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Story ID:9925
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Local History
Location:Schoharie New York USA
Person:George Washington
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By Fred Wickert

I live in an area that is rich in American history. It was a very important area during the Revolutionary War. It was known then as the Western frontier of the New England Colonies. The area is now the Mohawk Valley and the Schoharie Valley of New York State. The Mohawk and Schoharie valleys are basically parallel to each other with the Mohawk being the Northern most. The Mohawk River runs through the valley of the same name.

James Fenimore Cooper wrote the Leather Stocking Tales about this region in his books, the best known of which is the story, “Drums Along The Mohawk.” A very popular movie was made based on that book. Another based on an adjoining region was called, “Last of the Mohegans.” Actually there never was a Mohegan tribe. There was another tribe which gave him the idea for the name called Mahicans. They are very much alive and well. They used to control a territory on both sides of the Hudson River from the Fort Ticonderoga Area all the way South to and including the Kingston area. When the Revolution began they withdrew to the Connecticut side of the river.

The Mohawk and Schoharie valleys run East and West but one end of the Schoharie Valley turns South and runs North and South as well, being an “L” shape. The Schoharie Valley is on the North side of the Catskill Mountains and the Mohawk Valley is on the South side of the Adirondack Mountains.

In the days of the Revolution the nearest thing to civilization for these valleys was Albany and Schenectady. These two places were the end of civilization in those days and anything west of there was considered the frontier. This was all Iroquois Indian territory. The Mohawk Indians dominated the Mohawk Valley and the Seneca’s dominated the Schoharie Valley. For those who might not know, the Iroquois were a federation of seven different tribes who were friendly with each other and defended each other when necessary. They were seldom attacked by other Indians because of this. A chief of great fame named Hiawatha came up with the idea. He demonstrated in council with the other chiefs how one stick was easily broken but seven sticks held together could not be broken.

In Schoharie Valley there was a large village near what is now Middleburgh. This village was not all Seneca. Many of them were, but at least half were not. The half that was not, were people from a number of different tribes. They were outcasts from their own tribes for one reason or another and were no longer welcome in their own villages. They were accepted in that one. They of course intermarried and so after two or three generations I guess they were no longer sure what tribe they were from.

When the war came, three forts were built. Actually there were three forts but only two were built. The third was located in what is now the Village of Schoharie. It was a Dutch Reformed church that had been built from stone. It was converted to a fort and became known as the Stone Fort. It still stands today. It is a museum now. In the rafters of the building there is lodged a British canon ball. In an attack it was fired at the fort. It lodged in one of the large wood beam rafters. It has remained there ever since. The middle fort was called that. It is not completely known today the precise location of that fort. They can come close but cannot pin point the actual corners of it. It was the standard wood stockade type of fort. The town and village there today are named Middleburgh because of it. The third fort was another smaller stockade fort. To my knowledge no one knows exactly the location of that fort either but it is believed to have been in the vicinity of what is now Livingstonville.

Another theory exists regarding the third fort. Some believe that it was located in Watsonville area where the Barbers vegetable stand is today.

Though it is not taught in our schools and most Americans have never heard of the Schoharie valley, they should have. It was one of the most important areas of the Revolution. In those days it was called “The Bread Basket of the Revolution.” It was called that because much grain was grown in that valley and it was ground into flower. It was delivered then by wagon to Washington’s Army. That’s right – this little valley for the most part fed the Continental Army. This little valley produced the greater portion of horses used by the Continental Army. Many acres of peas were grown in this valley. They were dried and used for food but the pea vines were hauled by wagon to Washington’s Army for feed for the horses.

There is a place on the banks of the Schoharie Creek on the outskirts of the Village of Schoharie. It is near where the bridge on Bridge Street crosses the stream, less than a hundred yards wide at that point, where there was a deposit of sulphur. That sulphur was quietly mined and shipped to make gun powder for the Continental Army. Most of the Army’s needs were met by that deposit of sulphur.

So you can see that the Schoharie Valley, in addition to holding off invaders from Canada in the North, protecting Albany and Schenectady from attack from the West was an extremely important asset. Without it, Washington’s troops were doomed to starve, doomed to greater hardship without horses, and doomed to run out of gun powder.

Why then is this never taught in American History in our high schools and our Universities? Evidently those things are not deemed important, but I will wager George Washington thought so. So do I.

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