THE GREAT CONFLAGRATION OF MAY 1780 - PART II
BY JAMES F. MORRISON
When reading from the pages THE FRONTIERSMEN OF NEW YORK by JEPTHA R.
SIMMS you will not only find interesting tales and facts pertaining
to the MOHAWK VALLEY but some of his footnotes can make
you wish that you had lived in the 1880's.
Simms refers to several letters, diaries, commissions and manuscripts in his possession. He mentions several such as Jacob Sammons, Thomas Sammons, Samuel Clyde, Samuel Campbell and Jacob Hager. The following is from the THOMAS SAMMONS MANUSCRIPT, which can be found in the MONTGOMERY COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY AND ARCHIVES, OLD COURTHOUSE, FONDA, N.Y.
I have added footnotes and corrected some spellings enclosed with the following type of brackets .
"In the year 1776 in alarm took place and some of the inhabitants went in the Caughnawaga Church a gaurd was kept the Militia was ordered out I was then 14 years old and did duty on gaurd till the Militia returned and we returned home that was the first actual service I did, in the year 1778 I was 16 years old and was then regularly Inroaled in the Militia & marched with the Militia to Palatine stayed Till discharged Late in the fall again to Ft. Plank - in the Winter of 1777 took a Team of my Fathers with a number of Slays which went from Schenectady to Fort Stanwicks with provisions to the Garrison had a Gaurd from Herkimer to the Fort and the Summer had Drawed with a team of my fathers plank and Boards for a Block house Built at sagonoda at different [times] till the year 1780 was on duty with the Militia one time at Mr. Lenardses on the Sand flats at Adam Fondays for Some time a gaurd kept In the year 1779 I went with Col Fishers Regement to Herkimer from their Volunteered with Col. Gansevoorts Regement to Lake Otsago [Otsego] with Genl Clintons where our Army was daming up the Lake to take boats down the Sisquehanny [Susquehanna] River to Meet General Sullivan. early in the spring of the year 1780 I was Ordered to the Villadge of Johnstown with our Militia and from there was ordered on a scouting party to the north Leut. William Wallace had the command we returned on Saturday the 20 of May on May the 22 of May Sir John Johnson came from the North. our Militia were all dismissed & only a small company of State Troops16 in our Picket fort at the Gaol; as Sir John came near his former Dwelling house the Hall he sent the Indians & Rangers that were with him to a Mr. Lodwick Putmans Family about two Miles east of the Villadge of Johnstown they killed Putman one of his sons & son-in law Stephens as his Tory Settlement they went from there to Capt. Henry Hansons about four or five miles him they killed from there to Col. Vishers He and two brothers defended the house more then two hors when the enemy give up one of the Indians got near the house on the Back side they had no place to fire he made a signal & they came & The enemy then got in the house the Fishers were upstairs as the enemy came up stairs Col. Fishers pistol missed fire they rushed up killed Capt. John Fisher the other Brother Harmon jumped out of a window was killed. the Indians scalped Col. & Capt. Fisher set fire to the Buildings & went of. Col. Fisher came too again Roled his Brother down stairs and got him out of the fire was cured & lived a great many years- my fathers house being the next house to the Tory settlement; north and east had his men marched a few rods from the House at Breake of day Ordered about 40 of Leut. Southerling to charge to the door Others to the windows Our family were all in Bed except my oldest Brother Jacob & myself he had called me up to grain Horses to go and work that day of Jonsons farm which he had the care of then I was out of doors did not see them till they passed me got in the house my Brothers were then up stairs then they talked with the officers who was in the house who assured them ther was no Indians present with them and what force was with them. They Surrendered; in a few minutes my Father and Brothers passed me were I stood tied I then asked the Soldier kept me to go with me in the house to get a pare of shows [shoes] & some Close [Cloaths] to put on he made me no Answer non never spoke a word while he kept me I again told I could not go without shows and Over [?] close go with me I turned my face to the Door to walk in expecting he would go along my Back then Direct to the Soldier as I stept to the Door one of my Sister walked out & he pushed the bayonet my Sister fell on the gun just as it would enter my back kept a hold of it till came to the ground & called Murderer an officer emediately run up and asksed what was the matter my sister told had he spoke verry Hash [harsh] to the soldier told him