Monday, February 22, 2016

'a good Neighbourhood': Warrensburg and Early Colonization Efforts in the Mohawk Valley

Anglo-Irish Admiral Sir Peter Warren climbed the social ladder quickly during his time in the British Navy. Prior to earning the rank of Admiral in the mid-1740s, Warren maintained socio-economic connections in major Atlantic cities like Charleston, Dublin, London, and New York, the latter serving as the center of his own landholdings. As a part of an August 1735 grant conveyed to New York Governor William Cosby (who died the following year), the Mohawk Valley tract Warren obtained, he purchased from Cosby’s widow, Grace Montagu, in July 1736 for £130 New York currency. This tract sat along the south bank of the Mohawk River, stretching from its eastern edge at the confluence of the Mohawk and Chuctenunda Creek (present-day town of Florida) to its western limit at the head of the Schoharie Creek (present-day Fort Hunter) [1].

Sir Peter Warren
Warren remained closely allied with New York’s landed merchants and colonial officials as he aimed to colonize the tract and establish what historian Julian Gwyn called “the only serious attempt” at organized colonization in the Mohawk Valley. To steward this colonization project, Warren sent his nephew from Ireland, William Johnson, as well as another Irish emigrant named Michael Tyrell. Warren’s plan for the Warrensburg tract called for land cultivation, community organization, and resource extraction, principally frontier furs, lumber, and agricultural goods. Opening 200 acre lots for settling families to lease, Warren charged five shillings, nine pence as a quit rent. Through indentured servants and slave labor (roughly 27 slaves at Warrensburg by the end of 1744), Peter Warren provided Johnson with the resources to build a manorial estate along the banks of the Mohawk [2].

Warren’s plan to establish a “populated manor” with his nephew installed as a figurehead backfired when Johnson shifted his own entrepreneurial pursuits away from Warrensburg. In 1739, Johnson established his own trading post at what he called Mount Johnson (later followed by manorial homes at Fort Johnson and Johnson Hall) across the river from Warrensburg. Always business-minded, Johnson found this spot the “properest place on the Whole River for a Store house and Shop in the Winter, by reason of all the High Germans passing by that way in the Winter, and all the upper Nations of Indians, whose trade is pritty Valluable.” Of the surrounding community that Warren hoped would serve as Warrensburg’s tenants, Johnson labeled them “all people in Good Circumstance” who were “in hopes of haveing a good Neighbourhood” for themselves to prosper [3].

Despite Johnson’s failure to pursue his Uncle’s interests, Warrensburg and the surrounding area ironically gave way to colonial western expansion anyway, only without Warren cashing in. Perhaps an even greater irony lies in the fact that William Johnson’s diplomatic power-grab as a major Indian broker for the British Crown landed him a vast estate of his own, with his own tenants, and on his own terms.

The Mohawk District of the Mohawk Valley, which encompassed Warrensburg, steadily gained colonists and American settlers until the end of the eighteenth-century. A tax list from the beginning of 1766 shows that just under 340 male property owners (including Sir William Johnson) lived in the Mohawk District [4]. After frontier raids devastated the area during the Revolutionary War, settler numbers increased as the United States expanded. By 1790, roughly 4,400 settlers called the Mohawk District home [5].

Warrensburg began and ended as an experiment. Admiral Peter Warren aimed to capitalize on his geopolitical land grab in the Mohawk Valley, and to install a manorial estate similar to those along the Hudson River, but ultimately found his entrepreneurial nephew an unpredictable barrier to the scheme. [6] However, the land along the Mohawk River’s southern edge near present-day Florida and Fort Hunter did not fail to attract its share of settlers. People arrived, colonized, and expanded farther west into the Valley both before and after the Revolution. Although the Warrensburg experiment did not produce a stream of manorial tenant for the Admiral, it served as the endpoint in an era of geopolitical land-grabs in the Mohawk Valley, thus paving the way for farmers, traders, and settlers to carve out spaces for themselves on the Mohawk frontier [7].

Nolan Cool is a recent graduate of Utica College and currently serves as the senior intern at the Utica College Center for Historical Research. Through several unique history-related programs, events, annual symposia, as well as social media (Facebook, Twitter, and the "Musings from the Mohawk Valley" Blog) and several digital collections openly available through the Digital History Projectthe CHR promotes the history of the Mohawk Valley, Upstate New York, and beyond. 


[1] Julian Gwyn, The Enterprising Admiral: The Personal Fortune of Admiral Sir Peter Warren, (Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press, 1974), 3, 30, 70-71; James Thomas Flexner, Mohawk Baronet: A Biography of Sir William Johnson, (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1989), 7, 17; Edith M. Fox, Land Speculation in the Mohawk Country, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1949), 47.
[2] Gwyn, Enterprising Admiral, 3, 30, 71-75.
[3] Peter Warren to William Johnson, November 20, 1738; William Johnson to Peter Warren, May 10, 1739, in The Papers of Sir William Johnson, James Sullivan, et al., eds., 14 vols. (Albany, NY: The University of the State of New York, 1921-1965), 13:1, 1:5-6; Flexner, Mohawk Baronet, 35.
[4] Florence A. Christophe, Upstate New York in the 1760s: Tax Lists and Selected Militia Rolls of Old Albany County, 1760-1768, (Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1992), 127-32.
[5] 1790 New York State Census.
[6] Gwyn, Enterprising Admiral, 92-93.
[7] For more on geopolitics and land in the Mohawk Valley, see Fox, Land Speculation in the Mohawk Country (1949) and Ruth Loving Higgins, Expansion in New York: With Especial Reference to the Eighteenth Century (1931).
Image Credits: Maps from Julian Gwyn, The Enterprising Admiral (1974), Peter Warren Portrait

