Tag: Herkimer

Ilion, NY: The Klippels, the Gardiniers, the Gilberts, and Remington Arms

Early Mohawk Valley settlers

The region of New York where Ilion is located was first settled by Palatine Germans under the Burnetsfield Patent about 1725. The first settlers took plots along Steele Creek, which flows through what is now known as the Ilion Gorge and into the Mohawk River.

The Battle of Oriskany in the Mohawk Valley was one of the bloodiest battles fought in the American Revolution and was a major engagement during British General John Burgoyne’s Saratoga campaign. If you have read the novel, Drums Along the Mohawk, by Walter D Edmonds, you may be familiar with a character named, “Mad” Jacob Gardinier.

Being essentially historical fiction, there are many “real” historic characters in the story including General Nicholas Herkimer, Adam Helmer, William Caldwell, and yes, Jacob Gardinier.

“Mad” Jacob Gardinier was born on February 7, 1727 at Kinderhook, NY. He married Dirkji Vanderwerken from Albany, NY. They are buried in the Maple Avenue Cemetery in Fultonville, NY.

Jacob Gardinier served as a First Lieutenant in the Third Regiment of the Albany County Militia in 1768. In August of 1775, he was appointed Captain of the First Company, Third Battalion of Tyron County Militia, and was wounded at the Battle of Oriskany. Jacob Gardinier resigned his commission on March 26, 1787.

He died in 1808, but if alive today he would, I guess, be my great, great, great grandfather.

The Village of Ilion

The small village of Ilion began to grow in 1816 when Eliphalet Remington created his first flint-lock rifle. A blacksmith by trade, he built the rifle using a firing mechanism he purchased from a gunsmith and a rifle barrel he forged himself. The rifle was so popular he started producing them in quantity. This enterprise developed into what later became the Remington Arms manufacturing company. 

Ilion continued to grow after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, which provided a trade connection to exchange products with Albany and the Great Lakes region. By 1850, the Village of Ilion had grown to a population of 812, not counting livestock.

Klippels and Gardiniers

William J Gardinier, circa 1904

William J Gardinier was born in the Town of Danube in 1870. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Cornell University in 1893, and was admitted to the bar in 1895. He married Minnie Lee of Herkimer in 1896 and went on to become a lawyer of some note, practicing law in Herkimer until he retired in 1963. William Gardiner had two sons, Russell and Elton, and a daughter, Eileen. who later married Erwin Klippel and became my grandmother.

The Klippel Saw Mill and the Lumber Yard on Elm Street.

Klippel Family Homestead on Litchfield Rd, circa 1890
Irving Klippel is on the horse

The Klippels immigrated here from Germany in the mid-to late 1800s. I know early members of the Klippel side of my family ran a sawmill in the Ilion Gorge and other members ran a lumber yard in Ilion on Elm Street.

Ilion Gorge, circa 1915
Front: Irving and Erwin Klippel
Back: Kathryn and Wagner Klippel

Erwin Klippel married Eileen Gardinier, mentioned above. They had three children, Kenneth Klippel, Ardis Klippel (Gilbert, my mother), and Carol Klippel (Piser)

The Lumber Yard, circa 1914
One of Ilion’s thriving industries

The lumber yard was started by Conrad Klipple. I am not sure when and where the spelling of the name Klipple switched to Klippel, but I do remember, as a young boy, hearing discussions about some branch of the family spelling it that way.

Arriving in Ilion in the 1890s, Conrad Klipple first established himself as a skilled carpenter, before expanding into the lumber business. The house where Conrad Klipple resided was at 64 Elm Street, and it still stands to this day. According to a 1925 map of Ilion, the office building for the lumber yard was located at 66 Elm Street; directly behind Klipple’s house.

The Klippels, the Gilberts, and Remington Arms

My grandfather, Erwin Klippel worked at Remington Arms as a gun assembler, and if memory servers me correctly, he built the prototype for the Remington Model 1100 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun. His wife, Eileen (Gardinier) Klippel, worked as the Secretary and Treasurer for Ilion High School for many years.

Erwin and Eileen Klippel, circa 1934

His older brother, Wagner Klippel, worked at Remington Rand, just across the street. “The Rand” as it was called made mechanical calculators. In the 1950s, they built the first real digital computer. It used radio tubes, (triodes), for its processing and memory systems. My dad didn’t see the computer, but he saw the truck they used to transport it – a huge 18 wheeler. However, one of Great Uncle Wagner’s sons, Bob Klippel, did work for Remington Arms as well.

On the Gilbert side of the family, both my Grandmother and Grandfather worked for Remington Arms. Marjorie (Widmer) Gilbert was the customer service representative for the custom-built division of Remington Arms for many years. So, if you had a custom-built Remington rifle or shotgun, and you had dealings with customer services during the 50s or 60s, you probably dealt with her.

