Minute Book 3: 1725-July

The commissioners wrote to the governor again, responding to a letter from him that is not part of the record. They told him that trade on the Lake (Ontario / Cadaraqui) was doing well, but needed more than cheap goods to succeed. They expressed concerns about the French threat and promised to give him a full account of the trade to lay before the New York Assembly.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, July 1725 starts here.

 

Minute Book 3: 1725-February

From the only entry for February, which is another letter from the commissioners to Governor Burnet, it appears that Colonel John (Johannes) Schuyler continued to work with Massachusetts separately from the commissioners to negotiate with the forces in Canada that supported the Eastern Indians, or Abenaki, in the war known variously as Father Rale’s War, Dummer’s War and Greylock’s War. Massachusetts representatives William Dudley and Samuel Thaxter met Schuyler in Albany and left with him for Canada on February 6th. The commissioners told the governor that they had offered them support.

They also told the governor that they had a letter from Captain Harme Vedder, who was in the Seneca Country. He had informed them that Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire, known to the Iroquois as Sononchiez and to the English as Jean Coeur, had spent the winter at Onnahec, the “little Seneca Castle,” with four men. In the spring they planned to go to Niagara. He told the Seneca that Vedder had orders to kill him, which Vedder denied, although he said that he would kill him if he deserved it.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, February 1725 starts here

 

Minute Book 3: 1723-November

In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, November 1723 starts here

The two observer-messengers (or spies) sent to Canada in October returned in November. They told the commissioners what they had seen there, but the commissioners asked them to repeat it with Lawrence Claessen present. Perhaps this was because the commissioners did not speak the Mohawk language as well as he did, or perhaps it was because they wanted to bring in his expertise in diplomacy. Either way, it shows how much they relied on him. For most of 1723, no members of the Schuyler family are included in the lists of those present at the commissioners’ meetings, and developments in October had already revealed that John (Johannes) Schuyler was conducting parallel diplomacy on his own. The commissioners may have felt that they were loosing their influence with the Six Nations and needed all the help that Claessen could provide.

In any case, the messengers confirmed that John Schuyler gave them wampum belts to take to three “castles,” i.e. native communities, in Canada: Cachnawage (Kahnawake) Kanighnoghquadee (Gananoque?) and Rondaxis. (The Rondaxes or Adirondacks were Algonquian speakers who lived at Three Rivers and Oka, according to p. 239 of the Livingston Indian Records.) Schuyler had not informed the commissioners about the belts, but he  sent them in the name of Boston and New York. Apparently he was working behind the Albany Indian Commissioners’ back with New York as well as Massachusetts.

Schuyler’s wampum belt messages asked the three castles to stop fighting with the French and Abenaki against New England in the ongoing hostilities known to historians as Dummer’s War. He also invited them to “use and Cultivate the Road from Canada hither and trade as Usual,” promising to remove any obstacles to doing so. “Hither” apparently meant Albany. Did Schuyler promise to restore the trade in Indian goods between Albany and Montreal, a short distance from Kahnawake? That trade had benefits for both native and French traders in the St. Lawrence Valley, as well as for many Dutch traders in Albany, even though the commissioners were working with New York’s Governor Burnet to suppress it.

The few Kahnawake leaders who were home when the messengers arrived promised to convey their message to those who were away hunting and fighting. They sent wampum belts in return to the belts brought by the messengers, but they were delivered directly to John Schuyler.

The commissioners also learned that the French and their native allies had asked more distant “upper and remote” nations to join the French side in Dummer’s War the following spring. The commissioners feared that this would not only put New England in peril, but also jeopardize the trade between those distant nations and Albany that they were trying to encourage. They sent Lawrence Claessen to the Seneca Country to engage paid messengers there to negotiate with those nations on Albany’s behalf, in particular they wanted to encourage the “Denighcariages”, a nation that, at least in the understanding of the commissioners, had joined the Six Nations that summer as the Seventh Nation. Claessen was told to assure the far nations that peace was being negotiated between the Eastern Indians and New England, the road to Albany though the Six Nations would be safe, and Albany had cheap and plentiful goods for sale.

