The Commissioners of Indian Affairs maintained a regular correspondence with authorities on the Massachusetts frontier, with whom they shared intelligence about the French. In September the commissioners sent Thomas Ingersoll to Northampton to pass on a paper to Colonel John Stoddard “Relating this Governor from Canada by two of our Sachams Indians.” The records include a somewhat confusing version of the cover letter but not the paper itself, so we do not know what it said.
Problems at Oswego
The next entry is a deposition taken on September 28th before the Mayor of Albany at the commissioners’ request. It is sworn to by four people: Jacobus S. Planck, William Hogan Junior, Symon Veder, and Sybrant Van Schaick. The deponents accused an officer at Oswego, Lieutenant John Price, of drinking to excess and causing trouble for the commanding officer, Captain Nicolls. Apparently there was a possibility that Price was going to assume the command of the garrison. The deponents said he was “no fitt person” for the post.
The garrison was once again in great need of food and the Assembly’s allowance of funds for the year had not provided enough to cover the costs. Moreover illness was still a problem and the sick men were unable to transport goods to Oswego after the Palatines brought them past the Oneida Carrying Place. The commissioners resolved to hire people from the city and county of Albany to assist with transporting goods and to ask Governor Montgomery to covern costs in excess of the allowance from the Assembly.
Montgomerie quickly agreed to put up the money. The commissioners immediately wrote to the Justices at the Palatine settlement of Burnetsfield asking them to “Impress men and horses to Ride Over the Carrying Place the Batoes and Provisions which are Sent up” for the garrison. They also wrote to Captain J. Roseboom at Schenectady to retrieve any bags belonging to the public that might be there and sent three men to Oswego with provisions for the immediate relief of the garrison.
The commissioners also agreed with sixteen named individuals and “three men out of the fort” to go up to Oswego in a bateau to assist with transporting provisions. Each man was paid 4 pence a day and given a gallon of rum, but left to travel “on [his] own diet.” Every two men were required to bring back a boat. Oswego would provide an income for local Dutch and Palatine families but there is no mention of employing the Oneidas or Mohawks living at or near the carrying place. Horses were now used to carry boats as well as goods past the carrying place, suggesting that roads were improving.
Colonel Samuel Partridge wrote to the Albany Commissioners for Indian Affairs with a request from Massachusetts Governor William Dummer. Dummer wanted to negotiate peace with the Abenaki leader Gray Lock (Wawanolewat) and with the Indians at the French mission community at Saint Francis, who were still at war with New England in the long conflict known variously as Dummer’s War, Father Rale’s War, and Gray Lock’s War. The commissioners responded in a letter addressed to Partridge and another Massachusetts official, John Stoddard. They agreed to send a message to Gray Lock and the “Chief of St. Francois,” but since Massachusetts had not sent a belt “as is Required on Such Occasions,” the commissioners would do it in their own name and not reveal that the message came from Massachusetts.
The commissioners said that the previous January they had sent Gray Lock a message by way of his brother Malalement to invite him to come to Albany along with other native leaders who were hunting on the New York frontier. Gray Lock was gone before the message was delivered, but three of the Saint Francis Indians came to Albany for a meeting on “the first instant,” i.e. March 1. The commissioners told them about the peace treaty that New England had already concluded with several of the “Eastern Indian” groups involved in the war, including the Penobscot and “namywalk” (probably meaning Norridgewalk). They asked that St. Francis ratify the treaty, assuring them that when they did they would be welcome to hunt on New York’s frontiers. The Saint Francis Indians took this proposition back to their leaders along with gifts and a wampum belt, promising to work towards peace.
The commissioners told Partridge and Stoddard that they would make themselves guarantees that the messengers sent to Gray Lock would be treated civilly by New England and would be able to return safely, thus putting New England authorities on notice that they needed to protect the messengers against potential English attacks. But the commissioners doubted that Gray Lock could be persuaded to come to a meeting, since he had done “Much Mischief on ye. fronteers & has doubtless a Guilty Consience.” They also anticipated that the French would undermine any attempts at peace, but they believed that the messengers were sincere and that the Eastern Indians wanted peace. They explained that the previous fall some of the St. Francis leaders had started out on a trip to negotiate in response to an invitation from Albany, but turned back at Crown Point after hearing “false reports.”
The commissioners passed on all of this information to Governor Burnet.
There are no entries in the minutes for January 1727 or for March 1 1727, suggesting that the commissioners did not record all of their interactions, even those that involved sending belts, or that some records have been lost.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, these entries start here.
