The History of New York State
Book IX, Chapter VIII

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER VIII.

SCHOHARIE COUNTY. #1

To but few of the counties of New York were the names given of those who first inhabited the State. Schoharie is one of the exceptions, being titled after one of the tribes of the Mohawks who were the first owners of its acres. The same name is applied to a county, township and a stream, but what is means is still in doubt. It is usually explained as meaning "Driftwood" or "Drift" because near the present village of Middleburgh two rivulets pour into the creek, creating a swirl which makes the driftwood accumulate until at times it is continuous from bank to bank. Other explain the work as meaning simply "to cross over," or "to meet"; it is also said to be a corrupted form of the Indian for "The Great Jampile" a natural bridge formed by drift wood. Whatever the name in the Iroquois, Schoharie was designated as a "Bear" village, the Bear family of the Mohawks have their castle near Canajoharie. The word Schoharie is spelled seventeen different ways in early documents so there is some excuse for doubt as to its meaning.

Just what tribe of Indians inhabited the Schoharie Valley before white families located here is a matter of conjecture, but there is evidence that the district was the hunting and fishing ground of the aborigines long before there was any definite settlement. Some Indian trails have been traced through the county, coming from such distant points as the Hudson by way of Catskill Creek, from Albany, from Schenectady, and extending on through the Genesee Valley to Niagara. These trails were of great assistance to the white races who followed the Indian, for the German used them to reach their promised land, and to get to other settlements to the north and eat; John and Brant availed themselves of these routes in their raids; and the great warway of the Indians in the Revolution was by the Niagara trial. One of the reasons for Sullivan's expedition against the tribes of the Genesee Valley was to make difficult or impossible the use of these routes for attack on the white settlements.

The Dutch as the first settlers of the State are thought rightly, no doubt, to be responsible for the settlement of Schoharie. They had pushed their way as a far as Schenectady at a very early date; their English successors also south to get possession of these Indian lands. The first one reads of Schoharie is in petitions sent to Governor Dongan from 1682 to 1688, when permission was desired to purchase from the Indians 500 acres in a tract called Schoharie. In 1694 Colonel Nicholas Bayard obtained a license to buy 4,000 acres in the valley of Schoharie Creek in the Indian fields called Teaondaroga near the mouth of the stream. Bayard did not like the land he bought, neither did the Indians like the sale, with the result that Bayard lost both his land and the ninety-six dollars he had paid.

Meanwhile those who were to be the first pioneers of the district had arrived in this country. While there were several nationalities represented among the early settlers of Schoharie, the German, Ditch, and the new Englander, it was by the fist that this region was first occupied in numbers. The Dutch had been purchasers of Indian land rather than developers of it; the "Yankee" came only just before, and in larger number, after the Revolution. As a result of King William and Queen Anne's wars abroad there was a great migration from the palatinate on the banks of the Rhine to other countries including, indirectly, this. In 1710 the first of these Palatinates arrived in New York, followed by other groups of them in the next few years. They had been given to understand that they were to receive lands and help in the settlement of them, but were disagreeably disappointed when they were made to work out their passage and other expenses by making tar, pitch and turpentine from the northern pine, which was a rather impossible task since it is poor in resinous material.

The plan was a failure from the standpoint of both parties, for the Palatines were disheartened and wanted top escape from what was only a new bondage, and the able to pay for their sustenance, and no possibility of ever paying for the things who had gone before. Finally they were told that they might, and must shift for themselves. With gladness they promptly sent a deputation of their men to the "Schorie" of when they had been told. Upon a favorable report being made, and well it might, for the committee has seen the Schoharie in the early fall, when the gentle slopes and the fertile lowlands were clothed with rich verdure, the Indians too, receiving them received graciously and promptly given them permission to come and settle, plans were made to go to this new land at once. One group of fifty went that winter; another followed in the spring of 1713.

Where these and the other palatines located in Schoharie will be shown in the accounts of the settlement of the various towns. They were ill-fitted to pioneer, being without cattle, horses, tools or experience. They had to imitate the Indian in the making of tools, and even the seed they planted had to be secured from the Aborigines. Splitting into sections which gathered around their leading man, they established seven "dorfs" or small villages along the Schoharie from the present site of Little Schoharie to Cobleskill on the north.

The Palatines had been careless in not securing legal patents t the land they settled and trouble followed when those holding grants from the Governor came to take permanent possession of their fields. In 1722 there were 800 Germans in the valley, but a third of these in that year left with Garlock their leader, and moved higher up the Mohawk Valley; other leaders too another third and went south to Pennsylvania.

