Excuse my bad writing
had but 1 1/2 hours
time to go to breakfast
and return again.
To Mr. Andrew Finck.
|From your affectionate son and|
Albany, February 25th, 1776
Sir:--I herewith deliver you your recruiting orders and a number of enlistments the blanks of which are to be filled up and then subscribd by the person enlisted.
Such men as you may from time to time enlist are to be sent to Col. Van Schaick at this place, that they may be equipped for their march into Canada with all possible despatch. Every man that is able to furnish himself with arms and blankets should do it. I am sir
Your humble servant
To Capt. Andrew Finck. Ph. Schuyler.
We see by this order that he had received in the meantime his commission as Captain, which is dated February 16th, 1776, and ranges him as 3rd Captain, which from 14th First Lieutenant eight months before shows sufficiently for his military worth. The commission is endorsed by Philip Schuyler, Major General, and also contains the names of Henry Diffendorf, First Leiutenant; Tobias Van Veghten, Second Lieutenant; and John Denny, Ensign. The above order shows that the General selected the young Capatain for the arduous duty of recruiting officer of the regiment, at the same time leaving him in charge of his company and doing important frontier duty. The following order was received by Finck shortly afterwards:
Albany, April 23, 1776
Sir:--You are to proceed to Fort George with your company without delay you are to begin your march early tomorrow for which six days provisions will be necessary. A battow will be ready at the lower dock to take in the baggage at Sunrise you are to march by the same rout which the troops have taken who marched before you. Great care is to be taken that your men commit no depredations on the inhabitants. I wish you a pleasant march and remain your well wisher.
Goose Van Schaick.
To Capt. Andrew Finck.
Pursuant to this order he proceeded to Fort George, where we find him on May 3rd, 1776, as President of a Court Martial appointed by General Schuyler, for the trial of a number of cases. The court ordered that John Smith, of General Arnold's regiment, and Andries G. Neal, of Capt. Benedict's company (Van Schaick's regiment), receive 15 lashes each with the cat-of-nine-tails on their bare backs for thefts. Also, John McDonald, of the latter regiment, 39 lashes for desertion, and Reuben Wiley, of the Second Pennsylvania Regiment, 25 lashes for the same offense.
During the summer of 1776 he was stationed at Fort George, and judging from the movements and orders given to the regiment, the troops were kept busy with drilling, scouting, conveying, transporting and watching the enemy and the tories. During this year a rearrangement of the officers in the New York line was made, evidently for the main purpose of weeding out undesirable material, and we find in Calendar Hist. MSS. the return of Col. Van Schaick, in which he classifies Third Captain Andrew Finck as "good," while a number of others he designated as bad, middling, indifferent, and one even as "scoundrel." The name of the Captain was consequently forwarded for re-appointment by Major General Schuyler, on October 7th, 1776, and on November 21st of that year he was re-commissioned Third Captain in the First Battalion of New York forces. At a meeting of the Provincial Military committee with General Schuyler and Lieutenant Colonel Gansevoort, at Saratoga, October 22, 1776, it was agreed to appoint Captain Finck to recruit for Colonel Van Schaick's regiment, with garrison at Fort George, and the money was appropriated for his disbursements for this purpose. There was little encouragement to the patriots in the events of 1776 and the first half of 1777. Captain Finck was for nearly all of that time in command at Saratoga, while Captain Christopher P. Yates was staff officer of the regiment at Fort George, as shown by letter dated Fort George, April 11th, 1777, in which Yates, as senior officer, informs Finck of some movements of the enemy and orders him to send a large scouting party to the westward. The next day Colonel Van Schaick sends him the same intelligence and orders him to take personal command and march with all the force he can collect, including batteaumen, and secure all the disaffected persons. The return of the Captain is missing, but the regiment reports two weeks later that the scouting party had been successful and cleared the country west of all the royalists. This raid completed, Finck returned to Saratoga, to which place in the meantime the larger part of Van Schaick's regiment had moved, and on the 19th day of May, 1777, Captain Finck presided at the Court Martial held over Alexander Jennison, a soldier of his own company, for desertion, who received 100 lashes with the cat-of-nine-tails at the public whipping post.
