Minute Book 3: 1729-February:

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-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-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: 1727-October: Oswego Accounts; Arossaguntigook Traders; Laurence Claessen’s Journal

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.

1727-10-12

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.

Minute Book 3: 1727-June: Construction at Oswego Continues Despite Illness and French Threats; Sachims From Detroit Condole Pieter Schuyler; the French Encourage Albany’s Slaves to Run Away

By mid June Lancaster Symes was well enough to attend a meeting of the Indian Commissioners but a “Distemper” now “raged” in both the city and county of Albany., affecting some of the commissioners By the end of June, two workmen at Oswego were sick and Evert Bancker’s son had set out to help his father, who was so gravely ill that he needed to return home. Nonetheless the work on the trading house continued and the commissioners assured the governor that it was going well.  The contract for providing food to the troops at Oswego went to Johan Jurch Kast and Johan Joost Petri, two justices of the peace living among the Palatines “above the falls” (present day Little Falls?).  The agreement was made for the coming year, but the Palatines had no bacon, pork, or beef, so the commissioners sent up 400 pounds of bacon. They corresponded with the governor as well as with Evert Bancker (in Dutch), Captain Holland, and Captain Nicolls about progress on the building and other details of the operation, such as obtaining skins for shoes for the men at the fort, finding limestone, repairing the road and bridges at the Oneida Carrying Place, and the details of where to deliver supplies. Wood Creek was running low, making it more difficult to transport goods. Overall, progress was steady but slower than expected.

The commissioners hoped that the British would succeed in convincing the French government that the French fort at Niagara violated the Treaty of Utrecht, but in reality the French had already finished Fort Niagara. There was now a real danger that they could prevent travel from distant nations to Albany. The French had also repealed their former ban on selling alcohol to Indians in order to better compete with the English. And despite Captain Bancker’s efforts to prevent them, the Six Nations had sent sachims to meet with the governor of Canada, mainly from Onondaga. Trade did fall off, both at Oswego and at Albany, where no Indians from Canada were seen. The price of rum at Oswego fell and the commissioners did not hear any news from Canada because no one from Canada came to Albany to trade. In addition to creating a surplus of trade goods, this cut off a source of intelligence.

Pieter Schuyler is Condoled by the Potowatomi and Tuchsagrondie (Detroit)

The exception occurred on June 16th, when Wynamack, a leader from a nation “called by the French poatami” (most likely the Potowatomi), appeared in the company of Ajastoenis, an old man who was identified as coming from Tuchsagrondie (Detroit). After finding a translator who could speak their language, the commissioners held a formal meeting with them at which the visitors condoled Pieter Schuyler, (Quider), who had died more than three years before, in February 1724. They lit a calumet pipe of peace painted blue and smoked it with the commissioners. Wynamack said that he was leaving the calumet at Albany as a token that his nation would come to trade there if he could report back to them that he was treated well and prices were cheap. He also said the French  had tried to stop him from coming and told him that he would be badly received now that Pieter Schuyler was dead. He did not believe them based on former promises that  “ye houses would be open here for the far Nations who are Civilly & Kindly treated.” (Likely these promises were made by one of the messengers sent west to distant nations in the name of the commissioners over the previous few years.) The commissioners welcomed Wynamack and Ajastoenis with gifts of blankets and rum, thanked them for condoling Pieter Schuyler, and assured them that the governor had appointed others in his place to treat with them. They advised them to ignore the French threats and promised that “[H]ere is Always a perpetuall Succession of Sachims as you Now See.” They said that the tree of friendship still grew at Albany to protect them from all evil. They hoped it would spread over all the “remote Indians” and that they would come to trade both at Albany and at Oswego. They explained that goods were expecially cheap because so few others had come to trade that year and invited them to test this for themselves.

