This story for young readers about Adam Helmer, great scout and "Paul Revere of the Mohawk Valley", appeared in the youth section of the "Mohawk Valley USA" magazine. This publication went out of business about 15 years ago. The article was typed and contributed by Joyce Berry, webmaster of the Ft. Klock Historic Restoration site.
A Story for Young Readers
By: Dorothy Loyte Blackman
From: Mohawk Valley USA, Volume 2, #6, Fall 1981.
Adam Helmer's feet were aching again! They always did when he had finished a scouting job and was back at the settlement. In 1778, German Flatts was as boring as any other section of New York. The colonists seemed too busy for anything else but building houses and working in the fields. Adam thought it was more exciting out on the trails. A young man would rather track Indians than help with the crops.
Adam yawned, and stretched his arms over his head. He shook the long hair back and looked at the distant hills. He had walked every one of them. He knew each field and brook as well as he did every kitchen in the settlement. He scuffed along the path, kicking stones in the dust. A voice called out:
"Hey, Adam, watch out! I don't like to eat dirt!"
"Ho, Nate!" Adam answered, lifting a small boy off the ground. "What are you doing hiding in the bushes?"
"Scouting, just like you, Adam. Someday I can go with you, can't I? he asked.
"Well, when you grow up.. . " he began.
"But I do have a message," Nate broke in. "Colonel Bellinger wants to see you at the fort."
Adam set the boy down. "Thanks, Nate. Good thing you were around to bring the order. All the men are out haying."
"Dad says he wishes I were older. They need more hands."
Adam shook his head. "That's right. We must get the harvest in to last us through the winter. I was going out to. help. But now maybe I can go on the trail again." He hitched up his buckskins and headed for the fort.
Inside Fort Herkimer, Colonel Bellinger shook the scout's hand. "Adam Helmer!" he boomed. "Just the man for this job. We think Chief Joseph Brant is planning a raid soon."
Shivers ran up and down Adam's spine. Joseph Brant was a brave Indian warrior. Everyone had heard stories of the great chief. His Mohawks had killed many colonists, burned houses, and stolen livestock.
"You mean he's coming toward German Flatts?" Adam asked.
"That's what we hear. With Fort Herkimer and Fort Dayton so close together, he could try to destroy both at one time," the commander replied. "Where is he now?"
"The last we knew, he was at Unadilla, and low on supplies."
"Maybe his men will be too weak to travel, then."
"No, Brant will take what he needs by force. Then he'll probably come this way."
"Does Chief Brant have enough Indians to take the forts?"
"Actually, we believe there are more Tories than Mohawks with him."
"Our own white countrymen against us?"
"Yes, many are still loyal to England. Brant will likely head for Percifer Carr's farm, in Edmeston. That's the closest Tory homestead. The British and Indians have bought provisions there many times."
"So I'm to see if a war council is meeting there?"
"Yes. If so, try to find out how soon they plan to attack. We need to know if we can safely finish the harvest or if we should move our families and goods into the fort now. Choose three of the best scouts to go with you."
"Yes, sir," Adam answered. "We'll go along the Unadilla River and make camp near Edmeston. If they go near the Carr farm, we'll be waiting. We'll return the most direct way."
"Good luck! If you report danger, the cannon signal will call the colonists to the fort."
On The Trail
Adam and the other scouts were walking slower as they came to the end of the trail. They'd traveled more than twenty-six miles over the high hills and stone-filled fields. The cool September air felt good on their skin, but their mouths were very dry.
They were glad to find an old spring near the spot the Indians probably would meet. The men joked as they drank the icy water.
The clear liquid soothed their parched throats. Indians surely had quenched their thirst here long before any white men came. This thought gave Adam a funny feeling.
The others stretched out on the grass, but Adam was uneasy. He never could relax while working. It might cost a man his life. The strong young scout climbed up along the rock ledges. No snake ever slipped more silently over these stones! The men were out of sight now. Adam couldn't hear them talking - he wouldn't be surprised if they had fallen asleep. It had been a long trip.
Adam looked with pleasure at the quiet countryside. The land lay before him wrapped in the wispy autumn haze. Some maples had already begun to change color. Soon these hills would be ablaze with reds, oranges, and yellows.
Suddenly there was a flash of motion! Something alive was creeping through the bushes below! Grey shapes stepped from behind trees. Indians!
Adam crouched low, and sucked in his breath. He should have stayed with the others! Had they seen the Indians yet? He couldn't call. He started to sneak back to them, but froze in his tracks with fear! Thirty or forty men were rushing up the hill. He spun around to go higher, but several braves were sliding down the slope. Trapped!
But no, they were running past him toward the camp. The thick bushes had hidden him. But his heart beat faster when he heard whooping and yelling. That meant the others had been found. There was nothing he could do to help. Three shots rang out! Then silence.
Adam knew that he was the only scout left to carry the warning. This would only be a part of the war party. Chief Brant himself would be leading the main group.
He might already be ahead somewhere. Adam jumped up, made his way to the edge of the cliff and dropped over the steep ledge. There was no time to be afraid. He had scrambled through the thorn bushes and was on the trail before they saw him. War cries filled the air, and the hillside seemed alive with warriors!
Adam had a good head start. They'd seen him too late, and he was out of shooting range now. But a powerful runner was coming up fast! Only their best man could catch him now that he was on the trail. This would be their swiftest brave. Adam's heart pounded. He wanted to stop and cry for his fallen friends. But German Flatts was twenty-six miles away. If he could zig-zag to warn the families along the way, it would be even more. He had to outrun the furious Indian so close on his heels!
