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.
Governor John Montgomerie’s first conference with New York’s native allies began on October first. The records contain two versions. What was probably the official version begins on page 299a of the records and is printed in DRCHNY volume 5, beginning at 5:859. Another version, likely a first draft, begins on page 263 of the records. It is worded a little differently but the sense is the same.
Land at Oswego for the English to Raise Food, Evidence of Haudenosaunee Orchards?
The Haudenosaunee sachims welcomed the new governor in a meeting held before the conference opened. They expressed sorrow over the death of King George I and celebrated the succession of George II in a speech that is interesting because it uses metaphors related to the cultivation of fruit trees, including grafting branches and covering roots, suggesting that these techniques may have been part of their practices during this period. The conference opened the next day with a speech by the new governor, who described his difficult five-month journey across the Atlantic before conveying greetings from the new King of England and renewing the covenant chain in his name.
Governor Montgomerie then asked to have land at Oswego marked off for the English to raise food for the troops. The Six Nations (Haudenosaunee) agreed to this idea, naming Laurence Claessen as the best person to assist with measuring and marking the land. They refused to say how much land they would provide, explaining that they needed to consult with people not present at the conference before they could give a figure. No mention was made of a sale and no deed was signed. The orders given to Laurence Claessen after the conference ended instruct him to carry out a precise survey of “as Large a Tract of Land at Oswego as possible you Can” and bring it back to the commissioners.
A Compromise on Alcohol
Besides discussing the land, the parties renewed the Covenant Chain with each other, exchanged gifts including wampum, and went over issues familiar from previous conferences. The Haudenosaunee asked the new governor to prevent traders from bringing alcohol to their country because it was leading to violence and even murders. He insisted that the traders needed to bring rum to refresh the soldiers at Oswego and asked them not to molest the traders. Eventually they agreed to the use of alcohol at the Oswego Trading House and Montgomerie agreed to forbid the English to take it to the communities of the Six Nations. The Haudenosaunee also asked that the traders sell pure rum rather than mixing it with water. It is possible that the illness that still afflicted the troops at Oswego was related to problems with Oswego’s water supply which could affect rum if the tainted water was used to dilute it.
Who Defends Fort Oswego Against the French?
The governor also asked the Haudenosaunee to protect Fort Oswego against possible French attacks. They responded that it was their understanding that it had been constructed to protect them rather than for them to protect. Eventually they agreed to assist with its defense, acknowledging their experience with French attacks. They urged the English both to make sure that the traders bring guns and ammunition to Iroquois and to keep military supplies on hand at Albany in case of need. Both sides promised to support each other and boasted of their military prowess.
The governor also urged the Haudenosaunee not to join the French and their allies in the war against a “Remote Nation,” probably meaning the Meskwaki (Fox). They asked for cheaper prices for goods and requested Joseph Van Size and Hendrick Wemp to work as smith and armorer in their country, adding that the French smith there was old and going blind.
Anglo-Dutch Farmers Encroach on Schaghticoke Lands
Governor Montgomerie renewed the Covenant Chain in a separate conference with the Schaghticoke and River Indians, for which they thanked him. He urged them to bring back those of their nation who had moved away, but they explained that it was difficult because they had less and less land at Schaghticoke to plant on. They told him that recently their European neighbors had planted on the Scaghticoke’s land, allowed their cattle to destroy Schaghticoke crops, and carried off corn from their fields. The governor asked for the names of the trespassers so he could punish them.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the entry for the draft version starts here on p. 263.
Plans Continue for a New Mohawk Settlement on the Upper Hudson
On February 6th, Sconondo (here spelled “Schonondo) asked the Commissioners of Indian Affairs for supplies for the new community he was starting near what the commissioners called “Saragtoque,” as he had proposed a few months earlier. He planned to settle there (the commissioners use the word “settle”) with his family and 60 people including women and children. The commissioners said they would have land suitable for planting somewhere between “still water & Saragtoque” and that they would provide pork and Indian corn when the group arrived. They gave Sconondo gifts including powder, shot, rum, corn and clothing for him and his son.
“Saragtoque” was the name used at this time for what is now called Schuylerville on the west side of the Hudson, as well as the name of a large tract on both sides patented by a group of Albany traders in 1685. The land between Schuylerville and Stillwater is rich, flat, and very suitable for planting. It is also strategically located in terms of trade and defense across from the Battenkill and Hoosick Rivers which flow into the Hudson from the east and which lead to the Connecticut Valley. The area is also on the route from Albany to Montreal by way of Lake Champlain.
Laurence Claessen and Jacob Glen Encounter a Stalemate at Onondaga
Claessen and Glen travelled to Onondaga between January third and February second. They submitted a journal in Dutch describing their trip. The commissioners summarized it in a letter to the governor. Despite their promises the previous summer, the Onondagas were reluctant to openly oppose the “French Indians” over Oswego. The commissioners’ letter reveals that the Palatine settlers were attempting to raise food for the garrison at Oswego, but that the governor was still supplying additional provisions directly as needed. They asked him to send some pork for the garrison “by the Return of our first Sloops.” The letter also says that Captain Holland planned to write to Captain Nicolls at Oswego, telling Nicolls to order Printhop, the smith stationed at Oswego, to go to Onondaga. The commissioners planned to send steel to the Palatine Country from whence the Indians would take it to Onondaga.
Is New England Safe for Kahnawake Hunters?
