Minute Book 3: 1727-April: The Indians Oppose Construction at Oswego But the Commissioners Move Forward

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.

IMG_1179
Dugout and birchbark canoes on exhibit at the H. Lee White Maritime Museum on the pier at Oswego.

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. The transcription is below.

Att a Meeting of ye. Com.es of the

Indian Affairs in Albany ye. 3d Apr. 1727

[A duplicate copy can be found at p. 239 [0482].]

Present

Philip Livingston

Peter Vn. Brugh

Henry Renselaer

Rutger Bleecker

Reyer Gerritse

Stephanus Groesbeek

Harmanus Wendell

Nicolaes Bleeker                                 This day Rec.d from his Excel.cy William

Burnet Esq.r &c. two letters of the 23 & 23th past in answer

to two letters from this board of the 16 & 20th Dito directed us

to agree with workmen here on ye best terms Can be done

to build the house at the Mouth of Onnondage river

Near ye lake and to Send up ye Interpreter to Capt. Ban=

=ker in Case we think it Necessary,

In Obedience to his Ex.cys directions agreed this day

with Isaac Bogaert & Cornelis Waldron Masons Benjamin Bogaert

& Nicolaes Groesbeck Carpenters to build Sd. house accor=

=ding to the Modle Sent by his Ex.cy at 8 / diem Each from

the day they Sett out till their Return home Excepting

Sundays to find themselves with provisions. but they to be

provided

 

[0361] 179

Provided with Canoes or baties to bring up the Materialls

and towls Sent hither from new york for ye use of the Sd house

Agreed with Coenraet Becker & Chirstian Jans Law=

=yers to Saw Timber & boards for ye. Use of Sd. house & Such other

Work as they Shall be Imployd at by Capt. Banker & the Chief

builder at 5/ p Diem on Condition as above

Agreed Also with Mr. Jeremy Schuyler Joh.s Beekman

Ju.r & Nicolaes Wyngaert to lett their Servants work as

Laborers at the Sd. house at 4/ p diem for the days they Shall

Work, on their own diat and to be pd. for their Journey back

If they do not Come home with their masters

Its resolved that none of the workmen Shall Carry up any

trading Goods, that they may not be hinderd to Carry up the

necessaries & towls for Sd. building,

Bought from Capt. Peter Van Brugh two horses

and from Mr. Peter Schuyler at £5÷ Each to be Sent up to ye

mouth Of Onnondage river for drawing Stone boards beams &c. for

building Said house,

Orderd yt. a letter be Write & Sent to Lourence Claese

the Interpreteer forthwith to Come hither to Receive orders to go

to Onnondage [river – crossed out] to be Capt. Banker Interpreter

 

Att A Meeting of ye. Com.rs of ye Indian

Affairs in Albany ye 4th. of April 1727

[A duplicate copy can be found at p.239a/ 0483.]

Present

Philip Livingston

Myndert Schuyler

Henry Renselaer

Rutger Bleecker

Reyer Gerritse

Stephanus Groesbeek

Har: Wendell                           The Commissioners have this day agreed & allowd

unto Isaac Bogaert the Sume of 5 pound over & above

his wages of 8/p Diem to be Chief Workmen & director of the

building to be made at ye Mouth of Onnondage river yet

is to be under Command of Capt. Banker

Allowd unto the workmen who are to build ye Sd. house 12

Gallon rum above the Alowance of ye thirty Gallon sent for

  1. from new york all w.h is to be paid by ye Com.rs out of their

Allowance of two hundred pound p annum

 

[0364] 180a [Item 2 – out of chronological order in original.]

Albany 4th April 1727

Capt. Collins

Being this day honourd with a letter from his Ex.cy

who has orderd a Capt. two Lieut. 2 Serg.ts 2 Corpralss & one D[rummer]

to be sent to Osweege and has directed us yt. all the batoes Stores

& provisions be Sent with all Speed to your place in Order to

Imbareg we desire you to procure 26 waggons to Carry up

all at once if any person Should Refuze they must be

Imprest there will be 66 padles 15 Setting poles ye last Shod

with Iron Required wh. we hope youl gett made without

delay you also are Desird to Imploy as many Cerpenters as

Can be Imployd to make three batoes with as much Speed

as possible not to [Refuse – crossed out] Lose one day & if any might refuse

they must be Imprest we want 50 Sk: boiling pease for ye.

