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

Provisions, Interpreters, and Surveyors at Oswego

Even before the conference ended the commissioners sent boats to Oswego with provisions to ease the chronic shortages there.  Along with them they sent Captain Verplank and William Printhop Junior, who were instructed to make sure the provisions arrived safely and then to remain at Oswego for six months to serve as interpreters and messengers for the officer in command. Despite the complaints about him, John Price was still in charge there.  They were soon joined by Lawrence Claessen, who was sent to assist with the delicate task of selecting and surveying the land to be laid out for the English to use to raise food for the garrison.

The Commissioners of Indian Affairs Recognize A New Oneida Title Holder

1728-10-9_odatseghte

On October 9th, the commissioners met with an Oneida delegation that presented the new holder of a chief’s title which the commissioners spelled “Ondaghsichta.” They said they “had Appointed and Deputed a fitt Person in the room of Ondaghsighta dec[eased], who was one of their Chiefs and as a Tree of Peace, they do now Present this new Sachim before this meeting Who is now also named Ondaghsighta [.]” They said the new sachim had affirmed his support for the English and asked the commissioners to accept him as the new Ondaghsighta.  The request was accompanied by a string of wampum. The commissioners said they were “very much pleased that they have appointed a fitt Person in the room of the [deceased] Sachim Ondagsighta” and hoped he would be “faithfull and True to his [Majesties] Interest & Take Care of the Publick Affairs of this Province.” They accepted him as a chief and gave him a shirt.

In The Great Law and the Longhouse, William Fenton lists the titles of the principal chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (p. 191 et seq.) and describes the ritual for installing a new title-holder (p. 180 et seq.).  My guess is that Ondaghsichta is probably the commissioners’ way of spelling the name of the first Oneida chief in Fenton’s list, which he spells Ho’datche:hde’ meaning ” “Carries quiver [of arrows]” (Fenton p. 183). The first holder of the name was an Oneida leader who helped to found the Haudenosaunee confederacy, as described in Arthur Caswell Parker’s book The Constitution of the Five Nations (Albany: University of the State of NY, 1916), based on versions of the story preserved by Six Nations leaders in Canada.  The story explains how the first holder received the name, which Parker spells as Odatshedeh (p. 25) or Oh-dah-tshe-deh or (in a footnote) Odatce’te’ (p. 82.).

Joseph Van Size Wants More Money to Work in Seneca Country

The commissioners attempted to carry out the agreement made at the conference with Governor Montgomerie to send Joseph Van Size and Hendrick Wemp to Seneca Country to work as smith and armorer, but Van Size wanted more money than the commissioners could offer him. Instead they sent Wemp by himself for six months “with another [unspecified] fitt Person.” Wemp’s instructions order him to recover the smith’s shop at “Canoussodago” along with its tools and utensils from any one who might have them. They sent a note to Joseph Yetts [Yates?] along with Wemp ordering him to turn them over and instructing him to go to Onondaga and work there as a smith.

Attack on the Senecas, Confusion in Albany

The commissioners wrote the governor on October 17th to explain that two days before they had received a message that Oswego had been attacked from a man who had gotten the information from a messenger who came to Mohawk Country from the Senecas Country.  However when Lawrence Claessen spoke with the messenger he found that the unnamed man who brought the news to the commissioners had misunderstood the messenger.  In reality it was some Senecas living at the “Carrying place of Niagara about three leagues from the French house” who had been attacked, but no one knew what nation had attacked them.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for Verplanck and Printhop’s instructions starts here on p. 266. Claesen’s instructions start here on page 276a, followed by the other entries.

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

News from Mohawk Country

The Mohawk leaders Hendrick and Seth met with the Commissioners of Indian Affairs on March third. They said that two “Onnogonque indians” who had moved from Canada to live with the Haudenosaunee at Oriskany had come to a Mohawk castle (i.e. town) from hunting at the little falls on Wood Creek with other Canada Indians.  Two Kahnawake Indians had inquired about the three hunters from Kahnawake who had disappeared on the New England frontier.  Hendrick and Seth asked their “brethren at Albany” for news about the missing hunters, but the commissioners’ response is not recorded.

Hendrick and Seth also said that the Kahnawake Indians told the Mohawks that an army of a thousand Frenchmen were marching on Oswego.  The Mohawks immediately sent a messenger with wampum to inform the rest of the Six Nations.  They acknowledged the English advice to the Six Nations the previous summer urging them to keep their men at home to defend Oswego rather than allowing them to go to war elsewhere.

