History of the Town of Schaghticoke

the results of research about the history of the town of Schaghticoke

Monthly Archives: August 2011

Schaghticoke in the American Revolution, Major VanVeghten scalped

The surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga in 1777 was looked upon as the "turning point of the Revolution" , but this area was dangerous through the end of the war.

          In the last post, I related a Knickerbocker family legend that the fort near the Mansion was occupied by Hessian soldiers at the time of the battle of Saratoga. Though I doubt very much that that was true, there is no doubt that there were bands of Tories, Indians, and perhaps Hessians and British roaming through the area during the summer of 1777 before the battle of Saratoga. Major Dirck VanVeghten of the  local militia unit, the 14th Albany County, was killed by one band when he came from Saratoga just before the battle to check on his home in Schaghticoke. One source states that VanVeghten came home on “an intelligence gathering mission.” In either event,  he was accompanied only by Solomon Acker, one of  the soldiers in his company of the 14th Albany County Militia.

            The story of Major VanVeghten really illustrates the great variety that can exist in the supposedly factual reporting of an incident. Solomon Acker was the only source for this story, and his account must have varied  widely as he told that story many times over the years. In his  Revolutionary War pension papers, Mr. Acker states he was with Major VanVeghten at Schaghticoke  in July 1777 when VanVeghten was “shot by the Indians,” and that Mr. Acker killed one of the Indians himself. He states, “Immediately I raised a guard and warned the inhabitants, and assisted them in removing to Albany.” Sylvester, in his  History of Rensselaer County sets the event in August, and describes the area as deserted, as everyone had already evacuated to Albany. He states the men were on the land of Jacob Yates, when “they were fired upon by Indians or perhaps Tories.” He adds that VanVeghten was shot through the tobacco box, which was handed down in his family, and that the Major, realizing that he was mortally wounded, yelled, ”Solomon, take care of yourself; you cannot save me.”  Acker fled reluctantly, “with the bullets pattering around him,” reaching the Army safely. Mr. Acker told this story, apparently much embroidered from the version in the pension papers, to two local men,who told it to Sylvester. They even pointed out the spot on the farm of W.V.V. Reynolds where the murder occurred. This was probably near the intersection of  Farm to Market Road and Howland Avenue Extension.

          A memoir written in 1866 by John P. Becker, Sexagenary, Reminiscences of the American Revolution, really takes the story to fiction, describing the circumstances of each shot taken by VanVeghten, Acker, and the enemies, going on to describe Acker’s flight step by step, and stating that when the Americans went to retrieve VanVeghten’s body, they found “ him hacked to pieces and scalped, and…three Indians dead in an adjacent field.” It also places the event as occurring after the battle of Saratoga.  Who knows if Mr. Acker told the story this way or if some source of Becker added to it?  The memoir states that  Van Veghten was buried in Albany, but “his unfortunate wife was not permitted to see the corpse, it was so savagely mutilated.”  Whatever the truth of this particular incident, it confirms the danger in the area during that summer of 1777. It makes the most sense that it happened before the battle, as presumably enemies in the area would have either been captured or have retreated after the battle.

            As I reported earlier posts, the 14th Albany County Militia was certainly called to duty during the summer before and through the time of the battles of  Saratoga. This means that many families were evacuated from home and had to survive without their husbands and fathers, though they may have had help from some militia men during their evacuation. In addition, most people were away from home at harvest time.  After the battle was over,  about 6000 British and Hessian prisoners of war were evacuated to Boston, probably crossing the Hudson in boats or over a bridge of boats at Stillwater, and passing through the town of Schaghticoke. This probably resulted in more damage to fences and farms.

          I find it difficult to look around our town now and imagine it on the edge of the battle that was the turning point of the Revolution, to imagine how I would feel if I were forced to evacuate my home, how I would feel to return home and find my property in ruins.

           During and just after the Revolution, Schaghticoke was not only on the border of American and British territory, but also on a second controversial border. I will discuss that in the next post.

Bibliography:  Fitch, Asa, Their Own Voices, reprint 1983.

                        Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1980.

                        Sylvester, Nathan, History of Rensselaer County, 1880.

                      Becker, John P. Sexagenary, Albany, Munsell, 1866.

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Schaghticoke in the American Revolution: Civilians evacuated

Residents of Schaghticoke certainly knew of the murder of their neighbor, Jane McCrea.