Batoes pray let us know if they are to be had at Your place

his Excel.cy has been pleased to Ingage to pay for all ye.

men favour us with a line in answer and youl oblidge

who are with Esteam

 

 

[0362] 179a

13)

[Another copy can be found at p.240 / 0484. It is substantially the same.]

Att a Meeting of the Com.rs of ye

Indian Affairs in Albany ye 6th day of Ap.l 1727

Present

Ph: Livingston

Mynd:t Schuyler

Henry Renselaer

Rutger Bleecker

Reyer Gerritse

St. Groesbeeck

Har. Wendell

Ph: Schuyler                                        This Board acquainted Lourence Claese

that his Ex.y had been please to approve of our Sending

him to Cap. banker at Onneyde to Serve as his Inter=

=preter to Communicate to ye Sachims of ye 5 Nations

that his Excel.cy Wm. Burnet Esq.r &c. good intention

and design to build a trading house at Sweege on ye

mouth of Onnondage river the better to promote

& Carry on a trade with the far Indians,

Agreed with the Said interpreter for his Service at

Onnondage and to bring up with another men (whom he

is to hire on ye best terms he Can) three horses to the mouth

of Onnondage river to be Imployd for drawing timber

& Stone for the Sd. house, for the Sume of £20÷ to be paid

by the Sd. Com.es out of their Allowance of £200÷ but if he

be Obliged to Attend any time on Capt. Banker at the

building its agreed he Shall be allowd what

is Resonable above Sd. Sume

This board have tought [bought] powder to

Send Capt. Banker p Sd. Interpreter the following addi=

=tional Instructions,

Haveing obtaind Consent from his Exc.y Gov.r

Burnet Esq.r &c to Send Lourence Claese the Interpreter

to Inform the Indians with the Intention of his Sd. Ex.cy

for building a house at Sweege it being a matter of Great

Consequence

[0363] 180

(13

Consequence to this Governmt. if it Should be Opposd by

the Indians, you are therefore to use your best Endeavours

to Obtain their Consent for wh. purpose, We Recommend

you that observe & follow such directions as you have & Shall

Receive from his Ex.cy as near as possible you Can in relati=

=on to your treaty with the Sachims of the Six Nations

Concerning his Ex.cys Intention for building a house at Osweege

Near Cadrachqus Lake you must tell them is for ye Conveniency

of the traders to Secure their Goods according to the leave & Con=

=sent given by the Said Sachims to his Ex.cy 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 their

goods for wh. they Can have no ready Sale, and not be Obliged

to bring back hither

You are also to acqu.t ye Indians yt. the Chief motive wh.

Moves this Governmt. to build this trading house at Osweege

is that his Ex.cy is Informd that the french design to

Make a fortification at Sd place which will not Only ye far

Indians from Comeing to trade there and at Albany with the

Inhbitations of this province but also the five nations them=

=selves by which means they Would Entirely make ymSelves

of All the Indians and Surround ye brethren on all Sides, that

they have had Sufficiet proof of ye french fortifying near them

and on ye Contrary that they have had repeated Instances

of the Civil treatmt. and kind behaviour of this Government

towards ym for their Secureity and wellfare for many years

past at this building will pVent the french from makeing

Any Attempt to fortify near it, and as it is done as well

for their Secureity as for promoteing the Sd. trade so we Cant

Suppose but that they [may-crossed out] will readily agree to approve of this

good Intention. that we Cant think yt. they do Entertain or

believe any report or Stories yt. ye. french of Canada may have

Spread am.g ym. to resentmt. yt. our Gov.r has Orderd to begin ye Buil=

=ding & finishd this house if they do our Gov.r who represents

the Great

 

[0364] 180a

14)

The Great and Good King of great Britain their father

& protecter would take it as the Greatest Affront that

can be done his Sd. Majesty and him Given under our

hands in Albany this 6 Day of April 1727

was Signd by these presents as

above

[0365] 181

(15)

Albany 6 april 1727

Capt. Banker

Wy hebben VE laest Geschreven p Mr.