From his correspondence, we know that Captain Finck remained at Saratoga until June 25th, 1777, and possibly later. With the advance of Burgoyne the Armericans retreated down the Hudson. In the meantime the victory at Bennington gave new hope to the army--and so did the report of the bravery of the Mohawk Valley Militia at Oriskany and of the final flight of St. Ledger. All but two companies of Van Schaick's remiment had been ordered west, and Captain Finck, as senior officer, commanded the same. He took active part in the two battles of Saratoga, October 7th and 9th, 1777, and his two companies fought together with a small body of consolidated New York troops. They were present at the surrender of Burgoyne, and immediately afterward we find Captain Finck again in command at Saratoga. Van Schaick's regiment had in the meantime been ordered down the Hudson, with other troops, to reinforce Washington's army, but did not proceed from Albany until February, 1778. Captain Finck joined the regiment at Albany; in March, 1778, the regiment moved southward, and likely remained on the Hudson during that year. In 1779, at the beginning of Sullivan's campaign, we find Van Schaick's regiment at Fort Stanwix, from whence it aided the campaign by destroying the settlements of the Onondagas. Captain Finck took an active part in this expedition. He continued with the regiment until 1780, when it joined again the forces on the Hudson, and Captain Finck by right of rank became Brigade Major of General James Clinton's brigade, interrupted only in May, 1780, when he goes with his old regiment, under command of Col. Van Schaick, to pursue Sir John Johnson, who had come by the northern route to recover personal property of the Johnsons at Johnstown and elsewhere. It was at this time that many Stone Arabia dwellings and barns were destroyed by Johnson. In October of the same year the rest of the settlement was completely destroyed.
The depressed period of the Revolution reached its climax in 1780--the treasury empty, the regiments wihout soldiers, and the people without hope. Retrenchments had to be made, and with the end of the year 1780 it was decided to consolidate the five New York regiments into two. Captain Finck, who was then the oldest captain in the line, retired on January 1st, 1781, from the Continental Army and returned to his parents, at Stone Arabia.
Thus closes a meritorious service of nearly five and one-half years in the line, in which he not only faithfully served as a field officer but did most useful work as a recruiting captain. He was during that time often absent on trips through the State, as shown by expense accounts. He enjoyed fully the conficence of the Commander-in-Chief and made during this time the acquaintance of many of the leading men of the period, LaFayette, the Clintons, and Steuben. Returning home in March, 1781, after settling his accounts, we may suppose that he resolved to stay home and let others fight the battles. But little rest from public duty was given him. The country needed then just such men as Finck was--brave, honest, straightforward and modest fighters of the just cause, who could not be swerved from the path of duty nor be discouraged by adversity. On April 5th, 1781, Finck was appointed one of the Justices of the Peace of the county, and as such he took the affidavit of the tory, Nicholas Herkimer, on November 3rd, 1781.
On May 30th of the same year he was appointed Commissioner of Conspiracies of Tryon County, and acted as such for several years. The appointment was made by Governor George Clinton. These Commissioners were kept busy by the many acts of hostility on the part of the tories and by those people who had relatives who had been made prisoners by the enemy, as they had to recommend the exchange to the Governor of Quebec on the subject. Captain Finck furnished such a list and recommended quick action, as many of the families were great sufferers.
In 1781 the brave Lieutenant Colonel Marinus Willett, who had done before gallant service in the Mohawk Valley, and in whom the people had great confidence, was ordered to take the command of the levies which had been raised for the defense of the frontier, on the Mohawk River and elsewhere. The three-year men and the militia were also under his command. The condition of the country at that time was deplorable, and it required all the energy and influence of Willett to make his command a success. On July 6th, 1781, he wrote to General Washington that while formerly the militia had numbered 2,500, there were now not more than 800 men able to bear arms; of the rest, equal parts were prisoners, had gone to the enemy, or had abandoned for the present this part of the State. Those remaining were in dire distress, and all he had at that time under his command was 250 men. It is at this juncture that Willett prevails upon his friend, Andrew Finck, to assist him in his work, and with the consent of the State authorities he became Brigade-Major and Inspector. During the battle of Johnstown, in October 20th, 1781, Captain Finck took an active part.
