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

The Mohawk River at Whitesboro.

   

WHITESBORO.

(Oneida County)

(Over N.Y.C.R.R., N.Y. 241 m.; Buffalo, 198 m. Sea elevation, 404 ft. 1920 Pop., 3,038.)

Turnpike Mileage Distances.

East: Yorkville 1 m., Utica 4 m., Frankfort 14 m., Ilion 16 m., Mohawk 18 m., Fort Herkimer Church 20 m., Herkimer 19 m., Little Falls 26 m., Fink's Bridge 27 m., Gen. Herkimer Home 28 m., St. Johnsville 36 m., Palatine Church 39 m., Fort Plain Nelliston 42 m., (by detour) Stone Arabia Churches 46 m., Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge 45 m., Fonda-Fultonville 57 m., (by detour) Johnstown 61 m., Gloversville 65 m., Auriesville 61 m., Fort Johnson 66 m., Amsterdam 69 m., Schenectady 85 m., Albany 100 m., New York 249 m.

West: Oriskany 3 m., Oriskany Battlefield Monument 5 m., Rome 11 m., Syracuse 54 m., Rochester 151 m., Buffalo 208m.

  

The next important point east is Utica, 4 m., westward, Oriskany, 3 m.;
Oriskany Battlefield, 5 m.; Rome, 11 m.

Whitesboro village is in the township of Whitestown, on the New York Central railroad, the south shore highway and the Mohawk river and Barge canal. The town lies on the west side of the Sauquoit creek, at the foot of a low hill which rises southward, about 200 feet above the Mohawk to a fertile and picturesque plateau. The Mohawk river flats are nearly two miles wide. A bridge here crosses the Mohawk.

An interurban trolley connects with Rome and Utica. There is a considerable interchange of workers with the latter city. The principal manufactures are knit goods, furniture and heaters.

The village has water works, electric light and power and a sewer system.

 

Whitesboro 1784 Settlement Monument.
In the village square, commemorating the settlement here of Hugh
White in 1784.  The old Oneida county court house (now the 
village hall) in the background.

Settlement by Hugh White, 1784.

The location of Judge White at Whitesboro in 1784, is here commemorated by a monument. From Judge White, its founder, the village and township takes its name.

Regarding Judge White's settlement here Jones' "Annals of Oneida County" has the following, which is of interest as it shows the way in which many of the early settlers came into the Mohawk Valley, the manner in which they started to live, their contact with the Indians, etc.:

Hugh White [1733-1812] removed from Middletown, Conn., in May, 1784, and arrived in what is now Whitestown on the 5th of June. He came by water to Albany, crossed by land to Schenectady, where he purchased a batteau, in which he made a passage up the Mohawk river to the mouth of the Sauquoit creek. His four sons, a daughter and a daughter-in-law accompanied him. When he left Middletown he sent one of his sons with two yokes of oxen by land to Albany, who arrived there about the same time as did his father. As the family proceeded up the Mohawk in the boat, their teams kept even pace by land.

Judge White was one of the purchasers of the Sadaqueda patent with Zephaniah Platt, Ezra L'Hommedieu and Melcanthon Smith. On White's arrival (1784) at the Sauquoit he built a temporary bark shanty. His next house of logs he built at the eastern termination of the village green and about six rods southerly from the Utica road. "The house erected was peculiar. He dug into the bank so that the lower story was underground and the upper was built in true primitive log house style. The ridge pole for the support of the roof was upheld by forked trees, cut and set in the ground, and the roof was composed of slabs, split for that purpose from logs. This was the first house erected on the Indian and Military road, between Old Fort Schuyler (Utica) and Fort Stanwix."

Early Whitesboro settlers were pioneers by the names of Platt, Gold, Wilcox, Tracy, Capron, Green, Cheever, Walcott, Maynard, Mosely, Bradley, Stevens, Doolittle.

For ten years following its settlement Whitesboro was the mst important settlement in the state west of Herkimer.

In 1791 some steps were taken to improve the road west to the Genesee river and in 1792 stages ran up the south shore road from Schenectady to Whitestown, extending their route westward to Geneva in 1794. In 1796 a postoffice was established here.

