The origin of the Oneidas, like that of other Indian tribes, is ascribed to supernatural agencies. It is hopelessly lost, and conjectures respecting it are useless. They were not as migratory in their habits as many tribes, and not as much so as some which belonged to the same confederacy. There is no authentic record of their having lived elsewhere than in the immediate locality of where the Europeans first found them. They had two symbols, a tree and a stone. From the former, which signified stability, they acquired the name Nehawvetahgo, meaning big tree; and from the latter, which they regarded as being endowed with life and intelligence, and was their national symbol, that of Oneita (Onoya,) meaning living stone (Onei signifying stone and ta, life.) Thus they were known as the people of the stone set in the fork of a tree.1 Tradition ascribes their origin to a stone, which, says Schoolcraft, "is a large, but not enormous, boulder of syenite, of the erratic block group, and consequently geologically foreign to the location," there being "no rocks like this till we reach the Adirondacks." "This stone," says the same author, "became the national altar," and "when it was necessary to light their pipes and assemble to discuss national matters, they had only to ascend the hill through its richly wooded groves to its extreme summit," an eminence in the town of Stockbridge, where, he says, this stone, and the first castle of the Oneidas was located. The Oneidas and Cayugas, writes Count Zinzendorf, in 1742, "are styled children" of the other three original nations of the confederacy, which, says Gallatin, they were compelled to join.
The first known place of residence of the Oneidas was an eminence, covered formerly by a butternut grove, in the present town of Stockbridge. "The ancient town," says Schoolcraft, "extended in a transverse valley south of this ridge of land, covered as it was by nut wood trees, and was completely sheltered by it from the north winds. A copious, clear spring of water issued out at the spot selected for their wigwams." The time when this village was abandoned for the present Oneida Castle, in the town of Vernon, is not known. Lieut. Johnson, who stopped at both villages in 1762, speaks of the latter, Canowaroghere, as being "a new village of the Oneidas." 2 When the Tuscaroras became the sixth nation of the Iroquois confederacy, a portion of them were settled at the old village at Stockbridge, and others at Canaseraga. There were also other villages of this nation on the Susquehanna, but these were removed to the principal village during the war of the Revolution. At the close of the war the Senecas gave them lands in the present county of Niagara, to which they removed in 1784, in which year the Stockbridge Indians took possession of their village, which was denominated the "upper Oneida Castle," and when the first white settlers came in, their cabins dotted the whole valley of the Oneida. A remnant of the Tuscaroras still remains in Niagara county.
The following description of this ancient site of the Oneidas was dictated, in 1845, by Mrs. Daniel Warren, one of the pioneers of that vicinity:---
"Forty years ago the hill known as 'Prines Hill,' and celebrated as the great council ground of the [Oneidas,] was covered in dense wilderness, save a small spot on the summit, comprising an area of about a half acre, and in shape a complete circle, bordered all around with a thick growth of shrubs, consisting of alders, wild plums and hazels. On the east was a narrow place of entrance of barely sufficient width to admit two persons abreast. Not far from this entrance place, and within the area, was a circle of earth of some twenty feet in diameter, which was raised about two feet above the general level and covered over with fine coals, having the appearance of a coal-pit bottom of the present day. The remainder of the oasis in the wilderness was overgrown in the summer with wild grass, wild flowers and weeds, and appeared as if a tree had never encumbered it since the dawn of creation. When or by whom this spot was cleared, is not known, nor will it ever be known. In all probability, hundreds of years have rolled over it and found it the same, save that different races have been born and swept away successively around the same spot. The face of the earth around, indeed, indicates that it has once been peopled with a race considerably advanced in civilization. Within a radius of three miles from this spot, are found graves, with trees growing over them, so that the roots spread from the head to the foot. A great many of these graves were some years since excavated, and found to contain various bones, and in some cases entire skeletons of people of giant proportions, the skulls and jawbones of which would cover the head and face of the most fleshy person of our day. In these graves were also found hatchets of very symmetrical shape, brass kettles somewhat in the form of our brass kettles, smoking pipes of various shapes, small metal bells, beads of all shapes and sizes, and various other articles of use and ornament, some of them bearing letters, characters or devices in an unknown language. The trees found growing upon these ancient graves count from two to four hundred grains, making, according to the usual way of reckoning the age of trees, the same number of years [of growth.] Not many years since a skull was dug up which contained a bullet of common size; the skull bone was a sound one, and had a hole in it of the size of the ball. From this, and other like circumstances, it is inferred that this race, or those who made war upon them, knew the use of fire-arms. There is no one among the oldest of the Indians, who are now or have been residents anywhere in this region of country, who can give any traditionary account reaching so far back as to tell the fate of these people. Such traditions as we do get come orally, and go no further back than about one hundred years, though there is a tradition, that a long time ago there was a very destructive war waged between some tribes in this section of country and those of Canada. A great battle was fought between them on this very ground, and with such fury and determination on both sides, that each were nearly all slaughtered.3
In August, 1696, the village of the Oneidas was visited and destroyed by a detachment of Count Frontenác's army which invaded the Onondaga country in that year. The Oneidas, who, under the spiritual tutelage of the Jesuit Milet, had been most inclined to accede to the peace which Frontenac was so anxious to conclude, on the 5th of that month sent a deputation, consisting of one of their own nation and a French captive, with a belt, to Frontenác's camp to solicit peace, which was promised "on condition that they should establish themselves with their families among" the French with the assurance "that they should receive land and wherewithal to sow it." Frontenac added that "if their wives and children were not ready, they should bring five of their most influential chiefs as hostages, and that they should be soon be followed by the army to oblige them by force to execute the conditions imposed on them."
On the 6th, M. de Vaudreuil was sent "with a detachment of six to seven hundred of the most active men of the whole army, soldiers, militia and Indians," from the Onondagas' (Onnontagues) village, to destroy the village of Oneida (Onejoust.) "They arrived," says the record, "on the same day before sundown within a league of the village; they would have pushed even farther if the convenience of encamping on the bank of a beautiful river had not invited them to halt. They were at the first dawn in sight of the village and as they were about to enter the fields of Indian corn, they met the deputies of all that nation.
