Town of German Flatts

The TOWN OF German Flatts

German Flatts is a town in Herkimer County, New York, United States. The population was 13,258 at the 2010 census. (Consists of a combination of the small towns of Franfort, Ilion, Mohawk and Herkimer)

The Town of German Flatts is in the south part of Herkimer County, across from the of Village of Herkimer on the south side of the Mohawk River, and southeast of Utica.

In 1700, the region was part of the territory of the Iroquois Mohawk Native American tribe. The villages were linked by winding paths through the wilderness and the Mohawk River.

Palatine Germans first arrived in New York State in August 1708, with most arriving in the summer of 1710. Refugees from religious wars in Europe, they had agreed to exchange work for passage to the New York colony. This was arranged by Queen Anne’s government, and in 1710 nearly 2800 Germans arrived in ten ships at present-day Manhattan. They were at first quarantined on Nutter’s Island, until the ship fevers ran their course. In exchange they worked for some time in camps along the Hudson River to manufacture British naval supplies. Some went to the Mohawk Valley as early as 1712.

In 1722, in response to the request by the German Palatine leaders Joseph Petrie and Conrad Rickert, Governor Burnet granted the Palatines a lease to purchase land from the Mohawk in the vicinity of where the West Canada Creek flows into the Mohawk River. After the land was surveyed in 1723, most of the original settlers arrived between 1723 and 1725. The Burnetsfield patent, granted April 13, 1725, assigned 100-acre (0.40 km2) lots to about ninety heads of family. They settled on both the north and south sides of the river. This area was originally known as Burnetsfield, named in honor of the Governor. It was also referred to as Stone Ridge, The Flats, The Falls, and most commonly, because of the mostly German population and the flat topography, as German Flatts.

Shortly after 1722, a blockhouse and a church were erected in the village at the present site of the Reformed Church. The first known minister was the Reverend George Michael Weiss who served from 1735 to 1742. He was followed in 1751 by the Elder Rosencrantz, who was succeeded by his son the Reverend Abraham Rosencrantz, the latter serving until his death in 1796. A schoolhouse was erected in 1745.

During the French and Indian War the town was twice attacked, by the French and their native allies on November 1757 (Attack on German Flatts (1757)) and April, 1758 (Attack on German Flatts (1758). In 1758, the settlement on the south side of the river and Fort Herkimer was attacked, and about 30 settlers were killed. Captain Nicholas Herkimer held the command of the fort, and he assembled all the settlers he could within the fort.

During the Revolutionary War, the town was attacked multiple times by loyalists, as were other German settlements in the valley. One of these raids was by the Butler’s Rangers in September 1778. (see Attack on German Flatts (1778)) The village was defended by Fort Dayton.

Fort Herkimer and the settlement on the south side were also attacked. George, Catherine and Nicholas Demuth were among children captured by the Onondaga during a raid, as they were playing outside the fort. After the war, during prisoner exchange, George and Catherine returned to their Demuth family. Nicholas, the youngest, had been adopted by an Onondaga chief and chose to stay with the people for the rest of his life. He went with them to a reservation outside Syracuse and worked as an interpreter.

The town was attacked by the last time on July 15, 1782 by about five hundred Tories and Iroquois. Two residents were killed, Johann Christian Schell and his son, Denis Augustinius Schell. The rest managed to reach the safety of the fort. Fifty horses were taken and fifteen killed, 180 cattle were taken and thirteen killed, thirteen houses and two barns were burnt.

Walter D. Edmonds’ novel, Drums Along the Mohawk (1936), recounts the story of Adam Helmer’s run to save the village during the American Revolutionary War, together with an overview of the Germans’ colonial settlement along the river.

It was adapted as a film by the same name, released in 1936 and directed by John Ford.


Days Rock – A hamlet near the center of the town on NY-168.

East Frankfort – A hamlet partly in the northeast corner of German Flatts.

Edicks – A hamlet in the southeast part of the town on County Road 68.

Fort Herkimer – A hamlet near the north town line and the Mohawk River.

Ilion – The Village of Ilion is at the northwest border of German Flatts near the Mohawk River on NY-5S.

Kinne Corners – A location on the west town line.

Mohawk – The Village of Mohawk is at the north border of the town on NY-5S.

North Ilion – A community located north of Ilion village, next to the Mohawk River.

Rock Hill – An elevation in the southeast part of German Flatts.

Russell Park – A location southwest of Mohawk village.

Shoemaker Hill – An elevation in the eastern part of the town.

South Ilion – A hamlet in the southeast part of the town on NY-5S.


In 1791, when Herkimer County was established, German Flatts was one of the three original towns. Three new towns were created from German Flatts in 1792: Frankfort, Litchfield, and Warren. Another part of German Flatts was used in 1829 to form part of the Town of Little Falls.


Here is a list of the text written on these signs, that tell of the sometimes bloody history of the region and much more:

In 1788, authorization was given to establish the towns of Herkimer and German Flatts. Both of these towns were very large, and prior to 1788 Herkimer was on the south side of the Mohawk and German Flatts was on the north side, but…there was some confusion by the surveyor-general (Simeon DEWITT). He asked Doctor William PETRY to clarify the locations of each town.

