Jan 01
Hester Janse Fonda (1615-1690); Douw Jellis Fonda (1700-1780); Jellis Douwe Fonda (1727-1791); John Peter Fonda (1735-); Adam Douw Fonda (1736-1808); Jellis Jacobse Fonda (1751-1839); John Isaac Fonda (1761-1814)
Hester Janse Fonda (1615-1690) Sources: Early American FamiliesMuch of the story of the Fonda beginnings in the New World centers around Hester Janse, who today would be called feisty and tenacious. Hester was born in Leiden, Holland, Netherlands in 1615. Rev. W. A. Williams in his book, “Early American Families” states that she and her husband, Jellis, were probably cousins and related to the Dutch painter Gerrit Dou (1613-75) who was a student of Rembrandt and painted in the early Rembrandt style in his hometown of Leiden. Williams goes as far as to say that Hester and Gerrit were siblings. Dou, unlike most painters who were borderline paupers, became quite wealthy, having many of his works purchased by Europe’s royalty. Captain Volkert Jansen Douw, who emigrated to New Netherlands in 1641 and was Albany’s first magistrate, was also probably a relative.

Jellis Douwse Fonda was born in 1614, the son of Douw Evertse Fonda (1580-1669) of Agum, Friesland, Netherlands. Jellis and Hester married on February 10, 1641 in Diemen, near Amsterdam, and had four children, Douw, Greetien, Sara and Abraham. Jellis worked as an innkeeper and blacksmith in Diemen.

Dutch Settlers in New Netherlands

It is not certain exactly when or why the family emigrated to New Netherlands (America), other than the obvious desire for freedom and opportunity. There is no known record of the family on ship passenger lists of the time. The first record is after they arrived in Beverwyck (Albany) in 1651, at which time the children were aged eleven, nine and seven. It could be assumed that they were aboard one of the many ships out of Amsterdam during the initial settlement of the New Netherlands Colony led by Dutch explorer Henry Hudson’s discovery in 1609 and the Dutch West India Company trading post operations, starting in 1624. Since the colony was intended strictly as a profit-making enterprise, and not as a means to transplant Dutch culture, the mouth of the Hudson River soon paled in comparison with the beaver-rich unexploited forests farther inland, where the company’s traders could be in close contact with the Native American hunters who supplied them with pelts in exchange for cheap European-made trade goods and wampum.

On October 19, 1651 Jellis was granted permission by the court to distill liquor in Greenbush, a small village across the Hudson River from Albany, in the region called Rensselaerwyck. The young family took the ferry across the river to Greenbush to establish their distillery next to the house belonging to Evert Pels, who himself operated one of the many breweries in Rensselaerwyck.

Early Albany Settlement - 1640's

Another record indicates that on June 16, 1653, Jellis brought suit against his neighbor, Jan Van Bremen, for failing to deliver a hog for which Jellis paid ½ anker of brandy, about 5 gallons. Jellis won judgment for 1.30 florins.

Court Capers

Jellis and Hester and their children remained in Greenbush at least through 1654. By 1658 they had crossed the river again to return to Beverwyck, the settlement outside Fort Orange. Around this time Jellis had fallen ill and had become incapacitated. He died the following year at the age of 45. While Jellis was still alive, Hester started up her own business as early as 1658, engaging in the lucrative beaver trade. Her commercial ventures continued for many years and she survived three husbands and an Indian Massacre and supported herself up to the time she died at age 75.

In 1658, while she was living in Beverwyck, she sued Hans Vos demanding payment of three beaver for a gun she sold him. The court ordered him to settle his account with Mrs. Fonda. In the same year she was sued by Ludovicus Corbus who charged that she had removed his wife’s petticoat (from the fence). Hester answered that she had not taken the petticoat but that the plaintiff had pawned it for beaver. The case was continued for lack of evidence. Corbus again charged Hester with taking an apron without his consent. Hester explained that the plaintiff’s wife had given her the apron as a pledge for 5½ beaver and she not being satisfied with the apron as a pledge, the plaintiff’s wife also gave her an undershirt. If all this petty litigation sounds contemporary, Kiliaen van Rensselaer, the first Patroon, shrewdly noted in his records that, “they stir one another up, suing one another more as a diversion than for the redress of wrongs.”

In 1660 Hester married Barent Gerritsen, a widower several years her junior. He arrived in Fort Orange as a youngster in 1646. Early in 1662, Barent, Hester and Sara, then about 16, moved to the newly settled community of Wiltwyck (Kingston). The settlers lived behind a stockade due to the threatening nature of the Esopus Indians. Barent, also a distiller, became famous for the superior type of brandy he produced and became modestly wealthy. Hester still continued her trading. It was truly a two career family, almost unheard of for another 300 years.

