THE history of the locality of which the territory under consideration in this work forms one of the prominent divisions extends back to a remote period of the past, and is intimately associated with the early discoveries and settlements of civilized people on this continent. While there are evidences that the surrounding region was visited by civilized races a century before the landing of the Pilgrims and almost as long before the first permanent Dutch settlements on the Hudson River, it is not deemed essential to more than refer to the faint historical landmarks from so remote a period. Let us rather, follow the course of discovery, settlement and claim on this side of the Atlantic, from the time when the resolute little band of Puritans disembarked from the Mayflower. The relations of this region to the European powers were at that time of a very indefinite character. James I was on the throne of England and Louis XIII on that of France, with Richelieu as his prime minister. A century and a quarter previous, and five years after the bold voyage of Columbus, in 1947, John Cabot discovered Newfoundland and portions of the adjacent country. Three years later the coast of Labrador and the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence were explored by two brothers from Portugal, named Cortreal. In 1508 the St. Lawrence river was discovered by Aubert, and four years later in 1512, Ponce de Leon discovered Florida. In 1534 the St. Lawrence was explored by the Frenchman, Jacques Cartier, as far as Montreal. In 1539 Florida was explored by Ferdinand de Soto. These discoveries opened up the new country for active competition by the different maritime powers of the Old World. Spain conquered Mexico in 1521 and in 1540 carried her conquests into Peru. Stimulated by her success and her greed, she took possession of Florida and the Gulf territory, and in 1565 planted the first Spanish colony in North America, at St. Augustine, Florida.
In the mean time the French were gaining a foothold far to the northward. In 1540 Cartier, having sailed up the broad river to which he gave the name of the illustrious saint, had returned to France and was again sent over with Jean Francis de Robarval, who was appointed by the king as lieutenant-general over the new countries. In 1543 Robarval came the second time from France, with the pilot, Jean Alphonse of Saintouge, and they took possession of Cape Breton; settlement was also begun at Quebec. In 1608 Quebec was founded and placed under the governorship of Champlain, the original discoverer of the Iroquois Indians. In the previous year, 1607, the English made their first permanent settlement at Jamestown, under Capt. John Smith. In 1609 Henry Hudson, a bold English navigator, but then in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, sailed into the noble river which now bears his name, leading to the permanent settlement of the Dutch in that region in 1623, in a colony which they named New Netherlands. Thus three European nations laid claims to portions of the territory now embraced in the State of New York and formed the advance guard of the present dominant inhabitants of the continent.
England, by virtue of the discovery of Cabot, who sailed under letter patent from Henry VII, and that of his son Sebastian made the following year, exploring the coast from Newfoundland to Florida, claimed a territory eleven degrees in width and extending westward indefinitely. Had the powers of England known what a boundless expanse of rich and undiscovered country lay to the westward of her explorations, it is possible that even she would have been prompted by modesty from claiming so wide a water-front "extending indefinitely westward."
France claimed a portion of the Atlantic coast; while Holland, by virtue of Hudson's discovery, claimed the country from Cape Cod to the southern shore of Delaware bay. In 1614 the Dutch established a fort on Manhattan island and one at Albany in the following year, becoming the actual possessors of the soil. In 1621 the Dutch East India Company was formed and took possession of New Amsterdam. In 1625 a few of that remarkable order known as Jesuits arrived on the banks of the St. Lawrence, and in time crowded most other Catholic missionaries out of Canada and the lake region, substantially monopolizing the territory. In 1627 Cardinal Richelieu organized the company of New France, or the company of a Hundred Partners, the objects of which were proclaimed to be the extension of the fur trade, the discovery of a new route to China, and the conversion of the Indians. "The Company actually succeeded in extending the fur trade, but not in going to China by way of Lake Erie, and not to any great extent in converting the Indians.1 By terms of their charter they were to transport six thousand emigrants to Canada and to furnish them with an ample supply of both priests and artisans. Champlain was made Governor. His early experience was most pleasant or gratifying. When the French first assumed prominence in Canada they found the Iroquois and the Adirondacks at war, as before stated, and they espoused the cause of the latter, supplying them with fire-arms. Champlain and his allies met, on the lake which now bears his name, a party of two hundred Iroquois; both parties landed and a battle began; but the murderous and mysterious effect of the new weapons filled the Iroquois with consternation and they retreated to the wilderness. This was the fist meeting of the famed Iroquois with the whites; and, while it was an impressive and thrilling reception, it was scarcely calculated to inspire in the savage breast a very exalted opinion of the invaders, except as to their ability to kill at long range.
