Little Journeys Along the Old Mohawk Turnpike
published by Caughnawaga Chapter D. A. R., Fonda, NY, 1923
Part 2 - the Second Day's Journey pages 9-22

The Second Day's Journey
(Read by Mrs. Elizabeth B. J. HAMMOND, December 15, 1921.)

          At the November meeting of our Chapter, you who were present traveled with Mrs. CUSSLER from Schenectady to Fort Johnson, over the Mohawk Trail, having in the early eighteen hundreds, paid toll at the gate then situated on the south side of the road a little west of the present entrance to St. Mary's cemetery.  "Mount Johnson" as the village was called, was a pretentious hamlet, with the country round about covered with vast forests of tall stately pines, massive oaks, sugar maples, the birch and many others, but around the house and grounds were hardy poplars, which gave a lacy appearance to the landscape and added beauty to the grounds.  Just south of the village, the Mohawk river, a thread of shimmering silver, wound its way eastward to the greater Hudson, thence to the Atlantic Ocean.  Between the river and the village was the trail, leading east and west, and even at that early time, was a trail of importance.  Indeed, it is but a step from the time of the savage Red Man, gorgeous in his paint and wampum, to the present, when one can travel in safety and comfort to any point on the trail; and, over it, people from all lands and all races have passed, from the savage to my lady of fash-

page 9

ion, dressed in fine clothing and rich jewels.  "Mount Johnson" was originally a tract of land one mile square; but at present covers almost twenty acres.  Here, in 1743, William JOHNSON, an Irish lad, settled, and built a saw-mill, a grist mill (on the foundation of which, in recent years was built the Morris mills, since burned down.)  He then built the house, but previous to this, he had built two small buildings, one on the right side, the other on the left of the mansion.  The one on the right was used as a store, to which settlers came from miles around, even from Stone Arabia, to trade, some coming on horseback and others coming by water.  The building on the left housed negro slaves and workmen.  The mansion, which was built of grey stone (as were all the buildings,) was the finest private residence in the valley.  It was two stories high with windows and portholes, and was situated on the flatland, west of Johnson's creek.  There were stockades of logs, barracks just back of the main buildings for the guards, and round about we can seem to see grinning slaves, Indians in blankets, boldfaced traders, with squaws and children and among them, in friendly intercourse, William JOHNSON, who, by his kindness and honorable treatment, gained the confidence and respect of the Indians, which, later made possible the honors he enjoyed.  "Mount Johnson," was, indeed, an important and busy village, and in the twenty years Colonel JOHNSON spent there, many stirring events took place or were planned.  Here Colonel JOHNSON married his housekeeper, Catherine WEISENBERG, a German girl whom he had purchased for sixteen pounds, from a Mr. PHILLIPS who lived opposite Cranesville.  Here his daughters, Mary and Nancy, were born; (the son John having been born at the home of Sir Peter WARREN on the south side of the river).  Here, his wife Catherine died, and was succeeded by Mistress Molly BRANT, who presided with dignity and grace over the home.  Most of the important conferences with the Iroquois took place at this fort, and here Sir William was appointed superintendent of Indian affairs; was made a Mohawk chief; wrote most of his official letters and, in 1755, received the appointment of Major General; was re-appointed superintendent of Indian affairs having in 1750, resigned because of the neglect of the government to pay certain claims for service.  The English government gave him five thousand pounds and granted him a salary of six hundred pounds per year, thereafter.  Thus he became a wealthy Baronet.

Removes to Johnson Hall

           In 1762, he built Johnson Hall at Johnstown and resided there until his death, which occurred in 1774. "Fort Johnson" as it is now called, was occupied by Sir John JOHNSON and his bride, a Miss Mary WATTS, of New York, who remained there till the death of his father, when they went to live at Johnson Hall, from which place Sir John fled to Canada in 1776.  Just below Fort Johnson, on the same side of the river, as late as 1835, was to be seen on a jutting rock, an Indian painting.  A custom of the Mohawks, when they contemplated a military expedition, was to make a representation thereof by painting on trees or rocks the figures of warriors, with hieroglyphics, designating the design of the expedition.  If going by water, canoes were painted, with warriors to the number of the party, with faces turned in the direction whither they were going.  This painting was to commemorate the expedition of the Mohawks against the French in 1720.  Fort Johnson, today, is a sleepy little village, with only the

page 10

old home of Sir William and its history, to make it of any particular importance.  Being so near Amsterdam, it will, in time, probably be a portion of that thriving city.

Tribes Hill.

