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:
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, the first substantive entry for July 1727 starts here on p. 191a.
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. He 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.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, September 1724 starts here
Most of the minutes for September cover a treaty conference with New York Governor William Burnet, the Six Nations, and the Schaghticokes that was held in Albany beginning on September 14th. They are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 713. I have not transcribed them because O’Callaghan’s version is essentially identical, but will briefly summarize them here.
On September 14th, Governor Burnet held a private conference with the Six Nations, New York Council member Francis Harrison, and Massachusetts Bay Council member John Stoddard. They discussed what had happened between the Six Nations messengers sent to bring the Eastern Indians to a peace treaty at Boston and the Eastern Indians (Abenaki) at the mission town of St. Francis.
The messengers said that they went first to Montreal and met with the Governor, who wanted to hold the meeting at Montreal so that he could be there. The messengers agreed in order to get an interpreter. While waiting for the St. Francis Indians, they went to Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) until the St. Francis delegates arrived. They invited the St. Francis sachems to come to Albany to talk about peace, but they replied that they could not lay down the hatchet against New England, because New England had taken their land and still held their people prisoner. They said that they would make peace when New England restored the land and freed the prisoners. They suggested that the parties wishing to make peace should come to Montreal rather than Albany.
Governor Burnet reminded the messengers that the Six Nations had told Boston that they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not comply with their requests. They denied agreeing to this, despite all his efforts, “they knew not of any promise or Engagement, only that they promised His Excellency to be mediators for Peace.”
The next day Governor Burnet welcomed the Six Nations in the name of King George and gave them wampum belts incorporating letters of the alphabet. The meanings of many of these initials are somewhat obscure. He thanked them for opening the path for far nations to come trade at Albany, claiming that this meant that goods were now more plentiful for the Six Nations. (While this might have been the case for those in the west, it is questionable whether things were working out equally well for the Mohawks). He noted that he had also improved the passage at Wood Creek where goods were carried from the Mohawk River watershed to Oneida Lake and eventually Lake Ontario by way of the Onondaga River (now called the Oswego River), a bottleneck for trade to and from the west.
Governor Burnet also said that he was keeping a force of young men with the Senecas with a smith and a trading house and that he also planned to send some men to the Onondagas, where the main trade with the far nations would pass. They planned to build a block house at the mouth of the Onondaga River. (“Onondaga River” did not mean what is now called Onondaga Creek, but rather what is now called the Oswego River where it enters Lake Ontario at Oswego.) Burnet’s men planned to live there along with a smith so they could be good neighbors to the Six Nations “and live as comfortably among you as they do here at home.” He explained that this would bring the beaver trade into Iroquoia along with cheaper goods. Governor Burnet explained that to show how much he wanted their beavers, he was wearing clothes made of beaver cloth. He asked the Six Nations to keep the path open for the far nations and to welcome the New Yorkers living in Seneca country as well as those who would be coming to Onondaga to build the new blockhouse.
Next Governor Burnet reminded the Six Nations that they had said they would send messengers to the Eastern Indians and take appropriate measures if the Eastern Indians continued to fight against New England. He said their continued friendship depended on them keeping their word, but he would leave it to the deputies from Boston to discuss the details.
On September 16th, the Six Nations met with the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay. Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of this meeting made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests to stop fighting. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. They reiterated the position of the Eastern Indians that they would not make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking their brothers.
The next day, on September 17th, the Six Nations renewed the Covenant Chain with New York and thanked the governor for providing a smith to the Senecas and Onondaga, for clearing the passage at Wood Creek and for encouraging the far Indians to come to trade. They agreed to the block house near Onondaga, but expressed concern about what the prices for goods would be. They asked that the proposed blockhouse be located at the end of Oneida Lake instead of at the mouth of the Onondaga River. They acknowledged having said that they would “resent it” if the Eastern Indians continued to attack New England, and agreed to speak to the Boston commissioners about it. The Senecas asked why Myndert Wemp, a smith who they found “good, kind, & charitable” had not returned after spending time there with Major Abraham Schuyler two years before.
Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of the proceedings between the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations on September 16th made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed inO’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723. Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. (This belt is described in the record of the treaty conference at Boston in August 1723, which can be found on page 197 of volume 5 of the Massachusetts General Court, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1723-1724.) The Six Nations explained the position of the Eastern Indians, who refused to make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.
