ON THE ROOTS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

The following anecdote is believed to be true.

In the employ of Sir William Johnson a few years before his death, was an Irishman named McCarthy, by reputation the most noted pugilist in Western New York.

The baronet offered to pit his fellow countryman against any man who could be produced for a fist fight.

Major Fonda, tired of hearing the challenge, and learning that a very muscular Dutchman named John Van Loan, was living near Brakabeen, in the Schoharie valley, made a journey of some forty or fifty miles, to secure his professional services, for he, too, was reputed a bully.

Van Loan readily agreed to flog the son of Erin, for a ten pound note.

At a time appointed, numbers were assembled at Caughnawaga to witness the contest between the pugilists.

After McCarthy had been swaggering about in the crowed for a while, and greatly excited public expectation by his boasting, inducing numbers to bet on his head, his competitor appeared ready for the contest - clad for the occasion in a shirt and breeches of dressed deer-skin fitted tight to his person.

A ring was formed and the battle commenced.

The bully did his best, but it was soon evident that he was not a match for his Dutch adversary, who slipped through his fingers like an eel, and parried his blows with the greatest ease.

Completely exhausted and almost bruised to a jelly, Sir William's gamester was removed, looking if not expressing - peccavi. - Abraham A. Van Horne, who obtained the facts from a son of Van Loan.

I have spoken in the preceding chapter, of the custom of providing refreshments at funerals; a practice which continued in vogue in some degree for at least one hundred years, and until about the year 1825.

Smoking was an attendant on the prevailing habit, as the following order from Col. Dl. Claus, will show.

"Sir - I have sent the bearer for four dozen of Pipes and a few pounds of Tobacco, for the burial of Mr. Raworth's child wh please to charge to me."

"Monday, 27th Aug., 1770"

"D. CLAUS."

"To Maj'r Jelles Fonda"

The trade with the Indians along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, was carried on by the aid of boats propelled from Schenectada up the Mohawk at great personal labor, in consequence of their being several rifts or rapids in the stream.

The first obstruction of the kind was met with six miles above Schenectada, and was called Six Flats' rift; proceeding west came in course similar obstructions known as Fort Hunter rift; Caughnawaga rift; Keator's rift, at Spraker's, the greatest on the river, having a fall of ten feet; Brandywine rift, at Canajoharie, short but rapid; Ehle's rift near Fort Plain; Kneiskern's rift, a small rapid near the upper Indian castle, a little above the river dam; and the Little falls 3, so called as compared with the Cahoes on the same stream near its mouth.

At the Little Falls, a desent in the river of forty feet in half a mile, boats could not be forced up the current, and it became a carrying place for them and merchandise, which were transported around the rapids on wagons with small wide rimmed wheels, the water craft relaunched and and re-loaded to proceed onward.

On such occasions one of the party usually staid with the goods deposited above, while the team returned for the boat.

Small batteaus, known in early times as three-handed boats, were in use on the Mohawk, which carried from two to five tons each; and so called because three or four men were required to propel them.

There boats were forced over the rapids in the river with poles and ropes, the latter drawn by men on the shore.

Such was the mode of transporting merchandize and Indian commodities to and from the west, for a period of about fifty years, and until after the Revolution.

3. The village of Little Falls, so romantically situated on the Mohawk, already has a population numbering some three thousand inhabitants, and is rapidly increasing. It seems destined to become the largest place between Albany and Utica in the Mohawk valley. A manufactory for woolen goods has recently been erected here, and an acadamey, a large stone edifice, constructed of masive granite from the vicinity, recently completed, was opened in November, 1844, with a male and female department; the former under the charge of Merrit G. McKoon, A. M, and the latter under the superintendance of Miss Amanda Hodgeman, a young lady of real merit.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

A second carrying place in use at an early day was near Fort Stanwix, from the boatable waters of the Mohawk to Wood creek.

Passing into Oneida lake, the batteaus proceeded into the Oswego river, and from thence to Oswego on lake Ontario.

