Early Settlers of Norway, Herkimer County, NY

The histories of John W. Vanderburgh and William H. and George W. Cook were contributed to William McKerrow by William J. Powers, Jr. All three men emigrated with their families from Dutchess County, settling in the Town of Norway prior to 1800. William uncovered interesting personal informaton as well as more general info from census, pension records and local history books, all of which he footnotes at the end of each passage. John W. Vanderburgh served in the Revolution and later had a brush with the law. William H. Cook briefly served as sheriff of Herkimer County; his brother was one of the few slave owners. Each man's story is interwoven with descriptions of the social setting of Norway at the turn of the 19th century.

Early Settlers of Norway, Herkimer County, NY

By William J. Powers, Jr.
Acton, MA
2 Feb 1998

JOHN W. VANDERBURGH (William 4) (Henry 3) ( Dirck 2) (Lucas 1), son of William Vanderburgh and Margaret Gay, was born on 15 Mar 1762 in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York. John served in the Revolutionary War, and was living in the town of Norway, Herkimer Co., NY when on 9 Oct 1832 he stated his claim for a Revolutionary War pension. He was residing in Poughkeepsie when he voluntarily enlisted at age 14 to serve in the war. He enlisted into the New York Line in the Spring of 1776 to serve for nine months. He mustered at Fishkill where he joined a company commanded by Captain John McKinister. Joel Wix was Lieutenant, Harry Dodge was adjutant, and Colonel Wiesenault was the regimental commander. John's first move with the regiment was to West Point, where it remained for some time. Next, it went to White Plains where he met members of the Continental Army commanded by George Washington. From White Plains, they went directly to Fort Plain in Montgomery County, NY. Here, Col. Dubois commanded the regiment, and Captain Andrew White replaced Capt. McKinister as company commander.

The regiment, or part thereof, including the company to which John belonged, pursued Indians and Tories northerly of the Mohawk River. There was a battle during this time a short distance from Fort Plain on the north side of the Mohawk. John participated in that battle and helped capture 30 or 36 prisoners and three pieces of cannon. From this battle, he went as one of the guard to take all the prisoners to Poughkeepsie. He took from one of the captured Indians, the scalp of Colonel Brown who had been killed and scalped at Stone Arabia. At Poughkeepsie, John's company disbanded.

In the Spring of 1777, John again enlisted as a volunteer for six months and went again to Fishkill where they mustered. Col. Dubois was the regimental commander, and Capt. Andrew White once again headed his company. The regiment went to West Point and then to Saratoga. John was one of the detachment sent out to destroy the bridges between Fort Edward and Saratoga to prevent the approach of Gen. Burgoyne and his Army. His detachment took a spy named Thomas Loveless from Burgoyne's Army. Loveless was afterward tried, condemned, and hung.

John's company and several others were drawn off from Saratoga a short time before the battle at Saratoga. They went to West Point to maintain the prison. He remained there until his company disbanded again in the winter of 1777/78. He received his discharge from Capt. White. When making his pension claim, John said that his discharge paper was lost or with some of the descendants of John Klock, who was deceased.

After the war, John resided in Poughkeepsie for about 10 years. (1) On Friday, 18 Jun 1789, John appeared before the Dutchess County Oyer and Terminer Court in Poughkeepsie. The Grand Jury indicited him "for an assault on Margaret Rynders with an intent to ravish her." The next day, John appeared and was "recognized in the sum of 400 pounds." His next court appearance occurred on Saturday, 10 Jul 1790. The court "Ordered that he be discharged from his Recognizance and that he be bound with surety for his appearance at the next Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol delivery to be held for the County of Dutchess."

"Thereupon the said John W. Vandeberg and John Chamberlain of Poughkeepsie Phisician respectively appeared in Court and acknowledged themselves to be indebted to the people of the State of New York in the sum of fifty pounds ..." if John did not "personally appear at the next Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol delivery to be held in and for the County of Dutchess and then and there answer all such matters and things as shall be objected against him ..." On Thursday, 24 Feb 1791, John returned to court. "On motion of Mr. Attorney General on behalf of the people ordered that the Indictment against the defendant be quashed." Evidently the wording of the original indictment was inappropriate, so during this same court session, the Grand Jury delivered several bills, one of which stated "An Indictment against the defendant for an assault with an intent to commit a Rape."

