Breadbasket of the American Revolution
Schoharie is an Iroquoian word for “floating driftwood.” The Schoharie Creek drains out of the Catskill Mountains and runs 93 miles northward, reaching the Mohawk River near the hamlet of Fort Hunter, NY. The greater Schoharie Valley – much of which became designated as Schoharie County in 1795 (the creek begins in Greene County and ends in Montgomery County, crossing the full length of Schoharie between them) – is known in the historical record as “the breadbasket of the American Revolution.” With rich farmland suitable for wheat crops – as well as corn, vegetables, and apples – the region became an essential source of food for Revolutionary troops.
Settlements in this productive region, including Sharon Springs and Cherry Valley to the west of the Schoharie Creek, became targets for raids by Tories and their Native American allies. To escape these attacks, non-Loyalist residents had little recourse other than hiding out in forests. In 1777, Colonel Samuel Campbell of Cherry Valley (yes, an ancestor of one of the bloggers!) petitioned the Marquis de Lafayette, French general in the Continental Army, for fortifications along the creek. The Dutch Reformed Church in the village of Schoharie was reinforced, with blockhouses and palisades added, creating the Lower Fort. The Middle Fort and Upper Fort were founded to the south at four mile intervals along the river. (The Lower Fort is now known as the Old Stone Fort and is part of the Old Stone Fort Museum Complex run by the Schoharie Colonial Historical Society in the Village of Schoharie.)
Raids continued throughout the war and led to repeated attacks on the forts and other settlements, including the Battle of Kobus Kill (Cobleskill) in May 1778, the Cherry Valley Massacre in November 1778, and the Battle of Dorlach (also known as the Battle of Sharon) in July 1781. Even when forts held, crops were destroyed and livestock killed. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), a Loyalist ally, took part in many of these raids. Rebel hero Timothy Murphy – a militia rifleman – helped defend the Middle Fort, located just north of Middleburgh, under siege in October 1780.
After the war, because of the great loss of homes and crops, Benjamin Franklin arranged for tax exemption for the people of the Schoharie Valley, giving them time to rebuild their lives and reestablish the “breadbasket.”
The entire area – the Schoharie, Mohawk, and Susquehanna Valleys – has a rich Revolutionary history, and in future blogs we’ll be touching upon related events and personalities, including Thayendanegea, important to both American and Canadian history, and “Sure Shot Tim” Murphy, one of the most famous marksman of his time. And we’ll be tracing the illustrious Campbell family tree!
The History Boys are
Chris Campbell has made his permanent home in Cherry Valley, NY. The Campbell family dates back to 1739 in this town, situated about eight miles from Sharon Springs. Some family members were captured by Tories and Iroquois allies in the Cherry Valley Massacre of 1778 during the American Revolution and taken to Canada, released two years later in Albany as part of a prisoner exchange. Chris is a rare book and map collector and has had a lifelong interest in history, especially relating to upstate New York and colonial land patents. He was the founder and first chairman of the Cherry Valley Planning Board and has worked as a surveyor and realtor as well as a researcher for the Otsego County map department. His hobbies include Ham radio.
Carl Waldman, also living in Cherry Valley, is a former archivist for the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown. He is he author of a number of reference books published by Facts On File, including Atlas of the North American Indian and Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, both originally published in the 1980s and both in their third editions. He is the co-author of Encyclopedia of Exploration (2005) and Encyclopedia of European Peoples (2006). Carl has also done screenwriting about Native Americans, including an episode of Miami Vice entitled “Indian Wars” and the Legend of Two-Path, a drama about the Native American side of Raleigh’s Lost Colony, shown at Festival Park on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. His hobbies include music and he works with young people in the Performance and Production Workshops at the Cherry Valley Old School.