From Oswego to Niagara, a place of much importance, merchandize was transported in the same boats or on sloops.

Major Fonda, as his papers show, had much to do with the navigation of the river in the French and American wars with England. - Joseph Spraker.

After the Revolution the tide of emigration was "Westward Ho!" and a corporate body, known as the "Inland Lock Navigation Company," constructed a dam and sluice to facilitate business at Wood creek, and built several locks at Little Falls, so that boats might pass and repass without unloading.

These locks were constructed under the supervision and direction of Gen. Philip Schuyler, whose memory, for services rendered his country in her most trying period, will ever be held in grateful remembrance by the citizens of New York.

The locks at Little Falls were completed in 1795.

The following original paper, given by Gen. Schuyler to a namesake, and son of the Rev. Mr. Schuyler, of Schoharie will show at what time the business was most actively prosecuted.

To Mr. Philip Schuyler: "By virtue of the powers vested in me by the directors of the Inland Lock Navigation Companies in this state, I do hereby appoint you an Assistant Superintendent, to superintend, direct and command the mechanics and labourers, and their respective overseers, already employed in the service of the said companies, hereby requiring the said overseers, and others so employed, in all things to pay due obedience to all your lawful requisitions and directions."

"Given under my hand, in the county of Herkimer, this eighth day of May, 1793."

"PH: SCHUYLER"

"President and Superintendent."

In June following, Gen. S. gave his namesake the annexed very flattering testimonial, which shows the usual caution of that great man in guarding against accidents:

Falls, June 22, 1793

"Dear Sir: I experience so much satisfaction from your attention, and the readiness with which you comprehend the hints given by me for the construction of the works, that I consider it as a duty to give you this written testimony of my perfect satisfaction of your conduct, and to evince my sense of it by a pecuniary reward."

"Your compensation, from the original time of agreement, will be two dollars per day; this, however, I do not wish you to mention, least others should conceive that I made a discrimination unfavorable to them, although in reality I do not, for their services are by no means as important to the Lock Navigation Company as yours. "

"Least an accident should happen to me, which might deprive you of the benefit of the above mentioned allowance, you will keep this letter as a testimony thereof."

"I am, Dear Sir,"

"Your friend and humble servant,"

"PH: SCHUYLER,"

"President of the Board of Directors."

"To Mr. Philip Schuyler."

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

After the locks were built at Little Falls, business on the river greatly increased, and apples and cider were then among the commodities sent west.

The clumsy batteau, which had for half a century usurped the place of the Indian's bark canoe, the little craft which had danced on the bosom of the Mohawks' river for many ages, soon gave place to the Durham boat, carrying from ten to fifteen tons, and constructed, in shape, not unlike a modern canal boat.

Few of them were decked over, except at the ends, but all were along the sides, where cleets were nailed down to give foothold to boatmen using poles.

Boating, at this period was attended with great personal labor: the delay of unloading at Little Falls had been obviated, but it was found more difficult to force large than small craft over the rapids.

Several boats usually went in company, and if any arrived first at a rift, they awaited the approach of others, that the united strength of many men might aid in the labor before then.

Those boats were often half a day in proceeding only a few rods, and not unfrequently were they, after remaining nearly stationary on a rapid for an hour, when the strength of numbers was united with poles and ropes in propelling, compelled to drop below the rift and get a new start.

Twenty hands, at times, were insufficient to propel a single boat over Keator's rift.

When boat's crews were waiting at a rapid for the arrival of their fellows, they usually did their cooking on shore.

Poles used on those boats had heads, which rested against the shoulder, which was often calloused or galled, like that of a collar-worn horse.

Black slaves, owned by settlers in the neighborhood of rapids, both male and female, were often seen assisting at the ropes on shore, when loaded boats were ascending the river.

Accidents sometimes occurred to boatmen, though seldom attended with loss of life.

A three-handed boat once struck a rock in Keator's rift, upset, and a negro was drowned.

At Fort Hunter rift, a three handed boat upset, when Wm. Hull and Kennedy Failing were drowned, the third person in the boat, a son of Abraham Otthout, of Schenectada, swam ashore.

