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Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site



HISTORY of DELAWARE COUNTY

by Jay Gould - 1856


CHAPTER III.

New York in 1770 - Total population of the Colony at that period - Tryon and Charlotte counties erected - Their extent - Population of Tryon - First settlement German Palatines - Settlements made by them - Heldeburgh Hills - Origin of the name - Schoharie Valley - Its settlement - Settlement at Cherry Valley - Privations of the settlers the first winter - Hair-breadth escape from starvation - Succored by a friendly Indian - Nativity of the early settlers - Harper family - Settle in Cherry Valley -Their influence with the Indians - Harpers found a new settlement - Called Harpersfield - Obtain a Patent - Surveyed - Mrs. Harper, the first white woman in the town - Constructs a log-house with her own hands - The first house in Harpersfield - Privations the following winter - Providential relief from starvation - Slow progress of the settlement - Reception of new settlers - Settlement in Middletown, before the revolution - Death of Dumond, by the Schoharie Guard - Brugher shot by the Indians while threshing buckwheat - His son taken prisoner - Release and return of the son to Middletown - Drowned while crossing the Delaware some years after - Indian Villages on the East Branch - Milling stories - Indian hunting-grounds - Beaver; peculiarities of the animal - Ancient Apple-trees - Anecdotes concerning - Pakatakan, an Indian Village - Supposed signification of the name - Tribes of Indians who occupied - Papagouck and Pepacton, other Indian Villages - Historical communications of Dr. O. M. Allaben.

"The noblest men I know on earth,
Are men whose hands are brown with toil;
Who, backed by no ancestral graves,
Hew down the woods and till the soil,
And win thereby a prouder fame,
Than follow kings and warrior's name."


As we have stated in a previous chapter, in 1770, the tide of emigration received a sudden impetus, and the line of the frontier settlements began to rapidly recede westward. The river towns, which lay along or near the noble Hudson, were passed by and left to slumber on in comparative obscurity, while the daring and enterprising citizens were lured by the inducements offered them by the forest beyond. At this period, William Tryon was the principal Governor of New York; his name stands last in the catalogue of the provincial rulers, and it is conceded by both friend and foe, that he was endowed with all the attributes necessary to constitute a wise officer and a useful citizen. It is true that it was during his reign in office, that the yoke of foreign dominion was peremptorily cast aside, and the link which united us to the mother country was severed; but the causes which opened the door to that eventful struggle in which the goddess of liberty rode triumphant over tyranny and oppression, and erected an asylum for the down-trodden subjects of every land, were beyond his or human power to control. It needs but a casual glance at the history of the Revolution and its causes, to convince even the most skeptical that the clouds of political discord had been gathering and accumulating blackness for a long period before the fatal issue came. Wise men of England had descried the star of liberty-the savior of freedom rising faintly above the western horizon-dimly at first, but gathering renewed brightness from every wafted breeze-the prophecy had gone forth, and the proud aristocrats of England, jealous of their power, and benumbed to every noble feeling of compassion or justice, like Pharaoh of old, had sent forth their impious decrees to conquer by compulsion and force, what kindness and mutual feeling could alone beget: instead of recognizing their brethren across the water as Englishmen, with the same ancestral blood thrilling their veins - moved by the same impulses and characterized by the same traits - bestowed upon them the epithet of servile subjects. To England this was a fatal step, but they either saw their error too late, or were too proud to retrace their steps, and the fatal snare they had carefully adjusted for another was sprung literally upon themselves; the same impromptu that caused Englishmen in England to usurp power, caused Englishmen in America to rebel.

In 1771, New York, although it comprised within its limits the whole of the present State of Vermont, was divided into but twelve counties, viz.: New York, Albany, Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Westchester, Kings, Queens, Suffolk, Richmond, Cumberland and Gloucester. The total population was but 168,000, of which nearly 20,000 were blacks. It was in the main confined to Long Island, Richmond, New York and a half dozen settlements along the Hudson, foremost amongst which were Albany and Kingstown.

In 1772, two new counties were erected, Charlotte and Tryon, both of which have been since divided and subdivided, and are now recognized by other names. Charlotte was composed of the western half of the present State of Vermont, and the counties of Clinton, Franklin, Essex, and Washington in this state. Tryon county embraced all the territory west of Charlotte, between that and the St. Lawrence river, and west of a line running through nearly the center of the present county of Schoharie to Utsayantho lake, which is the source of the west branch of the Delaware river; thence down the west branch to the Pennsylvania line. It embraced the whole state west of these defined limits. From its original extent, the whole or a portion of the following counties have been erected, viz.: Alleghany, Broome, Cattaragus, Cayouga, Chautaqua, Chemung, Chenango, a part of Delaware, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Onondoga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, St. Lawrence, a part of Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.

