Minute Book 3: 1728-March: Mohawk Leaders Ask About Missing Kahnawake Hunters and Bring News of French Plans to Attack Oswego; The Six Nations Complain About Insults and High Prices at Oswego; The Garrison Needs Food

News from Mohawk Country

The Mohawk leaders Hendrick and Seth met with the Commissioners of Indian Affairs on March third. They said that two “Onnogonque indians” who had moved from Canada to live with the Haudenosaunee at Oriskany had come to a Mohawk castle (i.e. town) from hunting at the little falls on Wood Creek with other Canada Indians.  Two Kahnawake Indians had inquired about the three hunters from Kahnawake who had disappeared on the New England frontier.  Hendrick and Seth asked their “brethren at Albany” for news about the missing hunters, but the commissioners’ response is not recorded.

Hendrick and Seth also said that the Kahnawake Indians told the Mohawks that an army of a thousand Frenchmen were marching on Oswego.  The Mohawks immediately sent a messenger with wampum to inform the rest of the Six Nations.  They acknowledged the English advice to the Six Nations the previous summer urging them to keep their men at home to defend Oswego rather than allowing them to go to war elsewhere.

The English Won’t Let Indians Inside Fort Oswego and Powder is Too Expensive

On March 14th, an unnamed leader from Oneida complained to the commissioners about the situation at Oswego. He spoke in the name of the entire Six Nations. There may have been other Six Nations representatives present, since the commissioners responded using the term “Brethren.”

The speaker began by reminding the commissioners that the Six Nations had agreed to the trading house at Oswego because it was supposed to be for their benefit as well as that of the English.  Now the English at Oswego were preventing people from the Six Nations from coming into the house to warm themselves, or if “any one Obtains that liberty before he can be half warm he is out Doors.” Moreover the Six Nations had expected goods to become cheaper, but instead powder had become more expensive. The speaker pointed out that cheap goods would draw “waganhoes & far Indians” to trade with the English rather than the French. He also reprimanded the commissioners because Oswego was supposed to be “a house of peace” but the English were still at odds with the Governor of Canada much of the time. He presented seven hands of wampum and asked again for cheaper powder and lead as well as a quick response.

The commissioners said they were sorry that the new building was not providing “Such releave as was first Intended by our Gov.r” in the form of cheap power, lead, and other goods.  They said the men at Oswego had not brought enough powder and that they would tell the governor and obtain a “Speedy & Acceptable answer.” They assured the speaker that the governor wanted to provide cheap goods to encourage trade. The rest of their response contains some contradictions and it would be interesting to know what the Oneida speaker thought about them, but nothing is recorded about it. The commissioners blamed the rude reception for Indians at the Oswego trade house on the commander there and on the report that the French were threatening to attack it. At the same time they insisted that there was a “firm peace” between the crowns of France and England.  Despite the firm peace, they cautioned the Six Nations against joining the French war against the “foxes a Nation of Indians Liveing on a breach [branch] of the Mississippi” on the grounds that the French wanted the Six Nations to fight the Fox in order to weaken the Six Nations and prevent trade with the English.

The French were fighting a devastating war with the Fox  (Meskwaki) during this period. Apparently some of the Meskwaki had joined the Six Nations, since the commissioners added that “part of the Same indians are now liveing among you” so the Six Nations should be able to make peace with the rest.

Food, Arms, and Powder for Oswego

Several entries in March deal once again with getting supplies to the garrison at Oswego, which was running low on peas and wheat. One of the commissioners, Philip Livingston, put up the money to provide these goods, which required repairing batoes at Schenectady, fitting them with tarpaulins to keep off the rain, and hiring four men to convey them to the Oneida Carrying Place. Captain Nicolls, the commander at Oswego, would send his men to the carrying place and take the supplies the rest of the way to the fort.  Another commissioner, Harmanus Wendell, put up the money to pay Jacobus Peek for a batoe load of peas.

"Poling a Batteau," as depicted by an unknown artist, probably in the 1880s.
“Poling A Batteau,” from p. 423 of A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times, by Jonathan Pearson. Albany: Munsell, 1883. Artist and date unknown.                           Much of the food for the Oswego garrison was sent there from Schenectady by batteau. According to Pearson, batteaus could be either paddled, poled, or towed by workers walking along the riverbank or through the shallows.