            In the last post, I talked a lot about the military service of local men during the Revolutionary War. Throughout the war, Schaghticoke was near the northern  border of the new United States, with the residents afraid of raids by British, Tories,and Indians from British Canada. But the war really came home to Schaghticoke in the summer of 1777.  As General Burgoyne and the British army advanced south from Canada, residents of Schaghticoke became more and more worried. In July they would have heard of the murders of the whole Allen family of Argyle and of  the murder and scalping of Jane McCrea of Ft. Edward  by the Indian allies of Burgoyne’s Army. The American General Gates sent a letter to Burgoyne in August accusing him of hiring Indians specifically to murder Europeans, paying them a bounty for each scalp. Of course the murder of Jane McCrea became a rallying cry for the American troops leading up to the battle of Saratoga.

            Many families from Schaghticoke and all around evacuated to Albany.  Lansingburgh was a small village at the time, and there was no Troy, so Albany was the first large settlement. It would have taken some time to reach Albany, either by water, having to get around the falls at Troy, or by trail- no Routes 40 and 787! General Gates made a special offer to the men of the evacuated families to join the Continental Army, to be provided with the usual rations “for themselves and their families,” in part because the number of refugees was proving too large for Albany to accommodate.

            As you may recall,  I wrote earlier about our local Gothic author, Ann Eliza Bleecker  who was among the evacuees, suffering the tremendous trauma which fueled her later writing. She and her family evacuated, but continued on down the Hudson to Red Hook, where they had relatives. It was certainly terrifying and wrenching for all of the evacuees, leaving their homes, animals, and crops to who knew what fate. Finding housing would have been difficult. Did they take their cows with them? Did they try to take their most precious possessions? Sylvester’s History of Rensselaer County reports that the Viele family, living on the Tomhannock Creek in the Albany Corporation area, buried some of their belongings in a ravine.

          In August and September of 1777, some of the more enterprising local farmers arranged to sell their crops and flour to the Continental Army, based at Saratoga, taking advantage of a market that was sure.  Some of the American troops were camped in the Schaghticoke area, and after the war some residents petitioned the state for compensation for the fences destroyed for firewood and crops taken by the soldiers. One document in the NYS Archives records the claim of Daniel Shaw, who claimed loss of bushels of corn to the troops of  Colonel Yates in 1777.

            Other crops were evidently destroyed by marauding bands of Tories and Indians, and one source says that one of the few grist mills in town was burned by the Tories. In The History of the Seventeen Towns of Rensselaer County, the author quotes a “patriotic member of the Knickerbacker family” as stating in 1876 that at the time of the battle of Saratoga “the ancient fort or block-house..was taken possession of by a troop of Hessian soldiery, in the service of the British,” who raided the homes of the neighbors. I truly doubt that as there were so many American soldiers in the area. One source says that troops of the American General Lincoln were camped at Schaghticoke before the battle, meaning the Hessians certainly wouldn’t have been in the fort.

In the next post, I will relate the most famous local incident related to the battle of Saratoga.

Bibliography:  Fitch, Asa, Their Own Voices, reprint 1983.

                        Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1980.

                        Sylvester, Nathan, History of Rensselaer County, 1880.

                      Becker, John P. Sexagenary, Albany, Munsell, 1866.

Schaghticoke in the American Revolution, rare class lists record contributions

 

 

            In the last post, I wrote about the formation of the 14th Albany County Militia, our local regiment in the Revolution. Several men left fascinating reports on their service in their pension papers. I talked of a couple last week, and will continue with more now, plus go on to discuss more about our local experience in the Revolutionary War.

           Returning to Solomon Acker, of whom I wrote last in the last post, in 1778 he joined the Company of Jacob Yates and went with a scouting party to Fort Edward. Acker doesn’t report any other service in the war, but Cornelius  Francisco of Pittsdown does. He volunteered in both 1778 and 1779, travelling to Fort Edward, guarding the frontier. In June of 1780 he marched to Fort George with Colonel Yate’s regiment. Governor George Clinton was there, ready to lead an expedition in pursuit of Tory leader Sir John Johnson. Francisco volunteered to go, and the expedition crossed Lake George in bateaux. He was “out on this tour one month.” Another 14th Albany veteran, John Palmer of Hoosick, reported ending up in the “life guard of Governor Clinton” at the time, serving for six weeks. He gave the year as 1782.  Cornelius Francisco  also volunteered for a couple of weeks in 1781 and 1782, going to Ft. Edward, Ft. Miller, Saratoga, Sandy Hill, and Skenesborough. Another soldier, John Palmer of Hoosick, participated in the battle of Bennington, then went on to guard the provisions  at the time of the battle of Saratoga. The long Revolutionary War period was certainly one of danger and upset for many local families.