"On motion of Mr. Attorney General on behalf of the people the defendant the prisoner was set to the bar to be arrained and being arrained he did plead ..." not guilty.

According to the court records, that temporarily ended the matter. It wasn't until four months later that John resumed his court appearances. On Wednesday, 15 Jun 1791 John appeared, was recognized, and ordered to appear the following day, which he did. He was told to appear again on Friday which he did once again. This time the court "ordered that he be discharged from his recognizance."(2) No further action is found in the court records regarding the charges against him.

In the Fall of 1792, John left Dutchess County for the Mohawk River Valley. Accompanying John were his sister and her husband, William H. Cook. Also in the migrating party were William Cook' s brother, George W., and sister, Temperance Cook. (3)

John made his permanent home at Norway in Herkimer County. Probably here, or in Dutchess County, he married (Jane) ______ and worked as a farmer. (4) On 16 May 1798, he purchased 101 1/4 acres of land from his brother-in-law William H. Cook for 50 cents. (5) He sold this same acreage on 22 Nov 1833 to Arphaxed Loomis for $1,600. (6) By 1825, John had a considerable household comprised of 10 people. (7)

When the residents of Norway decided to build a nondenominational meeting house in town, John contributed four dollars toward its construction on 8 Nov 1813. (8)

In the early 1800s, the farmers of Norway were fortunate to have an abundance of cattle which they could sell to drovers for market in Canada and northern New York counties. On one occasion, John became a victim of some dishonest drovers. "About the year 1815 Stodard & Sherman bought a drove in town and vicinity, and after selling them 'on the lines' returned and bought another large lot on credit, promising to pay for them when sold. They did not return when expected; a meeting of their creditors was called and Mr. William Comstock was dispatched to go and find them and if possible collect the amount due." Comstock found the drovers but returned without the payments. John had been caught up in the scheme when he sold the drovers "a fine yoke of oxen for $60, in the unpaid for lot." (9)

On 8 Dec 1840, John died in Norway and was buried there. (10) John's wife, Jane, was still living in Nov 1833. (11) Children: (12)

i. James, b. ca. 1785/1795, m. ca. 1822 Roby Knight, d. 1869.

ii. Richard, b. 8 Mar 1796, m. ca. 1825 Eunice Southworth, d. 11 May 1837.

iii. Polly; b. 23 Jan 1798 in Norway; m. 8 Dec 1816 Oliver Whitford. The marriage took place in Norway and was performed by Esq. Ferris, a justice of the peace; d. ca. 1878 in South Edwards, St. Lawrence Co., NY.

iv. John, b. 16 Dec 1803, m. Mary Ann McLaughlin, d. 13 Jun 1847.

v.William, b. ca. 1808, m. Susan Mabee, d. 16 Jan 1888.

(Maybe others)


1. Revolutionary War pension record, S.16279 for John Vanderburgh: John Vanderburgh, resident of Herkimer County, NY. Born in Poughkeepsie in 1762; and Revolutionary War Pension record, W.18205 for James (Jacobus) Vanderbogart. Microfilm #804, roll 2442, frame 0776. Statement of John Vanderburgh, Herkimer Co., town of Norway, NY. [Note: In his pension statement, John Vanderburgh stated that his discharge paper was lost "or with some of the descendants of one John Klock who is dead & the paper cannot be found." He also stated that he thought a record of his age was in the "family bible of his father's family ... in ... Troy in the possession of his sister."]

2. Dutchess County, NY Court Records. Oyer & Terminer Court, 1787-1830, (LDS microfilm #0925492), pages 35, 36, 39, 53, 58, 59, 65, 66, 76-80, and 82.