Beverwyck Fur Traders

At noon on June 7, 1663, the Esopus Indians beat back the guard at the gate and burned most of the settlement to the ground. Barent was one of the first to be bludgeoned to death. Hester and Sara and most of the remaining settlers were taken prisoner and forced to trek through 22 miles of unbroken wilderness. It was not until three months later on September 7th that Hester was released from captivity, but not without the loss of Sara. Hester never recovered from the shock and exposure and remained deaf for the rest of her life.

That same year Hester returned to Beverwyck where her daughter Greetien and her son-in-law Jan Juriansen Becker, a teacher, and their children Jan and Martina, and her son Douw Fonda were living. She had become guilderless and beaverless due to the tragedy in Wiltwyck. She set about regaining her financial security. She sold her first husband’s distillery equipment and she went back to court, the scene of many of her former triumphs. She was successful in collecting debts owed her deceased husband’s estate. Then in 1670 she married again, Theunius van Vechten, a man several years her senior. Theunius died in 1685 leaving Hester his modest estate. Even at this time she was conducting business as usual. Her last recorded act before her death in 1690 (no, it was not standing before a judge) was standing before the altar of the Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Albany at the christening of her grandchild Anna Fonda on February 2, 1690.


Douw Jellis Fonda (1700-1780) Sources: Frontiersmen of New YorkDouw was a dairy farmer, born in Schenectady, New York, a great-grandson of Dutch-born Jellis and Hester Fonda. Douw married, October 21, 1725, Maritje, daughter of the heroic Adam Vrooman, survivor of the Schenectady Indian Massacre in 1690. In 1751, Douw and family moved from Schenectady and settled in Caughnawaga, about 20 miles west. Standing on the flats between the present Mohawk Turnpike (now Route 5) and the Mohawk River, he resided in a large stone dwelling with a wing on each side. It had been the intention of the citizens to fortify the dwelling, and it was partially surrounded by strong pickets. Fonda’s three sons, John, Jellis, and Adam, also good Whigs, were living in the neighborhood.

This picture was taken from a miniature on ivory which was among the Fonda family possessions. It is claimed to be the likeness of the senior Douw Fonda from whom the village derives its name. (scanned from Centennial Souvenir - 1850-1950 - Historical Sketch of the Village of Fonda N.Y.)

In May of 1780, British living in Canada heard that American authorities were organizing all Loyalists into a ranger corps and any refusing to join where imprisoned in irons. Sir John Johnson, whose late father, Sir William Johnson, had been Superintendent of Indian Affairs, settling his family in the Mohawk Valley decades earlier, decided to go to their rescue. The first houses were not burned as Johnson tried to keep their presence a secret but soon homes of the patriots were set on fire and inhabitants were killed. Attacks on Oneida Castle, Fort Plain and Johnstown devastated the south side of the Mohawk Valley. There were still habitations outside the forts to the west of Schoharie Creek but they certainly were now frightened. Johnson and his men got to Johnson Hall (in Caughnawaga) where he recovered two barrels of his family silver and other valuables. These had been buried prior to his hasty retreat from the area to Canada in 1776.

On May 22nd, the rumors became a reality when Sir John Johnson with about 500 Indians, Loyalists and British regulars entered the Mohawk District of Tryon County and burned Caughnawaga (present day Fonda area), Tribes Hill and Johnstown. Besides burning over one hundred buildings, Johnson took over fifty prisoners and many of them were local militia officers and men of influence such as the Fonda’s and Sammons’s. Johnson’s forces of incendiaries also killed ten men and only one woman was known to have been tomahawked. This woman was the mother of Colonel Fisher but she soon recovered from the incident.

British Troops Raid Mohawk Valley - 1780

Some of those killed were Douw Fonda (a man of nearly eighty), Captain John and Harmon Fisher (brothers of the colonel), Lieutenant Hendrick Hanson, Corporal Amasa Stephens, Aaron and Lodowick Putman, William Gault and James Plateau (these last two men were loyalists). Colonel Fisher was tomahawked, scalped and left for dead but he not only survived his wounds like his mother but he lived a very active life afterwards serving as General of the Montgomery County Militia after the war and he died in 1809.

