Conowago Colony, PA

Exerpts from the Migration from New Jersey to the Conowago Colony, PA

The following excerpts are from "Migration from New Jersey to the Conowago Colony, Pa., 1675-1771", by A. Van Doren Honeyman of Plainfield, New Jersey:

Large numbers of families from Somerset County, New Jersey towns of Millstone and Neshanic localities and from Bergen County, New Jersey, went to the vicinity of Gettysburg, Pa., prior to the Revolutionary War. Some of them later went to Plwasureville (sic), Kentucky and then on westward. Some of the settlers traced back to the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, in France, and these people were Hugenots, who being persecuted, refuged to Holland. These founded the Dutch Reformed Church in America. Later some of these people from New Jersey went to Pennsylvania, and later some to Kentucky, after the indians broke up the Conewago Colony, burned houses and murdered numbers of people. Some went to Mercer County, Kentucky and others elsewhere.

Summary - The Low Dutch Colony of The Conewago   - Rev. J.J. Demarest 1884  
Location: From 2 miles east of Hunterstown--along the "Low Dutch Road" - S of W to the Baltimore Pike, thence south to Two Taverns (between the German and Scotch-Irish sections of Adams County, Pa.  

Date of Formation: Earliest emigrants were in 1765 and the main migration was in 1771.

Source: Northern, New Jersey (Hackensack) and other localities in vicinity of New York.

Congregation: Formed about 1769 (no record of the building of the church). The Resident Pastors were:
          1772-1788 Rev. Cornelius Cosine
          1788-1793 Rev. George G. Brinkeroff

From The Star and Sentinel, Gettysburg, PA., January 8, 1884" - 30 page manuscript in the Ponna Archives, the following excerpts have been taken which are relevant to Cayuga County
The Church was called the "Reformed Dutch Church of Conewago". By that name it appears on the roll of the Classis of New Brunswick, N.Y....

The denomination to which it belonged, though glorying in its origin, has been unwilling to seem to narrow the field of its work, and therefore as lately as 1867 omitted from its title the work "Dutch". Its courts are a General Synod, corresponding to the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and particularly Synods, Classes and Consistories, similar to our Synods, Presbyteries and Sessions. And its doctrinal belief, the chief symbols of which are the Confession of Faith of the Synod of Dordrecht, and the Heidelberg Catechism, are also the same as those of the Presbyterian Church.

The history of the denomination is of extraordinary interest. The people of Holland brought with them to America the church which, like a faithful mother, had nurtured them. It is not strange that they dearly loved it, for it had received its baptism and developed its type of faith in the heroic struggle of their forefathers for civil and religious liberty. It had grown out of those famous wars, which, though fought in a small area of the country, and by the Netherlanders, but slightly helped in defense against the powerful armies of Charles the Fifth and Phillip the Second, were a contest in which all Christendom had a vital part, and in the results of which all Christendom rejoices today. No church looks back to fiercer oppositions than were made to the Church of the Dutch; and from the days of the Reformation to the present, none has been more steadfast, or shown itself more worthy of the saintly blood which was shed for its sake.

Not alone Hollanders came to America in this noble communion. With them were joined a large number of Frenchmen. Holland, in the latter half of the seventeenth century, offered the most open asylum on the continent of Europe for the persecuted, and for that reason, and also because it was "near to flee to", Hugenots from all parts of France sought its shelter. They were eager to cross the line which divided their fair fields and rich vineyards, spoiled by the depotism of Louis the Fourteenth, from the marshes precariously kept from the salt sea, but happy under the gentle rule of the Princess of Orange. But the majority of such, and thousands besides of her own people, found Holland not a country to stay in. The new world beyond the sea promised better. Westward, Ho! was the cry of the time. The shores of that most beautiful river, which Hendrick Hudson had discovered, had every attraction: and vessel after vessel left Amsterdam - (the Mayflower sailed from Amsterdam) - thronged with pilgrims, and especially to New Amsterdam - New York, the term was to become - bearing Dutch and French pilgrims: these like their puritan neighbors, saying plainly that they sought a better country, both in this world and beyond.

