BARON STEUBEN AND HIS ROAD
FROM HERKIMER TO HIS FARM IN STEUBEN, ONEIDA COUNTY.
AN ADDRESS BY GEORGE L. JOHNSON OF ILION.
Delivered before the Herkimer County Historical Society, May 13,
Steuben, Frederick, William, Augustus, Baron General of the American
Revolutionary army. November 15, 1730-November 28. 1794, born in
Magdeburg, Prussia. He was educated at the Jesuit's colleges of Niesse
and Breslau; and at the age of 14 served as a volunteer, under his
father at the siege of Prague.
In 1747, he was appointed a cadet of infantry, and in 1758 had
risen to Adjutant General. He was wounded in the battle of Kunersborf,
in 1761 was conducted a prisoner of war to St. Petersburg, but was soon
In 1762, he was appointed Adjutant General on the staff of the
Prussian King, (Frederick the Great) effected important reforms in the
Quarter-masters department and superintended an academy of young
officers, selected for special military instructions.
At the close of the seven year's war, he traveled in Europe, and
was appointed Grand Marshall and General of the guard of the Prince of
Hohenzollern-Hechingen. Visiting Paris in 1777, where the American
colonies in rebellion were favored by the government, he was invited by
the Count St. Germain, Minister of war, to go to America.
He arrived at Portsmouth, Virginia, December first 1777. (Jones
annals of Oneida county says, Portsmouth, New Hampshire) and offered his
services to General Washington, which were joyfully accepted, and he
joined the army then in the most deplorable condition, at Valley Forge.
He was appointed Inspector General, prepared a manual of tactics for the
army, remodeled its organization, and improved its discipline. He was
one of the officers who composed the court martial at the trial of Major
Andre. In the campaign of 1780, he had a command in Virginia, and was
on the staff of General LaFayette at the seige of Yorktown. Generous
and noble in character as he was capable as an officer, he spent his
whole fortune in clothing his men, and gave his last dollar to his
Congress made tardy reparation, and in 1790, voted him an annuity of
$2500, and a township of land in New York, both of which he divided with
his fellow officers. He died on his estate near Utica, N. Y. (Alden's
manifold Cyclopedia, now published by Ganeston, Cox and Co. as the
Columbian). The new Americanized Cyclopedia Britanica says that
Congress granted him land in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. (Some
quotations follow from Frost's American Generals).
"At the commencement of the war between Great Britain and her
colonies, Steuben was in condition of gentlemanly affluence, and he was
regarded by the Prussian government as one of their most able officers".
"In 1777, Steuben at forty seven years of age, on his way to England
stopped at Paris to have an interview with the Count St. Germain, the
French Minister of war, and one of his intimate friends."
"It was well known that France was then, secretly, aiding the
Americans, both by advice and military stores. At the meeting, St.
Germain represented the ultimate prospects of the colonist as flatering;
that France and probably Spain, would eventually aid them, but their
army needed disciplinarians, which want the Baron could well supply.
These proposals were seconded by the Spanish consul and two French
noblemen, but the Baron refused to give a decisive answer until an
interview could be had with the American envoys. The latter were unable
to give the assurance required, and after abandoning his intention of
visiting England, Steuben soon after returned to Germany. On his
arrival at Rastadt, he found letters from the Count, informing him that
a vessel was about sailing for America, in which he could immediately
embark, with a prospect of having every difficulty adjusted."
"Having received from Dr. Franklin letters of recommendation to
General Washington, and the president of congress, he embarked on the
26th of September, 1777, under an assumed name, and after a rough
voyage, landing in Portsmouth, N. H. December 1.
"His first care was to address his recommendation to General
Washington, at the same time requesting admission into the service. The
close of his letter is worthy of preservation thus: 'I could say
moreover, were it not for fear of offending your modesty, that your
excellency is the only person under whom, after serving under the King
of Prussia. I could wish to pursue an art to which I have wholly given
Washington referred him to congress, as the only body empowered
to accept his services; and accordingly in February he laid his papers
before that body. A committee of five was appointed to wait upon him.