           Leaving the village with its honored past, with best wishes for its future, we pass on our way to Tribes Hill, finding an old tavern just at the foot of the hill and on the south side of the trail.  Tribes Hill is situated on a beautiful tableland from which, both east and west one gets such beautiful views and where the air is like nectar.  The earliest settlers of this little hamlet were yeomen, and the first family to immigrate there, was the HANSON family, who came from Albany in 1725.  There son Hendrick was the first white child born west of Schenectady and who was killed during the raid of Sir John JOHNSON.  In 1728 came the PUTMAN family and the little creek on the east side of the hill was named for this family.  This village, in 1780, suffered dreadfully from savages, both Red and white, who were led by Sir John JOHNSON and here they killed two of their Tory friends, William GORT and James PLATEAU, the elder PUTMAN and his son.  Many and horrible were the deeds committed in this village on that May twentieth, 1780, Colonel Adam FONDA, who built and lived in the large old brick house now occupied by the STRIKER family, direct descendants of his, was captured and taken to Canada.  A large copper tea kettle was stolen by an Indian from this home, filled with butter and taken as far as the Cayadutta creek, where it was hidden, the Indian expecting to recover it on his return; but, as they fled to Canada instead, the kettle was found by others, who returned it to the family, and, to this day it is prized as an heirloom.  Any one visiting Fort Johnson can see this kettle, which has been loaned to the Montgomery County Historical Society.

Dr. CUSHNEY Introduces Vaccine.

          In this little village, later, there settled Doctor CUSHNEY, father of the late Judge CUSHNEY of Fonda, and grandfather of Mrs. BANKER and E. B. CUSHNEY.  He married Miss Nellie HUN, who was of the same family as Doctor HUN of Albany.  Doctor CUSHNEY was the first to introduce vaccination in this section.  Smallpox was very prevalent, and the doctor believing in the virtue of vaccine, wanted to use it on those ill of the disease; but they were afraid of it, so he vaccinated his little son Henry, placed him in bed with a smallpox patient and as he had become immune by the vaccine he recovered, and Doctor CUSHNEY was ever after looked upon as a man of skill and advancement.

Ghost Story.

          Coming down the hill road on the way to Fort Hunter, we will go west perhaps a quarter of a mile to the first house, just in the rear of which, we will find a clear, cool spring of water.  The tale is told, how, if one will watch at the noon hour, they, being unseen, will see the ghost of an Indian come to this spring, cook and eat his dinner, then disappear.  Mrs. LESNER, an older daughter of the late William SCHOOLCRAFT, watched many times, hidden in an old apple tree, to see the ghost appear.  We can guess if she saw it.

Old Fort Hunter

           Across the river is Fort Hunter, one of the most important forts in the valley.  It was called the lower Castle, was situated a bow-shot from the river and was protected by cannon of seven and nine pounders. There was a chapel in the middle, and besides the homes of the colonists, had about thirty cabins for Indians.  This chapel was built in 1711 and demolished in 1820.  The

page 11

Fort Hunter Chapel's Silver Communion Service
Silver Communion Service Presented in 1712 to Fort Hunter Chapel by
Queen Anne of England.

parsonage was built in 1712 and is still standing.  The bell from this chapel was later used on the Johnstown academy.  Sir William had two pews finished, one for his family and the other for the minister's family, and over each a canopy.  The remainder of the congregation occupied movable benches.  Queen Anne, of England, sent the silver communion service, with altar linens and laces for use in the chapel, which, during the Revolution, were stolen and taken to Canada, where, in 1867, it was being used in the church at Newport, Brant Co., Canada.  I do not know if it be true or not, but have been told that this service is now the property of St. Ann's church, at Amsterdam, and I can readily see why it should be there as the money realized by the sale of the Queen Ann chapel and land was used to help build the St. Ann's church.  Fort Hunter suffered much in October 1780, from Sir John Johnson and his savages, whose trail of horrors will last as long as our land shall stand.

           Returning to the north trail, we pass the Colonel Adam FONDA home and continue on our way west.  We learn that the SHANAHAN home, now occupied by the Catholic Sisters, was originally the CUSHNEY home, and just east of it lived the HUN family, where the doctor found his bride.  Midway between the village and the eastern line of Caughnawaga, (Caughnawaga extended from the brow of Tribes Hill, west to the "Noses" and included the Sand Flats, as we now call the tableland) lived one Conrad FRITCHER, great-grandfather of F. S. FRITCHER, of Fonda.  This house is long since gone, as is also the OTTHOUT house, which stood on the north side of the trail, just at the top of the hill.  One of the OTTHOUT girls married a son of Conrad FRITCHER and was thus great-grandmother of the above F. S. FRITCHER.