“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking Massachusetts.
A few days later, on September 19th, Governor Burnet addressed the Six Nations again. Burnet’s tone was testy, even autocratic, and reveals the rifts still present between the British authorities and the Albany traders. Burnet told the sachems that the English blockhouse needed to be at the mouth of the Onondaga River in order to control the beaver trade, and that it must be the bad advice of the Albany traders that led the Six Nations to prefer the Oneida Lake location. He also blamed the traders for suggesting that goods should be as cheap at Onondaga as at Albany despite the additional work involved to bring them there from Albany, and for suggesting that Abraham Schuyler and Myndert Wemp return. He said that Albany was interfering in order to preserve its own trade with the French and asked the Six Nations not to consult the Albany traders in the future. He told them that he, not the Six Nations, would appoint his officers, that he would not appoint Abraham Schuyler because “he has taken a wrong way to get himself named,” and that he was sending Harme Vedder and Myndert Wemp’s brother to the Seneca instead of Schuyler and Mydert Wemp. (In the end, however, he appears to have sent Myndert Wemp after all.) He said that if he knew who had put these false notions into the minds of the Six Nations he would punish them.
Burnet said that the Six Nations had admitted to the Boston commissioners that they had agreed to support Boston against the Eastern Indians. He was not happy with their decision to wait for a response from the King of Great Britain before taking up arms. He claimed that the colonies were authorized by the king to make war with Indians on their own without the king’s consent. Burnet insisted that if the Six Nations were so “unworthy and cowardly” as to refuse to make war, they must at least allow their young men to enlist as soldiers in Boston’s army. He gave them what he described as “a very large Present” and wished them a safe journey home.
The Six nations sachems replied by D’Kannasore (Teganissorens) that since the governor did not approve of the location at Oneida Lake, they wished him “joy” where he proposed to make it and hoped it would bring many beavers. He thanked the governor for wishing them a good trip home, for many of their leaders had been lost on such journeys. He asked how many people planned to settle at the end of the Onnondaga river, to which the governor estimated 40 or 50. Teganissorens explained that he had been appointed as speaker by the Six Nations on the governor’s recommendation and that they had agreed to take his advice. He asked the governor whether he would also accept his advice, which the governor said he would do on matters of consequence.
Governor Burnet also met with the Schaghticoke sachems and complained that some of their people had been involved in attacks on New England. The Boston Commissioners at the meeting accused individuals from Schaghticoke named Schaschanaemp and Snaespank of injuring settlers on the frontiers, acknowledging that people at Schaghticoke had formerly lived “on our frontiers”. They were still welcome to hunt there “on the Branches of our Rivers” and considered friends who should not harbor New England’s enemies. The Schaghticokes admitted that Schaschanaemp and another person had come through Schaghticoke and had gone to the Half Moon and Saratoga. They said that the attacks might have been committed by people who had left Schaghticoke to live in Canada. In response to Governor Burnet’s question as to why so many people were moving from Schaghticoke to Canada, they said that one group had left because they heard that they were going to be attacked next by the Indians who were attacking New England, but they did not tell the rest of the Schaghticokes before they left. The governor accused the sachems of having no command over their people and reminded them that a Tree was planted by a former governor for them to live under (a metaphor for Governor Edmund Andros’s policy of sanctuary for refugees from New England).
The Schaghticokes said the tree was decaying, its leaves withering, and they had only a little land now to plant on. Some of them had gone hunting peacefully on the New England frontiers two years before, but were taken prisoner and put in jail in Boston. Jacob Wendell, an Albany trader who became a merchant in Boston, rescued them, but without him they would have been treated as enemies. Some of those who had been jailed had now gone to fight against New England to revenge themselves. The Boston commissioners said they were jailed by mistake because they were on Pennecook River where Boston’s enemies lived, but they were freed as soon as the mistake was discovered.
The Schaghticokes ended by renewing the covenant and affirming the Tree of Peace and Friendship planted at Schaghticoke. They would turn down requests to fight with the Eastern Indians against New England and follow the lead of the Six Nations. They, like the Six Nations, were waiting to hear King George’s response to the wampum belt message sent to him. Governor Burnet renewed the covenant and gave them gifts.