Governor Burnet informed the commissioners that he was sending pork for the garrison as well as orders that anyone who wanted a license to go there should be required to carry arms and powder.  A somewhat confused entry in the records appears to say that the commissioners asked the interpreter at Schenechtady to hire a “trusty Indian” to take a letter to Oswego to convey orders from Colonel Rensselaer (possibly Hendrick Van Rensselaer, who was also a commissioner) to Captain Nicolls that men going to Oswego should take arms and ammunition with them.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for March starts here on p. 213.

There are no entries for April 1728.

Minute Book 3: 1727-July: Oswego Needs Food and Trade; Murder at Schoharie; French Governor Visits Albany

On July 5th the Commissioners of Indian Affairs informed Governor Burnet that the building at Oswego would be finished by the first of August according to Captain Evert Bancker. Supplies of food were running low there because the Palatines who had engaged to provide it had only limited amounts and supplying Oswego directly from Albany was prohibitively expensive.  The commissioners tried to reassure the governor that with the bacon they had sent up the previous month and the “wheat meal” provided by the Palatines, matters were not as bad as Captain Nicolls at Oswego suggested. They agreed with him, however, that Oswego very much needed a good Indian Interpreter.

Trade at Oswego was poor and some traders would likely have to bring their goods back. No nations from the vicinity of Tuchsagrondie (present day Detroit) had been there and few from the east. The only trade was coming from closer by, on the north side of Lake Ontario (Cadaraghi) or from those the commissioners described as “our own Indians.” Trade was further complicated by recent changes in the laws that ended the prohibition on trading Indian goods to the French in Canada but still required traders to pay additional duties on them. Governor Burnet accused the commissioners of failing to enforce the new version, but they insisted that they had issued summonses against traders who were out of compliance.

Can a British Governor Punish Indian Murderers at Schoharie?

The commissioners attempted to explain to Governor Burnet the complexities involved in punishing the death of the Palatine settler at Schoharie who had been killed in a quarrel with some Indians after accusing them of stealing a hog. They admitted that an Indian had been hanged in New Jersey for killing an Englishman, but insisted Schoharie was “different Scituated.”  The Six Nations were more numerous and of a “different temper” from the native people living in New Jersey. Moreover the Six Nations were aware that Europeans had killed people from the Six Nations and escaped execution even following a trial and judgement.  The commissioners told the governor they did not know how to apprehend the murderers in the Schoharie case.

French Threats and Diplomacy

The commissioners learned from John Tippets, a New England man who went to Canada to redeem his captive children, that 400 Frenchmen and 600 Indians were ready to attack Oswego, destroy the new building, kill the English living there, and seize their goods.  They also had “private intelligence” that an unidentified individual in Canada had undertaken to surprise and capture Fort Oswego in exchange for 50 pounds. They conveyed this information to Captain Nicolls at Oswego and advised him to be on guard.

Fortunately for the English, Jean Bouillet de La Chassaigne, the governor of Trois Rivieres, arrived in Albany on July 24th with an entourage of his officers and sent a message to Governor Burnet that he wanted to negotiate.  The commissioners paid four pounds and ten shillings to Jacob Visger to convey the party to New York in Jacob Visger’s sloop.

By now the French knew the details of the building at Oswego.  Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Lery, the engineer for the French fort at Niagara as well as many other buildings in French Canada, drew a plan of the new fort as it existed in 1727. It probably seemed primitive to him compared to his grander vision for Niagara and the other public works that he designed. Below is a copy:

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Chaussegros de Léry, Gaspard-Joseph, 1682-1756,”Plan of Oswego, 1727.”  Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed October 3, 2018.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first substantive entry for July 1727 starts here on p. 191a.