           Just south and a little east, was the ZIELIE home, another patriotic family, from which place we pass on to Dadenescara which name means "Bearded Trees."  This place was the home of Harman VISCHER, a direct ancestor of the DeGRAFF family who now own it.

Relic of Savage Raid.

          Here many dreadful deeds were

page 12

committed and in the DeGRAFF family, highly prized as an heirloom, is the chair in which old Mrs. VISCHER was carried from the house to the river (after being left for dead by the savages during the raid) where she was put in a boat and taken to a place of safety.  The home today, is a beautiful country place and travelers passing by would never dream that it had once been the scene of such savage and barbarous acts as were committed there in 1780.  Harold FREDERICK in his book "In The Valley," has given the story of Taup, the black slave boy, owned by one Douw MORRISON, who was kicked off of a high rock, some distance up Dadenescara Creek, by one Philip CROSS, and how, later the same Taup pushed the same Philip CROSS (who had been wounded at the battle of Oriskany and was being taken to the home of friends of Douw MORRISON) over this same rock, killing him instantly.  This same creek flows on today and many pleasant tales it could add to those of its horrors.

First White Children on South Side of River.

          Across the river from Dadenescara is the village of Auriesville, Auriesville being the Dutch of Aaron, which was the name of an old Indian warrior who had lived many years, in a hut which stood on the flats on the east side of the creek and near the Mohawk River.  The first white child born on the south side of the river west of Fort Hunter, was John QUACKENBOSS, born in this village.  Just over the hill is "The Shrine," very celebrated as the supposed spot where Father JOGUES was martyred; but according to best authority, the aged priest, who had done so much toward Christianizing the Indians, met his death at what is now known as "The Sand Flats," just west of our village and which was a part of the then Caughnawaga.

          A little to the south of Auriesville we come to the village of Glen, where we will speak of three buildings -- the Peter VOORHEES home, built in 1801, now owned and occupied by Edward EDWARDS of the GLEN-SANDERS-EDWARDS family; the old Glen store, built in 1817, at a cost of two thousand dollars, and the EDWARDS-SANDERS-GLEN home built in 1818.

Clay Tred by Oxen.

          The bricks for these buildings were made on the land and the method used was to have one or more teams of oxen driven around in a circle by a person standing on a central pivot, and as the oxen kept treading the soft clay, it was worked to a fine texture, was then formed into bricks and dried in the sun, when they were ready for use.  When the oxen had finished the treading of the clay, they, many times, had no hair left on the lower part of their legs.  John L. PUTMAN, then a lad of fourteen or sixteen years of age, drove the oxen to make the bricks for these Glen buildings.

Old Ferry at CONYNE's.

          Coming again to the trail, we come to the CONYNE tavern, long noted for its hospitality.  Here, the late Peter CONYNE, long a successful merchant in our village, was born.  There was a ferry here, where travelers could cross to the south side of the river, when they so wished.  The house, formerly, was on the south side of the road, but in recent years was moved to its present location by Daniel FRITCHER and his son Francis, who also built the barns and other buildings.  Charles VEDDER now owns and occupies this farm.  We pass the Barney WEMPLE home, the Hardenburgh tavern, the PRIDE home, and come to what we know as the Stube or John CAMPBELL farm, then a farm of 875 acres, which was

page 13

settled before 1743 by Barent WEMPLE, ancestor of our editor, William B. WEMPLE, who moved there from Schenectady.  His son married Maria VEEDER, daughter of Johannes VEEDER, who settled above Cayadutta Creek, all his buildings were burned in the two Johnson raids of 1780 and 1781, his horses and slaves stolen and property devastated.  He and his wife were buried on the hillside back of the house.  In the early eighteen hundreds the farm was owned and occupied by a Mr. WILLIAMS, grandfather of Mrs. F. S. FRITCHER, Miss Katherine WILLIAMS and Mrs. Anna GARDINIER.  Mr. WILLIAMS owned one hundred acres of land, one field of which ran west of the old toll gate which was on the south side of the road, a little way to the east of the KLOCK farm.  When the toll gate was built, Mr. WILLIAMS protested against paying as much toll as those coming from a greater distance; but the Commissioners thought he should pay as much as any one, so he said he would not use the public highway; but would build a road on his own land.  The commissioners then said he might use the gate with a fair toll charge.  The farm known as the KLOCK farm was originally the Jellies FONDA place and here he had a large store and ashery, where an immense amount of business was transacted.  Still to be seen, on the north side of the road and just west of the farm buildings, are two small houses formerly occupied by the negro help of this hardy pioneer.  The next place was the John FONDA tavern, a large pretentious building, where both passengers and teams found comfort and good cheer.  John FONDA was a brother of Jellies, and a son of Douw FONDA, the founder of the village.  This farm is now known as the BEMIS farm, but for many years was the home of William CAMPBELL an uncle of Mrs. Washington FROTHINGHAM.  A direct descendent of John FONDA, Mrs. Elizabeth Van VECHTAN SWEET, of Johnstown, is hale and hearty at the age of nearly ninety years and is very proud of the part her ancestors took in the early history of our valley.

