Johannes Rima

by Steve Rima

Johannes (John) was the first Rima here in the United States. He was born in the early 1730's in Rheinland-Pfalz or Wurtembourg area of Germany. He traveled across the Atlantic Ocean from Rotterdam to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1765 with his wife Catherine and at least 3 children.

Travel to America was aboard the ship Betsy under Captain John Osman. They landed in Philadelphia and Johannes was one of the few onboard who signed his name rather than an X. He signed in at the State House on September 19, 1765, a Thursday. The length of their travel was about two months. The Rima family came here with several neighbors from the old country.

It seems a Mr. Peter Hassencleaver paid passage across for several families in return for a sort of indenture. Mr. Hassenclever supplied 125 acres of land completely free from debt, a grant of money for passage to America and reasonable settling costs, implements necessary for agriculture, a log house and provisions for one year. John Rima in return was to supply 5 tons of hemp at 20 pounds FOREVER! Any extra hemp produced from the same land would be purchased at 30 pounds per ton. Debt for passage to America was to be repaid by January 1, 1770.

There were thirty five families in all that became indentured to Mr. Hassencleaver. Among them were Briettenbacher, Wiederich, Bircky, Clemmens, Hochstaeder, Oyer, Sheaf, Wolfe, Steinwax, Glock, Cramer, Miller, Finster, Hiller and others. The place they settled in was then called New Petersburg but later became known as Herkimer and Schuyler, New York. These families banded together and attended the Stone Arabia Reformed Dutch Church which is similar to German Lutheran. They each stood up as sponsors for each others children at baptisms. Many of the men joined the Tryon County Militia to fight off the Mohawk Indians who were very numerous along the Mohawk River.

Johannes Rima was naturalized March 8, 1773. He was naturalized with several of his neighbors who also came from Germany about the same time. It seems there were problems proving ownership of their land that they had bought from Mr. Hassenclever. He returned to London and the settlers could not prove they had paid Mr. Hassenclever. They thought if they became British subjects it might help their plight.

During the years of the revolution the families of New Petersburg retreated to the safety of the forts they had built to protect themselves from the pillaging of the Indians. The men who were old enough to fight would leave the fort for months at a time and join up with different companies and regiments of men. They banded together to fight off the British and the Indians. There were several indian raids during the revolution and when groups of Indians were spotted the families would retreat to their fort for weeks at a time. They would leave the fort during daylight and tend their crops while the others kept a lookout. The worst of these raids was in May of 1780 when the entire farming community was burned. It is said that every barn, farmhouse and building was burnt to the ground. The Indians captured and shot John Rima. His sons John Rima Jr., Frederick and Jacob were captured and taken away to Montreal, Canada. They were gone about two weeks and then escaped. The Indians causing the trouble were the Senecas. The Oneidas were generally friendly.

In the matter of the revolution, the Rima family certainly did it's job. Word was received in their village of the independence on July 6, 1776. That was remarkable time for word to travel from Philadelphia to the rural village along the Mohawk River. John Rima Sr., John Rima Jr., Jacob Rima and George Rima all served. The other sons were to young but Peter, one of the youngest told stories of how his father and older brothers would leave the fort to go and fight and when they returned for supplies that he and his brother George would run the clothes and provisions out to them.

In August of 1777 word spread quickly that Fort Stanwix (Rome, NY) about 20 miles up the river was under siege and the enemy had support coming to help. General Nicholas Herkimer called for all men aged 16 to 60 to assemble at Fort Dayton (Herkimer, NY) and prepare to defend the Mohawk Valley. An army of 800 men was assembled and they marched along the river towards Fort Stanwix (Rome, NT). The soldiers actually crossed the Rima land along the Mohawk. Before they could arrive they were ambushed about halfway there. The battle there in the field at Oriskany lasted all day long. It is noted as one of the bloodiest battles of the whole revolutionary war. At the end of the day the British and Indians retreated and the peasant farmers, although they lost the battle, had saved their valley and families. It is said the battle of Oriskany was a turning point in the war. The cost of the battle was over 200 lives on our side alone. Many of the German settlers were among the dead. Sketchy records exist naming the soldiers who fought. There are no Rima's on that list but I am certain they were there as they fought in all the other battles in their area and when the call came for all men, I am certain they went.

John Rima Sr. was wounded in the right arm at Schuyler on October 10, 1778. His son Jacob was kidnapped and was gone about 5 months.

After the Indian raid of 1780 when their whole village was burned the Rimas and most of their German neighbors removed to Caughnawaga or what is known today as Canajoharie. They remained there until after the war when they returned to what was left of the farm in Schuyler. For some reasons they still attended the German church in Minden in Montgomery County from about 1799 to 1802. Some family remained there until about 1802.

One reason I question that John Sr. died in 1780 is because there is a John Remaw at Minden, New York in 1800 who is over 45 years old. There is no way this could be John Jr. as he could be no older than 40 at this time.

The family all seemed to live near each other and stayed closely knit with the same families who came to this country with them over 35 years earlier. Frederick and Jacob moved to Schoharie County. Then in 1817 more moves began. Frederick moved his wife and children west to Fullertown, Ohio (near where Cleveland would eventually be). Jacob, George, and Christian moved to Rome, New York. The youngest daughter, Catherine and husband moved south to Cattaraugus County. Only Peter, Margaret, and Elizabeth remained near Herkimer. The only way I can explain this sudden separation of family would be the death of the parents. I hope to someday prove this.

I don't know much about the mother Catherine. I assume she was born about 1740 in Germany. She must have been a good mother as she had ten grandchildren named Catherine after her.