattler; assistant cashier, H. J. Wagner; directors: Adam L. Failing, F. F. Wendell, H. V. Borst, F. S. Haslett, Albert Sitterly, Rufus Wiles, Manly Shults, George Duffy, J. L. Moore.

The officers of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank are: President, Frank W. Bauder; vice-president, Fayette Wagner; cashier, Charles G. Zielley; assistant cashier, Andrew L. Gros; teller, John W. Saltsman; bookkeeper, Joseph Beck; directors: F. W. Bauder, W. C. Hackney, Lester Getman, John Saltsman, Fayette Wagner, John W. Saltsman, A. L. Gros, H. D. Bauder, Fox Sponable.

Fort Plain has two weekly newspapers, Fort Plain Standard, (established 1876) published Thursdays by O'Connor Bros., Inc., composed of the firm members of George O'Connor, Nelson Greene, Fred H. Kelsey and W. D. Ludwig; and the Fort Plain Free Press, established 1885, with which the Mohawk Valley Register (established 1828) was amalgamated in 1921.

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