The Conewago Settlement, in which we are concerned, extended from a point two miles east of what is now Hunterstown (a pity that rather scattering decayed village could not have at least retained a pretty name - the musical name Conowago-along a road running in a south-westerly direction to a point a mile or less across what is now the Baltimore Pike, and down the pike to the Two Taverns. This road is still known as the Low Dutch Road, and is so called on the maps and in the text of the third volume of the Count de Paris’ History of the Civil War. The Dutchmen, and they who accompanied them were farmers. Even the mechanics of their number - the Demarees were carpenters and painters, the Van Ardsdales blacksmiths - expected to obtain the most and best of their living from the soil. They did not found a town, therefore, nor were they ambitious in that direction, but the densest parts of the settlement were those nearest the two extremities.

The boundaries of the population, if I may so call them, were marked by cemeteries, (at every stopping place some of us reached the end of our pilgrimage) and one of them, the more northern, was in the near vicinity of the church. That edifice was not so shifting, or tabernacle-like as might be inferred from what I said of it in the paragraph quoted from my former history. It had more of the orderliness that characterized its people. It was on a piece of land which had been patented, had a stone foundation, which some still living had seen, and had a spacious perhaps rather thin airy spiritual superstructure of pine board, barn-like in style of architecture (suggesting, I trust, its spiritual harvests) which also some living have seen, though its form had been much changed. But, of this, more anon. The site of the church first and always was on that what is now the York Pike, near the Duttera railway station, about a half mile from the cemetery.

The cemeteries are still in existence. I have visited them with more than antiquarian interest. They give evidence of commendable care. (Note: This is no longer true of the Southern Cemetery - the condition noted by Mr. Demarest, below, has fully materialized - the cemetery is in a most regrettable condition of ruinous neglect.) That near Hunterstown has been newly enclosed with a neat, durable stone wall: and the grave stones I found all erect and in good condition. The graves are many but there are not many gravestones, nor do any of the latter bear a very early date, with a single exception, which will be mentioned presently. Doubtless the most of those who mourn (ed?) beside these graves have themselves gone by the same dark road to the city of light. I might speak in much the same language of the cemetery near White Run. It has many graves, but few of them are marked, and only such as are comparatively recent. This cemetery, though securely enclosed (Note: no longer so, 1925), and by no means in so forlorn a condition as some of equal or less age in our county, would be the better for some prompt attention.

I have copied the names, so far as I could decipher them, to be found in the cemeteries, and also from other sources have sought to make a list of the families represented in the Dutch Colony. I am sure that the list is incomplete. The colony was numerous. It must have been composed - this may surprise the reader - of not fewer than 150 families. Such names as I have gathered will be of interest. I will underscore the Christian names of heads of families - of those fathers who presented children for baptism between the years of 1769 and 1795 - and in CAPITALS the surnames still common in the county:

Aalsdorf, John Aaten, Ackerman, Henry Armerman (Ammerman, Anderson: Samuel, Albert, Henry, Abraham, David & Peter Banta; Bise, Daniel Bodan George Burnet (Bornet, Bonnet, Borgueriart?):Peter, John, Ferdinand and George BROKAW (Berkas): Blonk, Abraham: Brunner, George Biart (Bayard): Phillip and Jeremiah Breen, Bogart, Bergen, BENNER, Abraham & John Brewer, John and Abraham Bodine, Jacob, Ralph, Luke, William, Henry & John BRINKERHOFF, Clax, Peter, Carmine, COLE: Francis, Peter & David Cassat (Cosarte): ,Peter, Cornelius, Gerret and John Cosine: John and Cornelius COWNOVER, Coshon, Cleton, CHAMBERLAIN, Henry Comingore, Isaac, John and Daniel COVER (Covert), Duree, Dates, DURBORAW, John Dennis, Dithers, Samuel Dunn, Dennis Dubois, David, Samuel, Cornelius, Albert and Garret Demaree, (Demarest) Joseph, Abraham and Isaac DeDaum, De Mott, Michael, William and Abraham DUGRAFF, Garret Dorland, William Ditch, Richard Eichim, Samuel Errowin, Charles and Thomas Fontine, James Freer, William Griggs, Harfon, Hutson, Haal Isaac & Ferdinand HULICK, John Hols, Abraham HOFF, Hesekiah HOUGHTALIN, Daniel Horres, John & Christofel Houts, Beldwin Hammers, Hoagland, William & Cornelius Jewel, Thomas, Abraham and Andrew JOHNSTON(Janson), Peter Kaarmigal, Henry KLING, Cornelius Klopper, Richard KITCHEON, John & Bernard Kipp, John Knegf, Kraay (Cray), George Lashells, LAROURR, Dangrage, Henry LITTELL, Cornelius LOTT, Ephraim Midday, MYIERS, Nicholas MARK, Peter Maston, Francis, Jacob, Lawrence & John MONTFORT, Martin Nevious William Owens, John Oblinis, Isaac & Richard Parsell, Peter & Garret Peterson, Joseph Parris, John Ringland, Reemsen, Benjamin Slot, James Stagg, Joseph Schamp, Henry Striker, SLEGEL, Sickels, George Sobring, Jacob, Bernard & John Snook, Christain Snedeker, SNYDER, Speedrr, Terhune, Isaac Toemonth, John & Peter VANDYKE, Isaac Van Kleef, Vannuys, Vanderbilt, Van Ordon, Van Nest, Abraham, Simon, Garret, Luke, John & Isaac VAN ANSDALE, Dennis Van Dine, Peter Van Sant, Van Pelt, Cornelius Van Nuys, Van Harlingen, VAN SCIHAWK, Nicholas Van Horn, Henry Vanderveer, Thomas & Charles Van Tine, Ralph, Cornelius, Aaron & Garret Voorhees, Wickoff, Jacob, John & Abraham Wostervelt, David, William, George, & Frederic Williamson, Benedict Yeury.

A moss grown tablet in the Conewago Burial Ground bears this inscription:

In memory of David Demaree
Born in the East of New Jersey
In Bergen County, November 1731
and departed this life November, 1808
aged 77


The Demarees, Ackermans, Brinkerhoffs, Bogarts, Terhunes, Bantas, De Daum, De Motts, Voorhees, Brewers, Slegels, and many others no doubt came from Bergen County, N.J. These names are still heard there with sufficient frequency. The Houghtalins and Cosines came from the West bank of the Hudson near Haverstraw. An Abraham Lott, perhaps a connection of the Lotts, was prominent in New York City about the time of the Revolution, holding office in both church and state. The Brokaws can be traced to New York. The Cassats and Montforts, two of the first comers, whose influence never became second to any of the later comers, had an earlier home in Somerset County, New Jersey, near Millstone, and an earlier still in New York, the latter family having settled there before 1640. The Van Dykes and Van Arsdales came from Essex County, N.J., near Patterson. The Benners, among the latest to arrive came to this county from Berks, having tarried on the way.

Now, on a day - but when? It is certain that all the colonists did not arrive simulaneously. Some were on the ground as early as 1765. But there is no evidence that any were here earlier. At York I found a deed of which a member of the Van Arsdale family was the granter, conveying property in Straben Township, "adjoining lands of Henry Banta, George Sebring, William Love, David Hunter, and Francis Coserto." This is the oldest document preserved, so far as I know, throwing light on the history of this colony. It was to cover debts contracted in 1765. The deed was given in 1768. On the other hand it can be shown that the Demarees and Brinkerhoffs did not leave Bergen County before 1771, for the marriages and baptisms of some who subsequently appear at Conowago are recorded in the books of the Reformed (Dutch) Church of Schraalenburgh, New Jersey, up to that year.

When I began the preparation of this history, I had no thought of what it would grow. The connection of the Conowago Colony with Hackensack, my own native town, had been suspected by me, but was not certainly known: and I could not hope that some valuable papers were preserved, which I have since been delighted to discover. Chief among these is a bundle of tattered and age stained leaves from the Baptismal Record of the Reformed Dutch Church of Conowago, beginning, it appears, with its organization, and covering the best period of the continuance of the colony in our state. I first learned of the existence of an extract from this book. The record had been handed down from Peter Montfort, one of the colonists, to his great grandson, Francis. Francis had given it to his grand nephew, Dr. J.G. Montfort, hereafter to be mentioned again, and of whom I shall now say that he has had the kindness to make a present of it to me. I hope to have the honor of securing, in due time, a final resting place for it in the archives of the Historical Society at Harrisburg.

