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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 134: The Village of Oriskany.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1877-1879 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Oriskany Creek — Herkimer's Camp — Historical Oriskany battlefield.

Oriskany village was incorporated in 1914. It has manufactures of iron castings and paper makers' felt. In 1913 the village had two factories with 251 operatives. A bridge here crosses the Mohawk.

Oriskany Creek

Oriskany lies on the western bank of Oriskany Creek, which here enters the Mohawk, and from which the village takes its name. Oriska was the original form of the Oneida word meaning "the nettles."

The Oriskany rises near Bouckville, 23 m. s. w. (airline distance from its outlet here). On its banks lie Hamilton College at Clinton. The Oriskany forms a gateway to the Chenango branch of the Susquehanna, for a highway, for the New York, Ontario & Western Railway and for the old Chenango Canal (1836), now abandoned. Close to its headwaters is Hamilton, where Colgate University is located.

Oriska, Oneida Village

Before the Revolution, the Oneida Village of Oriska was here located, as shown on the D. A. R. markers of 1912. The Oneidas were largely friendly to the American cause, and after the Revolutionary war the village here continued until about 1793, it being then the only Iroquois Indian village in the Mohawk Valley. The 1793 village had six log houses, five on the east bank of the Oriska and one, that of the chief, on the west. It is said that in 1785 several of the houses had great hoards of silverware and other plunder taken from the middle and lower Mohawk Valley settlements during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) by hostile Indian raiders.

General Herkimer's Camp, August 5, 1777

On the night of August 5, 1777, the American militia brigade, under Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, camped for the night between the Sauquoit and Oriskany creeks. The site is located by a D. A. R. marker of 1912. The Americans were on their march from Fort Dayton (Herkimer) to the relief of American Fort Stanwix, (at present Rome).

From this camp Herkimer sent three scouts forward to Fort Stanwix, informing General Gansevoort of his approach and intending attack. These scouts carried a message requesting that the fort fire a signal gun on the arrival of the couriers, when both Herkimer's force and the garrison would attack the enemy.

These scouts were Capt. Mark Damuth, John Adam Helmer, and a third, whose name is unknown.

On the morning of the 6th, Herkimer's officers and men became impatient and finally mutinous over the delay, calling their commander a coward and a traitor. General Herkimer pleaded with them, advising caution as a part of the victory. Finding that restraint was useless, the General finally ordered his troops to march and they rushed pell mell forward into the ambuscade of Oriskany, two miles west of present Oriskany village.

Oriskany, Historical

In 1787 there were three log houses of white settlers located on the site of Oriskany, besides the six log cabins of the Oneida Indian village of Oriska here then located.

Col. Gerrit G. Lansing of Albany purchased a tract of 400 acres of land, embracing a large part of the present village of Oriskany, and settled here in 1802. Colonel Lansing is generally considered as the founder of Oriskany.

In 1821 a postoffice was established here. The manufacture of cotton cloth was started at Oriskany in 1811 and continued until 1854, fine broadcloth selling as high as $10 a yard being also produced. The factory, after various changes, was, in 1880, converted for the manufacture of paper makers' felt. The iron industry here was established in 1879.

Opposite Oriskany's eastern limits, on the north ,shore turnpike, are the new buildings of the New York State Hospital for the Insane, which was made an addition to the Utica State Hospital for the Insane in 1922. To the southeast of Oriskany is Summit Park, a favorite summer amusement place for Utica and Rome.

Oriskany Battlefield — A State Park

Two miles west of the Oriskany Central Station is the Oriskany battleground, where General Herkimer's Tryon County Militia were ambushed by Johnson's Tories and Brant's Indians, while the Americans were marching to the relief of the beleagured garrison of Fort Stanwix, on the site of present Rome. The date of the battle was August 6, 1777.

"After five hours of terrific combat the Americans beat off their enemies in what is said to have been 'the bloodiest battle of the Revolution' and one of the decisive conflicts for American liberty." See "Chapter 61 — 1777, The Battle of Oriskany."

The visitor to the Oriskany battlefield can readily see the position of the Americans. They were ambuscaded in the ravine to the east, across which a corduroy road ran at the time of the battle. The American militiamen fought their way to and held the low plateau, bounded on the east by the ravine, on the north (where the monument stands) by the swampy flats, and on the west by Bloody Gulch, where some terrific fighting took place. Only on the south was the position exposed.

An imposing shaft marks the battleground on its most sightly point. There is also a D. A. R. marker of 1912, locating the place where the wounded General Herkimer sat beneath a great beech tree and calmly directed the battle to a victorious conclusion. This is the last of the markers erected by the Mohawk Valley chapters of the D. A. R. in 1912, showing the route taken by General Herkimer from his home at Fall Hill, about three miles east of Little Falls, to the field of Oriskany. Herkimer died at his home, August 16, 1777, ten days after the battle.

In 1925 the State Parks Commission designated the Oriskany battlefield as one of the new state parks, to be purchased out of the $15,000,000 bond issue for the extension of the state park system. The Oriskany battlefield is annually visited by numbers of people. With the improvement of the Oriskany to Rome south shore highway, the battlefield will become a mecca for thousands of patriotic Americans. It will doubtless play a large part in the sesquicentennial celebration of the battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1927. This anniversary will probably be a celebration by the entire and united Mohawk Valley, in which Oriskany village, its patriotic societies and its always patriotic citizens will, doubtless, play a large part.

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