The first entry for May is a letter from Samuel Thaxter, William Dudley, and Theodore Atkinson, representatives from Massachusetts Bay who had gone to meet with Governor Vaudreuil in Montreal to negotiate the release of captives and try to end the war. The first page is missing, but Peter Wraxall’s Abridgment of the Indian Affairs summarizes the complete letter on p. 157-158. Vaudreuil had heard about New York’s plan to build a block house at Oswego and he considered it a violation of the Treaty of Utrecht between France and England. If the blockhouse was constructed, he would tear it down. Vaudreuil claimed that he could order the Five Nations to take English prisoners whenever he liked.
Vaudreuil supported the Abenaki demand that if the English wanted peace, they must return all Abenaki lands, including all of Lacadie (Nova Scotia) except the fort at Anapolis Royall as well as everything claimed by Massachusetts for 30 leagues along the Atlantic coast, including existing English settlements and forts. Massachusetts Bay (and Wraxall) considered these demands to be absurd. The Abenaki also asked that their church at Norridgewalk, which the English had destroyed, be rebuilt, the plunder taken there returned, and a priest restored to them. Their priest, Father Sebastien Rale, had been killed in the fighting the previous summer.
Vaudreuil claimed that he did not encourage the Abenaki, although papers taken at Norridgewalk showed otherwise. He refused to put anything in writing. He also refused to do anything to retrieve the English captives held by Indians. Even as to English captives held by the French, he told the Massachusetts Bay representatives that they would have to ransom them at whatever price was set by their owners.
The Massachusetts Bay representatives bemoaned Vaudreuil’s conduct. Many French owners of captives had raised their ransom prices. The letter ended with a plea for help: everything showed “what hardships and Intolerable Burthen his Maj.es Good Subjects lye under, being used more like brute creatures than Men & Christians & call alowd upon all Men under the Same King to lend a helping hand to gett the aforesd. Governm.tts out of this Unjust War.”
The term “unjust war” carried a lot of legal weight during this period. It suggests that the representatives may have been starting to question their governor’s aggressive policies towards the Abenaki. Not surprisingly, Wraxall’s Abridgement does not include this part of the letter, in which the New England representatives sound strangely like the Six Nations, tired of the war and looking for help in persuading the government to end it. At the conference with Governor Burnet in September 1724, the Six Nations had reminded the governor that they had sent a wampum belt to King George with a message that “this matter of peace lieth with you.”
Albany Passes on the Iroquois Message to Governor Burnet
The next entry, dated May 6th, is a copy of a letter from the commissioners to the governor. They passed on the message from the “Canada Indians” (Kahnawake and its allies) and confirmed by the Six Nations asking the British and the French both to refrain from building additional forts and trading houses in the country of the Six Nations for fear they would come to blows with each other. The commissioners had to be tactful because the governor had previously insisted that it was Albany traders who persuaded the Six Nations to oppose his proposed trading house at Oswego, where the Six Nations thought it was likely to provoke a French attack. The commissioners also passed on the Six Nations’ request for a meeting with the governor.
The 1722 Law Against Trading Indian Goods with Canada is Still Not Working
The commissioners told the governor that they would try “as much as lyes in our Sphere of bussiness” to discourage “French Indians” from transporting strowd blankets in violation of the governor’s trade policy, but the implication is clear: they did not believe they had the authority to take direct action. They also informed the governor that action had been taken against Nicholas Schuyler and Jacob Wendell, who had been caught with goods intended for the illegal trade with Canada the previous October, but their description probably did not satisfy the governor. The sheriff agreed to keep Schuyler at his own house while Schuyler gathered bedding and other things in preparation for going to jail, but as they were going there Schuyler made his escape. They informed Evert Wendell, a commisioner himself, about the situation. It is unclear what happened to Jacob Wendell.
Finally the commissioners said they were looking for a smith to go to Indian Country and passed on the information obtained from the Massachusetts Bay Commissioners.
Governor Burnet Won’t Meet the Six Nations; The Commissioners Try to Reassure Them
Governor Burnet wrote to the Commissioners telling them that he could not possibly meet the Six Nations that year because he was occupied with business in another province, but he would meet them the following year. The commissioners sent Laurence Claessen to Onondaga with this message and the mission to “quiet the minds of the Indians” in the face of the French efforts to undermine their alliance with New York. Laurence was told to explain that the governor did not plan to make a fort on Lake Ontario, but just a trading house on the “Onnondage River,” now called the Oswego River. The commissioners also agreed with Harme van Slyck Junior and Egbert Egbertse to work as smiths at Onondaga.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, May 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, July 1724 starts here
The commissioners’ minutes do not record the meetings between the New England delegates, the Six Nations, and the four allied nations headed by Kahnawake / Caughnawaga, although it is clear that such meetings took place. This might be related to a decision by the Massachusetts government not to publish records related to the ongoing war with the Abenaki (Eastern Indians). The government had published the record of the treaty conference at Boston in August 1723, which can be found on page 197 of the Massachusetts General Court, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1723-1724 (v. 5) The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1924, but decided (p. 235) that publicizing proceedings related to the war was impeding the war effort. They also decided to bury their collection of scalps (Journals … v. 6 p. 210) in secret “so as not to be discovered or produced again.”