In 1811 the "Village of Whitehall Landing" was incorporated but the name was changed to Whitesborough. In 1812 Judge White, founder of the settlement, died at the age of 79 years.

Oneida county court was alternately held at Utica and Whitesboro from 1802 to 1850, since which time Rome and Utica have been the shire towns of Oneida county, court being held in each city. The court house and jail were donated by Judge White and his grandson, Mr. Philo White, donated the property to the village as a town hall and council chamber.

An iron works and machine shop were established here in 1871 and knit goods manufacture was started in 1890. A large percentage of the population is (1924) employed in the manufacture of Utica and its industrial district.

  

Whitesboro in 1840.

In 1840 Haskell and Smith's U.S. Gazeteer describes Whitestown (Whitesboro) as follows: "Whitestown, postoffice, township, semi-capital of Oneida county, N.Y., 96 m. west northwest Albany. The surface is undulating, soil calcareous loam and fertile. Drained by Oriskany and Sadaquada creeks, flowing into Mohawk river, which bounds it on the northeast. Whitesborough village, situated on the south side of the Mohawk river, contains a court house, jail, 4 churches - 1 Presbyterian, 1 Congregational, 1 Baptist and 1 Methodist - 8 stores, 1 large cotton factory, 3,000 spindles; 1 large flouring mill, an academy, 300 dwellings and about 1,000 inhabitants. It is chiefly on one street, over one mile long, shaded with trees with graveled side walks. It contains the Oneida Institute, a manual labor institution which has a president and several professors; incorporated in 1829. It has attached to it a farm of 114 acres and has several convenient buildings."

  

Barge Canal Lock No. 20.

On the western limits of Whitesboro, and over one mile east of Oriskany, is the Barge Canal Lock No. 20, which is the eastern lock of the canal summit level running westward 18 m., to New London, marking the divide between the waters of the Great Lakes and the Atlantic seaboard. This Oriskany lock raises the water from a sea level elevation of 404 feet below to 420 feet sea elevation of the summit level above the lock.

A bridge crosses the canal just above this lock. Over it a highway runs north through Marcy to the Black river and Adirondack roads which diverge at Barneveld.

  

Eastern Star Home at Oriskany.

ORISKANY.

(Oneida County)

(Over N.Y.C.R.R., N.Y., 244 m.; Buffalo, 195 m. Sea elevation, 420 feet. 1920 Pop., 1,101.)

Turnpike Mileage Distances.

East: Whitesboro 3 m., Yorkville 4 m., Utica 7 m., Frankfort 17 m., Ilion 19 m., Mohawk 21 m., Herkimer 22 m., Fort Herkimer Church 23 m., Little Falls 29 m., Gen. Herkimer Home 31 m., St. Johnsville 39 m., Palatine Church 42 m., Fort Plain-Nelliston 45 m., (by detour) Stone Arabia Churches 49 m., Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge 52 m., Fonda-Fultonville 64 m., (by detour) Johnstown 68 m., Gloversville 72 m., Auriesville 69 m., Fort Johnson 69 m., Amsterdam 72 m., Schenectady 88 m., Albany 108 m., New York 252 m.

West: Oriskany Battlefield Monument 2 m., Rome 8 m., Oneida 21 m., Syracuse 51 m., Rochester 148 ., Buffalo 205 m.

  

The most important points east are Whitesboro, 3 m.; Utica, 7 m. 
West, Oriskany Battlefield, 2 m.; Rome, 8 m.

Oriskany village was incorporated in 1914. It has manufactures of iron castings and paper makers' felt. In 1913 the village had 2 factories with 251 operatives. A bridge here crosses the Mohawk.

  

Oriskany Creek.

Oriskany lies on the western bank of Oriskany creek, which here enters the Mohawk, and from which the village takes its name. Oriska was the original form of the Oneida word meaning "the nettles."

The Oriskany rises near Bouckville, 23 m. s. w. (airline distance) from its outlet here. On its banks lie Hamilton College at Clinton. The Oriskany forms a gateway to the Chenango branch of the Susquehanna, for a highway, for the New York, Ontario & Western Railway and for the old Chenango canal (1836), now abandoned. Close to its headwaters is Hamilton, where Colgate University is located.