The remainder of the entries for November concern the Schaghticoke Indians. Located north of Albany where the Hoosick River joins the Hudson from the east, Schaghticoke was on Mohican land and the path along the Hoosick was a well used road to the Connecticut Valley, one of the areas where New England was under attack. The Schaghticoke community were refugees under New York’s protection, mainly people displaced by settlers in New England and the lower Hudson, close allies of the Mohican. They were caught in the middle of Dummer’s War both geographically and diplomatically, since many were Abenaki themselves. The commissioners reproached them with leaving their homes and “Stragling & Scatter[ing]” from one place to another, instead of staying at Schaghticoke under the “Tree of Friendship and Welfare” that was the symbol for New York’s protection. People from Schaghticoke had even been seen on their way to Canada, where the commissioners undoubtedly feared that they would join the French. The commissioners believed that the Schaghticokes needed to appoint some leading men as sachems to keep them in one place, and persuade those who had left for Canada to come back.

The Schaghticokes acknowledged the agreement made almost half a century earlier with New York, joining them together and giving them protection at Schaghticoke. They said they wanted to stay there even if Canada offered them land. They agreed to consider the proposal to appoint leaders and try to bring back those who had left. They offered the commissioners gifts of venison and strings of wampum, as was customary. But the following day they said it would be impossible to get the people who had left to come back, since they had fled after committing robberies at Saratoga. They also pointed out that the Tree of Welfare was now bare at the roots, that is that their relationship with Albany was under a strain because they did not have enough land at Schaghticoke and the (Dutch) inhabitants there were harassing them. The Minute Book entry does not say what the commissioners knew well. The reason the Schaghticokes had little land left was that under New York law Albany owned that land and was leasing more and more of it out to Dutch farmers. It was Albany’s tenants who were harassing the Schaghticokes.

The Schaghticokes proposed that part of their people should move to Sinchjack, where there was still good land available. Sinchjack, which they also spelled as Sinkhaijck, probably refers to the area farther up the Hoosic River from Schaghticoke, near where the Walloomsac River flows into it in the vicinity of present day Williamstown Massachusetts. It was also known as St. Croix.  Its history is discussed in Arthur Latham Perry’s Origins In Williamstown, beginning on p. 114.

The Schaghticokes asked the commissioners to nominate leaders for them and to mend their weapons, as was customary. The commissioners agreed to all of this, including the move to Sinckhaijck. They nominated Nanratakietam, Aspenoot, Wapelanrie, Kakaghsanreet, Mashequant, and Akamsomett, with Nansasant as a successor if any of them passed away. They said it was essential to bring back those who had gone to Canada, and offered to forgive those who had committed faults, that is the Saratoga robbers. They also promised to stop the settlers at Schaghticoke from interfering with the Schaghticokes’ use of their land. They thanked them for the venison, promised to have their weapons mended, and gave them gifts of ammunition, shirts, and alcohol, with blankets for the elders Nanratakelam and Waleghlanret..

There are no entries in the Minute Book for December, so this concludes the summaries for 1723.

Minute Book 3: 1723-September

In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, September 1723 starts here

Early in September, peace between New England and the Abenaki began to look remote. The Albany Indian Commissioners heard that “french Indians” from Canada were planning to join the Eastern Indians in attacking New England. They also heard that Northfield and Rutland had been attacked. They examined someone from Caughnawaga (Kahnawake), who said that neither Kahnawake nor Schawenadie were involved in the war, but they would fight if the governor of Canada asked them too. The commissioners were now afraid that Albany would be attacked. They sent notice to Colonel Samuel Partridge in Massachusetts to be on guard, and wrote to New York Governor Burnet suggesting that the governors of all the English colonies should write to the governor of Canada to ask him to stop encouraging the Indians to attack New England, since the English and French monarchs were at peace.