The official appointment of Finck for Brigade-Major of Levies was from September 1, 1781, to January 1, 1782.
Again retiring to his civic duties for a few months, the dangerous condition of the western frontier made it necessary for Willett to conduct a vigorous watch and constant patrolling, and accordingly he again asked Captain Finck to serve as next in rank. Finck consented and he was appointed by the council of appointment to the rank of Major by order of May 1st, 1782. As such he served during the remainder of the war, acting as Deputy Muster Master and Inspector. His talent for organizing, recruiting and drilling was well recognized by Willett and he left these matters entirely in Finck's hands. Out of the disorganized remnants and odds and ends of all sorts of troops, from the tories and Hessians, from black and white, the faithful Finck recruited this frontier army, and in the summer of 1781 we find Willett in command of 1,100 men against 250 of the year before. The troops were kept busy by constant patrolling and when in garrison, Finck, the Steuben of the Mohawk Valley, drilled them until they became as efficient as the regulars. Both Willett and Finck were loved by the soldiers, both were men of democratic manners, of dash, pluck and energy, such men as a soldier likes to follow the world over.
The treasury being empty, the troops were raised on bounties of unappropriated lands, and it required considerable persuasion to gain recruits. In the spring of 1782 Major Finck was elected a member of Assembly from Tyron County. This assembly was in session from 11th to the 25th of July, 1782, at Poughkeepsie, and from January 27th, to March 23rd, 1783, at Kingston. Shortly before the latter session, on January 11th, 1783, Major Fincke married Maria Markel, daughter of Captain Henry Markel. Although more than a century has passed, still faint traditions linger among old families of the great Finck-Markel wedding. The old German families all united to make this event in the life of the young and brilliant officer a memorable affair, and following their customs they extend the celebration over many days. It is said that many high officers in the Army and some of the leading citizens of the State honored the Major and his bride by their attendance. Rev. Abraham Rosecrans officiated.
During part of the year 1782, and early in 1783, Major Finck was, at times, in command at Fort Herkimer and Fort Dayton, but mostly at Fort Plain. In January, 1783, the Commander in Chief conceived the object of surprising and obtaining possession of the important fortress of Oswego. The expedition was intrusted to Col. Willett. His troops were assembled at Fort Herkimer on the 8th of February. The result was not a success, but no blame was cast upon Willett, althoough he felt the failure very keenly. After his return he remained at Albany until spring, and the command of the forces devolved upon Major Finck who made his headquarters at Fort Plain. I do not think Major Finck took part in the expedition to Oswego. Returning from his duties at Kingston, before the close of the session, he assumed again his post of Inspector of Brigade. While in command of Fort Plain, and in general command of the troops in the Mohawk Valley, he received orders from General Washington on the 17th day of April, 1783, to send an officer with a flag of truce to Oswego, to announce to that garrison, from whence many of the Indian depredators came, a general cessation of hostilities, and an impending peace. Major Finck sent one Captain Thompson and four men on this errand. He was busy all summer and fall with the mustering out of the militia and levies and attending to the arduous duties of Major Muster Master, not only for Colonel Willett's regiment, but for all the different bodies raised at various times in the Mohawk Valley. The duty of the recruting officer, who may induce men to join the army, by promises of glory and prizes, is vastly different from that of the discharging officer at whose side sits a paymaster with empty coffers offering "Banker certificates and Morris notes" to the soldiers for their pay. Major Finck received his final discharge at Schenectady.
The Finck family was certainly one of the most loyal during the whole Revolutionary period. Not a single member of the family is mentioned among the disaffected, and among the soldiers we find in the "archives of the State of New York" and in "New York in the Revolution" the following names:
Two Williams and
Major Finck was a State Senator during the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth sessions, being elected to represent the Western District. His father dying in 1786, he assumed the management of his farms, built a large and commodious brick house just south of the Stone Arabia Churches, where now is the orchard back of the stone house of Jacob Nellis, and after his return from his last term as senator he settled down to the life of a farmer, filling a few town offices and being for several years highway commissioner under an appointment of the Court of Sessions. The country becoming rapidly settled after the close of the war, many new roads were opened and the best men were required to fill the office of Highway Commissioner. This was the reason for the act of 1787, which made this office appointive. He also acted as Justice of the Peace. In 1790 he received 1,800 acres of bounty lands in the townships of Dryden, Ovid and Cato for his services as Major.
