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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 127: The Village of Mohawk.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1798-1804 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Gateway to the Susquehanna Valley — Shoemaker house — Helmer's famous ride — Andrustown Massacre — Grandma Filkins, one hundred and nine years old — Mohawk, 1725-1920.

Mohawk is practically the half way point between Weehawken, New Jersey (opposite 42d street, New York) and Buffalo, over the West Shore Railroad. It is 217 miles to Weehawken, New Jersey, and 216 to Buffalo from Mohawk over the West Shore Railroad. The West Shore from Schenectady to Syracuse is part of the Mohawk Division of the New York Central. The two roads through the Mohawk Valley form the only six-track railroad in the world.

Mohawk is situated on a triangle of flatland running back into the lower valley of Fulmer Creek, here flowing along the west side of the village to its outlet into the Mohawk River. Mohawk is located on the Mohawk River south shore, the West Shore Railroad division of the Central Lines and on the south shore highway. Here the present (1924) Mohawk Turnpike route crosses the river from the north bank at Herkimer (1 1/2 m.) to the south bank at Mohawk and runs westward to Utica 14 m., and Rome 29 m. Mohawk is the eastern village of the Mohawk-Ilion-Frankfort community, lying for five miles along the Mohawk Turnpike which forms the main street of this community, on the south shore. The village centers of Mohawk and Frankfort are four miles apart. The 1920 combined population of this south shore civic district was 17,286, with the industrial center at Ilion. It probably has a population of 20,000 in 1925.

Mohawk was incorporated as a village in 1844. The New York Central railroad is at Herkimer, a mile distant. Interurban trolleys connect with Little Falls, Herkimer, Utica, Richfield Springs, Cooperstown and Oneonta. The principal manufacture is knit underwear. Many of the residents of Mohawk are employed in the factories of Ilion, two miles distant. The village is surrounded by a rich agricultural country devoted chiefly to dairying. Mohawk has sewers and municipal electric lighting and water systems.

[Photo: General Spinner Home, Mohawk]

Gateway to the Susquehanna Valley, Richfield Springs, Cooperstown and Oneonta — Leatherstocking Trail

Fulmer Creek, which here enters the Mohawk, is followed southeasterly by an automobile highway running, by way of Jordanville, to Richfield Springs, Canadarago Lake, Otsego Lake, Cooperstown and Oneonta, all located on the headwaters of the great Susquehanna Valley. This follows an important old Iroquois trail over which Brant came, in 1778, with his Tories and Indians, to lay waste German Flats, as well as other Revolutionary raiding parties. This road is known today as the "Leatherstocking Trail."

The Mohawk and Oneonta Railroad (electric) follows this same route southward to Richfield Springs and thence direct to Oneonta with a branch (from Index) to Cooperstown and Otsego Lake. Mohawk is thus an upper Mohawk Valley gateway to the Susquehanna. This road was opened October 1, 1902.

Fulmer Creek rises about 7 miles airline distance southeast of Mohawk at a point about a mile northeast of Jordanville. The surface rock at Mohawk is of Hudson River shale.

The slopes of Shoemaker Hill come to the eastern edge of the village. Two miles southeast this mountain has a sea elevation of 1,160 feet.

Shoemaker House

[Photo: Shoemaker House, Mohawk]

On South Shore Turnpike (West Main Street), Mohawk. Washington dined in front yard, 1753. Photo by Prince & Nolan, Mohawk; by courtesy of Col. Frank West, Mohawk.

The Shoemaker House was built before the Revolution at Mohawk. It was a Revolutionary Tory secret meeting place and here Walter Butler was captured after the battle of Oriskany, 1777. He later escaped from the Albany jail.

The Shoemaker House, also known as the Spencer House, stands in western Mohawk. Like a number of other Tory valley houses it was spared by the enemy during Revolutionary raids. It is the last pre-Revolutionary house on your westward New York to Buffalo journey and the first you meet going eastward.

General Washington stopped here, on his valley tour of 1783, and ate dinner under a tree in the yard of the Shoemaker place. At the time this was one of the few houses left standing in the upper valley after the Revolutionary raids.

Helmer's Famous Ride, August 31, 1778

The American valley forts, during the Revolution, constantly had scouting parties out over the main trails to observe the enemy. John Adam Helmer (the famous Revolutionary scout) was one of a party of four rangers riding near Little Lakes when Brant's scouts came on them, on August 31, 1778. Three of the Americans were killed but Helmer escaped and rode over the 15-mile trail back to the Mohawk, pursued by Indians, one of whom he shot. He reached Fort Herkimer at sunset and scouts were immediately sent out to warn the settlers, who hurried to Forts Herkimer and Dayton for refuge.

Brant's savages camped near the Shoemaker place in Mohawk and on September 1 he started to plunder, burn and destroy. Owing to Helmer's heroic ride, all the settlers were saved except two, who were killed. Sixty-three houses, fifty-seven barns, three grist mills and two saw mills, on both sides of the river, were burned and over 500 horses and cattle and 269 sheep were driven away.

Grandma Filkins, 109 Years Old

[Photo: Grandma Filkins]

Mrs. Delina Filkins of Jordanville, south of Mohawk (on the Leatherstocking Trail), celebrated her 109th birthday (at the home of her 69-year-old son) and entered her 110th year, on May 4, 1924 (a year before this book's publication), at which time she was strong and well and the oldest person in New York State. She was born Delina Ecker in a house built by her grandfather, John Ecker, a Mohawk Valley pioneer, in the town of Stark 200 years prior to 1924. Delina Ecker Filkins entered her 110th year without ever having ridden in a railroad train or trolley car. She celebrated her 100th birthday in 1915 by her first automobile ride. Mrs. Filkins was born in the days of the stagecoach and Mohawk River freight and passenger boats. She was ten years old before the Erie Canal was finished and twenty-one when the DeWitt Clinton train made the first trip over the Utica and Schenectady Railroad, August 1, 1836.

