I was researching a client’s family tree and came across a place called Stone Arabia, in Montgomery County New York. I’ve become pretty familiar with many of the towns and cities in Upstate NY, but this was the first time I ever heard of Stone Arabia. I feel something mysterious when I look at this name. Queue the song “Arabian Nights” from Disney’s Aladdin. Have you ever heard of this place? Fortunately, the internet exists and so I share with you the history of Stone Arabia.
First let’s just contemplate the name of this town. I’m not a historian nor a writer so I figure it is best to leave the history written it in the words of the original authors:
The following account was written by Britta Schuelke Kling, 416 Shore View Lane, Leucada, CA 92024, 15 September, 1997, and given to Herman Witthoft, 141 Hudson Ave., Chatham, NY 12037:
My mother found the following spellings in a church in the Mohawk Valley, as far as we know the old Stone Church: Steen Arabia, Steen RABBI, Stein Raby, Stein repi, Ston rabi, and Ston raby. “Steen” is the Palatine dialect word, and “Stein” the German word for “stone.”
She also noted the stone fences separating the fields around Stone Arabia, New York, and remembered seeing the same kind of thing in the Palatinate (the English name for the Pfalz, one of the States in Germany). This led her to speculate that the name Stone Arabia might have evolved from the words Steine (Pronounced “stoina” in the local Palatine dialect) meaning stones, and Riegel (pronounced “reegle”), literally a bolt as in a door-latching bolt, but locally applied to the rows of piled up fieldstones.
So immigrants from the Palatinate settling in the Mohawk Valley (the Palatines) may have talked about their “Stoina Riegel”, which eventually became attached to the village and transliterated into English as “Stone Arabia”.
Further evidence is from a Palatine dialect version “Schtee rasseln” for “Steinriegel”, which in another version yet, could come out as “Schtei rassla”. The double “s” in German is often, especially in older writings, written as a single letter that resembles the Greek letter beta, which would look like the letter “B” to someone not familiar with German handwriting. Thus, reference to stone fences as “Schtee rasseln” or “Schtei rassla” may have become “Steen rabi” or some of the other variants with the root spelling of “rab”.
An article in “The Palatiner” of August, 1954 under the title “From Whence Came the Name Stone Arabia”, offers a clue from the Hudson Valley. In a patent dated 19 October 1668, a parcel of land is described as “lying on the east side of the North River and stretching along the river from the second to the third spring which runs over to the west side of the river straight into the woods up to the hills”. In a lease dated 3 May 1670, reference is made to this land described as “lying over against the long island” and named Steen Raby. A later sale of the farm on the east side of the Hudson referred to the bordering farm as “Stone Arabia”. Captain John Schuyler described a journey to Canada in 1698 with the words, “went from Albany and came to Stony Arabia 8 miles up the river.” These references are to Stony Arabia on the site of present-day Lansingburg or North Troy, which is also the Stein Raby at which an outpost of 40 men was stationed in 1710. It is possible that the earlier Hudson Valley name Stone Arabia was transferred to the Mohawk Valley.
In summary, there are early names beginning with several versions clearly identifiable as the German word for “stone” combined with the word Rabi or Raby in the earliest versions. The “a” was apparently added only later to make Arabia. So there seems a fair possibliity that the original settlers may have been referring to rocky land in New York state to the rocky ridges in the landscape of their native villages.”
