'Bout A Revolution
Since 1972 I've
been experiencing all the wonders of the great western states, especially
California. I've researched the lost mines, stage stations, and
the shipwrecks of the Pacific coast. For at least 10 of
Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Staff
those years I
got involved in collectibles and relics. It's amazing how you can
get caught up in the world around
you and almost forget your roots.
Middleburgh, a quiet little
town in upstate New York.
It was just
last week that I was listening to a fellow treasure hunter tell
me about a trip back home to where he grew up in Virginia near
a Civil War battle site. His story was filled with finds of belt
buckles, bayonets, and shell casings. What a thrill it was for
him to tell his story, but as I listened visions of my past crept
into view of my own home town. I was thinkin' 'bout a revolution.
I was raised
in a quiet little town in upstate New York called Middleburgh. When
I was in the eight grade I remember belonging to a historical awareness
group called the Yorkers that studied and took field trips to historical
sites in the state of New York. This town I grew up in was a treasure
trove of history.
Yorkers pin circa 1967
The area was first
settled in the year 1712 and the nearby village became known as
Weiserdorf, named for a German Palatine settler named John Conrad
Weiser. Weiserdorf was the first white settlement in the Schoharie
River Valley. The German Palatines believed the land to be theirs
by grant from Queen Anne but had made the mistake of not getting
it in writing. An earlier Dutch settler named Adam Vrooman bought
the land in 1712 from the Schoharie Indians and had in his hands
a signed deed to prove it. It originally deeded to him 600 of
the finest, most fertile, flatlands on the Schoharie river flood
plain. Weiser and state leaders could not dispute the papers signed
by eighteen members of the Turtle, Wolf, and Bear clans.
Included in the parcel
of land was the mountain that jutted out of the valley floor that
the Indians called Onistagrawa. (Corn Mountain) This mountain
which stands like a sky island above the fertile farmlands below,
has kept a watchful eye over man in this region for hundreds of
years. It has seen Paleo Indians settle in after the last ice
age glacier ripped its way through the valley leaving striation
marks on the mountains cap. It quietly watched as the German Palatines
and the Dutch settlers had their squabbles, and finally settled
down to farm the fine lands at its base. The mountain became known
as Vroomans Nose after its first land owner.
enjoyed peace and quiet for nearly fifty years. Then the American
fight for its independence would take place and beyond the shadows
of Vroomans Nose the Germans and Dutch settlers farmed the lands
together providing grain for the American troops of the revolution.
The valley became known as the "Breadbasket of the Revolution."
long before the British realized the importance of this farming
community and started terrorizing the entire valley with viscous
raids led by the British but accompanied by Tories and Indians.
The settlers established three forts for their protection. The
Upper Fort was in the present day town of Fultonham. The Middle
Fort was just outside the town of Weiserdorf and the Lower Fort
was in the town of Schoharie. Research shows that often forts
were built around a solid stone structure such as a church. Stockade
walls were put up, trenches dug, and cannons mounted.
The old Middle Fort.
of signals was set up so the farmers could get behind the walls
of the fort before being attacked. Often times this system failed
as it did when in 1780 under the ever-watching eye of Vroomans
Nose, a group of eighty British, Tories, and Indians led by Chief
Joseph Brant made it into the valley before being sited. They
killed most of the Vrooman family, men, woman, and children. They
burned crops, killed livestock, and captured horses. They left
in their wake a sea of devastation and scalped settlers. Later
in another battle at the Middle Fort, sometimes called Fort Defiance,
1000 or so British and Indians, again accompanied by Joseph Brant,
were turned back by a group of 200 colonial soldiers and 150 militia
led by Peter Vrooman and local hero Timothy Murphy.
Old Stone Church Fortress
now a Museum, Schoharie, N.Y. Built 1772
Both the Upper
and Middle Forts are now farm fields each producing arrowheads
and musket balls along with yearly crops. The Lower Fort in Schoharie
was built around the Old Stone Church and it still stands, surrounded
by a cemetery filled with the fallen heroes of the Revolutionary
War. An interesting item I discovered while researching this church
is that in 1889 it became the home of the Schoharie County Historical
Society and museum, a time when most towns on the west coast were
just beginning. The museum houses a vast collection of Revolutionary
War items in addition to many other artifacts of the time. It
also houses America’s first fire engine.
In the early part
of the 19th century Weiserdorf had its name changed to Middleburgh
being named after the Dutch city in Holland called Middelburg.
The town continues to be a small, picturesque, farming village.
Many of the local
residents carry the names of the towns' founders and Revolutionary
War heroes. Some houses in the vicinity date back to the 18th
century, and hundreds are from the early 19th century. Aside from
Revolutionary War battlefields to detect the area abounds in old
home sites that one merely needs to ask permission to search.
Farm fields and gardens have turned up old clay pipes, musket
balls and pewter buttons.
On a recent scouting
and information gathering trip I checked to see if a few of the
old places I remembered were still there. One was an old one-room
schoolhouse that we sometimes held our Boy
Scout meetings at. It was still there but freshly painted. The
grounds looked the same as they did then right down to the old
two seater out back.
One of the farmhouses
I used to visit when I was young had burned down and the barn
had caved in. The entire place was overgrown with brush and from
the dirt road it was on you could not possibly know it was there
if you hadn't seen it for yourself. I'm trying to reach the owner
of the property now for permission to search. This farmhouse was
built in the 1870's.
On the property my
parents owned in the 1960's is an old Dutch mill site that we
were told was built in the early 1700's. In the 1940's it was
used as a dumpsite for a while. I found an old Ford along side
bottles and cans from this era.
is the Blenheim Bridge which has the distinction of being the
longest single span, wooden, covered bridge, in the world. It
was built in 1855 and spans 231 feet. People crossing the bridge
were charged a fee of one cent if they were walking and 12 cents
if in a horse drawn vehicle. People often socialized on either
side of the bridge making it a prime target for old coins.
that was brought up is Lasell Hall in Schoharie. I'm told that it
was built in 1795 as an inn. In the early 1800's its lawns held
the town gallows. People from all over the county frequented hangings
in those days. It was an event that brought whole families in horse
and buggy with picnic baskets to conjugate on the lawns.
Old Blenheim Bridge.
I also find myself
drawn to an area on top of Vroomans Nose called the "Dance
Floor." The "Dance Floor” is the smooth flat surface
of the mountain that was polished smooth by the crossing of the
ice age glacier. What attracted me is the name and the fact that
in the floor of the rock are carved the names and dates of the
early settlers. Legend has it that early settlers actually held
dances on top of the mountain.
Well, as you can see
while I was thinking about a Revolutionary War site originally,
my eyes were opened up to a whole other world of treasures to
investigate. I hope my readers if they visit this area go into
it with the respect that it so deserves. Don't forget to get permission
to work the sites and check all the laws of the state of New York
before you remove anything.
1. Jean Webb Williams,
Shunpiking In Old Schoharie, Shunpiking Associates, 1980.
2. Vincent J. Schaefer, Vroomans Nose, Purple Mountain Press,
3. The author lived here from 1958 to 1968.