"They requested M. de Vaudreuil to halt, fearing that our savages would spoil their crops, assuring him that they would execute in good faith the orders which M. le Compte had given to their first delegate.
"M. de Vaudreuil, determined also on his side to obey punctually those which he had received, told them it was useless for them to think of preserving their grain, as, according to the word of their Father, they should not want for any when retired among us; that, therefore, he should cut all down; that their fort and cabins would not, either be spared, having everything ready for their reception.
"He found in the village but 25 to 40 persons, almost all having fled at the sight of the detachment, but the most influential chiefs had remained. M. de Vauddreuil consented that two or three men should follow these fugitives to try to bring them back."
Having burned the village and destroyed the corn, he returned on the morning of the ninth with thirty-five prisoners, among whom were the principal chiefs of the nation. "The celerity of his movements," says the record, and the thirty-five Oneidas, "agreeably surprised" M. le Compte (who had been unable to capture a single Onondaga,) "since he occupied only three days in going, coming and executing all he had to do, although from one village to the other was fourteen good leagues in the woods with continual mountains and a multitude of rivers and large streams to be crossed." 4
The village of the Oneidas was again destroyed by Brant during the war of the Revolution, as previously stated. In both cases aid was extended to them by the Colonial Government. In 1792, the Oneidas numbered about 550 and were described as being "very friendly." 5 In 1875 they numbered 150, only eleven of whom were living off the Reservation.6 They have removed in large numbers at various times to Green Bay, where they now number fifteen hundred. The larger proportion removed between 1822 and 1833. The last removal took place in 1844. They own farms all along the Oneida valley from the castle southward to the old tavern known as the "Five Chimneys."
The advent of the Jesuit missionaries among the Iroquois was a marked event in the history of the latter, as from the Jesuit Relations we obtain the earliest, most exact and most authentic information regarding them. The Jesuits were men of culture and intelligence, who forsook homes of luxury in Europe and submitted with a wonderful patience and heroism to the most menial offices, the utmost hardships and privations, and cheerfully accepted missions attended with the most inconceivable danger, in the zealous pursuit of their calling. Whatever estimate we may put upon them as men, we must admit their great devotion and self sacrifice.7
The first Jesuit missionaries arrived in Canada in 1625 and from that period exerted a vast influence upon the interests of the French colony in that province. The mission was interrupted during the English occupancy of Quebec, from 1629 to 1632, and was resumed the latter year. They were instrumental in securing and holding the friendly aid of the northern and western Indians to the French arms in Canada. Had their influence been the first directed towards the Iroquois, it is probably their friendship, possibly their aid, might have been secured, and then American colonization might have presented a vastly different phase. But while their beneficent policy attracted, that inaugurated by Champlain and pursued by his successors repelled them and provoked a deadly hatred.
Failing in their efforts to coerce the Iroquois to terms which they presumed to dictate, the French colonists, chagrined and deeply humiliated, sought to gain their friendship by the aid of the missionaries of a religion whose precepts they had so wantonly violated, and in 1646, Father Isaac Jogues was sent in the double capacity of ambassador and missionary to the Mohawks, who were the first of the Iroquois nations to be outraged by the French lust for dominance, and by whom, three years previously, he had been captured, subjected to the most horrid torture and threatened with death, which he escaped through the friendly intervention of the Dutch settlers at Albany (Fort Orange.) His mission, like his office, was of a double nature. He was commissioned by his Father Superior to establish on the scene of his torture a mission which was given in advance the prophetic name, the Mission of the Martyrs; and by Charles Huault de Montmagny, who succeeded Champlain as Governor of Canada, to use his influence with the Mohawks in perpetuating a peace which had been concluded the previous year, though instrumentality of the Jesuit Guillaume Couture, who was captured by the Mohawks at the same time as Jogues, and adopted into one of their families in place of a dead relative.8 Jogues, suffering under a keen recollection of his recent tortures, apprehensive also of his reception, and having, as he wrote a friend, a presentiment of death, at first revolted at the thought; but it was only a temporary weakness. Exchanging the uniform of Loyola for a civilian's suit, by advice of an Algonquin convert, he sat out on his mission about the middle of May. His appearance in that character created no little amazement in the Mohawk village; but he was respectfully received, and he delivered the gifts and wampum belts, with the message of peace, of which he was the bearer from the Governor, his speech being "echoed by a unanimous grunt of applause from the attentive concourse," and eliciting confirmations of peace in return. Two Algonquins accompanied him as deputies; but their overtures of peace were rejected.
"The business of the embassy was scarcely finished," says Parkman, "when the Mohawks counselled Jogues and his companions to go home with all dispatch, saying, that, if they waited longer, they might meet on the way warriors of the four upper nations, who would inevitably kill the two Algonquin deputies, if not the French also. Jogues, therefore, set out on his return; but not until, despite the advice of the Indian convert, he had made the round of the houses, confessed and instructed a few Christian prisoners still remaining there, and baptized several dying Mohawks."
Jogues returned to his mission the following August, but only to meet his death, which occurred on the 18th October following.9
Eight years later the first successful mission among the Iroquois (St. Marie) was established at Onondaga, by Father Simon Le Moine, who left Quebec on the 2nd day of July, 1654, and arrived at the principal Onondaga village on the 5th of August. How different was his reception compared with that of the lamented Jogues. He says:---
"There is nothing but comers and goers on the road who come to salute me. One greets me as a brother; another as uncle---never did I have such a number of relations. A quarter of a league from the village I began a harangue, which gained me much credit. I named all the chiefs, the families and persons of note in a drawling voice and with the tone of a chief. I told them that Peace walked along with me; that drove War afar off among the distant nations, and that Joy accompanied me. Two chiefs made their speech to me on my arrival, but with a gladness and cheerfulness of countenance which I never had seen among savages. Men, women and children, all were respectful and friendly.
"At night I called the principal men together to make them two presents. The first to wipe their faces, so that they may regard me with a kindly eye, and that I may never see a trace of sorrow on their foreheads. The second to clear out the little gall which they still might have in their hearts. After several other discourses they retired to consult together, and finally they responded to my presents by two other presents richer than mine.