The Stone Arabia Patent 1723
And now the local history:
“The Stone Arabia patent was granted, October 19th, 1723, to twenty-seven Palatines, who with their families, numbered 127 persons. The tract conveyed by this patent contained 12,700 acres and was divided into twenty-eight equal parts. Fifty-one lots of fifty acres each were laid out on the track and each twenty-eighth part consisted of one or more of these lots, together with a portion of the undivided land, except that two of the patentees, Lodowick Casselman and Gerhart Shaeffer took their entire twenty-eighths from the undivided portion. Bartholomew Picard took, with his four lots, enough of the undivided land to make two twenty-eighths of the grant. With these exceptions, each patentee’s portion included enough of the undivided land to make one twenty-eighth of the grant when added to his lot or lots, these lots being set out and granted in severalty as follows:
Lots Nos. 1 and 47 to Warner Digert; lots Nos. 2, 44, 8 and 48 to Bartholomew Picard; lots Nos. 3 and 36 to Johannes Schell; lots Nos. 4 and 17 to Jacob Schell; lots Nos. 5 and 25 to Johannes Cremse; lots Nos. 6 and 46 to Johannes Emiger; lot No. 7 to Wm. Vocks; lots Nos. 9 and 24 to John Christian Garlack; lots Nos. 10 and 19 to Mardan Dillenbeck; lots Nos. 11 and 14 to Adam Emiger; lots Nos. 12 and 41 to John Lawyer; lots Nos. 13 and 38 to Andries Feink; lots Nos. 15 and 45 to Hendrick Frey; lots Nos. 16 and 40 to Theobald Garlack; lots Nos. 18 and 28 to Sufferimas Diegert; lots Nos. 20 and 34 to Win. Coppernoll; lots Nos. 21 and 37 to Andries Peiper; lots Nos. 22 and 50 to Mardan Seibert; lots Nos. 23 and 39 to Hans Deterick Casselman; lots Nos. 26 and 33 to Christian Fink; lots Nos. 27 and 49 to Johannes Ingolt; lots Nos. 29 and 51 to Elias Garlack; lots Nos. 30 and 43 to Simon Erchart; lots Nos. 31 and 35 to John Joost Schell; lots Nos. 32 and 42 to William Nelse.
The foregoing names are generally differently spelled at present but, like many similar instances, the above spellings may be the errors of the clerk who wrote the document. Similar errors in names may be similarly caused in the Burnetsfield (German Flats) patent of 1725. All the foregoing Stone Arabia patentees were Palatine Germans, with the exception of Frey, a Swiss and Coppernoll a Hollander.
Among the patentees will be noted Elias Garlock, founder of Garlock’s dorf on the Schoharie at the time of the settlement there in 1712. As previously mentioned he was the Schoharie Valley justice and a leading man of that community. Simms says “Elias Garlock, the founder of Garlock’s dorf, removed to the Mohawk, accompanied by several of his neighbors. Some of the party had relatives or friends there who located at the time the Schoharie settlements were begun, which induced them to remove thither. They settled in and about Canajoharie, at Stone Arabia, or upon the German Flats.” Garlock seems to have been the leader of the Schoharie Palatines, who wished to locate on the Mohawk rather than remain in the Schoharie Valley or go to Pennsylvania with Weiser.
The present-day forms of the names of the Stone Arabia patentees follows, with the patent spelling in parentheses: Pickard (Picard), Shaul (Schell), Gremps (Cremse), Emiger, Fox (Vocks), Garlock (Garlack), Lawyer, Dillenbeck, Fink (Feink), Frey, Dygert (Digert, Diegert), Coppernoll, Piper (Peiper), Seeber (Seibert), Casselman, England (Ingolt), Ecker (Erchart), Nellis (Nelse).
The first years of the newcomers in Stone Arabia, must have been spent in the hard work of cutting off the great forest, clearing the land, planting crops and building log houses and barns, and a log church in 1729 on the site of the Stone Arabia Lutheran Church. During this time, it is probable that some of these pioneers or their grown children located along the Mohawk River between the Stone Arabia section and the German Flats. The present Fort Plain section was settled by Palatine pioneers by the names of Crouse, Lipe and Seeber. The St. Johnsville village neighborhood and township was first settled by Palatine families by the names of Klock, Fox, Helmer, Timmerman (also spelled Zimmerman), Veeling, Woolrat (Walrath), Johnson. Probably, the last named was not a Palatine. There were Dutch and British settlers who came into the Middle Mohawk Valley in the early years of its settlement by the Palatine Germans.
The author has been unable to learn the pioneer settlers of the township of Danube in Herkimer County. The earliest settlers of the township of Manheim, Herkimer County are unknown but, probably by 1750, there was a considerable settlement there of Palatines and others by the names of Garter, Newman, Pickert, Van Slyck, Windecker, Cypher, Helmer, Uher, Attle, etc. At Little Falls a lone Palatine named Petri settled with his family and built a mill about 1725, which was the only family at “the Falls” until after the Revolution.