One of the last accidents of the kind on the river, occurred while the Erie Canal was building, to a Durham boat, one of the best of that class of river craft, called Butterfly.

It was descending the river, then swollen, laden with flour, when it became unmanageable, swung round, and struck its broadside against a pier of the Canajoharie bridge, and broke near the centre.

The contents of the boat literally filled the river for some distance, and a hand on the boat was drowned.

His name was afterwards ascertained to be John Clark.

His body was recovered twelve miles below, and was buried on the river bank, in the present village of Fultonville.

His bones having been disclosed by the spring freshet of 1845, they were taken up and buried in the village burying-ground.

The owner of the boat, a Mr. Myers, had its fragments taken to Schenectada and rebuilt, after which it entered the canal, (the eastern sections being completed,) and from thence he transported it to Cayuga lake.

While there engaged, his boat sunk laden with gypsum, and he was drowned.

Thus ended the Butterfly and its owner.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

Boats managed by skilful hands sometimes sailed down the rapids at Little Falls when the river was high, but it was always attended with danger.

Several row-boats, constructed expressly to carry some twenty passengers each, from Utica to Schenectada, and tastefully curtained, were in use on the Mohawk some forty years ago.

They were called river packets, - Myndert Starin.

The first bridge of any importance in the Mohawk valley, was built by Maj. Isaiah Depuy, a resident of Glen at the time of his death (1841), and was erected across the Schoharie at Fort Hunter.

It was commenced in October, 1796, and on the 4th day of July following, the anniversary of Liberty was celebrated upon it.

The next bridge worthy of note in the valley, was an elliptic or arched one over the Mohawk at Schenectada.

It was begun in 1797, and when nearly completed, the winter following, was upset by the wind, taken down, and rebuilt on piers.

While this bridge was building, an incident of no little interest occurred.

After the string pieces had been laid, and before they were planked, a young son of the contractor walked unobserved over the middle of the stream.

A workman discovering the urchin upon the timbers, directed the attention of the father that way.

With feelings of deepest anxiety he beheld his darling boy in a position from which a misstep would inevitably launch him into eternity.

Prudence dictated silence, and after the little fellow had surveyed the premises to his satisfaction, he returned to the shore, to the great relief of his agitated parent, who gave him a good basting for his motherly curiosity.

A bridge was begun at Canajoharie before the Schenectada bridge was completed.

This also was an elliptic, and required to be taken down at the end of a year or two, when it was placed on three piers.

Some years previous to the erection of this bridge, a ferry was established at Canajoharie, and owned by Messrs. Roseboom, who traded where the ferry was located, one mile east of the village.

At an early period, a good bridge was built over the east Canada creek, which afforded a pattern for one constructed at Caughnawaga - where, for many years, there had also been a ferry.

The last mentioned bridge was put up in the summer and completed by the following winter, so as to be used on one track, but the first spring freshet carried it off.

Afterwards, the Mohawk Turnpike Company erected another, some thirty rods farther up the river, which is still standing.

A bridge was stretched across the river many years ago, a little below the Nose, but it was soon after swept away by the ice and never rebuilt.

Bridges have also been erected over the Mohawk at Cahoes Falls, Amsterdam, Fort Plain, Little Falls, Herkimer and Utica.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

Archibald and James Kane, brothers, established themselves in the mercantile business on the Mohawk about the year 1795; locating between the Rosebooms and the present village of Canajoharie, where one of their buildings, having an arched roof, is still to be seen.

The Kanes were, for a time, the heaviest dealers west of Albany.

At this period there was much gambling and horse-racing in the Mohawk valley.

Indeed, there continued to be until about the year 1825.

Intemperance, the parent of many vices and miseries, was an attendant, and to such an extent did it stalk abroad for thirty or forty years, that numerous churches were seriously affected by it, their ministers often setting the example, then prevalent in New York and New England, not only of placing the beaded liquid before friends, but of drinking with them at taverns.

