A SKETCH OF SOME OF THE PROMINENT FAMILIES
"Hunting of witches and warlocks,
The earliest settlers of Danube were German immigrants or their immediate descendants, principally from south or Swabian Germany, and the inciting cause of their immigration was the ravages committed in Rhenis Germany by the French armies in the latter years of the seventeenth and earlier years of the eighteenth centuries.
Prior to the Revolution there were a few outlying farms from the Burnetsfield settlement along the Mohawk river, chief among whose occupants we note General Nicholas Herkimer. To trace the Herkimer family however is no part of our present purpose. That task belongs to abler historians and to a more pretentious page. After the war and the consequent abandonment by the Mohawks of this settlement at Nowadaga the settlers were reinforced by others from the Stone Arabia and Canajoharie settlements, followed by still others from the Hudson and from New England. The latter represented the Anglo-saxon element, while among the former came descendants of the original settlers from the low countries. From these three nationalities, the South Germans or Paltines, the Netherlanders, and the New England Yankees came the pioneers of Danube, and from such sources as we have been able to examine we have gleaned the facts we have here recorded.
In 1757 according to the report of the French authorities in Canada, there were two dwellings below Fall Hill. Warner Dygert, a brother-in-law of General Herkimer, and a leader among the patriots kept a hotel at Fall Hill prior to the revolution. He was killed during one of the raids in 1780 and his son, aged twelve years, named according to family tradition Sylvanus, was taken to Canada where he spent the remainder of his life. The McChesney family who related to Warner Dygert settled on the Hess farm on Fall Hill at a very early date. There were six brothers and six sisters of this family, and their descendants are numerous in this vicinity. The progenitor of the Hess family and one of the original Burnetsfield patentees. His grandson, Augustus Hess settled on Fall Hill, and died there in 1857, aged 83 years. Of his children four remained unmarried on the home farm during their lives. The homestead remains in the possession of the descendants of a sister who married Sylvanus Seeber, a descendant of the Palatine Seebers.
The Reed family were also early settlers between Fall Hill and the Nowadaga Castle, John Reed their ancestor came from England in 1660. He served in the Parliamentary army during the Civil War and came to the colonies upon the restoration of the Stuarts. He settled first at Providence, R.I. but afterward removed to the vicinity of Norwalk, Conn. James Reed, great grandson of John Reed, came to Dutchess County in 1760 where he was soon followed by three brothers from one of whom, Elijah, the Herkimer County Reeds are descended. Alonzo, the son of Thomas Reed, died in 1865, just as arrangements had been completed for his nomination to the state assembly, at the time when a nomination insured an election. After the death of Mrs. Thomas Reed (one of the McChesney family) the farm was purchased by Solomon S. Doxtater. Another family which located near Fall Hill, before or just after the revolution and whose descendants still remain there, was the Fink family. Philip A. Jones, a brother-in-law of Thomas Reed was also a member of the eastern immigration to Danube. It is also recorded that Henry Richtmyre, who resided below Fall Hill, held the position of coroner in 1814. Cornelius C. Van Alstyne is credited with having kept the first hotel in the town in 1795. The Van Alstyne is now owned by the heirs of John Smith, the dwelling house formerly used as a hotel was demolished in 1895. Andrew Nellis is credited with having operated a grist mill at Indian Castle in 1800. A saw and grist mill was managed there until between 1860 and 1870 by Cornelius Dennis. John Holmes who was a physician at Indian Castle for many years, subsequent to 1818, was the first supervisor of the town after its division in 1827. His son, Anson H. Holmes who began practicing in 1835, was for many years a prominent citizen and also served as supervisor.
