Colonel Samuel Partridge wrote to the Albany Commissioners for Indian Affairs with a request from Massachusetts Governor William Dummer. Dummer wanted to negotiate peace with the Abenaki leader Gray Lock (Wawanolewat) and with the Indians at the French mission community at Saint Francis, who were still at war with New England in the long conflict known variously as Dummer’s War, Father Rale’s War, and Gray Lock’s War. The commissioners responded in a letter addressed to Partridge and another Massachusetts official, John Stoddard. They agreed to send a message to Gray Lock and the “Chief of St. Francois,” but since Massachusetts had not sent a belt “as is Required on Such Occasions,” the commissioners would do it in their own name and not reveal that the message came from Massachusetts.
The commissioners said that the previous January they had sent Gray Lock a message by way of his brother Malalement to invite him to come to Albany along with other native leaders who were hunting on the New York frontier. Gray Lock was gone before the message was delivered, but three of the Saint Francis Indians came to Albany for a meeting on “the first instant,” i.e. March 1. The commissioners told them about the peace treaty that New England had already concluded with several of the “Eastern Indian” groups involved in the war, including the Penobscot and “namywalk” (probably meaning Norridgewalk). They asked that St. Francis ratify the treaty, assuring them that when they did they would be welcome to hunt on New York’s frontiers. The Saint Francis Indians took this proposition back to their leaders along with gifts and a wampum belt, promising to work towards peace.
The commissioners told Partridge and Stoddard that they would make themselves guarantees that the messengers sent to Gray Lock would be treated civilly by New England and would be able to return safely, thus putting New England authorities on notice that they needed to protect the messengers against potential English attacks. But the commissioners doubted that Gray Lock could be persuaded to come to a meeting, since he had done “Much Mischief on ye. fronteers & has doubtless a Guilty Consience.” They also anticipated that the French would undermine any attempts at peace, but they believed that the messengers were sincere and that the Eastern Indians wanted peace. They explained that the previous fall some of the St. Francis leaders had started out on a trip to negotiate in response to an invitation from Albany, but turned back at Crown Point after hearing “false reports.”
The commissioners passed on all of this information to Governor Burnet.
There are no entries in the minutes for January 1727 or for March 1 1727, suggesting that the commissioners did not record all of their interactions, even those that involved sending belts, or that some records have been lost.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, these entries start here.
In October the Kahnawake leaders Sconondo and Cahowasse came to Albany from their home near Montreal. They told the commissioners that they had been at Fort La Mot in Corlaer’s Lake (probably Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain) where they met a group of ojonnagongee (Eastern Indians / Abenaki) from St. Francis (Odanak) who were on their way to tell their compatriots who were out hunting that they should come home. They told Schonondoe and Cahowasse that they had been at Quebec, where they met the new French governor. The new governor summoned the chiefs of nine castles of the Eastern Indians (meaning Abenaki nations) and asked which of them had made peace with New England. The three castles who admitted to making peace were accused of turning English. The governor said France would no longer protect them and would order their resident priest to leave. The governor said he would protect the other six castles, provide them with powder and other goods, and give them what they needed to continue the war against the people of New England who had taken Abenaki land “to which they have no Manner of Right.” Four parties of Eastern Indians who formerly lived at Norridgewock had gone out fighting against New England. The commissioners conveyed this news by an express to Massachusetts Governor Dummer and to Colonel John Stoddard at Northampton.
To put this entry in context, Norridgewock, an Abenaki community on the Kennebec River in what is now Maine, was the location of a French mission headed by Father Sebastian Rale, who encouraged the Abenaki to resist New England encroachments on their territories. The warfare between the Abenaki and New England during the 1720s is known both as Father Rale’s War and Dummer’s War. Father Rale was killed and scalped by the English when they attacked and burned the mission in 1724.
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
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, October 1724 starts here
The records for October demonstrate the utter failure of Governor Burnet’s policy prohibiting trade in Indian goods between New York and the French. The policy was codified in an act that required traders to take an oath that they were not engaging in the trade, but nearly everyone in Albany was doing so, including commissioners and their relatives. Moreover, the trade was a mainstay of the economy for native people in the area, including the Kaniengeha’ka (Mohawks) both in the Mohawk Valley and in the mission communities on the Saint Lawrence River.
