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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 41: A Period of Growth and Development — 1748-1755.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 556-563 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Period between the old French war and the beginning of the great French and Indian War — Dispute as to first settlement in present Canajoharie village.

The six years of truce between France and England in America, from 1748 to 1754, were marked by development in the Mohawk Valley along the lines indicated in previous chapters, relative to its settlement and growth.

In the year 1737 the population of the province of New York was 60,437; in 1749 at the end of King George's war it was 73,448. In 1737 the population of Albany County, including the Mohawk Valley, was 10,687 and, in 1749, it was 10,634. This standstill in population in Albany County was caused by the exodus of many people, from this exposed frontier, during King George's or the Old French war.

The Mohawk Valley, as previously stated, was then part of Albany County and numbered nearly one-quarter of its population, so that it is probable that the population of the Mohawk Valley was about 2,500 in 1737 and in 1749. The wonder is that it was so much at the end of King George's war, but the Dutch and Palatine cradles furnished their quotas to fill the ranks of the timid ones who ran away.

In 1749, Governor Clinton reported that the forts of "Albany, Schenectadee, Oswego & in the Mohawks' country, were all garrisoned by the Independent companys but are very bady contrived and tumbling down." In this year Abbe Picquet built a fort and storehouse at present Ogdensburg, on the St. Lawrence, then known as Oswegatchie. It was attacked and burned by the Mohawks, October 26th, 1749, but was rebuilt. There were 87 families there in 1750 and 396 in 1757. This fort — later Fort Presentation — had an important bearing on the history of the Mohawk Valley and that of the Mohawk-St. Lawrence-Champlain triangle, of which our Valley forms a part. The Indians from Oswegatchie were removed to the Mohawk Valley near the Big Nose after the Seven Years' war.

Colonel Johnson built present stone Fort Johnson in 1749, and moved into it in January, 1750. It was known as Mount Johnson until it was stockaded in 1755, when it became Fort Johnson.

[Photo: The Dining Room in Fort Johnson, Amsterdam]

On August 2, 1749, Governor Clinton ordered delivery to Colonel Johnson of all papers relating to the Indian department. Johnson was entrusted with the delicate mission of the exchange of war prisoners between the Six Nations and French which he successfully accomplished but with difficulties which severely tried his masterful diplomacy and his unbounded energy.

In May, 1750, Colonel Johnson was appointed a member of the governor's council, one of the most important positions in the Province of New York. He was not sworn in until July 10, 1751.

In July, 1750, Colonel Johnson entertained the famous Swedish naturalist, Peter Kalm, at Mount Johnson. On December 4, 1750, Johnson held a council with the Mohawks. These councils became so numerous that only the most important ones can be mentioned.

The year 1750 was marked by considerable building activity and a number of houses and churches were erected which were important structures for that time, small as they may seem today. Several of these buildings largely enter into the later history of our Valley and are worthy of mention.

Fort Klock, near present St. Johnsville, was built by Johannes Klock in 1750. Its mason builder was Willem Pick. It is a very strongly built stone house resting on the solid rock, from which issues a living spring. The Klock house faced the King's Highway, which then followed the New York Central tracks through a considerable part of the Valley from Schenectady to present St. Johnsville. The Klock homestead was stockaded during the Revolution, when it became a strong neighborhood defense of the militia.

Fort Wagner was built about 1750 by Johan Peter Wagner, an immigrant from the Rhine Palatinate to New York in 1710, who settled on the Schoharie in 1714 and removed to the Mohawk Valley about 1723. His son, Johan Peter (born 1722), became lieutenant colonel of the Palatine regiment of Tryon County militia of the Revolution. During that war, the stone Wagner house was palisaded and became Fort Wagner, a strong neighborhood fortification. To the southeast of the fort is a small hill called the Steilerberg (German, "steep hill"). This was evidently a Mohawk village site as many relics have been found on it. The Wagner family burial plot was located on the northwestern point of this peculiar hill.

About the year 1750, the "Reformed Dutch Church of Canajoharie" was built on Sand Hill at the western end of present Fort Plain. Sand Hill was then an important point in the Valley, with a store, tavern and blacksmith shop. The church was built on the top of Sand Hill on the Dutchtown road. It was known as the Reformed Dutch Church of Canajoharie, the latter then being the name of the entire Mohawk River district between the Noses and Fall Hill (Little Falls). This church was burned by Brant's raiders in 1780. Although not directly connected, the Fort Plain Reformed Church, when built in 1834, drew to it the Sand Hill congregation. The Sand Hill church was probably the fifth built along the Mohawk River.

