HERKIMER, named in honor of General Nicholas Herkimer, was formed from Kingsland District, March 7, 1788. A part
of Palatine, Montgomery County, was annexed in 1791. Norway and Schuyler were taken off in 1792, a part of Newport
in 1806, and a part of Little Falls in 1829. A part was annexed to Schuyler in 1808, and re-annexed to Herkimer
in 1811. It lies on the north bank of the Mohawk, near the center of the settled portion of the County. A fine
broad intervale extends along the river, and from it the surface rises gradually to the north line of the town.
West Canada Creek flows south, through near the center, dividing the uplands into two distinct ridges. The Hasenclever
Mountains, west of the Creek,. are from 600 to 800 feet above the Mohawk. The soil upon the hills is a gravelly
loam, and in the valleys a deep fertile alluvium.
Herkimer, (p. v.) origmally called “Stone Ridge,” is situated upon the Mohawk, west of the mouth of West Canada
Creek. It was incorporated April 6, 1807, and contains three churches, viz., Methodist, Episcopal and Presbyterian;
a newspaper office, a bank, four hotels, several mills and manufactories, and about 3,000 inhabitants. The County
buildings are located in this place.
Fox Hall is 40 by 80 feet and capable of seating 800 persons.
Herkimer Paper Mill is 100 by 200 feet and two stories high, employs thirty hands and manufactures about three
tons of wall paper daily.
Herkimer Stone Mills are 60 by 75 feet, three stories high, besides the basement, and have a capacity for grinding
500 bushels daily. The water-power for these manufaetories is furnished by Canada Creek.,.
The Herkimer Cemetery lies a short distance west of the village. It contains about fourteen acres, is tastefully
laid out with gravel walks, and ornamented with shade trees, shrubs and flowers.
Eatonville is a postoflice in the north-east part of the town.
Herkimer County Cheese Factory was the first one erected in the County and the third in the State. It is owned
by Messrs. Pine, Gray and Smith, and took the first prize awarded to any factory in the State. Its capacity is
sufficient for the milk of 800 cows, though it has been running the present season with about half that amount.
Herkimer Union Cheese Factory is owned by a stock company and makes about 120,000 pounds annually.
Shells Bush makes about 135,000 pounds.
Countryman’s about 200,000 pounds.
There are several saw mills in various parts of the town. Hart’s Mill, three miles north of Herkimer village; Huyck's
Mill, in. the north-east part of the town, and Stearns’ Mill.
Osborm Hill M. E. Church is in the north part of the town. The society was organized in 1811 with forty members,
but since the erection of other churches the membership has diminished.
The first settlement of this town was commenced by Palatinates, under the patronage of Gov. Hunter, in 1722. Among
the early settlers were Johan Joost Petrie, Frederick and A. M. Pell, Jury Docksteder, Nicholas Feeter, Melgert
Fols, Henry Lendert, Frederick, Johan, Adam and Philip Helmer, and families named Schmidt, Weaver and Bellinger.
Mr. Petrie was one of the original patentees of Burnetsheld. lands being allotted to him, his wife Gertruyde, and
his son Mark. The Eighty-six Acre Lot, then and afterwards called the Stone Ridge, was allotted to his wife. The
present village of Herkimer occupies a portion of this lot. The adjacent flats were liable to inundation, and this
ridge was the only land upon which they could safely build. This circumstance caused so much dissatisfaction among
the settlers that Mr. Petrie divided this lot into smaller portions and gave them to the owners of the low lands
adjacent. He was one of the principal men of the colony and had accumulates considerable wealth. He was called
the “Mayor of the village of the Palatinates,” in the French account of the attack made upon the colony in 1757,
where it is said he lost 400,000 livres.