The English Won’t Let Indians Inside Fort Oswego and Powder is Too Expensive

On March 14th, an unnamed leader from Oneida complained to the commissioners about the situation at Oswego. He spoke in the name of the entire Six Nations. There may have been other Six Nations representatives present, since the commissioners responded using the term “Brethren.”

The speaker began by reminding the commissioners that the Six Nations had agreed to the trading house at Oswego because it was supposed to be for their benefit as well as that of the English.  Now the English at Oswego were preventing people from the Six Nations from coming into the house to warm themselves, or if “any one Obtains that liberty before he can be half warm he is out Doors.” Moreover the Six Nations had expected goods to become cheaper, but instead powder had become more expensive. The speaker pointed out that cheap goods would draw “waganhoes & far Indians” to trade with the English rather than the French. He also reprimanded the commissioners because Oswego was supposed to be “a house of peace” but the English were still at odds with the Governor of Canada much of the time. He presented seven hands of wampum and asked again for cheaper powder and lead as well as a quick response.

The commissioners said they were sorry that the new building was not providing “Such releave as was first Intended by our Gov.r” in the form of cheap power, lead, and other goods.  They said the men at Oswego had not brought enough powder and that they would tell the governor and obtain a “Speedy & Acceptable answer.” They assured the speaker that the governor wanted to provide cheap goods to encourage trade. The rest of their response contains some contradictions and it would be interesting to know what the Oneida speaker thought about them, but nothing is recorded about it. The commissioners blamed the rude reception for Indians at the Oswego trade house on the commander there and on the report that the French were threatening to attack it. At the same time they insisted that there was a “firm peace” between the crowns of France and England.  Despite the firm peace, they cautioned the Six Nations against joining the French war against the “foxes a Nation of Indians Liveing on a breach [branch] of the Mississippi” on the grounds that the French wanted the Six Nations to fight the Fox in order to weaken the Six Nations and prevent trade with the English.

The French were fighting a devastating war with the Fox  (Meskwaki) during this period. Apparently some of the Meskwaki had joined the Six Nations, since the commissioners added that “part of the Same indians are now liveing among you” so the Six Nations should be able to make peace with the rest.

Food, Arms, and Powder for Oswego

Several entries in March deal once again with getting supplies to the garrison at Oswego, which was running low on peas and wheat. One of the commissioners, Philip Livingston, put up the money to provide these goods, which required repairing batoes at Schenectady, fitting them with tarpaulins to keep off the rain, and hiring four men to convey them to the Oneida Carrying Place. Captain Nicolls, the commander at Oswego, would send his men to the carrying place and take the supplies the rest of the way to the fort.  Another commissioner, Harmanus Wendell, put up the money to pay Jacobus Peek for a batoe load of peas.

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

Governor Burnet informed the commissioners that he was sending pork for the garrison as well as orders that anyone who wanted a license to go there should be required to carry arms and powder.  A somewhat confused entry in the records appears to say that the commissioners asked the interpreter at Schenechtady to hire a “trusty Indian” to take a letter to Oswego to convey orders from Colonel Rensselaer (possibly Hendrick Van Rensselaer, who was also a commissioner) to Captain Nicolls that men going to Oswego should take arms and ammunition with them.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for March starts here on p. 213.

There are no entries for April 1728.

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

The last entry for the year describes a meeting on December 27th with an Oneida leader named Canachquanie.  He had been sent to bring some alarming news that the Oneidas had heard from Seneca and Cayouga Indians about events in Canada. An officer at the French fort at Cataraqui (Fort Frontenac, located at present day Kingston Ontario) had recently told Haudenosaunee people there to return to the Six Nations quickly before the commander of the fort arrived from Montreal in order to avoid any “unhappy accident.” Moreover “the Indians of Schowinnade & about the number of 700 made frequently their dances of war According to their Custum to go to war in the Spring” to destroy the new house at Oswego. Everyone knew about it and children “sung these Songs of war in the Streets.” The French at Montreal had confirmed this news.

Canachquanie told the commissioners that the Onondaga messengers who had agreed with Philip and Peter Schuyler to visit Canada and persuade Indians there not to attack Oswego had only gone one day’s journey before they returned, saying they were sick. As described in the record, this was a “feigned excuse,” but considering how many people had been sick the previous summer at Albany and Oswego, it is easy to believe that the messengers were telling the truth. On the other hand perhaps they heard about the war dances and decided not to proceed.