The entire population of Tryon county at its formation did not exceed ten thousand whites and those were exclusively confined to the eastern portion; of which it may be said that it contained some comparatively, for that early period, flourishing settlements. But the reader will do well to bear in mind the distinction between what was called a flourishing settlement at that period and the present time. It needed not then some rich and favored section of the State, with its railroads, canals, and all the modern improvements of art - with its fine farms, rich farmers, and flourishing mechanics - with its beautiful and stately edifices; its numerous churches, academies, and school-houses, to merit the appellation. It was rather where the first phase from a savage state to civilization had passed; where a few pioneers had centered together, and where, by dint of unremitting toil, they were enabled to enjoy some of the necessaries and luxuries of life - where at the close of the day, the hardy, toil-weary, care-worn parents assembled with their children around the wide fire-place in the humble log-cottage, in unalloyed enjoyment - there was then no, the rich and the poor; no the high circle and the low circles; no superb mansion standing out in contrast with the humble cottage of the poor. All was unity and harmony; the same feeling swayed every heart - kindness; the same impulses throbbed every soul - hospitality; every thing beat in unison with the spontaneous sentiments of love. Such is a description of a flourishing settlement in the primitive history of our country; and of such we say a few existed in Tryon County at its formation. The county seat was located at Johnstown, a place of early note, as being the residence of the old baronet, Sir William Johnston, a man of military fame; having distinguished himself in the wars of the northwest, with the Indians. He was also His Majesty's Superintendent of Indian Affairs in America, through whose agency treaties were formed, and purchases consummated with the Aborigines.

The earliest settlement in Tryon County, of which I find any record, was made by a company of German Palatines, in the early part of the eighteenth century. About 1709 or 1710, three thousand Palatines landed at New York, many of whom had served in the army of Queen Anne, by whom they were hired of the princes who ruled over them. A large portion of these emigrants were induced by Penn to settle on his lands in Pennsylvania; many settled in New York, where they erected the first Lutheran church in America - settlements were made by them at East and West Camp, on the Hudson, and the remaining families emigrated to Schoharie county. The journey from Albany occupied four days; they crossed the spur of the Catskill mountains, which extends through the present county of Albany from north to south; and which they named in their primitive tongue, "Heldeburgh", signifying "Prospect Hill;" carrying upon their backs tools and provisions with which they had fortunately provided themselves. They located in the beautiful and fertile valley of the Schoharie-kill, more or less of which had been cleared, and to some extent improved by the Schoharie Indians, who had located there - tradition says - twenty years before.

These settlements continued to spread until the outbreak of the Revolution when their comparatively prosperous condition was suddenly and fearfully disturbed; when their homes became the theater of a dark and bloody war. The comparatively remote situation of the little settlement from the theater of military operations, surrounded as they were by forests, which formed a shelter and a hiding-place for their savage foe, rendering them the fit subjects of Indian barbarity and wanton cruelty. Devastation and destruction, like meteoric flames, spread in every direction. The happy hearths of the settlers became the scenes of bloody assassinations. The unholy savage, with fiendish barbarity spared neither young nor old; the innocent babe and the helpless female were alike sacrificed by the tomahawk or burned at the stake; the well filled barns were given to the mercy of the flames; the cattle butchered or driven away, to furnish sustenance and support to their enemies, presenting altogether a picture surpassing description.

The next settlement made within the limits of Tryon - and which literally speaking, formed the entranceway to many of the early settlements in the present county of Delaware - was made in Cherry Valley, Otsego County. Glancing over the pages of an ably written work "Campbell's Annals of Tryon County," we note that in 1738, a patent of eight thousand acres of land was granted to Jacob Lindesay, Jacob Roseboom, Lendert Ganesvoort , and Sybrant Van Shaick, the former of whom having obtained an assignment of the whole patent, the following summer laid the foundation of the future settlement. He was accompanied in the novel enterprise of founding a settlement far beyond the pale of civilization by his wife, father-in-law, and a few domestics only. The season had far advanced when they encamped for the first time upon the spot designated to become their future home. They had scarcely succeeded in constructing a rude tenement to shelter themselves from the storm, and to afford protection during the inclemency of winter, ere the ice-bound monarch became their unwelcome guest.

Imagine to yourselves what must have been the condition of this family, who were not only deprived of the little luxuries of life, but of neighbors and friends; in the midst of the howling wilderness, over which wild beasts and savage Indians disputed proprietorship, with a scanty supply of provisions, and the snow lying upon the ground full three feet deep. Day after day passes; night after night they wait in anxious expectation, but in vain, for a cessation of its severity, to enable them to go to the Mohawk for a fresh supply of meal and flour.

Their situations at last became terrible in the extreme, starvation stared them in its most hideous form; and the grim specter, death, seemed already to have impressed his signet upon his victims. In this extremity a kind providence sent them succor in the person of a friendly Indian, who kindly volunteered to go to the Mohawk for provisions, traveling by the aid of snow shoes, and returning with the provisions upon his back. This faithful child of the forest did not desert them until spring dawned upon their unpleasant situation; his unerring aim supplied them with venison and other wild game, and he frequently visited the Mohawk settlement to procure a fresh supply of meat and flour.

The following year, 1741, the Rev. Samuel Dunlop, who had been prevailed upon by the generous proprietor of the patent to settle in Cherry Valley, induced several families among his acquaintances and friends to locate there also. Among these are the names David Ramsay, William Galt, James Campbell, and William Dickson, from Londonderry, New Hampshire, to which place they had emigrated from the north of Ireland, some years previously. These pioneers were peculiarly calculated to become the founders of a flourishing settlement - energetic, hardy, inured to toil, and susceptible of endurance. But in their new homes they experienced many privations unlooked for and unprepared for, the story of which deterred many others from following them, and hence, during the ten subsequent years only one or two families came into the valley, and the little germ of a settlement struggled on alone.