           I  found the idea of the Governor of New York, George Clinton, leading expeditions against the Tories astounding. Imagine Andrew Cuomo putting on a uniform and leading the National Guard on an expedition against an enemy. John K. Lee, in George Clinton, reports that Sir John Johnson commanded a force of Tories and Indians on raiding expeditions from Montreal to the Mohawk River just west of Schenectady in 1780 and on Lake Ontario to Oswego to Schoharie in 1781. Governor Clinton, who began his public career as a commander of militia units south of Albany on the Hudson River in 1775, personally commanded the militia which pursued Johnson both times. The reports of the veterans of the 14th Albany are probably true, even if their timing may be a bit off.

          

 

 

                 The militia men  also had to support the Continental Army, “the regulars.”  Below is an image of the list I have in my archives from August 6, 1779 of about twenty men from the Schaghticoke area who were required to provide either a pair of stockings or shoes to the Army. Though the list is a rare survival, this was a common method used to outfit the troops. Another  rare survival is  the  “class list”  above of 26 local militia men. The whole US militia was divided into classes, which would be required to outfit one of their own to go into the regular army. As the top illustration of the list states,  the men in this Schaghticoke list from 1782 were required by  their Colonel, Peter Yates, to provide an “ablebodied man equipt for the field…to be delivered at Saratoga where he will be mustered without delay.” The 26 men. as listed in the lower image, would provide money and/or equipment for  the one among them who would go to serve.

In the next column, I will describe the effects of the events of summer 1777 on the home front of Schaghticoke.

Bibliography:      Fitch, Dr. Asa, Their Own Voices, reprinted 1983.

                          Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1980

                          Lee, John K., George Clinton, Syracuse U. Press, 2010.

                          1779 list of shoes and stockings, Town of Schaghticoke archives

                            1782 Class list, Town of Schaghticoke archives

                          various pension papers, on Heritagequest.com

                            Roberts, James, NY in the Revolution as Colony and State, 1898.

Schaghticoke in the American Revolution, service in the 14th Albany County Militia

 

             In the previous post, I talked about the formation of the 14th Albany County Militia, Schaghticoke’s regiment in the Revolutionary War. Like soldiers in today’s National Guard, the soldiers lived at home and were called out to serve as needed.  I have found that from 1775 to 1782 or 1783 some soldiers in Schaghticoke served at least one or two months every year, quite disruptive for anyone.

               Local men had differing experiences in the 14th Albany, depending on when they volunteered or were drafted and which company they were in. One example is Jacob Yates. Yates was born in 1754. He married Elizabeth Vandenberg in 1776 at the Dutch Reformed Church in Schaghticoke.  He entered the militia the same year.  John Knickerbocker was  his Colonel.  Yates  rose through the ranks to be a Captain by 1780. He served to the end of the war, travelling  many times to Fort Edward, Ballstown, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point, and twice to Montreal. His children applied for his pension after his death at age 77 in 1831 in Schaghticoke.

        Solomon Acker left a more detailed account. Acker was born in Dutchess County in 1753. He entered militia service in May 1775 in Captain Hicks Company of the 14th  in Schaghticoke. During that year he was “employed in watching .. hostiles and Tories at Schaghticoke.” This confirms the account of Beth Kloppott in her History of Schaghticoke, that at the start of the war, the 14th Albany County militia men were called out to guard the district from loyalist activity.

         Early in 1776, Acker was ordered to Albany, and served there and in Johnstown, but he returned to Schaghticoke and a new company in the 14th in June. At the time of the battle of Saratoga in 1777,  Acker states he and his company guarded provisions on the east side of the Hudson at Stillwater.  Another soldier, Cornelius Francisco of Pittstown,  reported the same. On the other hand, Wynant Vandenburgh, in the Company of Captain Jacob Yates (mentioned above), worked all the summer of 1777 moving artillery of the army from Fort Edward to Stillwater, and then to Half Moon, ahead of the advancing British General Burgoyne and his army. That must have been very difficult work indeed.  Vandenburgh was home briefly, but then in early October was in the “first battle and the capture of Burgoyne.” His timing is a bit off, as the first battle was in August. Apparently, Colonel Knickerbocker was wounded or injured at this time, with Colonel Peter Yates, also of Schaghticoke, taking his place.