Canachquanie said that the Oneidas promised to send messengers themselves “on pretence of trade to prevent the Said french Indians to joyn with ye french & also to discover what is hatching in Canada [against] the house at Osweege.”The commissioners thanked Canachquanie for his service and gave him gifts.

The commissioners immediately resolved to send Laurence Claessen back to Onondaga accompanied by Canachquanie and an assistant, Jacob Glen Junior. The commissioners agreed to pay Claessen and Glen for this trip themselves if the government did not do so. Clearly they thought it essential to counteract the French threats.1727-12-27

Claessen’s instructions lay out the arguments to use to convince the Six Nations to send delegates to Canada in order to prevent Indians there from listening to the French. The Six Nations should make clear to Indians in Canada that the Six Nations had consented to the English building at Oswego and agreed to defend it against attack by other Indians. To keep “a good correspondence” with the Six Nations, they must stay neutral and not harken to French proposals.

[There are no entries for November 1727.] In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for December 27 starts here on p. 208a.

 

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-August: Diplomacy North, East, and West; Tensions at Oswego

In August the Commissioners for Indian Affairs held three significant meetings with delegates from Kahnawake to the north, Asskantekook to the northeast, and the Seneca town Onnahee to the west. By “Asskantekook” they probably meant Arsigantegok, the Abenaki community on the St. Francois River now known as Odanak, although it is possible that they were referring to Arossagunticook on the Androscoggin River in Maine. The Seneca representatives reported on negotiations with nations even farther west. The commissioners also continued attempted to maintain and protect Fort Oswego, where bad weather, illness, and shortages of food continued to be serious problems along with threats from French Canada.

Some Kahnawake Residents Want to Move to Saratoga

The commissioners reported to Governor Burnet on August 3rd that two canoes of “Cachnowage Indians” had arrived in Albany. A man from this group provided detailed information about the efforts of the French Governor to engage both the Six Nations and Kahnawake to attack the English.  The governor used a “great belt of wampum” to tell people at Kahnawake not to go to Albany any more, saying they had no business there. The Indians pointed out that goods were cheap at Albany, but the governor went on to complain about the new house at Oswego and ask for their help in destroying it. After bragging about the “grandeur of the french and their war Like Actions” the governor and the priest together urged them to kill “only one man Either at New England oswego or Albany.” The wording of the report is a little confused, but it appears that some people at Kahnawake agreed to help destroy Oswego, although one person told the priest that if he wanted them to kill people he should do so himself.

The French Governor also addressed some Onondaga (written as “Onnondade) sachims and told them that France had a just claim to their castles because it had cut them all off, presumably referring to the wars of the 17th century. However the French were kind and would allow them to enjoy their country without building among them. He contrasted this to the English who began with a small wooden house, but then built the stone house at Oswego, demonstrating that they planned to cut the Six Nations off.  The French governor went on to say that the King of Great Britain had asked the King of France to join him in cutting off the Six Nations, but France had refused.  He urged the Onondagas not to agree to the house at Oswego, pointing out that the English had built in the Mohawks Country “above Saraghtoge” and all the Mohawk land was gone.  The English intended to deprive them of all their lands, which would leave them in a miserable condition.

The Indian who provided the information said that if he could be given land somewhere at Saratoga, he would leave Canada and move there with eight men and their families.  Moreover, “a great many Indians would Come to Live there if there be land & a Minister comes.” He asked the commissioners to convey this request to Governor Burnet. In their letter describing this meeting, the commissioners told Burnet that there might be some suitable land “within the bounds of Saragtoge,” a large area at the time. They believed that if this plan could be put in effect, it would enhance the security of the province.

The spokesman at this meeting was probably the Kahnawake leader Sconondo, who led previous delegations from Kahnawake and who would move to Saratoga from Kahnawage in February 1728. While he may have moved because he supported the English more than the French, it could also have been to protect Mohawk interests in Saratoga in response to a growing English presence there.

Negotiations Between Albany, Boston, and the Eastern Indians of Assekantekook

In early August some sachims from Assekantikook appeared in response to a secret (“under the ground”) invitation that the commissioners had sent east in January, which reached them on March 1st. The meeting is recorded in Dutch with an English translation.  Speaking on behalf of three “castles,” they affirmed their friendship with Albany and agreed to keep the path open between them.  They said that they had sent two delegates to Boston to discuss peace with New England to put an end to Dummer’s War. The commissioners welcomed them, thanked them, and assured them that the path would be kept open between them.  They hoped that peace would be concluded with New England as well.  The commissioners also said that as they knew, the French were objecting to the new building at Oswego. They asked that Assekantikook stay out of this affair and refuse to let the French persuade them to attack the new house; otherwise the path that had now been cleared might become stopped up again. They encouraged them to come and trade at Albany.

