What originally began as a single-story structure built by the original Palatine settlers at Fort Herkimer in 1753, the towering structure of native limestone we now know as Fort Herkimer Church is one of the most historically important buildings in the Mohawk Valley. Perhaps most importantly, it is the only remaining structure of the Fort Herkimer complex, a 1750s stronghold important in the defense of the valley settlers during the French and Indian War.
French and Indian War
During the 1750s at the onset of the French and Indian War, the Fort Herkimer settlement-an important link in the Indian fur trade-was vulnerable to conflicts between the English and French over control of the vital Mohawk Valley transportation corridor. During this time of turmoil, Johan Jost Herkimer-father of General Nicholas Herkimer, Justice of the German Palatine settlement, and builder of the church-solicited financial assistance and contributions so the church could be completed and fortified against attacks. Upon completion, it served as a place of defense, militia headquarters, and protective outpost during the war.
American Revolutionary War
Fort Herkimer Church was also a defensive structure during the American Revolutionary War, serving as a center for colonial militias and housing numerous contingents of troops. In June 1775, a liberty pole was erected at the church. The liberty pole was probably the first one raised in the state and probably the first in the country. During the raid of 1778, the church was a neighborhood refuge, and it served as a stronghold from which its defenders repulsed the Tory-Indian raiders of 1782. During the Revolution, the church included a swivel gun mounted on its tower as well as a palisade (stockade wall of logs) surrounding its exterior.
For more information about the church’s history, contact the Herkimer County Historical Society at (315) 866-6413.