"6th---I was called to diverse quarters to administer my medicine to weakly and hectic little things. I baptized some of them. I confessed some of the old Huron Christians, and found God everywhere."
On the 10th of the same month he held a general council of peace with the deputies of the four western nations in Ondessonk's10 cabin. He continues:---
"I opened the proceedings with public prayer, which I said on my knees and in a loud voice, all in the Huron tongue. I invoked the Great Master of heaven and of earth to inspire us with what should be for his glory and our good; I cursed all the demons of hell who are spirits of division; I prayed the tutelar angels of the whole country to touch the hearts of those who heard me, when my words should strike their ear.
"I greatly astonished them when they heard me naming all by nations, by tribes, by families, and each particular individual of any note, and all by aid of my manuscript, which was a matter as wonderful as it was new. I told them I was the bearer of nineteen words to them.
"At each present they heaved a powerful ejaculation from the bottom of the chest in testimony of their joy. I was full two hours making my whole speech, talking like a chief, and walking about like an actor on a stage, as is their custom."
The sachems, after consulting together two hours called Le Moine among them, and having seated "in an honorable place," gave their answer. The first speaker was succeeded by an Oneida sachem, whose speech is worth recording. Addressing himself through Le Moine to M. De Lauzon, then Governor of New France, he said:---
"Onnontio11 thou art the pillar of the Earth; thy spirit is a spirit of peace and thy words soften the hearts of the most rebellious spirits. * * * Thy voice is wonderful to produce in my breast at one time two effects entirely dissimilar; thou animatest me to war, and softenest my heart by the thoughts of peace,12 thou art great both in peace and war, mild to those whom thou lovest, and terrible to thine enemies. We wish thee to love us, and we will love the French for they sake."
The Oneida sachem was followed by an Onondaga, who thus addressed Le Moine:---
"Listen Ondessonk; five entire nations speak to thee through my mouth. My breast contains the sentiments of the Iroquois Nations, and my tongue responds faithfully to my breast. Thou wilt tell Onnontio four things, the sum of all our councils.
"1. We are willing to acknowledge him of whom thou hast spoken, who is the master of our lives who is unknown to us.13
"2. Our council tree is this day planted at Onnontaga. [Meaning that that would be, henceforth, the place of their meetings and of their negotiations for peace.]
"3. We conjure you to select on the banks of our great lake an advantageous site for a French settlement. Fix yourself in the heart of the country, since you ought to possess our hearts. There we shall go for instruction and from that point you will be able to spread yourself abroad in every direction. Be unto us careful as fathers and we shall be unto you submissive as children.
"4. We are engaged in new wars; Onnontio encourage us. We shall entertain no other thought towards him than those of peace."
Le Moine adds, "I can assure you their countenances told more than their tongues, and expressed joy mingled with so much mildness that my heart was full." He returned to Quebec in August, 1654.14
The Onondagas having "for a long time and earnestly demanded that some priests" be sent to them, Fathers Joseph Chaumonot and Claude Dablon embarked on the 19th of September, 1655, and arrived at Onnontagui November 5th of that year. Dablon returned the following March to Quebec for additional help, and in May following he set out for the Onondaga country, in company with three Fathers and two Brothers of the Society and a goodly number of Frenchmen. In 1657, "the harvest appearing plentiful in all the villages of the upper Iroquois, the common people listened to the words of the gospel with simplicity and the chiefs with a well disguised dissimulation." Fathers Paul Ragueneau and François Du Peron, some Frenchmen and several Hurons came to their aid.
August 3rd, 1657, "the perfidy of the Iroquois," says the Relation, "began to develop itself by the massacre which they made of the poor Hurons whom they brought into their country, after thousands of protestations of kindness, and thousands of oaths, in their style, that they should treat them as brothers. And had not a number of Iroquois remained among the French, near Quebec, to endeavor to bring with them the rest of the Hurons, who, distrusting these traitors, would not embark with the others, the Fathers and the Frenchmen who ascended with them would have then been destroyed; and all those who remained on the banks of Lake Ganentaha, near to Onontagui, would shortly after have shared the same fate. But the fear that the French would wreak their vengeance on their countrymen staid their design, of which our Fathers had had secret intelligence immediately on their arrival in the country." 15
The missionaries soon learned that they, together with their countrymen who had accompanied them, to the number of some fifty, were regarded as hostages, though the Relation credits the Onondagas with sincerity when they originally requested their presence in their country. Being fully apprised of the danger of their situation, measures were concerted to escape from it, and it was resolved to abandon the mission secretly and in a body.
Their departure and the incidents connected with it are so full of thrilling interest that we transcribe from the Relation of Father Ragueneau as follows:---
"To supply the want of canoes, we had built, in secret, two bateaux of a novel and excellent structure, to pass the rapids; these bateaux drew but very little water and carried considerable freight, fourteen or fifteen men each, amounting to fifteen or sixteen hundred weight. We had, moreover, four Algonquin and four Iroquois canoes, which were to compose our little fleet of fifty-three Frenchmen.
"But the difficulty was to embark unperceived by the Iroquois, who constantly beset us. The bateaux canoes and all the equipage could not be conveyed without great noise, and yet without secrecy there was nothing to be expected save a general massacre of all of us the moment it would be discovered that we entertained the least thought of withdrawing.
"On that account we invited all the savages in our neighborhood to a solemn feast, at which we employed all our industry, and spared neither the noise of drums, nor instruments of music, to deceive them by harmless device. He who presided at this ceremony played his part with so much address and success, that all were desirous to contribute to the public joy. Every one vied in uttering the most piercing cries, now of war, anon of rejoicing. The savages, through complaisance, sung and danced after the French fashion, and the French in the Indian style. To encourage them the more in this fine play, presents were distributed among those who acted best their parts, and who made the greatest noise to drown that caused by about forty of our people outside who were engaged in removing all our equipage. The embarkation being completed, the feast was concluded at a fixed time; the guests retired, and sleep having soon overwhelmed them, we withdrew from our house by a back door and embarked with very little noise, without bidding adieu to the savages, who were acting cunning parts and were thinking to amuse us to the hour of our massacre with fair appearances and evidences of good will.
