SEVEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
KUYAHOORA – Discovering West Canada Valley is a big book, a really big book. Big in size – 8 1/2 X 11, 288 pages. Big on photographs – 169 color, 31 black & white. Big on illustrations -14 . . . and maps – 5. But most of all it’s big on information, information about one of the most fascinating regions of New York State.
When Paul Keesler started creating a book about West Canada Valley, he thought it would be easy. After all he has lived in the valley for much of his life and has written about it in newspaper and magazine articles for the past 30 years. Turns out there was so much to learn about the history of the valley and its recreational opportunities it took him seven years to gather information . . . and explore and photograph the valley from one end to the other.
“My quest for information became one discovery after the other. I read volumes; hiked, climbed, drove, canoed and flew hundreds of miles. I interviewed farmers, loggers, historians, fishermen, hunters, and dozens of other people to get the information about the valley’s fascinating history. I learned about the Iroquois, the Palatines, the Revolutionary War, Yankee settlers and immigrants, Trenton Falls and Herkimer Diamonds. I explored the river, the tributaries, gorges, mountains, battle sites, famous hunting and fishing grounds, ancient trails, roads, bridges, dams and villages.”
“I am especially pleased with the Settlement and Farming Chapters, because they capture the rich heritage of farming in upstate New York from the earliest days to the present, including such little known facts that the first cash crop was ashes and that dairying didn’t begin until well into the 1800s.”
In addition re-discovering the history of the valley, KUYAHOORA – Discovering West Canada Valley features a wealth of information on fishing, hunting, wildlife, wildflowers, hiking, snowshoeing, canoeing, camping, scenic and historic auto tours, and much more.
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Keesler’s “Kuyahoora – Discovering West Canada Valley” is a one-of-a-kind book, part local history, part travelogue, and totally enjoyable. The Post Standard, Syracuse, NYM. Paul Keesler has created another reading gem in “Kuyahoora – Discovering West Canada Valley.” In addition to the rich history of the valley , the book features a wealth of information about fishing, hunting, wildlife, wildflowers and other flora, hiking, snowshoeing, canoeing, camping, scenic and historic auto tours and much more.The Evening Sun, Norwich, NY
“Kuyahoora – Discovering West Canada Valley”, an eminently readable and comprehensive book. This fascinating book brings into sharp and accurate focus the history of this nearby area.The Sunday Recorder, Amsterdam, NY
It’s hard to imagine anything Keesler might have missed about the West Canada, from the geology, to the days of early settlement, to the hunting and fishing exploits of such characters as Johnny Leaf and Trume Haskell, to the story of Herkimer diamonds.
Observer Dispatch, Utica, NY
“A history book that reads like a novel.” Country Folks, Palatine Bridge, NY
Page 31, second from the last paragarph. The reference to Fort Rensselaer is accurate, but it helps to know that Fort Plain was also called Fort Rensselaer during the Revolutionary War.Page 127: The photo of Jack McDiamid and Janice Keesler was taken by Bob Dicker.
Page 144:. Caption under photo of Remsen Central School is not accurate. While this was the site of a Mitchell Family Farm it was not the location of the second cheese factory in the nation. That location is most likely at the Mitchell farm that was located 5 miles northwest of the village.
James Santamour advises that the first Nobleboro Bridge (page 229) was built in 1927-28 while he and his family lived there. He also notes that Farrell Lumber Company (pages 155 and 158) had a sawmill on the little brook where Creekside Restaurant is now, before Mr. Farrell moved to Poland.
BETRAYAL AND BATTLE AT TRENTON FALLS
Too often the history of Kuyahoora Valley seems to start with the coming of the Palatines to Herkimer in the 1720s or with the Yankee invasion of the valley in the 1790s. Yet the Mohawks and a few Europeans traveled and lived here long before that time. Below Trenton Falls, where fish congregated and where bear and other game were plentiful, was the site of a seasonal village from the earliest times. The following tale of abduction, love, betrayal and battle culminated near that long ago village.
Count de Frontenac, Governor of New France (Canada) learned that his half-breed daughter, Oneta was taken from her Indian village in Canada to the Mohawk Valley village at the mouth of the Schoharie River. Here she became the bride of Achawi, a Mohawk chieftain,
In 1693 Frontenac organized an expedition of French troops and their Indian allies against the Mohawks, destroying their three main villages and taking hundreds of prisoners. Although, orders were given to find and return his daughter, Oneta and her husband avoided capture.
In 1696 while Frontenac was gathering an army at a camp on Lake Ontario in preparation for a campaign to destroy Onondaga and Oneida Villages, he was visited by a Flemish-born hunter by the name of Hanyost who had lived long among the Indians in the Mohawk Valley. Hanyost had a grievance against Achawi and knew of the Count’s desire to find his daughter, so he traveled to Frontenac’s camp on Lake Ontario and offered to guide an expedition to Achawi’s summer camp near Konnediega (Trenton Falls).
Frontenac sent a “small but efficient” force of a dozen musketeers with 25 pikemen under the command of Baron de Bakencourt and Chevalier de Grais. Before the French force conducted their pre-dawn surprise attack on the wilderness village near the great falls, they were ordered to spare all the female inhabitants and kill all the defenders.
After setting fire to the village, musketeers shot fleeing villagers, and pikemen slaughtered unarmed warriors as they emerged from their burning wigwams. Achawi and some of his followers snatched up their weapons and met the French man to man, killing a number of pikemen.
Oneta with her infant son in her arms fled to the safety of the surrounding hills … pursued by a Frenchman. Ever-alert to the welfare of his wife and son, Achawi saw their impending danger and gave chase. He intercepted the enemy, dispatching him with a tomahawk to the head. Turning to return to the battle, Achawi was confronted by French soldiers some of which he killed before following his wife into the gorge.
DeGrais witnessed the departure of the Mohawk Chief and his wife and child, recognizing her as the daughter of Count Frontenac. DeGrais, Hanyost and seven soldiers gave chase.
When they reached the head of a rocky pass (the lower end of Trenton Gorge) Achawi lifted his wife to a ledge, handed her the infant and told her to climb to the cavern above. He then climbed up to the ledge and waited for the enemy.
The first soldier to approach the ledge took an arrow in the neck, falling backward dislodging the soldiers behind him, slowing their progress. When they again advanced, another soldier was hit by Achawi’s well-placed arrow. Before Achawi could string another arrow, Hanyost fired his gun, hitting the Mohawk in the thumb.
Achawi fled, leading the Frenchmen away from the path taken by his wife. From the ledges above, he noted that only three of the soldiers were following him, the others were being led by Hanyost directly to the cavern where Oneta sought refuge. With great effort, the Mohawk warrior eluded his pursuers and arrived at a point where he could see Hanyost and DeGrais climbing to the cavern. Despite his disabled and bleeding thumb, Achawi placed his arrow in his bow and with two fingers drew the arrow feathers to his cheek.
Hanyost took the arrow in his black heart. As he fell he grabbed DeGrais’s sword chain and the two men fell into the gorge. With Hanyost dead and only one soldier left, DeGrais abandoned the pursuit.
Having failed to recover Frontenac’s daughter, the remaining Frenchmen began the long march back. Achawi and his surviving warriors followed the French through the wilderness, killing many of them before they reached the French Army that was advancing on the land of the Onondagas and Oneidas.
Two years later Count Frontenac died, never having seen his daughter and grandchild.
The primary source of information for this story was obtained from The Mohawk Valley by W. Max Reid (1901).