Minute Book 3: 1727-June: Construction at Oswego Continues Despite Illness and French Threats; Sachims From Detroit Condole Pieter Schuyler; the French Encourage Albany’s Slaves to Run Away

By mid June Lancaster Symes was well enough to attend a meeting of the Indian Commissioners but a “Distemper” now “raged” in both the city and county of Albany., affecting some of the commissioners By the end of June, two workmen at Oswego were sick and Evert Bancker’s son had set out to help his father, who was so gravely ill that he needed to return home. Nonetheless the work on the trading house continued and the commissioners assured the governor that it was going well.  The contract for providing food to the troops at Oswego went to Johan Jurch Kast and Johan Joost Petri, two justices of the peace living among the Palatines “above the falls” (present day Little Falls?).  The agreement was made for the coming year, but the Palatines had no bacon, pork, or beef, so the commissioners sent up 400 pounds of bacon. They corresponded with the governor as well as with Evert Bancker (in Dutch), Captain Holland, and Captain Nicolls about progress on the building and other details of the operation, such as obtaining skins for shoes for the men at the fort, finding limestone, repairing the road and bridges at the Oneida Carrying Place, and the details of where to deliver supplies. Wood Creek was running low, making it more difficult to transport goods. Overall, progress was steady but slower than expected.

The commissioners hoped that the British would succeed in convincing the French government that the French fort at Niagara violated the Treaty of Utrecht, but in reality the French had already finished Fort Niagara. There was now a real danger that they could prevent travel from distant nations to Albany. The French had also repealed their former ban on selling alcohol to Indians in order to better compete with the English. And despite Captain Bancker’s efforts to prevent them, the Six Nations had sent sachims to meet with the governor of Canada, mainly from Onondaga. Trade did fall off, both at Oswego and at Albany, where no Indians from Canada were seen. The price of rum at Oswego fell and the commissioners did not hear any news from Canada because no one from Canada came to Albany to trade. In addition to creating a surplus of trade goods, this cut off a source of intelligence.

Pieter Schuyler is Condoled by the Potowatomi and Tuchsagrondie (Detroit)

The exception occurred on June 16th, when Wynamack, a leader from a nation “called by the French poatami” (most likely the Potowatomi), appeared in the company of Ajastoenis, an old man who was identified as coming from Tuchsagrondie (Detroit). After finding a translator who could speak their language, the commissioners held a formal meeting with them at which the visitors condoled Pieter Schuyler, (Quider), who had died more than three years before, in February 1724. They lit a calumet pipe of peace painted blue and smoked it with the commissioners. Wynamack said that he was leaving the calumet at Albany as a token that his nation would come to trade there if he could report back to them that he was treated well and prices were cheap. He also said the French  had tried to stop him from coming and told him that he would be badly received now that Pieter Schuyler was dead. He did not believe them based on former promises that  “ye houses would be open here for the far Nations who are Civilly & Kindly treated.” (Likely these promises were made by one of the messengers sent west to distant nations in the name of the commissioners over the previous few years.) The commissioners welcomed Wynamack and Ajastoenis with gifts of blankets and rum, thanked them for condoling Pieter Schuyler, and assured them that the governor had appointed others in his place to treat with them. They advised them to ignore the French threats and promised that “[H]ere is Always a perpetuall Succession of Sachims as you Now See.” They said that the tree of friendship still grew at Albany to protect them from all evil. They hoped it would spread over all the “remote Indians” and that they would come to trade both at Albany and at Oswego. They explained that goods were expecially cheap because so few others had come to trade that year and invited them to test this for themselves.

A Frenchman from Philadelphia is Encouraging Albany’s Slaves to Run to Canada

The commissioners complained to Governor Burnet that a Frenchman had come from Philadelphia to Albany by way of New York.  In their words, “we find on Examination [that he] has been pampering with Severall Negro Slaves at this place to run to Canada [which] is of Dangerous Consequence [that] our Slaves Should be Intic’d to run thither.” They ordered him to go back where he came from. The somewhat confusing of their letter wording suggests that they sent him to New York on a boat with Captain Peter Winne and “Jacobse,” but the unnamed Frenchman told them that he would wait there and return to Canada with three other Frenchmen who had recently  gone to Philadelphia. The commissioners asked Governor Burnet to “secure” him to prevent his return to Albany.  It appears that Governor Burnet responded by ordering him not to come to Albany again. It is interesting to speculate as to whether the runaway slave retrieved from Seneca country in May by Evert Bancker had been working with this Frenchman.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for June 1727 starts here on p. 186.