The records document a dramatic encounter that occurred on October 1st, when Lieutenant Edmund Blood and Sergeant Charles Buckley, British officers garrisoned at Mount Burnet, north of Albany, traveled up Fish Creek west of the Hudson River to go hunting. Unexpectedly they came across Nicholas Schuyler and Jacob Wendell in the woods, where they were camping in a tent along with twenty or thirty Indians. They had in their possession 58 pieces of strouds, a kind of cloth that was a staple item in the fur trade. The names and nations of the Indians are never identified anywhere in the documents, but Schuyler and Wendell were both from prominent Albany families. They emerged from their tent, surprised to see the Lieutenant, who asked them where they were going. They said they were headed down the river, but could not produce a permit. The British officers seized the strouds in the King’s name by marking them in chalk with “the Broad Arrow,” and Schuyler and Wendell spoke to the Indians in their native tongue, which the British did not understand. The Indians began to pack up the strowds and the officers stopped them and seized the strouds over again. Outnumbered, the British officers consulted with each other and decided to return to their blockhouse for reinforcements. Not surprisingly they came back to find the group and the strouds had disappeared. They issued warrants against Schuyler and Wendell to require them to appear and take the oath against trading.
In the meantime, “Mr. Hansen” and Cornelis Cuyler had returned from Canada with 117 backs of beavers and some dressed deerskins. More canoes were still expected. Hansen took the oath, but Cuyler refused, apparently planning to send more strouds to Canada by way of a group of Indians who were in town before he took it. He was fined 100 pounds. Hansen testified that he saw other strouds being delivered to Canada on his trip.
Philip Schuyler, father of Nicholas Schuyler, had still not paid the 100 pound fine assessed against him for violating the act.
The records also show in a letter to Governor Burnet dated October 3rd, that the Six Nations sachems met again with the commissioners following the September treaty with Governor Burnet. Once again they refused to take up arms on Boston’s behalf. They told the commissioners “that they would still be their friends & adhere to them desiring & Recommending them to make a peace w.t the Eastern Ind.ns by Restoring them their Land and sending them their hostages.”
Governor Burnet was adamantly attached to his trade policy, but opposition was widespread even in London, where a group of merchants had signed a petition to the king in opposition to it. Turning the screws tighter on the Indian Commisisoners, Burnet asked them to respond to the London petition to refute the points that it made.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, August 1724 starts here
The commissioners began to prepare for another major treaty conference with Governor William Burnet and the Six Nations by sending Laurence Claessen to invite them to come to Albany on September 10th. They asked that the total delegation not exceed 70 people, probably because of the expenses involved in hosting such events. Claessen was told to come back to Albany with the most distant group.
More far nations came to trade. On August 7th, the “Kenondadies” arrived. They also condoled the deaths of both Pieter Schuyler and Hendrick Hansen. They gave twelve hands of wampum to wash off the tears of their relatives, and many skins and furs “to bury them.” I have not found any informations on “Kenondadie.” It might be a misspelling of “Tionondadie,” a name for the Petun people who were close allies of the Wendat (Huron). Or perhaps it is the name of a particular village.
Jacob Adatsondie and the other messengers sent by the Six Nations to the Eastern Indians returned and gave an account to the commissioners, but they did not write down what they said. However their next entry concerns a group of Schaghticoke Indians who had gone to Missisquoi, an Abenaki territory on Lake Champlain and joined in the attacks on New England. The commissioners decided to have Johannes Knickerbacker (who had land at Schaghticoke and a connection to the Schaghticokes as an interpreter) arrange to send a delegation of “trusty Indians” with wampum belts to persuade the Schaghticokes to come back.
The oath against trading Indian goods to the French was offered to a number of Albany merchants, including some of the commissioners, pursuant to the Act of 1720 prohibiting the trade. Those who took the oath included Johannes Cuyler, Philip Livingston, Evert Wendell, Abraham Cuyler, Nicholas Bleecker, Gerrit Roseboom, and Robert Roseboom. John (Johannes) Schuyler refused to take it. The sheriff was directed to levy a fine against him of 100 pounds.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, June 1724 starts here
New York’s diplomacy continued to be hampered by a lack of communication and even some outright conflicts between Governor Burnet, former Indian commissioner Colonel Johannes Schuyler, and the Albany Indian Commissioners. The commissioners had not been informed in advance that three representatives of New England had come to Albany to meet with the Kahnawake sachems and they did not know whether the governor had been informed of it, but they wrote to him saying that they presumed that he had been told. Colonel John (Johannes Schuyler), a former mayor of Albany and Indian Commissioner, had sent his own belts of wampum to Kahnawake the previous fall asking the Kahnawake sachems to come to Albany and to keep their people out of the conflict between New England and the Abenaki. Now the New England representatives sent their own messenger to the Six Nations asking them to come to the treaty. Massachusetts Governor Dummer wrote to the Albany Indian Commissioners asking them to pay part of the costs of the treaty. In their letter to the governor they said they could not pay the costs without being authorized to do so.
