This excerpt from Jeptha Simms' "Frontiersmen of New York" was contributed by Stephan G. Dennie, a direct descendant of the early Shew family. Stephan enjoys reading early history of all counties of the Mohawk Valley, and incorporates accounts into his personal family genealogy records. Stephan previously donated the account of The Tragic Death of John Shew.


Extracted from

The Frontiersmen of New York

By Jeptha R. Simms, Vol. 2 Pgs 336 - 343.

Lamentation of Dogs.--The following incident attended the invasion of the Mohawk valley by Sir John Johnson in the summer as 1780, between Tribeshill and Caughnawaga-- now Fonda. Two days after the desolator had spread his curtain of destruction along this goodly heritage, the dogs of several families whose dwellings had been ravaged and burned--some of whose masters were among the slain or captives with the enemy--congregated on a hill north of the Albert Slingerland place several miles east of Fonda, and there set up such a howling as was probably never made by so great a number of dogs before, or since, in the Mohawk valley. They began their unearthly moaning just at sun-set, and continued it several hours; to the great annoyance of a few houseless citizens still concealed in the surrounding forest. This was a canine mourning for their friends and their homes. -- From Daniel Zielie, (who heard this remarkable concert. He died at an advanced age, August 10, 1850, in the invaded district.)

Some years after the Revolution, Judge Visscher, to whom the homestead reverted on the death of his brothers, erected a substantial brick swelling over the ashes of his birth-place, where he spent the evening of his days, amid the associations of youthful pleasure and manly suffering. This desirable farm residence is pleasantly situated on a rise of ground in the town of Mohawk, several miles east of Fonda, Montgomery county. It is given the Indian name of the adjoining creek, in the hope of preserving that name. Between the house and the river, which it fronts, may be seen the Mohawk turnpike, and the track of the Utica and Schenectada railroad. The place is now owned and occupied by Mr. Alfred De Graff, a great grandson of its former patriotic proprietor, who has recently much improved its appearance.

From this digression we return to the war-path of the enemy. They captured three Negroes and a wench belonging to the Visscher family; burnt the barn, and in it, as supposed, their own dead, killed by the brothers; from whence they proceeded to the dwelling of Barney Wemple, a little farther up the river, which was rifled and burned with the out-buildings attached. Wemple had sent a slave, before day-light, to catch horses, who, hearing the firing, and discovering the light of the burning buildings down the valley, ran to the house and gave intelligence that foes were near. Thus alarmed, the family fled, almost naked, into a small swamp, just in time to escape the tomahawk. Wemple erected a dwelling on the site of his former one, soon after it was burnt, which shared a similar fate during Johnson's invasion of the valley the following October. In their course up the river, the enemy also burnt the out-buildings of Peter Conye, the dwelling of John Wemple, and possible one or two others. Arriving at Caughnawaga, the destruction of property was renewed. Douw Fonda, who removed from Schenectada and settled at that place about the year 1751 (the same year in which Harman Visschler settled below), was an aged widower, and resided, with a few domestics, in a large stone dwelling with wings, which stood on the grounds of the County Agricultural Society. It had been the intention of the citizens to fortify this dwelling, and it was partially surrounded by strong pickets. Fonda's three sons, John, Jelles, and Adam, also good Whigs, were living in the neighborhood.

Jelles Fonda resided a short distance below the Caughnawaga church, owning a large dwelling and store. At the time of this invasion, he was absent on public business. About a week previous, he sent part of his family and effects in a bateau to Schenectada, to which place they were accompanied by the wife and children of John Fonda. The wife of Major Fonda and her son Douw, were at home, however, on that morning. Hearing the firing at Visscher's and discovering the light of the burning buildings below, Mrs. Fonda and her son fled to the river near, where there was a ferry. Remaining in the ferry-boat, she sent Douw to get two horses, and being gone some time, fears were excited lest he had been captured. As her apprehensions for her son's safety increased, she called him repeatedly by name. He returned with the horses and they began to cross the river, but had hardly reached its center when several of the enemy, attracted to the spot by her voice, arrived on the bank they had left. A volley of balls passed over the boat without injuring its inmates, and leaving it upon the south shore, they mounted their horses and directed their course towards Schenectada, where they arrived in due time.

Adam Fonda, at the time of Johnson's invasion, resided near the Cayadutta creek, where Douw Fonda resided in 1850. Arriving at Adam Fonda's, the enemy made him a prisoner, and fired his dwelling. Margaret, (Peggy, as she was called,) the widow of Barney Wemple, lived near Fonda, and where Mina Wemple formerly resided , on a knoll not far from the creek, at which place she then kept a public house. The enemy, making her son, Mina, a prisoner, locked her up in her own dwelling and set on fire. From an upper window she made the valley echo to her cries of "murder" and "help," which brought some one to her relief. Her voice arrested the attention of John Fonda, who sent one of his slaves round the knoll which formerly stood west of the Fonda Hotel, to learn the cause of alarm; but hardly had the slave returned, before the enemy's advance from both parties was there also, making Fonda a prisoner, and burning his dwelling.