to with me Let me get my Close and take me to the gaurd which was done. by this time the Barn was Burning and the house on fire we lived three miles from the river one House Between us & the river we arrived at the river they were nerely all in bed; Sir John then proceeded down the river to were a Fort was was [sic] was commenced not finished on nobody in it but Mr.Dowa Fonda more then 80 Years old- here the Indians & Rangers came from Col. Fishers up the river and Fondays rather before before [sic] Sir John: and the Indians murdered Mr. Fonda who had seen them come was too old to run away; this displeased Sir John as Sir William his Father had been a perticular friend of Fonda in his first Settlement had been must [most] assisted by Fonda- then Johnson had all his men United went back the way we came on the River and so continued on till near the Nose then went across the Sand flats past my fathers place to the Hall farm there; a stop was made in order to see their Tory friends and to prepare for thei March to Canada- Our Militia as much as could be collected that day arrived at the Villadge of Johnstown but did not attack the enemy expected they were too week not more than Half the Number of the enemy - here some more of Settlement of Johnson United with Johnson marched to the feild [sic] under the Command of Leut. William Lard one of our Militia Officers: the Prisoners were all tied with their arms Backwards and then two Together with cords: there was several of the Tories came to see the prisoners to recommend to Our Authority not inger [injure] their familys my Brother drawed thirsting [the riting?] subscribed some of the Older or most known prisoners in this time it appears the prissoners had a Larger range of Ground. the Indians had attempted on the March to get in the gaurd to kill one Joseph Scot he had been a prisoner before and had run away the Gaurd would not Allow them to come in I got my untied from Scot and followed on behind those Tories when they came out of the Gaurd was discovered. walked through their camp to the Outside but could not get away went again to some Other part saw A Mrs. Hare go to Sir John Her Husband had been a Capt. In Johnsons Regement was killed at Oriskana - she told me not Stir much if she came from Sir John I must try to get out of the camp; I saw some of those which formerly had been neighbors they did not ask me how I got their and then walked to were I saw A number of officers Sir John was with them Mrs. Hare and several others I then saw About 40 men march from the Hall and marched direct to Sir John Johnson. ther was 3 or 4 Bags with silver plate which had been Buried in the seller [cellar] formerly Belonging to the Famely of the Johnstons had been buried in 2 Barrels the Bags were opened trowed [throwed] on the Ground and every man was Handed some. put in his knacpsack his name put down & then Marched of by that time I went of again to the place were I first saw Mrs. Hare as she passed me she Looked at knoded her head I kept in the Company which came with her and when we came to the Last Gaurd the Officer stopped me I walked Lame told Sir John sent me back he Ordered one of his men to take me back I continued on on [sic] told him I was verry Lame Mrs. Hare looked at me said come on I was soon away from them some of our Militia was coming towards the enemy I run to them Our Tory company was afraid I told they would not hurt them - when Col. Harper & Veeder sent for me & inquired About the force of the enemy they did not go to the enemy - the second day [23rd] my father asked the Officer of the Gaurd to speak to Sir John that he wished to see him he then sent for him and when he came Sir John asked what he wanted he told him he wanted to go home he told him he might go he then Asked for a pair of Our Horses to move our womon he told him if there were two Horses of his with the white people he might take them but if the Indians had them all he would not Advise him to take them he might go & see - my father said he then told Sir John [to day was crossed out] you have done A bad act Killing & Murdering Capt. Hansen & Mr. Fonda it stands Charged to you. Both these men were verry old and past time to defend themselves, Fonda Sir William your Father has said was Like a father to him.
1) The Dutch Reformed Church that stood in the present day Village of Fonda.
2) He is referring to the Tryon County Militia.
3)The New York Militia Law required every able bodied man between the ages of 16 to 50 to serve as a soldier. Those under 16, normally would serve as a musician. Thomas apparently was serving as private soldier.
4) As by law on his 16th birthday, enrolled in the local militia company commanded by Captain Abraham Veeder [Second Company].