In addition to the Baptismal Record I obtained from the same source several other papers, among the most interesting of which are a draft of the church, showing the location of the seats, the pulpit, and some of the church furniture, and also a handful of fringed and yellow leaves from the Deacon’s book, showing collections and expenditures.

It was the Baptismal Record, of course that enabled me to make so complete a list, as I have given, of the heads of families in the colony: and I may say, that as easily as I could learn what were their Christian names. I could ascertain also what were the maiden names of their wives.

The first baptism recorded is that of Antje, a daughter of _____ Ammerman and _____

Van Arsdalen (from this entry, unfortunately the Christian names are torn away). The Dutch were commendably methodical and careful with their records - a habit which is still a characteristic of the denomination. One of their churches in Bergen County, a church with which the Conowago Colony stands in some relation, has been to publish its list of communicants, with scarcely a break, from the year of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to the present. Probably the fact that on the continent of Europe, down to the close of the eighteenth century, vital statistics, even for the use of the state were generally obtained from the church, so that the church was depended on for them, impresses this valuable habit on the French and Dutch.

Having at my hand the plan of the Conowago Church, with the seats all marked, each with the name of its occupant - I am sorry the paper is not dated, but judging from the names it bears I shall not be far wrong if I assign it to 1780 - I am able to form some definite idea of the community as it appeared on a Sabbath morning, that is to say, of the community as a whole. No better time could be chosen to take a view of this group, for nothing so certainly as a church service would bring them all together.

Through the six secular days of the week, the good Dutch wives must milk the cows, bake bread, pies and cakes - savory pies I warrant, happily they were not much addicted to cakes, except to a certain form of doughnut, which, however, might well suffice - mind the children and sweep the house, only relieving their monotonous existence by occasionally going to a neighbors to "spend the day". The men, it is likely, gathered in small groups on wet days around Van Arsdale’s charcoal fire, or at the carpenter’s shop, where Demaree and his boys were usually working, and most frequently at "the store" - I am sorry I cannot learn who kept it - where absolutely everything was exposed for sale, nowithstanding the stock was small, from books, for which, except prophetic almanacs, there was little or no demand, down through dry goods, boots and shoes, hardware, groceries, all the way to patent medicines - the horse powders and pain killers of the last century, I have no doubt, justifying as intelligent a faith as those of the present. With such surroundings they sat through many an evening. Ah, I have seen it - It is not fancy, but memory.

The Dutch boys and girls were notoriously good. The young women behaved with a propriety which added a charm to the freshness and rosiness of their cheeks. And the elderly people in a Dutch community are always, as the world knows, very patterns of Sobriety and dignity. So, with occaisional frolic and with much discussion of political and not infrequently religious subjects, fore-ordination and other strong meat of Calvinism being the most acceptable - discussions never resulting in a conversion, for generally all were agreed at the start, and happily the majority of the Dutch are born into the world with the right views, also there would be little hope for them - their hours of idleness and weekly congregation passed away.

But only at the church, as I have said, could you see the whole community. There they are, male and female, old and young, rich and poor, all who are not actually disabled, dressed in their best, and with that guarded and reverential demeanor, which is a true mark of refinement and nobility of spirit.

Let us glance at the church. Unlike the Scotch-Irish, the Dutch had too much consideration for their personal comfort to dispense with stoves: a stove therefore is to be found on either side of the main entrance. The pulpit, very high, a wine glass in shape is opposite the door. There is a broad middle aisle, and there are two narrow ones at the side walls. Extending completely around the church is a continuous bench. The space before the pulpit is ample for the communion service, held once in three months, for the performance of the marriage ceremony, which, however, rarely took place at the church, and for baptismal administration, which were required with a frequency which now in Adams County we should consider extraordinary.