The colonists of the valley had always managed to retain amicable relations with the Indians, even during the French and Indian War. This in a measure pleased those in authority; for one of the reasons fro being so willing to send the Palatines to the frontier was that they might act as a buffer between then and the tribes. But a change was taking place among the Aborigines. They saw that the whites were crowding them out of their hunting grounds and homes. The other tribes were aligning themselves with the English who were getting at odds with the colonies; Johns Johnson and Brant, the half-breed brother to the wife of Sir William. and they wanted the wealth they had failed to secure by the selling of their lands. All these things conspired to arouse their enmity against those with whom they had so long been friends.

In preparation for the trouble which seemed inevitable, a committee was appointed, the citizens armed, and a series of forts, three in the alley, were erected. During the Revolution raid after raid was mad eon the valley, some of these reaching the importance of battles. And while these did not settle anything, except the unprotected condition of those who peopled the frontiers of the land, they so depleted the Schoharie Valley that only when the war was over and the hosts of the ex-soldiers of New England and New York came and located, could it be said that the district was populated. What, after all, was there about this one of the many valleys of New York that so persistently drew settlers in the face of hardship and war? The committee of the Palatines were agreed as to its desirability, the reports of Sullivan's men were approving, even the hardheaded Yankees left their more finished towns and hewed out for themselves newer ones.

Schoharie is a hilly county; its ridges seeming to be part of the Catskills, reaching a height of 2,000 feet in certain localities, the land being higher to the west. There are many streams, flowing in so many different directions that the waters of the county reach the Mohawk, Hudson, Delaware and the Susquehanna. Lakes of any size are few, summit and Utsyantha being those of the most importance. The natural curiosities of the county, such as caves, falls, hidden rivers, mineral springs, are a source of wonder and interest to the visitor. Probably it was just the inhabitableness of the region that brought to it so many of the pioneers of the State. The flats along the streams are rich, the hillsides are productive, and even the tops of the hills are softly rounded and easily tilled; there is little waste land in Schoharie County. The men of the early day saw that here could be grown their grain, and that close at hand was the water power to grind it; they asked for little more.

The formation of the county was perfected on April 6, 1795, and the village of Schoharie named as the shiretown. The sequence of Schoharie's organization was: the Province lying north of Ulster county which was Albany; in 1772 a part of this was set off as Tyron County, afterwards Montgomery; in 1791 Otsego was taken from this; and in 1795 Schoharie erected from Otsego and Albany. Schoharie had at the original erection six towns: Middleburgh, Blenheim, Broome, Cobleskill, and Sharon. Beginning with 1803 ten more towns were formed from those already in the county. There are six incorporated villages and more than fifty post offices. The population in 1920 was 21,302. A court house and jail were authorized at the erection of the county but had not been completed, although used, by 1800. This was burned by a prisoner in 1845, and another building erected the next year, this in turn to be destroyed by a disastrous fire in 1870 which laid waste the major part of the village. A limestone structure replaced the one lost in 1871, which contains all the court offices and library. The jail of 1846 survived the fire and was remodeled in 1900.

TOWNS.

Blenheim, one of the first towns in the county, taken from the original Schoharie, on March 7, 1797, was named from the patent of the same title, on part of which it was located. It is in a fertile section, one well adapted to general farming. The first settlers were children of the Germans of Middleburgh and Schoharie. One of the pioneers was Beaucraft, the notorious Tory who fled to Canada in 1777, but who, returning later, was captured and whipped to death by five men. Who these were was probably known to General Freegift Patchin, one of the prominent early settlers who came in 1798, erected a mill, and became later prominent in the political affairs of the town and county. The principal hamlet of this section is North Blenheim. Population of town (1920) 516.

Broome, one of the original six towns erected March 17, 1797, was first called Bristol, but changed to its present name in 1808 in honor of the Lieutenant-Governor of the State. Catskill Creek rises in the northern part of the town, along which was one of the Indian trails from the Hudson, connecting the others to the Susquehanna. Of the first settlers, the one best known was Derick Van dyke, at whose house the famous scout Timothy Murphy stopped often. The emigration of New Englanders to this town was very heavy after the Revolution. Here was the home of three men whose names are recorded in the history of the early days: David Elerson, the companion of Murphy the scout; David Williams, who helped capture Major Andre, (he had settled in the town in 1806), and General Daniel Shays, the leader of the "Shays' Rebellion" in Massachusetts. The Rebellion was an attempt to march to the State capital and compel the legislature to settle the just grievances of the farmers, who had been impoverished by the Revolution and the conditions which followed it. The villages of Broome are: Franklinton, Livingstonville and Bates. Population (1920) 743.

