Fort Hunter

The story of Fort Hunter begins in 1709, when Peter Schuyler, the mayor of Albany, took five Mohawk Indian chiefs to England to be presented at the court of Queen Anne. Schuyler had a double-edged design in view. On the one side he hoped the power of England and the grandeur of the court would so awe the Indians that their unswerving allegiance to the British crown would be assured. And on the other side, he meant to draw British attention to the plight of the colonies now embroiled in Queen Anne's War with the French and Indians. One result of Peter Schuyler's visit - perhaps unforeseen by that worthy gentleman - was a greatly increased concern in England for the saving of the Indians' souls. Interest was aroused in missionary work and as a result "The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts" ordered the construction of a fort containing a chapel and a mission house in the Mohawk Valley. Queen Anne herself donated a set of communion silver to the Mission. Accordingly on October 11, 1711, Governor Hunter of New York contracted with four Schenectady men (that being the nearest settlement) Gerrit Simonse Veeder, Barent Vrooman, Hendrick Vrooman, and Arent Van Petten to build a fort on the east side of the Schoharie Creek where it enters the Mohawk River. It was constructed on the site of an old Mohawk village called Tienonderoga or Icanderoga. This was the beginning of the settlement known as Fort Hunter, named for the Colonial Governor.

The first commandant of the fort was Captain John Scott who started the garrison force with only twenty men. It's principal function was dealing with French and Indian incursions from Canada.

The fortification was a square, 150 on each side with a 12-foot high wooden palisade. At each of the four angles was a two- story blockhouse with accomodations to house 20 men in each and housed with seven and nine pounder cannon. There was a massive swing gate at the entrance. The first chapel in 1711 was a log cabin.

It was replaced by a stone church in 1741 at a different location - the log chapel was demolished in 1742. In the center the limestone Queen Anne's Chapel was a one story 24 foot square building with an attic with a cellar that served as a powder magazine. Within the fort were thirty cabins for Mohawk residents. Captain Walter Butler (father of Tory John Butler and grandfather of Walter, Jr.) was the commandant of Fort Hunter in 1733. Butler managed to secure 86,000 acres of land along the south bank of the Mohawk River.

Queen Anne Parsonage at Fort Hunter

In 1734, a two-story stone parsonage was built one mile east of the fort. The first occupant was Reverend William Andrews. Although the fort and its buildings have long since disappeared, this old stone parsonage still stands, looking much as it did when it was built. In this building the famed Indian leader, Joseph Brant, translated the Bible into the Iroquois language.

Queen Anne Parsonage as it looks today at Fort Hunter

In 1769 Sir William Johnson established a school at Fort Hunter, which had a class of thirty pupils. By 1770 Reverend John Stuart held two services every Sunday - one for the Indian converts and another for the approximately 200 European residents and settlers who resided nearby. Sit William Johnson repaired the chapel by providing a new floor, pulpit, desk, Communion table, windows, belfry and bell. There was an accidental fire before April 1773 that burned one of the block houses and two of the walls. It seems from a letter of 1781 from Reverend Stuart in Canada, that the fort had some tough times.

I cannot omit to mention that my Church was plundered by the Rebels, & the Pulpit Cloth taken away from the Pulpit; it was afterwards employed as a tavern, the Barrel of Rum placed in the Reading Desk, the suceeding Season it was used for a Stable; And now serves as a Fort to protect a Set of great Villains as ever Disgraced Humanity.

During the Revolution, the parsonage was restored, garrisoned and it served as a link in the chain of small forts that ran through the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys. The Mohawk River valley was raided by the British and Indians in the raids of 1780, and continuing in 1781. Area settlers, like the Marletts, found refuge from the attacks at Fort Hunter. When the war broke out, the Indians (loyal to the crown) buried the communion silver where they were able to reclaim it on one of their raids and take it back to Canada with them.

In 1820, Fort Hunter was torn down to make way for the Erie Canal route. The guard lock was made with stones taken from the old Queen Anne stone chapel. The original 1820 ditch can still be seen at Fort Hunter - in fact it is the only section of the original canal that survives anywhere in New York State.

Archaeological Investigation

In 1987, on the site of Fort Hunter, archaeologists started work before construction began for a parking lot for the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site. The work resulted in the first recorded material evidence of the 18th century settlement. The full report is fascinating. 199 fragments of bone, teeth and shell reveal the dietary habits of the residents included pork, beef, shell fish, fowl, and possibly venison and mutton. 125 remnants of vessels and utensils were found. The only evidence of alcohol consumption were found in four dark sherds of bottle glass. Of the 114 ceramic sherds with a good percentage being tin-glazed earthenware (delft). Sherds of buff earthenware, white salt glazed stoneware were found but no creamware. Fourteen vessels specifically identified were teawares! Obviously teatime was a ritual at Fort Hunter. Other objects found include a single straight pin, two sections of a shoe buckle, a bone brush, sherds from a medicine vial and two William III and one George II half pennies. An iron Jew's harp was found, which was a common trade item, and 199 white clay fragments of smoking pipes. At least 15 were probably produced by Robert Tippet of Bristol (whose pipes were also found at Fort William Henry and Fort Michilimackinac excavations.) Architectural artifacts included nails. carpenter dividers and window sherds. Deeply buried walls were discovered, but not explored - they may be part of the original fort. All the evidence provides a glimpse into the colonial life at Fort Hunter.


Lydekker, John. The Faithful Mohawk. Cambridge: The University Press, 1968.

Moody, Kevin and Charles L. Fisher. Archaeological Evidence of the Colonial Occupation at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, Montgomery County, New York. Bureau of Historic Sites, Waterford, NY: December 1987.

Roberts, Robert B. New York's Forts in the Revolution Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1980.

Veeder, David H. Fort Hunter - Canal Town, U.S.A. Fort Hunter Canal Society, 1968.

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