Shankland Mountain, NY, USA

Anne Shankland, UK

Charlotte Prentiss, daughter of Urilla Prentiss nee Shankland, was a great-granddaughter of the Robert Shankland who immigrated to Cherry Valley, New York, in the mid-18th century - see The Shanklands in America also on this website. She was born in 1837 and wrote a book of her reminiscences of her long life in 1932, when she was 95 years old. The following is taken from the first chapter of that book, "Full Harvest", and describes the first settlement of her Shankland ancestors in Cooperstown, New York, and Shankland Mountain, where her great-grandfather Robert Shankland built his first house.

There is a little town up where the Susque­hanna finds its source ... situated ideally upon the emerald shores of the picturesque little lake Otsego ... the village of Cooperstown stands serenely aloof, complete within itself, untouched apparently by the kaleidoscopic changes of a modern world. ... This Cooperstown is my home-spot and I want to leave some record of the beauty and the joy I have found here. But one could scarcely write of Cooperstown without speaking first of Cherry Valley. Certainly, I could not, for the Ameri­can roots of my family tree were planted over there - upon a mountain top at the valley's edge, a mountain top which still bears our name.

Winding along today's smooth white highway which follows the tree-shadowed lake shore out of Cooperstown, through the Springfields, past rolling farmlands splashed with the white and gold and flame of wild flowers, we come sud­denly upon a jutting mountain peak to the right hand - Shankland Mountain, outlined stark against the sky. I forget that I am riding behind a powerful motor-thing, capable of whisking me so swiftly past the scene that I scarce can catch my breath - I am carried back in memory to the high seat of an old stage coach - to that other road I used to travel nearly a century ago from Cooperstown to Cherry Valley which also passed this way, by the mountain peak - an uneven dirt road, frequently snowbound in the winter and rendered impassable by violent summer storms. Back to the stories my Mother and Father used to tell me about this Shankland Mountain, named for my great-grandfather; of his coming to the new country; of his struggles for life; battles with the Indians and the final triumph of the Colonists over the combined forces of Indians and Red Coats.

It is neither my place nor my purpose to re­count the already familiar history of the settling of Cherry Valley and subsequently, of Coopers­town, but insofar as it relates to my own family story I hope I may be pardoned if I recall some bits of it to mind.

In the middle 18th Century a hardy adven­turer of Scotch-Irish Ancestry and his young wife came to America in company with Colonel and Lady Campbell of Scotland and settled in the newly opened region known as Cherry Val­ley, so named according to popular legend, in honor of the cherry bounce which the earliest inhabitants made from wild cherries which abounded there.

The Campbells built their home right in the midst of the valley settlement, but their com­panion in this venture, Robert Shankland by name, chose a spot high on the crown of a mountain overlooking the settlement. There he built a substantial house with funds brought with him from the old country. This man was my great-­grandfather and the mountain on which he set­tled is today called Shankland Mountain in his memory.

He and his family prospered until the terror-­ridden days of the Revolution when Indians of the Six Nations, headed by Joseph Brant and spurred on by the British, filled the hours of each day with anxiety and dread and finally wiped out the flourishing little valley town on November 11, 1778, in what is known as the Cherry Valley massacre, one of the bloodiest events in Revolutionary history.

My great-grandfather contrived his family's escape from that slaughter, owing largely to the remote situation of his home. It was not destroyed then. He succeeded in safely getting his family to the Mohawk Valley where they remained through the following year.

In the Spring of 1779 my great-grandfather returned to the farm and planted the crops usual to that country, leaving his family in the Mo­hawk Valley as many warlike Indians were roaming about.

Charlotte Prentiss then tells the story of the attack on Robert Shankland by the Indians, and the capture of Robert's son Thomas, her own grandfather.

After more than two years he [Thomas] was ransomed by the British, according to tradition in our family, the ransom accepted being a glittering hand mirror, coveted object in the eyes of any redskin. Subsequently, he was exchanged by the English for other prisoners held by the Americans and returned home when his family had long given him up for dead.

... When young Tom Shankland made his way back to Cherry Valley it was to find the old home on Shankland Mountain just a memory and the family reassembled around the hearthfire of a newly constructed cabin which served as their temporary abode until the coming of William Cooper to the Otsego country opened up a new settlement which spelled opportunity to those with the pioneer spirit in their blood.

Do you wonder that I feel spellbound when I approach Cherry Valley and the green sentinel known as Shankland Mountain today? For me, it is not only one of Nature's beauty spots - it holds the roots of me deep within its sod.

But, were I a stranger there, I am sure I could not follow the winding trail through Cherry Valley unmoved by the loveliness and the historic associations. The picturesque val­ley itself; the sudden little lakes and brooks with their musical names; the ripple of hidden water in the deep places of the woodland; the call of wild birds and the nodding heads of wayside flowers - all cast their spell upon one's imagination and set the mind to dream­ing of this land's untrammeled past before the white man set foot upon it. One half ex­pects to see a birch canoe appear around the next turn of a lake, paddled by a half-naked figure, red-bronze gleaming in the sunlight, or to hear a blood-chilling cry echo across the still pool of a forgotten lake named by the red man when he was king of this domain.


Anne Shankland, July 2006