  

Oriska, Oneida Village.

Before the Revolution, the Oneida village of Oriska was here located, as shown on the D. A. R. markers of 1912. The Oneida were largely friendly to the American cause, and after the Revolutionary war the village here continued until about 1793, it being then the only Iroquois Indian village in the Mohawk valley. The 1793 village had six log houses, five on the east bank of the Oriska and one, that of the chief on the west. It is said that in 1785, several of the houses had great hoards of silverware and other plunder taken from the middle and lower Mohawk valley settlements during the Revolutionary war (1775-1783) by hostile Indian raiders.

  

Gen. Herkimer's Camp, August 5, 1777.

On the night of August 5, 1777, the American militia brigade, under Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, camped for the night between the Sauquoit and Oriskany creeks. The site is located by a D. A. R. marker of 1912. The Americans were on their march from Fort Dayton (Herkimer) to the relief of American Fort Stanwix, known in the Revolution as Fort Schuyler (at present Rome).

From this camp Herkimer sent three scouts forward to Fort Stanwix, informing Gen. Gansevoort of his approach and intending attack. These scouts carried a message requesting that the fort fire a signal gun on the arrival of the couriers, when both Herkimer's force and the garrison would attack the enemy.

These scouts were Capt. Mark Damuth, John Adam Helmer, and a third, whose name is unknown.

On the morning of the 6th, Herkimer's officers and men became impatient and finally mutinous over the delay, calling their commander a coward and a traitor. Gen. Herkimer pleaded with them, advising caution as a part of the victory. Finding that restraint was useless, the General finally ordered his troops to march and they rushed pell mell forward into the ambuscade of Oriskany, two miles west of present Oriskany village.

  

Oriskany, Historical.

In 1787 there were three log houses of white settlers located on the site of Oriskany, besides the six log cabins of the Oneida Indian village of Oriska here then located.

Col. Gerrit G. Lansing of Albany, purchased a tract of 400 acres of land, embracing a large part of the present village of Oriskany, and settled here in 1802. Col. Lansing is generally considered as the founder of Oriskany.

In 1821 a postoffice was established here. The manufacture of cotton cloth was started at Oriskany in 1854, fine broadcloth selling as high as $10 a yard being also produced. The factory, after various changes was, in 1880, converted for the manufacture of paper makers' felt. The iron industry here was established in 1879.

Opposite Oriskany's eastern limits, on the north shore Turnpike, are the new buildings of the New York State Hospital for the Insane, which was made an addition to the Utica State Hospital for the Insane in 1922.

Two miles west of the Oriskany Central station is

  

Oriskany Battlefield Monument.
Photo by the author August 6, 1922, on the 145th anniversary of the
battle of Oriskany (August 6, 1777), celebrated by Oriskany Chapter,
Daughters of the American Revolution.

ORISKANY BATTLEFIELD.

(Oneida County)

Turnpike Mileage Distances.

East: Oriskany 2 m., Whitesboro 5 m., Yorkville 6 m., Utica 9 m., Frankfort 19 m., Ilion 21 m., Mohawk 23 m., Herkimer 24 m., Fort Herkimer Church 25 m., Little Falls 31 m., Fink's Bridge 32 m., Gen. Herkimer Home 33 m., East Creek 38 m., St. Johnsville 41 m., Palatine Church 44 m., Fort Plain-Nelliston 47 m., (by detour) Stone Arabia Churches 51 m., Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge 50 m., Yosts (the Noses) 56 m., Fonda-Fultonville 62 m., (by detour) Johnstown 66 m., Gloversville 70 m., Auriesville 67 m., Tribes Hill-Fort Hunter 68 m., Fort Johnson 70 m., Amsterdam 73 m., Hoffman's Ferry 80 m., Schenectady 89 m., Albany 104 m., New York 253 m.

West: Rome 6 m., Oneida 19 m., Syracuse 49 m., Rochester 146 m., Buffalo 203 m.

  

The next important point east is Utica, 9 m.; west, Rome, 6 m.

The imposing shaft, here erected in 1879, commemorates the battle of Oriskany, fought on this field between a force of British, Tories, German Jagers (riflemen) and Indians and a body of American valley militia under Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, on August 6th, 1777.

