The Life and Times of Louis DuBois – Part II
Soon after arriving at Wiltwyck, we may suppose Louis DuBois took measures for securing a home and a portion of land; for he had been a tiller of the soil, and, like the Old Testament patriarchs, “his trade hath been about cattle.” We have commonly assumed that his home was at Wiltwyck, now Kingston, before going to New Paltz.
This is probably incorrect. His home at this period was at Hurley three miles from Kingston, where he kept a store and traded thriftily with his neighbors and the people of the back settlements, and with the Indians.
At the Indian raid of 1663,Hurley was almost entirely destroyed. Here the Indians secured most of the captives, and amongst them the wife and three children of DuBois, as will appear hereafter. And now Louis and his Christian friends join heart and hand in the work of the church, which had been organized, however, in 1659– before their arrival.
Let me hastily trace the ever-widening stream from this early opened fountain. The first effort was to build a house of worship. It was a crude affair of logs, and upon the lot now occupied by the stately edifice of the First Reformed Church of Kingston. This building remained until 1679, and was occupied during the ministry of Hermanus Blom, Peter Tessemaker, and Laurentius Van Gaasbeek.
A second building was completed in 1690, a few weeks after the death of Dominie Van Gaasbeek. This church was in the ancient style, with highly colored windowglass, bearing the coat-of-arms of the principal families; (this glass was made and painted in New York by Even Duykinck and was set by his son Gerrit, who came up for the purpose.) A third was erected in 1721, and the same enlarged in 1752.
In 1777, October 16th, the church was burnt, with the village. It was rebuild upon the old walls, after the revolution, and this remained, the ornament of the village and the center of religious influences , until 1833, when the time-honored and noble structure yielded to spirit of destruction, and the brick church, on the opposite side of the street, was erected,–now, unhappily, surrendered to the Romanists.
The congregation worshipped in the brick church until September 21,1853, when they entered their present large and handsome edifice. This was the mother-church in this region. If Louis DuBois and his co-laborers could have foreseen the fruits of their toil in this section of the country, they would indeed have been like those who “foresaw the day of Christ, and were glad.
There seem to have been a number of Huguenot settlers in Wiltwyck and vicinity. Co-mingled with the Dutch. The records of baptisms and marriages kept by the ministers were in Dutch, but it is an interesting fact, that the records of the Kingston church were kept in the French tongue until some years after 1700 Though the preaching was doubtless mainly in Dutch, yet the Huguenot membership and influence was very considerable.
A satisfactory peace had been concluded with the Esopus Indians, and prosperity now attended the settlement. The lands in the neighborhood were successfully cultivated, and hamlets formed at Hurley and Marbletown. The village increased in importance. Good Dominie Blom saw prosperity attend his spiritual labors,* his membership increasing from sixteen to sixty within three years.
But peace was the exception, not the rule, in those early times. The Indians were jealous and inimical, and unfortunately for the good name of civilization and Christianity, as has been the case often since, were not without just cause of offence. After the conclusion of peace, the director- general was so impolite- to use no severer word-as to transport eleven Indians to Curacoa, where formerly he had been governor, to be sold as slaves. Under what pretext this outrage was committed we do not know, but the consequences were very serious.
The Indians naturally determined on revenge, and from the fact that the Esopus country was made the seat of war, it is probable that the enslaved Indians were of that tribe, while there is proof that the other tribes, and especially those further south, sympathized with them.
The particulars of this war, which is called the “Second Esopus War,” are fully given in Doc. Hist. N.Y., vol. IV. We are especially interested in it, because Louis DuBois and his family were among the suffers.The little town of Wiltwyck had no suspicion of the impending storm. The stockade was in a dilapidated condition and he fort nearly incapable of defense, though a few soldiers still lingered about it.
The Indians had just been invited by the Director-General to meet him, and renew the peace, and they gave no indication of unwillingness to do so. The people were scattered about, at their various occupations in town and field. In this condition of affairs, on June 7th,1663, the Indians entered within the stockade and under various pretexts scattered themselves through the town.
Suddenly, near noon, a horseman dashed through the Mill gate, now corner of North Front and Greene, crying, “The Indians have destroyed the New Village:-that is, Hurley. This was the signal for the slaughter. The tomahawk and the musket did their dreadful work. The torch was applied at the windward of the village: the smoke railed over the terrified people who could not know how to strike their enemies, or protect their own lives and families. Some fled to the fort; others fired from their houses, or met the foe bravely, hand to hand, in the streets.
Shots in rapid succession, screams, groans, the mother’s cry and the child’s answer the loud calls of the men as they concerted same plan of defense, and the bloody work of the savages followed! Many a scream ended suddenly by the heavy thud of the war-club. The women, helpless to fight or flee, were herded together with the children, and driven outside the gates. It was an extreme moment, for courage and carnage were not wanting.
Those in the town, under Captain Thomas Chalmers, acted a noble part, and he, though wounded and constantly under fire, soon rallied the available force of the village. The sheriff and commissaries were fully equal to the emergency and even Dominie Blom was among the bravest in this terrific blast of savage warfare. There seem not to have been above twenty available men. “By these men, “says the account, “most of whom had neither guns nor side-arms, were the Indians, through God’s mercy, chased and put to flight. By a special favor of Providence, the wind changed when the flames were at their height, and spared the village from complete destruction.