Emboldened by success, Champlain with a few Frenchmen and a force of four hundred Hurons, renewed hostilities against the Iroquois in 1615, resulting in that remarkable expedition directed against the stronghold of the Onondagas. The expedition proceeded to the upper waters of the Ottawa river, thence crossed over to Lake Nipissing, and, having discovered Lake Huron, were joined by the nation of that name. They came down through the lakes and across the country until they reached the Iroquois fort, which was attacked. The assaulting party were defeated and compelled to retreat from the locality. The location of this fort has long been in dispute; some have placed it upon the banks of Onondaga lake, but generally accepted opinion now is that it stood on the shore of Oneida lake.
A dreary winter was passed by Champlain, who had been wounded by two Onondaga arrows, "one in the leg and the other in the knee," before he was able to leave the Hurons and go back to Quebec. These attacks upon the Iroquois provoked a war which ended only with extinction of French dominion in North America. The Iroquois, now also armed with guns, made their power felt on every battle-field. Bancroft says upon this subject: "Thrice did Champlain invade their country, until he was driven with disgrace from the wilderness. The Five Nations in return attempted the destruction of New France. Though repulsed they continued to defy the province and its allies, and under the eyes of its governor openly intercepted convoys destined for Quebec. The French authority was not confirmed by the founding of a feeble outpost at Montreal, and Fort Richelieu at the mouth of Sorrel river scarcely protected its immediate environs. The Iroquois scoured every wilderness to lay it more waste. Depopulating the country on the Ontario, they attained an acknowledged superiority over New France. The colony was in perpetual danger and Quebec itself was besieged."
In the year 1653 each of the Five Nations entered into peace treaties, which left the colonists for a time at rest; but the Iroquois meanwhile invaded the territory of the Eries and, after a severe contest, assaulted that nation in a fort and wiped them from the face of the earth. This was followed by a long war upon the Andastes, or Guyandots, lasting until 1675, in which the Iroquois were finally victorious.
Of the three rival bands of colonists the French and Dutch developed a thriving fur trade with the Indians, spreading rapidly among them at the same time both kinds of fire-arms --- rum and guns; while the English devoted themselves more to agriculture. In 1664 the English conquered New Amsterdam, and their conquest was made permanent in 1670, its name being changed to New York. With few exceptions, the Iroquois remained the firm allies in the war of the Revolution. But from the time of the English supremacy over the Dutch, a spirited rivalry was kept up between the French and English. The former were indefatigable in extending the fur trade, and their missionaries hesitated at no obstacle, opposition or hardship in carrying the cross among the Indians. In 1642 Father Jogues, commissioned as an envoy, was hospitably received by the Mohawks and he offered the friendship of France to the Onondagas. During the temporary peace with the French, Father Simon Le Moyne appeared as a missionary among the Onondagas, which became one of the most important mission fields on the continent. It was the policy of the Jesuits to not alone convert the savages to Christianity; indeed, it may be doubted if that was their chief motive in coming among them. They came not alone to extend the church, but also to conciliate the Indians towards the French through the medium of the church, enabling the latter to extend the power and dominion of that country. While they found it comparatively easy to make friends and some converts among the less biased tribes in other sections of the country, they found in the Onondagas a nation shrewd, wily and strong, more so, perhaps, than their brethren of the Confederacy, who felt no inclination to favor the French and little towards Christianity through the medium of French priests.
Onondaga was the center of the great Confederacy, the place of meeting of all their great councils; where gathered the sachems and chiefs and warriors of the Five Nations to discuss and settle the most important questions and public measures. Hence it was viewed by the Jesuits as the field above all others for their work; and they labored faithfully in that locality. If they were not signally successful, it must be credited more to the capacity and condition of those whom they sought to influence, than to their own want of persistence, energy and heroism.