Minute Book 3: 1723-June

In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, June 1723 starts here

The conference with Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations (I will refer to them that way from now on, since the Tuscaroras were now established as a member of the Five Nations) continued on June 1st, when William Tailer, Spencer Phips, and John Stoddard renewed the Covenant Chain with the Schaghticoke, Katskill, and “River” Indians, a term used for the Mohican and the peoples of the lower Hudson.  Massachusetts Bay asked them to join the war if the the Six Nations accepted the Massachusetts Bay offer to fight the Eastern Indians. They replied that they would follow the Six Nations’ lead.

The Six Nations gave their answer on June 3rd. They soothed the feelings of the Massachusetts Bay representatives by rehearsing the wrongs inflicted on them by the Eastern Indians. But they explained that the Eastern Indians, had now sent a messenger to make peace. They needed to discuss matters further and it would take several months.

The representatives from Massachusetts Bay were clearly disappointed. They asked what the point of renewing the covenant was if the Six Nations would not help them fight their enemies, especially since they would be generously rewarded. They explained that they were not empowered to make peace with the Eastern Indians and asked once again for the Six Nations to join the war. Instead the Six Nations urged them to meet with the Eastern Indians at Boston in two months to discuss peace, promising to punish the Eastern Indians if an agreement was reached and they did not honor it. The Massachusetts Bay delegates finally agreed to attend the proposed meeting.

The Six Nations and the Albany Indian Commissioners went on to discuss their own issues, in particular the competing centers for French and English trade that were being constructed in Iroquoia. The French diplomat Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire, referred to by the commissioners using every imaginable variant spelling of “Jean Coeur” had persuaded the Six Nations to allow the French to build a trading center at Kaskeghsago near Irondequoit, at the site of present day Rochester, where the Genesee River meets Lake Ontario. The commissioners asked the Six Nations to reverse this decision and forbid the French to build any settlements in Iroquoia, predicting that if  the French built a trading house at Irondequoit it would become a fort that would be used to stop “far Indians” from coming to Albany and eventually to take control of the Six Nations’ country. Furthermore, they asked the Six Nations to tell the French to remove their trading center already constructed at Niagara, as they had promised the New York governor previously. The Six Nations speaker, Thannintsorowee, said they would take the request back to their council and provide a response at the Boston meeting.

The Six Nations and the Albany commissioners held another meeting with the Abenaki envoy, lectured him about the violence inflicted on New England by the Abenaki, and told him that the Eastern Indians should come to the meeting in Boston scheduled in two months to negotiate.

The rest of June was devoted to trade. Another group of 10 far Indians came to trade on June 16th, asking for good prices and promising to bring more people if they received them. They were welcomed with provisions and rum, and assured that prices would be good. The name of their castle is left blank, suggesting that the commissioners were not familiar with it and unable to make sense of it. Magepanans, a River Indian, was asked to invite more nations to come to trade and promised a reward if he succeeded.

Governor Burnet had asked the Albany Indian Commissioners to enforce a recent act of the New York Assembly intended to stop the flourishing trade between Albany and Montreal. In this trade, which had been going on for decades, English goods were sold to the French and the French then resold those goods to indigenous fur traders. This practice undermined the English policy that aimed to monopolize the fur trade for England by persuading the indigenous fur traders to bring their goods directly to Albany.

Under the new act, Albany traders had to swear an oath that they were not trading with Canada, on penalty of a fine of a hundred pounds. The commissioners took the oath themselves and spent several days at the end of June in summoning local traders, many of whom were prominent citizens or relatives of the commissioners, and asking them to take the oath. Several refused and were fined, including Colonel John Schuyler and his son Philip Schuyler. The notes indicate that the money would be applied to repairing Albany’s fortifications or used as needed. On the 22nd, they wrote to the governor and reported on this, assuring him that they supported the policy, while acknowledging that goods were still being traded with the French. They also asked the governor to allow passage for three Frenchmen who were going to visit their uncle, a “famous trader” in Pennsylvania.

