Author: Erika Eklund, Communications Coordinator Old Stone Fort
The Old Stone Fort Museum Complex, located in Schoharie is at the center of Revolutionary War history in Schoharie County. Situated on 25 acres within the scenic valley, the museum complex is home to eight historic and exhibit buildings, the highlight of which is the Old Stone Fort. Built in 1772 as a High Dutch Reformed church, the present day fort was the third structure erected by the congregation of the Palatine German settlement of Fuchs Dorf (Fox Town).
In 1777, five years after the church’s construction, local Loyalists, or “Tories”, joined with Schoharie Indians to seize control of the valley in advance of General John Burgoyne’s invasion of New York.
In what would become the first charge ever made by the United States cavalry, a mounted Continental troop helped local militia put down the uprising in a skirmish, known locally as the Battle of the Flockey.
You can still see the location of the battle today as you drive down Route 30 south of Middleburgh, through the scenic and historic Schoharie Valley. The historic marker for the battle and cavalry charge, located just north of Max V. Shaul State Park, pays tribute to Colonel John Harper.
In response to the skirmish, local militia fortified three stone structures along the valley, including the stone church, and two private stone residencies. The stone church was surrounded by a half acre stockade and became known as the “lower fort.” It is the only one of the three forts still standing today and while the locations of the other two forts are now on private property, they can still be seen from the road. The location of the former "Upper Fort" is in the farm fields across from the Barber's Farm Stand and they are usually happy to point it out to you and tell you about how it was the only spot in their fields which did not flood during Hurricane Irene.
*Interesting Fact: While the fort located in Schoharie and the current day Old Stone Fort Museum was the furthest north of the three forts, it was called the Lower Fort. The reason for this is because the Schoharie Creek, along which all three forts were situated, is unique in the fact that it runs from south to north, making the stone church location lower down stream and therefor the "Lower Fort".
The 1778 Battle of Cobus Kill was not only the beginning of a terror campaign launched by the British in 1778 bus also Captain Joseph Brant's first independent command. The historic marker for this battle can still be found along Route 7 in the hamlet of Warnerville, just west of Cobleskill-Richmondville High School. This would not be the last time Brant would make his presence known in the Schoharie Valley.
On Oct. 17, 1780 the Lower Fort (current day Old Stone Fort Museum) was put to the test when a force of approximately 800 loyalists and Indians under Colonel Sir John Johnson and Mohawk Captain Joseph Brant raided the valley and burned every farm, home and gristmill in their path in what was become known as the "Burning of the Valley" or the Johnson Raid.
The fort withstood a brief attack and at least two cannonball hits before the raiding forces moved on to the Mohawk Valley. Today, one of those cannonball holes can still be seen in a cornice at the rear of the building and the original cannonball can be viewed on exhibit inside.
Timothy Murphy of Middleburgh, a rifleman in the Revolutionary War, reputedly shot and killed British General Simon Fraser at the Second Battle of Saratoga. The general’s death caused great confusion among the Redcoats at what proved to be the turning point of the Revolutionary War.
Murphy died in 1818 and was buried in Fultonham, in the cemetery seen today in the field across from Barber’s farm stand. In 1870 he was dug up and reinterred in the Middleburgh Cemetery, where his monument was dedicated in 1910.
You can see his famous over-and-under two-barreled rifle and other personal items at the Old Stone Fort Museum.
The 1781 Battle of Sharon was one of the last campaigns against the northern states by the British and a brilliant victory by the American commander Marinus Willett who lured the Tories and Indians into an ambush by using the enemy's own tactics. Both the battlefield site and the site of the British camp are marked by NYS historical markers along Route 20 just east of the village of Sharon Springs.
In 1876, the largest crowd ever assembled in Schoharie - some 10,000 people - witnessed the dedication of the David Williams monument, just outside the big wooden door of the Old Stone Fort Museum.
In 1780, Williams and two other patriots had captured the traitor Major Andre, carrying a map of West Point in his boot. Williams died in 1831 in Broome and you can visit the monument of the incorruptible patriot David Williams at the Old Stone Fort.
Known as the Breadbasket of the Revolution, the wheat Schoharie was famous for was more a German crop than a British one. You would find the English settlers of New England chiefly growing rye, oats, and barley. The Schoharie Germans grew wheat, and after living side by side with the Mohawks for sixty years, enormous amounts of corn.
You can still feast on the bounty of the Breadbasket of the Revolution at any of Schoharie County’s vibrant farm stands.
To see what the wilderness, which was Schoharie County during the time of the American Revolution, looked like visit the Landis Arboretum to see the only remaining old growth forest in the county!