By 1665 French trading posts were established at Michillimacinac, Green Bay, Chicago and St. Joseph, and the French resolved to put an end to the frequent incursions of the Iroquois. In June of that year M. de Tracy was appointed Viceroy of the French possessions in America and landed at Quebec with four regiments of infantry. In September Daniel de Runy, Knight, Lord de Courcelles, who had received the appointment of Governor of Canada six months previously, arrived with a regiment, some families and the necessary means for the establishment of a colony. Courcelles, with a force of five hundred men, started on an expedition into the Mohawk country on the 9th of January, 1666. After a dangerous march of thirty-five days on snow-shoes, in which his men suffered severely by freezing, he arrived within twenty leagues of the Mohawk villages, only to learn that most of the Mohawks and Oneidas were absent on a war expedition. On the 22d of May, 1666, the Senecas sent ten ambassadors to Quebec to sue for peace, with a request that they be considered as faithful subjects of the French king, and that Frenchmen be sent to settle among them and "Blackgowns" to preach them. A treaty to this effect was concluded on the 25th of May, which was ratified by the Mohawks and Oneidas on the 12th of July. During these negotiations a party of Mohawks made an assault upon the garrison at Fort St. Anne, which was retaliated by M. de Tracy through another incursion into the Mohawk country; but his wily foe fled, leaving only their empty villages to be burned by the French soldiers.
On the 13th of October, 1666, the Iroquois ambassadors of the Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Oneidas visited Quebec and requested a confirmation of the continuance of the king's protection, under a treaty involving several conditions; in the consequent treaty the Mohawks afterwards acquiesced. In 1667 (July 31) the peace of Breda was established between Holland, England and France, and in the following year a treaty was signed between France and Spain. But the general peace thus inaugurated was of short duration; the Iroquois were soon again in conflict with the French, causing them much suffering, loss of harvests and constant dread. But after the appointment of Count de Frontenac as Governor and Lieutenant-General of Canada in April, 1672, confidence was restored through his conservative management, and another peace treaty was ratified in 1673.
In 1684 the Senecas again began hostilities against the French, by the capture of seven hundred traders' canoes and an attack upon Fort St. Louis. For this outrage M. de la Barre, then Governor of New France, planned an expedition against the Senecas. Upon learning, however, that Col. Dongan, Governor of New York, had promised the Senecas a reinforcement of four hundred horse and an equal number of foot soldiery, the expedition was suddenly abandoned and a treaty made "with indecent haste" with the Onondagas, Oneidas, and Cayugas. This event caused the deposal of M. de la Barre, who was superseded by the Marquis de Nonville, with instructions to observe strict neutrality. After a thorough examination of the situation De Nonville communicated to his king that the only way to protect their fur trade and retain their possessions was through a successful war. This counsel was acted upon and reinforcements sent out. In the summer of 1687 he arrived on an expedition, with nearly two thousand French and five hundred Indian allies, at Irondequoit Bay, near the site of Rochester, whence he marched against the Seneca villages. Defeated in an attack upon the French force on the march, the Senecas burned their villages and fled to the Cayugas. De Nonville destroyed their stores of corn; but these being immediately replaced by the other Confederate nations, little was really accomplished by the expedition, except to further enrage the Iroquois. After building a fort at the mouth of the Niagara river, the Governor with most of his forces returned to Montreal. Alarmed at this bold incursion into the strongest portion of their country by so superior a force, the Iroquois appealed to Gov. Dongan for protection. He advised them to not make peace with the French and promised them reinforcements. De Nonville, however, called a meeting of the chiefs of the Five Nations at Montreal, for peace negotiations, and the Indians decided to send representatives thither.
In 1687, while the French and English were at peace, the New York colonists determined to participate in the valuable fur trade of the northwest. To carry out this project they induced the Iroquois to liberate several Huron captives to act as guides. The party was led by Major McGregory and was intercepted by a body of French, captured and their goods given over to the Indians. The lake Indians had favored the project of the English colonists; but after this disaster were anxious to disabuse the minds of the French of that fact. To that end Adario, a celebrated Wyandot chief, with a party of one hundred warriors, marched against the Iroquois. On the way they were informed of the peace negotiations before alluded to and were advised by the commander of Fort Cadaraqui (Ontario, or Niagara) to give up their mission. As such action and the establishment of the proposed peace would leave the Iroquois free to invade the Wyandot country, Adario resolved to prevent it; he succeeded effectually by waylaying and capturing the entire Iroquois embassy on its way to Montreal, with the forty young warriors who acted as a guard to the embassy, many of whom were killed. Among the captives was the head chief of the Onondagas, upon whom the wily Wyandot fully impressed the belief that this act was instigated by the French Governor. He then dismissed the captives, loaded with presents.
