Transcriber's Note: The majority of the illustrations for this text are photographs. Where there is a name listed inside the tag, that is the name of the photographer. Below that is the caption of the photograph.
THE STORY OF COOPERSTOWN
Rector of Christ Church
With Sixty-eight Illustrations from Photographs
NEW YORK, CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, 1925
Copyright, 1917, by RALPH BIRDSALL
First printing, July, 1917 Second printing, December, 1917 Third printing, August, 1920 Fourth printing, August, 1925
* * * * *
Printed in the United States of America
The ensuing narrative is a faithful record of life in Cooperstown from the earliest times, except that the persons and events to be described have been selected for their story-interest, to the exclusion of much that a history is expected to contain. The dull thread of village history has been followed only in such directions as served for stringing upon it and holding to the light the more shining gems of incident and personality to which it led. Trivial happenings have been included for the sake of some quaint, picturesque, or romantic quality. Much of importance has been omitted that declined to yield to such treatment as the writer had in view. The effort has been made to exclude everything that seemed unlikely to be of interest to the general reader. Those who seek family records, or the mention of all names worthy to be recorded in the history of the village, will find the book wanting.
The local history has been already three times recorded, first in 1838 by Fenimore Cooper, whose work was brought down to date by S. T. Livermore in 1863, and by Samuel M. Shaw in 1886. While now out of print many copies of these books are still accessible.
I. THE INDIANS 1
II. THE COMING OF THE WHITE MEN 26
III. A BYPATH OF THE REVOLUTION 51
IV. THE BEGINNING OF THE SETTLEMENT 74
V. A VILLAGE IN THE MAKING 89
VI. OLD-TIME LOVE AND RELIGION 109
VII. HOMES AND GOSSIP OF OTHER DAYS 130
VIII. THE PIONEER COURT ROOM 150
IX. FATHER NASH 163
X. THE IMMORTAL NATTY BUMPPO 174
XI. STRANGE TALES OF THE GALLOWS 192
XII. SOLID SURVIVALS 211
XIII. THE BIRTHPLACE OF BASE BALL 247
XIV. FENIMORE COOPER IN THE VILLAGE 258
XV. MR. JUSTICE NELSON 299
XVI. CHRIST CHURCHYARD 326
XVII. FROM APPLE HILL TO FERNLEIGH 339
XVIII. THE LAKE OF ROMANCE AND FISHERMEN 364
XIX. TWENTIETH CENTURY BEGINNINGS 393
VILLAGE MAP AND GUIDE 432
PAGE COOPERSTOWN, from the northwest Joseph B. Slote Frontispiece
THE COOPER GROUNDS Arthur J. Telfer 2
COUNCIL ROCK Arthur J. Telfer 8
THE OTSEGO IROQUOIS PIPE 13
AT MILL ISLAND Charles Frederick Zabriskie 21
JOSEPH BRANT, from the Romney portrait 52
SITE OF CLINTON'S DAM A. J. Telfer 71
OTSEGO LAKE, from Cooperstown A. J. Telfer 78
THE OLDEST HOUSE Charles A. Schneider 86
WILLIAM COOPER, from the Stuart portrait 91
AVERELL COTTAGE C. A. Schneider 104
THE WORTHINGTON HOMESTEAD Forrest D. Coleman 110
CHRIST CHURCH A. J. Telfer 127
THE HOUSE AT LAKELANDS, as originally built 131
MRS. WILSON 133
LAKELANDS C. A. Schneider 137
POMEROY PLACE J. Patzig 141
AMBROSE L. JORDAN 151
JORDAN'S HOME, AND HIS LAW OFFICE C. A. Schneider 156
THE HOME OF ROBERT CAMPBELL J. B. Slote 158
FATHER NASH 171
LEATHERSTOCKING MONUMENT A. J. Telfer 185
NATTY BUMPPO'S CAVE C. A. Schneider 188
RIVERBRINK C. A. Schneider 193
EDGEWATER A. J. Telfer 212
RESIDENCE OF W. H. AVERELL AND JUDGE PRENTISS C. A. Schneider 221
WOODSIDE HALL Forrest D. Coleman 226
THE GATE-TOWER AT WOODSIDE Walter C. Stokes 228
SWANSWICK A. J. Telfer 230
SHADOW BROOK James W. Tucker 233
HYDE HALL A. J. Telfer 238
HYDE CLARKE, from the Emmet portrait 243
A WEDDING DAY AT HYDE A. J. Telfer 246
BASE BALL ON NATIVE SOIL A. J. Telfer 249
THE ORIGINAL HOUSE AT APPLE HILL (now Fernleigh) 256
FENIMORE A. J. Telfer 259
OTSEGO HALL, from an old drawing 260
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER 263
THE CHALET A. J. Telfer 265
THE NOVELIST'S LIBRARY, a drawing by G. Pomeroy Keese 267
A PAGE OF COOPER'S MANUSCRIPT 269
THE HOME OF NANCY WILLIAMS C. A. Schneider 271
THREE-MILE POINT A. J. Telfer 282
THE CALL FOR THE INDIGNATION MEETING 284
THE COOPER SCREENS IN CHRIST CHURCH F. D. Coleman 293
AT FENIMORE COOPER'S GRAVE Alice Choate 297
SAMUEL NELSON, LL.D. 300
THE HOME OF JUSTICE NELSON C. A. Schneider 314
NELSON AVENUE A. J. Telfer 320
CHRIST CHURCHYARD, from the Rectory Alice Choate 327
THE COOPER PLOT, IN CHRIST CHURCHYARD A. J. Telfer 334
A FUNERAL IN CHRIST CHURCHYARD J. B. Slote 337
MAIN STREET, LOOKING WEST FROM FAIR STREET, 1861 347
FERNLEIGH A. J. Telfer 357
KINGFISHER TOWER M. Antoinette Abrams 359
THE LAKE, FROM THE O-TE-SA-GA J. B. Slote 365
FISHERMEN'S SHANTIES ON THE FROZEN LAKE A. J. Telfer 374
HOP-PICKING Elizabeth Hudson 378
MAP OF OTSEGO LAKE Henry L. Eckerson 381
THE SUSQUEHANNA, NEAR ITS SOURCE A. J. Telfer 383
LEATHERSTOCKING FALLS A. J. Telfer 387
FIVE-MILE POINT A. J. Telfer 388
MOHICAN CANYON M. Antoinette Abrams 389
GRAVELLY POINT A. J. Telfer 391
BISHOP POTTER A. F. Bradley 395
THE RECTORY C. A. Schneider 396
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY AND THE BISHOP OF NEW YORK A. J. Telfer 405
BYBERRY COTTAGE C. A. Schneider 407
THE CLARK ESTATE OFFICE A. J. Telfer 409
THE LYRIC AT COOPER'S GRAVE J. B. Slote 420
COOPERSTOWN, FROM MOUNT VISION A. J. Telfer 430
MAP OF COOPERSTOWN H. L. Eckerson 432
The Story of Cooperstown
The main street of Cooperstown traverses the village in a direction generally east and west. While the street and its shops are far superior to those of most small towns, the business centre, from which the visitor gains his first impression, gives no hint of the quaint and rustic beauty that makes Cooperstown one of the most charming villages in America.
Following the main street toward the east, one reaches the original part of the settlement, and the prospect is more gratefully reminiscent of an old-time village. In summer the gateway of the Cooper Grounds opens a pleasing vista of shaded greensward, while the cross street which runs down to the lake at this point attracts the eye to a half-concealed view of the Glimmerglass, with the Sleeping Lion in the distance at the north.
The historical associations of the village, from the earliest times, are centered in the Cooper Grounds. Within this space, when the first white man came, were found apple trees, in full bearing, which Indians had planted, showing an occupation by red men in the late Iroquois period. On these grounds the first white settler, Col. George Croghan, built in 1769 his hut of logs. During the Revolutionary War it was upon this spot that Clinton's troops were encamped for five weeks before their spectacular descent of the Susquehanna River. On this site William Cooper, the founder of the village, built his first residence, and afterward erected Otsego Hall, which later became the home of his son, James Fenimore Cooper, the novelist.
Beyond the Cooper Grounds, on the main street, the buildings seen on either hand belong to the earlier period of village history, except the Village Club and Library, which gracefully conforms to the older style. After passing the next cross-street, the main thoroughfare leads across the Susquehanna River, and, beyond the bridge, becomes identified with the old road to Cherry Valley. Keeping on up the incline, one finds Mount Vision rising before him, and begins to gain fascinating glimpses into the grounds of Woodside Hall, whose white pillars gleam amid the pines above the Egyptian gate-tower, and whose windows, commanding the whole length of the main street westward, reflect the fire of every sunset.
Just before reaching Woodside, one observes a road which makes off from the highway at the right, and runs south. Opening from this road to Fernleigh-Over, and quite close to the corner, is a small iron gate that creaks between two posts of stone. The gate opens upon a path which leads, a few paces westward, to a large, terraced mound, well sodded, and topped by two maple trees.
Sunk into the face of this mound is a slab of granite which bears this inscription:
WHITE MAN, GREETING!
WE, NEAR WHOSE BONES YOU STAND, WERE IROQUOIS. THE WIDE LAND WHICH NOW IS YOURS WAS OURS. FRIENDLY HANDS HAVE GIVEN BACK TO US ENOUGH FOR A TOMB.
These lines offer a fitting introduction to the story of Cooperstown. There is enough of truth and poetry in them to touch the heart of the most indifferent passer-by. No sense of pride stirs the soul of any white man as he reads this pathetic memorial of an exiled race and its vanished empire. From this region and from many another hill and valley the Indians were driven by their white conquerors, banished from one reservation to another, compelled to exchange a vast empire of the forest for the blanket and tin cup of Uncle Sam's patronage.
The mound in Fernleigh-Over is probably an Indian burial site of some antiquity. In 1874, when the place was being graded, a number of Indian skeletons were uncovered in various parts of the grounds. The owner of the property, Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark, caused all the bones to be collected and buried at the foot of the mound. Some years afterward she marked the mound with the granite slab and its inscribed epitaph.