Carlisle, taken from Cobleskill and Sharon on March 31, 1807, was named for Carlisle Pierce, a resident. It lies on the ridge between the Mohawk and Cobleskill valleys and has a limestone sub-surface which has been eroded in places, forming caves with hidden streams. Dairying is the main occupation of the inhabitants, nearly every farm having its quota of cows. It was supposed to be a fine wheat country, and many settlers came after the Revolution (the first on the ground were the Palatines) to make their fortune. It grew the wheat but the difficulties in transporting it were so great that their complaints led to the building of the "Great Western Turnpike" which went straight through the northern part of the county. The highway proved too useful in the end, for its carried too many farther west where the soil was more amenable. Villages: Argusville, Little York, Grovener Corners, Carlisle and Carlisle Center. Population, 861.

Cobleskill, another of the original six towns formed on March 7, 1797, is elevated, having a main valley, that of the creek of the same name. It is a farming district, and like others of the county, was once an important hop growing area. Whether the name is derived from the cow-bells worn by their bovine owners along the creek or from the Indian chief by the name of Cobus, is now known, but it is reasonable to suppose since this region was settled by the Germans, that the title grew out of the fact that some farmer by the name of Kobell had his home by the kill

The largest and most important village in the town, and perhaps the county, has this same name of disputed origin. It was incorporated April 3, 1868. A strenuous effort had been made to have the county seat brought here when the buildings has been burned in 1846, but without avail. One of the blockhouses of the revolution was located here, and seem to have been one of the more elaborate ones with moat, gate, enclosing within its picketed space a large dwelling. The village has a population of 2,410, a splendid mercantile section, and twenty-five factories making, among other things., agricultural implements, various articles of clothing, prepared flours. It also exports quantities of crushed stone. Quarrying was formerly one of the main occupations of the residents. It is one the railroad, giving it fine shipping facilities, and is one of the distributing points for the many summer visitors who find this locality and its natural beauties attractive. The other villages of Cobleskill are: Lawyersville, which derives its title from a resident of that name: Barnerville, formerly and correctly, Bernerville; Mineral Spring, located near one of the Indian medicinal centers; and Howes Cave, where a hamlet and resort has grownup around a remarkable cave discovered by Lester Howe in 1842. The population of the town in 1920 was 3,798.

Conesville, named after the Rev. Jonathan Cone, a resident of the town, when it was erected on march 3, 1836, from parts of Broome and Durham. In 1754 a patent was given to Ury Richmyer for two tracts in this district, and on these he settled in 1764. The town is a hill and valley region with the Manorkill flowing through it. Sheep raising was one of the early lines of farming, and the present production of wool is not small, but the dairy business ranks first in importance. The outlet for the farm produce is by way of the railroad at Royal Gorge. Population, 652.

Esperance, taken from Schoharie 0n April 4, 1846, is the smallest in area of the towns. The first settlers were Palatines; in 1739 Jacob and Hendrick Ten Eyck owned the land on which the village is now situated. In 1803 his heir, Harmonus, laid out the site in town lots, the most of which was sold to General William North, who induced settlers from New England to come and locate. Great expectations were aroused by its early growth, and the name given the village, Esperance (hope), seemed fitting. The place was incorporated on April 21,1835, and when the town was formed later the title was given also to it. Stone quarries were one of the first resources, aside from agriculture, to be used, some of which still supply a good grade of building and road material. The coming o the railroad brought prosperity just before the Civil War, and has been the main force in the development of the section. Population, 890.

Fulton, formed from Middleburgh April 15, 1828, is one of the best farming section of the county. Gains are the crops most planted, but hay and fruits are grown in large quantities. Hops are one of the main crops until the recent addition to the national constitution hurt the market. There are quarries which are capable of producing good stone, but the use of cheaper materials has closed the most of them. The town was the birthplace of burial ground of Governor William C. Bouck. Population, 1,227. Villages: Fultonham, Breakabeam, Watsonville, Mill Valley, West Fulton, Fairland, Vintontown, Lime Kiln and Patria.

