Charles B Knox Gelatine Co. Inc.
Edition of
The Old Mohawk-Turnpike Book

THE DUFFY HOME.
Home of Mr. and Mrs. George Duffy.  Built in 1862 at the 
corner of Center and Orchard streets. 

   

FORT PLAIN - NELLISTON.

(Montgomery County)
(Over N.Y.C.R.R., New York, 201 m.; Buffalo, 238 m.
Sea elevation, 294 ft. Population: 1920, Fort Plain, 2,747, Nelliston, 664; 1920 population,
Fort-Plain - Nelliston 3,411.)

Mohawk Turnpike Mileage Distances.

East: Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge 3 m., Sprakers 6m., Yosts (the Noses) 9 m., Foonda-Fultonville 15 m., (by detour from Fonda north) Johnstown 19 m., Gloversville 23 m., (by detour to south shore at Fultonville) Auriesville 19 m., Tribes Hill-Fort Hunter 20 m., Fort Johnson 22 m., Amsterdam 25 m., Hoffmans Ferry 32 m., Schenectady 41 m., Albany 56 m., New York 205 m.

East by north (by detour) , Stone Arabia churches 4 m.

West: Palatine Church 3 m., St. Johnsville 6 m., East Creek 9 m., Fink's Bridge (Fall Hill) 15 m., (by detour to south shore) , Gen. Herkimer Home 16 m., Little Falls 16 m., Herkimer 23 m., Mohawk 25 m., (by detour east from Mohawk) , Fort Herkimer church 27 m., Ilion 7 m., Frankfort 29 m., Utica 39 m., Whitesboro 43 m., Oriskany 46 m., Oriskany Battlefield Monument 48 m., Rome 54 m., Syracuse 89 m., Buffalo 243 m.

 

The next important point west is St. Johnsville, 6 m.; east, Canajoharie, 3 miles.

Fort Plain, on the west side of the Mohawk and Nelliston on the east bank, form virtually one community, although they are separate village corporations. The Mohawk here runs almoost due north and south instead of following its generally west to east course. Fort Plain was incorporated as a village in 1832 and Nelliston in 1878.

Fort Plain takes its name form the Revolutionary fort here located (1776 - 1786). Nelliston was named for the pioneer Palatine Nellis family. Fort Plain and its sister village of Canajoharie, 3 miles east, have always had close social, commercial and industrial connections.

 

Fort Plain, Industrial.

Fort Plain has manufactures of silk yarn, knit goods, furniture, condensed milk, hose bands, broom bands, etc. Its furniture factory for a number of years made period furniture replicas of the highest class. \

The Bailey Knitting Mills and the Fort Plain Knitting Co. make knit goods, the Hix Furniture Co. makes furniture and the Duffy Silk Co., Inc, and Amidon & O'Day spin silk.

 

Duffy Silk Co., Inc.

The Duffy Silk Co., Inc., spins silk into yarn for weaving. It was originally organized as Duffy Bros. in 1892 with Charles, Bernard, John and George Duffy as the firm members. It has one factory in Fort Plain and five factories in Buffalo. The company was incorporated in 1902, when Mr. A. F. Nellis of St. Johnsville became interested and the company's secretary. Mr. John Duffy died at Fort Plain in 1914. Mr. Nellis passed away in Rochester in 1923.

  

OLD ERIE CANAL LOCK.
At Fort Plain.  The front of an old-time canal grocery is
seen at the extreme right.

 

Barge Canal Lock No. 15, Dam No. 10.

Here is Barge Canal Lock No. 15 and Dam No. 10, with a rise of 8 feet from a sea level river surface elevation of 294 feet below, to 302 feet above the dam. The upper level runs about 8 miles n.w. to the Mindenville lock.

A Barge canal terminal dock is located at Fort Plain, midway between the river bridge and the dam.