In his interview with them, the Baron stated what he had left to
engage in the American service, offered them his service, without any
other remuneration than the amount of his expenses; but, that while he
expected no reward, should the final result be unsuccessful, yet in case
of the Americans gaining their independence, he would expect an
indemnity for the offices he had resigned in Europe, and a reward
proportionate to his services. Congress returned him thanks for this
disinterested offer, and requested him to join the army.
The American main body was at that time wintering near Valley Forge.
The suffering endured by the troops, their privations and diseases
during that terrible winter, were long remembered as forming the darkest
page of our revolutionary history. At the sight of them, the
astonishment of one who had been accustomed to the well provided armies
of Europe, may be conceived; and Steuben declared that under such
circumstances no foreign army could be kept together a single month.
He was appointed inspector-general and intrusted (sic) with the
difficult task of forming from such material, an army disciplined after
the European system. Disheartening as were these prospects, and
heightened too, by Steuben's ignorance of the English language, he
entered upon his duties with ardor. An interpreter was found and the
great work of giving efficiency to the army of Washington commenced.
This was something new to the sufferers of Valley Forge, and the
strictness of the old soldier together with his perfect familiarity with
the most difficult military movements, astonished even the Commander
The great services rendered by the Baron, as exhibited in the
rapid improvement of the army, did not escape the notice of either
Washington or congress; and at the recommendation of the former he was
appointed permanent inspector general, with the rank of major-general.
By his great exertions he made this office respectable, establishing
frugality and economy among the soldiers.
In discipline, both of men and officers, he was entirely impartial,
and never omitted an opportunity to praise merit, or censure a
fault."-Frost's American Generals.
As if by magic, his wise discipline and indefatigable zeal, soon
wrought wonders with the undisciplined, but ever heroic Americans, and
in an incredibly short time, he evolved a splendid organization in all
branches of the service. His services in placing the American army in a
splendid condition of military efficiency, were of the utmost value to
the American cause, Washington fully recognized his great qualities and
incomparable services, and to his dying day regarded him as one of the
most worthy and most helpful Generals of the war. He was a military
genius, a trained and heroic soldier.
The first manual of tactics for the American army was prepared
by the Baron under the title "Regulations for the order and discipline
of the troops of the United States", and this became the law and guide
of the army, and was the basis of military regulations of several of the
A little incident illustrates the widespread knowledge and
popularity of Steuben's tactics. Captain Brandt (he was known as
Captain in the British army) with a strong force of Tories and Indians,
on the 2nd day of March 1781, was prowling about Fort Stanwix. He
succeeded in capturing 15 men and a corporal named Betts, and then made
his way for Niagara. (That was their rendezvous, and winter
headquarters). Before arriving there an incident occurred illustrative
of the caprice of the savage chieftan. Brandt ordered Corporal Betts to
exercise his men and see if they understood the tactics of Baron
Steuben. Betts either doubting the ability of his men to do justice to
the Baron's system, or feeling disinclined to such an exhibition in his
unpleasant surroundings and disheartening condition, wished to avoid the
performance, but Brandt peremptorily commanded obedience. Betts drew
out his men, dressed them in line, and then went through the manual
exercise, a la Steuben, much to the satisfaction of Brandt. Some of the
Tories, however, were disposed to ridicule the manner in which the
Yankee had done the thing, but Brandt put a stop to their fun by a
terrible frown, saying at the same time, that "The Yankee went through
it a slight better than they could, and that he liked to see the thing
done well, although it was done by an enemy".
"Steuben saw active service in New Jersey, notably at Monmouth,
and also in Virginia. He joined LaFayette there in June. On the 16th
of July the Marquis LaFayette met Cornwallis near Jamestown, and a
slight engagement took place, in which the Americans behaved remarkably
well, notwithstanding the great inferiority of numbers.
