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The Schenectady (NY) Massacre of 1690

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    DRC baptism, New amsterdam 1652 May 12; Barent Jansze, Christyntie Claes; Engeltje ; Harmen Douwenszen, Lysbeth Cregiers, Tryn Hadders Robert Livingston (1654-1728) offers a vivid account (and one-...
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  • Myndert Janse Wemple (1649 - c.1690)
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The Schenectady Massacre. It was an attack against the village of Schenectady in the colony of New York on 1690-02-08. It was carried out by a party of over 200 French and Sault and Algonquin Indian raiders that set out from Montreal to attack English outposts to the south, and was intended as retaliation for a series of devastating Iroquois raids for which the English had provided weapons and ammunition. Isolated northern and western settlements were the targets.

Late on February 8, when a scouting party reported that no one was guarding the stockade at Schenectady, a decision was made to attack at once, despite the bitter cold. The original target was Fort Orange (present day Albany), but when Schenectady was discovered to be defenseless the raiding party decided to attack here instead.

Finding no sentinels other than two snowmen and the gate ajar according to the tradition, the raiders silently entered Schenectady and launched their attack two hours before dawn. The invaders burned houses and barns, and killed men, women and children. Most were in night clothing and had no time to arm themselves. By the morning of February 9, the community lay in ruins - more than 60 buildings were burned. Most of the residents were dead or taken prisoner, with some survivors managing to flee as refugees to the fort at Albany. Symon Schermerhorn was one of these. Although wounded, he rode to Albany to warn them of the massacre. In commemoration of this, the mayor of Schenectady repeats the ride every year. Most mayors have done so on horseback, though a few have preferred the comfort of an automobile.

The 60 dead included 38 men, 10 women and 12 children. The raiders departed with 27 prisoners and 50 horses. Dominie (Pastor) Petrus Tessemacher, pastor of what became the First Reformed Church of Schenectady and the first Dutch Reformed Church pastor ordained in the new world, was killed in his house. The community took many years to recover from the attack.

John A. Glen, who lived in Scotia, across the river from Schenectady, had shown previous kindness to the French. In gratitude, the raiding party took the Schenectady prisoners to him, inviting him to claim any relatives. Glen claimed as many survivors as he could, and the raiders took the rest to Canada. Typically those captives who were too young or old or ill to keep up along the arduous journeys were killed along the way. As was the pattern in later raids, some of the younger captives were adopted by Mohawk and other Indian families in Canada; others were ransomed by communities in New England