Minute Book 3: 1727-May: The Haudenosaunee Agree to Let the English Build at Oswego; Sixty Soldiers Are Sent Up; the French Invite the Six Nations to Montreal

In May the Commissioners of Indian Affairs heard that Captain Evert Bancker had managed to pursuade the Six Nations to allow the English to build a trading house at Oswego. Bancker consulted with the sachims in laying out the ground, including Teganissorens, referred to by the commissioners here as “the Kanssore.”  Bancker said the sachims left the exact location for the building up to him.  He still needed to find a source for limestone.

The French immediately invited Haudenosaunee leaders to Montreal, presumably to try to change their minds.  In the meantime, sixty British soldiers set out for Oswego in eleven boats, likely embarking at Schenectady, although this is not spelled out clearly. The commissioners oversaw the details, ordering wagons from Schenectady to transport stores and provisions there, making additional “batoes,” and providing everything required for the military detachment to reach Oswego as quickly as possible. With troops in place, it would be harder for the French to interfere with construction.  The commissioners knew that the French would hear about the soldiers’ departure before they reached Oswego, but as long as the Six Nations supported the building they did not think the French could stop it. However they did realize that they might need a French translator just in case. They informed the governor that some of the traders at Oswego could fill this role, but said that if he wanted them to hire someone else for the purpose they would. Laurence Claessen was told to stay at Oswego until the building was complete and to interpret for the “King’s Officer” in charge of the soldiers as well as for Captain Bancker. This detail suggests that even though Evert Bancker was in charge of trading operations, Governor Burnet was not putting him in charge of the military, creating the potential for confusion or even conflict.  Moreover, neither Claessen nor Bancker appear to have spoken English very well, and there is no mention of who would translate between the King’s Officer and Claessen or Bancker, should the need arise.

The commissioners began to arrange for provisions to be delivered to Oswego for the future from whoever could supply them at the lowest cost. This required taking them past the Wood Creek “Carrying Place” from the Mohawk River to Oneida Lake. Some Palatines had already made offers for this work. It is noteworthy that the commissioners don’t mention looking to the Oneidas or other members of the Six Nations, either in buying provisions or as sources of labor of any kind.  The profits from supplying the new fort would enrich Palatine and Anglo-Dutch New Yorkers, but not the Haudenosaunee, another possible source of conflict. And the commissioners’ correspondence with Governor Burnet contains one other ominous detail: Major Lancaster Symes had a “fitt of Sickness” that made him unable to travel. 1727-5-9He was probably not the only one who was already affected by illness, which would soon become a serious problem throughout the area.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first entry for May 1727 starts here on p. 183.

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.

Minute Book 3: 1727-March, Pt. 1: Trading House or Fort? Building at Oswego Will Not Be Easy; A Slave is Prevented From Making a “Path for Other Slaves to Desert.”

In March the commissioners began to implement Governor Burnet’s plan for the new stone building at Oswego by hiring carpenters and masons. They looked for “two old horses” to send up located sources for stone and other building materials. They hired Luykas Wyngaert and William Barret to get boards from “Mr. Coeymans” with which Anthony Bogardus and Cornelis Bogaert built four “batoes,” because canoes would not be suitable for transporting workmen to Oswego.  Finding workmen in Albany or Schenectady was a challenge. Masons and carpenters were expensive and had to be paid for the trip as well as the time at the site.  They also had to be skilled enough with boats to make the journey.  Even the Germans who now lived in the Mohawk Valley above the Mohawk towns were asking high prices.  The commissioners suggested looking to New York for cheaper labor.  They also talked to various individuals about working there, including Adam Smith, Keith and William Waldran, Major Isaac Bogaert, Major and Nicolas Groesbeek.  The new building would play a significant role in Albany’s economy that year.