"Our little lake on which we silently sailed in the darkness of night, froze according as we advanced and caused us to fear being stopped by the ice after having evaded the fires of the Iroquois. God, however, delivered us, and after having advanced all night and all the following day through frightful precipices and waterfalls, we arrived finally in the evening at the great Lake Ontario, twenty leagues from the place of our departure. The first day was the most dangerous, for had the Iroquois observed our departure they would have intercepted us and had they been ten or twelve it would have been easy for them to have thrown us into disorder, the river being very narrow, and terminating after traveling ten leagues in a frightful precipice where we were obliged to land and carry our baggage and canoes during four hours, through unknown roads, covered with a thick forest which could have served the enemy for a fort, whence at each step he could have served the enemy for a fort, whence at each step he could have struck and fired on us without being perceived. God's protection visibly accompanied us during the remainder of the road, in which we walked through perils which made us shudder after we escaped them, having at night no other bed except the snow after having passed entire days in the water and amid the ice.
"Ten days after our departure we found Lake Ontario on which we floated, still frozen at its mouth. We were obliged to break the ice, ax in hand, to make an opening, to enter two days afterwards a rapid where our little fleet had well nigh foundered. For having entered the Great Sault without knowing it, we found ourselves in the midst of breakers which, meeting a quantity of big rocks, threw up mountains of water and cast us on as many precipices as we gave strokes of paddles. Our bateaux, which drew scarcely half a foot, were soon filled with water and all our people in such confusion, that their cries mingled with the roar of the torrent presented to us the spectacle of a dreadful wreck. It became imperative, however, to extricate ourselves, the violence of the current dragging us despite ourselves into the large rapids and through passes in which we had never been. Terror redoubled at the sight of one of our canoes being engulfed in a breaker which barred the entire rapid and which, notwithstanding, was the course that all the others must keep. Three Frenchmen were drowned there, a fourth fortunately escaped, having held on to the canoe and being saved at the foot of the Sault when at the point of letting go his hold, his strength being exhausted. * * * The 3rd of April  we landed at Montreal in the beginning of the night.
"The departure was managed with so much address, that the Iroquois, who, cabined at the doors of our house, never perceived the removal of the canoes and bateaux and baggage * * * nor the embarkation of fifty-three persons. Sleep, in which they were deeply enveloped, after considerable singing and dancing, deprived them of all consciousness; but at length night having given place to day, darkness to light, sleep to awakening, these barbarians left their cabins, and roving around our well-locked house, were astonished at the profound silence of the Frenchmen. They saw no one getting out to work; they heard no voice. They thought at first that they were all at prayer, or in council, but the day advancing and these prayers not getting to an end, they knocked at the door. The dogs, which our Frenchmen designedly left behind, answered by barking. The cock's crow which they heard in the morning and the noise of the dogs, made them think that the masters of these animals were not far off; they recovered the patience which they had lost. But at length the sun began to decline, and no person answering neither to the voice of men nor the cries of animals, they scaled the house to see the condition of our people in this terrible silence. Astonishment now gave place to fright and trouble. They open the door; the chiefs enter everywhere; ascend the garret; descend to the cellar; not a Frenchman makes his appearance dead or alive. They regard one another-terror seizes them; they imagine they have to do with devils. They saw no bateaux, and even if they saw them they could not imagine that our Frenchmen would be so rash as to precipitate themselves into rapids and breakers, among rocks and horrible dangers in which themselves, though very expert in passing through saults and cascades, often lose their lives. They persuade themselves that they walked on the waves, or fled through the air; or, as seemed most probable, that they concealed themselves in the woods. They seek for them; nothing appears. They are quasi-convinced that they rendered themselves invisible; and as they suddenly departed, so will they pounce as suddenly on their village."
Father Ragueneau thus premises the Relation in which the above account is given:---
"The present is to inform Y. R. of our return from the Iroquois mission, loaded with some spoils rescued from hell. We bear in our hands more than give hundred children and a number of adults, the most part of whom died after baptism. We have re-established faith and piety in the hearts of a poor captive church, the first foundations of which we had laid in the Huron country. We have proclaimed the gospel unto all the Iroquois nations, so that they are henceforth without excuse, and God will be fully justified against them at the great day of judgement.
"The devil, enraged at seeing us reap so fine a harvest and enjoy so amply the fruits of our enterprise, made use of the inconstancy of the Iroquois to drive us from the centre of his estates; for these barbarians, without other motive than to follow their volatile humor, renewed the war against the French, the first blows of which were discharged on our worthy Christian Hurons, who went up with us to Onnontagui at the close of the last summer, and who were cruelly massacred in our arms and in our bosom by the most signal treason imaginable. Then they made prisoners of their poor wives and even burned some of them with their children of three and four years, at a slow fire."
The apparent desire for peace on the part of the Iroquois immediately after M. de. Tracy's expedition in 1666, seemed to be a favorable opportunity to establish missions among them, and in that and the one or two succeeding years, missions were established in each of the Five Nations.16 Father Jacques Fremin, Jean Pierron and Jacques Bruyas, in July, 1667, visited the Mohawks (Agniez,) where the former two remained, while the latter, in September of that year, established the first mission---St. Francis Xavier---at Oneida, (Onneiout,) where he remained four years. His Relations furnish us the earliest and most reliable data respecting the characteristics of this people, who then numbered one hundred and forty warriors, and were said to have "never wished to listen to any negotiations for peace," but on the contrary, to have "always embarrassed affairs when they appeared about to be arranged." 17
Father Bruyas arrived in Canada August 3, 1666, and though he spent two months with the Mohawks, to whom he returned in 1672, this may be properly regarded his first mission among the Iroquois. He was a close student of the manners and language of the natives, and afterwards became a distinguished Indian philologist.
