Minute Book 3: 1726-February

Laurence Claessen is Sent to Negotiate (and Obtain Intelligence)

The commissioners sent Laurence Claessen to Onondaga with instructions to resolve the ongoing conflicts between Albany traders and the Haudenosaunee over the sale of rum at the falls on the Onondaga River. The traders, backed by the commissioners, insisted that they had to sell rum to the “far Indians” from beyond Iroquoia in order to attract their trade in furs. The Haudenosaunee had now been saying for several years that they did not want rum sold at all in their country. Laurence Claesson was supposed to resolve this by delivering a belt of wampum telling them that their request had been received by Governor Burnet and that rum would not be sold to the Six Nations.

Claessen was also told to try to obtain the release of an English boy from Virginia who was being held captive in Iroquoia, and to work with Juriaen Hogan, the Anglo-Dutch smith, to obtain information about how many of the Six Nations were out fighting and the actions of the French smith and other Frenchmen living in Seneca Country.

The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet and informed him about what they were doing, expressing regret for the Six Nations attacks on Virginia and explaining that the Six Nations were wavering in their attachment to the English, leaning instead towards the French at times. To counteract this they recommended posting “some persons of Distinction” in Iroquoia to advance the English cause. They also rejoiced in the news that a peace had been concluded between “Boston” (i.e. New England) and the Eastern Indians (Abenaki) in Dummer’s War.

Many thanks to the Schenectady Historical Society for permission to use this image of the portrait of Laurence Claessen that hangs in their collection!

Laurence Claessen Van der Volgen
Attributed to Nehemiah Partridge. Held at the Schenectady Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12305 and used with their permission. They give the date as 1725.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, February 1726 starts here.

[0244] 120a

[Wraxall p. 161 gives date as 12 Feb.]


Att a meeting of ye Comrs of ye

Indian affairs in albany ye [1st]

day of feb 1725/6


P L.


Jons Cuyler

P V Brugh         }

E Bancker

J Collins

H V Renslaer

It is Resolved by ye Comrs to give Lowrence

Claese ye following Instructions

By the Com.rs of ye Indian

affairs at albany

Instructions for Lowrence Claese the Interpreter

Whereas ye Indians of ye five nations have sent two

Severall messages to ye Com.es Last fall Complaining of Rum being

Sold unto their People by ye traders at ye falls and ye lake near ye

onnondage River which they Conceive will be very pernicious (if not

prevented and whereby many unhappy accidents may [Ensue – crossed out] arise.

they acknowledge to have given Liberty unto his Ex.cy their Brother

Corlaer Gov.r Burnet to Sett beaver Traps at ye lake, but they

alleadge that ye bait his people ye Christians use meaning ye Rum

will Catch Men and therefore desired that no Rum might be Carryed

up thither for ye future. but that ye Traders Should only carry up [f– crossed out]

dry goods to Supply ye far Indians to wh. messages ye S.d five nations

Expect an answer as soon as may be and on failure thereof [they – crossed out] we are

Informd yt [ye – crossed out] they have Concluded to Execute their Resilution in

Relation to ye affair and since its Impracticable to prevent ye

young Traders to Carry up Rum to ye lake to trade with ye far Indians

and in order to quiet ye minds of ye Indians You are here by Required

and Directed forthwith to go to onnondage (takeing a Christian with you)

at your arrival there you are to Inform ye Sachims of ye 5 nations in name

of his Ex.cy Gov.r Burnet Esq.r &c. that he has Received their Propositions

In Relation

[0245] 121

in Relation to the Rum not to be sold & Carryd up to ye lake. that he has

given orders that none of his people under his Government Shall Sell

any Strong Liquor unto any of ye 5 nations at ye falls or Lake but that they

are only to Sell it to ye far Indians for Promoteing & Encouraging ye

trade with you that his Ex.cy earnestly desires that none of ye Traders be

any ways Molested or hindered in their trade with ye far Indians that his Excy

at his next meeting Shall Settle that and other affairs with you, for ye gen.le

good and welfare of us all. In ye meantime its Expected that they and their

young men will behave ymselves peaceable to All his Maj.es Subjects and not

allow any french to Reside in any of their Castles on w.ch you are to Lay

down [illeg.] a belt of wampum herewith delivered you

You are to use your best Endeavor to Release an English

Boy which we are Informd is in Some of ye Indian Castles and taken

from virginia by some of ye 5 nations or Canada Indians wh Charge Shall

be paid you

as We are Informd that a french Smith with his family &

Some other french men from Canada are at ye Sinnekes Country wh.