The lines were composed by the Rev. William Wilberforce Lord, D.D., a former rector of Christ Church, in this village, once hailed by Wordsworth as the coming poet of America. He had written some noble verse, but wilted beneath the scathing criticism of Edgar Allan Poe, and after becoming a clergyman published little poetry. This epitaph alone, however, fully justifies Dr. Lord's earlier ambition, for no poet of his time could have included more of beauty and truth and pathos within the compass of so brief an inscription.
In a comment upon the placing of this tablet, Mrs. Clark afterward wrote: "The position of the stone is misleading, and gives one an idea that the mound contains the bones—whereas they are buried at the foot of the mound. I have sometimes wondered if this rather curiously shaped mound, with the two maple trees thereon, might not contain undisturbed skeletons; and I feel sure that throughout this strip of land, which the grading only superficially disturbed, there are many bones of the Iroquois, for in 1900, when we cut down some trees, a skull was found in the fork of a root."
Mrs. Clark's record shows that the mound existed prior to 1874, and since this particular corner of ground was unoccupied before that date except, for a period, by the barns and stables of Lakelands across the way, it is reasonable to suppose that the mound was made by the Indians. While the mounds of New York State cannot be compared in size and extent with those of the West, writers on Indian antiquities, from Schoolcraft onward, have identified as the work of red men many such formations within the Empire State. The mounds were commonly used by the Indians as places of burial, and sometimes as sites for houses, or as fortifications. The mound in Fernleigh-Over may be reasonably regarded as a monument erected by the Indians to the memory of their dead.
Two Indian skeletons were found in Fernleigh grounds in 1910, when a tennis court was being made, and the skeletons of Indians have been unearthed in some other parts of the village. A concealed sentry keeps vigil not far away from Fernleigh. The garden at the northwest corner of River and Church streets, nearly opposite to Fernleigh, has had for many years, on the River Street side, a retaining wall. When Fenimore Cooper owned the property this wall was his despair. For at a point above Greencrest, the wall, which then consisted of dry field stone, could never be kept plumb, but obstinately bulged toward the east; and as often as it was rebuilt, just so often it tottered to ruin. There was a tradition that this singular freak was caused by the spirit of an Indian chief whose grave lay in the garden, and whose resentment toward the village improvements of a paleface civilization found vigorous expression in kicking down the wall. It was at last decided to replace the retaining wall with one of heavier proportions and more solid masonry. On tearing down the wall the tradition of former years was recalled, for there sat the grim skeleton of an Indian, fully armed for war! The new wall included him as before, but to this day there is a point in the wall where stone and mortar cannot long contain the Indian spirit's wrath. This Indian sentinel was first discovered by William Cooper when River Street was graded, and four generations of tradition in the Cooper family testified to his tutelary character.
The banks of the Susquehanna, near the village, and the shores of Otsego Lake, have yielded a plentiful harvest of Indian relics in arrow-heads and spearpoints, with an occasional bannerstone, pipe, or bit of pottery. Often as the region has been traversed in search of relics, there seems always to be something left for the careful gleaner; and the experienced eye, within a short walk along riverbank or lakeshore, is certain to light upon some memento of the vanished Indian, while every fresh turning of the soil reveals some record of savage life.
Morgan describes an Indian trail as being from twelve to eighteen inches wide, and, where the soil was soft, often worn to a depth of twelve inches. Deeply as these trails were grooved in the earth by centuries of use, it is to be doubted if many traces of them now remain, although over the summit of Hannah's Hill, sheltered by thick pine woods, just west of the village, there runs toward the lake a trail, which, though long disused, is clearly marked, and is believed to have been worn by the feet of Indians. It is indeed possible that this is a remaining segment of the great trail from the north, which, as Morgan's map shows, here touched Otsego Lake, and bent toward the southwest. For, in 1911, a likely trace of it was found by Frank M. Turnbull while clearing the woods on the McNamee property west of the village. In line with the trail on Hannah's Hill, and southwest of it, were two huge hemlocks that bore upon their trunks the old wounds of blazes made as if by the axes of Indians. The blazes were vertical, deeply indented, and the thick bark had grown outward and around them, forming in each a pocket into which a man might sink his elbow and forearm. These patriarchal trees of the forest were about four feet in diameter at the base, and on being felled showed, by count of the rings, an age of nearly three hundred years.
When Fenimore Cooper, in The Deerslayer, describes Council Rock as a favorite meeting place of the Indians, where the tribes resorted "to make their treaties and bury their hatchets," he claims a picturesque bit of stage setting for his drama, but also records an early tradition. This rock, sometimes called Otsego Rock, standing forth from the water where the Susquehanna emerges from the lake, had been a favorite landmark for the rendezvous of Indians. As one views it now, from the foot of River Street, it lifts its rounded top not quite so high above the water as when Cooper described it in 1841. The damming of the Susquehanna to furnish power for the village water supply has raised the whole level of Otsego Lake, and gives an artificial fullness to the first reaches of the long river.
Whether Cooperstown stands upon the site of an old Indian village is a debated question. Richard Smith's journal describes his visit at the foot of Otsego Lake in 1769, before the time of any considerable settlement by white men, and makes no mention of any Indian residents of the place. He saw many Indians here, but gives the impression that they were come from a distance to visit the Indian Agent whose headquarters lay at the foot of Otsego Lake. On the other hand, a stray hint comes from the papers of William Cooper, among which is a memorandum including various notes relating to population and other statistics, jotted down apparently in preparation for a speech or article on early conditions here, and containing the item, "Old Indian Village." A more significant record appears in the Chronicles of Cooperstown, published in 1838, in which Fenimore Cooper asserts that "arrow-heads, stone hatchets, and other memorials of Indian usages, were found in great abundance by the first settlers, in the vicinity of the village." In The Pioneers, his description of Cooperstown includes, in a location to be identified with the present Cooper Grounds, fruit trees which he says "had been left by the Indians, and began already to assume the moss and inclination of age," when the first settlers came.
The fruit trees would indicate permanent though late occupation of this site by Indians; "stone hatchets in great abundance" would suggest that a prehistoric village was here. But it is difficult to understand how so little trace should now remain of the one-time "great abundance" of hatchets. Such is not the case at any other permanent prehistoric site in the general region, where pestles and hatchets continue to be found even in streets, as well as in yards, and well-tilled gardens.
Every few years the inhabitants of ancient villages in the east were wont, for various reasons, to build new cabins on new ground, though not far removed from the old. Not all the sites of ancient Otesaga, if ancient Otesaga existed, can have been covered by Cooperstown. Some fields should still produce something out of "an abundance" of village debris. Yet only one hatchet has come, in many years, from all the foot of the lake. Many points, spear and arrow, have been found on all shores of Otsego; for beyond doubt the lake, from very early time, was a resort for aboriginal hunters and fishermen. But points indicate only camp sites.
On the whole, by reason of the notable absence at this time of stone relics indicating permanent residence, it seems possible that the statement concerning their original abundance was exaggerated, and there is no good reason for supposing, on the strength of this statement alone, that there was a prehistoric village on the site of Cooperstown. Perhaps in early times, during the contests with Southern Indians, the place lay too much in the way of war parties. But the apple trees, concerning which there is no doubt, would indicate rather conclusively an occupation by Indians within the historic period, which, as in the case of many another of the later villages, might have left small trace.
In 1895 two young men of Cooperstown who afterward adopted callings in other fields of science, Benjamin White, Ph.D., and Dr. James Ferguson, conducted amateur archeological expeditions which resulted in the discovery of a regular camp site formerly used by the Indians. This lies within the present village of Cooperstown, on a level stretch along the west bank of the Susquehanna, in what used to be called the Hinman lot, but now belongs to Fernleigh, a few rods south of Fernleigh House. It includes an even floor of low land not far above the level of the river, containing a spring on its margin, and forming a plot perhaps two hundred yards in length and half as much in breadth. The ground begins thence to rise rather steeply toward the north and west, sheltering from wind and storm the glen below, while affording points of observation, looking up and down the stream.
The young explorers went carefully over the surface of this ground, digging to a considerable depth in some parts, and using an ash-sifter for a thorough examination of the debris. "We found spearheads, game and war points in large numbers," says Dr. White, "as well as drills, punches or awls, scrapers, knives, hammer-stones, and sinkers. Deer horn, bones, and thick strata of ashes were found, the latter in one place only. Whether or no this was the site of an Indian village, I cannot say. Altogether it must have yielded six or eight hundred implements of various sorts. Fernleigh-Over, Riverbrink, and Lakelands yielded arrow-heads and sinkers, but no other implements. The present site of the Country Club was a profitable field for arrow-heads."
Dr. Ferguson, referring to the same spot, writes, "I have long had an idea that there had been a small Indian village located in what we knew as Hinman's lot. After the land was ploughed we found many arrow-heads, awls of bone and flint, and fragments of pottery. There were several areas where fires had been located, the soil being well baked, with mingled charcoal and burned bones. There were also about the fire sites fragments of deer horn, bears' teeth, and much broken pottery. Spear heads were rather few, sinkers and hammer-stones more numerous. I never found any perfect axes, but did find fragments."
The great number of imperfect arrow-heads and flint chips found here, as well as on the flat northeast of Iroquois Farm house, and on the low land between the O-te-sa-ga and the Country Club house, shows the frequent occupation of these places as Indian camps.
In 1916 David R. Dorn conducted a more intensive examination of the plot explored by Dr. White and Dr. Ferguson. His investigation revealed a site that showed two distinct layers of Indian relics, the lower and more ancient being of Algonquin type, while the signs of later occupancy were Iroquois. At about eighteen inches beneath the surface was found the complete skeleton of an Iroquois Indian. With the skeleton was unearthed a pipe, of Iroquois manufacture, which Arthur C. Parker, the State archeologist, declared to be one of the most perfect specimens known.
Taking all the evidence together, it may be asserted that the present site of Cooperstown was from ancient times the resort of Indian hunters and fishermen, and at a later period, more than a generation before its settlement by white men, as indicated by the size of the apple trees which they found, included a settled Indian village.