Father Bruyas, while he conceded that the Oneidas surpassed the other Iroquois in intelligence, regarded them as more vigilant and suspicious. While they were apparently less pronounced upon matters of religion, they also seem to have been less susceptible to the arts of the Jesuit priests. Count Zinzendorf says "when at any time they have general proposals made them about Christianity they give for answer that they will follow the Onondagas and do the same as they;" 18 while the disciples of Loyola affirm that they "are of all the Iroquois the least tractable, and the arms of the French not yet having penetrated so far, they fear us only through the experience of their neighbors the Mohawks. This nation, which despises the others in their defeat, is in a disposition contrary to the Christian faith, and by its arrogance and pride, tries the patience of a missionary very sorely. It was necessary that Providence should assign them a peculiar man, and choose for them a spirit who might by his mildness conquer or allay their wild and fierce disposition. Father Bruyas has been the man destined for their service, but his labors have generally been rewarded only by rebuffs and contempt. * * * The number of baptized amount already to near thirty, most of whom are already in glory." 19
Father Pierre Milet succeeded Father Bruyas and remained till July, 1684. In 1683, Colonel Thomas Dongan, then Governor of New York, though himself a Catholic, had well night succeeded in destroying the French influence over the Iroquois. He clearly saw the dangers which menaced the English Government under the stimulus of Jesuit influence and intrigue, and was too loyal to allow his religious convictions to cause him to swerve from political rectitude. He therefore directed all his efforts to expel the Canadian missionaries from among the Iroquois, and to conciliate the latter promised to send them English ministers and build churches in their cantons. He had so far succeeded that as early as 1684 the greater part of the Jesuits had abandoned their missions, and in 1687, the last, Jean de Lamberville, had left his station at Onondaga, and gone to Niagara; his brother, Jacques de Lamberville, left the same station the previous year.20 From this time, or a few years later, the Jesuit missions began sensibly to decline.
Father Dablon thus sums up the condition of the several nations:---
" * * * the Iroquois missions render great glory to God and contribute largely to the salvation of souls. This encourages the missionaries amid the evident danger of death in which they have lived constantly for three years that the Iroquois speak of making war on us; so that they have not been willing to leave their missions, although they were urged by their friends, who warned them of the evil designs formed against their persons. They accordingly persevere in laboring for the conversion of these people, and we learn that God has rewarded their constancy by a little calm which he gives them, and by more than three hundred baptisms which they have conferred this last year, to which I add that the preceding year they had baptized three hundred and fifty Iroquois. The year before, Father Garnier had baptized fifty-five in one of the towns of the Sonnontouans;21 Father de Carheil, as many at Oiogouen;22 Father Milet, forty five at Oneiout (Oneida;) Father James de Lamberville, more than thirty at one of the towns of Agnie (Mohawk,) and Father Bruyas, in another eighty; Father John de Lamberville seventy-two at Onnontage; and Father Pierron, ninety at Sonnontouan. It is estimated that they have placed in heaven more than two hundred souls of children and sick adults, all dead after baptism." 23
This indicates a certain measure of success; but, compared with that enduring, self-sustaining and self-perpetuating moral heroism which becomes a vitalizing, active force, it is not commensurate with the zeal and energy of the Jesuit priests, nor the far reaching genius of the French. The aim of the Jesuits was to Christianize, and they employed means calculated to attain that end, while that of the French government was only ostensibly so, and the means they employed to compass their illy-disguised ulterior object were sadly at variance with the peaceful arts of the Jesuits and inimical to their success. With the Jesuits the religious idea was paramount; while with the French government the impelling motive was to make everything subservient to national aggrandizement. The Jesuits alone, like the early Dutch colonists in New Netherlands, would have lived on terms of amity with the Indians, studied their character, gained their friendship and confidence, and made that the basis of a higher culture. But French pride and impetuosity could not conform to these humble conditions, and sought to coerce what they would not take the trouble to win by pacific agencies. With the tribes whose ambition had been broken by Iroquois puissance, and whose only desire was to live, the French had no difficulty in ingratiating themselves, for they were glad of any alliance which gave promise of protection from that inveterate enemy; but to coerce to a similar submissiveness a people who brooked no species of servitude among themselves, and who asserted an equality which more than once they compelled the French to acknowledge, was quite another matter.
That civilization---at least what we denominate such---was not the proper lever to raise the Indian from his savage brutality and degrading superstitions, seems very apparent from a close analysis of his character and the record of his contact with civilized communities. The success of the Jesuits was greater with those tribes remote from European settlements than with those living in close proximity to them; and we shall find on careful investigation, that the Indian character, gross and sensuous is it unquestionable was, evinced much true nobility and in many of its social phases compared favorably with our much vaunted civilization. The non-success of the Jesuits among the Indian tribes is clearly traceable in a very large degree to the avarice and lust of civilized nations, which had their counterpart, though on a lower plane of development, in the Iroquois, or, more specifically, the Five Nations; and if we may assume that this continent was destined to be the home of a riper thought, a larger civil, social and religious liberty, then no people were better calculated to preserve it from a less noble fruitage than the Iroquois, themselves so royally free and independent. The Huron mission---the most hopeful and promising of the Jesuit missions among the American Indians, was literally cut out of existence by the hatchets of the Iroquois, which spared neither priest nor neophite. Had the French been unmolested in their work of colonization, to which the Iroquois were unquestionably the greatest opposers, they "would have occupied the West with traders, settlers, garrisons, and cut up the virgin wilderness into fiefs, while as yet the colonies of England were but a weak and broken line along the shore of the Atlantic; and when at last the great conflict come, England and liberty would have been confronted, not be a depleted antagonist, still feeble from the exhaustion of a starved and persecuted infancy, but by an athletic champion of the principles of Richelieu and of Loyola.
"Liberty may thank the Iroquois, that, by their insensate fury, the plans of her adversary were brought to naught, and a peril and a woe averted from her future. They ruined the trade which was the lifeblood of New France; they stopped the current of her arteries, and made all her early years a misery and a terror. Not that they changed her destinies. The contest on this continent between Liberty and Absolutism was never doubtful; but the triumph of the one would have been dearly bought, and the downfall of the other incomplete. Populations formed in the ideas and habits of a feudal monarchy, and controlled by a hierarchy profoundly hostile to freedom of thought, would have remained a hindrance and a stumbling-block in the way of that majestic experiment of which America is the field.