if Confirmd to you at onnondage you are to proceed to that place

where you are to make the Same Proposition as you are directed to do at

onnondage which you are also to Communicate unto ye other nations as you

go along. you are to Inform your Self how & in what manner ye french

are posted there and by whose directions and what their Chief [Business] is

[If] ye Beck Iron belonging to this Government be broake & if Jurian Hogan

accepts to work as smith [illeg.- crossed out] at ye Sinnekes Country according to

the Letters write unto him by ye Com.rs, how ye Indians are generally

[afflasted] what number of ye 5 nations are gone out a fighting & agts

what nations and Generally what news you can learn of any

moment among ye Indians of all which you are to keep a Journall

in Writeing. Given under our hands in albany — [illeg.] day feb.y in ye

twelfth year of his Maj.e Reign an Do 1725/6

[0246] 121a

[Not in Wraxall.]

Albany 8 feb 1725/6

May it please yr Excy

Your Excy’s favour of ye 23rd Jan.ry we recd according

to your Excys Directions shall send ye English Boy p the first

Sloop wt an Recott of the Charges we have disbursd, Indeed the base

behaviour of our Ind.ns towards Virgina is very provoking of

wch we are ashamed wt Submist we humbly are of opinion yt it

can’t be pvented, unless some able psons of Distinction be posted

among them to dissuade them from such ill practices & keep ym

firm to yr allegiance to his Maj.ie for they are very waver=

ing & much Inclind to ye french Interest

We shall not be wanting to Encourage as much as in Us

lyes all those yt are inclined to trade next Spring at ye Lake

& advise ym from your Excel.y to behave themselves diferectly

towards [y – crossed out] our Ind.ns in Case any Disputes do arise & not to

give any Cause of Complaints, & yt they only sell Rum to the

far Ind.ns on this Occasion we have thought fitt for his Maj.e

service to make an Answer to ye Proposition of ye Indns mad

last fall through Lawrence Claese ye Interpreter Copy of

his Instructions are herein Inclosd We hope he will be

able to quiet ye minds of ye Ind.ns for ye Safety of those who are

going to trade at ye Lake We are glad ye peace is concluded

between Boston & ye Eastern Ind.ns wen wch we wish may be

lasting wt our best Respects we remain

May it please your Ex.cy

Your Ex most humble and

most Obedient Serv.ts

Sign                             Philip Livingston

Henry Holland

Pieter van Brugh


Minute Book 3: 1726-January

Conflicts in Iroquoia: Captives, Smiths, and Alcohol

The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet to tell him about the English boy they had taken in after he ran away from the Mohawks at Fort Hunter. They had now learned that the boy was captured in a raid on Captain Robert Hicks’s estate in Virginia, in which the boy’s father was also captured, as well as five native women. The boy’s father was released, one of the women was killed “by the way,” while two were “burnt” in Oneida and then, according to the commissioners, eaten. Two remained captive. They had also heard that there was another English boy taken from Virginia who was still held captive, but they were doubtful whether there was any hope of getting him back. The letter uses the stories of the captives to attack the “falsehood of ye 5 nations” and suggest that the English should post “some able persons” permanently at Onondaga. The allegations about burning and eating people should likely be evaluated cautiously, especially because no source is given for them. Clearly relations between the commissioners and the Haudenosaunee were under a strain as they tried to implement Governor Burnet’s plans for a stronger English presence in the heart of Iroquoia.

The commissioners also corresponded with Jacob Brower and Jurian Hogan, who were serving as smiths at Onondaga and in the Seneca country respectively.  They arranged to provide Brower with a new bellows to replace one that had rotted out, and asked Hogan for information about a french smith who was living at the Seneca castle along with other frenchmen and their families. (It is interesting to speculate on what happened when the French and Anglo-Dutch smiths encountered each other, as must have occurred.)

The commissioners heard that the Six Nations expected an answer to their request the previous fall that the sale of alcohol be prohibited at the falls on the Onondaga River, (meaning the Oswego river at the site of present day Fulton New York) and intended to take steps themselves to end it if they did not get a satisfactory response. The commissioners feared for the safety of traders the following spring. They decided to send Laurence Claessen to Onondaga and sent him a request to appear before them to receive instructions.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1726 starts here.