John Cuyler & BPisger nevens Een brief Van Zyn Ea[f]

haar toe Gefonden,

Hier Nevens gaet Een andere brief van Zyn

Ex.cy p Lourence Claese als meede Instructer van ons

Jon.es Vedder heef De presente Van de Viff Naties &

Verre Wilde & Eerste £30÷ & de Laeste 20÷ beftaende

In Sulke Goederen als p inlegende Memorie om door VE

Vergeven te werden als V e. Goet Sall Ordeelin, voor best

Vant publick Wy & hoopen dat gy VE uyterste de voir

Sall Aen wenden dat D Wilde Gewilligh toe Staen het

Op bowen vant huys En ghy niet Mankere Sutt om Suloe

te Scygen willen wy niet aen twyfellen So Sullen

met Slangen D guntt te Uyt Slagh Van VE met patien=

=tie asisaghten

Lourence heeft drie paarden voor hout & Steen &c.

Meede te ryen voor het Opbenden vant huys modell

daer van sullen D’naeste week met het het week

volk opsenden & dan VE verder Schryven ondertusche

& blyde naer haer hartslyck Groetenisse

 

[

 

Albany ye. 10th April 1727

Mr. Lawyer

We have Rec.d your letters of Yesterdays date

that ye Indians have wounded three men at Skohare for

wh. accident of we are very much Concernd & hertily Sorry

for those yt. are fallen under this heavy Afflection We Send

A letter to his Ex.cy Gov.r Burnet to Acqu.t him of this Mis=

=chief what measures he Shall think proper to take we

do not know, mean while We Send to Capt. Banker at

Onnondage that he may acqt. the Sachims of the five

Nations of this fatall Misfortune what will be done

in this Affair we Cant tell but ye. Most Moderable &

amicable means will be best for the best peace of our

Country. We remain

Philip Livingston                    Reyer Gerritse

Myndert Schuyler                  Stephanus Groesbeck

Peter V Brugh                         Harm.s Wendell

Hend.k Renselaer

 

[0368] 182a

18)

Att a Meeting of the Com.es of ye,

Indian affairs in Albany ye. 11 day

of April 1727

Sedert onse Laeste p dese Gelegentheyt van

Lourence Claese ontfangen wy op gifteere het Onaenge=

=naem niews dat Enige wilden & wildinnen tot het

Getall Van 10-12 dewelke Laeste Sondagh aghtermiddagh

drunken asarren op Skohere Een groot onkeyl & oor=

=saakte driegende om d huyse & Schauren int brant

te Steeken om Sulkx voor te Coomen Stellen d.’ palatines

haar tegen dat gedaen Synde gingen D’ Wilden nae

haer huysen & quamen ti Samen met haer roers

peylen & boogen & Vielen aen op Een huys daer Ses man

in ware van wien Sy drie man hebben geschoten twe

daer Van doodelyck gequest, Een weert Gedoght Nu

doot te Syn de wilden niet beeter weetende of Sy waren

doot & daer op manen Sy D Vlught wy hebben Zyn

Excel.cy daer kenniss van te geven maer wat order

hy dies aengaerde Sall Geven waten wy niet,

Ondertuschen oordelen wy noodigh Dat Ghy de

Sackemakers dit on heyl op D. Sagste Mannier bekent

Maakt om So van haar te hooren hoe Sy dit neemen

En wat Sy deer in willen doen wy Soude & wagh-

=ten dat sy Enige Sackemakers Deputere om hurte

Coomen dit onheyl vor te Verschonen & Indien Sy

dit Uyt haar Seff niet doen of pretendere so ordele

wy Noodigh dat Ghy op D’ beste manier ghy Can te wegh

brenght door Enige principaele wilden dat Sy Sulx

te werk Stellen & Satisfactie doen door &soennig on

& der onheyl voor te Comen

 

0366] 181a [Out of order in original]

16)