In 1754, the enterprising family of Harpers emigrated from Windsor, a town in Connecticut, and purchased a small tract of land in the valley suitable for the pursuit of agricultural purposes, and immediately commenced improvements thereon. The category of this family included John and Abigail, the ancestors, and nine children; the names and fortunes of most of whom afterward became vitally woven in the frowning struggle of '76, and all of who fought unexceptionally and unreservedly for liberty.

William, the eldest son, was an active member of the Provincial Congress, and when Otego county was organized in 1792, he was appointed one of the assistant judges, William Cooper, Esq., being first judge. He died in 1817, at the advanced age of Eighty-seven years, at his residence at Milford, Otsego county, New York.

James, the second son, was a vigilant and bold asserter of American independence.

Mary, the eldest daughter, married John Moore, an efficient and fearless member of the "Tryon County Committee of Safety," and who, with her three daughters, were taken prisoners at the massacre of Cherry Valley, in 1777; and compelled, under the savage protection of Brant, to perform the journey to Niagara. Fortunately for her, she found in the person of the commandant of that fort, a relative and friend, to whose kindness and humanity they were indebted for their subsequent restoration to their home.

John, the next brother in lineal descent, held a colonel's commission during the Revolution, and was particularly distinguished for the humanity which he exhibited on every occasion towards those of the enemy who fell into his power, and for that cool, intrepid courage, which several times saved the Schoharie settlements from wanton destruction. It is to him that Harpersfield is principally indebted for its early improvements, and from him that the town derived its name.

Joseph, and Alexander, the youngest male members of the Harper family at the above mentioned date, both of whom fought during the Revolution in the protection of Harpersfield and the Schoharie frontiers, (for a more particular account of which reference is had to a future chapter,) and who afterward removed to Ohio, where they obtained a grant of land, and where their descendants now reside. In the words of another - "the approach of civilization was not congenial to them; they preferred the life of a borderer, and sought it amid the boundless forests that covered that beautiful state.

Another member of the Harper family, a younger sister, Abigail, married William McFarland, and who also removed to Ohio, some time subsequent to the ratification of the treaty of peace. He is said to have been an intelligent and respected citizen, as a proof of which, it may be mentioned that he was for several years Supervisor of the town of Harpersfield, while it yet formed a portion of Tryon, or as it was called, Montgomery county.

By referring to the register of this family, we find that their grandsire removed from the county of Derry, in the north of Ireland, and settled at Casco Bay, in the province of Maine, as early as 1720, but subsequently, on the breaking out of a bloody war between the settlers and several tribes of Indians, he removed with his family; leaving however his eldest son, John, who enlisted in the defense of the frontiers, and remained in the service three years and eight months. On his discharge he followed the family to Boston, and from thence a year or two subsequently he removed to Hopington, where he became acquainted with and married Abigail Montgomery, mentioned above, who died at Cherry Valley the year before their removal to Harpersfield.

Following the history of the family through a later period, in 1729 they removed to Nodell's Island, near Boston, and from thence to Connecticut in 1741, from which place they finally removed to Cherry Valley.

From the period at which the Harpers had taken up their abode in Cherry Valley, their fortunes became an inseparable link in the history of the frontier settlements. Inheriting as they did, a goodly portion of the bold and martial spirit which had conspicuously characterized their ancestors, and profiting by the experience and knowledge of Indian character and its peculiarities, acquired by the elder John during the long campaign through which he had passed in Maine, they were enabled to cultivate successfully amicable relations with the Six nations, and to exert over them a powerful controlling influence, a consideration of the utmost importance in their exposed situation at that period. Between the afterward renowned Indian sachem, Jo Brant, as he was familiarly known, and John Harper, Jr., an intimacy had sprung up while attending school together at Lebanon, Connecticut, where the young half-breed had been placed, through the influence of Sir William Johnston, in July, 1761. This school was at that time under the supervision of Rev. Doctor Wheelock, afterward President of Dartmouth College, into which this institution was merged at a subsequent date. It is now familiarly known, as it was then called the "Moor Charity School."

In 1768, the Harpers and several other individuals, whom they had associated with them in the novel enterprise, determined upon founding a settlement of their own; but what induced them to decide upon Harpersfield as the theater for their future operations, it is impossible at this time to conjecture. It might have been at the instigation of friendly Indians, but more probably was the result of their own explorations and observations. The manufacture of maple sugar was then looked upon as a comparative lucrative business, and requiring but a limited capital - a sap kettle and a supply of wooden troughs being all that was necessary; as the forests at that early day were considered as of but little consequence. Accordingly, during the winter months small parties of two or three persons would associate themselves together and go out in the forests in various directions, selecting a favorable location where the sugar maple trees were standing thickest, would prepare a sufficient quantity of troughs and fuel and construct a temporary log-hut, which answered the double purpose of shielding their persons from the storm and in which they boiled their sap. Having made all things in readiness at the "camp," they repaired to it again at the opening of spring, and frequently remained several weeks making maple sugar, often returning at the expiration of the sugar season with large quantities of delicious sugar. Harpersfield was well adapted to this pursuit, and it is more than probable that the knowledge of this fact induced them to locate there.