In 1750, Marte Janse Van Alstyne bought the eastern half of the Canajoharie property from his partner, Hendrick Schrembling. Van Alstyne then came to the site of the present village of Canajoharie and built a stone house on his property close to the Canajoharie Creek. Here he kept tavern and this house later became famous as the favorite meeting place of the Tryon County Committee of Safety. It is now the headquarters of the Fort Rensselaer Club of Canajoharie. Schrembling moved over to the west side of Canajoharie Creek and built a store, grist mill and tavern, the latter on a site which (in 1924) had been occupied for hotel purposes for 175 years, the Hotel Wagner now occupying the location. Van Alstyne's tavern and Schrembling's tavern, grist mill and store made present Canajoharie an important trade and travel center, at a time when there was but one village and four hamlets along the Mohawk River — the town of Schenectady and the hamlets of Caughnawaga, Sand Hill (present Fort Plain), Fort Herkimer and Herkimer (German Flats). Confusion is added to the "Canajoharies" of Colonial days by the fact that the site of present Canajoharie village was then called "Canajoharie" as well as "Schrembling's." Canajoharie Creek was then called Bowman's Creek and the present Cherry Valley Mountains were the "Brimstone Hills," deriving their name from the sulphurous fumes emanating from present Sharon Springs.

There is considerable dispute as to the first settlement in present Canajoharie village. Some members of the Van Alstyne family claim that Marte Janse Van Alstyne came to present Canajoharie as early as 1723 and that he started building the Van Alstyne house in 1729. The foregoing account is summarized from the writings of Mr. S. L. Frey, an authority on Canajoharie as well as all Mohawk Valley history.

By 1750, the English-speaking population of Schenectady had increased to such an extent that preliminary steps were taken for the erection of an Episcopal Church. The French and Indian war retarded its construction and St. George's Church was not completed for use until 1762 and was "finishing" even as late as 1769.

Several old houses of Schenectady date from this period of Valley growth and development. Among them are the Robert Sanders house at 43 Washington Avenue, where Washington took tea in 1775, and the Abraham Fonda and the Vrooman houses both of which are said to have been built in 1752.

April 24, 1751, Colonel William Johnson petitioned for a license to purchase 130,000 acres of land on the Charlotte River. The French were now very busy trying to undermine English influence among the Indians, a policy they pursued up to the breaking out of the French and Indian war in 1754. They sent Jesuit priests and emissaries constantly among the Indian tribes to stir up trouble and turn them against each other as well as against the English. Colonel Johnson, as Provincial Indian agent, was constantly engaged in combating this French intrigue.

In 1751, the French planned the establishment of a Jesuit mission and a military and trading post on Onondaga Lake, the very center of the Iroquois Confederacy. Colonel Johnson killed this scheme by hurrying to Onondaga and inducing the Onondaga sachems to deed him the land on, along and two miles back from the lake. Johnson was granted this land in 1753 by the governor's council.

Because of his inability to secure payment from the Assembly for supplies and for expenses, Colonel Johnson resigned his office of Indian agent at a council between Governor Clinton and the Indians at Albany, July 5, 1751. Upon the Iroquois receiving notification of this, a deputation waited upon the Governor and protested against the Colonel's resignation. King Hendrick said of Johnson: "We had him, when he was like a tree that grew for our use, which now seems to be falling down, though it has many roots. His knowledge of our affairs made us think him an Indian like ourselves; and we are greatly afraid, as he has declined, that your excellency will appoint some person — a stranger both to us and our affairs." Johnson, however, refused to resume the hard work of the Indian agent as long as the Assembly refused payment for the goods he had furnished Fort Oswego, for which there was then still unpaid nearly 4,000 pounds.

Colonel Johnson's uncle, Sir Peter Warren, had been made an admiral of the red in 1748 and presented with the freedom of the city of London, because of his success over the French on the seas. Warren died July 29, 1752. Johnson was commissioned, in this year, to investigate irregularities in the customs service at Oswego.

In 1753, the Mohawks and the other Six Nations tribes were alarmed by reports that the French were to build forts on the Ohio River, which the Iroquois claimed as part of their empire. Hendrick accompanied by several Mohawk sachems went to New York to lay the matter before the Governor and ask for action on the part of the Provincial authorities to thwart these French designs.

Hendrick there said "Hitherto you have desired that the paths should be kept open by us, but now, you make no effort to keep the French from closing them, but throw the whole burden upon us. If, therefore, you do not endeavor to redress our grievances the rest of our brethren of the Six Nations shall know of it and all paths shall be stopped."

Receiving no definite promises from Governor Clinton, Hendrick abruptly broke off all relations between the Provincial government, and the Mohawk Nation, for the first time in its history, a matter which had possibility of the gravest results for the English Colonies.