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Moments in Geocaching

Well the Winter 33 Geocaching Challenge has begun...and my son Andy and I had the honor of placing the 9 hidden geocaches at Schoharie Crossing. We headed out on a Saturday morning, which if any of you have teenagers, getting them to do anything in the morning on a day off of school is a challenge. But he was up for it.

I have to thank David Brooks for having to bow out of helping, I know that sounds like I didn't want him there, but in fact it was not that at all. Without David, I was able to spend one on one time without any electronic distractions with my 16 year old son. These moments are getting so rare as he gets older, and spends more and more time with friends and on his own. But I miss the times when we could go hiking for hours and talk. So I cherished every moment as we walked and talked about everything and nothing.

This is something that Geocaching has done for us. Although Andy was 13 when we started together, and always adventurous and up for anything outdoors, being 16 now, those times have become less and less. It's just not cool to hang out with your Mom. And I get that, after all my Mom was the last person I wanted to "hang" with when I was 16.

The Geocaching events that are a part of the game have brought us close to some lifelong friends. As we travel we meet people from all over the world enjoying the game. And the places we have seen...places I know I would never have found on my own without having coordinates in a GPS, are amazing! Hidden places like caves and coves, spectacular places, with views and vista's you have to see to believe.

And then there are the challenges like the Winter 33 that we are a part of now that is getting people out in the winter to enjoy the fresh air. In their logs they have shared the experience of coming to Schoharie Crossing, some for the first time others have been here before in Summer. Below are some of the logs that express how they feel coming here: 

"Thank you, Sara-Cap & friends, for yet another well done series! I had never been to this park before, but I am glad I finally did!"

"A big thank you to Sara-Cap NYS Parks for supporting geocaching in their wonderful parks and historic sites - in every season  !!"

"Just about done. Really enjoyed the trail, the historical signs and the caches. Thanks so much for putting these out."

"Just amazing that this was all dug by hand and then abandoned for a better canal. Thanks for the hide Barb."

"Cully50 and I were enjoying a great walk along the Schoharie Crossing trails on this nice winter day - earning Sara-Cap smileys along the way  ! This was our first time here in the winter so it was nice seeing the historic area in another season! - TFTC!"

"This was probably my favorite of the SC Winter series. I'm a sucker for old structures, like the old lock here. Thanks again Sara-Cap!"

"Cully50 and I enjoyed checking out this old double lock and the informative sign prior to searching for this one... it really is amazing what had to be done to accomplish trade in centuries past!"

"Last one of the day as my family and I made the loop around this great park with our 3.5 yr old and 5 mo old. Trail was stroller friendly for our off road 4x4 unit with suspension. A great time was had by all! Thanks again to all of the volunteers and to the state park service for authorizing these. Without caching we never would have even known about this very interesting park. Thanks!!!"

The logs are what tell me that this place -that is right in our backyard- is a new place to discover for others who would not have come here without the challenge. I hope to bring more people to this place I have come to love. Hope to see you along the trails.


Are you into Geocaching!? We'll be hosting a special Leap-Day Event bright and early on Feb. 29th @ 6:30am for all you...
Posted by Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site on Monday, February 15, 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

2016 Writing Contest - A Travelers' Experience in Poem

Schoharie Crossing Annual Winter Writing Contest

Fort Hunter, NY – Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site is once again conducting a Winter Writing Contest.  This year the contest is asking for poems to be written by children as well as adults. Local judges will read, review and select winners for each of the three categories: Child (up to 12 years old), Young Adult (13-17), and Adult (18 and up). 

Traveling on the canal was always quite the experience.  It could often be difficult and dangerous or it could also be a way to a better life.  That diversity of experiences from Albany to Buffalo along the artificial river meant that each person had a unique story to tell.  For this year’s contest, the site is asking that submissions of poems that express your own interpretation of a travelers experience on the Erie Canal be sent in no later than 5pm on April 6th.

Each poem should demonstrate an understanding of the social, economic and engineering systems that were part of traveling across New York State on the Erie Canal.  Your poem could be set during any era of canal travel, from the 1820’s up until today.

Prizes this year are $100 each for the Adult category, Young Adult and the child category.  Submissions may be sent via mail to Schoharie Crossing Writing Contest, P.O. Box 140, Fort Hunter, NY 12069, or electronically to: 

For contest topics, rules and guidelines or other information, please contact the site or find us on Facebook.  (518) 829-7516.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 180 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by more than 60 million people annually. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit, connect on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. 


WCNY has announced they are in production on a great new #ErieCanal documentary. Here is a preview they released last...
Posted by Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site on Monday, February 1, 2016