Persevering in their determination of founding a new settlement, they purchased of the Indians a large tract of land stretching from the Charlotte on the north, to the headwaters of the west branch of the Delaware River on the south. Accordingly, in conformity to the above purchase, a grant was secured the following year by letters- patent to John Harper, William Harper, John Harper, Jr., Joseph Harper, Alexander Harper, Andries Riber and sixteen other individuals of a tract of land containing twenty-two thousand acres, included by the present town of Harpersfield.

In the spring of 1770, Governor Tryon sent out a surveyor to accompany the patentees and locate the limits of the patent. He was accompanied by John Harper, the principal proprietor, and his favorite consort. This heroic woman, whose courage and fortitude entitle her to a conspicuous place among the heroines of those early times, unwilling that her husband should share alone the perils incident to the undertaking, determined to accompany, and if possible, in some degree alleviate the situation. While the men were surveying, she with her own hands constructed a rude log-hut and covered it with bark. In this hut she frequently was compelled to remain alone days, and sometimes-even nights, while her husband and his companions were engaged upon a remote part of the patent. It is a historical fact and one worthy of mention, that this was unquestionably the first pale face of the fair sex whose presence lent a delectable charm to the lonely wilderness.

In the spring of 1771, the survey and division of the patent having been completed, the family of Harpers removed from Cherry Valley to Harpersfield, and made a permanent settlement there.

The following incident was related to me by the Rev. Mr. Boyce, of Harpersfield, who married a niece of Colonel Harper, and who has been for many years intimately connected with the family. The first winter succeeding removal of the Harpers into Harpersfield, was distinguished for its unprecedented severity. The partial and incomplete arrangements they had been enabled to make, proved hardly sufficient for the unseen privations they were called upon to endure. During the summer and fall preceding this memorable winter they had removed their goods, provisions, etc. to Schoharie, from which place to Harpersfield there was no road, and they had stored them at the former place - except a few provisions - intending to remove them to the place of destination upon the snow. Winter set in much sooner than was anticipated, and the snow fell upon the ground to a great depth, cutting off all communications and rendering it almost impossible to reach any settlement of which, the reader must be aware, there was none nearer than Schoharie, over twenty miles distant - Cherry Valley, their former place of residence, lying still farther off.

In the midst of this dilemma their lack of provisions became exhausted excepting a little corn which was powdered into a mortar and converted into rude bread, familiarly known as Johnnycake. Upon this scanty diet they subsisted for a brief period, in the hope of a speedy cessation of the extreme cold weather. At last the remaining meal was all consumed, and but one small loaf of Johnnycake was left to preserve the existence of the members of the new settlement. His faithful partner, who had borne up under all their former privations with becoming fortitude, now began to yield. Cautiously she had concealed from her husband the real state of their provisions, well knowing, as she did, the imminent peril that would surround any attempt to reach the settlements, as well as that bold resolution that would prompt him immediately to undertake the journey, at any hazard. Noble woman, I would fain weave for thee, in this history, a eulogy worthy of such heroism. The fierce contest had raged in her own bosom, between alternate hope and fear - the love with which she cherished her offspring and the plighted affections of her husband - and would that the invocation of the prophet had been there, by his power from above, to have replenished the exhausted "measure of meal." But the urgent claims of hunger and the prospect of starvation will unnerve the strongest mind and move the firmest purpose.

A sad and painful picture did that little family circle present, as the children, prompted by hunger, gathered around the mother and anxiously presented their urgent demands for bread. The youngest were uttering their cries, while those who were older and better able to realize more fully their extreme situation, but hardly comprehending its fearful reality, were anxiously propounding the inquiry, "mother, must we starve?"

While the children were gathered around the mother, the father entered; his eyes immediately fell upon the pale and anxious features of his wife; her tearful eyes met his own and revealed to him the reality of the situation. It was useless to conceal the truth from him longer, and she now told him that one small loaf was the last morsel the house contained, and for this even the children were crying, but she dared not give it to them, hardly knowing what they would do when that was consumed.

The father now resolved, as a last resort, to repair to the Schoharie settlement on the morrow, which he doubted not he could do, traveling by the aid of snow shoes; and taking the dainty morsel from the shelf and breaking it, distributed it among the members of the family, giving a portion to his wife and each of his children, but touching it not himself. John Harper was a consistent Christian and a good man, and the trust he reposed in his God sustained him in this trying hour. He consoled his wife, by exhorting her to "fear not, Providence will provide."

We will now turn to the Schoharie settlements; the inhabitants, aware of the scanty supply of provisions of their neighbors at the "Bush," as Harpersfield was usually termed, and conscious that unless they could afford them succor, they must perish with hunger, had fortunately, the same day that the provisions of the family became exhausted, and the affecting scene narrated above had transpired, determined to go to their assistance. Accordingly, early on the day in question, a company set out from Schoharie, traveling by the aid of snow shoes toward Harpersfield, at which place they arrived at midnight, to the joyful surprise of the starving inhabitants.

