In their first conference with Governor John Montgomerie in October 1728, the Haudenosaunee are recorded as saying they were glad the new Brother Corlaer was “a wise and prudent Man.” Perhaps this was more than the language of diplomatic flattery. Montgomery does seem to have gone farther than his predecessors in responding to one of the long standing complaints of the Six Nations, who had been trying for years to stem the destructive flow of alcohol into their country. In February, after the Six Nations reminded them of Montgomerie’s agreement, the Commissioners of Indian Affairs issued a proclamation to all traders and others forbidding the transportation of strong liquor to any place in or near the “upper castles” (towns) of the Six Nations. Only Oswego was exempt, as agreed to at the conference. On the other hand, their use of the term “upper castles” suggests that at the very least Fort Hunter, and probably other Mohawk and Oneida communities, were not protected.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for February is here on p. 281.
The last entries for 1728, dated November 9 and 26, show that nothing had been solved at Oswego. The bateaux that were now the preferred means of transporting provisions had not been able to take up enough stores for the garrison for the winter, so the commissioners agreed with someone to bring more “with all Speed.” Captain Bagly told them that the garrison’s boats were in such bad shape that they could not be mended. At least six new ones needed to be made.
The commissioners wrote to the governor informing him about all this. They also sent him information about Laurence Claessen’s report on the land at Oswego that the governor had requested from the Six Nations, but the entry in the records provides no details.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entries for November start on p. 280.
Even before the conference ended the commissioners sent boats to Oswego with provisions to ease the chronic shortages there. Along with them they sent Captain Verplank and William Printhop Junior, who were instructed to make sure the provisions arrived safely and then to remain at Oswego for six months to serve as interpreters and messengers for the officer in command. Despite the complaints about him, John Price was still in charge there. They were soon joined by Lawrence Claessen, who was sent to assist with the delicate task of selecting and surveying the land to be laid out for the English to use to raise food for the garrison.
The Commissioners of Indian Affairs Recognize A New Oneida Title Holder
On October 9th, the commissioners met with an Oneida delegation that presented the new holder of a chief’s title which the commissioners spelled “Ondaghsichta.” They said they “had Appointed and Deputed a fitt Person in the room of Ondaghsighta dec[eased], who was one of their Chiefs and as a Tree of Peace, they do now Present this new Sachim before this meeting Who is now also named Ondaghsighta [.]” They said the new sachim had affirmed his support for the English and asked the commissioners to accept him as the new Ondaghsighta. The request was accompanied by a string of wampum. The commissioners said they were “very much pleased that they have appointed a fitt Person in the room of the [deceased] Sachim Ondagsighta” and hoped he would be “faithfull and True to his [Majesties] Interest & Take Care of the Publick Affairs of this Province.” They accepted him as a chief and gave him a shirt.
In The Great Law and the Longhouse, William Fenton lists the titles of the principal chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (p. 191 et seq.) and describes the ritual for installing a new title-holder (p. 180 et seq.). My guess is that Ondaghsichta is probably the commissioners’ way of spelling the name of the first Oneida chief in Fenton’s list, which he spells Ho’datche:hde’ meaning ” “Carries quiver [of arrows]” (Fenton p. 183). The first holder of the name was an Oneida leader who helped to found the Haudenosaunee confederacy, as described in Arthur Caswell Parker’s book The Constitution of the Five Nations (Albany: University of the State of NY, 1916), based on versions of the story preserved by Six Nations leaders in Canada. The story explains how the first holder received the name, which Parker spells as Odatshedeh (p. 25) or Oh-dah-tshe-deh or (in a footnote) Odatce’te’ (p. 82.).
Joseph Van Size Wants More Money to Work in Seneca Country
The commissioners attempted to carry out the agreement made at the conference with Governor Montgomerie to send Joseph Van Size and Hendrick Wemp to Seneca Country to work as smith and armorer, but Van Size wanted more money than the commissioners could offer him. Instead they sent Wemp by himself for six months “with another [unspecified] fitt Person.” Wemp’s instructions order him to recover the smith’s shop at “Canoussodago” along with its tools and utensils from any one who might have them. They sent a note to Joseph Yetts [Yates?] along with Wemp ordering him to turn them over and instructing him to go to Onondaga and work there as a smith.