Negotiations between the Senecas, Albany, Tionondadie, and Four Nations of Far Indians

Two Seneca sachims from Onnahee also arrived early in August and reported on another group of negotiations.  The Jonondadees (also spelled Jenundadys, probably meaning the Jenondadies or Tionondadies) from onnessagronde (possibly Tuchsagronde, that is the vicinity of Detroit) sent four strings of wampum to the Six Nations and the commissioners and the Six Nations. They told them that they had gone to the Flatheads to make peace and were returning three Flathead prisoners.  They also told them that they had met with the four nations called Medewandany, Nichheyako, Wissesake, and Jonondadeke to become friends and enter into good relations with New York, or as the commissioners put it “to persuade them into the interest of this gvernment.”  The Onnahee sachims asked their rich and well-stocked brothers of Albany for additional goods to use in negotiating similar agreements with other nations. Finally they asked to be supplied with a smith and stock maker, specifically requesting a man from Schenectady named Joost Van Sysen.

The commissioners welcomed them on behalf of Governor Burnet and thanked them for the work they had done to bring new nations into an alliance that was equally beneficial to New York and the Six Nations. They also brought up the new house at Oswego, pointing out that it would protect the Six Nations from potential French attacks.  They asked them to protect the new building if the French or their allies attacked it.  They also promised to provide a smith.

Illness and Shortages at Oswego

Governor Burnet continued to work to ensure that the fort at Oswego was a success, sending provisions himself when the Palatines ran short.  By now there seems to have been a drought in New York and water was low in the rivers, making it hard to transport boats, and even in mill streams, making it hard to grind corn. Captain Collins, Major Symes, Col. Groesbeeck, and Captain Nicolls, all worked to keep provisions flowing to the troops at the new fort. They hired carpenters to make more “batoes,” rented canoes, and hired men to help the soldiers transport goods to Schenectady and from there to Oswego. The commissioners also sent more ammunition and presents for the Indians. But on August 10th, Captain Evert Bancker came back to Albany, too ill to return to Oswego. Twelve men in Captain Nicolls’ New York detachment were also sick and the rest refused to go to Oswego. At Schenectady Major Symes informed the commissioners that out of two companies he could only find twelve men to help transport supplies, so the commissioners hired additional people at Albany. They informed the governor about all of this and told him that they sent twelve soldiers and eight inhabitants with provisions from Schenectady, but they turned back.  They planned to set out again with additional men. The commissioners urged Governor Burnet to post six New Yorkers and six “trusty Indians” to “lay at Oswego.”

The French and English Make Proposals to the Six Nations

Upon hearing that the Six Nations was about to meet at Onondaga to consider proposals from the Governor of Canada, the commissioners sent Captain Philip Schuyler and his brother Peter Schuyler to Onondaga with Laurence Claessen. They travelled “a horse back” in order to get there quickly.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for August 1727 starts here on p. 195.

Minute Book 3: 1727-July: Oswego Needs Food and Trade; Murder at Schoharie; French Governor Visits Albany

On July 5th the Commissioners of Indian Affairs informed Governor Burnet that the building at Oswego would be finished by the first of August according to Captain Evert Bancker. Supplies of food were running low there because the Palatines who had engaged to provide it had only limited amounts and supplying Oswego directly from Albany was prohibitively expensive.  The commissioners tried to reassure the governor that with the bacon they had sent up the previous month and the “wheat meal” provided by the Palatines, matters were not as bad as Captain Nicolls at Oswego suggested. They agreed with him, however, that Oswego very much needed a good Indian Interpreter.

Trade at Oswego was poor and some traders would likely have to bring their goods back. No nations from the vicinity of Tuchsagrondie (present day Detroit) had been there and few from the east. The only trade was coming from closer by, on the north side of Lake Ontario (Cadaraghi) or from those the commissioners described as “our own Indians.” Trade was further complicated by recent changes in the laws that ended the prohibition on trading Indian goods to the French in Canada but still required traders to pay additional duties on them. Governor Burnet accused the commissioners of failing to enforce the new version, but they insisted that they had issued summonses against traders who were out of compliance.