Fort Plain is a "canal town", in that its early growth was due to its location on the Erie canal during its building (1817-1825). For a detailed historical and descriptive account of this section in particular and of the Mohawk valley in general, see "Old Fort Plain and the Middle Mohawk Valley" by Nelson Greene (1915) ; O'Connors Bros., Publishers, Fort Plain, N.Y., also History of the Mohawk Valley by Nelson Greene, pub. S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., Chicago.

Fort Plain east is in the Trenton limestone belt, as is Nelliston and Palatine. The Hudson river shale belt outcrops at the western Fort Plain limits. Workable stone quarries exist in both Fort Plain and Nelliston, here practically ignored for building purposes.

The Mohawk valley is a section where considerable fruit is raised -- principally apples, plums, grapes and berries. Fort Plain is the center of a great plum growing district, large shipments being made from here on good plum years.

Fort Plain is an important milk shipping center and a business center and market town for a very considerable region around it. It has about 70 retail stores. The town has all the elements of a city in miniature. In 1923 Fort Plain shipped over a million dollars worth of milk, one company doing a business of over $750,000.

Fort Plain is a banking center of importance with two banks. The Fort Plain National Bank (established 1838) , which erected a handsome new bank building in 1924, and the Farmers and Mechanics Bank (established 1887).

The New York Central station of Fort Plain is in the limits of Nelliston village. The West Shore station in Fort Plain is known as South Fort Plain.

 

Otsquago Creek -- Gateway to Otsego Lake and Cooperstown, Birthplace of Baseball, 1840 --
The Otsquago Trail.

Otsquago creek enters the Mohawk river at Fort Plain. Otsquago is a Mohawk Indian word meaning "under the bridge," probably referring to an early bridge of felled trees, a savage way of making small bridges.

The source of the Otsquago is 12 m. west by south from its outlet, 1,360 feet above the sea and 1,000 above the Mohawk, in a marshy field from which flows the headwater brook of Summit or Mud lake, the central main headwater of Otsego lake, the source of the great Susquehanna river, largest watercourse of the Atlantic seaboard of the United States.

For over a century (1750 - 1865) Fort Plain was a market town and a valley outlet for the great upper Susquehanna valley, with which it had a large trade through the Otsquago valley, prior to building of railroads and towns southward.

Fort Plain, by road to Otsego lake, Cooperstown and Richfield Springs, is a natural Mohawk valley outlet to this Susquehanna headwater region, much used (as well as the Canajoharie road) in pioneer days. Cooperstown is noted as the home and burial place of James Fenimore Cooper, the early American novelist, who made Otsego lake (Glimmerglass) famous in his romances. Cooperstown is equally famous as the scene of the invention of the modern game of baseball. Abner N. Doubleday, then a cadet at West Point, there created baseball for the boys of Green's school, who played the first game in Cooperstown in 1840. Young Doubleday was later a U.S.A. Major-General, holding the Union line on the first day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.

Automobile roads lead s.w. to Otsego lake, 19 m.; Cooperstown, 28 m.; Richfield Springs on Canadarago lake, 23 m.; s.e. to Cherry Valley, 14 m. Cherry Valley is famous as the scene of a terrible Revolutionary massacre by Tories and Indians under Brant and Butler, Nov. 11, 1778, when soldiers from Fort Plain arrived too late to prevent the slaughter. Various railroad projects, connecting the Susquehanna headwaters with the Mohawk valley at Fort Plain, have failed to materialize in the century prior to 1921. One company constructed a considerable part of the roadbed necessary.

Supposed gold discoveries south of the Cherry Valley Hills in Roseboom, excited some interest in 1924. Similar gold "finds" in the East creek valley and the Adirondacks have proved valueless.