Albany ye 26th Apr. 1727

Capt. Banker

V E brief den 13 defer Ontfangen waer

by wy vernemen dat Ghy in Onnondage met D Sackema=

=kers hebt Gesproken wegen het Timmeren op Sweege

day Sy het niet willen toestaen dat het huys daer Sall

op gebout werden twelk ops Seer Leet is om tehooren

en Sy Excellency ongelwyfelt Sall het ter hearten

namen wy hoopen & verwaghten dat op D’ Komst

van Lourence ghy D wilden beeter kunnen verstaen

& onderighten want hy verwaght dat Sy het Timme-

=ren niet Sullen tegen Staen maer vrywilligh ons Sullen

laeten vort gaen volgens haer Consent also het voor haer

besten is So als wy Alreede in VE Instructies met

Lourence gemett hebben, Syn Ex.cy heeft het aen ons

gelaeten voor een persoon van aensien Nae VE te

Senden tot VE Aensistenkie om het vry lof van D

wilden Soude Murmereeren te Obtineeren als Sy voor

dese gedaen hebben dat alles wreedigh magh toe=

=gaen also het Een Saach Van D’Groetse Conse=

=quensie is tot dat Governm.t Indien het niet Soude

Gelucken, so hebben wy goet gedaght dat Een of twe

pSoonen van aensien tot VE asustansie Sullen toe

gesonden werden onstants op VE Verder Schryven

dat de Wilde VE Affslaen ondertuschen Sullen

wy alles dat noodigh is voor So-Een Toght Claer

maken & gereert houden tot dien Eynde & Soecken

wy day ghy d Sackemakers by malkander houdt

om Een verdere propositie met haer te maken

So Zy

 

[0367] 182

(17)

So Sy VE Aftgeslagen hebben ondertuschen moet

ghy deprincipaalste wilden om Coopen & over reeden

want het werk moet gaan Laet d’Corter Syn wat

het will der halve verwagten wy VE Schryvens ter=

=post of ghy Consent hebt van d’Wilden of niet

D’Metselaers & Timmerlieden mosten met t’huys

Coomensonder Consent & verder Schryvens van ons

ondertuschen laet het volk geimployeert werden in

hacken planken Laghe Steen Ryen & putmaken &c.

d’wilden den brengeers deses hebben wy voldsen wy

Voldoen wat het Cruyt aengaet weet ghy kunnen

wy niet Indoen d’ datum Van VE brief denken wy

is a buys en Ock het Jaer heb VE gestelt 1717 naer haer=

=telycke groetenisse & blyde

Myndert Schuyler                  Philip Livingston

Rutger bleeker                         Peter van Brugh

Harmanus Wendell                  Reyer Gerritse

Nicolaes Bleecker                    Stevanus Groesbeek

[0477] 236a

* No. 15                                  Albany ye. 26th. april 1727

May it please your Excellency

Your Exce.lys most Esteemed favours

of ye. 10 & 12 Instant we Rec.d Inclosed find your

Ex.lys a letter Sent us by order of Gov.r Dummer

of ye. 13th. Instant whereby we Receive a Strange

Retaliation for our good offices & pains not

to Count yee. Expences we have been & Still are —

like to lay out for their Security & preservation

which we think however in duty & Conscience

bound to do to Save yee. poor Innocents on the fronteers

of Boston those in that Town we Suppose

think themseves [sic] Secure Enough

Inclosed your Excel.ly has a letter from Capt.

Banker as also one from him to us, we are Sorry

that he has made any Speech or proposalls to the

Sachims at onnondage before Lourence Came to

him & by what we hear from the Indians who are

come hither bifferd but 2 a 3 days. the Sachims

Seem to have denyd him their Consent to Errect

the building at oswego. but now while the Inter

=preter is with him we hope he may be able to

Inform them better & Convince them of yee. necessity

to have this house built for the Conveniency of

that traders & thier Security we have now Sent

a letter Express to him if the Indians to presist

in their denying Consent that he forthwith Send

us an account of it by Express on yee. arrivall

thereof we Shall dispatch two men who have good

Interest among ye Indians to assist him with

further psents to onnondage and have desird

him to keep yee. Sachims together till Said Gentle

=men Shall arrive there mean while that yee.

workmen be Imployd to hew wood Saw boards

digging of the well &c. and on Rect. of this advice

Shall

[0478] 237

Shall not neglect to Send your Excellency

an account of it

We are very glad to See by yee. Minute

of your Excel.ly in Councill that our Conduct in

the agreem.t made with ye. workmen & others we

Sent up to build Sd. house of which is approvd

aff. makes us not a little ambitious we take nothing

more to heart then that this building Should be

Erected in a peaceable & amicable manner being

of ye. greatest Consequence to this Province.