"The enemy gained some advantage but did not pursue it; and soon
after the Earl Cornwallis marched to Yorktown, which he began to
"On the 28th of September, the main allied army of French and
Americans under Rochambeau and Washington, aided by the fleet of De
Grasse, sat down before the place. The seige (sic) lasted until the
18th of October, during which time Steuben bore his full share of toil
and danger. His exact scientific knowledge rendered him extremely
useful. Washington assigned him a command in the line. His services
are honorably noticed by that great man, in the general orders
subsequent to the capitulation.
"After this happy affair the Baron returned with the main army
to the middle states, where he remained until the treaty of peace.
"On the day that Washington resigned his office as
commander-in-chief, he wrote the Baron a noble and affectionate letter,
the last clause of which is. "This is the last letter which I shall
write while I continue in the service of my country. The hour of my
resignation is fixed at twelve today, after which I shall become a
private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, where I shall be glad to
embrace you, and testify the great esteem and consideration with which I
am, my dear Baron &c."
"The neglect with which many of the brave men who had bled in
our cause were treated by congress, will ever remain a stigma to that
body. Among them was Steuben; for seven years he made ineffectual
efforts to obtain a notice of his claims, but in vain. He had left
affluence and baronial dignity among the monarchs of Europe to waste his
life in our struggle, and now when the great object had been reached, he
was poor, homeless and unprovided (sic) for.
"At last through the strenuous efforts of Washington and Hamilton,
congress was induced to acknowledge his claims.
"In 1790 they granted him an annual sum of twenty-five hundred
dollars. Other grants, principally of land had been made by Virginia
and New Jersey, and on the 5th day of May 1786 the New York assembly
voted him sixteen hundred acres. Determined not to revisit Europe he
built a log house upon this land, rented some portion to tenants and
with a few domestics, lived there until his death, excepting an annual
visit to New York in the winter.
"He spent his time in reading, gardening and in cheerful
conversation with his faithful friends, Walker and North, who remained
with him until death. Occasionally he amused himself by playing chess
"On the 25th day of November 1794, he was struck by paralysis,
and the 28th his long and active life closed. He died in full belief of
the truth of christianity (sic) which for some time had been his
consolation and support.
"His body was buried in his military cloak, to which was attached
the star of knighthood, always worn during life. His servants and a few
neighbors buried him. His grave was in a deep forest, which being
afterward crossed by a road occasioned a reinterment (sic) on a spot
about a quarter of a mile north of his home. Walker performed this duty
and afterward placed an iron railing around the grave.
"A stone, with the inscription, "Major General Frederick William
Augustus, Baron DeSteuben" marks the hero's resting place.
A tablet in memory of him was placed in the Lutheran Church, Nassau
Street, New York, where he always attended when in that city. This was
done by Col. North.
"By his will the Baron left his library and one thousand dollars
to a young man of literary habits, named Mulligan, whom he had adopted,
and nearly all his property to Walker and North."
The above from Frost's American Generals was copied from a book
published in 1851.
Baron Steuben previous to his death had selected a spot for his
burial. His wish was carried out. His Aid-de-camp, adopted son and
executor, Col. Walker had the remains re-interred where they now repose,
and deeded or leased (both statements have been made) fifty acres of
land to the First Baptist society of Steuben, on condition that five
acres including the grave of the Baron should be kept fenced and in a
state of nature, in deep forest.
In 1824 a plain monument was erected over the grave, which was
replaced in 1870-71 by the imposing one which now marks the resting
place of the patriot.
Steuben was a bachelor, and it has been said that there was no
female service rendered in his log house in the woods. It had been his
purpose to erect a large mansion on his possessions, but death prevented
the consummation of his plans.
The 16,000 acre patent constitutes a lare (sic) part of what is
now the town of Steuben, and I think extends somewhat into Remsen.