On Morgan's map of Iroquois territory as it existed in 1720, he shows a village at the foot of Otsego Lake to which he gives the Indian name Ote-sa-ga. Our present form, Otsego, is a variant of the same original. Morgan wrote the word in three syllables, adding the letter "e" after the "t" merely to make sure that the "o" should be pronounced long. It seems certain that Morgan never pronounced the word as "O-te-sa-ga." This form of the name, however, when the third syllable carries the accent and a broad "a," is defensible on the ground of its majestic euphony, for it should be permitted to take some liberties with a name that has been spelled by high authorities in a dozen different ways.
The explanation of Otsego, or Otesaga, as signifying "a place of meeting" has been generally abandoned by scholars, in spite of the vogue which Fenimore Cooper gave it along with the interpretation of Susquehanna as meaning "crooked river." But as to the latter the doctors disagree, some claiming that Susquehanna, which is not an Iroquois but an Algonquin word, means "muddy stream"; others, following Dr. Beauchamp, that it is a corruption of a word meaning "river with long reaches." It must be confessed that Cooper credited the Indian words with intelligible and appropriate meanings, so that, in the absence of agreement among the specialists, the interpretations which he made popular will continue to satisfy the ordinary thirst for this sort of knowledge.
Assuming the existence of an Indian village on the present site of Cooperstown, before the coming of the white man, the question of the probable character of its inhabitants opens another field of study. Most of the relics found in this region belong to the Algonquin type. On the other hand Otsego is an Iroquois word, and it seems to be generally agreed that the Otsego region was included, in the historic period, in the possessions of the Iroquois, as the league of the Five Nations was called by the French. The league included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas; and took in also, in the eighteenth century, as the sixth nation, the Tuscaroras. While the village at the foot of the lake would properly be called Mohawk, owing obedience to the council of the original Mohawk towns, it might well have been composed largely of Indians from other tribes. Fragments of shattered tribes found refuge with the Iroquois in the latter days. Some were adopted; some stayed on sufferance. The Minsis, a branch of the Delawares, as well as the Delawares proper, were allowed to occupy the southern part of the Iroquois territory. It will be recalled, in this connection, that Cooper's favorite Indian heroes, Chingachgook and Uncas, are of Delaware stock.
It is quite possible that, near the beginning of the eighteenth century—basing the date, among other things, on the appearance of the apple trees when the first white man came—there was a cosmopolitan Indian community at the foot of Otsego Lake. Besides Mohawks, there would have been included Oneidas, their nearest neighbors on the west; and probably Delawares, or Mohicans. There might have been also some one-time prisoners, adopted by the Iroquois, but belonging originally to distant nations.
All writers on the history of the Eastern Indians agree in assigning the highest place to the Iroquois. Parkman asserts that they afford perhaps an example of the highest elevation which man can reach without emerging from the primitive condition of the hunter. Morgan declares that in the width of their sway they had reared the most powerful empire that ever existed in America north of the Aztec monarchy. The home country of the Iroquois included nearly the whole of the present State of New York, but at the era of their highest military supremacy, about 1660, they made their influence felt from New England to the Mississippi, and from the St. Lawrence to the Tennessee. Within this league, the tribal territory of the Mohawks extended to the Hudson River and Lake Champlain on the east, northward to the St. Lawrence, and westward to a boundary not easily determined, but which included Otsego Lake. In the great league of the Iroquois the name of the Mohawk nation always stood first, and of all the Iroquois nations they were the most renowned in war. Joseph Brant, whom John Fiske calls the most remarkable Indian known to history, was a Mohawk chief.
Although the field of Iroquois influence was so wide, and their military fame so great, it is a mistake to imagine that the forests of their time were thickly peopled with red men, or that they were perpetually at war. The entire population of the Iroquois throughout what is now the State of New York probably never numbered more than 20,000 souls. Of these the whole Mohawk nation counted only about 3,000, grouped in small villages over their wide territory. The avowed object of the Iroquois confederacy was peace. By means of a great political fraternity the purpose was to break up the spirit of perpetual warfare which had wasted the Indian race from age to age. To a considerable degree this purpose was realized. After the power of the Iroquois had become consolidated, their villages were no longer stockaded, such defences having ceased to be necessary.
Otsego has witnessed other aspects of Indian life than those of war and the chase. The Iroquois were agriculturists, and they, or rather their women, cultivated not only fruit trees, but corn, melons, squash, pumpkins, beans, and tobacco. They had other human interests also, not unlike our own. As the young people grew up amid sylvan charms that are wont to stir romantic feelings in the heart of youth to-day, one is tempted to imagine the trysts in the wood, the flirtations, the courtships, among Indian braves and dusky maidens, that touched life with tender sentiment in the days of the red man's glory. During many summers before the white man came the breath of nature sighing through the pines of Otsego, the winding river murmuring lovelorn secrets to the flowers that nodded on its margin, the moon rising over Mount Vision and shedding its splendor upon the lake, were subtle influences in secret meetings between men and maidens, in whispered vows beneath the trees, in courtships on the border of the Glimmerglass, in lovemaking along the shores of the Susquehanna.
The greater part of the Iroquois were allies of the British in the Revolutionary War, although some Mohawks remained neutral, and most of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras became engaged on the side of the Americans. It is not strange that, in a war whose causes they could not understand, the Iroquois should have been loyal to the King of England, with whom their alliances had been made for nearly two centuries. The Indians had nothing to gain in this war, and everything to lose. They lost everything, and after the war were thrown upon the mercies of the victorious Americans. The Iroquois confederacy came to an end, and few of the Mohawks ever returned to the scene of their council fires, or to the graves of their ancestors.
Many friendly relationships were established between the white men and the Indians, both before and after the Revolutionary War. In 1764 there was a missionary school of Mohawk Indian boys at the foot of Otsego Lake under the instruction of a young Mohawk named Moses, who had been educated at a missionary institution for Indians at Lebanon. A report of one of the missionaries, the Rev. J. C. Smith, written at this time, gives a glimpse of the Indians as they came under civilizing influence on the very spot where Cooperstown was afterward to flourish:
"I am every day diverted and pleased with a view of Moses and his school, as I can sit in my study and see him and all his scholars at any time, the schoolhouse being nothing but an open barrack. And I am much pleased to see eight or ten and sometimes more scholars sitting under their bark table, some reading, some writing and others studying, and all engaged to appearances with as much seriousness and attention as you will see in almost any worshipping assembly and Moses at the head of them with the gravity of fifty or three score."
Miss Susan Fenimore Cooper, daughter of the novelist, says that for some years after the village was commenced, Mill Island was a favorite resort of the Indians, who came frequently in parties to the new settlement, remaining here for months together. Mill Island lies in the Susquehanna a short distance below Fernleigh, near the dam, where the river reaches out two arms to enclose it, and with so little effort that it is difficult to distinguish the island from the mainland. In the early days of the village the island was covered with woods, and the Indians chose it for their camp, in preference to other situations. Miss Cooper thinks it may have been a place of resort to their fishing and hunting parties when the country was a wilderness. In Rural Hours, writing in 1851, she gives a curious description of a visit made at Otsego Hall by some Indians who had encamped at Mill Island. There were three of them,—a father, son, and grandson,—who made their appearance, claiming a hereditary acquaintance with the master of the house, Fenimore Cooper.
"The leader and patriarch of the party," says Miss Cooper, "was a Methodist minister—the Rev. Mr. Kunkerpott. He was notwithstanding a full-blooded Indian, with the regular copper-colored complexion, and high cheek bones; the outline of his face was decidedly Roman, and his long, gray hair had a wave which is rare among his people; his mouth, where the savage expression is usually most strongly marked, was small, with a kindly expression about it. Altogether he was a strange mixture of the Methodist preacher and the Indian patriarch. His son was much more savage than himself in appearance—a silent, cold-looking man; and the grandson, a boy of ten or twelve, was one of the most uncouth, impish-looking creatures we ever beheld. He wore a long-tailed coat twice too large for him, with boots of the same size. The child's face was very wild, and he was bareheaded, with an unusual quantity of long, black hair streaming about his head and shoulders. While the grandfather was conversing about old times, the boy diverted himself by twirling around on one leg, a feat which would have seemed almost impossible, booted as he was, but which he nevertheless accomplished with remarkable dexterity, spinning round and round, his arms extended, his large black eyes staring stupidly before him, his mouth open, and his long hair flying in every direction, as wild a looking creature as one could wish to see."
After the period of which Miss Cooper writes, Indians were even more rarely seen in Cooperstown, and their visits soon ceased altogether. It is a far cry from the Chingachgook and Uncas whom Fenimore Cooper imagined to the Rev. Mr. Kunkerpott and other Indians whom his daughter saw and described. So much so that Cooper has been accused of creating, in his novels, a sort of Indians which never existed either here or elsewhere. There is no doubt, however, that he studied carefully such Indians as were in his day to be found, and had some basis of fact for the qualities which he imparted to the Indians of his imagination. Miss Cooper says that her father followed Indian delegations from town to town, observing them carefully, conversing with them freely, and was impressed "with the vein of poetry and of laconic eloquence marking their brief speeches."
Brander Matthews says that if there is any lack of faithfulness in Cooper's presentation of the Indian character, it is due to the fact that he was a romancer, and therefore an optimist, bent on making the best of things. He told the truth as he saw it, and nothing but the truth; but he did not tell the whole truth. Here Cooper was akin to Scott, who chose to dwell only on the bright side of chivalry, and to picture the merry England of Richard Lionheart as a pleasanter period to live in than it could have been in reality. Cooper's red men are probably closer to the actual facts than Scott's black knights and white ladies.
Cooper himself comes to the defense of his Indians in the preface of the Leather-Stocking Tales. "It is the privilege of all writers of fiction," he declares, "more particularly when their works aspire to the elevation of romances, to present the beau-ideal of their characters to the reader. This it is which constitutes poetry, and to suppose that the red man is to be represented only in the squalid misery or in the degraded moral state that certainly more or less belongs to his condition, is, we apprehend, taking a very narrow view of an author's privileges. Such criticism would have deprived the world of even Homer."