Old Village Houses.

          At this late date, it is rather difficult to find much of the history of the early settlers, except such as is to be found in histories.  The older settlers are nearly all gone and many interesting and valuable bits of history are lost.  But by many inquiries and recalling the bits of history as given me by those who have long since passed on, I am able to give you some things still unwritten, of the people and homes in our village.

          The first house about which I know is the one in which Mrs. DEVINE now lives.  It was, for many years known as the COCOANUT home and I can seem to see Mrs. COCOANUT, a dear little lady, coming into Zion church, on a Sunday morning, and she in her ninetieth year.  The house was built by the SALISBURY family and was one of the first to be built after the raid of 1780.  Just across the street was what was known as the BLAIR home (now occupied by an Italian family).  Mr. BLAIR was a tin-peddler, very eccentric, with broken speech, and was a source of much merriment to the children.  Just across the street and a little west, was the Evert Yates WEMPLE house, later the Van VECHTEN home and now occupied by John BEARCROFT and daughter.  Here, the WEMPLEs made platform scales of quite reknown.  South and west is the BROWER house, later occupied by Lawrence Van ALLEN, an undertaker, who when he wished to preserve bodies till time for burial, used much tansy, and when he died, one summer's day, it was necessary to fairly bury the body in tansy.  In the early 1800's this house was a toll-

page 14

gate, and for a few years prior to 1836, was occupied by Joseph N. YATES, who early moved up from Schenectady, and was the gate-keeper, removing about 1826 to Auriesville and later to Fultonville.  The houses owned by Winfield SANDERSON and Mrs. BEEKLE are old homes, although I am not sure of their history.  The house in which Mrs. PORTLEY lives, was the GODWIN home and I well remember hearing what splendid carpenters the two sons were.  Across the street was the HAMMOND property.  The large brick house of Christopher Y. HAMMOND was built some time between 1830-1840; the Henry F. HAMMOND house, now occupied by the Charles HORNING family, having been built about 1800.  Here, for many years lived Mrs. Werden HAMMOND, mother of Christopher Y. and Henry F. HAMMOND and grandmother of Major G. H. F. Van HORNE, late of our village.

Courtship of Mrs. HAMMOND.

          The story of the courtship of Mrs. HAMMOND by Werden HAMMOND is as follows:  Catlyna YATES, widow of Henry FONDA, (who was a son of Jellies) was on her way to visit friends on the south side of the river.  When she was part way across, she experienced some difficulty and two young men on their way to Albany with a load of furs, came to her assistance.  The men were Werden and John HAMMOND of Utica, surveyors and merchants, they having made the first survey of Utica.  Werden was so pleased with the charming lady, that he called on his way home, and after a proper, though short courtship, they were married and took up their abode in the still unfinished Jellies FONDA mansion on the hill.  Werden HAMMOND finished the house and all the HAMMOND children were born in it.  Jane FONDA, daughter of Mrs. HAMMOND and her first husband, Henry FONDA, was married to Abram A. Van HORNE while she lived in this beautiful home.  Mrs. Van HORNE being the grandmother of Miss Hannah Van HORNE and brothers, Abram and John.  After the death of Werden HAMMOND, his widow removed to the home in Caughnawaga.  Her sons C. Y. and Henry F. laid out and gave to the village the beautiful cemetery, known as the Caughnawaga Cemetery.  In 1837 C. Y. HAMMOND was town clerk, the first one in the town.

Old Caughnawaga Church.

           On the north side of the street just opposite the HAMMOND property, was the old Caughnawaga church and parsonage.  The church was built in 1763 by the patronage, principally, of Sir William JOHNSON, the WEMPLE, FONDA, VEEDER and VROOMAN families, and the reason it was spared when Sir John JOHNSON raided the town, in 1780, was because the ground had been a part of the Butler grant.  Most of you know the history of the church, that it was a large, square building, of stone, with port-holes and with two windows on each of the four sides to give light.  It had a bell which had been Sir William's dinner bell and which weighed one hundred pounds.  Sir William some times attended service and occupied a pew at the left of the door.  In 1868 the church was torn down and the stones used for common building purposes.  The stone wall around the grounds of the late

page 15

G. F. MILLS' home on Cayadutta street, was built of these stones; the cellar wall of the WALTERS home, (now KAHN home) on Switzer Hill and also the cellar wall of my house, were made of stones taken from this old church.  Mrs. S. W. PUTMAN and Alfred GARDINIER have walking sticks made from timber taken from the church.  John RATHMAN has a violin, the back of which was made by his father, the late John RATHMAN, Sr., out of a curley maple board taken from the building.  Miss Hannah Van HORNE has in her possession a fluted dish and a cup used for the communion service; and I have a little wooden instrument, which looks like a wooden book, on which the tunes were pitched, which were sung in the church.