They also informed Governor Burnet that seven Indians from Kahnawake had gone to Otter Creek on Lake Champlain on their way to raid New England and several parties of Eastern Indians were also out raiding. The commissioners just wanted the war to end.
The commissioners met with the deputies of Kahnawake and its allies, Schwannadie, Adirondax, and Skightquan (Nippissing) on June 10th. The deputies addressed the commissioners as “Corlaer,” the term used for the governor of New York, seemingly unaware of the confusion or choosing to ignore it. They admitted that they had gone to war against New England again.
They said they wished to lay down the hatchet (make peace), but they had heard that New York, the Haudenosaunee, and New England had all agreed to take up the hatchet against them and the Abenaki. They asked that New York lay down the hatchet as well. They said that the belts they had received the previous winter had told them they should not make war while the governments of Great Britain and France were at peace. They said they agreed and promised to “stop up the path to New England,” that is stop sending warriors there. They asked that both sides bury the hatchet in “everlasting oblivion” and throw it in “a swift Current of Water to Carry it away.” They thanked God for giving New York the wisdom to mediate between them and Boston.
They added that at New York’s request they had asked the Indians at St. Francis to lay down the hatchet as well. The St. Francis Indians had said they would not come to treat about peace until Boston returned the Indian prisoners that they were holding, although they authorized the four allied nations to act as they thought best for the welfare of all. Governor Veaudreuil had given them his word that when Boston set its captives free, then he would command the Eastern Indians to make peace with New England. They also suggested that if New York had included the Eastern Indians in the belts sent out to invite Kahnawake to this treaty they would have been there too to talk of peace. Finally they said that as they were leaving Montreal they learned that some Indians living near Quebec were setting out against the English. They sent the principal sachem of Skawinnadie to tell them to stay at home until the delegates returned from the treaty. The commisisoners told them they were glad to see them and approved of their answer.
The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet explaining what had transpired. Governor Dummer had told John Schuyler and Colonel Stoddard, who were now representing Boston, to cultivate a good relationship with the commissioners, and the commissioners seemed to be taking ownership of the wampum belt message that Colonel Schuyler had sent the previous winter even though Schuyler had not consulted them in advance. The government of New England, or “Boston” as both the commissioners and the Haudenosaunee often called it, was beginning to be more inclined to make peace with the Eastern Indians, realizing that war would get them nowhere.
They added that they were receiving complaints from Indians against traders who “defrayed them in their trade” and asked to be empowered to act against such traders. They wanted to be able to compel traders accused of such practices to testify under oath about whether the complaint was true.
A few days later, on June 23rd, the Kahnawake sachems met with the Board again. They said that they had found the Indian prisoner taken in Virginia in 1722, likely the servant of Governor Spotswood who is mentioned in the minutes for 1723. He had been adopted by a woman in the place of her dead son, and she did not want to give him up, but they had persuaded her to do so. They suggested that she should be compensated for her loss. The commissioners thanked them and the woman. They agreed to give her a present to wipe off her tears.
Finally on June 25th, the Commissioners gave a formal answer to Kahnawake and its three allied nations. They thanked them for laying down the hatchet and assured them that New York had not agreed with New England to take up the hatchet against them. They also thanked them for sending the Skawinnadie sachem to prevent the Quebec Indians from going out against New England. But they said they could not get New England to make peace because fresh murders had now been committed there. They agreed to use their best efforts as mediators. They did not think New England would agree to the request from the St. Francis Indians that they free their Indian hostages until peace was actually concluded.
They belittled Governor Vaudreuil’s offer to end the war if the hostages were freed. And they now identified the leader of the party of seven Indians from Kahnawake who had gone to fight in New England as none other than “that treacherous felon Skononda.” They demanded that the sachems free the prisoners in the hands of this party when they returned to Kahnawake.
They also told them that several negro slaves had recently fled to Canada and that others had been enticed to do so by “some of your men now here.” They asked the sachems to discourage such practices, which they said were “the same as robbing us of our Goods” and could interfere with the good relations between them.
The sachems said that they would discourage their young men from luring negro slaves to Canada, and that Sconondo and his party went out against their orders. The commissioners said they were glad that the conference had ended so well and hoped that the meeting with Boston would do the same. The Indians “gave four [shouts] in Confirmation of what has been transacted at this Meeting.”