On July 1 the Albany Indian Commissioners suggested to the Massachusetts Bay delegates that Albany should have a private conference with the Six Nations sachems. With Massachusetts Bay’s approval, they tried to persuade the Six Nations to send envoys to the Eastern Indians who were still out fighting to order them “come to Terms of Peace and Submission” with Massachusetts Bay, end their hostilities, and send representatives to Boston to conclude a formal peace treaty. They asked the Six Nations to be guarantees for the good behavior of the Eastern Indians.
The minutes do not record the initial response of the Six Nations except to note that it was “delitory and not Satisfactory.” After further consultation, the Six Nations said that they had made proposals to the Kahnawake sachems and their allies and they had agreed to peace. The Six Nations had thought that would conclude the war, but they now agreed with the proposed plan and appointed three men, Tarighdoris, Jacob alias Adatsondie, and Assredowax, to go to negotiate with the Eastern Indians. They asked for wampum belts and a canoe as well as reimbursement for the messengers to pay them for their “trouble & fatigue.” They also asked that someone from New York go with them.
The commissioners wrote to Massachusetts Bay expressing the hope that the Massachusetts Bay delegates would confirm that they had acted in New England’s best interests and worked with the Six Nations to persuade Kahnawake and its allies to bury the hatchet. They said that the Six Nations had insisted “tho’ very absurd” that peace would be concluded when the Indian hostages were returned (by Massachusetts Bay), but had finally agreed to send messengers to stop the Eastern Indians from fighting and require them to come to Boston with the Six Nations for a peace treaty. The commissioners said the Six Nations would compel them by the sword to do so if they did not agree, although it is clear from the wording that the Six Nations was not fully behind this idea.
In the midst of the peace negotiations, the Board met with the Seneca messengers who had gone to the far nations the previous winter to invite them to trade at Albany. They had met with six different nations, none of which are named, adding some extra wampum belts in order to do so. Most of those nations promised to come to Albany. But several of their canoes were met and stopped by near “the Palatines Land at the ffalls,” probably the vicinity of present day Little Falls, where many Palatines had settled. The people there pressured and bribed them to sell their goods there instead of bringing them to Albany. The far Indians and the Six Nations were highly displeased about this.
A letter from the commissioners to Governor Burnet explained the results of the negotiations with the Six Nations as well as the problems encountered by the far Indians intercepted on their way to Albany by “our people who go up to trade.” They asked for reimbursement for redeeming two captives from the Indians who were now being returned to other kinds of captivity. One was a negro boy belonging to Captain Hicks of Virginia, conveyed home by Captain (Henry?) Holland. The other was an Indian who was probably the Sapponi Indian servant of Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia.
Finally on July 14th, some far Indians did come to Albany, explaining that the French had persuaded many of their group to go to Canada instead by telling them that they would be poisoned in Albany. They had an additional purpose in coming besides trade: to condole Pieter Schuyler (Quider), who had died in February. The commissioners welcomed them and thanked them for condoling Colonel Schuyler according to custom, promising that they would always be welcomed as they were by Schuyler himself. The commissioners accepted the calumet pipe presented by the visitors and gave them food, blankets, rum, pipes, and tobacco, assuring them that the French were lying and that they would find cheap goods in Albany.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, November 1723 starts here
The two observer-messengers (or spies) sent to Canada in October returned in November. They told the commissioners what they had seen there, but the commissioners asked them to repeat it with Lawrence Claessen present. Perhaps this was because the commissioners did not speak the Mohawk language as well as he did, or perhaps it was because they wanted to bring in his expertise in diplomacy. Either way, it shows how much they relied on him. For most of 1723, no members of the Schuyler family are included in the lists of those present at the commissioners’ meetings, and developments in October had already revealed that John (Johannes) Schuyler was conducting parallel diplomacy on his own. The commissioners may have felt that they were loosing their influence with the Six Nations and needed all the help that Claessen could provide.
In any case, the messengers confirmed that John Schuyler gave them wampum belts to take to three “castles,” i.e. native communities, in Canada: Cachnawage (Kahnawake) Kanighnoghquadee (Gananoque?) and Rondaxis. (The Rondaxes or Adirondacks were Algonquian speakers who lived at Three Rivers and Oka, according to p. 239 of the Livingston Indian Records.) Schuyler had not informed the commissioners about the belts, but he sent them in the name of Boston and New York. Apparently he was working behind the Albany Indian Commissioners’ back with New York as well as Massachusetts.