This historic automobile road running from Fort Plain, along the Otsquago, and thence over the divide to Otsego lake is the famous Otsquago Trail, the most direct route from the Mohawk valley to Cooperstown and Otsego lake. It passes through the little villages of Hallville, 4 m., Starkville, 8 m., Van Hornesville, 12 m., and Springfield Centre, 17 m., to Otsego lake, 19 m., and Cooperstown, 28 m. The character of the landscape of the Otsquago valley is like a miniature Mohawk valley. The scenery at the Van Hornesville Gorge is very beautiful. In this gorge is a small cave and a burning spring - a vent of burning gas from a pocket of natural gas, which are not infrequent along the southern half of the Mohawk watershed. The original Otsquago trail of the Mohawks ran from Fort Plain, over the plain of the high northern bank of the Otsquago valley, to Hallsville. A road was later built along the creek. This route to Otsego lake over the Otsquago trail is a favorite automobile road and carries an enormous summer traffic.

Mr. Owen D. Young, chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Electric Co., and a member of the Paris Reparations Committee, which prepared the Dawes plan for German reparations in 1924, is a native and a (1924) citizen of Van Hornesville.

Prior to the building of the Erie canal (1817-1825) the Otsquago had its outlet into the Mohawk opposite old Fort Plain, and the river boats probably came up the creek as far as the Governor Clarke (Fayant) and Paris (Bleecker) places. When the canal was made along the north base of Prospect hill, with a river outlet over half a mile south of its former one near Sand hill.

About four miles west on the Ostquago, is the mouth of the Ots-tun-go, on which is the famous Mohawk Indian village site, which has been dug into by collectors for a century, but relics are found there even today. One of the daughters of Cooper, the novelist, once wrote a romance about Otsquago, the Ms. of which was destroyed in a fire.

The Ostquago is also a fertile field for the collection of geological specimens and is well known to geologists. It has outcrops of building stone, one or two in the village of Fort Plain.

The upper Hallsville road (leaving Fort Plain by Upper Main Street) is the most picturesque Otsquago Trail route, giving fine views of the Cherry Valley Mountains and practicable in dry weather.

 

Dutchtown Road West.

Westward from Fort Plain, the Dutchtown road is a crosscut State road running north and west to Indian Castle 11 m. and the Gen. Herkimer Home 14 m., reaching the Turnpike at Fink's Bridge, 15 m. It is one of the many valley roads roughly paralleling the Turnpike which cut off river bends. This road (going westward over a fine upland plateau of farmlands, 500 ft. above the Mohawk) has splendid wide views of the Cherry Valley mountains to the south, the Adirondacks to the north and, approaching it, Fall Hill and the valley to the west. In making a double tour (coming and going) of the Mohawk valley this is a good road to take one way as it is one of the most picturesque along the Mohawk and gives a splendid outlook on the full width of the valley.

This route gives a splendid idea of the real Mohawk Valley, from 10 to 50 miles wide. The narrow inner Valley, seen from the Mohawk Turnpike, consists of the flats, which was the bed of the ancient great Iromohawk, the slopes which formed its banks and the adjoining Valley hills.

 

Fort Plain-Nelliston, Historical, 1634-1921 -- Mohawk Indian Villages.

Fort Plain is an important historical center of the middle Mohawk valley. Evidences of the occupation of the Mohawks are to be found at several points within the village limits, an Indian burial ground having been uncovered (1877) on Cemetery hill. Three or four Mohawk villages were probably located, at different times, within the present Fort Plain limits.

In 1634 the Mohawk village of Os-qua-ge (9 houses) was located on present Prospect hill, Fort Plain, and the Mohawk village of Ca-na-wo-ge (14 houses) probably was then on Fort hill, or adjacent Cemetery hill, Fort Plain.

 

Town of Tarajorees, 1700-1755.

In 1693 a strong French and Indian raiding party destroyed all the Mohawk castles, then situated on the north side of the river. Ti-on-on-do-gue, probably located at present Wagners Hollow, fell only after a great battle. Following this terrible raid the Mohawks located in one tribal village known as Og-sa-da-ga, at present Tribes Hill, where they lived from 1693 until 1700, when they removed to castles on the south shore -- the lower castle of Iconderoga, at present Fort Hunter, the middle village of Tarajorees at Fort Plain and the upper or great castle of Canajoharie, at present Indian Castle.