and are pleased to See your Excel.ly becomes Security

for the further psents that may be Required the workmen

Sett out from hence yee 13th Instant in Two batoes

& one burch Canoe yee. former are much yee. best as

people tell us who mett them we had much

trouble to dispatch them

Here are three other Batoes finishd

for the use of yee men who are to be Sent up

think two more will be Required

The misfortune happend at Skohere first

arised from yee Indians who had killed a hogg

belonging to one of ye man who is wounded haveing

Chargd them with it, which yee Indians when they

were drunk Resented it tho the pork was found in

their wigwomb & Some of their Number had done

that mischief & ye Palatines not giveing way to

their humour was in Short ye. occassion of the

Quarrel & the indians are a mixture of ye Several

Nations we did not intend your Ex.ly Should

take yee. trouble to Come hither unless the Sachims

acknowledged their Error of their own accord come

Reconcile this

Wee begg your Ex.cy Leave to Refer

that affair Relating ye. Transgressors of ye. late

Acts till our next meeting that we may have

a Compleat number of members. the master of

the Sloop presents to be gone haveing a fair wind

 

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Conference on Iroquois Research 2017 Presentation

The Conference on Iroquois Research met last week in Oswego, New York. It included many excellent presentations. I gave a talk based on the AIC records for 1723-1725 entitled “The Sappony Prisoner: Servant, Captive, Runaway, or Chief?” It concerns a Sappony captive taken from Virginia to Kahnawake in 1723 and his subsequent fate.
Here is a pdf copy: Captivity_Paper .

The C.I.R. is evolving in very interesting ways. Check out the web page to learn about their work, including their journal, which just published a third issue. They also have a Facebook Page where you can see pictures of the conference and learn more about the presentations.

This is a map of Oswego in 1727, and a marker and plaque from the site of the fort built that year.

 

 

This is what it looks like now:

 

 

I kept thinking about the Iroquois of 1723, as well as the French and Anglo-Dutch traders. They used to navigate these waters in canoes like the ones now on display in the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, following the river up to Onondaga and Oneida. What would they make of the present  day city?

IMG_1124
The view from my window at the Oswego Best Western Plus, where the conference took place.
IMG_1163
Small (wooden?)  boat outside the H. Lee White Maritime Museum at Oswego. My guess is that there were some boats a bit like this one around after the 1727 fort was constructed and certainly later in the century as French and British sailing ships began to ply Lake Ontario.
IMG_1179
Dugout and birchbark canoes on exhibit at the H. Lee White Maritime Museum on the pier at Oswego. Most traffic in 1723 was by canoe.

Minute Book 3: 1724-July

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.

Minute Book 3: 1724-January

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1724 starts here

DeLeryMap_Severance_OldFrontier
The pace of competition between France and England was heating up as both attempted to build new forts at strategic locations on the routes into the interior. The image is from Frank Severance, An Old Frontier of France, NY: Dodd Mead, 1917, v. 1 p.236

As 1724 began, the struggle between England and France for trade and a military presence in the North American interior continued in full force even though technically they were at peace. Both imperial powers were pressuring the Six Nations and the many nations to the west, south, and north of them for exclusive trade agreements. English and French diplomats and military commanders came into conflict with each other as they attempted to get permission from the Six Nations and other native people to build trading centers and forts around the Great Lakes.

In the meantime, the war between New England and the Eastern Indians (primarily the Abenaki Confederacy) continued.

Laurence Claessen returned from a trip to the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee), where the commissioners had sent him in November 1723, and gave them an account of what had transpired. His first order of business was to ask the Seneca to take wampum belts to the “far nations” to the west of Iroquoia to encourage them not to listen to the French government in Canada.  The commissioners believed that the French were encouraging the far nations to join the Eastern Indians in their war against New England (Father Rale’s War), thus preventing them from trading with Albany.

The Six Nations met and considered this proposal for several days before telling Lawrence that they agreed that the French would do everything possible to prevent a direct trade between the far Indians and New York. The Six Nations feared that the Governor of Canada was planning to incite the far Indians to attack the Haudenosaunee, and for that reason the Seneca had stayed home. Finally three Seneca sachems agreed to take the commissioners’ belts to the far nations and added six belts of their own, explaining that they needed additional belts to cover all the different nations that needed to get the message.

