Utica, German Flats and Adam Helmer

On the way back from a weekend in the Adirondacks I opined to my daughter that the original name of Utica New York was German Flats.

Then I got home and looked it up.

Technically I was right about Utica’s original name in that at one time it was considered part of German Flats

But Utica itself was a name picked out of a hat in 1798. Before that the exact place was called Fort Schuyler and prior to that the Mohawk Indians called the ground (where there was an Iroquois village) Unundadages (“around the hill”) for the easy fording of the Mohawk River at the spot.

German Flats or Flatts the center of the widely spaced town of colonial days was more properly the name of a settlement about 15-20 miles east now called Herkimer in honor of the General Herkimer who led the Americans in the savage battle Of Oriskany close by present day Utica.

That town center (German Flats) was wiped out on September 17, 1778 when the Mohawk chief and Loyalist leader Joseph Brant lead a force of 150 Iroquois Indians and 300 Loyalists in a surprise attack wherein he captured hundreds of head of cattle and sheep before setting fire to every house, barn and mill.  A total which reached 63 houses, 57 barns, three gristmills and one sawmill although the residents themselves survived by taking refuge in their fort.

Adam HelmerIt was this raid which Adam Helmer, warned of in his famous run and so gave the people enough time to get to the fort.  But the run was not as legend has it twice a Marathon distance but only nine miles.

So live and learn. But while there was a time I could have run, and did, nine miles I don’t think I could have with musket balls singing by my head, tomahawks thrown at my head and arrows shot at my back all the while fording streams and dodging around trees and rocks.

So he was still pretty tough and he did save a lot of people from a horrible death not to mention a hundred or so children from being carried off to either slavery or forced adoption into an Iroquois tribe.