The Schoharie Valley is one of New York’s three great colonial valleys, its history closely connected to, but overshadowed by, the more famed Hudson and Mohawk Valleys. When the Palatines arrived there in 1712, the world they stepped into was a century in the making. Until now, this formative period of the valley’s history has never been fully told, nor has the true impact these rebellious German refugees had on New York’s western frontier.
Volume II of Jeff O’Connor’s three-volume series Skohere and the Birth of New York’s Western Frontier 1609 – 1731 (2022-2023) has been published, covering the period 1687-1702. The book continues the three-part biography of the Schoharie Valley and the Palatines and others there who helped shape some of New York’s earliest colonial history.
England’s Catholic King James II was deposed at the end of 1688 in the Glorious Revolution, after which Protestants William III and Mary II took the throne. William joined the League of Augsburg in its war against France (begun earlier in 1688), where James had fled. In North America, there was significant tension between New France and the northern English colonies, which had in 1686 been united in the Dominion of New England.
New England and the Iroquois Confederacy fought New France and the Wabanaki Confederacy in what became known as King William’s War, the North American theater of the Nine Years’ War (1688–1697, also known as the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg).
In 1689 the Count Louis de Baude Frontenac, who had been governor of Canada during 1672-82, arrived in New France with orders from Louis XIV to attack the Iroquois and their allies in what is now New York and New England. A bitter conflict of raids and counter-raids took place between New France and frontier settlements of New York and Western Massachusetts.
From 1689 to 1691 people closely related to the Schoharie Valley were thrust into prominent roles during Leisler’s Rebellion, in which the German American merchant and militia captain Jacob Leisler seized control of the southern portion of the colony and ruled it from 1689 to 1691. The rebellion reflected colonial resentment against the policies of the deposed King James II.
An object of hatred in the colonies during Leisler’s Rebellion, Nicholas Bayard received permission from the notoriously corrupt Governor Benjamin Fletcher in 1694 to buy 4,000 acres along the Schoharie Creek from the Iroquois, for about £100. When Fletcher chartered Bayard’s purchase in 1695, the original 4,000 acres became a tract forty miles long and thirty miles across on both sides of the Creek, some 768,000 acres, the Manor of Kingsfield. It was just one of the “Extravagant Grants” which sowed discord among the Iroquois.
After Mary’s death in 1694, William reigned alone until his own death in 1702, when Anne succeeded him. Volume II ends with the return of Mohawks to the Schoharie Valley after a century of vacancy, just as Queen Anne ascends the throne of England and another, even more destructive, war begins. The War of the Spanish Succession (Queen Anne’s War in New York, 1701-1713) pitted England, the Netherlands, Austria, and this time also the Holy Roman Empire, against the French.
It was Queen Anne who established new settlements in the Schoharie valley for displaced Lutheran and Protestant families of the German Palatine who were allies in King William’s and Queen Anne’s War. That will be the subject of Volume III, which is forthcoming.
Jeff O’Connor is an authority on Schoharie County’s colonial and Revolutionary War history, with a long association with historical organizations and sites. He is the author of The Old Stone Fort-Guardian of Schoharie County’s History Since 1772 (self-published, 2020) and Skohere and the Birth of New York’s Western Frontier 1609-1731 Vol. I 1609-1686 (self-published, 2022). He and his wife operate Turning Point 1777, providing walking and driving tours of Schoharie County, popular speaking events, historical flag reproductions, and living history.
Volumes I and II can be purchased at:
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