Major Jellis Fonda resided a short distance below the Caughnawaga Church, owning a large dwelling and store. At the time of this invasion, he was absent on public business. About a week previous, he sent part of his family and effects in a bateau to Schenectady, to which place they were accompanied by the wife and children of John Fonda. The wife of Major Fonda and her son Douw, were at home, however, on that morning. Hearing the firing at Visscher’s and discovering the light of the burning buildings below, Mrs. Fonda and her son fled to the river, where there was a ferry. Remaining in the ferry-boat, she sent Douw to get two horses, and being gone some time, fears were excited lest he had been captured. As her apprehensions for her son’s safety increased, she called him repeatedly by name. He returned with the horses and they began to cross the river, but had hardly reached its center when several of the enemy, attracted to the spot by her voice, arrived on the bank they had left. A volley of balls passed over the boat without injuring its passengers, and leaving it upon the south shore, they mounted their horses and directed their course towards Schenectady, where they arrived in due time.

Lt. Colonel Adam Fonda, at the time of Johnson’s invasion, resided near the Cayadutta Creek. Arriving at Adam Fonda’s, the enemy made him a prisoner, and fired his dwelling. Margaret, the widow of Barney Wemple, lived near Fonda, on a knoll not far from the creek, at which place she then kept a public house (inn). The enemy, making her son, Mina (short for Myndert), a prisoner, locked her up in her own dwelling

Plundering Villages Along the Mohawk

and set it on fire. From an upper window she made the valley echo to her cries of “murder” and “help,” which brought some one to her relief. Her voice arrested the attention of Captain John Fonda, who sent one of his slaves round the knoll which formerly stood west of the Fonda Hotel, to learn the cause of alarm; but hardly had the slave returned, before the enemy’s advance from both parties was there also, making Fonda a prisoner, and burning his dwelling.

The raiding party, on arriving at the dwelling of Major Fonda, plundered and set it on fire. There were then few goods in his store; but his dwelling contained some rare furniture for that period, among which was a musical clock, that; at certain hours. performed three several tunes. The Indians would have saved this house for the great respect they had for its owner, whom they had known as the warm personal friend of Sir William Johnson but their more than savage allies, the Tories insisted on its destruction. As the devouring element was consuming the dwelling, the clock began to perform, and the Indians, in numbers, gathered round in mute astonishment, to listen to its melody. They supposed it the voice of a spirit, which they may have thought was pleased with the manner in which they were serving tyranny. Of the plunder made at this dwelling, was a large circular mirror, which a citizen in concealment sew, first in the hands of a squaw, but it being a source of envy it soon passed into the hands of a stout Indian – not, however, without a severe struggle on her part. The Indians were extravagantly fond of mirrors, and it is not unlikely this costly one was broken in pieces and divided between them. Among the furniture destroyed in the house, was a marble table on which stood the statue of an Indian, whose head rested on a pivot, which, from the slightest motion was continually – “Niding, nodding, and nid, nid, nodding.”

When the alarm first reached the family of Douw Fonda, Penelope Grant, a Scotch girl living with him, to whom the old gentleman was much attached, urged him to accompany her to the hill whither the Romeyn family were fleeing; but the old patriot had become childish, and seizing his gun, he exclaimed – “Penelope, do you stay here with me – I will fight for you to the last drop of blood!”

Murder of Douw "The Patriot" Fonda

Finding persuasion of no avail, she left him to his fate, which was indeed a lamentable one; for soon the enemy arrived, and he was led out by a Mohawk Indian, known as “One armed Peter” (he having lost an arm), toward the bank of the river, where he was tomahawked and scalped. As he was led from the house, he was observed by John I. Hansen, a prisoner, to have some kind of a book and a cane in his hand. His murderer had often partaken of his hospitality, having lived for many years in his neighborhood. When afterwards reproved for his murder, he replied that as it was the intention of the enemy to kill him, “he thought he might as well get the bounty for his scalp as any one else!” Mr. Fonda had long been a warm personal friend of Sir William Johnson, and it is said that Sir John much regretted his death and censured the murderer. This Indian, Peter, was the murderer of Capt. Hansen, on the same morning. With the plunder made at Douw Fonda’s were four male slaves and one female, who were all taken to Canada. Several other slaves were of the plunder made in the neighborhood, and doubtless became incorporated with the Canada Indians.


Jellis Douwe Fonda (1727-1791) Sources: History of Schoharie County

Battle of Oriskany - 1777

Jellis was born in Schenectady, first son of Douw Jellis Fonda; first merchant in the Mohawk Valley west of Schenectady, and was a very prosperous trader and landowner. He was a Major of militia and served under Sir William Johnson against the French and Indians in the Battle of Lake George. He then commanded a company in the Battle of Oriskany against the British. Later, probably because of his being physically incapacitated by an injured leg, he became associated with the home guards.

