The Schaghticoke Indians had a number of problems as the 17th century drew to a close. They were in debt because of succumbing to the temptation of the trade goods and alcohol ofAlbany, had suffered casualties in fightingagainst the French inCanada, and had been moved from home to act as the defense ofAlbany in Half Moon. Their population of warriors was dwindling. At the same time, the French and relatives of the Schaghticokes in French Canada were trying to lure the Schaghticokes to join them. The Schaghticoke sachems kept wavering in their decision to stay or go, which probably made the English and Dutch on the outlying farms from Albany feel insecure. In 1699 some Schaghticokes spent the winter on theOnionRiver, north of Burlington,Vermont. They were not joining the French, but rather fleeing their debts to the traders ofAlbany. After much negotiation between the Indians and the government at Albany, they agreed to return, reassured that they would not be hounded for their debts.
Conditions improved as the new century began. By 1701, the Indians reported 200 warriors in the area from Catskill to Schaghticoke, a doubling of the number reported just five years earlier. The Schaghticokes reaffirmed their covenant of peace made in 1676, and boasted that there were so many of them now that they wouldn’t fit under the shade of the first tree, that they needed a second tree of peace to be planted. The Indians also asked that a fort be constructed to help protect them from the Canadian French and Indians. A log stockade was first built in 1703 It already needed to be rebuilt in 1710. It couldn’t have been much of a fort! It is not certain how and how regularly it was manned, and even exactly where it was. It was probably somewhere near the Knickerbocker Mansion, but Grace Niles Greylock Niles, in The Hoosac Valley: Its Legends and its History, states it was near the junction of Route 67 and Reynolds Road. The danger was real, as there was a French Indian raid in 1711. And of course there had been a major attack onSchenectady in 1690. But at least the request of the Indians for a fort had been honored by the government.
All was not rosy, however. As the number of European settlers increased in the Albany area, there was increasing pressure on the Indians to sell their land. The land situation was very complex, with some parcels being sold several times. Individual Indians sold their little plots, sometimes while under the influence of alcohol. They had a different concept of land ownership than Europeans, and may not have realized the finality of the sales. Larger tracts, including an area of Schaghticoke, were sold to Maria VanRensselaer, in 1684, and to a trader named Robert Sanders. Plus the charter of the city of Albanyof 1686 included the right for the city to purchase land at Schaghticoke from the Indians. By 1707 the city had exercised that right, supposedly reserving a tiny parcel- just twelve acres- for the use of the Indians. The Indian land was to be plowed by the city and kept fenced. The rest of the land was divided into parcels by the city, and leased to Dutch settlers, beginning in 1710.
No one knows what the fort at Schaghticoke looked like. One possibility is a blockhouse like this.
The next post will bring the Indian story at Schaghticoke to a close.
Bibliography: Niles, Grace Greylock; The Hoosac Valley: Its Legends and its History, 1912.
Dunn, Shirley, The Mohicans and Their Land, 1609-1730, 1994.