The little settlement at Harpersfield continued gradually but slowly to increase, during the subsequent years that intervened up to the period of the Revolution. Each year added some new comers to the list of their neighbors, and each was hailed with unaffected joy by the inhabitants. A correspondent, whose gray hairs entitle him to a respectful hearing, and whose memory serves him of by-gone times, says: "It was an invariable custom among the early settlers, that when a newcomer made his appearance among them, the most commodious house in the whole settlement was freely offered for his use, until a bee could be made, and a house prepared without any expense to himself. Indeed to such an extent were their peculiar sentiments of hospitality carried, that neighbors frequently quarreled which should have the pleasure of accommodating the new guests."

It is the design of the present chapter to recite briefly the history of the early settlements in the county prior to the Revolution, but of the other settlements made within the limits of the county, and especially of those in Middletown, the description which I shall be able to give, will at the most prove but vague and uncertain. How much ever of interest their antiquity may possess, a great portion of their history is buried in oblivion, and the men who first settled there, and all who might have rendered valuable assistance have passed away; The researches of the antiquarian therefore must prove an almost hopeless task.

From the few reliable reminiscences I have been enabled to gather, it appears that at a very early period, a few Low-Dutch families from Marbletown and Hurley, followed up the Esopus or Shandaken creek (the latter being the Indian name signifying swift waters,) and crossing the hills that divide its waters from the east branch of the Delaware, located themselves in a small settlement upon the fertile flats that skirt the latter stream. One of these settlers, a Mr.Van Waggoner settled near the present residence of Colonel Noah Dimmick, to whom the author is indebted for the above information. Another settled a short distance above, by the name of Kittle - this place was afterward familiarly known as the "Kittle Farm." Several other settlers were scattered along at intervals for several miles down the river, among whom were Hermanus Dumond, about a mile below Margaretville, on the opposite side of the river, who was shot during the Revolution under the following painful circumstances:

Dumond, in company with John Barrow, a neighbor, who occupied and owned the present residence of Warren Dimmick , Esq., in Middletown, had been - as my informant Colonel Dimmick recollects, and which somewhat differs from a subsequent recital of the same event in this chapter - up the river on a hunting excursion, and when returning and while near Arkville on the flat, they unexpectedly fell in with a company of Schoharie guards, who had been sent by Colonel Vroman, of Schoharie, to scour the head waters of the Delaware, and to arrest certain disaffected persons, and to destroy supposed Indian settlements, and who were now on their return to Schoharie.

The Guard perceiving them armed ordered them to "halt." Dumond and Barrow, from the best authority I can command were favorable to the cause of the colonies, although from considerations of personal safety they had been prompted to maintain, as much as possible, a neutral position. It is therefore probable, that in their haste they mistook the character of the troops, and supposing them to be Tories and Indians, disregarded the injunction, and immediately attempted to flee. Perceiving their retreat, the commander of the troops ordered his men to fire upon them, when Dumond fell mortally wounded, surviving his fall but a brief period, while Barrow, more fortunate than his companion, escaped unhurt and unmolested, to carry the painful intelligence to the family of the deceased. The guard dismounted, and gathering around the expiring man expressed in heartfelt grief their sympathy at his untimely death; raising him gently upon their locked arms, they conveyed him to a house near by. No physician was at hand to render efficient aid, and indeed none was necessary, for it was apparent to all as they watched the tremulous pallor of his countenance, the glazed and fixed expression of his dark eye, and the cold drops of sweat that gathered upon his icy, but manly forehead revealed in unmistakable language,

"That the golden bowl was broken,"

and that life hung for a time but by a flickering and disserved thread. It was indeed a time for mourning; that little band of brave men had wives and children and hearth-stones of their own, and it was for these, the dearest and tenderest of all human interests, that they had come forth and taken upon themselves the armor of war, to protect and defend them; and when the expiring man with his last accent breathed sweet counsel to his wife and children, who depended upon him for their daily bread, there arose spontaneous in every bosom, the reflected counterpart of their own homes; perhaps at that instant the ruthless savage has raised the fierce war-whoop, and with tomahawk in hand has passed the threshold of his own domicile to drink the heart's blood of his own kindred, or if they escape death, to be carried into a captivity, if possible, worse even than death. A rude and shallow grave is prepared, in which, without coffin or shroud, or monument to mark his resting-place, they placed him with his arms slightly folded, and without removing his clothes.

The death of Dumond was an unfortunate circumstance for his family. He was the father of a large family of children, most of whom at that time were small. My informant, Cyrus Burr, Esq., knew three of the sons, John, David and Hermanus, all of whom are now dead, and two daughters, both of whom married men by the name of Yaples. One of them, the widow of Philip Yaple, deceased, resides at present in Plattekill, in the town of Middletown.

There was another pioneer who had located in Middletown by the name of Burgher; of the precise place he occupied I am unable to state definitely, but it lay several miles farther down the river, and within the limits of the town of Andes. This settler, supposing he might remain in safety during the war, by professing to take no part in the issues of the day, was shot by an Indian scout while threshing buckwheat in the open field. His eldest son, then but a lad, who was at work with his father, was taken into captivity, where he suffered greatly during the remainder of the war. After an absence of several years he was finally permitted to return to the family at Middletown. He was drowned many years after, while attempting to cross the Delaware during a freshet, on horseback.