5) Although Fort Stanwix had been renamed Fort Schuyler in 1776, most of the Mohawk Valley inhabitants still referred to its earlier name. Fort Schuyler stood in the present day Rome, N.Y..
6) His father was Sampson Sammons, who had served on the Committee of Safety and later served as an Ensign in Captain Jellis Fonda's Company of Associated Exempts.
7) He probably means Fort Dayton which stood in the present day Village of Herkimer.
8) In April of 1779 a blockhouse was ordered to be built at Sacondaga for the defence of that area.
9) Thomas was referring to either John or Timothy Leanardson [Lenardson, Landersay etc.].
10) Adam Fonda lived in Caughnawaga [Fonda].
11) Captain Veeder's Company belonged to THE THIRD BATTALION OF TRYON COUNTY MILITIA commanded by Colonel Frederick Visscher.
12) The Third New York Continental Regiment commanded by Colonel Peter Gansevoort had been garrisoning Fort Schuyler until April of 1779.
13) General James Clinton and General John Sullivan commanded an expedition of American forces against Indian Villages in western New York in the summer and fall of 1779.
14) William Wallace in 1780 was serving as a Lieutenant in Captain Marcus Demuth's Company in Colonel Lewis DuBois' Regiment of New York State Levies.
15) Sir John Johnson, formerly of Johnstown, was the Lieutenant-Colonel of a Loyalist Regiment known as THE KING'S ROYAL REGIMENT OF NEW YORK. This was the first of two raids led by Sir John in 1780.
16) The "State Troops" referred to were levies commanded by Captain Walter Vrooman from Colonel John Harper's Regiment.
17) The Tryon County Gaol in 1776 was enclosed with a stockade and two blockhouses were built diagnally as part of the stockade. It was then named Fort Johnstown.
18) He was referring to Johnson Hall which is now a New York State Historic Site on Hall Avenue in Johnstown, N.Y.
19) The "Rangers" referred to were known as Butler's Rangers. Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler formed this regiment in September of 1777.
20) Lodowick Putman with his family lived on what is now the corner of the Hales Mill Road and Route 29. There is a Fulton County Bicentennial Highway Marker erected on the spot on 29.
21) Lodowick, his son Aaron and his son-in-law Amasa Stephens were all killed without a chance to defend themselves. All three had served in Captain John Littel's Company under Col. Visscher.
22) Henry Hanson, who had served as a Captain under Sir William Johnson in the French and Indian War, was now serving as a First Lieutenant in Captain Jellis Fonda's Company of Exempts.
23) Col. Visscher after the war built another home on the site of the one that was burnt in this raid and it still stands on Mohawk Drive off of Route 5 near Tribes Hill.
24) I was unable to find a Lieutenant Southerling.
Perhaps he meant Lieutenant David Sutherland of Butler's Rangers.
25) It is not clear if he meant Johnson Hall or another Johnson family. Sampson did rent the Hall at one time but Jacob might have been in 1780.
26) I'm not sure as to what he is referring too. A blockhouse had been built at John Veeder's Mills near Fonda previously. Perhaps another one was being built for the defense of the local inhabitants. I have found mentioned of one being built in late 1781 or early 1782.
27) Douw Fonda lived at the present site of the Fonda Speedway. His sons; Adam, Jellis and John were serving in Visscher's Regiment.
28) He is probably referring to Anthony's Nose which is above where Captain Fonda was living at this time on the present day Route 5.
29) William Laird, was the First Lieutenant in Captain Andrew Wemple's Company in Visscher's Regiment. Depending on which version you believe, Laird either deserted at this time or was captured.
30) Joseph Scott, had been captured at Fish House on June 3, 1778 in a raid led by Lieutenant John Ross. He did escape later with fellow prisoner John Shew and they both returned home. Joseph with Lieutenant Benjamin Deline were living at Johnson Hall when they were captured. They both had served in Captain Littel's Company.
31) Her husband was Captain John Hare of the Indian Department. Captain Hare had been killed at the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777.
32) Colonel John Harper was commanding one of the New York State Regiment of Levies and Volkert Veeder was the Lieutenant-Colonel of Colonel Visscher's Regiment.