3. Newspaper - "Norway Tidings," Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1887, p. 4.

4. Herkimer Co., NY deed 28:604, 22 Nov 1833; Census, 1800, NY, Herkimer Co., Norway, p. 556. John Vandenbergh and family; Census, 1810, NY, Herkimer Co., Norway, p. 390. John Vanderbergh and family; Census, 1820, NY, Herkimer Co., Norway, p. 24. John Vanderberg and family; Census, 1830, NY, Herkimer Co., Norway, p. 77. John Vanderburg and famliy; and Census, 1840, NY, Herkimer Co., Norway, p. 75. John Vandenburgh and family. [There is no John Vanderburgh recorded on p. 76 as implied in the index of the 1840 Census Index. There is only one John Vanderburgh recorded in the town of Norway in 1840.] Note: In an effort to identify the maiden name of John Vanderburgh's wife, Jane, Francis R. Jenne of Potsdam, NY personally searched for the death certificate of their son, William. He could not find a death record at either Norway or at the Bureau of Vital records in Albany.

5. Herkimer Co., NY deed 4:17, 20 Jun 1808.

6. Herkimer Co., NY deed 28:604, 22 Nov 1833.

7. Newspaper - "Norway Tidings," Vol. 3, No. 7, Jul 1889. Pages 1-2.

8. Newspaper - "Norway Tidings," Vol. 2, No. 6, Jun 1888, p. 2. (John Vanderburgh's contribution to building meeting house); and * "History of Herkimer County, NY," by Beers. Page 219.

9. Newspaper - "Norway Tidings," Vol. 2, No. 10, Oct 1888, p. 1. (Drover story)

10. Herkimer County Historical Society card file: John Vanderburgh died in Norway on 8 Dec 1840 at the age of 78; Gravestone, Norway Cemetery; "1841 Census of Revolutionary War Pensioners," New York: Herkimer County, Norway - John Vanderburgh, age 80. Resided in household headed by John Vanderburgh. (Probably himself.); and "Graves of Revolutionary War Patriots," Vol. 4, S-Z, by Patricia Law Hatcher; Pioneer Heritage Press, 8040 Claremont Dr., Dallas, TX 75228. Page 139: Vandenburg, John - Herkimer, NY 16. [Note: There are no will, probate, or administration records in Herkimer & Wayne Cos., NY regarding John Vanderburgh of the town of Norway.]

11. Herkimer Co., NY deed 28:604, 22 Nov 1833.

12. The lack of vital and church records for early Norway, NY makes it difficult to positively identify the children of John W. and Jane Vanderburgh. However, the following circumstantial evidence leads to the identification of the children:

a. James. Assumption by the author. James is found in Jefferson Co., NY the at the same time Richard Vanderburgh is there. The lack of other Vanderburghs in the same place and time leads one to believe that they were probably brothers.

b. Richard. "Family Record of Charles Alden Wilson and Mary Elizabeth Rundlet," manuscript by Mary Elizabeth (Rundlet) Wilson, 8 Aug 1900. The writer was a granddaughter of Richard Vanderburgh and specifically stated that Richard was born in Norway.

c. Polly. "Norway Tidings," Vol. 3, No. 6, Jun 1889, p. 1. At the time of her marriage she was a resident of Norway, NY.

d. John. Family tradition is the only link between him and the town of Norway.

e. William. "Norway Tidings," Vol. 2, No. 2, Feb 1888, p. 2. Obituary of William Vandenburgh. This source mentions that William was born in Norway and was a son of one of the first settlers. The only Vanderburghs in Norway at the time of William's birth were John and Jane Vanderburgh.

MARY (5) VANDERBURGH (William 4) (Henry 3) (Dirck 2) (Lucas 1), daughter of William Vanderburgh and Margaret Gay, was born about 1768, (1) probably in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York. She married before 1790 WILLIAM H. COOK, probably in Dutchess County. In the Fall of 1792, Mary and her family, along with her brother, John Vanderburgh, and her brother-in-law, George W. Cook and his family, and George and William's sister, Temperance Cook, left Dutchess County and settled at the town of Norway in Herkimer County, NY.