We now come to the settlement of the Palatines at the beautiful Mohawk River region in the Herkimer-Fort Herkimer section. After detailed mention of this important settlement, the history of the Palatine German locations along the Mohawk belongs to the general history of the Mohawk Valley. To those descendants of the Palatines, to whom the turbulent history of the early Palatine settlements on the Schoharie forms somewhat disagreeable reading, it is a pleasure to contemplate their record in their homes along the Mohawk River. Here they formed an industrious and peaceful element, which constituted a powerful support to the cause of American freedom in the later War for Independence. The migration of the Palatines from Schoharie to the Mohawk in 1722, together with those who landed in New York in 1722 and came to the Middle and Upper Mohawk Valley, made a great increase in the population and must have brought the population of the entire Mohawk Valley to above 2,000 in 1725. From that year onward, the population increase was more rapid until there were probably 20,000 people living in the watershed of the Mohawk River at the outbreak of the Revolution.
It is probable that some Palatines located at German Flats in 1720. It must be remembered that German Flats was a general name which covered the flatlands on both sides of the Mohawk River in what is now Western Herkimer County, by which name this whole region west of the Little Falls was known up to the time of the Revolutionary war. It is a sectional name which covered an entire River region. Similarly, the immediate River valley, east of Little Falls to the Noses, was known as Canajoharie, at the same period. As is obvious, the name German Flats came from the location there of the Palatine German pioneers.
The third company of Palatines to land at New York, reached there in October, 1722. They came from Holland and touched at England on the voyage. This was the only shipload of Palatines which reached New York after the great immigration of 1710, all others having gone to Philadelphia for settlement in Pennsylvania. Cobb suggests that this one ship was driven out of its course and so landed its passengers at New York. On this boat were four people by the name of Erghemar (Herkimer). General Nicholas Herkimer, the hero of Oriskany, was a son of one of these Palatine arrivals of 1722, Johan Jost Herkimer, who soon came to German Flats, as subsequently noted. A number of other settlers there are supposed to have been immigrants of the 1722 Palatine ship. The Indian deed for the German Flats is dated July 9, 1722, and it is probable that a number of Palatines were located here then or soon thereafter and that, by the time the Burnetsfield Patent for these lands was granted in 1725, there was a German settlement here then well under way.
The “History of Herkimer County and the Upper Mohawk Valley”, [i.e, A History of Herkimer County: including the Upper Mohawk Valley, from the earliest period to the present time, etc.] by Hon. Nathaniel S. Benton is the best authority on the Palatine settlements in present Herkimer County and the following is taken therefrom, regarding the Palatine settlement of German Flats and the Burnetsfield Patent of 1725:
“The precise time when the Palatines made their first lodgment in the county is not ascertained. It was not later than 1725. Some, who have speculated upon the subject, suppose they came up the Mohawk Valley as far as the Little Falls and to the Stone Ridge, as early as the year 1720. Their agents, sent to spy out the lands, may have traversed the Valley to the western bounds of the territory claimed by the Mohawk Indians as early as 1720, and, perhaps, before that period; but Governor Burnet had not fixed them, in the new settlement he had obtained for them of the Indians at a very easy purchase, as late as November, 1722, and he, that year, permitted some of them to purchase lands of the Indians ‘on a creek called Canada Creek.’ They secured the carrying place at the lesser falls [Little Falls], as well as a long extent of wilderness country above by their Indian deed; and the license of the Colonial government to make the purchase, may have been considered, by both parties, an authorization for them to remove before the patent was made out, as it no doubt was a solemn, irrevocable public pledge that the lands would be granted by the crown as soon as they should be surveyed. On this hypothesis, it may be conjectured that settlements were made at or near the present site of the [Fort Herkimer] Stone Church, in the town of German Flats and at Herkimer village, as early as the years 1723-24, if not before. Owning the lands at the carrying place, it is not likely that point was long neglected or unimproved. “Burnetsfield patent, so called in popular parlance, is a curious document and well worthy of some special notice. It was granted on the 30th of April, 1725. It recites that ‘whereas our loving subjects, John Joost Patri and Coenradt Rickert, in behalf of themselves and other distressed Palatines, by their humble petition presented the 17th of January, 1722, to our trusty and well beloved William Burnet, Esq., Captain General and Governor in chief of the province of New York, in council have set forth that in accordance with the governor’s license they had purchased ‘of the native Indians in the Mohawk’s country’ the tract of land on both sides of the ‘Mohawk’s river’ commencing at the ‘first carrying place [Little Falls] being the easternmost bounds called by the natives Astourogen, running along on both sides of said river westerly unto a place called Gauondagaraon, on the upper end of it’, being ‘about twenty-four English miles along on both sides of the said river’. The Indian deed is dated July 9th, 1722. That the council advised the governor ‘to grant to each of the said persons, man, woman and child, as are desirous to settle within the limits of said tract of land, the quantity of one hundred acres.’ “The grantees were to hold the land in free and common soccage, that being the usual tenure named in the colonial grants at this time, as of the manor of East Greenwich in the County of Kent, in Great Britain, subject to an annual quit-rent of two shillings and sixpence per hundred acres, and on condition that the grantees, their heirs and assigns, should, within three years from the date, plant, settle and effectively cultivate at least three acres of land of every fifty acres granted to them. This patent also contains the usual reservation of gold and silver mines, timber fit for the royal navy, and the right to enter upon the lands and take and carry away the same. “Of the ninety-two persons named in the patent to whom lands were granted, twenty-two appear to be females, by the description, married, single or widowed. The paper does not disclose the number of families or the heads of families represented by males who settled on the tract, or how many one hundred acre lots went to any one family, husband, wife and children.”
The form of all English royal grants in the province of New York is similar in that they are given “as of the manor of East Greenwich, in the County of Kent in Great Britain, etc.” East Greenwich was a manor belonging to the Crown and this wording of our Colonial patents implied a personal ownership of the New York lands, vested in the King of England and not in the Kingdom of Great Britain.
The list of patentees, under the Burnetsfield patent for lands t German Flats, with the number of each lot, its location as to the north or south side of the river and occasional notes as to locations near present towns, etc., follows, the names being given in alphabetical order:
Mary Beerman, Lot No. 11, 100 acres, north, at Little Falls.
Johannes Beerman, two lots of 100 acres, each numbered 26, north.
Jacob Bowman, Lot No. 27, 100 acres, south.
Johan Adam Bowman, two Lots No. 14, each of 30 acres, north. (Note: All the 30 acre lots were set on what was called the Great Flats, in and near the present village of Herkimer. The 70 acre lots are described in the patent as woodland.)
Anna Dacksteder, wife of Jurgh Dacksteder, Lot No. 28, 100 acres, south.
Jurgh Dacksteder, Lot No. 18, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 18, 70 acres, north.
Elizabeth Edich, Lot No. 5, 100 acres, north.
Johan Michael Edigh, Lot No. 33, 100 acres, south.
Jacob Edich, Lot No. 21, 100 acres, south.
Michael Editch, Lot No. 20, 100 acres, south; Mohawk village.
Jurgh Ehrghemar, Lot No. 44, 100 acres, south.
Johan Jost Erghemar, Lot No. 36, 100 acres, south, east of present Fort Herkimer Church.
Madalana Erghemar, Lot No. 24, 70 acres, south, (and large island in the river).
Catharina Erghemar (wife of Johan Jost Erghemar), Lot No. 5, 100 acres, south.
Nicholas Feller, Lot No. 7, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 7, 70 acres, north.
Mary Feller, (wife of Nicholas Feller), Lot No. 16, 100 acres, south.
Coenradt Felmore, Lot No. 19, 100 acres, south; at Mohawk village.
Christina Felmore, Lot No. 18, 100 acres, south.
Jacob Fols, Lot No. 3, 100 acres, south.
Melgert Fols, Lot No. 2, 30 acres, north. Lot. No. 2, 70 acres, north.
Christopher Fox, Lot No. 26, 100 acres, south.