Ta-ra-jo-rees, the middle Mohawk town of the Mohawks was located on present Prospect hill, from about 1700 until about 1755. It was the village of the Turtle clan. Its chief and many of its warriors were killed in the Battle of Lake George, 1755, while serving in the British-American army under Sir William Johnson. Soon thereafter this village was abandoned and its people went to the upper Mohawk village at present Indian Castle. Tarajorees is said to mean "the hill of health." It stood at the southeastern point of Prospect hill, while there were scattered Mohawk huts on the adjacent highlands. These Mohawks here cultivated the flats and the island and some attended Dominie Ehle's religious services at the Ehle house (1727-1752) opposite.

Fort Plain and its neighborhood were settled by Palatine Germans about 1720-5, its first settlers being families by the name of Lipe, Crouse and Seeber. At Sand Hill, several Indian trails met and here a neighborhood settlement soon grew up with a store, tavern, blacksmith shop and a river ferry. A log church was constructed at an early date and the frame "Reformed Church of Canajoharie" (District) was built here in 1750.

 

Ehle House, 1727-1752.

In the village of Nelliston, about 400 yards south of the Fort Plain station, stands the stone Ehle house, now (1924) crumbling into ruins. The first settler in present Nelliston was Rev. John Jacob Ehle, who came into the valley in 1724. He built the small north end of the house in 1727, which served as his home and also as a mission for the Mohawks of the village of Tarajorees opposite on present Prospect hill. Dominie Ehle was a missionary to both the white and red population of the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys. In 1752 his son, Petter Ehle, built the larger part of the house. It stands about 200 yards west of the Mohawk Turnpike, from which it is easily reached on foot. The older part is the oldest structure west of the Schoharie river.

 

Sir George Clarke House, 1738-1742.

Sir George Clarke, a British provincial governor, had a stone house built at Fort Plain in 1738 and, with his family, made this his summer home until 1742, in what was then a wilderness, with the exception of a few farms along the river. The cellar of this ancient gubernatorial mansion now forms part of the cellar of the Crouse-Wagner-Fayant house.

Gov. Clarke was a "silent partner" in the great Corry patent of land located some miles southward and probably settled here on that account. This estate became the scene (1860-1880) of a tenant's war and was subsequently broken up. The stones of the old Clarke house went to the building of a mill about 1800.

The original cellar stonework, floor beams and cellar fireplace of the Gov. Clarke house still stand in the present building. The early valley settlers lived much in their cellars around their cellar fireplaces during the coldest months of the winter.

When the Governor Clarke house was built the Otsquago skirted the low hill on which it stood and here the Governor had his boat landing, where the river craft were kept, with which the baronet's household navigated the Mohawk.

This is now the Fayant house, the site having been occupied by the Sir George Clarke house and the present house first built by Col. Robert Crouse, and later occupied by A. J. Wagner and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Fayant. 

 

Fort Plain, 1776-1780. Fort Rensselaer, 1780-1783.

The first full meeting of the Tryon County Committee of Safety was held at William Seeber's (on the site of the present old Adam Lipe place), May 24, 1775. Seeber and his sons were killed at Oriskany and the Seeber house and store were burned in Brant's Tory-Indian raid of 1780.

Fort Plain was built by Col. Dayton of the American Army of the North (headquarters at Albany) in 1776 on present Fort hill. It formed the American Revolutionary army valley headquarters from 1781 until the close of hostilities in the fall of 1783. Four adjacent small forts formed outposts for the main defense. Fort Plain was a "rough quadrangle of palisades with earth and log embrasures, with blockhouses, mounting cannon, at opposite corners and barracks and a strong blockhouse in the center. It enclosed a half acre of ground." As in all valley forts, farmers drew the logs while the soldiers and militia built the fortifications.