The first person to take up a permanent residence on the patent
was Samuel Sizer, who came about 1789, to take charge of the
improvements contemplated by the Baron. As the Baron had opportunity he
leased his land tract of 100 acres at $10 to $20 per year. At the time
of his death he had about twenty families living on the patent.
On the fourth of July 1790 he gave a dinner to all the people on
his lands and neighboring settlers. It is recorded that whenever he
found a worthy soldier he would present him a farm of forty to one
The town of Steuben was first organized by an act of the legislature
passed April 10, 1792. The amount of territory included with-in its
bounds would be considered formidable at the present day.
Steuben was all that part of Whitestown (then in Herkimer County)
beginning at the mouth of the Nine Mile Creek, running thence
north-easterly to the northeast corner of Holland Patent; thence
northerly along the east bounds of Steuben's Patent to the northeast
corner thereof; thence due north to the north bounds of the state, and
also from the place of beginning due west to the line of the Oneida
Reservation; thence northwest along said line to fish creek; thence due
north to the north bounds of the state.
The first town meeting was held on the first Tuesday of April
1793, at the house or (sic) Seth Ranney near fort Stanwix (now Rome).
Roswell Fellows was chosen Supervisor and Jedediah Phelps town clerk.
The late Hon. D. E. Wager of Rome, in his history of Oneida county,
stated that this grant of land to Baron Steuben was from the state in
1786 for 16,000 acres, which corresponds exactly with the statement
before mentioned from Frost's American Generals. Of course, some one is
in error, either the Cyclopedia or historians. I suppose our state
records will verify the above as to the state grant.
Not long after receiving the grant, the Baron cut a road through
the forest all the way from Herkimer, over twenty miles directly to his
land. The remarkable feat of the Baron in opening the road at that time
and under such circumstances might be considered formidable and its
chief historic interest. It was then in Montgomery County. The grant
was two years before the reorganization of the towns of Herkimer, German
Flatts and Whitestown, and five years before the organization of
Herkimer county. There were no roads of importance anywhere abouts. It
was seven years or more to the opening of a road from Little Falls, west
on the north side of the Mohawk river.
The Steuben road on the line the Baron cut through, is now open
and much traveled nearly the whole way. Some portion is closed, notably
a section of about three miles long on the highest range of
Hassenclever, in the town of Newport. It is very direct and with that
closed portion open. would be a short and only direct carriage road
from Steuben and old Trenton (now Barneveld) to Herkimer.
According to a statement of the Rev. Caleb Alexander, the father
of Fairfield Academy, Herkimer about that time, 1791-92 contained two
dutch (sic) houses only. Old fort Schuyler (now Utica) had very little
more. Previous to 1793, there was no wagon road for general travel on
the north side of the Mohawk east of Herkimer. There were no bridges
over the two creeks, east and west Canada; the travel to and from Albany
was on the south side, passing over Fall hill to the south of Little
In 1793 there was an appropriation for two bridges, one over
East Canada on the road from Tribes Hill to Little Falls, the other over
the West Canada on the road from Little Falls to fort Stanwix, Herkimer
and old fort Schuyler (Utica) were not mentioned.
Herkimer got its name through an ignorant blunder in 1788. It
had been German Flatts for fifty years or more, through two wars and it
was not intended that it should be changed. The two towns of German
Flatts and Herkimer were being organized in the legislature, and the
question asked which side of the Mohawk river is German Flatts, on the
right bank or the left bank? The answer was the right bank, and the
record was thus made, Herkimer was recorded on the left bank, north
side. It was in Montgomery county three years, until Herkimer County
was organized in 1791.
There seemed to be a tradition that Steuben road did not start
out of Herkimer, as the so called road now does, but that it started
west of the village, near a little creek that crosses the road (Old
Mohawk turnpike, German street) near the old cheese factory, and east of
the late homestead of George W. Pine. That creek comes a long way down
through the pasture of the late Col. F. P. Bellinger. The late Hon.