The forest fight at Oriskany was the bloodiest and most hotly contested battle of the Revolution. This battlefield and monument are yearly visited by thousands of motorists.

  

Bloodiest Combat of the Revolution and One of its Decisive Battles.

In proportion to the forces engaged Oriskany is the bloodiest battle in American history.

During the Revolutionary (1777) campaign by the British-Tory-Hessian-Indian army under Gen. Burgoyne directed from Canada against Albany and the Hudson valley, a force of 1,200 under the British Colonel, Barry St. Leger, attempted to conquer the Mohawk valley and, effecting a junction with Burgoyne's men, swoop down the Hudson valley to New York thus splitting the thirteen American colonies in two. At Oriskany was fought the decisive battle which prevented this scheme.

As related under Oriskany, Gen. Herkimer and his 800 valley militia broke camp there on the morning of August 6, and marched, up the narrow road through the forest, to the relief of the American garrison of Fort Stanwix (on the present site of Rome), which the enemy was then besieging. Herkimer wished to halt before reaching Oriskany while he sent two scouts to the fort with dispatches giving his plan of battle. His impatient militia would not wait and rushed pell mell along the narrow road through the forest.

  

The Ambuscade.

The line of march soon led into a curving ravine with a marshy bottom, traversed by a causeway of logs and earth. Along this road the patriots were rushing hastily forward when a sudden, crashing volley of musketry smote the straggling American line and the enemy closed in on all sides, while the forest rang with shots and savage yells, and the shouts of officers struggling to restore order out of the confused files of militiamen. In the smoke and turmoil Gen. Herkimer, riding at the head of the column, with the Canajoharie district regiment in the van, ordered Col. Cox to deploy the men in a battleline on the road, but, like true frontiersmen, they took to trees of their own accord. At this moment Gen. Herkimer was shot through the lower leg by a bullet which killed his horse, and horse and rider sank to the earth. In the first fury of the onslaught, the enemy cut off the baggage train and the rear battalion of Col. Visscher, which was pushed back in a disorderly retreat although Capt. Gardenier's company and some others of Visscher's men succeeded in pushing forward and joining the American main body. The rest were pursued and badly cut up by the Indians. The 700 men left in the ravine were thrown into confusion and for a time seemed likely to be annihilated, as the slaughter was terrific. Although undisciplined and insubordinate, they were not panicstricken and soon were fighting back effectively against the savage enemy.

  

Wounded General Herkimer in Battle.

When Herkimer fell, Dr. Petrie, surgeon of the German Flats regiment, was also severely wounded but nevertheless he bound up the commander's injured leg as well as possible, while under heavy fire. Directing his saddle to be placed against the trunk of a large beech tree, General Herkimer had his men assist him to a seat thereon. He lit his pipe and calmly directed the battle while supporting himself on his saddle. The bullets whizzed all about him, but when he was begged by his officers to allow them to remove him to a safer place, he replied, "I will face the enemy."

  

"I Will Face the Enemy."
General Herkimer at the battle of Oriskany.  From the painting by
Frederick Yohn.  The mortally wounded American commander is
propped up on his saddle at the foot of the beach tree, giving
orders while under heavy fire.

"Put Two Men Behind a Tree."

After an hour of fighting with the foe closing gradually in upon them, Captain Seeber, without orders, threw the remnant of his men into a circle, the better to repel the attacks of the enemy. This example was followed by other sections of Herkimer's little army, whose defense then became so effective that a detachment of the Royal Greens and Butler's Rangers attempted to break the American line by a fierce bayonet charge. In this wild melee old Valley neighbors fought, fired and stabbed in a deadly hand-to-hand combat. Then a sudden heavy thunderstorm broke upon the bloody forest filled with dead, dying and madly fighting men. The enemy retired and the Americans had a brief respite after two hours of deadly battle. Herkimer's men then took advantage of this to concentrate upon a better piece of ground, taking advantage of the rising ground (where the monument stands), which was somewhat protected by the swamps to the north and east and Bloody Gulch to the west. Another piece of tactics now adopted was to place two men behind a single tree to fire alternately, thus protecting each other from the savages, who, when a marksman was alone, rushed upon him and tomahawked him as soon as he had fired and before he could reload. Meanwhile the Indians, good for nothing at the point of the bayonet and being severely punished were wavering.