Our early history has been less sympathetic toward the Indian. The story of the massacre which occurred at Cherry Valley, not many miles from Cooperstown, in 1778, although the Tories who took part in it were quite as savage as their Indian allies, has made memorable the darker side of Indian character. But although many innocent victims were exacted by his revenge both here and elsewhere, it was not without cause that the Indian resorted to bloody measures against the whites. Americans of to-day can well afford a generous appreciation of the once powerful race who were their predecessors in sovereignty on this continent. The league of the Iroquois is no more, but in the Empire State of the American Republic the scene of their ancient Indian empire remains. It is left for the white man to commemorate the Indian who made no effort to perpetuate memorials of himself, erected no boastful monuments, and carved no inscriptions to record his many conquests. Having gained great wealth by developing the resources of a land which the Indians used only as hunting grounds, the white man may none the less appreciate the lofty qualities of a race of men who, just because they felt no lust of riches, never emerged from the hunter state, but found the joy of life amid primeval forests.
The League of the Iroquois has had a strange history, which is part of the history of America—a history which left no record, except by chance, of a government that had no archives, an empire that had no throne, a language that had no books, a citizenship without a city, a religion that had no temple except that which the Great Spirit created in the beginning.
[Footnote 1: Poe. Works, "William W. Lord," Vol. vii, p. 217 (Amontillado Ed). Edmund Clarence Stedman, in his Poets of America, p. 41, 123, champions Lord.]
[Footnote 2: Notes on the Iroquois, Henry R. Schoolcraft, Chap. vi.]
[Footnote 3: Major J. W. Powell, The Forum, January, 1890.]
[Footnote 4: Lewis H. Morgan's map, 1851, in the League of the Iroquois.]
[Footnote 5: From Fernleigh garden, near the river, 1895.]
[Footnote 6: These opinions are quoted from a communication kindly written by Willard E. Yager, of Oneonta.]
[Footnote 7: Ote-sa-ga was probably derived, by transposition very common in like case, from the first map name of Ostega (Ostaga), 1770-1775. Dr. Beauchamp sought to derive this from "otsta," a word for which Schoolcraft was his authority, and which was supposed to be Oneida for "rock," the Mohawk form "otsteara." But Schoolcraft, as Beauchamp himself elsewhere shows (Indian Names, p. 6), sometimes took liberties with original Indian forms of words. The Mohawk word for "rock" is "ostenra"; the Oneida would be "ostela." The first with the locative terminal "ga," gives "ostenraga"; the second, "ostelaga." Both are far removed from "Ostaga." Ostaga is more naturally derived from the Mohawk "otsata," or "osata," both which forms occur in Bruyas. Otsataga, by elision, readily becomes Otstaga, and again Ostaga. The change is even simpler with Osataga. The meaning of Ostaga, thus explained, would be "place of cloud," by extension "place of storm"—in contrast, perhaps, with the little lakes, which were waiontha, "calm." (Bruyas, 64).—Willard E. Yager.]
[Footnote 8: League of the Iroquois, Lewis H. Morgan, Lloyd's Ed., Vol. I, p. 93.]
[Footnote 9: Yager.]
[Footnote 10: The Old New York Frontier, Francis W. Halsey, 16. League of the Iroquois, II. 227.]
[Footnote 11: League of the Iroquois, I. 87.]
[Footnote 12: do., I. 249-251.]
[Footnote 13: The Old New York Frontier, 150.]
[Footnote 14: The Old New York Frontier, 75, 160.]
[Footnote 15: Address at the Cooperstown Centennial.]
THE COMING OF THE WHITE MEN
Within six years after Hendrik Hudson sailed up the river which bears his name, and some five years before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth, the first white men looked upon Otsego Lake, and saw the wooded shore upon which Cooperstown now stands. It was in 1614, or in the year following, that two Dutchmen set out from Fort Orange (Albany) to explore the fur country, and crossing from the Mohawk to Otsego Lake, proceeded down the Susquehanna. From this time, first under the Dutch, then under English rule, traders came frequently to the foot of Otsego Lake. Soon after the traders, Christian missionaries ventured into the wilderness, ministering at first chiefly to the Indians. Later came the first settlers.
That the influence of traders was not always helpful to Christian missionaries is illustrated by an incident in the missionary journey of the Rev. Gideon Hawley, a Presbyterian divine, who, with some zealous companions, came from New England to preach to the Indians of the Susquehanna in 1753. They reached the river at a point where was a small Indian settlement near the present village of Colliers, seventeen miles below Cooperstown. Here they were joined by a trader named George Winedecker, who had come down from Otsego Lake with a boat-load of goods, including rum, to supply the Indian villages down the river. During the night the red men, full of Winedecker's rum, became embroiled in a murderous orgy. The missionaries were awakened by the howling of the Indians over their dead, and in the morning saw Indian women skulking in the bushes, hiding guns and hatchets, for fear of the intoxicated Indians who were drinking deeper. "Here, in one party, were missionaries with the Bible and a trader with the rum—the two gifts of the white man to the Indian."
Susquehanna lands were first conveyed to white men by the Indians in 1684 as a part of a treaty of alliance with the English, although the Indians retained the right to live and hunt on the river. The granting of land titles by the Provincial government began not long afterward. The first recorded patent on Otsego Lake was obtained in 1740 by John J. Petrie at the northern end. John Groesbeck, an officer of the court of chancery, acquired in 1741 a patent lying northeast of the lake, including what afterward became the Clarke property and the site of Hyde Hall. Nearly the whole east side of the lake, with the present Lakelands tract just east of the Susquehanna at its source, was covered by the patent which Godfrey Miller obtained in 1761, and upon which, according to the journal of Richard Smith, twelve persons were resident eight years later.
Early in the eighteenth century it is probable that traders were from time to time resident at the foot of Otsego, but the first attempt toward a permanent settlement on the present site of Cooperstown was made by John Christopher Hartwick in 1761. In that year Hartwick obtained from the Provincial government a patent to the lands which, southwest of Cooperstown, still perpetuate his name, and began a settlement at the foot of Otsego Lake under the misapprehension that the site was included in his patent. It was not long before Hartwick discovered his error, and withdrew to the proper limits of his tract, but this attempt to found a village upon the spot which William Cooper afterward selected connects with the history of Cooperstown a unique character and memorable name.
Hartwick, who was born in Germany in 1714, came to America at about thirty years of age as a missionary preacher, and in his time was as famous for his eccentricities, as he afterward became for his pious benefactions. He held some settled charges, but, except for twelve years at Rhinebeck, he seems for the most part to have been a wandering preacher, and the records of his pastorates extend from Philadelphia to Boston, and from Virginia and Maryland to the distant coast of Maine.
If Hartwick would not be long tied down to a settled pastorate, he was even more fearful of matrimonial bondage, and shunned women as a plague. It was not an uncommon thing for him, if he saw that he was about to meet a woman in the road, to cross over, or even to leap a fence, in order to avoid her. On one occasion when he was disturbed in preaching by the presence of a dog, he exclaimed with much earnestness that dogs and children had better be kept at home, and it would not be much matter, he added, if the women were kept there too! Seeking shelter one night at a log hut not far from the present Hartwick village, he was cheerfully received by the occupants, a man and his wife, who gave up to their guest the one bed in the only bedroom, and stretched themselves for the night upon the floor before the kitchen fire. The night grew bitter cold, and the wife, awaking, bethought her of the guest, whether he might not be too lightly covered. She went silently to his room, and spread upon his bed a part of her simple wardrobe. Hartwick promptly arose, dressed himself, made his way out of the house to the stable, saddled his horse, and rode away in the darkness.
His contemporaries agree in representing Hartwick as slovenly in his habits, often preaching in his blanket coat, and not always with the cleanest linen; eccentric in his manners, curt, and at times irritable in his intercourse with others—an exceedingly undesirable addition to the social and domestic circle, so that his hosts were accustomed to tell him plainly, at the beginning of a visit, "You may stay here so many days, and then you must go." In some quarters his visits were dreaded because of his excessively long prayers at family worship.
One may dwell without malice upon the eccentricities of this singular man, for they are qualities that set him forth from his more staid contemporaries, without detracting from the virtues which gave permanence to his work. Hartwick was a lover of God and men. Although rough and unpolished, he was a man of learning, being well versed in theology, and as familiar with the Latin language as with his own.
The great purpose of Hartwick's career was the founding of a community for the promotion of religion and education, the building in the wilderness of a Christian city whose halls of learning should influence the coming ages. The roving life that brought Hartwick into contact with the Indians awakened his desire to Christianize and educate them, and the influence which he gained among them opened the way, through the acquirement of land, for the carrying out of his favorite project. The patent that he obtained from the Provincial government in 1761 covered a tract of land, substantially the present town of Hartwick, which he had purchased from the Indians for one hundred pounds in 1754. In settling the land Hartwick required each tenant to agree to a condition in the lease by which the tenant became Hartwick's parishioner, and acknowledged the authority of Hartwick, or his substitute, as "pastor, teacher, and spiritual counsellor." Owing to his desultory business methods and the weight of advancing years, Hartwick after a time found himself unequal to the management of this estate, and in 1791 William Cooper, the founder of Cooperstown, became his agent, with authority to dispose of the property to tenants. By this arrangement Hartwick was cut off from his original design of being the spiritual director of his tenants, and came to the end of his life without building the city of which he dreamed.
Hartwick's last will and testament, however, shows that he never abandoned his design, but determined that it should be carried out after his death. The will is one of the most curious documents ever penned, a mixture of autobiography, piety, and contempt of legal form. A lawyer to whom he submitted it pronounced it "legally defective in every page, and almost in every sentence." But Hartwick's only amendment of it was to add a perplexing codicil to seven other codicils which already had been appended. The will provides for the laying out of a regular town, closely built, to be called the New Jerusalem, with buildings and hall for a seminary.
Hartwick died in 1796, in his eighty-third year. The task of administering the estate according to the will was found to be almost hopeless. The executors, aided by a special act of legislature, set about to carry out its evident spirit. Preliminary to the establishment of a seminary, the executors sent the Rev. John Frederick Ernst, a Lutheran minister, to Hartwick patent, to preach to the inhabitants, and to assist in the education of their youth. In connection with this work Mr. Ernst came to Cooperstown in 1799, held religious services in the old Academy, on the present site of the Universalist church, and had some youngsters of the village under his instruction. His descendants lived in Cooperstown for more than a century after him.