Leaders at Kahnawake sent two messengers to Albany named Catistagie and Cahowage to ask the commissioners for help. Several months earlier four Indians were hunting near Northfield. Three of them, a man named Sanagarissa and his two sons, went to buy powder from the English and did not come back. Their companion returned to Kahnawake afraid that Sanagarissa and his sons had come to some harm. By a string of wampum the messengers asked the commissioners to find out whathappened. Other hunters at Kahnawake were waiting for the news before going out to hunt.
The commissioners told Catistagie and Cahowage that they had heard nothing about the missing hunters. They promised to send someone to New England to look into the matter. They tried to reassure them that “our brethren in New England” would not have hurt the missing hunters. At the messengers’ request, they reimbursed the men who had brought them in a sled.
[There are no entries for January 1728.] In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for February starts here on p. 211.
The Commissioners of Indian Affairs spent a lot of money in 1727 on building boats, renting wagons, and hiring workers to build the fort at Oswego and supply the garrison and workers there with provisions. They wrote Governor Burnet on October 5th to say they were in the process of getting final accounts from the “Country people” and would submit it all. They also informed him that a detachment of soldiers had finally left Schenectady for Oswego along with five civilians who would stay until April.
Arossagunticook Hunters Come To Trade
Diplomacy from earlier in the year continued to pay off. A group of people from Asigantskook (probably Arossagunticook) sent messengers to verify that the road to Albany was still open. They said their people were hunting near Wood Creek on Lake Champlain and would like to come to Albany to trade, but it was difficult to transport deer skins at this season (probably because of the low water) and they had many elders with them who would not be able to make the trip. They asked to be supplied with necessaries at Saratoga as cheaply as they would be at Albany and offered to bring their furs and deerskins to Albany in the Spring, when travel was easier. The commissioners welcomed them and invited them to trade but said they could not provide goods as cheaply at Saratoga as at Albany because they would have to pay to transport them there. They suggested that the hunting party send their young men to bring the skins down or hire horses to transport them. It would all be affordable because “goods are much Cheaper then Ever they had been” at Albany.
Laurence Claessen’s Journal
At the end of October the commissioners gave the governor an English version of Laurence Claessen’s journal of his trip to the Six Nations in September to tell them. The record includes a full copy. Claessen visited the Mohawks, Oneidas, and Tuscaroras and acquainted each nation with the news that King George II had succeeded George I as king of Great Britain. Proceeding to the Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas, he did the same thing, but here he found that warriors were preparing to go out to fight at the request of the new Governor of Canada (the Marquis de Beauharnois). Claessen did not say who they were proposing to fight, but it was probably one or more of various nations to the south who were known as Flatheads. On behalf of New York’s Governor William Burnet, Claessen gave them gifts and urged them not to listen to the French or leave their homes to fight. He managed to persuade most of them not to go on the grounds that the French were just looking for a chance to take possession of the new building at Oswego. Moreover when he returned to Onondaga, the sachims there who had agreed with the Schuyler brothers to ask other nations in Canada not to help the French were keeping their word and setting out on a trip to convey the message.
When Claessen arrived in the Seneca capital Canosedeken, which here is spelled “Canosade,” the diplomat and interpreter “Jean Coeur” had been there just two days earlier promoting the French trade goods now available at the new building at Fort Niagara, including inexpensive blankets, guns, fine shirts, stockings, and brandy. There was also a French smith living in Seneca country with his wife, children, and servant, who was trading for furs. And Claessen learned that there was a French settlement on the Susquehanna River “a little abovre Casatoqu” whose inhabitants stayed in touch with Canada by way of a small river that flowed into Lake Ontario above Niagara Falls.
The enlarged French fort at Niagara and the new English fort at Oswego had expanded the European presence in Iroquoia along with the potential for violent conflict. The Six Nations had said all along that this was a problem. It was one of the reasons that they objected to the location of Fort Oswego when Governor Burnet first proposed it in September 1724. In Seneca Country Claessen was told that the Seneca leaders who had recently gone to Canada to condole the death of Governor Vaudreuil and confirm Beauharnois as the new governor had urged the French not to create a disturbance or shed blood, even though the English and the French were “very Jealous of one another about their buildings at Osweege & Jagara.” Instead, if they wanted to fight each other, they should “decide it at Sea.” Beauharnois asked them to tell the English to move the new building at Oswego further up the river from Lake Ontario to leave a clear passage on the lake for French traders. Their response is not recorded.
One more interesting detail from this journal is that the French were trying to persuade the Schawenos (Shawnee) living at Niagara to leave; it is not clear why.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for October 1727 starts here on p. 204a.
In August the Commissioners for Indian Affairs held three significant meetings with delegates from Kahnawake to the north, Asskantekook to the northeast, and the Seneca town Onnahee to the west. By “Asskantekook” they probably meant Arsigantegok, the Abenaki community on the St. Francois River now known as Odanak, although it is possible that they were referring to Arossagunticook on the Androscoggin River in Maine. The Seneca representatives reported on negotiations with nations even farther west. The commissioners also continued attempted to maintain and protect Fort Oswego, where bad weather, illness, and shortages of food continued to be serious problems along with threats from French Canada.