Fully believing in the base treachery of De Nonville and refusing to accept his assertions that he was not a party to the Wyandot chief's deed, the Iroquois were filled with rage and the most intense desire for revenge. Twelve hundred warriors, therefore, landed, on the 26th of July, 1688, on the Island of Montreal at its upper end, and before any opposition could be made, swept that portion of the island as with the besom of destruction; burning, pillaging, and slaughtering without mercy. In the following October this terrible work was repeated on the lower portion of the island. This was followed by the forced abandonment of the fort at Niagara and Fort Frontenac, and the power of the revengeful Iroquois seemed almost equal to the overthrow of the French dominion in Canada. Many of the Indian allies of the French left them and joined the English, enabling them to open a trade, and the French colony was left in a pitiable condition.
But this deplorable condition of affairs with the French was soon to meet with a favorable change, through the revolution in England which drove James II from the throne and opened a war with France. Count de Frontenac, whose former administration in the colony had given satisfaction, was again sent out as Governor of New France. He arrived October 2d, 1689, and immediately attempted peace negotiations with the Iroquois. This attempting failing, he planned and fitted out three expeditions in the winter of that year; one against New York, one against Connecticut and a third against New England. The first attack by number one of these expeditions was upon the village of Schenectady, on the night of February 9th, 1690, when the entire village, with exception of two houses, was burned, the people slaughtered or taken prisoners and their property carried away. There were before the burning, "upwards of eighty well-built houses in the town." This disaster so discouraged the dwellers at Albany that they resolved to abandon their homes and remove to New York; they went so far as to pack many of their effects for removal, but were dissuaded from their purpose by the reproaches and encouragement offered by a party of the defeated Mohawks who had come to mourn with them over their losses. Great blame is attached to the English colonists for their want of energy and activity during this period, when compared with the vigilance and valor of the French under the admirable direction of Frontenac; but through it all the Iroquois, with rare heroism and loyalty, adhered to their allegiance with the English, who seemed more willing to sacrifice them than to serve their own cause.
In the summer of 1691 the New York and New England forces united in a combined attack upon the French by both land and water; the former, under command of Major Peter Schuyler, was directed against Montreal, and latter, comprising thirty sail, was commanded by Sir William Philps, and made Quebec its object of attack. Although Schuyler inflicted quite a heavy loss upon the enemy, both the expeditions failed of their expected success. But the Iroquois gave the French colony no peace; they forced a cessation of the fur trade, prevented the tillage of their lands, causing a famine, and drove the old French Governor to desperation over his inability to prevent the continued incursions and assaults of the Indians; to revenge them he finally burned two Iroquois prisoners at the stake.
On the 6th of June, 1692, the Iroquois formed a treaty of alliance and friendship with Major Richard Ingoldesby, then Governor of New York; and on the 15th of January, 1693, Count de Frontenac, impelled by the dissatisfaction and despondence of the French colonists at having so long been held upon the defensive, organized an expedition into the Mohawk country in which six hundred French and Indians participated. Three of the Mohawk castles were captured and three hundred prisoners taken. The remainder of that year and the year 1694 were spent in attempts to negotiate a peace between the Iroquois, who were again disheartened by the French and the raid into the Mohawk country, but without avail. Seeing no immediate prospects of peace, Count de Frontenac determined upon striking a final and effective blow at the Iroquois. He accordingly gathered all the French militia, and their Indian allies, with all of the western Indians he could control, and embarked from the southern end of the Island of Montreal on the 4th of July, 1696. The expedition was designed to strike a terrible blow at the center of the Five Nations --- the Onondagas; but its effect was lost in a great measure through information carried to them by an escaped Seneca. The Onondagas fled from their village, with the exception of one old chief, said to have been a centenarian, who remained in his cabin, as a heroic method of ending his days; he was tortured to death, enduring the ordeal with characteristic fortitude.