The main building of Hartwick Seminary was erected in 1812, at the present site, near the bank of the Susquehanna River, about five miles southward of Cooperstown, and some four miles eastward from Hartwick village. The school was opened in 1815, and received from the legislature a charter in 1816. It is the oldest theological school in the State of New York, and the oldest Lutheran theological seminary in America. In addition to being a theological school, Hartwick Seminary is now devoted to general education, and includes among its pupils not only boys, but, in spite of the prejudice of its founder, young women.
Among the original trustees named in the charter of Hartwick Seminary was the Rev. Daniel Nash, the first rector of Christ Church, Cooperstown. Judge Samuel Nelson, and Col. John H. Prentiss, of Cooperstown, were afterward trustees for many years, and in their time there was among the people of this village a lively interest in Hartwick Seminary, the literary exercises at the end of each scholastic year being largely attended by visitors from Cooperstown. It is significant of the close relation which formerly existed between the two villages that the street which runs westward from the Presbyterian church in Cooperstown, now called Elm Street, was at one time known to the inhabitants as "the Hartwick Road."
Local history has wronged the memory of John Christopher Hartwick by the oft repeated statement that he committed suicide. It is true that a man named Christianus Hartwick took his own life in 1800, and that his grave lies in Hinman Hollow, only a few miles from Hartwick Seminary. But John Christopher Hartwick, after whom the town and seminary are named, died a natural death at Clermont, N. Y., four years before the suicide.
A wanderer in life, Hartwick after his death was long in quest of a peaceful grave. His remains were first buried in the graveyard of the Lutheran church in East Camp. Two years later, in accordance with the wish expressed in Hartwick's will, the body was removed and entombed beneath the pulpit of Ebenezer church, at the corner of Pine and Lodge streets, in Albany, deposited in a stone coffin, secured by brickwork, and covered with an inscribed slab of marble. In 1869, when the church was rebuilt, the body was removed to the public cemetery in Albany. When this cemetery was converted into Washington Park, Hartwick's body was transferred to the lot of the First Lutheran church in the Albany Rural Cemetery on the Troy road, where his dust is now contained in an unknown and forgotten grave. The board of trustees of Hartwick Seminary afterward ordered that Hartwick's remains should be disinterred and brought for burial to the town to which he gave his name, but the remains could not be found.
The marble slab that once covered the body of Hartwick in Ebenezer church lay for many years beneath the basement floor of the First Lutheran church, which succeeded the older building. In 1913 this relic of Hartwick's sepulchre was sent to the seminary which he founded, where it occupies once more a place of honor. Besides Hartwick's name, and the record of his birth and death, the marble bears, inscribed in German, this sentiment:
Man's life, in its appointed limit, Is seventy, is eighty years; But care and grief and anguish dim it, However joyous it appears. The winged moments swiftly flee, And bear us to eternity.
The village of Hartwick is distantly connected with another religious movement which the founder of Hartwick Seminary would have viewed with the utmost abhorrence. In 1820, and for several years thereafter, first in the house of John Davison, and afterward in Jerome Clark's attic, lay an old trunk containing the closely handwritten pages of a romance entitled The Manuscript Found, by the Rev. Solomon Spaulding. This was written in 1812, in Conneaut, Ashtabula county, Ohio, where the exploration of earth mounds containing skeletons and other relics fired Spaulding's imagination, and suggested the character of his tale. It was written in Biblical style, and for the purpose of the romance was presented as a translation from hieroglyphical writing upon metal plates exhumed from a mound, to which the author had been guided by a vision. It purported to be a history of the peopling of America by the lost tribes of Israel. Spaulding frequently read the manuscript to circles of admiring friends, and afterward carried it to Pittsburgh, leaving it, in the hope of having it published, in the care of a printer named Patterson. The manuscript was finally rejected. Spaulding died, and in 1820 his widow married John Davison of Hartwick, to which place the old trunk containing her first husband's manuscript was sent.
In 1823 Joseph Smith gave out that he had been directed in a vision to a hill near Palmyra, New York, where he discovered some gold plates curiously inscribed, and containing a new revelation. This supposed revelation he published in 1830 as the "Book of Mormon."
Mormonism flourished and moved westward. In the course of time a Mormon meeting was held in Conneaut, Ohio, and out of curiosity was largely attended by the townspeople. Some readings were given from the Book of Mormon, and certain of the hearers were astonished at the similarity between Joseph Smith's book and The Manuscript Found, which Solomon Spaulding had read aloud to friends in the same town many years before. They recognized the same peculiar names, unheard of elsewhere, such as Mormon, Maroni, Lamenite, and Nephi. It was learned, it is said, that Smith had closely followed Spaulding's story, adding only his own peculiar tenets about marriage, and inventing the theory of the great spectacles by means of which he professed to have deciphered the mysterious characters.
Spaulding's friends raised a question which has never been cleared up and was at last forgotten. It was pointed out that Sidney Rigdon, who figured as a preacher and as an adviser of Smith among the first of the "Latter Day Saints," happened to have been an employe in Patterson's printing office in Pittsburgh during the very period when Spaulding's manuscript was there awaiting approval or rejection. But the matter was never brought to a definite issue, and nothing more came of it except a rather curious episode. Mrs. Davison removed from Hartwick about 1828, leaving the trunk in charge of Jerome Clark. In 1834 a man named Hurlburt sought Mrs. Davison, and said that he had been sent by a committee to procure The Manuscript Found, written by Solomon Spaulding, so as to compare it with the Mormon Bible. He presented a letter from her brother, William H. Sabine, of Onondaga Valley, upon whose farm Joseph Smith had been an employe, requesting her to lend the manuscript to Hurlburt, in order "to uproot this Mormon fraud." Hurlburt represented that he himself had been a convert to Mormonism, but had given it up, and wished to expose its wickedness. On Hurlburt's repeated promise to return the work, Mrs. Davison gave him a note addressed to Jerome Clark of Hartwick, requesting him to open the old trunk and deliver the manuscript. This was done. Hurlburt took the manuscript, and not only did he never return it, but he never replied to any of the many letters requesting its return. The Spaulding manuscript has utterly disappeared.
The year 1768 brings another unique personage into the field of our local history. In that year the English met the Indians at Fort Stanwix (Rome, Oneida county) in a conference which resulted in establishing a formally acknowledged boundary between the territory of the red men and the land which the colonists had begun to make their own. The lands of the upper Susquehanna thus became, prior to the Revolution, the extreme western frontier of old New York, and Otsego Lake was included within English territory by a margin, at the west, of about twenty miles. Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, conducted the negotiations, and the securing of the Fort Stanwix deed was one of the most astute accomplishments of his long career.
An interested party to these proceedings was Sir William's deputy agent for Indian affairs, Colonel George Croghan, who had accompanied him to the conference. Nearly twenty years before, Croghan had obtained from the Indians a tract of land near Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh), in Pennsylvania. During this Fort Stanwix conference which established the new frontier Croghan succeeded in getting confirmation of the former grant, with the privilege of making an exchange for a tract of equal extent in the region now ceded to the English. Under this agreement Croghan and certain associates afterward took up 100,000 acres of land in what are now Otsego, Burlington, and New Lisbon townships, Otsego county. And so it came about that in the next year, 1769, Colonel George Croghan came to the foot of Otsego Lake, built him a hut, and was the first settler on the present site of Cooperstown.
The story of the fortune and failure of Croghan, who was a remarkable and picturesque character, reads like a romance. He so far surpassed all men of his time in genius for commerce with the Indians, and in skillful marketing of Indian products, that Hanna calls him "The King of the Traders." Lavish in his expenditures, big in his ventures, he made and lost fortunes with equal facility. He alternated between the height of opulence and the verge of bankruptcy. Like Sir William Johnson, Croghan had a special aptitude for making friendships with the Indians, so that, according to his own statement, "he was in such favor and confidence with the councils of the Six Nations that he was, in the year 1746, admitted by them as a Councillor into the Onondaga Councill, which is the Supreme Councill of the Six Nations. He understands the Language of the Six Nations and of several other of the Indian nations."
Long before the sojourn in Otsego, Croghan had become, during his fits of prosperity, a power in the Pennsylvania region, and probably deserved the pungently qualified praise of Hassler, who, in his Old Westmoreland, declares that "the man of most influence in this community [Fort Pitt, or Pittsburgh] was the fat old Trader and Indian-Agent, Colonel George Croghan, who lived on a pretentious plantation about four miles up the Allegheny River—an Irishman by birth and an Episcopalian by religion, when he permitted religion to trouble him."
Two documents relating to Croghan illustrate his extremes of fortune; the one a petition to protect him against imprisonment for debt, the other a complaint against him as a monopolist of the fur trade. It seems that in 1755 Croghan had been compelled by impending bankruptcy and fear of the debtor's prison to remove from settled parts of Pennsylvania, and to take refuge in the Indian country. Here he was in great danger from the French and their Indians, but wrote to the Governor of Pennsylvania that he was more afraid of imprisonment for debt than of losing his scalp. At a meeting of the Pennsylvania Assembly in November, 1755, fifteen creditors of Croghan presented a petition that Croghan and his partner, William Trent, be rendered free from debt for a space of ten years. The petition recited that there should be taken into consideration "the great knowledge of said George Croghan in Indian affairs, his extensive influence among them, and the service and public utility he may be of to this Province in these respects." In accordance with this petition a bill was passed by which Croghan was freed from the danger of arrest for debt, and, although the act was vetoed by King George II three years later, Croghan evidently made profitable use of his liberty.
On July 9, 1759, less than four years after Croghan so narrowly escaped the debtor's prison, a complaint from Philadelphia was addressed to the Governor of Pennsylvania protesting against Croghan's policy of crushing competitors in the trade with Indians by a control of prices in skins and peltry. The complaint was signed by the eight Provincial Commissioners for the Indian Trade newly appointed by the Assembly, including Edward Pennington, the celebrated Quaker merchant of Philadelphia; Thomas Willing, afterward a member of the Continental Congress, and the first president of the Bank of North America, the earliest chartered in the country; and William Fisher, who was mayor of Philadelphia just before the Revolution. Such formidable opposition shows that Croghan, from being an object of pity to his creditors, had risen to affluence as the head of a "trust."
