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Column for 4.27.11
“Along Oriskany and Big Creeks,” written by Richard Williams of Clinton, contains great information for those interested in history, geography, geology, fishing or for those just curious about the southern part of the county in which they live.
In the chapter headlined “The Stream, Creek, the Falls and Its Tributaries” is this: “Today, and for many years, the Oriskany has captured the attention of fishermen as it is one of the best brown trout streams in New York State.”
That same chapter has this: “The Oriskany Valley looks, in a way, like a Y on a topographical map, as it consists of two large creeks that merge at Deansboro. The Oriskany’s west branch starts near Cole Street around 1,500 feet above sea level in the Town of Stockbridge, while Waterville, or Big Creek, begins around 1,940 feet above sea level on Tassel Hill in the Town of Marshall. The Oriskany pours into the Mohawk River just north of the Village of Oriskany at 410 feet above sea level.”
And this: “To a traveler passing through the Oriskany Valley in 1785, the country presented all the indications of an unbroken wilderness, according to Gridley’s 1874 History of Kirkland. The traveler’s path was an Indian trail...”
And in a chapter headlined “The Upper Reaches of the Valley,” is this: “Oriskany Falls was first called Cassety Hollow after Colonel Thomas Cassety in 1794. Cassety built a sawmill using the energy from Oriskany Creek. Cassety was a merchant and died in August 1831, at age eight-four, a melancholy death, according to (Oneida County historian) Pomroy Jones. A clothier had left a bottle of sulfuric acid at Cassety’s store. The colonel thought it was whiskey, and the ‘fatal draught closed his life in a few hours.‘“
In the chapter headlined “Indians of the Creek and Valley” is this: “The Oneidas were a matrilineal society with the women cultivating the maize and the men, the warriors, hunting and fighting when necessary. Clan mothers held power and elected chiefs. The Oneidas split with other Iroquois and fought with the colonists during the Revolutionary War along with the Tuscaroras. The Mohawks were firmly in the British camp mainly due to Sir William Johnson’s influence.”
In that same chapter is this: “The Oneida settlement in colonial times was at Oneida Castle, some ten miles west of Kirkland and Marshall on the Seneca Turnpike. Also at ‘Oriske,’ or ‘Oriska,’ the Oneidas had a village where Oriskany Creek flows into the Mohawk River.”
In the “Military History” chapter is this: “About two miles west of where Oriskany Creek enters the Mohawk River, one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War took place on August 6, 1777. As part of the New York campaign, Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger, with a combination of Loyalist forces and Mohawk and Seneca Indians, moved from Oswego to capture Fort Stanwix in today’s Rome. Then he could meet up with Generals John Burgoyne and Sir William Howe in Albany, thus splitting New York and the colonies in two. The plan nearly worked, but the siege (of Fort Stanwix) failed after Indian allies fled following the bloody encounter at Oriskany.”
And this: “St. Leger led about 660 British, Loyalist and Canadian forces, a Hanau Jager detachment and 500 of Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York, plus about 1,000 Mohawk and Seneca Indians...General Nicholas Herkimer had 750 men of the Tyron County Militia, mostly poorly trained German American farmers, and some 60 Oneida and Tuscarora Indians.”
“Along Oriskany and Big Creeks” has 148 pages and 65 pictures. The book sells for $21.99 at numerous places, including Barnes & Noble and the Oneida County Historical Society.
For those unfamiliar with his name, Richard Williams is the author of several books, writes newspaper articles and is active in county historical societies. He retired from Whitesboro Senior High School, where he taught history and was vice-principal, and he was once mayor of Clinton.