Robert Earl, about 1898 said that his grandfather, Dr. William Petrie,
had a house, barn, and grist mill, up that creek about half a mile,
burned by Brandt's marauders in 1778, at the same time that German
Flatts was destroyed, and that the foundations were then visible. About
1870, my children found old timbers in the creek up there supposed to be
mill timbers. Timber does not rot in water. It seems very natural to
conclude that a road went there in early days. It is a very easy way to
go into the road as it is now about a mile from German Flatts.
Since writing the above I have received additional traditional
testimony as to the road going up through by Dr. William Petrie's place.
The evidence is all that way, I have received no other. In six years
1868-1874, I lived in col. Bellinger's house adjoining that pasture. I
now recall an old track up through there. Then I had not thought of
Baron Steuben's road. In 1872 went that way across to Aaron Harter's.
Having examined the Government Typographical map of the Geological
Survey, will take for a starting point, the corner of Court and
Washington streets near the site of old Fort Dayton, the highest
altitude in the village of Heerkimer (sic), the figures on the map are
406 feet. Thence for about three miles up the hill the general course
is north-westerly. Passing two roads that run westerly into Schuyler and
continuing on north a mile and a half farther, we come to a third road
on the town line, leading also into Schuyler. The altitude at this
point is 1,257. A quarter of a mile north is the Elliston place at four
corners, a road crossing from Osborne Hill. This Elliston place has
been a large farm, an old one, in the family about a century. A tavern
has been kept there, and it is now in possession of H. Duane, a son of
Jacob and grandson of Henry Ellison. The place has been of some note,
it is about five miles straight as a pigeon flies from starting point.
Below, south, from the Ellison corner half a mile, William (Bill)
Watson, something of a sportsman and lover of good horses did live, and
here, the road being even and somewhat level, there was a race track in
the road. North from the Ellison corner about a half mile the alitiude
is 1,420 feet, and a little beyond that a road at the left runs to
Minott Corners, a mile and a half distant. Continuing on north we come
to the State road crossing; over this road has been the route by way of
the County House, through Schuyler, from Middleville to Utica. At this
corner was the Houghton homestead for many year from 1835. They
commenced in a log house and later built a substantial frame one. They
raised a family of fifteen children. About 1850 it was known as the
Widow Houghton's Continuing on north we come to Bennett Morris' on high
ground, sun from all directions. A little further on, the road turns
westerly across a small corner of the town of Schuyler and then we come
to a road that comes up over the hill from the West Canada creek at the
old bridge place, a mile above Middleville, near the late residence of
Nicholas, and later his son Alonzo G. Smith. This crossing in the
corner of Schuyler is some eight miles or more as the road runs from
Herkimer, and the ascent is considerable steady climbing all the way.
A noticeable feature in the ascent of the road from Herkimer through
the town to this crossing in the corner of Schuyler, is that it seems to
be on a ridge; that the streams flow either and both ways from it to the
valleys below, and where any cross the road they were mere rivulets that
were easily fixed with corduroy, and did not need bridging.
To me that old bridge place and the road from it over the hill
into Schuyler, is of historic interest. It was perhaps the first bridge
on the creek, certainly it was the first above Herkimer. It was there
early in 1790, and was the crossing from the Royal Grant over the hills
south about the same time that Steuben opened his road.
There was nothing at Middleville then, Sheffield Kenyon, father
of the late V. S. Kenyon, merchant, bought the land for the place in
1806. The town of Newport was organized in 1806, and the description in
the town boundary makes this bridge a landmark; thus, on the east line
next Fairfield running south "to the bank of the west Canada creek, by
the bridge, near the house of Obediah Kniffin,'" He lived in Newport on
the south side of the creek. In my recollection in 1835, there were two
Kniffins, besides the one mentioned the other was John, also near the
bridge in Fairfield, the house only a very few rods east of the late
residence of the Smiths before mentioned. At seven years of age, in
1836, I was living at my grandfather Johnson's at the corner of the road
over the hill north, now Dexter's. The bridge place and Obediah
Kniffins on the south side in Newport was in plain site from
grandfathers. It was then my father told me how the bridge was carried
away by the ice in a flood and none built to replace it. Middletown got
its name in 1808 and a bridge in 1810, and the inference is that the
first bridge above mentioned was in place at that time.