Some men of the 14th Albany County Militia were present at the surrender of Burgoyne - at least they said they were!

          In the next post, I will report on the experiences of several other local soldiers, and continue the story of Solomon Acker, who played a major role in a dramatic episode in Schaghticoke at the time of the battle of Saratoga.

Bibliography:      Fitch, Dr. Asa, Their Own Voices, reprinted 1983.

                          Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1980

                            Roberts, James, NY in the Revolution as Colony and State, 1898.

                          Various pension papers in Heritagequest.com

Schaghticoke in the American Revolution, militia service

Schaghticoke's men served in the 14th Albany County Militia

            In the last post, I spoke of the first task of each district in the new state of New York when the Revolution began: to establish a Committee of Safety and root out possible Tories in the community. The next task of each new state was to assemble the militia. There were experienced soldiers among the residents of Schaghticoke, thanks to service in the militia in the French and Indian Wars. The laws of New York required that every male between the ages of about 18 and 45 be members of the militia, subject to being called to duty as required. (Indeed, a similar law is still in place in the US.)  The 14th Albany County Militia was the unit that encompassed the Schaghticoke and Hoosick districts. The Schaghticoke District included modern day Pittstown.  On October 20, 1775, John Knickerbocker was appointed the Colonel of the Regiment, which included forty-six officers and 684 men, about 140 of whom were from Schaghticoke.  They were divided into seven companies and a company of “Minute Men,” who presumably would be called on first in an emergency. We know the names of many of the men who served in the 14th Albany Militia, thanks to published compilations of records of the New State of New York.

               We also know about the service of the militia during the war because some of the members of the local militia lived long enough to be able to apply for Revolutionary War pensions. Indigent veterans were first eligible to apply in 1818, and many more applied under a law in 1832. In order to receive a pension, the men had to prove and detail their service in the war.  I have read the pension applications of at least a dozen members of the 14th, and while the details differ, depending on what company the man was in, they all record having been called out to serve once or twice a year from 1775 to 1782, for two to six weeks at a time.  We have to remember that these men were writing at least thirty years after the events occurred, and as old, poor men, probably with imperfect memories. On the other hand, being in a war would certainly be a memorable experience. They served in Saratoga, Ft. Edward, Sandy Hill (Hudson Falls), Ft. George, Skenesborough, and other places in this general area. They mostly garrisoned and built forts and breastworks. Several participated in the battle of Bennington, in August of 1777. Of course, they had to walk everywhere they went, a fact that I think we must think about in imagining their service.

                  It must have been very disruptive to these men, mostly farmers, to be called out unexpectedly over such a number of years. Apparently the commander would call for volunteers among his militia company. If enough men responded, fine, if not, more would be required to serve- or be drafted.  I was surprised to read that after the battle of Saratoga, even after the battle of Yorktown in 1781, citizens in Schaghticoke, and indeed all of the northern colonies, continued to worry about invasion from Canada and raids by Tories.

               In the next post, I will report on the specific experiences of local soldiers during the war, and continue the story of Schaghticoke in the Revolution.

Bibliography:      Fitch, Dr. Asa, Their Own Voices, reprinted 1983

                           Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1980

                            Roberts, James, NY in the Revolution as Colony and State, 1898.

                          Various pension papers in Heritagequest.com

Schaghticoke in the American Revolution, first steps

 

                When the American Revolution began in 1775, Schaghticoke was a sparsely populated region. It had been on Albany’s frontier with Canada for many years. The citizens remembered Indian raids in the past, and some of the men had been in the colonial militia during the French and Indian Wars. Some had gone as far as Canada as part of English offensives against the French. There was a small fort in the Albany Corporation Lands, near where the Knickerbocker Mansion is now, but it was made of logs and was in poor condition. The last time it had been garrisoned was probably around 1750.  So while the residents had lived a peaceful life since the end of the French Wars in 1763, they remembered the danger there had been before, and knew that the fort they had would not protect them.