Some Kahnawake Residents Want to Move to Saratoga
The commissioners reported to Governor Burnet on August 3rd that two canoes of “Cachnowage Indians” had arrived in Albany. A man from this group provided detailed information about the efforts of the French Governor to engage both the Six Nations and Kahnawake to attack the English. The governor used a “great belt of wampum” to tell people at Kahnawake not to go to Albany any more, saying they had no business there. The Indians pointed out that goods were cheap at Albany, but the governor went on to complain about the new house at Oswego and ask for their help in destroying it. After bragging about the “grandeur of the french and their war Like Actions” the governor and the priest together urged them to kill “only one man Either at New England oswego or Albany.” The wording of the report is a little confused, but it appears that some people at Kahnawake agreed to help destroy Oswego, although one person told the priest that if he wanted them to kill people he should do so himself.
The French Governor also addressed some Onondaga (written as “Onnondade) sachims and told them that France had a just claim to their castles because it had cut them all off, presumably referring to the wars of the 17th century. However the French were kind and would allow them to enjoy their country without building among them. He contrasted this to the English who began with a small wooden house, but then built the stone house at Oswego, demonstrating that they planned to cut the Six Nations off. The French governor went on to say that the King of Great Britain had asked the King of France to join him in cutting off the Six Nations, but France had refused. He urged the Onondagas not to agree to the house at Oswego, pointing out that the English had built in the Mohawks Country “above Saraghtoge” and all the Mohawk land was gone. The English intended to deprive them of all their lands, which would leave them in a miserable condition.
The Indian who provided the information said that if he could be given land somewhere at Saratoga, he would leave Canada and move there with eight men and their families. Moreover, “a great many Indians would Come to Live there if there be land & a Minister comes.” He asked the commissioners to convey this request to Governor Burnet. In their letter describing this meeting, the commissioners told Burnet that there might be some suitable land “within the bounds of Saragtoge,” a large area at the time. They believed that if this plan could be put in effect, it would enhance the security of the province.
The spokesman at this meeting was probably the Kahnawake leader Sconondo, who led previous delegations from Kahnawake and who would move to Saratoga from Kahnawage in February 1728. While he may have moved because he supported the English more than the French, it could also have been to protect Mohawk interests in Saratoga in response to a growing English presence there.
Negotiations Between Albany, Boston, and the Eastern Indians of Assekantekook
In early August some sachims from Assekantikook appeared in response to a secret (“under the ground”) invitation that the commissioners had sent east in January, which reached them on March 1st. The meeting is recorded in Dutch with an English translation. Speaking on behalf of three “castles,” they affirmed their friendship with Albany and agreed to keep the path open between them. They said that they had sent two delegates to Boston to discuss peace with New England to put an end to Dummer’s War. The commissioners welcomed them, thanked them, and assured them that the path would be kept open between them. They hoped that peace would be concluded with New England as well. The commissioners also said that as they knew, the French were objecting to the new building at Oswego. They asked that Assekantikook stay out of this affair and refuse to let the French persuade them to attack the new house; otherwise the path that had now been cleared might become stopped up again. They encouraged them to come and trade at Albany.
Negotiations between the Senecas, Albany, Tionondadie, and Four Nations of Far Indians
Two Seneca sachims from Onnahee also arrived early in August and reported on another group of negotiations. The Jonondadees (also spelled Jenundadys, probably meaning the Jenondadies or Tionondadies) from onnessagronde (possibly Tuchsagronde, that is the vicinity of Detroit) sent four strings of wampum to the Six Nations and the commissioners and the Six Nations. They told them that they had gone to the Flatheads to make peace and were returning three Flathead prisoners. They also told them that they had met with the four nations called Medewandany, Nichheyako, Wissesake, and Jonondadeke to become friends and enter into good relations with New York, or as the commissioners put it “to persuade them into the interest of this gvernment.” The Onnahee sachims asked their rich and well-stocked brothers of Albany for additional goods to use in negotiating similar agreements with other nations. Finally they asked to be supplied with a smith and stock maker, specifically requesting a man from Schenectady named Joost Van Sysen.
The commissioners welcomed them on behalf of Governor Burnet and thanked them for the work they had done to bring new nations into an alliance that was equally beneficial to New York and the Six Nations. They also brought up the new house at Oswego, pointing out that it would protect the Six Nations from potential French attacks. They asked them to protect the new building if the French or their allies attacked it. They also promised to provide a smith.
Illness and Shortages at Oswego
Governor Burnet continued to work to ensure that the fort at Oswego was a success, sending provisions himself when the Palatines ran short. By now there seems to have been a drought in New York and water was low in the rivers, making it hard to transport boats, and even in mill streams, making it hard to grind corn. Captain Collins, Major Symes, Col. Groesbeeck, and Captain Nicolls, all worked to keep provisions flowing to the troops at the new fort. They hired carpenters to make more “batoes,” rented canoes, and hired men to help the soldiers transport goods to Schenectady and from there to Oswego. The commissioners also sent more ammunition and presents for the Indians. But on August 10th, Captain Evert Bancker came back to Albany, too ill to return to Oswego. Twelve men in Captain Nicolls’ New York detachment were also sick and the rest refused to go to Oswego. At Schenectady Major Symes informed the commissioners that out of two companies he could only find twelve men to help transport supplies, so the commissioners hired additional people at Albany. They informed the governor about all of this and told him that they sent twelve soldiers and eight inhabitants with provisions from Schenectady, but they turned back. They planned to set out again with additional men. The commissioners urged Governor Burnet to post six New Yorkers and six “trusty Indians” to “lay at Oswego.”
