Early Settlement of Fulton County, NY
From: History of Fulton County
Revised and Edited by: Washington Frothingham
Published by: D. Mason & Co. Syracuse, NY 1892

AS has been briefly mentioned in one of the preceding chapters, civilized settlement began in the Mohawk valley in 166r, when Arent Van Corlear purchased from the Indian proprietors a large tract of land in the vicinity of Fort Orange, and another covering the present site of Schenectady. In 1684, nearly twenty years after the conquest of the Dutch by the English, the purchases made by Corlear were confirmed by Governor Dongan. During the period of the early wars between the French and the Indians, there was but little attempt at settlement in any of the frontiers, such efforts being attended with many hardships and great danger. Even Schenectady, protected as it may have been, was (as has been narrated) surprised and destroyed by the French and Canadian savages in February, 1690. Notwithstanding that fearful tragedy, before the lapse of little more than a score of years another attempt was made at the colonization of the valley, and this too in a region farther west, being within the territory afterward formed into old Montgomery county.

During the early years of the seventeenth century Europe was subjected to a series of religious wars, in which the Romanists were opposed to Protestantism, their determination being to crush the latter out of existence. One of the localities seriously affected by this conflict was the Lower Palatinate, in Germany; a province peopled by a hardy, though obstinate and ignorant race. To escape persecution this people fled from their native country and found temporary refuge in England. In 1702 Queen Anne succeeded King William, and the way was soon provided by which the German refugees were given a home in the new world. The first of the Palatinates (as they were called) arrived in New York in 1707, followed in 1710 by a larger number, estimated at three thousand. The projectors of the colonization scheme intended that the Palatinates should settle in the Mohawk valley, but on examination of that region with reference to its adoptability the scheme was found to be impracticable, and the emigrants were located in the Hudson river country. A portion of the original number however remained in New York, while many went to Pennsylvania and became permanent residents. There were many causes which wr0ught dissatisfaction among the Palatinates in the Hudson river district, chief among which was the fact that they were obliged to serve under government agents who were often both tyrannical and dishonest.

From this and other causes the poor Germans became discontented with their abode and determined to seek homes eieswhere, particularly in the region which (as they claimed) Queen Anne had promised them. In fact they were so bent in this purpose that the authorities were obliged to use force to hold them to their contract. At last the officers in charge became discouraged in their endeavors to improve such refractory settlers, and therefore permitted them to gratify their desires, hoping that the removal might afford protection against the incursions of the French and their Indian allies. In 1712, by permission of the Mohawks, a number of these families located on Schoharie creek, but later on they had annoyance in disputes concerning their land titles. In 1723 colonies of Palatinates moved farther up the Mohawk and settled at Canajoharie and Palatine. In 1722 a number of them purchased lands in the vicinity of Fort Hunter, while others settled on West Canada creek. On the 19th of October, 1723, Stone Arabia patent was granted to twenty seven Palatinate families whose members numbered one hundred and twenty seven. Their lands included 12,700 acres, which was divided into twenty seven equal parts, and laid out in lots to assist in this division.

The provincial authorities erred in their estimate of the value of the German settlers as a means of protection against invasion. On the contrary the very character and customs of this people seemed to almost invite a hostile attack, and it was not until several years after the arrival of Colonel William Johnson that they held any semblance of military organization. They were careless of their own interests and reckless of their safety, either personal or of property. This was clearly shown when in November, 1757, the inhabitants of Palatine village received timely warning of an imminent French and Indian attack, but they disregarded the friendly caution and their hamlet was destroyed and many of its people killed or carried into captivity. Notwithstanding the above mentioned defeat, the Palatines were prosperous, and contributed much to the early development and welfare of the Mohawk valley region. They increased rapidly in numbers, each succeeding generation being an improvement; and in the valley today are many of the descendants of the original settlers who have reached wealth and distinction. Sir William Johnson afterward organized many of these Palatines into militia companies, nine of them all told, and he called them together whenever there appeared any reason to expect an invasion. In this way the Germans were beneficial in protecting the region, for the mere knowledge of a regiment of armed militia, together with nearly two hundred thoroughly trained Mohawk warriors, and all under command of an officer so skillful as Sir William Johnson, had a subduing effect upon the ardor of the French and their savage Canadian allies.