             One of the first tasks of each district of the colony of New York  when the Revolution began was to set up a civilian Committee of Safety, whose task was to  root out Tory or Loyalist activity.  John Knickerbocker, probably the most prominent local citizen, was chairman of the local committee. There was a concern throughout all of the colonies that some if not many people did not support the rebellion against Great Britain.  There was special concern about Loyalists in a frontier area like Schaghticoke, where there could be easy infiltration of the British and their allies. It was necessary to prevent the British from getting support from local residents. In some areas, for example in what is now Washington County, there were many Tories.

           The major accusation of loyalism in Schaghticoke was in June 1779 when  locals Colonel Peter Yates and Major Groesbeck told the Committee of  Safety that several strangers had moved into town who collected cattle for Burgoyne’s Army at the time of the battle of Saratoga, and that “those persons daily obstruct the execution of the orders of the miliita officers.”

          In the end, only fourteen men were arrested on suspicion of Loyalist actions in the Schaghticoke district (which included today’s Pittstown), and none were convicted.  Schaghticoke’s strong Dutch heritage may have  kept Loyalist activity to a minimum.  The Dutch in Albany remembered the British as conquerors in the past and viewed them as economic competitors in the present, so had no great loyalty to Great Britain. Schaghticoke’s government came from Albany, thanks to the dominance in the town of the Albany Corporation Lands. The accused Tories were arrested between 1778 and 1781. Most were released on bail or upon doing service in lieu of bail. Many remained in town after the Revolution, and one, George Wetsel, of the Melrose area, became a prominent citizen.

                The next task of the district of Schaghticoke, was to assemble its militia companies. That will be the topic of the next post.

                Bibliography: Kloppott, Beth, History of Schaghticoke, 1980.

                                      Sylvester, Nathaniel, History of Rensselaer County, 1880.

The Settlement of the Town of Schaghticoke outside the Albany Corporation Lands

 

                                In earlier posts, I have written of the settlement of what is now the town of Schaghticoke.  Though Native Americans had lived there for thousands of years, a unique Indian settlement occurred in the area around theKnickerbockerMansionbeginning in 1676. The Governor of New York settled a number of Mahican Indian refugees there, tasking them with protecting the city of Albanyfrom attack by the French from Canada and their Indian allies, and planting a  Council Oak tree as a symbol of this pact.  In 1709-1710, the city of Albanypurchased land in the same area and began to lease it to Dutch farmers fromAlbanyin parcels of about fifty acres. The number of white settlers grew slowly, probably due to the location of Schaghticoke on a dangerous frontier. Meanwhile, the number of Indians decreased, mostly due to mistreatment by the Dutch farmers and the colony ofNew York.

               There were several other land grants outside the Albany Corporation Lands but within what is now the town of Schaghticoke. Settlement was even slower there as the areas of land being bought and sold were larger, and mostly beyond the ability of a small farmer to purchase. There was quite a bit of speculation, with people buying and selling land who never intended to settle here, including the Lieutenant Governor of the colony and the future General Philip Schuyler. Schuyler or William’s Patent of 1739 and DePeyster’s Patent included the southern part of current Schaghticoke, and the Cambridge Patent of 1761 covered the eastern part of town. By the time of the Revolution, smaller parts of these patents and several others had been sold and settled. For example, members of the Lansing family purchased land in the southern part of town, Andrew Weatherwax of DutchessCountybought land on what is now Calhoun Drive, Michael Sipperly purchased land in the Melrose-Speigletown area, and Simon Toll purchased land near Valley Falls. 

There were enough settlers in the current Schaghticoke outside the Albany Corporation area to form a Lutheran Church by around 1800. The first church building was located near the junction ofValley Falls Road and North Line Drive.  A number of the new settlers, including  Andrew Weatherwax, had left the Palatinate area of what is now Germany, first arriving in the Dutchess County area early in the 1700’s, then moving on to our area. Unfortunately the records of the Lutheran Church don’t  survive until 1829, so the early members of the church aren’t known.

 Fortunately for historians, the  new New  York State assessed land taxes for the first time in 1779, creating a list of tax payers in the district of “Schatacook”. This lets us know who lived in the town of Schaghticoke at the time, although the Schaghticoke district also encompassed much of what is now Pittstown. The list also included some speculators who owned land here but certainly did not live here, including Lord Alexander Stirling and General Philip Schuyler. It probably excluded men who either rented, or owned too little to be taxed. There are 384 men on the list, giving a rough estimate of about 1200 people in the area of the current towns of Schaghticoke and Pittstown in 1779.

