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The Town of Canajoharie – a bit of history

Excerpts from "Canajoharie's Beginnings" by Kathleen Hanford, Town Historian

Published in the Sunday Amsterdam Recorder, February 11, 1996

The town of Canajoharie, organized in 1788, is located in the south central part of Montgomery County, with an area of approximately 24,764 acres. The Mohawk River sets the northern boundary, with the town of Palatine on its northern bank. On the south, it is bordered by Schoharie county and the township of Sharon, on the east by the town of Root, and on the west by the town of Minden.

Originally, the present village was called Scrambling (Schrembling) after a tavern keeper by the name of Henry Schrembling, who operated a tavern on the river opposite Frey's.

The name Canajoharie is derived from the Mohawk name Can-a-jor-ha, which means the "pot that washes itself". The name was given because in the creek flowing through the area there is a pot hole about 20 feet in diameter and about 10 feet deep at the base of a falls. Though time has eroded the edges, at one point it was nearly round with vertical sides.

The Palatines were most likely the first settlers in this area, arriving as early as 1760. The first noted settler was a man by the name of Taylor, who cleared an area of about 35 acres, approximately one-half mile south of Ames, where he planted apple trees and built a log house with a bark roof.

During the early years, several homesteads in the area were fortified for safety. Among these, the Philip Van Alstine dwelling, later called the John H. Moyer place, then after its fortification, Fort Rensselaer. It was here in this palisaded, limestone dwelling that a number of meetings of the Tryon County Committee of Safety were held. Its walls near the roof were pierced by portholes for musketfire. General Washington was entertained on August 1, 1783, by Colonel Samuel Clyde, a Cherry Valley man in command at Fort Plain, and at that time, living in the Van Alstine house.

Hendrick Schrembling and Marie Janse Van Alstine were partners in the purchase of a tract of land from the Morris Patent of 1723. It encompasses nearly all of the village of Canajoharie as it is today. The first house on the Van Alstine property was built in 1730. The cannon placed in front of the Fort Rensselaer Club on Memorial Day 1912 [since removed] was brought to Canajoharie in 1825. It was used during the Revolutionary War and was one of a series of cannons placed every few miles across the state used to signal water being let in at the opening of the Erie Canal. Goshen P. Van Alstine, a descendant of the pioneer, fired the cannon. A total time of eighty-one minutes passed from the first cannon to fire at Buffalo the last, in New York.

William Beekman, located near the Van Alstine home, ran a ferry about one mile east of Canajoharie after the Revolutionary War in 1788. Then several years later, he moved to Sharon. Barent Roseboom and his brothers, John and Abram, took over the trade at nearly the same site of the Thomas B. Mitchell house. Our town offices presently occupy this stone home.

The largest settlement in the township, outside of the village of Canajoharie itself, is the village of Ames, named after Fisher Ames. The Ames Academy, built in 1837 and the Methodist Episcopal Church, erected in 1840, are among its historical points of interest. The village of Ames is also noted as the smallest incorporated village in the state of New York.

The village of Buel, originally called Bowman's Creek after its first settler, Jacob Bowman, was renamed Buel in 1830 in honor of Jesse Buel of Albany. Buel was a famous agriculturalist. In 1823, the Central Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb was organized here, where it remained until 1836, when it merged with another and left the area. One of the earliest cheese factories was also located here.

Mapletown, three to four miles southeast of the village of Canajoharie, was founded in 1791 by Jacob Ehle and James Knox. It was so named because as the land was cleared, only three hard maple trees were left standing. James Knox later became the founder of the Knox Gelatine Company of Johnstown.

The village of Marshville was settled near the end of the Revolution by Steven and Henry Garlock, and John Seeber, who built the first sawmill near the center of town.

The village of Sprout Brook, one mile west of Buel, was the home of a manufacturer of woolen yarn.

(Much more historical information has been recorded about the township, and especially the village of Canajoharie.)