This incursion by the French, while it cost the Onondagas only the loss of one old man and the destruction of their corn, left the French in a worse condition than before; the absence of the agricultural portion of the colonists left their crops to ruin and a famine ensued, which was rendered more unendurable through frequent raids by the restless Iroquois. Affairs mended only with the treaty of Ryswick, concluded September 12, 1697. This treaty left unsettled some points relative to the exclusion of the Iroquois from its provisions, leaving them open to attack by the French, and to the exchange of prisoners. But the English firmly maintained their ground on both, and the French were obliged to yield. French and English rivalry continued, however, and was greatly augmented by the influence of the Jesuits among the Iroquois, large numbers of whom were induced to go to Canada to live, where they were taught by the missionaries and fed and clothed by the colony. This alienation caused the English to hold repeated councils with the Iroquois for the purpose of regaining whatever of their former influence that had been lost. The English made the most liberal promises of protection through the erection of forts and supplies of arms and ammunition. At one of these councils held August 11th, 1701, representatives of each of the Five Nations promised that "they would discredit the idle tales of the French, continue firm to the Crown of England, if it will protect them from its enemies, and were thankful for the promise of Protestant ministers." At a succeeding conference they were advised by the English to seize all Jesuits and send them to Albany, where they would receive one hundred pieces of silver, eight for each captive. To this the Indians agreed. To continue the peaceful relations thus brought about, the Colonial Assembly of New York enacted a stringent law in 1700, imposing the penalty of death by hanging upon every Jesuit who voluntarily came into the province. Liberal presents were made to the Iroquois chiefs, and five of their number were taken to England to hold up before their uncivilized gaze the magnificence of the great government that was offering them protection. But all of these efforts on the part of the English were not sufficient to prevent the ratification of a treaty of peace between the Iroquois and the French in August, 1701, in which negotiations they are believed to have been largely influenced by the great losses they had continually sustained.
Although the eighteenth century opened upon a scene of peace in the New World, it was not of long duration. Queen Anne succeeded to the English throne in 1702, and then followed what is known as "Queen Anne's War," between the rival nations, which was not concluded until the treaty of Utrecht, April 11th, 1713. New England was ravaged during this struggle; but New York was almost exempted from its touch, while the Five Nations maintained their neutrality with commendable success. By the treaty of Utrecht the French were enjoined from attacking the Five Nations, who were acknowledged as subjects of Great Britain, while free trade with them was guaranteed to both France and England.
In 1713, the Iroquois, with no fighting on their hands at the north, took a hand in a contest that was going on in Carolina between the whites of that territory and the Tuscaroras, a powerful nation of North Carolina. The latter were defeated, many were killed and many captives were sold as slaves to the allies of the English. The remainder were adopted by the Five Nations, were assigned territory just west of the Oneidas, and became known as the Sixth Nation.
The period from 1744 to 1748 witnessed another war between France and England, which was concluded by the treaty of Aixla-Chapelle, made April 30th, 1748. This struggle was chiefly for the possession of the Mississippi valley, but it also opened the old question of Iroquois supremacy. The treaty which caused a cessation of hostilities was imperfect and left unsettled so many important questions that the contest was again begun in 1755. The early French successes which followed caused the Iroquois, now about equally divided between Canada and New York, to weaken in their alliance to the English, and the divisions among them increased as the war progressed. In April, 1757, the Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas made open peace with Canada; but they were, chiefly through the influence of Sir William Johnson,2 made to observe a fair degree of neutrality. This war was for the most part a bloody contest with the savage allies of the French, producing desolation and devastation on the colonial borders, especially in Pennsylvania. In 1756 forts were built at Oneida Castle and Onondaga, and a block house at Canaseraga, and at a council held at Onondaga June 19th, 1756, permission was given Colonel Johnson to erect a fort or magazine at Oswego Falls.
The war, at first succession of French victories, was finally turned in favor of the English, and was concluded by the treaty of Paris in 1763, leaving England in possession of Canada and the country west of the Mississippi. Territorial disputes followed however, between the Indians and the colonists, which finally led to the making of a treaty, ratified by Sir William Johnson in July, 1770, establishing what was called the "Property Line." This treaty recognized as Indian lands all the territory laying north and west of the Ohio and Alleghany rivers to Kittaning; thence in a direct line to the nearest fork of the west branch of the Susquehanna river; thence following that stream through the Alleghanies, by the way of Burnett's Hills and the eastern branch of the Susquehanna and the Delaware into New York, to a line parallel with the Unadilla, and thence north to Wood Creek east of Oneida lake. But this policy was not potent to appease the complaints of the Indians at the encroachments of the settlers, which paved the way for the hostilities of the Iroquois and the western Indians against the colonists during the war of the Revolution, then near at hand.