In the next posts, I will discuss Schaghticoke in the American Revolution.

Bibliography:  Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1980.

                          1779 list of taxpayers in Schaghticoke, in the NYS Archives

The OTHER Schaghticoke Indian Massacre

 

                “…the trampling of feet about the house and a yell of complicated voices announce the Indians’ arrival. Struck with horror…the little family crowded together in the center of the hall. …with a thundering peal of strokes they demanded entrance.  Cornelia’s husband, giving all for lost…unbarred the door and that instant received a fatal ball in his bosom…the savages running in with great shouts, proceeded to mangle the corpse,…they tugged off his bloody scalp with barbarous triumph.  ..An Indian, hideously painted, strode ferociously up to Cornelia and cleft her white forehead deeply with his tomahawk.”  This is just the beginning of an attack by savage Canadian Indians on the Kittle family of Schaghticoke in 1746, which ended with several other murders,  the kidnapping of Maria Kittle and two others and their transport to Canada, and their ransom and rescue by her husband Daniel.

                Wait, does this sound familiar? In my last post, I described the Indian attack on the brand new settlement of Schaghticoke in 1711, and the murder and kidnapping of several members of the Kittle family, all documented in a letter in the Colonial records in the NYS Archive in Albany.  The first paragraph here is a quote from a novel, based on fact, The History of Maria Kittle by Ann Eliza Bleecker, written around 1779, first published in 1790.  In fact, Mrs. Bleecker based her novel very closely on the Kittle massacre of 1711, but unfortunately for later historians, she set the novel some years later than it actually happened, causing endless confusion. Both Sylvester in his History of Rensselaer County in 1880 and Kloppott in her History of the Town of Schaghticoke in 1980, recorded the 1746 massacre described in the novel as the truth. The details are just too close for there to be more than the one earlier event.

                Who was this Ann Eliza Bleecker? And how did she come to write about an event in tiny Schaghticoke? Mrs. Bleecker was born in 1752 in Albany, a child of privilege. Her parents, Brandt and Margaretta Schuyler, were members of the Dutch New York elite. She was well educated and loved to write and socialize. In 1769 she married John Bleecker, and shortly after they moved to the frontier of Schaghticoke, which she called by an alternate name, “ Tomhanick,”  “a beautiful, solitary little village eighteen  miles above Albany.”  Apparently they lived along the Tomhannock Creek, though we are not sure quite where, but surely in the area around the Knickerbocker Mansion, the Albany Corporation Lands. Over the next few years, the Bleeckers had two daughters. Mr. Bleecker farmed, but Mrs. Bleecker was surely not the typical farm wife. They definitely had servants, and probably a couple of slaves, a common thing for well-to-do Dutch families of the time. Mrs. Bleecker wrote poetry and corresponded by letter with friends, but complained of loneliness.

            When the Revolutionary War began, Schaghticoke became a very dangerous place to live, especially during the summer of 1777, as Burgoyne’s army advanced down the Hudson Valley towards Saratoga.  During that summer, many residents evacuated the area, and Eliza’s husband, John Bleecker, went to Albany to arrange for a place for his family to move.  Ann Eliza heard that the British and their Indian allies were within two miles of the village, “burning and murdering all before them.”  This was not the truth, but she did not know that. It is true that in July, Major Dirck VanVeghten of the local militia went home to Schaghticoke to check on his property. He was killed and scalped by a marauding band of Tories and Indians. Certainly Eliza would have known of that. At some point during the summer, with her husband still away, she fled on foot and by wagon to Lansingburgh, where her husband rescued her and took her on down the Hudson River to Red Hook. Enroute her infant daughter was taken ill and died. Eliza and her surviving daughter joined her mother in Red Hook, but her mother soon died, as did her sister.

           The Bleeckers returned to Schaghticoke after the battle of Saratoga, but surely rumors of British and Indian activity continued. In 1781, Mr. Bleecker was kidnapped while working in his fields either by a Loyalist raiding party or by some rebellious Vermonters. He was quickly released in Bennington, but Eliza, pregnant, went into labor, delivering a premature baby, which died. She never recovered, mentally or physically, from this and the earlier episodes, including the deaths of so many relatives.  She died in Schaghticoke in 1783.