The Cooks bought 400 acres of land just north of Norway village. They were evidently men of ability and social standing and well educated. Capital and enterprise they certainly possessed. Soon after settling in town, they erected a long and large frame building which answered the double purpose of dwelling and store. The building was some thirty feet in width by sixty feet in length, and quite elegant in style and finish for early times. The store room was long and large, and occupied the west end of the building. A counter extended across the north end, some shelves and a door to a wide hall on the east side, and a large open fireplace on the west. If not the first frame dwelling in town, it doubtless was among the first. The first saw mill built in 1793 by Capt. Hinman was located some sixty rods distant.

In 1795, they built the first saw mill on Black Creek, since known as the Western mill. It was sold to Jackson Brothers before 1800. Lumbering, farming, potash manufacturing, and politics were mixed in with the mercantile business of the Cook firm. They kept a large and varied stock of goods for the times, and secured a large trade for some twelve years.

An important item of stock in all the old time stores was West India rum. Also, a supply of brandy, gin and wine was not wanting. Drinking habits were almost universal and sales of intoxicating drinks the most profitable line of trade.

The Cooks made it a rule that all their credit customers must confess judgement at stated periods, probably once in three months. "Cook's judgement days" became quite famous in early times. They had a justice attend at their store, and to lessen the friction of such summary proceedings, it was arranged that several of their solid patrons would be first to "confess."

George W. Cook, after a few years, built a dwelling at the Sulphur Spring and lived there for a time. He was one of the only two slave holders in town in 1800, and had slave quarters consisting of a small plank cabin a little east of his residence.

Cook's store became the central business point for all the present town of Norway and parts of Russia and Ohio. Town meetings, elections, and "trainings" were often held there. Scenes of hilarious drunken revelry occurred frequently. After a prolonged spree at one time, one of the Cooks and Dr. Tousey agreed to burn all the buildings from Cook's to John Pardee's in the north part of Fairfield, a distance of three miles. They actually set fire to one small barn. The bleat of a calf inside led Tousey to remark, "We'll have some roast veal soon." The fire was apparently extinguished and the "fire-bugs" sobered up.

William H. Cook was appointed sheriff of Herkimer County on March 17, 1802, and probably moved to the town of Herkimer at about that time. He held the sheriff's position until 1806, "when he was left out of commission but was again appointed sheriff, in 1807, and held the office one year longer. This ended his official career in this county, and it might have been well for him if he had never tasted office." From this statement in Benton's "History of Herkimer," it has been inferred that "his business interests at Norway were neglected, and that probably official associations led to intemperance."(2)

Mary, William's wife, died in Herkimer in Jan or Feb 1807. (3) Her death, combined with the apparent problems William must have encountered during his last term as sheriff, may have caused him to move westward. A third but lesser issue prompting him to leave may have been the routing of a new road through Norway. The road known as the "military road" or "old state road" was surveyed in 1806 and constructed over the next two years. Originally, the settlers of Norway had by common consent picked the town center at "Cook's" a half mile north of the the present village center. This shifted the business interests and commerce away from the Cook store and probably contributed to a demise in its profitability.(4) It appears that this last concern probably affected William's brother, George more than William. William probably abandoned his interest in the Norway store when he became the Herkimer sheriff.

At least three of William's daughters remained in Herkimer County and married there. His brother George and family remained in Norway and were still there in 1810. (5)

After leaving Norway, William was relocated in Indiana by 1811. The fact that his wife's brother, Henry W. Vanderburgh, lived in Vincennes, Indiana, probably had something to do with his migration to that part of the country. William was in the battle of Tippecanoe, 6-7 Nov 1811 under General William Henry Harrison. (6) After Tippecanoe, William's history fades rapidly. He is probably the "William H. Cook" who appears on the list of jurors in Knox County, Indiana for the year 1815. (7)

William supposedly died at Vincennes, IN. (8) Children of William and Mary (Vanderburgh) Cook:

(COOK surname)

i. Maria, m. in the town of Herkimer, Jabez Fox. Jabez was a native of Connecticut and came to Herkimer County about 1810. He was admitted as an attorney at the Herkimer County Court of Common Pleas in Jan 1813. He pursued his profession a few years at Herkimer, and then moved to Little Falls about 1818.