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, February 1724 starts here
On February 14th, the commissioners continued negotiations with the four nations in Canada that included Kahnawake, Rondax, Schawenadie, and Skightqan (Nippising). On February 14, they met with a delegation led by a Kahnewake sachem whose name is spelled in various ways, including Sconondo, Schonondoe, Sconondoe, and other variations. Possibly this was the Oneida leader John Skenandoa, who died in 1816 and may have been born as early as 1704. It was not uncommon in the 18th century for people to move back and forth between Kahnawake and the communities in Oneida and Mohawk country further south. However, even if the 1704 date is correct, he would have been very young to be a sachem in 1724. The commissioners used the word “sachem” to refer to many different kinds of leaders, and judging by later developments, Sconondo was the leader of a small group of people who were trading or hunting when they came to Albany, but later went raiding against New England. If Sconondo is not John Skenandoa, perhaps he was an ancestor.
Sconondo told the commissioners that an Onondaga called the Great World had asked the French authorities about a rumor that the Ottowawas planned to attack the Six Nations. If Sconondo was referring to Ohonsiowanne, an Onondaga sachem who is documented for the period between 1699-1704, this would mean that Ohonsiowanne continued to exert influence for a much longer period than historians have realized.
Governor Vaudreuil denied the rumor, but the Great World remained suspicious. He told the governor that he planned to prevent the Wagonhaes (Anishinaabeg) from coming to Albany. (The Odawa (Ottawawas) were included in the term Wagonhaes.) The Governor thanked the Great World (since France did not want western nations to trade at Albany), but advised him not to strike first. If the Wagonhaes attacked them, the Six Nations should ask the French for help. The French would then be mediators between the parties. Schonondoe asked the commissioners not to name him as the source of this information.
The commissioners asked Sconondo to bring wampum belt messages to Kannawake and the other three nations asking them to make peace with New England. They said that if the four nations did not stop fighting with the Eastern Indians against New England, the path between Albany and Canada might become completely blocked and it would be their own doing. They reminded the delegation that the Eastern Indians had been their enemies in the past and were not to be trusted.
The commissioners reproached Sconondo’s delegation with committing new assaults on New England even after agreeing to peace the previous summer, reminding them that England and France were at peace and could not approve of the subjects of either one being murdered. Sconondo said that he understood and would do his best to persuade Kahnawake and its allies to listen to the message. He said the Sachems of the four nations were planning to come to Albany early in the Spring and asked for assurance that they could travel safely, without fear of attack by New England’s forces. He asked that the Governor of New York speak to the Governor of Boston in order to guarantee their safe passage.
The next entry for February is a letter from the commissioners to New York Governor Burnet. It is obvious from their letter that they were still in conflict with him. He had accused them of undermining New England’s efforts to recruit the Six Nations and their allies to fight on the side of New England in the ongoing conflict with the Abenaki known as Father Rale’s War. More specifically Governor Burnet believed that the commissioners had privately told the Six Nations not to allow their young men to accept New England’s call to arms. The commissioners denied this charge. They protested that they would be blamed if the Indians did not fight for New England, even if it was really because of pressure from the French or other reasons. They expressed doubts about the wisdom of Governor Burnet’s suggestion to “break” the fort that the French were trying to build at Irondequoit Bay.
The commissioners explained that they had sent Lawrence Claessen to the Senecas to ask them to send messengers to invite the “far Indians” living beyond the Six Nations to come to Albany to trade. They also said that the Eastern Indians were trying to draw the Schaghticoke Indians away to fight with them, and asked for more fortifications to ensure the safety of the local farmers and remove their “pannick frights.” The commissioners asked for money to reimburse the costs of recovering an Indian captive, the “negroe boy” mentioned in the January minutes. They asked how the governor would like to send him back to his owner in Virginia. Finally they told the governor that Captain Verplank, who was stationed in Seneca country, had written them that many far Indians were coming to trade in the spring, although the French were sending a force out to stop them.
In a postscript the commissioners noted that two former commissioners had passed away that month.The trader Hendrick Hansen, who challenged the infamous sale of the Mohawk Valley tract to Godfridius Dellius, Pieter Schuyler, and others in 1697, died on February 17th. His rival Colonel Pieter Schuyler, the famous “Quider,” died the following day.
