These two newspaper articles about Schell family have been transcribed from the originals and contributed by Carol and Charles Marston. If you can verify the source of the first article or have a complete copy of the second article, please contact us or Carol.


Against Band of Indians and Tories 150 Years Ago is Recalled at Little Falls

Probably taken from the Rochester "Democrat and Chronicle" August 9, 1896

Little Falls--- in this period of peace and security, it is difficult to imagine that the residents of this section once lived in constant danger of sudden death, which lurked behind trees and boulders near their homes and was quickly, as well as fearfully, administered by musket shot, tomahawk and scalping knife.

It was only an century and a half ago that the Mohawk Valley and its environs were desolated by red raiders and their white allies and the residents slaughtered as they sought to defend their loved ones and their property. Old time citizens here occasionally hark back to those pioneer days and recall the spirit of courage and sacrifice manifested by those who helped bring this nation into being. Readers of history, folks here say, realize that alongside the dangers and difficulties the pioneers faced, present troubles pale into insignificance.

Schell Family Recalled
To appreciate the spirit of the revolutionary patriots it is not necessary to go to the scenes of triumph at Saratoga or Yorktown, nor to search out the picture of acute suffering and privation at Valley Forge, incidents here point out. There is no necessity to go out of this valley in search of heroic epics. The sturdy folk who settled here, building their homes in spite of natural obstructions and the menace of a savage foe, made their lives monuments to courage, faith and perseverance. To emphasize this statement one incident is recalled here, which should impress residents of Little Falls and vicinity because it transpired so near home. It is probably familiar to all students of valley history but there are no doubt many who have never heard it before. It concerns Christian Schell and his family, early settlers of the Schell's Bush neighborhood, near this city.

It was August 1781. The residents of the Schell's Bush section were, for the most part, working in the fields, but had men on the lookout for Tory and Indian raiders. Their worst fears were realized when it was learned that a band of 60 Mohawks and Tories, under the leadership of Donald McDonald, was descending upon the little settlement. The inhabitants, with the exception of Schell, his wife and sons, fled to the safety of Fort Dayton at Herkimer. The Schell's however, had prepared for just such an emergency by building a strong block house of logs, two stories high. The upper story projected to permit the inmates to fire perpendicularly upon their attackers. There were no windows on the lower floor, but loopholes had been placed on all sides. Shell always kept a supply of food, water and ammunition in the blockhouse, as he never knew when it would be necessary to take refuge there.

When the raiders arrived two of the Schell boys were captured, the father, mother and four other sons gained the temporary safety of the blockhouse. The Tories and saavages immediately besieged the little fort, but remained at a safe distance at first because of the rifle fire. Schell's wife loaded the muskets, which her husband and sons used with deadly aim.

An attempt was made to set the blockhouse afire, but it failed. Then the Tory, McDonald, boldy ran up and tried to force the door by battering it with a crowbar. He had cause to regret his recklessness when Schell brought him down with a shot. After wounding him, Schell quickly opened the door and dragged the Tory inside, a prisoner. McDonald had some ammunition on his person, which the defenders found useful. With their leader captured, the enemy ceased the attack for a time. Schell thought that the (---) would withdraw and going to the second story, he sang one of his favorite hymns, "A Firm Fortress Is Our Lord."

The enemy did not quit, however. Enraged at the manner in which the defenders were holding out against them and inflicting casualties in their rank, they fought harder than ever and charged the fort. Five of the Indians managed to thrust the muzzles of their firearms through the loopholes. It was a critical moment for the little garrison, but at this juncture Mrs. Schell displayed quick presence of mind to snatch an ax and, with well aimed blows, bent the barrels of the five muskets. Meantime, her husband and sons poured a steady fire at the enemy who were, in length, forced to withdraw.

Darkness was coming on and Schell did not know what devility the savages might undertake under cover of night, so he resolved to attempt to scare them off by strategy.

Going to the second story, he cried out to his wife that relief was approaching from Fort Dayton. A few minutes afterward, he again shouted, "Captain Getman, you had better bring your men up on the left side." As he hoped and prayed, Schell's trick foiled the enemy into thinking a sizable body of troops was approaching in the dusk from Fort Dayton. The Tories and redskins took to their heels to the woods. The markmanship of the Shells was attested by the fact that the enemy suffered a loss of 11 killed and 6 wounded, while not a single member of the defending garrison was hurt.

The Schell's remained in the blockhouse all night and although they were on guard against a renewal of the attack, they were not again disturbed. The next day their Tory prisoner was removed to Fort Dayton, where he died after an operation.

The two Schell boys captured in the raid were carried away to Canada but their lives were spared and they returned home after the war.

Their intrepid father eventually fell victim to the redskins. He was working in his fields, not far from the block house, with two of his sons, when some Mohawks, who had concealed themselves in a nearby wheat field, opened fire, killed one of the Schell boys and fatally wounded the father. The man was taken to the fort, where he succumbed to his wound, but the story of his brave defense of his home and family still lives here. A marker, erected by the D.A.R. commemorates the heroic deed.

A separate article written about the same event focusing on Maria Schell. Does anyone know the complete article, date, author, and paper?

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