The French and English Make Proposals to the Six Nations
Upon hearing that the Six Nations was about to meet at Onondaga to consider proposals from the Governor of Canada, the commissioners sent Captain Philip Schuyler and his brother Peter Schuyler to Onondaga with Laurence Claessen. They travelled “a horse back” in order to get there quickly.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for August 1727 starts here on p. 195.
Having obtained the deed he sought, Governor Burnet met with the Commissioners of Indian Affairs and appointed a new commissioner, “Captain Lancaster Syms,” probably Lancaster Symes, Jr., since his father, also named Lancaster Symes, was a major rather than a captain. Burnet approved the commissioners’ request for money for the family of Major Abraham Schuyler, who had died on his mission to Iroquoia. He replaced Schuyler with one of the commissioners, Captain Evert Bancker, who was posted to the Seneca’s Country for the winter and then to the trading place at the falls of the Onondaga River (Oswego) for the rest of the year. Banker’s salary was 100 pounds on condition that he would not trade himself except for provisions. He also received Schuyler’s birch canoe, two assistants, and money for expenses.
Payments were authorized for Jacob Brower, Harme Vedder Jr., Jurian Hogan, Jost Van Seysen, and Nicholas Wemp for working in Iroquoia as smiths and armorers, to Lawrence Claessen for his journey to the Seneca, and to Cornelis Cuyler for the birch canoe made for Major Schuyler.
Governor Burnet issued formal instructions to Captain Bancker, who was to reside “either at Canosidague [probably Canadasaga] or Onahee” or to travel between these two Seneca towns. According to the Smithsonian’s Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Canadasaga was one of the main Seneca towns at this time, located at the north end of Seneca Lake, near present day Geneva N.Y. (See Handbook part 1 (1907) p. 198). Onnahee was farther west in what is now the town of Hopewell N.Y. (Handbook part 2 (1910), p. 128.)
Captain Bancker was to travel to Cayuga or Onondaga as needed, and to cultivate “a famillar acquaintance” with the Haudenosaunee leadership in order to pursuade them to be faithful to the British and mistrustful of the French. In particular Banker should prevent the Six Nations from entering any agreements with the French or consenting to the construction of French fortifications at Niagara or elsewhere. Evert was also told to encourage other native nations to trade with the British rather than the French, to gather intelligence, to send news of important events to the governor directly as well as the commissioners, and to keep a journal about his actions. A few days later, Bancker met with the commissioners who agreed to his request for a larger canoe, a belt of wampum, and a supply of rum.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the meeting of September 14 1726 starts here.
It is not clear how well Laurence Claessen knew English. The commissioners often instructed him to keep journals of his diplomatic missions, but they generally submitted their own version into the record. In March, Claessen appeared before them and gave them his journal of his recent trip. The minutes describe “in substance” what it said, including a day by day account of how he went to several towns of the Six Nations and invited leaders to a meeting that was held in Seneca country beginning on February 22nd. The participants discussed the ongoing conflicts over the sale of alcohol in Iroquoia and other matters including an English boy taken captive from Virginia and thought to be held in Iroquoia. The Six Nations said they did not have the boy. They asked once again that the English prohibit the sale of alcohol in their country, but Claessen could only tell them once again that sales would be restricted to “Far Indians” from outside Iroquoia to promote the fur trade. The sachems described how alcohol was leading to violence and other problems, even to murders. They gave Claessen a belt of wampum to take back to the English authorities to confirm their position that it should be banned completely. However they agreed not to molest the traders or the far Indians.
In Seneca country, Claessen found Juriaen Hogan, the blacksmith sent by the English, as well as a party of French residents that included a French smith and his family. The Iroquois said the French smith had come to live with them “in a deceitful manner,” returning with a Six Nations delegation that had gone to condole the death of the French governor Ramsay. The smith and his party were, of course, also sending information back to the French, just as Claessen and Hogan were doing for the English. Claessen provided an account of new French boats being constructed on Lake Ontario (Cataraqui) and said the Onondagas had given permission to the French to build a new trading house on the south side of the lake where the Niagara River flows into it. He described the composition of the parties that had gone out fighting over the previous winter, and conveyed the Six Nations’ request for a meeting with the governor in the spring. Claessen also reported that the Six Nations was sending ambassadors to the Waganhas proposing a meeting and invited the commissioners to send their own wampum belts along.
The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet, passed on the intelligence about French activities, and told him (in somewhat confused English) that the French must be prevented from settling in Iroquoia, and asked for funds to support an ongoing English presence among the Six Nations. They conveyed the request to stop selling alcohol, blamed it on the French influence, and insisted that the traders could not maintain the fur trade without alcohol. They expressed concern that the Six Nations had sent deputies to meet in Seneca country, where the French influence was strongest, instead of to Onondaga as was customary. They also sent the governor the English boy who had run away from the Mohawks at Fort Hunter earlier in the year. Finally they described how Jan Wemp and Jacob Glen had cleared and mended the road at the Oneida Carrying Place, and given a bond to repair the bridge there over Wood Creek.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, March 1726 starts here.
