Neu Zolms – The Town

Neu Zolms, the town, is located at what the Haudenosaunee call “Deo-Wain-Sta”, or The Great Carrying Place.  This is the portage to and from the Mohawk River to the east and to and from Wood Creek to the west, leading to Lake Oneida and thence up to Lake Ontario.  Merchants and travelers coming up the Mohawk River from the Hudson have to  carry their cargo and boats overland between 1 & 3/4 and 6 miles (depending on the season) to continue west to Lake Ontario.

The settlement is centered around a star fort, whose lower half is stone and whose upper half is made of large tree trunks, trimmed and laid horizontally. It is named “Weisefels” for the white rock from which it is made.  Commonly, however, it is simply called “Neu Zolms” as is the village outside its walls. Within the walls of the fort is sufficient space for most if not all of the permanent residents of Neu Zolms, but many settlers don’t live there.  It is a refuge in case of Indian or European attack for them.  But, as one man put it, “Ya canna farm on a flagstone floor.”  It is situated on a bit of higher ground, about 200 yards north from the northern most portion of the Carry.  This extra 20 to 30 feet of elevation gives the guns of the fort considerably more range than they would otherwise have.  In addition, the regulars and militia stationed there regularly clear off the brush and tall grass and saplings which regularly grow in the space around the fort, to a distance of nearly 300 yards.   Inside are the barracks for single men who are either in the 2 Kompanie, Fourth IR or in Castel’s Kompanie of Militia, as these two units are the permanent garrison, along with Grenadier Kompanie, Fourth IR together with four extra 3-pounder guns and a precious pair of 6-pounder field guns purchased from a Dutch family named Herscheimer who had been burned out and raided once too many times and sold them to the Barony for enough money to start over again, somewhere in the Dutch settlements.  It holds as well an armoury of weapons, mostly pike, sword and buckler as well as about a kompanie’s worth of muskets, together with nearly 2,000 pounds of gunpowder which has been mostly divided into paper charges each holding one charge for a musket plus the ball or bagged for the 3-pounder and 6-pounder artillery .  The powder is stored quite carefully, in the cellar of the armoury – stone-walled cellar – in separate wooden floored rooms, set up off the floors on pallets to keep it dry and so that no stray spark might set it off.

Within the open courtyard of the fort is a stable and another barracks for the riders of the Freiherr’s Troop of Horse Jagers.  Numbering only 50 men, the Jagers train for courier and scouting duties.  The latter can only be usefully done on horseback in the relatively open area between the fort and Lake Oneida where the Carry ends.  The dense forests outside of that fairly small area make formed mounted troops useless.  For that reason, they are also trained to fight dismounted as foot jagers as well and on foot there is no better tracker or scout in the European settlements than one of the Freiherr’s Jagers.  There are other wooden buildings:  a smithy, several stores, and a Lutheran church and rectory.  A fair number of homes are within the fort as well, although they are located against the stone half of the outer walls with their doors and windows facing into the courtyard.

Sufficient room and stores are available within the fort to provide food and shelter, comfortably, for about 500 souls in addition to the permanent residents and garrison.  Probably, 1,000 could be squeezed into the fort if need be; it hasn’t been needed yet.  A deep well and a permanent spring within the walls provide clean water for drinking and washing.  The families of these militia kompanies live in the village which has grown up around Fort Weisefels together with various traders, woodsmen, hunters, loggers and other settlers.  The farms which support these settlement are located all within about a 2 mile radius of the fort, more to the west than to the east.  Crops grown here include corn, beans and squash, after the fashion of the Haudenosaunee.  The Mohawk River provides good fishing in season and from about October until February it also provides recreation in the form of ice skating, a pass-time our German friends learned from the Dutch during the first colonists’ stay among them.  Sweet berries are found in season in the neighboring woods, and some few of the farmers are experimenting with grape vines, apple and pear trees, as well as cultivating the various nut trees such as walnut which are native to this region.  This is the eldest of the settlements and the most populated and prosperous.

As a part of the agreement with the Haudenosaunee, members of that League travel without toll or fee through the Carry and as well on the boat service which runs irregularly from Neu Zolms to the settlement at Lake Ontario, Oswego, by way of Lake Oneida and the portage to the Oswego River on that lake’s northwest shore.  However, such services are paid for by the increasing number of Europeans who desire to travel to Oswego or beyond to the Great Lakes.  That puts a pretty penny in the pocket of the Freiherr, who does not hesitate to use it to buy things both useful and pleasant for his people.

About two miles west and near the point where Wood Creek can be navigated easily again by boat or canoe, is situated Bull Tower.  An interesting structure, it is a square tower of three stories.  The bottom story is stone and contains both stores, firing positions for musketeers and riflemen, a small stable, and a well, in the manner of a medieval keep.  The upper stories are wood, logs laid horizontally and trimmed, and contain the quarters for the garrison and the look out on the roof with a small shack for protection from the elements, some 40 feet above the ground.  Its most unusual feature is a chimney that reaches from the ground floor up to the roof with two fireplaces on each floor venting into it.  Not much chance of freezing there!

Another mile or so further west, within sight of both Bull Tower and the boat landing on Lake Oneida is located Fischer’s Blockhouse.  This is another small garrison of about 50 men in the enrolled militia, part of Eckhardt’s Kompanie which also provides the garrison for Bull Tower.  The “blockhouse” is actually a two-story wooden tower and has one of Eckhardt’s precious 3-pounders on the ground floor, positioned on a sturdy wooden floor which is mounted on wheels, such that it can be rotated to fire from any one of four ports in the stone wall, making it considerably more easy to defend against assaults from any quarter.  Food and water are stored inside and sited as it is within a loop of Wood Creek, water ought to be fairly easy to come by, even with an enemy trying to take it.

Descriptions of the more distant villages, hamlets, and thorps – as well as fortifications! – of the Zolmsers will be forthcoming.

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