Below is the full transcription:

[0240] 118a

[Not in Wraxall]

Att a meeting of ye Com.rs of ye Indian

Affairs in albany ye 4th Jan.ry 1725/6


Phil: Livingston

[Henry Holland – crossed out]

Peter van Brugh

Evert Bancker

Henry van Rensslaer

The Com.rs this day ye following letter to

his Excellency [sic]

Albany 4 Jan.ry 1725/6

may it Please your Ex.cy

Your Ex.cys favours of ye 3. 9.ber [November?] we Read. and Shall

observe your Ex.cys directions therein Contained. we have at

psent nothing of moment to Comunicate unto yr Ex.cy only

that we have had ye good fortune a few days [illeg.-crossed out] since to

gett an English boy who is Run away from y.e Maquas at

Fort Hunter whom we have Cloathed & Shall maintain & keep

here till your Ex.cys pleasure Shall be known. this Boy by

what we Can Learn from him has been taken by our five —

Nations at ye Same time they Robbd Capt Hicks in virginia

they took then this Boys father but Sett him at Liberty —

but took five Squas along with them. one they killd by ye

way. two they burnt in oneyde & did Eat them. and

the other two are among ye Indians. we have some

Information that their is another English boy among our

Indians taken from virginia who we shall

Endeavor to gett out of their hands. but have no great

hope to Compass it. this is a sufficient proof of ye

Case & falsehood of ye 5 nations. Such base actions we

Conceive would in a great measure be prevented if

some able psons did Continually Reside at onnondage

with great Respect we Remain

[0241] 119

[Not in Wraxall]

Copy                                                               Att a meeting of ye Com.rs of ye

Indian affairs in Albany ye 9th

Jan.ry 1725/6


Ph. Livingston             }

Evert Bancker

This day arrived here Two [three-crossed out] Indians with a

Letter from Jacob Brower Smith at onnondage

dated ye 3th Instant, wherein he signifies that ye old smith

Bellows is Rotten & of no use So yt. he cant make any

good work without a new bellows Its Resolved that a

new Bellows be forthwith made yt. ye Indians

may be Supplyd with such Smith work

as they have Occasion for. [additional crossed out words omitted.]

[0242] 119a [Not in Wraxall.]


Att a meeting of ye Com.es of ye

Indian affairs in albany ye 15 Day

of Jan.ry 1725/6



Ph Livingston

Henry Holland                        }

P.v. Brugh

E Banker

H v Renselear

This day the Com.rs write a letter to Jacob

Brower Smith at onnondage with a smiths Bellows

as also to Jurian hogans at Sinnekes Country

which last is as follows.

We have write you & Jacob Brower Smith at

onnondage if you would work as Smith for ye Indians

at ye Sinnicke Country, till Sept. next and Credit ye

Governmts. but have Recd now manner of answer

from you. in ye mean time we hear [from – crossed out] that you wife

has Recd a letter from you wherein you mention

that there is a french smith in ye Sinnekes Castle with his —

wife & Children and other french with their wives

that they [illeg. crossed out] or ye Indians have [broaken] ye [Beche]

[Iron] we desire you to write unto us at large about

that affair. that we may a Right Information

and if you will stay there to work as smith for ye

Indians. Send your letter to Jacob Brower and he

will forward ye same unto us. we are.

[0243] 120

[Not in Wraxall.]


Att a meeting of ye Com.rs of ye Indian

affairs in albany ye 25th Jan.ry 1725/6


Ph. Livingston

Henry Holland

Peter van Brugh          }

Evert Bancker

Henry van Renselaer

The Com.rs being Informd yt. ye. Sachims of ye

five nations expect an answer to their Propositions made unto them,

last fall in Relation to their Prohibition of Rum sold to their

people at ye falls on ye onnondage River & ye lake that in Case they

gett no [satisfactory] answer they have [Resolved – crossed out] Concluded to put in                                            Execution

their Resoluttion in Relation to that affair

Whereon It is thought [fitt for – crossed out] Proper for ye safety &

Tranquility of ye traders who design to go to trade next Spring

that Lawrence Claes ye Interpreter be sent to onnondage. order a

Letter be wrote unto him to appear be fore this meeting to Receive

Instructions in Relation to that affair