Henry Heger, Lot No. 8, 100 acres, north.
Elizabeth Helmer, (wife of Lendert Helmer), Lot No. 14, 100 acres, north.
Philip Helmer, Lot No. 25, 100 acres, north, east side of West Canada Creek.
Johan Adam Helmer, Lot No. 6, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 6, 70 acres, north.
Lendert Helmer, Lot No. 21, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 21, 70 acres, north.
Frederick Helmer, Lot No. 1, 100 acres, north.
Anna Margaret (wife of John Adam Helmer), Lot No. 12, 100 acres, south.
Apolone Herter, Lot No. 7, 100 acres, south.
Lowrens Herter, Lot No. 37, 100 acres, south.
Augustines Hess, Lot No. 10, 100 acres, north; at the Little Falls.
Johannes Hoss, Lot No. 31, 100 acres, south.
Johannes Keslaer, Lot No. 45, 100 acres, south.
Nicholas Keslaer, Lot No. 25, 100 acres, south.
Johan Jurgh Kast, Jr., Lot No. 5, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 5, 70 acres, north.
Johan Jurgh Kast, Lot No. 22, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 22, 70 acres, north.
Mary Catherine Koons, (widow), Lot No. 1, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 1, 70 acres, north.
Rudolph Korsing, Lot No. 29, 100 acres, south.
Belia Korsing (wife of Rudolph Korsing), Lot No. 13, 100 acres, south.
Lodowick Koues, Lot No. 2, 100 acres, south.
Anna Catherine Lant (widow), Lot No. 13, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 13, 70 acres, north.
Hendrick Mayor, Lot No. 11, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 11, 70 acres, north.
Anna Mayor, Lot No. 29, 100 acres, south; opposite Great Flats.
Conradt Orendros, Lot No. 40, 100 acres, south.
Hendrick Orendorf, Lot No. 39, 100 acres, south.
Catherine Pears, Lot No. 23, 100 acres, south; opposite Great Flats [Herkimer village].
Lodowick Pears, Lot No. 27, 90 acres, north, and one-quarter of an island.
Frederick Pell, Lot No. 15, 100 acres, north. On east side of West Canada Creek.
Anna Mary Pell, Lot No. 16, 100 acres, north. Same (meaning same location on east side of West Canada Creek.)
Johannes Pellinger, Lot No. 20, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 20, 70 acres, north.
Peter Pellinger, Lot No. 23, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 23, 70 acres, north.
Margaret Pellinger (wife of Peter Pellinger), Lot No. 4, 100 acres, north.
Frederick Pellinger, Lot No. 35, 100 acres, south.
Margaret Pellinger (wife of Johannes Pellinger), Lot No. 22, 100 acres, south; near Mohawk village.
Johan Joost Petri, Lot No. 8, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 8, 70 acres, north.
Gurtruydt Petri (wife of Johan Joost Petri), Lot No. 17, 86 acres, north; Stone Ridge, Herkimer village.
Mark Petri, Lot No. 15, 100 acres, south.
Johannes Poenradt, Lot No. 46, 100 acres, north.
Gurtruydt Poenradt, (wife of Johannes Poenradt), Lot No. 9, 100 acres, north.
Godfrey Reele, Lot No. 15, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 15, 70 acres, north.
Godfrey Reele, Jr., Lot No. 10, 100 acres, south.
Godfrey Reele, Lot No. 10, 100 acres, south; at Ilion village.
Lodowick Rickert, Lot No. 19, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 19, 70 acres, north.
Catharine Rickert, Lot No. 3, 100 acres, north.
Conradt Rickert, Lot No. 34, 100 acres, south.
Mark Rickert, Lot No. 6, 100 acres, south.
Rudolph Shoemaker, Lot. No. 17, 100 acres, south.
Thomas Shoemaker, Lot No. 12, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 12, 70 acres, north.
Adam Michael Smith, Lot No. 4, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 4, 70 acres, north.
Johan Jurgh Smith, Lot No. 9, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 9, 70 acres, north.
Ephraim Smith, Lot No. 9, 100 acres, south; at Ilion village.