The Seneca said they would come to Albany the following Spring with a large number of the far Indians and would meet Captain Jacob Verplank at the Lake, as the Governor of New York had requested. “The Lake” probably means Lake Ontario near Irondequoit Bay, where a contingent of Dutch traders had been living among the Seneca. They also explained that Jean Coeur (Louis Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) planned to build a fort and trading house at Irondequoit the following Spring with the Six Nations consent.

The commissioners conveyed this information to New York Governor Burnet in a letter. They added that they had retrieved a “negroe boy” from a “ffrench Indian” who had taken the boy from “Captain Hicks,” probably Captain Robert Hicks, a Virginia trader who commanded Fort Christianna, Governor Alexander Spotswood’s project to educate (and control) the Saponi and other indigenous nations.

Minute Book 3: 1723-April

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Fort Christanna (from Wikipedia, taken by Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28230287)

In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, April 1723 starts here

On April 6th, the Onondaga diplomat Teganissorens (the commissioners spelled his name D’Canassore) came to Albany to discuss relations between the Five Nations and Virginia. He assured the Commissioners that the Five Nations would respect the peace agreement they had made with Virginia the previous fall and refrain from attacking Virginia’s native allies. By 1723, Teganissorens had had a long and successful career during which he helped to shape the relations between indigenous and colonial powers throughout the North Atlantic region. He was no longer young, and the journey from Onondaga to Albany was a lengthy one. His trip to Albany suggests that the treaty with Virginia had been called into question in a significant way.

The next entry in the Minute Book, an April 23rd letter to New York Governor Burnet, suggests that the issue was the Saponi man taken captive near Fort Christanna in Virginia by a raiding party from Kahnawake, the Mohawk community near Montreal, as described in the minutes for January and February. The commissioners told Burnet in their letter that they had still been unable to get him released. Perhaps Governor Spotswood of Virginia, who saw the Saponi captive as his own servant, had argued that keeping the prisoner violated the treaty and asked Governor Burnet to pressure the commissioners to force the Five Nations to use their influence with the Kahnawagas to have the captive returned.

Teganissorens reassured the English that the treaty remained in place, but if the captive was the issue, he either could not or would not force his return. The end of the letter finally reveals what is really going on.  The captive has chosen to go to Kahnawake in Canada rather than return to his own country, and now he has been made a Sachim. The commissioners have sent orders to Kahnawaga for him to return, but they don’t expect him to do so. Apparently the captive, who remains anonymous, would rather be a chief at Kahnawake than work for Governor Spotswood.

From the Five Nations and Kahnawake point of view, he likely could be a valuable player in Iroquois negotiations with the Sapponis as well as the English. His proficiency in his own language as well as English could be an important asset. Perhaps he had even learned to read and write at Governor Spotswood’s school at Christanna, making him even more useful.

As often happened, the commissioners were caught in the middle of a delicate situation. Kahnawake and the Five Nations had the upper hand.  All the commissioners could do was try to assure the English authorities that they had done everything they could to assert English sovereignty and get the captive returned.  Their letter provides insights into the relations between Kahnawake and the Five Nations, as well as between the Five Nations, Albany, and the English government. As they explain, the residents of Kahnawake are part of the Five Nations. If they are treated roughly, the Five Nations will take offense. They may not react publicly, because they want to maintain good relations with Albany, where they obtain “bread & Cloathing.” But they will find “underhand” ways to injure English subjects in the “remotest part of the Government,” that is the areas distant from the centers of colonial control. The commissioners and their families frequented those areas. Without the support of the Five Nations, even Albany itself was still vulnerable to military attack and the loss of the fur trade.

The entry for Fort Christanna in the WordPress blog Native American Roots provides some interesting additional information. The fort itself was closed in 1718, but Saponi people continued to live in the area. Some of their children were “bound out” to local colonists. Perhaps this is how the captive became Governor Spotswood’s servant.

