Oswego continued to face the problems that had dogged it from the time it was constructed: a shortage of supplies, recurrent illness, and the threat of French attacks. During April the Commissioners of Indian Affairs took steps to address them. In early March they had heard from Dr. Kerr, the resident physician at Oswego, that the men were “much out of order” and short of supplies. They wrote to him on April 14th to tell him that the governor had given them a box of medicines that they were sending along with twenty gallons of rum, a hundred pounds of sugar, twenty-five pounds of rice, and two pounds of pepper. Provisions for Oswego were provided by the Palatine farmer Johan Jurch Kast and the commissioners arranged for them to be conveyed there by Casper Ham, Johannes Wyngaert, Evert Janse, and Marte Van Buren Junior along with the medical supplies. Each man was provided with a bateau for the purpose. They were told to bring back any empty bags from Oswego and leave twenty five of them with John Jurch Kast if he needed them.
After hearing that the French were making preparations to attack Oswego “this Spring with their Indians,” the commissioners sent Lourence Claese to ask the Six Nations for help. He was instructed to point out that if the French took Oswego, the Haudenosaunee would be surrounded on all sides by hostile forces. While this seems like an exaggeration, it is true that there were already several French forts on the Great Lakes. The English position was that these were illegal, although the Haudenosaunee position was far more nuanced. Nonetheless, Claese was told to remind the Six Nations leadership that they had agreed to the construction of the Oswego trade house and that it was built for their defense and security. Moreover they had promised to defend it if necessary. Governor Montgomerie now requested them to send two Sachims from each Nation to Oswego to remain there pending further orders from the governor. If the French attacked, the sachims should tell them that the trading house was built by the orders of the Haudenosaunee and upon their ground, and a attack on it would be considered as “an Attempt on their own Castles.”
These instructions framed what the Six Nations said at the treaty held with Governor Montgomery the previous October to make it sound more whole-hearted than it was.. The Six Nations did not see the Oswego trade house as one of their own castles, nor was it built “by their orders. ” They had agreed to let the English construct it, but with considerable ambivalence and reluctance. When asked to affirm their willingness to defend it, they initially pointed out that the English said they were building it to defend the Six Nations, not the other way around. As they put it, “Wee Acquaint you that last year when Liberty was Desired to build there it was told us that the same was built there on Purpose to Defend and Protect the Six Nations because It is a Fronteer of our Nations Therefore Wee Rely on your Promises to Perform them.” When the governor seemed to take offense, they soothed his feelings by acknowledging that the French were their “Ancient Enemies,” and they were willing to help defend the trade house. But they also made it clear that they expected the English to provide them with arms and ammunition and to use Great Britain’s much vaunted military resources if war should break out with the French.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for April 1729 starts here on p. 282.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 version 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.
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!
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, February 1726 starts here.
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.
On June 5th the commissioners wrote to the governor explaining that they had sent Laurence Claessen and two smiths to Onondaga. They added that David Van Dyck had resigned as commissioner, as Johannes Bleecker had done the previous November. A few days later, on June 11th, Claessen returned and gave an account of his journey.
Claessen arrived at Onondaga on May 27th to find the sachims of the Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Cayougas, and Senecas and Onondagas who had recently met with “Mons. Longueil, Lieut. Gov.r of Canada,” (Charles Le Moyne, Baron de Longueuil).
Claessen gave them seven strings of wampum, the agreed upon protocol that confirmed an official message. He told them that Governor Burnet (William Burnet, Governor of New York and New Jersey) had sent him to say that he could not comply with their request to meet, but that he would meet them the following year. They were happy to hear that Burnet only planned to build a trading house at Oswego, not a fort, and said they had nothing against building a house. They also thanked the governor for sending the smiths and promised to make them very welcome. They told Claessen that Longueuil had been at Onondaga until May 25th, two days before Claessen arrived. The records include what purports to be Longueuil’s speech at Onondaga.
Addressing the Haudenosaunee as “Children,” according to French custom, Longueuil said that he had been ordered to come there by the governor. He performed the customary condolence ceremony and gave a large belt of wampum, adding additional belts for each point in his speech. He said he had heard that the Six Nations were “jealous” of the French and expressed the hope that the bad feelings generated by the previous war between them were over and forgotten, since France and England were now at peace. He urged them to forget old differences and promised to “Imprint in the memory of our Children to observe the treaties of Peace & friendship” between them, so that it would live on even when “we aged Men” were dead and gone.