Andrustown Massacre, 1778

German pioneers made a little settlement known as Andrustown (8 m. s. of Mohawk), near Hendersonville, but moved to Fort Herkimer at the beginning of Revolutionary hostilities. In July, 1778, some of them returned to harvest their crops when party of Indians from Brant's force (then in camp at Little Lakes) fell upon them and massacred three of the pioneers and burned the settlement. A marker south of Hendersonville, on the road to Canadarago Lake, the "Leatherstocking Trail," marks this Indian massacre, one of dozens of similar bloody occurrence in the valley durino the Revolution.

Company I, 10th Infantry, N. G. S. N. Y. of Mohawk — Champion 1923 National Guard Marksmen

The armory (built 1891), of Company I, (3rd Battalion), 10th Infantry, N. G. S. N. Y., is located in Mohawk, a short distance west of the river bridge on the north side of East Main Street. In 1923 Company I won the DuPont trophy for the National Guard Company showing the greatest efficiency in marksmanship. It then had 78 qualified marksmen in a company of 94 men and had won other important marksmanship prizes. The company takes its membership largely from the Herkimer-Mohawk-Ilion-Frankfort community. The rifle range is north of Herkimer.

The 3rd Battalion, 10th Regiment, N. G. S. N. Y., stood first in efficiency among the National Guard battalions of the state in 1923. Company I has a splendid World war record. This and its history is covered in another chapter.

Company I was originally organized as the Remington Rifle Corps, with 70 men, in 1878, later becoming 31st Separate Company, Infantry, N. G. S. N. Y., all of its officers then being Civil war veterans. In the Spanish-American war (1898) it became Company G, 2nd Regiment, New York Volunteers. It was Company M, 1st Regiment, N. Y. N. G., at the outbreak of the World war. Mustered into Federal service (162 strong) July 15, 1917, and camped in Weller Park, Mohawk. At Camp Wadsworth, Spartanburg, South Carolina, two officers and 103 men were transferred to Company M, 107th Regiment, 27th Division, U. S. A. Of these one officer and 28 men were killed in action in France. Company M's battle record overseas: East Poperinghe line, Belgium, July 9 to August 20, 1918; Dickebusch sector, Belgium, August 21 to 30, 1918; Battle of Hindenburg Line, Bony, France, September 29-30, 1918; Battle of La Selle River, St. Souplet, France, October 17, 1918; Battle of Jonc-de-mer Ridge, Arbre-Guernon, France, October 18, 1918; St. Maurice River, Catillon, France, October 19-20, 1918. Mohawk armory sent 237 men to the World war from Company M and the New York Guard company which succeeded it, during the war.

Mohawk, Historical, 1725-1920

The village of Mohawk lies within the limits of the Burnetsfield patent of 1725, in which lands on the present village site were granted to Palatine Germans named Michael Editch (Edick), Coenradt Felmore (Filmer), Margaret, wife of Johannes Pellinger (Bellinger). Filmer Creek (which here enters the Mohawk) takes its name from the Felmore or Filmer family, the latter being the present spelling.

Pioneers early built a bridge over Filmer Creek (as they then did over many small streams crossed by the north and south shore highways) and also a grist mill on the stream. Both bridge and mill were burned in de Belletre's great French-Indian raid and massacre of the German Flats, November 12, 1757. All the farm houses and buildings hereabouts were burned during that raid and the one of April 30, 1758. They were rebuilt only to be again destroyed during the Revolutionary raids of 1778 and 1782.

It was a blackened and desolated region that its old settlers and new ones from New England entered following the War for Independence. Early houses built on the site of Mohawk were Shoemaker house, built prior to 1775 and still standing; Judge Gates tavern, 1778; Peter Warner house, built 1790.

In 1800 Rufus Randall was the owner of lands now comprising the village center. He sold two farms to F. P. Bellinger, who had it surveyed and sold as village lots.

The old Indian trail, southward up Filmer Creek and over the Susquehanna divide to Canadarago Lake, here reached the south side Mohawk River trail. As the country to the south became settled and its farmers used this trail road as an outlet to the Mohawk River and its highways, the present Mohawk Village section began to grow into a neighborhood and trading center, thereby causing the decline of Fort Herkimer, two miles eastward.

In 1800 a plow factory and the Earl and Helmer taverns were here opened. Grist and saw mills, a tannery and blacksmith shop shortly followed. In 1809 the first store was opened.

David Diefendorf opened a "Dutch tavern" in 1817, in which year a forest of hickory trees covered most of the present village site.

Mohawk is one of the valley's "canal towns," owing its early development into a village to the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. In 1826 John Bennett bought the Helmer tavern and opened a storehouse on the new canal.

The place then became known as Bennett's Corners, which was changed to Mohawk in 1838. The first church, the Reformed, was built in 1843.

Mohawk was incorporated as a village April 16, 1844, at which time it was the chief neighborhood center of the south side German Flats section.

The Herkimer County Civil War camp (1861-65) was located just east of Mohawk.

The Mohawk and Ilion street railway was opened in 1870 and the line extended to Herkimer in 1871. In 1898 knit goods manufacture was here begun.

In 1902 the Mohawk and Oneonta Railroad (electric) was opened southward from Herkimer and Mohawk to Jordanville, Richfield Springs, Canadarago Lake, Cooperstown and Oneonta.

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