During the period of French and English rivalry in America, both powers derived a revenue by the sales, and also the more extensive "grants," of the lands in their domain. Each, however, required as a condition precedent to the full occupation and enjoyment of the territory that the Indian title should first be extinguished by purchase or release. The French grants covered such tracts (mainly in the northern portion of New York) as were not included in English land charters, but with the final overthrow of French power in America the greater number of these were annulled, and the lands were afterward sold to British subjects, though a few of the original seigniories were confirmed to their proprietors through royal grace and clemency.

The British power in the colony of New York had no real existence until after the conquest of the Dutch. In fact the grant to the Duke of York was not until 1664, a year only before the occupation of the New Netherlands. The introduction of this subject naturally leads to an examination of the peculiar character of the grant of the province of New York, and those points in which it differs from almost all others on this continent, although they emanated chiefly from the same source. No better illustration of this difference can be made than by comparing the charters of Pennsylvania and New York.

The former was granted to William Penn, in payment of a debt due his father, Admiral William Penn, from the British government. By that charter the fee in the province passed to the grantee, subject only to the Indian title, which Penn was determined to extinguish at his own cost. This having been done, the patentee was the absolute owner of the lands thus granted, and all emoluments were his own. Of similar character also was the charter by which in 1664 Charles II granted to his brother James, Duke of York and Albany, the vast territory which included all that is now the state of New York. The Duke of York, by that grant and others of later date), became proprietor of the land, with the same rights and powers, and subject to the same conditions regarding Indian titles as William Penn, and the patents which were made to various sub proprietors, either to favorites or for consideration, between 1664 and 1685, by the duke, were made from the same relative position as Penn occupied during his proprietorship. In 1685, however, the Duke of York himself became king of Great Britain and as his charter naturally merged in the crown, the government of his possessions changed from a proprietary one to a "royal province." Instead of being governor of the colony, the king held the power of appointing that functionary, and then indirectly controlling its affairs, but still receiving specified revenues from its land sales.

Little was done in the way of granting lands in the province of New York earlier than the first quarter of the seventeenth century, although under the duke's title some grants were made even before he became king. But after the year 1734, and particularly after the English and French were really contending for supremacy in America, the government disposed of much of the available territory of the province, and it is a noticeable fact that by far the greater part of the early land grants included portions of old Tryon county, though as yet the land of the Mohawks. An explanation of this is found in the fact that this region was under the special control of Sir William Johnson. His influence among the Mohawk Indians is surprising to all who do not consider the relations that existed between himself and the red men, and the great value of the presents he made them. We know, indeed, that during the last score of years of Sir William's life the Mohawks were greatly dependent upon his bounty for their support, and under such circumstances we are not surprised to learn that for a merely nominal consideration he could induce them to part with such of their domain as he or his favorites desired to possess. It has been asserted that the baronet secured the Indian title to the immense tract known as the "Royal Grant" from King Hendrick as the result of a dream, but while many doubt this story its mere narration suggests the extraordinary influence of Sir William over the Mohawk nation. According to the records the "Royal Grant," embracing ninety three thousand acres of land lying between East and West Canada creeks and north of the Mohawk river, was patented to Sir William Johnson by letters issued April 16, 1765. King Hendrick was killed in September, 1755, ten years previously, and yet it may be true that the old chief released the Indian title long before his death, and the purchase thus made was confirmed by the king ten years afterward.

The titles of many of the old land grants are still preserved and are occasionally referred to in modern conveyances. The reader will of course understand that all these grants were made prior to the revolution; but though issued during the British dominion, many were afterward confirmed by the state authorities, while the other portion was confiscated and sold as the property of enemies. These persons were called tories, and though they did not in all cases bear arms against American independence, their conduct was sufficiently inimical to justify confiscation. The most important instance of this kind was found in the vast manor of Johnson Hall, which was sold by the state, and was finally purchased by the ancestor of the present Wells family in whose possession it still remains.