In the final entry for February, the commissioners noted that people from the government of Massachusetts or Connecticut were in Kinderhook trying to buy land in New York from the Indians illegally, without a license from the government. They resolved to issue a warrant to bring the offenders in to answer this charge.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1724 starts here
As 1724 began, the struggle between England and France for trade and a military presence in the North American interior continued in full force even though technically they were at peace. Both imperial powers were pressuring the Six Nations and the many nations to the west, south, and north of them for exclusive trade agreements. English and French diplomats and military commanders came into conflict with each other as they attempted to get permission from the Six Nations and other native people to build trading centers and forts around the Great Lakes.
In the meantime, the war between New England and the Eastern Indians (primarily the Abenaki Confederacy) continued.
Laurence Claessen returned from a trip to the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee), where the commissioners had sent him in November 1723, and gave them an account of what had transpired. His first order of business was to ask the Seneca to take wampum belts to the “far nations” to the west of Iroquoia to encourage them not to listen to the French government in Canada. The commissioners believed that the French were encouraging the far nations to join the Eastern Indians in their war against New England (Father Rale’s War), thus preventing them from trading with Albany.
The Six Nations met and considered this proposal for several days before telling Lawrence that they agreed that the French would do everything possible to prevent a direct trade between the far Indians and New York. The Six Nations feared that the Governor of Canada was planning to incite the far Indians to attack the Haudenosaunee, and for that reason the Seneca had stayed home. Finally three Seneca sachems agreed to take the commissioners’ belts to the far nations and added six belts of their own, explaining that they needed additional belts to cover all the different nations that needed to get the message.
The Seneca said they would come to Albany the following Spring with a large number of the far Indians and would meet Captain Jacob Verplank at the Lake, as the Governor of New York had requested. “The Lake” probably means Lake Ontario near Irondequoit Bay, where a contingent of Dutch traders had been living among the Seneca. They also explained that Jean Coeur (Louis Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) planned to build a fort and trading house at Irondequoit the following Spring with the Six Nations consent.
The commissioners conveyed this information to New York Governor Burnet in a letter. They added that they had retrieved a “negroe boy” from a “ffrench Indian” who had taken the boy from “Captain Hicks,” probably Captain Robert Hicks, a Virginia trader who commanded Fort Christianna, Governor Alexander Spotswood’s project to educate (and control) the Saponi and other indigenous nations.
In Cornell’s digital copy of the original minutes, August 1723 starts here
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, August 1723 starts here
On August 9th, delegates of the Six Nations stopped at Albany on their way to Boston for the upcoming peace conference to resolve the war between Massachusetts Bay and the Abenaki. Their speaker Odastichta told the commissioners that a new leader, Annatseineiin, or Annutseerie, had been appointed to replace Blue Back, who had recently passed away and who had cultivated good relations with the English. They also addressed the issue of forts and trading posts in their country, taking a diplomatic approach in explaining why the French had not removed the trading post at Niagara as New York Governor Burnet had requested. They explained that they had asked the French interpreter and diplomat to the Six Nations, Jean Coeur (Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) to remove it, but he said he would have to discuss it with the French governor. Odasticha said he thought that the kings of France and England would have informed the commissioners about this by now.
The Six Nations also announced that they were now entirely at peace with the Waganhas (Anishinaabeg), French allies who had nonetheless joined with the Six Nations in the Covenant Chain. Last but not least, they asked the commissioners to appoint three representatives to go with them to Boston.
The commissioners condoled the deaths of Blue Back and two other sachems who recently died. They agreed to tell the governor about the Six Nations attempts to remove the trading house at Niagara and Jean Coeur’s response, and said they were glad that the Waganhas had joined the Covenant Chain. Somewhat surprisingly, the commissioners declined to send representatives to Boston, explaining that the New York governor had not asked them to do so.
On the 20th of August the commissoners wrote to New York Governor Burnet, explaining what they had done to enforce the oath against trading with Canada and informed him that they had heard from Laurence Claessen that a party of Eastern Indians were going to attack New England, and also a rumor that Rutland had actually been attacked. They feared being attacked themselves, and asked for help in building stockades for the blockhouse at Mount Burnet.
They also informed the Governor that Massachusetts had communicated directly with Peter and John Schuyler about the upcoming peace negotiations, that John Schuyler had gone to Boston, and that Massachusetts would ask him to lead their forces [against the Abenaki]
The last entry for August is a request that the government reimburse the Reverend Thomas Barclay for the costs of educating Michell Montour, the son of Louis Couq dit Montour, a French and native trader who was killed by Chabert de Joncaire in 1709 after he began to work for the English recruiting “far Indians” to trade at Albany. The year before he was killed, Montour asked Barclay to care for Michell, who was five years old at the time.