In 1775 the great struggle for American independence began. Sir William Johnson had died suddenly in the previous year, and his office of superintendent of Indian affairs devolved upon his nephew, Guy Johnson, who retained much of the influence over the Indians enjoyed by his uncle. The Six Nations were at first disposed towards neutrality, but the efforts of the English, chiefly through Johnson, Brant (Thayendanegea) and John Butler, soon overcame such disposition. Brant was sent to England, where he was honored and feasted; returning in the winter of 1776, he at once began the work of organizing a force of Iroquois warriors. In the spring of 1777 he appeared at Oquaga (now Windsor, Broome county) with a force of Indians and tories; in June he ascended the Susquehanna to Unadilla, whence he drove off cattle and sheep, and frightened the inhabitants of that section so that they retired to Cherry Valley and other less exposed places. Soon afterward Brant withdrew his forces from the Susquehanna and joined Sir John Johnson and John Butler at Oswego, where preparations were made for a descent upon the Mohawk settlements. In August, 1777, Fort Schuyler was attacked and the bloody battle of Oriskany was fought. The Oneidas remained neutral during these events, for which course their crops, castles and wigwams were afterwards destroyed by Brant.
Following these events was perpetrated a long list of Indian and Tory atrocities upon the unprotected frontier settlements in New York and Pennsylvania, among which were the massacres of Wyoming and Cherry Valley in 1778, with many others, at later dates, the record of which is filled with deeds of bloodshed, vindictive torture, heroic defense and marvelous fortitude, and is printed upon thousands of historic pages. Into the details of these events it is not the province of this work to enter; it was their perpetration, however, that led Congress and General Washington to inaugurate an expedition in the spring of 1779 which exerted a powerful influence upon the closing scenes of the drama in which the Iroquois had played so conspicuous a part. General Sullivan was given command of this expedition and his force comprised three divisions: one from New Jersey, under General Maxwell; one from New England, under General Hand, and a third from New York, under General James Clinton (father of Gov. De Witt Clinton). The first two divisions mentioned, numbering thirty-five hundred men under command of General Sullivan, left Wyoming, July 31st, 1779, and moved up the east side of the river. They were joined at Tioga Point by Clinton's force, which swelled the command to more than four thousand. Near the site of Elmira they encountered Butler with a small force of Indians and tories; a battle was fought, Butler was defeated and the expedition met with little subsequent opposition, marching into the Genesee country destroying the Seneca villages, burning dwellings, felling orchards, cutting and burning corn and other crops, and leaving a track of utter desolation. "The Indians shall see." Said the commander of the expedition, "that we have malice enough in our hearts to destroy everything that contributes to their support," and this expressed intent governed the actions of the expedition. Forty Indian towns were burned, among them Genesee Castle, the capital of the Onondagas, with its "one hundred and twenty-eight houses, mostly large and elegant," while Kanadaseagea, the capital of the Senecas, and Kanandaigua shared the same fate. The terror-stricken Iroquois fled to Niagara, where many perished during the ensuing hard winter from lack of habitual food and diseases engendered there-by --- a state of affairs for which the British were largely responsible, as the Indians looked to them for the means of subsistence in their emergency.
In partial conjunction with the Sullivan campaign, though it occurred a little earlier, was the expedition into the Onondaga country by Col. Van Schaick, assisted by Lieutenant Willet and Major Cochran, of the garrison at Fort Schuyler. A plan for this movement having been formed by General Schuyler and approved by the commander-in-chief, the three officers named started from Fort Schuyler at the head of between five and six hundred men, on the 19th of April, 1779. Great secrecy was maintained even as to the destination of the expedition, and all Indians were detained at the fort. On the third day of his march Col. Van Schaick reached his destination. The place where they first reached Onondaga lake was at Green Point, whence they proceeded to the mouth of Onondaga creek, and passed across it on a large sycamore log. Here Capt. Graham captured an Onondaga warrior, the first that had been seen; scouts also came upon the expedition at this point and the alarm was quickly spread among the nation, resulting in the immediate retreat of the Indians. A skirmish was fought, but resulted in only a trifling loss to the Indians. Their villages and property were completely destroyed by burning. Twelve Indians were killed and thirty-four made prisoners. After the destruction of the villages, the expedition returned, reaching Fort Schuyler on the 24th, after an absence of five and a half days.