Longueuil confirmed that he was going to Tierondequoit (Irondequoit at the site of present day Rochester) and then to Seneca Country and Niagara, where he planned to build a strong trading house and sell goods more cheaply than before to the Six Nations as well as the nations beyond them. He also planned to build two ships to bring goods there.
Some Albany Traders Agree Not to Trade With the French
On June 11th the commissioners continued to attempt to enforce Governor Burnet’s prohibition against selling Indian goods to the French by resolving to direct the sheriff to issue summonses to a number of traders including John Schuyler, Stephanis Groesbeck, Nicholas Bleecker, Cornelis Cuyler, Hans Hansen, Edward Collins, David Schuyler Jr., Johannes Roseboom and Gerrit Roseboom Jr. They were directed to appear and take the oath against trading Indian goods with the French as required by the Act of 1720. All of them all except John Schuyler and Gerrit Roseboom Jr. appeared and took the oath. So did Jacob Verplanck. It is unclear whether “John Schuyler” refers to Colonel Johannes Schuyler or his son Johannes Schuyler, Jr.
The Jenondadies (Petun) Come to Trade
On June 19th, some “far Indians” came to trade, a group of “Jenondadies” (Tionondati or Petun) who lived near the French fort at Detroit. Their leader Schaojiese thanked the commissioners for inviting them to come to Albany to trade and asked that the path be kept clear for them. They condoled Colonel Peter Schuyler and Hendrick Hanson, who had both died in February 1724, and requested “that their Eldest Sons may be accepted in their places that the tree may grow under w.h all ye upper nations may Shelter themselves.” They also said they were “great Lovers of Liquor” and asked for good Rum, not watered down.
The commissioners thanked them for coming and for their condolences and assured them that goods would be cheap. They promised to do what they could to prevent traders from watering down rum. They appeared taken aback by the request to appoint the eldest sons of Schuyler and Hansen in their place. They explained that the choice was in the hands of the governor. They assured the Tionontaties that the tree of peace and friendship would grow as strong as ever and the upper nations would be welcome to take Shelter under it.
The Twightwighs (Miamis) Send Joseph Montour and his Cousin Maconte as Messengers
Two members of the Montour family, who had married into the Twightwigh (Miami) nation and lived among them, met with the commissioners, Jean Fafar alias Maconte, was the nephew of Louis Montour, killed by the French in 1709 for encouraging far nations to trade with the English, and Joseph Montour, Louis’s son. They brought a message from a group of Twightwigh (Miami) who had sent nine canoes to trade but were stopped at the falls of Oneida by the people who lived there. The reference appears to be to European traders, probably English subjects, because if they were French, the commissioners would have noted it. Possibly Abraham Schuyler and his party were trading while stationed with the Iroquois to reassure them about the expanding English presence in their country.
The Miami wanted to come renew their treaties and wondered why they had been stopped. Maconte and Joseph gave some dressed deerskins and a calumet pipe to the commissioners. The commissioners thanked them, but did not show much sympathy for the Miami. They expressed surprise that they had not come to Albany, since they had joined themselved in the Covenant Chain. They should not have allowed the people at Oneida falls to persuade them to trade there instead of at Albany, where goods were cheaper. They asked the Miami not to listen to such people in the future. They gave the Montour cousins some rum and blankets for the Miami sachems.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, June 1725 starts here.
The Six Nations Don’t Want a French-English War in Iroquoia
On April 11th, a delegation from Onondaga, Cayouga, and the Tuscaroras came to Albany on behalf of the Six Nations as a whole. They told the commissioners that Governor Vaudreuil had sent a message to Jean Coeur (Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) in Seneca Country telling him that someone from New England had revealed Governor Burnet’s plan for a trading house at the mouth of the Onondaga River (Oswego). Governor Vaudreuil described his own plans to build a fort at Niagara and ships to sail Cadarachqui (Lake Ontario) as well as his intention to destroy the English house at Oswego.