The Shall family were among the earliest settlers in the eastern part of Danube, occupying the farm now in the possession of the heirs of Horace Bellinger. Helmas Shall, the son of the pioneer Shall, was the father of a large family. His son, John, after several years residence in Oppenheim returned to Danube and purchased the farm in the Nowadaga gulf now owned by his son, Calvin, where he died in 1873, his wife, Christina Rice surviving him about ten years. His brothers, Jacob and Peter Shall, resided several miles to the west at what is termed "Shall Hollow." David Shall kept hotel at Newville for some years and afterwards resided at Minden. Daniel Shall conducted a tailor shop at Starkville, where he died in 1894. He represented Herkimer County in the Assembly in 1850. Jonas, another brother, resided at Mohawk. It is stated with some appearance of probability that the various surnames, Shall, Schall, Shaul, Shull and Scholl are but varying forms of the same cognomen, originating at a time when orthography was less of an exact science than at present. Jacob Shull, who doubtless came from the Stone Arabia settlements was the father of Josiah Shull of German Flatts, the well known agriculturist and of Jacob I. Shull of Danube. His wife was a granddaughter of Col. Jacob G. Klock, who commanded a regiment at Oriskany. A sister married Peter P. Smith of Danube. Another member of the Shull family, Joseph Shull, who died in 1876, resided on the place now owned by John Hoke. John Shull resided on the river road where Mrs. Squire Schuyler now lives. His son, T. R. B. Shull, removed some years ago to Monroe County. The family is now represented in Danube by Grant and William, sons of Jacob I. Shull. The supporters of the theory before mentioned, claim that the Shauls of Stark, Warren, Columbia and Springfield, are of the same blood as the Shalls and Shulls of Danube.
John Smith, who died at the Smith farm opposite East Creek, April 1881, aged 71, was for many years a prominent citizen. He was elected justice of the peace by the Whigs in 1848, Supervisor by the Americans in 1856, and by the Democrats in 1863-4. In 1879 he was active in the John Kelly bolt against the re-election of Gov. Robinson. His father, John M. Smith of Minden was captured by the Indians in 1779, when a boy of fourteen and taken to Canada but was released by a French Canadian who was not over loyal to George third.
Another family concerning which we have been unable to elicit any information was the Sternburg family. Peter Sternburg was elected in 1828 as Justice of the Peace, and Herkimer Sternburg resided in the town in 1860. Another family which has disappeared from this vicinity is the Staats family. Henry Staats resided until after 1856 on the north side of the river road near the residence of Jacob E. Fox. He was elected Justice of the Peace in 1844 and 1852. Some time subsequent to 1856 he removed to Western New York. Jacob E. Fox enjoyed during his life time the distinction of being the wealthiest citizen of Danube. He was related to several noted families of Central New York. The Foxes of Montgomery County have always been a very prominent family, while on his mothers side he was descended from the Eakers. Jacob Eaker came from Schoharie to Palatine in 1722-3, his grandson, Jacob married a daughter of Major Andrew Fink. One daughter of this union married Peter Brooks, who it is said kept a store in the town about 1795, another married Jacob W. Fox. The latter married a daughter of Richard Van Horn, the founder of Van Hornesville who was also related to the Ten Eyck family. Mr. Fox studied for the legal profession but never entered upon the practice of law. In 1862 he was the Democratic candidate for Member of Assembly. His only daughter married Stewart S. Lansing of Manheim. The Ecker or Acker family of Stark is a branch of the Montgomery County Eackers. The Schuyler family settled in the town prior to the war as at that period they resided on the farm now owned by William H. Davy. At that time the father seems to have been dead, the family consisting of the mother, (said to have been a sister of Gen. Herkimer) and two sons, Nicholas and Han Jost, the latter being a common appellation among the German settlers in the valley, the English equivalent being John Joseph. The ruse by which the latter was an important factor in raising the siege of Fort Schuyler is too much a part of history to call for more than a passing reference here. Jeptha R. Simms in the "Frontiersmen of New York" mentions a report that Nicholas Schuyler afterwards bore arms for the "Provincials" by which term we understand the Americans. Nicholas Jr., the son of Nicholas, died in 1852 on his farm a mile north of Newville, his widow surviving until 1871. His son, Aaron Schuyler succeeding him in the ownership of the farm but afterwards removed to the town of Columbia where he died. He transferred the home farm to his brother, Nicholas N. Schuyler who died in 1899. By a singular fatality his wife and his sons, Cornelius F. and Squire all died within the year. The farm is now owned by Mrs. C. F. Schuyler, George N. Schuyler, a son of Nicholas Schuyler, Sr., resided on the bank of the canal where his son-in-law, Oscar Fox now resides. James H. Schuyler, a nephew of Nicholas N., served during the Civil War from one of the western states Daniel Schuyler resided at Mindenville, Peter N. Schuyler at Fall Hill and Phillip Schuyler on the creek road between Newville and Indian Castle.