One of the intimate friends of the Major was Major General Steuben,--they often visited each other. At the solicitation of the General, Major Finck joined in 1786 the German Society of New York, and continued a member thereof for many years. In the year 1784 thirteen noble hearted Germans had founded, after the pattern of the German Society of Pennsylvania, the above society, which has for its purposes to afford to the German Emigrant advice, protection and, as far as in its power lay, assistance, allowing itself to be deterred by no obstacles or hostile actions from the fulfillment of its self-chosen duty. Baron Von Steuben was several years president of the Society and among the early members were such men as Col. Frederick Von Weissenfels, Col. Von Lutterloh, Pastor Gross, Henry and John Jacob Astor, Edward Livingston, Generals Peter Schuyler and Wm. Wilmerding. This society is still in existence.
In the year 1799 he was appointed by Governor John Jay a commissioner of taxation of Montgomery County.
By inheritance, by good management of his farms and sale of his bounty lands, and by shrewd investments, the Major had become before the close of the century a wealthy man. His loyal and successful career entitled him to still larger honors on the part of the people. But he belonged to the unpopular political party. Major Finck was an ardent Federalist and could not have been elected to his terms in the assembly and senate if he had not been carried through by his military record and great personal popularity, but as time passed and the republican party grew stronger, especially among his own people, his chances of filling offices in the gift of the people grew less, and only once did he run again for public honors, in 1798, when he was defeated for congress by a small adverse majority.
In about 1772 Andrew Finck, Jr., joined the Union Lodge of Albany and his name appears as the 55th signer of the By-Laws of that society of which Peter W. Yates was then Master, and Sir John Johnson Provincial Grand Master. Many of the later comrades in arms of the Major were members of this Lodge, for instance, Peter Gansevoort, Christopher P. Yates, Henry Dievendorf, Tobias Van Veghten and others. The name of the Lodge was changed in 1806 to Mount Vernon Lodge No. 3 of ancient York Masons, and is still occupying a prominent position in Masonic Ranks. In the year 1785 he was transferred to St. Patrick's Lodge of Johnstown, N. Y., to which he belonged to the time of his death. In a deed of Michael Rawlins and wife, given in 1792, we find his name among the members of the lodge who purchased a lodge site in that village.
In order to explain some of the future movements of the Major it is necessary to rely almost wholly on family and local tradition. He was comfortably located, well connected with the most prominent families of the valley, had a sufficient income to maintain and educate his family, and to entertain in good style and in the lavish way of the Palatines, his numerous friends and political and military comrades. At the same time he grew less popular at home. Being of a pronounced aggressive temper and outspoken, he could not fail to make some enemies. Of superior education to his neighbors, having acquired different tastes during his youth, during his service in the army and in the legislature, he had become quite different from them. He was decidedly public spirited. He hoped that the war and the new condition of things would bring about a new era for his own people, the Palatines. A great many of them fell back into the same rut in which they had traveled since their first arrival, remaining unprogressive, exluding themselves from the touch of the world, failing to give their children proper instruction, and neglecting to occupy that position to which they were entitled, which condition lasted for several decades more. His efforts to bring about some improvement brought him little thanks. When he argued with them that they must have their children learn the English language, besides the German, they called him a "Yankee Dutchman." When he told them that it was a shame for people of their means to build log houses, they told him that he could live in a brick house like the "Gentry" but they were satisfied with log houses as their fathers had been. Among the lands at Stone Arabia owned by Major Finck was a five acre lot known as the Dominie's lot and house. It was centrally located and well adapted for school purposes. The Major knowing that a better and modern school was badly needed in the county, rigged up the old building, hired some teachers and during the year 1796 a high school was kept there. The Major had interested some of his friends in New York and Albany and had promises from the state authorities to make this one of the new seats of learning to be established by the legislature. Everything was apparently on a promising basis. The Major told his neighbors about his plan, but they called a meeting at which it was resolved that too much learning would make bad farmers and his offer was positively declined. He kept on right along with his school, but most of them did not, not even his own brothers, send their youngsters, and only a few children and young people attended it. Finally some one found out that by a flaw in Finck's title the land belonged to the Reformed Church.