Jellis was also appointed a county judge and a state senator. As one of the “principal freeholders and inhabitants of the Mohawk River and settlements adjacent” he signed a petition to form Tryon County in 1771. In May 1780, his house, mill, and ashery were destroyed during Sir John Johnson’s raid, causing $60,000 worth of property damage; he was away in Poughkeepsie, attending the Legislature.

Trading with Indians

For many years he carried on an extensive business for the times, trading with the white citizens of the valley, and the natives of western New York; the latter trade being carried on at old Fort Schuyler, now Utica; Fort Stanwix, now Rome, and Forts Oswego, Niagara and Schlosser. An abstract from his ledger shows an indebtedness of his customers at one time just before the revolution, amounting to over ten thousand dollars. Many of his goods he imported directly from London. To his Indian customers he sold blankets, trinkets, ammunition and rum; and received in return, peltries and ginseng root. The latter was at that time an important export item of what was then, Western New York; and the two named along with potash, almost the only commodities sold in a foreign market.

This early trade was carried on from the large stone store which stood near his residence. Jellis built a home and an “ashery” six miles west of Caughnawaga on the north side of the river along Canagara Creek. It was part of a great tract of 6,000 acres of land given by the Mohawks; about 1/16 to Captain Harmanus Van Slyke, whose grandmother was half French, half Mohawk. The deed of gift was confirmed to Captain Harmanus by King Charles I in 1723. The land runs along the Mohawk for six miles.

The eastern half Van Slyke sold to Colonel DePeyster, treasurer of the Province of New York, who owned it at his death. The trustees of his estate sold it to Jellis Fonda in 1768. It included what is known as “The Nose,” a conspicuous landmark near this spot. Major Fonda, soon after acquiring the property, began the erection of his mills and “ashery,” wood ashes being the source of potash. This complete set of buildings was destroyed in the first raid of Sir John Johnson, along with nearly every other building on the north side of the river from “The Nose,” just east of Canajoharie down to Tribes Hill. Fortunately Major Jellis was not at home at the time. His wife and their son Douw were warned of the coming of the raiders and escaped across the river. The house was completely demolished and, it is said, while burning, a music box began to play. The Indians ascribed its music to “spirits.”

Settling the Wilderness

Fonda’s Patent – This was the first patent in Oneida county granted in New York after the Revolution. It was granted Jan. 31, 1786 to Jelles (or Giles) Fonda. The 40,000-acre patent was issued on condition that within three years a settler for each 500 acres should be located on the land. The land of this patent is mostly in Rome and Floyd, with some in the town of Western, and there was quite a rush to settlers to those towns as the three year period came to a close.

The Oneida county records show that in 1786 Mr. Fonda sold portions of his patent as follows: an undivided one eighth to John Lansing, Jr., who was afterwards chief justice and chancellor of New York; an undivided one eighth in 1788 was sold to each of the following: Gov. George Clinton, William Floyd (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence), Stephen Lush, and John Taylor. In 1787 the patent was surveyed into 100 lots by James Cockburn. The owners gave perpetual leases, reserving an annual wheat rent, so much per acre, payable in Albany. That was then the easiest way for the settlers in a new country to pay the rent and for their lands. Each year loaded teams with wheat for rent wended their way down the valley, stopping over night at the country tavern, the teamsters generally taking with them their own provisions and oats for their horses. The usual wheat rent was “18 bushels good merchantable winter wheat for each 100 acres”. Fort Bull is in lot 98, very near the line of the Oriskany Patent. That lot fell to the share of George Clinton and later to Mr. L’Hommedieu.

House of Major Jellis Douw Fonda - Fonda, NY - built in 1790

Following the war, in 1790, the Major built the present house on Montgomery Terrace in Fonda, overlooking the Valley from its sightly location, but unfortunately he never lived to occupy it. His slaves brought his body down the river from the home in which he was then living, doubtless a more or less temporary one on the site of the house destroyed by Sir John in 1780, and he was buried from the all but completed building. Following the funeral, his family occupied the new home.

There was much speculation in new lands in the interior of New York, between the French and American wars with England, and thousands upon thousands of acres changed owners for a mere song – land now valued at millions of dollars. Among the speculators were Sir William Johnson, Governor Tryon, Major Jellis Fonda, and Colonel John Butler. Lands on the Sacandaga River were brought into market at this period. Mr. Fonda had for many years been extensively engaged in merchandising, and was much of that period in the militia commissary department. He was a man of wealth, influence and respectability, and at the beginning of colonial difficulties, had the most flattering inducements offered him to side with the loyalists, which he promptly rejected.