Laurence Claessen is Sent to Negotiate (and Obtain Intelligence)
The commissioners sent Laurence Claessen to Onondaga with instructions to resolve the ongoing conflicts between Albany traders and the Haudenosaunee over the sale of rum at the falls on the Onondaga River. The traders, backed by the commissioners, insisted that they had to sell rum to the “far Indians” from beyond Iroquoia in order to attract their trade in furs. The Haudenosaunee had now been saying for several years that they did not want rum sold at all in their country. Laurence Claesson was supposed to resolve this by delivering a belt of wampum telling them that their request had been received by Governor Burnet and that rum would not be sold to the Six Nations.
Claessen was also told to try to obtain the release of an English boy from Virginia who was being held captive in Iroquoia, and to work with Juriaen Hogan, the Anglo-Dutch smith, to obtain information about how many of the Six Nations were out fighting and the actions of the French smith and other Frenchmen living in Seneca Country.
The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet and informed him about what they were doing, expressing regret for the Six Nations attacks on Virginia and explaining that the Six Nations were wavering in their attachment to the English, leaning instead towards the French at times. To counteract this they recommended posting “some persons of Distinction” in Iroquoia to advance the English cause. They also rejoiced in the news that a peace had been concluded between “Boston” (i.e. New England) and the Eastern Indians (Abenaki) in Dummer’s War.
Many thanks to the Schenectady Historical Society for permission to use this image of the portrait of Laurence Claessen that hangs in their collection!
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, February 1726 starts here.
Conflicts in Iroquoia: Captives, Smiths, and Alcohol
The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet to tell him about the English boy they had taken in after he ran away from the Mohawks at Fort Hunter. They had now learned that the boy was captured in a raid on Captain Robert Hicks’s estate in Virginia, in which the boy’s father was also captured, as well as five native women. The boy’s father was released, one of the women was killed “by the way,” while two were “burnt” in Oneida and then, according to the commissioners, eaten. Two remained captive. They had also heard that there was another English boy taken from Virginia who was still held captive, but they were doubtful whether there was any hope of getting him back. The letter uses the stories of the captives to attack the “falsehood of ye 5 nations” and suggest that the English should post “some able persons” permanently at Onondaga. The allegations about burning and eating people should likely be evaluated cautiously, especially because no source is given for them. Clearly relations between the commissioners and the Haudenosaunee were under a strain as they tried to implement Governor Burnet’s plans for a stronger English presence in the heart of Iroquoia.
The commissioners also corresponded with Jacob Brower and Jurian Hogan, who were serving as smiths at Onondaga and in the Seneca country respectively. They arranged to provide Brower with a new bellows to replace one that had rotted out, and asked Hogan for information about a french smith who was living at the Seneca castle along with other frenchmen and their families. (It is interesting to speculate on what happened when the French and Anglo-Dutch smiths encountered each other, as must have occurred.)
The commissioners heard that the Six Nations expected an answer to their request the previous fall that the sale of alcohol be prohibited at the falls on the Onondaga River, (meaning the Oswego river at the site of present day Fulton New York) and intended to take steps themselves to end it if they did not get a satisfactory response. The commissioners feared for the safety of traders the following spring. They decided to send Laurence Claessen to Onondaga and sent him a request to appear before them to receive instructions.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1726 starts here.
The next entry is a November 4th letter from the Commissioners but written by James Stevenson (perhaps the one in this biography) because Philip Livingston, the Secretary for Indian Affairs, was absent. James Stevenson was not a commissioner, raising the question why Henry Holland and Evert Bancker, the commissioners present, did not write the letter themselves. Perhaps the Dutch commissioners were still not confident about their ability to write adequate English. Their letter is a response to a letter from Joseph Willard, Secretary of Massachusetts Bay, who had received from Colonel Stoddard the Commissioners’ message about the forces that had left Canada to attack the New England frontiers. It informs him that they have no additional news except that the governor of Canada was dead. They would continue to watch the enemy and provide intelligence as occasion offered.
On November 25th the commissioners agreed with Jacob Brower and Harme Vedder to go to Onondage as smiths. They asked Juriaen Hogan, his brother, and the assistant “Lansingh” to stay on as smiths in Seneca country, giving them leave to return to Albany on lawful business if they wished. It does not appear that they complied with the Six Nations’ request to provide new and better smiths.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, November 1725 starts here.
Trade is Welcome in Iroquoia; Alcohol and Quarrels Are Not
On October 10th, another delegation from the Six Nations met with the Commissioners. This time Thanentsaronwe (Thannintsorowee) was the speaker. He came to complain again about the sale of alcohol by the European traders in Iroquoia, and to object once more to Governor Burnet’s proposed trading house on the Onnondage (Oswego) River. Alcohol had led to the death of a principal sachem, Sogeanjawa, who had been “stuck dead with a knife.” Several people had had noses and ears cut off, and nine of the “Far Indians” had killed each other. In the name of the whole Six Nations, he asked that no alcohol be transported to Iroquoia for the consumption of the Far Indians or the Six Nations. Traders were welcome to come and trade wherever they wished, with any other sort of goods. He also expressed uneasiness that the governors of New York and Canada could not agree. He begged them not to shed blood in the Six Nations’ country, where both were trading. He asked that if any English people should encounter the French “they may kindly love & friendly greet one another.” He explained that they had told the governor of Canada the same thing.
Thanentsorowee told the Commissioners that strowd blankets were now being sold to the French at the Onnondage River, despite the New York law against it. He said he had heard that people from Albany were taking credit for bringing Far Indians to Albany to trade, but actually the Six Nations should get the credit for going to the Far Nations and asking them to come to Albany to trade, with the result that five Far Nations had promised to do so. The Six Nations was paying the expenses in wampum and blankets to engage in this promotion. He asked that Albany help them with strowds, powder, and lead in order to continue doing so.
