Minute Book 3: 1729-April: At Oswego: Shortages, Illness, and French Threats

Oswego continued to face the problems that had dogged it from the time it was constructed: a shortage of supplies, recurrent illness, and the threat of French attacks. During April the Commissioners of Indian Affairs took steps to address them. In early March they had heard from Dr. Kerr, the resident physician at Oswego, that the men were “much out of order” and short of supplies. They wrote to him on April 14th to tell him that the governor had given them a box of medicines that they were sending along with twenty gallons of rum, a hundred pounds of sugar, twenty-five pounds of rice, and two pounds of pepper.  Provisions for Oswego were provided by the Palatine farmer Johan Jurch Kast and  the commissioners arranged for them to be conveyed there by Casper Ham, Johannes Wyngaert, Evert Janse, and Marte Van Buren Junior along with the medical supplies. Each man was provided with a bateau for the purpose. They were told to bring back any empty bags from Oswego and leave twenty five of them with John Jurch Kast if he needed them.

After hearing that the French were making preparations to attack Oswego “this Spring with their Indians,” the commissioners sent Lourence Claese to ask the Six Nations for help. He was instructed to point out that if the French took Oswego, the Haudenosaunee would be surrounded on all sides by hostile forces. While this seems like an exaggeration, it is true that there were already several French forts on the Great Lakes.  The English position was that these were illegal, although the Haudenosaunee position was far more nuanced. Nonetheless, Claese was  told to remind the Six Nations leadership that they had agreed to the construction of the Oswego trade house and that it was built for their defense and security. Moreover they had promised to defend it if necessary. Governor Montgomerie now requested them to send two Sachims from each Nation to Oswego to remain there pending further orders from the governor. If the French attacked, the sachims should tell them that the trading house was built by the orders of the Haudenosaunee and upon their ground, and a attack on it would be considered as “an Attempt on their own Castles.”

These instructions framed what the Six Nations said at the treaty held with Governor Montgomery the previous October to make it sound more whole-hearted than it was.. The Six Nations did not see the Oswego trade house as one of their own castles, nor was it built “by their orders. ” They had agreed to let the English construct it, but with considerable ambivalence and reluctance. When asked to affirm their willingness to defend it, they initially pointed out that the English said they were building it to defend the Six Nations, not the other way around. As they put it, “Wee Acquaint you that last year when Liberty was Desired to build there it was told us that the same was built there on Purpose to Defend and Protect the Six Nations because It is a Fronteer of our Nations Therefore Wee Rely on your Promises to Perform them.” When the governor seemed to take offense, they soothed his feelings by acknowledging that the French were their “Ancient Enemies,” and they were willing to help defend the trade house. But they also made it clear that they expected the English to provide them with arms and ammunition and to use Great Britain’s much vaunted military resources if war should break out with the French.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for April 1729 starts here on p. 282.

Published by

AnnHHunter

Writer, researcher, archivist, etc. @ahhunter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.