Owing to his business methods, some of the Quakers were not well disposed toward Croghan. At a conference with the Delawares and Six Nations held at Easton, in 1758, one of the Quakers present wrote home an account of the proceedings in a tone not favorable to Croghan. "He treats them [the Indians] with liquor," wrote the Quaker, "and gives out that he himself is an Indian.... At the close of the conference one Nichos, a Mohawk, made a speech.... This Nichos is G. Croghan's father-in-law."
If Croghan is to be believed, however, he was opposed to giving liquor to the Indians. While arranging for this very conference he had written to Secretary Richard Peters of Pennsylvania, "You'll excuse boath writing and peper, and guess at my maining, fer I have at this minnitt 20 drunken Indians about me. I shall be ruined if ye taps are not stopt."
Although Croghan had come to America in 1741, this letter, with its "guess at my maining," and another in which he has "lase" for "lease," suggest that, if his pronunciation may be judged from his spelling, he retained a rich Irish brogue. Certainly his Irish wit and good nature served him well in his dealing with the Indians. He was frequently useful in outwitting the French Indian-agents, and in maintaining the friendship of the red men for the English as against the French. General Bouquet, who seems to have detested Croghan, wrote to General Gage, at a time when new powers had been conferred upon Indian-agents, "It is to be regretted that powers of such importance should be trusted to a man illiterate, impudent, and ill-bred." Nevertheless, within a few months, Bouquet wrote to Gage recommending Croghan as the person most competent to negotiate with the Western Indians for British control of the French posts in the Illinois country—a mission upon which Croghan was wounded, captured, and pillaged by the Indians. In 1768 the General Assembly in Philadelphia put upon record, in a message to the Governor, a high opinion of Croghan, referring to "the eminent services he has rendered to the Nation and its Colonies in conciliating the affections of the Indians to the British interest."
At the end of a stormy voyage from America, being shipwrecked on the Norman coast, Croghan reached England in February, 1764, bearing an important letter on Indian affairs from Sir William Johnson to the Lords of Trade. One might expect to find Croghan gratified by the comforts of London life as compared with the rough hardships of America. A scout under Washington's command, a captain of Indians under Braddock, a border ranger upon the western frontier, a trader upon the banks of the Ohio, a pioneer in many a wilderness, Croghan had seen all kinds of hard service in the twenty-three years since he left Ireland. But in the midst of metropolitan splendors he grew homesick for the wild life of the New World. Writing in March, and again in April, to American friends, he expressed his disgust with the city's pride and pomp, declared that he was sick of London and its vanities, and set forth as his chief ambition a desire to live on a little farm in America. In the autumn of the same year Croghan shipped for the long journey across the Atlantic. It is five years later that he appears at the foot of Otsego Lake, apparently in fulfillment of his desire to make a home and to be the founder of a settlement.
In 1769 Richard Smith came to the Susquehanna region from Burlington, New Jersey. The immediate purpose of his tour was to make a survey of the Otsego patent in which he, as one of the proprietors, was interested. Smith traveled up the Hudson River to Albany, thence along the Mohawk to Canajoharie, from which point his carefully kept journal abounds in interesting allusions to Otsego:
"13th. May. ... Pursuing a S. W. Course for Cherry Valley [from Canajoharie]. We met, on their Return, Four Waggons, which had carried some of Col. Croghan's Goods to his Seat at the Foot of Lake Otsego.... Capt. Prevost ... is now improving his Estate at the Head of the Lake; the Capt. married Croghan's Daughter....
"14th. ... Distance from Cherry Valley to Capt. Prevost's is 9 miles.
"15th. ... We arrived at Capt. Prevost's in 4 Hours, the Road not well cleared, but full of Stumps and rugged, thro' deep blac Mould all the Way.... Mr. Prevost has built a Log House, lined with rough Boards, of one story, on a Cove, which forms the Head of Lake Otsego. He has cleared 16 or 18 acres round his House and erected a Saw Mill. He began to settle only in May last.... The Capt. treated us elegantly. He has several Families seated near him....
"16th. We proceeded in Col. Croghan's Batteau, large and sharp at each end, down the Lake,... The Water of greenish cast, denoting probable Limestone bottom; the Lake is skirted on either side with Hills covered by White Pines and the Spruce called Hemloc chiefly. We saw a Number of Ducks, some Loons, Sea-gulls, and Whitish coloured Swallows, the Water very clear so that we descried the gravelly Bottom in one Part 10 or 12 Feet down. The rest of the Lake seemed to be very deep; very little low Land is to be seen round the Lake. Mr. Croghan, Deputy to Sir William Johnson, the Superintendent for Indian Affairs, is now here, and has Carpenters and other Men at Work preparing to build Two Dwelling Houses and 5 or 6 Out Houses. His Situation [on the site of the Cooper Grounds, within the present village of Cooperstown] commands a view of the whole Lake, and is in that Respect superior to Prevost's. The site is a gravelly, stiff clay, covered with towering white Pines, just where the River Susquehannah, no more than 10 or 12 yards broad, runs downward out of the Lake with a strong Current. Here we found a Body of Indians, mostly from Ahquhaga, come to pay their Devoirs to the Col.; some of them speak a little English.... We lodged at Col. Croghan's.
"23rd. ... At Col. Croghan's ... being rainy, we staid here all day.
"24th. It rained again. The Elevated Hills of this country seem to intercept the flying vapors and draw down more moisture than more humble places.... With 3 carpenters felled a white Pine Tree and began a Canoe.... Some Trout were caught this Morng. 22 Inches long; they are spotted like ours with Yellow Bellies, yellow flesh when boiled & wide mouths. There are Two species, the Common & the Salmon Trout. Some Chubs were likewise taken, above a Foot in length. The other Fish common in the Lake & other Waters, according to Information, are Pickerel, large and shaped like a Pike, Red Perch, Catfish reported to be upwards of Two feet long, Eels, Suckers, Pike, a few shad and some other Sorts not as yet perfectly known. The Bait now used is Pidgeon's Flesh or Guts, for Worms are scarce. The Land Frogs or Toads are very large, spotted with green and yellow, Bears and Deer are Common.... Muscetoes & Gnats are now troublesome. We observed a natural Strawberry Patch before Croghan's Door which is at present in bloom, we found the Ground Squirrels and small red squirrels very numerous and I approached near to one Rabbit whose Face appeared of a blac Colour.
"25th. We finished and launched our Canoe into the Lake. She is 32 feet 7 inches in Length and 2 Feet 4 inches broad....
"27th. ... We engaged Joseph Brant, the Mohawk, to go down with us to Aquahga. Last night a drunken Indian came and kissed Col. Croghan and me very joyously. Here are Natives of different Nations almost continually. They visit the Deputy Superintendent as Dogs to the Bone, for what they can get....
"We found many petrified Shells in these Parts, & sometimes on the Tops of High Hills.... Col. Croghan showed us a piece of Copper Ore, as supposed. The Indian who gave it to him said he found it on our Tract.... Col. C says that some of his Cows were out in the Woods all last Winter without Hay, and they now look well....
"The Col. had a Cargo of Goods arrived to-day, such as Hogs, Poultry, Crockery ware, and Glass. The settled Indian Wages here are 4s a Day, York Currency, being Half a Dollar.
"28th. Sunday. I had an Opportunity of inspecting the Bark Canoes often used by the Natives; these Boats are constructed of a single sheet of Bark, stripped from the Elm, Hiccory, or Chesnut, 12 or 14 Feet long, and 3 or 4 Feet broad, and sharp at each End, and these sewed with thongs of the same Bark. In Lieu of a Gunnel, they have a small Pole fastned with Thongs, sticks across & Ribs of Bark, and they deposit Sheets of Bark in her Bottom to prevent Breaches there. These vessels are very light, each broken and often patched with Pieces of Bark as well as corked with Oakum composed of pounded Bark.
"The Col. talks of building a Saw Mill and Grist Mill here on the Susquehannah, near his House, and has had a Millwright to view the Spot.
"29th. Myself, with Joseph Brant, his wife and Child, and another Young Mohawk named James, went down in the new Canoe to our upper Corner.... This River ... is full of Logs and Trees, and short, crooked Turns, and the Navigation for Canoes and Batteaux requires dexterity."
The household which Smith visited at the foot of Otsego Lake was an interesting one, and had some remarkable connections. There was not only "the fat old trader, and Indian-agent, Colonel George Croghan," but also his Indian wife, daughter of the Mohawk chief Nichos, or Nickas, of Canajoharie. Catherine, the Colonel's little daughter, then ten years old, helped her Indian mother with the household tasks, or danced in her play about the cabin door, little dreaming that she was afterward to become the third wife of Joseph Brant, the famous chieftain who had just guided Richard Smith down the Susquehanna.
Croghan's elder daughter, Susannah, who had married Captain Augustine Prevost, was the child of Croghan's first wife, a white woman. Capt. and Mrs. Prevost lived at the head of Otsego Lake, in a house where Swanswick now stands. Before the coming of Prevost, a settlement had been made here as early as 1762, the earliest permanent settlement on Otsego Lake. Captain Augustine Prevost, or Major Prevost, as he afterward became, was born at Geneva, Switzerland, in 1744, and died at the age of 77 years, at Greenville, N. Y., where the Prevost mansion still stands. He was twice married, and had twenty-two children. Prevost was beloved as a bosom friend and companion by Joseph Brant, and their intimacy was interrupted, much to the Mohawk's sorrow, only when Prevost was ordered to join his regiment in Jamaica in 1772. This friendship with Croghan's son-in-law seems to have brought the famous Mohawk chieftain as a frequent visitor to Otsego Lake, and may account for his attachment and subsequent marriage to Croghan's younger daughter. Thus is completed the circle of intimates that gathered at Croghan's hut, on the present site of Cooperstown, in 1769—the Irish trader; his Indian squaw; the British officer and his wife; the young half-Indian girl; and the Mohawk warrior whose name was to become a terror to settlers throughout the Susquehanna Valley—the same who afterward was received at court in London, who dined with Fox, Burke, and Sheridan, was lionized by Boswell, and had his portrait painted by Romney.