As I look in the door, careful that there shall not be even the sound of a footfall - for the silence is absolute, most impressive, the ministers subdued solemn tone, unaccompanied with any demonstrativeness of manner, alone breaking it -- I see the backs of a goodly number of thoughtful, earnest and saintly people - I say with truth - as worthy as any who have ever walked in this world. To my right, and nearest me - that ancient paper points out - sit the Brinkerhoffs; in front of them are the Demarees; and still beyond are the Van Arsdales and Conovers. On my left I see the Cassats sitting about opposite the Montforts. The Van Dykes are far forewardon the same side, near the pulpit. The Bantas are, the most of them, in the corner of the church at the minister’s right - a quarter avoided now, but then considered a "high seat in the synagogue".

So, there they sit, these Elders. I believe I can portray them, though I have never seen them, you may be sure, nor ever heard them described. But they are the marked men in the community to which they belong, and the typical marked man in a Dutch community, a hundred years ago, was tall and spare. He had a face long from the hairline to the chin, clean shaven with strong, rather severe features, thin tight lips, blue eyes, and complexion inclined to sallow. His appearance was such, as you see him sitting in the Elders or the Deacons seat, you could not but think, if at any time you had business with him, he might have to be addressed twice before he would attend, you should probably find him absent minded, but always a man of thought, a man of principle, a man of God.

I am sorry I have not been able, at least as yet, to recover the names of any of the Elders of the Conowago Church. I am confident, however, but let the reader bear in mind that in this I speak without documentary evidence - that Francis Cassatt, Peter Montfort, Jacob Brinkerhoff and David Demaree must have been among them.

The names of some of the Deacons I can give from the still extant pages of their book. I should have said, there is rotation in the office of both Elder and Deacon in the Reformed (Dutch) Church. The following names I find: David Cossart, Garret Van Arsdalen, John Van Dyck, Henry Commingore, Isaac Van Arsdalen, Luke Brinkerhoff, John Cownover, Thomas Johnson and Ralph Brinkerhoff.

The Baptismal Record of the church begins its entries with October 23, 1769. There is nothing to show or even make it probable that the church had an existence before that date.

We may be sure it was some one sent by the Classis of New Brunswick for the purpose that the congregation was called together for the first time - joyful day it was - and favored with a sermon, after which its lay officers were ordained in the presence of the people.

In the Fall of 1772, the Conowago congregation secured a pastor of their own, Rev. Cornelius Cosine. Dr. E.T. Corwin, in his manual of the Reformed Church in America, says of him only that he was a pastor of the Conowago Church from 1784 to 1788. But, in the baptismal record I find the sacrament was administered by him at stated times beginning October 11, 1772 and continuing until 1788. The fact of his death in that year, or in the next, I discovered from an examination of some papers at York. Nothing can be said as to where he obtained his education or by whom he was ordained. His wife, Maria Brewer, was the daughter of one of the colonists. She, upon his death went to Haverstraw, N.Y., where she married David S. Demarest, of Hackensack, New Jersey.

Rev. Cosine was succeeded by Rev. George G. Brinkerhoff who entered on his work in November 1789. So it appears in the Minutes of the General Synod: "The Licentiate Georgius G. Brinkerhoff presented a call made upon him by the congregation of Conowago, and at the request of that congregation and on account of the distance, this Reverand Body solemnly ordained Mr. Brinkerhoff to his office here in the Reformed Dutch Church". That session of the General Synod was held in New York, October 1789. And with this minute of the Baptismal Record corresponds. No child was baptized from October 1787 to November 1789, at which time we find the first mention of Rev. George G. Brinkerhoff: "Volent Dee Minister of Conowago".

Rev. George G. Brinkerhoff was born in Closter, Bergen Co., N.J., in 1751. He must have been one of the first admitted to the ministry of the Reformed Dutch Church without credentials from beyond the sea. He was prepared for his calling in part at Pompton Plains, N.J., by Rev. Hermanus Meyer, a German, a graduate of Greeningen University, and in part at Hackensack, N.J., by Rev. Solomon Froelich and Rev. Theodore Romeyn.