Can a British Governor Punish Indian Murderers at Schoharie?

The commissioners attempted to explain to Governor Burnet the complexities involved in punishing the death of the Palatine settler at Schoharie who had been killed in a quarrel with some Indians after accusing them of stealing a hog. They admitted that an Indian had been hanged in New Jersey for killing an Englishman, but insisted Schoharie was “different Scituated.”  The Six Nations were more numerous and of a “different temper” from the native people living in New Jersey. Moreover the Six Nations were aware that Europeans had killed people from the Six Nations and escaped execution even following a trial and judgement.  The commissioners told the governor they did not know how to apprehend the murderers in the Schoharie case.

French Threats and Diplomacy

The commissioners learned from John Tippets, a New England man who went to Canada to redeem his captive children, that 400 Frenchmen and 600 Indians were ready to attack Oswego, destroy the new building, kill the English living there, and seize their goods.  They also had “private intelligence” that an unidentified individual in Canada had undertaken to surprise and capture Fort Oswego in exchange for 50 pounds. They conveyed this information to Captain Nicolls at Oswego and advised him to be on guard.

Fortunately for the English, Jean Bouillet de La Chassaigne, the governor of Trois Rivieres, arrived in Albany on July 24th with an entourage of his officers and sent a message to Governor Burnet that he wanted to negotiate.  The commissioners paid four pounds and ten shillings to Jacob Visger to convey the party to New York in Jacob Visger’s sloop.

By now the French knew the details of the building at Oswego.  Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Lery, the engineer for the French fort at Niagara as well as many other buildings in French Canada, drew a plan of the new fort as it existed in 1727. It probably seemed primitive to him compared to his grander vision for Niagara and the other public works that he designed. Below is a copy:

Oswego_nypl.digitalcollections.0c5097c0-1484-0134-524f-00505686a51c.001.g
Chaussegros de Léry, Gaspard-Joseph, 1682-1756,”Plan of Oswego, 1727.”  Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed October 3, 2018.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first substantive entry for July 1727 starts here on p. 191a.

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-March, Pt. 1: Trading House or Fort? Building at Oswego Will Not Be Easy; A Slave is Prevented From Making a “Path for Other Slaves to Desert.”

In March the commissioners began to implement Governor Burnet’s plan for the new stone building at Oswego by hiring carpenters and masons. They looked for “two old horses” to send up located sources for stone and other building materials. They hired Luykas Wyngaert and William Barret to get boards from “Mr. Coeymans” with which Anthony Bogardus and Cornelis Bogaert built four “batoes,” because canoes would not be suitable for transporting workmen to Oswego.  Finding workmen in Albany or Schenectady was a challenge. Masons and carpenters were expensive and had to be paid for the trip as well as the time at the site.  They also had to be skilled enough with boats to make the journey.  Even the Germans who now lived in the Mohawk Valley above the Mohawk towns were asking high prices.  The commissioners suggested looking to New York for cheaper labor.  They also talked to various individuals about working there, including Adam Smith, Keith and William Waldran, Major Isaac Bogaert, Major and Nicolas Groesbeek.  The new building would play a significant role in Albany’s economy that year.

Captain Evert Bancker was commissioned as “Captain of all the Christians who are going to trade at the fixed trading place” and charged with reining in those who were already venturing to “remote” places beyond the limits set by the legislature. He was also to oversee the construction of the new building. The commissioners warned the governor that the French already knew about their plans and that the Indians were strongly against “any building to be made by us.” They recommended sending Laurence Claessen to interpret for Captain Bancker on a permanent basis, since they did not trust the traders as reliable interpreters.  Bancker was provided with generous presents to persuade the Indians to allow construction to procede.

The proposed building was called a “house” and the rationale for its construction was to protect the goods of the traders. Nonetheless, Burnet thought of it as a counterforce to the French forts, especially Niagara, and from the beginning he planned to have a garrison there. The commissioners asked for soldiers to go up with the workmen to protect the construction from a possible French attack, but the governor did not want to send soldiers until the building was complete.

The commissioners also informed the governor that Captain Bancker had reclaimed a negro woman from the Seneca’s country at considerable expence.  1727-3-25slavepath

The commissioners explained that if Bancker had not laid out more that 20 pounds to get her back, the Senecas would have sent her to Canada where she would “make a path for other Slaves to desert that way.” They asked the governor to repay Captain Bancker. It is tempting to speculate as to whether she had already taken steps to make that path, even though she was not able to travel it herself.

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

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.