Dutch and Irish Rivalries

The following anecdote is believed to be true. In the employ of Sir William Johnson a few years before his death, was an Irishman named McCarthy, by reputation the most noted pugilist in Western New York. The baronet offered to pit his fellow countryman against any man who could be produced for a fist fight.

Major Fonda, tired of hearing the challenge, and learning that a very muscular Dutchman named John Van Loan, was living near Brakabeen, in the Schoharie Valley, made a journey of some forty or fifty miles, to secure his professional services, for he, too, was reputed a bully. Van Loan readily agreed to flog the son of Erin, for a ten pound note. At a time appointed, numbers were assembled at Caughnawaga to witness the contest between the pugilists. After McCarthy had been swaggering about in the crowed for a while, and greatly excited public expectation by his boasting, inducing numbers to bet on his head, his competitor appeared ready for the contest – clad for the occasion in a shirt and breeches of dressed deer skin fitted tight to his person. A ring was formed and the battle commenced. The bully did his best, but it was soon evident that he was not a match for his Dutch adversary, who slipped through his fingers like an eel, and parried his blows with the greatest ease. Completely exhausted and almost bruised to a jelly, Sir William’s gamester was removed, looking if not expressing bewilderment. (Abraham A. Van Horne, who obtained the facts from a son of Van Loan).

Fort Plank Military Trial - 1779

In a letter to Maj. Taylor, then commanding the Johnstown Fort, dated November 27 (1779), Col. Fisher states that he is under the necessity of convening a court martial on the following day, and that he, the Major, should attend, bringing with him another officer, also to act as a member.

The same letter states that an accident happened at that fort the same morning, by which two men were wounded-one mortally. The nature of the accident is perhaps explained in a letter from Col. Fisher to Gen. Ten Broeck, dated the 28th instant.

In it he states, that during his absence to visit Fort Plank, a detachment of men from Col. Stephen J. Schuyler’s regiment mutinied, and expressing a determination to leave the fort, charged their pieces with ball, in presence of the officers. They were at first persuaded to unsling their packs and remain until Col. Fisher returned, but seeing Captain Jellis Fonda, (known afterwards as Major Fonda,) then in temporary command of the garrison, writing to Col. F., the mutineers again mounted packs, and knocking down the sentinels in their way, began to desert in earnest. Capt. Fonda ordered them to stand, but not heeding his command they continued their flight, when he ordered the troops of the Fort to fire upon them; the order was obeyed, and Jacob Valentine, one of the number, fell mortally wounded, and expired the next morning. The letter does not so state, but I have been advised that the deserters considered their term of enlistment at an end. The court martial, I suppose, convened to try Capt. Fonda, as I have been credibly informed that he was thus tried, and honorably acquitted.


John Peter Fonda (1735-) Sources: Landmarks of Rensselaer Co.Born in Albany, NY; one of the first settlers of the town of Brunswick in 1750; his wife was Dirkje Fonda Winne, his second cousin, and they had 9 children; Revolutionary War Officer (Captain, 6th Albany Co. Militia, 4th Rensselaerwyck Battalion, DAR Patriot Index Centennial Edition).

The mother of Maria Vanderheyden was Rachel Fonda, daughter of Capt. John P. Fonda and Dirkie Winne. The Fondas lived on what was called the “Flatts,” a district along the Poestenkill Creek on the east border of Troy, near the bridge crossing the creek and leading to Albia. They owned a large estate in this vicinity, over 500 acres, it is said. Where the present pond is formed by a mill dam connecting with a collar shop, was an orchard, and the house was near the present bridge.

First Settlers of Brunswick, NY - 1750

There is an interesting anecdote relating to this old place. The story dates back to the Revolutionary days, and it was during this period that Derick Vanderheyden was courting Rachel Fonda, who was later to become his wife. It is best told in the words of Mrs. Catherine Schermerhorn Shipherd in a letter to her granddaughter in 1884.

“The house was located on a flat of meadow, bordering on the north side of the Poestenkill, and the south bank of the Poestenkill Creek was a range of abrupt rocks, where the Tories concealed themselves, watching and waiting until the family should leave the house, so they could rush down and rob the premises. There were two brothers and the father at home, and being the Sabbath day, they went out at early eventide to make some calls, and the father, to bring up the cows, leaving the women alone. The robbers seized this opportunity and went into the house, setting a guard at each door while the rest ransacked from dome to base, taking whatever they wanted. My grandfather (Derick I. Vanderheyden) unexpectedly arrived to call on his prospective bride. One of the men took the reins of the horse from his hands, bidding him go direct into the house, which he did, being only one against a party of seven thieves. After they had selected what they wanted, they went to the mother and two daughters and took all the jewelry on their persons, except from the daughter who later became my grandmother. As one of them took her hands to remove her rings, he looked into her face and said: ‘You are such a pretty girl, you may keep your rings.'”