Attack on the Senecas, Confusion in Albany
The commissioners wrote the governor on October 17th to explain that two days before they had received a message that Oswego had been attacked from a man who had gotten the information from a messenger who came to Mohawk Country from the Senecas Country. However when Lawrence Claessen spoke with the messenger he found that the unnamed man who brought the news to the commissioners had misunderstood the messenger. In reality it was some Senecas living at the “Carrying place of Niagara about three leagues from the French house” who had been attacked, but no one knew what nation had attacked them.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for Verplanck and Printhop’s instructions starts here on p. 266. Claesen’s instructions start here on page 276a, followed by the other entries.
Governor John Montgomerie’s first conference with New York’s native allies began on October first. The records contain two versions. What was probably the official version begins on page 299a of the records and is printed in DRCHNY volume 5, beginning at 5:859. Another version, likely a first draft, begins on page 263 of the records. It is worded a little differently but the sense is the same.
Land at Oswego for the English to Raise Food, Evidence of Haudenosaunee Orchards?
The Haudenosaunee sachims welcomed the new governor in a meeting held before the conference opened. They expressed sorrow over the death of King George I and celebrated the succession of George II in a speech that is interesting because it uses metaphors related to the cultivation of fruit trees, including grafting branches and covering roots, suggesting that these techniques may have been part of their practices during this period. The conference opened the next day with a speech by the new governor, who described his difficult five-month journey across the Atlantic before conveying greetings from the new King of England and renewing the covenant chain in his name.
Governor Montgomerie then asked to have land at Oswego marked off for the English to raise food for the troops. The Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) agreed to this idea, naming Laurence Claessen as the best person to assist with measuring and marking the land. They refused to say how much land they would provide, explaining that they needed to consult with people not present at the conference before they could give a figure. No mention was made of a sale and no deed was signed. The orders given to Laurence Claessen after the conference ended instruct him to carry out a precise survey of “as Large a Tract of Land at Oswego as possible you Can” and bring it back to the commissioners.
A Compromise on Alcohol
Besides discussing the land, the parties renewed the Covenant Chain with each other, exchanged gifts including wampum, and went over issues familiar from previous conferences. The Haudenosaunee asked the new governor to prevent traders from bringing alcohol to their country because it was leading to violence and even murders. He insisted that the traders needed to bring rum to refresh the soldiers at Oswego and asked them not to molest the traders. Eventually they agreed to the use of alcohol at the Oswego Trading House and Montgomerie agreed to forbid the English to take it to the communities of the Six Nations. The Haudenosaunee also asked that the traders sell pure rum rather than mixing it with water. It is possible that the illness that still afflicted the troops at Oswego was related to problems with Oswego’s water supply which could affect rum if the tainted water was used to dilute it.
Who Defends Fort Oswego Against the French?
The governor also asked the Haudenosaunee to protect Fort Oswego against possible French attacks. They responded that it was their understanding that it had been constructed to protect them rather than for them to protect. Eventually they agreed to assist with its defense, acknowledging their experience with French attacks. They urged the English both to make sure that the traders bring guns and ammunition to Iroquois and to keep military supplies on hand at Albany in case of need. Both sides promised to support each other and boasted of their military prowess.
The governor also urged the Haudenosaunee not to join the French and their allies in the war against a “Remote Nation,” probably meaning the Meskwaki (Fox). They asked for cheaper prices for goods and requested Joseph Van Size and Hendrick Wemp to work as smith and armorer in their country, adding that the French smith there was old and going blind.
Anglo-Dutch Farmers Encroach on Schaghticoke Lands
Governor Montgomerie renewed the Covenant Chain in a separate conference with the Schaghticoke and River Indians, for which they thanked him. He urged them to bring back those of their nation who had moved away, but they explained that it was difficult because they had less and less land at Schaghticoke to plant on. They told him that recently their European neighbors had planted on the Scaghticoke’s land, allowed their cattle to destroy Schaghticoke crops, and carried off corn from their fields. The governor asked for the names of the trespassers so he could punish them.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for the draft version starts here on p. 263.
