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-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.

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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: 1727-September: The Six Nations Will Defend Oswego From Attacks by Native Nations; Problems Continue At the New Fort

The Schuyler brothers (Peter and Philip) returned from Onondaga with Laurence Claessen on September 2d and reported on the meeting there. The Commissioners of Indian Affairs enclosed the report in a letter to Governor Burnet in which they said the trip had met with success, but there is no copy of the report itself in the records.  The commissioners immediately sent Laurence back to tell the Six Nations that George II had succeeded George I as King of Great Britain.  He was also instructed to prevent the Onondagas from going to war against the Flatheads by telling them that the French were encouraging it in order to get them out of the way and then destroy them. Claessen was also told to encourage the Onondagas to defend Fort Oswego if anyone attacked it and to learn what messages the French had been sending the Six Nations.  Guysbert Van Brakel Junior went with Laurence at the commissioners’ expence.

On September 13th, the commissioners met with the Onondaga sachim Teganissorens (written here as D’ Kannasorie) and a Cayuga sachim named Ondariagen, who brought information backed by seven bands of wampum that “a nation Called the Jenontadies who live at le detroit,” (the Tionontaties or Petun) had concluded a peace with the “Waganhoes,” the Iroquois term for Anishinaabeg peoples. The Waganhoes promised to maintain the alliance they had made with New York and the Six Nations and turn down any requests by the Governor of Canada to take up the hatchet against them.

The record of this meeting reveals what happened when the Schuyler brothers went to Onondaga. The Six Nations agreed to send messengers to “the Indians liveing at & near Canada” to tell them that the Six Nations had decided to defend Fort Oswego if any Indian nation attacked it, but the English and the French would have to fight it out on their own if a conflict broke out between them.  Teganissorens said that the messengers were about to set out when he left home. The commissioners told them about the death of King George I and the succession of King George II, Laurence’s mission to stop the excursion against the Flatheads, and recent letters exchanged between the governors of Canada and New York.

The commissioners posted three Indians (not named) to Lake St. Sacrement (Champlain) to find out what the news was from Canada. As they wrote to the governor, it made them uneasy that no Indians from Canada had been to Albany, suggesting that the French order not to come there was effective and the French might be planning some mischief.

Fort Oswego continued to have problems. The river was still low. It was expensive to transport provisions and some soldiers had deserted and were in custody.  The commissioners thanked Governor Burnet for his support in maintaining the garrison, to which he had sent bedding and provisions. They kept him informed him about the situation and promised to send him an accounting of expenses as soon as possible.  At the request of the Palatines who had the contract for delivering provisions to Oswego, Johan Jurch Kast and Johan Joost Petri, the commissioners sent six men to repair the road at the Oneida Carrying Place.  Captain Holland went to Schenectady to see the soldiers when they finally embarked in ten batoes along with five men assigned to stay at Oswego, where they would  be employed to transport provisions.

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Detail from De Lery map of 1727 showing boats and canoes as well as the new building at the mouth of the Oswego River.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for September 1727 starts here on p. 202.

Minute Book 3: 1727-April: The Indians Oppose Construction at Oswego But the Commissioners Move Forward

In April the Commissioners of Indian Affairs sent Laurence Claessen to Oswego to help Captain Evert Bancker as interpreter. Claessen was given detailed instructions about how to reconcile the Six Nations to the construction of a fortified “trade house” there. In theory, Governor Burnet had pursuaded them to agree to it in at a treaty conference in 1724, but it was clear that there was still opposition and that the French were encouraging it. Laurence was told to “tell them [the building] is for ye Conveniency of the traders to Secure their Goods according to the leave & Consent given by the Said Sachims to his Excellency in 1724 to prevent that their goods may not be taken out of their Small bark houses, and that the traders may Secure and Store” unsold goods rather than bringing them home again.  He was also told to say that the French intended to build a fort at Oswego to block trade with Albany even for the Six Nations, so the new building was for their security as well as to protect trade with more distant nations. Moreover the “Great and Good King of great Britain” would take it as “the Greatest Affront” if they opposed the building.

But Evert Bancker did not wait for Laurence.  On April 26th, the commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet to inform him that Bancker had already met with the Sachims who had denied him their consent to build. The commissioners hoped that when Claessen arrived he could change their minds. They also informed the governor about another source of tension. Some of the Palatines living at Schoharie had recently accused Indians there of killing a Palatine hog,. A fight broke out and a Palatine man was wounded. The governor was concerned, but the commissioners suggested waiting to see whether the sachims would not take the initiative to come reconcile matters.

In the meantime, Governor Burnet had already sent the commissioners a model to use for the proposed building and approved their plans for hiring workmen, building boats, sawing boards, and buying horses to send to Oswego to haul stone and timber.  And even though the building was promoted as a trading house, the governor also ordered troops to be sent there immediately, including a captain, two lieutenants, two sergeants, 2 corporals, and a drummer, as well as stores and provisions.  At Burnet’s request the commissioners ordered Captain Collins (probably at Fort Frederic in Albany) to find 26 wagons to carry the supplies up all at once. “If any person Should Refuze they must be Imprest.” Collins was told to find carpenters to make three boats with 66 paddles and 15 iron shod “setting poles” as quickly as possible “not to Lose one day.” The governor promised to pay for all the men.

At Oswego, Captain Evert Bancker would be in charge of the building as well as the trade. The commissioners hired the mason Isaac Bogaert as chief workman and director. Cornelis Waldron was also hired as a mason, Benjamin Bogaert and Nicolaes Groesbeck were hired as carpenters., and Conraet Becker and Christian Jans as sawyers to make boards for the building. Jeremy Schuyler, Johannes Beekman Junior, and Nicholaes Wyngaert agreed to “lett their Servants work as Laborers” on the project for wages. The minutes do not specify how much, if any, went to the servants and how much to their masters. The commissioners did not note the names of the servants, who may have been slaves. The wording suggests that Schuyler, Beekman, and Wyngaert may also have gone to Oswego, possibly to trade. Workmen set out for Oswego on April 13th with a birch canoe and two “batoes,” which the commissioners thought worked better for the purpose.

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Dugout and birchbark canoes on exhibit at the H. Lee White Maritime Museum on the pier at Oswego.

To make sure there was adequate transportation for materials and tools, no one working on the building was allowed to carry trade goods. The minutes specify the terms of employment for each worker, including wages, hours, and travel expenses. From the commissioners’ own funds they added a generous supply of rum. They bought two horses from Peter Van Brugh and a third from Peter Schuyler and sent to them to Oswego with Laurence Claessen. When they heard that the Iroquois had denied consent to build, they offered to send two additional “men who have good Interest among ye Indians” to help Claessen and Bancker as well as more presents to persuade the Iroquois to agree to the building.  They told the governor that the workmen would move ahead and start cutting wood, sawing boards, and digging a well. The governor agreed to guarantee the money for the additional presents.

Evert Bancker had been travelling and trading in Iroquoia for years, but evidently did not have the same level of skill possessed by Laurence Claessen, whether with languages or diplomacy or both.  Bancker preferred Dutch to English and the entries for April include some of his correspondence in Dutch with the commissioners.  I have included my best shot at transcribing it but I have not tried to translate it.  Volunteers are welcome!

The commissioners also sent the governor a letter that they had received from Massachusetts Governor William Dummer.  The minutes don’t describe its contents except to say that it was “a Strange Retaliation for our good offices & pains” as well as expenses in trying to preserve security on the Massachusetts frontier. Evidently Massachusetts was still at odds with Albany over how to resolve the conflict between the Eastern Indians and the New England colonies.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for April 1727 starts here on p. 178a.