Schuyler’s wampum belt messages asked the three castles to stop fighting with the French and Abenaki against New England in the ongoing hostilities known to historians as Dummer’s War. He also invited them to “use and Cultivate the Road from Canada hither and trade as Usual,” promising to remove any obstacles to doing so. “Hither” apparently meant Albany. Did Schuyler promise to restore the trade in Indian goods between Albany and Montreal, a short distance from Kahnawake? That trade had benefits for both native and French traders in the St. Lawrence Valley, as well as for many Dutch traders in Albany, even though the commissioners were working with New York’s Governor Burnet to suppress it.
The few Kahnawake leaders who were home when the messengers arrived promised to convey their message to those who were away hunting and fighting. They sent wampum belts in return to the belts brought by the messengers, but they were delivered directly to John Schuyler.
The commissioners also learned that the French and their native allies had asked more distant “upper and remote” nations to join the French side in Dummer’s War the following spring. The commissioners feared that this would not only put New England in peril, but also jeopardize the trade between those distant nations and Albany that they were trying to encourage. They sent Lawrence Claessen to the Seneca Country to engage paid messengers there to negotiate with those nations on Albany’s behalf, in particular they wanted to encourage the “Denighcariages”, a nation that, at least in the understanding of the commissioners, had joined the Six Nations that summer as the Seventh Nation. Claessen was told to assure the far nations that peace was being negotiated between the Eastern Indians and New England, the road to Albany though the Six Nations would be safe, and Albany had cheap and plentiful goods for sale.
The remainder of the entries for November concern the Schaghticoke Indians. Located north of Albany where the Hoosick River joins the Hudson from the east, Schaghticoke was on Mohican land and the path along the Hoosick was a well used road to the Connecticut Valley, one of the areas where New England was under attack. The Schaghticoke community were refugees under New York’s protection, mainly people displaced by settlers in New England and the lower Hudson, close allies of the Mohican. They were caught in the middle of Dummer’s War both geographically and diplomatically, since many were Abenaki themselves. The commissioners reproached them with leaving their homes and “Stragling & Scatter[ing]” from one place to another, instead of staying at Schaghticoke under the “Tree of Friendship and Welfare” that was the symbol for New York’s protection. People from Schaghticoke had even been seen on their way to Canada, where the commissioners undoubtedly feared that they would join the French. The commissioners believed that the Schaghticokes needed to appoint some leading men as sachems to keep them in one place, and persuade those who had left for Canada to come back.
The Schaghticokes acknowledged the agreement made almost half a century earlier with New York, joining them together and giving them protection at Schaghticoke. They said they wanted to stay there even if Canada offered them land. They agreed to consider the proposal to appoint leaders and try to bring back those who had left. They offered the commissioners gifts of venison and strings of wampum, as was customary. But the following day they said it would be impossible to get the people who had left to come back, since they had fled after committing robberies at Saratoga. They also pointed out that the Tree of Welfare was now bare at the roots, that is that their relationship with Albany was under a strain because they did not have enough land at Schaghticoke and the (Dutch) inhabitants there were harassing them. The Minute Book entry does not say what the commissioners knew well. The reason the Schaghticokes had little land left was that under New York law Albany owned that land and was leasing more and more of it out to Dutch farmers. It was Albany’s tenants who were harassing the Schaghticokes.
The Schaghticokes proposed that part of their people should move to Sinchjack, where there was still good land available. Sinchjack, which they also spelled as Sinkhaijck, probably refers to the area farther up the Hoosic River from Schaghticoke, near where the Walloomsac River flows into it in the vicinity of present day Williamstown Massachusetts. It was also known as St. Croix. Its history is discussed in Arthur Latham Perry’s Origins In Williamstown, beginning on p. 114.
The Schaghticokes asked the commissioners to nominate leaders for them and to mend their weapons, as was customary. The commissioners agreed to all of this, including the move to Sinckhaijck. They nominated Nanratakietam, Aspenoot, Wapelanrie, Kakaghsanreet, Mashequant, and Akamsomett, with Nansasant as a successor if any of them passed away. They said it was essential to bring back those who had gone to Canada, and offered to forgive those who had committed faults, that is the Saratoga robbers. They also promised to stop the settlers at Schaghticoke from interfering with the Schaghticokes’ use of their land. They thanked them for the venison, promised to have their weapons mended, and gave them gifts of ammunition, shirts, and alcohol, with blankets for the elders Nanratakelam and Waleghlanret..