In order to rid themselves of the school, they began a suit of ejectment against Finck and then a merry war began. Numerous suits on old justices' dockets of 1796, in which Finck figures on one side or the other, doubtless refer to this exciting period. Apparently acting under advice of counsel, on December 19th, 1796, he gave up the land and an agreement to that effect was drawn up. It is said that the German ministers of that day were at the bottom of this whole affair as they feared that the establishment of an English Academy would injure their own influence. For a year or so afterwards Finck maintained the school in hiw own house, but finally got tired of it, as those, whom he sincerely wanted to benefit, not only spurned his offer but misinterpreted his motives. The final result of this unpleasant occurrence was that the Major lost all interest in his native home, and about 1800 he went with his wife and his younger children to the western part of the state, probably to some of his bounty lands, and seldom thereafter visited the old home. His efforts in regard to better education do not seem to have stopped however, as he afterwards gave, or sold for a nominal sum, the lands on which the Western College of Physicians and Surgeons, now the Fairfield Academy, stands.
In the meantime his oldest son, Andrew Acker Finck, born in 1784, had grown up and settled, early in 1804, in the present town of Manheim, and married Delilah, the daughter of Captain Frederick Getman. The Mohawk turnpike had become the great western thoroughfare, and Andrew had wisely chosen a spot to locate a tavern where the southern and northern roads connectred with the turnpike. Right on the banks of the Mohawk he built, in 1805, the famous tavern, still standing. He induced the Major to move with his whole family to Manheim, where the latter erected a comfortable wooden house, which stood a little east of the Morgan Biddleman residence. It was plain on the outside, but very comfortably furnished, full of books and portraits of generals and pictures of battle fields, and a piano and objects of art showed the refined taste of the occupant. The door was double, so that the upper part could be opened, and this door was a favorite spot of the Major watching the passing world. It is said that the purchase of the land, known as the Andrew Finck farm, was somewhat costly to the Major, as he first purchased it of some representatives of the heirs of Molly Brant and Peter Brant, to whom the 300 acres had been willed by Sir William Johnson. It seems that this land was sold, like the rest of the forfeited lands, by the Commissioners of Forfeitures, but they failed to make an entry of this sale, and the Major's attorney became convinced that the heirs of Sir William Johnson's dusky housekeeper and of his son Peter still held their title. As a matter of fact, it was the prevailing opinion of that time that the titles based upon the acts of attainder would prove valueless.
After the Major and Andrew A. had been settled for several years, the agents of the Ellice estate, the same estate which so mysteriously obtained title to some of the forfeited lands, claimed title and threatened suit. The outcome was that the Major declined to buy, but he loaned the necessary funds to his sons, Andrew A. and Henry, and finally, in 1813, they got a deed for the land from the Ellices. His Stone Arabia land he gave to his son Christian A. Here, from 1805 on, he spent the declining years of his life, surrounded by his family, once more witnessing the clearing of a homestead out of a virgin forest, but living right by that great artery of commerce, the turnpike, and not a day passing when he would not meet some old comrade in arms or sons friend of younger years. In his new town he held only minor offices. We know nothing about him except for the few surviving people who still remember him. He was a man of medium height, solid but not fat, of very quick and sharp movements, with clear cut and clean-shaven face and of dark complexion. Erect like a soldier to the last, his eyes clear and sharp and somewhat stern, children were not at first attracted to him, but rather afraid of him. His voice was still like that of an officer in the field, and in argument apt to rise to a battle pitch. Especially on one subject he was very irritable, which was that the tories and the wavering of Revolutionary times were then enjoying equal rights with the loyal, and that many of them then held offices of public trust. That was the great unapardonable sin, and woe to him who crossed him on this subject.
In his dress he was extremely neat and spruce. He attended church when he could find English-speaking ministers, but he had got through with the German dominies.