The expedition of Sullivan substantially destroyed the Iroquois League. While its form remained to a certain extent, the forces that bound it together were rendered practically powerless; but they were not yet conquered as far as predatory warfare was concerned. A reorganization was effected in the winter and, under the leadership of Corn-Planter, fell upon the Oneidas and Tuscaroras, burned their castle, church and village and sent them defeated to the white settlements near Schenectady; there they remained, devoted to the cause of the colonists, until the close of the war. In the mean time Sir John Johnson collected five hundred Indians and refugees and passed through the woods from Crown Point to Johnson Hall, for the double purpose of securing some buried treasure left by him and to punish his old neighbors. Both objects were accomplished; the village which then occupied the site of Fonda was burned, and many isolated dwellings for several miles along the Mohawk, always excepting those Tories, were also laid in ashes. In the succeeding autumn Johnson, with a larger force and accompanied by Brant and Corn-Planter with five hundred warriors entered the Schoharie valley, leaving devastation in their track; they also paid another visit of destruction upon the Mohawk valley, destroying dwellings as far up as Fort Plain. There they were met by Gov. George Clinton at the head of a force of militia, which was joined on the way by a strong party of Oneidas, led by their chief, "Atyataronghta." The forces of Brant and Johnson were defeated and fled, the latter retreating to his boats on Onondaga lake and escaping to Canada by way of Oswego. Other similar incursions were made in the lower counties of the Hudson and in the Mohawk valley in 1781, in one of which the notorious Butler was killed by an Oneida Indian. Thus ended the border incursions in New York.
In retaliation for the bloodshed and devastation by the Iroquois throughout her borders the New York Legislature was inclined to drive them all from her limits; but, chiefly through the influence of Washington and Schuyler, more humane counsels prevailed. At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Oliver Wolcott, Richard Butler and Arthur Lee were appointed by the Federal government as commissioners to adjust the claims of the Six Nations. A council for the purpose was held at Fort Stanwix in 1784, where reservations were assigned to each of the Six Nations, except the Mohawks. The Oneidas and Tuscaroras had already been provided for through special legislation. In 1788 the Indian title to the lands embraced in the Military Tract was extinguished.
We will close this chapter with a brief reference to the work of the missionaries among the Onondagas, which has already been mentioned. Taking advantage of the temporary peace between the Iroquois and the French in 1654, Father Simon Le Moyne appeared among the Onondagas as a missionary. He left Montreal on the 17th of July, "accompanied by a young man of piety and fortitude who had long been a resident of that country." On the 5th of August he had nearly reached the end of his journey and wrote in his Relation: "We traveled four leagues before reaching the principle Onondaga village. I passed many persons on the way, who kindly saluted me, one calling me brother, another uncle, and another cousin. I never had so many relations. At a quarter of a league from the village I began a harangue in a solemn and commanding tone, which gained me great credit. I named all their chiefs, families and distinguished persons. I told them that peace and joy were my companions and that I shattered war among the distant nations. Two chiefs addressed me as I entered the village with a welcome, the like of which I had never before experienced among savages."
It was on the 16th of August that Father Le Moyne discovered the salt springs and made the first salt ever produced there by a European, "as natural," he wrote, "as from the sea." He made the first baptism of a young captive of the Neuter nation, who had been instructed in the faith by a Huron convert. Father Le Moyne's visit to the Onondagas was made at the special requests of Ondessonk, the then great chief of the nation, who asked him to select "on the banks of our great lake a convenient place for a French habitation." In the following year (1655) he was followed by Father Joseph Chaumonot and Claude Dablon, who "were received with the strongest proofs of friendship." They founded the mission of St John the Baptist, which is supposed by the best authorities to have been located on "Indian Hill," two miles south of the village of Manlius. The first sacrament of holy mass was celebrated by these Fathers in the in the cabin of "Teotonharason," one of the women who came from Quebec with the missionaries, on Sunday, November 14th, 1655. She became a woman of wealth and high character and made a public profession of religion, teaching the faith among the people. The location if St. Mary's of Ganentaha was also fixed in that year by Fathers Chaumonot and Dablon. The Relation says of it: "This day for the first time we visited the salt spring, which is only two leagues from here, near the lake Ganentaha, and the place chosen for the French settlement, because it is in the center of the Iroquois nation, and because we can from thence visit in canoes various localities upon the rivers and lakes."