At the period of the first settlements which were made along the east branch of the Delaware, there were scattered upon that stream several small Indian settlements.1 It is not probable, however, that this tribe or tribes made any permanent residence on the Delaware, but only visiting it at certain seasons of the year to prosecute their favorite employment of hunting and fishing, which commodities there existed in great abundance; and it may here be remarked, that beaver were found in abundance along up the river. The first settlers found several huge dams, which this ingenious animal had thrown, across the stream. One of these dams, near the site of the present village of Roxbury, was the circumstance from which it derived its former name of "Beaver Dam."2

One of these Indian villages was only a short distance above Margaretville, on the opposite side of the stream, where may be seen a couple of ancient looking apple- trees, which are said to have been nurtured by the original proprietors themselves. The oldest living settlers bear witness to the fact, by stating that they were old trees when they were boys; they were perhaps at that early date the only bearing apple trees in the county, and those persons are still living who can bear witness to the miraculous disappearance of the fruit.

An intelligent and reliable informant, speaking of these apple trees, related the following anecdote of their early history: Some fifty years ago, the only gristmill for a large circumference of territory was situated on the east branch of the Delaware, near Arkville. This mill had been built, and for some years owned and occupied, by a man by the name of ______, distinguished especially among the "younger America," who frequently bought grist to his mill, for his generosity and liberality. The apple trees spoken of above were owned by him, and usually, in the fall of the year, hung loaded with myriad's of tiny apples, scarcely larger than a hen's egg, but a greater rarity at that time to boys especially, than the delicious fruits of the tropics are now. And it was principally to the liberality with which he allowed his young customers to partake of this fruit, and load their pockets to carry to their mothers and sisters at home, that the miller had acquired his enviable reputation. Several years after, this place was purchased by one _____, who, in contradiction with the former owner, soon came into notoriety, under the appellation of stingy; but the boys, who had come to think themselves as by right entitled to some of the fruit, were not to be outdone, and after several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the proprietor to open his heart towards them, an expedient was put in execution, which proved successful, to the miraculous disappearance of the fruit. Two of the boys were sent to coax the old man, who by the way was short of sight, while their companions repaired at the same instant to the trees, which in mock charity to the owner they handled rather roughly, and procured a goodly quantity of his apples.

The same informant states that, when a lad of a dozen years, his father packed him off to this mill - the first he had ever visited - upon horseback, with small grist to be converted into flour for the consumption of the family. The father, before he left, impressed upon the mind of the young lad the necessity of watching the miller pretty closely, remarking, "that millers sometimes steal." This caution placed the young tyro on his guard, and sure enough, shortly after the grist had been emptied into the hopper he saw the miller go to a small bin nearby, and taking a measure, filled it from the grain in the hopper, and, emptied it back into the bin. The boy kept watch, and when the miller's back was turned, he filled the measure out of the bin, and emptied it back into the hopper, replacing what he supposed the miller had intended to steal. To use his own words, he said: "I felt really proud of what I had done, and when I returned home that night I related to my father what had transpired at the mill, telling him that the miller did not get much the best of me, for he struck the measure full he took out of the hopper, while I heaped up the one I put in: that he was a big thief for there was a large bin full of grain, which I felt sure he had stolen in like manner. My father laughed heartily over the joke, and then explained to me that this was the way they were paid for the use of the mill."

The tribe of Indians who occupied this village near Margaretville, and which, in the Indian dialect, was called Pakatakan, said to signify the union of two streams in one, (an appropriate cognomen, as it was at this place that the Dry-brook stream falls into the East Branch,) according to O. Callaghan's History of New York, were the Wappinger Indians of Dutchess county and Esopus; and according to the same account, this same tribe had a couple of other villages farther down the river in Colchester, one of which they called Papagouck and the other Pepacton.

The following information kindly furnished by Dr. O.M. Allaben, of Margaretville, who has evinced much interest in the compilation of this work, coming to hand too late to become incorporated in the thread of my history, and although some parts are a repetition of the foregoing, we have inserted it in full. We regret to state in this place, that so few persons are found who have evinced the same degree of interest in the collection of historical reminiscences.

"Dear Sir:-The timely appearance of your work, embracing the settlement and early history of Delaware county, furnishes a desideratum, the importance of which has long been felt; and I cheerfully contribute the few historical items which I have been enabled to gather from an intercourse of more than twenty years with the people of this town, for the purpose of rescuing from oblivion what is still matter of veritable history, but which will have become mere tradition, unless speedily placed upon record by the historian. Reliable sources of information have sensibly decreased within the few years last past, and indeed I believe no person is now living who came into this town with the early pioneers, and but few even are left, who have any knowledge of the trials and unforeseen embarrassments which beset the hardy adventurers who first emigrated into this valley."