A Frenchman from Philadelphia is Encouraging Albany’s Slaves to Run to Canada

The commissioners complained to Governor Burnet that a Frenchman had come from Philadelphia to Albany by way of New York.  In their words, “we find on Examination [that he] has been pampering with Severall Negro Slaves at this place to run to Canada [which] is of Dangerous Consequence [that] our Slaves Should be Intic’d to run thither.” They ordered him to go back where he came from. The somewhat confusing of their letter wording suggests that they sent him to New York on a boat with Captain Peter Winne and “Jacobse,” but the unnamed Frenchman told them that he would wait there and return to Canada with three other Frenchmen who had recently  gone to Philadelphia. The commissioners asked Governor Burnet to “secure” him to prevent his return to Albany.  It appears that Governor Burnet responded by ordering him not to come to Albany again. It is interesting to speculate as to whether the runaway slave retrieved from Seneca country in May by Evert Bancker had been working with this Frenchman.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for June 1727 starts here on p. 186.

Minute Book 3: 1727-February: Governor Burnet Plans His Fort at Oswego

Having obtained 300 pounds in funding from the New York Assembly to build a fort at Oswego, Governor Burnet asked the commissioners to recommend a location. Based on the meeting between the Six Nations and Governor Burnet in September 1724, the commissioners knew that the governor wanted the fort at Oswego rather than at the Six Nations’ preferred location at the end of Oneida Lake. On February 4th, they wrote the governor and told him what he wanted to hear. The most convenient place was the west side of the Onondaga River (now called the Oswego River) where it flowed into Lake Ontario, still known as Cataraqui Lake at this period.

The commissioners recommended that Captain Evert Bancker, already stationed in Seneca Country for the winter, pick the exact location.  The fort was to be 60 feet square with two blockhouses, a shingled room, and a chimney.  1727-2-4

They agreed to keep the matter private but they told the governor that it was already no secret in Albany.  They proposed to tell Captain Bancker that the building was intended to keep the traders’ goods dry, but added that Bancker would need some presents to give any Iroquois leaders who might oppose the work.  Bancker also proposed to regulate trade at Oswego and make sure that the Indians were not cheated by mixing rum with water.  The Six Nations had complained of being cheated in this way the previous year and proposed that the traders stop bringing rum to their country, but the English would not consider that possibility. The commissioners also assured the governor that they would tell Captain Collins to redeliver rum to the Indians after they complained that it had been stolen at Schenectady.

Captain Collins is probably Edward Collins, rather than his father John Collins, who was a lieutenant by this time.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the best copy of the entry for February 1727 starts here.

Minute Book 3: 1726-April: Major Abraham Schuyler is Sent to Onondaga to Promote the English Interest

1726-4-21Stefan Bielinski‘s biography  of Major Abraham Schuyler (1663-1726), on the New York State Museum’s The People of Colonial Albany Live Here website, tells us that by 1726, Schuyler had spent years as a trader, interpreter, and diplomat in Iroquoia. In April Governor Burnet and the Commissioners of Indian Affairs sent him to Onondaga with orders to invite the Six Nations to Albany in the summer for a meeting with the governor.  Schuyler was told to address Iroquois concerns about traders who brought alcohol to their country and to ensure the safety of the traders.  He was also told to go to the Seneca’s Country or wherever else he could find information about French plans at Niagara, and to hire “trusty Indians” for this purpose. He was provided with gifts and a belt of wampum and instructed to keep a journal of his activities and observations. He was not to engage in trade himself, but to count on an appropriate reward for his services from the governor, although no amount was stated.

Major Schuyler was also told to keep order among the Dutch traders and prevent them from giving rum even to Indians from outside Iroquoia except when they were about to depart from the falls, probably meaning the falls near Oswego, where trade flourished now that Albany merchants were forbidden to trade with Montreal.

The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet enclosing a copy of Schuyler’s instructions. They said that even the traders who originally opposed moving the trade west (meaning to Oswego) now planned to partake in it and as many as 50 canoes were expected that summer.  If the French did not prevent it, Albany merchants should do well. The commissioners also told the governor that they had learned that Frenchmen were traveling from Montreal to Jagara (Niagara) without revealing their purpose, which was probably to build the new fort.