Prayers Answered During Famine.

           The story is told of how, once, during a famine in the valley, the settlers repaired to the church to pray for relief.  While offering prayers for food, the sky became so dark, that every one went out to see what made it.  They saw a cloud of wild pigeons so great as to cover the sky, which they firmly believed had been sent in answer to their prayers.  By shooting hundreds of them and preserving the flesh they had food to last till harvest came.

          This old church was once an academy and later used as a residence.  The parsonage, built in 1800, on a tract of about thirty acres of land, was a beautiful house, set in a small grove of trees.  It has only recently been torn down; and on its site we find the very pretty home of William J. WEEPER and just to the east a large silk mill.

Marker For Church Site.

          Just west of the WEEPER home, stands a monument, erected by Caughnawaga chapter D. A. R., to mark the site of the old church.  Strangers think it is a monument erected in memory of the heroes who fought and died that our beloved land might be free.  Across from the church was the Peter FORMAN home and cabinet shop.  In the rear was a large saw and turning mill.  Just west of the FORMAN's, was the old tavern, a building of some pretension in those days, being 99 feet long and with a ball-room extending all the length of it.  Many famous travelers have stopped here and many an interesting tale it could tell.  In the house now occupied by Henry KELLY and family, lived Dr. Daniel DAVIS, and just across the street was a tannery.  Where Fred SANDERSON now lives, was the home of the STUTS family and later Judge, or Squire GRAFF.  The two houses on the south side of the street, one occupied by Mrs. Elizabeth MONCINI as a store and residence, and the one next west of it are both old houses.  The former was built by Barent I. WEMPLE, father of John B. and William B. WEMPLE of Fultonville, both of whom were born there in 1807 and 1809 respectively, the property being owned more recently by the father of Miss Helen JOHNSON.

Birthplace of Washington FROTHINGHAM.

          The house now occupied by the LIPPIE family was the FROTHINGHAM home and here Washington FROTHINGHAM was born.  The story is told of how once, his mother was expecting her noted brother, Washington IRVING, to pay her a visit, and that she might have plenty of good bread in the house, was baking a large batch; her husband, who was some times peculiar, locked her out of the kitchen, and the bread was burned to a crisp.  The noted visitor came, enjoyed his visit, never knowing of the episode.  On the corner of Main and Cemetery streets once stood the little house which is now second below it, having been moved down to its present location.  Here, one TAPPEN had a tailor and hat and cap shop

page 16

and lived in the house now occupied by Miss Anna RATHMAN.  Mr. TAPPEN later sold this shop to Augustus GEORGE and Charles TIMMERMAN, and they later sold it to John RATHMAN, Sr., who, for years had a cabinet shop there.  John RATHMAN, Jr., has on the front door of his house on Broadway, the brass knocker, taken from the TAPPEN house, which is marked "TAPPEN, 1797."  Across Cemetery street from the hat and cap shop, Volkert VEEDER had a wagon shop, which, later, was made into a dwelling and here, James VEEDER, his son, afterwards a noted lawyer, was born.  When the old church property was sold, Mr. VEEDER purchased it and removed to the parsonage, having sold his corner home to Dr. NOTT a Reformed minister, son of Rev. Dr. Eliphalet NOTT, for sixty-three years president of Union college.  The present home of Mrs. FRANCE, was, originally a wagon shop and blacksmith shop; later Charles TIMMERMAN had a cabinet shop there.

Old Brick School House.

          Just east and north of the TAPPEN home, now the RATHMAN home, stands the little old red brick school-house.  I know the school house is there and that the water used there in its school days was drawn from the TAPPEN well and that the following teachers taught there:  Jaquith SCHELL, George WORTH, Richard WORTH, Mr. YOUNG, and Mr. BAILEY, Miss Helen JOHNSON, and A. Smith KNIGHT.  When it was built is still unknown as far as I can learn.  As it is of the same architecture as the school-houses of New Jersey and other states, (much written up in our National magazine) and as they were built mostly from 1760 to 1780, I feel sure this building is nearly if not quite as old as they are.  In 1864, Miss Helen JOHNSON had 81 pupils in her school, (District No. 5), and at the end of each quarter had to swear to the correctness of her report.  Thomas S. IRELAND, commissioner, in that year visited her school in October, and she still has the register book in which she made affidavit as to the correctness of her report.  The land on which this schoolhouse was built, was a portion of the Abram A. Van HORNE farm, and in later years it was the property of his daughter, Catherine Van HORNE BELL.  The first record of transfer was in 1868: George C. BELL to one HAGGART.  I have made many inquiries and get always the same reply: "It was an old building when I attended school there, as a child," and some of these replies were given by persons some years past the allotted three score and ten.