On a certain occasion in 1797 or '98, when a party were playing cards (a game of lieu) at Canajoharie, with stakes upon the table amounting to some five hundred dollars, Archibald Kane became indebted to Barney Roseboom for nearly one hundred dollars, and another of the gamesters becoming the debtor of Kane for about the same sum, a difficulty originated in trying to reconcile the liability of the parties to each other, and Kane gave Roseboom a challenge to personal combat.

It was supposed that the challenge would not have been given, had the challenger believed his antagonist would have accepted it, the latter having a lovely wife and several interesting children; but it was accepted, ground paced off, and shots exchanged with a brace of trooper's pistols.

Kane was wounded in his left arm, and with the wound his bruised honor was healed; the combatants became as warm personal friends as ever, and thus ended an affair which created no little excitement for a time, in Western New York.

A few years after the transaction above related, Archibald Kane went to Hayti, married into the family of the governing nobility, and died there.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

A pleasing story was originated when the Kanes were trading at Canajoharie, about an imposition practised by a shrewd Yankee, upon an honest Dutch justice of Herkimer county, who had arrested him for journeying on the Sabbath.

According to the story, the Yankee was stopped, but as his business was urgent, the man of equity agreed to give him a written permit to proceed for a nominal sum.

The justice, requesting the traveler to write it, is said to have set his hand unconsciously to an order on the Messrs. Kane for some fifty dollars, instead of a permit to travel; which, when presented for payment, he pronounced the tam Yankee pass: but James Kane, who now resides in Albany, pronounces the whole narrative a hoax.

The Caughnawaga church, a landmark of former days, is a stone edifice, and was erected in 1763, by voluntary contributions.

Sir William Johnson gave liberally towards building it.

The steeple was placed on it in 1795.

Of this church and congregation, the Rev. Thomas Romeyn was the first pastor.

He died, and was succeeded in June, 1795, by the Rev. Abraham Van Horn, one of the earliest graduates of Queen's College, New Jersey.

Mr. V. H. was settled in Ulster county five years previous to taking charge of the congregation at Caughnawaga, and married, during his whole ministry, about fifteen hundred couple - more, perhaps than any clergyman now living in the United States.

He died suddenly at an advanced age, January 5, 1840.

This church was without a bell until the confiscated property of Sir John Johnson was sold in the revolution, when the former dinner-bell of his father, Sir William, was purchased by several male members, conveyed to it on a pole by friendly Indians, and placed upon it.

On the bell is the following inscription - "S R William Johnson Baronet 1774. Made by Miller and Ross in Eliz. Town."

It weighs something over one hundred pounds.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

Caughnawaga Church - this edifice, now under the management of the Rev. Douw Van OLinda, who has fitted it up for a classic school, is hereafter to be known as the Fonda Academy; the first term of which institution commenced with flattering prospects in the latter part of 1844, under the tuition of Mr. Jacob A. Hardenbergh, a graduate of Rutger's College, New Jersey.

At an early period, a small church was constructed of wood near the Upper Mohawk Castle, at which place the missionary minister, resident at Fort Hunter, sometimes officiated.

This church was provided with a small bell, similar to the one on Queen Anne's chapel, and after the revolution, the Indians who had removed from its neighborhood, made application to obtain it.

Being denied their request, they succeeded in getting it down in the night; and in a canoe paddled up the Mohawk with it unmolested - transporting it as best they could to Canada. - Joseph Wagner.

Churches were erected by Lutherans at Stone Arabia in 1770, in the western part of Palatine in 1772, and at the German flats before the revolution.

The two latter were of stone.

The last named was situated in the valley, on the south side of the river, four miles westward of Little Falls.

Some ten rods west of this church stood the parsonage, a stone dwelling (torn down to give place to the Erie canal) which was inclosed with palisades having block-house corners, and known in the revolution as Fort Herkimer. 4

Fort Dayton, another military post of the Mohawk valley, was situated in the western part of the present village of Herkimer.

In going from the former to the latter fort, the river was crossed at a rapid one mile above Fort Herkimer.