Early in the spring of 1656 Father Dablon returned to Quebec for reinforcements to strengthen the hearts of the missionaries. He, with his guides, crossed Oneida lake on the ice and proceeded by the usual northern trail to the mouth of the Salmon river, reaching Montreal on the 30th of March. Father Chaumonot remained at Onondaga, and the following summer was joined by Fathers Dablon, Le Mercier, René Mesnard, Jacques Frèmin, and Brothers Ambrose Broar and Bourgier, to found the mission of St. Mary's of Ganentaha. They arrived on the shore of Onondaga lake at 3 o'clock of the 11 of July, where many of the old men and chiefs of the Onondagas awaited them. On the 17th they began the erection of their dwellings and a fort on the east shore of the lake, in the town of Salina, where the outlines of the fort were found by early settlers.
This mission was for a time quite prosperous, but was finally broken up through the rivalries engendered by the European governments. In 1665 a number of French families returned, under the guidance of missionaries, and settled near the Indian fort and village located in the vicinity of the present village of Jamesville. Here was established the mission of St. Jean Baptiste, and in the following year a chapel was built. Three years later (1669) the French were again at war with the Iroquois; but Father Le Moyne, full of religious zeal, again appeared among the Onondagas, having been driven from the among the Mohawks and was received with affection. The missionaries would, undoubtedly, at all times have been safe among the Indians even if their efforts were not the most successful, had it not been for the constant warring of the whites. About the year 1700 the Jesuit missions began to decline, partly owing to the efforts of the English to plant the Protestant faith among the Indians. The Earl of Belmont, then Governor of New York, proposed to erect a fort and a chapel at Onondaga, and King William sent over a set of communion plate and furniture for the chapel. These plans were interrupted in 1702 by the king's death; but they were renewed by Queen Anne, who became zealous patron of the missions among the Five Nations.
Missions were established by the Moravians among the Onondagas in 1750, when Bishop Cammerhoff and Brother David Zeisberger, journeyed to Onondaga from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They were kindly received by the Indians and given permission to remain with them one or two years to learn their language. This mission was continued at intervals for several years; but it was never very influential.
The Rev. Samuel Kirkland began his work among the Oneidas in August, 1766, remaining among the Indians for over forty years, and gaining a wide-spread influence through the entire Iroquois Confederacy. His counsel to the Oneidas was potent to secure their neutrality and often their friendship to the colonists during the war of the Revolution. He was in all respects one of the most useful and successful of the devoted men who sought to plant good seed in the benighted minds of the Iroquois. He died in 1808. Since that time numerous and persistent efforts have been made by representatives of the different Protestant churches to convert and Christianize the Onondagas and their brethren. Prominent among them were Eleazer Williams, who visited the Onondagas in 1816; afterward he was joined by Revs. Wm. A. Clark and Ezekiel G. Gear. It was at the suggestion of the latter that a school was opened at Onondaga by one of their own people --- Mary Doxtater, who had been educated by the Philadelphia Quakers and had taught among the Oneidas; the school was begun in 1820, but she died a few years later. Rev. Rosman Ingals began religious work among the Onondagas in 1841, after the Methodist faith, and after August 1st, 1842, preaching was kept up every third Sunday. In that year a building was procured and fitted up for a church; it was used until 1846, when a new school-house was built and used for a church. Here Rev. Daniel Fancher preached with considerable success. In 1848 a new and commodious church was erected, and religious work among the Onondagas has been unwearyingly continued since.
1 - Johnsons's History of Erie County.
2 - Sir William Johnson was sent to America in 1734 as the agent of his uncle, a great landholder in the Mohawk valley. He gained an almost unbounded influence over the Mohawk nation, chiefly by his ready affiliation with them and his integrity in dealing. He subsequently made his power conspicuous throughout the Six Nations and was entrusted by the British government with the management of its affairs in the connection.
1885 History of Cortland County
If you have any suggestions, please e-mail   Tim Stowell
or add them
to the guestbook.
LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, 18-May-2011 21:18:45 MDT
Thanks for Stopping By!