I am principally indebted for the facts here presented, to Frederick Kittle, who came into the settlement with the first emigrants, by his stepfather, Mr. Hendricks. He spent nearly his whole life in this neighborhood, and died some years since at a very advanced age. He was a boy when the little colony was founded, but old enough to remember many of the incidents attendant upon that event. Also, to Christian Yaple who at the age of about two years emigrated with his father from Pennsylvania, and settled in Middletown in 1774. Also, to James Dumond, grandson of Peter Dumond, another early settler, who was born about the close of the Revolution, and who has resided in Middletown ever since. The latter person is, perhaps, as well acquainted with the traditional history of the first settlements, as any person at present living, - possessing naturally an inquiring mind and a retentive memory, and having been brought up in one of the original families, most of the leading incidents have come within the scope of his research and observation.

Perhaps no settlement in Delaware County dates anterior to that in Middletown. In the latter part of the year 1762, or early in the spring of 1763, a party was formed in Hurley, Ulster County for the purpose of exploring the Delaware valley, and if considered expedient, of making arrangements for emigrating thither with their families. Among these adventurers were Hermanus Dumond, his brother Peter Dumond, Johannes Van Waggoner, and a man by the name of Hendricks; each of whom, after having made the necessary explorations, purchased a farm, of the patentee, at a place called by the Indians, Pakatakan, and as before stated, near where the present village of Margaretville is located. These four pioneer families, constituted the first permanent colony on the East Branch, but at the period of their arrival in the valley, there still remained abundant evidence of their having been preceded by others, supposed to have been French Canadians, or half-breeds, who had squatted upon these flats previous to, or during the French war, for the purpose of traffic with the aborigines, but who were compelled to retire from considerations of personal safety, during the troubled times that followed. Mr. Kittle has frequently asserted that his step-father Hendricks, purchased his possession of one of these squatters, and Mrs. Yaples well recollects from the narration's of her mother, that agricultural implements of various kinds, were found by her parents on their arrival, satisfying them that they had been preceded by others of European extraction.

The land titles of the first settlers, were warranty deeds granted by Mr. Livingston to the purchaser, with a provision allowing the latter to cut wood or quarry stone, upon any part of the patent, for farm and family uses. The date of these deeds is April 6, 1763.

The Indian village of Pakatakan, was a little above the site of the present village of Margaretville, as before stated, and near the junction of the Bush-kill with the East Branch. Mr. Kittle designated it as a Tuscorora village, and informed me that the Indian etymology of the name was, "The place where the streams come together," or "The meeting of the waters," a very appropriate cognomen, as three very considerable streams intersect in that neighborhood, besides three or four smaller ones.

The early settlers were principally Dutch, and both wrote and spoke that language. They lived, so far as I have been able to learn, upon friendly terms with the Indians, up to the dark period of the Revolutionary war. They suffered all the privations incident to a new and distant settlement, and were for a long period obliged to do their milling, trading, etc. at Esopus, forty-five miles distant, and the greater part of the distance being through an unbroken wilderness.3 For a period of more than ten years from the first settlement, and until the breaking out of hostilities, the little colony continued slowly to increase in the valley of the Delaware, and nearly all the alluvial lands along the main stream were occupied, and more or less improved for a distance of more then twenty miles. Several schools were also established where instruction was given in the Dutch dialect.

But few of the names of those who settled before the war has been handed down to us; among them, we find those of Hermanus and Peter Dumond, Van Waggoner, Hendricks, Kittle, Yaple, Brugher, Hinebagh, Green, Blanch, and others. Among the friendly Indians were Tunis and Canope, (the sad fate of the latter of whom is narrated in a future chapter.)

The disputes and strife which preceded the war of the Revolution, took early and deep root among the inhabitants of Pakatakan, attributable doubtless, in a greater or lesser extent, to the influence which the presence of a savage foe, exerted upon the fears and hopes of a frontier settlement, and consequently, it does not seem strange that a large portion of the settlers should have espoused the royal cause. There were a few Whigs however, and among them were, Yaples, Peter Dumond, and Hinebaugh. Hermanus Dumond and Peter Brugher, the former of whom was killed by the Americans and the latter by the Indians, were said to occupy neutral ground.

The first open rupture, growing out of the political troubles of the times, among the settlers of Pakatakan, is said to have occurred at a schoolhouse within the precincts of the settlement, between Isaac Dumond, a son of Peter, and a boy by the name of Markle. Markle called Dumond a rebel, whereupon the latter in a fit of resentment, dealt the other a blow. A bout of fist-cuffs ensued, which finally broke up the school.

Early in the spring of 1778, or soon after the burning of Kingston, by the detachment of British troops under Gen. Vaughn, the hostile Indians, emboldened by the terror which the act produced in the minds of the border revolutionists, advanced to Colchester or Pepacton, as it was then called, where they encamped, and commenced the perpetration of a series of depredations upon the Whigs in the vicinity, stealing their cattle, goods, etc., and finally they formed a plot with the cognizance of some of the Tories, to murder or drive them out of Pakatakan.

This intended massacre was prevented by a timely notice from Tunis, a friendly Indian, who informed Yaple of the impending danger, and advised him to leave the settlement. Yaple immediately spread the alarm among the Whigs, who, after hastily collecting their cattle and such of their goods as they could conveniently carry, and after burying or otherwise concealing the remainder, took a hasty leave of the settlement. On the same day that Yaple, Peter Dumond, and Hinebaugh fled, the Indians made a concerted descent upon the settlement, and after destroying such of their effects as remained unconcealed, and reducing the buildings to ashes, sent a detachment of twenty Indian warriors under the guidance of two well known Tories in pursuit of the fugitives, who followed them as far as Shandaken, when they gave up the chase. Yaple subsequently returned after the remainder of his goods, and was taken prisoner by the Tories, among whom was Blanch. He was taken to Colchester, where he was detained in custody for several weeks, but finally allowed to return with the goods.