  

The Bloody Hand-to-Hand Battle.

The signal gun from Fort Stanwix now sounded gratefully upon the ears of the grimly-fighting farmers. Col. Willett was assaulting St. Leger's camp. Here Brant tried an Indian trick of sending a company of Johnson's Greens disguised with American hats toward the patriots. Capt. Jacob Gardinier of Visscher's regiment, was the first to detect the stratagem. To Lieut. Jacob Sammons, who thought them friends, said Gardinier: "Not so; don't you see them green coats?" They were hailed by Capt. Gardinier, just at which moment one of his own men, seeing a friend, as he supposed, approaching, sprang forward and offered his hand, which was grasped and he was drawn into the advancing corps a prisoner. The American struggled to free himself and Gardinier, jumping into the melee, killed the Tory captor with the blow of a spontoon. Instantly the captain was set upon by several of the enemy, one of whom he slew, and wounded another. Three of the foe now grappled with Gardinier and hurled him to the ground and held him there while one of the "Greens" pinioned his thigh to the ground with a bayonet. Another attempted to thrust a bayonet into his chest, but he caught it and jerked its owner down upon his body where he held him as a protection, until Adam Miller, one of his own men, came to his rescue and, with his clubbed musket, brained one of the assailants who was holding down the fighting captain. The other two now turned upon Miller, when Gardinier, partly rising, snatched up his spear and killed one of them, who proved to be Captain McDonald of Johnson's Greens. In one of these terrible hand-to-hand fights, Captain Watts was fearfully wounded and taken prisoner, and Captains Hare and Wilson of Johnson's Greens were killed.

  

The Beaten Enemy Runs Away.

This was one of the most terrific hand-to-hand battles recorded in history. Bayonets, clubbed guns, swords, pistols, tomahawks, war clubs, spears and knives were used with murderous effect. In this fierce melee the valley farmers had the advantage and killed and beat back their enemies, until the Indians sounded their call of retreat, "Ooonah, oonah," and slunk back into the forest. Thus deserted, the Tories fled, leaving the field in the possession of the Tryon county militia, whom only their own valor had saved from extermination. During the six hours of conflict 150 Americans had been killed. The wooded glen was littered with hundreds of wounded, dead and dying of both forces. The American wounded numbered probably 150 and prisoners about 50. There were scarcely enough unwounded Americans left to carry off their wounded on litters hurriedly made with saplings and willow withes. The flower of the manhood of the Valley was killed at Oriskany and there was sorrow along the Mohawk in countless homes, which mourned some relative slain in this terrible combat.

  

Hardly Enough American Left to Carry Off the Wounded.

The enemy retired in disorder from the field and left the Americans master of it at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The decimated regiments were, by their surviving commanders as far as practicable, hastily reorganized. The wounded, having been placed upon rude litters, the troops took up their mournful retrograde march, and encamped that night on the site of Old Fort Schuyler (now Utica), eight miles from the battlefield. From this point, Gen. Herkimer and Capt. Jacob Seeber and possibly one or two others of the wounded, were taken down the river in a boat to Fort Herkimer. At that place Capt. Seeber was left with a broken leg, which was amputated and he bled to death. Gen. Herkimer was taken to his home below Little Falls - probably in a boat to the head of the rapid - and died there ten days later, August 17, 1777. It is stated that Lieut.-Col. Campbell and Major Clyde brought off the shattered troops.

The loss of the enemy probably was as much as that of the Americans - 300 killed and wounded, and had much to do with their retreat from Fort Stanwix. The Senecas alone had 40 warriors killed.

  

Indian Barbarities After Oriskany.

After the Oriskany battle the Indians committed great barbarities on account of the terrible losses they had suffered. The savages killed the wounded and tortured and murdered a number of American prisoners. In several instances they killed, cooked and ate their captives. The Tories were equally barbarous and it is recorded that a leading valley Tory was with difficulty restrained from murdering his own brother. One of the Americans was pinioned to a tree by a bayonet thrust through his body and later the tree with the bayonet deeply embedded therein, was known as "the bayonet tree."