"The Jesuits saw their hopes struck down; and their faith, though not shaken, was sorely tried. The Providence of God seemed in their eyes dark and inexplicable; but from the stand-point of Liberty, that Providence is clear as the sun at noon. Meanwhile let those who have prevailed yield due honor to the defeated. Their virtues shine amidst the rubbish of error, like diamonds and gold in the gravel of the torrent." 24
The Dutch colonists did not give the matter of Christianizing the Indians much consideration; and the government of New York made no effort in this direction, further than to pay, for some time, a small salary to the clergyman at Albany25 to attend to the wants of such Indians as might apply to him.26 The Rev. Mr. Freeman translated a great part of the English liturgy, the morning and evening prayers, the litany, the Athanasian Creed, with some passages of the old and new Testament, into the Indian tongue; but those professing to be Christians in 1710, are represented as "so ignorant and scandalous that they can scarce be reputed Christians." 27 In 1712, Rev. William Andrews was sent, by the Society of Propagating the Gospel, as missionary to the Mohawks, succeeding in that capacity Rev. Thoroughgood Moor, and extending his labors occasionally to the Oneidas. But he abandoned his mission in 1719, having had no greater success among the natives than his predecessor;28 and as he was the first, so was he last, that resided among them for a great many years, the Society afterwards contenting themselves by imitating the policy of the government, and allowing a small stipend to their clergyman at Albany to act as a missionary among the Mohawks, in which capacity he did them but very little good.29
Revs. Henry Barclay and John Ogilvie, who succeeded to the rectorship of St. Peter's Church, Albany, the former in 1737, and the latter in 1749, also extended their labors to the Oneidas. Mr. Barclay, who was a son of Rev. Thos. B. Barclay, the second rector of that church, was a native of Albany, and was graduated from Yale College in 1734. In 1735, at the recommendation of Rev. Mr. Milne, who preceded him in the rectorship of St. Peter's, he was appointed catechist to the Indians at Fort Hunter. He closed his rectorship at Albany in 1746, when he became a rector of Trinity Church, New York, where he died in 1764. Mr. Ogilvie was a native of New York and a graduate of Yale. Being a Dutch scholar, he was appointed to this mission in 1748, and arrived at Albany in March, 1749. In 1760, he joined the expedition against Niagara and continued attached to the army till the close of the French war. He succeeded Mr. Barclay as rector of Trinity Church, and died Nov. 26, 1774.30
In 1748, the people of New England turned their attention to this field of labor, and Revs. Messrs. Spencer, Timothy Woodbridge and Gideon Hawley visited successively the tribes on the Mohawk and Susquehanna rivers. The commencement of the French war soon after interrupted all missionary efforts west of Albany, and they were not renewed till 1761, when Rev. Dr. Eleazer Wheelock directed his attention to this quarter, and endeavored, by introducing Indians as missionaries and schoolmasters, to reclaim the natives from their savage life. He gives the result of his efforts and experience in these words:---
"Among those whom I have educated, there have been near forty who were good readers and writers, and were instructed in the principles of the Christian religion, as their age and time would admit, and were sufficiently masters of English grammar, arithmetic, and a number considerable advanced in a knowledge of Greek and Latin, and one of them carried through college, and was a good scholar, and others carried through a course of learning with not less expense for each of them, than would have been necessary to have supported an English youth through a course of collegiate studies, and they have generally behaved well while they were with me, and left my school with fair and unblemished characters, and under the influence of every motive I could set for them, to a good improvement of the distinguishing talents which God had given them, and many of them have gone immediately from my school into good and reputable business, and such business as they were equal to, and generally to serve as schoolmasters, but some as interpreters, etc., and nothing has prevented their being employed usefully, and reputably in various capacities till this day, but their want of fortitude to resist the power of those fashionable vices which were rampant amongst all the tribes. * * * Of all the number before mentioned, I do not hear of more than half who have preserved their characters unstained, either by a course of intemperance or uncleanness, or both; and some, who, on account of their parts and learning, bid the fairest for usefulness, are sunk down into as low, savage, and brutish a manner of living as they were in before any endeavors were used with them to raise them up; and there are some of them I did, and do still, entertain hope that they were really the subjects of God's grace, who have wholly kept their garments unspotted amongst the pots. And six of those who did preserve a good character are now dead." 31
Rev. Samuel Kirkland was for many years a distinguished missionary among the Oneidas. He was born in Norwich, Connecticut, December 1, 1741, and educated at Dr. Wheelock's Indian school. In 1761 he was sent to the Mohawk Indians to learn their language. He entered Princeton College in 1762, and in 1764 returned to the Mohawk country to teach school and perfect himself in that language. He received his collegiate degree in 1765, and in that and the following year was employed among the Senecas. July 19, 1766, he was ordained at Lebanon as an Indian missionary, and in July following took up his resident at Oneida Castle, continuing to labor among that tribe for forty years. In the summer of 1769, he married in Connecticut, Jerusha Bingham, an "excellent woman, well-fitted by her good sense and devout heart to become the wife of a missionary," with whom he soon returned to his chosen field of labor. He acquired great influence over the Oneidas, who were thus deterred from taking sides against the colonists during the Revolutionary war, during which he was in the employ of the United States as Chaplain. In 1779 he was Brigade Chaplain in General Sullivan's campaign against the Indians in Western New York. At the close of the war he remained with the Oneidas, and in 1788 assisted at the great Indian council for the extinction of their title to the Genesee country. The Oneidas made him the recipient of a tract of land, and, so sensible was the State government of the value of his services, that, in 1789, it granted him a tract of land two miles square in the town of Kirkland, whither he removed. In 1792, he made a liberal endowment of land for the purpose of forming a school, which was originally called the Hamilton Oneida Academy, and was incorporated as Hamilton College May 26, 1812. He died after a life of much public usefulness February 28, 1808. He was a noble man, the friend of his race, both red man and white, and a long line of good deeds proclaim his zeal and liberality in promoting the interests of religion and learning. His labors among the Oneidas were in many instances attended with happy results; a large portion of the nation espousing the Christian religion while he was with them, among them the great chief, Skenandoah.32