The Commissioners of Indian Affairs maintained a regular correspondence with authorities on the Massachusetts frontier, with whom they shared intelligence about the French. In September the commissioners sent Thomas Ingersoll to Northampton to pass on a paper to Colonel John Stoddard “Relating this Governor from Canada by two of our Sachams Indians.” The records include a somewhat confusing version of the cover letter but not the paper itself, so we do not know what it said.
Problems at Oswego
The next entry is a deposition taken on September 28th before the Mayor of Albany at the commissioners’ request. It is sworn to by four people: Jacobus S. Planck, William Hogan Junior, Symon Veder, and Sybrant Van Schaick. The deponents accused an officer at Oswego, Lieutenant John Price, of drinking to excess and causing trouble for the commanding officer, Captain Nicolls. Apparently there was a possibility that Price was going to assume the command of the garrison. The deponents said he was “no fitt person” for the post.
The garrison was once again in great need of food and the Assembly’s allowance of funds for the year had not provided enough to cover the costs. Moreover illness was still a problem and the sick men were unable to transport goods to Oswego after the Palatines brought them past the Oneida Carrying Place. The commissioners resolved to hire people from the city and county of Albany to assist with transporting goods and to ask Governor Montgomery to covern costs in excess of the allowance from the Assembly.
Montgomerie quickly agreed to put up the money. The commissioners immediately wrote to the Justices at the Palatine settlement of Burnetsfield asking them to “Impress men and horses to Ride Over the Carrying Place the Batoes and Provisions which are Sent up” for the garrison. They also wrote to Captain J. Roseboom at Schenectady to retrieve any bags belonging to the public that might be there and sent three men to Oswego with provisions for the immediate relief of the garrison.
The commissioners also agreed with sixteen named individuals and “three men out of the fort” to go up to Oswego in a bateau to assist with transporting provisions. Each man was paid 4 pence a day and given a gallon of rum, but left to travel “on [his] own diet.” Every two men were required to bring back a boat. Oswego would provide an income for local Dutch and Palatine families but there is no mention of employing the Oneidas or Mohawks living at or near the carrying place. Horses were now used to carry boats as well as goods past the carrying place, suggesting that roads were improving.
The entries for August 1728 document that the new governor of New York and New Jersey, John Montgomerie, asked the Commissioners of Indians Affairs to send Laurence Claessen to Iroquoia to invite the Six Nations to a meeting with Governor Montgomery by going “from Nation to Nation in the Manner usual.” They gave the orders to Claessen and informed the governor that they had done so.
This is as good a place as any to insert these paintings of Claessen and his son that now hang on the walls of the Schenectady County Historical Society. They remind us that every time Claessen was sent on a mission like this, he left a family behind. Or perhaps the boy in the picture came with him sometimes.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for May starts here on p. 259.
There are no entries for April or June 1728. During this time New York’s governor William Burnet was replaced by Colonel John Montgomerie, who arrived in New York on April 15th. Burnet did not leave for his new position as governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire until July. Many of the records preceding July 1728 are numbered in a way that suggests they are copies rather than originals, leading me to suspect that at some point the new governor had things copied and they got out of order in the process, perhaps leading to the loss of some materials.
The sole entry for May, a copy of a letter from the Commissioners of Indian Affairs to the governor, does not say which governor was being addressed, but the wording suggests that it was Colonel Montgomerie. The commissioners thanked him for acknowledging the importance of security on New York’s frontier and tried to convince him that they needed financial support to guarantee that security since their affairs were conducted on credit.
The letter shows that troops at Oswego were still becoming ill. It is unclear what disease was affecting them or whether it was the same thing that made people sick the year before. The governor asked the commissioners to find a doctor to address the problem and in their letter of May 13th they said they had agreed with Charles Kerr, “a fitt person” “who understands Bleeding and Phisick,” to go to Oswego for a year in exchange for sixty pounds to be paid on his return. They planned to provide him with “wine Rum & sugar for the use of the sick men.” The governor approved their choice and on July 19th he received his orders to go to Oswego as “chirugeon.”
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for May starts here on p. 216.