The delegates said that the Six Nations reminded Jean Coeur that the French and the Haudenosaunee had recently fought a bitter war that ended with an agreement not to make war over frivolous things such as “Beavers and furrs.” If the French destroyed the English trading house and built the proposed ships and fort, it could mean war. They urged the French to live in peace with the English. They did not want blood shed in their country.
They begged their brother Corlaer (New York) to listen to this message too. The French and the English should “live like friends together,” neither becoming the first aggressor. The delegates said they would take particular note of whether Corlaer followed this advice, in support of which the sachims had sent a large belt of wampum. They had sent a belt to the French with the same message. They wanted Governor Burnet to meet them at the beginning of June to renew the covenant and discuss important matters.
The commissioners responded that they were surprised that the Six Nations would allow the French to impose on them in such a way, at which point the page ends. The remainder of their answer is missing.
(I have edited this post to remove the sections relating to French forts, Abraham Schuyler’s assignment, and problems at Tiononderogue. The records begin to get out of order here, and I made a mistake in the dates of the entries relating to these issues, which date from 1726, not 1725. Apologies to my readers!)
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, April 1725 starts here .
Things were still not going well between the commissioners and William Burnet, the governor of New York and New Jersey.
In January the commissioners replied to a letter from the governor in which he told them not to give Nicholas Schuyler and Jacob Wendell the oath against trading with the French because they were already trading with the French in contravention of the Act of 1720 that prohibited it. In this letter the governor accused the commissioners of taking ‘no more Notice of [his] minute in Council then if it had been waste paper.” Presumably he was angry about the incident the previous October in which Schuyler and Wendell had been caught red-handed in the woods north of Albany with a group of native people and a large quantity of strowd blankets that they were obviously transporting to Canada to trade with the French. No doubt it seemed pointless to have traders take loads of goods to Montreal and take the oath against doing so only after they returned.
In their reponse to the governor, the commissioners said they were sorry that he felt this way. They insisted that they were doing their best to comply with his directions but the Act of 1720 did not authorize them to do more than what they were doing.
The governor’s letter also asked for changes to their report responding to the petition of the London merchants opposed to the Act and sent them a printed copy of the Act. They thanked him for it, and for the suggestions for changes. The London merchants’ petition and the final version of the response of the New York government can be seen here in the printed Papers Relating to an Act of the Assembly of Province of New-York, For Encouragement of the Indian Trade &c. and for Prohibiting the Selling of Indian Goods to the French viz. of Canada. NY: Bradford, 1724. The papers include a map that shows the route from Albany to Iroquoia, featuring the Five Nations, and showing rivers, lakes, and carrying places. The map does not show the native communities in the Saint Lawrence Valley and elsewhere that were affected by suppressing the trade between Albany and Montreal.
In their letter to the governor the commissioners also suggested that it would be useful to have an English settlement at Irondequoit (the location of present-day Rochester) so that if there was a dispute between the far Indians (members of nations coming to trade from beyond Iroquoia) and the French who wanted to prevent that trade, they could encourage the Six Nations to support the far Indians.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1725 starts here
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, September 1724 starts here
Most of the minutes for September cover a treaty conference with New York Governor William Burnet, the Six Nations, and the Schaghticokes that was held in Albany beginning on September 14th. They are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 713. I have not transcribed them because O’Callaghan’s version is essentially identical, but will briefly summarize them here.
On September 14th, Governor Burnet held a private conference with the Six Nations, New York Council member Francis Harrison, and Massachusetts Bay Council member John Stoddard. They discussed what had happened between the Six Nations messengers sent to bring the Eastern Indians to a peace treaty at Boston and the Eastern Indians (Abenaki) at the mission town of St. Francis.
The messengers said that they went first to Montreal and met with the Governor, who wanted to hold the meeting at Montreal so that he could be there. The messengers agreed in order to get an interpreter. While waiting for the St. Francis Indians, they went to Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) until the St. Francis delegates arrived. They invited the St. Francis sachems to come to Albany to talk about peace, but they replied that they could not lay down the hatchet against New England, because New England had taken their land and still held their people prisoner. They said that they would make peace when New England restored the land and freed the prisoners. They suggested that the parties wishing to make peace should come to Montreal rather than Albany.