Before coming to Conowago, Mr. Brinkerhoff was what we should now call a "Home Missionary" having been sent by the General Synod "to the North", as I suppose, to the early settlers in the northern counties of New York State. On leaving Conowago he returned to Bergen County, N.J., and accepted a call to two churches, Kakeat (now New Hempstead) and Ramapo. To these he ministered from 1793 to 1806. In 1796 he was borrowed, so to speak, from his churches for a year, and sent as a missionary to Gennessee County, New York. In 1798, he came once more to Conowago to visit the congregation with which he had formerly so close a relation. In 1808 he became the pastor of a church at Sempronius, near Owasco Lake, New York. During this, his last pastorate, his health failed and in 1813, he died at Sempronius.

In Corwins Manual, I find it said of Mr. Brinkerhoff that he was "mild and gentle in his temper, firm and resolute in his opinions and purposes". He was converted early in life, and his "spiritual exercises were deep and earnest". His last words were "why tarry they charriot wheels so long, oh, Lord?

These two pastors, Cornelius Cosine and George G. Brinkerhoff, were all the Conowago Church ever had; Mr. Brinkerhoff resigning in November 1793, on account of the breaking up of his congregation. And so soon do we approach the end of our history, as far as the residence of the colony in our state is concerned.

So ends the history of the Reformed Dutch Church of Conowago. It remains only to learn further what became of their property. The organization continued to have existence under the state (though no Elders, there were trustees) until the year 1820."

Mr. J.G. Brinkerhoff, of Hunterstown has a paper in his possession showing that the building and lot were sold for $288.20 (Were they worth no more?) - and that this amount was expended in accordance with the provisions of the Act just quoted. The paper is headed "Jacob Cassatt and Garret Brinkerhoff, Trustees, in account with the Low Dutch Congregation". A note is appended "Audited November 16, 1820.

The Dutch families emigrated from Adams County - or York County, as it was called until 1800 - in two directions, westward and northward. The earliest removals were to Kentucky in 1781, to White Oak Spring Station, on the Kentucky River, one mile above Boonesborough. Among the emigrants were Henry Banta, Sr., Henry Banta Jr., Abraham and John Banta, Samuel, Peter, Daniel, Henry, and Albert Duryee, Peter Cosart or Cozad, (Cassat) Frederick Ripperdam, and John Fleuty, (Yeury)."

The second, that to New York and the North in 1793 had a more immediate effect on those that remained behind. The departure in a body of the North-bound emigrants, all men of character, and at a time when the colony had already been so much weakened by removals was a complete discouragement. As we have seen, it was to their church, which had hardly more than entered on its existence, the beginning of the end, the last pastor, Rev. George G. Brinkerhoff, resigning. From that time forth, the few Dutch families still on this ground ceased to keep themselves separate, and through intermarriage and various changes became at last absorbed in the general population of the country.

The traditions of the emigration northward are, as we should expect, more numerous and better preserved, than those of the earlier (it was not much earlier) and more distant removal. On the records of the South (Dutch) Reformed Church of Schraalenberg,  H.J.ff (sic), is the marriage of "Lucas Demaree, of Conowago" dated August 26, 1789, and "Polly Demaree of Schraalenburg. Their names occur on the records of the Conowago Church, where they had a child baptized January 20, 1793.

The circumstances under which the journey to the lakes was made are worthy of notice. The Aborigines of the North, it is well known, possessed more vigor than those of the South. From 1755 to 1794 the most powerful confederacy of Indians in America was that of the Six Nations, who occupied what is now Ohio, together with large portions of northern Pennsylvania and western New York.

The Massacre of Wyoming, of bitter memory, was by the Six Nations at the instigation of the Tories in 1778. Successes against this confederacy were few and of small consequence until after the massacre just named. That awakened a wide spread and fierce indignation, which could be satisfied only with such a penalty as was inflicted on the Indians by General Sullivan. He fought the bloody battle of Chemung, about where the city of Elmira now stands, in 1779, and at the time burned nearly fifty of their villages in the Genessee Valley. But not until the famous, crushing victory of General Wayne, "Mad Anthony", as the people called him, at the Maumee in 1794, was the Red Man’s power even so far east as the Susquehanna finally and forever destroyed.

