THE ATTACK ON THE OLD MILL
In October of 1781 a farmer by the name of Demooth, residing north of what is now Herkimer, was captured during a war party at Little Falls and carried off to Canada. He claimed that he was loyal to the Crown, joined the expedition that attacked the Little Falls grist mill, and deserted to his own side in the ensuing battle. He told how the expedition had intended to attack Fort Herkimer, but on approaching in the darkness, found there were few soldiers and a wedding party was in progress.
During the scene of havoc Mr. Gersham Skinner managed to excape (but not without having received very severe wounds, the effect of which were felt during his lifetime), by groping his way in the dark, between the knives and hatchets of the Indians and secretly hiding in the raceway, until the Indians had accomplished their work of destruction of the mill and were gone. Mr. Skinner then made his way, although in severe pain, to Fort Dayton in the village of Herkimer. (Gersham Skinner came from Connecticut and died in the Town of Columbia on March 3, 1824.)
Many women and children as well as part of the men who were in the mill that horrible night of the attack were carried into captivity. However, some of them decided to part with their lives amongst the cries. Among those was Daniel Petrie, son of Joseph Petrie, one of the founders of Herkimer village. Mr. Petrie was recognized by some of his relatives who had attached themselves to the Tories and accompanied the invaders in the attack, was implored to surrender and promised good treatment if he would, but the old man scorned and refused to yield after repeatedly discharging his musket. He continued his struggle to fight using the butt end of his musket until he was overpowered by extreme force. He was led out upon the rocks, bound, and tortured to death by arrows, tomahawks and scalping knives of the barbarians.
In a horribly mangled condition, he was found a day or two later by some of the men who had gone down from Fort Dayton and buried the bodies of those slain in the disastrous attack at the scene.
In April, 1783, Captain Thompson passed through the Mohawk Valley and brought word of the signing of the Peace Treaty which made the United States free. The people confined at Fort Dayton and Herkimer where overjoyed and happy to be able to return to their burned homes to start life over again.
The above article was put together by Betsy Voorhees from a pamphlet put out by Little Falls for the Centennial celebration and reading early county histories. Spelling of surnames may vary from what you're used to. Mrs. Adam Casler's profile of the town of Little Falls gives a 1782 date for the burning of the old grist mill.
Copyright © 2000 Betsy Voorhees
All Rights Reserved.