The name Fort Plain is said to come from the "plain or unobstructed view" from this post, although the three-mile stretch of plain, or flats, eastward to present Canajoharie, may have influenced its naming. In 1781 a blockhouse on the edge of the adjacent ravine was added. Markers show the site of fort and blockhouse. The garrisons of Fort Plain and its neighboring posts (Clyde, Plank, Windecker, Willett) were engaged in many valley Revolutionary military movements and battles, and the forts were neighborhood refuges during the many savage raids which devastated the valley in our War for Independence.

 

5th New York From Fort Plain Forms Clinton's Army,
Right Wing on Otsquago Trail, 1779.

In June, 1779, Gen. Clinton's army came up the Mohawk from Schenectady in 200 batteaux, containing army stores, ammunition and ordnance, debarked at Canajoharie, made a famous overland portage to Otsego lake, with the 200 bateaux loaded on wagons, drawn by six horse teams and oxen, went down the Susquehanna, August 9, joined Gen. Sullivan's army at Tioga August 22, defeated the Tories and Indians at present Elmira August 29, 1777, and then ravaged the Seneca country. Col. Dubois' 5th New York Line Regiment with artillery, formed Clinton's right wing on this portage march, June 16 to July 2, and marched over the Otsquago Trail (which then ran through Little and Second Woods, on the line of the old Lipe farm road) to Starkville, camped June 18 at Camp Creek, Starkville; June 19 at Browns Hollow; June 19-26, built corduroy road through present Van Hornesville; June 26, camped south of Springfield; June 28, in camp at Lowe's Grove on the east side of the head of Otsego lake. A guard of two companies of infantry and one of artillery was kept on scout and guard duty during Clinton's portage as it was expected Brant would attack over the Wiaontha trail and June 19-26 entire regiment, except road-building party, was deployed for a distance of three miles over road and 1/2 mile east of Summit (Mud) lake expecting an attack. June 26 the 5th established Camp Liberty at Lowe's Grove at the head of Otsego lake. July 4th a grand celebration was held by entire army (see Canajoharie).

 

Brant's Indian-Tory Raid -- When Women "Manned" Fort Plain.

The Fort Plain section was devastated and 16 people were killed and 60 captured during a great raid of Tories and Indians under Joseph Brant (Aug. 2, 1780). The story of this tragic occurence may be read in Simms's "Frontiersmen of New York." The tales therein, of its survivors, throw a vivid light not only on this bloody day but upon the life and habits of the time. The local militia had gone up the river convoying supplies when the red and white savages broke from the woods. A woman fired the signal gun at the fort warning the scattered settlers to take to the bush or woods or to run for the nearest blockhouse. Many gathered in Fort Plain and, fearing an attack, the women there donned men's hats and took poles and guns, showing themselves sufficiently above the palisades to give the impression of a larges garrison. The ruse was successful as the savages avoided the fortification.

Several girls were captured and taken to Canada where they became the squaws of Indians and refused to return home when their parents went for them at the end of the Revolution. Many touching tales are told of the reunion of captives, made hereabout, with their families at the close of the war.

This raid ravaged the Otsquago valley from present Van Hornesville east to Fort Plain, with a total of 24 killed and 73 prisoners taken by Brant at all points.

 

When Cornplanter, the Seneca Chief, Captured His White Father.

There were many dramatic and tragic features of the Fort Plain raid. Associated with Brant in this great raid and massacre was the celebrated half-breed Indian chief, Cornplanter, who was later a great Indian leader and advocate of temperance among his people. He was the half-breed son of John Abeel of Fort Plain, when the latter was a trader among the Senecas. Abeel, the chief's father, was harvesting on the flats near Fort Plain and was captured by an Indian party. He was taken before his son, Cornplanter, or Gyantwachia, who recognized him and promptly released him.

In this raid, August 2, 1780, a little five-year-old girl, Sophia Sitts, was captured and later released, who lived to the great age of 109, dying in 1883. She was a famous "farm hand," as a young woman, able to outdo a strong man in a day's harvesting.

Cornplanter revisited Fort Plain in 1810, being welcomed here by his white relatives.