Poestenkill Creek and Meadow

Another descendant of John Fonda states that the old grandfather, Peter Fonda, was also in the house when the robbers entered, and that he rose from his chair exclaiming: “Must we give up without a fight?” But he was too old and feeble and powerless to do anything but submit. The Tories took all the silver, linen and guns, and the silver knee buckles belonging to the old gentleman. The guns were afterward found hidden under the old wooden bridge, crossing the Poestenkill, where a more modern bridge now stands. The linen was discovered on the high bank on the opposite side of the creek. Later some of the thieves were caught, tried and sentenced to be hung. One of them returned to John Fonda one of the stolen knee buckles and a spoon, which are now in the possession of one of his descendants.


Adam Douw Fonda (1736-1808) Sources: History of Schoharie CountyAdam, younger brother of Jellis, was born in Schenectady and was a career military man, attaining the rank of Lt. Col. in Tryon County Militia, 3rd Battalion (Mohawk). He later became a Tryon County Judge, State Assemblyman, and Safety Committee Member.

In May of 1780, Sir Johnson, at the head of about 500 troops (British, Indians and Tories) began raids in the Mohawk Valley. They burned the homes of John and Adam Fonda, brothers, and made them both captive. They were eventually sent to and imprisoned in Montreal. Adam left Montreal on or about Aug. 13, 1781 (where he had been imprisoned for about 10 months) for St. Johns, Quebec (now Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, on the far end of Lake Champlain) along with several other POWs. They were to be exchanged for British POWs held by the Americans. After the exchange was effected, the freed prisoners were delivered by boat to Skeensborough, NY, at the head of Lake Champlain (now Whitehall, NY), arriving on Aug. 25th, 1781. From there they each made their way to respective homes. Ironically, Adam`s first cousin, Ephraim Vrooman, was among his fellow prisoners.

Peggy (Fonda) Wemple Grist Mill

Foremost among the heroines of the Revolution in this region was the widow Peggy Wemple, sister of Adam, Jellis and John. She was a Fonda, and the patriots of that name had no reason to be ashamed of her. Deprived of her husband, Barney Wemple, in 1771, she was left with unusual cares and responsibilities, which she met with remarkable energy and perseverance. She kept an inn beside the creek on the old road to Johnstown, and opposite the site of Geo. F. Miller’s house in Fonda, and also managed a grist-mill, with the help of her boy Mina.

Having occasion to go to the mill one winter evening during the Revolution, she was a little startled at finding herself confronted by an Indian, but was soon relieved by discovering that it was a dead one, cold and stiff, placed in her way by some mischievous person to test her nerves.

Like all the patriots of the neighborhood, she suffered by the foray of Sir John Johnson in May, 1780. The Indians captured her boy, and shutting her up in her tavern, set fire to it. Her cries brought help and she was rescued. Her voice arrested the attention of her brother John, who sent one of his slaves round the knoll which formerly stood west of the Fonda Hotel, to learn the cause of alarm; but hardly had the slave returned, before the enemy’s advance from both parties was there also, making Fonda a prisoner, and burning his dwelling.

The boy Mina was released at Johnstown, and allowed to find his way back to Caughnawaga. Mrs. Wemple’s house was destroyed, and probably her mill, but undismayed she built again, and in the winter of 1780, she ground and bolted 2,700 skipples (2,025 bushels) of wheat at the order of the Tryon County Committee, for the use of the colonial soldiers at Forts Ticonderoga, Hunter, Plank, and Stanwix.

Adam & John Fonda Prisoners in Canada - 1780

At the commencement of hostilities, John Fonda had some difficulty with Alexander White, sheriff of Tryon county, about their hogs and cattle breaking in upon each others premises, which resulted in a quarrel, in which White called Fonda “a damned rebel”; and the latter, provoked to anger, did not scruple to give his majesty’s peace officer a severe caning: the result was, White took Fonda to the Johnstown Jail. The Citizens in a mob soon after proceeded to the jail and liberated Fonda, and attempted to secure the person of the sheriff, then at the village inn kept by Mattice.