These outrages at Pakatakan, aroused the attention of the Americans, who sent a company of militia from Schoharie to drive the marauders from the frontiers. On the approach of the troops, the Tories fled to the older settlements of Hurley, while the Indians retired toward the Susquehanna.

No further attempts were made by the settlers to establish themselves at Pakatakan, until after the close of the war, but occasional visits were made to the place, by the settlers for the removal of their property, or the gathering in of their crops. It was on occasions like this that both Dumond and Burgher were shot. Dumond was killed on the twenty-sixth of August, 1778. He had returned with John Barrow from Hurley in order to secure a piece of grain. Having accomplished their purpose, they set out to return again to Hurley, and when about a mile from his place of residence at Pakatakan, they fell in with the Schoharie Guard, who took them prisoners. They were mounted upon a single horse, Burgher behind Dumond, to accompany the troops. Seeing a favorable opportunity to escape, they put spurs to the horse and rode off in an opposite direction. They were fired upon by the guard, and Dumond fell fatally wounded to the ground. He was conveyed to the house or the farm where Col. Dimmick now resides, where he died after suffering excruciating pain for three days. Burrow made his escape, threaded the forest, up Dry Brook, and over the mountains into Shandaken, traveling through the day and lodging in a tree by night. Such is the commonly received opinion in relation to the death of Dumond; but Mrs. Yaple, however, believes that her father and Burrow mounted one of their own horses and attempted to escape before he was taken prisoner, supposing the troops to have been Butler men, and enemies of the colonies.

In the fall of the same year, 1778, Peter Burgher returned with his son, a small boy and others, to secure his crops. He had incurred the displeasure of the Indians by piloting the troops from Pakatakan, and they sought this opportunity to ambush and destroy him. He was shot, it was said, by a Seneca Indian named Abraham, while threshing buckwheat, and his little son was taken prisoner, carried to Niagara, and sold to a British officer. He afterwards returned, and was drowned while crossing the Delaware, near where his father was killed, in the neighborhood of Mill Brook.

There is, near Margaretville, an ancient graveyard; supposed to have been used either by the early Dutch settlers before the revolution, or by the half-breeds who preceded them. It has long been abandoned, and the spot and even the graves of many of them are overgrown with trees and underwood, and little or nothing is now known of its history save its existence. Near the mouth of the Mill brook, and on the banks of the Delaware, are certain remains, which bear strong resemblance to works of art. Many suppose them to have been ancient fortifications or works of defense, but when or by whom they were erected is mere conjecture. I am informed by Mr. Dickinson, who resides near them, that in that vicinity were once found what was supposed to have been a stone battle-ax and that arrow-heads exist in great abundance in that immediate locality, which strengthens the opinion that they were of Indian occupation. They are two in number, each of a circular form, and have been surrounded by a high embankment, protected by a deep ditch.4 The one on the east side of the river has been passed over many times with the plow, but much of its original symmetry and form are still visible. The other, on the opposite side, further down the stream, is still surrounded by a deep ditch filled with growing trees and underwood, but has less regularity, and will not so soon attract the attention of the antiquarian.

End of Chapter III

FOOTNOTES

  1. VOL. I., Documentary History of New York.

  2. A full-grown beaver weighs from fifty to sixty pounds; its length is usually about four feet from the snout to the end of the tail. The tail is about five or six inches wide by one inch in thickness, and what seems peculiar, although the body of the animal is so well covered with fur and hair, the tail is without either, except at its insertion, and is covered with a species of scales. The fore part of the beaver has the consistency of land animals, while the hind legs and tail have not only the smell, but the savor, and nearly all the qualities of the fish.

    The food of the beaver is principally vegetable. The bait used by hunters to entice them to a trap is castoreum, or bark stone, which substance is obtained from the glandulous pouches of the male animals. The beavers prefer usually to locate their dams in a moderate current, which they substitute as a motive power, to float the trees which they fell into the stream above, to the precise point where they are required. The number of trees which they thus cut is truly surprising, and those unacquainted with the animal, would suppose them cut with an axe.

    The dams which they build in a running stream are curved, with the convexity-opposed to the current; the interstices are filled with mud and stones. Their work is all prepared in the night; as soon as any of the material is placed where it is intended to remain, the animal turns round and gives it a smart blow with its tail. The same sort of a blow is struck by them on the surface of the water, when they are in the act of diving. The hut of the beaver is rudely constructed of bushes and mud, which is applied after the water becomes sufficiently cold to freeze it.

  3. Mr. Kittle informed me, that both the settlers and Indians (who it seems employed horses,) fastened their horses and cut fodder for them at the Beaver meadows, in Roxbury, distant ten or twelve miles, following an Indian trail or foot-path, from Pakatakan to the meadows.
  4. Gould Map


Index to History of Delaware County by Jay Gould

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