We do not know where Louis DuBois was during the time of the Indian raid upon Wiltwyck. It is possible that he was engaged in the field at too great a distance to return until the fight was over. Or, if his residence was at or near Hurley, his absence was easily accounted for. We have every reason to know that his courage and physical strength would have aided greatly in resisting the savages, had he been present.
A special instance of his prowess and presence of mind may be quoted from Captain Kregier’s account, which of itself is sufficient proof of what we say: “Louis, the Walloon, went to-day to fetch his oxen, which had gone back of Juriaen Westphaelen’s land. As he was about to drive home the oxen, three Indians, who lay in the bush and intended to seize him, leaped forth. When one of these shot at him with an arrow, but only slightly wounded him, Louis, having a piece of palisade in his hand, struck the Indian on the breast with it, so that he staggered back, and Louis escaped through the kill (creek).
“A man who, even when wounded, could overpower three armed Indians surprising him from an ambush, and escape them, was a man to be missed in the bloody melee that swept through the shivering streets of Wiltwyck.
But though the ruthless enemy had been driven out, and the gates shut against them, the scenes within were most distressing. Says an account, written at the time “There lay the burnt and slaughtered bodies, together with those wounded by bullets and axes. The last agonies and lamentations of many were dreadful to hear.”
“The dead lay as sheaves behind the mower. “Outside the walls, were not only the enemy, but with them the captive wives and children. It did not avail them that the gates were hastily closed, or that their husbands and brothers and sons came hurrying in from the fields, so that by evening the town was safe from further attack. A dreadful captivity of shame and suffering was before them and perhaps death itself.
Among the captives were the wife and three children of Louis DuBois. We may imagine their terror and distress as their merciless captors drove them forward through the forests. They knew not who lay dead in the half-burnt town, or what terrible fate awaited them. In that captive company were one man, twelve married women, and thirty-one children. All of the women were mothers with their children, except one who had been but lately married, and was driven from her young husband, each ignorant of each other’s fate.
Ten children were there without father or mother. These captives remained among’ the Indians for three months. They were separated from each other, and were constantly removed from place to place to avoid rescue. Some were in charge of old squaws. Others were held in particular families, and others still were required to accompany the Indians in their wanderings through the first thought was to repair the fort and stockades.
Pastor Blom, who had entered with such energy into the material conflict, remembered soon after that conflict was fully over, that his office was especially to pour into wounded hearts the oil and wine of Christian consolation. “I have been in their midst” (of dying), he says, “and have gone into their houses and along the roads to speak a word in season, and not without danger of being shot by the Indians. But I went on my mission. and considered not my life my own. Noble words! He adds: “I have also every evening, during a whole month, offered up prayer with the congregation on the four points of our fort, under the blue sky. “The church seems not to have been burnt. We have a list of twelve houses destroyed while the church is not mentioned.
Now follows in the little settlement a period of distressing anxiety. The terrors of an Indian war were upon them, a foe that could spring out of the dark forest suddenly, as the lightening from the black clouds. The first care, after guarding the town, was to send to New York for help.
On June 16th, Lieut. Christian Nyssen arrived with forty-two soldiers and on July 4th came our old friend Captain Martin Kregier, and a larger force in two yachts, and ample military supplies. But the poor captive women and children were not to be rescued in a day. The summer passed in negotiating with the Indians for their return, and in guarding the gathering of the harvest.
We cannot suppose that Louis DuBois was all this time unconcerned about the situation of his family. He prayed often, but he expected no miraculous deliverance of the long-lost captives. How gladly, then, he hailed the prospect of some efficient means for their restoration! The attempt was prepared for early in September. A strong detachment of military, of which Captain Kregier had chief command, was to invade the Indian country. Information was carefully gleaned from friendly Indians, and from one or two escaped captives.
A captured Wappinger Indian was employed to guide the rescuing party, having promise of his freedom and a cloth coat if he led them aright, but death in case of treachery. The place where the captives were held was the “New Fort,” six miles from the junction of the Shawangunk kill with the Wall kill. The “Old Fort” was on the Kerhonksen, in Warwarsing. The Indian instructed the party of whites to ascend the first big water (Rondout) to where it received the second (Wall kill); then ascend the second big water to the third (Shawangunk), and near its mouth they would find the Indian stronghold. Here the pony set out from Fort Wiltwyck September 3rd.
There were but forty-five men, all told, under Captain Kregier, with eight horses, taken for the bearing of the wounded. In the company, besides the soldiers and two Negro slaves, were seven freemen. We have no record of their names. They were volunteers. We know, however, that Louis DuBois was one of the number, and others may have been his brother-in-law, Mathew Blanchon, his intimate friends Antoine Crispell and Jan Joosten, who stood witnesses at the baptism of some of his children, and whose wives and children were captives. And may we not think that among the seven were Martin Harmansen, who had lost a wife and four children, and Joost Ariaens, whose young bride, Fennetje, had been ruthlessly torn from his embrace?
* At the date of 1665, there were fifty-five holders of pews, and Louis DuBois paid thirteen guilders a year for pew-rent.