                 Mrs. Bleecker put all of her emotions and fears into writing.   The History of Maria Kittle  is full of melodrama, horror, and graphic and gruesome violence. She also wrote an account of an ax murder that occurred in the Yates family in Schaghticoke in 1781. It is interesting to me that Mrs. Bleecker knew in such detail of the Indian attack some 60 years earlier, but she lived very close to where it happened, and a number of the same families still lived there as in 1711. It certainly was a memorable event, maybe a story recalled and retold in the light of the new dangers brought by the British invasion.

            The History of Maria Kittle is important both as a very early American novel, and as the first gothic novel by a woman. There were quite a few true accounts of similar Indian kidnapping episodes, but Mrs. Bleecker really novelized hers, describing for the first time in literature both the stereotypes of the “noble savage”- typified by the Indians who helped the Kittles,  and the “vicious savage”- of course typified by the attacking Indians who gruesomely murdered members of the Kittle family. Ann Eliza Bleecker and Schaghticoke play an important part in the history of literature in the United States.

 

Bibliography:

Bleecker, Ann Eliza, Posthumous Works, reprinted 1970.

Broderick, Warren, “Fiction based on ‘Well-Authenticated Facts’ “, Hudson Valley

Regional Review , 1987.

Giffen, Allison, “Ann Eliza Bleecker”, American Women Prose Writers to 1820

 

 

 

 

 

Schaghticoke’s Indian Massacre

Schaghticoke’s Indian Massacre

 

                By 1710, eight intrepid Dutch families had settled along the Hoosic River near what is now the Knickerbocker Mansion in the town of Schaghticoke.  They lived on the relatively isolated fifty-acre farms they leased from the city of Albany. At this early point they would have cleared just a few of their fifty acres  for cultivation, and probably lived in rough log homes. Their immediate neighbors were a couple hundred Schaghticoke Indians (the numbers are very uncertain), also farmers, living in similar but probably poorer  circumstances.  A few Indians had grouped together near the protection provided by a roughly built  fort garrisoned by a few soldiers.

 One of the original leaseholders was Daniel Kittle or Ketelhuyn. He was born in Albany in 1674, and married Deborah Viele in 1695. They eventually had twelve children. Daniel had been a constable, tax collector and assistant alderman in Albany, as well as a lieutenant in the colonial militia. Though he had lived in the city, he was familiar with the wilderness and spoke at least one Indian language. Among his neighbors in Schaghticoke were his brother David with his wife Johanna Bradt, and his sister Maria with her husband Johannes Bradt, and their families. They got along well with their Indian neighbors.

                On October 20, 1711, David Kittle and Johannes Bradt were on their way  by horse to the village of the Schaghticoke Indians when they encountered a stranger, a French Indian. After some conversation  the Indian shot and killed Johannes Bradt.  The Indianescaped, after he struggled with and wounded David Kittle with his ax, telling David that there were “twenty French Indians on each side of the Hudson River.” Daniel Kittle set off for Albany to get help, leaving his brother and three local soldiers barricaded in his house.

                In the middle of the night, there was a knock at the door. After some conversation in “the Indian Language,” David Kittle opened the door to a band of hostile Indians. “The Indians fired six shots at him.” Those in the house managed to keep the Indians at bay until they set the house on fire. Then there was a battle, which ended with deaths on both sides. Interesting details of the battle include that the defenders of the house included both an Indian; Mr. Kittle’s slave, a“Negro” boy; and three soldiers of the garrison.  The letter in the NYS Archives describing the attack states, “A Lame Indian who was hid behind a fence hath seen all this barbarous threatening, who says there were about 100 Indians.” Two of the soldiers and David Kittle died at the house. David’s wife was at first taken captive, but killed and scalped just a short distance away, probably because “she was so big with child that she could scarcely walk.” Daniel’s infant child was also killed, its “brains dashed out against an oak tree,” but his wife, sister, and nephew were kidnapped, and taken to Canada. Daniel got permission from Governor Robert Hunter of New York to travel by way of Lakes George and Champlain to Montreal, where he ransomed the captives, returning to Albany in January.  Undeterred, Daniel Kittle later built a home on a different site in Schaghticoke where he lived for the rest of his life.