He also complained that the message that the governor of New York could not meet that summer had not been properly conveyed to the Senecas from Onondage, and if it had they would not have come. In the future, messages should be sent directly to the Senecas. He also asked for a better smith, since they did not like the one sent to them, and requested that Myndert Wemp come back with them immediately along with tools.
The Commissioners responded by thanking the delegates for bringing Far Nations to Albany to trade. They gave them powder, lead, and strowd blankets as they had requested, along with two kegs of Rum. They acknowledged the remainder of the message but did not respond to it. However they forwarded the minutes of the meeting to Governor Burnet.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, October 1725 starts here.
Blocked from Trading with Montreal, Albany Traders Move West
In September the commissioners made good on their promise to give the governor an account of the volume of the fur trade to the west. Captain Harme Vedder, stationed in Seneca Country, returned with his company and 50 bundles of fur. Many other traders were now going west as well. Despite the difficulties involved, the commissioners put together a detailed list of who had gone to Indian country and how many furs and skins they had purchased. At least fifty-one canoes, each carrying several traders, had been to the lakes and returned with 738 bundles of furs. The list of names covers many if not most Albany families. It also includes an unnamed Indian couple, several unnamed hired men, and a member of the versatile Montour family, Jean Montour. Some traders went more than once and some trips for which details were not provided brought 50 additional bundles of furs. In addition, 43 canoes of “far Indians” came to Albany and Schenectady with 200 bundles.
The direct trade from Albany to Canada was far smaller, as estimated by the commissioners and Lieutenant Blood, who was stationed at the English garrison at Mount Burnet, on the Hudson north of Albany.
Commerce between Albany and Canada continued however. On September 6th, Colonel Myndert Schuyler and Captain De Peyster returned from Canada and took the oath required of persons suspected to have traded with the French, which strongly suggests that they had in fact traded with the French. Moreover they confirmed that they had seen large quantities of strowd blankets sent from Albany to Montreal.
Trade with Montreal is Illegal, But News from Montreal is Valuable;
Grey Lock is Raiding New England
Schuyler and De Peyster also brought important news. A party of 150 warriors had left Montreal on their way to attack New England, passing Chambly, where others were encamped who planned to go as well. The French, including their priests, were encouraging them to fight, and Montreal was fortifying itself with a stone wall. The commissioners informed both New York Governor Burnet and the government of New England about the situation. In a subsequent letter they told Governor Burnet that the party at Chambly had been persuaded to go home instead of attacking New England, but the party of 150 from Montreal were sill out fighting. Two small groups of nine and fourteen were supposed to be lurking on the western frontiers, lead by Grey Lock (Wawenorrawot). The commissioners told Governor Burnet that the Indians were tired of war and wanted peace, but the French continued to push them to war.
The Six Nations Meet with the French
Schuyler and De Peyster said that a large group of leaders from the Six Nations had come to Montreal, where they were honored with a cannon salute. According to some Seneca leaders who came to Albany to tell the commissioners about the situation, and who had resolved not to go to Montreal themselves, the Six Nations contingent included eleven Seneca sachems from Canossodage and six from Onnahee. They went to condole the passing of “Lieutenant Governor” Monsieur “D Ramsay,” (Claude de Ramezay, the governor of Montreal who had died the previous summer.) Probably they also discussed their concerns about the escalating construction of forts in their country by both the French and the English.
Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie Want a General Treaty
Lieutenant Colonel Stephanus Grosbeeck had also been in Montreal. He told the commissioners that the sachims of Kahnawage and Schawenadie had sent him an express as he passed La Prairie, asking him by seven hands of wampum to bring a message that they were coming to Albany about October 1st, where they wanted to meet with the governors of New York and Boston (i.e. Massachusetts Bay) as well as the Six Nations. The commissioners contacted Massachusetts Bay Governor William Dummer directly to pass on this message, sending their letter by way of the authorities of Westfield Massachusetts, in order to inform them that they were at risk of attack.
The Six Nations Confirm the Treaty of 1722 with New York and Virginia
On September 26th, twelve sachems from Onondage, Cayuga, and Tuscarora came to Albany and met with the Commissioners. They said they had been sent to look into rumors spread among them and find a way to prevent such stories. They asked the Commissioners to read them the treaty made in 1722 between Virginia and the Six Nations, which was done.
Their speaker D’Kanasore (Teganissorens) gave a speech addressed to Asserigoa, the Iroquois name for the Governor of Virginia, asking the Commissioners to pass it on. He pointed out that the Six Nations had returned two prisoners taken in Virginia, an Indian (probably meaning Governor Spotswood’s Saponi servant) and a “Negroe boy,” (probably Captain Robert Hicks’ slave). He said that whoever was going fighting towards Virginia from Canada or from the Six Nations’ castles was doing it without their consent. Nonetheless, if they went past the line agreed to in the treaty of 1722 and were taken prisoner, they should likewise be returned.
Teganissorens also complained that the gunpowder they had purchased recently was defective. He asked for more powder as well as lead and gunflints, pointing out that the cost would be made up by the value of the skins they could obtain with it through hunting. He also asked for a smith as soon as possible, one better than those who had been working there, whose work was not the best.