These two victories made the country about the lakes of New York safe, and hardly was the way to it opened, before some adventurous spirits of the Conowago Colony hastened to make use of it. They were among the very first to seek homes in that direction, and the eventful century which has now almost intervened between us and them, has justified their wisdom and foresight. Where shall you find more comfort, or more of the intelligence, religious or political, which secures and deserves comfort, than in central New York? There dwell the most truly prosperous and happy people I have ever met.

The story of the emigration northward, along rivers and through forests to the lakes will be found satisfactorily told in two letters written by Mr. John Brinkerhoff, of Auburn, Cayuga County, New York, the first to his cousin Mr. J.G. Brinkerhoff of Hunterstown, the second to myself. They are as follows:

Auburn, Cayuga Co., N.Y., Jan. 7, 1883

My dear Cousin:

I have always understood that we are descended from the family at Hackensack, N.J. I visited there in the summer of 1844, on the same farm which our ancestor Hendrick settled in 1660. It has been owned and occupied by his descendants ever since. You ask, can I give you the time when my father, with others, moved from your county to New York State. My father and mother, with seven children, my uncle Roeleff and my aunt Isabel with eight children and eight families besides which I do not know how many children, left Gettysburg April 30, 1793 and reached this county (Cayuga, N.Y.) July 4th of the same year, having been two months and four days on the way. I have often heard my parents and others tell the story of their long journey. The State of Pennsylvania had been engaged for some time opening a road through the wilderness to what is called the Gennessee Country, N.Y., and gangs of men were still working on different sections of it. Of course the road was rough, stumps of trees were still standing, and now and then a corduroy bridge over a swampy place. They came with tented wagons. Their progress was necessarily very slow. Sometimes they would reach the end of the road, that is they would come up with a company of men who had not finished their section, and they would send a few of their own men forward with axes to help through to the nest section. I assure you, they found no commodious hotels; but every settler who had so much as a log house would take in as many as his house would hold, the women and children sleeping on beds that would cover the floor, the men remaining in their tents. When night overtook them and no house was in sight, as often happened, the women would sleep in the wagons, and the men on the ground under the wagons. When they reached the place where the Chemung joins the Susquahanna, they were detained about two weeks on account of high water. From there they came to the Cayuga flats, where the village of Ithaca now stands, and afterwards still futher (sic) northward to this country. I do not remember having mention of a single case of sickness during all their journey.

Your affectionate cousin

John I. Brinkerhoff

The second letter is as follows:

Auburn, N.Y., Sept. 28, 1885

Re. J.K. Demarest

Dear Sir:

You ask for further information in regard to the ten families who left Gettysburg April 30, 1793. They reached this country ten years before I was born. I have no written record of their names, but have often heard them mentioned. The male heads of the families were; my father Jacob Brinkerhoff, his brother Roeleff (Ralph) Brinkerhoff, Thomas Johnson, Abraham Bodine, Charles VanDine, Luke Brinkerhoff, James Dates, Isaac Parsell, Jacob Loyster, and Andrew Johnson. These ten families came in company. On reaching the south end of our country they found some cleared land or Indian fields. Here they concluded to stop and put some cabins for shelter. Having sowed some seed they took time to explore the country and decide where to make a permanent settlement. After two years, they purchased lands near the foot of Owasco Lake and got possession in the Spring of 1795. They organized a religious society in the same year in connection with the Reformed Dutch Church, and met for worship in their log cabins. But soon new settlers came in rapidly, and the summer of 1797 they built the first church edifice in the county. It was of logs 30’x 25’ with gallery on three sides. It continued in use until 1815, when it gave place to a larger and better. I should have said my uncle James Brinkerhoff, with his family came here from Adams County after the rest. I think in 1796, you ask if I can tell you anything of an emigration from Adams County to Kentucky. I can only say that I have often heard from my parents that several of their neighbors went to Kentucky about the same time they came here---I can only add that I am in my 81st year. I have reason to be thankful; my health is still good. Of course I cannot expect to remain long but I trust through Divine Grace to be prepared when I shall be called away.

