Skohere – Book in Progress

the Birth of New York’s Western Frontier
1609 – 1731


Jeff O’Connor



“To understand the early recorded history of Schoharie County is incomplete is to completely understand its early recorded history…”

                                                                                                                          — anonymous


For some hundred years, the Schoharie Valley sat on the western periphery of first New Netherland and then New York, unsettled, as a seemingly remote dividing line between Native and European worlds.  Of this period current Schoharie County history says little.  The genesis story usually begins with the convergence of three groups trying to make a new start in life in the early 18th century: A Mohawk family, headed by Karighondontee, escaping a dangerous environment, rebellious German Palatine refugees headed by Johann Conrad Weiser, and a Dutch Family from Schenectady, whose patriarch, Adam Vrooman, wanted to re-settle himself and son as far into Indian country as possible.   The traditional stories that the earliest Schoharie County historians recorded, which are invariably related from the Palatine perspective, can be found here, here, and here.  The Palatine experience in the Schoharie Valley was a disappointing continuation of their heartbreaking story, but remains one of New York State’s most important episodes.  From the German seed the Palatines planted in the valley, sprouted the nucleus around which the Province of New York expanded its western frontier.  But…

This is a book about the Palatines, that’s not really about the Palatines.

Call it the untold back-story of the valley they walked into, if you please.  By placing the Schoharie Valley region in the forefront of the Schoharie County genesis story and the Palatines in the background, so to speak, it became clear that the the forces which shaped the development of provincial New York had everything to do with why – or why not – the Schoharie Valley was inhabited in the hundred years prior to the arrival of the Palatines.   From Henry Hudson’s voyage to the Palatine exodus from the Schoharie Valley, Skohere – and the Birth of New York’s Western Frontier 1609 -1731 explores those forces that swirled around the Schoharie Valley region that gave rise to the greatest native confederacy of the American colonial period and its relationship with Dutch, English, French and other native traders.  Through this relationship, prominent and lesser known figures in New York, United States, and even international, history crossed paths with the Schoharie Valley and its environs.

The first time a place called Schoharie, or any of its countless spelling variations, is documented in the historical record is on a petition for a license to purchase a “tract of land of about the quantity of five hundred acres lying to the westward of Albany and known by the Indians by the name of schohare” in 1686.  It failed, and then Mr. Brown slides off into the sunset of historical obscurity.  He left behind nothing but questions. What were the circumstances behind the license petition?  Who was this mysterious Andrew Brown, who drifts into Schoharie County history ever so briefly and then disappears like a will-o’-the-wisp into the night air?  And what of the 1695 patent granted to Nicholas Bayard, which variously claimed 24 or 30 miles of land contiguous to the Schoharie Creek from the present-day village of Middleburgh to the mouth of the creek at Fort Hunter?  It, too, ultimately failed.  It was deemed an “extravagant grant” by Governor Bellomont, a political adversary, and “vacated.”  Who was this Bayard?  What was his stake in the tract? And then there is a question not previously asked – until now.  The book asks – and answers the question: were the two attempts to purchase land in the Schoharie Valley related? If so, what was the connection between Brown and Bayard?

What emerges in the dissection of the Brown and Bayard attempts are more layers to the Palatine arrival story.  These prominent men (semi-spoiler alert) were connected to the upper crust of the merchant elite that held the reigns of power in the Province of New York.  In fact, they were connected to everyone who was anyone in their era. Some of these connections are associated with their attempts to purchase Schoharie Valley land.  Others are known to the Palatines as villains in their story.  Still others linked these two men with some of the most significant events of New York State history.  All these connections, however, eventually combined to create the world the Palatines walked into when they stepped off their ships onto New York soil during the summer of 1710.

Skohere – and the Birth of New York’s Western Frontier 1609 – 1731

The working title and brief synopsis of each chapter is found here to help readers get a sense of the broad range of subjects that can be expected when the book is completed.  Please keep in mind that this is a work in progress and there may be some differences in the finalized version. Please feel free to comment and ask questions on the blog page.










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