Captain Evert Bancker was commissioned as “Captain of all the Christians who are going to trade at the fixed trading place” and charged with reining in those who were already venturing to “remote” places beyond the limits set by the legislature. He was also to oversee the construction of the new building. The commissioners warned the governor that the French already knew about their plans and that the Indians were strongly against “any building to be made by us.” They recommended sending Laurence Claessen to interpret for Captain Bancker on a permanent basis, since they did not trust the traders as reliable interpreters.  Bancker was provided with generous presents to persuade the Indians to allow construction to procede.

The proposed building was called a “house” and the rationale for its construction was to protect the goods of the traders. Nonetheless, Burnet thought of it as a counterforce to the French forts, especially Niagara, and from the beginning he planned to have a garrison there. The commissioners asked for soldiers to go up with the workmen to protect the construction from a possible French attack, but the governor did not want to send soldiers until the building was complete.

The commissioners also informed the governor that Captain Bancker had reclaimed a negro woman from the Seneca’s country at considerable expence.  1727-3-25slavepath

The commissioners explained that if Bancker had not laid out more that 20 pounds to get her back, the Senecas would have sent her to Canada where she would “make a path for other Slaves to desert that way.” They asked the governor to repay Captain Bancker. It is tempting to speculate as to whether she had already taken steps to make that path, even though she was not able to travel it herself.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the best copy of the entries for March 1727 starts here.

Minute Book 3: 1726-March: Conflicts Over Alcohol Continue; the French Presence in Iroquoia is Growing

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 versionVersion 3 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.

Minute Book 3: 1725-September

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.

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1725trade0289

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.

Minute Book 3: 1725-June

The French Still Plan to Build Fort at Niagara

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.

 

 

Minute Book 3: 1725-May

Dummer’s War Drags On

The first entry for May is a letter from Samuel Thaxter, William Dudley, and Theodore Atkinson, representatives from Massachusetts Bay who had gone to meet with Governor Vaudreuil in Montreal to negotiate the release of captives and try to end the war. The first page is missing, but Peter Wraxall’s Abridgment of the Indian Affairs summarizes the complete letter on p. 157-158. Vaudreuil had heard about New York’s plan to build a block house at Oswego and he considered it a violation of the Treaty of Utrecht between France and England. If the blockhouse was constructed, he would tear it down. Vaudreuil claimed that he could order the Five Nations to take English prisoners whenever he liked.

Vaudreuil supported the Abenaki demand that if the English wanted peace, they must return all Abenaki lands, including all of Lacadie (Nova Scotia) except the fort at Anapolis Royall as well as everything claimed by Massachusetts for 30 leagues along the Atlantic coast, including existing English settlements and forts. Massachusetts Bay (and Wraxall) considered these demands to be absurd. The Abenaki also asked that their church at Norridgewalk, which the English had destroyed, be rebuilt, the plunder taken there returned, and a priest restored to them. Their priest, Father Sebastien Rale, had been killed in the fighting the previous summer.

Vaudreuil claimed that he did not encourage the Abenaki, although papers taken at Norridgewalk showed otherwise. He refused to put anything in writing. He also refused to do anything to retrieve the English captives held by Indians. Even as to English captives held by the French, he told the Massachusetts Bay representatives that they would have to ransom them at whatever price was set by their owners.

The Massachusetts Bay representatives bemoaned Vaudreuil’s conduct. Many French owners of captives had raised their ransom prices. The letter ended with a plea for help: everything showed “what hardships and Intolerable Burthen his Maj.es Good Subjects lye under, being used more like brute creatures than Men & Christians & call alowd upon all Men under the Same King to lend a helping hand to gett the aforesd. Governm.tts out of this Unjust War.”

The term “unjust war” carried a lot of legal weight during this period. It suggests that the representatives may have been starting to question their governor’s aggressive policies towards the Abenaki. Not surprisingly, Wraxall’s Abridgement does not include this part of the letter, in which the New England representatives sound strangely like the Six Nations, tired of the war and looking for help in persuading the government to end it. At the conference with Governor Burnet in September 1724, the Six Nations had reminded the governor that they had sent a wampum belt to King George with a message that “this matter of peace lieth with you.”

