The first settlement of this town was made in 1722, by a colony of Palatinates, who had previously located upon the Hudson. The population increased quite rapidly until 1757, when the whole settlement was laid waste by a party of Canadians, French and Indians. The following exaggerated account is given by the French: “On the 11th of November, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, M. de Belletre, preceded as was his custom by scouts, crossed the river Corlaer [Mohawk] with his detachment, partly swimming, partly in water up to the neck. He encamped at nightfall in the woods, a league and a half from the first of the five forts that covered the Palatine settlements. The 12th, at 3 o’clock in the morning, he cave his detachment the order of march and attack so as to surround the said five forts and the entire Palatine village, consisting of sixty houses. Though M.. de Belletre knew that the English got notice the day preceding, yet that the courage of the Indians might not receive the least check, and to show them that he would not rashly expose them, he liberated an Indian of the Five Nations whom he bad until then detained under suspicion. But this savage could not injure M. de Belletre, because he commenced at the same time to attack the five forts and the Palatines houses. At sight of the first fort he decided to take it by assault. The enemy kept up a most active fire of musketry, but the intrepidity with which M. de Belletre, with all the officers and Canadians of his detachment, advanced, coupled with the war-whoop of the Indians, terrified the English to the degree that the Major of the village of the Palatines, who commanded the said fort, opened the doors and asked for quarter. M. de Belletre lost no time in repairing to the second, the third, the fourth and the fifth, which were not less intimidated than the first, by his intrepidity and the cries of the Indians: They all surrendered at discretion and were entirely burnt. During this time a party of Canadians and Indians ravaged and burnt the said sisty houses of the Palatines, their barns and other outbuildings, as well as the water mill. In all these expeditions about forty English perished, killed or drowned. The number of prisoners is nearly one hundred and fifty men, women and children, among whom is the Mayor of the village, the surgeon and some militia officers. We had not a man killed; but M. de Lorimer, officer, was wounded in the right side by a ball, and three or four savages slightly. The damage inflicted on the enemy is estimated, according to the representations of the English themselves, to wit: In grain of all sorts a much larger quantity than the island of Montreal has produced in years of abundance. The same of hogs; 3,000 horned cattle; 3,000 sheep. All these articles were to be sent in a few days to Corlaer [Schenectady]; 1,500 horses, 300 of which were taken by the Indians, and the greater number consumed for the support of the detachment. The property in furniture, wearing apparel, merchandise and liquor, might forth a capital of 1,500,000 livres [$277,500]. The Mayor of the village alone lost 400,000 [$74,000]. The French and Indians have acquired as rich a booty as they could carry off. They have in specie more than 100,000 livres [$18,000]. One Indian alone has as much as 30,000 [$5,550]. There was likewise plundered a quantity of wampum, silver bracelets, &c., scarlet cloth and other merchandise which would form a capital of 80,000 more.”
In July, 1782, the German settlements in this town were destroyed by a party of about 600 Tories and Indians. They were first discovered by Peter Wolever and Augustinus Hess, who lived near the Fort. The families of both these men reached the Fort without any other casualty than the death of Hess, just as he was entering the gate. The few troops stationed here were not strong enough to act offensively, and the invaders burned all of the houses except that of George Herkimer, and drove off the cattle. Valentine Staring was taken prisioner and put to torture so near that his cries could be heard at the Fort. The loss of the Americans was four killed, and that of the enemy was supposed to be much greater. The wife of Mr. Henry Wetherstone, in the field at some distance off was tomahawked, scalped and left for dead by the Indians. She however recovered and lived many years.
F. E. Spinner, United States Treapurer, whose autograph has become familiar to every person fortunate enough to possess a greenback, is a native of this town. He was born January 21, 1802, where the village of Mohawk now stands. He held various offices in the County, and in 1854 was elected to Congress, and was re-elected in 1856 and 1858. In 1861 he was appointed by President Lincoln United States Treasures, an office which he still holds. His father, Rev. John P. Spinner, emigrated from Germany and landed in New York, May 12, 1801. He wts a highly educated gentleman and for several years previous to his immigration, a clergyman of the Romish Church, but in 1800 he embraced the Protestant faith and soon after come to this country as stated above. Soon after his arrival he was called to the pastorate of the German congregations at Herkimer and German Flats, and continued to labor in that capacity about forty years. During this time he was a teacher in the High School at Utica for about a year and a half. His labors were not confined to the churches under his immediate charge, but he preached occasionally to the settlers in many of the adjacent towns. He died at his residence in Herkimer, May 27, 1848, aged 80 years.
The population of this town in 1865 was 5,074; its area is 20,307 acres.