Christian Bellinger was born in 1764 and came to Danube in 1792. He was a son of Frederick Bellinger and with his younger brother, Andrew, was captured by the Indians and taken to Canada at the destruction of Currytown in 1781. On his return he married Barbara, daughter of Jacob Diefendorf, a leading resident of that locality. He died in 1838. His son, Philip C. Bellinger, lived on the farm until his death in February, 1872, and it is now in the possession of his only surviving son, Washington. Philip C. Bellinger was a prominent figure in town for may years and he left an enviable reputation as a man of strict business integrity. His wife was a member of the Zimmerman faily and their descendants in Danube and Minden are quite numerous. Jacob, a brother of Philip, died in the town of Little Falls in 1859 where his descendants still reside. Of the daughters of Christian Bellinger, one married Conrad Snell of Danube, one Abraham Snell of Minden, and one Conrad Mowers of Stark.
John Davy Sr. settled on the farm, now the property of his grandson, Albert Davy. He and his three sons, John Jr., William and Peter were prominent in the organization of the Lutheran Church at Minden and in the anti-slavery movement. A great grandson, David A. Davy is pastor of the First Lutheran Church of West Sandlake, Renssalaer County. John Rice resided on a farm between the Davy homestead and Indian Castle now owned by Alonzo Sanders. Here his son George lived until his death in 1869. The three daughters of John Rice married respectively John Shall, Jacob Shall and Moses Walrath, all residents of Danube. Jacob Rice, son of George, removed to Palatine Bridge in 1877. Jacob Walrath who at one time owned the farm now belonging to the son of Reuben Klock was a son of Peter Walrath of Minden. Two sons of Jacob, Henry I. who died 1856, and Moses who died about ten years later removed in 1835 and 1838 to Indian Castle where their sons, Marvin and Jacob still remain. Hon. Alphonzo Walrath of Fort Plain is another grandson of Jacob Walrath.
John M. Stafford was at the opening of the revolution a ship carpenter in the employ of the British government. While engaged in procuring ship timber in the Adirondacks a disagreement with his superior induced him to come inside the American lines. In 1802 he settled in Danube, his son, Stephen following him in the occupation of the farm, part of which is still owned by the family. John M. Gardinier, an offshoot of the revolutionary family of that name came from the neighborhood of Canajoharie and settled in 1808 on the farm now owned by his grandson, Alvarado Gardinier. John Gardinier, son of John M. Gardinier died in 1882 in his 82nd year, the last surviving male member of the Baptist Church of Newville.
The Green family fill a large page in the history, not only of the town, but of Herkimer County. The writer is gratified to be able to present a sketch of this family by one of its members. He gladly incorporates, verbatim an article written by Willis L. Green of Indian Castle, only regretting that Mr. Green had not expanded it to greater length, and hoping that he may in the future work the rich historical mine "In the Valley" for the benefit of those who are interested in the struggles and triumphs of the fathers who in years past have borne the "White mans burden."
In the spring or early summer of 1795 Ambrose Green and his wife, Gula Elma Lester, came to Danube from Schodack, Renssalaer County and bought a farm one mile south of the Indian Castle Church and now owned by Moses Weldon. His family consisted of three sons and four daughters.