Beginning with the year 1735, and thence throughout the years down to the outbreak of the revolutionary war, there was granted to various individuals and companies an aggregate of more than three hundred square miles in what is now Fulton county and vicinity, and while of no special connection with the county's history it is still proper to briefly mention the various patents, since they are important features in early progress. This task, however, is difficult, owing to the confused condition of the records, but an effort will be made to locate the tracts by town or county boundaries.

The Kayaderosseras Patent was granted to Naning Heermanse and twelve others, November 2, 1708. Its extent was originally about 700,000 acres, and included lands now in the towns of Amsterdam and Perth. This was the first royal patent that embraced lands in what is now Fulton county.

The celebrated Stone Arabia Patent, granted to John Christian Garlack and twenty six associates, October 19, 1723, and in extent 12,700 acres, was situated in what afterward became Johnstown.

Butler's Patent was granted to Walter Butler and three other proprietors, December 31, 1735, embracing 4,000 acres of land, situated in what are now the towns of Johnstown and Mohawk.

The Maw Patent was issued to Jacob Mase and two Bleeckers, October 17, 1741, granting 6,000 acres of land in what is now the town of Northampton; a part of the so called "Northampton Patent."

The Sacandaga Patent was granted to Landert Gansevoort and others, December 2, 1741, including 28,000 acres of land situated in the towns of Johnstown, Perth, Mayfield and Broadalbin. This patent covered the southeast portion of Johnstown and Mayfield, the southern part of Broadalbin, and the western and the northern portion of Perth. It was one of the largest patents of land in Fulton county.

The Holland Patent was granted to Henry Holland, July 16, 1742, and included 1,250 acres of land in the eastern part of the present town of Northampton.

The Schuyler Patent was granted to Cornelius Schuyler, July 16, 1742, covering 1,300 acres of land in Northampton; a part of the so called Northampton Patent.

The Stephens Patent, bearing the same date with the last mentioned, was granted to Arent Stephens and included 1,200 acres of land in Northampton.

The Collins Tract was patented to Edward Collins, July 16, 1742, and covered 1,250 acres in Northampton.

The four last mentioned patents - Holland, Schuyler, Stephens and Collins - were granted at the same time. They covered lands of the so called Northampton. Patent, and embraced 4,900 acres in the aggregate.

The Kingsborough Patent was one of the most important, from a historical point of view, of all the patents in Fulton county, and its history will be found in one of the later chapters of this work. It was granted to Arent Stephens (or Stevens), June 23, 1753, and included 20,000 acres in the towns of Ephratah, Johnstown and Mayfield.

The Klock Patent was issued to George Klock and fourteen others, December 21, 1754, and included 16,000 acres of land in the towns of Oppenheim and Ephratah; the southern portion of each town.

The Livingston Patent for lands in Fulton and Saratoga counties to Philip Livingston and nineteen associates, was issued November 8, 1760, and included lands to the extent of 4,000 acres.

The Lott Patent was granted to Abraham Lott and nineteen associates, September 16, 1761, and embraced 20,000 acres of land in the towns of Oppenheim, Ephratah and Stratford.

Magin's Patent was issued to Sarah Magin and others, March 31, 1761, and included 26,000 acres of land in Oppenheim and Ephratah, being located about the center of the towns, and joining on the south the Lott patent or purchase.

The Claus Patent was granted to Daniel Claus, son in law of Sir William Johnson, September 29, 1770, and embraced within its bounds 3,000 acres of land in the present town of Mayfield.

The Glen Patents (and there were a number of them) were the property of John Glen, jr. They are supposed to have been granted August 24, 1770, and embraced Fulton county lands in the towns of Stratford, Caroga, Bleecker and Broadalbin, while they also extended into what is now Saratoga county, being in the aggregate nearly 50,000 acres.

McLeod's Patent, granted to Norman McLeod September 29, 1770, included 3,000 acres in the eastern part of Mayfield and the southwest part of Northampton.

The Mayfield Patent was granted to Francis Beard and thirteen associates June 27, 1770, and included 14,000 acres in the present towns of Caroga, Bleecker and Mayfield,

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