Croghan's attempted settlement was not a success. He began to show signs of failing health and waning fortune. On July 18, 1769, he wrote from Lake Otsego to Thomas Wharton of Philadelphia, "Eight days ago I was favored with yours. I should have answered it before now, but was then lying in a violent fit of the gout, for ye first time, wh. has confin'd me to bed for 18 days, & now am only able to sit up on ye bedside." During the next winter Croghan was in New York and Philadelphia, but in March and April, 1770, he was again at Otsego, whence he wrote to Sir William Johnson concerning financial difficulties. In May he wrote of a proposed journey southward for his health and business interests.
But Croghan was never in business for his health. In October he was once more on his old plantation near Fort Pitt, where Washington, on an exploring expedition, visited him and dined with him. It seems that he was trying to persuade Washington to buy land of him in the West, and, according to Washington's surveyor, Captain William Crawford, was using Washington's prospective purchases as an inducement to others, at the same time not being very sure of his title, "selling any land that any person will buy of him, inside or outside of his line."
Croghan never returned to Otsego. He mortgaged his tract of land to William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin, and lost it under foreclosure in 1773. The title later passed to William Cooper and Andrew Craig, both of Burlington, New Jersey, which was also the home of Richard Smith, who had visited Croghan at Otsego.
Appended to one of Croghan's deeds is a map purporting to show the improvements which he had made at the foot of the lake, but, says Fenimore Cooper, "it is supposed that this map was made for effect." When William Cooper first visited the spot, in 1785, the only building was one of hewn logs, about fifteen feet square, probably Croghan's hut, deserted and dismantled, standing in the space now included in the Cooper Grounds, near the site of the present Clark Estate office. Except for the visit of Clinton's troops in 1779, the place had been abandoned for fifteen years. The only signs of "improvements" were seen in a few places cleared of underbrush, with felled and girdled trees, and in the remains of some log fences already falling into ruin. Silence and desolation had fallen upon "the little farm in America" upon which Croghan had dreamed of passing his declining years.
In an inventory of the estate of Alexander Ross of Pittsburgh, 1784, appears in the record of effects a promissory note made by George Croghan, with this appended remark: "Dead, and no Property."
[Footnote 16: The Old New York Frontier, 32.]
[Footnote 17: The Old New York Frontier, 61.]
[Footnote 18: Four Great Rivers, Halsey, lvii.]
[Footnote 19: Four Great Rivers, 35.]
[Footnote 20: Henry M. Pohlman, D.D., Hartwick Seminary Memorial Volume, 1867, p. 21.]
[Footnote 21: Pohlman, 23.]
[Footnote 22: James Pitcher, D.D., Centennial Address, 1897, p. 7.]
[Footnote 23: Hartwick Sem. Mem., 27.]
[Footnote 24: History of Cooperstown, Livermore, 11.]
[Footnote 25: "The Book of Mormon," Scribner's Magazine, August, 1880.]
[Footnote 26: The Wilderness Trail, Chas. A. Hanna, II, 59, 60.]
[Footnote 27: The Wilderness Trail, II, 30.]
[Footnote 28: The Wilderness Trail, II, 8.]
[Footnote 29: do., II, 20.]
[Footnote 30: Published in Four Great Rivers.]
[Footnote 31: This current is now sluggish, owing to the dam of the water works lower down the river.]
[Footnote 32: The largest Indian village in the Susquehanna Valley, about 50 miles in an air line from Otsego, twice as far by water, situated on the river at a point where the present village of Windsor stands, some 14 miles easterly from Binghamton.]
[Footnote 33: The Wilderness Trail, II, 84.]
[Footnote 34: The Old New York Frontier, 125.]
[Footnote 35: The Old New York Frontier, 320.]
A BYPATH OF THE REVOLUTION
The settlers on the New York frontier were many of them Scotch-Irish, nursing an inherited hostility to England. The greater part of the Iroquois Indians, more particularly the Mohawks, had a sentimental regard for the covenant which, for a century, had made the red men loyal to the British king. Here was a native antagonism between settlers and Indians which during the Revolution partly contributed to the warfare of torch and scalping knife that raged in the Susquehanna region.
Brant, the Mohawk chief, although himself a full-blooded Indian, known among his own people as Thayendanegea, had become, through long association with Sir William Johnson and his friends, a king's man and churchman. With the doctrines of the Church of England which he had embraced on becoming a communicant, he adopted also the contempt for dissenters which was so common among churchmen. Once, on tasting a crabapple, it is said, Brant puckered up his mouth, and exclaimed, "It is as bitter as a Presbyterian!" While in other parts of the country many churchmen espoused the cause of American independence, it happened that in the Susquehanna region the patriots were generally Calvinists.
Another contributory cause of trouble between the Indians and frontiersmen had to do with the lands around the Mohawk villages, concerning which there had been frequent disputes since the Fort Stanwix treaty.
In May, 1777, Brant established himself with a band of Indian warriors and some Tories at Unadilla, driving out the settlers, and serving notice upon all that they must either leave the country or declare themselves for the English cause. At a conference held among officers of the American forces it was decided that General Nicholas Herkimer, the military chief of Tryon county, (which then included the region that later became Otsego county), should go to Unadilla to parley with the Indians. Herkimer, with 380 men, came down from Canajoharie through Cherry Valley to Otsego Lake, and thence along the Susquehanna River to Unadilla, which he reached late in June. Thus the Indian trail which passed near Council Rock was first used as the path of the paleface warriors.
The conference at Unadilla found the Indians fully determined for the British cause, and came to an abrupt termination, beneath darkened skies, amid a hubbub of Mohawk war-whoops and the rattle of a sudden hailstorm that swooped down upon the assemblage. Herkimer marched his men back to Cherry Valley.
Six weeks later the battle of Oriskany was fought, a victory for the militia of Tryon County, but a costly victory, for it inflamed their hitherto lukewarm Indian enemies with the spirit of revenge, and set in motion the forces of border warfare which during the next five years desolated the frontier. The forays along the border had a direct relation to the central conflict of the Revolutionary War. With the Indians for allies it was the policy of the British to harry the settlers on the frontier, in order to draw away to their defense forces that were essential to the strength of the Americans in the Hudson Valley. Aside from motives of private vengeance among Indians and Tories, this was the military purpose which determined the burning of Springfield, at the head of Otsego Lake, in June, 1778, and the massacre of Cherry Valley in November.
To protect the frontier against further raids, an expedition was planned, consisting of two divisions: one under General John Sullivan, which was to cross from Easton to the Susquehanna, and thence ascend the river to Tioga Point (Athens, Pa.); the other, under General James Clinton, was to proceed from Albany up the Mohawk to Canajoharie, crossing to Otsego Lake, and going thence down the Susquehanna to Tioga Point, where the two divisions were to unite in a combined attack upon the Indian settlements in Western New York. This expedition involved one-third of Washington's whole army.
General Clinton's force included about 1,800 men, bringing three months' provisions and 220 boats from Schenectady up the Mohawk to Canajoharie, where the brigade went into camp.
The twenty miles overland to Otsego Lake was traversed during the latter part of June, 1779, the boats and stores being carried in wagons, several hundred horses having been made ready for this purpose at Canajoharie. Part of the brigade reached the lake by means of the Continental road, of which traces still remain, leading to the shore near the mouth of Shadow Brook in Hyde Bay. Here they launched their fleet of bateaux and floated down the lake to their landing at the present site of Cooperstown. "This passage down the lake was made on a lovely summer's day, and the surrounding hills being covered with living green, every dash of the oar throwing up the clear, sparkling water, a thousand delighted warblers greeting them from the shores as the response of the martial music from the boats—the whole being so entirely novel—the effect must have been truly enchanting and picturesque."
Apparently not all the regiments took the same route. Lieut. Erkuries Beatty, of the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment, says in his journal that "the regiment marched by Cherry Valley to the lower end of the lake," while the baggage of the detachment went to the Springfield landing, with a proper guard. From this point, himself being in the party, "we put the baggage on board boats," he says, "and proceeded to the lower end of the lake, and found the regiment there before us."
During the first week in July the entire brigade had become encamped at the foot of the lake, to remain here, as it turned out, for a period of five weeks. The present Cooper Grounds, where the Indians, long before, had planted their apple trees, and where Colonel Croghan, in 1769, had built his hut, now became the scene of a military encampment. Lieut. Beatty's journal describes the location of the various regiments in Camp Lake Otsego, as it was called. Croghan's house, which stood near the site of the present Clark Estate office, was used as a magazine, and around it was encamped a company of artillery, under Capt. Thomas Machin. Here also the stores were gathered. On the right of the artillery, facing the lake, the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment was encamped, while on the left were the tents of Colonel Peter Gansevoort's Third New York Regiment. At the latter's rear, in the second line, was the Fifth New York, under command of Col. Lewis Dubois; behind the artillery camp lay Col. Alden's Sixth Massachusetts Regiment; and the Fourth New York, under Lieut.-Col. Weissenfels, occupied the space at the rear of the Fourth Pennsylvania. A few Oneida Indians came with Col. Alden's regiment and encamped on the banks of the lake, where "they all soon got drunk," says Beatty, "and made a terrible noise."
On the Fourth of July, which fell upon Sunday, the third anniversary of the American Independence was celebrated at Camp Lake Otsego, General Clinton "being pleased to order that all troops under his command should draw a gill of rum per man, extraordinary, in memory of that happy event." The troops assembled at three o'clock in the afternoon and paraded on the bank at the south end of the lake. The brigade was drawn up in one line along the shore, with the two pieces of artillery on the right. The ceremony of the occasion is described by Lieut. van Hovenburgh as a "fudie joy." A salute of thirteen guns was fired by the artillery, and three volleys from the muskets of the infantry, with three cheers from all the troops after each fire. The troops were then drawn up in a circle by columns on a little hill, and the Rev. John Gano, a Baptist minister, chaplain of the brigade, preached from Exodus xii, 14: "This day shall be unto you for a memorial ... throughout your generations." After the dismissal of the troops, Col. Rignier, the Adjutant General, gave an invitation to all the officers to come and drink grog with him in the evening. "Accordingly," says Lieut. Beatty, "a number of officers (almost all) assembled at a large Bowry which he had prepared on the bank of the lake. We sat on the ground in a large circle, and closed the day with a number of toasts suitable and a great deal of mirth for two or three hours, and then returned to our tents."