In September, 1780, Gen. Robert Van Rensselaer of Albany was in command of the valley forts and made his headquarters at Fort Plain and then changed its official military designation to Fort Rensselaer. It also continued to be popularly known as Fort Plain throughout the Revolution, and these two names for the same fort have caused much historical confusion.

 

Where Van Rensselaer's Revolutionary Army Crossed the Mohawk.

Oct. 19, 1780, Gen. Van Rensselaer's American army reached Prospect hill, in its pursuit up the south shore highway, of Sir John Johnson's murderous raiders. Here the Americans came to Ehle's ford at Verplanck's (Nellis) island. The traitor Van Rensselaer, delayed his pursuit here for several hours, while he took dinner with Gov. Clinton at Fort Plain. In the late afternoon the Americans, enraged at their cowardly or traitorous leader, were allowed to cross on the baggage wagons which had been driven into the Mohawk to form a temporary bridge. The patriot militia routed the invaders at Klock's Field, five miles westward, the same evening.

 

General Marinus Willett.

From June, 1781, until the end of the Revolution in the fall of 1783, Col. Marinus Willett was in command of the American Revolutionary military forces along the Mohawk. He made Fort Plain his headquarters and lived in a log hut on the east slope of Fort hill. Col. Willett was a New York City Son of Liberty, a famous patriot, a noted scout and one of the most efficient American Revolutionary officers. He was second in command at Fort Stanwix during its unsuccessful siege and on the day of the Oriskany battle he led the famous sortie which burned the British camp.

Col. Willett led the local garrisons and valley militia to the Revolutionary American victories of Sharon Springs (July 10, 1781), Johnstown (Oct.25, 1781) and West Canada Creek (Oct. 29, 1781), the latter being the action in which the Tory murderer-villain Walter Butler was killed.

Willett was a grandson of Thomas Willett, the first mayor of New York city, following its charter granting in 1684. Col. Willett became a brigadier-general, serving until 1792. He was elected sheriff and later mayor (1807) of New York city and died in 1830, aged 90. Willett was a big, muscular, fearless fighter and so feared by the Indians that they called him "the Devil." He was beloved by his soldiers and the valley people of his bloody time for his valiant defense of this Mohawk river frontier. Even today the name of Willett is revered in the Mohawk valley.

Under Washington's orders col. Willett marched to Fort Oswego in February, 1783, in an unsuccessful attempt to capture that strong British post. The 300-mile round trip was made with great hardship. On April 17, 1783, news of peace reached Fort Plain and Col. Willett sent a messenger to the British commander at Fort Oswego with the welcome news.

 

Haslett Park.

The old south shore turnpike, running through the Greenbush section of Fort Plain is called Willett street, after Fort Plain's Revolutionary commander. On it is the Williams Memorial library (building erected 1835) and Haslett park (gift of Frederick S. Haslett) and the Duffy electric fountain (gift of John Duffy) The park would be a fitting site for a memorial to or statue of General Willett.

 

Washington at Fort Plain, 1783.

July 30, 1783, General Washington and staff stopped at Fort Plain, on their return from their journey up the Mohawk to Fort Stanwix, on the site of present Rome. The following day General Washington journeyed to Cherry Valley and Otsego lake, returning to Canajoharie over Clinton's route.

General Washington spent the night of July 30, at the stone house (destroyed in 1865) of Peter Wormuth, on the Palatine shore of the Mohawk.. Washington crossed the Mohawk by Walrath's ferry to Fort Plain on the morning of July 31. Beside the road to the fort, Mrs. Gross (wife of Dominie Gross) had paraded a bevy of school boys. At a signal they took off their hats and cheered and then made their best bow to the Father of their Country. The General smiled, returned a cheerful "Good morning, boys," to their greeting and then rode up the hill to the fort. The garrison of Fort Plain was paraded and the Commander was given a military salute. General Washington dined with Col. Clyde in the fort, after which, accompanied by his escort, he rode to Cherry Valley, where he spent the night of July 31. On August 1 Washington and his party rode to Otsego lake and returned to Canajoharie over Gen. Clinton's road of 1779. It is only at Fort Plain and Canajoharie that we have many details of this famous Mohawk valley journey of Washington (See Canajoharie).