           Across from the schoolhouse was the home of Abram A. Van HORNE, which has recently been torn down.  Mr. Van HORNE was one of the largest owners of property and had, besides his farm, a tannery, a shoe shop, blacksmith shop, and store.  The house now occupied by Miss Van HORNE and her brother, Abram, was built in 1826, by Abram A. Van HORNE, and was used as a bakery in the basement, and as a store on the first floor.  When his son, Giles H. F. Van HORNE married, it was converted into a residence and he and his bride took up their residence there.

FONDA Family Homes.

          The Jellies FONDA house, on the hill was built in 1790, but was still unfinished when he died.  His home was where the County Farm now is and there he was taken suddenly ill and died.  His body was brought to the mansion on the hill (after boards had been laid down for floors,) and the burial took place from there. Dow or Douwse, FONDA, the first of the name, to settle here, built a stone house on the flats, near the river, in 1751.  It was near the east end of the race-course of the pre-

page 17

sent fair grounds, and here in 1780, during the raid, he, an old man in his eighties, was scalped and killed by an Indian to whom he had been very kind.  He built the first grist mill the year he settled here, 1751.  A little way east was the ferry where Catlyna FONDA took a boat for the south shore, the day she met her future husband.  Near the home, was the family burial ground; but in 1863, after the village cemetery had been laid out, the bodies were mostly removed from this spot to the cemetery on the hill, and any one visiting there may see the old headstones, among them being some with Dutch inscriptions and which are supposed to have been brought from Holland.  The first house erected on the hill was the FONDA mansion, now called the FROTHINGHAM house.  The next to be built was the George SIMPSON home and then the Henry WARREN house, now spoken of as the Patrick FITZSIMMONS home.

Old Tannery Location.

          On Main street, corner of Center, was a tannery, owned by one Van HEUSEN.  It is the old part of the McIntyre block and one can still see the old beams in a part of this building.  Just west of it, was the house and store of one Perry YATES, long known as the Dr. KLOCK home, and now occupied by Patrick COLLINS.  Isaac FONDA tells how the boys used to sell buttermilk on the trains, for this same YATES.  One of the FONDA family had a home on the present site of the old court house, which latter was built in 1826, as was the greystone jail and jail residence which stood just in the rear of the court house.

          Aunt Betsey FONDA lived in the little house on the corner of Cayadutta street and Putman avenue.  Just in the rear of this house and where the HEALY family now lives, was a tannery.

House of Margaret WEMPLE

Brave Pioneer Woman.

          Margaret, or Peggy WEMPLE, lived in the tavern which stood on the present site of the G. F. MILLS house.  Her first tavern was burned in 1780, but was rebuilt the following year and this house, which was removed by Mr. MILLS when he built his residence, stands just at the top of the slight incline from Cayadutta street, and on Putman avenue, is one and a half stories high, and formerly faced the creek.  But when the plot was laid out in streets, by Hon. E. C.

page 18

DAVIS, it was moved to its present location.  The Margaret WEMPLE mill was just across the street from the Betsey FONDA home, later where George PUTMAN lived.  The story is told of Peggy, how in trying to intimidate her, the body of a dead Indian was hung in the door of the mill and when she opened the door, it would seem to start for her.  But being a very brave woman, she pushed the body aside and entered to her work as if nothing fearful was near.  The family also tell of, how, once while rocking her infant, at night a large panther kept circling the house: but it finally went away.  Peggy was a daughter of old Douw FONDA and a sister of Major Jellies FONDA.

          Across the Johnstown road from the tavern, stood another FONDA home, built for Pappy DOUW by his son Adam DOUW.  This house was moved down on Cayadutta street, by the late Isaac A. ROSA, Sr., and is the first one after we cross the old Johnstown road, on the way to Berryville.  Across from the upper flour and feed mill, lately owned by G. F. and A. H. MILLS Co., stood the John BOOTH shoddy mill, he being the father of Miss Belle BOOTH, and just around the bend, on the creek road, was a toll gate.

Expert Four Horse Driver.