The stay at Otsego Lake seems to have been for the most part a pleasant experience. There was plenty to eat. A drove of fat cattle was brought from the Mohawk valley for the use of the troops. The Sixth Massachusetts improved upon the culinary equipment of camp life by the construction of a huge oven. Lieut. McKendry writes enthusiastically of the delicious apples and cucumbers gathered near the camp. Col. Rignier was a leader of fishing parties, and quantities of trout were taken from the lake to be served sizzling hot from the coals to hungry soldiers. There was much liquid refreshment, for the officers at least, which came not from lake or river. On June 28th there had been a luncheon of officers at Camp Liberty, Low's Mills (near Swanswick), greatly enlivened by the toasts that were drunk, for General Clinton had given to each officer a keg of rum containing two gallons. On July 7, Lieut. Beatty records that "all the officers of the line met this evening at the large Bower, and took a sociable drink of grog given by Col. Gansevoort's officers." This sociable drink seems to have created an appetite for more. Under date of July 8, the next day, this laconic entry appears in the journal of Lieut. McKendry: "The officers drew each one keg more of rum."
Had the journals of the officers been more confiding in their records, an intimate view of the camp life might have been disclosed to posterity. For example, judging from McKendry's journal alone, Sunday, August 1, was decorously uneventful. He has this entry:
"August 1, Sunday—Mr. Gano delivered a sermon."
Lieut. Beatty also remembers the sermon, but frankly subordinates it to other incidents of the day to which Lieut. McKendry was indifferent, or thought best not to allude. Beatty has this comment:
"August 1, Sunday—To-day at 11 o'clock the officers of the brigade met agreeable to general orders to learn the Salute with the Sword. The General's curiosity led him out to see how they saluted.
"After they were dismissed the officers formed a circle round the General and requested of him to give them a keg of rum to drink. We little expected to have the favour granted us, but we happened to take the General in one of his generous thoughts, which he is but seldom possessed of, and instead of one he gave us six. We gratefully acknowledged the favour with thanks, and immediately repaired to the cool spring where we drank two of our kegs with a great deal of mirth and harmony, toasting the General frequently—and then returned to our dinners. In the afternoon Parson Gano gave us a sermon."
On the next morning at 11 o'clock the officers again assembled at the spring "to finish the remainder of our kegs," says Beatty, "which we did with the sociability we had done the day before," and, he might have added, with twice as much rum.
To the troops in general rum was measured out with a more sparing hand. Their pleasures were of a simpler kind, and they seem to have contented themselves with fishing in the lake, hunting and roaming through the woods, inviting an occasional attack from stray Indians, which added the zest of adventure to the routine of camp life. One Sunday afternoon some soldiers found, concealed in a thicket of bushes and covered with bark, near one of the pickets, "a very fine chest of carpenter's tools, and some books, map, and number of papers. It is supposed," says Beatty, "that it was the property of Croghan who formerly lived here, but is now gone to the enemy. Therefore the chest is a lawful prize to the men that found it."
The five weeks at the foot of Otsego Lake were not, however, passed in idleness. The troops were drilled every day. Target practice for the musketry is recorded by the journals of officers, and a brass cannon-ball marked "J. C.," found more than a century later in the Glen road, west of the village, suggests that the artillery was also engaged in the perfecting of its marksmanship, which must have awakened strange echoes amid the hills of Otsego.
There were two incidents of camp life that were long remembered among Clinton's troops, the one a bit of comedy, the other a grim commonplace of martial law. The latter related to the discipline of deserters, to whom various degrees of punishment were meted out by court-martial. On July 20 two deserters were brought into camp, and on the next day three others. The more fortunate were sentenced to be whipped. Sergeant Spears, of the Sixth Massachusetts, was tied to a tree, and the woods resounded to the blows of the lash, until one hundred strokes had fallen upon his naked back. Another soldier received five hundred lashes. Three were sentenced to be shot—Jonathan Pierce, soldier in the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment; Frederick Snyder, of the Fourth Pennsylvania; Anthony Dunnavan, of the Third New York.
On July 28, at nine o'clock in the morning, the whole brigade was ordered out on grand parade to witness the execution of the three men. The condemned deserters were required to stand, with their backs to the river, on the rise of land at the west side of the lake's outlet. The troops were drawn up facing them. A firing squad made ready.
All stood motionless, expectant, silent. It was a day that blazed with sunshine, intensely hot. The air was breathless. Shore and sky were reflected, as in a mirror, from the unruffled surface of the lake.
Meantime information had come to General Clinton that Dunnavan had previously deserted from the British army to join the Americans, and afterward had persuaded the two younger men to desert with him from the American forces. Clinton, manifestly glad of an excuse for leniency, pardoned Pierce and Snyder on the spot. Concerning Dunnavan he was obdurate. "He is good for neither king nor country," exclaimed the General; "Let him be shot."
A crash of musketry, with a puff of smoke, and Dunnavan dropped. The troops marched back to camp. The deserter's body was buried in an unmarked grave.
The other incident relates to some negro troops who were included in the brigade. That they might readily be distinguished the negroes wore wool hats with the brim and lower half of the crown colored black—the remainder being left drab, or the native color. A company or two of these black soldiers were included in a part of the brigade that was one day being drilled by Col. Rignier, the popular French officer, a large, well-made, jovial fellow, who was acting as Adjutant General. One of the negro soldiers, from inattention, failed to execute a command in proper time.
"Halloo!" cried the colonel, "you black son of a—wid a wite face!—why you no mind you beezness?"
This hasty exclamation in broken English so pleased the troops that a general burst of laughter followed. Seeing the men mirthful at his expense, the colonel good-humoredly gave the command to order arms.
"Now," said he, "laugh your pelly full all!"
The French colonel himself joined in the shout that followed, while hill and dale echoed the boisterous merriment.
Clinton's expedition is chiefly memorable in Cooperstown for the exploit by which the heavily laden bateaux, when the brigade departed for the south, were carried down the Susquehanna. The river was too shallow and narrow, in the first reaches of its course, to offer easy passage for the heavy boats, and for some distance the stream was clogged with flood-wood and fallen trees. This difficulty was overcome by building a dam at the outlet of Otsego Lake, raising its level to such a point that, when the water was released, the more than two hundred bateaux were readily guided down the swollen stream.
The preparation for this feat preceded the encampment of the brigade on the shore of the lake. On June 21, before Clinton had left Canajoharie, Colonel William Butler, who had marched his Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment over from Cherry Valley to Springfield, "ordered a party of men to the foot of the Lake to dam the same, that the water might be raised to carry the boats down the Susquehanna River; Captain Benjamin Warren, of the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment, commanded the party.... The water in the Lake was raised one foot." General Clinton says "at least two," while another account claims that the surface of the lake was raised as much as three feet.
Another reference to this exploit is found in the journal of Lieut. Beatty, who says, under date of June 22, "On the lower end of the lake we found two companies of Col. Alden's (Sixth Mass.) Reg't, who had made a dam across the neck that runs out of the lake, so as to raise the water to carry the boats down the creek."
On Friday, August 6, the following conversation took place at a conference between General Clinton and Chaplain Gano:
"Chaplain," said the General, "you will have your last preaching service here day after to-morrow."
"Ah indeed! Are we to march soon? Before another Sunday?"
"Yes, but I do not want the men to know it."
"Nor shall I tell them; but General, am I at liberty to preach from any text I choose?"
"And you will not, in any event, tax me with violation of confidence?"
"No! only stick to your Bible, and I'll give the official orders."
On the following Sunday, beneath the arches of their forest cathedral, the brigade of nearly two thousand men was gathered for religious service. Chaplain Gano chose the text of the sermon from Acts xx. 7: "Ready to depart on the morrow."
Immediately on the conclusion of the religious service, before the congregation had dispersed, "the general rose up," says the chaplain's record, "and ordered each captain to appoint a certain number of men out of his company to draw the boats from the lake and string them along the Susquehanna below the dam, and load them, that they might be ready to depart the next morning." At six o'clock in the evening the sluice-way was broken up, and the water filled the river, which was almost dry the day before.
On Monday morning the start was made. Each of the boats was manned by three men. The light infantry and rifle corps under Colonel Butler formed an advance guard. The soldiers marched on either side of the river. Another guard of infantry marched in the rear, and in the centre of the land lines the horses and cattle were driven. "The first day," says McKendry, "the boats made thirty miles, and the troops marching each side of the river made sixteen."
The freshet caused by the sudden release of the pent-up water swelled the stream for a distance of more than a hundred miles. Campbell says that as far south as Tioga the rise in the water was great enough to flow back into the western branch, causing the Chemung River to reverse its course. The Gazetteer of New York said that the Indians upon the banks of the Susquehanna, witnessing the extraordinary rise of the river in midsummer, without any apparent cause, were struck with superstitious dread, and in the very outset were disheartened at the apparent interposition of the Great Spirit in favor of their foes. Stone observes that the sudden swelling of the river, bearing upon its surge a flotilla of more than two hundred vessels, through a region of primitive forests, was a spectacle which might well appall the untutored inhabitants of the region thus invaded.
Clinton's brigade joined General Sullivan's division at Tioga Point on the 22nd of August. From this place the combined forces began a campaign of ruthless destruction against the Indians of the Genesee country. Stone says the Indians were hunted like wild beasts, their villages were burned, their corn was destroyed, their fruit trees were cut down; till neither house, nor field of corn, nor inhabitants remained in the whole country. The power of the Iroquois was gone. Homeless in their own land, the Indians marched to Niagara, where they passed the winter under the protection of the English.
The Sullivan expedition had accomplished its purpose, with the loss of only forty men.
In 1788, in the digging of the cellar of William Cooper's first house, which stood on Main Street at the present entrance of the Cooper Grounds, a large iron cannon was discovered, said to have been buried by Clinton's troops. For ten or twelve years after the settlement of the place, this cannon, which came to be affectionately known as "the Cricket," was the only piece of artillery used for the purposes of salutes and merrymakings in the vicinity of Cooperstown. After about fifty years of this service it burst in the cause of rejoicing on a certain Fourth of July. At the time of its final disaster (for it had met with many vicissitudes), it is said that there was no perceptible difference in size between its touchhole and its muzzle.