Marte Smith, Lot No. 4, 100 acres, south.
Peter Speis, Lot No. 38, 100 acres, south.
Elizabeth Speis (wife of Peter Speis), Lot No. 8, 100 acres, south.
Hendrik Spoon, Lot No. 32, 100 acres, south.
Hendrik Spoon, Jr., Lot No. 7, 100 acres, north.
Mary Eva Staring (wife of John Adam Staring), Lot No. 13, 100 acres, north; at the Little Falls.
John Adam Staring, Lot No. 28, 94 acres, north, and three-quarters of an island.
Frederick Staring, Lot No. 24, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 24, 70 acres, north.
Johannes Velden Staring, Lot No. 6, 100 acres, north.
Nicholas Staring, Lot No. 42, 100 acres, south.
Joseph Staring, Lot No. 41, 100 acres, south.
John Velde Staring, Jr., Lot No. 1, 100 acres, south.
John Jost Temouth, Lot No. 12, 100 acres, north; at Little Falls.
Frederigh Temouth, Lot No. 17, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 17, 70 acres, north.
John Veldelent, Lot No. 3, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 3, 70 acres, north.
Anna Veldelent, Lot No. 2, 100 acres, north.
Jacob Wever, Lot No. 10, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 10, 70 acres, north.
Nicholas Wever, Lot No. 16, 30 acres, north. Lot No. 16, 70 acres, north.
Andries Wever, Lot No. 11, 100 acres, south.
Jacob Wever, Jr., Lot No. 15, 100 acres, south.
Nicholas Welleven, Lot No. 30, 100 acres, south; at Fort Herkimer Stone Church.
Trace of Original Map of Stone Arabia Patent Lots & Their Numbers, Montgomery Co., New York (1823)
On the site of the present village of Herkimer was an outcrop of stone and, from this fact the place became known as Stone Ridge. Here, at the outlet of West Canada Creek, were the widest flats between Little Falls and the eastern slopes of present Dutch Hill, so that the Herkimer village section also was called Great Flat, from its earliest days. The patent gave some of the Palatine Germans 70 acre woodland lots elsewhere and small plots of thirty acres, over this Great Flat, which brought together a considerable population, in a comparatively small area, from which fact, the Herkimer section was called Palatine village. As the lands were flats of the river and the settlers were Germans, the place became known as German Flats. This name was a designation, not only of the Herkimer village section, but of the entire section peopled by Germans, between Little Falls and their western settlements which extended nearly to the eastern boundaries of present Utica — and it continued in such use for over a century. Because of the patent issued by Governor William Burnet, the village and its section was also called Burnetsfield, which had a semi-official but not a general usage. The popular name was German Flats, for the village on the site of Herkimer and for the Upper Mohawk Valley region peopled by these Palatine Germans, during both Colonial and Revolutionary times.
The Palatine south shore river neighborhood and its center lay some two miles eastward of Herkimer. It was first known as Okwari or Kouari, a Mohawk word meaning “Bear”, but was later called Herkimer’s because of the trading post there located by Johan Jost Herkimer, father of General Nicholas Herkimer. The clerical error, which transposed the name of Herkimer from the south to the north shore of the Mohawk and that of German Flats from the north to the south side will be noted in the post-Revolutionary chapter dealing with the incorporation of Herkimer as a village in 1807.
In point of settlement Herkimer is the seventh oldest of our valley villages, the hamlet of Fort Herkimer also dating from the same year — 1722. The settlement of Stone Arabia antedated Herkimer, but no village ensued from the Stone Arabia settlement, which, at first, seems to have also been larger than that of German Flats.
The oldest towns, in point of age, in the watershed of the Mohawk are the following: Scotia, 1658; Schenectady, 1661; Palatine Bridge, 1689; Fort Hunter, 1711; Schoharie, 1712; Middleburg, 1712; Herkimer and Fort Herkimer, 1722. The present sites of Fort Plain, St. Johnsville, Little Falls, Mohawk, Ilion and Frankfort were settled by Palatine Germans about 1725. Caughnawaga, (Fonda) was probably settled about the same time; Canajoharie about 1730; Johnstown, 1755. Cherry Valley, while not in the Mohawk Valley is a part of it historically. It was settled in 1740, and, in 1738, the first settlement at Amsterdam was made by Sir William Johnson.