Governor Burnet reminded the messengers that the Six Nations had told Boston that they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not comply with their requests. They denied agreeing to this, despite all his efforts, “they knew not of any promise or Engagement, only that they promised His Excellency to be mediators for Peace.”
The next day Governor Burnet welcomed the Six Nations in the name of King George and gave them wampum belts incorporating letters of the alphabet. The meanings of many of these initials are somewhat obscure. He thanked them for opening the path for far nations to come trade at Albany, claiming that this meant that goods were now more plentiful for the Six Nations. (While this might have been the case for those in the west, it is questionable whether things were working out equally well for the Mohawks). He noted that he had also improved the passage at Wood Creek where goods were carried from the Mohawk River watershed to Oneida Lake and eventually Lake Ontario by way of the Onondaga River (now called the Oswego River), a bottleneck for trade to and from the west.
Governor Burnet also said that he was keeping a force of young men with the Senecas with a smith and a trading house and that he also planned to send some men to the Onondagas, where the main trade with the far nations would pass. They planned to build a block house at the mouth of the Onondaga River. (“Onondaga River” did not mean what is now called Onondaga Creek, but rather what is now called the Oswego River where it enters Lake Ontario at Oswego.) Burnet’s men planned to live there along with a smith so they could be good neighbors to the Six Nations “and live as comfortably among you as they do here at home.” He explained that this would bring the beaver trade into Iroquoia along with cheaper goods. Governor Burnet explained that to show how much he wanted their beavers, he was wearing clothes made of beaver cloth. He asked the Six Nations to keep the path open for the far nations and to welcome the New Yorkers living in Seneca country as well as those who would be coming to Onondaga to build the new blockhouse.
Next Governor Burnet reminded the Six Nations that they had said they would send messengers to the Eastern Indians and take appropriate measures if the Eastern Indians continued to fight against New England. He said their continued friendship depended on them keeping their word, but he would leave it to the deputies from Boston to discuss the details.
On September 16th, the Six Nations met with the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay. Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of this meeting made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests to stop fighting. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. They reiterated the position of the Eastern Indians that they would not make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking their brothers.
The next day, on September 17th, the Six Nations renewed the Covenant Chain with New York and thanked the governor for providing a smith to the Senecas and Onondaga, for clearing the passage at Wood Creek and for encouraging the far Indians to come to trade. They agreed to the block house near Onondaga, but expressed concern about what the prices for goods would be. They asked that the proposed blockhouse be located at the end of Oneida Lake instead of at the mouth of the Onondaga River. They acknowledged having said that they would “resent it” if the Eastern Indians continued to attack New England, and agreed to speak to the Boston commissioners about it. The Senecas asked why Myndert Wemp, a smith who they found “good, kind, & charitable” had not returned after spending time there with Major Abraham Schuyler two years before.
Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of the proceedings between the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations on September 16th made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed inO’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. (This belt is described in the record of the treaty conference at Boston in August 1723, which can be found on page 197 of volume 5 of the Massachusetts General Court, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1723-1724.) The Six Nations explained the position of the Eastern Indians, who refused to make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking Massachusetts.
A few days later, on September 19th, Governor Burnet addressed the Six Nations again. Burnet’s tone was testy, even autocratic, and reveals the rifts still present between the British authorities and the Albany traders. Burnet told the sachems that the English blockhouse needed to be at the mouth of the Onondaga River in order to control the beaver trade, and that it must be the bad advice of the Albany traders that led the Six Nations to prefer the Oneida Lake location. He also blamed the traders for suggesting that goods should be as cheap at Onondaga as at Albany despite the additional work involved to bring them there from Albany, and for suggesting that Abraham Schuyler and Myndert Wemp return. He said that Albany was interfering in order to preserve its own trade with the French and asked the Six Nations not to consult the Albany traders in the future. He told them that he, not the Six Nations, would appoint his officers, that he would not appoint Abraham Schuyler because “he has taken a wrong way to get himself named,” and that he was sending Harme Vedder and Myndert Wemp’s brother to the Seneca instead of Schuyler and Mydert Wemp. (In the end, however, he appears to have sent Myndert Wemp after all.) He said that if he knew who had put these false notions into the minds of the Six Nations he would punish them.