Respectfully yours (signed) John Brinkerhoff


The first settlers in all our states were poor. The Conowago Colonists therefore were no exception. But they had enterprise and were ready for hardship. Evidently the most of them had the vigor of youth yet on their side. So I account for the fact that so many of those who had come from New York to Conowago were able, after twenty years to resume travel and make the still more difficult journey to Kentucky or to central New York.

All history shows that poverty in some respects is consistent with riches in some others. The Conowago colonists had, besides physical wealth, what is better still, mental wealth, but not in the directions of ordinary education. In one of our Chapters we have been told how their descendants in the west were school patrons quite as much as church patrons. But we must admit that the proofs of a certain sort of ignorance, among the Dutch of the last century are rather striking, though in this respect also they were but like many others of their kind. And it must be considered that they labored under special disadvantages, much like that now experienced by some commons, from being neccecitated (sic) to speak a language which was not theirs, while they were without ambition to maintain an accurate acquaintance with their mother tongue, however difficult it might be for them to discontinue its use. Without being severly critical, therefore, we cannot but be amused at their oddly expressed and mis-spelled documents. For proper names no established orthography appears to have been known. Any accident might determine it. I was once told by the rector of the French Church Du Saint Spirit in New York City, that the name of one of its first pastors was differently spelled almost every time the parrish clerk had occasion to write it. I was reminded of this when reading the records of the Conowago people. Vannuys & Van Huys, given in my catalogue a different names, I have since learned, are on and the same; and VanHyte, as in Dr. Montfort’s letter, is but the third variation. Seabern, mentioned in another letter, is on the baptismal record, Sea- (line missing) Bice is our modern name Boyce. Cossarte & Cassatt - at first I doubted their identity. Van Orsdel is an abbreviation of Van Arsdalen, saving much labor. Demaree nearly retains the French pronunciation of its original, Desmarets. As regards the grammar used in those days, they seemed to have spoken English, when they did speak it, according to Dutch rules, and to balance the favor, Dutch according to English rules. Their penmanship in specimens still preserved, is a large bold round hand. But I have a suspicion that only the male members of the family could write. Nothing in the course of this history has perplexed me more than to imagine a reason why Rev. Cornelius Cosine should not have employed a few leisure hours (these were not hurried times like ours) in teaching his good wife - she was soon after able to obtain a second husband - to do better than affix her sign manual, which, as I have discovered, was all that she could do.

I must speak of their patriotism. The Dutch were staunch friends of liberty. The struggles of their forefathers had been signal. The glorious cause owes large debts to Holland. It was impossible that sons of the Dutch and the Hugenots should not walk in the steps of their fathers. Accordingly we find that in the Army of the American Revolution the Dutch soldier had no inconsiderable place. I have not been able to ascertain just how many of the Conowago colonists were in those ranks. The names of by far the most of men who achieved our independence have passed, I suppose irrcoverably (sic) into oblivion. But on page 121 Vol. XI of the Colonial Records of Pennsylvania, the following entry is to be found in the proceedings of the Council of Safety, Philadelphia, Feb. 4, 1777.

"Capt. Bickham was directed to pay Capt. Simon Van Arsdalen, $2140 for subsistence of his Company of Col. MacPhersons Battalion of York County Militia, to be charged to Congress." Captain Van Arsdalen’s Company was in all probability largely made up of his own people, but in addition to these, there are traditions of a Captain William Houghtalin, under whom his brother Abraham served as a private and of a Captain Brinkerhoff.

Happy are we that the history of the Dutch Colony of Conowago can be carried into our own times. How the people have prospered - some of the good they have accomplished - to what extent their character has been maintained - how they are still a traceable element in the making of our noble nation - this we have been permitted to see. They were and are a people among the best, an ancestry to be rejoiced in and given thanks for. A heritage from them is a gift from God.


Be sure to visit the baptism records for the Conewago Colony 

Thanks to Linda Jasztal for transcribing the information on this page 

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