 

Minute Book 3: 1723-January

1723-1-7

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1723 starts here

The minutes for January begin with the Albany Indian Commissioners and the Haudenosaunee (Five Nations) in the middle of negotiations with New England authorities, usually referred by the Five Nations to as “Boston” or “the Brethren of New England,” and the “Eastern Indians,”  a coalition of Abenaki nations allied with New France. (“Abenaki” loosely translates as “Eastern Indians.”) Massachusetts and the Abenaki coalition were caught up in a conflict known by various names, including Dummer’s War, Gray Lock‘s War, and Father Rale’s War. The fighting had started a year earlier in 1722, triggered by conflicts over land, sovereignty, and Massachusetts’ attack on Father Sebastian Rale, a Jesuit priest who lived at the Abenaki town of Norridgewock on the Kennebec River in what is now Maine.

Massachusetts, supported by New York Governor William Burnet, wanted the Albany Commissioners to persuade the Five Nations (Haudenosaunee) to enter the war on Massachusetts’ side. The Haudenosaunee preferred to try to negotiate a peace. Albany also preferred peace. As they explain to Governor Burnet in a letter dated January 9, they do not want to get caught up in a war that might lead to retaliation on their own settlements by France and its native allies.  For diplomatic reasons, however, neither Albany nor the Five Nations want to directly refuse the requests of Governor Burnet or the Massachusetts authorities. Their language in the minutes must be read with these complications in mind.

The initial entry is a report by Laurence Claessen (Van der Volgen), Albany’s main interpreter and on the ground liaison to the Five Nations during this period. He describes a recent trip by Haudenosaunee diplomats to Boston, where they tell the Boston government that the Eastern Indians have put themselves under the Five Nations’ protection and are required to remain peaceful under that arrangement. They assure Boston that New England has a valid case, and promise to destroy the Eastern Indians if they don’t stop fighting, but they ask for time to speak to them. They set up a meeting with the Governor of Massachusetts at Albany for the coming Spring. In an interesting footnote, “Hendrik,” a member of the Five Nations’ delegation, says that he talked to a minister at Boston who spoke “the Eastern Language” about coming to teach the Mohawks in their country. “Hendrik” is probably Tejonihokarawa (ca. 1660-1735), although he could also be Theyanoguin (ca. 1691=1755), who would have known “the Eastern language” because his father was Mohegan. The Albany Commissioners send this report to Governor Burnet and propose to work with the Five Nations on a diplomatic solution.

The second theme in January concerns a prisoner, a servant of Colonel Alexander Spotswood, the Governor of Virginia. He was taken prisoner in Virginia by “French Indians” from Canastoque & two from Fort Hunter, a statement that does not make sense since Fort Hunter at this period can only refer to the Lower Mohawk Town, Tiononderoga, in the Mohawk Valley at the mouth of Schoharie Creek. His captors are taking him to Kahnawake, the Mohawk community on the Saint Lawrence river, but they agree to meet with the Albany Commissioners. “Canastoque” is probably Kanesatake, near Montreal, although there was also a settlement of the Susquehannock nation at Conestoga on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania at this time.

The prisoner is identified as a Saponi Indian, but never identified by name, although he speaks good English. He tells the commissioners he is from “Christiana,” presumably Fort Christanna, where Governor Spotswood had settled the Sapponis on a reservation designed to educate them in English and incorporate them into colonial society. Governor Spotswood has requested the prisoner’s return, and the Albany Commissioners tell Governor Burnet they are trying to secure it. The nature of the prisoner’s servitude is never described. Is he a slave or an indentured servant? What claim of ownership does Governor Spotswood have to him, and how was it acquired? Has he been taken prisoner or liberated? For more on the Saponi (also spelled Sappony) Nation and their history, see http://www.sappony.org/index.htm and http://haliwa-saponi.com .