Fort Plain, a military establishment of great importance in the border transactions of the Mohawk valley, stood eighteen miles eastward of Fort Herkimer, and within the present thriving village which bears its name.

Forts Plain, Herkimer and Dayton were all three erected as early as 1776, and in their vicinity many thrilling events transpired, which characterised the war of the revolution on the frontiers of New York; not a few of which have gone down to oblivion.

4. Some writers have stated that Fort Herkimer stood near General Herkimer's house - not so: although called after him, it was six miles westward of his residence.

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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

There was much speculation in new lands in the interior of New York, between the French and American wars with England, and thousands upon thousands of acres changed owners for a mere song - land now valued at millions of dollars.

Among the speculators were Sir William Johnson, Governor Tryon, Major Jelles Fonda, and Colonel John Butler.

Lands on the Sacondaga river were brought into market at this period.

The following sketch of a transaction not generally known, is no doubt the most authentic account of it ever obtained.

It is drawn, by permission, from notes of a journey to Niagara, made by a friend in 1806.

In the summer of 1759, Sir William Johnson landed with a body of troops at the mouth of a creek four miles from Niagara, since called Johnson's creek and took possession of forts Niagara and Schlosser, posts of much importance, on the east side of Niagara river, as they commanded the trade of the upper lakes.

In 1760, Mr. Stedman, an Englishman, contracted with Sir William to construct a portage road from Queenston Landing, now Lewiston, to Fort Schlosser, a distance of about eight miles.

The road having been completed, on the morning of the 17th Sept., 1763, 15 wagons and teams, mostly oxen, under an escort of 24 men, commanded by a sergeant, and accompanied by the contractor, Stedman, and Capt. Johnson, as a volunteer, set out from Fort Niagara, with stores, &c., intended for the garrison at Fort Schlosser.

Arriving something over two miles from the tip of the mountain above Lewiston, and ten or twelve from Niagara, the escort and wagons halted about 11 o'clock, on a little savanna of green sward to rest and take refreshments, beside a gulf called in Indian and English, the Devil's Hole.

This is a semi-circular precipice or chasm of some two hundred feet diameter up and down the river on the summit, but less at the bottom.

A little distance from the brink of the hole is a kind of natural mound, several feet in height, also of cresent shape; and sixty feet from the tip issues a fine spring, which dashes down through the underbrush to the river.

A small brook in the neighborhood, called the bloody-run, now runs into the chasm.

The Seneca Indians continued in the French interest at this period, and fearing a hostile movement on their part, a detachment of volunteers consisting of one hundred and thirty men, under the command of Capt. Campbell, marched from Queenston to strengthen the escort.

Just as the troops under Capt. C. reached the spot where the escort had halted, about five hundred Indians, who had been concealed behind the mound, sprang from their covert with savage yells, and like so many tigers began an indiscriminate slaughter of the troops, who were thrown into the utmost confusion.

Resistance against such odds did not long continue, and those of the party who were not killed or driven from the precipice with their teams, attempted their escape by flight.

In the midst of the conflict, Stedman sprang upon a small horse, and giving the faithful animal a slap on the neck with his hand, it bore him over the dead and dying, and through the thick ranks of the foe, who discharged their rifles, and hurled their tomahawks in vain at his head.

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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

Of those who jumped directly down the precipice in front, some seventy or eighty feet, which has a uneven surface below, only one escaped with life.

This was a soldier named Mathews, from whom these particulars were obtained by the tourist.

He was then living on the Canada shore, near Niagara, and familiarly called Old Brittania.

Several trees were growing from the bottom of the hole, the tips of which reached near the surface of the ground.

Into one of these trees Corporal Noble leaped and hung, in which position eleven bullets riddled his body.

Captain Johnson, of the escort, was killed, and Lieut. Duncan, of the relief, a native of Long Island, and a promising young officer, was wounded in the left arm, of which he died.

The whole number of troops and teamsters was about one hundred and seventy-five, of this number only some twenty-five escaped with life, and all of them, except Stedman and Mathews, did so below or near the north end of the hole, at a little sand ridge, which served to break the fall.