The last item in the commissioners’ letter reveals that problems with alcohol were were also occuring at Fort Hunter.  People there had submitted a petition asking for a law preventing people from buying corn from Indians and selling them rum, which was proving “very destructive to them.”

There are no entries for May 1726.

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

Minute Book 3: 1726-March: Conflicts Over Alcohol Continue; the French Presence in Iroquoia is Growing

It is not clear how well Laurence Claessen knew English.  The commissioners often instructed him to keep journals of his diplomatic missions, but they generally submitted their own versionVersion 3 into the record.  In March, Claessen appeared before them and gave them his journal of his recent trip. The minutes describe “in substance” what it said, including a day by day account of how he went to several towns of the Six Nations and invited leaders to a meeting that was held in Seneca country beginning on February 22nd.  The participants discussed the ongoing conflicts over the sale of alcohol in Iroquoia and other matters including an English boy taken captive from Virginia and thought to be held in Iroquoia. The Six Nations said they did not have the boy.  They asked once again that the English prohibit the sale of alcohol in their country, but Claessen could only tell them once again that sales would be restricted to “Far Indians” from outside Iroquoia to promote the fur trade. The sachems described how alcohol was leading to violence and other problems, even to murders.  They gave Claessen a belt of wampum to take back to the English authorities to confirm their position that it should be banned completely. However they agreed not to molest the traders or the far Indians.

In Seneca country, Claessen found Juriaen Hogan, the blacksmith sent by the English, as well as a party of French residents that included a French smith and his family.  The Iroquois said the French smith had come to live with them “in a deceitful manner,” returning with a Six Nations delegation that had gone to condole the death of the French governor Ramsay. The smith and his party were, of course, also sending information back to the French, just as Claessen and Hogan were doing for the English. Claessen provided an account of new French boats being constructed on Lake Ontario (Cataraqui) and said the Onondagas had given permission to the French to build a new trading house on the south side of the lake where the Niagara River flows into it. He described the composition of the parties that had gone out fighting over the previous winter, and conveyed the Six Nations’ request for a meeting with the governor in the spring. Claessen also reported that the Six Nations was sending ambassadors to the Waganhas proposing a meeting and invited the commissioners to send their own wampum belts along.

The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet, passed on the intelligence about French activities, and told him (in somewhat confused English) that the French must be prevented from settling in Iroquoia, and asked for funds to support an ongoing English presence among the Six Nations.  They conveyed the request to stop selling alcohol, blamed it on the French influence, and insisted that the traders could not maintain the fur trade without alcohol. They expressed concern that the Six Nations had sent deputies to meet in Seneca country, where the French influence was strongest, instead of to Onondaga as was customary. They also sent the governor the English boy who had run away from the Mohawks at Fort Hunter earlier in the year. Finally they described how Jan Wemp and Jacob Glen had cleared and mended the road at the Oneida Carrying Place, and given a bond to repair the bridge there over Wood Creek.

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

Minute Book 3: 1726-February

Laurence Claessen is Sent to Negotiate (and Obtain Intelligence)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minute Book 3: 1726-January

Conflicts in Iroquoia: Captives, Smiths, and Alcohol

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

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

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

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

Minute Book 3: 1725-October

Trade is Welcome in Iroquoia; Alcohol and Quarrels Are Not

On October 10th, another delegation from the Six Nations met with the Commissioners. This time Thanentsaronwe (Thannintsorowee) was the speaker. He came to complain again about the sale of alcohol by the European traders in Iroquoia, and to object once more to Governor Burnet’s proposed trading house on the Onnondage (Oswego) River. Alcohol had led to the death of a principal sachem, Sogeanjawa, who had been “stuck dead with a knife.” Several people had had noses and ears cut off, and nine of the “Far Indians” had killed each other. In the name of the whole Six Nations, he asked that no alcohol be transported to Iroquoia for the consumption of the Far Indians or the Six Nations. Traders were welcome to come and trade wherever they wished, with any other sort of goods. He also expressed uneasiness that the governors of New York and Canada could not agree. He begged them not to shed blood in the Six Nations’ country, where both were trading. He asked that if any English people should encounter the French “they may kindly love & friendly greet one another.” He explained that they had told the governor of Canada the same thing.