There are no entries in the Minute Book for December, so this concludes the summaries for 1723.
In Cornell’s digital copy of the original minutes, October 1723 starts here
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, October 1723 starts here
The Albany Indian Commissioners were increasingly anxious that their own community would be attacked in the course of the ongoing war between Massachusetts Bay and the Abenaki (Dummer’s War). They took it as a bad sign that no Indians had come to Albany from Canada recently, as was usual. Rather than attributing this to New York’s ban on trading Indian goods to Canada, they began to worry that the Saint Lawrence Valley communities like Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) were going to join the Abenaki in attacking English settlements, including theirs. They decided to send two Indian observers to Canada to see what was going on and to persuade the young men at Caughnawaga and elsewhere to stay at home, as their leaders had agreed.
When the deputies of the Six Nations came through Albany on their way back from the peace negotiations at Boston, it was clear that there were serious disagreements between the Six Nations and the commissioners, between New York and Massachusetts, and within Albany itself. John (Johannes) Schuyler, former mayor of Albany, an Indian Commissioner himself at times, and one of the people most trusted by the Six Nations, had gone to Boston at the invitation of Massachusetts, independently of the commissioners or the governor of New York. The commissioners asked the Six Nations deputies to tell them what happened at the meeting, to which they responded that Schuyler had written it down and given an account to the governor, so there should be no need for them to repeat it. The commissioners said they did not want to rely on Schuyler’s account and preferred to hear what happened directly from the deputies. The Six Nations deputies equivocated, first saying that Schuyler asked them to join the war on Massachusetts’s behalf and they had accepted, then denying that it happened. They said that they had asked Massachusetts to tell the kings of France and Great Britain to end the war in the colonies since they were at peace in Europe. They finally admitted that a few men from the Six Nations had joined Boston’s forces. John Schuyler had agreed to provide them with ammunition and to pay the 100 pound bounty for each Eastern Indian scalp they took. After the other deputies had left, Hendrick (probably Hendrick Tejonihokarawa) assured the commissioners that John Schuyler had approved everything they did at Boston. The Six Nations delegates seemed to be stubbornly holding to the position that John Schuyler represented Albany regardless of what the commissioners said.
The commissioners also learned that Schuyler had sent his own belts (wampum belt messages) to Canada by way of the commissioners’ messenger-observers. The commissioners feared the belts would be taken by the Abenaki as signs that they were working together with Schuyler. Massachusetts had also sent two more Albanians, Philip Schuyler (probably Johannes Schuyler’s son by that name) and John Groesbeeck, to Canada to redeem prisoners.
The commissioners learned that Rutland had not been attacked, but two forts nearby at Northfield had been overrun by a war party of 60-80. Colonel John Stoddard of Massachusetts asked them to send a force from the Six Nations and River Indians to Otter Creek (in present day Vermont) to intercept the attackers, but the commissioners told him they would not be able to muster a force in time to do any good. Nonetheless they informed three Mohawks who were in Albany, including the sachim Taquajanott, who said they would tell their people.
The commissioners wrote to New York Governor Burnet to try to convince him that the danger to New York was real, expressing regret that “you Excel.cy is not pleas’d to agree in our Opinions.” They stated openly that they believed Massachusetts wanted to sacrifice them in order to pursue its own “quarrel” with the Abenaki. In an enigmatic footnote, they added that Cornelis Cuyler, one of those who had refused to take the oath that he was not trading with Canada, had now gone to Canada along with “the three french men” (probably the same ones who had gone to Pennsylvania in June?) to recover his debts. Evidently suppressing the Albany-Canada trade had serious economic repercussions for those who had invested in it. And perhaps the economic repercussions for indigenous traders in Canada were adding to the commissioners’ fears that their allies there would be more likely now to join the war on the French side and even target Albany.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, September 1723 starts here
Early in September, peace between New England and the Abenaki began to look remote. The Albany Indian Commissioners heard that “french Indians” from Canada were planning to join the Eastern Indians in attacking New England. They also heard that Northfield and Rutland had been attacked. They examined someone from Caughnawaga (Kahnawake), who said that neither Kahnawake nor Schawenadie were involved in the war, but they would fight if the governor of Canada asked them too. The commissioners were now afraid that Albany would be attacked. They sent notice to Colonel Samuel Partridge in Massachusetts to be on guard, and wrote to New York Governor Burnet suggesting that the governors of all the English colonies should write to the governor of Canada to ask him to stop encouraging the Indians to attack New England, since the English and French monarchs were at peace.