The Mohawk leaders Hendrick and Seth met with the Commissioners of Indian Affairs on March third. They said that two “Onnogonque indians” who had moved from Canada to live with the Haudenosaunee at Oriskany had come to a Mohawk castle (i.e. town) from hunting at the little falls on Wood Creek with other Canada Indians. Two Kahnawake Indians had inquired about the three hunters from Kahnawake who had disappeared on the New England frontier. Hendrick and Seth asked their “brethren at Albany” for news about the missing hunters, but the commissioners’ response is not recorded.
Hendrick and Seth also said that the Kahnawake Indians told the Mohawks that an army of a thousand Frenchmen were marching on Oswego. The Mohawks immediately sent a messenger with wampum to inform the rest of the Six Nations. They acknowledged the English advice to the Six Nations the previous summer urging them to keep their men at home to defend Oswego rather than allowing them to go to war elsewhere.
The English Won’t Let Indians Inside Fort Oswego and Powder is Too Expensive
On March 14th, an unnamed leader from Oneida complained to the commissioners about the situation at Oswego. He spoke in the name of the entire Six Nations. There may have been other Six Nations representatives present, since the commissioners responded using the term “Brethren.”
The speaker began by reminding the commissioners that the Six Nations had agreed to the trading house at Oswego because it was supposed to be for their benefit as well as that of the English. Now the English at Oswego were preventing people from the Six Nations from coming into the house to warm themselves, or if “any one Obtains that liberty before he can be half warm he is out Doors.” Moreover the Six Nations had expected goods to become cheaper, but instead powder had become more expensive. The speaker pointed out that cheap goods would draw “waganhoes & far Indians” to trade with the English rather than the French. He also reprimanded the commissioners because Oswego was supposed to be “a house of peace” but the English were still at odds with the Governor of Canada much of the time. He presented seven hands of wampum and asked again for cheaper powder and lead as well as a quick response.
The commissioners said they were sorry that the new building was not providing “Such releave as was first Intended by our Gov.r” in the form of cheap power, lead, and other goods. They said the men at Oswego had not brought enough powder and that they would tell the governor and obtain a “Speedy & Acceptable answer.” They assured the speaker that the governor wanted to provide cheap goods to encourage trade. The rest of their response contains some contradictions and it would be interesting to know what the Oneida speaker thought about them, but nothing is recorded about it. The commissioners blamed the rude reception for Indians at the Oswego trade house on the commander there and on the report that the French were threatening to attack it. At the same time they insisted that there was a “firm peace” between the crowns of France and England. Despite the firm peace, they cautioned the Six Nations against joining the French war against the “foxes a Nation of Indians Liveing on a breach [branch] of the Mississippi” on the grounds that the French wanted the Six Nations to fight the Fox in order to weaken the Six Nations and prevent trade with the English.
The French were fighting a devastating war with the Fox (Meskwaki) during this period. Apparently some of the Meskwaki had joined the Six Nations, since the commissioners added that “part of the Same indians are now liveing among you” so the Six Nations should be able to make peace with the rest.
Food, Arms, and Powder for Oswego
Several entries in March deal once again with getting supplies to the garrison at Oswego, which was running low on peas and wheat. One of the commissioners, Philip Livingston, put up the money to provide these goods, which required repairing batoes at Schenectady, fitting them with tarpaulins to keep off the rain, and hiring four men to convey them to the Oneida Carrying Place. Captain Nicolls, the commander at Oswego, would send his men to the carrying place and take the supplies the rest of the way to the fort. Another commissioner, Harmanus Wendell, put up the money to pay Jacobus Peek for a batoe load of peas.
Governor Burnet informed the commissioners that he was sending pork for the garrison as well as orders that anyone who wanted a license to go there should be required to carry arms and powder. A somewhat confused entry in the records appears to say that the commissioners asked the interpreter at Schenechtady to hire a “trusty Indian” to take a letter to Oswego to convey orders from Colonel Rensselaer (possibly Hendrick Van Rensselaer, who was also a commissioner) to Captain Nicolls that men going to Oswego should take arms and ammunition with them.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for March starts here on p. 213.
Plans Continue for a New Mohawk Settlement on the Upper Hudson
On February 6th, Sconondo (here spelled “Schonondo) asked the Commissioners of Indian Affairs for supplies for the new community he was starting near what the commissioners called “Saragtoque,” as he had proposed a few months earlier. He planned to settle there (the commissioners use the word “settle”) with his family and 60 people including women and children. The commissioners said they would have land suitable for planting somewhere between “still water & Saragtoque” and that they would provide pork and Indian corn when the group arrived. They gave Sconondo gifts including powder, shot, rum, corn and clothing for him and his son.