 

 

 

Minute Book 3: 1723-February

1723-Feb

In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, February 1723 starts here

There is only one entry for February, a copy of a letter to Governor Burnet that reveals more about the story of Governor Spotswood’s Saponi servant. Taken prisoner in Virginia, Spotswood’s servant prefers to go to Canada with his Kahnawake captors rather than return to servitude in Virginia. The Albany Indian Commissioners claim that they did everything they could to persuade the Mohawks to turn him over, but to no avail. They say they could not force the issue without jeopardizing the Five Nations’ support for suppressing the Eastern Indians (Abenaki Confederacy.) hostilities against New England. They explain to New York Governor Burnet that the Five Nations consider the “Canada Indians” who hold the prisoner to be part of themselves.

Minute Book 3: 1723-January

1723-1-7

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1723 starts here

The minutes for January begin with the Albany Indian Commissioners and the Haudenosaunee (Five Nations) in the middle of negotiations with New England authorities, usually referred by the Five Nations to as “Boston” or “the Brethren of New England,” and the “Eastern Indians,”  a coalition of Abenaki nations allied with New France. (“Abenaki” loosely translates as “Eastern Indians.”) Massachusetts and the Abenaki coalition were caught up in a conflict known by various names, including Dummer’s War, Gray Lock‘s War, and Father Rale’s War. The fighting had started a year earlier in 1722, triggered by conflicts over land, sovereignty, and Massachusetts’ attack on Father Sebastian Rale, a Jesuit priest who lived at the Abenaki town of Norridgewock on the Kennebec River in what is now Maine.

Massachusetts, supported by New York Governor William Burnet, wanted the Albany Commissioners to persuade the Five Nations (Haudenosaunee) to enter the war on Massachusetts’ side. The Haudenosaunee preferred to try to negotiate a peace. Albany also preferred peace. As they explain to Governor Burnet in a letter dated January 9, they do not want to get caught up in a war that might lead to retaliation on their own settlements by France and its native allies.  For diplomatic reasons, however, neither Albany nor the Five Nations want to directly refuse the requests of Governor Burnet or the Massachusetts authorities. Their language in the minutes must be read with these complications in mind.

The initial entry is a report by Laurence Claessen (Van der Volgen), Albany’s main interpreter and on the ground liaison to the Five Nations during this period. He describes a recent trip by Haudenosaunee diplomats to Boston, where they tell the Boston government that the Eastern Indians have put themselves under the Five Nations’ protection and are required to remain peaceful under that arrangement. They assure Boston that New England has a valid case, and promise to destroy the Eastern Indians if they don’t stop fighting, but they ask for time to speak to them. They set up a meeting with the Governor of Massachusetts at Albany for the coming Spring. In an interesting footnote, “Hendrik,” a member of the Five Nations’ delegation, says that he talked to a minister at Boston who spoke “the Eastern Language” about coming to teach the Mohawks in their country. “Hendrik” is probably Tejonihokarawa (ca. 1660-1735), although he could also be Theyanoguin (ca. 1691=1755), who would have known “the Eastern language” because his father was Mohegan. The Albany Commissioners send this report to Governor Burnet and propose to work with the Five Nations on a diplomatic solution.

The second theme in January concerns a prisoner, a servant of Colonel Alexander Spotswood, the Governor of Virginia. He was taken prisoner in Virginia by “French Indians” from Canastoque & two from Fort Hunter, a statement that does not make sense since Fort Hunter at this period can only refer to the Lower Mohawk Town, Tiononderoga, in the Mohawk Valley at the mouth of Schoharie Creek. His captors are taking him to Kahnawake, the Mohawk community on the Saint Lawrence river, but they agree to meet with the Albany Commissioners. “Canastoque” is probably Kanesatake, near Montreal, although there was also a settlement of the Susquehannock nation at Conestoga on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania at this time.

The prisoner is identified as a Saponi Indian, but never identified by name, although he speaks good English. He tells the commissioners he is from “Christiana,” presumably Fort Christanna, where Governor Spotswood had settled the Sapponis on a reservation designed to educate them in English and incorporate them into colonial society. Governor Spotswood has requested the prisoner’s return, and the Albany Commissioners tell Governor Burnet they are trying to secure it. The nature of the prisoner’s servitude is never described. Is he a slave or an indentured servant? What claim of ownership does Governor Spotswood have to him, and how was it acquired? Has he been taken prisoner or liberated? For more on the Saponi (also spelled Sappony) Nation and their history, see http://www.sappony.org/index.htm and http://haliwa-saponi.com .