Gilboa was made of parts of Broome and Blenheim on march 16, 1848. It was given the name of Gilboa from the village of that title which was the mercantile center of the town. Farming is the chief industry, manufacturing having had its day. In 1840 Gilboa cotton mill started business but when the factory was swept away by a floor in 1869 it never was rebuilt. The first settlers of the town were members of the Dise family who came in 1760, the section as a whole had a very few inhabitants until after the Revolution. Population, 1920, 1,541. Villages: South Gilboa, the one rail station; Gilboa, Mackey, Ruth and Broome Center. In the summer of 1925 the valley part of the town was purchased by the State for use as a reservoir and in 1926 where the village Gilboa was, it a great lake.

Middleburgh ws formed with the county March 17, 1797. The Schoharie River, flowing through the town with its many tributaries, breaks the land into ridges and flats which interfere rather badly with its cultivation. Weiser's Dorf, one of the Palatine settlements, was situated where the village of Middleburgh now is, as one of the others not far off; the Middle Fort was also in this locality. The historic events that are connected with this place are to be found elsewhere in this work. The village, Middleburgh, is the terminus of a railroad and is the outlet fro the farm products. Other places in the town are: Huntersville, Lime Kiln and Mill Valley. Population of the town, 1920, 2,109.

Jefferson, erected February 13, 1803, from Blenheim, lies on the ridge which forms the watershed on the Mohawk and Delaware river systems, the source of the Delaware being a spring which flows from a rock on the slope of Mine Hill, a prominence of 2,200 feet. The hilly soil is well farmed and dairy products are the main exports of the area. The county was well known to the traveler of the India trails but none came to settle of the whites until a "Yankee" group came in 1794. Population, 1065. Villages: Jefferson, South Jefferson, Stewart, Jerome, and Eminence.

Richmondville, finely situated on the railroad, is one of the most prosperous of the agricultural towns of the county. It was erected April 11, 1849, from a part of Cobleskill and named after a post office already established there. The first settlers were George Warner and John Zeh who located in the spring of 1764 near the present village of Warnerville. The battle of Cobleskill derives it name from the wrong town, the actual scene of it being in Richmondville. Population, 1920, 1,387. Villages: besides that of the same name, Warnerville, West Richmondville, and Beard's Hollow.

Schoharie, originally a district in Albany county, afterwards a town, was the principal part of what is now Schoharie County. The early palatines came in 1817, and five of the "Dorfs" were within the territory covered by the town. the first Lutheran church, erected in 1751, is the oldest building still standing, not having been burned in Johnson's Raid of 1780 when practically all the buildings in the town were destroyed. The town has always been along the leaders agriculturally, and manufacturing has been engaged in on a small scale. Crushed stone for road use is one of the principal productions, but there are eight factories with the district. The population in 1920 was 2,132. Villages, besides Schoharie, Barton Hill, Central Bridge, Old and New.

Seward, named in honor of William H. Seward who was Governor of the State at the time, was erected February 11, 1841. The first settlements were made not far from the present village of Seward in 1754. Farming is the main industry of the section with a great deal of fruit, apples, mainly, planted. Seward was pretty thoroughly wiped out during the Revolution, being the home of both Tory and Patriot. The present population is 1,193. Villages: Seward, Dorlee, Gardnersville, and Clove.

Sharon, the northwest corner town of Schoharie, was erected on march 17, 1797, when the county was organized and divided into six parts. Shortly after the Revolution, Calvin R. Rich and others located here, and when the town was organized it was named after the Connecticut village from which Rich and his friends had come. While the town used to be famous for its hops, it is better known to the outside world as the seat of certain sulphur, chalybeate and magnesia springs. Around these waters have grown a resort, with large hotels and many visitors, who in a measure supply a market for the agricultural products of the town. The population is 1920 was 1,494. Villages: Sharon Springs, Rockville, Leesville, Engleville, Sharon and Beekman's Corners.

Summit, formed from Jefferson and Cobleskill, April 13, 1819, is rightly named for its is in the highest part of the county; the top if Mt. Wharton, situated in the town is 2,428 feet above sea level. Summit Lake is a beautiful body of water to which numbers resort. There were no settlements in summit until 1794. Population, 871. Villages: Summit, Lutheranville, Charlotteville.

Wright, erected April 4, 1846, from Schoharie, was settled first by Jacob Zimmer in 1735. After the defeat of General Burgoyne at Saratoga a number of his German troops stopped and located in this section. Gallupville is the principal village, received its name from a family who purchased the land on which the village is built, and who were largely responsible for its growth. Other hamlets are: Waldensville and Shutter Corners. Population, 1920, 833.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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