Thanentsorowee told the Commissioners that strowd blankets were now being sold to the French at the Onnondage River, despite the New York law against it. He said he had heard that people from Albany were taking credit for bringing Far Indians to Albany to trade, but actually the Six Nations should get the credit for going to the Far Nations and asking them to come to Albany to trade, with the result that five Far Nations had promised to do so. The Six Nations was paying the expenses in wampum and blankets to engage in this promotion. He asked that Albany help them with strowds, powder, and lead in order to continue doing so.

He also complained that the message that the governor of New York could not meet that summer had not been properly conveyed to the Senecas from Onondage, and if it had they would not have come. In the future, messages should be sent directly to the Senecas. He also asked for a better smith, since they did not like the one sent to them, and requested that Myndert Wemp come back with them immediately along with tools.

The Commissioners responded by thanking the delegates for bringing Far Nations to Albany to trade. They gave them powder, lead, and strowd blankets as they had requested, along with two kegs of Rum. They acknowledged the remainder of the message but did not respond to it. However they forwarded the minutes of the meeting to Governor Burnet.

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

Minute Book 3: 1725-September

Blocked from Trading with Montreal, Albany Traders Move West

In September the commissioners made good on their promise to give the governor an account of the volume of the fur trade to the west. Captain Harme Vedder, stationed in Seneca Country, returned with his company and 50 bundles of fur. Many other traders were now going west as well. Despite the difficulties involved, the commissioners put together a detailed list of who had gone to Indian country and how many furs and skins they had purchased.  At least fifty-one canoes, each carrying several traders, had been to the lakes and returned with 738 bundles of furs. The list of names covers many if not most Albany families. It also includes an unnamed Indian couple, several unnamed hired men, and a member of the versatile Montour family, Jean Montour. Some traders went more than once and some trips for which details were not provided brought 50 additional bundles of furs.  In addition, 43 canoes of “far Indians” came to Albany and Schenectady with 200 bundles. 

The direct trade from Albany to Canada was far smaller, as estimated by the commissioners and Lieutenant Blood, who was stationed at the English garrison at Mount Burnet, on the Hudson north of Albany.

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1725trade0289

Commerce between Albany and Canada continued however. On September 6th, Colonel Myndert Schuyler and Captain De Peyster returned from Canada and took the oath required of persons suspected to have traded with the French, which strongly suggests that they had in fact traded with the French. Moreover they confirmed that they had seen large quantities of strowd blankets sent from Albany to Montreal.

Trade with Montreal is Illegal, But News from Montreal is Valuable;

Grey Lock is Raiding New England

Schuyler and De Peyster also brought important news. A party of 150 warriors had left Montreal on their way to attack New England, passing Chambly, where others were encamped who planned to go as well. The French, including their priests, were encouraging them to fight, and Montreal was fortifying itself with a stone wall. The commissioners informed both New York Governor Burnet and the government of New England about the situation. In a subsequent letter they told Governor Burnet that the party at Chambly had been persuaded to go home instead of attacking New England, but the party of 150 from Montreal were sill out fighting. Two small groups of nine and fourteen were supposed to be lurking on the western frontiers, lead by Grey Lock (Wawenorrawot). The commissioners told Governor Burnet that the Indians were tired of war and wanted peace, but the French continued to push them to war.

The Six Nations Meet with the French

Schuyler and De Peyster said that a large group of leaders from the Six Nations had come to Montreal, where they were honored with a cannon salute.   According to some Seneca leaders who came to Albany to tell the commissioners about the situation, and who had resolved not to go to Montreal themselves, the Six Nations contingent included eleven Seneca sachems from Canossodage and six from Onnahee. They went to condole the passing of “Lieutenant Governor” Monsieur “D Ramsay,”  (Claude de Ramezay, the governor of Montreal who had died the previous summer.) Probably they also discussed their concerns about the escalating construction of forts in their country by both the French and the English.

Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie Want a General Treaty

Lieutenant Colonel Stephanus Grosbeeck had also been in Montreal. He told the commissioners that the sachims of Kahnawage and Schawenadie had sent him an express as he passed La Prairie, asking him by seven hands of wampum to bring a message that they were coming to Albany about October 1st, where they wanted to meet with the governors of New York and Boston (i.e. Massachusetts Bay) as well as the Six Nations. The commissioners contacted Massachusetts Bay Governor William Dummer directly to pass on this message, sending their letter by way of the authorities of Westfield Massachusetts, in order to inform them that they were at risk of attack.

The Six Nations Confirm the Treaty of 1722 with New York and Virginia

On September 26th, twelve sachems from Onondage, Cayuga, and Tuscarora came to Albany and met with the Commissioners. They said they had been sent to look into rumors spread among them and find a way to prevent such stories. They asked the Commissioners to read them the treaty made in 1722 between Virginia and the Six Nations, which was done.

Their speaker D’Kanasore (Teganissorens) gave a speech addressed to Asserigoa, the Iroquois name for the Governor of Virginia, asking the Commissioners to pass it on. He pointed out that the Six Nations had returned two prisoners taken in Virginia, an Indian (probably meaning Governor Spotswood’s Saponi servant) and a “Negroe boy,” (probably Captain Robert Hicks’ slave). He said that whoever was going fighting towards Virginia from Canada or from the Six Nations’ castles was doing it without their consent. Nonetheless, if they went past the line agreed to in the treaty of 1722 and were taken prisoner, they should likewise be returned.

Teganissorens also complained that the gunpowder they had purchased recently was defective. He asked for more powder as well as lead and gunflints, pointing out that the cost would be made up by the value of the skins they could obtain with it through hunting. He also asked for a smith as soon as possible, one better than those who had been working there, whose work was not the best.

The Six Nations Have New Objections to Burnet’s Trading House

Like the delegation from Kahnawake and Schawenadie, Teganissorens was not happy with Governor Burnet’s proposal for a trading house on the Onnondage (Oswego) River. He admitted that the Six Nations had consented to it, but he said they now feared it would cause mischief because alcohol would be sold there. People would get drunk, become unruly, and and cause harm. In addition some would likely buy rum instead of ammunition. Teganissorens asked that in the future traders would bring powder and no rum. A slightly different version of this speech was written out and then crossed out. It appears on page 146a.

The Commissioners responded the next day in a speech that verged on being abrupt, even rude. They told the delegates they were glad they wanted to prevent rumors from spreading; the only way to do so was simply refuse to listen to those who tried to delude them. They promised to convey Teganissorens’ speech to the Governor of Virginia, but added that the Six Nations should not let their people go past the boundary line agreed to in 1722. The people of Virginia “will never molest you if you do not excite them to it” and if you commit mischief you will have to answer for it, as also for “those for whom you are become Security.” The reference was to Kahnawake and its allies, the “French Indians.”

In response to the complaint about powder, they said they were sorry the Six Nations were too impoverished to buy enough powder to meet their needs. The Commissioners would ask the governor to write to England to have better powder made, but the real reason for their poverty was that they went fighting against people who had not attacked them. Instead they should stick to hunting. They agreed to convey the request for a smith and expected the governor would send one.

In response to the Six Nations’ request that traders bring powder rather than rum to sell on the Onondaga River, the Commissioners would only say that they would ask the governor to prevent traders from selling rum to the Six Nations and to sell them powder and lead. However, the traders would continue selling rum to the Far Indians because otherwise they would be unable to sell their goods. They urged the delegates to be kind to all traders on the Onondaga River and the lakes and to invite the far Indians to come trade with Albany in order to get goods cheaper than from the French. To encourage this they agreed to supply them with power, lead, and flints to meet their present needs.