Smith built his new house about 1840 or 42. The old John Kniffin
house was there until 1857; Aunt Polly Smith, Alonzo's mother did the
cheese making there. A few years later Walter P. Griswold built a new
house on the Obediah Kniffin place, that later has been Myrick Jones'.
It is a little up from Jones' crossing on the railroad. My wife's
father, George Buell of Fairfield, told me of crossing there in 1790 and
98, and going up by the Bullard schoolhouse and Marvin's over the hill
as before mentioned into Schuyler and on through Deerfield to the county
seat. Where? Not old fort Schuyler (Utica) but Whitestown. It was the
county seat of Herkimer County from its organization in 1791 to 1798,
when Oneida County was organized and the county seat was changed to
Herkimer. The old record books for those seven years I have seen in the
Oneida County clerk's office in Utica, where they are kept. The travel
from the Royal Grant to the county seat at Whitestown was over that
bridge and road mentioned.
In 1800 the Mohawk turnpike was chartered and then the boom began in
Herkimer. German Flatts had been destroyed, wiped out twice by war, by
the French in 1757 and by Brandt with his Indians and Tories in 1778,
twenty-one years later.
The Rev. Caleb Alexander, before mentioned was in Herkimer in 1801.
On the 23rd of November he wrote in his diary: "On the flats in the
town of Herkimer is a handsome street, a meeting house, a court house, a
jail, a printing office, merchant stores, about thirty elegant dwellings
and several machine shops. Tuesday 24th took the stage at Herkimer and
passed through the German Flatts and Minden to Canajoharie twenty-six
Resuming our task of tracing the old Steuben road, we commence
again at the road crossing before mentioned in the northeast corner of
the town of Schuyler and proceed immediately across the town line into
Newport and over the high range of Hessenclever, at an altitude of 1600
feet, and along down the north side in a northwesterly course to Martin
Corners, about four and one half miles father down to an altitude of
less than 1,100 feet. It is five miles straight from the corner of
Herkimer. In this distance is the closed section and there are two
roads crossing it. The crossing at Martin Corners is on the direct road
from Newport to Utica, over Honey Hill, Bell Hill and Smith Hill.
John Richards, a wealthy farmer in the town of Newport, lived on
the old Steuben road a mile or so east of Martin Corners, and near the
western end of the closed portion. Richards raised a large family
there; two sons, Sidney and LaFayette, now live on the old Mohawk
turnpike a little west of the Frankfort station on the New York Central
railroad. They together agreed that the old track grade along down the
side hill is very plain and direct, and that the closed portion through
the breadth of four or five farms, is at least two and one half miles.
The map appears to be abundant evidence of this. Some have in winter
drawn wood on the old track grade.
About 1860 some people foolishly got an idea that the Baron had
buried treasures on that hill, and went in the night and dug holes to
find it on Lovett farm not very far from the line of Schuyler. They
didn't know his character and habits. Three holes were dug about two
feet deep and several feet wide down to hard clay, and then the job was
given up for a bad one. Charles H. Buell of Frankfort, whom I have
known over fifty years, was then living about a mile away, and went and
saw the holes.
What about the Hessenclever (sic), who gave it that name? I did
not know until I got to be an old man, although born and grown up since
for many years have been right in sight of it.
It is seen not only from the West Canada Creek valley at Newport
village and below, but all over the highlands of Norway and Fairfield
and particularly along the state road through both.