The Albany Indian Commissioners records for September 1724 include one document not printed in O’Callaghan, the record of a meeting on September 19th between the commissioners and Governor Burnet. Burnet changed the makeup of the commissioners by removing Johannes Wendell and restoring Robert Liviingston Junior. He arranged to pay back Jan Wemp and Jacob Glen for financing the work done at the Wood Creek carrying place by Major Goose Van Schaick and David Vanderheyden. He also arranged to get additional work done there to make a bridge over the creek and remove trees from the Mohawk River channel. He appointed Harme Vedder to go the Seneca Country and specified that he get the canoes used there by Jacob Verplank. He also laid out other details about work to be done in Iroquoia. Myndert Wemp or Juriaen Hogan were preferred as smiths at Onondaga, and tools were to be provided there, although he said he would need to get the funding confirmed by the New York Council.
Last but not least, Governor Burnet said that he would not allow any more money for the interpreter’s travel expenses except if the governor ordered him to go. The interpreter, Lawrence Claessen, traveled to Iroquoia on a regular basis and these trips were important in diplomatic relations between New York and the Six Nations. Burnet was making it more difficult for the Albany Indian Commissioners to conduct their affairs. Clearly matters were still not resolved between the governor and the commissioners.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, November 1723 starts here
The two observer-messengers (or spies) sent to Canada in October returned in November. They told the commissioners what they had seen there, but the commissioners asked them to repeat it with Lawrence Claessen present. Perhaps this was because the commissioners did not speak the Mohawk language as well as he did, or perhaps it was because they wanted to bring in his expertise in diplomacy. Either way, it shows how much they relied on him. For most of 1723, no members of the Schuyler family are included in the lists of those present at the commissioners’ meetings, and developments in October had already revealed that John (Johannes) Schuyler was conducting parallel diplomacy on his own. The commissioners may have felt that they were loosing their influence with the Six Nations and needed all the help that Claessen could provide.
In any case, the messengers confirmed that John Schuyler gave them wampum belts to take to three “castles,” i.e. native communities, in Canada: Cachnawage (Kahnawake) Kanighnoghquadee (Gananoque?) and Rondaxis. (The Rondaxes or Adirondacks were Algonquian speakers who lived at Three Rivers and Oka, according to p. 239 of the Livingston Indian Records.) Schuyler had not informed the commissioners about the belts, but he sent them in the name of Boston and New York. Apparently he was working behind the Albany Indian Commissioners’ back with New York as well as Massachusetts.
Schuyler’s wampum belt messages asked the three castles to stop fighting with the French and Abenaki against New England in the ongoing hostilities known to historians as Dummer’s War. He also invited them to “use and Cultivate the Road from Canada hither and trade as Usual,” promising to remove any obstacles to doing so. “Hither” apparently meant Albany. Did Schuyler promise to restore the trade in Indian goods between Albany and Montreal, a short distance from Kahnawake? That trade had benefits for both native and French traders in the St. Lawrence Valley, as well as for many Dutch traders in Albany, even though the commissioners were working with New York’s Governor Burnet to suppress it.
The few Kahnawake leaders who were home when the messengers arrived promised to convey their message to those who were away hunting and fighting. They sent wampum belts in return to the belts brought by the messengers, but they were delivered directly to John Schuyler.
The commissioners also learned that the French and their native allies had asked more distant “upper and remote” nations to join the French side in Dummer’s War the following spring. The commissioners feared that this would not only put New England in peril, but also jeopardize the trade between those distant nations and Albany that they were trying to encourage. They sent Lawrence Claessen to the Seneca Country to engage paid messengers there to negotiate with those nations on Albany’s behalf, in particular they wanted to encourage the “Denighcariages”, a nation that, at least in the understanding of the commissioners, had joined the Six Nations that summer as the Seventh Nation. Claessen was told to assure the far nations that peace was being negotiated between the Eastern Indians and New England, the road to Albany though the Six Nations would be safe, and Albany had cheap and plentiful goods for sale.