  

BLEECKER HOUSE, 1786, FORT PLAIN.
Built by Isaac Paris as a store, storehouse and residence in
1786. It has been the Bleecker house for many years.

  

Bleecker House - Paris Store, 1786.

Shortly after the Revolution Isaac Paris jr. of Stone Arabia, moved to Fort Plain and here, in 1786, built a large storehouse and trading post on a low hill rising from the Otsquago, a mile from its outlet (but probably navigable). He died within a few years. The town of Paris, Oneida county (just south of Utica) was named for Isaac Paris jr., in appreciation of his aiding its starving inhabitants with gifts of grain during a season of failing crops. The father of Paris (Isaac Paris sr.) was murdered by Indians, who captured him in the Oriskany battle. The Paris store has been occupied by the Bleecker family for many years.

 

Totoville.

Fort Plain is a "canal town," that is its early development was caused by its location on the old Erie canal, constructed 1817-1825. The new creek channel was then made along Prospect hill and the lock and guard gates were placed here, which changed the village center from Sand hill to Prospect hill, and brought the creek outlet a half-mile south of its former one. When Sand hill was the center, the few houses, tavern and store, on the present town's business center, were called "Totoville." The neighborhood negro slaves used to gather at the tavern here where they performed a peculiar dance called the "Toto dance," and hence the locality was called "Totoville."

Some Fort Plain events and dates follow: 1806, river bridge built at upper island; present center plotted and town boomed during building of Erie canal (1817-1825), when the new outlet of Otsquago to river was dug along Prospect hill; Fort Plain incorporated 1832; Fort Plain Seminary built 1853 (enrollment 513), succeeded 1879 by Clinton Liberal Institute, burned 1900, village high school (1916) occupying site; furniture making started 1865, spring and axles 1870 (removed to Chicago Heights 1894), silk 1880, knit goods 1887. Nelliston village was incorporated in 1878. The Fort Plain and Richfield Springs R.R. (projected first in 1828) constructed considerable roadbed, 1895-6, but project failed.

In 1840, Fort Plain is described as "situated on the south side of the Mohawk on the Erie canal. Incorporated in 1832. It contains 1 Dutch Reformed church and 1 Universalist church, 1 bank, 16 stores, 1 grist mill, 1 saw mill, 1 plaster mill, 1 furnace, 1 distillery, 200 dwellings and about 1,400 inhabitants. Fine stone is here quarried for canal locks."

Jeptha R. Simms, the valley historian, lived for many years in Fort Plain and here compiled his "Frontiersmen of New York" which is a mine of information and full of thrilling Revolutionary episodes.

 

Fort Plain School, Seminary and C. L. I., 1853-1819.

Fort Plain school (public and high school erected 1916) stands on what was formerly Seminary or Institute hill. Here were located Fort Plain Seminary(1853-1879) and Clinton Liberal Institute (erected 1879 under the patronage of the Universalist denomination). The old public and high school (1820-1915) was formerly on Mohawk street in what is now the Fort Plain Masonic Temple (remodeled and opened in 1923). During the half century location here of Seminary and Institute, Fort Plain was an important educational cultural and athletic center of the Mohawk valley, and particularly of the middle valley, from all points of which students came to attend these co-educational schools. C. L. I. had an important School of Arts (music, elocution, drawing and painting). From 1890 to 1900 (when it was burned) C. L. I. was a military school with a large armory. The brick gymnasium building is the only remaining structure of the C. L. I. group.

 

Typical Mohawk Valley Architecture.

A handsome, dignified and substantial character is given to the villages of Fort Plain and Nelliston by the considerable number of well-built, attractive brick buildings (numbering about 75) erected between 1820 and 1875. They vary from the Schenectady Dutch style, exemplified in the Groff house on Willett street, to the square, cupola-topped, large, brick structures erected before and after the Civil war. Many of these handsome, big, brick houses were formerly surrounded by extensive grounds and beautiful gardens. This house style, seen here to good advantage, constitutes the only typical Mohawk valley architectural style yet produced.