None of the slain on the field of Oriskany was ever buried. When Gen. Arnold's American army passed up the Mohawk road, to the relief of Fort Stanwix, two weeks after the battle of Oriskany, they had to make a wide detour to escape the stench of the hundreds of bodies decaying under a hot August sun. For ten years after the fight, skulls and bones of friend and foe were thickly scattered about the forest battlefield. Settlers after the Revolution, collected and buried many of these bones.

The battle of Oriskany prevented the reinforcements under St. Leger from reaching Burgoyne and it is thus, by some historians, regarded as the decisive battle of the Revolution and the one which ensured American liberty.

There is no more heroic combat than that of Oriskany recorded in all history.

  

Oriskany Battlefield of Today.

The visitor to the Oriskany battlefield can readily see the position of the Americans. They were ambuscaded in the ravine to the east, across which a corduroy road ran at the time of the battle. The American militiamen fought their way to and held the low plateau, bounded on the east by the ravine, on the north (where the monument stands) by the swampy flats, and on the west by Bloody Gulch, where some terrific fighting took place. Only on the south was the position exposed.

A movement is (1924) on foot to make the Oriskany battlefield a national or state park and to improve the south shore Turnpike from Oriskany westward to Rome. The Oriskany Chapter, D.A.R., holds annual services on the battlefield on the nearest Sunday to August 6th, "Oriskany Day."

The Oriskany conflict was replete with the most thrilling incidents, many of which are detailed in Simms' "Frontiersmen of New York." For an account of the Oriskany campaign see the author's "Old Fort Plain and the Middle Mohawk Valley," O'Connor Bros., publishers, Fort Plain, N.Y., and his "History of the Mohawk Valley."

For a good story of the Revolutionary Mohawk valley, which includes the Oriskany battle, read Harold Frederic's "In the Valley," illustrated by Howard Pyle (Chas. Scribner's Sons). Frederic was a resident of Utica and wrote several modern novels which constitute the best fiction dealing with Central New York. Among them are "The Lawton Girl," "The Damnation of Theron Ware," "Seth's Brother's Wife," "The Copperhead," etc.

  

New York State Soldiers.

The Oriskany battlefield is one of four battlefields of the American Revolution you pass on the New York-Buffalo, Buffalo-New York trip, the four being Stony Point, Bear Mt., St. Johnsville and Oriskany.

The reader must not be misled by the smallness of the forces engaged on these historic fields. Populations were small and everything in this world is relative. These little armies helped to decide the destinies of North America fully as much as if they had equalled the millions engaged in the great World war (1914-18).

On the Mohawk Turnpike you have passed and witnessed many scenes of border warfare of Indian, Dutch, English and Revolutionary days. However, the reader must remember that, although not the scene of warfare (except in 1814 at Buffalo) the entire New York-Buffalo route played an important part in the War of 1812 and in the Civil war. The towns and country on and in the vicinity of your route witnessed the passage of countless troops - over the highways, 1812-1814, and over the New York Central, 1861-1865. This region also furnished by far the greater part of the thousands of Union soldiers enlisted during the Rebellion in New York state; and along your route were located the great camps where the recruits mobilized and from which they were sent forth to battle or sicken on southern fields.

New York state furnished 448,850 of the 2,772,408 soldiers in the Union armies during the Civil war (1861-5).

The New York-Buffalo route and its Mohawk valley section played an equally important part in the World War as in the earlier American conflicts.

  

Nine Mile Creek.

Opposite Oriskany battlefield, Nine Mile creek enters the Mohawk, its outlet being on the north shore. Through its channel the water, from the Hinckley storage dam on West Canada creek, reaches the summit level of the Barge canal.

The channel of Nine Mile creek was the pre-Glacial channel of the West Canada creek now flowing into the Mohawk at Herkimer.

The Rome Country Club has its home and golf links at Stanwix, a small village on the south shore Turnpike, just east of Rome.

 

Six miles west of Oriskany battlefield is Rome,
where Fort Stanwix was located (1758-1768, 1776-1781).

  

  

      

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