The Dietz Family Massacre
from Chapter 17 of the History of Schoharie County,
Jeptha R. Simms - 1845
Although the preceding year had closed with a cessation of hostilities,
predatory border enterprises were continued during the summer of 1782.
Christopher P. Yates, Esq., who was one of the best informed and most efficient
patriots in the Mohawk valley, in a letter dated "Freyburg, 22d March,
1782," written to Col. H. Frey, a brother-in-law, respecting timber, thus
"We have already had three different inroads from the enemy, which you
have doubtless heard before. The last was at Bowman's kill, from whence
they took three children of McFee's family. If they act upon the same principle
as the last year, which from their conduct is evident, their intention
in coming to the creek so early was to clear it of all inhabitants, that
they might pass unobserved. I fear that in the course of the present year
they will infest us chiefly on the south side of the river, and in small
parties: for this reason I think our bush to be in more danger than it
has yet been. God grant that I may be wrong."
In the spring of this year, a party of fifteen Indians proceeded by a circuitous
route through the Schoharie settlements, without committing any hostile
act to Beaver-dam, Albany county, where was a small settlement, a grist-mill,
&c. The settlers were mostly tories in this vicinity, except the Dietzes
and Weidmans. To destroy the family of Johannes Dietz, an old gentleman
who lived between the mill and a Scotch settlement at Rensselaerville,
was the especial object of the invaders in making their tedious journey.
The family consisted of the old gentleman and his wife, his son Capt. William
Dietz and wife, four children of the latter, a servant girl, and a lad
named John Bryce, whose parents lived at Rensselaerville.
The enemy arrived at Dietz's just before night, and surprised and killed
all the family, except Capt. Dietz and young Bryce, then 12 or 14 years
old. Robert Bryce, a brother of John, 11 years old, had been sent on horseback
that day to the mill at Beaver-dam with a grist, in company with several
other lads on the same errand. Their grain was ground, but as it was nearly
sundown they all concluded to tarry with the miller over night, except
Bryce, who resolved to return as far as Dietz's, three miles toward his
home, and stay with his brother. He arrived just at twilight near the house,
when an Indian sprang from a covert by the road-side, and seized his bridle-reins.
A short time before his arrival, the family had been led out of the house
to be murdered, agreeable to a savage custom, perhaps that their mangled
remains may terrify surviving friends; and as the horse, with Robert still
on him, was led near the house, the lad discovered the disfigured bodies
of all the family, except Capt. Dietz and his own brother, who were tied
to a tree near by.
The enemy, after plundering the dwelling of such articles as they desired,
set it on fire, and, with the outbuildings, it was soon reduced to ashes.
Securing the scalps of the eight bleeding victims, or sixty-four dollars
worth of American blood in an English market - after placing their plunder
on a number of horses belonging to the Dietzes, and that of young Bryce,
on which his grist was retained for food - they started forward on their
tedious journey to Canada. They traveled about two miles and encamped for
the night, distant from the paternal house of the Bryce boys about a mile.
Little did their parents dream of the fate and future prospects of their
sons. By dawn of day next morning, the journey was resumed. The Indians
to take the southern route to Niagara, and hoped to gain the sources of
the Schoharie without molestation. Tidings of the untimely fate of this
family were next day communicated to the Schoharie forts, and a body of
troops was dispatched by Col. Vrooman in pursuit.
Lieut. John Jost Dietz, a relative of the family, who was sent from the
Lower fort with a party to bury the dead, met them in a wagon owned by
a neighbor. The bodies had been mutilated by hogs, and presented a most
revolting appearance. They were all deposited in one grave, in a yard attached
to a small Reformed Dutch church, then standing not far distant from the
place of massacre.
Suspecting the route the invaders would take, the Americans proceeded up
the river, and towards night, on the second day after the massacre, fell
in with and fired upon them near the head waters of the Schoharie. Several
of the Indians were wounded, but they all effected their escape with their
prisoners. They however abandoned their horses and plunder at the onset,
which were restored to the surviving friends of the family. The Indian
who claimed ownership to the person of Robert Bryce, was badly wounded
in one leg by the fire of the Schoharie troops, and being unable to keep
up with the party, journeyed with his prisoner and two of his partizans
at a much slower pace. On arriving at the Indian settlements in western
New York, Robert was initiated into the cruel mysteries of gantlet-running:
receiving a lesson in which school, on one occasion, nearly cost him his
life. He was taken to Nine Mile Landing on Lake Ontario; sold to a Scotchman,
who was the captain of a sloop, for fifteen dollars; was removed to Detroit,
from whence he was liberated and returned home, after the proclamation
of peace, in company with his brother and several hundred prisoners liberated
at the same time.
The treatment of Capt. Dietz and the elder Bryce was more severe than that
of Robert. Their party were greatly straightened for food on their way,
and for several days lived on wintergreen, birch-bark, and, possibly, a
few esculent roots and wild berries. On the Susquehanna river, near the
mouth of the Unadilla, a deer was shot, which providentially saved them
from starving. Their progress at this period was very slow, as they were
compelled daily to spend much of their time in hunting food. They journeyed
through the Chemung and Genesee valleys, and at villages, the prisoners
were compelled to endure the running ordeal. Added to the stripes of his
foes and the gnawings of hunger, Capt. Dietz suffered the most severe mental
agony. He was not only doomed to see the blood-stained scalps of his honored
parents, his bosom companion and four lovely children stretched in hoops
to tan in the sun, as was the custom, but often to have them slapped in
his face by the Indian who bore them, in the most insulting manner.
George Warner, who was captured the same season, informed the writer that
he saw Capt. Dietz in his confinement at Niagara, and conversed with him.
The latter appeared heart-stricken and in a decline, under which he sunk
to the grave not long after. He told Capt. Warner (the latter was a military
captain after the war) where a certain amount of money had been concealed
near their dwelling. Capt. W. afterwards understood the treasure had been
recovered. - Priest's narrative and Col. Wm. Dietz of Schoharie, corroborated