Armed with a double-barreled gun, White fired several times on the assailants from an upper window, and then secreted himself in a chimney, where he remained while the patriot party, who had forced an entrance, were in the house. Soon after, sheriff White, whose official authority was now at an end, was smuggled from Johnstown in a large chest by his political friends; and his wife shortly after followed his fortunes to Canada. The dwelling, vacated by White, was occupied by John Fonda afterwards. The property, owned at his death by Sir Wm. Johnson, stood on the present site of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Fonda.

Two sons of Adam were twins, Douw Henry and Henry Douw; prior to Henry Douw’s death in 1891 at age 81, they had the distinction of being the oldest male twins in the country. Douw Henry Fonda (1809-95) owned 233 acres; he married Ann Veeder, (1810-90) daughter of Albert Veeder, son of Col. Abraham Veeder. Soon after their marriage, they took up residence in the small stone house then standing on the farm willed to him by his father, becoming the third successive owner since his patentee great grandfather, Douw “The Patriot” Fonda, to whom it had been granted in 1748. His family grew rapidly, the stone house became the foundation of the second home, a frame structure which Douw and Ann began to replace by a still larger one in 1848, completed in 1856.

On September 13, 1833, Douw Henry Fonda was appointed a Sergeant, under the command of Daniel Moore, in the 34th Regiment, 11th Brigade, 14th Division of the New York State Militia. As such he served seven years. He was exempted from military duty on November 10, 1840; his certification was signed by his older brother, Brigadier-General Peter Henry Fonda (1802-).

Rebuilding the Homestead

When, in 1848, the present farm home was begun, the first frame house was moved to a site, south, and became “The Tenant House;” it was burned during the summer of 1898, and replaced before the fall. In 1852, when the Fonda-Johnston Road became a two-lane highway (one lane plank, and the other dirt) Douw Henry lost the sight of his left eye by the same dynamite blast which killed his brother Adam, and which widened the roadbed through the slate outcrop between his home and the lands south of it. The present road was built on the former during 1910 and 1911 (Family Bible Records).

All the timbers used in the building on this farm except those used in the four-story laying-house, built in 1935, and in the remodeling of the homestead, in 1936, came from trees grown there; all the foundation stones were gathered in the fields except those cut from the limestone outcrop at nearby Stone Arabia. These were hauled to the Fonda Farm on home-made wagons drawn by teams of oxen and were loaded and unloaded manually. The huge stones forming the front porch and the smaller ones in the wall along the highway were secured in the same area. All the first fences were of stone gathered in the fields and carefully piled, one upon another to a height of about three feet. Trees were cut and stumps were destroyed by hand; seed was planted; crops were harvested by hand and stored without the aid of machines. It was during the earliest years of Douw Henry’s grandchildren that machines began to replace the endless back breaking hours of labor on farms in the Mohawk Valley.


Jellis Jacobse Fonda (1751-1839) Sources: Schenectady History

Battle of Bemis Heights - 1777

Major Jellis J., only son of Jacob, a Gunstocker by trade, was one of the earliest, most stirring and unhesitating patriots of Schenectady. On the first report of a shot from Lexington, this young brave, who had already tasted military life, just married, and surrounded by the comforts of considerable wealth, immediately raised and commanded a company of Schenectady Minute Men numbering more than 100. He was appointed Captain of the 2d Albany County Militia company known as “The Greens” due to the color of their uniforms. He served with particular distinction in the Campaign against Burgoyne and at the Battle of Bemis Heights.

On September 2, 1775, agreeable to a request from the Committee of Safety, a meeting of all the militia of the town of Schenectady was held at the Dutch Church for the purpose of forming companies in accordance with the plans of the Continental and Provincial Congresses. At this meeting the three companies already formed were reorganized and two additional companies raised. Jellis J. Fonda and John Van Patten were retained as captains; John Mynderse, who had originally been selected as a lieutenant in Captain Van Dyke’s company, was promoted to the rank of captain; and to the command of the new companies were elected Abraham Wemple and Thomas Wasson. The companies of Captains Fonda and Mynderse retain their classification as minute men and as such served until the spring of 1777, when they were incorporated with the regular militia. The motto of these companies, as noted on their flags, was “Liberty or Death”, and because of the color of the uniform worn by their members Captain Mynderse’s company was known as “The Blues” and Captain Fonda’s company as “The Green’s”. Jellis was reappointed June 20, 1776, the commission being signed by Governor Dewitt Clinton. In the fall of the same year, he marched with his company to Stillwater where they were in camp for some time. From Stillwater they marched to Fort Ann, thence down Wood Creek to Skenesborough as guards for boats.