                How do we know such detail of this event? At the time, testimony was given by the “old lame Indian that lived near the Ketlins (sic) house” to the Indian Commissioners, who wrote a letter to the Governor. They told him in great detail of the attack, and requested that the frontier be better protected, and that fines be levied against inhabitants who were supposed to be guarding at night. The letter is in the records of the Colony of New York in the New York State Archives in Albany. Where were the Kittle homes? That remains a mystery, though they were certainly in the area of the Albany Corporation Lands, near the Knickerbocker Mansion.

                In the next post, I will discuss the amazing follow-up to the Indian massacre.

 

Bibliography: Broderick, Warren, “Fiction Based on ‘Well Authenticated Facts’ ”, Hudson Valley Regional  

                        Review, September 1987.

Early Colonial Settlement of Schaghticoke

 

This original of this map is in the NYS Archives in Albany. The houses are painted in water color, with smoke coming from the chimneys, and are labeled with the name of the occupant. The map is dated c. 1790 because it shows a bridge over the Hoosic River. The first bridge was built in 1792.

 

 

                As we look around our beautiful town now, it is hard to imagine it as an almost trailless wilderness, populated by a few hundred Native Americans and white settlers. That was Schaghticoke in 1710.  Travel was mostly by water, up theHudsonto theHoosicRiver, then inland as far as navigable. There was an Indian trail roughly following the course of Route 67 from the Hudson east toward what is now Route 40.  There was a small concentration of dwellings around where theKnickerbockerMansionis now, near the oak tree that had been planted by the Governor of New York as a symbol of the peace between the Colony of New York and the Mahican refugees fromNew England. The Mahicans were there as a buffer between the city ofAlbanyand the French and their Indian allies inCanada. This was an important job. What is now the Capital District was a dangerous area in which to live. The walled city ofSchenectadyhad been attacked and burned in February 1690, with 60 citizens killed, 27 taken prisoner.Albanyhad been the original target.

                Despite the danger, in 1708 the city ofAlbanydecided to lease the land it had purchased in Schaghticoke, called the Albany Corporation Lands.  The leases would bring in revenue to the city, ease crowding within the city limits, and add some loyal Dutch settlers to back up the Schaghticoke Indians in their role as defenders ofAlbany. Each farm was about fifty acres of lowland, along theHoosicRiveror Tomhannock Creek,and ten acres of upland. Each lessee needed to pay fifteen pounds up front and a rent of “two skeple of merchantable winter wheat” for every two acres “forever.”  Rent sometimes included fowl as well. The first rent was due in 1714, the farms had to be improved within three years or be forfeited, and no rent was due if war broke out between the English and the French. Twenty men applied for the farms.  After a few substitutions, the first tenants were Daniel Ketelhuyn, Dirck VanVechten, Martin Dellemont, Johannis DeWandelaer, Barent Gerritse, Johannis Knickerbacker, Corset Vedder, Wouter Quackenbos, Jr.,and Lewis Viele. Symon Danielse was able to buy 50 acres from the city in 1710. These men were all of Dutch heritage. Even thoughNew Yorkhad been an English colony since 1664, the city ofAlbanywas still a Dutch city.        

These first new tenants arrived in Schaghticoke in 1709. They had to clear their land, build some sort of home, and plant wheat and other crops. This was slow work. Along with the hard work of  building for themselves, the new settlers still  founded the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church in 1714, probably first in a log building near the intersection of Route 67 and Knickerbocker Road. It was the earliest place of worship north ofAlbany.  The only other non-residential buildings in the area would have been the fort, first built at the request of the Indians in 1701, and perhaps a grist and a saw mill. Apparently the first grist mill north ofAlbanywas on the Tomhannock Creek on what is now the Denison Farm onButtermilk Falls Road.

                 The city of Albanyauctioned seven more farms in 1714- though not sold outright but as leases.  Even though more farms were leased over the years, by 1760 there were still only about 40 people holding leases to land in the Albany Corporation Lands. The records of the city ofAlbanyinclude data on the number of bushels of wheat due and paid in rent from 1724 to 1779. In 1724 the tenants paid 330.4 bushels of wheat. Over the years, the tenants bought and sold various leases. Some, like the Knickerbockers, acquired large estates, some sublet parts of their land to other farmers.     

                In the next post, I will relate the tale of Schaghticoke’s Indian Massacre.

 

Bibliography: Kloppott, Beth, History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1981.

                      Sylvester, Nathaniel, History of Rensselaer County, 1880.