Burnet said that the Six Nations had admitted to the Boston commissioners that they had agreed to support Boston against the Eastern Indians. He was not happy with their decision to wait for a response from the King of Great Britain before taking up arms. He claimed that the colonies were authorized by the king to make war with Indians on their own without the king’s consent. Burnet insisted that if the Six Nations were so “unworthy and cowardly” as to refuse to make war, they must at least allow their young men to enlist as soldiers in Boston’s army. He gave them what he described as “a very large Present” and wished them a safe journey home.
The Six nations sachems replied by D’Kannasore (Teganissorens) that since the governor did not approve of the location at Oneida Lake, they wished him “joy” where he proposed to make it and hoped it would bring many beavers. He thanked the governor for wishing them a good trip home, for many of their leaders had been lost on such journeys. He asked how many people planned to settle at the end of the Onnondaga river, to which the governor estimated 40 or 50. Teganissorens explained that he had been appointed as speaker by the Six Nations on the governor’s recommendation and that they had agreed to take his advice. He asked the governor whether he would also accept his advice, which the governor said he would do on matters of consequence.
Governor Burnet also met with the Schaghticoke sachems and complained that some of their people had been involved in attacks on New England. The Boston Commissioners at the meeting accused individuals from Schaghticoke named Schaschanaemp and Snaespank of injuring settlers on the frontiers, acknowledging that people at Schaghticoke had formerly lived “on our frontiers”. They were still welcome to hunt there “on the Branches of our Rivers” and considered friends who should not harbor New England’s enemies. The Schaghticokes admitted that Schaschanaemp and another person had come through Schaghticoke and had gone to the Half Moon and Saratoga. They said that the attacks might have been committed by people who had left Schaghticoke to live in Canada. In response to Governor Burnet’s question as to why so many people were moving from Schaghticoke to Canada, they said that one group had left because they heard that they were going to be attacked next by the Indians who were attacking New England, but they did not tell the rest of the Schaghticokes before they left. The governor accused the sachems of having no command over their people and reminded them that a Tree was planted by a former governor for them to live under (a metaphor for Governor Edmund Andros’s policy of sanctuary for refugees from New England).
The Schaghticokes said the tree was decaying, its leaves withering, and they had only a little land now to plant on. Some of them had gone hunting peacefully on the New England frontiers two years before, but were taken prisoner and put in jail in Boston. Jacob Wendell, an Albany trader who became a merchant in Boston, rescued them, but without him they would have been treated as enemies. Some of those who had been jailed had now gone to fight against New England to revenge themselves. The Boston commissioners said they were jailed by mistake because they were on Pennecook River where Boston’s enemies lived, but they were freed as soon as the mistake was discovered.
The Schaghticokes ended by renewing the covenant and affirming the Tree of Peace and Friendship planted at Schaghticoke. They would turn down requests to fight with the Eastern Indians against New England and follow the lead of the Six Nations. They, like the Six Nations, were waiting to hear King George’s response to the wampum belt message sent to him. Governor Burnet renewed the covenant and gave them gifts.
The Albany Indian Commissioners records for September 1724 include one document not printed in O’Callaghan, the record of a meeting on September 19th between the commissioners and Governor Burnet. Burnet changed the makeup of the commissioners by removing Johannes Wendell and restoring Robert Liviingston Junior. He arranged to pay back Jan Wemp and Jacob Glen for financing the work done at the Wood Creek carrying place by Major Goose Van Schaick and David Vanderheyden. He also arranged to get additional work done there to make a bridge over the creek and remove trees from the Mohawk River channel. He appointed Harme Vedder to go the Seneca Country and specified that he get the canoes used there by Jacob Verplank. He also laid out other details about work to be done in Iroquoia. Myndert Wemp or Juriaen Hogan were preferred as smiths at Onondaga, and tools were to be provided there, although he said he would need to get the funding confirmed by the New York Council.
Last but not least, Governor Burnet said that he would not allow any more money for the interpreter’s travel expenses except if the governor ordered him to go. The interpreter, Lawrence Claessen, traveled to Iroquoia on a regular basis and these trips were important in diplomatic relations between New York and the Six Nations. Burnet was making it more difficult for the Albany Indian Commissioners to conduct their affairs. Clearly matters were still not resolved between the governor and the commissioners.
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.”