The Six Nations Have New Objections to Burnet’s Trading House
Like the delegation from Kahnawake and Schawenadie, Teganissorens was not happy with Governor Burnet’s proposal for a trading house on the Onnondage (Oswego) River. He admitted that the Six Nations had consented to it, but he said they now feared it would cause mischief because alcohol would be sold there. People would get drunk, become unruly, and and cause harm. In addition some would likely buy rum instead of ammunition. Teganissorens asked that in the future traders would bring powder and no rum. A slightly different version of this speech was written out and then crossed out. It appears on page 146a.
The Commissioners responded the next day in a speech that verged on being abrupt, even rude. They told the delegates they were glad they wanted to prevent rumors from spreading; the only way to do so was simply refuse to listen to those who tried to delude them. They promised to convey Teganissorens’ speech to the Governor of Virginia, but added that the Six Nations should not let their people go past the boundary line agreed to in 1722. The people of Virginia “will never molest you if you do not excite them to it” and if you commit mischief you will have to answer for it, as also for “those for whom you are become Security.” The reference was to Kahnawake and its allies, the “French Indians.”
In response to the complaint about powder, they said they were sorry the Six Nations were too impoverished to buy enough powder to meet their needs. The Commissioners would ask the governor to write to England to have better powder made, but the real reason for their poverty was that they went fighting against people who had not attacked them. Instead they should stick to hunting. They agreed to convey the request for a smith and expected the governor would send one.
In response to the Six Nations’ request that traders bring powder rather than rum to sell on the Onondaga River, the Commissioners would only say that they would ask the governor to prevent traders from selling rum to the Six Nations and to sell them powder and lead. However, the traders would continue selling rum to the Far Indians because otherwise they would be unable to sell their goods. They urged the delegates to be kind to all traders on the Onondaga River and the lakes and to invite the far Indians to come trade with Albany in order to get goods cheaper than from the French. To encourage this they agreed to supply them with power, lead, and flints to meet their present needs.
The Six Nations added that the bellows at Onondaga was old and not fit for service. They asked for a new one before winter set in. They said they expected their speech to go to the governor of New York and then be forwarded to Virginia, acknowledged that the commissioners had asked them to keep the Treaty, and said they expected Virginia and its Indian allies to do the same. They expected that those who brought evil reports to them (that is rumors) probably did the same with the governor of Virginia, so they hoped he would not listen. They agreed to be kind to traders in their country and assist them however they could.
The commissioners asked what Monsieur Longuiel said when he came to their country, and Teganissorens quoted him at length. “Fathers, [the Six Nations had adopted Longueuil as their “child”] I desire that you be not surpriz’d when any blood shall be shed on the Onnondage River or at the side of the Lake for we and the English can’t well abide one another, do you not meddle with the Quarrel butt Set Still smoke & be neuter.” Tegannisorens confirmed that they had sent wampum to Canada to answer the governor saying they were surprised that the French should “trample on the Blood of their Brethren” in the Six Nations country. If they wanted to fight, they should “go to sea and fight where you have Room.”
Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie Appear, Expecting the General Treaty; They Offer an Indian Woman to Make Up for the Murder of a Soldier
Prior to the commissioners’ response to Teganissorens, seven sachems from Kahnewake, Schawenadie and Rondax appeared. They said they had come to meet with the governors of New York and Boston, as they had requested in the message they sent by Stephanus Grosbeeck a few weeks earlier. They expected the commissioners to provide lodging in Albany in the meantime. They had no wampum, for which they asked to be excused. The commissioners provided them with housing and necessities.
On September 28th, they formally condoled the man murdered at Saratoga by their people, presumably the English soldier named Williams from the garrison at Mount Burnet. They asked for reconciliation and forgiveness and gave wampum to wipe off the tears of those in mourning for him. And in addition they offered the commissioners a captive, an Indian woman, in place of the man they had lost. They said it was “not our maxim to do so yet we do it to satisfie you for the breach that is comitted.”
They said those who killed the soldier had been on their way to fight in New England. Their young men were unruly and could not be prevented from going to help the Eastern Indians fighting against the English. They asked the Commissioners to do everything they could to end the war.
The Commissioners explained that they had gotten the wampum message that Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie wanted to meet with the governors of New York and Massachusetts Bay and had sent notice to Boston. The governor there had said that he had to attend a treaty there with the Indians who were at war and asked the Commissioners to hear on his behalf what Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie had to say. The sachems said they would do so only if Colonel John Schuyler were present to represent Massachusetts. The Commissioners said that Colonel Schuyler was welcome to attend, but they did not think he would come. If the sachems did not want to deliver their message to the Commissioners to pass on to him, perhaps they could meet with him alone, or perhaps they would like to go to Boston, where they would be well received.
The next day the Commissioners gave a more full answer, reproaching the sachems for the murder of the soldier when the parties were at peace. They accused them of deliberately breaching the Covenant Chain in order to undermine the good relations between them. Those who committed such murders should be punished. But since the sachems had come to “mediate and reconcile” the matter, the commissioners said they would ask the governor to forgive the injury on condition that the sachems agree to deliver over anyone who committed such an offense in the future. They accepted the woman in place of the dead soldier “as a Token of your Repentance and sorrow for what is past” and gave a belt of wampum. After harangueing them further to the same effect, they gave them additional wampum. The sachems responded that they had heard the message and would communicate it to their leaders at home, since they were not empowered to promise to deliver up people who transgressed in the future.