John L. Green married Ruth Barker; Ruth married George McMullen; Amy married Zacheus Swift; Rachel married Daniel Carpenter; Elizabeth married Henry Nellis; Felix married Helen Herkimer; William married Hannah Cronkhite and lived at home, and at his fathers death in 1837 kept the farm, and was succeeded by his son, William who lived there until some time about 1890.
John Lester Green, oldest son of Ambrose was married and had two small children when he came from Rennselaer County. He bought the farm adjoining his fathers on the west and his family increased until there were eight sons and two daughters. He and his wife spent sixty years of married life together and fifty-five on the same farm.
When the wife died in 1850 all of her ten children were at the funeral and all but two lived within three miles of the old home.
Ambrose Green, the oldest son of John worked at blacksmithing near home for a short time. In 1820 Ambrose married his second wife, Martha Frazier and moved onto a farm in German Flatts, three miles south of Mohawk.
Gilbert Green married Ann Pomeroy and bought a farm south of his father's in the town of Danube. About the year 1870 he moved to Mohawk where he died in 1882.
Peter, Felix and Lyman own farms around the Indian Castle church.
Peter's house stood back from the main road, where Romain Doxstater now lives on the farm owned by Warren Fox.
He was appointed postmaster in 1848 and the post-office is still kept by his granddaughter, Mrs. Abbie Smith, and she says she has not always voted on the winning side.
Felix's farm was farther east and his son, Lester is still on the place.
Willis Green's Indian Castle farm is the farm bought by Lyman Greene, his father. The house and greenhouses occupy the site of the old stockade or Indian Castle.
A slight depression a few rods north of the house marks the spot where Brant's house stood. Some of the smoke stained boards from the old house are to be seen in the roof of the corn house.
In colonial days this farm must have presented different phases of social live from the present.
Lester and Zenas Greene, the youngest sons married Emily and Ann Herkimer, grandnieces of the brave old general.
They run the lock grocery store fore several years but sold out in 1860.
In 1859 Lester was sent to the legislature and after that made his home in Little Falls where he died in 1863.
Zenas Green moved to Herkimer from Danube and was elected county Clerk, which office he held six years. Died in Herkimer in 1891.
Henry was made a cripple by an accident, while still a young man.
He lived on the home farm until 1852 when he removed with his family to Henry, Ill. Sophia married Rev. John DuBois. Mary never married but after the death of her father lived with her sister, Mrs. DuBois.
In 1850 John L. Green had thirty-seven grand children and most of them were living in the town of Danube. But now they are scattered from the Green Mountains to the Golden Gate. Lester and Willis, the only ones now living in Danube.
Soon after the Green family came to Danube it became a grave question how they were going to satisfy their "home made" appetites until harvest time. Their Mohawk Dutch neighbors had wheat, but they were suspicious of the "Tam Yankies" (a pet name they gave to any one from the east) and most of them would not run the risk of being the victims of some game.
But a Mr. Frey sold them two bushels. John and Felix carried it to the nearest mill at St. Johnsville, about ten miles there and back.
When the wheat harvest was ready they paid for the wheat, one with a cradle, the other raking and binding, which was as much a surprise to them as the reaper was to their sons fifty years later, for they had never seen a cradle before which did the work of ten men with a sickle. "To Mr. Greene's account I will add that Alonzo H. Green, son of Lester H. Green was in 1886 elected the first police justice of Little Falls and that his brother, Horace L. Green was for many years the able editor of the Mohawk Valley Register at Fort Plain. Felix Green, son of Ambrose Green, lived between Indian Castle and Stafford farm. Jacob E. Fox purchase the farm in 1877 of Felix's son, Herkimer. The latter passed the most of his remaining years in the town of Warren. George Green, M. D., a son of Felix, practiced in St. Johnsville; two other sons, Augustus and James went to western New York and a daughter, Lydia married George U. Schuyler of Danube."
Source: "Papers Read Before the Herkimer County Historical Society Covering the Period From September 1902 to May 1914, Volume 3"
Compiled by Arthur T. Smith, Secretary of the Society
Citizen Press, Herkimer, 1914