Of Capt. Campbell's command, only eleven escaped with life.

The loss of the enemy was inconsiderable compared with that of the British.

A short time after this horrid affair, the Indians, who considered Stedman a charmed man, gave him as a reward for his daring feat, a large tract of land, which embraced all that he rode over in his previous flight.

He returned to England, taking along this favorite horse, and never afterwards would he allow it to be saddled or harnessed.

My friend T., in whose journal I find the above facts, first visited the Devil's Hole, with a relative, August 10th, 1806, at which time he entered it by descending a tree, to search for evidences of the event related.

In the bottom of the chasm he found the sculls of several oxen "mouldering and covered with moss," a piece of a wagon, and the small part of a horn; which latter relic he took from the place, and after retaining it in his possession thirty-eight years, kindly presented to the author.

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HISTORY OF SCHOHARIE COUNTY

by Jeptha R. Simms - 1845

CHAPTER IV, continued ...

The close of the French war left the colony of New York deeply in debt, and resort was had to direct taxation to sustain the government.

The assessment was levied "By virtue of three acts of General Assembly of the Colony of New York; the first for the payment of the second L100,000 tax, the second for the payment of the L 60,000 tax, and the third, for the raising and collecting the arrears of several acts therein mentioned."


The commissioners of the county, who set their hands and seals to the warrant sent "Mr. John Fonda, Collector for Mohawks," were "Rens. Nicoll, Marte Halenbeck, Abraham Douw, and Cornelis Van Schaack."

The warrant was dated at Albany, July 17th, 1764.

The tax on the citizens of the Mohawk valley amounted to L 242,17 6 - $60719, and was collected, except $281 bad debts, and receipted by John Stevenson, in Albany, the 11th of October following.

Were not part of this tax list gone, I would present it to the reader.

I have observed that RUM was one of the principal articles of traffic with the Indians on the frontiers of New York.

Says Colden:

"There is one vice which the Indians have fallen into, since their acquaintance with the Christians, and of which they could not be guilty before that time, that is drunkenness."

"It is strange, how all the Indian nations and almost every person among them, male and female, are infatuated with the love of strong drink; they know no bounds to their desire, while they can swallow it down, and then indeed the greatest man among them scarcely deserves the name of a brute."

Alcohol has, in a very great degree depopulated the state of a noble race of men and women, and much demoralized and enervated its present race of inhabitants.

One single invoice now before me, of rum purchased in New York, in October 1770, and designed for the Mohawk valley trade, was for ten hogsheads and twenty barrels, containing seventeen hundred and seventy-nine gallons; which, at the low price of two shillings and four pence, amounted to over five hundred dollars.

Tryon county, so called after the Governor of New York at the time, was organized in 1772, and took in the present counties of Montgomery, Fulton, Herkimer and portions of several others.

The first court of general quarter sessions of the peace for this county, was held in Johnstown, so called after Sir William Johnson, on Tuesday September 8, 1772.

The Bench consisted of "Guy Johnson, Judge."

"John Butler, Peter Conyne, Judges."

"Sir John Johnson, knight, Daniel Claus, John Wells, Jelles Fonda, Assistant Judges."

"John Collins, Joseph Chew, Adam Loucks, John Fry, Fr. Young, Peter Ten Broeck, Justices."

In 1791 the county of Herkimer was organized from Tryon, and called after General Herkimer who fell at Oriskany; and in 1794 (1784) the name of Tryon county was changed to that of Montgomery, who fell at Quebec.

About the year 1800, might have been seen, as in New England at a still later period, at some public place in every town in New York, a public whipping-post and stocks; and justices of the peace had authority to order that individual confined in the stocks, who got drunk or used profane language.

Criminals guilty of petty thefts, and other violations of the law, were not unfrequently seen with their hands tied, and their arms drawn up to their extent around the public post, which was made square, receiving upon their bare backs, from the hands of a sheriff or constable, the scorpion lash of justice.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
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