Soon after the French war, about 1764, Peter Hassenclever (sic),
a German of great intelligence, enterprise and more enthusiasm than good
judgement came to this country in the interests of a London company of
which he was a member, to engage in the production of pig iron, hemp and
pot and pearl ashes, and he imported a large number of Germans with
their families to work for him as miners, carpenters and others. By the
end of the year 1776, he had in operation in New Jersey and on the
Hudson River, furnaces and forges and in the present town of Schuyler,
this county, a pot and pearl ash manufactory. He had obtained about
6000 acres of Crosby's Manor and at about the present site of East
Schuyler he built two frame houses, and thirty-five log houses, which he
called New Petersburg. He began the cultivation of flax, hemp, madder
and the production of pot and pearl ashes.
In 1769, he with his associates obtained the patent to the tract
of 18,000 acres known as the Hassenclever patent, which lies partly in
the towns of Herkimer, Schuyler and Newport, running out northerly over
the range into the valley of the West Canada. The conditions were
unfavorable and through various misfortunes and misadventures, all his
enterprises in this country came to grief and he became bankrupt. He
returned to Germany and died in 1792 much lamented.
The large house of the Widow Martin, at Martin's Corners looked
old when I first saw it, about 1840. It was built in 1806, after 1840
it was repaired and looked new for awhile, but old again in 1860. I
last saw it in 1875, I suppose it is still there.
I was born in a log house on Honey Hill, Newport, about two
miles northeasterly of Martin corners. Continuing on from these corners
with the Steuben road in the same northwesterly direction, a half a mile
or so on a much traveled road, we cross the town line into Deerfield and
continue the same northwesterly course through the town to the old
Miller place five miles from Martin Corners in the town of Trenton, at a
junction of a road from Newport through North Gage, that Miller place
may have been known as Kniffin place after 1840. Russell (Russ) a son
of John Kniffin in Fairfield, at the old bridge place above mentioned,
married a daughter of old Mr. Miller and went there to live. In coming
through Deerfield, we have crossed two important roads, the well known
Walker road, and south of North Gage what was for some time after 1850
known as the Russia plank road; here is an offset at right angles for
half a mile or so, and it is hereon the Russia plank road, crosses the
Nine mile creek, normaly (sic) a small stream easily crossed with a
little corduroy. It might be called at this crossing simply a brook but
is the only considerable one on the whole route. It is possible that at
this crossing and offset, which is half a mile or more at right angles,
the road may have been changed for a short distance. The main line
however is very direct.
The Baron had no important bridges to build. Five eighths of a
mile from the junction, and what we will call the Kniffin place, is a
junction in Toad Hollow with a road from Russia over Comstock bridge on
the West Canada, less than a mile and a half away east. In Toad Hollow,
Henry Miller, a brother of Mrs. Kniffin, made a fine home; he set out
willow trees, they grew vigorously and it became Willow Grove, and later
nearby was the Willow Grove cheese factory. Miller was an old man when
I saw him in 1857.
Less than a half mile north from this road junction is the Steuben
creek which comes straight from Steuben valley, through old Trenton
village to near here where it makes a right angle turn and enters the
West Canada, which is a short curve less than a mile away east. Near
the cheese factory is a fine brook crossing the road. From this point
on through I surmise that the road as opened by the Baron went direct
and straight to his land, along and not very far away from the Steuben
creek and that from Toad Hollow to Trenton it may have been closed,
nearly or quite all the way. It seems a natural conclusion, this Russia
to Rome road, through Holland Patent and Floyd, crosses the Black river
turnpike at the old "Dave" Wooster place, later Joy's Hotel, and the
travel from Toad Hollow to Trenton is that way by the Black River
turnpike. After these roads were laid so many were not necessary, and
this section of the Steuben road closed. From old Trenton village there
is a road directly up the Steuben valley.
In the New York Tribune about January 18, 1905, was the following;
"Washington, Jan. 17-A call has been issued for the Von Steuben and
McClellan statue commissions to meet in Secretary Taft's office on Feb.