"He was elected county clerk, under the then new constitution, at the general election, in 1822, to hold for the term of three years, from the 1st day of January following. He died at Herkimer, in 1825, at the age of 35 years." Maria and Jabez had at least one son, Charles J. Fox who lived in the town of Herkimer. (9)

ii. Stella, m. 1810 (10) in the town of Herkimer, Frederick Bellinger, a former grocery merchant of Mohawk, NY. (11)

(BELLINGER surname)

i. Anna Elizabeth, b. 21 May 1819. (12)
iii. Anna; m. 29 May 1805 Killian Winne, an Albany wine merchant and son of the late Jacob Winne. (13)


1. Mary Vanderburgh's identity is based on the following: Newspaper - Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1887, page 4 states that William H. Cook's wife was a sister of John Vanderburgh. Her obituary reveals that her first name was Mary. (Poughkeepsie, NY newspaper: "Political Barometer," Tuesday, 10 Feb 1807. "Lately, at Herkimer, Mrs. Mary Cooke, wife of William H. Cooke, Esq., aged 38.) The obituary also reveals that her death at age 38 in Jan or Feb 1 807 would put her birth about 1768. Since Mary's father made out his will in 1766, both she and her brother, James do not appear in it. Baptism & marriage records for Mary have not been found.

2. Newspaper - Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1887, p. 4; History of Herkimer Co., NY, by George A. Hardin and Frank H. Willard. Syracuse, NY; D. Mason & Co. Publishers. 1893. Page 424; and "History of Herkimer Co., NY," by Benton. Page 305. (Wm. H. Cook Fox bio.)

3. Newspaper - Political Barometer, [Poughkeepsie, NY] Tuesday, 10 Feb 1807. "Lately, at Herkimer, Mrs. Mary Cooke, wife of William H. Cooke, Esq., aged 38."

4. History of Herkimer County 1723-1879, by Beers. Page 215.

5. Census, 1810, NY, Herkimer Co., Norway, pg 390: Cook, George W.: Males 0-10=1, 10-16=1, 16-26=2; Females 0-10=2, 16-26=2, 26-45=1, 45+=1; Slaves = 1.

6. Newspaper - "Norway Tidings," Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1887, p. 4; and "History of Herkimer Co., NY," by Benton. Page 305. (Wm. H. Cook Fox bio.)

7. Knox Co., Indiana, Vol. I, Early Land Records and Court Indexes. Genealogical Reference Builders, 1966. Pages 75-76. (For 1815, a William H. Cook is found under the following condition: "The names appearing on this next jury list, are those who served on all other juries in the county for the period. Some were on grand juries as well, some on only one jury, and many appeared almost constantly on jury lists. A few men missed on the grand juries appear on the list.") [NOTE: There is no will in Knox County, IN for William H. Cook; nor could he be found in the common pleas court minutes, the early land grants, or the earliest deed records. One of these pre-1850 Indiana wills may be for William H. Cook: Cook, William: Dearborn Co., 1837, A-258; Hamilton Co., 1834, A-205; or Wayne, Co., 1837, B-129.]

8. Newspaper - Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1887, p. 4.

9. Newspaper - Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1887, p. 4; and "History of Herkimer Co., NY," by Benton. Page 305. (Jabez Fox bio.)

10. IGI - Marriage date of 1810 for Stella Cook and Frederick Bellinger.

11. Newspaper - Norway Tidings, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1887, p. 4.

12. Reformed Church, Herkimer, NY - Baptisms. Extracts: 21 ___ 1821 - Anna Elizabeth, b. 21 May 1819, parents - Frideric Bellinger and Stella Cooke.

13. Reformed Church, Herkimer, NY - Marriages. Extract: 29 May 1805, Killian Winne - Albany wine merchant; son of late Jacob and Anna Cook, dau. of William H., Herkimer sheriff.

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