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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.

Minute Book 3: 1729-March: A Murder at Schoharie is Resolved

During the early 1700s, the term “Schoharie” was used to refer to multiple communities, both European and Native American, living in close proximity along Schoharie Creek in the vicinity of the New York State town presently known as Schoharie. They included Mohawks as well as people from other Indigenous nations and Palatine Germans. On March 22, 1729, the Indian Commissioners met with Mohawk leaders Hendrick and Arie and a group of three Indians from Schoharie as well as “others of Sundry Nations.” The subject was a murder that had occurred the previous year.  The commissioners were now working with the Mohawks to resolve the situation. Significantly, the commissioners did not try at any point to have the murderer or murderers turned over to the English authorities. Thus they implicitly acknowledged that Schoharie was within the jurisdiction of the Mohawks, not the English.

The commissioners told the perpetrators that they had had multiple complaints about their behavior toward the “Christians” at Schoharie, accusing them of causing trouble wherever they went, and of threatening to break the peaceful relationship between the English and the Six Nations. By “Christians” the Commissioners probably meant the Palatines, although most of the Indians living on Schoharie Creek were also Christians, so it is hard to be sure. The victim of the murder is described as “one of your brethren,” but since all the participants in the covenant chain called each other brethren, this term could apply to a person of any ethnicity.

The commissioners said they had kept the matter secret from the governor, hoping the Schoharie community would behave better in the future, but could do so no longer. As they said, “this blood lies yet on Earth and will Cry for Revenge Wherefore wee desire you to remove your Settlements in the woods beyond any Christian Plantation, that no mischiefe may Follow from your Insolent behaviour towards your brethren of the Six Nations. So that what mischiefe be done for the Future Shall be demanded off your hands.” These somewhat enigmatic words suggest that the perpetrators of the crime were not Mohawks, but people from elsewhere living at Schoharie with the permission of the Mohawks. They had offended the Six Nations as well as the English.

In order to prevent the people who had been complaining to the commisioners from taking revenge on their own and further escalating tensions, the commissioners asked the group involved in the murder to find another place to live. The Indians replied that they would not settle “Alone on the Christian Settlements” because some of their people, resentful about being made to leave, might attack the Christians and provoke more violence. Instead they agreed to relocate to their “native Countrey Cayouge and Oneyde.” They admitted that they should have “reconciled” the murder and said that the Sachems would do it, pointing out that it was done “in drink.” Finally they reminded the commissioners of the principle, often reiterated at treaties, that when individuals committed crimes, the Covenant Chain should not be broken. Instead the leaders of their respective communities should meet to resolve the situtation, as happened in this case. 

The Schoharie Mohawks, by John P. Ferguson, is a good place to start in learning more about the Mohawk presence there. It is published by the Iroquois Indian Museum, located near Schoharie Creek at Howes Cave, NY, and available from their website

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for March starts here on p. 281.

Minute Book 3: 1729-February: A Proclamation Against Alcohol in Iroquoia

1729-2-22_alcohol[There are no entries for January 1729.]

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.

Minute Book 3: 1728-November: Problems Continue at Oswego

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Excerpt from the 1727 De Lery map of Oswego showing bateaux and canoes as well as the tents and cabins of the garrison.

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.

Minute Book 3: 1728-October Part 2: Provisions, Interpreters, and Surveyors at Oswego; A New Oneida Chief; Attack on the Senecas

Provisions, Interpreters, and Surveyors at Oswego

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

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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.

Minute Book 3: 1728-October Part 1: Governor Montgomerie’s First Conference with the Six Nations, Schaghticokes, and “River Indians”

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

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Corn growing near the Knickerbocker Mansion Historic Site at Schaghticoke NY, August 2015

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.

Minute Book 3: 1728-September: Information from Canada, More Problems at Oswego, Final Preparations for the Conference with Governor Montgomerie

Intelligence from Canada

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.

1728-9-30_list
The named individuals are: Yelius D Gardinoy, Sim: Vedder, Evert Evertse, Dirck D Gardinoy, Bernard Bratt, Joh.s V: D.Hyden, Barent Albertine Bratt, Rob.t Dunbar, Jochem Kittleum, Joh.s Wyngaerd, Dour Van Voughen, Evert Yansen, Adam Conde, Joachem V: DeHyd.n, Joh.s V Veghten, and Evert Phillipsie. Minutes of September 30, 1728 p. 262a.

Final Preparations for a Conference

As previous governors had done, Governor Montgomerie issued a proclamation prohibiting the sale of strong liquor during the upcoming conference with the Six Nations. It is printed in Volume 5 of O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of New York on page 859.  The commissioners sent a messenger to ask the leaders of the River Indians and Schaghticokes to come to Albany.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for September starts here on p. 260.

Minute Book 3: 1728 – August: Laurence Claessen is Sent to Invite the Six Nations to a Conference With Governor Montgomerie

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.

Laurence Claessen Van der Volgen
Laurence Claessen. 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.

Version 2
The child in this painting by John Heaton, made in the early 1700s, is thought to be Laurence Claessen’s son. The painting now hangs at the Schenectady County Historical Society.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for May starts here on p. 259.

Minute Book 3: 1728-May through July: A Doctor is Sent to Oswego

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.

Minute Book 3: 1728-March: Mohawk Leaders Ask About Missing Kahnawake Hunters and Bring News of French Plans to Attack Oswego; The Six Nations Complain About Insults and High Prices at Oswego; The Garrison Needs Food

News from Mohawk Country

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.

"Poling a Batteau," as depicted by an unknown artist, probably in the 1880s.
“Poling A Batteau,” from p. 423 of A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times, by Jonathan Pearson. Albany: Munsell, 1883. Artist and date unknown.                           Much of the food for the Oswego garrison was sent there from Schenectady by batteau. According to Pearson, batteaus could be either paddled, poled, or towed by workers walking along the riverbank or through the shallows.

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.

There are no entries for April 1728.

Minute Book 3: 1728-February: Families from Kahnawake Still Plan to Settle at “Saratoque;” Glen and Claessen’s Report; Kahnawake Hunters Are Missing in New England

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.

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Lock 4 Canal Park near Stillwater NY in August 2015.

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.

Another Excellent Conference on Iroquois Research

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.

 

 

Minute Book 3: 1727-December: Schawenadie Heeds the French Call to Attack Oswego; Laurence Claessen Returns to Onondaga

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.1727-12-27

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.