6th. This will be the first meeting of either commission within a year.
It has been decided that the Von Steuben statue, for which congress
appropriated $50,000, shall be placed in LaFayette square; two available
corners now remain there. The German officer who fought with the
American army will probably occupy one of these places, while on the
other facing Senator Depew's house, the statue of Pulaski, for which an
appropriation of $50,000 was also made, will eventually stand".
In 1899, Col. Albert D. Shaw, of Watertown paid a visit to the
grave of Baron Steuben in Oneida county, and wrote an article for the
Watertown Times in which he said: "I had the pleasure yesterday of
visiting the site of the log house on the heights back of the village of
Remsen, where Baron Steuben lived in summer for many years, and in which
he died, and not far from which he was buried. There is no trace left
of the humble abode of the famous general, but a painted notice is fixed
to a post on the spot where the house stood. Col. Walker who was the
Baron's chief legatee, gave a Welsh Baptist society in the immediate
vicinity, a lease of 50 acres of land, including the five acres of the
burial plot, in consideration that the five acres be kept substantially
fenced forever, and no cattle or other animals suffered to go within its
bounds, and the title to fall whenever the lessees shall fail in the
performance of the stipulations. The time has come when some drastic
action should be taken to put this plot in better condition. The Church
society holding the lease is merely a society in name. The church
building is rapidly going to decay. No service has been held in it for
years. The glass in the windows has been broken out, and the whole
surroundings and appearances are decidedly unattractive. There is no
road leading to the monument from the highway as there should be, and
the five acre plot should be put in better condition by removing fallen
timber and making it as it can be inexpensively, a lovely place, fit for
the purpose for which it is reserved.
The Oneida Historical society should take this matter in hand
and secure legislation to avail themselves of the original lease, and so
properly look after this precious burying ground of one whose splendid
service was given to the nation, in the throes of its birth, so romantic
and so important, deserves the fullest appreciation in every possible
way, of the part of succeeding generations. His history is linked with
two great nations, and his grave should be the easy point for all who
can to visit under the best natural attractions, and made beautiful
through proper attention."
Under date of May 10th, 1905, the corresponding secretary of the
Oneida Historical society informs me that the society has had much to do
in matters connected with the Steuben Monument, and not long ago got an
appropriation from the legislature which pertained to this monument, and
which was expended in that direction.
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
Donated by Laura Perkins, Town of Frankfort Editor, and Coordinator of Oswego County NYGenWeb.
This article was carefully proofread and all odd spelling, punctuation and grammatical structure are given exactly
as in the original. For further information about persons mentioned, please visit or order a search from the Herkimer County Historical
Society or check with societies mentioned on the Oneida County NYGenWeb page.
Again thank you to Contributing Editor Linda Jasztal, who worked on this while on vacation. Recently Linda typed up several long
assignments - Green Hill Cemetery, Caughnawaga Cemetery, and the History of Fonda Reformed Church. Linda is researching Young(s) in Montgomery, Herkimer, Cayuga
and Onondaga Counties.
"I am researching the Young and Harrington Families in Montgomery and Herkimer Counties. My g-g-g-g-grandparents,
Elias Young and Charlotte (Harrington) Young were married 2-18-1818, at St. John's Episcopal Church, Johnstown,
Montgomery County, N.Y. Elias was born 6-05-1795, Caughnawaga, Fonda, Montgomery County and is the son of Manuel
Young and Maria Wager. Sometime before 1850, Elias and Charlotte located in Skaneateles, Onondaga County, N.Y., where
their daughter Elizabeth married Lewis Sarr 9-07-1854. Both Charlotte and Elizabeth were born in Herkimer County.
Charlotte, who was listed as a widow on the 1875 Owasco, Cayuga County Census, was living with Elizabeth and Lewis
Sarr. Lewis remarried before the 1880 Owasco census; there is no further mention of Elizabeth, Charlotte, Elias
or any of their other children".
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