The remainder of the entries for November concern the Schaghticoke Indians. Located north of Albany where the Hoosick River joins the Hudson from the east, Schaghticoke was on Mohican land and the path along the Hoosick was a well used road to the Connecticut Valley, one of the areas where New England was under attack. The Schaghticoke community were refugees under New York’s protection, mainly people displaced by settlers in New England and the lower Hudson, close allies of the Mohican. They were caught in the middle of Dummer’s War both geographically and diplomatically, since many were Abenaki themselves. The commissioners reproached them with leaving their homes and “Stragling & Scatter[ing]” from one place to another, instead of staying at Schaghticoke under the “Tree of Friendship and Welfare” that was the symbol for New York’s protection. People from Schaghticoke had even been seen on their way to Canada, where the commissioners undoubtedly feared that they would join the French. The commissioners believed that the Schaghticokes needed to appoint some leading men as sachems to keep them in one place, and persuade those who had left for Canada to come back.
The Schaghticokes acknowledged the agreement made almost half a century earlier with New York, joining them together and giving them protection at Schaghticoke. They said they wanted to stay there even if Canada offered them land. They agreed to consider the proposal to appoint leaders and try to bring back those who had left. They offered the commissioners gifts of venison and strings of wampum, as was customary. But the following day they said it would be impossible to get the people who had left to come back, since they had fled after committing robberies at Saratoga. They also pointed out that the Tree of Welfare was now bare at the roots, that is that their relationship with Albany was under a strain because they did not have enough land at Schaghticoke and the (Dutch) inhabitants there were harassing them. The Minute Book entry does not say what the commissioners knew well. The reason the Schaghticokes had little land left was that under New York law Albany owned that land and was leasing more and more of it out to Dutch farmers. It was Albany’s tenants who were harassing the Schaghticokes.
The Schaghticokes proposed that part of their people should move to Sinchjack, where there was still good land available. Sinchjack, which they also spelled as Sinkhaijck, probably refers to the area farther up the Hoosic River from Schaghticoke, near where the Walloomsac River flows into it in the vicinity of present day Williamstown Massachusetts. It was also known as St. Croix. Its history is discussed in Arthur Latham Perry’s Origins In Williamstown, beginning on p. 114.
The Schaghticokes asked the commissioners to nominate leaders for them and to mend their weapons, as was customary. The commissioners agreed to all of this, including the move to Sinckhaijck. They nominated Nanratakietam, Aspenoot, Wapelanrie, Kakaghsanreet, Mashequant, and Akamsomett, with Nansasant as a successor if any of them passed away. They said it was essential to bring back those who had gone to Canada, and offered to forgive those who had committed faults, that is the Saratoga robbers. They also promised to stop the settlers at Schaghticoke from interfering with the Schaghticokes’ use of their land. They thanked them for the venison, promised to have their weapons mended, and gave them gifts of ammunition, shirts, and alcohol, with blankets for the elders Nanratakelam and Waleghlanret..
There are no entries in the Minute Book for December, so this concludes the summaries for 1723.
In Library and Archives Canada digital copy of the original minutes, July 1723 starts here
More groups of native traders came to Albany in July. Fourteen “Twightwights” or Miami met with the commissioners on July 12th. Like the “Denighcareage” group that came in May, they were accompanied by a Haudenosaunee translator who lived among them, a man named Dewadirko who was an Onondaga who had been taken prisoner by them. They recited a story similar to that of the previous groups, rehearsing the difficulties of their journey, emphasizing that the French had tried to discourage them from coming, asking for good prices on trade goods, and leaving calumet pipes for the commissioners to keep and smoke when others of their nation came.
At the same meeting, an Onondaga man named Oquaront reported that another nation living farther away than the Miami, called Agottsaragoka (or Oguttsarahake) wished to make an agreement to pass through the Five Nations and come to trade at Albany. In addition, some native traders arrived from Tughsaghrondie, the area where the French had built Fort Detroit at the beginning of the century. They renewed the Covenant Chain and they too asked for cheap goods, suggesting that the French goods at Fort Detroit were not meeting their needs.
The commissioners welcomed all of the visitors, accepted the Miami calumet pipes, assured Oquaront that the way would be clear for the Oguttsarahake to come to trade, and renewed the Covenant Chain with the Tuchsagrondie. They invited the group to send some principal leaders to New York to meet the governor, but were told it was too late in the year. However, they offered to come to see the governor the following spring.