The names of the first Palatine settlers of Herkimer were as follows: Bowman, Dacksteder, Feller, (Fuller) Fols, (Folts), Helmer, Kast, Koons, Lant, Mayor (Moyer), Pellinger (Bellinger), Petri, Reele, Rickert (Rickard), Smith, Staring (Starin), Temouth (Demuth), Veldelent, Weaver.
The earliest events of importance in the history of the Palatine settlements of German Flats were probably the building of a grist mill on Spoon Creek, near present Fort Herkimer Church, the opening of a general store or Indian trading station by Johan Jost Herkimer, east of the Church, the building of log churches at both Fort Herkimer and Herkimer — all probably about the year 1723.
As previously stated, this chapter deals only with the settlement of Palatines along the Mohawk River, as their later history belongs to that of the Valley as a whole. Some mention of Johan Jost Herkimer is here in order as he became the leading citizen among the Palatines of the German Flats section and the father of General Herkimer. The English form of his name is John Joseph Herkimer.
Fort Herkimer takes its name from Johan Jost Herkimer. He came to America, landing in New York in 1722. With him came Catharina, his wife and it is reasonably certain that Jurgh and Magdalana Herkimer, who arrived with him, were his parents. They evidently died at a comparatively early period, leaving no other children besides Johan Jost, who inherited their lots. Tradition says that Johan Jost Herkimer carried a child on his back, from Schenectady to Fort Herkimer. This must have been Catharine, his eldest child. Nicholas, his eldest son and later General Herkimer, was born in his father’s log house east of Fort Herkimer in 1728. A D. A. R. marker of 1912 locates the birthplace of this most famous of our Valley Revolutionary patriots.
Johan Jost Herkimer, the pioneer, was a man of tremendous physical strength. A family record (written by Major John Frey, a relative by marriage) says that, on Johan Jost’s arrival at his future home in the wilderness, he asked permission of the Indians to there build a cabin. At first, the red men refused. A band of Mohawks, at the time, were endeavoring to carry a dugout canoe, from the forest where they had made it to the river. These dugouts were made from a log, by burning and scraping the charred wood. They frequently were large enough to hold a dozen or more warriors and were generally used to carry war, hunting, or fishing parties along the river at high water. They were the largest craft plying the waters of the Mohawk, in early days, and naturally, they were very heavy. Johan Jost watched the Indians for a time as they made slow progress toward the river, with their heavy burden. Finally the stalwart Herkimer stepped forward and motioned all the red men to one end of the dugout, while he grasped the other prow. In this fashion the boat was soon brought to the river bank. Like all savages and all real men, the world over, the Indians were great admirers of the strong and the brave. The Mohawks clapped Herkimer on the back, called him “the Bear,” and gladly gave him permission to build a log house and cultivate the land. From thenceforth, Herkimer, “the Bear,” was a great favorite with the Mohawks, a fact which aided him greatly in his after life. Herkimer became a great landowner, trader, contractor, interpreter, and a carrier at the Little Falls and Wolf’s Rift. He was the leading figure in the Colonial life of the German Flats settlements and chiefly instrumental in the construction of the Fort Herkimer Reformed Church, which bears his initials, as its builder on the north side of its ancient grey stone walls. The further activities of Johan Jost and his large family of children, enter into our story later on.
At last the Palatines had secured lands along the Mohawk where they could build homes for the future and gain subsistence and moderate wealth from the rich soil of its flats. Their settlement was the most advanced on the frontier of the Mohawk River, the most exposed to French and Indian attack in the Province. The sufferings of our Palatine ancestors in the Great French war and the brave part they played in the Revolution enter into later chapters of this history.”
Reformed Dutch Church of Stone Arabia Retrieved from Doug Kerr from Albany, Upstate New York, United States
Dutch Reformed Church, State Route 10, Stone Arabia, Montgomery County, NY HABS NY,29-STONAR,1- (sheet 4 of 15)