Albany Passes on the Iroquois Message to Governor Burnet

The next entry, dated May 6th, is a copy of a letter from the commissioners to the governor. They passed on the message from the “Canada Indians” (Kahnawake and its allies) and confirmed by the Six Nations asking the British and the French both to refrain from building additional forts and trading houses in the country of the Six Nations for fear they would come to blows with each other.  The commissioners had to be tactful because the governor had previously insisted that it was Albany traders who persuaded the Six Nations to oppose his proposed trading house at Oswego, where the Six Nations thought it was likely to provoke a French attack. The commissioners also passed on the Six Nations’ request for a meeting with the governor.

The 1722 Law Against Trading Indian Goods with Canada is Still Not Working

The commissioners told the governor that they would try “as much as lyes in our Sphere of bussiness” to discourage “French Indians” from transporting strowd blankets in violation of the governor’s trade policy, but the implication is clear: they did not believe they had the authority to take direct action. They also informed the governor that action had been taken against Nicholas Schuyler and Jacob Wendell, who had been caught with goods intended for the illegal trade with Canada the previous October, but their description probably did not satisfy the governor. The sheriff agreed to keep Schuyler at his own house while Schuyler gathered bedding and other things in preparation for going to jail, but as they were going there Schuyler made his escape. They informed Evert Wendell, a commisioner himself, about the situation. It is unclear what happened to Jacob Wendell.

Finally the commissioners said they were looking for a smith to go to Indian Country and passed on the information obtained from the Massachusetts Bay Commissioners.

Governor Burnet Won’t Meet the Six Nations; The Commissioners Try to Reassure Them

Governor Burnet wrote to the Commissioners telling them that he could not possibly meet the Six Nations that year because he was occupied with business in another province, but he would meet them the following year. The commissioners sent Laurence Claessen to Onondaga with this message and the mission to “quiet the minds of the Indians” in the face of the French efforts to undermine their alliance with New York. Laurence was told to explain that the governor did not plan to make a fort on Lake Ontario, but just a trading house on the “Onnondage River,” now called the Oswego River. The commissioners also agreed with Harme van Slyck Junior and Egbert Egbertse to work as smiths at Onondaga.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, May 1725 starts here.

Minute Book 3: 1725-April

The Six Nations Don’t Want a French-English War in Iroquoia

On April 11th, a delegation from Onondaga, Cayouga, and the Tuscaroras came to Albany on behalf of the Six Nations as a whole. They told the commissioners that Governor Vaudreuil had sent a message to Jean Coeur (Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) in Seneca Country telling him that someone from New England had revealed Governor Burnet’s plan for a trading house at the mouth of the Onondaga River (Oswego). Governor Vaudreuil described his own plans to build a fort at Niagara and ships to sail Cadarachqui (Lake Ontario) as well as his intention to destroy the English house at Oswego.

Severance-FrenchFrontier_FtNiagPlan1
Plans for the fort that France wanted to build at Niagara. From Frank Severance, An Old Frontier of France, NY: Dodd Mead, 1917, v.1, p. 240.

The delegates said that the Six Nations reminded Jean Coeur that the French and the Haudenosaunee had recently fought a bitter war that ended with an agreement not to make war over frivolous things such as “Beavers and furrs.” If the French destroyed the English trading house and built the proposed ships and fort, it could mean war. They urged the French to live in peace with the English. They did not want blood shed in their country.

They begged their brother Corlaer (New York) to listen to this message too.  The French and the English should “live like friends together,”  neither becoming the first aggressor.  The delegates said they would take particular note of whether Corlaer followed this advice, in support of which the sachims had sent a large belt of wampum. They had sent a belt to the French with the same message. They wanted Governor Burnet to meet them at the beginning of June to renew the covenant and discuss important matters.

The commissioners responded that they were surprised that the Six Nations would allow the French to impose on them in such a way, at which point the page ends.  The remainder of their answer is missing.

(I have edited this post to remove the sections relating to French forts, Abraham Schuyler’s assignment, and problems at Tiononderogue. The records begin to get out of order here, and I made a mistake in the dates of the entries relating to these issues, which date from 1726, not 1725. Apologies to my readers!)

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, April 1725 starts here .

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.