>From children he expected obedience and salute. Says one of the oldest inhabitants of Stratford: ..I drove as a boy a few times my father's team to Little Falls. We used to water the horses at a trough near the Major's residence. One day I drove up and I saw the old Major. I stared at him, but did not speak. He thundered out: 'What manners have you got, why don't you speak to an old gentleman?' I was almost scared enough to fall from my seat. The next day I came again, only to see the Major in the same place. I stammered out: 'Good day, Major.' He answered me in the most pleasant way, and we were ever afterwards the best of friends, he giving me often apples and sweets."
The same strictness as to manners he maintained in his own family, and everything was regulated in true military order. He kept four slaves, one of whom he gave to each of his four children. His daughter Mary, born in 1793, later Mrs. Chatfield, was educated at Albany, and was like all the female members of the Finck family, a strikingly beautiful girl.
In the family only German was spoken, and he and his wife conversed both well and fluently in English and German, but did not use the so-called "Mohawk Dutch."
He was an inveterate smoker but only a moderate drinker, Simms' peculiar remarks notwithstanding. On the contrary, while the Major enjoyed his toddy and his bitters, he would drink just so much each day and under no consideration more. His son Andrew A. followed the same rule and said that his father abhorred the immoderate drinking of many of his own people. >From Simms' report it would appear that the fatal accident to the Major was caused in the first place by imbibing too much. It was the Major's stubbornness, which had grown with his years. He met on a narrow place of the turnpike, near his house, a four-horse stage going at full speed. Instead of turning clear out of the way he was trying to exact half of the road. The team was going at a gallop and the driver could not possibly stop it in time to prevent the serious accident. Horses and stage went over the old man and his right leg was badly broken and splintered and a few months later, on the 3rd of February, 1820, he passed away, never leaving his bed after receiving the injury. He left no will, as he had disposed of all his real and personal estate some years before his death to his wife and children, saying that he wanted no quarrels after his death. His wife, described as an amiable, tall and good looking woman, followed him about three years later, on the 28th of January, 1823. The Major and his wife were survived by four children, Andrew A., Henry, Christian and Mary, (Mrs. Chatfield). Thus ended the active life of an earnest patriot, a brave soldier and one of the most prominent personages in this valley in the war of the revolution.
Many of his descendants have become well known and respected members of the commonwealth. His oldest son Andrew A. was perhaps one of the best known men of his day in Herkimer County.
In the glorious days of coaching and staging on the great Mohawk turnpike the tavern which he had built in 1805 became widely known in the valley. All the best stages stopped there, and as many as a hundred guests could be entertained there at a time. Many noted men of the time stopped at that inn, Jerome Bonaparte on his trips to the Black River and the Marquis de Lafayette on his visit in 1825. Andrew A. Finck told often how LaFayette inquired if he was a relative of that brave and fiery Major Finck whom he met on the Hudson in 1790. Hearing that he was dead, he had Andrew A. show him and his suite his grave and spoke there of him in feeling and praising words.
In the course of years Andrew A. Finck became a very prosperous man, he gave up keeping his tavern, rented it and built a handsome brick house on one of his farms, where he and his family for many years kept open house for their many friends up and down the river; the old Palatine hospitality was still continued and all the old families of the valley were numbered among their intimate friends. Engaged in many enterprises, public spirited and successful, Andrew was a man far in advance of his time. He undertook a project to cross the Adirondack wilderness by railroad and canal, a scheme which at a later day took the brains and money of Dr. Webb to accomplish, by building the Adirondack R. R. After investing good sums of money the project failed on account of bad times and was abandoned.
Hospitable and generous to his friends and family, he was as trusting to his business associates. In independent position, owning large and fine farms, and numerous other investments, he likely never dreamed of reverses. But they came. Allowing the use of his name on endorsements his whole fortune was swept away and he spent the last years of his life in straightened circumstances. His grave is in the same cemetery as his father's and mother's, and he rests by the side of his first wife.
Thus have I told what little is known of four generations of Andrew Fincks, all of clear Palatine stock, honest and useful citizens of their respective times, without a stain on their name, whose descendants are justly proud of them and whom we are pleased to honor as citizens of our present County of Herkimer and of our mother County of Montgomery.