The Commissioners wrote to the governor of Massachusetts Bay and described the meeting. They referred the governor to Colonel John Schuyler for more information, explaining that the sachems had refused to deliver their message except to him. They wished the governor success in making peace.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, September 1725 starts here at page 142 through 152a and jumps back here to p. 113.
On June 5th the commissioners wrote to the governor explaining that they had sent Laurence Claessen and two smiths to Onondaga. They added that David Van Dyck had resigned as commissioner, as Johannes Bleecker had done the previous November. A few days later, on June 11th, Claessen returned and gave an account of his journey.
Claessen arrived at Onondaga on May 27th to find the sachims of the Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Cayougas, and Senecas and Onondagas who had recently met with “Mons. Longueil, Lieut. Gov.r of Canada,” (Charles Le Moyne, Baron de Longueuil).
Claessen gave them seven strings of wampum, the agreed upon protocol that confirmed an official message. He told them that Governor Burnet (William Burnet, Governor of New York and New Jersey) had sent him to say that he could not comply with their request to meet, but that he would meet them the following year. They were happy to hear that Burnet only planned to build a trading house at Oswego, not a fort, and said they had nothing against building a house. They also thanked the governor for sending the smiths and promised to make them very welcome. They told Claessen that Longueuil had been at Onondaga until May 25th, two days before Claessen arrived. The records include what purports to be Longueuil’s speech at Onondaga.
Addressing the Haudenosaunee as “Children,” according to French custom, Longueuil said that he had been ordered to come there by the governor. He performed the customary condolence ceremony and gave a large belt of wampum, adding additional belts for each point in his speech. He said he had heard that the Six Nations were “jealous” of the French and expressed the hope that the bad feelings generated by the previous war between them were over and forgotten, since France and England were now at peace. He urged them to forget old differences and promised to “Imprint in the memory of our Children to observe the treaties of Peace & friendship” between them, so that it would live on even when “we aged Men” were dead and gone.
Longueuil confirmed that he was going to Tierondequoit (Irondequoit at the site of present day Rochester) and then to Seneca Country and Niagara, where he planned to build a strong trading house and sell goods more cheaply than before to the Six Nations as well as the nations beyond them. He also planned to build two ships to bring goods there.
Some Albany Traders Agree Not to Trade With the French
On June 11th the commissioners continued to attempt to enforce Governor Burnet’s prohibition against selling Indian goods to the French by resolving to direct the sheriff to issue summonses to a number of traders including John Schuyler, Stephanis Groesbeck, Nicholas Bleecker, Cornelis Cuyler, Hans Hansen, Edward Collins, David Schuyler Jr., Johannes Roseboom and Gerrit Roseboom Jr. They were directed to appear and take the oath against trading Indian goods with the French as required by the Act of 1720. All of them all except John Schuyler and Gerrit Roseboom Jr. appeared and took the oath. So did Jacob Verplanck. It is unclear whether “John Schuyler” refers to Colonel Johannes Schuyler or his son Johannes Schuyler, Jr.
The Jenondadies (Petun) Come to Trade
On June 19th, some “far Indians” came to trade, a group of “Jenondadies” (Tionondati or Petun) who lived near the French fort at Detroit. Their leader Schaojiese thanked the commissioners for inviting them to come to Albany to trade and asked that the path be kept clear for them. They condoled Colonel Peter Schuyler and Hendrick Hanson, who had both died in February 1724, and requested “that their Eldest Sons may be accepted in their places that the tree may grow under w.h all ye upper nations may Shelter themselves.” They also said they were “great Lovers of Liquor” and asked for good Rum, not watered down.
The commissioners thanked them for coming and for their condolences and assured them that goods would be cheap. They promised to do what they could to prevent traders from watering down rum. They appeared taken aback by the request to appoint the eldest sons of Schuyler and Hansen in their place. They explained that the choice was in the hands of the governor. They assured the Tionontaties that the tree of peace and friendship would grow as strong as ever and the upper nations would be welcome to take Shelter under it.
The Twightwighs (Miamis) Send Joseph Montour and his Cousin Maconte as Messengers
Two members of the Montour family, who had married into the Twightwigh (Miami) nation and lived among them, met with the commissioners, Jean Fafar alias Maconte, was the nephew of Louis Montour, killed by the French in 1709 for encouraging far nations to trade with the English, and Joseph Montour, Louis’s son. They brought a message from a group of Twightwigh (Miami) who had sent nine canoes to trade but were stopped at the falls of Oneida by the people who lived there. The reference appears to be to European traders, probably English subjects, because if they were French, the commissioners would have noted it. Possibly Abraham Schuyler and his party were trading while stationed with the Iroquois to reassure them about the expanding English presence in their country.
The Miami wanted to come renew their treaties and wondered why they had been stopped. Maconte and Joseph gave some dressed deerskins and a calumet pipe to the commissioners. The commissioners thanked them, but did not show much sympathy for the Miami. They expressed surprise that they had not come to Albany, since they had joined themselved in the Covenant Chain. They should not have allowed the people at Oneida falls to persuade them to trade there instead of at Albany, where goods were cheaper. They asked the Miami not to listen to such people in the future. They gave the Montour cousins some rum and blankets for the Miami sachems.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, June 1725 starts here.