The last entries for 1728, dated November 9 and 26, show that nothing had been solved at Oswego. The bateaux that were now the preferred means of transporting provisions had not been able to take up enough stores for the garrison for the winter, so the commissioners agreed with someone to bring more “with all Speed.” Captain Bagly told them that the garrison’s boats were in such bad shape that they could not be mended. At least six new ones needed to be made.
The commissioners wrote to the governor informing him about all this. They also sent him information about Laurence Claessen’s report on the land at Oswego that the governor had requested from the Six Nations, but the entry in the records provides no details.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entries for November start on p. 280.
Even before the conference ended the commissioners sent boats to Oswego with provisions to ease the chronic shortages there. Along with them they sent Captain Verplank and William Printhop Junior, who were instructed to make sure the provisions arrived safely and then to remain at Oswego for six months to serve as interpreters and messengers for the officer in command. Despite the complaints about him, John Price was still in charge there. They were soon joined by Lawrence Claessen, who was sent to assist with the delicate task of selecting and surveying the land to be laid out for the English to use to raise food for the garrison.
The Commissioners of Indian Affairs Recognize A New Oneida Title Holder
On October 9th, the commissioners met with an Oneida delegation that presented the new holder of a chief’s title which the commissioners spelled “Ondaghsichta.” They said they “had Appointed and Deputed a fitt Person in the room of Ondaghsighta dec[eased], who was one of their Chiefs and as a Tree of Peace, they do now Present this new Sachim before this meeting Who is now also named Ondaghsighta [.]” They said the new sachim had affirmed his support for the English and asked the commissioners to accept him as the new Ondaghsighta. The request was accompanied by a string of wampum. The commissioners said they were “very much pleased that they have appointed a fitt Person in the room of the [deceased] Sachim Ondagsighta” and hoped he would be “faithfull and True to his [Majesties] Interest & Take Care of the Publick Affairs of this Province.” They accepted him as a chief and gave him a shirt.
In The Great Law and the Longhouse, William Fenton lists the titles of the principal chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (p. 191 et seq.) and describes the ritual for installing a new title-holder (p. 180 et seq.). My guess is that Ondaghsichta is probably the commissioners’ way of spelling the name of the first Oneida chief in Fenton’s list, which he spells Ho’datche:hde’ meaning ” “Carries quiver [of arrows]” (Fenton p. 183). The first holder of the name was an Oneida leader who helped to found the Haudenosaunee confederacy, as described in Arthur Caswell Parker’s book The Constitution of the Five Nations (Albany: University of the State of NY, 1916), based on versions of the story preserved by Six Nations leaders in Canada. The story explains how the first holder received the name, which Parker spells as Odatshedeh (p. 25) or Oh-dah-tshe-deh or (in a footnote) Odatce’te’ (p. 82.).
Joseph Van Size Wants More Money to Work in Seneca Country
The commissioners attempted to carry out the agreement made at the conference with Governor Montgomerie to send Joseph Van Size and Hendrick Wemp to Seneca Country to work as smith and armorer, but Van Size wanted more money than the commissioners could offer him. Instead they sent Wemp by himself for six months “with another [unspecified] fitt Person.” Wemp’s instructions order him to recover the smith’s shop at “Canoussodago” along with its tools and utensils from any one who might have them. They sent a note to Joseph Yetts [Yates?] along with Wemp ordering him to turn them over and instructing him to go to Onondaga and work there as a smith.
Attack on the Senecas, Confusion in Albany
The commissioners wrote the governor on October 17th to explain that two days before they had received a message that Oswego had been attacked from a man who had gotten the information from a messenger who came to Mohawk Country from the Senecas Country. However when Lawrence Claessen spoke with the messenger he found that the unnamed man who brought the news to the commissioners had misunderstood the messenger. In reality it was some Senecas living at the “Carrying place of Niagara about three leagues from the French house” who had been attacked, but no one knew what nation had attacked them.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for Verplanck and Printhop’s instructions starts here on p. 266. Claesen’s instructions start here on page 276a, followed by the other entries.
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.
There are no entries for April or June 1728. During this time New York’s governor William Burnet was replaced by Colonel John Montgomerie, who arrived in New York on April 15th. Burnet did not leave for his new position as governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire until July. Many of the records preceding July 1728 are numbered in a way that suggests they are copies rather than originals, leading me to suspect that at some point the new governor had things copied and they got out of order in the process, perhaps leading to the loss of some materials.
The sole entry for May, a copy of a letter from the Commissioners of Indian Affairs to the governor, does not say which governor was being addressed, but the wording suggests that it was Colonel Montgomerie. The commissioners thanked him for acknowledging the importance of security on New York’s frontier and tried to convince him that they needed financial support to guarantee that security since their affairs were conducted on credit.
The letter shows that troops at Oswego were still becoming ill. It is unclear what disease was affecting them or whether it was the same thing that made people sick the year before. The governor asked the commissioners to find a doctor to address the problem and in their letter of May 13th they said they had agreed with Charles Kerr, “a fitt person” “who understands Bleeding and Phisick,” to go to Oswego for a year in exchange for sixty pounds to be paid on his return. They planned to provide him with “wine Rum & sugar for the use of the sick men.” The governor approved their choice and on July 19th he received his orders to go to Oswego as “chirugeon.”
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for May starts here on p. 216.
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.