          On West Main street near the present site of the VOSBURGH garage, stood a large tavern owned by a FONDA.  Here Henry FONDA (ancestor of Esther, Boyd and Lena ARGERSINGER), a most wonderful stage driver, used to stop on his route from Fort Johnson to St. Johnsville.  He was considered the most expert driver of a four-horse team, then in the valley.  This tavern, in later years, was cut in two parts one of which is now the Reformed church parsonage on Broadway, the other is the home of E. E. FOLMSBEE on Court Street.  At the taverns one might buy a cigar for a penny; 1 clay pipe, 1 penny; a glass of white whiskey, 3 pennies.  They could call for a "Penny Grab," (pine lemon peel, flavored with lemon) or choke cherry wine.

Another Red School House.

          Across the creek was a little red schoolhouse, where one GARRY taught, when Miss Belle BOOTH was a small child.  A. Smith KNIGHT also taught there and A. H. MILLS was a pupil there.  This building was moved to the Squire John VEEDER home, now where Oliver NELLIS lives and was long a farm building.  The story is told of the death of a little girl, of the name of LASHER, who was a pupil in the school and who was buried in the cemetery which was on a slight rise of ground where the house of Mrs. James N. COLE now stands.  The pupils attended the funeral in a body and although they were sorry to lose a playmate, they enjoyed the singing around the open grave.

Teaburg Hill.

           Just a short distance north of this cemetery stood the beautiful home of Colonel Peter H. FONDA.  It was spoken of as the house in the Grove and was built just at the foot of Teaberg Hill, which is still ours and which tradition tells us, was the place formerly where the ladies of the village congregated to drink tea and gossip.  The Indian name of this hill was "Ta-he-ka-nunda," meaning "hill of berries."  Ancient Mohawks required their young male papooses to run up and down this hill, and any who flagged, were thought unfit to endure the fatigues of war.  As this hill was of such importance to the Indians, in developing their young, as it is near our public bath, it would seem to me that we could take a lesson of the Red Man, for the good of our young; make this same hill a village sport place, and with the present bath house, both

page 19

summer and winter our young people, (and older ones too) would derive much benefit.  There are even buildings which could be developed into clubhouses and the women could still drink tea and gossip.  (Our greatest crying need is a community center and so easily to be had right in our midst.)

          The next house in this neighborhood, was the Washington Morgan house, on Prospect street, now owned by Mrs. Rufus P. NELLIS.  The heavy timbers in this house were taken from the old "Wooding-up" house which stood across the tracks, south of the old Fonda Hotel and adjoining the old freight house. Edward B. CUSHNEY, then a lad of about five years, now 87 years old, enjoyed sitting on the outer end of a beam while it was being taken from across the tracks to the place of building.  Over on the north side of Broadway, then just a swampy piece of ground, stood an old house, called "the poorhouse."  It was not maintained by the people but the very poor of the town lived there and people spoke of the place as "the poorhouse."

First Harvesting Machinery Made Here.

          Across the trail from the red schoolhouse, on the west bank of the Cayadutta creek, Jacob Van Alstine WEMPLE made harvesting machines, the first ever made in America.  On the hill north of Caughnawaga, or eastern part of Fonda, at the four corners, stood the James LANSING house, now known as the KINCADE farm.  A short distance east stood the HAGGART house, a fine brick building, and now known as the VOORHEES farm.  Some say the bricks used were brought from Holland, as ballast in vessels, others say they were made on the place.  Any way, they are quality bricks to be so well preserved to this late date.

Suggestion to the Daughters.

          About a mile to the east, we find the old BUTLER house, built in 1743.  It was not at all pretentious, but was substantial.  It is now owned by the WILSON family and it seems to me the Daughters would be building an everlasting monument to their integrity, if they would petition the state to purchase this property and preserve it.  For, even if Walter BUTLER and his father John BUTLER were Tories, they were born gentlemen and love of money and position did not die with them, and many would have been proud of them, (perhaps were) had the English won the war instead of the Colonists.  The site of this home is beautiful and I am sure we would be very proud if it was kept as a mark of history in our neighborhood.

Van EPPS' Swamp.

           Crossing the Mohawk river, by boat, we find several very old homes, many that I have not had time to look up.  But we land on what was known as "Van EPPS' Swamp," later the very pretty village of Fultonville.  The Van EPPS house on the hill, one of the most beautiful homes in the valley, and the most sightly is the third building to set on the old foundation, and in it lives the Arthur Van EPPS family, the sixth generation to occupy it.

          In the rear of the Donaldson block, on Canal street, is located the VOORHEES house, built of brick, in 1827, by the then merchant prince of this section, Harry P. VOORHEES.  It was a pretentious structure in its day, with ornamental marble fire-places, and set in a park of the entire square block until the West Shore R. R. was built in 1883.