In Cornell’s digital copy of the original minutes, August 1723 starts here
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, August 1723 starts here
On August 9th, delegates of the Six Nations stopped at Albany on their way to Boston for the upcoming peace conference to resolve the war between Massachusetts Bay and the Abenaki. Their speaker Odastichta told the commissioners that a new leader, Annatseineiin, or Annutseerie, had been appointed to replace Blue Back, who had recently passed away and who had cultivated good relations with the English. They also addressed the issue of forts and trading posts in their country, taking a diplomatic approach in explaining why the French had not removed the trading post at Niagara as New York Governor Burnet had requested. They explained that they had asked the French interpreter and diplomat to the Six Nations, Jean Coeur (Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) to remove it, but he said he would have to discuss it with the French governor. Odasticha said he thought that the kings of France and England would have informed the commissioners about this by now.
The Six Nations also announced that they were now entirely at peace with the Waganhas (Anishinaabeg), French allies who had nonetheless joined with the Six Nations in the Covenant Chain. Last but not least, they asked the commissioners to appoint three representatives to go with them to Boston.
The commissioners condoled the deaths of Blue Back and two other sachems who recently died. They agreed to tell the governor about the Six Nations attempts to remove the trading house at Niagara and Jean Coeur’s response, and said they were glad that the Waganhas had joined the Covenant Chain. Somewhat surprisingly, the commissioners declined to send representatives to Boston, explaining that the New York governor had not asked them to do so.
On the 20th of August the commissoners wrote to New York Governor Burnet, explaining what they had done to enforce the oath against trading with Canada and informed him that they had heard from Laurence Claessen that a party of Eastern Indians were going to attack New England, and also a rumor that Rutland had actually been attacked. They feared being attacked themselves, and asked for help in building stockades for the blockhouse at Mount Burnet.
They also informed the Governor that Massachusetts had communicated directly with Peter and John Schuyler about the upcoming peace negotiations, that John Schuyler had gone to Boston, and that Massachusetts would ask him to lead their forces [against the Abenaki]
The last entry for August is a request that the government reimburse the Reverend Thomas Barclay for the costs of educating Michell Montour, the son of Louis Couq dit Montour, a French and native trader who was killed by Chabert de Joncaire in 1709 after he began to work for the English recruiting “far Indians” to trade at Albany. The year before he was killed, Montour asked Barclay to care for Michell, who was five years old at the time.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, June 1723 starts here
The conference with Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations (I will refer to them that way from now on, since the Tuscaroras were now established as a member of the Five Nations) continued on June 1st, when William Tailer, Spencer Phips, and John Stoddard renewed the Covenant Chain with the Schaghticoke, Katskill, and “River” Indians, a term used for the Mohican and the peoples of the lower Hudson. Massachusetts Bay asked them to join the war if the the Six Nations accepted the Massachusetts Bay offer to fight the Eastern Indians. They replied that they would follow the Six Nations’ lead.
The Six Nations gave their answer on June 3rd. They soothed the feelings of the Massachusetts Bay representatives by rehearsing the wrongs inflicted on them by the Eastern Indians. But they explained that the Eastern Indians, had now sent a messenger to make peace. They needed to discuss matters further and it would take several months.
The representatives from Massachusetts Bay were clearly disappointed. They asked what the point of renewing the covenant was if the Six Nations would not help them fight their enemies, especially since they would be generously rewarded. They explained that they were not empowered to make peace with the Eastern Indians and asked once again for the Six Nations to join the war. Instead the Six Nations urged them to meet with the Eastern Indians at Boston in two months to discuss peace, promising to punish the Eastern Indians if an agreement was reached and they did not honor it. The Massachusetts Bay delegates finally agreed to attend the proposed meeting.
The Six Nations and the Albany Indian Commissioners went on to discuss their own issues, in particular the competing centers for French and English trade that were being constructed in Iroquoia. The French diplomat Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire, referred to by the commissioners using every imaginable variant spelling of “Jean Coeur” had persuaded the Six Nations to allow the French to build a trading center at Kaskeghsago near Irondequoit, at the site of present day Rochester, where the Genesee River meets Lake Ontario. The commissioners asked the Six Nations to reverse this decision and forbid the French to build any settlements in Iroquoia, predicting that if the French built a trading house at Irondequoit it would become a fort that would be used to stop “far Indians” from coming to Albany and eventually to take control of the Six Nations’ country. Furthermore, they asked the Six Nations to tell the French to remove their trading center already constructed at Niagara, as they had promised the New York governor previously. The Six Nations speaker, Thannintsorowee, said they would take the request back to their council and provide a response at the Boston meeting.
The Six Nations and the Albany commissioners held another meeting with the Abenaki envoy, lectured him about the violence inflicted on New England by the Abenaki, and told him that the Eastern Indians should come to the meeting in Boston scheduled in two months to negotiate.