Albany Minute Men

Jellis Fonda served with particular distinction in the campaign against Burgoyne and at the battle of Bemis Heights. He served in many expeditions and on various garrison duties during the succeeding years of the war, being especially zealous in the discharge of his offices. While on guard duty at Schenectady he was spoken of as “attending roll call and giving orders every morning at daybreak, sometimes 2 hours before day.” He was actively engaged in the battle of Johnstown (October, 1781) and in the pursuit of the enemy, and on this occasion he “so highly distinguished himself that Colonel Willett addressed him a letter of thanks for his services and praising him for his intrepidity.” A pensioner under the Act of June 7, 1832.

In 1777, when Sir William Johnson, with his Scotch retainers, had fortified themselves in “Johnson Hall,” Generals Schuyler, Ten Broeck and Herkimer, with a large body of militia, went there to reduce them. When, out of the whole number, General Schuyler selected Captain Fonda, from his known fearlessness of character, to command a forlorn hope of 200 men for the assault, of which his company of minute men formed one-half. The assailing forces were without cannon. But when this brave officer in the lead, under the eye and direction of the noble Schuyler, shouted on his column to the assault, with undaunted dash (for Fonda was in deadly earnest), Sir William immediately lowered his flag and surrendered without firing a gun. Fonda was ever afterwards called, wherever known, one of the most fearless of men.

West Point, New York - 1790

Jellis’ cousin, Jellis Abraham Fonda, also a Revolutionary War Officer, born 1759 in Schenectady, was serving as an ensign in Captain Jesse Van Slyck’s company, 2nd Albany County Militia in 1777. He performed service at Fort Ann, Fort George and Fort Edward, and was in the battle of Bemis Heights. In 1778 he was enrolled in Captain John Mynderse’s company and attached to General Frederick Visscher’s brigade. During the year 1780 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and served in Colonel Morris Graham’s Levies at West Point and Harper’s Ferry. At West Point he acted as brigade major for a few weeks in the absence of Major Lansing.

He was one of the 1200 men whom General Benedict Arnold (previous to his treachery) sent away to Fort Edward to weaken the garrison at West Point. During the years 1781 and 1782 he was attached to the Levies under Colonel Willet with the same rank as before. He saw service at Fort Plain, German Flats, Fort Stanwix and at the battles of Torlock and Johnstown. On November 1, 1782, he was promoted to the rank of captain. In February, 1783, he went with the expedition to Fort Oswego under Colonel Marinus Willett. Thereafter, he was for many years Clerk of Schenectady County.


John Isaac Fonda (1761-1814) Sources: New York State MuseumSon of Albany area residents Isaac D. and Susanna DeForest Fonda, John was also was known as “Fondey”. While still in his teens, he joined the crusade for American liberties. He was an ensign in an Albany Ranger company and also a quartermaster and lieutenant in Colonel Marinus Willet’s regiment of the New York troops. Surviving records refer to his militia unit as “Fondey’s Party”.

Albany, New York - 1797

In 1779, his name first appeared on a city assessment roll. In 1780, he began to take his place in Albany society when he was appointed fire master in the second ward. With the end of the war, he entered business (selling imported glass and ceramics) and began to acquire real estate along Foxes Creek. His extensive real estate dealings in Albany and Watervliet are chronicled online. He married Cornelia Hun in 1783 and settled into her father’s home on North Market Street at the corner of Van Tromp. Their children were baptized in the Albany Dutch church where both parents were members. His growing family was counted within the household of his father-in-law in 1790. By 1800, he had taken over as the head of the third ward household that now included a dozen members. In 1803, his family was memorialized in a beautiful portrait by Albany artist Ezra Ames. Over the next decade, Fonda/Fondey brought his sons and son-in-law into his business and sought to develop his waterfront holdings. The landmark home and grounds were North End fixtures.

John Fondey Family - 1803

Ezra Ames was Albany’s premier portraitist for more than 40 years, with over 700 recorded pictures. In addition, he painted occasional landscapes, still lifes, and history pictures, and was active as an engraver as well. AIHA has the largest holding of Ames’s work, numbering 66 paintings and 27 miniatures. The Fondey Family remains one of the artist’s most ambitious works. John Fondey Jr. is shown with his wife Cornelia and their four children. Ames recorded the identities and ages of the subjects of the painting in an amazing piece of trompe l’oeil work, the curling paper in the upper right, which appears to hang down in front of the picture. John Fondey sold looking glasses, fiddles, china, glass and earthenware from a firm on Court Street in Albany. The AIHA collection contains a number of other pieces originally belonging to the Fondey family.


written by admin \\ tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.