The eastern party, on arriving at the dwelling of Maj. Fonda, plundered and set it on fire. There were then few goods in his store; but his dwelling contained some rare furniture for that period, among which was a musical clock, that; at certain hours. performed three several tunes. The Indians would have saved this house for the great respect they had for its owner, whom they had known as the warm personal friend of Sir William Johnson but their more than savage allies, the Tories insisted on its destruction. As the devouring element was consuming the dwelling, the clock began to perform, and the Indians, in numbers, gathered round in mute astonishment, to listen to its melody. They supposed it the voice of a spirit, which they may have thought was pleased with the manner in which they were serving tyranny. Of the plunder made at this dwelling, was a large circular mirror, which a citizen in concealment sew, first in the hands of a squaw, but it being a source of envy it soon passed into the hands of a stout Indian---not, however, without a severe struggle on her part. The Indians were extravagantly fond of mirrors, and it is not unlikely this costly one was broken in pieces and divided between them. Among the furniture destroyed in the house, was a marble table on which stood the statue of an Indian, whose head rested on a pivot, which, from the slightest motion was continually-- "Niding, nodding, and nid, nid, nodding."

Neither the parsonage or the church at Caughnawaga, were harmed. Dr. Romeyn, then its pastor, was from home. Mrs. Romeyn, as she was fleeing up the hill north of her house with her family, carrying two children, was seen by the Indians, who laughed heartily at the ludicrous figure she presented, without offering to molest her, except by giving an extra whoop.

Murder of Douw Fonda. -- When the alarm first reached the family of Douw Fonda, Penelope Grant, a Scotch girl living with him, to whom the old gentleman was much attached, urged him to accompany her to the hill whither the Romeyn family were fleeing; but the old patriot had become childish, and seizing his gun, he exclaimed--"Penelope, do you stay here with me--I will fight for you to the last drop of blood!" Finding persuasion of no avail, she left him to his fate, which was indeed a lamentable one; for soon the enemy arrived, and he was led out by a Mohawk Indian, known as "One armed Peter" (he having lost an arm), toward the bank of the river, where he was tomahawked and scalped. As he was led from the house, he was observed by John I. Hansen, a prisoner, to have some kind of a book and a cane in his hand. His murderer had often partaken of his hospitality, having lived for many years in his neighborhood. When afterwards reproved for his murder, he replied that as it was the intention of the enemy to kill him, "he thought he might as well get the bounty for his scalp as any one else!" Mr. Fonda had long been a warm personal friend of Sir William Johnson, and it is said that Sir John much regretted his death and censured the murderer. This Indian, Peter, was the murderer of Capt. Hansen, on the same morning. With the plunder made at Douw Fonda's were four male slaves and one female, who were all taken to Canada. Several other slaves were of the plunder made in the neighborhood, and doubtless became incorporated with the Canada Indians.

An incident of no little interest is related by an eye witness from the hill, as having occurred in this vicinity on the morning of this invasion. A little distance in advance of the enemy, a man was seen in a wagon which contained several barrels, urging his horses forward. Despairing of making his escape with the wagon, he abandoned it, and mounting one of his horses which he had loosened from the wagon, he drove to the river, into which they plunged and swam across with him in safety. On reaching the wagon, the barrels were soon found to contain rum which had been destined to one of the frontier forts. Knocking in the head of a cask, the Indians were beginning to drink and gather round with shouts of merriment, when a British officer dressed in green came up, and with a tomahawk hacked the barrels in pieces, causing the liquor to run upon the ground, to the mortification of his tawny associates, who dispersed with evident displeasure.--Mrs. Penelope Forbes. (Her maiden name was Grant, mentioned as living with Mr. Douw Fonda.)

The enemy, led by Col. John Johnson in person, on their way to Caughnawaga, plundered and burned the dwellings of James Davis, one Van Brochlin and Sampson Sammons.--Mrs. John Fonda. Sammons with his sons, Jacob, Frederick and Thomas, were captured, but himself and youngest son Thomas, were set at liberty; the other two were carried to Canada. For an account of their sufferings, see Life of Brant.

The Preceeding facts relating to this invasion were obtained from Daniel and John Visscher, sons of Col. Fr. Visscher; Mrs. Margaret Putman, a sister of Col. Visscher; Angelica, Daughter of Henry Hansen, and widow of John Fonda; Catherine, daughter of John Fonda, late the wife of Evert Yates; Peter, a son of Cornelius Putman; Volkert Voorhess; Cornelius, son of Barney Wemple; David Son of Adam Zielie; and John S. Quackenboss.