In July, 1751, David Zeisberger and Gottfried Rundt visited Onondaga to request permission to reside there to learn the language of that nation, pursuant to the provisions of a treaty concluded with the Iroquois two years previously. "Shortly before they reached that town," says Loskiel, "they were met by twenty chiefs of the Oneida tribe, * * * who with the great vehemence opposed their proceeding on their journey, pretending to be entirely ignorant of the covenant made between the Brethren and the Iroquois at Onondaga, and frequently repeating these words, 'you are wicked men, we have been warned against you by the white people, and therefore forbid you to proceed at your peril; what business have you to learn the language? Other people are engaged to do that.' The Brethren did not suffer themselves to be so easily repulsed, and relying on the help of the Lord, desired that a solemn council might be held on the following day by the chiefs, to consider their business. This being granted, Brother Zeisberger addressed them so powerfully that they changed their minds, and having contemplated the strings of wampum, which the Brethren were carrying to the council in Onondaga, and considered their meaning, they granted them full liberty to proceed, adding:---'We are convinced that your business is not a bad one, and that your words are true.'" 33
In 1816 a mission was established at Oneida Castle by Bishop Hobart, and Rev. Eleazer Williams, the putative son of Thomas Williams, a distinguished Mohawk Chief of the St. Regis tribe, was placed in charge. Mr. Williams was a descendant of Rev. John Williams, who, with his family and parishioners, were made captives by the Indians at Deerfield, Mass., in 1704. He was liberally educated, and officiated as lay-reader, catechist and school-teacher. His labors were eminently successful, and resulted in the conversion to Christianity of a large number of those who had hitherto been known as the pagan party. January 25, 1817, they sent to Governor DeWitt Clinton an address adopted in council and signed by eleven of the head men of the nation, and expressed a desire to be known as the Second Christian Party of the Oneida Nation. In 1818, this party sold a piece of land for the erection of a chapel, which was dedicated as St. Peter's Church, September 21, 1819, by Bishop Hobart, who confirmed in all five hundred persons connected with this mission. Mr. Williams removed to Green Bay with a portion of the nation, and was succeeded in the mission here, in 1833, by Solomon Davis, who removed to the same place with another portion. The chapel was removed to Vernon in 1840.34
Rev. Dan Barnes established a Methodist mission among them in 1829. They were supplied at first by missionaries from among their own race, educated for the purpose, among whom were William and John Doxtater from Canada. Rev. Dan Barnes was their first white preacher after the establishment of the Methodist mission. He remained with them three years, and was the instrument of a revival more powerful than any they had hitherto experienced. The morals of the people, which had hitherto been sadly neglected, were now assiduously cultivated. The first Methodist mission chapel was built at the Orchard,35 in the south-west corner of Vernon, and it, together with the land, was sold in 1833, by the company of Indians who removed in that year to Green Bay. Another house was soon after erected in the same locality, near their burying ground. About the same time the "Windfall party" built a meeting house, about three miles south of Oneida Castle, in the town of Lenox.
The Brotherton Indians were adopted by the Oneidas during the latter half of the eighteenth century. They located mostly upon and near the Oriskany in the town of Marshall, Oneida County. They derived their name from the fact of their being a union of many tribes, or brothers. Having no common language, they adopted that of the English. Rev. Sampson Occum, a highly educated Mohegan Indian, was a celebrated preacher in this tribe, with whom he remained many years in that capacity. He visited England to solicit aid for the Indian school at Lebanon, Connecticut, and while there was the recipient of many marked favors, occupying the pulpits of "the noblest chapels in the kingdom," including Whitfield's and the chapel of George III., before whom he preached, and by whom he was presented with a gold-mounted cane, which he carried during his subsequent life. He possessed a cultivated mind and pleasing manners, and was often called upon by the early white settlers to preach, attend funerals and solemnize marriages. He died at New Stockbridge in 1792.
The Stockbridge Indians, who derived their name from that of their native home in Massachusetts, were ministered to by Rev. John Sergeant, who came with them and established a church immediately after their settlement at Stockbridge. Sixteen of the four hundred and twenty then composing the tribe, constituted the original membership of this church. Mr. Sergeant regularly spent six months of the year at New Stockbridge till 1796, when he removed here with his family and continued to reside with them till his death, September 7, 1824, having served these Indians as missionary for thirty-six years. In 1796, the Legislature granted him a patent for a mile square adjoining Stockbridge, which was presented to him by the Indians. In 1818, about one-fourth of the tribe removed to the west. In 1821, the Six Nations, together with the Stockbridge, St. Regis and Munsee tribes, purchased of the Menominees and Winnebagoes a large tract of land upon Green Bay, and the Winnebago and Fox rivers in Wisconsin. In 1822, a large part of the tribe remaining removed to that territory, and the rest soon followed. There they have made considerable advances in civilization, and are generally sober and industrious.36
We copy from Mrs. Hammond's History of Madison County the following sketch of the illustrious Skenandoah, which originally appeared in Jones' Oneida:---
" * * * the name of which stands more prominently upon the page of history, and which will be remembered until the original inhabitants of this continent are forgotten, is that of Skenandoah, the white man's friend. He was born about the year 1706, but of his younger days little or nothing is known. It has been stated, but upon what authority the writer does not know, that he was not an Oneida by birth, but was a native of a tribe living a long distance to the northwest, and was adopted by the Oneidas when a young man. * * * In his youth and early manhood, Skenandoah was very savage and intemperate. In 1755, while attending upon a treaty in Albany, he became excessively drunk at night, and in the morning found himself divested of all his ornaments and clothing. His pride revolting at his self-degradation, he resolved never again to place himself under the power of fire-water, a resolution which it is believed he kept to the end of his life. In appearance he was noble, dignified and commanding, being in height much over six feet, and the tallest Indian in his nation. He possessed a powerful frame, for at the age of eighty-five