          On the hill, just south of the church, is the Cornelius GARDINIER home, another old home, now owned and occupied by the DUNN family.  On the west side of Main street, near the river bank, stands the Howland FISH home and a little farther on is the old law office of the same FISH

page 20

family both old colonial buildings, the office, which is over 75 years old, was recently purchased by Attorney Jay H. LEONHARDT, and until then was never out of the family ownership.  Down the river road, stands the handsome home of Charles NIETSCH, built near the foundation of the old Myndert STARIN house, which was built in 1766, and it has been named the Holland house.  Mrs. Myndert STARIN was Rachel SAMMONS of that hardy SAMMONS family, about which a whole book might be written.

Old Bridge of 1811.

          In 1811 a bridge (toll) was built at the foot of Washington street, over the river and was swept away the following spring.  In 1823, the second bridge was built, which was in 1865 carried away by high water and ice.  We now travel over the third one (Main St.), and I am sure the residents of both Fonda and Fultonville would enjoy seeing it follow its two predecessors.

Railroad is Built.

          In 1835-6, the Schenectady and Utica Railroad was built.  The handsome Fonda Hotel, the Court House and the Montgomery Hotel were built in 1836.  Dr. Daniel DAVIS was the first proprietor of the Fonda hotel, and the depot was in the south end of it.  There was an eating-house just west of the hotel, which was called the annex.  A large bell was rung by the Station Agent, when ever a train was coming.  This bell owned by H. T. E. FONDA, was loaned to railroad officials, some time after the custom was given up, to exhibit at an exposition and was never returned.  It was said that a Mr. WARREN, who lived near Ballston, had bought it as a curio.  The freight house was across the tracks, near where the hotel barn now stands.  The two old hotels are gone, but we still have the Court House, a lasting monument to the ideals of the older inhabitants of our village.  In 1856 the village was incorporated and from the time of the completion of the railroad, it grew and gave promise of becoming a city, as its location was ideal.  But for some reason we have never fulfilled the old dream.  Yet the village is noted for hospitality, learning, benevolence and high standing of its citizens.  The old homes are mostly occupied by newcomers.  The industries of former times are no longer known, the old church has long since been torn down and a new one, built in 1843, on the south-west corner of Railroad avenue, and Center street, later, in 1868, was moved to its present location on Broadway; a Methodist church, Zion Episcopal and St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic church have been built.  Our bank, organized in 1859, erected a substantial building which is considered one of the safest in the valley.  Since 1836 we have had a village paper, from which we get much valuable information.  In place of the old saw mills, grist mills and tanneries, we have the flouring mills of the STREETER Brothers, long known as the G. F. and A. H. Mills Co.  There are both cotton and silk mills.  The F., J. & G. R. R., (both steam and electric), take the place of the old stage route to Johnstown and the north.  In place of the little red brick school house in Caughnawaga and the academy in the old church, we have the Fonda High school, which, for years has been a pride to the community.  Our village is modern and travelers, passing through, can scarcely believe we are of so small a population.  We still have Teaburg hill, from which one can see up and down the valley, which by an ordinance of nature, was made the greatest pathway east and west; and the successive stages of civilization, made by its inhabitants, singularly illustrates the advancement of its people.  In the years from 1609,

page 21

when the first Mohawk Indian came to the Valley, to our present year of 1922, the Valley has made great strides forward.  From primeval forest and Indian trail, to, first, rough ox team roads, with covered wagon, when the traveler must stop at each division fence, open the bars, drive through, then close them again and drive on, to our splendid roadway of today, seems like a fairy tale, (in the telling.)  But to those brave pioneers who made possible all the wonderful blessings we enjoy, is due credit immeasurable.

          As a stream dictates the course of events along its valley, and determines the location of the habitations of man, so we, by our living, can dictate to coming generations, the trail they must take if they would be worthy successors.  And we, as Daughters of the American Revolution, as well as the Sons, should strive to be honorable, self-sacrificing, God-fearing men and women who, years hence, will be held in as sacred memory, as, we today, hold the names of the pioneers.  Truly, I wish we might, and that we might leave the trail of today, as we pass along, seemingly, so unthinkingly, as safe and as famous in our way, as our ancestors made "The Mohawk Trail."

page 22

Go back to part 1    Continue to part 3

Back to Herkimer/Montgomery Counties GenWeb

Back to New York State GenWeb

Back to USGenWeb

Last Updated: 12/1/99

Copyright ©1999 Lisa K. Slaski / Judy Breedlove
All Rights Reserved.