Cornelius and Harmanus Smith, lived two miles west of Maj. Fonda and Harmanus, on the morning of Johnson's invasion, was going to mill, and called just after day-light at Johannes Veeder's. The latter was then at Schenectada, but his son, Simon (afterwards a judge of Montgomery county), who resided with him, was at home, and had arisen. On his way to Veeder's, Smith had discovered the smoke of the Sammons dwelling , but being unable to account for it, continued his journey, and was captured near the mill. Cornelius Smith, alarmed soon after his brother left home, escaped with his family in a boat to the south side of the river. Aaron Smith, father of my informant, William A. Smith, lived a short distance west of the brothers named. His house was burned at this time, and again in the fall, the family fleeing to the woods. Sir John Johnson liberated Harmanus Smith, at Johnson Hall, but kept a slave captured with him. The concealed family could hear the enemy break their china ware, and yell exultantly as they did so. A female slave of the Johnson family then living at Smith's, was left at the house to save what she could; with a bundle of effects in the weeds, she saw her black husband Quack, came to him and insisted on going to Canada with him. She had crooked feet, and Johnson wanted to leave her, but go she would, and go she did. She made tracks like those of a bear. Matthew Van Deusen and Nicholas Van Brochlin, living together above Smith's, were also burned out in the spring and following fall. Mr. Veeder, who had accompanied Smith toward the road from hearing the discharge of musketry down the valley, soon after his neighbor was out of sight, beheld to his surprise a party of Indians approaching him from that direction; upon which he ran to his house, a little distance above the present village of Fonda, pursued by them. He alarmed his family, which consisted of Gilbert Van Deusen, Henry Vrooman, a lame man, and James Terwilleger, a German; and several women and slaves. The three men snatched each a gun and fled from the back door, Vrooman with his boots in his hand; and as Veeder, minus a hat, was following them with a gun in each hand, the enemy opened the front door. They leveled their guns but did not fire, supposing, possibly, that he would be intimidated and surrender himself a prisoner. As Veeder left the house, the women fled down cellar for safety. The fugitives had to pass a board fence a few rods from the house, and as Veeder was leaping it, several of the enemy fired on him, three of their balls passing through the board beneath him. One of his comrades drew up to return the fire, but Veeder, fearing it might endanger the safety of the women, would not permit him to. The house was then plundered, and after removing the women from the cellar, the house was fired, and with it several out-buildings. The dwellings of Abraham Veeder, Col. Volkert Veeder, that of Smith already named, and those of two of the Vroomans, situated above, also shared a similar fate, and became a heap of ruins.--Volkert, a son of Simon Veeder.

Good Luck.-- At this period, George Eacker resided just below the Nose. Having discovered the fire of the burning buildings down the valley, he sent his family into the woods on the adjoining mountain, but remained himself to secure some of his effects. While thus busily engaged, several of the enemy arrived and made him a prisoner. As they began to plunder his house, they sent him into the cellar to procure food. On entering it, he discovered an outside door afar; passing which, he fled for the woods. As they thought his stay protracted, the Indians entered the cellar, and had the mortification to see their late prisoner climbing the hill, beyond the reach of their guns. Finding his family, he led them to a place of greater security in the forest, where they remained until the present danger was past, and their buildings reduced to ashes. -- Judge David Eacker.

The enemy proceeded at this time as far west as the Nose, destroying a new dwelling, ashery, etc., just then erected by Major Jelles Fonda.--Mrs John Fonda.

When Sir John Johnson removed from Johnstown to Canada, a faithful slave owned by him, buried, after he had left, his most valuable papers and a large quantity of silver coin, in an iron chest, in the garden at Johnson Hall. Among the confiscated property of Sir John sold at auction, was this very slave. He was bought by Col. Volkert Veeder, and no persuaion could induce him to reveal any secrets of his former master., This slave was recovered by Johnson on the morning of his invasion; and returning to the Hall with his first owner, he disinterred the iron chest, and the contents were obtained. Some of the papers, from having been several years in the ground, were nearly destroyed. This slave, although well treated by Col. Veeder, was glad of an opportunity to join Col. Johnson, who had made him a confidant, and accompany him to Canada.--Mrs. Fonda.

Several boys were captured along the river, who were liberated at Johnson Hall, and returned home, among whom were James Romeyn, and Mina, (a contraction of Myndert) Wemple. The latter, hearing the proposition made by Sir John, to allow the boys to return, who was rather larger than any of the others, stepped in among them saying, "me too! me too!" and was finally permitted to accompany them off; and returned to the ashes of her inn, to console his mother. Thomas Sammons, Abraham Veeder, and John Fonda (and possibly some others), were also permitted, on certain conditions, to return home; the latter, and his brother Adam, casting lots to see which should be retained a prisoner. The captives thus liberated, were given a "pass," by Col. Johnson, lest they might meet some of the enemy, and be retaken. They had not proceeded far when Veeder, who was a brother of Lieut.-Col. Volkert Veeder, halted to read his pass. "Well," said his companion, Fonda, in Low Dutch, "you may stop here to read your pass, if you choose, but I prefer reading mine when out of danger of them red devils of Sir John's."--Evert Yates.

Colonels Harper and Volkert Veeder, collected, as speedily as possible, the scattered militia of Tryon county, to pursue the invaders, but being too weak to successfully give them battle, they were permitted, almost unmolested, to escape with their booty to Canada. John J. Hanson, captured at Tribes' Hill, after journeying with the enemy two days, effected his escape, and arrived half-starved, at the dwelling of a German, living back of Stone Arabia, who supplied him with food, and he reached Fort Hunter in safety.-- Mrs. Evert Yates.

Transcribed from the original book by Stephan G. Dennie.

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