The rest of June was devoted to trade. Another group of 10 far Indians came to trade on June 16th, asking for good prices and promising to bring more people if they received them. They were welcomed with provisions and rum, and assured that prices would be good. The name of their castle is left blank, suggesting that the commissioners were not familiar with it and unable to make sense of it. Magepanans, a River Indian, was asked to invite more nations to come to trade and promised a reward if he succeeded.
Governor Burnet had asked the Albany Indian Commissioners to enforce a recent act of the New York Assembly intended to stop the flourishing trade between Albany and Montreal. In this trade, which had been going on for decades, English goods were sold to the French and the French then resold those goods to indigenous fur traders. This practice undermined the English policy that aimed to monopolize the fur trade for England by persuading the indigenous fur traders to bring their goods directly to Albany.
Under the new act, Albany traders had to swear an oath that they were not trading with Canada, on penalty of a fine of a hundred pounds. The commissioners took the oath themselves and spent several days at the end of June in summoning local traders, many of whom were prominent citizens or relatives of the commissioners, and asking them to take the oath. Several refused and were fined, including Colonel John Schuyler and his son Philip Schuyler. The notes indicate that the money would be applied to repairing Albany’s fortifications or used as needed. On the 22nd, they wrote to the governor and reported on this, assuring him that they supported the policy, while acknowledging that goods were still being traded with the French. They also asked the governor to allow passage for three Frenchmen who were going to visit their uncle, a “famous trader” in Pennsylvania.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, May 1723 starts here
In May, the Albany Indian Commissioners were busy on several different fronts simultaneously. They entertained and traded with two groups of people from “far Nations,” a general term for the peoples to the west and north of Iroquoia. The second group of Far Indians came not only to trade, but to meet with the Mohawks and to tell the commissioners that they were joining the Five Nations. The proceedings held with them are printed in Volume 5 of O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, beginning on page 693. Simultaneously, Albany hosted a major treaty conference with representatives from the Five Nations and Massachusetts Bay to discuss the ongoing war between New England and the Abenaki. They also met with an Abenaki delegate who appeared unexpectedly (at least to the reader.) The initial proceedings between the Five Nations and Massachusetts can be found in the Livingston Indian Records beginning on page 236, but the Livingston records do not include a gruesome Massachusetts proposal to pay for Abenaki scalps.
The May minutes also include related entries not printed in these sources, including a report by Laurence Claessen Van der Volgen about his recent trip to invite the Five Nations to the meeting with Massachusetts, during which which he learned that they had officially accepted the Tuscaroras as a sixth nation. He also encountered problems with the Senecas and Onondagas, who initially did not want to come to the meeting because the French had advised them to stay away. Representatives of all of the Six Nations came to Albany in the end.
The first group of twenty “far Indians” arrived on May 8th, followed by a larger group on May 29th that included 80 men in addition to women and children whose number is not given. Simultaneously, the Five Nations sent a delegation of 80 people and Massachusetts sent at least three representatives, William Tailer, Spencer Phips, and John Stoddard. The first group of twenty “far Indians” was housed in the Indian houses that Albany maintained in order to provide a place where people who came to trade could stay without being pressured to sell their goods to a particular trader. If all the other native visitors stayed there as well, the Indian houses must have been filled to capacity.
Cadwallader Colden described one of these houses as it looked when he visited it two years earlier in early September 1721:
Wee diverted ourselves one day before the Indians were all meet in a Large boarded house without the towne which stands their alway for Lodging the Indians Their wee saw a great many animals tollerably well delineated with coal by the Indians on the boards of the house The most remarkable was a Crocodile very well designed which shows that they travell very far to the southward’s perhaps near to the mouth of the river Misasipi The Indians pointed towards the southwest as the place where these animals are found The Interpeter told us they have the dried skin of one of them att one of their Castles They had beefs likewise drawn in sevaral postures which show’d that the persone who did them was not without a genius for Painting these the Indians pointed to us were found to the Westward We saw fowls exactly resembling Harpies butt perhaps they were design’d for owls. [Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1917, NY, 1918, p. 128]
The nation of the first group of 20 Far Indians is never identified. Possibly they were an advance party from the second group. They began by smoking the calumet (peace pipe) and singing, after which they said they had come to Albany to trade. They explained that they came from several castles (communities) which had sent them to see whether they could get good prices at Albany. The commissioners welcomed them, accepted their calumet to show to others of their nations who might come to trade, warned them against listening to the French, gave them a present of blankets, shirts, food, and liquor, and assured them that they would find cheap goods and pure rum at Albany.