 

Bonny Eloise.

Fort Plain was the home for a time of George W. Elliott, who wrote the words of the song, "Bonny Eloise," popular before the Civil war and played then by military bands. Elliott composed the song while riding, on a Central train from New York to Fort Plain, where he was courting the inspiration of his song -- pretty Mary Bowen, the daughter of the Solomon Bowen, host of the local hotel called Montgomery Hall.

Fort Plain was the boyhood home of Major General Adelbert Cronkhite, commander of the 80th Division, A. E. F. in, 1918-1919, in France and Belgium during the World war.

 

Prospect Hill, Fort Plain.

At Fort Plain, the tourist will find a trip to the summit of Prospect hill of interest. This low eminence (140 feet above the Mohawk) is accessible by automobile. It is the site of the Mohawk middle village of Tarajorees, 1700-1755.

From Prospect hill the spectator can clearly see the activities of a busy valley village and the teeming commerce of the valley's railways, highway and waterway, while the fertile farmlands roundabout afford the sites of interesting and thrilling episodes of Mohawk river history.

Fort Plain has one of the valley's most beautiful cemeteries. The tourist will find a short run up the Otsquago valley a pleasant ride, a picturesque section replete with interest to the geologist and nature lover alike.

 

Atwood's 1911 Aeroplane Journey -- Stop at Nelliston -- An Atwood Story.

Coming down to modern times this part of your route furnishes a good story. Harry N. Atwood in 1911, used the New York to Buffalo -- Buffalo to New York route on his great aeroplane St. Louis to New York journey, 1,266 miles. He followed the tracks of the New York Central R.R. closely from Buffalo to New York. On one leg of his journey he flew from Belle Isle (west of Syracuse), 95 miles, in two hours or less on the evening of August 22, 1911, and alighted at Nelliston. It being dusk Atwood circled about and came down on a broad meadow back of Nelliston. To a local lad, who had the great glory of being the first to greet him, Atwood inquired, "Where am I?" to which the youngster replied: "In the Nellis pasture" -- which was certainly enlightening information for an airman who had slidden down out of the clouds after a hundred mile flight.

Resuming the run westward from Nelliston over the Mohawk Turnpike, note the fine views to the southward, including the peaks of the distant Cherry Valley hills. One of the old Turnpike tollgates was located a mile west of Nelliston, just east of the road eastward to Wagners Hollow and up the Garoga valley.

 

Fort Wagner, 1750.

About 1-1/2 miles west of Nelliston stands Fort Wagner (1750) on the east side of the highway, the old stone fort forming the north end of a picturesque farmhouse, reached through an avenue of trees, from the Turnpike. This was the home of Lieut.-Col. Peter Wagner of the Palatine regiment of Tryon County Militia (1775-1783), and this old Wagner farm has always been noted for its fertility.

During the Revolution two Tory soldiers in Canada nearly killed each other over the question as to which one should be allotted this rich farmland when the "rebels" were licked. The Tories (Americans siding with the loyalists) were promised their patriot neighbors' farms as the spoils of war. Col. Wagner erected a palisade (log wall) around his stone house early in the Revolution, when it became known as Fort Wagner, and it formed a neighborhood refuge during the savage raids of that time, when the local militia formed its defense.

 

Te-no-to-ge, 1634.

Going westward from Fort Wagner, the traveler passes, on the south shore (on the Sponable and Moyer farms) the site of Te-no-to-ge, in 1634 the largest Mohawk village, with 55 houses, and the most important town, at that day, in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. Running westward the motorist sights the ancient stone walls and spire of Palatine church, on the north side of Garoga creek. Palatine church is an old landmark which dominates this entire valley section and its stretch of Turnpike.

  

  

  

      

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