he was a full match for any member of his tribe, either as to strength, or speed on foot; his powers of endurance were equal to his size and physical power. But it was to his eloquence and mental powers, he owed his reputation and influence. His person was tattooed, or marked in a peculiar manner. There were nine lines arranged by threes extending downward from each shoulder, and meeting upon the chest, made by introducing some dark coloring matter under the skin. He was, in his riper years, one of the noblest counselors among the North American tribes; he possessed a vigorous mind, and was alike, sagacious, active and persevering. As an enemy he was terrible---as a friend and ally he was mild and gentle in his disposition, and faithful to his engagements. His vigilance once preserved from massacre the inhabitants of the little settlement of German Flats; and in the Revolutionary war his influence induced the Oneidas to take up arms in favor of the Americans. Soon after Mr. Kirkland established his mission at Oneida, Skenandoah embraced the doctrines of the gospel, and for the rest of his life he lived a consistent Christian. He often repeated the wish that he might be buried by the side of his old teacher and spiritual father; that he might go up with him at the great resurrection; and several times in the latter years of his life he made the journey from Oneida to Clinton, hoping to die there. Although he could speak but little English, and in his extreme old age was blind, yet his company was sought. In conversation he was highly decorous, evincing that he had profited by seeing civilized and polished society in his better days. He evinced constant care not to give pain by any remark or reply. * * * To a friend who called upon him a short time before his decease, he thus expressed himself by an interpreter: 'I am an aged hemlock; the winds of an hundred winters have whistled through my branches; I am dead at the top. The generation to which I belonged has run away and left me; why I live the Great Good Spirit only knows; pray to my Jesus that I may have patience to wait for my appointed time to die.' * * *
"After listening to the prayers read at his bed-side by his great-grand-daughter, Skenandoah yielded up his spirit on the 11th day of March, 1816, aged about one hundred and ten years. Agreeably to a promise made by the family of Mr. Kirkland, his remains were brought to Clinton, and buried by the side of his spiritual father. Services were attended in the Congregational meeting-house in Clinton, and an address was made to the Indians by Dr. Backus, President of Hamilton College, interpreted by Judge Dean; and after prayer and singing appropriate psalms, the corpse was carried to the grave, preceded by the students of the college, and followed in order by the Indians, Mr. Kirkland and family, Judge Dean, Rev. Dr. Norton, Rev. Mr. Ayres, officers of the college and citizens.
"Skenandoah was buried in the garden of Mr. Kirkland, a short distance south of the road leading up to the college. A handsome monument stands in the college burying ground, with the following inscription:---
"SKENANDOAH. This monument is erected by the Northern Missionary Society, in testimony of their respect for the memory of Skenandoah, who died in peace and hope of the Gospel, on the 11th of March, 1816. Wise, eloquent and brave, he long swayed the Councils of his Tribe, whose confidence and affection he eminently enjoyed. In the war which placed the Canadas under Great Britain, he was actively engaged against the French; in that of the Revolution, he espoused that of the Colonies, and ever afterwards remained a firm friend to the United States. Under the Ministry of Rev. Mr. Kirkland, he embraced the doctrines of the Gospel; and having exhibited their power in a long life, adorned by every Christian virtue he fell asleep in Jesus at the advanced age of 100 years.'"
KANAVAROHARE, in Oneida, June 15, 1765."HONORED AND REV. SIR:-This is the twelfth day since I began my school; and eight of my scholars are now in the third page of their spelling book. I never saw children exceed these in learning. The number of my scholars is twenty-six, but it is difficult to keep them together; they are often roving about from place to place to get something to live upon. I am also teaching a singing school. They take great pleasure in learning to sing. We can already carry three parts of several tunes. I believe I shall persuade the men in this castle, at least the most of them, to labor next year. They begin now to see that they could live better if they cultivated their lands than they do now by hunting and fishing.
"I ask the continuance of your prayers that God would give me grace, and fill my heart with love of God and compassion to perishing souls; and that God would make me an instrument of winning many souls to Christ, before I leave this world.
"Please accept much love and respect from your affectionate and unworthy pupil,
DAVID FOWLER.""The famine which visited Western New York this year obliged the Oneidas to remove in search of food to another quarter, and David Fowler returned to New England for further aid. * * * He is stated to have been alive in 1811 at Oneida, an industrious farmer and useful man."---Doc. Hist. IV., 353--4.
32 - New York Colonial History; Jones' History of Oneida County; Williams' Early History of Clinton; Hammond's History of Madison County.
An anonymous writer, in the Massachusetts Historical Collection in 1792, thus refers to Mr. Kirkland's labors:---
"I cannot help being of the opinion that Indians * * * never were intended to live in a state of civilized society. There never was, I believe, an instance of an Indian forsaking his habits and savage manners, any more that a bear his ferocity.
"The Rev. Mr. Kirkland, who acts as missionary among the Oneida, has taken all the pains that man can take, but his whole flock are Indians still, and like the bear which you can muffle and lead out to dance to the sound of music, becomes again a bear when his muffler is removed and the music ceases. The Indians will attend public worship and sing extremely well, following Mr. Kirkland's notes; but whenever the service is over, they wrap themselves in their blankets, and either stand like cattle on the sunny side a house, or lie before a fire. This is their mode of passing life; even the bold energy of their forefathers, which was conspicuous in the chase, is unstrung in there descendants, and instead of sliding to the grave 'like a shock of corn in its full ear,' they become ripe for it in youth and often find it by the most disgraceful means."---Doc. History II., 1105.
33 - Mission of the United Brethren, II. 141.
34 - Mr. Williams was at one time the subject of considerable speculations as to his being heir to the throne of France. It was said, and an effort was made to prove, that he was the lost Dauphin, the son of Louis XVII, whose fate was enshrouded in mystery.---Hammond's History of Madison County.
35 - Named from an old and very large orchard in the south-west corner of Vernon, which was set out by the Indians long before the first white settlers came in, at which time it is said to have been an old orchard. From it the Indians living in that locality are known as the "Orchard Party."
36 - Hammond's History of Madison County.