Expanding the Six Nations to Seven?
The second group, led by Awistoenis, or Owiestoenis, and a Seneca translator, Sakema, described themselves as the true members of the “Denighcariages Nation.” They told the commissioners that others who had visited Albany claiming to be from that nation were not telling the truth. The commissioners asked what the French called their settlements, to which they responded “Monsiemakerac.” They came from six communities, one of which, Neghkareage (probably the same word as “Denighcariages”) had two castles (towns). The other four are written as Ronawadainie, Onnighsiesannairoene, Kajenatroene, and Tienonoatdeaga. In a note on p. 693 of DRCHNY 5, O’Callaghan identifies them as Hurons from “Mtellimakenack,” based on a French map. The name of their fourth town suggests that they were from the Tobacco Nation. also known as the Petun or Tionondati. The French built Fort Michilimackinac on the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron around 1715. In describing the Denighcariages visit to Albany, Governor Burnet said in a letter to Lords of Trade that they came from “Misilimakenak, which lyes between Lac superieur & Lac Huron” (DRCHNY 5:684). Clearly they were from somewhere in the area where the three great lakes meet. Like the first group, they brought a calumet and left it with the commissioners to use when others from their nation came to Albany.
The Denighcariages, the Mohawks, and the commissioners began by smoking the calumet together, then proceeded to discuss trade, as well as a proposal that the Denighcariages join the Five Nations as the Tuscarora were in the process of doing. The commissioners promised them cheap goods and encouraged the idea that they should join the Five Nations, becoming the Seventh Nation, since the Tuscaroras were now the Sixth. The commissioners worded this in terms of joining “this Government,” seeming to imply that New York and the Five Nations were one. The commissioners promised to address Awistoenis’s complaint that local waggoners had overcharged them for transporting their goods, assuring them that it would not happen again and sending them on their way with blankets, shirts, food, and 26 gallons of rum.
In the conference between the Five Nations and the three commissioners sent from Massachusetts, the parties began with an initial meeting on May 28th in which they followed the usual protocols to renew the covenant chain of friendship. The Five Nations reminded Massachusetts that it was customary for the English to mend their guns, kettles, and hatchets on such occasions.
On May 30th the Massachusetts commissioners proceeded to business, laying out a proposal from Governor Dummer that spelled out the the terms on which Massachusetts wanted the Five Nations to join it in fighting the Abenaki Confederacy. After rehearsing the ways in which Massachusetts considered the Abenaki to have wronged the English, the proposal, worded like a legal contract, says that “for the further Encouragement of your Warlike peopl[e]” Massachusetts will pay 100 pounds for the scalp of every male enemy Indian of twelve years or older, and 50 pounds for the scalps of all others killed “in fight.” Massachusetts will pay 50 pounds for each male prisoner. The Five Nations may keep female prisoners and children under twelve, as well as any plunder taken. The Massachusetts government will supply the Five Nations with any needed provisions or ammunition, but the value will be deducted from the money paid for scalps.
For each ten members of the Five Nations, Massachusetts planned to assign two Englishmen to accompany them in order to protect them from “any mischief that may happen to them from our Souldiers by mistake” and to avoid disputes about scalps. The Englishmen would confirm under oath that the scalp was that of an enemy Indian killed in battle as well as the age and sex of the person scalped. For testifying, the Englishman would receive an amount equal to what was payed to the warrior who took the scalp or prisoner.
Guns, kettles, and hatchets would be mended only if the Five Nations accepted the offer, and Massachusetts would also give them a large present if and when they did so.
At Least Some of the Abenaki Want Peace
As was customary, the Five Nations did not respond right away to Massachusetts’ proposal. And on the following day the minutes record a new development with the arrival of Achjamawat, a delegate sent to the Six Nations by three Eastern Indian castles, “Owanagonga, Kwepowanne, and Onjanawarea.” Although they were still in Albany, the Massachusetts commissioners are not listed as being present when Achjamawat met with the Albany commissioners. The Five Nations are not listed either, but his words are addressed to them (as the Six Nations) and the interpreter for the meeting was the Mohawk leader Hendrick, who translated from Abenaki to Mohawk, after which Laurence Claessen translated from Mohawk to Dutch and Philip Livingston translated from Dutch to English for the written record.
Achjamawat began with an extended condolence ritual in which he reiterated several times that Albany was the place to treat about peace and to condole any blood shed “through Rashness or misunderstanding.” He went on to say that the Eastern Indians regret that they could not meet with the Six Nations when they came to Boston the previous fall to meditate between them and Massachusetts. They received the message sent by the Six Nations asking them to stop fighting. His people have now sent him to lay down the hatchet against New England and bury it forever.