On August 13th, 1689, New York Governor Leisler wrote “Scharachtoge [Saratoga]…there are six or seven families all or most rank French papists that have their relations at Canada and I suppose settled there for some bad designe and are lesser to be trusted there in conjunctione of tyme than ever before the bad creatures amongst us gives me great occupatione.”
The year 1689 was very important in the history of Saratoga. At that time, six or seven French families/traders and a Dutch colonist, Bartholomeus Vrooman, established farmsteads and fur trading posts at Saratoga. That year also saw the Glorious Revolution in England (which changed the monarch and more) with the accompanied the Boston Revolt and New York’s Leisler’s Rebellion. 1689 began almost 100 years of intermittent warfare between the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), England and France.
Thanks to geography, Saratoga was the northern Anglo-Dutch settlement of New York’s borderland region between New France, and the the Iroquois. Saratoga was on the front line of an intense military and diplomatic battleground and had a central role in the illicit fur trade.
The beaver fur trade was worth hundreds of thousand dollars. New France merchants were also in need of a source for high quality English woolens which were available from Anglo-Dutch traders at Saratoga. The Anglo-Dutch traders, in turn, could access furs hunted in the Great Lakes region or north of the St. Lawrence (local beaver fur had been already largely trapped out more locally). These furs were desired goods all over the Atlantic world. All this trade was considered illegal by the English and New France authorities, who reserved those rights to others.
As early as 1689, there was “French that live towards Sarachtoge,” where they were trading peaceably until King William’s War (1688-1697) erupted. The new, popular, New York Governor Jacob Leisler cast a suspicious eye towards the French in Saratoga including René Poupar dit Lafleur (a veteran soldier), Pierre de Garmeaulx dit Villeroy (a French Huguenot – Protestant), and François de Lafortune. These French traders were taken before Albany officials for questioning; some of the traders returned to New France (Lafleur) and one stayed at Albany (Villeroy, became known as Pieter De Garmo).
Bartel (or Bartholomeus) Vrooman (or Vroman), seeing the opportunity to trade, is credited as having been one of the first settlers at Saratoga [i]. Vrooman was born in Leiden, Holland. Bart Vrooman, approximately twenty-six years old in 1686, married Cornelia Jansz Helmer of Albany and established a farmstead and trading post at Saratoga. In September 1689, it was reported that war reached Saratoga, “three People should be kild at Bartel Vromans at Sarachtoge by ye Indians.”
Albany responded by making “a fort about ye house of Bartel Vroman at Sarachtoge,” and dispatching a small garrison of 12 men and some Native Americans of “Skachkook” [Schaghticoke] [ii]. These soldiers were stationed at the Vrooman farmstead to protect the various families in the area.
After the raid, The Vrooman family moved to Schenectady, where his father still lived. Their choice was a fateful one. On February 8, 1690, a French force of over 200 Canadians and Indians was able to avoid the Saratoga garrison and strike Schenectady without warning. Schenectady was destroyed and the French and their Native American allies killed some 60 people, including Bartholomeus Vrooman and his father, Hendrik Vrooman.
1689 is a window into the story of Saratoga. Saratoga was a unique place in the colonial history of New York and the Atlantic world. When Saratoga’s colonial history is viewed through this window the 1745 Raid on Saratoga [iii] and 1777 Burgoyne campaign take on additional meaning and context.
[i] In 1684, Royal Governor Thomas Dongan issued the Saratoga Patent. The land patentees were Colonel Peiter Schuyler, Robert Livingston, Dirck Wessels, Esq., Jan Jan Bleecker, Esq., Johannes Schuyler, Esq., and Cornelius Van Dyck. The land patent was six square miles (170,000 acres) on both sides of the Hudson River. The original tax of twenty bushels of wheat required to be paid annually to the Crown in return for ownership of good alluvial farmland, rushing creeks to power mills, access to a good transportation route to the Atlantic world and the fur trade with New France. After 1690, the next account of a Saratoga settlement is 1702.
[ii] The Schaghiticoke refuge community was located near Saratoga, in the Hoosick River valley on east side of the Hudson River (in modern Rensselaer County). The community was made up of Mahicans and Algonquian bands (Woronocos and Pojassicks displaced by the New England colonies during King Phillip’s War). The Schaghiticokes sometimes provided security and soldiers to Anglo-Dutch settlers in the Albany area.
[iii] Lieutenant Paul Marin de La Malque’s 1745 expedition (French and Native Americans) during King George’s War destroyed Saratoga, killing a dozen colonist including Colonel Philip Schuyler (the General’s uncle) and taking 50 Anglo-Dutch and 60 African slaves as captives to New France (Canada).
Photo of a trade good recovered from Saratoga along the Hudson River courtesy Saratoga NHP collection.