“Viewing the ground from his standpoint, below the mouth of the Mohawk, looking up that river, he answered that Herkimer was on the left, and German Flats was on the right. The surveyor-general supposed that the doctor meant the right and left banks of the Mohawk, as the stream flowed; so wrote the names on his maps, and so the error was enacted into a law, and the reversal of the names was not known until too late, and so they have remained ever since. The old and true German Flats, which are situate in the angle formed by the confluence of the Mohawk river and the West Canada creek, were by this mistake placed on the opposite side of the Mohawk, and Fort Herkimer was carried by force of law over to the German Flats. And so the two places are now in false positions.” (Taken from R. W. Beers and Co., History of Herkimer County, N.Y. New York, 1879. Reprint, Ovid, N.Y.:W. E. Morrison and Co., 1980.)



1723: German Flatts was settled by Palatine German families.


1725: Patent was granted along the Mohawk River


1756: After the surrender of Oswego, the French over-ran the Mohawk Valley.


1757: After the surrender of Fort William Henry, much of German Flats was burned and many people were massacred.


1788: Town was formed on March 7 (it was the original fifth district of old Tryon County)


NY legislature authorized the election of a supervisor to oversee the administration of each town and to represent the towns on the county board of supervisors


1791: representatives of the board of supervisors represented the three existing towns (Herkimer, German Flatts, and Whitestown)


The county seat was at Whitestown.


The supervisors met not just at Whitestown, but various locations in the county.


A county courthouse and jail were built in Whitestown.


In a handwritten entry in The Supervisors Book, Herkimer County, John PORTEOUS is stated as being the supervisor of the Town of Herkimer, Frederic FOX as the supervisor of German Flatts, Jedediah SANGER as supervisor of Whitestown, and Jonas PLATT as clerk of Herkimer County. Further information in the minutes indicates that the meeting took place May 31, 1791 at the house of John MYERS, Inn keeper. Michael MYERS, Esquire was appointed as Treasurer of Herkimer County and James YULE was appointed Clerk of the Board of Supervisors of Herkimer County. A budget of Forty Pounds was established. Herkimer Town was to pay 15 pounds, German Flatts Town was to pay 13 pounds and Whitestown was to pay 12 pounds. Michael MYERS was appointed as the first county representative to the state legislature.


William COLBREATH, of Rome, was named sheriff.


Henry STARING, of Herkimer, was named judge.


Jonas PLATT, of Whitestown, was named county clerk.


1792: Frankfort, Litchfield, and Warren were formed from parts of the Town of German Flatts.


1793: A courthouse and jail were built in Herkimer.


1797: Thomas R. GOULD was appointed as a part-time district attorney.


1798: Oneida County was formed and Whitestown became part of that county.


Herkimer became the county seat of Herkimer County.


1824: The Gazetteer described German Flatts as a Post-Township on the south shore of the Mohawk, in Herkimer County, 5 miles southeast of Herkimer and about 75 miles from Albany. It was bounded on the north by the Mohawk River or by Herkimer, on the East by Danube, on the south by Warren and Columbia and on the west by Frankfort. It went on to state that German Flatts had been so known for about 100 years. Further it states that a canal has been built around the Wolf Rift in the Mohawk River which is 1 1/4 miles long. The canal has 2 mill-streams. There are 7 grain mills, 10 saw mills, 2 carding machines, 2 fulling mills, 1 oil mill, 1 ashery, and 1 meeting-house (75 years old). There are a number of locks in German Flatts and the Grand Canal runs along the Mohawk through the length of the town. Town Assessment:

Population: 2665


Taxable Property: $464,626


Electors: 468


Acres of improved land: 11,737


Cattle: 2327


Horses: 803


Sheep: 4334


Yards of cloth made in families in 1821: 19,921 (Note: How do you suppose they assessed that?)


Public monies received in 1821: #373.27


School Districts: 13


Children between ages 5 and 15: 864 (707 attended school)


1829: Part of the Town of German Flatts became part of the newly formed Town of Little Falls.


1834: The sheriff and his family were provided living quarters when the new jail was built. The county taxes paid for food for the sheriff’s family as well as the prisoners. The sheriff’s wife was expected to cook for the prisoners.


1848: William Cullen CRAIN, of Warren, served as speaker of the State Assembly


1869: From a report to the board of supervisors, these facts are gleaned about German Flatts:

OSGOOD’S Hotel, Ilion

Supervisor: E. A. BROOKS

Assessors: S. GETMAN, Nicholas VROOMAN, J. CRIM, Honorable Josiah SHULL, L. L. MERRY

Real estate is assessed at 33%

Personal Property is assessed at same rate (33%)

Bank stock is assessed at 33 1/3%

Cows are assessed at $30

About 2100 cows are milked in German Flatts.

There are several cheese factories.

The committee recommended that bank stock assessment be raised to 40% to be in line with the rest of the county.

Ilion population: 2800

Ilion real estate assessment: $212,969

Ilion is an extensive manufacturing village with 2 banks (National Mohawk Valley Bank and the Ilion National Bank), REMINGTON Agricultural Works and Mohawk Gas Light Company

The committee recommended that canal boats be assessed as a very large number were owned in German Flatts.

Mohawk population: 2300

Mohawk real estate assessment: $109,445

Farm land was equalized in 1868 as $14 per acre.


1887: Titus SHEARD, of Little Falls, served as speaker of the State Assembly.


1991: Town Officers:


Supervisor: Raymond STEELE

Town Clerk: Marie K. HENNINGS

Town Justices: Arthur DUNKEL and Raymond CASHMAN

Councilmen: Richard STEELE, Frank SPATTO, Fay DAVIS, and Daniel MONOHAN

Superintendent of Highways: Charles PRIMMAR

Tax Collector: Dorothy R. SNYDER

Assessor Chairman: Eleanor J. MANION

Historian: Francis CUNNINGHAM