Adam's rifle was holding him back, slowing his pace. It was his prize possession, but had to go. When he came to the first brook, he threw the gun into the water. He slipped his shirt off as he ran, and wrapped his powder pouch and bullets in it. Then he stuffed it under some bushes. They'd be no good without the gun. Precious seconds had been lost, but they could be made up by easier traveling.
The first part of his job was done. He had the information that Brant was on the way. but this was useless news if he couldn't get to Fort Herkimer before the warriors did. They were sure to be ahead of him, but maybe not too far. If he lost the brave chasing him, the war party wouldn't know the warning was being brought to the fort.
Adam looked back. The runner seemed to be gaining. A silver tomahawk glistened in the sunlight. If the brave got close enough to throw it, he wouldn't miss. It made Adam's stomach churn. The hairs on his neck prickled. but the thought of all the settlers being killed made him sprint faster. One word drummed over and over in his mind, keeping time with his feet. "Go, go, go!"
He struggled over the hills, nearly tripping several times on large tree roots and loose stones. He gathered speed as he ran along the west side of Canadarago Lake. He was tiring now, and had to make himself keep pushing on.
Finally the Indian began to slow down. Adam kept his own pace steady, afraid to lose the rhythm. The distance increased between the two young men. At Andrustown, Adam sensed a change. He glanced behind him, and saw the Mohawk brave had fallen. He made no move to rise. Adam ran on until he came to his sister Maria's house. He spoke briefly with her husband, Peter Hoyer. They gave him a change of shoes, then he continued on, stopping at each house he passed, calling out the danger.
When there were just a few miles to go, Adam stopped to catch his breath. As he started around a bend he saw men in the distance. He judged that there were about two hundred. This means about an equal number elsewhere. They wouldn't stand so boldly in the open if they suspected that a scout was on the way to the settlement. At least he had that advantage. But time was running out. The people would need quite a few minutes to get into the fort after they heard the signal.
He might just get to German Flatts by sunset if he ran at top speed. Brant would probably wait until dark to strike. If he was still unaware of the warning, maybe he'd wait until morning. Adam tried to forget how tired he was. His long hair hung wet against his cheeks as he ran again. Soon his chest was very sore, each breath hurting. Thorns dug into his flesh as he pushed through brambles. He pounded across fields, praying for the strength to make the last miles.
At last, the sun dropped behind the hills, Adam saw German Flatts ahead! Tears filled the scout's eyes.
His legs trembled. But he was still running hard as he came into the settlement. People stared as he passed, hardly knowing him. He looked like a wild man, with his shirt off and his buckskin pants in tatters. His face, bare arms and chest were covered with scrapes. Blood ran from many scratches. He called a warning to each house: "Flee for your lives! The enemy is not an hour behind!"
With his last burst of energy, Adam brought the news into Fort Herkimer! The big cannon blasted out the alarm! Across the Mohawk River, Fort Dayton heard and fired its warning signal too. Every house buzzed with families gathering their goods. When the last person was safely inside, the huge gates were closed and locked. Less than one hour later, the Mohawk war party stood at the edge of the village.
Chief Brant was not aware that the people had been warned. A heavy rain covered up the activities around the fort. It was too miserable to set fires. The white men with the Indian chief weren't used to long hours on the trail, like his braves. So he told them to rest overnight in a nearby ravine. The raid would begin with the first light.
Just before dawn, the warriors slipped into the settlement. The men in Fort Herkimer were alert. They were ready to fight if attacked. Women and children kept back from the outer edges of the fort. They huddled together and spoke only in whispers. When a baby cried he was quickly hushed.
The young boys crowded around Adam. "Why are your buckskins all ripped?" one asked.
Nate answered, "Don't be foolish - scouts don't stop for bushes, they go right through!"
"How far did you run?" asked one.
"Were there really ten Indians chasing you?" another wondered.
"Not unless they kept changing off," Adam replied. "Maybe they did. I had all I could do to outrun that brave. I didn't dare turn around because his haircut would make me laugh."
"What was it like?" Nate asked.
"All shaved off except for a strip of short hair right down the middle of his head," Adam whispered.
"Oh, Adam," a pretty girl laughed. "You're making that up!"
"Sh-h! Not so loud, Sarah!" Nate warned.
Suddenly one of the women grabbed Adam's arm. She began to scream until Adam had to put his hand over her mouth. Then he saw that her house was afire! All the people crowded to the edge of the fort to see. Now another house was in flames! Next, a big barn! Dark figures rushed among the buildings carrying lighted sticks. The flames spread, lighting the grey morning sky.
The colonists watched helplessly as their property fell into charred heaps. Torches were touched to the fields, turning them into masses of scorched grain. All of the harvest was smoldering now, in the barns out in the fields. Months of hard work - all lost!
Coils of black smoke smudged the sky and drifted into the fort. It stung the people's eyes and noses. Some cried to see their homes gone. Others shook their fists in anger. Some shouted when they saw their animals driven off into the woods. Adam tried to comfort the women and children.
At last the raid was over. Ten miles of the valley lay black and dead, chimneys standing like pokers in the rubble. Nearly 1000 animals were gone. The people were silent and sad. They knew others outside of the settlement must have been killed. Then they realized that even though their village was ruined, they were all alive. Whispers ran through the group.
When the gates of Fort Herkimer swung open, the settlers gave a great cheer for Adam! They knew that without his warning they all would have been killed. But from the settlement itself, not one colonist had been lost, thanks to Adam Helmer and his incredible run!
Adam Helmer and his wife Anna Bellinger are buried in the Helmer Family Cemetery in Town of Brutus, Cayuga County New York. This cemetery is located on the Cayuga County NYGenWeb. Many Mohawk Valley people settled in Cayuga, so stay awhile and check out Sue and Bernie's most amazing site.
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