This, like the other settlements upon the Mohawk, not only suffered during the war between the French and English
in 1757—8, but also suffered greatly during the Revolution. Those who remained during the struggle for Independence
took shelter in Fort Dayton. This was a small fort, erected on the Stone Ridge, about thirty rods above the present
site of the Court House. It was erected in 1776 and took its name from Col. Dayton, who erected it. A small force
was kept here during the war. Lieutenant Solomon Woodworth was in command at Fort Dayton in 1781, and while making
a reconnoisance with about forty soldiers, about three miles from Herkimer, fell into an ambuscade and were completely
surrounded by a force of Indians double their own number. A fierce hand-to-hand fight ensued in which Lieutenant
Woodworth was killed and all but fifteen of his men killed or taken prisoners. On the 6th of August, 1781, a German
settlement, called Shell’s Bush, a few miles north of Fort Dayton, was attacked by a party of Tories and Indians
under the command of Donald McDonald. Most of the inhabitants had taken refuge in Fort Dayton. John Christian Shell,
with his wife and six sons, took refuge in a strong block house upon their own farm. The first story contained
no opening except a doorway and ioop holes for firing upon the assailants. The floor of the second story projected
over the first, and contained apertures for firing upon any enemy who might attempt to break open the door or fire
the house. When the enemy made their appearance, Shell and his sons were at work in the field, and his two youngest,
twins, only eight years old, were too far off to reach the house and were taken prisoners. Shell was well supplied
with fire-arms, and, after securing the door, kept up a fire upon the assailants until dark. Several attempts were
made to set fire to the house, but without success. McDonald attempted to force the door with a crowbar, but was
wounded in the leg, and before any of his camrades could rescue him, Shell had unbarred the door and dragged him
inside. This secured the house against being burned, and increased Shell’s supply of ammunition, MeDonaid giving
up his to save his life. Just at dark, Shell made them believe that troops were approaching from Fort Dayton, which
caused them to retreat, taking with them the two boys. After providing for McDonald, Shell and his family went
to the Fort. Some of the Indians visited McDonald after Shell left, but finding he could not be removed, left word
that the welfare of the boys depended on the treatment that McDonald received. The wounded prisoner was taken to
the Fort the next day, where his leg was amputated. The enemy left upon the ground eleven killed and six wounded.
The boys, on their return after the war, stated that nine of the twelve wounded that the enemy started with, died
on their way to Canada. The next year Shell and two of his sons were fired upon while at work in the field; Shell
was dangerously wounded, and before his sons left him one was killed and the other wounded. Shell survived only
a short time. After the close of the war many of the Indians and Tories who had been actively ergaged in hostilities,
returned to the settlements; but they were received in a way that made them leave for a more congenial clime.
The first town meeting was held in March, 1789, at which the following officers were chosen: Henry Staring, Supervisor;
Melger Fols, TownS Clerk; Melger Fols, George Smith and Melger Thum, Assessors; George Fols, Collector; Adam Bauman
and George Fols, Constables; Peter F. Bellinger, John Demuth, Jacob N. Weber, Commissioners of Highways; Henry
Staring, George Weber, Jr., Michael Myers, Overseers of the Poor; Marx Demuth, Philip Helmer, Adam Hartman, Hannes
Demuth, Peter Weber, Philip Herter, Hannes Hilts, Jr., Hannes Elseman, Overseers of Highways; George Weber, Jr.,
Peter Barkey, Hannes Demuth, Nicholas Hilts and Hannes SchelI, Pound Masters. It will be seen that several persons
held two offices, and nearly all of the favored candidates were descendants of the Palatine settlers.
The first church was formed at a very early day by Rev. A. Rosegrantz, of the Reformed Protestant Dutch denomination.
John Adam Hartman, a native of Germany, was one of the most zealous and efficient of the hardy band who fought
so nobly during the long and bloody war that resulted in our independence. Inured to hardship from his childhood,
he became a successful ranger in this new region beset by a wily and savage foe. A detail of his encounters, perilous
adventures and escapes, would prove that fact is stranger than fiction. Soon after the peace of 1783, Hartman fell
in company with an Indian at an inn near the west part of the town. After becoming somewhat exhilarated by strong
drink, the Indian boasted of his exploits, the number of rebels he had killed, the scalps he had taken, and other
deeds of barbarity, and finally exhibited a tobacco pouch made from the skin of a white child’s arm, the fingers
and nails still remaining on it. The Indian left and Hartman followed soon after. Nothing ‘was ever seen of the
Indian after entering a swamp, except by Hartman, who, on being questioned as to the matter, said that the last
he saw of the Indian he was standing on a log a few rods in advance, and that he fell as though he was hurt. Hartman
was tried for murder and acquitted. The following inscription is upon a tombstone which marks his last resting
place in Herkimer, “John Adam Hartman, born at Edenkoben, in Germany. A great patriot in our war for Independence.
Died April 5th, 18S6, aged 92 years and 7 months.
The population of the town in 1865 was 2,922; its area is 18,978 acres.
There are ten school districts, employing twelve teachers. The number of children of school age is 892; the number
attending school 734; the average attendance 319, and the amount expended for school purposes during the year ending
September 30, 1868, was $4,283.78.