The governor's council suggested that Colonel Johnson endeavor to restore good relations between the Iroquois and the Colony. Colonel Johnson at once called and held a council with the Mohawks at Mount Johnson at which he announced a council at Onondaga for September. This was conducted so successfully by Johnson that the covenant chain of friendship again bound fast the red and white "brethren."

Governor Clinton was succeeded by Sir Danvers Osborn on October 10th, 1753. Justice James DeLancey, at the same time was commissioned lieutenant-governor. Osborn, who was ill and depressed, committed suicide that night by hanging. DeLancey thereupon became acting governor. From an advocate of popular rights, the Justice became, overnight, a strong proponent of the rights of the Crown.

Early in 1754, the Lords of Trade and Plantations directed the governors of the English colonies in America to urge their assemblies to send delegates to an American Colonial congress which would make a treaty of friendship and alliance with the wavering Indian tribes. Seven colonies complied and sent delegates to the convention, which was held in Albany, beginning June 29, 1754. New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire sent delegates. While the Iroquois were still disaffected toward the English, the influence of Sir William Johnson and his friend, the Mohawk chief, King Hendrick, brought about the attendance of a number of chiefs of the Six Nations.

The congress was barren of immediate results. Benjamin Franklin, a delegate from Pennsylvania, prepared a plan of Colonial confederation, which was rejected by the Crown because it gave the Colonists too much liberty and disapproved by the Colonists because it gave them too little. The "Albany plan" as it was called was the seed from which the later Constitution of the United States developed, and it was a subject of discussion for years thereafter in the Colonies. Through Johnson's influence, the Iroquois maintained their English allegiance.

King Hendrick, leading sachem of the Mohawks, made the best speech of the council. He promised that the Six Nations would securely hold the covenant chain. Referring to the fact that many of the Iroquois had gone to live at Oswegatchie under French protection, Hendrick said this was because the English had neglected the Six Nations and that many of their people were starving. Continuing he said:

"Brethren, we have not as yet confirmed the peace with them. [Meaning the French-Indian allies.] 'Tis your fault, brethren, we are not strengthened by conquest, for we should have gone and taken Crown Point, but you hindered us. We had concluded to go and take it, but were told it was too late, that the ice would not bear us. Instead of this you burned your own fort at Sarraghtogee [near old Fort Hardy] and ran away from it, which was a shame and scandal to you. Look about your country and see; you have no fortifications about you — no, not even to this city. 'Tis but one step from Canada hither, and the French may easily come and turn you out of doors. Brethren, you were desirous we should open our minds and our hearts to you; look at the French, they are men — they are fortifying everywhere; but, we are ashamed to say it, you are like women, bare and open, without any fortifications."

Abraham, brother of King Hendrick, and chief of the Lower Castle, then made a speech asking for the reinstatement of Colonel Johnson as Indian agent.

Governor DeLancey's reply to the Indian orators was conciliatory and the results of the Indian side of the conference were satisfactory. Johnson prepared a plan for the management of the Six Nations and for the best method of preventing the success of French designs. The commissioners took home to their respective Colonial governments Johnson's plan for consideration. In this epochal convention, Colonel Johnson was one of the foremost figures and fully equal in influence and constructive ability to Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.

In the seven years of peace, between the ending of the Old French war, 1748, and the beginning of hostilities of the Seven Years' war in the Province of New York in 1755, the population of Albany County had greatly increased while that of the Mohawk Valley probably had nearly doubled. The population of Albany County, in 1749, was 10,634 and in 1756, it had grown to 17,424, while that of the Mohawk Valley probably was 5,000, including the white and black people of the entire watershed which also comprehended the Schoharie Valley. Including Indians, the people of the Mohawk Valley, probably numbered close to 6,000 at the beginning of 1756. There were no separate returns for the Mohawk Valley and the local population has to be estimated. The population of Albany County in 1756, was the largest of that of the ten counties of the Province of New York, which then had a total population of 96,765. The French and Indian or Seven Years' war tended again to greatly decrease the population of the Mohawk Valley, always the most exposed frontier of the Colony. However, at the close of the great French war, the Province and the Mohawk Valley experienced a growth and development which was proportionately the greatest of any period in our Valley's history.

The short-lived peace, between the Old French war and the Great French and Indian war, was now drawing to a close. Former settlers had returned to their Valley homes at the close of the last war in 1748 and newcomers had come in in considerable numbers. The six years had constituted a period of wonderful development along the Mohawk but this brief time of peace was soon to merge into the third French and Indian war, which ravaged this fair Valley.

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