“Saragtoque” was the name used at this time for what is now called Schuylerville on the west side of the Hudson, as well as the name of a large tract on both sides patented by a group of Albany traders in 1685. The land between Schuylerville and Stillwater is rich, flat, and very suitable for planting. It is also strategically located in terms of trade and defense across from the Battenkill and Hoosick Rivers which flow into the Hudson from the east and which lead to the Connecticut Valley. The area is also on the route from Albany to Montreal by way of Lake Champlain.
Laurence Claessen and Jacob Glen Encounter a Stalemate at Onondaga
Claessen and Glen travelled to Onondaga between January third and February second. They submitted a journal in Dutch describing their trip. The commissioners summarized it in a letter to the governor. Despite their promises the previous summer, the Onondagas were reluctant to openly oppose the “French Indians” over Oswego. The commissioners’ letter reveals that the Palatine settlers were attempting to raise food for the garrison at Oswego, but that the governor was still supplying additional provisions directly as needed. They asked him to send some pork for the garrison “by the Return of our first Sloops.” The letter also says that Captain Holland planned to write to Captain Nicolls at Oswego, telling Nicolls to order Printhop, the smith stationed at Oswego, to go to Onondaga. The commissioners planned to send steel to the Palatine Country from whence the Indians would take it to Onondaga.
Is New England Safe for Kahnawake Hunters?
Leaders at Kahnawake sent two messengers to Albany named Catistagie and Cahowage to ask the commissioners for help. Several months earlier four Indians were hunting near Northfield. Three of them, a man named Sanagarissa and his two sons, went to buy powder from the English and did not come back. Their companion returned to Kahnawake afraid that Sanagarissa and his sons had come to some harm. By a string of wampum the messengers asked the commissioners to find out whathappened. Other hunters at Kahnawake were waiting for the news before going out to hunt.
The commissioners told Catistagie and Cahowage that they had heard nothing about the missing hunters. They promised to send someone to New England to look into the matter. They tried to reassure them that “our brethren in New England” would not have hurt the missing hunters. At the messengers’ request, they reimbursed the men who had brought them in a sled.
[There are no entries for January 1728.] In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for February starts here on p. 211.
The October 2018 Conference on Iroquois Research was held last weekend at Ganondagan, near Victor N.Y. Ganondagan is the site of a Seneca town that was attacked by the French in 1687. The Seneca community fled, burning their buildings down before the French reached them. They rebuilt nearby. The site is now home to a bark longhouse and a beautiful museum, as well as interpretive trails, all curated to present Seneca history and culture in a way that is dynamic, respectful, and transformative. Visiting Ganondagan is inspirational in and of itself.
The conference was a chance to see old friends and make new ones and to hear presentations about a wide variety of topics in Iroquois studies, from the distant past through the present. When you are working on topics in which most people have only a limited interest, it is energizing to connect with others whose eyes light up instead of glazing over when you start to ramble on.
I had a chance to share what I have been doing with this website and get encouragement, feedback, and new ideas. You can access my slides as a powerpoint presentation here: Hunter_CommIndAff-2018 or as a PDF here:Hunter_CommIndAff-2018.
I also recommend the new issue of the C.I.R. journal, hopefully available soon at Iroquoia.And while we’re at it, the C.I.R. Facebook page has developed into a significant source for connecting with colleagues and learning about recent developments.
The Seneca people call themselves Onöndowa’ga., meaning “people of the big hill.” I am embarrassed to say that only after this last visit to Ganondagan have I faced up to that word and gotten it more or less into my ears and mind. In the process of learning it I have also discovered how to enter special characters in WordPress. Once again I realize how much I still have to learn.