Bernell and Marjorie Gilbert, circa 1940
Steuben Rd, Herkimer, NY

My Grandfather, Bernell Henry Gilbert, served in Japan with General MacArthur during World War II. After returning from Japan, he eventually ended up at Remington Arms, heading the shipping and logistics department for many years.

As a final note, I have a wonderful collection of letters written between my Grandmother and Grandfather Gilbert while he was serving in the Army. I will soon be working on a novel based on those letters.

Remembering a WWII Veteran

I got an email from my dad this afternoon telling me his Uncle Bob passed away today. He was 95. My Great Uncle Bob was a WWII veteran, serving in the Army Air Corps on Okinawa at the end of the war.

In the email, my dad mentioned that when he was born, the whole Widmer clan lived in the same house in Herkimer, NY. By the time my father was a toddler, he’d identified Bob as his favorite uncle. Bob would take my dad to the playground and kept a watchful eye on him as he grew older. All the time Uncle Bob was in the Army, he would send my dad a dollar each month to put in a bank he had given him. When he returned from overseas, Uncle Bob took my dad and the money, bought my dad’s first bicycle, which he taught him to ride.

Uncle Bob was not drafted until July of 1945, and Japan surrendered in August of 1945. Hence, the war was over before he arrived at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, where he served as an aircraft mechanic. As I understand it, he worked on B-29s and P-47s, which continued to fly air defense and other missions during the occupation. Bob received a commendation signed by President Harry Truman for his service.

I still remember going to my Great Uncle Bob’s house as a very young boy and playing with his two girls, Ellen and Ruth. We would also see them at Raquette Lake in upstate New York and at family reunions. I guess Ellen and Ruth would be second cousins. Uncle Bob and Aunt Lillian were wonderful people, and these are such great memories. American has lost another one of its heroes.

He was truly a wonderful man.

Book Review: Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds

Mohawk

I consider Drums Along the Mohawk to be one of the best classic historical novels about Upstate New York.  It ranks right up there with James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans.

First published in 1936, Drums Along the Mohawk stayed at number one on the best-sellers list for two years. Gone With the Wind, also published in 1936, finally replaced it.

The story takes place in the Mohawk Valley of Upstate New York during the Revolutionary War.  It is the story of brave pioneers who settled this early American frontier. Walter D. Edmonds centers his tale around the lives of Gilbert Martin and his young wife, Magdalena.  The newly married couple settle and begin farming in the remote village of Deerfield.

The Rumbling of War

Gil and Lana hear the rumblings of war from the east. It seems far away and since the young couple is busy just surviving,  they pay little attention to it. They have a home to build, land to clear and crops to plant.

Then a raiding party of Seneca warriors led by a Tory named Caldwell descends on their farm.  Only the timely warning by a friendly Oneida Indian called Blue Back allows them to escape the carnage.  The Raiders burn their cabin and their crops. The Raiders kill their livestock. The young couple must now also try to survive the devastation caused by the Revolutionary War.

 Iroquois Rampage

Mohawk Chief
Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant

Led by the Mohawk chief, Joseph Brant, the Iroquois sweep through the valley settlements. Aided by Tories like William Caldwell, the raiding parties leave charred cabins, burned crops, mutilated bodies, dead livestock and shattered dreams in their wake. The Raiders kill and scalp men, women and children   To the north, in Canada, the British pay eight pounds for each American settlers’ scalp lifted. The isolated settlements and their small militias defend themselves as best they can against the raiders. But, they are farmers, not soldiers. And, the savage raiders have them greatly outnumbered.

War Drums Along The  Mohawk Valley

This story is about heroes and patriots, a courageous people who fought back against impossible odds.  As a result, they helped give birth to a new American Nation.  The narrative is alive with such historical figures as General Herkimer, Adam Helmer, Doctor Petry, Peter Bellinger, Benedict Arnold and William Caldwell.  There is mention of an ancestor of mine, Jacob Gardinier who fought heroically at the Battle of Oriskany.

Personal History

Adam Helmer Mohawk Valley

I greatly enjoyed reading this novel because of my  Mohawk Valley roots. Many of my ancestors were born in Herkimer, previously known as German Flatts.  I listened to tales of Adam Helmer’s famous race against with the raiding Indians.  General Herkimer, Jacob Gardinier, Fort Dayton and Fort Stanwix were names and places I knew as a child.  I played along the Mohawk River,  the Susquehanna River, and the West Canada Creek and I am who I am as a result, in part, because of these tales.

This is definitely a book I recommend all Americans should read. I give it 5 Stars.