The Six Nations added that the bellows at Onondaga was old and not fit for service. They asked for a new one before winter set in. They said they expected their speech to go to the governor of New York and then be forwarded to Virginia, acknowledged that the commissioners had asked them to keep the Treaty, and said they expected Virginia and its Indian allies to do the same. They expected that those who brought evil reports to them (that is rumors) probably did the same with the governor of Virginia, so they hoped he would not listen. They agreed to be kind to traders in their country and assist them however they could.

The commissioners asked what Monsieur Longuiel said when he came to their country, and Teganissorens quoted him at length. “Fathers, [the Six Nations had adopted Longueuil as their “child”] I desire that you be not surpriz’d when any blood shall be shed on the Onnondage River or at the side of the Lake for we and the English can’t well abide one another, do you not meddle with the Quarrel butt Set Still smoke & be neuter.” Tegannisorens confirmed that they had sent wampum to Canada to answer the governor saying they were surprised that the French should “trample on the Blood of their Brethren” in the Six Nations country. If they wanted to fight, they should “go to sea and fight where you have Room.”

Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie Appear, Expecting the General Treaty; They Offer an Indian Woman to Make Up for the Murder of a Soldier

Prior to the commissioners’ response to Teganissorens, seven sachems from Kahnewake, Schawenadie and Rondax appeared.  They said they had come to meet with the governors of New York and Boston, as they had requested in the message they sent by Stephanus Grosbeeck a few weeks earlier. They expected the commissioners to provide lodging in Albany in the meantime. They had no wampum, for which they asked to be excused. The commissioners provided them with housing and necessities.

On September 28th, they formally condoled the man murdered at Saratoga by their people, presumably the English soldier named Williams from the garrison at Mount Burnet. They asked for reconciliation and forgiveness and gave wampum to wipe off the tears of those in mourning for him. And in addition they offered the commissioners a captive, an Indian woman, in place of the man they had lost. They said it was “not our maxim to do so yet we do it to satisfie you for the breach that is comitted.”

They said those who killed the soldier had been on their way to fight in New England. Their young men were unruly and could not be prevented from going to help the Eastern Indians fighting against the English. They asked the Commissioners to do everything they could to end the war.

The Commissioners explained that they had gotten the wampum message that Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie wanted to meet with the governors of New York and Massachusetts Bay and had sent notice to Boston. The governor there had said that he had to attend a treaty there with the Indians who were at war and asked the Commissioners to hear on his behalf what Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie had to say. The sachems said they would do so only if Colonel John Schuyler were present to represent Massachusetts. The Commissioners said that Colonel Schuyler was welcome to attend, but they did not think he would come. If the sachems did not want to deliver their message to the Commissioners to pass on to him, perhaps they could meet with him alone, or perhaps they would like to go to Boston, where they would be well received.

The next day the Commissioners gave a more full answer, reproaching the sachems for the murder of the soldier when the parties were at peace. They accused them of deliberately breaching the Covenant Chain in order to undermine the good relations between them. Those who committed such murders should be punished. But since the sachems had come to “mediate and reconcile” the matter, the commissioners said they would ask the governor to forgive the injury on condition that the sachems agree to deliver over anyone who committed such an offense in the future. They accepted the woman in place of the dead soldier “as a Token of your Repentance and sorrow for what is past” and gave a belt of wampum. After harangueing them further to the same effect, they gave them additional wampum. The sachems responded that they had heard the message and would communicate it to their leaders at home, since they were not empowered to promise to deliver up people who transgressed in the future.

The Commissioners wrote to the governor of Massachusetts Bay and described the meeting. They referred the governor to Colonel John Schuyler for more information, explaining that the sachems had refused to deliver their message except to him. They wished the governor success in making peace.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, September 1725 starts here at page 142 through 152a and jumps back here  to p. 113.