The last entry for the year describes a meeting on December 27th with an Oneida leader named Canachquanie. He had been sent to bring some alarming news that the Oneidas had heard from Seneca and Cayouga Indians about events in Canada. An officer at the French fort at Cataraqui (Fort Frontenac, located at present day Kingston Ontario) had recently told Haudenosaunee people there to return to the Six Nations quickly before the commander of the fort arrived from Montreal in order to avoid any “unhappy accident.” Moreover “the Indians of Schowinnade & about the number of 700 made frequently their dances of war According to their Custum to go to war in the Spring” to destroy the new house at Oswego. Everyone knew about it and children “sung these Songs of war in the Streets.” The French at Montreal had confirmed this news.
Canachquanie told the commissioners that the Onondaga messengers who had agreed with Philip and Peter Schuyler to visit Canada and persuade Indians there not to attack Oswego had only gone one day’s journey before they returned, saying they were sick. As described in the record, this was a “feigned excuse,” but considering how many people had been sick the previous summer at Albany and Oswego, it is easy to believe that the messengers were telling the truth. On the other hand perhaps they heard about the war dances and decided not to proceed.
Canachquanie said that the Oneidas promised to send messengers themselves “on pretence of trade to prevent the Said french Indians to joyn with ye french & also to discover what is hatching in Canada [against] the house at Osweege.”The commissioners thanked Canachquanie for his service and gave him gifts.
The commissioners immediately resolved to send Laurence Claessen back to Onondaga accompanied by Canachquanie and an assistant, Jacob Glen Junior. The commissioners agreed to pay Claessen and Glen for this trip themselves if the government did not do so. Clearly they thought it essential to counteract the French threats.
Claessen’s instructions lay out the arguments to use to convince the Six Nations to send delegates to Canada in order to prevent Indians there from listening to the French. The Six Nations should make clear to Indians in Canada that the Six Nations had consented to the English building at Oswego and agreed to defend it against attack by other Indians. To keep “a good correspondence” with the Six Nations, they must stay neutral and not harken to French proposals.
[There are no entries for November 1727.] In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for December 27 starts here on p. 208a.
The Commissioners of Indian Affairs spent a lot of money in 1727 on building boats, renting wagons, and hiring workers to build the fort at Oswego and supply the garrison and workers there with provisions. They wrote Governor Burnet on October 5th to say they were in the process of getting final accounts from the “Country people” and would submit it all. They also informed him that a detachment of soldiers had finally left Schenectady for Oswego along with five civilians who would stay until April.
Arossagunticook Hunters Come To Trade
Diplomacy from earlier in the year continued to pay off. A group of people from Asigantskook (probably Arossagunticook) sent messengers to verify that the road to Albany was still open. They said their people were hunting near Wood Creek on Lake Champlain and would like to come to Albany to trade, but it was difficult to transport deer skins at this season (probably because of the low water) and they had many elders with them who would not be able to make the trip. They asked to be supplied with necessaries at Saratoga as cheaply as they would be at Albany and offered to bring their furs and deerskins to Albany in the Spring, when travel was easier. The commissioners welcomed them and invited them to trade but said they could not provide goods as cheaply at Saratoga as at Albany because they would have to pay to transport them there. They suggested that the hunting party send their young men to bring the skins down or hire horses to transport them. It would all be affordable because “goods are much Cheaper then Ever they had been” at Albany.
Laurence Claessen’s Journal
At the end of October the commissioners gave the governor an English version of Laurence Claessen’s journal of his trip to the Six Nations in September to tell them. The record includes a full copy. Claessen visited the Mohawks, Oneidas, and Tuscaroras and acquainted each nation with the news that King George II had succeeded George I as king of Great Britain. Proceeding to the Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas, he did the same thing, but here he found that warriors were preparing to go out to fight at the request of the new Governor of Canada (the Marquis de Beauharnois). Claessen did not say who they were proposing to fight, but it was probably one or more of various nations to the south who were known as Flatheads. On behalf of New York’s Governor William Burnet, Claessen gave them gifts and urged them not to listen to the French or leave their homes to fight. He managed to persuade most of them not to go on the grounds that the French were just looking for a chance to take possession of the new building at Oswego. Moreover when he returned to Onondaga, the sachims there who had agreed with the Schuyler brothers to ask other nations in Canada not to help the French were keeping their word and setting out on a trip to convey the message.
When Claessen arrived in the Seneca capital Canosedeken, which here is spelled “Canosade,” the diplomat and interpreter “Jean Coeur” had been there just two days earlier promoting the French trade goods now available at the new building at Fort Niagara, including inexpensive blankets, guns, fine shirts, stockings, and brandy. There was also a French smith living in Seneca country with his wife, children, and servant, who was trading for furs. And Claessen learned that there was a French settlement on the Susquehanna River “a little abovre Casatoqu” whose inhabitants stayed in touch with Canada by way of a small river that flowed into Lake Ontario above Niagara Falls.
The enlarged French fort at Niagara and the new English fort at Oswego had expanded the European presence in Iroquoia along with the potential for violent conflict. The Six Nations had said all along that this was a problem. It was one of the reasons that they objected to the location of Fort Oswego when Governor Burnet first proposed it in September 1724. In Seneca Country Claessen was told that the Seneca leaders who had recently gone to Canada to condole the death of Governor Vaudreuil and confirm Beauharnois as the new governor had urged the French not to create a disturbance or shed blood, even though the English and the French were “very Jealous of one another about their buildings at Osweege & Jagara.” Instead, if they wanted to fight each other, they should “decide it at Sea.” Beauharnois asked them to tell the English to move the new building at Oswego further up the river from Lake Ontario to leave a clear passage on the lake for French traders. Their response is not recorded.
One more interesting detail from this journal is that the French were trying to persuade the Schawenos (Shawnee) living at Niagara to leave; it is not clear why.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for October 1727 starts here on p. 204a.
The Schuyler brothers (Peter and Philip) returned from Onondaga with Laurence Claessen on September 2d and reported on the meeting there. The Commissioners of Indian Affairs enclosed the report in a letter to Governor Burnet in which they said the trip had met with success, but there is no copy of the report itself in the records. The commissioners immediately sent Laurence back to tell the Six Nations that George II had succeeded George I as King of Great Britain. He was also instructed to prevent the Onondagas from going to war against the Flatheads by telling them that the French were encouraging it in order to get them out of the way and then destroy them. Claessen was also told to encourage the Onondagas to defend Fort Oswego if anyone attacked it and to learn what messages the French had been sending the Six Nations. Guysbert Van Brakel Junior went with Laurence at the commissioners’ expence.
On September 13th, the commissioners met with the Onondaga sachim Teganissorens (written here as D’ Kannasorie) and a Cayuga sachim named Ondariagen, who brought information backed by seven bands of wampum that “a nation Called the Jenontadies who live at le detroit,” (the Tionontaties or Petun) had concluded a peace with the “Waganhoes,” the Iroquois term for Anishinaabeg peoples. The Waganhoes promised to maintain the alliance they had made with New York and the Six Nations and turn down any requests by the Governor of Canada to take up the hatchet against them.
The record of this meeting reveals what happened when the Schuyler brothers went to Onondaga. The Six Nations agreed to send messengers to “the Indians liveing at & near Canada” to tell them that the Six Nations had decided to defend Fort Oswego if any Indian nation attacked it, but the English and the French would have to fight it out on their own if a conflict broke out between them. Teganissorens said that the messengers were about to set out when he left home. The commissioners told them about the death of King George I and the succession of King George II, Laurence’s mission to stop the excursion against the Flatheads, and recent letters exchanged between the governors of Canada and New York.
The commissioners posted three Indians (not named) to Lake St. Sacrement (Champlain) to find out what the news was from Canada. As they wrote to the governor, it made them uneasy that no Indians from Canada had been to Albany, suggesting that the French order not to come there was effective and the French might be planning some mischief.
Fort Oswego continued to have problems. The river was still low. It was expensive to transport provisions and some soldiers had deserted and were in custody. The commissioners thanked Governor Burnet for his support in maintaining the garrison, to which he had sent bedding and provisions. They kept him informed him about the situation and promised to send him an accounting of expenses as soon as possible. At the request of the Palatines who had the contract for delivering provisions to Oswego, Johan Jurch Kast and Johan Joost Petri, the commissioners sent six men to repair the road at the Oneida Carrying Place. Captain Holland went to Schenectady to see the soldiers when they finally embarked in ten batoes along with five men assigned to stay at Oswego, where they would be employed to transport provisions.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for September 1727 starts here on p. 202.